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When I was a kid, and probably more so as a young adult, I’d always wanted to see evidence of a ghost – a full bodied apparition…or any one of America’s favorite cryptids like Bigfoot or maybe the Mothman…I was obsessed with horror movies and basically anything that had to do with the paranormal.
I think when I first discovered these boxes of documents – what we now refer to as the storage papers – I thought it was a chance to feel that again…that same wonderment with the unknown
I’m sure as any of you that have gone out and experienced life can vouch for, things rarely work out anywhere close to the scenario we’ve played out in our heads. The truth is that things rarely work out at all, and when they do it always seems to count on things falling apart in just the right way.
I guess by virtue of listening to this you know that I’m still alive….
Whether or not our plan was a success…that’s relative…I can’t really give you a yes or no answer.
If you listened to the last episode of this podcast, you know that I called out the Grinner…I intentionally antagonized him. While that was indeed every bit as monumentally stupid as it seemed, I actually did have a plan. Well…let me rephrase….Ron and Detective Mark Anderson had a plan. A good one…or so I was assured.
The plan was laid out to me by another fairly new acquaintance: Brianne Scanlon. She muttered over a Styrofoam cup of black coffee, a cigarette dangling from her lips.
I was bait…that much I knew. What I didn’t really understand was what I was supposed to do next.
While I can’t exactly tell you the name or…where exactly we were…I can tell you we were at a Catholic Church. Not a new building…no…a very old Catholic Church. Black mold in the corners and dust obfuscating the light passing through its large stained glass windows and blanketing most of the surfaces with a snowy layer of soft grey. For that alone. I was kind of glad to have a face mask with me – even if I had it dropped to my chin at that moment.
I bit the inside of my lip and calmed my breathing, taking a sip of my coffee. My eyes passed to the lipstick stains on the rim of Brianne’s now-empty styrofoam cup. She smiled weakly – she’s younger than me but she had the attitude of an older sister. Pretty…or some tired approximation of it. We briefly shared a look of pity and I took the moment to get acquainted with her features. She used makeup to hide the dark circles under her eyes and the freckles that ran across the bridge of her nose, she wore red lipstick hidden under a white painters mask.
She glanced towards the large ornate wooden doors of the Church before putting her cigarette out on the wooden pew and pulling her face mask back up.
“You know you’re safe in here right? His kind can’t exist inside these walls.”
“What exactly is his kind?” I asked.
She looked up at the ceiling blankly and then back to me.
“It’s probably better we don’t say.”
I have to admit I felt a bit awkward, kind of like I was reading someone else’s personal diary back to them…but I pointed out that Malcolm brought her to a church pretty early on…when they were dating. She looked a bit incredulous at first but then she explained.
“As crazy as it sounds…he was still Malcolm then…it wasn’t until after he fed the thing…gave it life…fed it all of those people…all of those cultists…that it actually took over his body. I don’t even know that Malcolm even really wanted to be completely taken over, but I’m not sure that matters now. Ron told me once that he fed his sister to it as a kid…not on purpose, he was playing around with a spellbook…but when he did, he woke it up. It woke up and it asked Malcom for more…drove him crazy. There was a little piece of the Grinner in him ever since.”
Off on the other side of the church, one of the pews screeched a few inches across the floor. A hushed conversation between Ron and Mark Anderson was beginning to get loud. Ron got up quickly and Mark followed him apologetically. I knew just as much of what was said then as I do now, but they returned a few minutes later with another man in tow.
He looked to be in his late 30’s or early 40’s…tall with olive skin and dark hair that was starting to grey. I was a bit thrown off by his appearance – khakis and a dated looking woven sweater-vest – he kind of looked like a caricature of a college professor from the 70’s.
I’d come to know this man as Father Lucas Stone – a name I’d actually recognized from the storage papers. Looking at him – his soft polite mannerisms – he certainly didn’t look like any sort of monster or creature of the night. In fact, he looked like someone I could probably take on myself. I didn’t sit on that thought for long though, before his face shifted to a look that seemed like a cross between anger and concern and he walked briskly back out of the room.
I glanced around the room to gauge everyone else’s reactions…Ron and Detective Anderson were back to arguing and Ron was trying to force what looked like an envelope into the Detectives hands. Again – I’m not really certain what exactly they were arguing about.
It was at this point that Brianne got up and walked back towards the churches office area. She looked back and shook her empty styrofoam cup as an explanation, and not one to miss a hint, I got up and followed. As we entered a break-room-like area to the west of the church, I was introduced to Brianne’s brother Benjamin Scanlon, and Father Michael – the caretaker of the property.
Benjamin, was surprisingly calm and put together and the lines beside his eyes told me there was a smile behind his black painter’s mask, even if just a broken attempt at courtesy. He lifted his arm to shake hands but quickly lowered it.
Father Michael was an older gentleman, he looked to be in his late 60’s with white hair and the typical white collared shirt and black jacket.
Brianne lit up another cigarette before looking towards the three of us.
“I’m not scared, ya know…I’m just…I want this to be over”
Benjamin sighed before looking at me and then back down at the floor.
We chatted for a bit longer and I was it would turn out, Ben was more keen to share some of the details of the plan – details I was inexplicably left out of.
Unsurprisingly, the three of us – Benjamin, Brianne and I – were all bait for the Grinner in some way or another. Having us all in the same place was a guarantee that it would actually show up – something Ron and Detective Anderson were counting on. This part of the plan was all but expected – after all, Benjamin was (to my knowledge) still being actively pursued by the Grinner.
Ron and Detective Anderson also anticipated that what we were doing would be recognized as a trap. As we would come to understand though, that didn’t really matter. In fact, that sort of was the plan. I’ll try to explain it the best I can.
The plan hinged on one simple idea: the Grinner is smarter than us, it knows it’s smarter than us, and we can use that to our advantage. While we’re safe in this building for now, we are effectively trapping ourselves in here – placing ourselves at the disadvantage in a sort of demonic siege warfare while the Grinner looks for weak spots in our plan.
But if we were to somehow pull Malcolm’s body into the Church…well, Ron and Mark Anderson seemed to think the Grinner wouldn’t be able to make the trip.
As to what would happen next…the demon without its human host…Ben was pretty certain that Ron and Mark Anderson had a plan for that as well…though he didn’t exactly share it with me.
Benjamin’s explanation was cut short by a sharp noise and a bang coming from down the hallway to our left, a noise I’d realize later was a door being thrown open – squealing on its hinges before smacking hard against the wall.
What followed next was a series of bangs as doors began flying open in every room of the church, the echoes shuffling down the aisles and up the walls of the altar. Father Michael audibly calmed his breathing, tea rolling over the lip of the ceramic mug he had in his shaking hands.
Ben panned the room cautiously before continuing his approximation of the plan.
“I asked you earlier…if we were able somehow able to magically teleport Malcolm’s body in to the church?”
I nodded and he smiled with a childish confidence.
“Well…Ron’s got a guy for that.”
Ben would evoke another name I’d recognize from the storage papers…Preston Nicholson.
It was easy to forget that Benjamin and Brianne hadn’t read any of the documents I have regarding Preston, nor have they listened to this podcast where I’ve gone over some of those documents. I couldn’t be sure how much they knew about Preston, Lucas Stone, or even myself, but I had a sense that Ben’s enthusiasm was based more on his confidence in Ron and Mark Anderson and that made me feel a bit uneasy.
More doors began to slam and things began to rattle throughout the building. Ben continued to clue me in on the plan – Brianne poking her head out in the hallway protectively and father Michael sipping his tea and making a noticeable effort to remain stoic. Ben’s voice raised to match the rising chaos enveloping us.
The Grinner would eventually show up and…well…when he did, we would be waiting for him or…rather, Lucas Stone would. If you’ve followed The Storage Papers, you know that the last person to possess Lucas Stone’s alleged curse would later – begrudgingly – accept the moniker of werewolf. I honestly find that to be a bit…on the nose, no pun intended…but as Ben would insist, the rumors were true. That meant that Lucas might have some sort of chance against the Grinner – maybe not in a one on one fight…but we wouldn’t have to find that out.
You see, while Lucas might’ve been chored with sniffing out and leading the offensive towards the Grinner, he was ultimately just a distraction. Lucas’ job was to hold the Grinner in place long enough for Preston to create a bubble around the three of them and teleport them in to the church. If everything went according to plan, it would be forcing the Grinner on to holy ground – something that Benjamin and Brianne agreed would…kill him.
Sounds easy enough, right?
It was admittedly a bit convoluted and relied heavily on circumstance. The whole plan basically hinged on this idea that the Grinner would shrivel up and die the second Malcolm’s body touched holy ground.
To be honest I wasn’t sure if it’d work that way…and…well…I wasn’t really sure that Lucas or Preston were even capable of such a feat in the first place. As far as I was aware, Lucas Stone was delusional…Preston Nicholson was a con-man…a thief…but the thing that lives inside Malcolm Foye…that that thing is very real. Even if either of them were who they said they were, there’s no telling whether or not they’d survive this attempt…let alone succeed.
I wasn’t confident that Ben was necessarily telling the truth about any of this either…even if it was the truth as he recognized it.
But I would soon find out.
The sound of yelling – pews screeching across the wooden floors – sent us scrambling towards the entryway of the church. Ben led the way – taking off running – and while I tried to keep pace with Brianne, my speed hesitation just made me a human shield for Father Michael who made his way in the back.
The doors were splintered open, dangling from their hinges, \and in the center of the room were two figures huddled over a pair of unconscious men – one of which I couldn’t completely recognize but…knew all too well. A face I’d pictured a thousand times…a face I’d only seen in grainy security footage…a face I’d seen staring back at me from the dark…Malcolm Foye.
Next to him lay Father Lucas Stone – barely breathing and floating atop an ever growing pool of blood. He was missing his right arm up to what looked to be the shoulder, and a good portion of the skin on the right side of his face. His empty eye socket glistened – it looked as if something small was moving around in there but I couldn’t say for sure. Wet exposed muscle was slowly being enveloped in a transparent white film – I couldn’t have known this at the time, but this was a sort of proto-stage in his newly developing flesh.
Brianne knelt down hesitantly to take a better look at him – placing her fist to her mouth and looking around at us before carefully settling her scope on Malcolm’s unconscious body. She narrowed her eyes in his direction before looking back down at Lucas Stone. He opened his mouth a bit and I watched as broken teeth popped and cracked, and rolled down his jaw – drool and blood forming viscous bubbles that tumbled from his lips – his shaking legs kicking up years worth of dust from the floor.
His right eye rolled aimlessly as his head lolled to the side. At first I couldn’t tell that he was looking at me. Without losing eye contact he suddenly lurched forward, grabbing aimlessly at Brianne – but she stepped backwards and his chest smacked against the floor.
He spat and grasped at a nearby pew to gain leverage. He was still looking at me when spoke.
“So this is your boy, Ron?”
I hesitated – not sure what to say or how to interpret what was happening…I glanced over to Ron who shot me a concerned look, before I replied, “I’m…just sort of an acquaintance.”
A piercing laugh rippled from the church’s vaulted ceilings. I hadn’t realized it yet but we were putting on a show for something that lurked from deeper within the church, and it wouldn’t be long until that something revealed itself to us.
It was like the sun was setting, only far too fast. The amber glow of sunset poured through the stained glass windows, and then fell to grey night sky. The moonlight rose across the walls before giving way to the rising sun, before dropping back in to the grey of night – faster and faster until the room was flashing…pulsing with light.
Laughter trailed down the dark corridors, softened by the thick cobwebs and dust.
I took inventory of my surroundings: Ron was tying up the still unconscious Malcolm…Mark Anderson was holding a knife and thrashing through the pages of a leather-bound book – one that looked suspiciously similar to a book he’d left in the care of myself.
The flashing light made the whole room look like it was twitching.
Benjamin and Brianne looked to be arguing about something – though I couldn’t be sure because the didn’t seem to be making any noise. In fact, I couldn’t really hear anything except but the laughter. It seemed to be coming from every direction but…I felt like I could tell exactly where it was coming from. It was a laughter that was calling my name, and the more I thought about it that way the more it came to be true.
I looked to Father Michael. I could tell by his expression that he heard it too…we nodded silently in agreement and began heading towards the noise.
We made our way down the hallway…the flashing light from the windows giving way to flashing light bulbs – popping and showering us in darkness and glass.
We reached one of the offices and entered. Inside it was pitch black but for a small glint at the other side of the room- the small swirling doorknob of what looked to be a closet. I looked to father Michael and I could tell his fear matched his determination…same as myself. He said something to me, but I couldn’t tell what it was…all I could hear was the laughter…the laughter that was also…my name.
The door handle stopped turning when I put my hand on it. I opened it slowly and at first I could have convinced myself it was just an empty unused supply closet. But as I turned to father Michael I saw the horror on his face and as I turned back I saw it.
The light reflecting off of the eyes staring back up at me from the floor…the crescent smile…I recognized that face…as my eyes adjusted to the light. The same smile I’d seen in my house all those nights – only to turn on the lights and find myself alone.
While I wouldn’t have been able to recognize him, this was Preston Nicholson…only it wasn’t. He was fused to the floor, his body halfway between this level of the church and the one beneath…and in his body…wrapped around his bones…in his shuttering lungs like tar…was the Grinner.
And in an instant he wasn’t anymore…Preston’s body slumped to the floor – his hand around Father Michael’s ankle. The holy man looked at me wide eyed…a grin rolling in waves across his face…tears falling from his eyes. He mouthed something to me…before the smile reached behind his ears – I think he was saying sorry.
The Grinner came stumbling behind me, veins tearing from his skin and extending like living tree roots. He laughed with a mouth at least a foot wide, teeth long and yellow.
Back in the hallway the light from outside still flickered, making every step the Grinner made more unpredictable. His body seemed to stretch, the veins from his torso whipping and spooling together to form tentacles and his head opening and closing down the center.
His mouth didn’t move as he spoke.
I neared the worship area of the church, where I’d hoped to find help from Ron or Mark Anderson. The Grinner continued.
I came back to find that I’d been abandoned. Ron..
Mark Anderson…Ben…Brianne…Malcolm’s body was gone, too. Lucas Stone lay in the corner beyond a trail of blood. The Grinner spoke again, this time with his impossibly large mouth.
I couldn’t find the courage to say anything, and even if I had, I’m not sure what I would have said. Instead I ran – ducking past the Grinner’s whipping appendages and deeper into the church – this time past the altar and towards the stairs that lead to the bell tower. I found Detective Anderson waiting for me in the room beyond the altar. He handed me a crumpled piece of old looking paper and a large ornate knife.
“Finish carving this symbol in to Malcolm’s chest. When the Grinner makes his way back to his host body, this seal will trap him in it. He won’t be able to move or switch bodies.”
“What are you going to do?” I asked him.
“The friggin’ werewolves job…distract the Grinner.”
I rushed to the stairwell that led to the bell tower – throwing open the door and scrambling up the steps – making my way to the first landing where I found Malcolm. Only he wasn’t unconscious…he was tied up and gagged and when he saw me his eyes went wild. I dropped my weight on to him to hold him down but he was struggling – screaming behind his gag – and with every swipe of the blade he struggled more.
The symbol was a sixteen pointed star, something I’d seen on a few of the folders in the storage papers but…honestly didn’t think much of. The paper was thick, almost like cloth, and as such was soaking up vast amounts of Malcolm’s blood and obscuring the image. The ivory handled blade was quickly becoming slippery – soaked with blood – each point of the star cutting deeper into Malcolm’s squirming body and…just like that, Malcom’s body convulsed…and the blade slipped…
I knew just looking at the amount of blood…I’d made a terrible mistake. Malcolm moaned and slowly slipped from consciousness. I’d stabbed him to death.
I had no choice but to run. The whispering laughter was approaching…the laughter with my voice in it…the wooden stairs splintered and snapped with every step the Grinner took.
Beyond that set of steps and before the bell tower I found a large attic space – dank and filled wall to wall with retired or otherwise unused furniture and church materials. Forgotten boxes of wine bottles, and stacks of unread pamphlets littered the edges.
I made my way to the corner, hoping to hide behind an old desk. I knew if I made it any further up the bell tower I’d be trapped – this was my last chance to get behind him and make my way back down the stairs.
I could hear him getting closer – calling my name. Mocking me.
He made his way into the attic…scurrying across the entryway on eight legs. He now resembled a sort of mix between a giant spider and a person…but inside out…dragging a slimy mess of organs and spools of intestine behind him.
I dove from the bottom into the graveyard of unused furniture – the white sheets that once covered these forgotten relics pollinating the room with thick choking dust as the Grinner ripped them away – snapping at my ankles with claws made of tendon and bone.
I edged my back along the wall, until my palms no longer found purchase behind me – there was a space in the wall…a crawlspace.
I could see him through the gaps in the furniture, kneeling on the ground – laughing – his body morphing in to a bug-like exoskeleton of dust and flaking bone. He was still grasping at furniture and pulling down sheets, but he was slow…weak…the laughter was quieter now.
I felt a hand reach from behind and cover my mouth, and for a second I struggled to break free, but Brianne’s voice was in my ear.
“The host’s body is too weak…the Grinner is a parasite…he doesn’t just inhabit the host body, he feeds on it…that’s why Malcolm looked so old and frail.”
She guided me backwards, deeper in to the crawlspace. I’d realize later that we were in a maintenance space for the church’s ventilation, and it spanned almost the full length of the building. It was a way out. Another way to get behind the Grinner, rather than letting him push us further up and in to the bell tower.
I asked Brianne what made Malcolm so special – how was Malcom’s body able to survive as the Grinner for so long? The simple answer is that she didn’t know – neither did Ron or Mark Anderson.
She did tell me something else though…she told me Ben had a theory – the Grinner is able to survive inside Malcolm…because Malcolm found some way to hold onto all of those souls he’d gathered for the Grinner – put them somewhere else where he had control.
Surrounding us was a dark expanse of wooden cross beams and pink insulation. I had a feeling if I stepped off one if these wooden beams, the ground would give way like tissue paper and I’d fall to my death.
I heard the laughter again…it was soft…there was more than just my name hiding in it this time. He spoke to me…spoke to me in a way that Brianne couldn’t hear…that nobody but me would ever be able to hear…and I’ll never forget what he said to me.
I wasn’t sure exactly what it was…it sort of felt like a bug wriggling just behind my eyeballs…I can’t really explain it…but I had to turn back…
I turned to Brianne – her eyes swelling in frustration and disappointment.
She grabbed me by the back of my shirt, and I yanked myself free. She was yelling at me, but I’m not sure what she said, I wasn’t really able to register anything more than her tone. It was like listening to sound underwater – muffled and distant.
I made my way back through the opening of the crawlspace and I peered through the gaps in the pile of old benches and desks that had concealed our escape route. The Grinner was gone…all that remained was a layer of dust and powdered bone.
I made my way out of the junk pile, weaving through chair legs – like brambles – finding new paths in the dust sheets. I knocked over a box of empty wine bottles – I couldn’t hear the glass clink and roll across the wooden floor…I was still having trouble hearing anything but the whispering laughter. I couldn’t make out the words anymore though, just their general direction.
I began making my way upstairs towards the top of the bell tower, following the voice. What I thought was a pile of dust was actually a trail, leading a path of what looked like sand and fragmented bone on every other step or so. The whispers were fading now and as they did, my hearing was returning. As I made my way to the first landing, I could hear talking…or…arguing up above me – though it still sounded like I was underwater.
The next set of stairs upward were a part of a larger iron framework that held the bell and hammer mechanism in place. Flashing white light bled in through the cracks in the walls making time feel as if it were stuttering.
…and then someone fell over the railing. I watched as the body seemed to suddenly stop and float…rotating in the flashing light. It felt like minutes – the body hovering in the air – before I realized they weren’t coming down.
I slowly made my way up the iron steps and to the platform above me, where I found Ron…and Ben.
Ben’s body was dangling from the handrail. A thick hemp rope that once held some of the weights used to raise and lower the now-static bell…looped around his broken neck.
Ron wouldn’t tell me what exactly had happened until later – after we’d made our way back down all three sets of stairs…passed the spot where I’d found what I thought were the final dusty remains of the Grinner, passed the spot where I’d last left Malcolm to die…only he was no longer there.
As it would happen, Preston was missing too – though I’m certain he’s out there somewhere right now just fine. To my shock Detective Anderson was alive, injured but not mortally wounded or missing any important appendages.
Ron and I met Brianne, a now much less gravely injured Lucas Stone, and Mark Anderson at the entryway of the Church. It was only then that Ron explained what happened.
Ben, Ron, and Mark Anderson brought Malcolm up towards the bell tower where he’d only have one route of escape, which they could easily block. They planned to seal Malcolm’s body with the 16 pointed star and then kill him once the Grinner returned to his body, and before he could gather his bearings. The idea was that if the Grinner’s host body is killed, both souls would be swallowed in to hell. The seal was to make sure when they killed Malcolm the Grinner wouldn’t be able to escape in to someone else’s body.
If I can be absolutely honest, the plan was stupid…it was a poor solution to overcome the failure if another brilliantly stupid plan…and in the end it got Ben killed.
When I led the Grinner back towards the bell tower, Ben and Ron ran up further and Mark Anderson back-tracked – not wanting to be cornered at the top.
When the Grinner depleted father Michael’s body and gave up on catching me and Brianne, it used the last of its energy to make it up the tower – now just a crawling pile of dust – and jump in to Ben.
Ron told us that Ben fought it…and ultimately…he won…when he wrapped a rope attached to one of the handrails around his neck and threw himself over.
He killed both himself and the Grinner. At least for now…
Malcolm brought the Grinner from out of hell, and right now Malcolm Foye is out there somewhere. But when I held that knife…I cut deep…I cut a scar that’s never going away…so if Malcolm ever does decide to invite the Grinner back in to his body….he’s for damn sure never getting out of it.
When I look at Brianne, I still see the same broken woman I first met sitting on that pew…cigarette in her mouth…empty look on her face. Wracked with pain and guilt…blame for ever meeting Malcolm and inviting him in to her life…only now she’s shattered to pieces.
I’ve thought a lot about what the Grinner told me…the words he floated in to my head when I was retreating in to the crawlspace – the words he said that made me want to turn around…
“Things aren’t all that they seem.”
Thank you for listening.