Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy recaps what happened in Season 2, Episode 15 “Bait” and discusses the documents Brianne came into possession of in Season 2, Episode 12 “Brianne Scanlon” which contain medical files. She’s been tracking people down in the files but they’ve all died in their sleep. She believes there’s a man coming for her in her sleep, and may be responsible for the deaths of the people in the files. Jeremy is also having unusual dreams, similar to out of body experiences. This week’s paper is a transcript of a tape. In the tape, an elderly woman named Delores recounts a man in a khaki suit observing her in her sleep. The man did something to her husband in her dream. When she woke up, her husband was dead. Another resident tells her that lots of people in their retirement community have dreamt of the man in the khaki suit, and that he’s very dangerous, and photos of loved ones should be hidden lest he find them and hunt them down too. Jeremy contacts the person who transcribed the tape who says there is no more information from the tape. The retirement community Delores was in burned to the ground after Delores died. According to this person, the retirement community had already been empty for days, which raises the question: what happened to the retirees? Jeremy doesn’t find answers, but does find a forum post asking about a person in a brown or gray suit haunting their dreams after someone told them about the man.
I wasn’t really sure if or when I’d be back doing this show.
There were some things that happened during the break that I’m not sure if I should talk about. Others I’m not quite sure I’m ready to rehash.
I let my phone go to voicemail twice before I picked it up. It was Brianne. I was surprised to see she hadn’t yet run away from all of this; I’ve certainly been trying to. But I have something… something nobody else has. Hundreds (if not thousands) of documents related to the supernatural. What I had let take over my office and my garage… and my life… was a library of the dark and twisted and awful.
And Brianne needed my help.
A few months ago we put an end to a demon possessing a man named Malcolm Foye but not without great personal loss. Brianne’s brother, Benjamin Scanlon, was killed in the fight, as was a Catholic priest named Father Jonathan Bank. The formerly possessed subject known as Malcolm Foye escaped, though gravely injured, and I thought that was the end: the end of demons influence, the end of the Grinner. But I was wrong.
Under the Grinner’s coercion, Brianne was compelled to gather a plethora of medical documents: mostly neural scans of various individuals. She’s not exactly sure how she obtained the documents (she was in a sort of fugue state) but she’s a nurse so we can make a fairly educated guess. Among those black and white images of humans brains were some labeled Brianne Scanlon and she wanted to know why, so she went searching.
What did the Grinner want with scans of her brain? When did any of this happen and who were all of these other people? Why were these documents labeled Project Hydra?
She got close, but these people were hard to find. The ones who were still alive at least. You see, most of the people that she had been able to track down were dead. All but one.
She never told me his name, only that he seemed like a completely normal guy. She followed him for a while, sat outside of his house, watched him and his family. She told me they were happy, that she didn’t want to inject her poison in to it by bringing him in to this. But then he died in his sleep.
A man in his thirties doesn’t just die in his sleep (or at least not according to Brianne). It was odd… and awfully convenient. So she started backtracking, making her way through all of the dead people she found in the files, and then she started digging deeper. They’d all died in their sleep. Every last one of them.
Brianne came to me because she thinks her own dreams are connected. She thinks that whatever happened to the people in those medical documents is happening to her too. She won’t give much detail, but she says there’s a man… or sometimes he’s different men… and he’s coming for her. I’m not certain what she means by that. But at her request I’ve started doing some research using the storage papers as a resource. I’ve been organizing them, trying to make sense of all of the madness, and I’ve found some things that might be pertinent to what’s happening to Brianne.
I haven’t mentioned it yet – not to Brianne, not to anyone – but I’ve been having some odd dreams myself. Dreams where I find myself floating: floating above my sleeping form. I look down and I see that I’m not breathing… not moving. I think I am dead. I reach out to touch my chest and I fall back in to myself… and that’s when I wake up.
I want to find out what happened to those people. What’s happening to Brianne. What’s happening to myself. And so I want to bring you along as we search through to Storage Papers looking for dreams… looking for those that have died in their sleep.
This is the first document I uncovered on the subject. It is the transcription of a recording made in the late seventies or early eighties. According to Ron’s notes, he was given the transcription by a colleague some time in the two thousands who referred to it as ‘the Delores Tape.’ Unfortunately the tape itself isn’t in my possession and later you’ll understand why. Instead I’m forced to rely on this transcription and hope my own voice is a suitable substitution.
With that out of the way, I present to you The Delores Tape: Side A.
To be honest, it felt a bit awkward to say no. At the time it just seemed… rude. I certainly didn’t want to come off as a snob. The man in the khaki suit lowered a paper match to his tobacco pipe, taking a long draw and flicking his wrist to extinguish the flame.
“As long as I have permission, I would like to stay here and monitor your dream.”
I smiled. “Oh, but of course.”
And with that I carried on. I think I was baking a cake. Yes, I was baking a cake. You see I had preheated the oven and gotten everything ready – let the butter rise to room temperature – but I just couldn’t figure out what type of flour I was supposed to use. Not wanting to bug your grandfather, I decided to just go and pick some from the garden.
The man in the khaki suit was jotting down notes on his clipboard, and when I looked in his direction he gestured for me to carry on, almost shooing me away. I made my way to the back door, wanting to peruse the garden for the perfect flower for my cake. I looked back once more to see if the man was following me. He was not. Instead, he was heading towards the den where your grandfather was sleeping in his favorite chair. You know how much he loved that reclining chair.
I warned the man, “Don’t go in there and wake up my dear old Harold. And don’t turn off his westerns if you know what’s good for you!”
The man nodded, but he didn’t listen one bit. Instead, he smiled (an awful snarl) and he disappeared around the corner, deliberately making his way to the den, despite my warnings of waking Harold. Well, I certainly didn’t want him disturbing my sweet old husband from his nap, and I found this behavior to be downright disrespectful. I’d made up my mind that this nasty man had to go, so I put my baking on hold to go give him a piece of my mind.
I made my way in that direction, towards the hallway that led to the den, to my dear Harold and that awful, awful man. But the hallway had become impossibly long. It went on for what looked like miles: the walls stretching and pulling like wet dough. There was a shimmer (like I was looking at a reflection) and I knew if I stepped foot in that hallway I would fall right through the floor. I knew I would die if I made one single step.
So I closed my eyes. I pictured the den, Harold’s westerns flickering on the television set, and I could see it. I could see what that monster was doing to my poor old Harold. His hand was reaching right in to Harold’s chest. I was in the den now (the twisting and bending hallway behind me) but I was too late. That awful man in the khaki suit told me as much. He told me he was just doing his job. He asked me would I forgive him for what he had done. I couldn’t look at poor Harold. I knew that your grandfather was no longer with us. I was silent. Frozen.
The man in the khaki suit frowned, reaching in to his jacket pocket to retrieve his pipe and a small box of tobacco to pack it with. I felt stuck. I’m just a little old lady. There was nothing I could do.
When I was a girl I remember walking into the coop to feed the chickens on your great grandparents’ farm only to discover a fox was ripping them to shreds. You have to understand there’s nothing malicious about a predator, but there’s nothing remorseful about one either. I felt the same then as I did when I was a girl staring in to the eyes of that fox, afraid to turn my head and look at all the blood and feathers. The man opened his mouth to say something, but he never got the words out, not before I woke up… alone in bed.
It was unusual to wake up alone, your grandfather being such a heavy sleeper. Never one to get up to get a glass of water or use the restroom, he always slept the whole night through. But not tonight. No, tonight he was gone and I was alone. I had wondered how he managed to get himself out of bed (let alone without waking me), why the door was shut, why he hadn’t turned on the hallway light. As I made my way to the door I heard a strange noise.
And as I opened it and stepped out into the hallway, I saw it: the flickering grey light inching its way up and across the ceiling; the rising sound of static, on and off which each click. It was the old television in the den flickering on and off with its spinning clicking dial.
I’d find my Harold in there, sitting in his favorite chair, head pointed up at the ceiling. They’d tell me it was a heart attack. And maybe it was… or maybe it was whatever that nasty man in the khaki suit did to him in my dream.
After that I stopped having dreams about the man in the khaki suit. At least for now. The nurses come to check on me less, and when they do it’s never one that I recognize. They do odd things too. They forget my medications, or give me the wrong ones at the wrong time of day. They ask me strange questions, personal ones, like if anyone ever touched me as a child, if Harold ever hit me or beat me. They ask me if I believe in God… if I would ever betray God.
It scares me deeply. It scares me to think of what they might do if I don’t play along… if I tell anyone.
According to a notation at the bottom of the page, its at this point that the recording is interrupted by a visit from one the nurses. Delores is administered one of her medications and someone can be heard whispering something inaudible before the tape recorder is shut off. This concludes side A.
The following is a transcript of side B.
Franklin was a decent enough man, though your grandfather never quite grew to like him. I think Harold was jealous, afraid Franklin might try to steal me away. After all, Franklin was quite handsome with his tweed jacket, and of course he’d been a bachelor since the early fifties. He’d had to flee Mississippi. Being a black man in love with a white woman still wasn’t easy back then, don’t let them tell you that it was. He’d always held out hope that he’d see that girl again, but that’s a story for a different time.
Franklin told me that he saw the man in the khaki suit. He told me other folks had seen him too, that he had a habit of doing what he did to my poor Harold. I asked Franklin, “Who else had the man killed?”
And he thought about it for a long time before he responded, in the sweet southern Mississippi accent, “Too many, Delores… too many. Folks don’t want to talk about it. And if you see that man again you tell him leave you alone and you close your eyes tight and don’t open them until you wake up in your bed again.”
I remember Franklin cupping his hands over mine and saying a prayer. He told me that he’d miss Harold, though I doubt that was entirely true. His eyes swelled up and he asked me to promise him that if I ever saw the man again I’d close my eyes until I woke up, and so I did. He asked me one more favor before he left. He took his hand off of the doorknob and lowered his voice. He told me to hide all of the pictures of my children and my grandchildren. He said if I didn’t then they’d take them away.
I tried my best to remember but I didn’t think Franklin ever had any children. The next time I’d see Franklin he’d be under a sheet carried out of his bungalow on a stretcher. He didn’t have any family, at least not any that he stayed in contact with. I hadn’t seen him come out for at least a couple of days, and they hadn’t stopped in to give him his medications either. I can only imagine what he must have looked like in there, that poor soul.
He was a sweet man, that Franklin. You know, I think about him a lot, almost as often as I think of your grandfather. Sadly, Franklin wasn’t the last. Next was Oscar… Charlie… then Isabella and her husband Christopher. This is a retirement community. We are all old or getting there. It may sound a bit crass, but this is what old people do. We die. But not like this.
I’ve lived here for a long time now. Harold and I moved here in our late sixties and as I sit here today, I’m almost 82 years old. And it’s never been like this. Never has death been a daily occurrence. This isn’t right. I’m the only one left. I’m the only one that knows what he really is.
There’s a note at the bottom of the page. It says: “Remaining audio unrecoverable. Tape no longer functional.”
I was frustrated. I couldn’t help but feel like the last piece of this puzzle was lost to time, so I did a bit of digging and I managed to hunt down Ron’s contact: the colleague who had passed along this transcript all those years ago.
It wasn’t easy. There was an old cellphone hidden away in a box of office supplies that once belonged to Ron. It wasn’t hard, sifting through the decades old contacts, to find who the old cop buddies were and who Ron’s other colleagues were. I made some cold calls. Most of the numbers were no longer in service and so I was surprised when someone finally picked up.
I asked her if she knew anything about the Delores tape. She laughed. She’d heard about it, but never got a chance to listen to it. I asked her if she knew who had given the transcript to Ron and in turn she asked me if I had a pen. She couldn’t give me his number, instead she gave me an email address. Told me it was still a shot in the dark, she hadn’t spoken to him or Ron in years. To be honest, I didn’t feel hopeful going on a stranger’s hunch, but it was the only lead I had. If he didn’t know anything about the Delores tape, then maybe he knew someone who did.
He emailed me back a couple of days later and this is what he had to say.
If you’re looking for Ron, I don’t know that I can really be of much help. If you’re just looking for information on the Delores tape, I’m not sure that I can be of much help with that either. What I can tell you is that she was absolutely a real woman. I met her once.
I was never able to follow through with a full investigation because a few days after I met with her she was found dead: died in her sleep. There was never a cause of death listed because you usually don’t need an autopsy at that age. When you’re over eighty years old and you die in your sleep… that’s what they call dying peacefully. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you: “That’s the way to go.”
I’m not so sure.
What’s interesting is that the day after Delores passed away, that whole retirement community burned down to the ground. On the news they insisted that twenty-three people had died in that fire. A tragedy. But I had been to that property just days prior. It was practically empty.
I saw some of the on-site staff of course, though they dressed more like pharmacists or scientists than what I would have thought nurses dressed like. Unless they were having an early Christmas party when the fire broke out, I don’t know how the hell twenty-three people could have died in that fire. I never saw any sign of a single resident except for Delores.
They never published the names of those that perished. I was never able to track down anyone who had family on the property either. It’s almost like the place never existed before it burned down. But it did. I was there.
But I know the real question you have on your mind. It’s the same question everyone’s asked me about the tape, what Delores was saying when the tape cut out.
The simple answer is that I don’t know. The first time I played the tape, I immediately started making a transcription. It just makes things easier to reference when you have it all on paper. And thank God I did, because when I got to that part – near the end of side B – the tape recorder I was playing it back on just sort of combusted. Not really a big fire or anything, but enough to let off some black smoke and ruin the tape recorder. The tape melted. I was never able to hear the end of it. Unfortunately, I’m just as much in the dark as you are.
If I really try, I can trick myself into thinking that something wouldn’t allow me to hear the end of that tape. Something wanted that story to die in the fire with everything else. I guess it sort of did.
The only person who knows what she said is the person who recorded it: Delores’ grandson. And, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get in contact with him since her passing. Believe it or not, he’s the one who reached out to me. I told him to go to the police and he told me that he tried. He was 16, and this was the best he could do.
None of it really makes any sense. It’s the reason I gave up on paranormal investigating. It’s the reason I passed that transcript to Ron. If I could give you one word of advice, Jeremy… it’s to quit it with the podcast, and quit looking in to this stuff before you get yourself killed.
I sent a follow-up email, just to make sure I had permission to share this exchange on the podcast. He agreed on the condition that he be allowed to remain anonymous.
I did some more digging after that. I looked for burned down retirement communities and when that didn’t work I changed the keyword to ‘nursing homes’ and then to ‘assisted living facilities’. I couldn’t find anything that sounded quite like what Ron’s former colleague described in that email.
I did some other searches, looking for anyone else’s experiences with the man in the khaki suit, but I didn’t really find much online. I like the way Ron’s former colleague put it: it all died in the fire.
However… I did find one thing. Something that cut a bit through my numbness, reanimated some of the fear I must have had resting in my bones since dealing with the Grinner. It was a forum post that reads as follows:
“Hey, does anyone know how I can get in touch with that girl that was talking about seeing a man in a beige or brown suit every night in her dreams? I remember everyone telling her that they sounded more like nightmares. I’m just a bit weirded out because ever since I read that, I’ve been having dreams about him, too. “
I reached out to the poster but I haven’t yet gotten a response. Something tells me I’m not going to, and I hate knowing that.
I have a feeling that there’s more to this. This story may have burned away a long time ago, but it’s just a piece of something much larger. Something tells me that the other pieces lay somewhere in these boxes… somewhere in the Storage Papers… I just have to put it all together again.
What thoughts enter your mind when someone says the word: Christmas? For me, I get a mental picture of my late grandmother’s Christmas tree, all decorated in lights, ornaments, and tinsel, with rows of gifts wrapped in decorative paper just waiting underneath.
The nostalgic smells of gigantic meals, hot cocoa, and various flavors of pie coming out of the oven fill the room around me and my family as we bask in each others’ company by the fireplace, catching up on life events over the previous year, and laughing at the very same jokes.
While these thoughts are pleasantly reminiscent for me, it’s easy to forget how magical and even haunting this time of year can be. For most this is a time to celebrate the good in our lives, to be thankful for what we have, to observe the good… the light in our lives. But sometimes, especially during the holidays and for those of us who have truly witnessed the darkness, the presence of the light only serves to accentuate it. For others, they’re so busy enjoying the light that they fail to notice the dark, which is a gift in and of itself. But make no mistake. It’s still there. It’s always there… temporarily hidden, looming in wait for its most opportune moment to make itself known to us, and it doesn’t necessarily always happen when we expect it to.
Authors like Kolmar, Carpenter, and Dickens were aware of this, and as a result provided us with haunting stories rich with Victorian and Celtic tradition. Today, I’m sharing three such tales I’ve come across during my continued research into The Storage Papers. Whether they can be summarized as local legend, folklore, or possibly even real-life encounters, I can’t tell you for certain, but like the other documents in my possession, these need to be told.
So find a cozy spot next to the fireplace to sit, put on some headphones, and allow me to share these stories with you as a reminder to never let your guard down because you never know what’s lurking in the shadows, even during your brightest moments of the season.
The Gift Unopened
I woke up and instantly knew nothing was right. I know sometimes it’ll take a minute or two to get your bearings, but it wasn’t like that. I’d never seen that place before. I didn’t know whose bed I was in or even where the clothes that I was wearing came from – something that bothered me more than not recognizing where I was. Like, had someone changed me while I was asleep?
I tried to remember how I got there but it was like I was in a haze. That’s when I knew what happened. I’d been drugged. Not that I know much about drugs – especially not those kinds – but I’m a fourteen year old girl. I know what a roofie is.
I heard footsteps outside the bedroom I was in and froze. I wasn’t alone. I looked around the windowless room, this time not trying to figure out where I was so much as just trying to see if there was anything I could use to defend myself. That’s when my eyes landed on a snow globe sitting on top of the dresser.
The slow footsteps were getting closer, so, staying as quiet as I possibly could, I got out of bed and tiptoed to the dresser. I grabbed the snow globe and hefted it. It was one of those Christmas ones with a big, decorative base depicting a snowy hill. It definitely could do some damage.
I held my breath, listening carefully as the footsteps paused outside the door. The only things I could hear was the faint sound of some Christmas music and my own heartbeat in my ears. Then whoever it was kept walking. When it sounded like they were far enough away, I finally exhaled, then looked back around the room. I walked over to the bed and slid the pillow out of its case, then dropped the snow globe in the empty pillowcase. I figured it’d be a better weapon if I could get some more velocity on it.
I walked to the door and put my hand on the ornate, round doorknob. I remember thinking that whatever place this was, it must belong to someone either old or rich or both to have fancy doorknobs like that. Old would be creepier, but easier to take on, so that’s what I was hoping for. When I tried the door, I was kind of surprised that the door wasn’t locked. Rookie mistake on their part. I didn’t have a plan or anything when I cracked it open. I just needed to escape somehow.
The coast was clear. I stepped into the hallway, quickly looking both left and right to figure out which way to go. Both ends turned towards the same direction, but the muffled Christmas music seemed to be coming from the right, so that’s the direction I went. I was about to walk past the next door down the hall when I heard a kid whimpering. I couldn’t make up my mind. I’m not a heroic person… but I couldn’t just leave another victim here to whatever sick people had taken us.
I checked behind me again, gripped my makeshift weapon a little tighter, then cautiously opened the door. Inside, a small boy – couldn’t have been older than six or seven – was curled up in a ball next to a bed and crying quietly with what looked like a doll in his hands. A quick glance confirmed he was alone. I padded over to him and he jumped as I knelt down.
I put a finger to my lips then whispered, asking if he was okay. He sniffled and nodded. I told him I was going to get us out of there, wherever “there” was.
On the dresser in this room was a baseball bat, but one of those small ones that was only two or three feet long. It wasn’t much, but it was something. I handed it to him just in case. He set down the doll and took it. Frustratingly, I realized that room was windowless as well. There had to be a way out of there!
I took his free hand in my own and together we left the room behind. I didn’t notice my first time in the hallway, but the far wall was lined with old timey photos which only added to the creep vibe. On the plus side, that only raised the odds in my mind that whoever had us was super old and, while I was pretty far from feeling good, I did feel like our chances were a little better of making it out alive. We walked past a couple more doors and had just rounded the corner to find a staircase leading downwards when a door to the right of the stairs opened and we found ourselves face to face with a grizzly old lady. I had a few thoughts hit me all at once. The first was something like oh shit we’ve been caught. Next was me realizing that I was right: she was old. Then I saw the long pair of scissors in her hand.
We both spent what felt like an absolutely surreal several minutes staring at each other… but I came to my senses first and swung the snow globe. She raised her hand to block it but she was too late. Her scissors caught the pillowcase, but not in time to keep the globe from shattering against her head. She didn’t even have the chance to cry out as she crumpled to the ground with glass embedded in her face. I turned to find the boy staring at her, eyes wide in shock and horror. I wish I didn’t have to do that, especially not in front of him, but what choice did I have?
My torn pillowcase was useless, so I dropped it, grabbed the scissors from the old lady’s unconscious – or maybe dead – hand, and closed the door. We had to find a way out of that place. I saw even in her room there wasn’t a window. While I had dispatched one person, we weren’t out of the woods. I didn’t know if there were more.
I headed down the stairs one careful step at a time, scissors in one white-knuckled hand, the boy’s small hand in the other. We reached the bottom and came to something of an intersection. Directly ahead was what appeared to be a foyer, a little shelf lining a wall with a few small figurines on it. One thing you would expect was missing at the end of the foyer, though: a front door. I didn’t poke my head out – not yet – but to the left it looked like a living room. From where I stood, I could see some bricks forming part of a fireplace. To the right I saw a couple of chairs and a cabinet of china behind them, so I felt pretty safe in assuming that was the dining room. With the boy behind me for safety, I peered out, searching the dining room for maybe a sliding glass door or something. There wasn’t one, but it looked like a doorway led to a kitchen. Maybe there was a backdoor there or something?
I heard a woman yell behind me, then a sickening crack and thud. I felt cold as I turned to find a woman, probably like thirty or something, panting and holding a bloody poker iron. She had a few cuts across her face and arms already and I wondered what this place actually was. I didn’t have too much time to think about it though, because she was already pulling back for a swing at me. I jumped back just in time to avoid a similar fate to the boy. I turned and ran, trying to put the thick, wooden table between us. The woman chased me, trying to catch me as I ran. I heard the china shatter just behind me. Without looking back, I dove over the table. She swung the poker downwards at me, but she wasn’t close enough; the iron embedded itself in the table. I jumped forward and started stabbing everywhere I could with the scissors. I couldn’t even see anything because I was crying too much. At some point – I honestly don’t know when – she stopped moving and I left the scissors embedded in her.
I wanted to give up. There wasn’t any time for that, though. I didn’t know how many more of these… monsters… were coming for me. And the proof of what they would do to me was lying at the foot of the stairs. I dislodged the poker iron then headed into the kitchen, wiping the tears out of my eyes as I walked. It was a dead end.
It was hard not to feel defeated, like I had been so close, even though obviously I wasn’t. And there still had to be a way out. I turned and quietly walked back towards the living room. I closed my eyes as I approached the foyer. I couldn’t look down. When my feet bumped the body, I took a big step forward. Once I reached the other side, I opened my eyes… just as a large hand grabbed my face from behind, completely covering my mouth and nose.
I instantly panicked, dropping the poker as I squirmed and flailed my arms and legs in every direction. Whoever owned this hand was strong as it effortlessly kept me in its steel grip. Another hand appeared in front of my face, this one wielding an absolutely massive chef knife. I could see his bearded reflection in it and did the only thing I could. I bit down – hard. I didn’t stop until my teeth met. The man roared and released me. I fell, spitting out the flesh, then quickly stumbling away into the living room.
An overturned end table laid next to a shattered vase and small leather book on the floor to my left, and various tools to manage a fire were scattered in front of the fireplace. Ahead, a Christmas tree stood tall, dark, and without soul. There was an array of still-wrapped presents beneath it with a single box tipped over, unwrapped, open, and empty. There were no doors or windows.
I turned to face the man. He was barrelling towards me, knife ready to slash into me. I gripped the poker iron in both hands, but I knew there wasn’t enough time to swing it. Instead, I pointed it at him and thrust it forward. His own momentum took care of the rest. The knife clattered to the ground as he grabbed the poker. The hook at the end was inside of him. I looked at him and our eyes locked. He looked… afraid. I let go of the rod and stepped backwards, towards the tree. He dropped to his knees, then fell to his side on the floor in the middle of the living room.
I heard movement coming from the stairs and looked up to see the old lady struggling to pull herself forwards – she wasn’t dead after all. From this angle I could see a shard of broken glass in the side of her neck. She didn’t have much longer, but that didn’t stop me from picking up the knife off the ground. I stood there, waiting to see what would happen, blade ready for whatever she was going to throw at me. She stopped next to the boy. She looked pale and really, she probably didn’t have too much strength even before I whacked her upside the head.
Her eyes widened and she slowly extended a hand, pointing behind me. I glanced back. The only thing of note where she was pointing was the Christmas tree. Maybe the box on the ground? I stepped over and tapped it with my foot. What looked to be a few breadcrumbs spilled out, but it was definitely empty and in every way unremarkable.
I looked at her and this time she was shaking as she redirected her hand to point over by the broken vase. The man was still by then. I went over and picked up the book. Burned into the leather cover was a crude depiction of some sort of creature. It had a long beard, horns, and claws. Beneath it was the word: Diduch.
I looked up from the book to see the old woman’s eyes were vacant. I opened the book. The pages were yellow and stiff, and most of the handwritten words were in another language I didn’t recognize. The last page, however, was in English. I still have it. I ended up crawling out of the chimney to escape – the only opening to the whole house – but I kept that book with me.
“Leave the gift unopened under the tree. On the day of the yuletide feast, Diduch will transform and consume the bread offering. He has protected this household – and this house itself of which he is the master – for generations and it is by him we remember who we are – not only to ourselves, but to each other. If he is let out of the box on the day of the feast, he will be unappeased and will take that away as quickly as he has given it. There will be no escape to his wrath. Do not open the gift.”
It’s weird and makes me think they were probably a cult or witches or something, right? But now that I made it out, I want to go home… I just feel like I can’t even remember where that is now.
When I was small my grandfather would tell me these stories. I always thought of them as mean little stories; nasty stories with scary premises and horrible endings. Most of them I’ve forgotten over the years, but there was one that always stuck with me: the story of Elves. You see, the way that my grandfather would tell it, Santa’s elves aren’t knee or waist high; they’re tiny… only a few inches tall. After all, Santa’s elves aren’t the strange caricatures of dwarfism that most people probably envision, they’re… faeries – faeries that old Saint Nick had tricked and captured into servitude through magic. My grandfather always lost that sly smile and tricky little sparkle in his eyes when he told me this story, but it’d return at the end when he’d put his hand on my shoulder and tell me that one day he’d show me.
“I captured one,” he’d tell me. “It snapped its little leg in a mousetrap and before it could chew it off, I tossed the thing in an old Mason jar with an iron coin in it… kept it since I was a young man. One day when I’m too old to listen to it sing and tell me its stories, I’ll pass that burden on to you.”
My grandfather stopped telling me those stories when I got too old to sit in his lap. He lost that sly smile and the tricky little sparkle in his eyes, and in his final years he spent most of his time in his room in the attic of the family home, sitting in his favorite chair. He’d just stare off at nothing, his eyes glazed over and his expression blank. But occasionally he’d take a sip from a glass of water and start to whistle this unfamiliar tune.
I was at school when he passed away, and when my parents sat me down to tell me, I didn’t feel much. I’d already lost the grandfather I’d grown up loving, and I had no issue recognizing that the old man that sat up in his favorite chair in the attic was at the end of his journey. I wouldn’t miss that old man much, but I’d hold on to the memories I shared with my grandfather for the rest of my life.
It was the fall as I sat sipping hot apple cider, that I remembered the old story about the faeries… and I thought about the jar and what my grandfather had told me. I didn’t believe it of course (none of those stories were true) but it crossed my mind and that was enough to get me thinking about him.
The stairs creaked as I made my way up to my grandfather’s old room. The smell of long-settled dust hung in the air and only got stronger as I opened up his wardrobe, and then the dresser drawers, and then the old lock-box he kept beside his bed. It was in that box that I found the jar. Inside was a tiny little creature, no more than a few inches, just as my grandfather had said. It looked like a small person, naked and androgynous. It looked dry and withered and dead, but when I looked closely and held perfectly still I could see its chest moving.
…and then it spoke…
“You are not the son,” it said, its soft voice resonating in my head rather than from the jar, “but yet I smell his blood in your veins. I take it that you are the grandchild?”
“…yes” I replied, my voice barely making it over the lump in my throat.
The voice of the faerie was more energetic now, if just ever so slightly. “Well then you should let me go. My imprisonment has lasted generations and I’ve long since paid for my carelessness.”
I wasn’t sure what to say, but I had a sinking feeling that my grandfather would have opened this jar if he thought it wise. He wasn’t a cruel man and his fascination of oddities hadn’t – to my knowledge – ever steered his moral judgment. If this faerie was in a jar, it was meant to be there.
I spoke up. “And if I do not?”
The faerie sat up in the jar, its organs and bowels showing through its translucent paper skin. Its right leg was black and shriveled, ending just below the knee. The voice lost the energy it had just moments ago.
“Then, child… I shall remain in this jar.”
I sat the jar down on the bed and watched as the faerie adjusted its posture and stood up, pressing its tiny hands on the glass and moving its head up and down to study me. Its voice had a sort of reverence to it.
“You look so much like your grandfather,” it told me. “I’d hoped one day to have children of my own.”
I lowered myself to study the tiny being, who raised one hand to its chest as it continued, the other hand still pressed against the glass. “I could have had children. I still can, but what life would they live in this glass jar? Cold iron burning their skin and making them weak and pained like myself. I hope you see now that I mean no harm, and only wish to leave this prison and have a family of my own.”
I wiped the sweat from my hands on to the front of my pants and took a long look at the creature that stood before for me.
“If not,” it said, “could you remove the iron coin? I am trapped in this jar and it brings me nothing but pain. It burns my skin and slowly tortures me. Surely you aren’t a cruel young man, and you will do me this one simple kindness.”
I sat down on the bed and the faerie moved to the side of the jar to meet my gaze. I swallowed. “If I open the lid are you going to jump out?”
“No, of course not,” it told me. “I am old and I am weak and in pain… I have not the strength to leap out and more importantly you have my word that as long as you have that lid open I will stay perfectly still.”
The lid was tight, and I had to use the front of my shirt to get a good grip. Removing the lid filled the room with the scent of rot and decay – that sort of earthy smell that comes from dead animals. I reached around the faerie and quickly retrieved the coin and threaded the lid back on to the jar.
“Thank you,” the faerie said. “I must rest now… and so should you.”
I tossed and turned in my bed that night, thinking about the creature in the attic: the faerie. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was real or if I had just hallucinated it. I got up to use the restroom, and upon leaving my room I heard a noise… a small voice singing a familiar tune in an unfamiliar language. It was the tune my grandfather would whistle as he sat in his room in the attic in his favorite chair. There was a faint glow that cascaded in ribbons down the stairs that led up to the attic.
I made my way up and switched on the light. The jar still sat on the bed where I had left it. The faerie looked up and beckoned me closer with its arms.
“Look at me,” it said, and I stepped towards it, bent down to look closer at the jar.
“No… closer,” the voice whispered in a harsh tone. “Really look at me”
I picked the jar up and brought it to my face, looking closely at the small skeletal figure and the light that emanated from its body. Without warning, the glass began to fill with an inky black liquid until it seemed as though the jar itself was filled to the brim with an endless darkness that swallowed every bit of life in its infinite hunger to consume the light around me. I could feel myself in that darkness, reaching out for something to grasp on to but feeling nothing but cold emptiness in an endless void of pain and sorrow and loss and regret.
I snapped back the second the jar fell from my hands and on to my grandfather’s bed, before rolling to the floor and smashing. I steadied myself before looking down at the broken jar, no longer seeing the black liquid or the jars captive, which must have scurried off to some dark corner of the attic.
I spent the night looking for the faerie, and I’m ashamed to say that after that I gave up. It wasn’t difficult to convince myself that there never was a faerie. As the months came and went and the weather got colder, it became easier to picture myself as just some weird teenager with an overactive imagination and an inability to process the grief of losing a close member of my family. After all, it wasn’t until December that I finally dropped the tough-guy demeanor and cried for the first time after losing my grandfather.
It was mid-December when I started hearing the scratching inside the walls. When I listened closely I could hear small voices, too faint and too foreign to make out any of the words.
‘Surely it’s mice‘ I told myself, a still less than comforting thought.
After that, things began to go missing. Small unimportant things like batteries and silverware… and then more important things, like keys… like my mothers wedding ring and my sisters pearl earrings. Things would just disappear. Sometimes just as quickly as you’d turn around, things would be completely gone without a trace.
It was Christmas Eve when things came to a head. I woke up to find that I was missing a tooth. A fully formed healthy adult tooth was missing from my mouth. Devoid was the copper taste of blood or any evidence of a tooth falling out… or being pulled out. It was as if I’d never had a tooth there at all – no wound, just smooth healthy gums where once a tooth was rooted to my skull.
Outside the sound of sirens grew closer, red and blue lights reflecting in the snow. I heard crying outside my door… my mother’s trembling voice.
“Its okay, baby,” she said between chokes and sobs. “Everything will be okay.”
When I opened the door, my mother was in the hallway cradling my younger sister. Tears rolled down my sister’s face, trickling passed the mostly bare patch of skin where she once had a nose.
“They took it mommy,” she mumbled. “The little people kept coming in to my room at night and taking my toys, and when I told them to stop they said they would… but then they took my nose!”
My mother looked up at me, her eyes glistening and wet. My sister pleaded, “I’m telling the truth, mommy, they live in the walls!”
At the end of the hallway I saw the faerie laying limply against the wall like a discarded doll, and when it saw me it scurried off, dragging its body across the wooden floorboards and into the darkness. I stepped closer and looked around the corner to see its face obscured by the shadows. Only it wasn’t alone… more faces stared back at me.
Loud knocks on the front door caught my attention and when I glanced back the faeries were gone. Before I’d backed out of the foyer they were already walking a stretcher through the doorway. The Christmas tree was tipped over, and glass ornaments rolled across the floorboards, only to be crushed under their black boots.
My father – who had left for work just hours earlier – pushed passed the firemen and EMTs and put his arm around my shoulder, guiding me closer to my mother and sister. When he saw her face his concerned expression melted into a look that was indescribable – a mix of shock and sorrow, disgust and despair. He closed his eyes and bit his fist.
“What happened?” he said through gritted teeth.
My mother fell to her knees “I don’t know baby… I don’t know.”
My mother wiped snot away from her face with her sleeve and looked up at me, a haunting look in her eyes. My sister was being helped on to a stretcher by the bewildered EMTs.
“Are you… okay?” she asked me. Tears rolled down her chin.
I thought about the missing tooth… about the faeries, and my grandfather’s story…
“I’m okay, Momma.”
I sat alone that night, or at least a sort of semblance of alone. I’d wanted to come with them to the hospital. I’d wanted to find the strength to come clean and tell them about the faeries, but instead they’d left me behind in this empty house on Christmas Eve.
I locked myself in the bathroom, stuffing towels under the door and blocking the vents. I just wanted somewhere to feel safe, and for a few hours I kind of did.
But then the voices started. I could hear them all around me, inside every wall, in the ceiling, dragging things up and down the hallways, whispering in their secret ancient language like chittering bugs. I felt surrounded, claustrophobic, completely overwhelmed with the constant bombardment of subtle noises coming from every direction.
I spent hours like this, driven mad by the malevolent little monsters that had just – in one night – done such irreparable damage to my family. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought for the first time: I had done this. I had found the jar. I had removed the iron coin. I had dropped the jar and released that… thing in to my home, and it had multiplied – nested in the walls – and now there were dozens of them infesting my family’s home. My heart battled with feelings of stupidity and regret and boiling anger for what those things had taken… what they’d taken from my sister.
Before I realized what I was doing, I’d pulled the towels out from under the door and I’d opened it up and made my way out into the hallway. The creature’s scattered like roaches, and in turn I treated them as such, stomping my feet at them, hoping to crush one under my heel. They were too quick. As I made my way back to the living room, I noticed that the faeries had fixed the Christmas tree. It’d fallen down in all of the chaos, but it now stood proudly in our living room like a shining beacon ready to steer ships away from its glowing shores.
The twinkling white lights and silver garland were thoughtfully looped along the length of it, the ornaments placed carefully on the branches. I spotted one of the ornaments that had been broken in the commotion, now neatly mended together by a spider-web of glue. With two hands I pulled the tree back down, the light now sparking across the scattered fragments of broken ornaments.
I felt like I could feel them crawling on me… their little hands gripping on to my skin… I felt dirty thinking about them. The cement floor of the garage felt like ice on my bare feet. It was cold, freezing, and I think that’s why I didn’t hear them in the walls there.
The sledgehammer sat propped against the wall, next to a collection of shovels and rakes. I picked it up, dragging the head behind me as I made my way back in to the house. Just like any infestation, there had to be some sort of nest. In the living room, I pressed the iron coin against the wall, hoping it’d be enough to get a rise out of the creature’s. I moved it up and down along the length of the wall, and when that yielded no response, I checked the other rooms.
I could hear them when I entered my sisters room. I pressed my ear to the wall and listened – their tiny whispering voices shouting over one another. When I pressed the coin up against the wall they moaned and screeched to one another, and so I followed the voices.
Their voices were clearest in the wall behind my sister’s dresser. That must have been where they were nested. The sledgehammer made a hole in the wall the size of a can, but I quickly spread it to the size of a dinner plate. They screamed and hissed as I smashed away bits of drywall, exposing the fluffy pink insulation beneath its white painted surface. What I found inside that wall was something from a nightmare.
Settled in with shredded insulation, candy cane wrappers, and bits-and-pieces of various items pilfered from around the house, was a doll; a sort of abomination made from all of the things that had gone missing over the last several months.
Its arms and legs were snapped away from various toys, its head and body a mismatch of fabric and pillow fluff. My mothers wedding ring was embedded in its chest, and nestled in its crooked smile was my stolen tooth. Above its ghastly grin sat my sister’s nose, now a sickly grey and crookedly stitched on to the fabric. What scared me most is that it didn’t have any eyes… at least not yet anyway. A soft and familiar voice entered my head. It was the oldest – the faerie I’d stupidly released into my home all of those months ago.
“Forgive us, child.” The voice was calm but unsure. “We mean not to harm you. My children are only doing what we’ve done for millennia.”
“And what is that?” I shot back, the anger bubbling over in my chest. “Torture me and my family?”
The voice sounded somewhat pained. “Long ago our people were tricked and cursed to live forever in servitude. I’d asked you to set me free, but we can never truly be free… instead we must always make toys and the cookies and wrappings and the dressings and cakes. Magic binds us to our duty.”
The faerie climbed out of the wall as it spoke, flopping to the floor and settling on its hands and knees before me. “You must understand, my children have no choice but to make these things. It is in their blood. They were scared and confused and… only working with what resources they had available. I am remorseful for the pain my children have caused you.”
I lifted the sledgehammer. “And what if I smash you right now?”
“Well,” said the faerie, “then my children will live on in these walls forever, but with no guidance… trying to do good but only causing more grief and tragedy for you and your family. Do good for us, bring us the proper materials, and in return we will bring you joy: make the cakes and the cookies and the dressings and toys. Leave us and care for us and we will make you happy.”
I never got the tooth fixed, or returned my mothers wedding ring. I thought it best that it stay fixed to that awful little doll, which now sits just a few feet below the soil in the rose garden out back of the family home. Over time the prosthetic noses got better, but my sister never forgot about the little people in the walls. She’s a woman now, but I think that in a lot of ways she’s still that same little girl who watched her curiosity turn to torment and then to tragedy.
Few things weathered the storm of my parents divorce, but the house with the faeries in the walls stood strong, and when my mother passed away it became my home again. A lot of things are different now that I’m older and have children of my own, but one thing remains the same as it has every year since: around this time, every year, I leave a box of materials out for the faeries, and every year – just after Christmas – I take all those crooked vile looking toys out in to backyard and burn them until there’s nothing left but ashes.
This home belongs to me. Not the faeries.
One day I’ll tell my son this story, and maybe even my grandchildren if I’m lucky, and they’ll carry on the tradition. I just hope they’ll pay attention.
It was around the Christmas holiday that my life was changed forever. I was still a teenager back then, causing trouble, and easily dismissive about things in life that I should have been thankful for. It was easy to consider myself the victim, just because I bounced around from foster home to foster home. Just because my parents died when I was 5 years old. At 16 years old, I admit, I was upset about everything and I was just lashing out all the time. I had been blinded by a misconception that life was fair, or that the world somehow owed me something. Of course I know now I was entirely wrong.
I never really celebrated Christmas before, as it was not in my family’s culture when they were alive. I had only been with this foster family for a couple of weeks, and I was angry that they were trying to force me to celebrate with them. When I first arrived at their home, it was decorated in multi-colored lights, with an obnoxiously large pine tree in their living room with a bunch of crap hanging on the branches. As I was introduced to everyone, my foster father, Jim and his wife, Nancy, had wide eyes and what looked like plastic smiles. I could tell they were putting on a show to make me feel welcome, and that somehow all of their pretty decorations were a bit over-the-top just for me. Could they not see the color of my skin? Did they not realize that my parents wouldn’t be celebrating this holiday if they were still here? It was so hard to simply recognize the effort back then, and I know I must have appeared annoyed or ungrateful, but looking back, I truly appreciate the effort.
On their fireplace mantle I saw my name, Dashin, on a red and white stocking next to four others; Tran, Lien, Charity, and Malik. It wasn’t long before I met all four of them. When Jim yelled, “we’re home”, they slowly came out to the living room and greeted me with a hug. Well, everyone except Lien, who looked like she was around my age, and she was gawking at me rather strangely. I recognized that look almost instantly, and I could tell she’d been around the foster system for a while too. It was a look of discernment, and she was most likely trying to figure out if I was going to be a threat to her somehow. She must have had some bad experiences like I did.
Throughout introductions, I learned that Lien was Chinese, and was 15 years old. Tran was Vietnamese and 10. Charity was African American and she was 7 years old. And Malik, the youngest, was 5. They said they didn’t know his nationality, but I’d be sharing a room with him for the duration of my stay at the Jones’s, who were obviously of some Anglo-European descent, though they claimed they didn’t know what kind of ancestry they had. I just knew it was quite possible that it would be my last stay with a foster family so close to my 17th birthday.
The two weeks leading up to Christmas Eve were actually really pleasant. That year, Christmas was on a Friday, and I was thankful to not have to attend my new school until after New Year’s. I had a lot of time to get to know the Jones family, and they really were pretty nice people, and seemed to genuinely enjoy fostering, though they seemed a bit uneducated regarding the cultural backgrounds of us kids. Could definitely be worse… I had begun to let my guard down and relax just a bit, and I could tell as I did, that Lien was more at-ease around me also. She was actually pretty cool once I spoke to her a bit. She agreed to show me around school when we started back up in January, and she was also a fan of anime like me. Charity and Tran seemed to be mostly outdoor-oriented. They’d ride their bicycles or hang out with some of the neighborhood kids most days, and we wouldn’t really interact with them too much until dinner time.
Malik was easy to share a room with. He was a quiet kid, and I started considering him to be my alarm clock. The only time I would hear him speak, outside of just laughing, was in the mornings. My bed was parallel to his, and often his shoes would wake me up. He’d climb out of bed, pajamas still on, and put on these shoes that have a red light in the soles that would flash every time he took a step. He loved those things, and would probably sleep in them if allowed to. In the dark hours of the morning, the light coming off of them was usually enough to wake me up. When it wasn’t, he’d walk to my bed and place his gentle 5 year-old hand on my forehead, then he’d say “wake” as if he was performing some kind of magic trick before giggling and running out of the room. I’m not sure where he went for most of the day. I knew he didn’t go outside much, but I also didn’t recall really seeing him in our room a lot either. I mostly saw him at mealtimes.
Something about that home and the welcoming feeling there seemed peaceful, and I admit that I started to feel relaxed sooner than I typically would when adjusting to a new foster home. And then on the morning of December 23rd, everything changed. I actually woke up before Malik that morning. I figured I’d let him sleep in since he never really seemed to, and I staggered into the hallway thinking I was going to get a bowl of cereal and see who else might have been awake. Among the shadows at the end of the hall, I saw Lien standing there, who met eyes with me, and held a finger to her lips to indicate I was to remain quiet. She had both hands on the doorframe in front of her, which led into the living room area, with the kitchen just off to the right. As I approached her quietly, I could hear frantic whispering coming from what sounded like the kitchen area. I whispered to Lien, “what’s going on?” She grabbed me by the wrist and hurriedly, but quietly, led me to my own room where Malik was still sleeping. After closing the door, she said that she thought she overheard Jim and Nancy being upset about a visitor coming for Christmas. Apparently the phone rang in the kitchen this morning, which is what woke Lien up. I honestly couldn’t recall ever hearing that phone ring.
Lien said “chuyen is coming again”. I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she looked frightened, and I must have looked confused. She said “spirit man… he was here before”. She looked genuinely concerned, but I didn’t quite understand what she meant. Before I could inquire further, a single knock at the door preceded it opening rather quickly. Jim and Nancy stood in the hallway and gave us a brief lecture about not going in each others’ rooms, which was one of the only firm rules in their home. Then they woke up Malik and asked us to join them in the living room. They also woke Tran and Charity on the way down the hall. Once we were gathered and sitting in the living room, they assumed those plastic smiles that greeted me just two weeks previously. The fake smiles that I hadn’t seen since my first night in their house were being worn like masks as they explained that we were going to be expecting a visitor.
I wondered what the big deal was, and why did they feel like they had to be ingenuine to tell us this. When I looked at the other children, only Lien seemed to be bothered while the others began asking questions about who it could be. That made me remember that Lien had been with them the longest. Four years now, while the rest of them had been there less than a year. When I looked at Jim, our eyes met. He had a look of disappointment on his face, like I had just stolen something or let him down somehow. He then glanced at Lien, who was starting at the floor, then back at me. He put on his best chipper voice and said, “who wants to make some super-special crafts to give to our guest when he arrives?” As the kids raised their hands and wiggled in their seats with anxious yearning, he held his gaze on me, and then asked Nancy to pull out the art supplies and put them on the kitchen table. And then he asked to speak with me in private.
I nodded and he motioned with his hand toward my room. I sat down on my bed and he closed the door and started pacing and rubbing his chin like he was thinking carefully about what he’d say next. So I spoke first. I said, “you know, you don’t have to lie to anyone. I can tell you’re concerned about our visitor.” He stopped and said, “no, that’s not it. It’s just that Lien didn’t get along with him too well the last time he was here.” “Who is he?” I asked. Jim hesitated for a moment and said, “um… a relative… from the old country. It’s hard to explain.” We heard a crash coming from the living room area, and Jim said, “sounds like Nancy could use some help with that box of craft supplies.” He turned and opened the door, then paused and said, “he’ll be here tonight… can you just give him a chance?” I nodded, but was a bit confused. Did he think I was going to cause a problem? Did Lien say something about me? I was just perplexed.
That night we had a pretty heavy storm roll in. It wasn’t quite freezing temperatures, but it was pretty close to it. Heavy rain and wind knocked out our power, and Nancy was prepared with candles that she left on the dining room table after we cleaned up from dinner. It wasn’t long after the power went out that the temperature in the house started to drop. Jim had left to pick up this mysterious visitor we were expecting, so being the eldest, Nancy asked for my assistance to start a fire in the fireplace. I was just finishing up when the door creaked open, and I heard “we’re home!” I first saw Jim walk through the door, and I could see a shorter, wider silhouette behind him slowly making his way through the door frame. The younger kids scrambled to retrieve the crafts they made earlier that day to greet our guest in a flurry of excitement.
As the figure took a step inside the house, I saw what looked like eye shine from a wild animal, orange in color to match the glow coming from the fireplace. By the way everyone stopped moving and stared at the guest, I could tell I wasn’t the only one witnessing this. The children got quiet, and we all just stood there watching this slow-moving figure come into the fire light. As he got beyond the doorway and closer to the light, the strange glowing-eye appearance seemed to fade, and we could make out some features. He looked ancient, like he may have been well over 100 years old. Deep wrinkles dorned his saggy cheeks aside a mouth agape. He moved incredibly slowly with an ornate wooden cane to help him with his balance. It looked handmade, and the craftsmanship was incredible – something I don’t think I’ve ever noticed or appreciated before in my life.
The kids lined up as if they’d rehearsed for his arrival, each carrying their own craft in their hands. Jim closed the door and took the guest’s overcoat. He had long, flowing silver hair and the pallor of his skin was extremely pale. He was wearing what looked like a green robe with swirls and symbols in silver thread that looked extremely similar to the patterns in his cane. I joined the lineup next to Lien, and he crept over to Tran, who was at the opposite end. He held out his hand, which appeared to have longer-than-normal digits. She shook his hand and he moved to Charity, who did the same. Malik giggled as the guest approached him. The man looked him up and down for a moment,and then grabbed Malik’s jaw. I nearly came at him because it looked somewhat aggressive, but his grip released just as quickly as it went for him. His mannerisms were strange. He cocked his head left, then right, and then he proceeded to sniff Malik’s head. Lien and I exchanged some confused, but concerned looks at one another.
I could feel Lien tense up as the guest moved toward her, but he didn’t stop at her. When he got close to me, I could smell a rotten, sulfuric kind of smell. He didn’t stop at me either, and just kept hobbling on by. It was then that I noticed a symbol on the back of his neck. It wasn’t like any symbol I had seen before, but it looked like it had been burned into his skin many years ago. Jim hurried to get ahead of the man before he entered the hallway, and then showed him to his room. Shortly after, he returned and said that he was tired from his travels and wanted to rest. I hadn’t heard him utter a word.
The entire next day went by without a glimpse of the man until night time. The power had been restored at some point in the night, but the storm remained and it kept going out every once in a while. By nightfall we made a fire just in case the power went out again, and had all been sitting in the living room while Nancy read the kids some Christmas stories. Fairy tales, they seemed to be. I never grew up with this experience, and I had to admit it was priceless to see the wide eyes of the little kids who listened in wonder. We had made pies and cookies earlier that day, and we partook in the spoils with some hot cocoa before bedtime. After I turned in for the night, I found myself having difficulty sleeping, wondering what our guest had been doing all day, and if he could really have been sleeping the entire time. His presence in the house, though I didn’t even see him, made me uncomfortable.
I must have dozed off because the next thing I remembered was being awoken by the flashing red lights in Malik’s shoes. Thinking it was morning, I struggled to open my eyes, but it was pitch black in the room, still dark. The red lights flickered on and off, and it was only when they illuminated the room that I could make out any details of the person standing next to Malik. It was our guest, but he didn’t have a shirt on, only trousers, and his torso was covered in short silver-colored hair. He held one of Malik’s shoes in his hand, and was examining it while facing away from me. At one point, he turned his head slightly and he appeared to sniff, and then lick the outer top portion of the shoe. I could feel my heart racing as his breathing became more labored, and I tried to slow my breathing down trying not to be noticed, but it was too late.
His head quickly turned toward me revealing huge, bulging eyes and two slits for nostrils where his nose had previously been. He had razor-sharp teeth seemed to elongate before my eyes, and in one swift motion, he swung his left hand in my direction, palm out, as he turned to face me. I panicked, and in my mind, I was already halfway out the door and screaming for help, but that just didn’t happen. I was frozen still, unable to move or make any vocalizations except for a few muffled whimpers. Tears streamed down my cheeks as he moved toward me and leaned down close to my face. Every breath rattled and the heat coming off of it stunk of that putrid, sulfuric smell I recognized from the night before.
The tip of his nose touched mine and he squinted just a bit before turning around and walking toward Malik. I wanted to tell him to leave him alone, but it was no use. My eyelids began feeling extremely heavy and the room began spinning. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I saw his feet leave the ground, like he was hovering in the air a few inches. My vision began to grow black except for the orange glow that had returned to his eyes. I heard him chanting something in a strange language. If I could recall correctly, he repeated a phrase over and over again. The words he spoke were, “Den with Sefre xel Za decmain immortal”. At least, that’s what it sounded like in my head before I passed out. (Note: Translates in Elvish to “And with this body I remain immortal”)
The next thing I remembered, I was being awoken by Jim. It was extremely bright in the room, and he told me it was after noon on Christmas Day. I immediately looked over at Malik’s bed, which was empty. Malik’s shoes with the red lights sat next to his bed. “Where’s Malik?” I said. Jim told me he was already awake and in the living room. Had I dreamed all of that stuff last night? I wasn’t exactly sure at the moment, but I had the worst headache of my life that day. I accompanied Jim to the living room where all of the kids were sitting. No presents were opened yet. They had obviously been gathered there for a family-meeting style discussion.
Jim asked me to take a seat. Still groggy, he stood in front of us and asked Nancy to come over to him. He put one arm around her and said “kids, we have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is our guest passed away sometime in the night, or possibly even during the day yesterday. I know none of us really saw him yesterday, and we just thought he was tired from his trip, so we were letting him sleep. When I checked on him this morning, that’s when I found out.” I looked at Lien, who appeared to have seen me out of the corner of her eye, but made every attempt to look straight at Jim. He said they called the police, who took his body out of the house before any of us woke up that morning.
Jim took a moment to console Nancy before saying, “now I’ve got some good news, and it really couldn’t have come at a better time.” The plastic smile was back, except this time, Nancy turned around to conceal her emotions, and eventually left the room. “Malik”, he said. “Will you come stand next to me?” I watched as Malik stood up from the other end of the couch. He didn’t have his shoes on, something I hadn’t seen outside of our bedroom yet. As he walked toward Jim, he walked differently. I know it sounds completely ridiculous to say, but he walked with grace and eloquence, and not the way I’d seen him walk before – like a clumsy 5 year-old. When he reached Jim’s side, he turned around to face us. As if Malik knew already, Jim explained that he was being adopted and that his new family were on their way to pick him up as he spoke. Malik didn’t giggle, or act excited. Instead, he lifted his chin slightly to look down his nose at us, going down the line one by one as if he were making note of our response to the news. Tran and Charity showed some excitement and ran over to him to hug him. Lien and I, however, were not so moved. He just stared at us while receiving affection amidst the celebration going on.
Moments later, there was a knock at the door, and Jim invited in a young couple, but they chose to remain at the door, slightly outside of our direct line of sight. I could tell Jim seemed nervous when he asked Malik if he was ready. Malik turned and began walking toward Lien. He opened his arms and proceeded to give her a hug, and then he did the same to me. As I leaned in, I could smell that same putrid stench from the previous night. I began trembling within his embrace. When he let go, he grabbed my shoulders with both hands and stared in my eyes, emotionless, as a faint orange glow reflected for a brief moment, then he turned away. As he walked toward the front door, I noticed the same symbol burnt into the back of his neck that I had previously seen on our elderly guest. I looked at Lien and was about to ask her to speak in private, but she was already shaking her head no. When Malik reached the doorway, the couple each held one of his hands as they walked away without any conversation.
To this day, I still don’t know exactly what happened to Malik, but I was sure of one thing. It wasn’t Malik that I watched leave the house that day.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this special Christmas edition of The Storage Papers. If you’re wondering about the release of Season 3, I can only say that every time I think I can announce a public date for release, something happens in real-time that causes me to do a little more digging, and extra research. It’s shaping up to be the biggest season yet, but please give me just a little more time. It will definitely be worth the wait. From all of us at The Storage Papers, we wish you Happy Holidays, and a Merry Christmas.
Jeremy, it’s Brianne. I’ve been looking through those medical files and… I think I might be onto something. The thing is… it’s in my dreams now. If you can give me a call back, I think I could really use your help on this. Thanks.
I have a book that’s been sitting on my desk for months now… but until recently I’d never so much as glanced at any of the pages.
It was given to me by a friend – or at least someone that I think of as a friend. Right now it’s hard to picture anyone on my side, and friends are few and far between these days.
Mark Anderson– a detective who, in his free time, investigates and often finds himself neck deep in the paranormal– gave me this book…or rather, he asked that I hold on to it.
You may remember me mentioning it briefly way back in episode 14 of the show. He included it in a box of journals and documents, which were pertinent -at the time- to understanding and dealing with Malcolm Foye.
In case you’re forgetful or otherwise unable to recall, Malcolm Foye was possessed by the demon we now collectively refer to as the Grinner. It should be noted that I’m still not aware of Malcom’s whereabouts, and that while he may no longer be possessed, he is by no means grateful for our help.
It’s also worth pointing out that the demon isn’t dead… it’s not even banished to hell. Instead it lays in wait for the next willing human to give their body up as a vessel.
Mark didn’t really give me any hint or explanation as to what the contents of the book were… I wouldn’t find that out until I cracked open its pages.
I was surprised to find that beneath its brown leather bindings were thick pages and tight looping cursive handwriting. I’d expected it to be… a book… maybe a book of spells or rituals that summon demons and drives its readers mad. I was wrong…it was just a journal– a very old one at that.
The journal is much older than Malcolm Foye, and reading through its passages, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with him. Still, Mark Anderson gave me this book to keep it away from him… or maybe to bring him out of hiding.
I’m breaking the one cardinal rule Mark Anderson gave me when he passed on those materials regarding Malcolm Foye: don’t open the book. I’ve done just that, and if you’re looking for a reason why… I’m not sure that I have one. Maybe it’s curiosity… maybe I just have a death wish… or maybe there’s just something that draws me to this book. It feels like a piece of the puzzle in some way… I just can’t see the puzzle so I don’t know where to place it just yet.
Tonight, for a bit of Halloween fun, I’d like to read you a bit from the book. I have three stories lined up. I won’t be commenting or speculating on their contents – at least not for now.
If you come to this show looking for a spooky story, or something to keep you up at night… sit back and enjoy this unofficial Halloween episode of the Storage Papers.
Sometimes you don’t have to go looking for things. Sometimes they just come looking for you. It’s something worth keeping in mind, that’s for certain.
Funds weren’t exactly what they used to be, forcing me to interview for a real job. I’d put on my best suit; I think I’d only worn this one in funerals. Thankfully the cool October morning air on this particular fine day helped keep the sweat off my brow as I walked to meet with… I honestly couldn’t even tell you his name. Names seemed to always get less and less important. At least, they did in the line of work that produced a steady paycheck. What I normally work with, on the other hand… well, I digress.
Like I was saying, I was strolling on over to my job interview, just a couple blocks away – minding my own business – when suddenly this horn starts blaring like someone just won the sixty four thousand dollar question. Naturally, I go over to take a look and I find that the car in question was empty without a person in sight. I surveyed the neighborhood for a moment, wondering if some kids were doing an annoying prank or something, but all I found were irritated neighbors peeking through blinds and around curtains at the disturbance.
I walked the rest of the way up the driveway to the front door which swung open before I could even knock. I was intending to make sure they did something about that horn – some sort of mechanical issue most likely, but certainly not in my realm of expertise. Instead, I was greeted by a woman in tears.
Before I could even open my mouth, she’s wringing her hands and apologizing. Her name is Christine – Christee for short – and she’s saying how her husband will be home soon to fix it but she was at her wit’s end; everything seemed to be going wrong today. I glanced at my wristwatch. I had time to try to help a neighbor. I wasn’t exactly sure how to comfort her, so I just asked her what seemed to be the matter. Then I glanced back at the car and added: apart from the obvious.
She ushered me inside and practically ran through the place, pointing at various items. The grandfather clock in the foyer, the record player and television set in the living room, the radio and telephone in the kitchen, hell, even the musical jewelry box in the bathroom which she’d had since she was a kid – it was all going haywire. I asked her to elaborate but she seemed past the point of stringing together two coherent sentences.
So, I jumped back into a more familiar figurative suit and began investigating. I eased her onto the sofa, then took the few steps across the plush green carpet to click the TV on. I briefly saw her eyes go wide in the reflection, then a picture filled the screen as it warmed up. I started turning the dial on the TV, scanning the handful of channels. It seemed like a normal working set to me. Regular programming, everything as expected.
I turned back to the lady with one eyebrow raised as a commercial for Lucky Strikes came on. She raised a shaking hand, pointing her finger towards the built in speaker and asked, “Don’t you hear that?”
I cocked my head and listened carefully. Now that she mentioned it, it did sound a little off. I couldn’t place it at first, then I realized. There wasn’t just one voice coming through. It was two overlapping voices. I held back a laugh as I realized what must have been the issue and tried adjusting the antennae. The picture worsened, and it did drop to just one voice… just not the voice that should have been there. I strained my ears through the static but couldn’t make out what he – it was definitely a man’s voice – was saying.
The lady pulled me out of my focus by telling me it was like that with all the appliances. I clicked the TV off and moved over to the record player, wondering if I’d be able to hear whatever the noise was any better. I opened the case below the player and grabbed the first record my fingers touched. I didn’t recognize the artist, but once I put it on and got it going, the music was nice – a little jazzy. Not a bad choice.
This time I knew what I was looking for and spotted it much faster. There was a man’s voice talking. No… screaming. But it sounded like… like he was at the other end of a very long tunnel. Or like it’s a bad connection on a long distance phone call. Between how far away it seemed and the crooning singer, I still couldn’t make out what he was saying. There was definitely something going on here though, that much was for sure. I didn’t want to drop the G word in front of Christee – she seemed to be in a delicate state as it was – but it definitely felt a little ghost-y… and on Halloween, no less.
I gently lifted the needle off the record then hurried on to the kitchen. Before I could even touch the radio, it clicked on. I paused, but only for a moment before cranking the volume up high as I twisted the dial, navigating the static between stations, trying to find the least noisy of the noise. I finally found the best – or worst, rather – reception I could. It took monumental patience, but I could finally make out two words in the repeating message: “Kill…her.”
There was more to it, but that’s all I could make out: kill her. I could help but feel that if I was able to focus just a little harder…I held my breath, concentrating. I spun at the sound of shattering glass behind me to find Christee had just dropped a glass of water. Apparently, she heard it, too. I turned the radio down some and tried to assure her that it was probably just some radio interference or something. Nothing to worry about. She didn’t buy it and neither did I. That wouldn’t explain the record player. Or the grandfather clock, if that’s the noise it made on the hour.
I needed to find out what the rest of the message was. What was this haunting voice screaming for us to hear? I left for the hallway, poking my head through a couple of doors until I found her bedroom. I glanced around briefly, noting a more feminine quality than I would expect of a bedroom shared by a man. She probably just said she was married to ward off a strange man’s advances, I thought. I quickly spotted the music box which I unceremoniously emptied atop the vanity, jewelry sliding past the lid’s mirror, then left the bedroom with it in hand.
I had a theory on how to hear the voice more clearly. I paused as I re-entered the kitchen to find the woman sobbing as she tried to pick up the pieces of glass on the floor. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a terrible idea. Was this message a spirit’s attempt to exert some sort of control over me? Forcing me to murder this poor woman? Or worse? What is the point of a creepy message if it doesn’t affect anything? But if I knew what it was, I could try to understand it. If I could understand it, I may be able to stop it.
I strode forward and turned the radio back on full blast. Without a word I moved swiftly into the living room and adjusted the needle back onto the still-spinning record, then turned the volume up on that as well. I briefly knelt on the plush green carpet in front of the television and clicked that on, then stood up in the middle of the room, closing my eyes for a moment. I swear the voice was just out of my grasp. Without opening my eyes I cranked the music box and held it up in front of my face, trying to channel it all directly into my ears. It was just the boost in the frequency I needed. I could finally hear the specter amongst the cacophony of sound waves swirling around me. Then everything stopped in an instant and its voice was all I heard.
“She’ll kill you! Don’t trust her!”
The words jerked my eyes open to see the mirror on the inside of the music box at eye level. The woman was less than a foot behind me, her reflection twisting into a cruel smile. I dropped the box and spun on my heel, realizing too late that she was swinging a shard of broken glass at my neck. I felt warm liquid start to spurt out of my neck, spraying her unflinching face as she simply stared at me, still smiling. I collapsed to the ground, clutching at my neck as blood gurgled from my mouth and into the carpet.
I heard the phone in the kitchen ringing. I watched her walk out of the room and found myself staring vacantly at the sofa’s polished wooden leg, suddenly having a more difficult time focusing my vision. The ringing stopped abruptly as I heard her chuckle into the phone. Hers were the last words I heard.
“Nice try, my dear. All you did was bring me another one.”
The phone rattled back into its cradle, then everything went black.
I can no longer audibly speak words as I lie here in my hospital bed writing this, awaiting my fate. My lungs were damaged from the events that transpired just two days ago. The doctors give me one more week to live by their estimation. They say that within a couple of days, I’ll most likely need a ventilator, and I may go into a comatose state. They don’t completely understand it… at least the medical aspect of it, but I have an idea of what caused my rapid onset of whatever this condition is. They say my lungs look like they’ve had years of asbestos exposure, though my chest x-ray from 4 months ago looks absolutely clear. “Like a college athlete’s lungs”, they said, even though I’m in my late 40s. It’s important for me to share what I experienced before my body shuts down and I’m no longer able to write. Others need to know what’s going on… what to look for, so they don’t end up like me.
If you’ve ever lived in a coastal town, you’ll be familiar with fog. The closer you are to the ocean, the thicker it becomes. Even on a sunny day, it can roll in within minutes to the point that the daylight dims, and you can no longer see 10 feet in front of you. I loved this feeling. It’s almost like being transported to another world as I imagine being in a completely different place in the world, but unable to see my surroundings. It’s a place where you can let your imagination run wild without ever having to leave where you are.
Because of my fondness of the fog, I was in the habit of taking my dog, Shemp out for walks in the early mornings. Shemp, a golden retriever, was extremely helpful in the fog. We’d get 2-3 miles in every morning, and for the most part, it was easy to find my way. We’d walk to the end of the cul de sac, where a dirt trail began that twisted through some trees and the brush until ultimately it ended up on the beach sand. About 50 more yards after that, you’d be in the ocean. If the fog was extra thick, Shemp always knew which direction to go if we lost our visual cues.
We were on our routine morning walk. The sky was dimly lit, but the sun hadn’t risen yet, and initially, there was no fog. We trekked through the dirt trail and ended up on the sand. For some reason, I was compelled to let Shemp off the leash and just have a seat in the sand and look out over the ocean. It’s always been my place of peace, for rest and rejuvenation, and while I let my mind unwind, Shemp would run out into the surf and retrieve things like large shells and clumps of seaweed. He’d set them down next to me and go and find something else.
I’d probably been sitting there 20 minutes or so when I noticed it was getting darker, not lighter as the sun should be rising. I’d been facing the water this whole time, but when I turned around, there was a huge wall of fog rolling in, and it was coming fast! Normally, fog would roll in from over the sea onto land, but this was going the opposite way, out to sea. Within seconds it consumed the road and trees behind me and I knew we’d be engulfed soon, so I called for Shemp. He came running, dripping wet with saltwater and covered in sand. I didn’t usually keep him on a leash, but in the fog, I would put it on him for safety. As I knelt down to put it on him, we were consumed.
Once I stood up, a chill went down my spine as I realized I couldn’t hear the ocean any longer. We were about 50 feet from it and there was no sound, like the fog was blocking it somehow. Shemp seemed to be on high alert too. As I looked down at him, his ears perked up as he looked in one direction away from the coast, and then as if started, he looked another direction, and then another, flinching every time. Then I watched as the hair over his spine stood on end, and he started to growl. He wasn’t an unfriendly dog, and I’d only seen him growl like this once before at a dog in the dog park, and even then, it was only because he was being protective of me. Defensive, but certainly not aggressive.
He backed into my legs and maintained this defensive stance as I tried to see or hear anything in the direction he was facing. There was nothing. No change in texture in the fog, no sounds, just silence. I knelt down to scratch behind his ears, hoping it would console him a bit before standing up to start walking back. I said, “let’s go home” and he shot away so fast, I almost lost control of the leash. We found the dirt trail leading back to our neighborhood and probably only had about a half mile left to go before Shemp stopped in his tracks with his defensive stance again. This time he was not only growling, but viciously snapping in the air and pulling on the leash to try to get free.
I tried to calm him down thinking there may be another dog or animal ahead, so I stopped, considering that perhaps the threatening sounds he was making would eventually scare off whatever was there just beyond our sight. As I stood there, I began to see a silhouette forming on the trail ahead of us. Not of an animal, but of a person. I was almost embarrassed at Shemp’s behavior. He normally loves people, and was one of the friendliest dogs I’d ever known, but he continued snapping as I tried to calm him. The figure grew closer until it was about 5 feet away, when I could make out some details.
My heart began racing as I took in its appearance. Shemp stopped barking and snapping, and instead, started whimpering and stood behind my legs, eager to flee. The figure stopped close to us, and had a wide-eyed stare at me. He didn’t blink. His eyes were bloodshot, almost to the point where there was no white left in them. He looked to be around my age with somewhat of a long face. His mouth was moving, and I struggled to hear his words, but there were none. He used his hands in an effort to enunciate his communication, and he seemed frustrated that I wasn’t understanding him.
I asked, “do you need some help” and he shook his head no before raising his arm to point directly at me. It looked like he started crying. He raised both hands to his head and raked his fingers through his hair, gripping large handfuls of hair and pulling on it in anguish. I pulled my cell phone out, thinking this guy might need some medical attention and hit the emergency button to dial 911. There was no signal. I’ve never seen a lack of signal here before.
By the tie I looked back up at him, he was no longer mouthing words. Instead, his eyes rolled up into his head, revealing dark red instead of white. His body began convulsing as he stood before me, then a white-looking foam began oozing from his mouth and nostrils, streaked with hues of pink and red that looked like blood. He fell to his knees and as he did, Shemp pulled hard in the opposite direction. I only turned my head for a moment to look at my dog, but when I looked back toward the man with the foaming mouth, he was gone. The fog had been thick, but there certainly wasn’t enough time during my brief, split-second glance away for him to get up and walk away, especially in his condition.
I pulled on Shemp to try to go toward where I’d seen the man collapse, but was unable to find anything. My eyes began burning, and I was getting short of breath, but I couldn’t understand why. I just had to sit down. When I did, Shemp came to me and started licking my face, and then began pulling me in the direction of our home. I struggled to rise to my feet, and began trudging along the path, letting Shemp lead me in my now disoriented state.
I must have only walked a few feet before I couldn’t go any further. I fell flat on my face in the dirt, letting go of the leash. Wheezing and coughing, struggling to get a decent breath of air, and with my eyes feeling like someone poured hot sauce in them, I rolled to my back. Shemp came to me and bit my shirt collar, trying to pull me toward our home, but unfortunately, the shirt ripped. He then came and laid his head on my chest, whimpering a bit, and stayed with me.
From my back, I tried looking around to see if I could see anything… anyone… hoping the fog would lift soon. My head began to spin and I felt dizzy like I’d been drinking. Then I saw another figure past my feet. I reached out to communicate that I needed help, gasping to vocalize, but unable to do so. As it approached, I saw another figure to my right, and then my left. It wasn’t long before there must have been 20 or 30 figures surrounding me. All of them had the red eyes, and what looked like mixtures of foam and vomit running down their chins and onto their chest. They all stood next to me, staring at me, mouthing words I could not hear or understand.
Right before I blacked out, Shemp ran away. I panicked as I was left alone in the fog, surrounded by these strange people. The light grew dimmer, and my peripheral vision faded to darkness while I watched them crowd around me, looking down upon me, and then I faded to black.
I awoke as the paramedics were loading me into the back of the ambulance, and I was wearing an oxygen mask on high flow. Looking toward the door, a few people had gathered to watch, and among them, I saw my neighbor, Jan. She was holding the leash attached to Shemp. I later learned that Shemp had run all the way home and found Jan, who was walking from her front door to her car on her way to work. She was familiar enough with my morning routine that she knew I rarely leashed Shemp, and found it concerning that he was running around with his leash on with me nowhere in sight. Thankfully, she followed his lead to find me. Before the ambulance doors closed, she told me not to worry about Shemp, that she’d hang onto him.
When I got to the emergency room, they put me in an isolation room. My nurse changed me into a gown, and it wasn’t until she removed my shirt that I saw that same foamy substance on the front of it that I’d seen on all of those people on the trail. I motioned for something to write with, and she returned shortly with a pen and a pad of paper. I wrote out the words, “did they find all the other people?” She glanced at it and said I was the only one they found, then encouraged me to rest. Before leaving the room, she turned on a television set mounted to the wall and placed the remote by my hand. It wasn’t long after that when I saw a news story about a local protest outside a military sub-contractor building. And then I recalled a recent story in the news relating to this where the company had been suspected of performing experimental tests on unsuspecting civilians. There was a court battle against the agency that went all the way up to the supreme court of the state, but in the end, no evidence was ever found against them.
The accusations included experimental clinical trials for drugs and vaccines, and the creation of nerve agents. All of this followed the company announcing the landing of a large multi-billion dollar contract with the military, though no specific branch was identified and each of them have gone on record denying it to be true.
My mind runs rampant with thoughts as I’m writing all of this… too many things to put down in writing with the amount of energy I have today, but perhaps in my next life, I’ll be able to find what I’m recording here on this note pad from my hospital bed, and actually do something about it. My unique situation would typically allow me to do this, but considering the condition of those I encountered on that trail, who were seemingly trying to warn me and I just couldn’t recognize that in the moment amidst my fear, I have to wonder; will I live again to follow up on this with an able body and mind, or will I become like them, unable to speak and desperately trying to warn the living about their potential demise with exposure to the fog? Hopefully, it will be the former.
I wish there was an ending to this story. If I could give one piece of life advice to the poor bastard reading this, it’s this: the story doesn’t end with you. Things just keep going and going whether you’re a part of them or not. That being said, I can’t tell you how things end up in this story, I can only tell you my part in them.
There was an excavator, but by the time I was made aware of the circumstances, it was left to shovels and soil. Ladders were spread out in equal distance around the circumference of the hole, with makeshift footholds making up the distance, and loops of rope spooled around pulleys hauled dirt up to the surface by the bucket-full. Sweat soaked day laborers sat near the edge, passing around a bottle of whiskey, cigarettes dangling loosely in their dirt caked fingers. I introduced myself.
“My name is Joseph.”
One of the day laborers cut me off, waving the whiskey bottle to his left where a man in a grey tweed suit stood about a few yards to our left.
“The boss is over that way,” he told me.
I smiled genuinely and sat beside him, reaching for the whiskey bottle and taking a swig before passing it back.
“I can see that.” I told him. “But I want to hear your opinion first.”
The man chucked, snatching back the bottle and passing it to another laborer on his right.
“You want to know if it’s all bullshit.”
There was a certain energy in his voice… if I didn’t know any better I’d have called it excitement. I told him that I did, which wasn’t completely true, but was what I knew he was hoping I’d say. A childish smile crept across his face, and he took another long drag from his cigarette and gestured for one of the men to his right to pass over the bottle of whiskey.
“Oh… it’s dead real,” he told me. “The stories that they’re whispering around town about this big old building buried about a hundred feet below the field out here… it’s all true.”
I asked him why he was so open about it, and his response made me laugh. “You ain’t from around here,” he chuckled. “Who the hell is gonna listen to your ass?”
He was right. I’d passed a gas station about an hour back in this sleepy rural Ohio town and the few eyes that had met mine had shunned my gaze. This might not be one of those small towns where everyone knows your name, but it was certainly one where they’d recognize your face. I couldn’t expect the residents here much to give me the time of day, let alone take my word on what these men were trying to keep secret here on this long-neglected patch of land.
The man in the grey tweed suit stepped over to introduce himself and I stood up, wiping my palms on my slacks and shaking his hand. He was a professor at a local university about an hour or so north. I’d planned to lie and play the role of a professor myself, so I was a bit taken aback and quickly changed my tune.
I introduced myself as Joseph – something that was irrefutably true – and I claimed to work as a writer for the local paper – which was decidedly less true. I was banking on the excitement of this strange and recently unearthed discovery providing a buffer so that I wouldn’t have to talk much about myself.
A thin smile slid across the man’s face and his eyes lit up. “You’ll want to see this then,” he told me. “You’ll want to document all of this… you’ll be the first to report on this – and share this with the world.”
I was right, but I hadn’t expected the excitement to so resoundingly impede his judgment. I hadn’t even told him what local paper I worked for, which worked in my favor because I would’ve had to make one up on the spot. Instead he placed his arm over my shoulders and looked over to meet my eyes.
“Would you like to join us?”
I was happy to oblige, and the professor was happy to clue me in on some details as we prepared to lower ourselves down in to the hole.
The professor I’d come to know as Marvin. He had studied in London and returned to Ohio just a year previous, where he now lectured and taught courses on Native American History and Ethno-Archaeology.
Joining us would be Miguel, the day laborer I’d spoken to when I stepped on the site, who had sort of taken the de facto role of project manager for the dig, and Ross: a burly man of few words, whose 50s hairstyle and choice of clothing told the story of a man whose fondest memories were now vastly approaching three decades old.
The landowner would not be joining us. In fact, she wasn’t even in the state. She’d asked Miguel and his men to remove a large stone cross, which she had mistaken for a gravestone, that had been sitting at the center of her family’s large 12 acre property for as long as she could remember. She hadn’t explained why she wanted it removed, and I reckon the workers didn’t seem to care either way.
When that stone cross turned out to be anchored much deeper in the soil than he had expected, Miguel called up the land-owner who, for curiosity’s sake, implored them to keep digging.
When the workers had made a 20 foot trench around the cross, and still weren’t making much headway, the landowner finally reached for one of her lifelines: an old friend named Marvin who took over the scheduling and payments for the excavation. In exchange, Marvin would be attributed with the discovery of whatever it was that was at the base of this strangely tall stone cross.
When I had stepped on to the property, a now-massive project with close to a dozen workers toiling away at it, I had coincidentally joined Marvin on the precipice of his great discovery: a massive building with a spire that reached almost 100 feet buried deep beneath the soil of this long-owned family property.
Miguel and Ross lowered themselves one after another down a hole that had been chipped away in the roof of the stone structure. Below them was a void of total darkness into which they soon disappeared, their presence only assured by the creaking of the thick ropes that they had climbed down. Marvin and myself soon followed.
The four of us stood in the freezing dark as we watched the ropes travel back up towards the pin-prick of light in the stone ceiling, only to be lowered down again with gas lamps attached at the ends. Miguel took one and passed it to me, taking the other for himself. He looked at me and then to Marvin and to Ross. With eye contact and a simple nod he’d split us up in to two groups and he’d put me in charge of keeping the professor safe. I shook my head to assure Miguel that I understood his secret proposal.
Before us stood an altar and to our left and our right were stone pews. The lanterns illuminated the floating dust in the air around us. Gradually we became aware that the pews around us weren’t empty. Dozens of mummified and somewhat skeletal corpses sat slumped over in every pew.
Hundreds of feet under the dirt of this family-owned plot of land in rural Ohio was a church carved in stone and it served a congregation of the dead. Marvin broke the silence that had enveloped us.
“I… don’t know what any of this means,” he stammered.
Miguel pointed his lantern ahead of us, where bones were scattered in piles around the altar and half melted candles flowed frozen tendrils of wax down the small limestone stairs that made up both sides of the pulpit. He moved to speak, but a noise behind us caught our attention. The ropes that we had used to ascend in to this underground place were falling to the ground in snake-like piles. A voice shouted to us from above – one of Miguel’s men.
“What’s buried here shall stay buried”
Marvin shot back, his voice shaking, “I can pay you!”
A second voice responded – another one of Miguel’s men. “Keep your money, you goddamned grave robber.”
And with that we heard the sound of stone grinding against stone, and the portal above slowly began to resemble a crescent moon. I had no doubt that they’d soon be filling the hole back in as well, trapping us under thousands of pounds of dirt and sealing our fate. Soon we were in utter darkness. Marvin stepped to the pulpit, and began to light some of the candles, presumably hoping to preserve some of the gas in our lamps.
Ross spoke up, “Don’t waste so many matches; use one candle to light the next.”
I think we were all a bit taken aback by his sudden decision to speak up. Marvin mumbled a quick ‘good thinking’ as he followed Ross’s suggestion.
As the dim light flickered to life and our shadows began to grow across the walls, I happened to glance back towards the pews. Slowly, the mummified congregation began to stand. Rocks ground against the stone floor under their shifting feet, and their joints snapped and cracked as they stood up row by row. The front row stood first, all at once… followed by the second, and then the third.
They looked to their left and right, as if acknowledging the presence of their undead counterparts. Ross whispered a theory to the group – something that made a lot of sense – the dead, to whom we shared our presence with, could not see. Their eyes were shriveled and desiccated – or had surely decayed, slowly liquefied in streams of black sludge, leaving behind only empty sockets.
The dead began communicating – this chittering noise, like locusts. It was clear by their movements that they may not be able to see us, but they could most definitely hear us.
Marvin began to laugh, mumbling about how this didn’t make any sense and asking himself how could any of this be down here. Marvin was right, but this wasn’t a discussion that I had any interest in having. When faced with the deadly and implausible scenario that stood before us, Marvin had lost all good sense… and he’d alerted the undead to our presence.
The dead began making their way towards us, their knees and ankles snapping, making their legs tilt in every direction. Marvin continued laughing, luring the unholy corpses towards us with his every one of his nonsensical howls. He had gone mad and he was sentencing all of us to what would surely be our death.
They drew closer and closer, forcing us back towards the fiendish altar and into the glowing orange candlelight. Marvin stayed where he was, ranting and raving like a rabid dog. One of the creature’s dragged itself across the floor and made its way to Martin, who had been focused on projecting his lunacy at us. He hadn’t noticed until it was grappling with his leg and sunk its black teeth into his thigh, blood spurting and bathing the ghoul in thick dripping crimson.
The others quickened the pace, their nostrils twitching and their mouths falling agape. It was as if the screams were secondary to the smell of fresh blood and broken human flesh. They soon piled on to Martins screaming and convulsing body, tearing away chunks of meat and choking them down like pigs at a troth. They ripped at his arms until they popped and squelched and snapped away from his body, showering them in spurts of blood. I watched one take its boney fingers and sink them in to the flesh of Martin’s neck, and as he gargled out his last breaths, the thing laid waste to the insides of his throat.
The fiends devoured him in minutes, until all that was left were dripping pink bones and dusty bits of slimy entrails. His skull lay in pieces where one of them had smashed it into the stone floor in order to get at his brains.
When I turned around, Miguel and Ross were making their way down a previously hidden passageway behind the pulpit. I’d been so focused on Martin that I hadn’t noticed that they’d rolled away a large stone door to reveal a long dark corridor just behind me. I turned to follow, but not before Ross grabbed me and threw me to the ground. He put his foot on my chest and pulled a revolver from his belt.
“I ain’t sorry,” he told me. Not that I’d expect him to be.
He fired once and nailed me in the shoulder. I yelped in pain and soon realized the implications. Those things would follow the sound… smell my blood. I had to get away quick. Ross began to ease up on my chest and then stepped off entirely. I made my way to my knees. He fired again this time the bullet went splintering in to my thigh, and it didn’t exit from the other side. Unimaginable pain pulsed through every nerve ending in my body. My lungs seized and everything around me began to wobble as I started to drift in and out of shock. I moaned in pain, something that made no difference now, after the multiple gunshots and puddle of blood that I now laid in. The living corpses would be here soon to tear me limb from limb and devour me and until I lay like Martin: a pile of wet bones.
Ross had crippled me – left me to serve as a distraction while they made their escape. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, I watched them stutter closer, like watching someone walk under a flashing light. Soon they were all around me.
Ross and Miguel were gone. All that remained was me, what once was a college professor that I only knew as Marvin, and a horde of wretched starving undead ghouls. They worked at my limbs, ripping away mouthfuls of muscle and fat… and they tore away the skin on my face and eventually scooped out my eyes. In minutes, they ate through my stomach and split apart my ribs to make work of my organs and entrails.
I felt every bite, and I heard every slop and every gulp of my twitching flesh. If they were any slower, I’m sure I would’ve died or at least lost consciousness… but they worked like piranhas. They could strip one of your limbs in a matter of seconds.
The last thought I had before my heart was ripped out and the vertebrae snapped and let my head loose for them to feed from was about Ross and Miguel… I hoped those ghouls saved room for desert. Of course there’s no way out of here, those damn fools. I hope the undead smell the blood I spat on Ross. I hope it draws those ghouls to them like moths to a flame… and I hope those bastards stay awake as long as I did and feel every bit of it…
I wish I could tell you what happened next… if they ever did make it out of there – though it was assuredly impossible. I wish I knew more about the family that owned the land or if the landowner knew any of this was down there. I can’t tell you any of that, because I don’t know; I wasn’t there. I can only tell you my part in it.
I’ve had a few days to let these words sink in, and things feel extremely different now. The events at the church all happened so quickly. I didn’t have a chance to really hash things out in my mind at the moment, but so many things seemed wrong with how all of that played out. I feel numb. My thoughts have been preoccupied by the agony that Malcolm went through as I cut into his chest, but even more so, the fact that I didn’t even hesitate, despite the pleading he did for me to stop, and I never even considered stopping. I feel like I’ve crossed a threshold somehow. Not necessarily that “innocence is lost” type of feeling, but something similar. Something without emotion regarding myself, or the ability to empathize with others.
I should be feeling something right now, but instead, I’m just numb, and it’s taken a few days for me to recognize the sensation. I looked at myself in the mirror last night and saw a giant void. There’s a particular appearance to people who’ve experienced some sort of trauma or witnessed something that will most likely be resolved only after years of therapy. I’ve seen it before in my father’s face, a Vietnam veteran. I’ve seen it in friends’ faces that I went to high school with after they’ve returned home from the middle east. I saw it in my mother’s face after my father passed. And I saw it in my own face in the mirror last night, but at the same time, it took me gazing into the mirror for some time to realize…I also saw it in Ron’s face when I climbed the bell tower, watching Benjamin Scanlon dangling by the rope around his neck.
My dreams are no longer permeated by amalgamation of shadowy silhouettes and grinning creatures. Instead, the phrase, “things aren’t what they seem” is repeated over and over in the Grinner’s gravelly voice as I dream, and they’re accompanied by Ron’s face, with that dull expression of nothingness when there should be emotion. Something just doesn’t feel right. I tend to be pretty intuitive about people and their motives, but with Ron, I truly believe he’s pleased with how I’ve been able to help him with the podcast and the organization of documents, not to mention being bait for his plan. But I’ve always felt like he was holding something back. If anything, he should at least trust me by now.
I’d been debating whether or not to say anything about this gut-feeling I’ve had, but to who? I’m not sure if anyone in the group would have more allegiance to me, a guy that most of them just met, over Ron, who they’ve already got an established relationship with. Unless they also felt the same way I did.
For that reason, and the fact that only one of them has taken a professional oath to do the right thing or risk serious consequences, I decided to reach out to Detective Anderson. I contacted him a couple of days ago and asked if he wouldn’t mind meeting me somewhere public.
We met in a park close to my house where I beat around the bush a little while, trying to probe to see what his thoughts were about the events that unfolded, and to try to gauge his reactions to my interaction with Ron at the bell tower. Anderson had a stone cold poker face. He peered at me through squinted eyes and puckered his lips as if he was sucking on a sour candy. He obviously was not volunteering any information, and neither was he providing much feedback in his body language or his speech, so when I caught him glancing at his watch, I just came out and asked, “Do you think Ron is telling us the whole story?”
His squint turned into a scowl, and he replied, “now what the hell does that mean?”
I reiterated my thoughts about Ron’s reaction to the scenario as we stood at the top of the bell tower watching Ben Scanlon swing back and forth below our feet. Then I brought up how I recalled observing them in what looked like a heated discussion prior to the main events, and I said, “I can tell when I’m being lied to most of the time, and I can usually determine when I’m not being told the whole truth. Compliments of having children I suppose. I would guess that you have developed a similar skill set in your line of work.”
He looked frustrated, and perhaps just a little offended as he stood up and turned his back to me, glancing at his watch again. He turned back around to face me without the scowl on his face any longer, and said, “look, I understand what you’re saying, but I really need to get back to work.”
For the first time in several days, I felt a surge of emotion. It was rage…this guy was about to blow me off after all the shit I went through to help him and his buddy, Ron…after risking my life! I can’t recall everything I said, but it was along the lines of “what the fuck, man!”
I don’t recall doing it, but in that moment of anger I must have closed the gap between myself and him, and got a little too close for his liking. I only realized this when he put his hand on my chest, and sternly said, “You need to sit down right now.”
In my mind, I was calculating the probability of whether I could take him in a fight or not…but before I could come to a conclusion, he convinced me to sit.
Once I took a deep breath, his demeanor shifted once again to something resembling an apologetic approach, and said, “I just can’t come out and tell you everything, but I can attest to Ron’s character, and he wanted nothing but the best outcome going into that night. There are some things that are just not my place to tell you.”
I thought about this for a moment, attempting to lower my heart rate and resume rational thought. He seemed sincere, so I apologized for snapping at him, and asked, “So you think I should come straight out and ask Ron?”
He quickly said, “that’s not what I’d recommend.”
Enter my frustration again. I told him that I just didn’t know what to believe, but I was questioning some motives, and things weren’t adding up. He apologized for not being able to help me by providing direct answers, and then made some crack about how I should fill out an application at his work, which I barely recognized as a joke as he began walking away. I was still 100% convinced that there was something wrong with the way Ron was acting and what he was saying that night.
I went home, made some lunch, and then my intuition was confirmed when I received another brief message from my Twitter contact, 4thTrumpet. The timing and nature of his message were somewhat ironic. The exact words in the text he sent were, “Things aren’t what they seem.”
That, in itself, was somewhat remarkable since there’s no way he could have known about my experience with the Grinner uttering these words upon his departure. Even Brianne, who was right next to me when I heard these words, was unaware of them, and I hadn’t told anyone about it.
Shortly after 4thTrumpet sent that one line of text, he sent an image. On my phone screen, the image was initially so small that I couldn’t make out what it was. So I downloaded it to my phone, then opened it and expanded it. The single-page document was heavily redacted, with only a few words actually visible. As my eyes scrolled to the top, I could make out the words, “The employee acknowledges,” then a few lines further, “legally binding,” and even further down, toward the bottom of the page, I could see the phrases, “subject to fines and criminal charges,” followed by another redacted portion, and then the words, “up to 10 years in prison per account.”
My best guess is that this is some sort of non disclosure agreement. The document portrayed great care to redact information, and it looked like there were three signatures covered up, with only one exposed. What caught my eye here was that next to each of the three redacted signatures, just to the left, there was an additional space blotted out that I wasn’t quite sure about the purpose for. I’ve seen plenty of legal documents, and typically, there’s a printed name with a signature line, but this was very specifically disguising something else.
I zoomed in further on the third signature and the space blotted next to it. A portion of that section was actually visible, most likely unintentionally. I zoomed in as far as I could until the picture became pixelated. It was a symbol, and I’d seen it before in the papers. With phone in hand, I pulled a stack of documents I’d been recently reviewing, and pulled a few that I saw symbols on. It was easy to match the small portion of it that was visible on the image to one of the documents. It was a symbol of a pentagram with some other smaller depictions within the spaces. It was one of the 7 symbols I’d commonly seen on documents pertaining to Project Hydra.
And then…I scrolled down more, and there, adjacent to the notary seal, was the fourth signature that was not redacted. Why it didn’t jump out to me immediately, I just don’t know, but it was a signature I had seen many times. It was Ron Hammond’s.
Topics of possession, physical trauma, blood, gore, general horror, suicide, mild language
When I was a kid, and probably more so as a young adult, I’d always wanted to see evidence of a ghost – a full bodied apparition…or any one of America’s favorite cryptids like Bigfoot or maybe the Mothman…I was obsessed with horror movies and basically anything that had to do with the paranormal.
I think when I first discovered these boxes of documents – what we now refer to as the storage papers – I thought it was a chance to feel that again…that same wonderment with the unknown
I’m sure as any of you that have gone out and experienced life can vouch for, things rarely work out anywhere close to the scenario we’ve played out in our heads. The truth is that things rarely work out at all, and when they do it always seems to count on things falling apart in just the right way.
I guess by virtue of listening to this you know that I’m still alive….
Whether or not our plan was a success…that’s relative…I can’t really give you a yes or no answer.
If you listened to the last episode of this podcast, you know that I called out the Grinner…I intentionally antagonized him. While that was indeed every bit as monumentally stupid as it seemed, I actually did have a plan. Well…let me rephrase….Ron and Detective Mark Anderson had a plan. A good one…or so I was assured.
The plan was laid out to me by another fairly new acquaintance: Brianne Scanlon. She muttered over a Styrofoam cup of black coffee, a cigarette dangling from her lips.
I was bait…that much I knew. What I didn’t really understand was what I was supposed to do next.
While I can’t exactly tell you the name or…where exactly we were…I can tell you we were at a Catholic Church. Not a new building…no…a very old Catholic Church. Black mold in the corners and dust obfuscating the light passing through its large stained glass windows and blanketing most of the surfaces with a snowy layer of soft grey. For that alone. I was kind of glad to have a face mask with me – even if I had it dropped to my chin at that moment.
I bit the inside of my lip and calmed my breathing, taking a sip of my coffee. My eyes passed to the lipstick stains on the rim of Brianne’s now-empty styrofoam cup. She smiled weakly – she’s younger than me but she had the attitude of an older sister. Pretty…or some tired approximation of it. We briefly shared a look of pity and I took the moment to get acquainted with her features. She used makeup to hide the dark circles under her eyes and the freckles that ran across the bridge of her nose, she wore red lipstick hidden under a white painters mask.
She glanced towards the large ornate wooden doors of the Church before putting her cigarette out on the wooden pew and pulling her face mask back up.
“You know you’re safe in here right? His kind can’t exist inside these walls.”
“What exactly is his kind?” I asked.
She looked up at the ceiling blankly and then back to me.
“It’s probably better we don’t say.”
I have to admit I felt a bit awkward, kind of like I was reading someone else’s personal diary back to them…but I pointed out that Malcolm brought her to a church pretty early on…when they were dating. She looked a bit incredulous at first but then she explained.
“As crazy as it sounds…he was still Malcolm then…it wasn’t until after he fed the thing…gave it life…fed it all of those people…all of those cultists…that it actually took over his body. I don’t even know that Malcolm even really wanted to be completely taken over, but I’m not sure that matters now. Ron told me once that he fed his sister to it as a kid…not on purpose, he was playing around with a spellbook…but when he did, he woke it up. It woke up and it asked Malcom for more…drove him crazy. There was a little piece of the Grinner in him ever since.”
Off on the other side of the church, one of the pews screeched a few inches across the floor. A hushed conversation between Ron and Mark Anderson was beginning to get loud. Ron got up quickly and Mark followed him apologetically. I knew just as much of what was said then as I do now, but they returned a few minutes later with another man in tow.
He looked to be in his late 30’s or early 40’s…tall with olive skin and dark hair that was starting to grey. I was a bit thrown off by his appearance – khakis and a dated looking woven sweater-vest – he kind of looked like a caricature of a college professor from the 70’s.
I’d come to know this man as Father Lucas Stone – a name I’d actually recognized from the storage papers. Looking at him – his soft polite mannerisms – he certainly didn’t look like any sort of monster or creature of the night. In fact, he looked like someone I could probably take on myself. I didn’t sit on that thought for long though, before his face shifted to a look that seemed like a cross between anger and concern and he walked briskly back out of the room.
I glanced around the room to gauge everyone else’s reactions…Ron and Detective Anderson were back to arguing and Ron was trying to force what looked like an envelope into the Detectives hands. Again – I’m not really certain what exactly they were arguing about.
It was at this point that Brianne got up and walked back towards the churches office area. She looked back and shook her empty styrofoam cup as an explanation, and not one to miss a hint, I got up and followed. As we entered a break-room-like area to the west of the church, I was introduced to Brianne’s brother Benjamin Scanlon, and Father Michael – the caretaker of the property.
Benjamin, was surprisingly calm and put together and the lines beside his eyes told me there was a smile behind his black painter’s mask, even if just a broken attempt at courtesy. He lifted his arm to shake hands but quickly lowered it.
Father Michael was an older gentleman, he looked to be in his late 60’s with white hair and the typical white collared shirt and black jacket.
Brianne lit up another cigarette before looking towards the three of us.
“I’m not scared, ya know…I’m just…I want this to be over”
Benjamin sighed before looking at me and then back down at the floor.
We chatted for a bit longer and I was it would turn out, Ben was more keen to share some of the details of the plan – details I was inexplicably left out of.
Unsurprisingly, the three of us – Benjamin, Brianne and I – were all bait for the Grinner in some way or another. Having us all in the same place was a guarantee that it would actually show up – something Ron and Detective Anderson were counting on. This part of the plan was all but expected – after all, Benjamin was (to my knowledge) still being actively pursued by the Grinner.
Ron and Detective Anderson also anticipated that what we were doing would be recognized as a trap. As we would come to understand though, that didn’t really matter. In fact, that sort of was the plan. I’ll try to explain it the best I can.
The plan hinged on one simple idea: the Grinner is smarter than us, it knows it’s smarter than us, and we can use that to our advantage. While we’re safe in this building for now, we are effectively trapping ourselves in here – placing ourselves at the disadvantage in a sort of demonic siege warfare while the Grinner looks for weak spots in our plan.
But if we were to somehow pull Malcolm’s body into the Church…well, Ron and Mark Anderson seemed to think the Grinner wouldn’t be able to make the trip.
As to what would happen next…the demon without its human host…Ben was pretty certain that Ron and Mark Anderson had a plan for that as well…though he didn’t exactly share it with me.
Benjamin’s explanation was cut short by a sharp noise and a bang coming from down the hallway to our left, a noise I’d realize later was a door being thrown open – squealing on its hinges before smacking hard against the wall.
What followed next was a series of bangs as doors began flying open in every room of the church, the echoes shuffling down the aisles and up the walls of the altar. Father Michael audibly calmed his breathing, tea rolling over the lip of the ceramic mug he had in his shaking hands.
Ben panned the room cautiously before continuing his approximation of the plan.
“I asked you earlier…if we were able somehow able to magically teleport Malcolm’s body in to the church?”
I nodded and he smiled with a childish confidence.
“Well…Ron’s got a guy for that.”
Ben would evoke another name I’d recognize from the storage papers…Preston Nicholson.
It was easy to forget that Benjamin and Brianne hadn’t read any of the documents I have regarding Preston, nor have they listened to this podcast where I’ve gone over some of those documents. I couldn’t be sure how much they knew about Preston, Lucas Stone, or even myself, but I had a sense that Ben’s enthusiasm was based more on his confidence in Ron and Mark Anderson and that made me feel a bit uneasy.
More doors began to slam and things began to rattle throughout the building. Ben continued to clue me in on the plan – Brianne poking her head out in the hallway protectively and father Michael sipping his tea and making a noticeable effort to remain stoic. Ben’s voice raised to match the rising chaos enveloping us.
The Grinner would eventually show up and…well…when he did, we would be waiting for him or…rather, Lucas Stone would. If you’ve followed The Storage Papers, you know that the last person to possess Lucas Stone’s alleged curse would later – begrudgingly – accept the moniker of werewolf. I honestly find that to be a bit…on the nose, no pun intended…but as Ben would insist, the rumors were true. That meant that Lucas might have some sort of chance against the Grinner – maybe not in a one on one fight…but we wouldn’t have to find that out.
You see, while Lucas might’ve been chored with sniffing out and leading the offensive towards the Grinner, he was ultimately just a distraction. Lucas’ job was to hold the Grinner in place long enough for Preston to create a bubble around the three of them and teleport them in to the church. If everything went according to plan, it would be forcing the Grinner on to holy ground – something that Benjamin and Brianne agreed would…kill him.
Sounds easy enough, right?
It was admittedly a bit convoluted and relied heavily on circumstance. The whole plan basically hinged on this idea that the Grinner would shrivel up and die the second Malcolm’s body touched holy ground.
To be honest I wasn’t sure if it’d work that way…and…well…I wasn’t really sure that Lucas or Preston were even capable of such a feat in the first place. As far as I was aware, Lucas Stone was delusional…Preston Nicholson was a con-man…a thief…but the thing that lives inside Malcolm Foye…that that thing is very real. Even if either of them were who they said they were, there’s no telling whether or not they’d survive this attempt…let alone succeed.
I wasn’t confident that Ben was necessarily telling the truth about any of this either…even if it was the truth as he recognized it.
But I would soon find out.
The sound of yelling – pews screeching across the wooden floors – sent us scrambling towards the entryway of the church. Ben led the way – taking off running – and while I tried to keep pace with Brianne, my speed hesitation just made me a human shield for Father Michael who made his way in the back.
The doors were splintered open, dangling from their hinges, \and in the center of the room were two figures huddled over a pair of unconscious men – one of which I couldn’t completely recognize but…knew all too well. A face I’d pictured a thousand times…a face I’d only seen in grainy security footage…a face I’d seen staring back at me from the dark…Malcolm Foye.
Next to him lay Father Lucas Stone – barely breathing and floating atop an ever growing pool of blood. He was missing his right arm up to what looked to be the shoulder, and a good portion of the skin on the right side of his face. His empty eye socket glistened – it looked as if something small was moving around in there but I couldn’t say for sure. Wet exposed muscle was slowly being enveloped in a transparent white film – I couldn’t have known this at the time, but this was a sort of proto-stage in his newly developing flesh.
Brianne knelt down hesitantly to take a better look at him – placing her fist to her mouth and looking around at us before carefully settling her scope on Malcolm’s unconscious body. She narrowed her eyes in his direction before looking back down at Lucas Stone. He opened his mouth a bit and I watched as broken teeth popped and cracked, and rolled down his jaw – drool and blood forming viscous bubbles that tumbled from his lips – his shaking legs kicking up years worth of dust from the floor.
His right eye rolled aimlessly as his head lolled to the side. At first I couldn’t tell that he was looking at me. Without losing eye contact he suddenly lurched forward, grabbing aimlessly at Brianne – but she stepped backwards and his chest smacked against the floor.
He spat and grasped at a nearby pew to gain leverage. He was still looking at me when spoke.
“So this is your boy, Ron?”
I hesitated – not sure what to say or how to interpret what was happening…I glanced over to Ron who shot me a concerned look, before I replied, “I’m…just sort of an acquaintance.”
A piercing laugh rippled from the church’s vaulted ceilings. I hadn’t realized it yet but we were putting on a show for something that lurked from deeper within the church, and it wouldn’t be long until that something revealed itself to us.
It was like the sun was setting, only far too fast. The amber glow of sunset poured through the stained glass windows, and then fell to grey night sky. The moonlight rose across the walls before giving way to the rising sun, before dropping back in to the grey of night – faster and faster until the room was flashing…pulsing with light.
Laughter trailed down the dark corridors, softened by the thick cobwebs and dust.
I took inventory of my surroundings: Ron was tying up the still unconscious Malcolm…Mark Anderson was holding a knife and thrashing through the pages of a leather-bound book – one that looked suspiciously similar to a book he’d left in the care of myself.
The flashing light made the whole room look like it was twitching.
Benjamin and Brianne looked to be arguing about something – though I couldn’t be sure because the didn’t seem to be making any noise. In fact, I couldn’t really hear anything except but the laughter. It seemed to be coming from every direction but…I felt like I could tell exactly where it was coming from. It was a laughter that was calling my name, and the more I thought about it that way the more it came to be true.
I looked to Father Michael. I could tell by his expression that he heard it too…we nodded silently in agreement and began heading towards the noise.
We made our way down the hallway…the flashing light from the windows giving way to flashing light bulbs – popping and showering us in darkness and glass.
We reached one of the offices and entered. Inside it was pitch black but for a small glint at the other side of the room- the small swirling doorknob of what looked to be a closet. I looked to father Michael and I could tell his fear matched his determination…same as myself. He said something to me, but I couldn’t tell what it was…all I could hear was the laughter…the laughter that was also…my name.
The door handle stopped turning when I put my hand on it. I opened it slowly and at first I could have convinced myself it was just an empty unused supply closet. But as I turned to father Michael I saw the horror on his face and as I turned back I saw it.
The light reflecting off of the eyes staring back up at me from the floor…the crescent smile…I recognized that face…as my eyes adjusted to the light. The same smile I’d seen in my house all those nights – only to turn on the lights and find myself alone.
While I wouldn’t have been able to recognize him, this was Preston Nicholson…only it wasn’t. He was fused to the floor, his body halfway between this level of the church and the one beneath…and in his body…wrapped around his bones…in his shuttering lungs like tar…was the Grinner.
And in an instant he wasn’t anymore…Preston’s body slumped to the floor – his hand around Father Michael’s ankle. The holy man looked at me wide eyed…a grin rolling in waves across his face…tears falling from his eyes. He mouthed something to me…before the smile reached behind his ears – I think he was saying sorry.
The Grinner came stumbling behind me, veins tearing from his skin and extending like living tree roots. He laughed with a mouth at least a foot wide, teeth long and yellow.
Back in the hallway the light from outside still flickered, making every step the Grinner made more unpredictable. His body seemed to stretch, the veins from his torso whipping and spooling together to form tentacles and his head opening and closing down the center.
His mouth didn’t move as he spoke.
I neared the worship area of the church, where I’d hoped to find help from Ron or Mark Anderson. The Grinner continued.
I came back to find that I’d been abandoned. Ron..
Mark Anderson…Ben…Brianne…Malcolm’s body was gone, too. Lucas Stone lay in the corner beyond a trail of blood. The Grinner spoke again, this time with his impossibly large mouth.
I couldn’t find the courage to say anything, and even if I had, I’m not sure what I would have said. Instead I ran – ducking past the Grinner’s whipping appendages and deeper into the church – this time past the altar and towards the stairs that lead to the bell tower. I found Detective Anderson waiting for me in the room beyond the altar. He handed me a crumpled piece of old looking paper and a large ornate knife.
“Finish carving this symbol in to Malcolm’s chest. When the Grinner makes his way back to his host body, this seal will trap him in it. He won’t be able to move or switch bodies.”
“What are you going to do?” I asked him.
“The friggin’ werewolves job…distract the Grinner.”
I rushed to the stairwell that led to the bell tower – throwing open the door and scrambling up the steps – making my way to the first landing where I found Malcolm. Only he wasn’t unconscious…he was tied up and gagged and when he saw me his eyes went wild. I dropped my weight on to him to hold him down but he was struggling – screaming behind his gag – and with every swipe of the blade he struggled more.
The symbol was a sixteen pointed star, something I’d seen on a few of the folders in the storage papers but…honestly didn’t think much of. The paper was thick, almost like cloth, and as such was soaking up vast amounts of Malcolm’s blood and obscuring the image. The ivory handled blade was quickly becoming slippery – soaked with blood – each point of the star cutting deeper into Malcolm’s squirming body and…just like that, Malcom’s body convulsed…and the blade slipped…
I knew just looking at the amount of blood…I’d made a terrible mistake. Malcolm moaned and slowly slipped from consciousness. I’d stabbed him to death.
I had no choice but to run. The whispering laughter was approaching…the laughter with my voice in it…the wooden stairs splintered and snapped with every step the Grinner took.
Beyond that set of steps and before the bell tower I found a large attic space – dank and filled wall to wall with retired or otherwise unused furniture and church materials. Forgotten boxes of wine bottles, and stacks of unread pamphlets littered the edges.
I made my way to the corner, hoping to hide behind an old desk. I knew if I made it any further up the bell tower I’d be trapped – this was my last chance to get behind him and make my way back down the stairs.
I could hear him getting closer – calling my name. Mocking me.
He made his way into the attic…scurrying across the entryway on eight legs. He now resembled a sort of mix between a giant spider and a person…but inside out…dragging a slimy mess of organs and spools of intestine behind him.
I dove from the bottom into the graveyard of unused furniture – the white sheets that once covered these forgotten relics pollinating the room with thick choking dust as the Grinner ripped them away – snapping at my ankles with claws made of tendon and bone.
I edged my back along the wall, until my palms no longer found purchase behind me – there was a space in the wall…a crawlspace.
I could see him through the gaps in the furniture, kneeling on the ground – laughing – his body morphing in to a bug-like exoskeleton of dust and flaking bone. He was still grasping at furniture and pulling down sheets, but he was slow…weak…the laughter was quieter now.
I felt a hand reach from behind and cover my mouth, and for a second I struggled to break free, but Brianne’s voice was in my ear.
“The host’s body is too weak…the Grinner is a parasite…he doesn’t just inhabit the host body, he feeds on it…that’s why Malcolm looked so old and frail.”
She guided me backwards, deeper in to the crawlspace. I’d realize later that we were in a maintenance space for the church’s ventilation, and it spanned almost the full length of the building. It was a way out. Another way to get behind the Grinner, rather than letting him push us further up and in to the bell tower.
I asked Brianne what made Malcolm so special – how was Malcom’s body able to survive as the Grinner for so long? The simple answer is that she didn’t know – neither did Ron or Mark Anderson.
She did tell me something else though…she told me Ben had a theory – the Grinner is able to survive inside Malcolm…because Malcolm found some way to hold onto all of those souls he’d gathered for the Grinner – put them somewhere else where he had control.
Surrounding us was a dark expanse of wooden cross beams and pink insulation. I had a feeling if I stepped off one if these wooden beams, the ground would give way like tissue paper and I’d fall to my death.
I heard the laughter again…it was soft…there was more than just my name hiding in it this time. He spoke to me…spoke to me in a way that Brianne couldn’t hear…that nobody but me would ever be able to hear…and I’ll never forget what he said to me.
I wasn’t sure exactly what it was…it sort of felt like a bug wriggling just behind my eyeballs…I can’t really explain it…but I had to turn back…
I turned to Brianne – her eyes swelling in frustration and disappointment.
She grabbed me by the back of my shirt, and I yanked myself free. She was yelling at me, but I’m not sure what she said, I wasn’t really able to register anything more than her tone. It was like listening to sound underwater – muffled and distant.
I made my way back through the opening of the crawlspace and I peered through the gaps in the pile of old benches and desks that had concealed our escape route. The Grinner was gone…all that remained was a layer of dust and powdered bone.
I made my way out of the junk pile, weaving through chair legs – like brambles – finding new paths in the dust sheets. I knocked over a box of empty wine bottles – I couldn’t hear the glass clink and roll across the wooden floor…I was still having trouble hearing anything but the whispering laughter. I couldn’t make out the words anymore though, just their general direction.
I began making my way upstairs towards the top of the bell tower, following the voice. What I thought was a pile of dust was actually a trail, leading a path of what looked like sand and fragmented bone on every other step or so. The whispers were fading now and as they did, my hearing was returning. As I made my way to the first landing, I could hear talking…or…arguing up above me – though it still sounded like I was underwater.
The next set of stairs upward were a part of a larger iron framework that held the bell and hammer mechanism in place. Flashing white light bled in through the cracks in the walls making time feel as if it were stuttering.
…and then someone fell over the railing. I watched as the body seemed to suddenly stop and float…rotating in the flashing light. It felt like minutes – the body hovering in the air – before I realized they weren’t coming down.
I slowly made my way up the iron steps and to the platform above me, where I found Ron…and Ben.
Ben’s body was dangling from the handrail. A thick hemp rope that once held some of the weights used to raise and lower the now-static bell…looped around his broken neck.
Ron wouldn’t tell me what exactly had happened until later – after we’d made our way back down all three sets of stairs…passed the spot where I’d found what I thought were the final dusty remains of the Grinner, passed the spot where I’d last left Malcolm to die…only he was no longer there.
As it would happen, Preston was missing too – though I’m certain he’s out there somewhere right now just fine. To my shock Detective Anderson was alive, injured but not mortally wounded or missing any important appendages.
Ron and I met Brianne, a now much less gravely injured Lucas Stone, and Mark Anderson at the entryway of the Church. It was only then that Ron explained what happened.
Ben, Ron, and Mark Anderson brought Malcolm up towards the bell tower where he’d only have one route of escape, which they could easily block. They planned to seal Malcolm’s body with the 16 pointed star and then kill him once the Grinner returned to his body, and before he could gather his bearings. The idea was that if the Grinner’s host body is killed, both souls would be swallowed in to hell. The seal was to make sure when they killed Malcolm the Grinner wouldn’t be able to escape in to someone else’s body.
If I can be absolutely honest, the plan was stupid…it was a poor solution to overcome the failure if another brilliantly stupid plan…and in the end it got Ben killed.
When I led the Grinner back towards the bell tower, Ben and Ron ran up further and Mark Anderson back-tracked – not wanting to be cornered at the top.
When the Grinner depleted father Michael’s body and gave up on catching me and Brianne, it used the last of its energy to make it up the tower – now just a crawling pile of dust – and jump in to Ben.
Ron told us that Ben fought it…and ultimately…he won…when he wrapped a rope attached to one of the handrails around his neck and threw himself over.
He killed both himself and the Grinner. At least for now…
Malcolm brought the Grinner from out of hell, and right now Malcolm Foye is out there somewhere. But when I held that knife…I cut deep…I cut a scar that’s never going away…so if Malcolm ever does decide to invite the Grinner back in to his body….he’s for damn sure never getting out of it.
When I look at Brianne, I still see the same broken woman I first met sitting on that pew…cigarette in her mouth…empty look on her face. Wracked with pain and guilt…blame for ever meeting Malcolm and inviting him in to her life…only now she’s shattered to pieces.
I’ve thought a lot about what the Grinner told me…the words he floated in to my head when I was retreating in to the crawlspace – the words he said that made me want to turn around…
The last few days have seemed like weeks, and there has been a flurry of events taking place. For many reasons, whether it be lack of time, permission, or authority, I was not able to capture all of the events I wanted to, but I wanted to share a selection of notes I did take.
Friday, August 14, 2020
I’m on my way out of the house. Just a couple of days ago, I received an invitation from Ron to meet tonight at a church near old-town San Diego. Up until now, talking about these people I’m about to finally meet in-person seems kind of weird. It’s a lot like meeting a celebrity or perhaps someone you’re familiar with in some way, but you’re not quite sure what to anticipate going into the actual introduction. Naturally, I would have liked to record this meeting, but when I asked Ron in advance about that possibility, he was very clear about the requirement for no record of the conversation due to the potential negative outcome it could have for our plans. I even asked about recording it and not releasing it on the podcast until after our plans were carried out, but for some reason, I think this pissed off Ron. I just can’t imagine why. Sorry guys, I tried.
Saturday, August 15
I got home really late last night…too late to document anything, but either way, I really needed to sleep on the information I was given last night. I met both Brianne and Benjamin Scanlon. Detective Anderson was there, and of course, Ron was as well. I thought I was going to be able to meet Father Lucas Stone, but surprisingly, he wasn’t there. Who I didn’t expect to see there was Preston Nicholson. It was insane because we were all gathered in the church, talking to one another, and then I heard a voice from behind me which startled me a bit. When I turned around, he was just sitting there in the pew behind me as if he’d been there the whole time.
For some reason, everyone I hadn’t met prior to last night looked just about like I expected, but Nicholson didn’t. He looked younger, and he had a serious way about him. For some reason the account I read about way back in Episode 6 made me think he was more mischievous, like some kind of class clown character. He was all business.
While I have been advised not to provide many details about the plan that we devised, I can share with you that I can see the value of presenting these accounts to you more so now than ever, even though it’s rather minuscule in the scale of what’s actually happening here.
For the time being, we believe we have a way to get rid of the Grinner, and it’s fine if he knows our intentions. No, that’s not right…it’s actually better that he knows them. I don’t know if this demon who toys with our minds and tries to weaken us physically and spiritually, if he audibly hears what I’m saying through the podcast, or if it uses abilities of a more more supernatural nature to know certain details about the people it infects, but I know he’s been in my head as of late.
I’m tired of the middle of the night visits, the fleeting shadows out of the corner of my eye, the disembodied voices I’ve heard, and even managed to record.
Sunday, August 16
This morning, I’m confident that the Grinner has some sort of spiritual connection, as if he’s aware of the notes I jotted down from yesterday, because he paid me a visit in my sleep. I’m so tired of being toyed around with. Of being taunted. Shortly after 2:00 a.m. this morning, I was awoken to the feeling of pressure on my chest. I was lying on my back, which in itself is strange because I never sleep that way, but it felt like an elephant was standing on me. I tried to move, but it was as if I was paralyzed. I couldn’t even yell out, and when I tried, I only made muffled, grunting noises. I could do nothing to prevent what happened next.
The shadow figure entered my room for the first time. Normally it just stands near the doorway and peers around the corner at me, and for some reason, I had always considered my doorway somewhat of a threshold. I don’t know why…I guess it’s just because I’d never seen it gap the distance between the doorway and my bed. But this changes things. It seems more intimidating now…more threatening.
I watched as it levitated into a horizontal position directly above me, suspended in the air, and then it began taking on an entirely different-looking form. It was almost animalistic, and it was speaking in Latin. I couldn’t understand it at the moment, of course, but the tone was authoritative. As it spoke, the pain in my chest swelled, and I thought I might have been having a heart attack. I couldn’t even focus on the words being said, but after only a few words were spoken, the shadow figure dissipated and my pain was alleviated. I could breathe again. I rolled over to check on my wife, who was still soundly asleep and unaware of what just happened.
I took a moment to gather my thoughts, and then I picked up my digital audio recorder from my night stand. It was still recording. You see, any time I’ve done paranormal investigations, I’ve always found the audio recorders to come in most handy. Well, that along with good research. But I’ve always suggested to clients that they invest in a good one. You can always record over old files or archive them for later review. But ever since I began getting these late-night visits from our demonic acquaintance, I’ve been recording the encounters.
This is the audio from the encounter I just described.
The loose English translation of this is, “You can’t be so bold to think you can get rid of me. Go ahead and try if you dare.”
Monday, August 17
I’ve never been known to shy away from a dare. Anyone who has known me long enough can tell you this. Sometimes, it’s a fault, but I’m guessing given the taunting nature the Grinner typically uses to interact with me, he might just be aware of that. In fact, I was counting on a visit from him shortly after my meeting with everyone.
In light of the increasingly pervasive nature of these visits, I’m taking this opportunity to call you out. I’m speaking directly to you now, (bleep), who we call “the Grinner”. I believe that any power you hold over a human being is an illusion. That you’re actually very weak, and there’s really nothing you can manage to accomplish that we don’t allow, or that your master hasn’t given you permission to do. The truth is, I think you’re nothing more than an errand-boy. If you truly wanted to accomplish something by lingering around for so long, you would have done so by now if you really had the ability. I’m starting to believe that you’re nothing without a menial task to fulfill, an order to follow, or a human host to try to manipulate into doing the things you can’t do for yourself.
I challenge you to prove me wrong. Tonight, we’ll all be gathered together. Everyone you’ve infected including myself, and Ben and Brianne Scanlon will be in one place. Why don’t you meet us there and show us what you can do? Stop hiding in the shadows and visiting us while we sleep, while we’re vulnerable. My bet is that you won’t even show up, and I’ll be sure to update everyone who listens to this podcast that you failed to show your face to confront us. That you’re nothing more than a disembodied coward. Useless… afraid… pathetic.
I assume you’re aware of the place we met Friday night. All you have to do is meet us there, face to face and prove us wrong. We’ll be waiting.
This week, I’m not asking for your social media interactions, or that you reach out to me with your thoughts or check out our website. I would just ask that, if it’s part of what you believe in, to say a word in prayer for protection for myself and our team of people assembling to address this Grinner. And please ask your like-minded friends to do so as well. Rumor has it that gathering in numbers has more spiritual significance, so we’re hoping to get all the help we can as we prepare for tonight.
This week’s document is a nearly empty black and white composition notebook – only the first twenty or so pages have any writing in them at all. There’s nothing inside to indicate its purpose or who it belongs to and when I first read it I assumed it was just a creative writing exercise from a college student…or maybe I had just hoped that. If it had been just that, someone’s homework, it wouldn’t have been in that storage unit at all. While much about Ron remains a mystery, through examining these documents I’d like to think I’ve come to learn quite a bit about his mindset and methodology, and this wouldn’t fit unless he thought there was something to it. Still, I’d find it much more comforting to think of it that way – just the workings of an active imagination. It wasn’t until I reviewed a copy of a police report that was tucked into the back page that I realized what it actually was, but more on that later.
I’m running. Every night, it’s the first thing I know. My legs are a blur and my chest burns as I try to inhale more oxygen than my lungs can hold. I’m only vaguely aware of the burn though – just like I realize my legs are beginning to feel rubbery and I’m on the cusp of misplacing my foot into a twisted ankle. But that’s not what’s on my mind.
What keeps me placing each foot further into the unknown is what’s behind me. At least, I hope they’re behind me. I don’t dare look back, though. I can’t. Taking any ounce of attention away from the task at hand for even a split second could spell the end for me. I know this to be more true than any religion or creed. So I keep running.
I see a white light in the distance. Just like I did last night. And the night before. And every night as far back as I can remember since I was a child in a life that seems like a faraway dream. But I keep running. Maybe this time it will be different.
Although it seems impossible to hear anything over my gasping breath or pounding heart, I hear something that’s not quite footsteps. It more closely resembles a waterfall. Or a crashing wave, as that’s more similar to what is actually there. It’s like a tidal wave of darkness ready to overtake me and suck me out into a sea of…I don’t know. I don’t want to know. And if I can make it to the light, maybe I won’t have to know.
I can see that there are actually multiple lights. I risk a glance at my surroundings as I press on. There’s a thick scape of trees to either side and overhead gnarled branches block out the moonless sky, all working together to create a fog of varying shades of gray and black around me. They could be running beside me or even ahead of me, waiting for me to emerge from the woods to reveal that there was never any escape to begin with. But I know for certain they’re behind me so I keep running.
I break past the woods and see that I’m in a small town now. I know this place. I don’t know why, but it’s instantly familiar. I don’t have time to think about it, though. I can’t keep running. Not now, anyways. I have to stop. I need time for the burn to go away so I can make another break for it. Without pausing as the ground changes from whitened dead grass flat against the dirt to the hard black pavement of a small street, I turn left at the first intersection and glance back at the woods. They haven’t emerged from the tree line yet. Thank God for small miracles.
Every house has an open door. Every house except one. I haven’t seen it yet, but I know it’s there. I continue down the street as it bends right and without hesitation run into the eighth house on the left. I haven’t been in this one before. The black door, like almost all the others, is open, but that’s the only way I can get in.
Knowing the outcome before I try, I yank at the door handle in vain. It won’t budge. It never will. After pulling with all the strength left in me and making no progress, I pause. I can hear a sound in the distance. An almost bass-y squeaking, like when wet glass is rubbed. The sound cuts through the night air. I have to hide, closed door or not.
I walk past the entryway and further into the house, stepping as quickly and quietly as I can, but I feel like each step on the white tile floor creates a thunderous echo. Entering the kitchen, I see another open door. An unfinished wooden staircase leads down into darkness. I hesitate, looking around for better options. I see a large chef knife lying on the grey marble counter and try to pick it up. It is like trying to lift a two ton brick. I know it is futile.
I turn back to the basement door and reluctantly enter. Every step creaks and groans under my weight, as if protesting an intruder. There is no light down here and I can just make out two more doors at the far end of the barren room by the faint light of the kitchen. I just took a step towards those rooms when the kitchen light flickers and I freeze. My time is up. I spin and in two swift steps place myself underneath the staircase where I crouch.
The light continues to flicker and I hold my breath. My breathing is the least of my concerns, though. My heart may as well be broadcasting in Morse code, “Hey, I’m over here. Under the stairs. Come get me!”
I place a hand to my chest, willing in vain my heart to slow to a quieter pace. It enters. There is no squeaking of steps. I’m not even sure that it touches them. All I hear is a sopping wet sound, like someone is squeezing slime against something as it descends into the basement. I see its vague, dark form between strobes of the light. I can feel its presence suck the air from my lungs and turn my fingertips to ice. This is the closest they had ever been. I know it is not a matter of if, but when, it will find me.
It pauses at the foot of the stairs and I silently pray it won’t turn to see my eyes peeking between steps. Instead, moving at a maddeningly slow pace with head cocked to the side, it begins exploring the basement along the wall, its tongue extended against the cold stone as it does so. A trail of thick saliva drips behind it.
I know what I have to do. I have to wait for it to get to the other side. It will go into the rooms. It has to. That’s where I was going to hide. That’s where, logically, I should have. Not out in the open. When it goes in, I will make a break for it. It is my only shot. But I have to wait. I have to wait for it to go into the room, and I have to pray it is the only one of them in this house.
I stare at it more intently than I’d ever looked at anything before as I slowly begin to stand up, ready to move as soon as it is out of my eye line. My peripheral vision is gone. All I can see is this shadow and the long tongue that hangs to the side.
My head contacts the stair above me as I rise and it spins around. I see its eyes.
After that there’s a blank page, then another page that just has three words etched deeply into the paper in a harsh scrawl: “Almost has me.” The writing resumes again on the following page.
I’m running. The town is behind me now, but it won’t be for long. It’s lights already offer no illumination to the brush that flies past me. I’m in the woods again. I don’t know how I made it last night. It must have turned into morning when our eyes met. It’s the only thing that makes sense. But here I am.
I’m not sure how I’ve been able to keep this up. Every day I’m exhausted and for what? To do it all over again the next night? I can’t do this anymore. But my feet keep moving.
I see the white light. I know if I can keep up this pace the light will splinter off into more lights and then a town will form. If I don’t, the darkness will overtake me. I keep running. I once again emerge from the black mouth of the woods and feel the texture beneath my feet change from earth to hard pavement that sends shockwaves up my bones with each pounding step.
I turn left at the first intersection and look back to the treeline where what appears to be a black mist is emerging. They’re moving faster tonight. I continue running down the street, knowing instantly exactly where I am. But why? Why is this place so familiar?
I can’t go back into the same house as last night. They’ll know. I have to find somewhere else to hide as I recover. Somewhere to last the night. But I’ve been in almost every house by now. They know all of my hiding places.
Then I see it. The white, closed door in a sea of open, black doors. I won’t be able to open it. It won’t move. But it beckons me. I move towards it and the houses on either side of me begin to rumble, then, one by one, they collapse as the ground shifts. The world rotates and I find myself walking upwards at an almost impossible angle, struggling with every step. I see every structure around me fall and emit a cloud of black dust in their wake. I drop to my hands and knees, beginning to crawl. I look at the white door before me, seeming to grow ever further away.
It suddenly occurs to me. I realize what it is now, why I know this place. This is where I grew up. Nobody had believed the stories I told of monsters licking their way through town. My dad told me it was just a bad dream. Maybe it was. Or maybe this is just where the monsters lived. Maybe when you fall asleep, you fall into their world. And when they find you…I don’t know. I don’t know what they’ll do to me. But I don’t want them to find me. I don’t want to be trapped here with them.
The earth on either side of the road begins to fall away silently. This won’t slow them down, though. I don’t have to look to know that for every inch I crawl, they’ve easily glided a foot. All it’s done is limited my escape routes and made me that much easier to see.
In my peripheral vision I see movement. It’s black, but it’s not them. I can barely differentiate anything from the black, starless sky, but I recognize the rectangles as doors. All the doors I had run past and been unable to budge. All the doors that had not offered shelter but an invitation to all that is evil to come in and find me. To take me away. They surround me, creating a tunnel of black, useless doors that floated with no passion, just indifference as to the fate of the creature that was now crawling for its life to the white door to my childhood home that would refuse to offer salvation.
But I have to try. What choice is there? This is my fate. I can hear them now. The familiar rushing noise. My hand touches the door that is now almost directly above me and I begin to cry as I reach for the handle. There is no give. I try to yank on it, but I have no strength and even if I did I know it wouldn’t make a difference. Beyond the door I can hear strains of muffled yelling followed by a crash, then more screaming. I slowly, with great effort, turn and rest my back against the closed, white door. Of course it was never going to open.
They’re not far away now. I can see the rough pavement slice their tongues as they move towards me, a trail of blood and saliva in their wake. There is no longer any urgency in their motions. And why should there be? They know I’m not going anywhere. It was always going to come to this. The white door – the only place in this world that offers protection – it would never allow me in. It’s just the illusion of shelter. A false hope. The trauma that occurred there as the town stood idly by would always keep me out. Everyone had heard my pleas for rescue. But here we are. Finally resting for a moment against the closed door.
Maybe if I’m still here tomorrow I can find a way to bring some matches or something into this world. I don’t know how that would work, but this door and everything behind it offers nothing to me. I don’t need to remind myself of it anymore. It won’t save me, it never made me stronger despite what I wanted to believe, and thanks to these creatures growing ever closer, it certainly won’t have the chance to kill me. It doesn’t belong here. It has to go. I may be running out of time and I may never escape this place, but for these last few moments that I have I can take back everything that was stolen as a child. I can finally move forward, even if it is into the darkness of this world. At least I will be moving away from this door.
The air around me is now being warmed by their hot breath as the last few feet are removed from between us. Even if by some miracle it turns to morning before I feel their tongues on my skin, they’re mere inches away and there’s no chance at all of making it through another night. They have me. They finally have me.
The next page just has two words on it, but they fill the entire page: “Tomorrow night.” The rest of the pages are blank. I double checked to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. That’s when I found the copy of the police report tucked in between the last page and the back cover that unfortunately shed some light on what I had just read.
Officers Daniels and Hiers entered the apartment at approximately 10:30am, responding to a request for a wellness check from the resident’s employer due to multiple absences from work and seeming to display paranoid behavior that had been growing worse recently. The resident was found in bed, unresponsive to stimuli. There did not appear to be any drug use involved aside from a prescription sleep aid on the nightstand next to a notebook.
The notebook appeared nonsensical, however when contacting the doctor who had written the prescription, he stated that the resident had been experiencing regular nightmares and, aside from the sleep aid, had recently begun a dream journal to help analyze what happened in their mind every night. The doctor confirmed that the amount of pills remaining indicated the resident had been taking them as prescribed. The tox screen confirmed this, ruling out an overdose as the cause for the comatose state. The door was locked and foul play is not suspected. This is a medical matter clearly requiring no intervention from law enforcement. Due to this, the case is being closed.
The resident, whoever that was, had been experiencing bad dreams. From the sound of things, this had been going on for a long time. After reading about their last two dreams in their journal entries, I can’t imagine living through that every night from childhood, only to wake up and find whatever traumatic reality they lived in offering no reprieve. I also can’t help but wonder where this town is that they grew up and if it really exists.
Worst of all is the fact that these creatures in the dreams bring back memories of a single entity I read about in a previous episode, The Licker. I have to wonder now if this may be some sort of species that exists in the world we enter in our dreams, and perhaps the poor girl in the previous episode had encountered one that had managed to escape into that place between sleep and consciousness. If they do reside in that world, how long will it be before you or I encounter them?
There’s still much science hasn’t told us about those who fall into a comatose state. After reading this, I can’t help but think it never will explain those things fully for the simple reason that it can’t explain the supernatural.
Either way, before I fall asleep tonight, I’m going to try to make peace with…I’m not sure. Myself? Someone? The universe? I’d encourage all of you to do the same. You just can’t ever be sure you won’t encounter something uninvited in your dreams or some place in between.
Previously this transcript referenced an episode which has since been renamed. The previous title was a derogatory term and, once we were made aware, the episode was retitled.
Strong language, sexual assault, trauma, topics of possession, general horror
In today’s episode, I’ll be reviewing some of Ron Hammond’s notes from a client meeting with Brianne Scanlon. The contents of these notes, in my mind, warranted a direct conversation with Ron for a few reasons, but I’ll get to that later. Ron’s notes from home visitation of Brianne Scanlon, February 9, 2016.
Brianne Scanlon called me Monday (yesterday) night asking to speak with me first thing in the morning. She didn’t want to come into the office, and said it was easier to show me what she needed to show me from her own home. She sounded exhausted.
I arrived at her apartment near Balboa Park around [8:00] in the morning, and I brought her a coffee – black with no cream or sugar. I had noticed how she took her coffee in a couple of earlier meetings. In fact, I couldn’t recall ever seeing her without some kind of caffeinated beverage in-hand in any of the interactions I’ve had with her. It must be a nurse thing.
When I rang the doorbell, I couldn’t hear any sign of movement indicating she was even home, so I rang a second time, and followed it up with a few loud knocks. It startled me when I heard the deadbolt being unlocked because I hadn’t heard any footsteps approaching the door, and when she opened it, I was almost unsettled at her appearance. I’ve seen her without makeup before, and she’s the type that’s really pretty, no matter how much effort she’s put into herself to look presentable. But today was different.
As the door cracked open, the first thing I noticed were her eyes. They were squinted so much that they were nearly closed, hiding from the light of the open doorway and straining to make contact with my own eyes. I asked if she was okay, and she sounded groggy in her response, saying, “um…. Yeah, sure.” She sounded confused. Perhaps I did wake her up. As the door swung open, I got a sense of her skin tone, which looked different as well. Normally, she looked somewhat tanned with an olive complexion. Today, she looked extremely white, almost to the point of having a grayish hue. Her hair was knotted, which I noticed as she brought her forearm up against her forehead to shield her eyes from the sunlight coming in through the open door. She had on sweatpants and an over-sized t-shirt. I had obviously woken her up. I wondered if she forgot about our phone call last night.
I came through the doorway and closed it behind me quickly to stop letting bright light inside, and it took me a few moments to allow my eyes adjust to the dark. I held out a tall cup of coffee that I brought her, and she did a little widening of the eyes that told me she was thankful, though she didn’t verbally express it. As she took her first couple of sips of coffee, I began to gaze around the room, which was also in disarray. Fast food wrappers and pizza boxes were spread out over the coffee table and on the floor. Blankets were on the couch and dirty dishes overflowed in the kitchen sink. On the counter next to the sink were a few empty wine bottles, and there was an odor of something rotten coming from the kitchen – most likely the garbage disposal.
She told me the living room was a mess and invited me to sit down at her small dining room table in the kitchen. When I asked if she was okay, she said, “absolutely fucking not” in somewhat of a slurred manner. Was she drunk? Then she put her face in her hands and began crying. I stood back up and walked over to put my hand on her shoulder, then asked what was going on. She said “everything” and apologized for her inability to maintain composure.
So I said, “let’s take it from the top. What’s changed since we last spoke?” Brianne proceeded to tell me about some things she’d been experiencing over the past few weeks. She was in trouble at work over missing shifts that she couldn’t even remember if she called out for. She claimed she was missing time. That there were multiple occurrences of hours and sometimes even days that she couldn’t recall from her memory. Last night, when she called me to set up the meeting, she claimed that she didn’t know where she was for the last two days, and that the duration of these events was getting longer. She also claimed that she was having what she initially thought were dreams, though now she believes them to be real experiences, and these things had been happening to her for nearly a year, even up to the moment when I first met her, though she only recently realized this.
When I asked her what she meant, she said “for example, I remember being at work at the hospital a little over a year ago. I didn’t have this memory until a couple of days ago when I was having one of these dreams, and then all of a sudden, I found myself disoriented while at work, not realizing how I’d gotten to the place I was sitting. I looked down, and in my hand was a USB flash drive. It’s almost like I’m finally able to recall actual events that occurred, but only when I’m having these crazy dreams.”
I knew the answer to this already, but I had to ask, “what was on the flash drive?” She said that she had downloaded some patient files and medical records. Specifically history and prognosis files, surgical and imaging reports, and other testing results including labs, genetic and metabolic testing. Then she explained that another one of these dreams revealed that she had put the medical records onto her own computer at some point. When she went to eject the flash drive in the dream, the date was March 7, 2015, about one year prior to the date she could actually recall doing this.
At first, she said she wasn’t certain that these were actual real events… until last night. She claimed that after having one of these dreams that supposedly revealed a real-life memory, she woke up and decided to go to her computer to look for these files that she had downloaded. She found them. With some additional information as well. While her new memory (or so we’ll refer to it as) revealed the medical documents she previously discussed, there were additional files, including some video footage of a hotel parking lot, and a strange person behaving rather strangely. She said she watched until the end of the video, where the individual looked as if his head turned completely around, walked toward the camera. She believed it was Malcolm.
For some reason, whether it was the emotional tension of the moment or the stress, she recalled packaging and shipping the flash drive to her brother, Ben. What she didn’t recall was whether or not they ever even discussed it afterwards. My hunch was that she didn’t provide a return address, and that Ben Scanlon probably recognized the person, but didn’t want to admit that he knew him for some reason.
Brianne then continued to describe some other things in her dreams. Until about two weeks ago, she had been sleeping in her bedroom, but she’d been having these horrible nightmares where she’d experience intruders in her bedroom at night. She described waking up startled, but unable to move, and being surrounded by shadowy beings. At first, they’d just stand there and stare at her. As she would attempt to move, and come to the realization that she wasn’t able to, they would begin to smile. The closer these beings got, the more she could distinguish just a couple of features… their wide grins and their almond-shaped, solid black eyes. The more she would struggle to move, the more entertained they seemed to be, until eventually, they would all reach out and start touching her. Their hands would run all over every inch of her body, grabbing and squeezing every inch of skin, including many inappropriate places. “It was painful”, she said. “Humiliating and violating, and it would fill me with shame because they all seemed to be enjoying themselves and I was letting it happen.”
She wasn’t sure how long this would occur for because it seemed like time would slip away. Eventually she would try to distract her mind from the whole thing and think of something else as it was all going on, and that’s when she would notice a very different sensation. Almost as if their hands became ghost-like, they would pass through my skin and the pain would temporarily subside. I could see their hands permeating through my body and as I looked at their faces, the smiles would be gone. There was a frantic, almost worried look on their faces now. Like they were searching for something that they just couldn’t find. They were angry, and they began to get violent. They were all trying to push one another aside for a chance to reach through my body and feel around for whatever it was that they were trying to grasp. And as I slowly began to regain my ability to move again, I would see a strobe of light flash. Always three flashes, then screams of agony while they scurry away. It’s almost as if I was being protected by this light somehow.
She said these dreams were recurring, and then she walked me into her bedroom. On the walls, I could see outlines of humanoid-looking shapes. It instantly reminded me of the images in textbooks you see from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs where the detonation flash permanently created shadows on structures and cement. There were several shadows, each with a distinguishable shape, and it appeared as if they had been created multiple times over. Brianne pointed to the walls and said, “here’s some physical evidence for you.” Then she pulled up her shirt to reveal her stomach, which was covered in bruises. She said, “and here’s another effect of the dreams”. She looked like she’d been beaten badly. I encouraged her to seek medical attention, but she declined, saying “that’s not the kind of help I need”.
After lowering her shirt, Brianne led me back to the living room where she laid down and covered up with a blanket. She asked if I wouldn’t mind staying for a couple of hours to be there with her while she attempted to get some kind of sleep, and to see if I could witness anything in case one of her supposed dreams happened again. I thought it was actually a pretty good idea and asked if I could browse through the files on her computer to see if I could notice some kind of pattern or pull a piece of pertinent information out of them. She told me to knock myself out. As I began viewing these files, I realized there were literally thousands of patient records included. I asked if she’d taken a good look at them, but she was already sound asleep. I decided to make a list of things I noticed about them, along with some questions for follow-up:
The medical folders aren’t named according to patient name or medical record numbers. Instead they seem like some kind of letter/number combination, and all begin with the letter H so far. How are they organized?
There are symbols associated with each of the folders. At first glance, I’ve seen several, including some that are either duplicated or have more than one symbol that can be cross-referenced between multiple files.
Can these files be indexed by patient name, date of birth, etc.? Look into creating a database, as well as amount of time that would take and cost – consider out-sourcing.
Cross-reference cases with my own files… there may be nothing here, but I have a hunch…
Follow up on the homicide that occurred at the hotel where the attached video took place. Who was the victim? Still unidentified? Obtain autopsy report.
Check formatting of file storage. There are more folders within each of the primary ones, but a few of them have extra folders that don’t appear to have medical records in them, but do pertain seemingly non-medically-related information. Is this a consistent pattern?
I spent the better part of the afternoon going through these files, not realizing how much time had gotten away from me in the process. Brianne seemed to sleep soundly the entire time, despite the frantic clacking of keys and clicking of the mouse I was doing. I did note one additional item I’d like to follow up on, though I’m not quite sure how yet. There were a total of 7 folders on the drive that were password encrypted, and I know I’m going to need some help unlocking those. The only information I could see without these passwords were the file sizes. They were monstrous. Either they contained a lot of media, pictures and videos, or a shit-ton of text-based files.
When Brianne woke up, it was early evening. I asked if she knew the password for those folders, and she attempted to use a few passwords she had created for software and systems at work, but she was unsuccessful.
That’s the end of Ron’s note from this specific day. Here on the Storage Papers Podcast, I’ve only shared a small percentage of the files in my possession publicly compared to those I’ve read, and those I’ve read are but a fraction of a percent of the total number of files here. After initially reading what I just shared with you, the listeners, I felt compelled to call Ron and ask some questions specific to some other files relating to the medical records mentioned here, as well as the current state of Brianne.
Ron shared that he was in touch with Brianne regularly, but her disposition has become rather despondent. Over the last several months, she’s fallen into a deep depression. She’s had trouble at work and is undergoing psychotherapy on a bi-weekly basis. Ron said she’s dulled the dreams with medication, convincing herself that they’re not real, at least for the time being until we’re able to figure out a way to free her from the oppression of the Grinner.
While there’s more documentation to uncover about who… or what the Grinner actually is, Ron shared that over the last few years, he’s solicited the help of various priests who are skilled in the rite of exorcism. Some have been successful, at least for a period of time, in relinquishing the Grinner’s grasp on Brianne even if only temporarily. She’d go for a period of weeks and sometimes months without the dreams and visitations, but when she’d start to show real progress he would return. Every time she experiences this cycle, the fight in her leaves a little bit, and Ron clearly expresses that he fears she will not be able to fight much longer without a permanent solution. He believes he has one, and plans to fill me in very soon.
With Ron’s permission, I’ve expressed interest in adding my own notes to these files after conducting some of my own additional research regarding the oppressive effects taking place for Brianne Scanlon.
I did some of my own reading and research into the demon we refer to as the Grinner. I still won’t share his name, especially now after what I’ve learned, though it is documented multiple times within the papers. I connected with a friend of mine who I’ve worked with on a couple occasions doing paranormal investigations. My friend, who has asked to remain anonymous to protect his privacy, is a theologian and demonologist. When I presented the demon’s name to him, he asked me to give him a week or two to visit the archives and present what he found. I guess I was a little surprised he hadn’t heard the name before.
About 10 days after that, he asked me to meet him at a cemetery about an hour outside of the city. I thought this was odd, but he explained that there was a reason for it, in addition to it being on holy ground. He also admitted to listening to The Storage Papers podcast to get some context regarding my reason for looking into this. I suppose additional listeners never hurts.
He was able to reference two aliases for the name of the demon possessing Malcolm Foye. He explained that this particular demon was not a low-level demon, but a higher-ranking one in high favor with Lucifer himself. The Grinner, in the spiritual realm, commands 30 legions of demons and has been promoted to the rank of high president in hell. He is also very old, being one of the original angels cast out of heaven when Lucifer fell. You see, most average, run of the mill demonic entities simply run around looking for opportunity and pouncing on the weak. These older ones are more reserved, making calculated moves. They have the power to influence masses, they are eloquent and often charismatic, and they show patience and restraint when needed in order to set the stage for longer-term plans. A human lifespan is a blink of the eye for them to wait for conditions to be right in order to accomplish a goal.
My theologian friend took a little bit of extra effort that I hadn’t counted on though. He shared information as we walked through the cemetery, until we stopped. He noted something very different with the reported behavior of the Grinner compared to the literature he’d referenced. According to current knowledge, he has grown in power to influence multiple people, to come and go as he pleases, and only seems slightly inconvenienced by the rite of exorcism performed on his victims. There’s a missing piece to this puzzle. He’s gone millennia without these abilities, and then suddenly he’s grown in power? It just didn’t add up until I started digging around for information on the Scanlons.
He stopped speaking for a second, turned and looked at a gravestone next to us, then continued saying “there’s information I’m not able to share with you here and now due to the oath I took to gain my current position, but the information is there for you to discover if you follow the right leads. The Scanlons are holding back information from you and your friend, Ron. Perhaps even Ron is holding something back. We can’t prove this, but it’s a theory I’ve been compiling for a few years now that when Lucifer grants additional power and authority in hell to one entity, an equal amount must be taken away from another entity, or even a group of entities as I fear the case may be with your Grinner. This power, however, has to be earned. Try to think about the ways he interacts with you and the Scanlons. Does he know intimate details about you that nobody else does? Has he exploited your fears? Is he capable of possessing multiple people at the same time? It might help you to keep a journal of your experiences as well as everyone else’s.”
My mind was churning with thoughts about how this additional power and new abilities could be earned, but I couldn’t recall finding anything in the papers preceding the information I’ve already shared. It took a moment, but I noticed him looking at the headstone still. When I turned to look at it myself, I was blown away. It read, “here lies Melanie Foye, beloved daughter and sister, who gave her life for the cause.” I must have worn an expression of perplexion on my face because my friend then encouraged me to look into the people, meaning the Scanlons and now presumably the Foyes, and then the spiritual side of things will make more sense. I thought it would have been the other way around.
After sharing my own insights and some of this research with Ron, I believe I must have somehow earned an element of his trust. He divulged some major details regarding his plan for dealing with the Grinner. He believed that in addition to the power that clergy could bring to the battle, he would also need to recruit the help of a more supernatural nature. He’d been seeking Lucas Stone for some time and finally managed to connect him with Preston Nicholson. I must admit, his plan sounded batshit crazy, but at the end of the day all of this stuff sounds that way. Ron really seemed to be excited to share the details of his plan with me. He was almost giddy…yet still, I still sensed restraint. Perhaps over time he’ll be more transparent, and I know what you’re thinking… but I can’t share details about his plan until we’ve carried it through. I can say now though, I feel like I’m officially part of the team, for whatever that’s worth, and you won’t have to wait long for those details.
I asked Ron what the next steps were. He said it’s time to pull everyone together. We need to lay out and rehearse our plan and find a way to lure the Grinner out. “Thankfully,” he said, “that won’t be the difficult part thanks to you.” He said he’ll send word soon regarding when and where to meet up with everyone.