Before I get started on this week’s episode, I wanted to thank everyone for sticking around for season three of The Storage Papers.
It’s been difficult. At points it’s even been downright terrifying. And it means a lot to know I’m not going about this alone. Throughout the last couple of seasons you’ve shared a lot of support, and while I didn’t always make the best choices and I’m often too stubborn to follow all of your advice, I’m always listening. If you can afford me just this one moment to be a little sappy, I just want to say I’m grateful for all of you.
I wasn’t sure how to approach this episode. In fact, I thought about taking a much longer break between the last season and this one. Pretend to live a normal life for a little while before delving back into the mystery and darkness that lays in the storage papers. However, things aren’t that simple – at least not in my experience – and under the circumstances, I’ve decided to push on and share with you a conversation that I had with someone that I wasn’t sure would ever happen. One that, in fact, I’d hoped that I could avoid, but was likely inevitable.
It felt violating seeing the envelope sitting on my kitchen table, amongst a collection of bills and junk mail. It was addressed with just my first name: Jeremy, written in neat print on the front of the envelope, and devoid of any sort of stamp or postmark. While it could have been innocuous, my gut told me that whatever was inside wasn’t good and whoever had placed it there was two or even three proxies away from knowing its contents, meaning it’d likely be pointless to even consider an attempt at nailing down exactly who’d delivered it.
I guess it didn’t matter where it came from, what mattered is that it now sat atop an energy bill and a stack of grocery coupons, and there was no giving it back, no return to sender, and it was now my problem to deal with.
If you’d asked me a few years ago, I wouldn’t have had so much to say about a simple envelope, especially one that I hadn’t even opened, but that’s the nature of things now. At the risk of sounding over-dramatic, having your eyes opened to this weird world of supernatural horror and conspiracy changes the way you look at things.
After examining the contents of the envelope, I think I made some rather fair assertions. Inside was a note, the author first hoping they’d found me well, and then listing an address: a prison. It concluded with a small message.
“Malcolm would like to speak to you… whenever you are ready,” and it was followed by a now familiar signature: Doctor Adhira Patel.
My heart raced at the thought that while it may be a trap (or more likely just a terrible idea), it was also likely the only opportunity I might have to speak to the real Malcolm.
I’d like to say I spent a while thinking about it, but weighing your options in situations like this often feels like standing on the edge of a diving board; the longer you look down at the water, the further away it feels. The possibilities in your mind amplify… of your body crashing painfully and embarrassingly against the surface of the water, or your wet feet slipping from under you as you smash your head on the board. Before you can imagine the flowery ribbons of blood floating like jellyfish tentacles from your unconscious head as the chlorinated water fills your nostrils, you’ve already jumped.
If I were ever going to talk to Malcolm I had to jump. I had to do it before I gave myself too long to consider any of the possibilities.
I planned to go the following day. I’d bring a cheap digital recorder and pocket sized notepad with all of the questions I’d planned to ask him. In hindsight, I guess it’s a little embarrassing, but I’d started to fancy myself as some sort of journalist: finally getting my chance to interview what the media and the state would’ve referred to as an open and prolific serial killer. That’s, of course, if they had the opportunity, but more on that later.
After all, Malcom had more or less admitted to the disappearance of every single member of his church – or rather his cult – and he’d even playfully toyed with the investigators regarding how exactly he’d disposed of their bodies. When “lost in a sea of writhing flesh” wasn’t a good enough answer, he sent them on a series of wild goose chases through forests and fields before concluding that he simply didn’t remember. The story is every bit as typical as you’d expect from a high profile serial killer, though there’d never be a big show of uncovering the bodies of his victims.
However, I knew exactly where they were… I’d pictured it a thousand times after I’d read Malcolm’s personal journals. He was right: they were lost in a sea of writhing flesh. The same awful place he’d unwittingly sent his sister to as a young boy.
There was a media blackout regarding Malcolm’s crimes. Something that would otherwise be of public interest, at least for sake of selling commercial breaks between street interviews from wild eyed locals, was unheard of to the general public. If I hadn’t been a part of it, held the papers themselves in my hands, and had frequent updates from Mark Anderson’s inside sources, I don’t think I would have any idea that any of this had transpired.
I found all of it so suspicious. The lack of media coverage… lack of documentation… no public outrage regarding what was perceivably a largely successful local serial killer. It was all swept under the rug.
Malcolm wasn’t exactly a serial killer in the traditional sense, but he knew what he had done and he was without a doubt a sick, sadistic monster. Malcolm’s soul was bound to hell far before he willingly sacrificed his body to a demon. After all of the awful things that have taken place, it’s difficult for me to imagine Malcolm as anything more than permanently afflicted by his own intentional demonic possession. It’s hard to even imagine him as a human being, and I hold on to the possibility that maybe he isn’t. Maybe the Grinner is still in there, deep in his gut just waiting to take the next steps in its dark unknowable plan…or maybe he just left something behind to keep Malcom company. I couldn’t fight the feeling that I would soon be interviewing the Grinner itself, even if that was stupid and unlikely.
But enough rambling my own thoughts off. The following is the recording I made documenting my experiences and my interview with Malcolm. It’s a bit choppy, and I’m admittedly better behind an actual microphone than a bargain bin digital recorder, but I did my best to clear up the audio and minimize the background noise. In between bits of recording are my own interjections, as well as a quick phone call to a personal friend of the show.
That can all be a bit confusing and possibly disjointed, but bear with me as I take you through my interview with Malcolm Foye.
JEREMY: I’m not sure of the best way to document this. The time is nine thirteen A M. I’m, uhh… sitting in my car outside of the correctional facility. I’m not sure what to expect. I’m recording this on my digital recorder, though I’m not sure if any of this audio is going to be usable, or if they’ll even let me keep it in my possession or use it during the interview, but I guess you guys will find out sooner than I will.
Prisons are a little bit different than I had imagined. While on the outside it was as much as anyone would expect, inside it was more casual. Laminated paper signs affixed with tape took the place of the plastic or metal ones that I pictured bolted to the walls. I sort of felt more like I was at the DMV, rather than at a correctional facility.
Behind a sheet of plexiglass sat a set counter with computers accompanied by some personal items: small knickknacks and framed photos, much like you’d expect to find on anyone’s desk. I approached it and stated my interest in visiting Malcolm, and with a few taps on her keyboard and set of squinted eyes pointed at my driver’s license, the woman behind the counter was able to confirm that I was on Malcolm’s approved visitor list.
“This is interesting,” she told me. “This is the first time any of his family have come to visit him.”
After signing a form that I was admittedly a bit too anxious to actually read over and waiting for my name to be called, I was sent through a metal detector, followed by a less-than-welcomed pat down.
A correctional officer held my digital recorder in his hand, waiving it as if waiting for an explanation. He had that look on his face that you’d expect from someone who was far too comfortable with being suspicious. I awkwardly fell over my words.
“It’s… for record keeping,” which was thankfully enough of an explanation to let me hold on to it. I was ushered down a couple of hallways, each with their own keypad entry, the guard casually swiping his badge at each barrier. Indecipherable chatter buzzed from the radio on his belt.
The hallway we stopped in was made up of white painted cinderblocks and lined by rows metal doors with flaking teal paint. He moved a bit closer to me as we stopped at a door affixed with a laminated paper sign that read “Inmate Visitation.” Over that was a plastic plate with the number thirteen. Under that was another sheet of paper detailing rules of visitation: things like the amount of time allowed per visit, warnings not to touch the inmate, and warnings not leave any personal items behind or with the inmate.
He cleared his throat and said, “So, this is your brother, eh?”
I tried to transcribe a look of guilt on my face without saying the words, hoping he’d take a look of shame as an admittance to our familial relationship. It felt difficult to outright lie.
He said, “Look, it ain’t my job to ask questions…” and at this point, that’s when I flipped on the recorder.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER: -but if you get anything on the tape worth hearing, maybe send it over to the authorities. I’m sure they’d rather hear it from the source, instead of from whatever news outlet you’re working for. Alright, this is a private room and I’m going to give you some extra time if you need it, so consider that a show of good faith.
SOUND: Keys jingle and a door is heard unlocking and opening. It’s thick and metal and makes a sort of clunking noise to illustrate its weight.
Malcolm looked disheveled. I’d pictured this evil genius, clean cut and perfectly postured, but on the other side of the table sat a man that looked like he’d come from a gutter. His hair was greasy and tangled, and the lower half of his face was marred with patches of unkempt facial hair. He was slouched across the table, likely to add some slack to the handcuffs around his wrists, which were looped around a ring attached to the table. I had a feeling that they had a set of handcuffs with a longer chain reserved for some of the more polite inmates.
A smile splintered across his face that up until this point was reversed for my nightmares. He took at deep breath, the sort of exaggerated breath you’d expect from a cheap sitcom character who just narrowly missed an awkward but assuredly hilarious situation. As I made my way to the plastic chair that sat across from him, he spoke.
MALCOLM: Welcome to my humble abode! Come on in and make yourself comfortable, Jeremy. I didn’t have time to scrounge up some snacks, but there’s some leftover Chinese in the fridge!
JEREMY: [he clears his throat]
MALCOLM: Well, I’d ask if a cat got your tongue, but with your line of work these days I think that might be a real possibility.
I see that look on your face. If I were you I’d appreciate the fact that I’m even willing to talk to you in the first place. If my hands weren’t chained to a table, I’d show you the scar I have from where you tried to carve some ancient symbol into me… before presumably giving up and trying to stab me to death. I hope you didn’t leave that part out of your podcast…
You know… the part where you’re an attempted murderer?
JEREMY: Plenty of people in the comments wanted to know why I didn’t finish the job.
MALCOLM: And yet you walk free.
JEREMY: I get that this is all a joke to you, and the Grinner likely took your last remaining brain cells back with it to hell, but I’m not here for fun and games and goodie bags. I just want to ask you a few questions before I get the hell out of here.
MALCOLM: Well, Mister Serious, ask away.
SOUND: Shuffling noises can be heard as Jeremy retrieves his pocket-sized notebook and flips through it.
JEREMY: Ok… so… how exactly did you get caught? How did you get pinned for all of the disappearances?
MALCOLM: Well that’s easy. When a bunch of people go missing, and the only connection they all share is the man that they gave all of their money and earthy possessions to…
JEREMY: Right, but that doesn’t explain how they caught up with you… or how they even knew you didn’t disappear along with the rest of the people you brainwashed in to worshipping that demon.
MALCOLM: It has a name you know. I’m sure you’ve read it somewhere in the journals you stole from me.
Its name is-
SOUND: There’s a distorted, ringing sound, as if the digital recorder can’t capture the sounds coming from Malcolm’s mouth, and it obscures the name in the recording. As it stops, the Correctional Officer knocks on the door.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER: Is everything alright in there?
JEREMY: [he is breathing hard]
Yeah… everything… is fine.
MALCOLM: [he is laughing hysterically]
Malcolm’s laugh brought me back to the day in that old church. The day I watched an old priest morph into a creature of twisted muscle and flesh and hunt me down in order to dismember me. It spoke to me in my mind – that demon – and it laughed in sheer amusement at my terror… the same way Malcolm was laughing in that recording. I would know because I’ve had nightmares about it ever since.
The way the light shone through the stained glass and glittered across the floating dust, and the shadows of the pews stretched across the floor. Lucas Stone’s bleeding shredded body and snapped limbs… Preston Nicholson, possessed and fused to the wooden floorboards, whispering for someone to get close enough so the demon could jump out and take over someone else’s body.
The image that has the most presence in these memories is Ben Scanlon, swinging from the rafters by his neck. He fought for control and hung himself before the Grinner was able to use his body to kill the rest of us. I have no issue accepting the fact that he didn’t do it for me – he did it to save his sister – and now here I have been, dragging her back through the muck, pulling her by the ankles back down into the darkness he tried to spare her from.
Malcolm pulled me back out my stupor.
MALCOLM: You really want to know how I ended up here? I passed out from blood loss less than a mile from the church. Someone found me curled up behind the dumpster I’d chosen to die behind, and before I knew it, paramedics were shining flashlights in my eyes. Soon enough, they started asking questions about the disappearances. Turns out they pinned us as some sort of suicide cult. But the questions got boring and repetitive, and then Hydra got involved as they always do, because they just can’t seem to keep their noses out of anything. So I confessed… I said I killed them.
JEREMY: Wait… what do you know about Project Hydra?
MALCOLM: About as much as you do… which is not much. Only that they sent out some sort of fake FBI agents and led the police on a bunch of bullshit leads. They also managed to keep everything on the hush-hush, and somehow kept the media on a leash. Everyone involved – hell, most of the guards in this prison – have some sort of idea of what they think I did, but Hydra made sure there wasn’t even a single social media post about this.
JEREMY: How do you even know all of this?
MALCOLM: Oh… I thought you and Brianne were buddies. She didn’t tell you that she’s sat in that same chair you’re sitting in? Twice?
Malcolm was and is a liar. He’s manipulative, and he knows how to get under your skin, and he seems to really enjoy it. When I first checked in to visit him, I was told at the desk that I was his first and only visitor, but could those records have been manipulated? Had Brianne really visited Malcolm in prison and kept it from me? Did Ron or Mark Anderson know?
My conversation with Malcolm wasn’t over yet, but I want to pause that conversation for a moment and play you the phone call I had with Brianne when I got home. I’ll pick up the conversation with Malcolm in just a minute.
SOUND: A phone is ringing before Brianne Scanlon answers.
BRIANNE: Hey…what’s up?
JEREMY: I’m sitting down and doing some editing for the podcast, and I just had a quick question – and it’s okay if you don’t feel comfortable answering – but did you happen to talk to Malcolm?
BRIANNE: What- in prison? Did he say I visited him? Because I didn’t. I have enough problems to deal with, without manufacturing more. I know you did, and you told me all about it, but you didn’t mention this. If you were worried about it, then why did you sit on it? You could’ve just asked me.
JEREMY: It’s not like that, I just- I just wanted to get it on record. Do you mind if I use this on the podcast?
BRIANNE: That’s fine, but you gotta start telling me you’re recording me at the start of the conversation.
Well, that answered my question. If I had to guess, that’s just Malcolm’s way of sowing division between us. If his old journals are anything to go by, he wasn’t always like this: so chaotic and manipulative. He was a quiet kid, somewhat well meaning. But something changed in him around the time he accidentally sacrificed his sister to the Grinner.
You can see it in Doctor Patel’s write up, following his first therapy visit to her as a young boy. He responds to her questions with questions of his own, and picks topics he thinks will draw out completely unrelated conversations and draw the spotlight away from his issues. He works to run out the clock so he can leave without ever having to answer for his strange and concerning behaviors.
Brianne had a theory on how all of this snowballed into what it’s become: what drew Malcolm further into the darkness. She told me that day we first met in that old church to destroy the demon once and for all that she thought the Grinner had imparted just a little bit of itself in him the day he unknowingly fed his sister to that demon. Maybe it left a little more behind this time when it was in his body, or maybe that same piece of darkness remained, festering and rotting away more of Malcolm’s mind.
If Brianne hadn’t talked to Malcolm and told him all this, then I can’t help but wonder who did. I had a likely answer. It was Dr Patel. I have no doubt that she has some sort of game in all of this. After all, why would she have set up this meeting between the two of us? Why hadn’t Project Hydra just simply killed Malcolm, or had him sent off to some facility?
The fact is, they wanted Malcolm in this prison, and they wanted me in this room talking to him. But then again, maybe they didn’t. Maybe this was all just Patel, playing some sort of sick game with all of us.
Now, back to my conversation with Malcolm.
JEREMY: Let’s leave Brianne out of this.
MALCOLM: I’m guessing she didn’t tell you. Well, what else is in your little notebook there?
SOUND: Pages are being shuffled.
MALCOLM: Skipping some pages there, huh?
JEREMY: Why did you give up on trying to get back your sister? Why did you leave her there? Why did you start working for the demon that took her?
MALCOLM: [he sighs]
It didn’t take her… no…
[he takes a deep breath]
I gave her to it…and there’s no getting those things back. Things don’t ever come back from there. It took me far too long to accept that.
JEREMY: But you’ve been there. And now you’re… here.
MALCOLM: Correct… but I think we are both speaking about it from the wrong perspective. It’s not just some far off otherworldly dimension. It’s a stomach. Over time it digests you. It envelops you and erodes your willpower. That’s why I wasn’t able to save Tabitha. My little sister wasn’t my little sister anymore. She wanted to stay there. She thought it was beautiful. It’d already digested too much of her. That’s what it does to you, and if I stayed any longer it would’ve happened to me too. That’s where your soul goes when you cut a deal with a demon. It doesn’t go to hell. You don’t get to meet the devil, if he even exists. One day you just get swallowed up and rot away in its stomach.
JEREMY: Why did you become his servant? If you couldn’t right your wrongs, then why didn’t you just walk away from all of this? How did you come to worship the Grinner?
MALCOLM: [he laughs]
I don’t worship it. I never have. Those fools that followed my lead – the people they think I murdered – they worshipped it. They walked right in to its stomach. Years ago I tried to walk away, but something kept calling me back. I think its stink was on me the day I opened my grandfather’s book and started reading it. I tried to forget about it and move on, but every time I closed my eyes I’d pictured my sister, twirling in the fields of flittering eyelids and twitching flesh. Over time I came to accept that that’s what true beauty is.
I opened the book again because I wanted to escape. I wanted command over that beautiful place, and I wanted to see my sister again. I hated my life. I hated the man I was becoming, and I wanted to go back… you always want to go back.
But then the demon spoke to me. He told me that I could make the whole earth beautiful. And in this new beautiful land I would be a king. He told me he had plans and I was always meant to be a part of them. It was impossible to turn down that offer.
I don’t hate you, Jeremy. I understand why you’re afraid. Trust me, I was once afraid, too. But you’ll see one day that there’s nothing to be afraid of. We don’t know where we go when we die. That is truly and unfathomably terrifying. But in this place, there’s no sickness or health, no way to tell what’s pleasure or pain, and when you die you die for good. Your soul just disappears because there’s nothing left.
I truly wish for you to experience that beauty, Jeremy. And you will… soon.
JEREMY: What do you mean by that, Malcolm? What do you mean by “soon?”
MALCOLM: The thing you call the Grinner isn’t dead, my friend. He’s still here on Earth and he’s still got… big plans for you.
I have to admit that at this point I’d had enough. That last statement made me sick to think about. I was obviously a bit nervous throughout this entire conversation, but I wanted to avoid having an anxiety attack in front of Malcolm. I couldn’t show him how vulnerable I actually was. If this was all just some sick way to mess with my head, it had absolutely worked.
SOUND: Jeremy gets up, walks to the door, and knocks on it.
MALCOLM: I’ll see you again soon… Jeremy.
SOUND: Keys jingle on the other side of the door and it opens, then closes after Jeremy passes through.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER: So, did you get anything interesting out of him?
JEREMY: Not exactly… and, uh, I couldn’t get this digital recorder to work.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER: Do you think he broke it with his mind powers or did something spooky to it?
JEREMY: No. I think I just should have sprung for the twelve dollar recorder… this one was eleven ninety-nine.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER: [brief chuckle]
Well ain’t that some shit.
The drive home was a blur. It’s like my brain wouldn’t allow me to think, because otherwise I’d be too overwhelmed with all of the awful thoughts and implications. I spent the rest of the day sleeping, and doing my best to pretend none of this had ever happened. The following day I got a letter in the mail. It was from the Correctional Facility. From Malcolm. It was too soon for it to have been a follow up to our conversation. It must have been mailed before I even knew we would be speaking. Inside of the envelope was a folded piece of paper which detailed a short story I’d like to share with you now:
“There once was a small boy who was born with a pair of eyes on his arm.
“The eyeballs were squishy and wet, and when he poked at them, they would blink away tears and close tightly to protect themselves from his constant prodding. If he agitated them long enough they’d turn red and watery, and sometimes if he poked at them too much in a week they would swell shut and drip with yellow puss.
“The boy hated the eyes. He hated the way they felt and he hated the thought of them being there. He was a freak, and surely if he’d ever met any other children they’d tease him, or avoid him in disgust. He made his mind up that he’d remove the eyes – get rid of them for good – so he’d be a normal boy, and just like everyone else.
“He tried to pop them out with a spoon, but it hurt and they were in there much deeper and harder to scoop out than he thought. His mind was set on removing them, one way or another, and he soon found himself holding a kitchen knife to the eyes. They were red and swollen, painful and dripping with blood, but he knew it would all be over soon.
“One after another he twisted the knife into the eyes. They snapped and squelched and the blood and the pain was unbearable, but he kept going. He stuck his stubby fingers in to the mushy pulp of the eyes and reached deep until he could feel the slippery wet roots at the bottom and he pulled them out. What remained were two empty bleeding pits that sent his body shivering in pain, but the job was done.
“With a job well done, he rubbed his hand across the elbow on his face, and then ran it through the hair at the end of his arm. Now all he had to worry about was that awful nose and sickening mouth that sat below the eyes.“
I wish I could say there was more to Malcolm’s letter, but there wasn’t.
To be frank, I hope that this is my final correspondence with Malcolm. When I spoke to Brianne last, she made a point about not needing any more problems to deal with, and I think that’s the right approach in situations like this. I don’t think that I got much more information out of Malcolm then what I already knew, and there’s really no way of knowing if anything else he said was actually true. He’s manipulative. He tried right there on the spot to get under my skin, and in reigniting my trauma, he very much succeeded.
What’s most interesting is Malcolm’s knowledge of Project Hydra, and I’ve been kicking myself for not pushing him on it. I know that Malcolm likely wouldn’t have budged, and I could have sabotaged the whole interview by trying, but in hindsight I wish I’d have done it anyway. Then again, Malcolm isn’t exactly trustworthy, so it’s probably a good thing I didn’t let him plant any bad ideas in my head.
As far as I’m concerned, Malcolm is behind bars, and whatever knowledge he has about Hydra is safer tucked away in his deranged mind. Now that the excitement has worn off, I’m happy to say I’m done with him.
I meant to end this episode here, but while recording and doing some last minute editing, I could hear my cell phone ringing in the other room. By the time I paused the recording, I’d already missed the call. Not thinking much of it, and not recognizing the number, I went back to recording, deleting the bit of audio that had been sullied by my ringing phone and getting back to business. It wasn’t until later that I realized that whoever had called had left a voicemail.
I recorded it and, barring any other sudden updates, I’d like to end this episode with a recording from my voicemail.
MALCOLM: Hey buddy! I bet you missed my voice.
Looks like I’m a free man. Turns out that all I had to do was say please, and they opened the gates right on up! Even gave me a badge to swipe if I ever want to get back in. There’s something I wanted to tell you before you stormed out. One of the scraps of meat the Grinner left to rot inside my skull: I’m pretty sure you’re going to die soon, Jeremy… really soon. You’re just laying there… the life leaving your eyes… there’s this stupid look on your face and you’ve got this gaping open mouth…
I don’t really know how, and I’m not really sure why, or if there’s anything you can do about it, but I thought you should know. I gotta get going, but I’ll see you soon, Jeremy. You know… if you’re not dead by then.