Final Rest: Part 2 – Season 3 Episode 20

See Content Warnings
General horror, language, injury, gunshot, death
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy awakens inside a dream shared with Brianne and the Dream Killer: a long, circular hallway lined with windows on either side. The Dream Killer doesn’t notice him at first and is excited to see Brianne, but she doesn’t recognize him. She tells him she’s going to stop him.

Upon noticing Jeremy, he grabs Brianne, smashes a window, and pulls her through it. Jeremy gives chase and finds himself back in Hellhole Canyon, his sleeping body next to Brianne’s, when a car flies at him. Brianne redirects it at the last second. Brianne and the Dream Killer disappear and Jeremy notices a glitch in the dream world where they seemed to disappear at. He jumps into the glitch and is back in the hallway, just in time to see them leave again.

He dives through the window they just jumped through and finds himself in an abandoned medical facility. He can’t see them, but he hears Brianne and the Dream Killer talking. The Dream Killer reveals he was with Brianne and Benjamin when they were in the custody of Hydra, and they experimented on him but were unable to put him to sleep while they did so. The only time he gets any rest is when he steals it from the dreams of other psychics.

Jeremy bursts through a door and finds himself next to his wife who can’t see him, but is mourning over his tombstone. The Dream Killer implies this is what will happen to him. Brianne tells him it’s a lie, and Jeremy realizes he is actually still in the medical facility, next to several metal doors – Brianne and Benjamin’s childhood rooms. The Licker is at the other end of the hallway.

Jeremy notices the glitch again and runs towards the Licker, then suddenly finds himself tripping through the hallway and through another broken window, this time falling into a pitch void where the Dream Killer is expanding stars and galaxies from nothing. He injures Brianne and begins exploring Jeremy’s mind.

Jeremy calls for Brianne in his mind and they repel the Dream Killer. The Dream Killer begins to grow in retaliation, ready to wipe them out. Suddenly they are awake and a gunshot echoes. Ron killed the Dream Killer, and pocketed something as Jeremy and Brianne were running up. They take Brianne back and Ron leaves immediately, offering no answers to what happened and what is going on.

Everything was white – almost blindingly white – while a rainbow of alternating pale and neon colors swirled in my peripheral vision. I looked around until I spotted two figures in the distance. One was clearly Brianne. All I could make out of the other was his khaki suit. Although they were far away, I heard them as if they were speaking directly in my ear, rattling in my head. A deep, masculine voice was talking, but something seemed off as it spoke.

“You – you’re the sister! I found you! I can’t believe it!”

Several small pieces of white paper floated around me, each with some writing and a crimson smudge on it. I grabbed at one of them to find it was a card, colored with dried blood and containing the message “I’m saving you for last, Brianne.” The message took some focus to see and kept fading away the moment I stopped concentrating on it. I looked past the card at the two figures, still impossibly far away. Brianne’s voice seemed to ripple into me as I started running towards the two of them.

“I don’t know who you are, but you’re scaring me.”

My heart began to pound as I felt her fear in my veins. I started to hear things as I got closer, like I was slowly getting sucked into a vortex of nightmares. There were monsters here. I knew that. I could sense them just in my periphery; I just couldn’t see them. The colors just at the edge of my vision were phasing in and out with objects of substance: the red turned to bloodied intestines, the yellow became a steady stream of animalistic eyes, and the purple and green combined to form rotting, diseased flesh.

His voice grew louder, more powerful. “You don’t remember me? I thought… then why are you here?”

I could tell Brianne wanted to sound confident… but I could also tell the nightmare was getting to her. “I came to stop you.”

Like a switch, we were no longer in a blank space full of swirling colors and gore, and I was jolted to a stop as I reoriented myself in this new space as his once khaki suit morphed into darkness. We were now in a long, dim hallway. Broken, frosted glass littered the floor beneath empty light fixtures on the ceiling. Brianne and the man stood at the end of a long, curved hallway lined with dark glass windows. Wind whistled through a crack in one of the nearby windows.

“You think you can stop me?”

His voice boomed, reverberating through my body. I took a step forward, bits of broken bulbs crunching beneath my foot. His head snapped to face me, then turned back to Brianne. “Who did you invite?” he seethed.

Suddenly, the windows were no longer dark. They never had been. Each window presented a glimpse of a different place. Some looked normal, but others were… unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and like nothing I could even explain or describe. Without warning, he grabbed Brianne’s arm then ran and dove through the window behind her, the shattering glass echoing down the hall. I ran to catch up and follow them. Whatever was on the other side seemed to be getting sucked into this place. As I drew closer, I saw that it was sand. With the sand blasting my face and spreading down the hall, I couldn’t see anything before taking a leap of faith.

Wind howled around me as I fell through the sand, trying perfervidly and in vain to find something to grasp while simultaneously bracing myself. There was nothing, and sand pressed into me on all sides, immobilizing my limbs and squeezing my lungs. Without warning, I hit the ground backwards with a thud that knocked the wind out of me. I reached up to wipe the sand off my face as I regained my breath and looked around. We were back in Hellhole Canyon. Brianne was lying on the ground and I was next to her, but both of us were slightly out of focus. Groaning metal echoed in the distance and the sound of something large was fast approaching overhead. I looked up to see a dark shape blotting out the stars and quickly growing larger. I tried to jump out of the way, but I reacted far too late to make a difference. Instead, at the last second I heard Brianne grunt from behind and the car that was about to crush me flew to the side and crunched into a large boulder beside me.

I spun around in time to see the man yanking Brianne off a ledge. I climbed up as quickly as I could to try to follow them but, as I reached the edge myself, I found that it was about a twelve foot drop down to more rocks. Survivable if you were prepared and in good shape, but Brianne wasn’t even in shape to be walking right now. I didn’t see them anywhere though, and that’s when I noticed it. A bird flew past, disappeared for an instant before continuing where it left off, flying a few feet, then for a split second I could swear there were two birds before one disappeared and the other continued off again. It was like this one area was out of sync with the rest. I glanced back at my shimmering body, took a breath, and jumped off the edge, bracing myself for a rough impact.

Faster than I could register, I heard more sounds than I’ve heard in my life, an eternity of life swirling around me in an instant… then it all went quiet again as I found myself falling atop sand, now back inside the large, circular hallway. Just as I looked up, the man was shattering another window and diving through it, Brianne in tow. I stumbled to my feet and followed suit.

This time, instead of sand, I felt myself being overwhelmed by a sense of darkness. I’m not sure how else to explain it. The darkness was thick, palpable. I could feel it crawling over my skin, touching every part of me, and sucking me into it. I found myself struggling to breathe again. Then I was on a cold, dusty laminate floor. With much effort, I got up and looked around me, searching for any sign of Brianne or the man who was pulling her from dream to dream. It looked like I was in an abandoned lab or doctor’s office of some kind. On one side was a bench with microscopes and test tubes, and on the other side was a sink and a padded chair… with leather straps. Scattered across the floor between the two sides were old papers that were all blank save for a marking in the corner: a seven-digit hand with an eye in the middle of the palm. Whatever this place was, it wasn’t anywhere I wanted to be. I took a step forward and almost fell as something underfoot slid. I looked down to find a bloodied scalpel.

I reached down and picked it up. The blood was fresh. Looking back down at the ground, I saw a trail of blood leading to a set of double doors with an unlit and cobweb-laden exit sign over top. His voice suddenly filled my ears, startling me.

“Do you remember me now? It was here, so long ago, that we met. You and your brother got out. You were the lucky ones. Not me, though. I had to stay, to stay awake, to stay thinking, to stay watching and bleeding and cursing every second of my life while they cut me open and put in and took out whatever they wanted. The things they did to me, to my mind, to my body… and I still can’t sleep! The only rest I can get is in your head, in their head, while they sleep. The ones like me. Like us.”

I heard Brianne reply in horror, “You were awake… the whole time?”

I moved past the double doors and found myself in what appeared to be a hospital hallway, but with one key difference. Eyeballs in sizes ranging from baseballs to watermelons hung several feet, the thick, glistening optic nerves appearing to grow out of the ceiling itself. The eyes one by one turned to look at me. I fought past the shiver of fear rippling down my spine to look past them to the opposite wall. There was a sign: left to the cafeteria, right to the subject’s rooms. On a hunch, I turned right, crouching as I ran under the hanging eyes. 

“Every goddamned second. I felt every tear of their scalpel. I thought it would be worth it, that they would be able to fix me. But here we are! I still have to hunt for the next person I can use to finally get a single drop of sleep.”

“You’re killing them,” I shouted in no particular direction. “You’re killing her!”

The trail of blood was getting thicker. His voice whispered in my ear, “You’re just determined to be a pest, aren’t you? Let’s find out what happens when you keep poking.”

At the end of the hallway was a door with a large, reinforced window and just below that, a crash bar. The blood disappeared underneath it. I stood and broke into a full run, disregarding the eyeballs that squished against my skin, and burst through the door to find myself outside in an open field of rolling hills and dying grass. Sunlight was blotted out by gray clouds near the horizon, dulling the sunset.

I heard shuffling behind me and turned to see my wife standing there, gazing down numbly at a tombstone. It was mine. I suddenly felt very cold. I’d been so certain of what I needed to do in that moment – to find the killer, to save Brianne, to help Ron. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the cost.


It was Brianne’s voice, echoing to me from every valley.

“It’s not real. Don’t believe whatever lie he’s trying to tell you. You’re not where you think you are.”

I couldn’t respond to her to tell her that I knew, deep down, this was something he was showing me. But it felt so real. The pain of watching a tear roll down my wife’s cheek with no other semblance of emotion visible was destroying me.

“Look at the ground.”

It was Brianne again. With much effort, I tore my eyes away from my wife and looked down. It was just dead grass and dirt. I don’t know what she expected. After a moment, I noticed it was a little more than that, though. It almost seemed too… liquid. I reached down and scooped up a handful of dirt. It instantly poured – not crumbled – out of my hand. Beneath the dirt was laminate flooring. I carefully scooped up another bit of dirt – this time with two hands – then flung it beside me. It stopped in midair, as if it hit an invisible wall, then suddenly the wall was no longer invisible.

Blood oozed down a white cinder block wall where the dirt had just been. I looked down to find my hands dripping wet, crimson. Blood coated the floor and small splatters of it contrasted with my light gray running shoes. I was standing in another hallway, this one far shorter. Three metal doors lined both sides of the hall, each with its own small sliding grate at roughly face-level. It reminded me of doors to solitary confinement cells. The two doors nearest me, the ones I could see well enough in the dim light, had names on them: Benjamin and Brianne. I was standing in their childhood.

I heard a sound at the far end of the hall that I’d only ever read about before in the papers. It was quiet, but unmistakable. There was another door at the end of the hall that was identical to the one I had entered through. Through the reinforced glass I could just make out the source of the sound – a tongue slowly sliding along the window.

I froze. This was so much more than I had signed up for. Or was it? Suddenly something on the other side of each of the six metal doors began urgently pounding against them at the same time. I turned back and tried to open the door, hoping to find a way out of there, but the handle wouldn’t budge – it was completely frozen in place.

I heard a click behind me and turned back to find the door at the far end was slowly opening. I resumed my efforts with futile desperation as I put all my weight against the door handle. It didn’t move, not even a millimeter. Adrenaline pumped through my veins as I once again faced the hallway. The other door was wide open now and the Licker slowly approached. It’s like it knew I was cornered and it could take its time with me.

As it moved closer, I noticed something. Just like in the desert, when it moved a certain way, it was out of sync with everything else. For a split second, it was like there were two of them, then suddenly it would just be one again. I balled my hands into fists to steady my shaking hands as I steeled myself. I remembered that image of my wife and the emptiness on her face. It wasn’t going to happen, not today, I determined. I ran straight forward – directly at the Licker.

It didn’t take long, just a few strides, really. One moment I was a mere two feet away from it – close enough to feel despair radiating from those unblinking eyes, to reach out and touch the dark skin – and the next I was stumbling back into the round hallway. My momentum propelled me directly through the jagged edges of another empty window.

I was immediately falling, but it felt different. I was falling and flying at the same time, tumbling freely through a pitch void. Then he was there. A pink mist shot out from behind him, followed by stars, then planets, then entire galaxies. The Dream Killer and Brianne stood there, silhouettes against the backdrop of the universe. He raised his hands and sneered as thunder boomed, reverberating through my body. “You think you can fight me? This is my life! You can’t take this from me!”

I yelled Brianne’s name.

Suddenly his face was inches from mine as drops of water (I guess you could call it rain) flew in every direction. He spoke without addressing me and his lips remained still. “Who are you? What tasty secrets are in this mind?”

His eyes burned my own to look at and I raised my hand to shield my face.

“No!” Lightning shot through the planets as Brianne yelled in defiance. “He is not yours and my head is not your plaything! This is not your world anymore!”

He spun around and extended a hand towards her, his black fingers growing to quickly close the gap of at least ten feet between them until they easily pierced her gut as if skin and flesh were nothing but air and water. She cried out as blood seeped from wounds still plugged with his long, boney fingers. He flicked his hand and she instantly flew backwards, spinning aimlessly through the stars, a trail of blood floating in her wake. As her blood drifted away, it seamlessly transformed into clusters of yellowed teeth. I instinctively tried to jump and found myself falling after her. I attempted to call her name but I couldn’t get any words to leave my mouth. I felt the air being sucked out of me. His voice pounded in my head.

“Oh, this is an interesting one. So many thoughts, so much to see that is hidden… even from himself. Hello, Jeremy.”

I felt sparks of electricity flick through parts of my body and mind as his fingers inched closer to me. They brushed my head and I suddenly felt an intense pressure in my skull. He was digging in my brain! The colors around me stopped being colors and started being first flavors, then sounds. I was at his mercy – helpless as he dug into me. We were going to lose. We were going to die. I closed my eyes and focused on one word.


I opened my eyes to find she was directly in front of me, pounding the air as it warped around her, trapping her. I reached through it with much difficulty and grabbed her hand. The pressure in my head went away. The air stood still; the planets froze; the stars grew bright. We descended together until we were level with him.

I felt something crackling and glanced at Brianne to see that she was covered in static and seemed to somehow be growing… louder – but without saying a word. Her presence was noise and I felt it radiate from her to me. She squeezed my hand and I felt us both becoming stronger. We were connected in that moment, but I couldn’t explain how – I think her psychic abilities were affecting me, or maybe enhancing what was already there.

He didn’t hesitate with his response. Planets disintegrated behind him and started to feed into him, becoming a part of him. He grew as dust and rock swirled together until he blotted out the stars. Without looking, I whispered to Brianne, “What’s the plan?”

She didn’t respond. I don’t think she had one. He towered above us, stretching as high as a skyscraper, a blurry figure of darkness. In a blink, he would wipe us out, any second now. I could hear it in his thoughts.

“Do you know how good it feels to enter these minds? It feeds me, gives me rest, makes me stronger. And what does it even matter in the end? People going through such dull lives. The only excitement they even feel anymore is when I tinker with their dreams, whispering in their sleeping ears. And you, for even a second, think you can do anything to-”

He stopped in mid-sentence. In a blink, he was gone. The maze of dark galaxies had vanished with him. Instead we were in the desert once more. Awake.

There was an echo across the canyon and a ringing in my ears. I was completely disoriented and felt nauseous. It was Brianne who got up first and started stumbling towards the abandoned buildings, past the smoking wreckage of a car that hadn’t been there when we fell asleep. I struggled to my feet to follow her. We made our way down to the blue building and stopped in the sagging doorway.

Ron was standing up over the still body of the person we had only seen in our dreams. He turned to look at us as he slid something into his jacket pocket and said the only three words there were to say: “It’s over now.”

I felt like I couldn’t tear my gaze from the body on the ground behind Ron as the eyes stared blankly, the evil within them now nowhere to be found. Blood soaked his chest and a mostly clean bullet hole dotted the center of his forehead. Even now as I record this, that image is still firmly ingrained in my mind. Ron moved past us and said that we should get out of here as he stepped outside. I turned to Brianne who was still staring at the body on the ground as she held a hand to her stomach. Thinking about the fact that he’d basically been stalking her for a while now, I tried to reassure her that it really was over. He wasn’t going to be able to do anything to her anymore. We’d stood together against him in her dreams and we’d won. Judging by how she was clutching her stomach and my own splitting headache, it hadn’t been without our share of wounds.

She finally tore her gaze from him and faced me. She just looked at me for a moment, as if searching my eyes, before speaking. 

“Sometimes after I wake up from a dream, I remember bits and pieces of it. Glimpses of the memories. It doesn’t always make sense, but I know that in those moments I’ve seen his face before. I think he would show up in different forms, and when he did look like himself, he was younger in my dreams; that’s why I didn’t recognize him… at first. But he knew me. Our childhoods crossed. I still don’t really remember it, but I know something terrible happened to him. I don’t know that he’s the one who holds all the blame for every death we’ve been looking into.”

She looked back down at the vacant body and continued, “I don’t know everything that happened tonight, but this doesn’t feel like victory. We didn’t win here.”

I didn’t know what to say so I just stood there, following her gaze. Finally, she turned away from the body. Somehow, she looked even more tired than before and her voice sounded worn as she spoke again. “I just want to go home now.”

The drive back was spent in silence. I couldn’t remember a time I’d been more completely exhausted and Brianne doubly so. While she slept in the backseat, I sat restlessly in the front. I thought about asking Ron what has happened, why he’d had to kill him instead of trying to apprehend the Dream Killer if that was supposedly the plan, and what had I seen him put in his pocket? The weight of the day was too much. Maybe once we were far enough away from Hellhole Canyon… but for now, my brain needed a break.

Brianne woke up as we pulled up outside her apartment. Ron got out and handed me my keys back, told me to make sure she got inside safe, then started to walk away. I was in disbelief so I called after him: “Hey, what the hell!” 

He just glanced back over his shoulder and said things had to be cleaned up, then rounded the corner and disappeared. I was reaching the end of my patience with Ron and his disappearing act with little to no explanation of what the fuck was actually going on. The church, then the funeral, the documents from 4thTrumpet I still haven’t figured out how to confront him about, and now this? Sooner or later I was going to get some answers whether he liked it or not. 

Brianne was asleep before her head hit the pillow, mumbling that I should go home and she was fine as she started to snore before the words were all the way off her tongue. It was probably the first time in a while she didn’t have to worry about being hunted in her sleep. I went home and, despite my own weariness, wasn’t able to find the same relief. Somehow, I knew the nightmare wasn’t over, yet.

Before I officially conclude Season 3, I need to ask for your help.  If you can recall back in episode 16 this season, the episode entitled, “The Shepherds,” I received some information from someone I don’t yet know, but who 4thTrumpet vouched for.

He said the next time he communicated would be “hidden in plain sight”… that I should “keep on the lookout for a very obvious change to something both you and your listeners have access to.”  Well, has anyone looked at our website lately?  At 

Perhaps it’s nothing.  But if it isn’t, I could really use your help. I’ll be in touch when we get a little closer to Season 4, and if you’re on Patreon, well… I suppose you’ll be hearing from me next week.

Final Rest – Season 3 Episode 19

See Content Warnings
General horror, language, tobacco use, injection of unknown substance resulting in adverse side effects, brief mention of a poor diet, and brief mention of death and injury.
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy reads a short paper about a person who sees that everything is made of bugs, but only when they sleep. They are whisked away to Hellhole Canyon and killed.

Jeremy’s recording is interrupted when Brianne calls him to ask him to meet at the behest of both Ron and Dr. Patel.

Jeremy arrives at Brianne’s apartment to find that Ron is already there. He was given a drug by Dr. Patel that will enable Brianne to dream while still awake and hopefully locate the dream killer.

She sees him, but isn’t able to communicate anything other than “he’s in hell.” She collapses to the ground and Ron and Jeremy go to take her to the hospital. While en route, Jeremy mentioned Hellhole Canyon and Ron realizes that must be where the dream killer is.

They go out to Hellhole Canyon and Ron goes off looking for the dream killer, searching a seemingly abandoned commune. After he leaves, Brianne collapses due to a seizure. As soon as Jeremy touches her arm, everything goes white for him.

I had just hit the record button to start reading another paper when I got a phone call. Getting interrupted when you’re trying to record something can be frustrating, but I’m glad I checked who it was. Brianne Scanlon’s name read out on the caller ID, so I answered and put it on speaker.

JEREMY:    Hello, this is Jeremy.

BRIANNE:    Hey, Jeremy, I-

JEREMY:    Real quick before you go, I just want you to know I have you on speaker and I’m recording. Is that okay, Brianne?

BRIANNE:    (sigh) You know you don’t have to keep asking me that, right? It’s fine, I get it. If there’s something I don’t want to be on the podcast… I trust you to delete it when I ask.

JEREMY:    I’ll try to remember that. Now, sorry, I interrupted you?

BRIANNE:    I got a call from that doctor lady you’ve been talking to.

JEREMY:    The… you mean Doctor Patel? How did you know-

BRIANNE:    Ron.

JEREMY:    You heard from him?

BRIANNE:    I… we talked after… after Ben’s funeral. But I haven’t heard from him since. I think he just needs some time. I don’t know everything going through his head right now. Honestly I don’t even know everything going through my own head. But the doctor reached out to him. She called us to give us some instructions and let it slip to Ron that she’d already spoken with you.

JEREMY:    Instructions? What kind of instructions?

BRIANNE:    They… look, I have to run an errand real fast, but do you think you can come by in an hour? It’ll be easier to explain in person, and she said you need to be there.

JEREMY:    I need to be there? I don’t understand.

BRIANNE:    I know, and I’m sorry, but will you be here?

JEREMY:    Yeah, I’ll come over. An hour?

BRIANNE:    Yeah. Great. Thanks, Jeremy.

Needless to say, the conversation with Brianne caught me off guard entirely, but I only had about an hour to record. This was actually a paper I was going to record for the bonus content released on the Patreon, but given the information inside, I thought it best to include it in this week’s episode. I suspect it played a role in how everything turned out.

I had found a single sheet of notebook paper, wrinkled and frayed at the edges. There’s no name, no date… nothing to cross reference for context. With that in mind, I’ll read it now.

The world is dark, but not for want of light. The bed on which you lie is not made of cloth and cushion, it is made of them. The black things that crawl. The walls of your room, the water you drink, the food you eat, it is all them. When you step outside, they blot out the sun. Their many tiny legs move quickly and they fly in formation, giving the illusion of things you know.

When you bleed, it calls to them. If you don’t wake up in your dreams, they feast. The flesh from your body will shed under their teeth. I am awake, although I dream. I am in the true world, the one I have known since I was young, the one under the skin of the delusion we share as we awaken. My skin is covered in cuts, scabs, and scars from them that no eye sees when we open our eyes.

Even now, I feel their tiny mouths as they try to latch onto my arms, my legs, anything they can reach, but I keep moving. I don’t try to move this time, but I move. I am pulled from my bedroom by something new. I can feel it grabbing at my skull and dragging me. I leave my home of the dark things and try to fight them off as they are scattered through the air. I’m pulled up, out of my neighborhood. I can see the whole colony of them that make up the houses, the trees, even the mailboxes. But still, I am pulled away. I see the desert below me, the grains of sand made of the tiny black things, all crawling over each other.

I see it ahead of me. Unlike the rest, it is not black, has color. It is red. Not normal red. It’s like when you close your eyes after staring at a cold, blue light. It’s out of focus, almost transparent. It wants to move as I move my eyes, but it stays still as I approach. I am pulled inside of it. He is there into the red of the darkness. We are in the canyon of the hellhole.

This will be my last journey, I know it in my soul, the thing that he is grabbing at. He is looking for something now. He is slicing into me – through my mind… my soul. I feel stars burst from my wounds and fill the abandoned air around me with colors I’ve never seen. At least my last sight will be beautiful.

My mind raced with the possibilities as I drove to Brianne’s place. Through the papers I felt as if I’d been there already, but I was somewhat surprised that it looked exactly how I’d imagined it when I parked my car – right down to the bicycle chained to a street sign outside. I must have driven past there before, but I can’t recall exactly when. I knocked on the door to her apartment and was surprised when it wasn’t Brianne who answered… it was Ron. The cocktail of surprise, confusion, fear must have been evident on my face, because Ron just told me to come in and they would explain. I hesitated, then followed him into the dim interior, immediately assaulted by the smell of stale cigarettes. Ron took a seat on the worn sofa, moving a crumpled blanket between Brianne and him as he did so. Aside from pulling a cigarette to her lips, Brianne didn’t move at all. Deep bags hung under eyes which seemed to stare at nothing. 

I sat down in a wooden chair opposite them and glanced around the apartment. She had definitely been busy. The laptop sat on her IKEA-style coffee table, surrounded by a number of books on topics ranging from understanding psychic abilities and the meanings of dreams all the way to biblical conspiracy theories and an introduction to quantum physics. The blanket on the couch behind the coffee table and several dirty coffee mugs told me how she had been spending her nights – the ones she remembered anyways.

I motioned to a pile of papers sitting on the kitchen counter to my left and half-jokingly asked if she was intending to start her own collection of storage papers. Neither of them acknowledged the attempt at an ice breaker. Instead, Ron leaned forward and asked how much I knew about what was going on.

I was more than a little confused by this. I asked him what he knew, and better yet, where had he been since the funeral?

He glanced back at Brianne but she just took another drag off her cigarette and stared unwavering at the coffee table. I followed her gaze and realized that she was actually staring at two vials, one containing a green liquid and one with a clear liquid, neither of which I had noticed a moment ago. Next to them was a set of sealed hypodermic needles. Clearly I was missing some information. I looked back at Ron and asked him again exactly what was going on.

That’s when Brianne finally spoke up and started to connect the dots for me. In the dreams she had been having, someone had been trying to get to her. The blurred individual which was mentioned in Episode Three, Dream Eater, had become a recurring vision. Even when she couldn’t necessarily see the person… she could feel them, and felt like she knew them. Based on what she had been digging up through her own searching, she wasn’t the only one. As I’d read in the papers myself, people – or rather, a person – had been finding and killing people through their dreams – quite possibly for a long time now.

She finally looked at Ron, glancing at him before looking back down at the vials in front of us. Ron picked up from there. Doctor Patel had given him something – an experimental drug – that, as she described, would make it so Brianne could dream while fully awake. It’s sort of like sleep paralysis, but without the paralysis part and with more of an emphasis on lucid dreaming.

My eyes fell to the green liquid. I asked if it was safe. Brianne gave a short, almost bitter laugh before asking, does it matter? As much as I didn’t want to agree, she had a point. If the killer continued unchecked, the clock on Brianne’s life was ticking fast. I looked first to Ron, then to Brianne, before asking… why was I there?

Ron looked me dead in the eyes as he answered. The plan is for Brianne to find the killer. Once she finds them, we’re all going to head there together; Brianne has to be with in case they move. Ron was going to go looking for them to take them in when we got there, but we also didn’t know what state Brianne would be in. I was there to keep an eye on her when Ron couldn’t.

“And…” he started to add, seeming to struggle with the right words, “Doctor Patel seems to think you might be able to… connect… with Brianne, I mean. In a way that I can’t.”

He shifted uncomfortably and to be honest I didn’t feel especially comfortable with it myself. I’d have to be inhuman to not empathize with Brianne, but I didn’t think that constituted any sort of special connection. And even if it did on some level… how would the doctor know anything about it?

With involvement from both Ron and Doctor Patel, to say I was uneasy with moving forward would be putting it lightly. I stood and pulled Brianne aside for a moment.

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” I said.

She just shrugged. “Of course it isn’t, but do you have a better one?”

I glanced back at Ron who was fiddling with the vials, then whispered, “No, I mean, this is a really bad idea. I… I don’t think Ron’s telling us everything. I think he’s involved with Hydra.”

She paused at this, and her eyes drifted away from me as she took another drag off her cigarette. Finally she quietly spoke. “I trust him. Maybe more than I should. More than he has a right to be trusted.”

I wanted to scream why, but she continued. “There’s things about him that you still might not now. I’m sure there’s stuff that I don’t know either. But regardless, this plan obviously hinges on Hydra’s involvement with that stuff from the Patel lady. This person… they’re Hydra’s fuck up right? I’m betting they want him gone just as much as we do.”

In a convoluted way, she was right, and I didn’t have a response. She sat back down and nodded to Ron. I returned as well and decided that if nothing else, I’d stick around so I could help Brianne. With that though, I nodded curtly towards Ron. I was in. At least this plan seemed less complicated than the last one I was a part of. Hopefully everyone comes out alive this time. Ron grabbed the green vial and began to screw on the needle.

“Are you ready?” he asked Brianne. She simply nodded. I panicked for a moment. For some reason I hadn’t realized this was happening now. She looked at me and, seeming to sense my nervous state, gave a tired wink, as if to say, what’s the worst that could happen?

Ron struggled for a moment to find her vein before Brianne took the needle from him, telling him she’d seen enough bad needle sticks before and didn’t feel like going through that. She then unceremoniously made a fist and jabbed the needle into the crook of her elbow. The plunger reached the bottom of the vial and she pulled the needle out before going to the kitchen for an adhesive bandage.

Ron said it shouldn’t take too long to start working. I noted the vial of clear liquid on the table and asked what that was for. Ron started to answer then stopped as he looked behind me. I turned to see Brianne standing behind me, swaying ever so slightly as she stared into nothing.

Ron called her name, “Brianne?”

Her gaze shifted slowly, as if she was turning her head underwater. “Yeeeess?” she asked, her words slow but not slurred.

Ron got up and brought her back to the couch where he gently sat her down. Thinking back to what she had told me about her dreams before, I searched the collection of papers until I found what I was looking for. I reached out and placed the blank card in her hand, ensuring her fingers held onto it before letting go and motioning back to the full vial.

“When do we give that one to her?” I asked.

Ron kept his eyes on Brianne as he responded. “It’s not for her. If she encounters the killer in this state and they notice her, she may be able to… pull it into her dream and use it on them. I know how that sounds, but is it any weirder than anything you’ve read yet?”

He had me there. He continued, “And if they resist me when I try to bring them to Detective Anderson, I’ll use it on them.”

I nodded in understanding, but the more I thought about it, the less his statement made sense. Before I could ask anymore questions, Brianne spoke. Well, it was still her voice, but much deeper than I’d ever imagined her speaking.

“There you are.”

Ron perked up and, ignoring the change in vocals, started asking her, “What’s going on? What do you see, Brianne?”

Her responses started off more than a little incoherent, but her voice returned to normal, if somewhat… dreamy.

“He’s here. But he’s there. His eyes are angry. No, sad. And curious. Why? It’s written in every blurred scar. I see them now. They are all over his flickering body, like the windows we cracked in our dreams. And his dark eyes, they’re looking, all over, they’re everywhere!”

I shifted in my seat uncomfortably and couldn’t resist a quick look around the room. As expected, I saw nothing.

She continued, “He’s… different now. He’s wearing a khaki suit and… holding something. A pipe. Like, for smoking. No… he’s a boy. Now a woman… holding a spoon that’s dripping blood. No, she – I mean, he – is wearing a gray suit. Now he’s… oh my god!”

Ron called out to her, asking if she was okay and if she could tell where the killer was. She nodded dreamily but said nothing as her eyes dropped to her card, then back to nothingness. I asked her to tell us what everything looked like, hoping her visions would make more sense as she tried to describe them, but worried that she was essentially just taking an incredibly strong hallucinogenic instead of the miracle drug promised by Ron and Doctor Patel.

Brianne started talking again. I could tell by her face she was concentrating very hard to make sense to us as she said, “The light… is dark.”

She looked back at us, focusing hard on first Ron, then me, then repeated herself. “The light is dark.”

Ron and I exchanged glances, but it meant nothing to us. Brianne must have seen our confusion, because she sighed and tried again. “He’s behind you, but he doesn’t see you. It’s hard to see him – your shirt is glowing orange like fire; it’s too bright. I can’t see behind you too much.”

My eyes dropped to my outfit. I was wearing a dark green shirt and sitting in the shadows on top of that. Regardless, I moved out of her way.

“There he is,” she said, pointing at the wall. “He’s trying to talk to me. No, to everyone. He’s like a radio. He’s screaming, now! It’s so loud! It’s so loud!”

Brianne collapsed to the ground, crying. She curled into the fetal position as she covered her ears. Ron and I both ran over to her and Ron started to shake her, yelling her name.

“Brianne? Brianne! Wake up!”

She shook her head from side to side, unable to hear us over the screaming in her head. With some difficulty, Ron managed to pull her hands away from her ears. She looked up at him, tears still streaming from her eyes, sniffling as she asked for it to stop.

Ron ignored her because he had to. There was nothing we could do for her except for the whole reason she had taken the drug to begin with – we had to stop the killer. Ron barked out a question: “Where is he?”

She didn’t look away from him as she answered, her voice again uncomfortably deep. “He’s in hell.”

Ron let go of her arms and stood up, his frustration evident in every movement. I was still kneeling by Brianne’s side. I took her hand in mine and grabbed her wrist with my other hand while a small drip of blood slid from the needle prick in her arm. For a moment, I felt as though I could hear the screaming, too. Holding her hand may have seemed like a gesture to comfort her, but I wanted to check her pulse. I’m no doctor, but even I could tell it was too fast. I asked Ron what we should do.

He threw a hand in the air that had been covering his mouth as he paced and yelled that he didn’t know, what do you do when the person you’re hunting is in hell?

Brianne suddenly stopped moving and relaxed. We both stared at her as she sat up. I asked her if she was okay. She gave a weak smile and said that the drug had worked, but she was finished with the nightmare. I heard Ron give an audible sigh of relief before asking the obvious… so where was the guy, really? Brianne started to answer, then froze as she stared at Ron. I said her name cautiously, but she didn’t acknowledge it and started crying, “He’s there! That’s him! It’s him!” while pointing at Ron.

I looked at him. Was this what Hydra had him doing? He looked confused, then moved to the side. Brianne continued to point where he had been standing. She was dreaming again.

She curled up onto her side, once again in the fetal position. I had a hard time tearing my eyes from where Ron was pacing, still feeling suspicious. I looked back down at Brianne where she lay on the floor, eyes now wide open and unfocused, still in pain and muttering to herself. I leaned in close to try to make out what she was saying.

“He’s coming now. He knows I see him but he doesn’t know who but he’ll know. He’s going to take me, make him stop. Make him stop, it’s so loud!”

I told Ron we had to take her to the hospital, at least to give her some sort of sedative. If the Dream Killer didn’t get to her first, she was going to have a heart attack. Ron only hesitated for a second before agreeing. Together, we lifted Brianne and carried her down to the car. I was surprised when we picked her up – firstly at how light she was. The drive down the rabbit hole seemed to have offered her time for a diet of only coffee and smokes. The second thing that caught me off guard was just how spry Ron was as he carried her. Although she was light, she was still a human being and he carried her with far more ease than I expected.

Lastly, as I grabbed both her wrists, I suddenly had a splitting headache. It was almost debilitating and came out of nowhere. Once we laid Brianne down in the backseat of my car, I tossed Ron my keys. My headache was fading, but I didn’t want to risk being distracted by another wave as we drove. Ron sped wordlessly towards the hospital for a minute before breaking his silence. “This doesn’t make any sense. How can he be in hell?”

I didn’t know what to say and ended up staring out the window as street signs flew past us. Brianne snapped out of her dream for another moment and I spun back to face her, but she went back into her state of a waking nightmare before she was able to say anything. I bit my fingernail as I found myself replaying today’s events in my head. I thought back to Brianne’s phone call and how I never could have imagined we’d be putting her in such danger… again. I thought about if all this was worth continuing with the podcast. That Sticky Note episode I had recorded hardly seemed important now. Still, I found myself reciting it back, probably as a way to distract myself from my inability to help Brianne.

“…into the red of the darkness, we are in the canyon of the hellhole…”

Ron asked me what I just said. I hadn’t even realized I’d been talking aloud, but I repeated myself. He asked me why that sounded familiar, so I explained that I’d been recording some papers that often lack more context and putting them on the Patreon for The Storage Papers.

He suddenly swerved the car as we went through an intersection, completing a U-turn in the middle of it. Before I could even ask, he started talking, much faster now.

“I knew that sounded familiar. That was about somebody seeing a world of bugs or something right?”

I was busy catching my breath and holding on for dear life as Ron weaved in and out of traffic. He continued without my input.

“Yeah, I remember that one. Her mind or soul or whatever was being pulled… out to the canyon of the hellhole.”

I asked him what that meant. He glanced at me, but only for a split second and kept driving, the speedometer not dropping below ninety.

“Something you don’t know – you couldn’t – about that paper… I knew that woman. She was a psychic who died in her sleep with unexplainable cuts and tears inside her body, but not a mark on her skin. I didn’t make the connection until just now, but at the time I ended up writing it off as unsolvable. Hellhole Canyon is a place. When she was killed, I spent a lot of time out there looking for answers, for any trace of whoever killed her. I found an abandoned commune and it looked like someone had been out there in the red building she’d described, but when I staked it out, nobody showed so I assumed it was some hiker or urban explorer. Some people are into that shit, you know? Anyways… this killer… he’s not in hell… yet. That’s where he is, though: Hellhole Canyon. I’d bet my life on it.”

I looked it up on my phone. Ron was right. It was about an hour and a half drive. I turned and looked back at Brianne. Her eyes were open, pupils fully dilated, and she seemed to be staring past the ceiling of the car and into a realm beyond my eyes. I hoped she had an hour and a half. I hoped Ron was right.

The sun was down by the time we arrived and stars peeked in from the night sky like thousands of glowing eyes, watching us from above. Brianne was still alive and had been going back and forth between this reality and the reality of her dreams throughout the drive, although she seemed to be mostly in the reality we shared by the time we pulled up. I suspected – hoped – that the drug was wearing off.

I rubbed my arms as I got out of the car. It was cold. Ron and Brianne exited and we all took a moment to check out our surroundings. We were at the trailhead for Hellhole Canyon. A massive, flat landscape of rock, sand, and dirt stretched before us, spotted with the occasional brittlebush and ocotillo cacti. Around us, the earth stretched up as if to grab the sky and pull it down to swallow us within its dark void.

Ron told us we had to hike a little ways before we would find the abandoned buildings. Apparently it was a ways off the beaten path. I asked Brianne if she would be okay and, while she assured me she would, I didn’t like our odds. At this point, we didn’t have too many other choices, though. We had basically put a giant beacon on Brianne for the killer. If we turned back now… there was no way to know how much more time she had.

Ron led the way and I followed behind Brianne, keeping a close eye on her to make sure she didn’t need a break or collapse from either another dream or exhaustion. Despite the chill in the air, I worked up a sweat by the time Ron finally stopped. He turned back to us as Brianne doubled over, trying to catch her breath. He paused as he looked at her, then focused on me, letting me know that on the other side of these boulders in front of us was the commune and he was going to go in alone.

“Stay here with Brianne. Protect her with your life,” he said to me. I nodded and looked at her, still panting, as Ron stepped out from behind the boulders and muttered to himself, “Too many buildings to check… I don’t like it. I’d rather burn the lot of them.”

Sometimes two things collide at just the right moment and, for the second time today, I made a connection that I hoped would save us all. In the Sticky Note, the woman had been pulled into something red, but she’d also described how it seemed like the exact opposite color. Likewise, Brianne had described my dark green shirt as being bright orange, “like fire.” The light was dark. 

I called out as quietly as I could, “Ron… look in the blue building.”

He looked back at me and I couldn’t quite make out his expression in the dark, but he nodded, then disappeared beyond the boulders.

I spotted a stone that was mostly flat on top and helped ease Brianne down onto it. She looked like she was going to throw up. We said nothing, just waited… waited and hoped. The silence was broken by the mournful howl of a lone coyote and I found myself wishing Ron had left me with something more solid and perhaps even gun-like than the distinct lack of defensive gear. Now that I thought about it, why hadn’t he?

Growing antsy, I walked over to the boulders and peered around them. It appeared to be exactly what Ron had described – an abandoned commune. There were buildings half eaten by the elements with remnants of broken furniture scattered in and around them like a corpse’s spilled guts. I tried to see if I could spot Ron, but if he was there, he was sticking closely to the shadows.

I heard a thump behind me and spun around to find Brianne collapsed to the ground and shaking. I ran to her and dropped to my knee. She was having a seizure. It had to be that damn drug! I knew Ron couldn’t be trusted. I quickly tried to roll her onto her side to keep her airways open since she had already been on the verge of vomiting before this. As soon as I touched her arm, my mind exploded and my world changed as everything went white.

Missing Teresa – Season 3 Episode 18

See Content Warnings
General horror, language, brief mention of alcohol, topics involving death
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Mark and Brianne help Jeremy in this episode by reading text message transcripts between Rick and Teresa.

During the back and forth conversation, Teresa dies. While texting his grief to the phone number, he begins to receive replies. Teresa warns him that something is coming after him from beyond, and it’s using her to find him. He goes on the run to try to escape them, but every time they communicate, it brings the thing closer.

Eventually, Teresa realizes it’s inevitable, and lets the thing take her instead to break the connection.

Jeremy attempts to call the phone numbers. Someone else has Teresa’s number and states two men have tried to call that number but neither of them claimed to be Rick. He calls Rick, but Rick has no recollection of who Teresa is.

JEREMY:    Today I brought a couple of friends to read through some text messages.

BRIANNE:    Hello everyone, I’m Brianne. Brianne Scanlon.

MARK:    And I’m Mark Anderson.

JEREMY:    Thank you both for helping me out. I thought it’d make more sense to read through and record the exchange this way. I haven’t shared what the messages are about at all and I’ll be interested to hear their thoughts as outsiders to this whole project once we finish reading the transcripts.

BRIANNE:    This is pretty different to the stuff I’ve seen so far. I’ve been so focused with that set of files I’ve been going through, I guess I kind of forgot there’s probably a bunch of different types of stuff you run across.

JEREMY:    Without further ado, we’ll jump into this exchange between Rick, whose messages Mark will read, and Teresa, who will be given a voice by the lovely Brianne here.

RICK:     You know there’s no such thing as fashionably late, right? You’re just late.

TERESA:     Shut up, I’m on my way. Do you need me to get anything? Beer?

RICK:     Just get your ass over here. You’re literally going to be the last person to arrive.

TERESA:     Whatever, I’m in the car now.

RICK:     Actually, can you stop and get a case of some gluten free shirt? Cider or something? Micah is asking. (pause) Shit, I meant shit, not shirt. Stupid auto correct. Are you almost here yet?

JEREMY:     I’m going to pause this for a moment because I should mention that there’s a note that two calls from Rick to Teresa went unanswered at this point. Fifteen minutes later, six more calls were made and remained unanswered. Then two more texts are sent by Rick.

RICK:     Teresa, pick up. Even if you stopped for beer you should have been here by now. What’s going on? (pause) Teresa?

JEREMY:     There are no more text messages for the next few days, then Rick sends a series of messages.

RICK:     I’m sorry, Teresa. I shouldn’t have texted you. I knew you were driving and…it’s my fault. I should have just called. I know you’ll never see this. I know you’re gone, but…I miss you. At the funeral I saw everyone from the party and just looking at them made it hurt even more. Reliving that night. I’m so sorry. I can’t say it enough. I’m so sorry.

TERESA:     It’s okay.

RICK:     What the fuck? Who is this?

TERESA:     It’s me. That’s who you’re texting, right?

RICK:     Whoever this is, it’s not funny. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have texted this number. But I just helped bury my friend today and now is not the time for a prank.

TERESA:     Rick, it’s Teresa. I hope I didn’t ruin the party. Sorry I never got that cider for Micah.

RICK:     What the hell? (pause) Okay, obviously whoever this is has Teresa’s old phone. Just stop it. Stop it right now. You’re not funny. This isn’t ever going to be appreciated by anyone. Just stop. Please.

TERESA:     Rick, it’s really me. And you don’t need to be sorry. It was my own fault. (pause) Rick?

RICK:     I really wish you would stop.

BRIANNE:     Sorry, time out or whatever. Jeremy, is this… are you sure this is real?

JEREMY:     I…you should keep reading. 

BRIANNE:     Okay, then. Let’s see…

TERESA:     C’mon, Rick, we don’t have time for this. I’m dead. I’m texting you. Can we move on?

RICK:     No! No, we can’t just move on. That’s absolutely ridiculous!

TERESA:     There’s something you need to know.

RICK:     No, there’s something you need to know! I lost my best friend today and this is just sick. 

TERESA:     Rick, come on, it’s me. We’ve known each other since eighth grade and I turned you down to homecoming. We don’t have time for this so I need you to believe me or just pretend like you do so you’ll listen! 

RICK:     Fine. What do you want to tell me from beyond? Are you a ghost or something? 

TERESA:     It’s… hard to explain. I guess I’m kind of a ghost. But it’s not like I thought it’d be.

RICK:     What do you mean? 

TERESA:     I don’t know. I’m not sure what all the rules are or if there are any rules. I can’t interact with stuff. Honestly I’m not even sure how I’m able to text you and it’s freaking me out but I know I have to tell you some stuff. Even though I can’t interact with most things, I’ve seen others who can.

RICK:     I thought ghosts only mess with stuff when they’re angry. 

TERESA:     Like I said, I don’t entirely understand how it all works, but not everyone who touches things is angry. I’ve seen some people just clinging to those they loved. Moving small things around like bumping their keys to make them easier to find. 

RICK:     First I’ve ever heard of a friendly poltergeist. 

TERESA:     You and me both. But they aren’t all friendly. It’s hard to explain, but there are things, that when they get close, things just get…I don’t know, darker, I guess. Colder. More electric. It’s harder to see things because they bring a kind of fog with them. It’s scary. 

RICK:     How is it scary? You’re already a ghost. What are they going to do? 

TERESA:     Look, when I first saw them, I saw all the other spirits around and they all looked the same: scared shitless. So I did what they did, I ran. Or floated. Or whatever. I didn’t know why they scared me at first, just that I wasn’t the only one who’s instinctively afraid of them so there must be a good reason. I think it’s a primitive instinct born inside all of us. Something passed onto us from our cavemen ancestors.

RICK:     Okay, but why did you have to tell me this so much that you’re texting me from the other side? 

TERESA:    Because I learned why I should be scared. They can touch things in the physical world. They can touch people. I saw…I saw what was left of someone once they touched them. It’s something only the dead can see. (pause) When you started texting me and it was somehow able to actually get through…it was like someone blowing a dog whistle. As long as you have this connection to me, I think they’re going to come for you. (pause) Rick? 

RICK:     What does that mean? What happened to the people they touched? Are they coming for me right now? 

TERESA:     The fog of the things engulfed the person and…I can’t. I can’t tell you. It’s a secret only for the dead to know. And yes. They’re coming for you. I can see the fog approaching and the air is starting to tingle. 

RICK:     So what do I do? 

TERESA:     You need to run. Right now. Get your keys. Get your wallet. Get in the car and start driving as fast and as far as you can. 

JEREMY:     There’s a gap of about four hours after that message before Rick finally texted Teresa back. 

RICK:     I’m at a gas station now. What’s going on? 

TERESA:     Stop texting me for a minute! They’re looking for you. 

JEREMY:     There’s another gap, this time for almost twelve hours. 

TERESA:     I think they lost me. 

RICK:     I thought they were after me. And where are you now? 

TERESA:     I’m here, next to you on the bed. And they are after you, but they were finding you because of your connection to me. (pause) Yes that’s where I’m sitting, but can you stop waving your hand through me please? It feels weird.

RICK:     You can feel me touching you? 

TERESA:     Yes. Can you feel me? 

RICK:     No. I wish. I miss you. And this whole thing is still kind of hard to digest.

TERESA:     You’re not alone in that. But at least those things lost sight of both of us. It was awful for a few minutes there. I hid everywhere I could but they got closer and I saw what I think was their eyes. I could feel myself being taken into them the closer they got. (pause) I think we’re okay for now. 

RICK:     For now? I checked into this hotel, but how long is this going to take? I have a job and a life! (pause) Sorry, but I can’t just wait around or keep running forever. 

TERESA:     I know. You have nothing to apologize for.

RICK:     If we stop texting, won’t that fix it? That’d sever our connection, right?

TERESA:     Not exactly. Everything that’s here is tethered to something. If they ever find me, even after we stop texting, they just follow the tether. 

RICK:     But why? Why me? Why us?

TERESA:     I don’t know. I really don’t, Rick. I’m sorry. (pause) Oh God. You have to move again.

RICK:     Already? I just got here. 

TERESA:     There’s no time. It’s getting colder and my soul is… oh god I’m losing parts of me! Get moving! Once you leave your room, take the stairs. They’re coming from the elevator side and walls are kind of difficult for us to see through over here so it will buy you some time. I’m sorry, I’ll try to figure this out but I have to hide and fast! Don’t text! 

JEREMY:     Thirty minutes go by before Teresa sends Rick another message. 

TERESA:     Rick, did you get somewhere safe? 

RICK:     Does that even exist? (pause) Teresa, are you still out there? 

TERESA:     Yeah. I’m sorry. I’m just thinking. I might have a plan. 

RICK:     Hopefully something with less running away. 

TERESA:     I’ll let you know soon. Get some rest, though. I’ll text you when it’s time. 

JEREMY:     An hour passes before Teresa texts Rick again.

TERESA:     Rick? 

RICK:     I’m here.

TERESA:     Do you ever think about what would have happened if we’d taken different paths? 

RICK:     What do you mean? 

TERESA:     It’s just…like what if I’d said yes to you in high school all those years ago?

RICK:     Are you asking if we would have made it as a couple? 

TERESA:     I guess. 

RICK:     I mean… our friendship means a lot. You’ve helped me through some really tough times that I’m not sure I would have been able to get through without you. The thought of us going through a relationship that, let’s face it, probably would have ended in disaster and possibly losing that friendship… well, it’s not something I really want to think about, Teresa. (pause) Why do you ask?

TERESA:     I guess it doesn’t matter. You’re right. 

RICK:     So what’s the plan? 

TERESA:     I don’t think I told you enough that I love you. You’ve always been a great friend, Rick. 

RICK:     I love you too… what’s going on? 

TERESA:     They’re going to keep coming, Rick. As long as we have a connection. I don’t know how to break that tether at your end so… I’m going to break it at mine. 

RICK:     What does that mean? 

TERESA:     If it ever starts to get cold or dark for no reason or maybe you just feel a tingle of electricity that you might just shrug off as static or something…run. Don’t think, just run. They can touch you. They can get you. Walls don’t stop them. Nothing will once they find you. So run. Just promise me you’ll do that. 

RICK:     Teresa, what are you doing? 

TERESA:     I’m breaking the connection. 

RICK:     How? 

TERESA:     They’re here now. I can feel them. It hurts. My fingers are kind of… they’re turning into a mist, I think. The fog is so thick, it’s choking me. I think it’s starting to take me. 

RICK:     Get out of there! 

TERESA:     It’s why I had to keep texting you, though. They can find me faster that way. But I get to say goodbye this time, Rick. So… take care of yourself. Don’t blame yourself because none of it is your fault. (pause) Goodbye, Rick. 

RICK:     Teresa, just run away! We’ll figure something else out! (pause) Teresa, please answer me! (pause) Teresa! (pause) I love you, Teresa. 

JEREMY:     That was the last text message exchanged between the two phones. Final thoughts?

BRIANNE:     That was scary. Absolutely terrifying. And really heavy. 

MARK:     It was a trip, for sure. Is it real? 

JEREMY:     The texts? I have no doubt they’re real. As far as what they’re talking about, though? I can’t say with one hundred percent certainty.

BRIANNE:     Well, I don’t know about you or Mark, but… especially with everything else we’re dealing with, I think that for my own sanity I’m going to have to choose to believe that it’s not real. 

JEREMY:     After Brianne and Mark left, I dialed both phone numbers listed in the transcripts. The one for Teresa…it wasn’t Teresa who answered, but apparently I wasn’t the first person who had called asking after her. The lady who owns the number now stated that two other men had called trying to get in touch with the number’s former owner, but she didn’t think either of them gave their name as Rick. If I were to guess one of those was probably Ron…but who was the other? When I called the number listed for Rick he actually answered and confirmed that this was indeed Rick, but he had no memory of anyone named Teresa. I’m not sure if he was just trying to move on or if she had somehow been…erased? And more pressing, does something exist just beyond the skin of this physical world that will hunt us in both this life and the next down given the opportunity? I’d like to follow Brianne’s example and choose not to believe… but something inside me knows better. Thank you for tuning in to The Storage Papers this week. Stay safe out there.

Therapy – Season 3 Episode 17

See Content Warnings
General horror, death, attempted murder, murder
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy goes to an in-person therapy session. His regular therapist is nowhere to be found, instead he is visited by Dr. Adhira Patel. Dr. Patel wants to learn more about Jeremy. Jeremy asks her about the dream killer. She admits Project Hydra studied him, but states all records of him have been erased and implies that Brianne has them. She also admits that she studied Malcom for Project Hydra. Jeremy admits that he’s drawn to the papers and doesn’t entirely know what his intentions are.

She tells a story about an interdimensional room that appeared and disappeared at will that turned out to be a monster that consumed people who entered the room. She thought it was beautiful and wanted to study it, and fed her assistant to it.

Dr. Patel then tells Jeremy that Malcom is waiting for him and wants to talk to him.

This week’s episode is a bit different. I normally use this time to describe the contents of these boxes-upon-boxes of transcripts and notes, and discuss my research and possibly noteworthy interactions with some of the people and… otherworldly entities contained therein. To be honest, in that respect this episode will be fairly par for the course. I guess what makes this episode different is that I want to talk a little bit more about myself. Before you turn this episode off and move on with your day, there is an interesting story I’d like to share, but it only seems right that I first get this off of my chest. 

I’m willing to admit that I’ve been a bit vague about my personal life… and that’s been mostly intentional. My personal feelings on these subjects don’t affect their outcome. In most cases there’s little I can do to change the often horrible and unforgiving circumstances contained in these documents, and so for my sanity I choose to put a wall between myself and this show’s content. 

Behind that wall is my life: everything and everyone that I hold dear to me and strive to shield from the gnashing teeth of the cold, dark, and unusual world that lives just beneath the surface; one that occasionally reaching out with its gnarled hands to pull those naive enough to venture off of the path, down into its drooling maw.

To avoid waxing prose just to keep reiterating my point… this is dangerous, and I don’t want to expose the people closest to me to the mess I’ve gotten myself in to… at least not any more than I already have. For this reason I tread lightly. 

After what happened with Malcolm and… the Grinner… and what my role in all of it was, I wasn’t sure I wanted anything more to do with the papers and I had considered removing all trace of the podcast and its content. I asked myself for a while why I was really doing all of this, and when Brianne reached out to me for help, and my own strange dreams began to get the better of me, I thought I’d found an answer… but maybe that was just an excuse to keep going. I foolishly thought I could resume my backseat role and keep my distance from the show’s contents, but I’m not sure if that’s really possible… at least not anymore. 

The truth is – going back to the question of why I’m still doing all of this – I’m not sure I really know. It’s like something in the papers keeps drawing me in, and when I close my eyes, I picture myself going through the contents of one of those boxes before I even realize I’m doing it. Other times when I close my eyes I still see the Grinner, his bubbling melted flesh writhing and twisting around jagged bones, calling out to me with its cackling laugh. 

I don’t like to talk about it… and maybe it’s because I don’t like to admit it to myself, but what happened that day and the weeks leading up to it were pretty traumatic for me. The things I saw still haunt me, and resuming a normal life has been an uphill battle. I’ve recently started seeing a therapist in hopes that it could help in some way, and for the most part it has. 

I started off with appointments over the phone, but it was difficult to make the call… too easy to run away and ignore it (something I’ve been doing for months). Recently I’ve found an office where I can make visits in person, which are a lot more difficult to run away from. Inside it’s small and outdated. There’s a kind of uncomfortable nostalgia. Framed prints of scenery from the late eighties dot the walls: picturesque beaches lit in soft purple pastel colors with pinkish red sunsets trickling in ribbons across the water. They sort of blend in with the faded teal wallpaper, and they remind me of the pediatricians office I’d go to for check ups when I was kid. The chairs are old but without much wear and the flat wooden armrests are too far apart to comfortably place your elbows on. There’s that clinical feeling in the air that makes it feel much more like a dentist’s office than a therapist’s office.  

Nonetheless, I’ve found therapy helpful. I never get much further than the stress, the anxiety attacks, the nights I wake up frantic, searching through the house and ripping open closet doors and peeking through the blinds. And the days I spend just sitting, frozen while the whole world just keeps moving around me like everything is normal. It helps to talk it out, even if I can’t share all of the details. 

Yesterday was… different. 

The waiting room was silent, barring the hum of the fluorescent lights. The front desk was devoid of the usual smiling receptionist. Stationed at either side of the room were two uniformed police officers. I met the first with a nod, and in response his eyes shifted elsewhere. I sat down and waited to be checked in, nervously eyeing a poster on the wall detailing the signs of grief. 

I heard a trembling voice calling out from the hall ahead of me. Tt took me a moment to realize they were calling my name. I stepped into the hallway and I was greeted by the receptionist. Her face was flush and her eyes had a kind of pinkish hue. er eyeliner had separated into tiny black droplets that dotted her bottom eyelashes. It looked like she’d been crying. 

“She will see you now,” she mumbled before slinking back towards the waiting room. My stomach knotted with the thought of what I might find behind the door as I made my way to my therapist’s office. Nothing about this was normal, and while that certainly hadn’t just dawned on me, it’d finally started to really pull at my nerves. 

When I entered I was relieved to find that I wasn’t staring back at the jagged picket fence teeth of the Grinner, but instead sat in my therapist’s office was an… impostor: a completely different woman who I didn’t exactly recognize. She wore a dark grey pantsuit and her black hair was formed into a neat bun. Her horn-rimmed glasses sat at the end of her nose, showing off the neatly applied makeup under her eyes. She was pretty in a way that sort of makes you feel uncomfortable. 

I raised my hand to knock on the frame of the open door, before nervously lowering it, with the intent of apologizing for almost walking into the wrong office. Before I could do or say anything, the woman spoke.

“It’s okay, Jeremy. Have a seat.” 

I was put off, but not wanting to make for a more awkward situation, I complied.

“Do you know who I am?” the woman asked warmly. I replied that I did not. She smiled. “That’s perfectly okay, Jeremy, we’ve never formally met. I’m Doctor Adhira Patel.” 

The blood moved like toothpaste, my heart throbbing and constricting to pump it through my veins. In hindsight I could have just gotten up and walked away, but the unexpected turn of events left me feeling like a deer in headlights. Plus I’d now started to put the pieces together regarding the strange presence of the police officers in the lobby… if they even were real police officers. Dr. Patel evened a stack of papers on the desk in front of her before leaning back and crossing her hands over her lap, and when she spoke it wasn’t dissimilar to a mother consoling a child over the death of a pet. 

“I learned a lot about you recently.” 

She smiled when she said this, much in the way you might think; the smile felt genuine, and lifted up the crows feet beside her eyes… but behind those eyes was a malicious glint. I didn’t respond; I wasn’t sure what to say. 

She continued, dipping a teabag into a mug as she spoke. “But there’s one thing I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on: your intentions. After all, the contents of your head don’t show up on a background check, and you’re not exactly an open book. I know everything about you… but at the same time, I don’t really know anything at all about who you really are.” 

 I wasn’t sure how to respond, and to be honest I’m not so sure I really know the answer to that question. I had a feeling that I’d eventually have to chew my own leg off if I were to get out of this trap. I cleared my throat and took a breath, my trembling voice still betraying my confident demeanor. “When I walk out of this room, are your men going to detain me?” 

She laughed. I think she’d have even blushed if she had practiced moving the blood to her cheeks beforehand. “Of course not,” she said, “You’re free to leave if you wish. You have my word that absolutely nobody wants to hurt you… or your family.” 

I sat back down, recognizing the card that she’d just played. She carried on as a sort of subtle acknowledgement at the success of her intimidation. “Like I was saying, I’d pictured you as a loner. People like us don’t generally get married or have kids or keep an average day job. People like us are married to this thing – this thing that no one else can see. When you know that there’s so much more and it’s just beneath the surface, you can’t help yourself but keep digging. Friends and family come and go, our basic needs become a lot more basic, we lose touch with everyone and everything… but not you. You’ve managed to juggle it all. Aren’t you worried that it’s not going to last? Worried that you’ll lose your grip, and by the time it all burns to ashes you won’t even be there anymore to scoop it all up? That’s what makes you so interesting Jeremy. That’s why I want to know more about you.” 

I choked a bit on my words. “It seems like you already know everything that there is to know.” 

She gave me a look that was sort of indescribable: a look that was equal parts curious and full of pity. “That’s the thing, Jeremy,” she said, “that’s not what interests me. What interests me is what’s going on inside your head.” 

I could tell that she was looking for something deeper than my personal life, but for no other reason than to talk me out of researching the papers, and put an end to all of the unintentional – but completely justified – interference I might have had with her work and Project Hydra in general. 

What I don’t understand is why neither her nor Hydra have made any other attempts at stopping me. Not that I want to give anyone any ideas, but I’m certainly not hard to get to, and there are much easier ways to do it than this less-than-persuasive way of trying to scare me off. Frankly it’s got me wondering if Project Hydra wants me to continue my work. Maybe I’m just not much of a threat, but I’ve been getting this feeling – like a balled up mass of tapeworms in my stomach – that I’m somehow helping them. That same mass in my gut told me that if I allowed it, Dr. Patel would make every attempt to carry on the burden of conversation… or rather, what felt like my interrogation. If I let her, she’d pry open my skull and carve out a section of my brain just large enough to insert herself into it, and I’d never be able to get her back out. She’d stay there forever, whispering threats and uncertainties, and everything I’d worked towards to uncover the dark and twisted world around us would remain under the veil. 

I felt naked. There was no way of knowing how much she knew about me, but I didn’t know anything about her. I wasn’t prepared for any of this, and that gave her the ultimate advantage.  I decided to take a chance.

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

She nodded.

“How do you know the dream killer? And what’s his connection with Project Hydra?” 

She rolled her eyes, but I’m certain it was just for show. “The dream killer – a rather unimaginative name I should add – is not quite how you imagine him to be. He’s not some rogue experiment from Project Hydra, or some kind of mystical otherworldly being, he’s a human being with a real face and real identity just like you and I. As far as I can tell, Project Hydra studied him, found that he wasn’t all that remarkable, and sent him on his way. However, this is where things get interesting: all of the records regarding him, including his identity, were stolen, and all of our backups were erased. Now you wouldn’t happen to know where exactly those records wound up would you? Certainly not in the hands of some chain-smoking emotionally-damaged nurse, right?” 

I was caught off guard. “That’s impossible, Brianne followed up on every lead we had in those medical records. There’s no way the killer was in any of them.” 

She laughed. “That’s assuming of course that those were all of them. Who’s to say she didn’t stash some of them away? After all, she doesn’t exactly remember how she obtained them.” 

Though I hate to admit it, that was a fair point. How could we ever know if that was all of the records? Dr. Patel eyed me, waiting to see if I was satisfied with that answer. 

“Now I’d like to ask you a question, Jeremy.” 

I adjusted myself in the chair. Patel’s words thus far have felt like a thorn bush: they stick to you and dig in your skin and tangle you up. I wasn’t expecting this next question to be any different, and frankly I had questions of my own, and if I didn’t give her something then I wasn’t going to get anything in return.

“Okay,” I said, “what do you want to know?”

The look on her face was venomous; it made me question whether giving her an inch was actually a good idea.

“I want to know if you think you’re helping people by doing what you do. You see, I watched you when you entered the building – or rather, I had someone else watching you – and you did something rather curious. You walked down the sidewalk, casually checking over your shoulder, maybe a bit more often then the average person would, and then you circled the building. You looked at everything around you, and you watched to make sure nobody or anything…unsightly, was following you. You’re paranoid Jeremy. People like you and I… we know what goes bump in the night; it’s a curse that we both share. People live in blissful ignorance, and the type of knowledge that we possess simply poisons that. So my question for you is: do you really think that spreading this virus of carnal knowledge is actually helping anyone, or are you just expelling them from the Garden of Eden?” 

I didn’t like where this was headed. I wanted to give her some sort of an answer to make her feel like she was gaining something from this, but this wasn’t a question I could just phone-in or answer with a simple yes or no. I had to say something or risk letting her know that she was starting to get to me. I tried to relax a bit before I spoke.

“That’s sort of a loaded question, don’t you think?” 

“No,” she chuckled, “it’s a question with context.” 

I thought about it for a minute before I replied, “The truth is… I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m even trying to help anyone. I don’t know exactly what keeps pulling me in to this stuff. I just know I’m not ready to stop.” 

“Very good,” said Dr. Patel, doing a sort of condescending golf clap with her hands. “Now it’s your turn to ask me a question.” 

She crossed her arms when she said this as if playfully preparing herself for a flurry of hard questions, but there was only one thing on my mind and it was burrowing and twisting around the inside of my head like a centipede looking for the perfect spot to sink in its mandibles and chew its way out. 

I cleared my throat. “I want to know about the daycare… the psychic kids.”

Her eyelids lifted a bit as her eyebrows raised and a sharp dimple caught the tail end of a crooked frown. 

“I don’t know anything about that,” she told me. 

I could feel a bit of anger in my chest, she had to have been lying. Not that I would’ve been surprised by her not telling me the truth about any of this. I tried my best to speak without gritting my teeth. “But you knew about it, right? It was Project Hydra experimenting on those children, wasn’t it? You experimented on Malcolm when he was a child and made him into a monster. How do I know that wasn’t your line of work?” 

Patel raised a finger to interject. She looked insulted, but I’m not sure how much of that was an act. “I studied Malcolm because he did something extraordinary and because his grandfather was a powerful psychic and magician… I never experimented on him. He drove himself mad, because of what he did. I had no idea he’d go on to do what he did and his actions certainly weren’t at the behest of Hydra. I don’t know anything about a daycare or any experiments on psychic children. I only know what I was supposed to know. Hydra didn’t go around leaking information to every single random person in the organization.” 

I was frustrated but I had to let it go. She was clearly frustrated as well, and while that might have been the key to cutting this conversation short, I’d be leaving with less information than I would’ve liked. I had to seize this opportunity, even if it was an uncomfortable one. 

“Okay, fine,” I said, “then tell me about Project Hydra.” 

She let out a sigh, followed by the type of laugh you might have given an uncle who just told you a dirty joke that you weren’t quite old enough to understand. “I thought you be more interested in SCIC.” 

I was surprised. The fact is, in some ways I’m definitely more interested in what’s going on at SCIC and if Patel is involved then that makes it all even more pressing. If I had been prepared for all of this, if I had the fortitude, if this didn’t feel like Patel was leading me towards a different path, while I desperately wanted to wrestle control…I might have followed that thread. I took a deep breath and tried to stay in focus. This was a distraction. 

“Right now I want you to tell me about Project Hydra. Tell me something I don’t already know.” 

I caught myself off guard at how quickly I’d blurted it out. I think the rage in my chest had given me a bit more confidence. A smile crept across her face like crack might spread across broken glass. “Of course,” she said, “Can I tell you a story?”

Reluctant to give up the authority I’d recently mustered in this conversation, I obliged. She took a long sip from her mug of tea, closing her eyes as she did, and when she opened them she began.

I was young… or at least much younger than I am now. The sun was still rising on my scientific career, and all around me were brilliant minds that bolstered my own: scientists with names you’d never see in the history books – even some holdovers from Operation Paperclip – that would go on to forever alter the world in ways that were never thought possible, only to end their careers in unmarked graves… forgotten to time. 

That’s how I saw myself and that’s how I approached my field of science: knowing that recognition and legacy are meaningless, forever lost in the shadow of progress. In that way we never feared the one hundred year plan, or the sacrifices we made to science, because after all, it was but a small formless piece in an infinite and ever evolving puzzle. If you want to understand this story, and more importantly if you want to understand Project Hydra, you have to understand this way of thinking. You have understand where our loyalties lay. 

At the time I worked in just one of the many locations that the project had procured at its height. We were all over the world. After all, it’d be a mistake to assume we received our funding from any one government. Hydra, in fact, predates most known governments. 

It should come as no surprise that our relationship with our predecessors wasn’t exactly mutually symbiotic. They foolishly and desperately clung to things like race and the destruction of everything that didn’t look or act like them, and that made them weak. While their fear and hatred would ultimately lead to their downfall, it also made them vulnerable to a parasite like Hydra. 

We fed from their blood and their money and their utter carelessness, and when that well ran dry we took what we wanted and left the rest to rot. We were not them, and as they were falling and scattering like the vile little roaches that they were, we were building – growing stronger and more powerful and extending our reach in to other spaces and governments. The building I was in was built during this time – a sort of golden age, if you will.

I was preparing to transfer to a different facility. A newer facility, not built off of the backs of tyrants, but instead by another arrogant and blood thirsty government. My personal effects were in boxes and my sights were set on San Diego. While I can’t tell you where I was at the time, this was certainly something I would classify as a major improvement to the quality of my life, and a testament to the efforts I’d made studying neurology on behalf of Project Hydra. 

The building was larger than you might think: nine floors of glass and concrete that sat abandoned to the naked eye – overtaken by vines and moss – starkly contrasting its sterile white interior. There were more rooms in this building than I’d ever thought to count: offices, meeting spaces, and laboratories that spanned every facet of the scientific imagination, each bustling with scientists and doctors and lab assistants. 

This particular story starts on the fifth floor of the building, following the peculiar appearance of a very strange but otherwise completely ordinary door. 

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact day that the door appeared. You’d think that a mysterious door appearing in what was previously a blank wall would draw more attention. 

I struggle to blame any one person for not noticing it at first. The building was vast and I’m certain almost nobody outside of the janitorial staff and possibly the maintenance crew could’ve told you exactly how many rooms or closets were on any given floor or where exactly they were located. I imagine even the most well functioning laboratories have some degree of complacency, and while that’s most definitely inexcusable in the event of some sort of incident such as this, it’s certainly to be expected to some degree within daily operations. 

It was actually a janitor who first discovered the door. However, while you might imagine this idea of concern or even a general sense of unease plaguing his mind, frankly he more or less forgot about it rather soon afterwards. After all, there was nothing necessarily ominous about the door; it didn’t even seem unordinary or out of place. 

The door matched the rest in the building: a wooden door, painted white and affixed with an aluminum door handle, and a foggy and rather useless pane of safety glass. If you were to jiggle the handle you’d find that the door was locked, and peeking through the glass afforded you only the blurry and distorted view of a flickering yellow fluorescent ceiling lamp. 

The janitor casually alerted maintenance of the presumably faulty lightbulb, and continued his business, skipping the room as he’d assumed there must have been a valid reason for his barred entry. 

The now-summoned member of the building’s maintenance crew felt differently, and took it upon himself to begin a crusade to find who was operating out of that room and why none of the keys on his comically large keyring would unlock it. It was only after questioning a botanist who operated from a laboratory neighboring the previously blank wall, that things got interesting. 

You see, the space behind this strange new door would’ve existed within the botanists laboratory. In fact, the botanists laboratory extended an additional six feet past the perceived space in which the room occupied. While within the context in which I’m telling you this story you can gather some rather negative connotations, to these two men this was nothing short of miraculous and fascinating. 

Somewhere in this building, some sort of scientific mishap had created what was arguably a pocket of extra-dimensional space, and these two men stood before it. Or so they thought. In a fever of arrogance brought about by childlike excitement, the two men – one a scientist and the other a lowly maintenance man – began experimenting and tinkering with the door. 

They tried knocking on it and on the surrounding walls, pushing and pulling on the handle, and even trying to pick the lock, all of which were to no avail. 

They checked security footage, looking for the day that door must have appeared. It seemed however, that according to the video, the door had been there as long as they could search back – which was years. Curiously, a set of blueprints and floor plans for the building, which I’m not sure how exactly they obtained, showed that the door and the room behind it had been planned for decades in advance. It was as if it had always been there, and they’d simply never noticed it. 

The walls of the room were drafted with dotted lines, as if the planner or the architect had planned for the room to not actually exist, or planned for the room to share its impossible dual-spacial-occupancy with the room it apparently existed inside of. Things became even more strange when the door disappeared. Had they just imagined the whole thing? Had they been mistaken or under some sort of spell the whole time? 

The two men – who had unbelievably continued to keep the impossible room a shared secret amongst themselves – checked the set of blueprints again in absolute bewilderment. The door itself was a novel case of sheer impossibility, but having it disappear completely opened up a slew of further questions, some of which now regarded their own sanity. 

However, this time the blueprints showed that the door was now on a lower floor. Unsurprisingly, after checking for themselves, the blueprints were in fact an accurate translation of the strange bit of otherworldly architecture that stood before them. It should come as no surprise that the same security footage now corroborated the idea that the door and the strange inaccessible and possibly extra-dimensional room had always been exactly where it was. 

Somehow overnight the door had moved, and everything else had changed to match it. It was only after trying the handle again and finding that it was freely moving and no longer locked, that the two men told their story and alerted higher staff. 

The first to enter the room were a pair of security guards.

Carrying riffles and clad in black tactical gear, the two men slowly entered the room. It was mostly empty, but for a set of three empty metal shelves and a large wooden desk. Upon entering, they reported nothing unusual, void for the fact that despite there being a fluorescent light on the ceiling, there was no actual switch present on any of the walls. Furthermore, there were no windows or vents in the room, and the floors sported a tile work that hadn’t been present in the building for just short of two decades. 

Interestingly, despite the appearance that this room may have been unoccupied for quite some time, at least judging by its emptiness and the white tile floors which reflected the buildings earlier years, there was not a speck of dust. No cobwebs marked the corners of the room, and by all accounts the room seemed to be sparkling clean. 

Another security guard soon followed, raising the rooms occupancy to three. When the others had deemed the room safe and made their exit, that same security guard remained behind, apt on judging the room under equal, if not more, scrutiny than his predecessors. It was at this point that I had arrived on the 4th floor to observe my own judgment and oversee any further study of the mysterious room. 

I was at the end of the hallway, still disposing of a suspicious smelling cup of coffee given to me by my assistant, when I heard the door slam shut. Audible gasps and quiet murmurs of speculation erupted as the remaining two security guards wrestled with the door handle and cursed into the personal transceivers previously affixed to their chests. 

On the other side of the door, I could hear the security guard fumbling with the door and panicking. Soon that panic escalated into manic screams for help, and then cries of absolute terror. Behind that door, the man begged for his life. His voice suggested he wasn’t clawing at the door anymore, but instead in the center of the room. 

The last sound we heard from him were screams of pain, accompanied by the sounds of tearing wet flesh and snapping bone. The glass on the door was now painted a dripping cacophony of brown and red, and blood pooled from the crack under the door. 

We stared in shock and disbelief, which believe it not were still emotions that I could’ve evoked at this earlier stage in my career. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the two remaining security guards – still waiting for backup – were the least fazed, despite personally knowing the man who was assuredly dead on the other side of that door. 

I was just as interested in those two men as I was the horror that had taken place in front of us, and so I hurriedly left the observation in the hands of another supervising member of our staff in order to interview them. I’d find out in a phone call soon afterwards, that the door had disappeared before their eyes. They blinked and it was gone. 

In most instances, we would’ve shut down the building in the event that a serious threat to life was present. However, important research can live or die in the time that it takes to address such issues, and so I was given an order from my superiors to put all witnesses on leave and to ensure that the project location was at full capacity, with the investigation remaining a secret to those not directly involved. 

We couldn’t have known at the time that the room was more autonomous than we had suspected, and as such it was quite clever and predatory. 

It was two days before the door reappeared. A laboratory assistant was making their way to a room on the eighth floor in order to access an autoclave when they were presented with two adjacent and completely identical doors. The room she was attempting to access was small, being that it was mostly used to store excess lab equipment, and it didn’t feature the large viewing and sign out window that characterized similar storage rooms. It’s rather hard to say whether it was curiosity or absent-minded complacency that caused her to open the other door and step inside. 

Her screams echoed through the hallway, and the two witnesses left trails of bloody shoeprints as they ran for help. By the time security and supervising personnel were brought in to investigate, a puddle of blood and those footprints were all that were left behind. I was made aware, and the witnesses were again put on leave, following a few neurological examinations that I was more than happy to administer.

Frustratingly, as the door vanished, the security footage was again altered to show that nothing had ever happened. We had no proof of what was happening beyond spoiled and completely ordinary blood samples. Pictures taken of the mess afterwards were also unfortunately altered. Instead showing a bare tile floor backdropped by a completely blank and unremarkable white wall. It was as if it was using any sort of documentation present to camouflage its existence. 

The fourth and final time I was made aware of the room’s sudden appearance was just a day later, as I was preparing for my departure from the facility. I discovered it on the same hallway as my personal office, as I was disposing of yet another suspiciously off-smelling cup of coffee in to the trash can. I couldn’t help but feel flattered that I was left with such a wonderful parting gift.

The door was no longer present and instead it stood as an open and welcoming cavity. A cavernous hole in the wall that resembled a rather average room, but for its flickering light and mismatched tile speckled with droplets of blood. From the room came the stink of rot. I felt as if I could feel the room’s very own hot breath bearing down on me. 

Good science often comes from an undying curiosity, and I believe that’s something that the two of us share. I told you at the beginning of this story, that we stood with no fear in our efforts and sacrifices to science. I stared down the hallway, towards the door to my office; inside, all of my things neatly packed and ready to be shipped away to another facility. I looked up at the cameras at either end of the long corridor. Soon the footage would vanish, replaced with the view of a long and empty hallway, and I was but a ghost in it. 

The light stopped flickering when I entered the room. I felt along the desk, its wood was soft and varnished, and its empty drawers were lined with velvet and slid smoothly along their tracks. I felt along the walls. The plaster felt warm,  and when I held still I could feel a sort of rhythm in them. 

“You’re beautiful,” I told the room, “and I’m ashamed that I won’t be able to learn much more about you.”

But that wasn’t true, at least not the second part. You see, I did think the room was beautiful. It was stunning; it was like a wild animal. But I was poised to learn more about it… and to repay its generosity. 

There was no denying that my assistant was jealous of my promotion within the project. After all, I was once bringing her coffee and handling her notes and appointments. That was before the higherups saw it fit that she be demoted. She was a talented neurologist and she once brought about industry leading research, and when she was brought on to the project she was seen by many as a shining beacon of hope for this department. 

However, the prospects of her work never saw fruition and over time more of her proposals were flatly denied. She was old and her research had become stagnant and redundant, and the new methodology I presented over her head saw more promise. I’d hardly call it underhanded, but what I had done led to her and I switching roles, and that had made her venomous. That poison within her soured her every intention, and as I’m sure you’ve already guessed… it made its way into my coffee. If she hadn’t been such an old fool, she might have chosen something that didn’t burn my nostrils when I smelled it. 

She’d tried for weeks to poison me, and if I had been as weak minded as her, she’d have succeeded, and I’d have been dead, and she wouldn’t have been dragged into that room. I remember her yelling and cursing at me, struggling with my arms wrapped tightly around her and pinning her arms to her chest. I can only hope she took a second to look at her ankles as they dragged across the floor, and felt weak and pathetic. 

She clattered to the floor, unsure of what my plans were. Fear danced in her eyes. If she hadn’t lay frozen for so long, soaking in shame and fear, while I backed away and out of the room, she might have gotten out before it was too late. 

Strings of yellow tinged saliva dripped from the walls as the room began to take its true shape. The sharp ninety degree corners rounded over with folds of dripping red flesh. Discarded viscera and forgotten limbs, rotting away and soaked in bile, floated up from a fleshy chasm below. Massive jagged yellow teeth pushed through from the twitching flesh above and beneath her, catching her at the waist and crushing her screaming body. Organs and limbs dangled from the mashing teeth. 

The illusion had slipped, and I was finally seeing what this beautiful wild animal really was. It was a hunter: a predator with intelligence, and I felt terrible that I wouldn’t be able to stick around and study it. A severed arm rolled from the beastly mouth and onto the floor in front of me. I tossed it back, wiping the blood and saliva across my jacket before tossing it in a nearby trash can, atop the very same discarded paper coffee cup that cowardly witch had tried to poison me with. 

I’ll never know what happened to the building, or to the room. After all the years I spent working for the Project, I was never awarded such a clearance. But what I do know is that my curiosity was satiated. I knew more about the world around us… probably more than I should.

“So if you’ll allow me to circle back a bit in our conversation Jeremy, does this not sound like you? Do the things you sacrifice and the damage that you’ve caused by doing what you do ever really eat at you? Or is it all worth it… just to satiate the curiosity that we both share?” 

I felt sick, and I quickly choked out a response. “I’m nothing like you.”

Dr. Patel laughed. “What you should understand about me, Jeremy, the lesson that you can take home to your family and your job and your podcast and your little dog is that I’m not lying to myself about what I am or what I’m doing. I have no delusion that I’m helping anyone with my work. I’m just picking at things that I don’t understand until I figure out how they work. I’m exactly like you, I just know what I am. There is something else you ought to know, Jeremy…” 

That twisted smile swept across her face and her eyes lit up. “I thought it was beautiful watching her body bend and fold while she was being mashed up by those teeth.”

I felt sick. I couldn’t tell if she meant it, or if it was just another thinly veiled threat. Either way I was done; I was done being intimidated, done being manipulated, and done being compared to a monster like her. Most of all I was done hearing her try to shoehorn in my personal life and dangle it above my head. I gathered my bearings and got up to leave.

Before I reached the door, she said, “You’re looking rather pale lately, Jeremy. You should really take better care of yourself.”

How did she… I resumed my pace toward the door when one of the men armed with an assault rifle entered the doorway to block my exit.

“Oh, and Jeremy,” she chuckled, “Malcolm’s been asking a lot about you. He wants you to let me know when you’re ready to talk. I’ll be in touch.” 

She motioned with her hand casually, as if shooing away a fly, and the guard let me out.

The Shepherds – Season 3 Episode 16

See Content Warnings
Mention of child experimentation and assassination
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy has noticed either a letter M or S in the medical files and reaches out to 4thTrumpet to see what it means. 4thTrumpet puts him in contact with a mystery individual via a letter dead dropped into his mailbox.

The letter explains that, while the individual is uncertain was “M” means, both M and S are classes of something called Monitors which are people with psychic abilities, as denoted by SCIC. Monitors would originally monitor individual’s dreams via a psychic connection. When enhanced with a drug, they were able to do more. The S stands for Shepherds, and Shepherds cannot only manifest things in peoples’ dreams, but can pull things from the dreams into the physical world.

Jeremy learns that he has been assigned a Monitor by SCIC, and he suspects Brianne may be a Shepherd.

Back in October, two thousand twenty, I had looked through the papers enough to find some patterns and I’ve shared some of those with you already, but there were still some elements that remain a bit perplexing to me, and I reached out for some help.  You are all aware that there are symbols that exist on many of the documents within these files I have, and my best guess is that each symbol corresponds to some kind of branch of Hydra, or a specific research area.  

I’m still digging more into that, but at the same time, I noticed something else.  Remember that flash drive that Brianne had, and that the Grinner so badly wanted?  You know, the one with all of the medical files on it?  I’ve been racking my brain to figure out why.  There must be a reason for all of this, and it’s a pattern I continue to see as I peruse through those medical records looking for something to click.  Well, there seems to be an underscore after each medical record number that each folder contains, followed by one of two letters:  either “M” or “S.”  I’ve consulted with someone I trust in the medical field… in fact, I was able to consult someone that works at one of the hospitals specifically mentioned within those medical records, and they don’t have an explanation for me.  According to them, all medical record numbers are ten digits, and do not include any letters from the alphabet.  Just numbers.

For that reason, I decided to reach out to 4thTrumpet on Twitter with a DM.  Now, I’m still not quite sure how much credence to lend this person.  I don’t know who they are or what percentage of their previous claims about specific aspects of the papers have any merit.  But I’m hitting a dead end as far as I can tell.  Of course, I’m only scratching the surface with the papers in being able to organize them, but I’m really not anywhere close to knowing all of their contents enough to make some of these connections.

So, I simply asked, “Do the letters ‘M’ or ‘S’ in reference to medical records indicate anything to you?”

I waited a couple of days for a response, which was kind of irregular, since all prior interchanges were within a period of minutes.  At first, I was a little concerned, but he (assuming it’s a he) explained, “I’m afraid this is beyond my current level of knowledge, but there’s someone I might know who can shed some light on this for you.  Give me a couple more days to get back to you.”

I thanked him, and went about my normal research for several days.  I had just about forgotten I had asked him a question when I received another DM.  It said, “Sorry it took so long.  It was tougher than I thought it would be.  Check your physical mailbox.  There, you’ll find an envelope with just your first name typed on the front, and on the back, you’ll notice a stamp with a symbol you should be familiar with by now.  You’ll be exercising a certain level of ambiguity and trust in reading this envelope’s contents, but as I said before, I am not privy to all of the plans of Hydra or its subsidiaries.  Though I am highly curious about the envelope’s contents, so I’ll be listening to your podcast.”  

A quick trip to my mailbox revealed the envelope.  My name was handwritten on the front, and on the reverse, a stamp of a seven-fingered hand with an eye in the palm was placed across the seal of the envelope.  

Once back in my home, I made sure my shutters were drawn on my windows and I sat down on my couch to open the envelope.  For some reason, I hesitated.  The realization that someone I don’t know (other than 4thTrumpet, who I still don’t really know), hand-delivering me a letter to my mailbox.  This person knows where I live, and likely knows what I’m involved in.  Additionally, the actual act of ensuring that nobody could see inside my home from the outside seemed to give me pause.  Am I really wrapped up in something so complex?  If so, is it such a great idea to be sharing all of this stuff publicly on a podcast, freely available to anyone who wants to listen?  The moment, as surreal as it felt, was fleeting, but it caused me to question whether or not it’s actually safe to be doing this whole thing.  I suppose it’s too late now.

I unsealed the envelope and peered inside.  From within it, I pulled out several folded pages of paper that looked like they were about six inch by nine inch in size.  I’d like to address all of the listeners at this point before sharing any of the contents of this letter.  While I do wish to be as transparent as possible here on the podcast, I am going to be withholding some of the information contained within this letter as I fear it could jeopardize my own safety and the safety of my family.  But this much I can share with you.

Good day, Sir!  A colleague of mine tells me you’ve stumbled upon some documents or files that possess some letters that you’ve been inquiring about.  I apologize for the delayed response, but as you well know, I must take precautions when collaborating on such things so that I don’t become suspect myself.  

It took a while to accomplish, but I required your full name from my colleague, and our methods of private communication are somewhat inefficient within the confines of SCIC.  Once I had it though, I spent some time looking into our records for any matching correspondence.  Having done so, there are aspects of your records that I cannot access currently, but from the looks of things, you may well be in over your head at this point.  I’m not sure you realize the implications of what you’re doing there with your little podcast.  That said, I can’t say I wouldn’t be willing to put myself out there like that if I were in your shoes.  It might even be beneficial by offering some level of protection.  You’re still alive, so I suppose that could be the case.  But please, be careful what you share going forward.

First things first!  You were inquiring about the letters “M” and “S” in reference to some medical documents you say you’ve happened upon.  The fact that those documents are available to you means one of two things.  Either you have found a way past SCIC file encryption yourself, or someone else did prior to them coming into your possession.  I’m curious… have you found a way to access all of the files yet?  If so, perhaps we can find a mutually beneficial way to help one another.

But I digress.  Let me at last get to the point.  The letter “M” is a label that I’ve seen many times before, but even back then, I wasn’t part of that side of the project.  I know it went hand-in-hand with my side though, which involved the “S.”  The “S” indicates that the patient is a “Shepherd.”  The master folder containing all of those patients’ files should possess the symbol of a seven-fingered hand with an eye in the palm.  All of these designations were created by the Hydra team far before their solicitation of services from SCIC.  I highly suggest you read up on these from within the documents in your possession so you know what to look out for.  I’ll explain more about that in a moment.

The term, “Shepherd,” as I understand it, was originally created to classify patients’ levels of psychic ability within a sleep state, specifically during the Rapid Eye Movement stage when dreams occur.  You may or may not know, based on the documents in your possessions… the “Papers” as you call them, that Projekt Hydra has long been experimenting with drugs that enhance one’s ability to stay within REM sleep for longer periods of time.  These experiments are even sometimes conducted outside of the subjects’ knowledge during clinical trials, much like the MK Ultra Project.  I find this highly unethical, of course, which is why I’m happy to share some of my knowledge with you.  These drugs have multiple applications depending on the recipient.

The Shepherds have the ability to observe and interact with people inside their dreams during REM sleep.  It’s an inherent ability, as Hydra learned in the early days of the project.  This can be an act as harmless as one of them saying hello to the dreamer, or it can be used to implant ideas into the dreamer’s mind.  We call this process “monitoring” and the people who do it were originally referred to as “Monitors.”  I worked directly with the Monitors during the Cold War as part of an intelligence initiative, and continue to focus on that area today.

But, once Hydra began conducting the drug experiments, their subjects began displaying certain abilities that required them to separate the Monitors into two categories.  Along with that split, they also split our team.  One of the Monitor groups was whatever the “M” means, but the others were the “S” group, which stood for the Shepherds; the group I was directly working with.  My guess is you have a reference to what the “M” stands for somewhere in your papers… otherwise you’ll need to find a way to view those password-protected files on your flash drive.

I just don’t know the full details of those distinguishing factors, but I’ve always wondered.  Eventually, the Monitors began to hone those skills and develop new ones with the aid of these experimental drugs.  You see, they’d start to create people, animals, and things you might consider scary like ghosts and monsters within the dreams.  The Monitors would have debriefings after experiments where a Hydra technician would interview them about the dreams, and a dictation would occur to record and chart progress on their abilities.  

This happened for several years before the Shepherds were distinguished as a sub-class of Monitor, to which I was assigned.  But they knew they’d lost control of the project when local news reports started turning strange.  The people who were being monitored, the dreamers, started turning up dead.  Occasional witnesses were found that the public ridiculed.  Stories of winged creatures, demons, and all kinds of things that go bump in the night became common.  It went several months before anyone from Hydra saw the correlation between those witness accounts and the debriefing documents from the Monitors.  You see, the Monitors weren’t just creating these things in peoples’ dreams as they originally intended… they would actually manifest themselves in the physical world as well.  We weren’t completely sure when or how it started. 

It was nearly a year after this realization that the Shepherds’ abilities were distinguished.  It went under the radar for so long, it’s a wonder they ever learned what was happening.  They all assumed the Shepherds had the ability to bring fictitious entities from dreams… people or other horrific and unimaginable things… until they managed to apprehend one of them.  

Few of us have the clearance required to identify the individual, but we do know that person claimed they were transported from another reality into this one and as a result, those areas of research became even more compartmentalized and required a higher security clearance to be informed about.  Best guesses by Hydra’s top scientific minds revolve around String Theory.  That is, the idea that these beings weren’t necessarily being created from the Shepherds’ imaginations.  They actually brought them from a parallel dimension of existence, if you will, into our own.  

Just think about all this implies for a moment.  If this is actually possible for the Shepherds, and I believe it is, at what point would you consider their presence in our own dimension paradoxical?  Or do paradoxes even exist?  I’ve listened to some of your podcast, and I recognize an element of familiarity in many of those documents.  While there’s a lot you’re sharing that I can’t account for, there are some definite overtones that could likely be from a Shepherd.  And I’m willing to put money on it that whatever the “M” stands for may account for some others.

Either way, these abilities had implications much more widespread than just espionage.  The way I understand it, the experiments required closer supervision and tighter security because whoever is in control of these Shepherds could have tremendous power.  This bears keeping in mind that for the average person, who is not a Shepherd, prolonging the dream state with their experimental drugs simply creates more opportunity for Shepherds to do what they do best.  And that is to take what is in your dreams and make it real.  

All possibilities aside, I’m sorry to inform you that you have been assigned a Monitor.  While I can’t claim to know the reason which applies to you specifically, there are only three reasons Hydra would assign a Monitor to you, at least that I’m aware of.

  1. They just want to observe you to see how much you know.
  2. They could be assessing you to see if you could be one of them.  A Shepherd yourself, perhaps.  And for that, they would need to have pretty significant knowledge of your background or have you under observation for a while.
  3. And I truly hope this isn’t the case for you, but they could be planning to eliminate you.  It’s been done before.

I do know that Monitors can sit in a dark corner of your dreams undetected, or even potentially be interacting with you without your knowledge… if you don’t know what to look for.  They can also mimic any person or thing that is within your dream, but they’re always “off” somehow.  They can easily seem out of place.  You might notice an unusual feature, or they might walk strangely.  For this reason, they attempt to avoid using recurring dream characters in those they are monitoring, but they have to be lingering in your dreams for a while before they’ll know how to do that, so often they wait, undetected, just observing, before deciding to interact with you.  Of course, different Monitors have varying levels of skill.

You need to develop the ability to identify them, and that starts with a lot of practice.  Everyone can do it, but it can be difficult to learn.  You recently spoke of a dream where you realized within the dream that you could control what was happening.  You need to intentionally practice this.  Once you reach this state of awareness, make a point to throw some changes into your dream to see if anyone or anything looks out of place.  As an example, consider that you’re dreaming that you’re watching a parade.  As the marching band goes by, you simply make the band instantly turn around and begin marching in the wrong direction, against parade traffic.  If your Monitor is there, they won’t be able to predict this sudden change, and they’ll be the only one who didn’t turn around.  That is, if that monitor is in the band.  They can be anywhere in your dreams though, and they’re difficult to spot.  The more skilled they are, the harder it will be for you to detect them. Most have been trained in evasion techniques, so you’ll need to think outside the box and get creative in order to spot the good ones.

I would highly suggest that you, if you have the ability that is, get your boy Nicholson’s help.  I worked with Preston in the beginning, and he’s incredibly gifted.  I always suspected he was a bit more that they gave him credit for, but that’s neither here nor there.  

I should mention that I don’t offer this kind of information for free, but our mutual acquaintance has guaranteed me that should you find evidence within your papers to indicate more current research being done on the subject, that you’d share it with me.  All you have to do is let them know, and they’ll arrange a way to get me that information.  It should be readily available once you unlock those files on your flash drive, but in the meantime, anything that has the seven-fingered hand with the eye on the palm is a good place to start.

I’ve attached some additional documents with specific details about what I’m looking for.  To be clear, you do not have my permission to share those on your podcast.  I suggest you make haste because once you are assigned a Monitor, very little that you do will be private.  My guess is they’ve already taken steps to infiltrate your life in ways you don’t currently know about.  

This is the last and only piece of hand-written communication you’ll be receiving from me.  I can’t risk the same delivery method for communication twice, so the next time I reach out, you’ll understand if I apply an increased level of caution, even though it will be hidden in plain sight.  Your listeners may enjoy this, and they may even be able to help… don’t ever under-estimate the intelligence of your listeners.  By now you must know that people who both support and oppose your show are keeping tabs on it.  Just keep on the lookout for a very obvious change to something both you and your listeners have access to.  Heck, it might even help you practice finding things that are slightly out of the ordinary, much like how you would identify a Monitor.  But of course, you’ll be awake.  Until then, I hope you’ll find something for me soon.

The letter wasn’t signed, but I’ve read it to you in its entirety.  I’m not sure what they mean by relaying messages the way they explained it.  Listeners might enjoy it, or be able to help.  It will be in plain sight.  And it will be slightly out of the ordinary.  In all honesty, I’m intrigued, but I’m way too tired right now to go looking for that kind of thing.  I only hope I can recognize it when it happens.  Something about the way the letter was written seemed… familiar somehow.  Maybe it’s just a pattern of speech or the way things were phrased.  I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly, but it’s going to drive me nuts if I can’t figure it out.

Anyways, all of this has me wondering how true everything this person is telling me could be.  If there’s any accuracy to it, I’d be that the person going around and killing people in their dreams is likely one of these “Shepherds.”  It would explain a lot… although I’d still like to know what the “M” stands for.  Regardless though, I wonder if Brianne has heard of this before or given it any thought.  She may just be a Shepherd too.

I’m extremely concerned about this Monitor and what they’d be doing in my dreams.  I can’t recall anything out of the ordinary in my dreams recently, but then again, I don’t always remember my dreams.  I’ll need to stay on the lookout.  Why would anyone be interested in me though?  Am I sharing information that I shouldn’t be?  I suppose that thought has crossed my mind a few times.  I also take comfort in knowing that the more people there are listening to this, the more internet sleuths may actually be able to help out should anything happen to me.  In some ways, I think this podcast offers a certain degree of protection.  In others, I think it has a tendency to put me in danger.  Hopefully the former will save me from any real danger.

The Third Subject – Season 3 Episode 15

See Content Warnings
General horror, experimentation on children, involuntary medical operations, rodent death
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
The story is told from four perspectives: a (Hydra) doctor conducting the experiment on children, and three children, two of who are brother and sister, and suspected to be Benjamin and Brianne Scanlon. The third subject is unidentified, but is revealed to be unable to sleep. The scientists believe he is very powerful.

Each of the children can communicate with each other telepathically, and share dreams. In their dreams they go to a long, circled hallway with windows on either side. One side contains a dark mist, and the other has windows to things which the sister can pull things from so they can play with them.

The sister breaks the glass and the Licker is on the other side. After that, it is able to enter their world.

This week I’m exploring a few different documents that weren’t grouped together. As I read them, I realized they almost certainly belonged together. I was surprised at first that Ron could have missed the connection, but I suppose when you’re sorting through such a massive collection, mistakes can be made and pieces of the puzzle overlooked. Then again, with what I’ve learned about Ron, maybe he had a reason to keep these separate.

Whatever the case, I’ve brought together three different journals for today’s episode. I’ll read them in what I believe to be chronological order. The first journal is held together with a binder clip and contained in a folder with a now familiar emblem on it: a hand with seven digits that has an eye in its palm. There are parts of the journal that are redacted, including the entirety of the first page. The only information outside of what I’m about to read is the unredacted portion of a date: nineteen ninety-five.

Three more subjects went through the intake process today. Their files indicate that two of them are siblings – merely a year apart – while the third was born on the exact same date of the girl. This is exciting as we haven’t had siblings here in some time now, especially not ones so close in age, and they tend to have unique traits in my division. The fact that the other one was born on the same date means that this could be a true triumvirate in this arena. I don’t know exactly what has been done in other divisions – and I assume they’ve already been through a few different ones given their age – I can only hope nothing we need has been… damaged. That’s been a problem lately.

Still, the initial evaluations are looking good. They responded well to the sensitivity testing. To say that the possibilities are endless… well, I’m not even sure that’s an understatement. They were each given [redacted] and will share a room for the night so that it takes full effect. Tomorrow, we’ll begin the [redacted] test first thing and they’ll remain separated at night in the [redacted] rooms so that they’ll each be adjacent, per standard protocol. My next update will have the results of [redacted] tomorrow night.

The first paragraph of the next page is redacted, and the second paragraph only has a few words visible which, when combined, make no sense. It’s basically a handful of “and’s” and “but’s”. We’ll pick up from the third paragraph.

So far the brother and the sister have been very responsive. The third subject, [redacted], has been somewhat erratic. What’s interesting is viewing the effect the sister has on him when they’re in close proximity. We’ve seen similar effects when they share birthdays before, but it’s extremely pronounced in this case.

When they were all given [redacted] after breakfast, there were no immediate effects seen between the siblings. It wasn’t until we conducted the [redacted] test just before lunch that we saw the impact it had on them. However, when the third subject went through the same process, the glass that held his water shattered where it sat on the countertop.

At three o’clock, they were all once again given the next dose of [redacted]. This time the brother and sister were given their doses ten minutes apart and in separate rooms, but they each began to say the same words at the same time. We asked the brother how he liked his lunch, and both of them answered that the chicken was too salty. I was with the sister at the time and was quite confused, but it made sense once I reviewed the brother’s Q and A session.

When the third subject was given his dose, nothing extraordinary appeared to happen. It wasn’t until just before typing this that I learned that, at that exact time, three of the mice kept in the laboratory next door to Testing Room C stopped moving. Over the next half hour, something started to ooze out of their ears. An autopsy of the mice determined that their brains had melted.

The readings from the implants on the siblings were incredible and showed a steady increase. The readings from the third subject, however… it appears his abilities are tied to other chemicals in his body such as adrenaline, dopamine, and epinephrine. Over the course of the first day, small things occurred whenever the third subject was around the sister like papers shuffling by themselves or a pen falling to the floor. By dinnertime, however, as the sister and the third subject got to know each other more, it seemed she had a positive effect on his chemistry. The final test today after dinner was markedly better when the three of them were in the same room.

They’ve each been given a ream of paper and crayons with directions to write and draw the things in their dreams. At exactly one A.M., we’ll begin Phase Two.

The other journals are written in crayon. While what I read never referred to the “subjects” as children, it’s very obvious based on the handwriting that they’re no more than maybe nine or ten years old. I’ll start with the one written in blue crayon first. It looks like they each only had one color crayon, so all the blue ones are from the brother.

I don’t like this class. The food tastes funny and there aren’t any games other than some cards and they aren’t even normal cards, they all just have pictures on them. We tried to make a game out of them but it didn’t make sense and I think the other boy was cheating.

Ms. [redacted] says I have to write about my dreams. She said I might have a bunch of them, but I only had one. It was a fun one. I got to run around in a place with a bunch of windows. It had those long light bulbs on the ceiling like they have in the Testing Room. It was dark outside so I couldn’t see through any of the windows, but me and my sister played tag for like an hour or something. I hope we get to play tag today. Maybe the other boy will play, too. None of the other kids act like they want to play at all. Some of them just stare at the wall all day.

The next journal is written in red crayon and looks like it’s from the sister.

Ms. [redacted] says I have to write about my dream. I don’t want to. I feel funny this morning. My neck hurts. Benny says it’s normal that we can’t remember how we got here. He said it happens every few months. But I don’t like it. I think this is the dream. At least I can draw.

There’s a few papers with crude drawings made in red crayon. Taking some interpretive liberties, I’ll try to describe it. It has two stick figures, one with long hair, standing in… I think it’s a hallway. It has a bunch of rectangles on the side. The same scene looks to be depicted in the different drawings. I think the sister is drawing what her brother, “Benny”, described from his dream – a place with a lot of windows where the two of them are playing tag.

The next entry is another update from the staff’s journal.

I’ll be the first to admit I was surprised that the siblings are already able to share a dream state. After reviewing their dream journals, I made an effort to ensure the sister and the third subject were kept in closer proximity today. Aside from the impact she has on his brain chemistry and thus his abilities, I’m immensely curious if we’ll be able to focus their energies in a way that has only been seen once before, and this time the [redacted] has been more finely tuned and I’m confident will be ready for demonstration when-

The rest of the page is redacted and, based on the page numbers at the bottom, the next several pages are missing. I’ll skip to the children’s journals. Benny, the brother, is first.

Ms. [redacted] said I had to do some tests by myself today. It wasn’t too bad though, ‘cause I could still talk to my sister. I don’t think they could tell. She said the boy is nice and we should play tag with him. I think we had the same dream the other night. Maybe that’s how we can all play.

Last night I was in the place with all the windows again. I tried to look in some of them but it was too dark still. I walked around while my sister tried to look. That’s when I realized the whole place was a big circle with big windows on both sides, ‘cause I came back around to her and she was still looking out the window. We didn’t play tag. She said she was too sad. I asked her why but she wouldn’t tell me.

The next entry is in red crayon, from the sister.

I still don’t like it here but at least me and Benny can talk even when we aren’t by each other. I think the other boy knows, ‘cause Benny told me a joke and he was smiling even before he saw me giggling.

Last night me and Benny were in the same place again. Benny said the whole place is a big circle. That’s weird. He said that he can’t see out any of the windows. I can, though. Every window on the outside wall has a different picture. It’s like watching a movie. A bunch of movies. There’s a bunch of people and when I touch the window I can hear them talking, even when they aren’t talking out loud. Some of them were nice but some were mean and yelled a lot.

The windows on the inside wall were harder to see through. It was dark and they were all wet on the other side. I saw a gray cloud in the middle. I think there were people in there too but it was too hard to see. I couldn’t hear anything when I touched the windows.

I looked around and Benny was gone, so I went to a different window on the outside again. There was a lady watching TV. I touched the window but I couldn’t hear the TV. I couldn’t hear the lady either. Other people were talking. They were saying mean things to her. It felt bad. When I looked long enough, I saw them. They were people walking around her, all dressed up. They were poking her and sticking needles in her. One of them slapped her. She didn’t see them, though. Then they left.

She got up and grabbed a knife. She started stabbing her walls and blood came out of the walls. Then she looked at me. It scared me. She walked up to the window and started to stab the window. The glass started to crack. I thought she was going to get inside.

Benny didn’t see any of it. He asked me if I wanted to play tag and I told him I was sad, but I lied. I was scared.

The next page is still from the sister, but it’s from what I believe to be the next day.

I don’t know why Benny can’t see everything I do when we dream. I asked the boy about it. He said I can’t see everything either. I asked what I can’t see. He said he is there too. So last night I tried to see him. Benny asked what I was doing and I said I was trying to find the boy. He said he would help. He grabbed my hand and we started walking around the big circle of windows. Then Benny said to stop. He heard a noise. We walked up to the inside windows and touched them. I could see him!

I was happy I could see him, but he didn’t look happy. He looked scared. He was on the other side of the window and was hitting it. That’s the noise I heard. I asked him what was wrong but he just kept hitting the window and looking behind him at the cloud. I couldn’t see what he was looking at. Benny couldn’t either. I think he wanted to be with us. Benny and I closed our eyes and the boy was inside with us when we opened our eyes back up.

I asked the boy why he was scared but he didn’t say anything. We just played tag.

There are some more drawings. This may just be conjecture on my part, but I think the children may have been too scared to write down their dreams for a while. The pictures just show different things that they saw in their dreams: stick figures through windows and a big circle with rectangles that I think are supposed to be windows. There’s a few that are just a big scribbled mass inside of a square. I’m guessing that’s the cloud she was talking about. The next page I’ll read is from the staff member.

The three of them have now shared a dream state for multiple nights, which means Phase Three will begin tonight. The [redacted] device has already been successfully visualizing their dreams individually, but tonight we’ll begin the three dimensional depiction using their combined perspectives, which will be a first – once successful, of course.

The [redacted] test results from the three of them are rivaling any other subjects we’ve had in the [redacted] Division. I believe the more intertwined their minds become – both conscious and unconscious – the greater the likelihood that we will be able to-

The remainder of the entry is completely redacted. The next entry is in blue, from Benny.

Now that the three of us can play at night, this place isn’t as bad. We can all talk even when we aren’t with each other so the tests aren’t as boring. I have to be careful, though, ‘cause I told them in my head that one of the doctors keeps whistling with his nose. The boy said back that he thinks that the doctor’s nose is louder than his farts. I laughed and the doctor asked why I was laughing. I tried to lie but he made me tell him. I don’t know how. But he didn’t like it.

I don’t want to write about my dreams anymore. We play games, but sometimes there are things there that I don’t like.

Although Benny is reluctant to write about his dreams, his sister shed more light on them.

Last night was fun at first. We played tag for a while and the boy showed me how to pull some things out of some of the outside windows so we could have more stuff to play with. I asked him why he had been scared when he was outside the window since he can pull stuff through the windows. He said the inside windows are different. I asked how but he didn’t answer and wouldn’t even look at the inside windows. Then Benny and him started building a fort with the stuff we pulled through the outside windows.

I wanted a doll to bring into the fort because I never had one before. I walked around and around but I didn’t see one. I looked at the inside window instead and tried to see what the boy was talking about. They were always wet on the other side. I wondered if the cloud rained on them. I tried to look inside the cloud. It looked like something was inside of it, but I couldn’t see it.

My nose left a mark that looked funny. It made me laugh. I pushed my face against the window again and stuck my tongue out. That’s when I saw it. I fell backwards. It was the thing that the boy was scared of. It stared at me. It felt like I couldn’t move. It stuck out its tongue and dragged it across the window. That’s why the other side of the window was wet. It had been there the whole time, licking the window and watching us. That’s why the boy wouldn’t look at the inside windows.

The boy yelled at me. I don’t know what he said. It was hard to think when I looked at the thing in the window. The boy and my brother ran over and dragged me away from the window. They pulled me into their fort. The boy told us to be quiet. I heard glass explode and it got darker. More glass exploded. I looked out and saw every light bulb was blowing up. The glass didn’t fall all the way to the ground. It all stopped in mid-air.

I looked at the boy and Benny and they both looked scared. It was really quiet. Then I heard it licking the window right by our fort. I wanted to cry but Benny told me I can’t. The boy looked outside the fort and then ducked back down. I asked him what was out there. He didn’t say, so I looked out. There were a bunch of them in the windows and they were all looking at me and their tongues were out and they were licking the windows.

They knew we were in the fort. I screamed and told Benny that we have to run. We ran and I pulled things in from the outside windows to hide, but they kept finding us. Every time I looked at the window, there was one staring at me and licking. Its drool was thick and gross and dripped down the window every time it licked.

I was really scared and I wanted to wake up. The dream wasn’t fun anymore. I told Benny and the boy I wanted to wake up and we all tried but we couldn’t, not when the things were in the windows. I kept closing my eyes and covering my ears so I couldn’t hear them but I could still hear their tongues slide up and down the glass.

I banged on the window to get it to stop but it didn’t. I think it was smiling. I backed away with my hands over my ears until I was up against the outside window. Then I heard a tapping behind me. I turned around and it was there. It stared at me with its tongue out. Licking. Tapping its finger. It tapped faster and faster and harder and harder. I screamed. I kept screaming. I didn’t stop until the outside window in front of me shattered and it was just black.

The boy told me I shouldn’t have done that.

The staff seemed to have trouble in their next entry. While the past ones have seemed to contain an almost cruel excitement, this one comes off to me as being almost worried.

There was an anomaly last night. The [redacted] device had to be shut off. When I tried to review the data from it again today, I found that my access had been revoked which is… infuriating. I practically designed the thing and they decided I can’t be trusted. How could I have known what they would be capable of doing? It wasn’t supposed to be possible.

After the alarms went off, I spent the rest of the night on phone calls as they “had to clean up my mess”. It’s like they don’t even understand what I’m working on here. I can put these three in the same program I have the rest of the subjects, but they’re capable of so much more!

If these abilities they display can be harnessed and studied, who knows what the possibilities could be? The only thing that changing their routine now will do is alert them to their potential in a method I can’t control. The danger in this can’t be understated. Tonight, I have set traps for-

The remainder is once again redacted. I couldn’t find any further entries in blue or red, but I did come across this one in green crayon after I’d recorded most of this episode. I know I said there were three journals, but after I read through this, I think it might be from the third subject – the other boy involved. It’s mostly drawings, some random lines, and a bunch of scribbles. There may have originally been more for all I know, but there’s only a couple actual written entries that I could find.

I hate it here. I don’t think the brother and sister like me. Maybe the sister. They all think I sleep, but I don’t. I get enough rest in their heads. Tonight they aren’t sleeping, though. I told her not to break the window. It’s outside our rooms. It’s not walking. There aren’t any footsteps. It’s just licking.

If she hadn’t pulled me inside they would have got me. I don’t think it matters, though. It’s here. This isn’t a dream.

I can see its shadow from the light under the door. I think it knows I’m in here. I think it knows I’m the one that got away from it. It’s tapping on my door now.

I asked the brother and sister if they heard it. The brother told me he did. As soon as he said that in my head, it went to his door and started tapping. The brother told the sister not to say anything in our heads because it could hear us, too. I told the brother to stop talking. It came back to my door. It started to wiggle my door handle. My door doesn’t have a lock on the inside, so I grabbed it to make sure it couldn’t open the door. It was really strong and I couldn’t keep it out. The door started to creak open and its tongue slid through the crack. Thick drops of saliva dripped onto the ground by my foot. 

Somewhere outside our rooms a siren went off. It disappeared almost right away and I could finally shut my door.

There’s only one last page in the collection I’ve hobbled together and it’s from the third child. The green crayon continues in a short entry.

They took the brother and sister away today. I hate them for that. They won’t even remember me.

They keep trying to put me to sleep but it doesn’t work. I just close my eyes and watch them from up top. They’ve been cutting into me and stitching me back up and I think they’re going to keep doing it for a long time. I look weird inside. They can’t find what they’re looking for. Every time they pull something out of me or put something into me, they always seem like it will fix something, but they know they’re wrong. I can hear it. They say they’re making me better with their loud words, but their quiet words say they’re scared of me they’re trying to make themselves stronger than me.

I don’t feel strong. I don’t understand what they see. I don’t understand why they’re scared. Maybe I should be scared of me.

This is clearly further evidence of Hydra experimenting on children. I hate to read stuff like this and I wish I didn’t have to. But now, given the year, the handwriting, the vocabulary… I can’t help but think that this is even more important than before. I think that Benny, the brother… it might have been Benjamin Scanlon. Brianne said she remembered being subjected to unusual tests as a child… I can’t help but wonder if I’m reading her journals through a part of that testing.

The third subject, the boy… I wonder what became of him. It sounds like he was able to enter the dreams of others while being incapable of sleeping himself. If Hydra kept him there, experimenting on him while he watched, basically torturing him through his entire childhood and he remembers it all… I can only pray that he hasn’t grown up to be the monster Hydra thought he was.

Who knew that the realization of the Licker freely roaming into our world out of their shared nightmare wouldn’t even be the most concerning thing to me out of all this.

Keep your windows closed and locked tonight. Thanks for listening.

A Mysterious Man on a Cruise Ship – Season 3 Episode 14

See Content Warnings
General horror, suicide/suicidal ideation, alcohol, tobacco use. If you, or someone you know needs help, call 800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Brianne sends Jeremy an email of re-scanned documents from a box of files he’d lent her. There are two documents. The first recounts a story from Tyler who works on a cruise ship. One night on the cruise, he meets a man who knows all of Tyler’s memories. The man hands him an envelope, then they part ways at sunrise.

After leaving the cruise ship and moving back home, he reads the letter and finds out that the man was being hunted in his sleep by a man in a khaki suit and his dreams were blending and overlapping with reality. The man in the khaki suit said that the man from the cruise had forgotten them all and what had been done to them.

The man from the cruise had flashbacks to being in a room with a two-way mirror on one wall, with the words “You are not a psychic” written on the other wall. He thinks it may have been a place he was at as a child. The man from the cruise then indicates that the night he shared with Tyler was to be his last night on earth.

A couple of weeks ago I lent Brianne a couple of boxes. Inside of those boxes, as I’m sure you can probably guess, were some of the documents that we all now refer to as ‘The Storage Papers’. I was hesitant at first. I’m not sure if I just have a death grip on this stuff and I’m scared of losing any of it, or if I was worried that Brianne might unearth some trouble for herself in those documents and I’d be to blame for letting her hold on to them. I guess if I’m being honest with myself, it was likely a bit of both.

Nevertheless, I handed her a couple of boxes; sealed at the top with their folded cardboard flaps, soft and bowing at the bottom from the weight of their contents. While I certainly needed the help with research, I was reluctant to think she would find anything relevant. I’m confident in her research abilities, but I’m certainly not confident with Ron’s organization. Deep in this treasure trove of forbidden information, there are a lot of inane things. It’s not uncommon to find a box that’s more or less… junk. I’ve found old wallets, more than one misplaced social security card, and plenty of random bits of junk mail and bills. 

This wasn’t the first time Brianne had helped me with research, but it was the first time either of us were looking for something so specific, and if I wasn’t having much luck, I couldn’t imagine she would have it any better. This is all to say it was a crap-shoot, but I’m sure you’re well aware I wouldn’t be telling you any of this if Brianne didn’t find something worth sharing. 

I was kind of caught off guard when she sent me an email with a series of scanned documents. It was followed by a quick phone call.

Phone ringing.

BRIANNE: So, did you get my email?

JEREMY: Yeah… so what exactly am I looking at here?

BRIANNE: You just… you gotta take a look at it. Trust me, it gets pretty weird.

JEREMY: Sure. Yeah. Um, let me just put on a pot of coffee and I’ll take a look.

BRIANNE: Are you doing alright, Jeremy?

JEREMY: Yeah… the real question is, how are you doing?

BRIANNE: Well… the dreams have been a lot less frequent.

JEREMY: Think he’s letting up?

BRIANNE: More like… gunning for someone else.

The first set of pages were most definitely written on a computer. The words were a bit grainy, the type of thing that tells you that these pages were printed out and photocopied a few times before they made it to my desk. You might think I’m sorting through ancient scrolls and lost, forgotten leather-bound diaries, but the truth is most of this stuff looks like it could have been dredged from the dumpster of a call center. 

The second set of pages were hand written, still suffering from the same defects as the former, only much less legible. I can’t be entirely sure of the documents origin, only that according to Brianne they were paper-clipped together with a sticky note on the front page with the name ‘Tyler’ on it. Brianne was pretty certain that the handwriting on the sticky note was Ron’s, and frankly I don’t see why it would’ve been anyone else’s.

I was a bit skeptical at first, as the first page reads more like rambling than a report of any sort of incident, but after reading it to the end, I couldn’t help but find some commonalities between Tyler’s story and the events unfolding right now. I’m not sure if any of it points us in the direction of the killer, but I do have some thoughts and observations. However, I’d like to save those until the end of the episode where they’ll have a little more context. Until then, I hope you’ll stick around to hear a story about a mysterious man on a cruise ship.

I guess you’d probably expect me to open this story by saying that I’d always dreamed of sailing the open seas, but that would probably be a lie. My dreams of that were dashed upon the rocks at a young age when I’d learned that I would likely never be a pirate. I never figured I’d grow up to be a bartender on a cruise ship, but then again those types of thoughts were only really in my orbit at an age where I’d still figured my parents probably loved each other. When you’re old enough to realize you forgot to keep asking yourself what you were going to be when you grow up, it’s too late, and you’re already a bartender on a cruise ship. 

Over time your body adjusts to the seasickness (or at least mine did). You lose that wobble in your legs. You lose touch with the creature comforts: aching less for the things you can’t have and instead just aching for the things you have the least of; your favorite color in a package of candy (it’s the best one, even if they all just taste like citric acid and sugar); the nights when you’re thinking about some argument you had years ago, and your internal monologue is just slightly louder than the giggling voices and the squealing bed frame in the next room over.  Those are the type of things you ache for. That’s where you get your vitamins and minerals. 

You grow more and more accustomed to it. It’s not quite like Stockholm syndrome, but the people that have been in it the longest aren’t too dissimilar to the type of prisoners who get too comfortable in their surroundings, forgetting to remember what they ever liked about being free and relishing the idea of having their lives plotted out for them. 

I was coming to accept it. Every day the same laughing faces with just slightly different features, rarely considering if the smile you return is anything more than performative. The man who rips your ticket at the cinema smiles warmly and tells you to “enjoy your movie” and, if you’re smart you tell him “you too” but it’s maybe just a little different if he lives under one of the seats in the theater. I was that man under the seat, right after the lights go off, sleeping on a bed of stale popcorn under the stars of dried forgotten bubblegum. That’s what it’s like to work on a cruise ship. You’re a mechanic, tucking himself in under the hood of a car, and curling up around the radiator. You’re an office worker fluffing your keyboard pillow and smacking your head on the bottom of your desk. 

I’m ashamed to say that when I first found myself stepping on to this ship, I was trying to start a new life for myself. I wanted to see the world, but I’d had to settle for gift shops in the Bahamas. I’d broken up with my fiance after a four and a half year relationship, and the worst part was that I felt absolutely nothing about it. I wanted so bad to feel like garbage and to hate myself. I wanted to force myself  to beg and plead for her to come back, but I couldn’t. The place in my heart that held any sort of emotion felt like the spot you poke your tongue at after you’ve lost a tooth: a fragile empty place with a faint taste of copper. 

I thought I could forge a new path and redefine myself. I’d pictured myself becoming a whole new person with a whole new perspective on life, but in the end I’d only discovered that I was miserable, I’d always been miserable, and I’d likely always be miserable. My whole existence having been sullied by a deep seeded misery that numbed my body like a bath of needles full of Novocaine.

The man that I met on the lower deck that night was solemn. He wasn’t interested in talking to me and that’s probably the only reason I really wanted to talk to him–that, and maybe the light gleaming off of his bald head. The guests on these ships either look right through you, or they squint their eyes a bit too hard so that they can make out all of your details. I’d learned that if I took my name tag off, with my puffy white shirt and shiny red satin vest,  I’d stand more likely to pass for a magician, so I usually kept the name tag on. Magicians don’t wear name tags. 

The guests ask you too many questions. They think you live in the same luxury that they’re paying to get a taste of, that you’re afforded the same amenities. They ask if you get a discount on cruises… as if I’d actually pay money to be here. They’re stupid, awful people. This man wasn’t like them, and because of that I liked him. He stood there, flicking ashes from an overpriced, cheap cigarette into the black abyss. I asked if I could borrow a light and he handed me a book of matches, which I found interesting. There’s a story that comes along with a man who carries a book of matches. 

He’d seemed the type to have baggage–the type of baggage that makes you calloused and rough around the edges. When life gives you lemons, these types of guys don’t make lemonade, they just eat the damn lemons. He smirked and spoke through the left side of his mouth, keeping the cigarette clenched between his lips. “You’re gonna’ ask me what I’m doing up at this hour, right?” 

I hadn’t considered it, but it was three in the morning. 

“Nope,” I said, flicking a match and guarding it from the wind as I lit my own cigarette. “I was going to ask you if you noticed the No Smoking sign over there to your right.” 

The man chuckled. “Well, what’s keeping a young magician like yourself up at such late hours?” 

I didn’t resent the comment, it was actually sort of endearing. 

“Bartender,” I corrected, “and my next door neighbors are having a summer fling.” 

“So…envy?” asked the man. 

I gave him a raised eyebrow, as if to say “guess again.”

The man laughed. “Don’t act like you don’t miss her.” 

I was uncomfortable, but intrigued. I scratched my chin. 

“The girl,” he said. “The one you ran away from, the one that’s got you hiding your heartbreak with nihilism. You don’t gotta’ hide it from me, I was in love once too. What was her name again? Marsha… Megan…” 

I interrupted, “Madeline?”

He smiled. “It was on the tip of my tongue. You called her Maddy, right?” 

“How did you know that?” I stammered. 

“I know a lot of things,” he chuckled back.

“Yeah,” I said, “but can you narrow down how you know that thing specifically? Do I know you from somewhere?” 

The man sighed and rolled his eyes, like someone who’d been made to repeat himself more often than not. Thinking back on it now, maybe he had. 

“No, we’ve never met,” he told me. “Though it’s not beneath you to forget someone’s face. It just happens that I know a lot about you. In fact, it’s like I’ve known for my entire life that one day I’d meet you here. Maybe in the back of my mind I’ve even been counting down the days.” 

I swallowed my spit and gripped onto the railing. “That doesn’t really make any more sense of things. So you’ve been following me or something?” 

I took another drag of the cigarette, hoping it’d calm the twisting tubes in my stomach. I was halfway convinced that I’d just stumbled onto some sort of stalker or psychopath standing in wait, the reflection in his bald head not unlike the light of an angler fish. 

He was a burly man, and he had those type of thick hairy forearms that hardly taper before the wrists–the kind reserved for old football players turned gym teachers. I can’t say for sure why I didn’t turn heel and end this borderline unnerving encounter, but something about him made me want to stay. The man broke my train of thought.

“No… I haven’t been following you, but I have been following what happens inside your head.”

He took my skeptical and likely uncomfortable expression as a sign to continue. “I can remember the book you stole from the library when you were fifteen, the bike accident that earned you that scar on your elbow when you were eleven.”

It took me a second to recall both of those memories. I can’t say I was entirely convinced that something beyond reason was happening in that moment, but it was obviously beyond my own understanding of things. These certainly weren’t things that I’d thought a whole lot of people knew about me. I don’t think even Maddy knew about that book I’d stolen, after all I’d sort of forgotten about it over the years. 

“So you’re a psychic or something?” I asked.

He flicked the ash from his cigarette and ran a hand over his bald head. “I’m not a psychic. I can’t really read your mind. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen tomorrow or the day after that, I can only tell you things from the past that you already know, because I remember them the same way that you do.” 

“So is that what’s keeping you up tonight: remembering the day my dad figured out how to access the browser history on the family computer?” 

“He wasn’t mad…just disappointed”

The man let out a bellowing laugh that took me off guard. 

“Besides,” he said, “we both remember when you stumbled upon his browser history…” 

I laughed and cringed at the memory, but then I wasn’t sure what to say. I cleared my throat. “So can you remember everyone else’s memories?” 

“No, not everyone,” the man said. “Only certain people. For instance, you’re the only person aboard this cruise ship whose life I can recall. There are maybe a few dozen others. Some are more fuzzy than others and some just aren’t ready to be remembered yet.” 

I still wasn’t really able to form my thoughts, this was all just so strange. So instead of giving my brain a second to process any of it, I said something that was probably stupid. “So are you here to set me on the right path or something?” 

The man let out another hearty laugh.

“Not at all,” he said matter-of-factly. “I’m not your guardian angel, though that’s pretty flattering of you to think so. I’m not here to fix you. I’ve never had a knack for putting things back together anyway.” 

I tried to put a bit more thought into my next words, but the moment was just too surreal for me to get any sort of grip on it. “So you’re just on vacation and happened to run into someone whose whole life you can supposedly remember?” 

The man reached in to his pocket and produced an envelope. It was folded in half, and slowly spread out into a long ‘V’ shape. He didn’t bother smoothing the crease, he just handed it to me. He faked a smile. “I’m here because I want you to open this one day when you’re back on shore, hopefully after you’ve found that girl again.” 

I reluctantly took the envelope and tucked it in to my pocket, though part of me told me not to even touch it. The man reached down for a bottle of whiskey that I’d somehow missed. 

“Now,” he said, “let’s talk about something else for a while.”

As time passed and we spoke, his tone shifted. He told me stories, most of them being my own stories, forgotten and tucked away deep into my hippocampus like magical little spider eggs that hatched into stories I’d wished I could have remembered well enough to retell over the years. 

He reminded me of a time in middle school. It was Valentine’s day and my mom had forced me to bring a box of chocolates to my teacher, Misses Plick. The kids in class teased me for the rest of the day, calling me Mister Plick and asking if we were going to kiss and hold hands. What makes it all the more amusing is that I had all but forgotten that I actually did sort of have a crush on Misses Plick, and I didn’t really mind those playground insults. I’d forgotten all about it–that is until the man reminded me of it. He reminded me of how fascinated I was with Misses Plick’s fiery red hair… the same type of hair Maddy had.

I’d guessed Maddy probably still had that same fiery red hair, but sometimes it’s hard to talk about the partners of past relationships in present tense. It’s way too easy to get into the habit of talking about people like they’re dead or something. Maybe it’s easier to imagine someone no longer exists than it is to come to grips with the fact that they just no longer want to exist near you

Either way, I was happy to relive the memory of Misses Plick, and in that moment I felt like I had shared something special with the man. It felt kind of magical and I pretty much forgot about how unnerved I was at our introduction or about that brief moment of seriousness when he handed me that envelope. Actually, after a couple pulls from his whiskey bottle and a few shared laughs I’d started to see him as a friend. 

Soon enough the sun was rising and shades of pink, purple, and orange were seeping over the edges of grey and white clouds. Bloated, hungover guests would soon be groaning in their beds and pulling the curtains closed to get just another hour or two of sleep. I was afraid that our conversation was nearly over. We’d spent all night laughing and talking and I wasn’t quite ready for it to end, but the stories and laughs were beginning to be followed by deeper sighs and increasingly longer lulls in conversation. I broke the silence in the pause we were sharing, watching the sun seep through the stucco clouds.

“Can I ask you something?” 

The man didn’t turn to me, his eyes still settled on the sky and the shifting waves of the ocean. “Sure,” he told me. 

I took a deep breath. “Did you know I was planning to kill myself?” 

The man looked at me with soft and sympathetic smile. “I didn’t want to make any assumptions” 

He sighed, scratched his scruffy chin, and ground down his cigarette butt with his shoe before capping off the whiskey bottle. With that the man began his walk back to his cabin. 

“So that’s it?” I shouted out to him.

He looked back one last time. “Get some sleep, kid.”

For a while that was the end of the story. I met a strange and interesting man on a cruise ship who wasn’t a psychic but could remember all of my memories. It was a story I’d have to wait until I was a drunk old man to ever tell–though I guess now I’m telling it you and I’m still young and somewhat sober. 

When we reached shore I quit my job as a bartender and flew back to my parents’ house in California. It wasn’t until I was unpacking my bags that I found the letter and recalled what the man had said that night when he’d given it to me. I’d waited and I was back on shore and far away from that cruise ship. I wasn’t with Madeline though. She’d moved on in my absence, and I was okay with that. I hadn’t really gotten over it while I was on that ship, even if I’d thought I had. That was never my new beginning, it was only a place for me to stagnate and distract myself from my feelings. Sitting there on my childhood bed in my parents house and holding that envelope and coming to terms with things… that was my new beginning. 

It occurred to me that I was hesitant to open it. Not because it was some mysterious letter from a psychic man, but because I wasn’t sure what it would say and that made me nervous. I wish I could say it was a letter congratulating me for finding the strength to start over, or reminding me of the night that man somehow convinced me not to kill myself without even trying; just by being someone who was there when I just needed someone to be there. 

However, it wasn’t. What was inside soured everything from that night: twisted and distorted all of it and tainted every bit of what was an otherwise perfect memory. I’ve tried to forget about it. I’ve kept the letter stashed away in the bottom of a desk drawer full of forgotten papers and dried up ballpoint pens. 

It’s hard to think about that night without thinking about the letter and it’s contents. I am a different person than I was then, and I try not to dwell on things. I’d like to remember that night fondly and cherish it in my memories but now I do my best to block it all out. I’ve added it as a separate attachment to this email, so I’m hoping you didn’t read that one first. I hope this helps and I hope you can make some kind of sense of it. I think after I scan it and send it over I might burn it.

Attached to this document, as promised, was the letter from the man. The second document is handwritten. The handwriting wasn’t the best, and I had to transcribe it before reading it aloud, and at parts I had to rely on context and make out an approximation of what some of the words might have been. 

Nevertheless, it reads as follows.

Tyler, I’m sorry to burden you with this, but I’m afraid the story I’m about to tell you is something that I don’t think many others will believe. I haven’t met you yet, but I’m trusting while writing this that you’ve given me a chance to speak with you and you’ll give me a second chance to speak to you through this letter. 

I’m afraid that my time here is almost over and if I don’t make a decision soon then my fate will be decided for me. Because of that I’ve decided to end things on my own terms here on this cruise ship. The water is beautiful and I’d to see what’s at the bottom of it. By the time you read this, that’s where I will be. 

Before I move on from all of this, I’d like to share with just one living soul why I’m making this decision and it seemed natural that one person should be you, Tyler. After all, I know everything about you and I’ve watched you and grown with you in my mind for a very long time. We have a lot of things in common and I’ve grown to think of you as a close friend that I keep inside my head. I’m sorry if that sounds strange.

I hope in reading this you’ll understand why I’m making this choice for myself, and I hope it won’t hurt you for me to say goodbye this way. You’re the only person I feel like I have on this earth that I could say goodbye to and you don’t even really know who I am. I’m sorry for that. If you want, you can stop reading this letter now. I’d like to tell my story and share with someone what’s driven me to do what I’m going to do, but I understand if that’s too much to ask.

It all started with a dream. It’s funny, the first time I experienced it I was on the water just like I am now, only I was on a lake in a small rowboat. All around me were these floating balls of weeds and fluff, only when I looked closer I realized they were heads of human hair. The water was murky but if I strained I could make out their necks and shoulders. 

There were people, seemingly standing at the bottom of this lake, all around me, so much so that they left no space between them. Shoulder to shoulder, hundreds of people stood in every direction, perfectly still, the very top of their heads just above the water. I wasn’t sure if the water was shallow or if they were floating, but they didn’t seem to make any effort to stay afloat nor did their bodies bob up and down or shift in any direction. It occurred to me that they could’ve also had unnaturally long legs–boney and stretched down to the silt at the bottom of this lake. 

Slowly, the ones closest to my small boat reached out with their hands and began to push the boat forward. Gradually I began to move across the top of this lake of people, each group progressively reaching out to push the boat just a bit further towards the next group of people. As the boat traveled I could hear it smacking and scraping along their heads, necks sometimes snapping as the boat pushed over their shoulders. 

A man rose from the crowd in front of me, a half dozen hands gathered around his ankles and holding him in place. He wore a khaki suit–form fitting, but reminiscent of something I might have seen in the seventies, and complete with a matching hat. His face was a swirling blur, sort of like I was looking at it through an out-of-focus fish-eye lens. Dripping bits of moss clung to his shoulders and across the brim of his hat. The man reached his arm up and waved to me as if I was an old friend.

I’d been so entranced by the man and his strange and performative rise from the water that I hadn’t noticed the boat I was in was slowly moving towards him. I didn’t want to get any closer and so I tried to rock the boat away from the grip of the people in the water. When that didn’t work I tried to pry at their fingers. I could hear the man laughing from afar, knowing that I’d have no choice but to soon be in his company. 

In a desperate plea I jumped from the boat. I’d expected the people to maybe grab at me and pull me back towards the boat or maybe drag my kicking body towards the man, but that wasn’t what happened. Instead they pushed my head under the water. A dozen arms from every direction held me down as I struggled, gurgling and trying to scream but only inhaling the murky pond water in to my lungs. 

I woke up from that nightmare gagging as I coughed out water and expelled it from my stomach and lungs onto the carpet of my bedroom. It had been a dream, but unlike any other dream I’d ever experienced. I spent the remainder of the night in shock, my stomach rolling and occasionally heaving up more water and muck. 

The sun eventually rose, and still dazed from an evening of horror and hacking up yellow mucus and stale pond water, I got dressed and ready for work. I live alone, and my studio apartment stank of stagnant water and mud. My walk was uneventful, but as I went to board the subway I found myself alone on the platform. The train pulled to a stop a few minutes earlier than usual, it’s brakes squealing and shrieking out into the tunnels at either side. 

The doors hissed open and people began to exit the train. While this usually takes a few minutes, it seemed to be taking much longer than usual, and oddly the people exiting the train were all just standing idly. Nobody was exiting the platform and it was beginning to fill up with various ordinary looking strangers. I moved to abandon the subway altogether, but the exit seemed to have disappeared, and in its place was a flat concrete wall. It was plastered with blank white posters and plaques, placed where you might expect to see advertisements or a train schedule. It was as if someone recreated what a typical wall might look like on a subway platform, but didn’t bother to fill in any of the details. 

With the exit having disappeared, I was stuck there as more and more people made their way off of the train and their bodies shifted closer and closer to me to make room. Something like an hour went by with a steady line of people exiting the train. More people were here now than what could’ve ever fit on that train, and still they just kept coming, quietly and single file, with no one person acknowledging another. 

When the final person exited the train, I was smashed against the people around me and almost unable to move. With all of my strength I pushed through them, their elbows painfully pressing against my stomach and ribs and into my back as I made my way towards one of the now empty subway cars. I found that my t-shirt was now torn and stretched from having pushed through the tight crowd of people, and hung loosely from my body. 

The fluorescent lights inside the passenger car blinked rapidly and gave the seats and walls a greenish yellow tinge with each flash. The inside of the car was filthy and dilapidated. The seats were grimy and torn, and rust came down in lines beneath the metal screws that held the panels in place. The floors were covered in mud, bits of crumpled paper, and empty plastic bottles. 

The man in the khaki suit stood before me in the distance. He raised his arm and waved. 

I woke up this time on the train, only it seemed ordinary. It certainly wasn’t clean, but it was a stark contrast to its previous state. Passengers talked amongst one another and rap music was playing from someone’s cell phone somewhere behind me. My shirt was sagging and torn and my body ached. It had to have been real, but then… maybe it wasn’t. Maybe I was losing my mind. 

Weeks went by, littered with similar incidents. Each time I found it more difficult to separate these dreams from reality and each time I’d seen that man in the khaki suit. I remember sitting at my desk when the phone rang. I picked it up only to hear static on the other end… and then a voice.

“You’ve forgotten about me,” it told me. “You’ve forgotten about all of us. Forgotten what they did to us.” 

I looked around me only to see what my desk wasn’t in my cubicle anymore. It was in some sort of daycare setting, only it felt cold and sterile. There was a large mirror panel that made up most of one of the walls. I could guess that the other side of that mirror was a window into this room I was in. On the other wall was a large chalkboard and on it were the words, “You are not a psychic.” 

None of it made any sense but it all felt so familiar… like I’d been here as a child and–like the voice had said–I’d forgotten it. The door opened and the man in the khaki suit stepped inside. He reached his arm up and waved to me, and then he snapped his fingers. I woke up at my desk again, feeling nauseous and unable to stop the raging panic in my chest. I passed out again and when I woke up I was in a hospital. 

I’d apparently had a heart attack, and one of my coworkers had called nine one one. They said I could’ve died. They said I was lucky. I wasn’t so sure. 

It’s been like that for long enough. Every night and every day, more terror… more terrible memories that I can’t quite make any sense of. I can’t tell what’s real anymore. I can’t sleep without having more of these visions, each one more terrifying than the last. The man with the khaki suit… I can’t tell if he’s trying to kill me or help me remember something. Something tells me it’s both. He wants me to remember what happened all those years ago and he wants me to die with that memory. 

I don’t want to live like this anymore. I don’t want to remember. I don’t want to die at his hand. I’m giving up. Whatever secrets are locked inside my head will be lost forever at the bottom of this ocean. I’m sorry to tell you all of this, Tyler. I want you to have a good life. I want you to go home and marry that girl and be the person you want to be. You’re strong in ways that I can never be, you just have to find it inside yourself. 

Thanks for being the friend that I keep inside my head.

The letter ends there, but there’s so much to take away from it. 

The man with the khaki suit: he was there, but was he the same person we were looking for? While I have a hard time believing there could be more the one dream killer, I can’t help but wonder if it’s the same person or if the current murderer is just using the same methods. 

This daycare… the words on the chalkboard. “You are not a psychic.” Maybe I’m reaching a bit, but did this have anything to do with Hydra? Was this all some sort of experiment? Is this the secret in unlocking the past of Dream Killer, or is this some sort of way to help figure out who he’s going to kill next? 

I don’t know how old the man on the ship was either. Was he one of these children, being told not to identify as a psychic, or was he on the other side of the glass. His abilities seem to suggest the former, but there’s really no way of knowing without finding more information. 

I guess for now this raises more questions than answers. Maybe if we can find Tyler we can find more information. Maybe the man said something else that they didn’t think to include. Until I can untangle all of this, I think I’m going to leave the episode here. That might not be the most satisfying conclusion, but it’s the best I’ve got for now. 

Thanks for listening and I’ll see you again in two weeks.

A Worn Out Welcome – Season 3 Episode 13

See Content Warnings
Suicidal ideation. If you, or someone you know needs help, call 800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy finds an unopened letter in the storage papers addressed to Ron.
Inside, Janet Montgomery Hill tells Ron about a supernatural experience she has when she visits an old, defunct dam. She encounters what appears to be the ghost of a woman, Eugenia Smith. She will answer some questions and appears to be looking for her lover named William. Then, every day, she jumps through the railing and a splash is heard, but a lake no longer exists at the bottom of the dam.
Jeremy ponders what led Ron to abandon the papers, and what his future has in store.

I guess they wouldn’t call things “paranormal” if they could be explained.  Within the last ten years, interest in the supernatural has exploded in American culture, and there are now dozens of television series, and seemingly entire channels dedicated to following investigators’ attempts to document evidence of ghosts.  You’d think with all of the attention ghosts get, we’d have learned more about them by now.  Everyone thinks they’re an expert, with their own opinions about how to communicate with them or lure them out of whatever comfort zone they may occupy in order to interact with us, but what have we really learned?  

Today’s account comes from a woman who embraced what she didn’t understand in an effort to learn from it, which is always an admirable trait in my opinion.  What caught my eye with this letter compared to some of the other documents in this folder is, though it was addressed to Ron in October, twenty eighteen, around nine or ten months before I came into possession of The Storage Papers, it hadn’t been opened yet.  So I opened it.  It reads as follows.

Dear Ron,

I received your contact information from a dear friend of mine, Marjorie, who you apparently assisted a few years ago with the very strange circumstances surrounding the frequent disappearance of her cats every few nights.  Though she never really explained what happened to cause her to move out of state, she promised me that she would tell me her story soon.  She also told me to reach out to you when I described some of the strange experiences I have been having on a recurring basis here in San Diego.  

Please keep in mind, I’m not necessarily seeking help for a problem, as I understand that’s what you specialize in.  In fact, I quite welcome the experiences I’m having.  But I suppose I’d like to get your opinion since you have a reputation for looking into such things, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable sharing this story with any of my other local friends, my children, or my neighbors, who all worry about me.  They’d probably send me to a nursing home for good if they knew what I’ve been seeing.  I suppose I should explain what that is exactly and get to the point.

Just about one year ago, my legs began swelling quite a bit, which was quite painful.  The doctors told me I was too sedentary in my lifestyle and my diet was poor.  They said I needed less sodium and gave me some recommendations for what I should be eating.  They also said I was at risk for developing blood clots, so they encouraged me to start walking daily.  I needed a physical therapist to help me at first, but after a while, I got up to walking fifteen minutes a day outside, up to thirty, then an hour, and now I’m walking as much as two hours a day.  Sometimes I go for multiple walks each day in the hiking trails around my neighborhood when I’m up for a challenge.  I’d say without reservation that I may be more fit now than a majority of the youngsters I see walking around here, which is really something… well, to me at least.  Forgive me for rambling, but this part is quite necessary.

One of my favorite trails is a longer trail that leads to an old dam that was built in the eighteen hundreds.  Of course, there’s no water now, and it’s nothing like the Hoover Dam in size or construction.  No, it’s only about twenty-five feet from the top of the dam to the bottom of what used to be a small reservoir, but now is just dry land.  At some point, the city placed a hand-rail at the top of the dam for safety, and I like to go out there and just spend some time stopping and listening to nature around me.  Very few people walk that trail, and I find it so peaceful there.  

A few months ago when I had walked there and taken the opportunity to rest, I was leaning on the rail and looking out into the distance at a beautiful bright-colored bird I hadn’t seen before.  My attention was so focused on that bird that I didn’t notice the person standing near me.  I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and when I turned to look, there was an elderly woman standing there staring at me.  She had to be ten or fifteen years older than me, and the first thought that crossed my mind was how did she get here?  You see, she looked a bit hunched over, with a rounded back, and it looked to me like the simple act of standing upright was very difficult for her.  

Her body had been facing out over the drop off, the same direction I was facing while watching the bird.  But I think the movement that caught my attention was when she turned her head towards me.  I wasn’t necessarily startled or anything, but I hadn’t noticed her when I got there, and after standing there in silence for a little while I hadn’t noticed her approach either, let alone any other hikers that I might seldomly run into.

I approached her and said, “Hello, I didn’t see you there.”

She smiled weakly, and then started fidgeting with her hands.  She looked at me, and then out toward the drop-off, and then back at me again.  She seemed to be hesitating about what she would do next, and she was mumbling something unintelligible.  The closer I got, the more attention she paid to me instead of looking out over the railing, and I could see more of her features.  She was shorter than me, perhaps five foot two or so, and she had silver hair that was long and wrapped into a bun.  I know it was long because it was a large bun!  Deep lines cratered her face, and wore confusion and worry across her face more than anything else.  I was concerned about her distress as I watched her continue wringing her hands.

I said, “Are you okay?  Do you need help?”

She didn’t seem to have the ability to focus on my face, but would look in my general direction.  “No, thank you,” she said.

“Have you seen my William?” she asked.

I informed her I hadn’t, and right as I was about to step closer to her and ask more questions to try to help her, she turned her head to look out over the railing and took one swift step forward, and plunged over the side.  I recall hearing a large splash a moment later, as if she fell into a lake below.

My senses hadn’t caught up to me just yet, and I looked over the railing before I remembered there wasn’t any water there, though I definitely heard a splash.  And then I realized I was leaning on the metal railing with my weight, and it seemed very sturdy.  I followed the railing toward where I saw her standing, and its integrity was intact to that point and well beyond.  A person would need to go above or below the railing to get past it if they really wanted to, and I just observed the woman walk right through it like it wasn’t even there.  That’s when I knew I had witnessed something special.

It took me a few days before I got the courage to go up there again, but when I did, she revealed herself to me yet again.  I noticed her standing there before I even approached the dam this time, and I treaded carefully toward her once I reached the top.  With my hand on the rail, I walked slowly toward her at the other end of the dam, and she expressed the same mannerisms with an equal blend of anxiety and preoccupation.  Looking back, it’s kind of funny because I was approaching her so sneakily, like I was going to scare her off or something.  Silly me, thinking I’m going to be the one to scare a ghost!

Again, when I got close to her, she turned her head towards me.  She had that same worried expression in her eyes, and her hands were still fidgeting.  Again she said, “Have you seen my William?”

My encounter with the woman ended the same way as I attempted to approach her that day, unfortunately.  After that, I got a few ideas and began to experiment.  

Each day following, I would try a new approach.  Some days, I would try to speak to her from a distance, and I noticed I could squeeze in a question or two and most of the time I’d get a response from her.  But every encounter resulted in her walking over the edge of the dam, and I wouldn’t have an opportunity to speak with her until the following day, no matter how long I lingered about.  Of course, there have been days where other hikers have been around, and she hasn’t revealed herself to me in their presence, so I’m feeling a little bit like the whole ordeal could be happening in my mind.  

There’s one more detail that is somewhat confusing to me.  I’ve done some reading on hauntings, and know the difference between an intelligent haunt, where a ghost seemingly is aware of their surroundings and answers questions… and a residual haunt, where the ghost may be observed performing some kind of task or activity repetitively, seemingly unaware of their surroundings or any onlookers.  My experiences with this woman seem to align somewhere in the middle.  As I’ve shared, she will answer questions, and looks in my general direction when speaking, however, she doesn’t seem to remember me between visits.  Every single time I initiate a conversation, it’s like the first time she has met me.  I have to introduce myself to her before I can further interact, and sometimes she says things the same way she may have previously said them, like it’s her first time telling me.  I just don’t know what to make of it.

You must understand that I’ve been interacting with her for months, in this seemingly mundane routine, just for a brief opportunity to interact with her.  I previously felt no need to even tell anyone about our encounters.  She hadn’t really scared me at all.  I thought the whole thing was pretty neat and her behavior had been quite predictable… until two weeks ago.  I had been asleep and thought I was dreaming when I heard that splashing sound that happens after she walks over the edge of the dam.  It’s not uncommon for me to have dreams about our interactions.  I mean, I was basically experiencing this every single day, but this time when I heard the splash and opened my eyes, she was there, standing right next to my bed soaking wet.  Her expression has changed into terror, and she appeared to be screaming, though no audible words were coming out of her mouth.  And then, she just faded into the darkness.  Of course, I thought it might be a dream, but when I got out of bed to walk to the light switch, the carpet next to my bed was soaked through, soggy with lake water and stained muddy.

The people close to me would just call my doctor if I told them about this, but she appears to me nightly now, in my own home.  I’ve tried sleeping in different areas in the house, but no matter what room I sleep in, she appears there, and I have the floor damage to prove it. 

When I was approaching her on the dam, I gathered some information during my brief daily conversations with her.  I was hoping, if you could spare the time, to see what you could find out about her and why she might be showing herself to me in my home in this frightened state now.  I am genuinely concerned for her and fear she may be in some kind of danger I am simply unable to perceive.  Or, if for no other reason, I was hoping you could take my case to ensure I’m not in any kind of danger, or if you could just make me feel like I’m not crazy in my old age.

It’s not much, but here is a list of a few things I’ve learned throughout my conversations with her at the dam that might help you to validate some factual information about her from when she was alive.  Her name is Eugenia Smith.  She believes the current year is eighteen fifty-eight.  She is looking for her long lost lover, William (I haven’t been able to acquire his last name – she never answers me when I ask).  She believes this William to be in his twenties, which is peculiar to me since she appears much older.  She believes William is of Spanish descent.

I know this isn’t much to go on, but I could certainly use your help.  If you do have the time, I sure would like to know more.  Admittedly, I’m scared for her as well as myself now.  I’m very much looking forward to your response.


Janet Montgomery Hill

Normally, this is where Ron might have some notes of his own, some commentary or just an opinion.  It seems incomplete in a sense because if you’re like me, I want to know what happened after.  What else was learned in the course of the investigation?  Was the situation resolved?  In some ways though, it gives us some insight into how it must feel to be Ron, receiving letters and other documents with limited information, and being asked to fill in the gaps and follow up.

In some ways I could see the appeal and one might say the excitement at an opportunity to look into these kinds of things.  But it also makes me wonder more about the specifics of Ron’s timeline.  When exactly did he abandon his storage unit and Private Investigator gig to do… whatever it is he’s been doing?  Part of me wants to follow up on this letter to see if I could help, but I believe that may be crossing a line.  Still, it makes me wonder what the future might have in store for me.

Thank you for listening to The Storage Papers.

Every Night I Die In My Sleep – Season 3 Episode 12

See Content Warnings
General horror, gore, death, violence, alcohol, and guns
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
A note to Ron from Mark Anderson is on top of this week’s papers. It states that the victim was found in her bed, apartment locked from the inside. The only thing of note at the crime scene was a stack of typewritten pages from Ms. Eden (the deceased).
In it, she details a number of dreams she had in which she was someone else who died. A news report confirms one of the deaths actually happened, and events within the dreams show that some happened in the past, some in the present, and some in the future.
Every night she has these dreams, and then afterwards, she always sees the killer in the same order that the dreams occurred. In one of the dreams, the killer spray paints a hand with seven digits and an eye in the palm, a symbol that seems to be associated with Hydra. After another dream, she runs into what seems to be a younger version of the killer in her last dream, who she learns is Detective Ron Hammond.
In another dream, she is killed. She stays locked away in her home, but is unable to avoid her fate.

“Every night I die in my sleep.”

I’d be lying if I said that sentence didn’t immediately catch my eye as I pored over the countless papers from the storage unit – something it feels like I had bid on a lifetime ago. There’s a small stack of papers, but on top of them is a note addressed to Ron.

It reads:

I looked into this one and there’s not much there. The vic was twenty-four year old Barbara Eden. She was single, only child, and her parents had died in a car accident somewhere around a year before her death. Of course, due to the nature of the case, there’s no definite date of death, but the body was found in her own bed on November first, eighty-six. Her apartment was locked from the inside, no signs of forced entry. Aside from how weird that is, the only thing noteworthy found at the scene was what you already have. The pages were stacked neatly beside her typewriter. Let me know if there’s anything else you want me to check on.


As I’m sure you will too, I feel it’s safe to assume this is from Detective Anderson. With the little context he provided in mind, I’ll go ahead and start reading what is apparently the only notable item found at the scene of Ms. Eden’s demise.

Every night I die in my sleep. At least, every night for the past year, roughly. I’ve decided to organize my notes because I don’t know when it’s going to happen. If anyone finds this…if anyone cares enough to read it…I’ll see if I can put this in a way that makes sense. I wrote down my first dream the day I had it. I’ll organize all my papers so they’re in chronological order. I don’t know what good it will do but I need to be able to see the words. I just need to. So, here’s the very first of the dreams.

I’ve never seen anything around me before, but I know right away that it’s all mine. I’m sitting on my couch in my apartment. Everything is vivid to my senses of sight and touch when I focus on them, but I can’t hear anything. Well, I can. But it’s all…muffled. Like someone left the radio on in another room at the other end of the house. I can feel a remote control for the TV in my hand. There’s carpet touching my feet. I’m not able to move my body but this makes sense. I’m a passenger. I know this just like I know everything I see is mine just like I know this isn’t me. I stop fighting for control and begin to focus on the sensations.

I have a slight buzz. I see three empty bottles of beer on the coffee table in front of me. I’m content. The TV is flickering and I focus to see that the channel eight news is on. George Bush has appointed a new Secretary of Transportation, according to the headline at the bottom of the screen. I think that’s strange. I don’t know much about politics, but I guess I just assumed that’s something only presidents do.

My head moves and at first I’m too distracted, trying to pick out everything in my line of sight one by one, to realize that the front door is open. There’s a man walking towards me. There are vibrations in my throat and I realize that I’m talking, but I can’t hear anything. The man’s mouth moves but I don’t know what he’s saying. Whatever he says causes cold fear to grip my chest.

I stand up and put my arms in front of me. He seems unconcerned by this and continues approaching me casually. I focus on my peripheral vision and see that he’s holding a blue translucent rubber-coated wire in his gloved hands. It looks like the type of cable you’d see on a cheap bike lock. My arms raise to push him away and I try to run.

I feel my throat caught, jerking me back. My hands raise to feel the cable wrapped around my neck. I feel intense pressure building up in my head as air is cut off from my lungs and blood cut off from my brain. My arms flail as I try to fight, but it’s useless. My eyes never close as I sink to the floor. I feel my heart slow from its rapid pace to an unnatural end. My body becomes dead weight; I am held up solely by this cable.

Finally, the pressure on my throat eases. My back flops to the ground. I’m staring straight up. There’s a cobweb on the ceiling, hanging stubbornly between the popcorn and the central light fixture. The man who killed me steps into my view, simply staring at me for a moment.

His blonde hair is buzzed. His emotionless blue eyes study me. He looks at me like I’m an object, not a person. He bends down and I feel his hand dive into the pocket of my pants, where he removes something that I can’t see. He stands up and looks around. He moves out of my field of view for a moment, then returns with a knife and a spoon. He gets right up in my face, working with his tools around my eyes. I feel no pain. Instead, just cold metal tearing away at my eyelids, then a spoon edges under my eyeball. My vision is distorted, looking at multiple images at once. I see the knife move and the two images become only half an image. I see him holding my eyeball over my head and studying it. Then he sets it aside before turning to look at my remaining eye.

Then I woke up. This really bothered me. I think it would have disturbed anyone, really. But it felt like a storm looming overhead throughout my day, despite my best efforts to ignore it, because Mondays are bad enough as it is. The storm broke when I was leaving work, though. I couldn’t wait to get home and start a new day fresh. That’s probably why I wasn’t paying enough attention as I exited the elevator to realize that my purse was going to knock over the plant next to the elevator doors until it was too late.

I turned to catch it instinctively, but someone had already caught it and untangled my purse from it. I smiled at the gesture and looked up to thank them, when the words caught in my throat. I may not have recognized the person – I assume they worked on a different floor than me – but I’d recognize those eyes anywhere. I’d been thinking about them all day. This man was a killer.

I shook my head as I walked away without so much as thanking the man. I’d read in a magazine once that you can’t imagine new faces in your sleep, that at most you take bits and pieces of people’s faces that you’ve seen. We worked in the same building. I’m sure I had just run into him before in the elevator or the front lobby on my way into or out of work. Then…had some sort of nightmare. I heard laying off dairy for the last few hours before bed can help with nightmares. I guess I’ll skip the cheese on tonight’s dinner.

I can’t move my arms or legs. That’s the first thing I know. I can feel my heart beating quickly. I am sitting in a chair. I can’t see anything though; everything is black. And then I can. A woman is standing in front of me now, holding a blindfold. She must have just taken it off. She’s talking and I try to make out what she said, but I can’t. My eyes don’t move from her, but I focus on my peripheral vision.

There’s newspapers laid out, filling up the entirety of the living room floor. I think I’ve seen these ones before. I see one about Mayor Hedgecock. But that’s not the most notable thing. There’s a large black circle in black spray paint going across all the newspapers. The image in the middle of the circle takes me a minute to recognize because it doesn’t look right. It’s a hand with seven digits. There’s a football-shaped hole in the palm of the hand.

I refocus on the woman in front of me. I know I want to say something, but there’s something in my mouth stopping me. I must be gagged. But I still talk. Not with my voice, though. There are no vibrations or muffled sounds. I don’t know how, but she heard me. She shakes her head no, and pulls out a knife. My heart beats harder, but now irregularly. I again speak without words, telling her that my heart hurts. She ignores me now and does something behind my back.

I feel myself being shoved forwards. My hands and feet are still bound, but I am no longer tied to a chair. I struggle to move, but it’s useless. I feel something being wrapped around my throat and I can no longer breathe. I’m dragged to the center of the circle. The pressure on my throat eases, but does not let up entirely.

I’m on my back. I look up at the woman, who is standing where the middle finger extends. Her brown eyes turn black as she begins to talk. I don’t know how or when it happened, but there are now three dark figures on either side of her. Each figure is standing at the point of a digit. I try to focus on them, but find that I can’t. I can only focus on her.

Another minute of this and then I am flipped onto my stomach. She pulls my shirt up and I feel incisions being made on my lower back. Things are inserting themselves into me. They’re under my skin, moving around, feeling me. Muscle is shoved aside with no effort and my insides begin to shift. I want to scream but as soon as the thought enters my mind, my throat constricts.

As suddenly as they had started, they stop. I am flipped back over. In one hand the woman is holding a clear plastic bag that contains three metal objects smeared in blood. In the other hand, she holds an open vial of blood. She begins walking the rim of the circle, stopping every other pace to pour out some of the blood. She completes the circle and faces me.

I can see the figures moving but I can’t tell exactly how they are moving. It’s like I can register motion but nothing beyond that. They become still again and it’s then that I realize my heart is once again beating – hard and irregular. I feel pain in my chest. She stares at me until the pain subsides. I am no longer trying to breathe.

I watch the woman step forward as my eyes begin to slowly unfocus. She is holding an open, green duffel bag. She begins to shove my body inside the bag and everything is filtered through its material. The bag tightens around me as it’s closed and picked up. I’m no longer inside my home. The bag is shoved into another, smaller space, and then I hear a loud thump of a car trunk being shut. All I see is black.

So obviously cutting out dairy didn’t help. One bad dream is terrible, but two in a row put me on the verge of a meltdown for most of the morning. It was some time before I was able to bury myself into routine, bouncing between actual work and workplace gossip. I deliberately waited an extra five minutes after I got off work before taking the elevator. I had no desire to run into that man again – actual killer or no. I thought about how I should call my doctor. I’m sure there’s a pill or something I could take to fix this. He’d know best.

I got in my car and began the drive home. I turned on the radio, looking forward to something that could take my mind far away from my troubles. I thought that might do the trick, at least until I could get home and make a call to the doctor. It wasn’t until I was stopped at a light on Market that I found my gaze wandering around. That’s when my eyes met the driver’s at the other end of the intersection. Her cold brown eyes seemed to rip into my soul.

I actually jumped, which meant I let go of the brake and started to roll into the intersection before I realized it. Already committed, I slammed onto the gas and got out of there. I couldn’t tear my eyes from the rear view mirror the whole way home. I was just waiting for her to follow me. I don’t know what I’d do, I was just scared.

I made it home without getting into an accident and I don’t think I was followed at all. I sat in the parking lot, trying to catch my breath and stop my hands from shaking. It was all in my head. It had to be. I had to have seen her somewhere before or something. That’s all.

I was finally getting myself under control when I realized the radio was still on. You know how you can be at work, talking to someone, and then you hear someone on the other side of the room say your name and it catches your attention, even though they weren’t trying to get your attention and you hadn’t even been listening if they were? Well, that’s what happened when I heard the guy on the radio say, “The body was found in a green duffel bag, locked in the victim’s trunk. Nothing was stolen and the police are requesting any information that may help catch the perpetrator.”

I realized I was holding my breath while I waited for more information that never came. That was the end of that news story. I shut off the car and ran inside my apartment.

I need to get an appointment in for the doctor. I can’t deal with this.

I feel thirsty. No, that’s not right. Hungry? No, that’s not it. Ah, it’s…it’s a metaphor. I want to know. That’s what it is. There’s someone in front of me, lying on a hospital bed in my mind’s eye. But this isn’t a hospital. I look around me without turning my head. It’s some kind of warehouse. No. It’s an abandoned home. I’m standing in the middle of it, next to this bed. There’s all kinds of wires hooked up to the person who’s lying on the bed. Some are sensors, maybe. There’s a heartbeat monitor going so that’s probably one of them. Others look like they’re going under the skin, though. I don’t know what those would be. There’s something vibrating in my pocket. I look down as I pull a black rectangle from my jeans. It’s lighting up with the letter H. I touch a red circle and it stops vibrating. I put it back in my pocket and refocus on the bed. The wires. The person.

It’s all there so I can understand. That’s what keeps coming back to me. My hands come into view again and I roughly open the person’s left eye. It doesn’t appear to focus at all, but I know from the monitors he’s alive. The monitors aren’t real, though. They’re a representation of what’s happening from my mind. As I stare into the eye I feel something.

I don’t know how to describe it. It doesn’t make sense at all. I feel like I’m going crazy just focusing on it. It’s like an entire universe enters my mind, exploding in a series of colors that don’t exist. Worlds are formed and disappear, taking unrecognizable creatures with them as they go. A feeling not unlike electricity runs through each light, each color, each creature, each world, and circles back to me. I absorb it all. It is now me. It always was. This feels like it makes sense, although I don’t understand it.

The universe rushes behind me as something tries to pull me away. I turn and see an older, gray-haired man approach. He has a gun in one hand and some sort of needle, like a shot, in the other. He stands there, cautious but sure. Like he’s done this dozens of times before.

I feel the universe burn at my back. He hasn’t done this before. Not to me. He’s just another in a long line of killers. Killers that I can stop. I focus and feel an energy only comparable to the sun build and I begin to focus on him. His heart. If I concentrate, I can hear it. I can-

That’s my last coherent thought. I’m on the ground. He shot me. I’m still alive. I try to breathe, but find I’m choking on blood. He draws closer and hovers over me for a moment. He looks at me, squinting briefly. Before I realize he’s moved his gun again, he’s shot me in the head.

I woke up screaming last night. I don’t think I can keep writing these murders down. The doctor gave me some medicine today and said it’ll help with the night terrors. In the meantime, he told me to get some fresh air, so I took a walk downtown. I think he was probably right about that sort of thing…normally. I think most of the time, that helps people. Just a change of scenery and some time with nature. I stopped at a bench for a smoke and decided to enjoy the fall air.

I found my eyes drawn to a man walking on the opposite sidewalk. I couldn’t figure it out at first, then I realized he bore a marked resemblance to the killer I’d dreamt about last night. I froze, then took a drag to help with my indecision. I hurried across the street and stopped him.

“Hi…have we met?” I asked him.

He looked at me thoughtfully for a moment, then shook his head. “No, I don’t believe so, but it’s possible. I meet a lot of people.”

I bit my lip, and then pushed on with my next question. “I know this’ll sound strange but…is your father a good man?”

He furrowed his brow. “Well, he’s not a bad man, if that’s what you’re after. Why?” he asked.

I knew I couldn’t answer that question without getting committed to an institution, so I dodged it for as long as I could. “And you…you’ve never killed anyone, have you?”

He almost laughed at that, before pulling something out of his jacket pocket. “I try not to,” he said with a half smirk. “I’m a detective with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Now, is there something I can help you with, ma’am? Are you in some kind of trouble?”

My face turned red. Of course this was ridiculous. It had all just been dreams. Except…the news had confirmed that they weren’t.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said, “Detective…”

He folded his badge back up as he introduced himself. “Hammond. Detective Hammond.”

“No,” I answered. “No trouble. Sorry to bother you.”

I felt so foolish approaching him. This had to stop, though. Somehow. Every night I was dying in my sleep. Every day, the very next day, I saw the person who killed me. Three nights and three days in a row. If the pills didn’t help, I wasn’t going to be able to ever leave my apartment without meeting a killer.

The pills haven’t helped me. Right away I dreamt of some teenager slicing into my skull. It’s been weeks now and I haven’t left my apartment. I made a few calls and set up an arrangement with my friend, Nancy. Her nephew is bringing me groceries until I find some medicine that works. Hopefully I can stop this. Or they’ll just go away as magically as they came in the first place.

I made a mistake today. I ordered some Chinese food. Delivery, of course. It took me a minute, but as I dropped the tip into his hand, our eyes met and I remembered. He was the fourth person who killed me: the teenager from my dream. I slammed the door in his face.

I had dreamt of him months ago now. At least I think it had been months…truthfully, I stopped looking at the calendar. Or clocks. Or anything that had to do with time. It all made me feel hopeless, like I was going to die in this apartment, trapped by my nightmares.

This was the first time since I’d stayed at home that I’d seen another killer, and it was the very next dream I’d had. Did that mean every dream I’d had…probably a hundred by now…I was still going to see those killers? Was it inevitable? I don’t want to sleep anymore.

I think that’s all of the ones I wrote down before today. So here’s the dream I had last night. Here’s why I’m getting ready.

I slowly open my eyes. My head hurts. I look up from the ground and see a man in a charcoal gray suit sitting across from me. He says something, but I can’t distinguish his words. He seems very relaxed. His mouth doesn’t move, but I finally hear his voice echo in my mind.

“You’ve been hiding for quite some time now.”

I try to think what he means. He continues as he casually steps towards me.

“You were harder to track down than most. I could just catch whiffs of you inside the others.”

I tried to talk but found my body unresponsive. He noticed my efforts and chuckled. “Nah ah ah, don’t you know that you’re dreaming? You’re not the one in control here.”

Tears streamed from my eyes as I pleaded wordlessly that this was a mistake. He tilted his head to the side as if listening, then responded in my mind. “I’m sorry, you don’t even know, do you? Maybe that’s for the better. Still… there’s something inside that I need. I have to understand.”

My eyes widen and I again plead for my life. He ignores me this time, having a singular focus. I feel my heart pounding. I’ve never been more scared. My heart begins to beat to an irregular rhythm, skipping some beats while slowing down others. I feel a burning in my chest. It begins to radiate outwards and I know this is the end of it all. I jerk my head around, trying to wake myself up. Then I notice where I am. It’s my own apartment. I look back at him, eyes wide, chest on fire. I plead for my life. I wake up. I’m alone in my apartment.

Then I woke up… again. For real, this time. I pinched myself to make sure. I don’t know how long I’ve been trapped in my home now. I don’t know how many people have killed me. I don’t know how many killers I have yet to meet. I just know that one day, I’m going to meet one and he’s going to kill me in my sleep.

There’s a lot to unpack in this one, but at the forefront of my mind as I read this the first time is that Ms. Eden went through a mental hell. Part of me wonders if she would have been an asset to police investigations with her seemingly psychic knowledge of murders, but as someone who has faced and occasionally still deals with malevolent figures at night, I know that wouldn’t make the terror worth it.

If not most importantly, then certainly most urgently, is the fact that one of those killers she faced was Ron Hammond. She described something she wouldn’t recognize at that time – a smartphone. Given that, I believe the Ron she met was far too young to have committed the murder she witnessed. But I don’t know if that’s still true of the Ron that I know.

Sometimes I can’t help but feel frustrated as I get more questions than answers while reading these papers. Who called the person that Ron killed? Maybe I could track them down before it’s too late. Or maybe he had a good reason to kill them. Then again, from the descriptions, it sounds like these may have been organized killings. A symbol described as being spray painted on the newspapers is one I’m familiar with. It’s one I’ve run across in several documents related to Hydra.

Abandoned – Season 3 Episode 11

See Content Warnings
General horror, gore, death, language, inappropriate/immature humor
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
A group of five teenagers go into an abandoned building found in the middle of the woods. As they explore, they find remnants of a science lab and offices. They encounter booby traps that seem targeted to keep something inside as opposed to keep people out. One by one, members of the group go missing. Upon going deeper into the building in search of their peers, the two remaining teens encounter a room with ropes that go up to floating corpses. They run with something large chasing them through the dark. Only one escapes, where they run into a park ranger who takes their statement.

Welcome back. As some of you know if you’re on The Storage Papers’ social media, I’ve dabbled in visiting places for the purposes of paranormal research – or as it’s more commonly called: ghost hunting. Some places can certainly be quite spooky, especially the long abandoned buildings like old hospitals. This paper recounts a statement provided to a park ranger from a woman who was picked up wearing just a shirt, a pair of underwear, and boots as she ran directly in front of his Jeep. Some abandoned places were never meant to be explored.

We weren’t even supposed to be there. When we ran into the No Trespassing signs, I told them we should turn back. Nobody listened.

There were five of us: me and David, Kristen and Raul, and Jemal. Raul and David kept goading each other, and Kristen has always been up for anything. I think me and Jemal were the only ones who just wanted to keep hiking. I knew there was no way to talk them out of it, though. Especially David. That’s part of why I’d been so attracted to him. I’ve never been much of a risk taker and he always pushed me to step out of my comfort zone.

It was just past three when we got to the chain link fence. I remember because that was part of my argument for not going inside: I didn’t want it to be dark by the time we got back to our campsite. Raul told David he should just hang back with his girl. David insisted that I was up for this. Then he turned to me and gave me a quick wink – the same wink he always gave me right before my boundaries were about to be pushed.

Jemal pointed out the barbed wire and reiterated how bad of an idea this was. What if it was some top secret government facility or something?

Raul just rolled his eyes and pointed out how unkempt everything was. Whatever this place used to be, it was clearly abandoned. David quickly agreed, trying to get Jemal onboard. While they went back and forth, Kristen was the one who pointed out the direction of the barbed wire at the top of the ten foot fence – specifically that it was angled inwards. She asked if we thought this used to be some kinda prison. The bickering paused as everyone looked at the fence and the roof of the structure beyond. We couldn’t see it very well – between the overgrown weeds and the overall shape of the landscape, it was pretty well hidden.

But, like David and Raul said, there was definitely no sign of human life anywhere within the area. Raul looked from side to side and started shaking the fence. He saw that part of it was loose and David helped him pull it up and away from the fence post. There was just enough room in the gap they created to crawl through, but only barely. Raul went through last and ended up catching his gray t-shirt on the fence, tearing a piece of it off.

Once he was through, him and David took the lead while me, Kristen, and Jemal kinda hung back a little. Me and Jemal really weren’t feeling it at all by the time we got to the building itself. It was a big, concrete structure. It almost reminded me of some sort of bunker, but it was a lot bigger than any bunker I’d ever seen pictures of. There were some windows that were reinforced with steel bars. They reminded me of Kristen’s comment about it being a jail and, even though there’s no way it was an actual jail, it still made me uneasy and I pointed it out.

Raul was unconcerned. He said even if it was a jail, it wouldn’t be the first abandoned one he’d explored, which got him and David talking about going on some sort of urban exploration adventure together or something. I ignored them, hoping David wasn’t planning on bringing me along as I peered through the windows… but I couldn’t see anything at all.

Then Jemal called out that he found a door around the corner. I hadn’t even noticed he’d wandered off, but the guys started celebrating that they’d gotten Jemal in the spirit with them. Nobody seemed concerned about the weather-worn signs plastered on the door saying stuff like “No Trespassing,” “Danger,” and “Fines and Prosecution.” Raul stood at the door with Jemal and asked if any of us had seen something we could pry it open with. I shrugged and looked around to see if there were any stray metal rods that may have broken off from the windows or something, when Kristen asked if they’d tried to open it yet. I rolled my eyes as the guys all looked at each other like dummies, then David stepped forward and turned the handle. It swung inwards.

This time Kristen pushed past them and led the way in. I entered last, pulling my flashlight out of the side pocket of my backpack. As expected, it was extremely dark inside. We all looked around with our flashlights to see that we were in a small, windowless room. There were some old newspapers scattered around the floor, some broken glass, and a bunch of cigarette butts. The light from the doorway cut straight across the room, illuminating the only notable feature: a set of steel double doors with a bracket on either side, holding a four by four in place. With almost no hesitation, Raul and David walked up to the door and removed the wooden bar. I asked why they thought it was there and David shrugged his shoulders and grinned, saying that he didn’t know but we were going to find out. That just made me more uneasy.

They each took a door and tugged them open. The rusty hinges seemed to beg us not to enter as they squeaked. They were heavy doors and they scraped a layer of dust off the ground as the two of them struggled to swing them all the way open. Inside the doors was a long hallway with a chipped tile floor.

Raul asked what this place was, seemingly in awe at the discovery. Nobody answered. Instead we quietly made our way inside. Kristen fell behind with me. I whispered to her, asking if she thought this is what ghost hunters feel like. It definitely had the vibe of some old, haunted school… or psych ward, maybe. The first few doors we came to in the hallway appeared to be some sort of offices. Each of them had a desk, although in one of them the desk was split in half. Most of the desks were adorned with a typewriter, ashtray, and a golden lamp with a green shade, all covered under a few layers of cobwebs. Yellowing papers and old cigarette butts littered the floor. Some of them had windows, but metal plates were bolted over top of them, which explained why I couldn’t see in from the outside.

It was the next few rooms that made me think of an old school, though. There was a chemistry lab – it looked nearly identical to the one I’d used for my chem class at San Diego State, except a couple pieces of equipment looked like older versions of the stuff I was used to and the general state of disrepair, of course. A couple of lab coats hung on a rack by the door, and there were still some formulas written on the chalkboard, almost like everyone had left in the middle of a class.

The next lab smelled terrible. I never actually went in, but David told me it looked like someone had been experimenting on animals or something. There were a bunch of cages, but no animals were actually in them. Instead there were a few small bones and what might have been blood stains scattered around on the floor. That was enough for me to try to get everyone to leave, but now I was alone. While Kristen was grossed out too, even she was determined to find out exactly what this place used to be.

There were a few more labs. When we found beds that had restraints for wrists, ankles, and heads in a couple of them, Raul made a joke about someone being into BDSM, but I was starting to feel like the odd one out for not finding any humor in the situation. I’d seen enough. If it wasn’t for David pushing me… I agreed to keep going.

We came to another set of steel double doors – this one without the security bar. Raul was about to step through when Jemal stopped him. He pointed up and we all looked. Directly above us there was an iron grid, approximately six feet by six feet, with spikes at each joint. Jemal’s flashlight traced a cable and system of pulleys from one end of the grid to a metal box directly over the door Raul was about to push open.

David ran back to an office and returned with a typewriter. We all stood back as he tossed it at the door. Immediately, the wall of spikes swung down, impaling the one door that was still shut. We all looked at each other with wide eyes. That was some Indiana Jones shit.

Raul told us all to be careful, like he wasn’t the one that had almost gotten himself killed in the first place. We pressed on, keeping a close eye anytime we neared a door. David poked his head into another room and was like, “What the fuck?” so of course we all crowded into the office there with him. There was a skeleton slumped in a corner. A beige suit was partially visible under a lab coat that was stained blackish-brown all around the top. There was a large, jagged hole on one side of the skull and the fingers gripped a pistol. Kristen was the one who noticed the message scrawled in black marker on the opposite wall.

“It’s not them” is all it said.

I was more insistent about leaving this time and David finally relented. He stood up from studying the skeleton and turned to leave when Jemal started reading from a small leatherbound notebook that had been on the desk. I didn’t think it made any sense, and whoever wrote it kept jumping around from one thing to another. It said that the bodies weren’t hanging. Something about a maze being all wrong, that it was like a different world or universe or something and the rules didn’t apply. Then how something was more quiet than it should have been except when it talked, or if it was too late to matter.

David told Jemal to take the notebook so we could read it around the campfire so he put it in his backpack, then quickly scooped the gun up off the floor and packed that away as well. When we got out of that room, David looked around and asked where Raul went. I was confused because he had just been right behind me, but I spun around myself and found that he wasn’t anywhere in sight. Kristen started calling out for him, but aside from her own echo there wasn’t an answer. David shook his head, saying that the bastard must have wandered off. Kristen and I exchanged worried glances but followed David as we turned another corner deeper into the building.

There was only one door ahead. David turned back to us, grinning as he pointed at a sign on the door that was clearly missing letters – only an M and an A remained. He said now he knew where Raul went.

“He saw this room was rated MA and was hoping to see some boobies.”

Kristen and I both groaned at the terrible, middle school maturity dad joke. He turned back to the door and, after closely examining around it for any apparent traps, slowly turned the doorknob. There was a loud click, then a rumble and a clatter on the other side of the door. We all backed up and Kristen once again shouted Raul’s name. There was no reply and after a moment the racket stopped and things were once again silent.

David cautiously stepped forward and tried the door again. It swung open towards us and I immediately grabbed David’s arm. Directly on the other side of the door was a gaping square hole in the ground. He stepped back and shone his flashlight into the hole. Neither of us could see the bottom. My heart was pounding but he just smiled at me and said that was a close one. I turned back to Kristen and Jemal to calm down but my pulse only sped up as I realized Kristen wasn’t there. We ran back around the corner and called out for her, but she was nowhere to be found.

David glanced back at the room with the hole in the ground but I quickly pointed out that we know Kristen wasn’t that way because she was behind us the whole time, and Raul wasn’t in that room because he would have set off the booby trap. He agreed and the three of us stood there for a moment, lost. That’s when we heard Raul calling out, “Guys? Hello? Where are you?”

We all turned. His voice had been coming from the room passed the hole. David called after him, “Raul! Come over here!”

There was silence for a minute, then Raul shouted back that he was hurt and needed help. Jemal muttered to himself about how of course Raul hurt himself. One by one, we jumped over the hole and entered the room. As I walked in I realized that this was more than a room. I pointed my flashlight around and found that, while the walls for the next few yards were narrow, I couldn’t see the ceiling, which surprised me. The building had looked big from the outside, but not that big.

We carefully proceeded, looking for any buttons, tripwires, or giant boulders ready to roll and crush us because who knows what the hell to expect in a place like that. The walls were replaced with railing and the floor turned into a metal grate platform. On the end of the platform was a ladder leading down. I looked around us, trying to see beyond the railing, but I couldn’t find any walls around. In fact, even though I had a pretty powerful flashlight, it felt like it was only shining a few feet in front of me.

Before we climbed down the ladder, I yelled out for Raul again, then called for Kristen. There was no response. Not even an echo. David was already climbing down. I looked at Jemal and he tried to give me a reassuring look but it was pretty easy to tell he was just as terrified as me. I heard David yelp and ran to the edge, asking if he was okay. It was all quiet for a sec and I couldn’t even see him below us, then I heard him yell back that he was fine and we should get down there. It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do, but I climbed down the ladder, Jemal immediately following me.

We got to the bottom, stepping on the cement floor. David was nowhere to be seen. I called out for him. It sounded like he was a ways away when he responded and told us to hurry up, he found something. Jemal and I ran towards his voice, unable to see him in the darkness and our flashlights doing little to make it easier. I yelled back, asking where he was and what he found. He just said to come quick. Why wouldn’t he just tell us? We came up to a wall that rose up about ten feet with only one gap to pass through. It reminded me of the entrance to a corn maze. Only pausing for a moment, we entered to find it was a maze, but we continued running.

I suddenly felt myself falling face first as I tripped over something on the ground. I broke my fall at the last second and heard a crunch, followed by Jemal crying out behind me. I rolled over and saw a thin wire pulled around my shoe and beyond that a series of jagged metal rods protruding out of the wall that hadn’t been there a second ago. One of them had gone completely through Jemal’s calf. The rod was connected from one wall to the other with his leg pinned in mid air.

I rose to my knees and tried to move the rod back into the wall but it wouldn’t budge. I was so amped up I didn’t even realize the jagged edges of the rod cut into my palms when I grabbed it. Jemal looked at me, teeth clenched in pain. He told me to just leave him there. I looked around desperately trying to figure something out. I screamed for David, for Kristen, for Raul, for anyone who could hear me to come and help us. The dark seemed to eat my words. I heard David, now even further away, telling me I had to hurry. I was on the verge of tears when Jemal reached out and grabbed my arm and told me to hurry up and go get David, he had a knife that might be able to help us.

I stopped and looked at him. I suddenly remembered – Jemal had a gun in his backpack from the dead guy! Careful not to move him too much, I reached into his bag and pulled out the pistol. I had never shot a gun before and I wasn’t even sure it would work. Jemal looked at me with fear in his eyes, asking what I was going to do. I got on the ground and pointed it at the other side of the rod. I closed my eyes as I squeezed the trigger. I couldn’t help it.

Jemal screamed and I jerked my eyes open. The bullet had broken through the rod, but the force also pushed it backwards, the jagged edge slicing through Jemal’s calf. Free of the metal, he fell to the ground. I looked at the bloodied flesh, panicking. Raul had been the one carrying our primary first aid kit; all I had was some aspirin. I dug through my backpack and pulled out a spare shirt to tie around his leg, creating an improvised tourniquet.

Jemal told me to go again. I knew I couldn’t leave him there, though. Something had been picking us off, one by one. We had to stick together. Ignoring his protests, I pulled him up and slung his arm over my shoulder, forcing him to walk with me.

I couldn’t help but wonder aloud who the hell was doing this to us and why. As we hobbled, Jemal eventually responded between grunts. The traps weren’t intended for us. Everything – from the traps to the windows to the door to the fence – wasn’t set up to keep us out. It was all designed to keep something in.

It wasn’t long before we came to another opening. Ropes hung from wherever the ceiling was and disappeared under a wide pile of clothes that covered the entire floor as far as I could see with my flashlight. There was probably about a solid foot or two of messily stacked clothing. I noticed resting atop the pile was a gray shirt, torn. It was Raul’s! He had to be nearby! I yelled out for him. It took a few seconds, but he answered! I nearly melted with relief. We weren’t alone.

I started searching for him with my flashlight while I asked him where he was. I froze as I pointed the light up. The ropes weren’t attached to the ceiling at all. Each rope rose twenty feet in the air and ended in a noose. Dozens of naked bodies hung upside down, hovering above us in the darkness, tethered to the ground by the ropes that were tied around their necks. They were all pale, seemingly drained of blood and glowing in the light against the endless black. My light had just fallen on the body of Raul when I heard his voice off to my right, telling us he was just a little further and to hurry up.

I dropped my flashlight and covered my mouth to stifle a scream. As soon as the flashlight hit the floor, I heard something shuffling in the distance – from roughly the same area I had just heard my dead friend’s voice. Tears streamed from my eyes as I saw David’s clothes in the beam of the flashlight. I looked at Jemal and whispered that we had to run. He slowly nodded, his wide eyes matching my own. We turned and tried to run back the way we came, but we were barely moving at a brisk walking pace with his now useless leg.

I was already on the ground when I realized that my body had just been spun around like a ragdoll and tossed aside. Jemal was gone. Something had jerked him away from me so fast and with such force that I was now dizzy and on the ground with the wind knocked out of me. I was alone.

Taking time I knew I didn’t have to recover, I unsteadily rose to my feet and staggered forward. I slowly regained my breath and my balance and was able to run again. I ran blindly, knowing that between the traps, the maze, and whatever the fuck was behind me I had no chance, but I had to run. I heard a sound that I didn’t realize until later was flesh being torn apart. Jemal’s death was buying me time.

I finally made it out of the maze and ran in the direction I hoped was the ladder. I had left my flashlight behind and couldn’t see anything in front of my face. I reached out into the blank space before me, praying my hands would make contact with the metal rungs. Behind me, I heard something skittering across the cement floor. It sounded like something with a dozen legs was running at me.

I felt cold aluminum hit my bloodied palm and used my momentum to thrust myself up the ladder, skipping the first few rungs. It was getting closer behind me. I made it over the ladder and ran as fast as I could. I remembered there was a hole somewhere ahead of me, but I couldn’t see it. I leaped with every stride, praying that luck would save me. A doorknob caught my hip, instantly bruising it. I didn’t care, though. That meant I had just passed the door and made it over the hole.

I put a hand against the wall as I ran so I could feel when to turn. I rounded the corner, my own heartbeat deafening in my ears. I kept my hand against the wall. If I wasn’t careful at the next doorway, I would impale myself on iron spikes. I didn’t slow down though. I could still hear it. It had jumped over the hole, too.

I made it through the doorway, feeling my way around the trap and continued running again. Although it sounded like the feet were a dozen yards back, I felt hot breath huffing on my neck. I could see a crack of dusk light ahead. I was almost there. I didn’t dare look behind me. I didn’t want to see it.

I made it to the doors. I grabbed one and yanked at it, trying to close it. I heard the thing slow down – it was at the spikes. I put all my weight against the door. It moved, but so slowly. I screamed in frustration but kept moving it. Inch by inch, it swung shut as blood smeared from my hands across the metal. The thing from inside was past the spikes now and had resumed at an inhuman pace.

I grabbed the other door, crying and screaming as I fought the decades of rust to close it. It skittered with all of its feet, halfway to me already. I shut the door. With strength I didn’t even have, I somehow lifted the four by four and put it into the brackets, just as the doors pounded against it. I fell backwards as it rammed the doors again. I backed away, then got up and ran out as it continued pounding. It was only a matter of time. I ran through the grass and slammed into the fence, dropping to my knees to try to crawl under it. It caught the leg of my pants – just as I heard the sound of wood splintering. I yanked at my jeans, willing them to tear loose of the chain link fence. More wood cracked.

I undid my fly and jerked my pants off, then I ran and I didn’t stop running.

This poor girl went through hell, but I can’t help but wonder what she discovered in the process. I may never find out, though. A search and rescue team went looking in the rough area she had been but found no evidence of the building she described. What’s even more concerning is the fact that a piece of wood was all that stood between whatever was within the belly of that structure and the rest of the world. Who knows how long that will last – if it even lasted at all.

My advice: enjoy nature when you get the chance, but if you run into a sign that says “No Trespassing”… heed the warnings.

Thank you for listening.