Untold Christmas Tales From The Storage Papers

Untold Christmas Tales From The Storage Papers horror podcast

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Language, violence, murder, some body horror, possession

Episode Transcript


The Gift Unopened
Elves
The Guest


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.

It says:

“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.


Elves

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. 


The Guest

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.

Halloween 2020

Halloween 2020 from The Storage Papers horror podcast

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Strong language, gore, murder, gun violence

Episode Transcript


Specter
Fog
Exhume


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.


Specter

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.


Fog

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.


Exhume

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.