The Imagination of a Child – Season 4 Episode 15

A child sits on a bed, facing away. A dark fog appears on the right. A VHS-like distortion is impacting the picture. The title is displayed: The Imagination of a Child.

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The Storage Papers is a fiction horror podcast.

Discretion is advised.

See Content Warnings
References to death, profanity, discussion of a tumor
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy reviews documents from Doctor Patel about Malcolm Foye’s childhood inside Project Hydra, after his sister disappeared. He finds information on a deity Malcolm was obsessed with that could allegedly bring people back from the dead. Jeremy discovers that the entity known as the Grinner was brought to life by Malcolm – as opposed to the actual entity he was trying to summon – but nonetheless it grew so powerful that it was no longer under his control. The actual entity may still be out there somewhere.
Jeremy learns his health is worsening, but isn’t concerned about it, because he is confident from his vision at the Pyramidion that’s not how he’ll die.

Transcript

WRITTEN BY JEREMY ENFINGER

Despite witnessing someone entering Joseph Foye’s hotel room moments after Brianne left, I still felt a sense of trust in his motives, and it didn’t even concern me enough to mention it.  I considered it intuition, though I also admitted to myself that my contact with the Pyramidion may have helped me with a sense of discernment about these kinds of things.  

For example, I couldn’t necessarily read her mind, but I just know that Brianne has pure intentions in her efforts to help me with the papers.  Although, I suppose she never gave me a reason not to trust her.  I was sure about it.  This is just one of the many things I have been getting used to ever since then.  I have to wonder if these effects are going to be permanent, or if they’ll dissipate over time.  But then again, time seemed irrelevant while I was touching it.  I’m leaning towards thinking it’s not going to be a factor.  

My entire outlook on the papers has changed now.  Ever since the Pyramidion, I’ve felt a reluctance to dive back into the papers.  There’s danger there, yet they beckon me.  It’s like I already know that continuing to pursue the podcast, looking into Hydra, all the families and lives they’ve managed to damage… It’s a more polarized direction for my life than where I’d like it to go. So while I’m sharing my own story as it happens now on the regular podcast episodes, I’m keeping the one-off stories about reports of local paranormal events to Patreon as kind of a side project.

My wife has been talking about having more children, which I’m not opposed to, and this whole experience has made me appreciate the family I have, even if I never find out what happened to my parents.  At the same time though, I feel pulled toward the papers, unable to simply walk away and let Hydra continue to do… whatever it is they’re doing that once involved me.  I need to make sure they can’t do anything to my family.

I heeded Joseph’s advice about looking into Dr. Patel’s case logs for Malcolm.  There were actually several documents included, most of them containing the label of the pentagram. What’s interesting is most of the other Maker and Shepherd files aren’t nearly as thick as Malcolm’s.  This leads me to believe that he was either extremely gifted or somewhat of a troublemaker… or perhaps both.  Thankfully, she filed these in what seems to be chronological order, though there are no dates on these documents and they don’t specify his age at the time.  

Dr. Patel had some notes scattered throughout these documents, with an incredibly long note on the very top.  She expressed in this note that she only had access to a portion of Malcolm’s medical and psychological information.  The rest was above her clearance level.  She references conversations between Malcolm and one of the Hydra psychologists at the time.

He had a fascination with the occult in early childhood.  They went so far as to provide him literature to read.  Books about witchcraft, spells, and demonology.  They even gave him a King James version of the Bible.  Patel expressed frustration in her notes at the lack of diligence in their methods, that they never sought the source of his fascination with the supernatural.  She maintained a theory that it all led back to his sister, Tabitha.  Her own interactions with Malcolm concluded that until the accident with his dog around the same time he made Tabitha go away, he had actually been a very normal child.  Of course, normal in the psychological sense, not taking into account his abilities as a Maker. 

His behaviors changed dramatically after those events, and if the Hydra doctors gave two shits, they would have noticed and documented a change in his demeanor whenever Tabitha’s name had been mentioned.  And they did mention it several times.  Only they seemed to document Malcolm’s increasing abilities at the time, only having an interest in that, instead of how Malcolm was actually handling the situation.  In some ways, her notes made her sound appalled at Malcolm’s treatment, like she had a heart that wasn’t made of cast iron.

Patel’s notes also indicated Malcolm produced a name during those early sessions.  Malcolm had begun asking questions about a deity figure that he read about in some of his books named (BLEEP).  I’m editing the name out in case it happens to be similar to demonic entities, and going on the theory that stating its name may give it power.  Call me superstitious, I suppose.  

Malcolm’s journaling took a turn after he began speaking of this being.  According to him, it began appearing to him in the night while he was alone, or at least he thought so initially as he couldn’t be certain if he had been fully awake or if he’d been dreaming.  The way he described it was very similar to the way I had begun experiencing shadow figures in my home, peering at me around my bedroom door all that time ago when the Grinner stepped into my life.

I paused my research of Patel’s notes for a moment and took some time to look up this thing’s name online.  A lot of similarities existed between this so-called god that Malcolm refers to in his journals and in Patel’s documents, but there’s also some distinguishable differences.  

I recall previously reading about this being commanding 30 legions of demons in hell and being considered a higher-ranking priest among those given authority to roam the earth.  But as I looked further into it this time, I was focusing on differences between its description and what I personally knew of the Grinner.  This thing is said to have certain powers or abilities that aren’t traditional in demonic lore.  For instance, there are historical references to various cultures worshiping it.  There have been statues found across the world in Greece, South America, and Asia that bear its resemblance.  There are even hieroglyphs in Egypt that are similar.  Most show the appearance of a bipedal, extremely tall humanoid shape but with the head of a bird.  Some depictions have feathers all over and there are some differences between human hands and talon-like claws.  

I still haven’t run across anything saying this thing has anything resembling a large grin, but almost everything I could find about it on the internet says it’s rumored to have the ability to bring people back from the dead.  To anyone who claims to have witnessed it in person, it could be summoned in the hopes that good fortune and protection would be offered, but it also only seems to appear to people who have experienced extreme loss or trauma.  Some of the writings claim it has brought the dead back to life.  Is this what Malcolm was trying to accomplish?  Is he still trying to find a way to get Tabitha back?   

I looked through more of the documents that Dr. Patel had sent me, and I was able to find quite a bit more related to this deity.  One of the documents explained that Malcolm had fallen asleep while reading about this being when video footage captured it on the CCTV monitor after hours.  There was a disk included in the file that I imagined might have some evidence.  Unfortunately, when I tried to insert it into my DVD player, I wasn’t able to view it, so I ordered an external USB DVD player before I could get into the files to check it out.

It was exactly as I imagined at the beginning.  It was old footage, and Malcolm looked to be about 13 or 14 years old.  The quality was poor, and it was quite blurry, but I suppose they didn’t have high-resolution security cameras back then.  

The camera looked like it was fixed to a corner in the room and you could see Malcolm sitting up reading.  A few minutes go by and you can see his head start nodding before he eventually gives up and lies down, the book still open.  A couple of minutes later, you could see Malcolm’s mouth moving.  I don’t know what he’s saying because there’s no audio, but it appears to be repetitive.  And then he stops, and appears to be in a pretty deep sleep.  

A couple more minutes go by and you start to see what looks like smoke forming underneath the space under his doorway.  Then the door opens.  It’s moving slowly, but there’s nobody on the other side of the door pushing it.  It’s moving on its own.  The smoke begins to form a pillar just inside the doorway, stretching from floor to ceiling in a dark, thick cloud you can’t see through while Malcolm continues to sleep.  

You can see the lights in the hallway outside the door begin to flicker as tentacles of smoke stretch out from the main column. One goes toward Malcolm’s desk on the opposite side of the room as his bed.  Another goes toward a chest at the foot of his bed.  Yet another goes toward the book lying next to Malcolm, and several more begin to sprout and examine the things in the room.  Then they all rotate to the side of the smoke column nearest Malcolm and merge to form one large tentacle that makes its way toward him.  

The end of it reaches Malcolm’s face and spreads out, covering it entirely from the view of the camera.  And just as smoothly as it’s been moving the entire time, Malcolm’s head becomes elevated off his pillow, followed by his shoulders, and then his back.  This smoke column is somehow lifting Malcolm up into the air while he’s sleeping.

He’s like this for a really long time.  If I wasn’t so astounded at what I was watching, I would have thought to myself sooner, ‘If this is all on video surveillance, was anyone even watching?  And why hasn’t anyone gone in there to help him?

After what seemed like 5 whole minutes of watching this, the smoke column disappears and Malcolm falls back on his bed, but doesn’t wake up.  It’s the weirdest looking thing I’ve seen in a while… including that video of the Grinner from the hotel parking lot footage.  I decided to slow the video down and look frame by frame.  The smoke disappears first, and then Malcolm falls.  But even more importantly, it only took three frames for it to entirely disappear, and it didn’t just dissipate either. 

The first frame shows it moving away from the floor and ceiling just a bit, shrinking in height.  You can also see more of Malcolm’s face in this frame, but it’s partially obscured by some of the smoke.  Advancing to the second frame shows the smoke column reduced to an odd-shaped mass about the size of a basketball, but not symmetrical.  The single tentacle leading from it to Malcolm’s face is split into two tapered down smaller ones going into Malcolm’s nostrils while he’s still suspended in the air.  By the third frame, the mass is gone and just a billow of black smoke is seen, rather blurry, still going into his nose.  The next frame shows Malcolm’s body starting to drop down toward his bed.

This thing went inside Malcolm.  I don’t know if what I just witnessed is this supposed deity, the demon we’ve come to know as the Grinner, or something else entirely.  That was the first of over 40 video clips contained on that CD!  And yes, I took the time to meticulously watch them all.  After I did, I continued to read through a lot of Patel’s additional documentation from over the following couple of years.

All of the Hydra names are redacted from this paperwork, but it seems like they actually made efforts to learn more about this entity, which continued to manifest itself in Malcolm’s room at night.  Efforts were made to apprehend this being, or to at least get eyes on it in the first-person by some of the Hydra Occult Studies team.  Of course, the figure was not able to be apprehended, but the longer this surveillance went on, the more it started showing itself, and the more it began to take on different appearances.

After going through years of documentation included in that box, and after a several year gap in documentation, only a few were included of Malcolm’s from his mid-twenties.  Those few had Dr. Patel’s name on them, and I suspect they’re from her early interactions with him.  They recalled Malcolm’s continued interaction with the being, which Malcolm hadn’t initially been sure he had successfully summoned versus something he manifested entirely on his own.  Patel suspected the latter since there was no specific proof, at least of a scientific basis or even historical resemblance of the deity Malcolm had been reading about in his childhood and had attempted to bring forth.  Patel ultimately concluded that this being was a result of Malcolm’s Maker abilities, completely brought into existence by Malcolm’s imagination.

Over the years, Malcolm had developed a kind of relationship with it.  He taught it things, had an inner-dialogue with it, and nurtured it, until it began thinking its own thoughts and making its own decisions.  Malcolm had been somewhat of an authority figure over it for years until finally, one day, it decided it didn’t want to do what Malcolm wanted it to do.  It was a powerful being, and one that had superhuman abilities itself. It could read minds to an extent, it knew things that most people didn’t, and it wasn’t a demon or a deity of any kind.  It was the product of Malcolm’s imagination that had developed its own motives and intentions.  

It soon flourished outside Malcolm’s authority and began venturing further into the world, using Malcolm for its own purposes, influencing his thoughts and actions to further influence other people like the Order of the Divine Acolytes.  A cult. It told Malcolm what to do, almost like a possession, and its influence was strong.

Patel theorized it would leave Malcolm entirely to cause chaos, and she had been developing a plan with Hydra to contain it.  She included a report in her documents from the Department of Occult Studies within Hydra.  She read it, but wasn’t sure whether its conclusions were correct.  And then right around the time she began seeing evidence that it was growing more and more powerful… that its physical independence from Malcolm was likely going to happen soon, she received a phone call from Malcolm saying it had already occurred, and that he needed help.  

According to Patel’s notes, she met him in a park in the middle of the night, and found him lying down on a park bench, barely able to move, and bleeding from the chest.  He told her about this group of people who had lured him into a church to confront him.  Malcolm claimed to have blacked out shortly after arriving, and awoke when a man named Jeremy had been using an ornate dagger to carve the Star of Cepheus into his chest.

He reported to Patel that this being, who we’d referred to as The Grinner, was no longer with him.  Patel noted this event as further proof of her theory that Malcolm had brought The Grinner into existence with his Maker abilities, which meant he had initially failed in summoning the being he thought would be the answer to his problems.  

There was one last page in the folder containing Malcolm’s documents, and it just had a few scribbles on it.  It was hardly legible, but it had my name on it.  Below my name, it had the word, “Podcast,” and then next to that, it had in capital letters and underlined, “THE STORAGE PAPERS.”

The very last marking on that page was a gigantic question mark.  I had a feeling that Dr. Patel may have had the same question that’s been shuffling inside my mind this whole time reading this.  The question that had me wondering for so long: If the Grinner we met in that church was something that Malcolm just brought into existence based off of what he read about the real entity and a lot of his own imagination, then the real one is still out there, and Malcolm is likely still trying to summon it.  He’s still trying to find Tabitha, and the only way he knows how is to pin his hopes to this deity.  

I wonder if that’s why he’s kidnapping Makers and Shepherds.  Either way, I know Patel was likely in on something with Malcolm, and I only wish she would have left me some kind of clue as to what was going on in her notes.  I still have more of them to sift through, but at a glance, these are the main documents containing Malcolm’s name.  

(pause and music)

Before I end this episode, I need to follow through on a promise I made you all.  I told you that I’d be following up with you regarding my neurology consultation, and after receiving the results of my MRI.  It’s kind of complicated, but I’ll do the best I can.

My neurologist basically said I have a tumor that’s growing rapidly inside my brain.  The MRI confirmed there’s vasculature within the tumor, meaning it’s growing with its own blood supply, which makes it very risky, if not impossible to remove.  Basically, if they go in to surgically remove it, there could be an unrecoverable brain bleed.  But there’s the irregular shape of it as well, which makes it seem like it has fingers extending into other regions of the brain.

Right now, there’s no reason to believe it has metastasized to other areas of my body, however, that risk is also high since it can easily travel via the bloodstream.  I’m supposed to have a repeat brain scan in about a month or so. 

I don’t know exactly why I’m sharing all of this on the podcast except that I started this season with the intention of being more transparent with you all about some personal things.  But I also don’t feel too worried about this thing.  You see, I’ve seen my death.  Witnessed it first-hand.  The Pyramidion showed it to me.  And I know for a fact that I don’t die because of a brain tumor.  The only thing that really concerns me now is why Malcolm claimed to know I was going to die soon. 

Knowing – Season 4 Episode 14

An elderly man floats above a bed in near pitch darkness. The title is displayed: The Knowing.

Listen

The Storage Papers is a fiction horror podcast.

Discretion is advised.

See Content Warnings
References to death, profanity
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy, Brianne, and Joseph track down the next appearance of the Pyramidion. The Pyramidion appears, rendering Jeremy’s attempt at recording it useless, and finds that the roughly 10-12 hours spent with in its proximity somehow translated to nearly a week. While in its presence, Jeremy telepathically learns that the injection Doctor Patel gave her to help them stop the Dream Killer took away Brianne’s abilities…and that she wants them back. Jeremy sees two futures for himself: his own death, and growing old with his wife. On the way back, Joseph tells Jeremy and Brianne that they will begin to experience new abilities, and their growing power could make them a target for Malcolm.

Transcript

WRITTEN BY JEREMY ENFINGER

It took me about thirty minutes to get to the hotel.  It had been three days since I spoke with Joseph Foye, and the entire drive had me contemplating this whole thing.  The podcast, when I started it, I thought was going to be something of a “monster of the week” type of thing.  Entertainment for people who enjoy tales of the unexplained.  I never could have imagined the shift it would take.  My drive to the hotel was reflective.

Look at me now.  I’m a character in what was supposed to be a story about other people and their strange experiences.  It never occurred to me before my drive that the peoples’ stories I was sharing and the often life-changing outcomes that happened as a result; Perhaps they weren’t my stories to tell.  It’s kind of fitting that I’m in their position now in a sense.  I mean, I have a choice regarding whether or not to tell my own developing story and keep the podcast going, but at this point, I think I’d be a hypocrite to stop, right?  I guess I’m trying to find the right balance between my own privacy and following through on something I’ve started.

Part of me really thinks these stories need to be told.  You don’t hear about them on the news, but they happen.  Law enforcement, and a majority of people in general tend to ridicule these types of things, and they need to be normalized.  Perhaps I should make more effort to randomize some personal information when I share them on the podcast.  I can’t help but feel like getting this out there is still doing some good though.  

Look at me… I’m rambling into a microphone like a crazy person. At least for now, I think it’s important to continue sharing everything I’m learning, at least for the people of San Diego and the bordering Southern California regions.  This stuff is going on without most peoples’ knowledge, and there needs to be accountability.

That said, as I neared my destination, I felt uneasy.  I couldn’t explain it until I turned into the parking lot.  I stopped after my car cleared the driveway before looking for a parking space.  The lot was fuller than I’d seen it before, but from my perspective inside the car, I couldn’t help but imagine my view in the spectrum of infrared, as I had seen it so many times before.  This was the hotel where Joseph Foye’s alternate self had been decapitated by a gunshot wound. It’s where I observed the Grinner on video for the very first time, and it’s where Ron’s presence was confirmed by a version of that video given to me by Doctor Patel.   

I couldn’t help but wonder why this location was selected.  Was there something about it that remained pivotal?  I parked my car, and without hesitation, began walking toward the room that I was familiar with from the video.  There were a lot more cars in the parking lot than I expected.  I wondered how many people realized there was a grizzly crime scene here.  That thought had me contemplating how this hotel was different than any other, and how many deaths actually occur at hotels that we don’t even know about when we stay at them.  I can’t explain my morbid train of thought, but figured I’d share.

As I approached the door to the room, I pulled out my recorder and hit the record button.  As I raised up my closed fist to give a wrap on the door, it swung open before my knuckles could make contact.  Brianne stood and beckoned for me to come in.  The lights were off and the curtains were drawn. 

My eyes struggled to adjust to the darkness of the room, and before I could ask her any questions, she leaned in and whispered, “That won’t work in here”, placing her index finger on my voice recorder.

She was right.  I had left the recorder on during my entire visit to the hotel room, but static interference was all it picked up; A phenomenon that I haven’t ever observed with that digital recorder before.

She used the same index finger to raise it to her pursed lips, indicating she wanted me to be quiet.  My eyes weren’t quite adjusted just yet, but I made a shrugging motion, wondering why I needed to be quiet.

She placed both hands on my shoulders and turned me toward my right, then pointed towards one of the beds.  I couldn’t believe my eyes as the room revealed another person within the room.  Joseph Foye was above the bed, seemingly hovering in mid-air like some kind of magic levitation trick you’d expect to see at a county fair.  Only, he appeared to be asleep.  

Brianne leaned in and whispered, “He’s been like that for a couple of hours.  Apparently, he goes into some kind of trance state to locate the Pyramidion right before it’s about to appear.  Sometimes he turns in the air like a rotisserie chicken.  Fucking crazy, right?”

“Fucking crazy” was definitely accurate.  I stared for quite a while until I realized my mouth was agape.  Something about watching him hover in the air like that was mesmerizing.  I turned to look at Brianne, and was about to ask her why we had to whisper when she became startled while still looking in Joseph’s direction.

Being somewhat surprised by her expression, I turned to look at Joseph again, and I don’t know how the hell he did it, but he was standing upright about a foot away from me, fully awake, as if he’d been there with us the whole time.  I don’t know how he was able to go from hovering above the bed to handshake distance within what seemed like a nanosecond, but it made my hair stand on end.

“I’m glad you came,” he told me.  “I know where it’s going to be.”

He walked over to a little circular table in the room where he had a laptop and pulled up some information.  I couldn’t see exactly what it was, but after a couple of minutes, he picked up the hotel phone and made an outgoing call.  Brianne and I could hear through the receiver that someone picked up and said, “Hello?” before he immediately hung up the phone and told us, “We’re going to need to wait until sundown to head out.”

We all spent several hours in that hotel room.  We each let our guards down a little and got to know one another.  Joseph was… well, grandfatherly.  He had old war stories and loved a good joke.  He had a kindness and consideration for Brianne and me, and was generally pleasant to be around.  Still, there was sadness about him.  I sensed some element of regret.  He held back his emotions, even when I asked him about Malcolm, but you could tell they were lingering, hidden behind bottomless blue eyes that contrasted with his light gray hair.

Brianne, on the other hand, had seemed to relax.  She was smiling and laughing.  I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever seen her smile, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit of relief knowing that she was enjoying the company.  She’s a strong woman who’s been through a lot, and she’s handled herself quite well among the circumstances she’s been put in.  

We ordered pizza from this mom and pop place nearby and had it delivered.  It was probably the best pizza I’d had in California, and that’s saying something considering how long I’ve lived here.  I never knew this pizza place existed, and when I practically cried after taking my first bite, Joseph gave me one of those winks that grandfathers do and said, “Good, isn’t it?”

Once our bellies were full and the conversation began to die down, we all began checking the clock on the nightstand.  Sundown was around 6:00 p.m. that night, and we all got into Brianne’s car as soon as the light left the sky.  Joseph directed her to drive to Coronado Island.

After crossing the bridge, Joseph directed Brianne to a residential street uncomfortably close to the Naval Air Base on the island.  She stopped, turned off the engine, and asked Joseph, “Okay, what’s next?”

Joseph said, “Wait here for a minute,” and exited the vehicle.  We watched him walk across the road, past the house on the corner, and perhaps one or two houses down the street beyond that before stopping and pulling out a cell phone.  Brianne and I glanced at each other wondering what he was doing.  

He paced back and forth for a couple of minutes while he was on the phone, looking at a couple of the houses as if reporting information about them, and eventually hung up and started walking back to the car.  Once back, he said, “Now we just need to wait a few minutes.”  

Less than five minutes later, a fire truck came around the corner with sirens blaring.  Six firemen exited the truck and began to go door to door knocking and evacuating people from their homes.  While people gathered in confusion across the street from the fire truck, where the firemen were now inspecting the gas main, Joseph had a mischievous smirk on his face.

He said, “Gas leaks can take a little while to find.  Are you two ready?”  

Brianne and I both chuckled and nodded, then Joseph led us toward the corner house, on the adjacent side where the fire truck and all of the home occupants couldn’t see us.  I watched him scale a shoulder-high brick wall like I probably could have 15 or 20 years ago myself, amazed at his physical abilities.  The man just kept surprising me.  Brianne followed, and then I did, admittedly a bit more awkwardly.  

The backyard was mostly level, but toward the adjacent wall, there was a steep downhill portion that Joseph motioned to.  We were able to see one of the firemen in the window of the home, likely the kitchen, and remained out of sight until we saw him exit that room. Once it was clear, Joseph led the way and stopped in front of a large open wastewater drain pipe big enough to walk in hunched over.  Once inside, he pulled out a flashlight.  The smell was pretty bad, but thank goodness there was only an inch or so of water in the bottom of it.  I’m not sure I’d be able to handle it at a waist-deep level.

He led the way straight back for a while, and then made a right turn.  After 10 feet or so, the tunnel opened up to a larger room where several other drainways entered.  Joseph turned around and assisted us out of the pipe to the level ground within the room.  Then he picked up a piece of rebar he found on the floor of the chamber and drew a big “X” next to the tunnel we just came out of saying, “In case we get turned around in here.”  

I looked around the room and asked, “Where to next?”

Joseph said, “It will be here shortly.  Not sure if you’ll be able to get much use out of your recorder, but you might as well turn it on and try.”

And try, I did.  I pulled out my field recorder, turned it on and pressed “record.”  We stood there and waited for about 20 minutes, but then… I can’t even begin to explain what happened using words.  I want to play back what the audio recorder picked up at first before I give you some additional information.


SOUND: Distorted, unintelligible talking is heard, then it distorts completely to a warbled, almost science fiction-like noise.


In case you couldn’t understand that, I asked if it was possible that he might be misinformed about the location this thing is going to show up at.

It was dark and I couldn’t see him, but I could feel him glaring at me as if I asked a stupid question. He told me I was very perceptive.

We felt a great rumbling, like an earthquake. That’s when Joseph said, “No, it’s coming.”

I was concerned about our safety. Then my head began to hurt. Brianne was asking if I was okay and the audio just kind of warbled out until it was no longer recognizable. That sound proceeded to last approximately twenty seconds on my recorder, but there’s a couple of things I am struggling to explain about it.  

First off, I have a 32 GB micro SD card in that recorder that was formatted prior to pushing the record button.  It should be good for at least 12 hours at my current settings.  Including the 20 minutes of standing around prior to hearing those strange noises, there’s just a little over 22 minutes of audio recorded on my SD card… yet the SD card’s memory is completely full.  What I just played for you took up a majority of the memory storage, which seems impossible to me.

The other thing that’s troubling is what actually happened after my head started hurting.  We were 5 feet or less from the Pyramidion for what seemed to be at least 10-12 hours.  So not only was the digital recorder memory maxed out after 22 minutes, but after we left, and once I got home, I was greeted by my wife who was not happy with me.  According to her, I had been missing for nearly a week.  She had even called Detective Anderson, who knew what we were headed out to do, and he was able to reassure her a bit, but he wasn’t able to estimate how long I would be gone.  I’ve gotta say, my employer wasn’t happy with me at all either.  

I’m happy to describe what happened during my perceived 10-12 hours near the Pyramidion, but like these details I’ve just shared with you, I can’t say I understand it completely, or even try to explain it, so I’ll just summarize it from my own experience.

It all started with the rumbling sound that was similar to an earthquake, and then we heard this kind of pulsating, almost mechanical sound as the Pyramidion phased into the room.  It was like it wasn’t there, and then all of a sudden, it was.

Brianne didn’t hesitate at all.  She walked right up to it and placed her hand on it.  She seemed to be reacting with it, almost like she was having a conversation, but not using words.  She would nod her head, well up with tears, and make hand gestures.  After a few moments passed, I could hear – not with my ears, but internally within my head – her conversation with her brother, Ben.  It was like a doorway to the dead, but that’s not all that resided within it.

Joseph motioned for me to get closer to it.  I was hesitant at first, but after taking some slow steps toward it, my emotions became uncontrollable.  Tears flowed down my cheeks as I felt an overwhelming sense of joy.  I’d never felt this happy before, and I could hear Brianne, Ben, and Joseph’s voices inside my head in unison say, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it Jeremy?”

At that point, I closed my eyes.  I instantly saw into my past.  It was like my brain was reduced to downloaded information that I had long forgotten, and I just received some kind of upgrade that allowed me to instantaneously remember a lot of my memories.  I remembered my children being born, my wedding day, and things I was doing with my life before my wedding.  I remember bits and pieces of the Hydra experiments.  I remembered for the first time the process I had undergone to previously erase my memories.  The process that has been disguised as my accident.  I didn’t recognize the people strapping me into that chair just before losing consciousness, but I knew they were Hydra.  Deep down, I had hoped I could remember my parents, but that didn’t happen that night.

It’s a dangerous thing, mettling with ideas you’ve cut yourself off from for so long.  I had made peace with the fact that I might never remember my parents, but I guess some part of me still had hope – at least after Joseph suggested there was the possibility that my brain might be healed here.

The entire time all this was occurring, I could see different things.  They weren’t complete, but I could see some of Brianne’s memories.  She hadn’t said anything to me, but the injection that Dr. Patel had caused her harm in some way.  I concentrated to see if I could learn more.  It was removing her abilities over time.  Brianne was with us in hopes to gain them back, and to potentially even grow her abilities beyond what she previously had.  She had been keeping a majority of them secret from me.     

The Brianne who’s head I got into at the Pyramidion was not the Brianne I had come to know.  It’s hard to explain.  She had an insane amount of initiative and was out for purpose.  I think I’ve spent so much time observing her grieve, it was unexpected.  She was ready to take on challenges, to fight the uphill battle, to destroy Hydra. It’s hard to explain this shift in perception, but let’s just say I’m glad we’re on the same team.

I was also able to see some of Joseph’s memories.  He had regrets, mainly over Malcolm.  He hadn’t lost hope for him, but he was damn close.  At one point, I got the sensation that Joseph was aware that I was voyuerizing his memories.  For a brief moment, it almost felt as if Malcolm was there with us.  I could sense his presence, but at the same time, I figured it was likely just a memory or sensation of Joseph’s that I was tapping into.  Still, I easily recognized it after being near him a couple times now, and it reminded me of our conversation in the prison.

It’s hard to describe in its entirety what I was feeling at that moment, but I knew three things: One – that I felt a bit ashamed, like I had been witnessing something unintended, yet I continued to watch.  Two – Joseph became immediately aware of it and had the ability to shut it down, though he didn’t seem upset.  It was like the acceptance a parent experiences when they catch their child telling their first lie – it’s just a part of being a child.  And three – If he hadn’t done that, I would have seen more.  I don’t know how I knew it, but he had a lot of answers that I was seeking, but I just couldn’t tap into them.  I only knew it was there once it was gone… a void space, like a tooth that had been pulled that your tongue can’t help probing.  I also got the faintest notion of something else though.  It was almost as if Joseph had some kind of hidden motive for bringing me here, but that moment was fleeting.

At one point, it was almost as if he suggested I not focus on the petty information of the past, and guided me toward greater possibilities, focusing forward.  He seemed to already be aware of some events that he wanted me to see, and telepathically encouraged me to focus, so I did.  Once I knew how to look there, I knew what was going to happen in the coming weeks, and when I leaned toward the Pyramidion and concentrated, I could see further into the future.  I stepped closer to the Pyramidion and my ability to see these things exponentially increased. I can’t and won’t tell you about some of the things I witnessed in the pristine reflection, in and around me, for fear of those things coming to fruition.  But I will share one of those things I was initially afraid of.  I saw my own death.

I can only share this with you because I could feel my emotions at the moment of my death.  It wasn’t necessarily sad.  I am comforted.  I have closure.  I was also able to see beyond my death, but it was confusing.  I could see myself growing old with my wife, living by a lake in a log cabin, enjoying a quiet life with nature and stargazing next to a fire at night.  But it’s all happening after I die.  I’m so confused. I’m not sure which version is real.

I turn to look at Joseph, who has his eyes closed and his right hand is outstretched toward me.  What’s he doing?  I try to perceive his thoughts but can’t any longer, but I still feel somehow reassured that I can trust him.

When I touched the Pyramidion, my inner self awakened, and I could see into the abyss.  I now have knowledge of things that are there, of the beginning and of the end.  Alpha and Omega exist outside of our perception of time.  They just are.

The feeling of elation was basked in for hours after I made contact with it.  There was no fear, no stress, no being worried about anyone or anything.  In that time, we just were… and it felt amazing.

And then all of a sudden, the feelings subsided and silence befell us.  I opened my eyes to darkness, knowing I had permanently changed.  My body ached and I was exhausted. And eventually Joseph said we needed to return to the hotel.

The car ride back to the hotel was silent.  It was like we already knew what we’d say to one another, and speaking in that moment would just ruin it.  We savored it while it lasted.  I do recall that feeling subsiding as we re-entered the hotel room.  It was almost disappointing being away from the Pyramidion, like returning home after a long, relaxing vacation, with the knowledge that you inevitably need to return to the mundane routine on Monday morning.  Brianne and I were a bit disoriented when Joseph started speaking again.  

He told us that we’d each experience new abilities over the coming weeks, and that came with a few warnings.  He said that would attract the attention of entities that hadn’t known us yet, and that using those abilities was like turning on a lighthouse in the dark.  It would draw them near us as we grew brighter.  He encouraged us to use those abilities sparingly.  He said there were things that would flourish in our light, and there were also things that would seek to destroy it once they were aware of its presence.

He also warned us about Malcolm.  He said he may be able to somehow sense us now, or perhaps inherently know that our abilities are growing without having been with us.  He told us Malcolm had been exposed to the Pyramidion as well long ago, and that he desired to be near it again, and we should not underestimate the lengths he might go to in order to make that happen.

One final thing he suggested was to more thoroughly review the documents that Dr. Patel had sent me before her untimely death.  He believed I could gain more insight into Malcolm’s current motives by reviewing any information contained within those files.  He seemed sad again at this suggestion, and if I hadn’t perceived it previously, it would be apparent that he held some level of regret whenever he brought up his grandson.

As we began to leave the room, I felt exhausted and somewhat sore.  My legs were tired, which made me think of my physical condition as reported to me by my physicians.  As far as the “healing powers of the Pyramidion,” I can’t be sure.  I certainly don’t feel any different right now.  The headache I had when it first arrived went away as soon as I had touched it.  But I suppose I’ll need to wait until my next doctor’s appointment or brain MRI before I’ll know if any physical benefits occurred as a result of my exposure.

As Brianne and I got into the car, I sat for a moment and contemplated asking her about having her abilities removed by that injection Dr. Patel had given her.  I wanted to know more about her motives for getting them back.  I couldn’t muster the courage to ask though, and I didn’t want to seem too nosy for peering into her thoughts without her consent back there. As she pulled out of the hotel parking lot and began to drive away, I got a glance of the hotel from the street just for a moment.  The door to Joseph’s hotel room had been reopened, and I saw someone else walk in before it left my line of sight from the car.

Choose Your Fate – Season 4 Episode 13

A tombstone with Jeremy's name is reflected in a Pyramidion. The episode title is displayed "Choose Your Fate."

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The Storage Papers is a fiction horror podcast.

Discretion is advised.

See Content Warnings
Profanity, references to suicide and suicidal ideation
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy learns he has a brain tumor and is ordered on bedrest while he’s scheduled for follow-up tests. While recovering, he describes his meeting with Joseph Foye at El Campo Cemetery. Joseph reveals he was blackmailed into working with Hydra in a similar way that Ron was. His daughter (Malcolm’s mother) is killed by Hydra and Joseph finds a way to get out. Malcolm is coerced into bringing an alternate Joseph Foye into our string of reality, who ultimately ends up helping Joseph create a resistance group to Hydra. We learn that alt. Joseph is the body from the hotel and that Gerald Hubert (helping Joseph) uses that to fake his own death.

Transcript

WRITTEN BY JEREMY ENFINGER

Hi everyone.  Thanks for joining me again this week on The Storage Papers.  First things first, I suppose.  I’m still waiting to find out when I can see neurology.  COVID is a persistent bitch.  Every time I have a doctor’s appointment, or try to schedule one, they tend to be a few months out supposedly due to staffing levels and/or delays in available resources for the medical teams.  

I can’t begin to describe how frustrating it is… knowing there’s an uncontrolled growth inside my skull that could potentially threaten my life.  A lot of my time, as well as my wife’s, have been spent since the last episode trying to get literally any neurologist in our own county and any neighboring county to see me soon.  But so far I haven’t had any luck.  Perhaps that’s just not in the cards for me… might as well keep the podcast going in the meantime.

Interestingly enough, the news about my tumor on the last episode also got the attention of Brianne.  She baked some cookies and brought them over.  This seemed like an incredibly kind gesture, and given the fact that I’d seen all of the instant-meal options inside her pantry and refrigerator, and had also never seen her cook, let alone bake anything, it meant a great deal to me.  I can see how her career choice of becoming a nurse really suits her.  She’s kind, and right now, the world needs more of that.  Needless to say I think I got one of the cookies she made while my kids devoured the rest of them.  Kids will be kids I suppose.

Brianne wasn’t the only person who’s attention was grabbed by that last episode though.  I received a text from an unlisted number with an address, a date and a time.  The text was followed by the initials, “JF.”  Joseph Foye wanted to meet with me.  Thankfully, he was willing to let me record our discussion when we met:


Joseph: Thank you for being willing to meet with me on such short notice.

Jeremy: Honestly, I was surprised to see your text.  But also, you tend to shed a lot of light on things involving the papers… and it’s great material for the podcast.  Do I have your permission to record our conversation?

Joseph: Of course.

Jeremy: Great, thank you!  So what’s new?  Since El Campo, I mean.

Joseph: Well, first I just wanted to say I was sorry to hear the news about your brain tumor.

Jeremy: Well, I don’t know much yet, so I’m trying to stay in good spirits.  I just hate all the medical delays we’re experiencing right now.  It’s probably harder on my wife than it is on me at this point.

Joseph: I understand.  But there’s something you should know.  About your tumor, that is.

Jeremy: What’s that?

Joseph: Well, we’ve seen this before in the Hydra kids.  There was enough of them in the Pyramidion experiments to be considered… “statistically significant” to presume that your tumor may have been caused by one of two things:  Prolonged exposure to the Pyramidion or…

Jeremy: Or?

Joseph: Or what they did to you after you were discarded from the program.

Jeremy: So it’s true?

Joseph: Jeremy, I think you’ve known for a while that you were once a test subject of Hydra.

Jeremy: Suspected, yes.  Known?  I mean, I don’t have any memory of it.  I know I have medical files with the other Makers and Shepherds, but are you saying that you’ve known this whole time?

Joseph: Yes.

Jeremy: Why haven’t you said anything then?

Joseph: It’s not my story to tell.

Jeremy: You say that a lot.

Joseph: Only once before if we’re counting.

Jeremy: So why tell me now if it’s not your story to tell?

Joseph: I was asked to tell you, in light of your news.

Jeremy: Before it’s too late, you mean.  My prognosis is really that bad?

Joseph: No, I don’t mean to assume that what’s happening with you is the same thing that happened with the other Hydra kids.  And I’m not here to relay any sort of “doom and gloom” messages.  I’m here to offer you some information, and a little hope.

Jeremy: Lucky me.

Joseph: Look, I’m risking a lot every time I communicate with you.  If you’re not interested, I’ve got other things I can be doing.

Jeremy: No, sorry.  It’s just that I’m taking in a lot of information right now; some very personal, and I’m just not sure where my priorities should lie.  I’m kind of thinking, if I don’t have much time left, I really shouldn’t be wasting what little bit of it I may have on this podcast.  I should be with my family.

Joseph: Or, I have another potential solution for you.

Jeremy: One that can remove a tumor?

Joseph: Well, yes… and no.

Jeremy: Oh this is great.  I can’t wait to hear this!

Joseph: You’re upset.  I understand that.  But let me share some information with you first, and why it’s so important to consider what I have to offer.

Jeremy: I’m all ears.


Joseph Foye sat there with me for a couple of hours telling me some of the history of what Hydra was doing with children.  Aside from the experimentation on those kids with documented abilities, the manner in which they became part of those test groups was inhumane.

They had learned early-on how to identify some of these people with varying levels of abilities. They knew there was a higher concentration of people with abilities, or with the aptitude to develop them based on blood type.  They had access to physical medical records in the early days under privileges created and funded by federal medical research grants.

Eventually, with advancing technology in genetics, Hydra formed their own genetics research department and solicited help from several government-contracted companies including SCIC here in San Diego.  This was before Hydra’s main place of operation was here, but it’s also what helped bring it here. SCIC and Hydra are often synonymous with their growth rate in the region, but rest assured they are not the same. 

San Diego is unique for several reasons.  There’s the high cost of living compared to other regions in the country.  It’s a military town, which would offer quick aid to Hydra or its subsidiaries if and when needed.  It’s also a port town, filled with people widely varying in economic status, and it contains a relatively small number of people who are native to the area.  Ask any of the former San Diego Chargers’ fans – they can vouch for that.  

But the area also seems to have some other elements to it with reasons that have yet to be discovered.  There’s a high population of citizens with abilities here.  It’s been suspected that the high concentration of local appearances of the Pyramidion may have something to do with that, but it’s also never around long enough for Hydra to study it very much.  It just vanishes at seemingly random times after appearing.  And there’s really no way to know if it’s related or not, but it would follow suit that the high concentration of paranormal events reported in the area could be a result of the Pyramidion’s presence as well.  

Hydra has been studying these phenomena for years now.  Partially to try to determine if these paranormal experiences can be linked to Maker/Shepherd abilities, and if so, what percentage of them are.  Needless to say, they have been able to link a portion of them to paranormal occurrences, but certainly not all of them.  Still, the region has a higher rate of phenomena prior to the Pyramidion’s first-ever recorded appearance here.  That’s very significant to Hydra.  

Another such location in the country, with high concentrations of unexplainable events, is what people refer to as “Skinwalker Ranch,” a farm and homestead on the Uintah Basin in Utah.  The ranch itself is but a fraction of the size of the area Hydra has been studying in Southern California, but I think you get the idea.  One might be tempted to say these locations, without any current scientific explanation, perhaps contain a thinner veil than others.  They are somehow geographically aligned to be paranormal port towns in a sense.  Travelers to and from our plane of existence have high traffic through here.


Jeremy: So why tell me this now, when I’m most tempted to dump this podcast project and walk away?

Joseph: It’s an important piece of background information necessary for you to understand what I’m proposing next.

Jeremy: What is it you’re proposing?

Joseph: My grandson, Malcolm, has been looking for me.  He knows I have an understanding of when and where the Pyramidion is going to turn up next, and he believes that by finding it, he’ll be able to amplify his abilities enough to bring his sister, Tabitha back from… wherever it is that he sent her so many years ago.

Jeremy: Is that possible?  Why not help him?  He’s your grandon.  And why do you need me?

Joseph: True, he’s my grandson, but we’ve had somewhat of a falling out and quite frankly, he poses danger to me.  But you, however; I really wish you knew what you were capable of before your accident.  

Jeremy: Wait… did you know me before my accident?

Joseph: Of course.  I had hoped that, after meeting with me; After meeting with Gerald, that you would remember.  

Jeremy: I hate to disappoint, but I don’t remember you… or Gerald.  Who is he?

Joseph: The point is, you were extremely gifted in your abilities at one time.  Hydra found a way to remove abilities and I know you received treatment to have yours removed long ago, but the things you’re saying in your podcast, about experimenting with your abilities… you’re regaining them years later.  It was my hope that you would also regain your memories as well.

Jeremy: Do you really think that’s possible?

Joseph: I don’t know, but I think it’s worth trying.

Jeremy: How do I try?

Joseph: It’s just a theory of course, and I don’t want to prematurely get your hopes up, but I want to get you near the Pyramidion.  

Jeremy: Is it nearby now?

Joseph: No, but it will be soon.

Jeremy: How can you tell?

Joseph: It’s hard to explain.  I get these visions.  I’ll just be going about my day and all of a sudden I’m feeling like I’m in a daydreaming kind of state.  My peripheral vision goes dark, but I see it in front of me as if I’m standing right next to it.  I can always see a little bit of its surroundings.  Each time it appears, it’s like a countdown.

Jeremy: What do you mean?

Joseph: Well, the first vision I receive is usually 3-4 weeks out.  Then the second vision is usually a week or so later.  Then the visions happen more frequently as it gets closer to the time it appears.  Within a day of its appearance, I’m usually in full vision-mode and not really aware of my surroundings very much.  I’m like a walking zombie, leading the way to the Pyramidion.

Jeremy: How do you function like that?

Joseph: With help.  Gerald Hubert is one of my closest personal friends, and has been since my earlier days with Hydra.  Ever since he first witnessed me in this state, he’s been there to help me out, and he’s never divulged any of it to Hydra.  He’s a man of integrity, and one of the few I can count on a single hand that I completely trust.

Jeremy: So, when do you think it will appear?

Joseph: I believe it will be within the next week.  Perhaps before your podcast airs with the recording you’re making right now, but definitely before the episode after that.

Jeremy: And… what is it you think will happen by getting me near it?

Joseph: I hope that you’ll benefit from one, if not multiple, positive effects by being near it.  In a small percentage of the Maker and Shepherd test subjects, there were children with known illnesses that, after close-proximity exposure to the Pyramidion, were completely cured.  

Jeremy: Forgive me if I seem skeptical, but that’s something I’ll need to see to believe.  What else?

Joseph: Well, we’ve never put any test subjects who have had their memories wiped by Hydra near the Pyramidion again.  It’s possible that, with its restorative properties, you may regain your memory since your “accident”.

Jeremy: Do you remember my accident?

Joseph: I wasn’t there, but I was aware that they were staging it.  Jeremy, it’s important for you to understand, you posed a threat to their research.  It’s actually kind of funny that you still do with this podcast of yours.

Jeremy: Funny isn’t the word I’d use.

Joseph: Right.  Sorry.  But Jeremy, I’m also hopeful that your abilities might be restored.  

Jeremy: I’m actually not so sure I want that for myself.  The more involved I get in this, the more risk of danger I place myself and my family in.  What makes you think I want that to happen?  What makes you think that’s even possible?

Joseph: I can’t speak to what you want for yourself or your family, but think about it.  You’ve seen Brianne experience an increase in abilities as a result of being close to the Pyramidion.  She actually touched it in your podcast episode, “A House on the Corner”.  

Jeremy: You mean Brianne didn’t have abilities before that?

Joseph: She did, but Hydra had taken them away from her.  But since then, she has begun to develop abilities that I would suspect are greater than she had prior to Hydra’s intervention. 

Jeremy: So let me get this straight.  You’re saying that I was once experimented on by Hydra because of some abilities I had.

Joseph (interrupts): Maker abilities, yes.  You were classified as a Maker, as you’ve seen in the medical files that Brianne opened.

Jeremy: Okay, so I had Maker abilities that somehow threatened Hydra’s research, so they took those abilities away, wiped my memory, and let me live my life.

Joseph: Yes, after they were convinced your memory wipe had been successful.

Jeremy: And why didn’t they just kill me?  They don’t seem too bothered by ethics.

Joseph: They had incentive to keep you alive.  Again, not my story to tell.

Jeremy: Okay… and now you want to take me to the Pyramidion because you believe there will be a chance it can cure my brain tumor, restore my memory, and return my Maker abilities while possibly even enhancing them to a greater degree than ever before, which (at the time) was a threat to Hydra’s research?

Joseph: Erm, yeah.

Jeremy: And what’s in it for you?

Joseph: Believe it or not, I actually care about what happens to you.  And I have mutually-aligned interests in the potential outcome of all of this.

Jeremy: Mutually-aligned interests?  Forgive me for being a little bit apprehensive.  My kids would say, “This is totally sus”.  

Joseph: I only want what’s best for you.

Jeremy: I have to be honest with you.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s best for me lately.  And not just me… what’s best for my family.  Maybe it’s the news of the growing lump inside my skull, or perhaps it’s just the shitty train of events that continue to occur as a result of this podcast, but I’ve seriously considered just giving all of this up.  Ron can have his fucking papers back.  Why he collected all that and would just let his rental payment lapse is beyond me considering how “important” it all is, but that’s not the point.  The papers have brought me nothing but trouble.

Joseph: And that’s your choice, but consider the potential benefits you could experience.

Jeremy: I’ve learned to live without a memory of my childhood, and from the sound of it, my mental health is probably best served without revisiting that.  I also don’t give a shit about gaining any kind of psychic abilities.  The only reason I would consider going with you is if there’s a chance I could get rid of this growth on my brain, and I’m still not convinced it’s worth the trip given all that other stuff, which all sounds more like a curse than a blessing.

Joseph: I understand.  It’s your choice.  But consider this: How long will it take you to get your neurologist appointment?  How many tests will they need to run before determining whether it’s operable or not?  And how long before your surgery can be scheduled, if it’s even possible?  They might try chemotherapy, perhaps with a combination of radiation therapy, and you might have a chance at success.  But at the rate your tumor is growing, I’m concerned you’re about to begin a losing race.

Jeremy: Wow, you should write greeting cards.

Joseph: I’m just trying to be realistic.  As I said, it’s your choice.  You have a chance at a cure within the next week, which you’ll likely know whether or not it worked well before you can schedule your first neurologist appointment.  Or you can wait.  Put all your chips on the table, betting on a medical system that has been stressed to the breaking point with a pandemic, in hopes that it will respond before your clock runs out.  It costs you nothing to consider my proposal.

Jeremy: Well, when you put it that way.

Joseph: So, you’ll come?

Jeremy: I was kind of being sarcastic.  I’m just not sure.  I need some time to think about it.

Joseph: Okay.  Take some time.  Again, I’m not here to pressure you one way or another, but I hope you’ll consider it.  Talk to your wife.  Go sit at the beach by yourself and meditate.  Do whatever you need to do to make a choice, but don’t take too long.  I don’t have any way of knowing when the Pyramidion will appear next.  Sometimes it’s months, and sometimes it’s years between these visions I have.  There is one other potential benefit for you going, but there’s no use discussing it if you decide not to.  But please, make a decision.


Joseph handed me an envelope before leaving our meeting containing a plastic room key to a hotel nearby where he was staying, along with a brochure for the hotel with its address and the room number written in sharpie on the bottom of it.  He told me that I should be there no later than 3 days from now as a conservative estimate, just in case the Pyramidion appeared a bit earlier than he anticipated.  

I went home and took some time that evening to go over the options with my wife.  I admit that during the conversation with Joseph, I was kind of emotional.  Deep down, I agreed with everything he said about the lack of faith I can have in the medical system to work efficiently and effectively right now.  My wife and I also agreed that the benefits of going to the Pyramidion outweighed the little risk involved… that is, if Joseph was being honest and including all of the information needed to make an informed decision.

I think I would have come to the same conclusion if I hadn’t discussed it with my wife.  I mean, people generally want to live.  I decided to go.  Three days after our meeting, I drove to the hotel on the brochure and met Joseph Foye.

The Pentagram – Season 4 Episode 12

A slightly crinkled paper with a crudely drawn pentagram next to a stamped 7-fingered hand with an eye in the center. Handwritten text: THE PENTAGRAM.

Listen

The Storage Papers is a fiction horror podcast.

Discretion is advised.

See Content Warnings
Profanity, possession, supernatural horror, references to cancer
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy’s perception of time is off. He reads documents from early on in SCIC’s research for Hydra into religion and the paranormal indicating that there may be a difference between entities created by Makers or brought in by Shepherds, or actual malevolent entities of unknown origin. At the end, Jeremy finds out he has a tumor.

Transcript

WRITTEN BY JEREMY ENFINGER

SOUND: A clock is ticking.

My meeting at El Campo had me wondering how much of the information Joseph Foye passed onto me could be verified through the papers, or perhaps through the stuff that Patel had sent over.  Of course, I’m supposed to be on bed rest or “taking it easy” still, even though I feel just fine at the moment.  Still, I asked Brianne to bring me some files that I recalled reading that may now bear pertinent information.  She was taking her sweet time though, and I’ve been here for days just waiting for her, staring at the wall and thinking things over.

Reading about all of these people, and meeting several now, who claim to have these “abilities” makes me wonder, since our names are in the medical files, whether or not Brianne and I have some level of abilities as well.  I can tell you for certain, I’m becoming more and more accepting of this possibility, and have even been doing my own little experiments while I lie here in bed.  It’s strange though; I don’t seem to be able to fully experience anything during waking hours.  But during times where I’m nearly asleep, or if I find myself daydreaming, that I… start to experience things differently.

For instance, there’s a small crack in the paint on my wall opposite my pillow in my bedroom.  I was nodding off a few days ago, just staring at that crack as I’ve done so many times before.  Do you know how you can stare at something long enough and your brain tricks you into thinking it’s moving?  This wasn’t like that at all.  

SOUND: Eerie music plays.

The crack, which was only a couple of inches long, started to travel further down the wall toward the floor.  It split open as the entire house shook, and a huge hole appeared in the wall, large enough to drive a small car through.  Within the crack that widened by the second, darkness.  

I reached over to my nightstand and picked up my cell phone.  No matter what button I pushed, it was inoperable.  It didn’t seem broken though.  It was obviously on, but as I went to toss it on the bed, it remained suspended in the air.  I grabbed it in the air and held it in front of my face, then let go.  It just hovered there, magically suspended in the air, seemingly frozen in time. When I looked over at my clock on the wall, the time was frozen at none oh three. The second hand wasn’t moving. My skin got prickly and I noticed I could see my breath.  The temperature was dropping.

Movement in the direction of the crack in the wall caught my attention, so I turned to look at it, but my phone, still suspended in the air, was partially obstructing my view, so I placed it down on the bed.  

SOUND: Whisper voices are heard.

The darkness behind the crack in the wall grew even darker, and though I saw motion, I convinced myself that my eyes were deceiving me.  Truthfully, I couldn’t tell you what I was looking at, but it felt like there were hundreds; even, thousands of eyes upon me.  

I started hearing voices.  Mostly soft voices and rarely comprehensible until I heard one specific phrase:

SOUND: Louder whisper says, “I think he can see us,” followed by a few seconds of silence, then eerie music continues.

“I think he can see us.”  Those six little words inspired so much fear in that moment.  And as soon as I heard them, the whispers silenced, and the movement in the darkness stopped.  The room was so quiet now that my ears were ringing.  I reached for my phone again, and hadn’t really decided if I was going to call my wife, who would really worry about me if I told her what I witnessed, or if I should call Brianne, who would likely understand and believe me, but who I was frustrated with for taking so goddamn long with bringing those papers over.

As I checked for functionality of my phone again, it seemed to be working, but when I looked up at the crack, it had completely closed up, save for the couple of inches it started out being.  Only now, there was this smoky, tarnished appearance around the crack that wasn’t there before.  Perhaps a remnant trace of a doorway closed that otherwise would never have been noticed.

I heard my front door open and called out my wife’s name, thinking she was home from work already.  I thought this would be an ordinary conversation, so I apologize for not having recorded this part. Instead I heard Brianne say, “Nope, it’s just me. Do you want anything from your fridge?”

I said, “No thanks,” even though I was incredibly hungry.  I wanted to get my hands on those documents and actually have something to occupy my mind.  I said, “What took you so long?”

Brianne looked at me kind of annoyed and said, “Jesus. Pushy much?” as she brought in a coffee that I hadn’t asked for, but actually really appreciated.

I said, “Sorry, it’s just been a few days and I know you’re busy. I do appreciate you taking the time though.  What have you been up to?”

Brianne’s expression turned from annoyed to perplexed as she felt my forehead with the back of her hand.  She said, “How are you feeling today?”

I replied, “Just bored really,” and I apologized for my appearance considering I hadn’t gotten out of bed for a long time.

Brianne asked, “When did we speak to one another last?”

I told her it must have been four or five days ago, when I asked her to bring me the documents.  Right after my follow-up MRI.

She stood up straight and looked at me.  She said, “Your MRI was yesterday.  You called me two hours ago, and I dropped what I was doing and went to get your files, then stopped on the way here for the coffee.  It’s been two hours.”

Impossible.  I looked at my phone and the calendar date matched up with what she was saying.  I looked at my right arm and I could still see a fresh needle mark from the contrast injection from the MRI.  I thought for a moment, and I hadn’t seen my wife in what felt like several days either.  I also admittedly smelled pretty bad.  I said, “My MRI was on a Friday.  If that was yesterday, then today should be Saturday, so where are my wife and my kids?”  

Brianne said, “They went to the farmer’s market off Leucadia. You told me they went there.”

I was disoriented and said, “But that was days ago.”

Brianne took a few minutes asking me some questions, going into full nurse-mode.  I explained to her what had just happened with the crack in the wall and the voices.  We considered the possibility that some kind of temporal distortion had occurred, giving the appearance that several days had gone by, but I could tell she was more concerned than amazed by my story.  In that moment, I realized I had a problem: even though we’re working with some unexplained and downright scary things, people are always going to be questioning whatever I say because of that brain lesion they found on the CT scan.  I shouldn’t have said anything.

She hung around for a couple of hours until my family got back home, and I asked her not to say anything to my wife for the time being.  I would tell her, just not immediately.  No need to worry her about anything since everything seemed normal now.  Brianne made me promise to tell her before my next doctor’s visit, and before this episode aired, which I did, then she left.

Once I ate some breakfast, I started rifling through some of the documents Brianne brought over.  She had included some of Patel’s documents as well, including some general notes she seemed to write out in an outline style relating to SCIC.  To be honest, some of this stuff seems like I shouldn’t be sharing it on the podcast, but at the same time, it was given to me and I’ve never signed a non-disclosure agreement with SCIC myself, so I guess I’ll find out if anyone there actually listens to The Storage Papers.

First I’ll go through some of Patel’s notes, but I warn you: they appear a bit jumbled and hasty.  I’m not sure when she wrote these or if she’s writing in chronological order.  It almost seems as if she was making an outline of her own research, or perhaps a much larger conversation she was planning to have.  I’ll read a few now.

At some point, the shepherds and the makers got the attention of real entities – not things simply made up or manifested by them, but what, by ruling out all other options, appears to be actual demons, monsters, and there was even rumors of Extraterrestrial Biological Entities, though I’ve never seen evidence of that myself, so I’ll be focusing on spiritual beings.  Method of contact remains unknown, but assuming it involves either psychic communication or extra dimensional travel of some kind.   

Hydra was primarily military-driven until the late 1970’s. At that time, SCIC, a San Diego-based civilian contractor was hired as a 3rd party consultant to assist in quantification and verification of results through peer review. Even after the military mostly exited the higher ranks in the organization, it attracted retired military, who infiltrated the company and grew the organization to what it is today.  

Outside of the work hired to do by Hydra, we were primarily dealing in weapons research and aerospace, but the lesser-known branches of the organization deal with weaponization of just about anything. SCIC personnel were the first to classify the Makers and the Shepherds, and to come up with the symbol system for labeling files. 

These were on separate small notepad pages all torn out and freely floating within the documents.  This next item though, was more formalized and looked like some kind of report, except it lacks the element of a cited author and it’s not addressed to anyone (I should note that there is a crudely-sketched pentagram symbol here, in addition to the 7-fingered hand symbol.  It’s the only time I’ve seen it drawn on any documents instead of either stamped or part of letterhead).  It reads:


Potential Overlapping Studies of the Psychical Research and Occult Research Departments: 

Early research into psychic abilities, before the standardization of testing methods used today, produced some anomalies.  It is unclear whether these anomalies are random in nature, or if they could be linked to post-World War II research.  

I was able to find some historical documentation indicating the U.S. Army once had more of an interest in occult studies, spanning back to the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, however, these are only referenced in some of the documents I have access to, and thus far, my requests for a higher clearance level have been denied.  

Where they seem to correlate most is in some of the earlier Psychical Research projects, prior to SCIC contract negotiations where often crude and considerably less ethical testing methods were used.  Early documents I have access to are primarily indicative of test results we see now within the Maker and Shepherd classifications, but the research was sloppy to say the least, and evidence suggests there may have been variations in results compared to present-day research.  Testing was conducted in a more random way and repeatability wasn’t always considered before results were documented.  I can see why SCIC didn’t include much of this documentation in its own archives, but there may be some valid information worthy of further, more thorough research.

I’ve gathered 7 or 8 documents where the overlap of departments is significant, however, I do not have access to the names of the test subjects.  It appears that psychic testing had been underway systematically when the first anomaly was noted.  

A test subject described as “promising in their abilities” from the psychic research studies was temporarily utilized in an occult study. Prior to the occult research being performed, the individual had noted characteristics of being able to imagine something and manifest it.  At the time, they were instructing them to imagine abnormal objects and even living things that do not exist so they could conclude that the subject was creating something new, rather than bringing something here from another place.  It’s evident by the research comments that string theory wasn’t on their minds back then.

Occult studies occurred for five weeks, and then the subject was returned to the psychical research department to resume testing.  Only after returning, results varied widely compared to results prior to the occult studies.  The subject began manifesting darker things.  It was recorded that several beings of unknown origin began to manifest.  These beings were intelligent, communicated well, though independently, and had what they described as “intimate personal knowledge of the people conducting the research”.  

These differed from other manifested living things in that the Army was attempting to control the previous beings, and they were trainable, compliant, and performed as expected so well, that the Army noted field testing having occurred in combat scenarios.  But these new beings didn’t seem to be like that at all.  They decided to take a more conservative approach with them and try to learn more about them prior to making any decision to commence any other forms of testing.

I am going to attach one of the scientific observation reports to this document as an example, but behaviors varied widely and were considered unpredictable, thus insufficient for military usage.  Despite that being the case, these entities seemed to allow the Occult Research Department, identified by the pentagram symbol on the front of this report, to gain further funding and additional attention by Hydra.  

On a personal note, I have seen some collaborative work between my department and the Occult Studies Department, and it only seems like it happens when they have something significant to gain, and they rarely offer up any of their own resources or information after the work is complete.  This is the main cause for my research into their projects.  I need assurance that there is an element of safety being taken into account for myself and my staff during these collaborative efforts.


I’d like to share with you an audio recording that was with this collection of documents.  It sounds like it starts out as a transcript of a hypnosis session on one of the subjects, but turns into something much more.  It reads:


SOUND: Vinyl surface dust and distortion – magnetic tape noise playing.

DOCTOR (Redacted): I want you to close your eyes and focus on your breathing.  Take in slow, deep breaths and exhale slowly.  In through your nose and out through your mouth.  As you continue your breathing, you feel more relaxed.  Imagine your body is floating on top of the water in a still pond.  You release the tension in your muscles, starting with your neck, moving to your shoulders, extending down your arms to your fingertips.  Your back and your hips are relaxed.  Your knees, your ankles, and your feet feel weightless as you continue to float.  You’re enjoying the silence and you drift further and further into relaxation until you are nearly asleep.  
Now, the body of water you’re floating in begins to slowly develop a current.  The current is soft and barely noticeable.  As your body moves with the current, it relaxes you more, and you can hear the sounds of nature as you drift further and further into sleep and downstream.  
The current carries you peacefully into a cave where there is no light, and all of the world’s sounds fade away the deeper you travel into the cave.  The cave is a magical place.  Its boundaries seclude you from the world and you have unlimited power and freedom in this place.  It allows you to know things you’ve never known; that no one knows.  It lets you see things no human being has ever seen before.  It fills you up with a sense of wonder and you decide that you can do anything you want here.
You have all of the abilities of a god with no limitations.  You are your own deity and it is now time for you to put on a display of your power.  Now… What do you do next?

PATIENT: I’m alone, floating weightless in an infinite dark space.  I desire companionship, so I create someone to share this space with me.  A friend.  Yes, a friend is what I need.  He appears in front of me, and even looks like me just a little bit.  He’s smiling.  Everything is peaceful, and we don’t have to speak to communicate.  He knows what I’m thinking and I know what he is thinking.

DOCTOR: Remember, you can do anything, be anything, and create anything.  What do you do next?

PATIENT: I make more friends to share this space with.  I feel safe and secure at first, but then I begin feeling even lonelier.  

DOCTOR: Why?

PATIENT: Because everyone I’ve created has no experiences.  They don’t think for themselves.  They just react to everything I’m thinking.  I long not only to share myself, but for my friends to share themselves with me.  It’s a one-way friendship, but it’s not what I hoped it would be.

DOCTOR:  So what do you do next?  Remember, you can do anything in this space.  

PATIENT:  All of the friends I’ve created aren’t interested in me anymore.  Their attention is focused on something behind me.  

DOCTOR: Something you’ve created?

PATIENT: (worried) No.  I’m not sure what it is.  They are experiencing fear for the first time.

DOCTOR: What are they afraid of?  Don’t forget, you can do anything you want there.

PATIENT: (fearful) Oh god!  There are thousands of them!

DOCTOR: Thousands of what?

PATIENT: They don’t think I should be here.  They don’t want me to be able to create.  They hate me.  There’s too many of them.  Too many thoughts to separate, but it’s clear they don’t think I belong here.

DOCTOR: Just remember, you’re in control there.

PATIENT: No, they were here long before me.  They are ancient, and they feel violated because I’m in their space.  I shouldn’t be here.  They don’t know how I’m able to be here, but now their attention is fully on me.  I want out.

DOCTOR:  Who are they?  Why shouldn’t you be there?

PATIENT: They want to communicate to you through me.  If I don’t let them, they say I’ll be trapped here forever.

DOCTOR: Don’t let them take contr-

PATIENT: (interrupts Doctor in an eldritch voice) You have no authority here, son of the flesh.  You dare to defile us with your presence!  

DOCTOR: Who addresses me?

PATIENT: (eldritch voice) I am the Ever-Present.  I am The Infinite.  And you are but a speck of dust in my presence.  As a punishment for your insolence, he will suffer.

DOCTOR: (speaking hurriedly) When I snap my fingers, you’ll regain consciousness and feel relaxed. (snaps fingers)

PATIENT: (still in eldritch voice) It leaves when I permit it to leave.

(patient screams and convulses)

DOCTOR:  Wake up!  Wake up!


The audio file stops there. It’s unclear who… or what was speaking through the patient in this audio, but I think it’s safe to say given the pentagram symbols that keep popping up, they have some religious significance, whether demons, Djinn, or something else.  

I’d like to share one last document with you, or at least a portion of it.  Most of the document is redacted save for a few paragraphs of text, but the title of the document states, “Proposal for New Department of Research.”  There is no date on it, but the paper is quite aged, and if I had to guess, this proposal marked the beginnings of their Occult Research department.  It reads:

With new evidence that these beings possess their own intelligence and have the ability to interact and influence people outside of their will, further efforts must be taken to study them to distinguish them from the manifestations brought into existence by our test subjects.  They have unknown motives and have successfully concealed their presence among us.  They have presented knowledge beyond our understanding, can seemingly know peoples’ thoughts without a person conveying them verbally, and have demonstrated extreme hostility with no apparent inciting events.

As reported recently in a recent session with Subject M-22, the manifestation of such a being took place, and our scientists could not determine if the Subject simply manifested a being similar to one of them, or if the Subject somehow brought the being to our plane from somewhere else.  In either case, knowledge of this being had to have occurred prior to this session, which means the Maker Project is now vulnerable to results that can no longer be verified.  In addition, extreme caution is recommended in future Maker testing due to evidence that testing is drawing the attention of these beings and interaction both inside and outside of testing environments have taken place, both for the test subjects and the staff conducting the tests.

Now that we have data suggesting (though not necessarily proving scientifically) the existence of extra-dimensional beings, I suggest a new research department be developed to form criteria for classification of these beings, and to further expand our classification system of those brought here by the Shepherd experiments and those manifested by the Maker experiments.  Furthermore, it is my recommendation that Shepherd and Maker experiments cease immediately until such criteria can be established.  Without a classification system in place, we have no method for identifying which of these entities existed in our reality before Shepherd or Maker efforts.  

Um… I’m not sure about you all listening to this, but I had to re-read, stop, and think about these three paragraphs I just read to you when I read it the first time for myself.  It implies that extra-corporeal entities exist and Hydra, along with SCIC had the data a long time ago to back that up.  I’m not sure if I’m more shocked by that, or if the fact that people exist that can bring others here from parallel dimensions or just think things into existence.

I was just starting to believe that perhaps all things paranormal that interested me so much of my life may have been explainable as physical products of someone’s imagination.  But this is saying that, whether you call them ghosts, spirits, demons, angels, Djinn, or some other kind of non-human presence; it’s saying they exist.

Shit. I know the Dream Killer that Brianne and I faced with Ron was a real person, a gifted person.  But now I’m wondering if the Grinner we faced in the church was an actual demon, or if it was one of Malcolm’s creations.  The latter would explain the Grinner’s ability to be on Holy ground. I mean, a real demon isn’t supposed to be able to walk inside a church according to Father Lucas Stone, which is why he believes the beast within him can also be there.  It would explain a lot. Our initial plan there failed because he could go wherever he wanted to.  

On the other hand, we researched the demon the Grinner claimed to be, and there were so many similarities.  I even avoided using its name for fear of calling attention to myself or giving it more power. But if it wasn’t the actual demon we thought it was, then perhaps it was created by Malcolm to resemble one.  I have some digging to do.

SOUND: The doorbell rings.

Be right back.

SOUND: footsteps receding, door opens, then closes, then footsteps returning.  Jeremy opens some mail.

This is interesting, I rarely have to sign for mail.

Um… 

Well, I might as well tell you this since I’ll have had a chance to talk to my family before this episode airs.  I suppose I could always cut it out later if needed.  

Fucking doctors… Sorry everyone, the letter I just opened has some news that I’d prefer to hear in-person, or at least over the phone.  I won’t read the entire letter, but essentially, my MRI results came back.  Apparently I have a tumor the size of a quarter in my brain. The doctor mentions in his letter that it was strange to see because when I was sick back in 2019, an MRI of the brain was done because of severe headaches I had been having.  Since then, there has been significant enlargement of the prefrontal cortex and the development of a tumor that typically would take years to grow to that size. I’ve been referred to neurology for a consultation to see if it’s operable, but he’s definitely concerned about the rate of growth, so they want to do it soon.

Sorry to end this one on a downer note, but I’ll keep you posted once I get everything set up with neurology.

The Silver Key

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The Storage Papers is a fiction horror podcast.

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Thomas chooses the silver key, and ends with a gift from Cain: the charity is now his to do with as he pleases. Depending on the decisions he makes, Cain may pay him a visit again in one year’s time.

Transcript

WRITTEN BY NATHAN LUNSFORD

Thomas looked back and forth from key to key, gold to silver and back again. To him, they seemed so small within Cain’s already smaller-than-human hands, yet felt to be the biggest choices of his life.

Either way, I’ll be a hero to someone, right?’ Thomas thought to himself. He raised his eyes and looked around at the dark, silent night surrounding them, contemplating the weight of the choice before him. How many out there were trying to spread holiday cheer but instead lining the pockets of some faceless CEO? How many had been promised that strides would be made for their health, poor kids would have food and shelter, or water would be made clean, and in the end, none of that happened because some people harbored more greed than care for their fellow humanity?

Then his thoughts turned to the mounting bills at home, and the sleepless nights as he listened to his family argue and worried about his own future. “I’m sorry,” he whispered as he turned back to Cain… and reached for the silver key.

Cain raised a brow, but otherwise remained expressionless as he simply said, “Interesting.”

Then, as if almost challenging Thomas, he added, “Are you sure this is the correct decision?”

Thomas said, “Absolutely. How many families have been put into the same position as my own by some corporate greed BS hiding behind a charity’s name?”

Cain nodded his agreement as he seemed to shrink back to the shadows, only a glimmer of light reflecting in his eyes confirming his presence was still in the air. “Oh, and Thomas?” he called out just as Thomas turned in the direction of the office building. He paused and looked back to the shadows.

“Much like boxes and toys wrapped beneath holiday trees, it would be unwise to open the package too early. Be sure to bring it back here—to me—first.”

Thomas nodded curtly and resumed walking into the direction of the only office buildings he knew that were nearby. As he gripped the silver key in his pocket, he noticed it seemed to be growing warmer. He found himself forced to stop and remove his hand from his pocket as it felt far too hot to touch. The moment he stopped, an automatic door opened to his right. He jumped, caught off guard by the sudden movement. He reached back into his pocket, tentatively touching the key, to find it had somehow returned to being as cold as the night air.

Thomas looked at the still-open door thoughtfully as he rubbed the key. Then, with a small twitch at the corner of his mouth, he realized the key must be guiding him here. He entered, calling out to see if anyone was there, the brief echo of his voice dying quickly with no response. Shadows hid within shadows, while the chair behind the chest-height front desk belonging to either a security guard or receptionist was vacant. Thomas paused, perhaps considering the value of the task in lieu of such a dark and lonely office building. Whatever the thought was, he pushed it aside and pressed onward past the desk and into a carpeted hallway to the right.

He held up the silver key, the red light of a nearby exit sign illuminating a small number etched into it by hand: three eighty-three. There were signs on each door; in large text was a name or title or description of purpose. However, in smaller text below that was a number. Thomas quickly realized he would need to go to the third floor to find a room starting with a three, and made his way to a stairwell to ascend.

He wandered a maze of hallways as numbers went by, never quite matching his key. Nearly giving up, he stopped at the end of a hallway and looked back, frustrated. Something registered in his instinct before it did in his brain. He looked more closely, then it hit him. He slowly walked to a set of three doors. There was a three twelve and a three thirteen, but between them, sandwiched in such a way that it only could have been a miniscule closet, was room three eighty-three.

There were no other markings than the number to indicate what the room itself was for, which was peculiar when compared with all the other doors. Thomas started to insert the key into the deadbolt, but before he could, the key grew warm, and the lock clicked. He looked down at the key in amazement to find that, to further his confusion, the numbers on the key had vanished.

“Almost like a dream,” he mumbled to himself.

He opened the door and found himself once again perplexed as a modestly sized office was revealed, a feat not possible given the location of doors on either side of the now-open one. There was little in the way of decorations around him, he found as he stepped foot inside. Drab but clean would be an accurate description. A lone fake plant sat in one corner, but there were no pictures, awards, or degrees adorning the walls. In the middle of the room was the only real presence to indicate that it was an office: a polished mahogany desk. Atop the desk, perfectly centered, sat an ornate, wooden box with a silver lock. Thomas leaned in closer, tracing his finger across the box’s decorative markings. Had he paid closer attention, perhaps he would have noticed the decorations disguised three words: pascere qui creatur.

Thomas inserted the key. Before he could twist it, he heard a slight click. He pulled back his arm to withdraw the key and open the box when he found that he couldn’t. His fingers wouldn’t release the key. He yanked his arm, but it wouldn’t budge. Panicked, he looked closer to see that his fingers were changing. Shiny pieces of metal were protruding, some parts rough and sharp, some parts smooth and reflective.

His heart raced and he stumbled back, dragging the box with him. It fell open, a small box wrapped in parchment paper clattering to the ground. Thomas didn’t notice that, though, as more pieces of silver metal broke through his skin from the inside until his entire hand was covered in keys. It didn’t stop, however, and began to spread up his arm. In desperation, he turned to run out of the office, only to find that there was no door. He was trapped, and his body was being taken over by metal keys, cracking his skin to break through. He held his hand to his face but saw not his own reflection in that moment, but a different reflection in each key. He focused on one and felt the reflection come to life.

Although Thomas found himself unable to tear his eyes from the key, he was aware that he was no longer surrounded by an office. The displaced reflection had grown: surrounding, enveloping… swallowing him whole. The sound of his own heartbeat gave way to a slow, muted crashing of waves and gentle but constant breeze. Relaxing on what appeared to be a well-deserved vacation was his family. His mother and father were sharing a bottle of wine, laughing together. Thomas couldn’t recall the last time he’d seen them laugh. The beach started shifting: the waves stayed stationary as the rest of the scene rolled and tumbled chaotically until he fell to the ground back in the office.

He looked up, only to find his eye caught in another reflection and he was instantly, irresistibly absorbed. An embarrassment of riches was stacked around him: cars, cash, fine wine, and decadent food. At the far end of a slowly swirling tunnel of wealth stood two figures, laughing and shaking their hands. One figure he instinctively knew was the CEO of one of the charities referenced on the news. The man was responsible for millions of dollars being misused for his personal gain. The other figure was Thomas.

Other Thomas turned to face his key-ridden self and slowly smiled. Although he didn’t speak, he could hear Other Thomas’ words in his ear: “Nobody misses the money, they all feel good for giving blindly. If they don’t do their research, it’s on them. I don’t have to give the box to Cain. I’m sure Steve here would be happy to ensure Cain never sees the box.”

The last words echoed around Thomas as the tunnel closed in, crushing him. He closed his eyes as he began to suffocate, only to find the pressure removed. He carefully opened his eyes to find himself back in the office, curled into the fetal position. His hands had returned to normal and the original box was nowhere to be found. He slowly stood to his feet. Looking around, his eyes fell to the small box wrapped in parchment paper. He quickly scooped it up from the ground and stumbled out the door.

On unsteady legs, he made his way out of the office. Following the dim red glow of the exit signs, he found his way to the front lobby, then outside where the cold night air sent a shiver down his spine. Every step felt heavy. He could still open the box. It felt itchy in his hands, and the only way to relieve it was to see what was inside. Was it worth giving up such a fortune? Or was the vision just a trick? Or, perhaps a better question: was the entire quest he’d been sent on a ruse devised for the delight of a devil? These questions weighed heavy on Thomas’ mind, steadily slowing him down.

On one hand: if he took the money, would he be any better than the people who had crippled his family’s opportunity to thrive at every turn? Would he not just be another cog in a system designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer?

On the other hand: would he actually be making a difference? A corrupt charity closing down—or “negatively influenced,” as he recalled Cain’s exact words—seemed like such a small victory—and to what end? Would the vague and perpetually ungraspable notion of justice be enough to put food in his stomach and a roof over his head? Hardly. But could he live with himself if he didn’t take this opportunity to mete out justice?

That was the heart of what Thomas had to decide as he paused at the edge of the empty square, the holiday decorations silent and empty without the cheer of children around them.

His fingers gently felt the rough texture of the parchment paper. It would be so quick and simple to open it. Cain was nowhere to be found. He wouldn’t even know.

The visions of wealth came back to him, but he brushed them aside. How could he make an informed decision if he didn’t know what the choice was?

Thomas surveyed the area, the small shadow of a creature beside the large Christmas tree going unnoticed to his eyes. He bit his lower lip indecisively, then stepped into the square and made his way to the bench with a sigh. Cain soon emerged from the shadows, glittering eyes trained only on the package.

“Here it is,” Thomas said, holding the package out for him. Cain quickly snatched it away, examining it—carefully at first, then with unconstrained glee. Without uttering a word, Cain quickly tore away the parchment paper and opened the small box inside.

Thomas’ curiosity was overwhelmed. “What’s in it?” he asked as he stood to peer inside.

Cain quickly jerked the box away, putting his body between it and Thomas. “You mustn’t touch it!” he cried out.

Thomas stepped back. “Chill, man. I wasn’t going to touch your stupid box. I just… after all that I went through, I wanted to know what I brought over.”

Cain’s gaze dropped to the box and slowly revealed its contents to Thomas. Inside was a wooden block.

“I’m sorry… that? That’s what all this is for? How the hell does that have anything to do with a charity?” Thomas asked, incredulous.

Cain grinned, but didn’t take his eyes from the block. “It’s a very special wood, Thomas. Very special, indeed. It’s not quite ready yet, but it will be… soon. Would you like to know what it looks like when it becomes ready?”

Thomas couldn’t imagine how a simple block of wood could mean so much, but, desperate to know that he hadn’t wasted his evening, nodded. Cain turned and motioned for Thomas to follow him as he walked to the Christmas tree.

“This wood is what I use for my decorations!” Cain stated proudly.

Thomas peered at the wooden Christmas ornaments. Earlier, they had seemed odd to him, but now, knowing they were hand carved, he could acknowledge that their almost life-like appearance made some sort of sense. “You must put a lot of work into these,” Thomas said as he bent down to get a better view of one.

“A lifetime’s worth,” Cain agreed.

Thomas squinted a little as viewed the ornament before him. The carved face looked familiar, but he couldn’t place it.

“It’s cold out,” Cain said, interrupting his thoughts. “You’d better be getting home. We wouldn’t want your family to worry.”

Too distracted to disagree, Thomas stood and slowly nodded, but when he turned to face Cain, he only barely caught a glimpse of movement as he vanished into the shadows once more.

Suddenly feeling very cold, Thomas rubbed his arms and headed back home as he realized that, in the end, nothing had changed. He was heading back to financial woes and a world where corruption prospered. As he turned onto his street, he reached into his pocket and withdrew the key to his family’s apartment. The feeling of a key in his hand felt more uncomfortable than normal now, and he nearly dropped it, but managed to smile and shake his head, despite his own unsteady hands.

As he neared his door, he froze for a moment. On the doormat was the ornate, wooden box that had been in the office. Hands trembling, he carefully approached it and picked it up. It was nearly exactly the same, only this time, there was no lock. He sank to the ground, as he debated whether to open it, throw it away, or immediately destroy it.

With a deep breath, he opened it.

Inside he found several official-looking documents and an envelope sealed with wax. He looked through the documents, not entirely understanding all the legal terminology or why they were in a box on his doorstep. He carefully broke the wax seal and opened the handwritten letter, unfolding it and began to read:


Thomas,

You faced several choices tonight, but I have one more to offer. In the box are legal documents transferring ownership of the charity to you. You can continue to profit as your predecessor did while helping a few people here and there, or you can change things to benefit more families in situations such as your own. Depending on your choices, perhaps we will meet again this time next year. I could always use some help decorating my tree.

Cain


Thomas put the papers back in the box and closed it in disbelief. Slowly, warm tears rolled down his cold cheeks. Things were going to change—finally. He could hardly wait until morning to let his family know that he was going to make a difference, even if he didn’t know much of the details yet.

He stood, then looked down at the box in his hands, letting his thumb slowly caress the wood grain. The feeling of the wood jostled something in his memory and he thought back to the ornament on the tree, realizing why he recognized the face. Then his face twisted in confusion as he wondered, ‘But why would Cain have an ornament with the face of the old CEO on it?


Jeremy and Nathan from The Storage Papers would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season. We hope you are able to spend quality time with friends and family, and have the opportunity to make a difference in your community for those who can’t. You can volunteer your time with local organizations for a variety of causes, or use websites like charitywatch.org to find a charity to donate to that you know uses money to support their stated mission, like the following with A ratings from Charity Watch:

And many more amazing causes to make a difference in the world. As always, the choice is yours.

The Gold Key

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General horror, immobilization, missing offspring
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Thomas brings back the item from the storage unit for Cain, only to have Cain turn him into a decoration for his tree.

Transcript

WRITTEN BY JEREMY ENFINGER

In his mind, Thomas wavered between causing problems for those charities that take most of the money they collect and pocket it versus ensuring his family prospered.  

On one hand, there are charities doing great things and they’re competing with these corrupt ones. Helping those charities by preventing the corrupt ones from swindling good people would have a great effect for the many people who need them. The positive impact could be exponential.

On the other hand, Thomas considered the financial trouble his family was in, and the only reason he was even working that holiday season was to help pay the bills so they’d have the necessities while his mother worked on recovery. 

What Thomas didn’t know was that Cain was aware of his thoughts. Thomas did think of his family at first, with hopes for his mother’s well-being. But then he began imagining what he would do with his nights off after he was able to leave his job. Cain knew Thomas was selfishly imagining stacks of money and making lavish purchases without intending to help anyone around him. 

Greed drove him to his choice as Thomas reached for the gold key.

Cain looked at the boy, who was ready to turn around and begin his trek to the storage unit.  He said, “Oh, Thomas… are you sure this is the correct decision?”

Thomas said, “Absolutely. I’ve thought long and hard and I think it would be best to make sure I do this for my family.”  

Cain lifted an eyebrow of inquiry, to which Thomas noted, but decided to move along anyways. As he walked away, Cain said, “Oh, Tomas?”

Thomas turned around to find Cain standing in the shadows again, but he could see a glint of light reflecting from his eyes. He said, “What is it?”

Cain replied, “Just make sure you don’t open the package within the box”, then smiled.  

Cain’s smile made him feel uneasy as the little thing backed completely into the shadows and out of Thomas’s sight.

So then, Thomas walked the distance to the storage unit, and when he arrived at the main gait, he noticed a number pad for an electronic code entry.  He hadn’t counted on this, so he began looking for a keyhole around the gate to use the golden key, but was unable to find one.  

He began thinking of a solution as he gripped the key in his jacket pocket.  That’s when he noticed it was warm to the touch.  As he pulled it out of his pocket, the key grew warmer, so he pinched it between his thumb and index finger and held it in front of him.  

He took a step toward the gate and the key cooled down a bit.  Then he turned to face the opposite direction away from the gate, and the key grew warmer.  He took several steps away from the gate and the key became hot.  And as Thomas approached the keypad once again, with the key just inches from it, it became almost too hot to hold.  Suddenly, the gate began rolling open, and he thought to himself, “This really is a magic key!”

Thomas used the same technique to locate the storage unit within the complex, and to open the outer lock to the storage bin.  Once he was inside the storage unit itself, there was a small lock-box on the floor in the back right corner of the unit.  

Thomas walked over to it and noticed the key was no longer hot, nor cold. He picked up the box and noticed an actual keyhole on the side.  When he inserted the key, the lid popped open with a click and the key disappeared before his very eyes.

Thomas reached inside and pulled out a small box wrapped in parchment paper.  He recalled Cain’s warning to avoid opening the package, though he was tempted.  

On his walk back toward the bench to meet up with Cain, Thomas couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being swindled somehow.  He thought about the circumstances that led to this moment.  The way in which Cain only appeared to him without any witnesses.  About how fast he had moved.  How he could hover in the air, and claimed he was able to perform magic.

Thomas then began to justify the existence of magic in his own mind.  He hadn’t believed in magic before tonight, and he was still skeptical, even considering what he saw Cain do, and what the key he was given did.  

This gave him hope.  Thomas tried to recall Cain’s exact words when he approached him with the proposition.  “You won’t need to worry about finances any longer” was the phrase that continued to play back in his mind, like dripping water from a leaky faucet.

Before Thomas returned to the bench, he was tempted to open the package.  It didn’t weigh very much… less than a pound he estimated.  He tried shaking it but there were no loose pieces making any noises when he did so.  He thought to himself, “How valuable could it be?”

And then Thomas’s mind wandered toward the silver key.  They key he did not choose.  What kind of package would he be carrying right now if he had made a different choice?  

All of this thinking of hope and possibility made Thomas’s walk back to the bench pass by quickly.  

When Thomas arrived, it was very dark.  He could see street lamps over the parking lot in the distance where a single car remained – his car.  He looked in every direction, but didn’t see Cain, so he sat on the bench for a moment.

Minutes went by and Thomas’s breath could be seen like he was exhaling after a cigarette drag as the night drew colder.  He finally grew impatient and yelled for Cain, who did not come.  He thought, “What else is there to do?” and considered opening the package.  He turned the package on-end and slid a finger underneath a flap that was taped closed, then paused, contemplating whether or not he should open it.  Cain’s warning rang in his mind.

Thomas ultimately decided against opening the package, and he laid it down next to him on the bench.  That’s when Cain suddenly appeared next to him and picked up the package.  His eyes glowed red, though there were no red lights near them for this to be a reflection.  

Cain appeared giddy with excitement as he turned the box over and examined all sides of it.  He let out some grunts and groans with an even bigger smile than he’d previously seen on Cain’s face.  

Then Cain suddenly stopped.  All expressions of excitement and glee left his face, and without moving his head, which was still down facing the package in his hands, Thomas noticed Cain’s eyes rolled up to meet his own, and there he sat on the armrest of the bench, staring at him like a statue.

Moments filled with dread passed in what seemed like hours before Thomas finally broke and said, “Um… so what’s in the package?”

Thomas couldn’t be certain, but he may have seen a smirk form in one corner of Cain’s mouth.  Finally, Cain spoke.  “Well Thomas, since you were the one to do all the hard work, why don’t you open it?”

Thomas paused for a moment and said, “Are you sure? I mean, you seemed so excited to get it, and I wouldn’t want to take away the surprise from you.”

Cain replied, “Oh Thomas, I already know what’s in the box… Part of my fun would be seeing you find out what’s inside it.  Go ahead.”

Cain extended an outstretched hand with the box in it.  Thomas was hesitant, but he took it and began slowly peeling away the parchment paper.  Once the paper wrapping was off, he found a cardboard box taped closed with packing tape.

He looked at Cain, who said, “Go on…” 

Thomas took his car keys out of his pocket and punctured the tape, then ran a key along the seam of the lid, splitting the tape as he went.  He opened all four flaps and found some packing material on top, which he removed.

At this point, he noticed Cain’s head over his right shoulder looking down at the box with him.  Inside the box was what appeared to be an ornate wooden Christmas tree ornament.  It was rather large, and beautifully carved.

Thomas looked at Cain, somewhat confused, and said, “A Christmas tree ornament?  That’s what you had me get for you?  But why?  What’s so special about this ornament that you couldn’t retrieve it yourself?”

He held the box up to Cain’s face, which caused him to recoil.  

Cain said, “Thomas, I must not touch this. It has been forbidden. I will need you to handle it for me.”

Thomas replied, “I just don’t get it… why do you want this so badly?”

Cain eagerly responded, “I don’t want it, I need it… for my tree, you see?  The big one over there!”

Thomas looked over at the large tree he had motioned to.  It was the one he first saw Cain standing next to.

Cain said, “I just need you to place it on the tree, and then you will have fulfilled your duty and earned your reward.”

Thomas said, “Um… okay I guess.”

Cain and Thomas walked toward the large Christmas tree, and as they did, the lights on the tree began to dimly glow.  The closer they got to the tree, the brighter the lights became.  

“Where do you want me to place it?” Thomas asked.

Cain pointed to a spot that looked bare near the base of the tree and Thomas approached it and reached for the ornament.  When his hand made contact with it, Thomas felt a surge of energy, as if the wooden object were somehow giving off some kind of magical effect.

Thomas lifted the ornament up toward the branch and used the small metal hook to suspend it where Cain had shown him.  He turned to Cain and said, “How’s that?” but Cain was no longer standing with him. He could hear retreating laughter in the distance that was drowned out by a cold breeze.

Thomas stood there silent for a moment, wondering what was going to happen next, if anything.  And then he looked down and noticed he was suspended in the air about a foot off of the ground.  He was levitating, and gliding slowly toward the ornament he had just hung.

He felt a sharp pain in his feet, which traveled up his shins and into his knees, then up his legs and into his hips.  The wave of pain continued and Thomas cried out until the pain reached all the way up to his throat, when he found his voice stopped making noise, though he was trying to scream.  

He found himself frozen in place, and unable to move as he continued to glide toward the ornament on the tree.  Then the pain stopped suddenly, and Thomas began to notice the other ornaments on the tree.  

Scattered between the lights and colorful bulbs were the ornaments with faces on them that he recalled noticing before.  But this time, he noticed all of the eyes within the ornaments moving to watch him as he got closer to the ornament he had just hung.  And as he floated even closer, he finally understood exactly what was happening to him.

Cain returned to the tree before sunrise, and with him, he brought a chisel, a hammer, and a small paintbrush with some red paint.  He went to work, chiseling away at first.  At one point, the branch Thomas was hanging from suddenly shot up in the air before he heard a large “thunk” sound hitting the ground below him.  He couldn’t move anything except his eyes, and when he turned them to look at what made the noise below, he saw his shoes, his jeans, and his coat, but they looked like they were made of wood.  There it laid, headless.

Cain did some additional chiseling before he was right up in Thomas’s face, then said, “Well, we can’t have an unhappy decoration now, can we?”  He had carved a smile on Thomas’s now-wooden face, then finished up by painting some rosy cheeks, then stepping back to admire his work.  Then he dragged Thomas’s body away, and that was the last time Cain spoke to him.

There Thomas hung as the sun rose and people started to appear to take in the decorations.  Hundreds of people each day walked by to appreciate the joy and cheer brought by the festive decor.  All the while, Thomas was of sound mind, but he could not make noise, he could not sleep, and he could not move, save his eyes, which moved too slowly for living people to appreciate.

About a week later, late in the evening after most people had left Santa’s Workshop, he saw his family. His father and two younger sisters were in the distance. It appeared as if they were hanging something on the walls of the adjacent buildings. He tried with all of his might to cry out, but nothing happened.

A few minutes later, he saw his mother.  She was out of the hospital and actually walking.  She appeared healthy.  She was only feet away, taking in the beautiful decorations on the tree and holding a stack of papers.  On the front, Thomas could make out some writing and an image. At the top, in bold letters, was the word, “Missing”, and below it was a picture of Thomas.

Soon his father and sisters joined his mother in viewing the tree.  And eventually, his mother gazed at Thomas directly.  She focused on him for a moment, then squinted and pointed at Thomas, and said, “Doesn’t that look like…” 

Thomas’s father looked at him as well, then said, “Dear, I think we’re both seeing things that we hope for, but aren’t there.”

His father then took one of the fliers from his mother and used an empty branch on the tree to perforate the flier in order for it to be displayed for all to see.  Right next to Thomas’s head. He then wrapped his arms around Thomas’s mother and said, “It’s getting cold. We’ll come back out tomorrow and post more fliers.”  

Thomas was overrun with emotion, and the realization that he was going to be hanging there for eternity. As his family walked away, a single tear ran down Thomas’s now-wooden face, down the side of his cheek, and below his head where his neck once was before dripping onto the cold grass below.

As the people went home, Thomas noticed someone in the distance sitting on the bench, appearing to be lost in thought. And not long after that, the man appeared startled and was squinting to see something to the side of the tree. Thomas couldn’t turn his head to look, but when the silhouette of a short pointed-eared person began making his way toward the man on the bench, he only wished he could warn him.

The Two Keys

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All good this time, mate. 🙂
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THOMAS WRIGHT IS IN FINANCIAL TROUBLE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON AND DOESN’T KNOW WHAT HE’S GOING TO DO TO SUPPORT HIS FAMILY. HIS MOTHER IS SICK AND HIS FATHER DOESN’T MAKE ENOUGH MONEY TO SUPPORT THEM ON HIS OWN, EVEN WORKING TWO JOBS. AS HE VISITS A SEASONAL ATTRACTION NEAR THE WATER, HE DEVISES A PLAN TO SCAM A CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION – ONE HE KNOWS ACTUALLY SPENDS VERY LITTLE GIVING TO THOSE IT CLAIMS TO SERVE. AS HIS MIND BEGINS DEVISING A PLAN, HE CATCHES THE ATTENTION OF A MAGICAL BEING WHO CAN EITHER MAKE OR BREAK THINGS FOR HIM THIS HOLIDAY SEASON, AND OFFERS HIM A CHOICE. HE IS OFFERED REPRIEVE FROM HIS FINANCIAL SITUATION FOR HELPING HIM WITH A TASK. HE CAN EITHER CHOOSE TO RETRIEVE SOMETHING FROM AN OFFICE BUILDING, WHICH WILL WILL HELP TO SCAM THE CORRUPT CHARITY ORGANIZATION… OR HE CAN CHOOSE TO RETRIEVE SOMETHING FROM A STORAGE ROOM WHOSE OWNER IS UNKNOWN. THE LISTENER WILL HAVE THE OPTION TO CHOOSE.

Transcript

WRITTEN BY JEREMY ENFINGER

Times were tough that Christmas. Thomas Wright worked a seasonal job to help his family pay the bills. He was 16 years old and his parents each worked two jobs to support him and his two younger sisters, but his mother had fallen to illness in recent months. His father tried to pick up extra work, but found that keeping a second job was very difficult to do with chronic back pain he experienced from years of manual labor. So this year, Thomas decided to start helping out. 

He eagerly went to work in hopes to make a contribution to help his family afford the necessities, but after three weeks, he found his contributions were meager at best. He planned to be the first in his family to attend college and he knew his dreams would be threatened if his family couldn’t afford to pay the ever-increasing rent prices in San Diego. 

He wondered if he was going to be able to make things work. His mind struggled to focus on other possible ways to make more money using less time and effort. 

SOUND: CHRISTMAS MUSIC AND CHATTER ARE IN THE BACKGROUND WITH ADULTS AND CHILDREN ENJOYING THE ATTRACTION.

After his shift one night, he found himself so immersed in thought about this, he didn’t notice that he sat down on a bench in front of an elaborate seasonal attraction until a small girl started crying near him after spilling her hot cocoa and parents promising her they’d go purchase another. That’s when Thomas began taking in his surroundings, now distracted by its grandiosity.

It was truly a sight to behold. There were bubbles on the ground simulating snow, candy cane fences and gingerbread houses with people dressed in elf costumes. In the center of it all was a small structure with a hand-painted sign that said, “Santa’s Workshop”. On either side of that structure stood two of the largest Christmas trees he’d ever seen, elaborately decorated with vibrant lights, reflective globes of various colors, and life-like ornaments that looked like actual peoples’ faces, which he thought was very peculiar, but brushed it off since they all had smiles and cheeks painted red similarly to the elves in costume.

Though it was late, Thomas decided to spend some time thinking about possibilities for earning more income, and that’s when he thought of it. He’d heard a local crime-stopper report about how some of these local charities had spent very little of the money they actually earned through donations toward the people they claim to serve. Something like less than five percent. All that money with pure intention was going to the very few at the top of those organizations. People who didn’t need it, who already lived lavish lifestyles, greedily feeding off the good will of hard-working people like parasites. Yes, that’s how he would make ends meet. After all, his family needed charity more than those people.

He needed to devise a plan for how he was going to intercept those donations, but his time was spent rationalizing the morality of his idea. He told himself he’d make sure a large portion of it actually goes to the people it was intended for, which just happened to include his family. He mentally justified it before he began thinking of a plan. He found himself sitting on that bench longer than he anticipated.

SOUND: BACKGROUND NOISES FADE, AND THE SOUND OF FAINT BREEZE IS HEARD.

Still lost in thought, his concentration was broken when all of the lights from the attraction began shutting down, one by one, except for one of the Christmas trees. He looked at his watch and it was nearly midnight, and he realized how cold he was becoming.  

Thomas stood up with every intention of walking to his car and driving home. But movement caught his eye just beyond the Christmas tree with the lights on. Two separate lights, about 4 feet off the ground and slightly dimmer than the lights on the tree, yet separated from the rest of them by considerable distance, reflected green and red and gold. It wasn’t the colors that made them stand out though. It was the odd pattern of horizontal swaying back and forth that drew his attention. But they would frequently blink off and blink back on again, which ultimately led to the realization that they weren’t actually lights. They were reflections of the lights on the tree from a pair of eyes in the darkness, staring at him.

When Thomas realized this, he saw even more faint reflections below them, as if whoever was standing in the shadows had smiled and teeth reflected the nearby lights as well.  

Shivers sent up Thomas’s spine and he looked around to find no other person in sight. It’s as if he was entranced somehow, so deep in thought that he didn’t realize everyone around him had gone… except the person staring at him from the dark.

When Thomas turned his gaze back to that person, the eyes were gone, which made him more uncomfortable. Then the final remaining lights from the Christmas tree were shut off and Thomas found himself in darkness. 

He turned to walk toward the parking lot and to his astonishment, a small person was perched on the armrest of the bench he had been sitting on. He had pointed ears and a long, thin bleach-white beard that he was twirling in his fingers. A smile adorned his face as he sat staring at Thomas.  

Still overcome with surprise, Thomas asked the small person, “How the hell did you get here without making a noise?”

They replied, “Christmas magic, of course! Something tells me you’re troubled.”

Thomas took a step back, hesitant to interact with the thing. “Who are you?” He asked.

It stood up on the armrest of the bench as Thomas stepped away. “You can call me Cain” it replied.

Thomas took a moment to take in some details. It was wearing what looked like durable work clothes with a few holes in it, and its hands were calloused. The thing was covered in hair and never seemed to stop smiling. 

“So uh… Do you work here? I mean with the decorations and lights and all?” Thomas asked.

Cain replied, “You could say I contribute to it… but that’s not why I’m here.”

In a blur, the thing went from standing on the armrest of the bench to behind Thomas’s right shoulder, suspended in the air, to whisper, “I’m so glad you stayed for a while. I have a proposition for you.”

Thomas jumped and turned around to face Cain.

“How the hell are you moving so fast?” Thomas exclaimed.

Cain said, “I told you… Christmas magic. For all of the mockeries of elves, fictitious characters and magical beings everyone seems to enjoy every year around this time, why does it amaze people so much when the notion of real magic comes into question?”

Thomas said, “I guess I see your point. What’s this about a proposition?”

“Yes,” said Cain. “I noticed you seem a little glum… perhaps financial troubles have you down?”

“How did you know that?” Thomas replied. “Were you watching me this whole time?”

Cain said, “Not necessarily. I just happen to know many things… Things that normal people don’t know… I know your intentions and I agree with you. The rich often take advantage of the poor in so many ways… and they always seem to get away with it. My proposition has two options, but you’ll need to choose.”

Thomas said, “Choose? What do you mean?”

“Well, the universe doesn’t allow me to go everywhere I’d like to go, so I need your help to acquire something for me. You’ll be rewarded handsomely for your time and effort, of course.”

Thomas was apprehensive, but asked, “How much are we talking about… for the reward, I mean?”

Cane’s eyes became narrow and his smile widened. He said, “Oh, let’s just say you won’t need to worry about finances any longer if you do this for me.”

In his heart, Thomas knew this was too good to be true, but he also considered the timing of this offer and perhaps fate, or karma, or luck just happened to be on his side for once, and he did not have the strength nor the knowledge to resist such an offer.

“What do you need me to get?” Thomas asked.

Cain explained, “It’s simple, really. I need two things, but you need only to retrieve one for me. But don’t worry, they’re both nearby.”

Thomas said, “You mean right now?”

“Oh yes,” Cain replied. “It must be now while the opportunity still remains. Walk away and the opportunity will be gone forever.”

Thomas looked at his watch, which said twenty past midnight. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll do it.”

Cain held up his right fist, then opened it revealing a silver key in his palm and said, “There’s an office building about two miles from here. On the third floor, the southeast corner office has a locked cabinet adjacent the window overlooking the harbor. There’s a small box on the top shelf of that cabinet. This key will grant you entrance to the building, the office door, and the cabinet.”

“Okay, that sounds simple enough,” Thomas said as he reached for the silver key.

Cain retracted and closed his fist, saying “Or…”

Thomas lowered his hand and waited.

Cain lifted his left fist and opened it, revealing a gold key and said, “There’s a small storage unit just north of here that contains only one item… another small box. This key will grant you entrance into the main gate and the storage unit itself.”

Thomas thought carefully for a moment, then said, “What’s in these boxes? And why can’t you get them?”

Cain replied, “Nothing of value to you, of course, but each contains something of considerable value to me. And my reasons for wanting them are mine, and mine alone.”

Thomas hesitated.  “What’s the catch?” he said.

Cain replied, “No catch. My offer only requires you to retrieve one of them for me… But know this: Acquiring the box from the office building using the silver key will negatively influence one of the corrupt charitable organizations that you were previously thinking about.”

“And the gold key?” Thomas Asked.

“If you use the gold key to retrieve the box from the storage unit, your family will be rewarded.”

Cain then held both keys in his open palms in front of Thomas and said, “So, will you take the silver key and influence the corrupt charity? Or will you take the gold key and provide good fortune to your kin?”

“Simple as that?” Thomas said.

“Simple as that.” Cain replied. “I’ll meet you here on this bench when you return.”

Cain took a step closer to Thomas as he contemplated which key to take.

Who Do You Trust? – Season 4 Episode 10

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Profanity, references to blood, loud sound effects (breaking glass)
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy and Anderson set up a meeting with Ron to confront him about his appearance in the hotel video. Brianne connects some of the names in the medical records to local disappearances and deaths, and one of them has been mentioned on the podcast before (The Ice Cream Man). She works to confirm missing/dead people are Shepherds and Makers.
Jeremy falls asleep in the car and has a vivid dream where he wakes up and unknowingly causes damage to Anderson’s car with some element of telekinetic ability. Ron meets with Anderson and Jeremy and explains he was sent to find Joseph Foye by Dr. Patel, and happened upon the crime scene. Jeremy passes out and ends up in the emergency room.

Transcript

WRITTEN BY JEREMY ENFINGER

Hi everyone, I know this episode is coming out later than scheduled, but hopefully you’ll understand the reason for it when you hear what’s been going on with me toward the end of today’s episode.  Thanks for hanging in there!

Anderson drove us to the diner, and on the ride over, I could tell that his mood had soured.  He was obviously feeling an element of betrayal by his old friend and partner, but he was also angry.  I hadn’t yet seen him lose his cool, and I didn’t want to be around if that ever happened.  Since it was now approaching three p.m. and we were sitting in some traffic, I figured we had some time for me to call Brianne.  I didn’t record our conversation, but I can summarize it for you.

Brianne had begun telling me about someone who was reported missing in the area, and on yesterday’s news, the person had officially been presumed dead.  She caught the person’s name, along with a few other details.  Eli Jannsen was a forty-two year-old man and English Teacher at a local Junior High School.

Brianne said she thought his name sounded familiar to her.  She immediately started looking through the medical files we now had access to and found his name there.  She said Eli Jannsen had a file there labeled with an “S” for Shepherd.  Eli Jannsen was a Shepherd.  A quick glance through his file, and she learned that among his abilities were being able to physically relocate objects from an adjacent dimension to our own.  

A thought occurred to me, which I shared with Brianne.  I wondered how one might distinguish the difference between an object brought here from another dimension and an object that someone simply manifested from nothing.  The thought was fleeting and Brianne didn’t seem to be as enamored by it as I was since she just moved right on.

She said that prompted her to begin searching for more cases of missing and/or deceased people in San Diego County over the last year and compiled a list of names, each with hyperlinks to news articles that mentioned them for later reference. She didn’t have to look long before finding another name from the news that matched a name in the medical records. 

Her name was Chelsea Ward, age forty-four.  This woman reportedly died last year in a hospital.  She had been admitted against her will by her family, under the guidance of her therapist, after experiencing prolonged bouts of insomnia and hallucinations.

Brianne found the article fascinating because it went on to describe some of the experiences she was having that landed her under medical observation.  According to the article she read for me over the phone, “Ms. Ward claimed a creature would visit her every night, and would stand outside her window, and she was positive its intentions were to kill her.  The longer she stayed awake, the harder it would be for that creature to track her down and follow her.”

She said the article also mentioned that during her first night spent at that hospital, her physician ordered her to be sedated so she could finally get some rest.  She was found dead during early morning rounds.  The story caught the media’s attention because there was suspected foul play.  Accusations of a drug administration error were thrown at the hospital by the family until the autopsy with the toxicology report were released.

Brianne said Chelsea Ward’s medical file had an “M,” indicating she was a Maker.  She also asked me if I recognized her name.  It did sound vaguely familiar, but I told her I couldn’t remember where I heard it.  She said, “The Ice Cream Man.”  I looked on your website for the podcast and read the transcripts.  The police report was filed on October fourteenth, nineteen eighty-four by Marriane Ward.  Her daughter, Chelsea was the one recovered after disappearing in the middle of the night.  She was seven years old at the time.  I considered the last name Ward might be a popular name, but the age matches.  She would have been forty-four last year at the time of this news story.

This information was surprising to say the least.  So surprising that I nearly forgot why I was in the car with Anderson.  When I asked Brianne if she found any additional connections, she told me that she had really only started looking into them.  She thought perhaps the first occurrence might have been a coincidence, but now that there were two of them, she felt compelled to let me know.  She also said she needed a smoke and a pot of coffee, but she was going to go right back to digging in more.  

Knowing I was with Detective Anderson, she asked me to keep him updated.  Of course, I agreed, but it was a reminder to me that I had a few updates to give to Brianne as well.  I thought it would be best to wait until my meeting with Ron was done to fill her in.  One: now that I know he’s her father, I don’t really want to do anything to smear his name unless it’s well-deserved.  And two: I don’t want to take away her focus from what she’s working on.

I hung up the phone and sat quietly in thought for a moment.  Anderson didn’t even seem to be aware, probably still marinating on the fact that Ron hadn’t been completely forthcoming.  A new possibility occurred to me, and it actually required me to consider that Ron was intentionally hiding information.  I had to force myself to imagine that I couldn’t take his word for anything, and that he may even be spreading misinformation.  I hate that I have to do this, but the thought process seemed more productive.

What if all of these documents that we’re calling The Storage Papers share one thing in common?  Could all of them be connected to Hydra in some way?  Has it been that way all along?  

I think it’s too soon to tell, and I don’t have much evidence to support this theory, but it’s an idea worth pursuing given that there are references to seemingly unrelated stories in the medical documents.  The same medical documents that were password-protected by Doctor Patel, someone who had at least some kind of authority at Hydra, and possibly more at SCIC.  That would mean that these one-off kinds of stories that I’ve been sharing on Patreon with our Curators – the ones that seem to be unrelated to the big picture – might have some sort of relevance after all.  It’s just one more detail in a sea of details to keep in mind moving forward.

Since Anderson wasn’t speaking much, the rest of the ride to the diner was spent with me daydreaming.  The hum of the air conditioner in Anderson’s car along with the people-watching I was able to do looking out the passenger window put me at ease somehow.  It must have been the mindless, repetitious noise that calmed me.

Since I started this podcast, I’ve been trying some sleep techniques that mostly include deep breathing and relaxation exercises, but what usually does for me is the drone of a fan I have in my bedroom.  It’s white noise that drowns out the majority of noises you hear with apartment living.  It gives the mind the ability to focus on that one single, recurring noise, while you block out everything else.

The longer the A/C blasted my face, the more I was entranced by its hypnotic rhythm.  In my mind, I began to forget who I was in the car with, what my surroundings were, and where we were going.  My eyes focused on the vent pointed at me.  Darkness began at the periphery of my vision and time seemed to stand still as my head laid to rest on the seat behind me. I started to remember details of the preceding night’s dreams as I drifted off to sleep in Anderson’s unmarked cruiser.

In my experience, we all have varying abilities to remember our dreams.  I don’t recall many dreams at all throughout most of my life, but I know I dream a lot.  Every once in a while, I’ll wake up with full retention of a dream.  Often they’re accompanied by feelings of nostalgia, but within an hour, I will have forgotten everything about the dream, with only a hint of the feelings they provided with source removed.  It’s the reason I’m writing down details about this dream now, while they’re still fresh in my memory.

I found myself in the very back of a classroom, observing.  The adult version of myself knew the child version of me was sitting at one of the desks in the front of the class, listening to the teacher talk to the class about string theory.  I don’t actually see my younger self’s face, but I know it’s me up front.  From the looks of it, the children must have been seven or eight years old there, obviously too young for that kind of a topic.  

I begin taking slow steps down the center aisle, toward the front of the class to be able to get to my younger self. I need to warn him about something.  What I’m trying to warn him about, I’m not exactly sure, but I feel a sense of urgency.  No matter how much I want to get to the front of the room, my steps feel like I’m walking through wet cement.

The teacher doesn’t notice me at all.  I wave my arms trying to get her attention, and even though she’s the only person in the room facing me, it’s like I’m invisible.  I try to call out, but I can barely muster what resembles an asthmatic wheeze.  The children don’t really notice me either.  At least, at first.

As I begin slowly passing by the first row of students, I can tell they are turning to look at me in my periphery.  I’m so focused on the front of the classroom that I don’t see their faces, but I’m instantly filled with a sense of dread.  I pass more rows of children and I can tell I have multiple sets of eyes on me, drilling holes into the back of my head, which now feels hot as if there was a magnifying glass focusing sunlight on it.

I hear a noise that stops me dead in my tracks, and though I don’t know what it is, I’m frozen in fear.  My breath begins to condensate as I feel a chill wash over me starting from behind me and traveling to the front.  There’s a smell that makes me want to vomit. I can only describe it as sulfuric, with hints of gangrenous flesh and wet garbage.  

I decide to slowly turn my head to look behind me and evaluate the danger.  When I do, there are no longer children in the seats I walked past.  I can’t describe exactly what I see, but they look like creatures of all shapes and sizes, demonic entities perhaps, or something else.  All I know is there were legions of them, countless in waves with glowing yellow eyes as far as I could see into dark, vast spaces not bound by the physical structure of the classroom I was in.  They all remain still for a moment, and as I contemplate my next move, they begin lunging toward me in some kind of unspoken coordinated attack..

I turn around to face the front of the classroom and try to run, but the teacher is right in front of me, nose to nose.  Only it’s not the teacher anymore.  It’s one of the creatures.  I feel agonizing pain as a pair of claws slices into my skin under my jaw.  In what felt like slow motion, they pierce the skin in my neck, then travel upwards through my lower jaw and the floor of my mouth, and come out on either side of my tongue, while the tips of the claws separate my teeth and point outward toward the creature putting its hooks in me.  I’m lifted into the air, suspended by the jaw like a fish being held up for display.  Then the lights go out and it slams me down on my back.

All I see are thousands and thousands of yellow, glowing eyes quickly approaching me, and then they disappear.  Still lying on my back, a blinding light comes on above me, shining into my eyes.  I hear the giggling of the school children, and as my eyes adjust to the light, I can see their faces, which appear normal save their glowing yellow eyes.  They’re all wearing lab coats and have gathered around me, and are staring.  When I try to move, I can tell I’m in restraints.  Then I recognize my child-self walking up to the table just above my head.  The other children look at him and say in unison, “He doesn’t belong here, Jeremy.  Will you send him away until he’s ready?” 

Child-me pauses for a moment, and with no evidence of emotion, nods his head “yes.” 

They all turn back to face me to watch, and they all begin laughing.  All except child-Jeremy.  They cover their mouths with one hand and point at my face with the other.  Their laughs seem joyous and care-free, which contrasted with my rising level of fear at that moment.  I focus on my child-self’s face, which still remains emotionless.  He telepathically communicates to me as the childrens’ laughter begins to fade away.  He says, “One of us needs to go.  One of us needs to make the sacrifice.”  

I begin convulsing and shaking my head back and forth in an effort to free myself from captivity.  That’s when I notice all of the children staring at me again with blank expressions.  I think of what I might be able to say to convince them to let me go, but I can’t think of anything and begin to resign myself to the belief that I’m going to die.  That’s when I noticed my child-self clutching a large syringe in his hand.  He let out a maniacal scream as he jabbed it into my throat, and that’s when I was jolted awake.

SOUND: Glass breaking and car brakes screeching.

I awoke as Anderson’s cruiser screeched to a stop on the side of the road.  He was just staring at me, and he looked frightened.  After I noticed the awkwardness of the situation, I said, “What?”

Anderson said, “You tell me.  What the fuck was that?”

Still a bit disoriented, I explained that I dozed off and was having this really weird dream.  It was one of those dreams where you wake up kind of startled because you feel like you’re falling in real life.  He continued to stare at me.  I began to take in my surroundings and noticed about 5 or 6 people on the sidewalk near our vehicle, just staring at us.

“What happened?” I asked.

Anderson said, “You tell me what the fuck happened!  I’ve gotta figure out a way to explain all this to my boss.”

I looked around the interior of the vehicle.  Broken glass littered the dashboard and was all over my shoulder closest to the window and my lap.  Anderson also had glass all over him.  The dashboard was cracked in front of me and I hadn’t noticed it before, but Anderson had a bloody nose that was dripping onto his light blue button-up shirt.  

Anderson said, “Seriously, since when could you do that kind of thing?”

I honestly wasn’t convinced it was me that caused all of this.

He continued, “That’s bulletproof glass.  How the hell did you do that?”

I told him I didn’t know, and that I couldn’t remember ever doing that before.  I was in a state of disbelief myself.  I started asking him what else might be in the area that could cause that kind of thing to happen.

Anderson lifted his eyebrows when he looked at me and said, “Absolutely nothing.”

I wasn’t sure I recalled much in the papers about abilities like this, and the closest thing I could think of was maybe Preston Nicholson’s abilities with telekinesis.  But I was labeled in the medical files as a Maker, and from what I currently know about the Makers’ abilities, I hadn’t proven that I’d manifested anything into existence just yet.  At least that I’m aware of.  None of this made sense.  

Anderson said, “We’re almost there. Let’s just meet up with Ron and I’ll sort all of this out later,” as he threw on his turn signal and re-entered traffic.  

We arrived at the diner a few moments later and we walked in the front door.  We spotted Ron already sitting at a booth toward the back and Anderson told me to tell Ron he’d be right with us.  At that point, the napkin he had been using for his bloody nose was needing to be replaced, and he excused himself to the restroom.

I walked over to Ron’s table and sat down across from him.  I’m not sure why I was so nervous, but his intense glare didn’t help at all.  It was a pissed-off look as if to say, “Why the hell are you dragging me out of my cave this time?”

“Well?” he said.  

I just told him, “I think I want to wait until Anderson is here before I bring anything up… you know, so I don’t have to say it again.”  

He acted like I was testing his patience and that really pissed me off.  In my head, I was thinking, “Are we on the same team, or not?”

Anderson arrived and sat down next to me in the booth, his nose looking red and inflamed, but no longer bleeding.  He looked at me as if to say, “Go ahead, tell him.”

I pulled out my recorder, turned it on, and hit record.  Then I placed it on the table in the middle of us all.


Jeremy: So, Ron, we’re here because I’ve recently learned that you made an appearance at the scene of a homicide that we’ve been looking into since my podcast first went live.

Ron: Sure, you can record me.  Now which homicide is this specifically?

Jeremy: It’s the one where there’s CCTV footage of the parking lot outside the hotel room where Joseph Foye’s body was found.  You know, the one with that creepy footage of the Grinner?

Ron: How did you get that footage?  Have you been talking to Patel?  

Jeremy: That doesn’t even matter.  I think what matters is why you never said anything to us about it.  

Anderson: What were you doing there, Ron?

Ron: First, you tell me how you obtained that footage.  I ain’t telling you shit until you let me know that.

Jeremy: (sighs) Yes, I got it from Patel, but it was delivered to me after she died.

Anderson: You wouldn’t know anything about that either, would you?

Ron: Alright, look.  Turn that fucking recorder off and I’ll tell you what I know.

Jeremy: I’m not sure I want to turn it off. I’m not even sure I can trust you. If I turn this off, do I have your permission to tell my podcast audience what you say?

Ron: Fine. I guess I see how it might look.  Now turn it off before I smash it to pieces.


I know Ron comes off like a total asshole… well, I guess he just might be a total asshole, but he was true to his word and confirmed he had been there, and explained why.  

He claimed that Doctor Patel had asked him, among many other tasks, to locate Joseph Foye and apprehend him.  She believed he knew the location of something she had been looking for over the course of several years.  Ron said the trail had gone cold for months until Foye slipped up and charged something to a debit card Ron knew about.  

At the time, Ron had been on one of his many excursions to Mexico, so when he learned about the charge on the card that afternoon, it took several hours to get back into town due to some traffic at the border crossing.  Ron said he approached with caution, assuming Foye was alive, but still trying to avoid him.  He didn’t anticipate the bloodbath that he saw when he peered into the window.  

Ron claimed that he called in a favor to have the original video edited, but suspected that Patel found out about it and somehow acquired an unedited version.  When asked why he wanted that part of the video gone, he said he was already having a tough time maintaining Doctor Patel’s trust.  He believed she was aware of some ulterior motives of his, which of course, he refused to specify, but likened it to… how did he say it?  “You can just never tell how much trust you can put in a double-agent.”  

I hated to admit it, but every time I get a feeling like the guy is doing something shady, he comes up with a half-decent explanation.  Personally, I still don’t trust him any farther than I can throw him, but he appeased my need for reassurance at the moment.  It was Anderson he had to worry about now.  Anderson started going on about how Ron knew he was working that case and kept information from him.  He really felt completely betrayed, and I couldn’t blame him.  I found myself wondering if there was now an irreparable rift in their friendship.

As their conversation began to get a little heated and Anderson made it clear how pissed off he was, I began to feel a little dizzy.  I figured I might need to eat something, so I reached across Anderson to grab a menu from the edge of the table near the window and put it down in front of me.  As I went to open it, I felt a ringing in my ears that drowned out their conversation and all of the noise in the diner.  

I placed my hands up to my ears to try to plug them with my index fingers, but felt a sticky sensation as I did.  I lowered my hands to examine them and blood trickled down my index fingers.  My ears had been bleeding and I was getting dizzier by the second.  Then everything went black.

I woke up to find myself in a hospital stretcher, wearing a gown and covered with a thin blanket.  Oxygen was being fed through a nasal cannula into my nose and my room was empty.  I had a splitting headache, which began throbbing even worse as I looked around for a call button.  Once I pressed it, a nurse slid back the curtain in front of me and slid it closed behind her. She asked me a few questions to make sure I was alert and oriented before she answered my only question, “What happened?”

She said an ambulance brought me in after I passed out at a diner down the street.  She also let me know that two men were waiting in the emergency room lobby for news, but she couldn’t let them into the room due to COVID protocols.

I told her to ask them to try to reach my wife to let her know I was in the emergency room but doing okay for now, and to let them know they could leave.  After looking at the time, it was well into the evening and I knew she’d be worried. 


Thank you for listening to The Storage Papers.  This season, I’m taking a little break between this episode and the next for the main story in order to get some of my personal health effects in order, which I’ll update you on soon.  In the meantime, I’ve asked Detective Anderson to bring me my laptop while I’m in the hospital so I can complete the final editing on some other content to be able to share with you during the hiatus.

Halloween 2022: Feed the Bones

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The Storage Papers is a fiction horror podcast.

Discretion is advised.

See Content Warnings
Home invasion, threats, murder, corpses, gore

Transcript

WRITTEN BY NATHAN LUNSFORD

MALCOLM: Hello, Jeremy. This is quite the lovely home you have here. I hope you don’t mind. The door wasn’t quite closed— well, maybe that’s not entirely true, but it was easy enough for someone like little old me to slide in, either way. So I let myself in, and, as I was saying, it truly is a lovely home. Everything seems so… normal. I can’t in all honesty say it’s entirely how I pictured it. Somehow I thought there’d just be… more to you. Not all these formulaic photos of Disney and weddings and… I suppose that’s neither here nor there now, like they say.

Don’t worry, your children are sleeping, and so perfectly peacefully. They remind me of two siblings I used to know in a past life. Siblings who are all eaten away now. But that’s all between the memories of a wasted winter and the lost time of a forgotten fall. And that’s about where we are now. Here, together. You and me. And your wife over there, but we’ll pay her no mind, will we?

That’s right, stay sleeping. Stay dreaming. We both know what can happen in those pockets of space and time that we visit and create in our minds, don’t we? And what are you dreaming of now, I wonder? What secrets are you sharing with your Monitor? Judging by the small trail of blood slowly leaking from your skull, it must be a doozy. Perhaps one day you’ll tell me all about it. Or maybe I’ll just rip your head right open and savor the scent of decades of love, life, knowledge, education, thoughts, and dreams fading into nothing.

Another time, perhaps. I still need you. Just a little longer, Jeremy. Just a little longer.

For now, I’ll read you a little bedtime story. It’s about that time of year, isn’t it? That time when, despite the detective’s warnings you delve into my grandfather’s journal, exploiting his many deaths and for what? Your own amusement? That I could respect. But this podcast… really, Jeremy? Even I think that’s a bit… crass.

Did you ever wonder why this book of Joseph Jacob Foye contained so many deaths? No, I suppose you didn’t. It’s a wonder the few things you’ve caught onto with how… unique your brain works. I would have expected that, for someone you’ve been so interested in, you would have given it a bit more thought.

But no matter. I’ll find us a juicy one. Just for us. What do you have for us today, grandfather? Hmm… nothing too early on. And don’t want to jump straight to the end and spoil everything. Where’s the fun in that? Ah, here we are. October thirty-first, nineteen seventy-eight.


I’d never given much thought to pumpkin decorations. I suppose I’ve been so busy for so long that the whimsy of Halloween always just passed me by. Then I intercepted a call trying to reach the local police and I’ve paid a lot closer attention to pumpkins since then.

The sun was getting low and a light fog beginning to nestle into the ground when I arrived at Perry’s Pumpkin Patch. It was an unusual sight—at least for me. Perhaps this is more normal than I realize, but in front of me was at least a full acre—if not more—of pumpkins. Not entirely normal pumpkins, though. These ones were all different colors: a rainbow as far as I could see. And they were large! Not a single runt in sight. I neared the gate and saw a key “P” word I’d missed on the sign: Perry’s Pumpkin Painting Patch. Below that was a smaller sign with a few rules.

  • Five dollars per family.
  • Paints and brushes provided.
  • Don’t move the pumpkins.

This was the sort of thing I suppose I could see the value in were I ever to form proper roots. As things stand now, however, my interest was singular, and the one to guide me had just arrived.

“Detective Flint?”

Judging by the man’s calloused, dirt-stained hands, this was the man who had called me, believing me to be a detective with the sheriff’s office. I offered my hand.

“You’re the caretaker here?”

He took my hand, giving me a firm shake and a curt nod before letting go and looking back over the field which was quickly turning amber below the lowering sun. “Tell me exactly what happened,” I said.

His arm rose and I followed his finger as he pointed near the center of the pumpkin patch. “It’s right over there,” he began. “It was busy earlier. Families everywhere. It’s really our time of year, you know? Out of nowhere, I hear a kid scream. I run out, thinking maybe a kid tripped and hurt themselves on a rock or some such. Then I hear more screams.”

“Can you show me,” I asked.

He nodded and, with me in tow, he began walking with the limp of a man who’d been limping for decades. “This’ll ruin us. I’ve always liked looking after a place that’s just meant to be a bit of family fun. I don’t know why he moved the pumpkin in the first place. It’s one of the only rules here. Not that this whole mess is the kid’s fault, but… I don’t know, I’m just rambling, I suppose.”

“Why the rule,” I asked. “Seems a bit particular, doesn’t it?”

He glanced back at me and offered a half shrug. “‘A bit particular’ would be a good way to describe Mr. Perry. But if things get moved, it can ruin the whole look, I think. Suddenly pumpkins get detached or carelessly broken and this is no longer an iconic view of multicolored pumpkins, but a pumpkin graveyard.” He paused for a moment, then continued. “If you’ll excuse the expression. Jesus.”

He slowed to a stop. “There. The half-painted one.”

I moved past him, eyeing the oversized squash. Not even half of it had actually been painted. Black bats and an unpainted orange full moon decorated a purple sky, but apart from that it was all pumpkin. “The kid moved it?”

“Yeah, I couldn’t even tell you how. These things are heavier than they look,” he answered.

“Well, they look pretty heavy, so that’s saying something,” I mused as I crouched by the pumpkin in question. “How do they all get to be so big?”

“Mr. Perry says it’s the fertilizer, but I can attest that that’s nothing special. I always tell people it’s a bit of Halloween magic. But honestly, hell if I know.”

I stood up and turned to him. “Would you mind helping me?”

He nodded and stepped forward. Together, and with much effort, we lifted the pumpkin and moved it to the side. “Oh Christ,” he gasped.

It wasn’t a pretty sight, I’ll give him that. The bottom of the pumpkin had a hole in it, and it’d been hollowed out to make room for the head that protruded from the ground before us. I withdrew a penlight from my pocket and inspected the corpse. I heard the caretaker swear behind me, then turn away. I’m sure I’d seen worse, but at this precise moment I’m having a hard time remembering exactly when. The flesh was missing in chunks across the victim’s cheeks and back of his head. His teeth were exposed for the lack of lips, and an eye was missing entirely, the other gray and without a pupil. The exposed white bone was riddled with holes, like a piece of wood after a swarm of termites took a pass at it.

I thought I saw movement and peered more closely into the empty eye socket to see that it wasn’t empty at all. Dozens of dark, maggot-like creatures hurriedly moved away from my light. I stood up. This seemed more likely to be a regular crime scene with a slightly more interesting twist, but, as I surveyed the field, I saw nothing that would fall into my purview; it was likely just a murder victim being reclaimed by nature. Dust to dust and all that.

I told him that I had everything I needed for now and would be sending a unit out to take care of this further, but the place would need to remain closed for now. He wasn’t happy about having to be closed on Halloween weekend, but understood that it was the right thing to do given the circumstances. “Honestly, I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to look at these pumpkins the same,” he said quietly before I left. I couldn’t disagree with him, and was somewhat thankful I had no need to return.

I didn’t sleep well that night. Something was bothering me, rattling around in the back of my brain, not unlike the John Doe in the pumpkin patch. Why leave the head out of the ground? Sure, an oversized pumpkin is a good enough place to hide it if you’re going to, I suppose, but why risk getting caught at all? It was around two in the morning when I decided that sleep wasn’t paying me a visit and made my way back out to Perry’s Pumpkin Painting Patch.

The fog that had just started to roll in was now fully settled over the field, covering all but the tops of the pumpkins. I carried a stronger flashlight now, and let the beam slowly roll over the property. There was the field itself, then the office which was attached to a small house (presumably the caretaker’s residence), and a large shed where I could surmise that all the tools and maintenance supplies were kept. So what was the tiny shed on the far side of the field for? I debated leaving it alone, but nothing was speaking to me amongst the pumpkins and I still had that itch to scratch.

It was a jaunt, but as I approached, my curiosity only intensified. This shed had a locking mechanism I hadn’t encountered before outside of facilities that were far more secretive than a family pumpkin patch. I’d picked up a few things at those facilities, however, and was able to bypass the electronic lock entirely. As I opened the door, lights flickered on to illuminate a staircase leading underground. I looked behind me at the rows of painted squash, then descended below the shed.

The room I entered at the bottom could hardly be called a room at all for its sheer size. Everything was white—almost blindingly so. The entirety of the room was empty except for massive cylinders hanging from the ceiling like giant stalactites. I walked twenty or so paces to the one nearest me so I could inspect it. There seemed to be a removable panel on the side. Withdrawing the same screwdriver I’d used to bypass the lock, I began to work on the panel. It took some effort due to the size, but I was able to remove it. The answer I was looking for wasn’t immediately apparent, though. A plastic window was behind the panel, and behind that was solid dirt.

I looked around, then moved to the next cylinder, repeating the process. More dirt. Looking more closely at the window itself, I noticed a small button on the frame that I had mistaken for a bolt at first glance. I pressed it and the window immediately opened, sliding upwards into the frame. I stepped back and a bit of dirt spilled out, although with how tightly packed it was, not much was displaced. I hesitated, then began pulling chunks of dirt by hand, digging for answers. Then I found them. My hand made contact with something. I hurriedly cleared out enough dirt to realize what I’d connected with. Bone.

Just like the skull I’d seen in the pumpkin, this had been tunneled through by something. I looked more closely, trying to see what may have caused the unique pattern, then jumped back as something long and thin moved rapidly through one of the holes and crawled out of the capsule faster than I could react. I spun around to catch it—or to instinctively stomp on it—before it scurried away entirely, but my face was met with a very hard, dull object and I blacked out.

I don’t know how long it was before I came to, but I found that I was struggling to breathe. It was hard not to let panic set in, but I knew that would just make things more difficult. I tried to move any part of my body, but found I could barely even open my mouth. I looked around, searching for any explanation or, preferably, any way to escape. It was hard to tell where I was, but the pieces soon fell into place.

“It’s not personal, you know.”

The voice came muffled through the pumpkin shell. I didn’t recognize it. I tried to ask why but he’d already begun to answer before my efforts could yield any results.

“It’s an interesting species. We’ve been maintaining them for decades now. We’re still learning so much. Why do they feed primarily on bones? Why do they need to lay eggs above ground when they mainly live their lives below it? An unexpected byproduct is that their excrement makes for excellent fertilizer, of course. Not that that’s why they’re here.”

He paused, and I coughed, trying desperately to breathe. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain inside my leg.

“I don’t want to kill you. I’ve never actually killed anyone. Not directly, at least. But I can’t have you walk away with what you’ve seen. Instead, you’re contributing to science. Perhaps it’d be better not to tell you this, but by now you’ve probably begun to feel them. They should be burrowing into you about now to get at your bones. After some time, they’ll work their way up where they’ll lay their eggs inside your skull. Hopefully, you’ll be dead by then. Rinse and repeat, and you’ll have officially made an immeasurable contribution to science.”

With much effort I managed to get out two words through the pain and suffocation. “How? Why?”

I heard him crouch down by the pumpkin. “That’s just one of those questions, isn’t it? Maybe with your help, we’ll finally have an answer. We tried feeding them so many things. Animals, plants, fungi, but none of them took. So we feed the bones to them. Human bones, unfortunately. That’s it.”

I could feel them crawling up the inside of my legs. He stood back up. “And as to why? Well, is the scientific mind not enough for you? Then perhaps the incredible fertilizer that can be sold at an unmatched price point could be your answer. I hear they can also be used for some intense interrogation methods. But I know little about all that. I’m just here to get answers. I have to be on my way now. If you want my advice… try to relax. I don’t know if it helps you, or not, but it couldn’t hurt. And it allows them to work a bit faster. It doesn’t really make a difference to me either way, though. Goodbye, now.”

I tried to scream but couldn’t get enough air in my lungs. I heard him walking away as I felt the insects—or whatever they were—burrow through my bones, getting closer and closer to my head. I wasn’t alive by the time they made it to my brain.


My, my, that was quite the delicious entry, wouldn’t you say? That’s all for now, though, Jeremy. I’ll go ahead and let myself out. We’ll be in touch soon. Sweet dreams. 

Halloween 2022: The Party

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The Storage Papers is a fiction horror podcast.

Discretion is advised.

See Content Warnings
Themes involving grief, murder, revenge, gore

Transcript

WRITTEN BY JEREMY ENFINGER

SCENE 1: RESERVATION: FATHER / MARGARET
EXT: HEAVY RAIN AND THUNDER AS FATHER AND DAUGHTER, MARGARET, APPROACH LUCIUS’S FRONT DOOR.

MARGARET: I’m scared, father.

FATHER: Oh Margaret, there’s really no reason to be.

MARGARET: But what if he doesn’t like me?  What if I don’t get picked?

FATHER: Then… that’s okay. Not every family member gets chosen for the inheritance. 

(footsteps change from in mud to on wood)

FATHER: And even if you don’t get picked now, you could always get picked in the future… when you’re a little older. Come on, let’s go inside where it’s warm.

(Father jiggles door handle)

MARGARET: (pouty) But wait!

FATHER: What is it, sweetie?

MARGARET: Are you going to be upset if I’m not picked?

FATHER: No, sweetheart. You know I’m very proud of you, right?  

MARGARET: Yes, father.

FATHER: And your mother was very proud of you too before she passed.

MARGARET: I know.

FATHER: Hey, did you know that I didn’t get picked the first time? It took me three years to get picked! 

MARGARET: (uplifted) Really!!

FATHER: …And your mother… Well, she did much better than I did.  She was picked her second year.

MARGARET: So it’s okay if he doesn’t like me this year?

FATHER: Oh, it has nothing to do with liking you or disliking you. Tonight is all about just getting to know you.  You want to get to know your relatives, don’t you?

MARGARET: Yes, father.

FATHER: So, when we go inside, I’m going to introduce you, and he’s just going to ask you some harmless questions… to get to know you, okay? That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

MARGARET: No. That sounds easy.

FATHER: It is incredibly easy, and you’re going to do great. And since I already know you, don’t you think I know what I’m talking about?

MARGARET: (chipper) Yeah.

FATHER: Okay, now… Are you ready to meet some more of your family? 

MARGARET: (excited) Yes!!

FATHER: Okay, that’s my girl! Let’s get inside and warm up!

(thunder rolls as they walk in the door and close it)


SCENE 2: TRADITION: FATHER / LUCIUS / MARGARET
INT: Fireplace raging with Lucius sitting in a recliner next to it.  Father introduces Margaret to Lucius.  Margaret approaches, hesitant to engage in conversation.  

FATHER: Wait here a moment and I’ll call you over.

(walking away several steps toward Lucius)

FATHER: (at distance) Lucius, we’ve arrived.

LUCIUS: Ah yes, very well. Send her in.

FATHER: Of course. I’ll be anxiously waiting to hear from you. I’m getting hungry!

LUCIUS: As am I… as am I.

FATHER: Margaret, dear. Come over here. I’d like to introduce you to someone.  

(closer)

FATHER: This, Margaret, is Lucius. Lucius, my daughter Margaret.

MARGARET: Hello?  Are you my grandpa?

LUCIUS: (weak/frail sounding) Well, not exactly, my dear. But I knew your grandfather well. And your mother… you have her eyes and her nose (laughs weakly).

MARGARET: Really?

LUCIUS: Oh you most definitely do.
(to Father) The family is out back with everyone else. You know the way. 
(to Margaret) Come here little one, and sit next to an old man by the fireplace. Let me get to know you.

MARGARET: (joyful) Okay. Father told me you’re going to ask me some questions.

LUCIUS: Why yes, I will. But I want to tell you a story first… as long as you can promise me two things.

MARGARET: Of course!  What two things?

LUCIUS: First, there’s always a lesson to be learned from one of my stories.  You must promise me you will take this lesson and apply it to your life.

MARGARET: Okay, that should be easy.  What’s the second thing?

LUCIUS: You can’t tell anyone this story outside of family. Can you keep a secret?

MARGARET: That’s silly, but okay.

LUCIUS: I’m quite serious now… mum’s the word!  If you ever do get tempted and tell someone… 

(eerie music intensifies)

LUCIUS: (cont’d) I’ll know! 

(emphasis on “I’ll know” and voice effects, voice grows strong and deep, echoes with a growl)

MARGARET: (almost amused) Okay… I promise.

LUCIUS: (voice is comforting, returning to normal) You understand my terms for telling you this story?

MARGARET: Um… to use its lesson in my life and don’t tell anyone the story.

LUCIUS: Spot on!  That’s a good girl!

MARGARET: (joyful) You’re silly… can I hear the story now?

LUCIUS: Yes dear. Are you ready?

MARGARET: Yes!

LUCIUS: Okay. Here we go. There was once a man who traveled West. The days were long and hard traveling by horse and wagon, and he made camp each night, cooking by a fire he would make near his wagon, moving to new locations each day.  
The man traveled alone, but after weeks of traveling, he began to believe he was being followed. Day after day, night after night, he was convinced he saw movement in the corner of his eye.  He would constantly look over his shoulder hoping to catch a clear glimpse of someone or something that he was certain was behind him, but he was never able to. After enough time, he began to live every moment of his life in fear, and he began to develop a cruel disposition.
One night near the end of his travels, he had nearly run out of food and he did not know how much longer it would take to reach his destination.  After making camp, he had an idea that would not only relieve his hunger, but would serve as entertainment to distract him from his paranoia of being followed, and he hoped it might satiate his new found need for cruelty. 
You see, he had come across a variety of creatures, snakes, and vermin he had never before witnessed in his travels. He was so fascinated by them that he collected them in baskets and took them with him during his journey.
So, that night by his camp fire, he emptied two of the baskets very close to one another and watched the creatures that came out of them in hopes they would fight to the death. And he planned to cook whichever one lost the fight as his dinner for that evening.
So, he sat on a tree stump as he watched a snake and a fox on the ground in front of him. Both of them had been disoriented after he released them from their baskets, but they did not quarrel. The man grew impatient and began throwing pebbles and sticks at them to instigate a fight. But the creatures did not fight, for they were both weak and hungry, having spent days in those baskets. 
As the man resigned his hopes for entertainment, he began to ponder which he would have for dinner, considering he’d have to kill it himself. As he sharpened his knife, a great beast which had been following him for days came from the shadows and crept up behind him. It lunged at him and killed the man in an instant. It happened so quickly that the man never saw the beast, and it devoured him right there while the snake and the fox observed.
So Margaret, what did you think about this story?

MARGARET: It’s a really weird story. But I liked it!

LUCIUS: And what was the lesson of the story, Margaret?

MARGARET: Well, it didn’t have a happy ending.

LUCIUS: (prompting more) Yes?

MARGARET: And the man wasn’t very smart.

LUCIUS: Oh? And why is that?

MARGARET: Well, it doesn’t matter what kind of person or animal you are… there’s always going to be something else that will eat you.

LUCIUS: Very perceptive, dear Margaret. So then, who was the villain in this story? The fox, the snake, the man, or the great beast?

MARGARET: Well… the fox and the snake didn’t do anything wrong.

LUCIUS: That leaves the man and the great beast.

MARGARET: Well they were both just trying to eat, but the man was mean about it.

LUCIUS: Why, my dear?

MARGARET: He wanted to watch the fox and snake fight and hurt each other just for fun.

LUCIUS: And how was the beast different?

MARGARET: The beast ate the man, but he killed him fast.

LUCIUS: And do you think it was wrong for the beast to kill the man?

MARGARET: No. It’s just an animal and if it didn’t kill the man then he would just be hungry.

LUCIUS: Very good, Margaret. Now… Do you remember what two things you promised me before I told you that story?

MARGARET: (excited) Ooh ooh yes!

LUCIUS: What were they, my dear?

MARGARET: That I wouldn’t tell anyone the story at all… well, unless they’re in our family.

LUCIUS: And the second promise?

MARGARET: Um… that I would use the lesson from the story in my life.

LUCIUS: VERY good! So, what was the lesson, Margaret? 

MARGARET: To not be cruel. 

LUCIUS: Mmm hmm.

MARGARET: And to never travel alone.

LUCIUS: (laughs) You are a bright one, Margaret! So young, and so perceptive.  You’ve done splendidly! There are two more lessons I want you to take with you from that story. Are you ready to hear them?

MARGARET: Yes. But did I mess up?

LUCIUS: No, my dear. You were amazing! I don’t expect anyone to know about these next two lessons until I tell them. Once I do, you’ll understand.

MARGARET: Oh, okay. What are they?

LUCIUS: First, the man was without family. Family is everything, Margaret. If you must be separated from family, do not let it be for so long. It’s a strict rule that our people live by!

MARGARET: Okay, I understand.

LUCIUS: And second: trust your instincts. Do you know what instincts are?

MARGARET: No.

LUCIUS: Instincts are just feelings. Like when the man thought he was being followed all that time during his travels. He actually was being followed. They’re just feelings you get that you should trust. And we all have them.

MARGARET: Like when I can tell if someone is good or if they’re bad?

LUCIUS: Exactly like that, but before they actually do something to show you that they’re good or bad. Instincts can be developed, but you have to learn to trust them. The moment the man in the story stopped thinking about his, he was devoured by the beast, remember?

MARGARET: I understand. Thanks for telling me that story.

LUCIUS: You’re welcome, child. Why don’t we go and find your father?


SCENE 3: THE PARTY: LUCIUS / MARGARET / FATHER
EXT: LUCIUS WALKS MARGARET TO MEET HER FATHER BEHIND THE HOUSE. THERE’S MUSIC COMING FROM THE STABLE AND IT’S RAINING.

LUCIUS: Help me find your father, dear.

MARGARET: Wow, who are all these people?

LUCIUS: They’re all family, and they’re all very excited to meet you.

MARGARET: But they don’t look like me. Some of them have different skin colors. Some of them have different hair.

LUCIUS: When I say “family,” I don’t necessarily mean in the way your school teacher or your friends use the word “family” – implying your mother and father. 

MARGARET: What do you mean?

LUCIUS: Well, a family can be a group of descendants sharing the same ancestors. If your ancestors are old enough, over generations, people look less and less like each other, but they are still family. Or…

MARGARET: Or?

LUCIUS: It can mean a very close group of people with similar traits. They’re like us, Margaret.

MARGARET: Oh! There’s father!

(father approaches)

FATHER: See? Nothing to worry about! And in your very first year!

MARGARET: What do you mean, father? Does that mean I was picked?

FATHER: Yes, Margaret. You wouldn’t be back here with the family unless you were.

MARGARET: So does that mean I get my in-hair-tense?

FATHER: Inheritance… yes! And at such a young age!

MARGARET: But what is my in-hair-tense, father? 

FATHER: You’re about to find out, Margaret. Lucius will make the announcement.

(fork dings on glass as Lucius calls the family’s attention to a toast)

LUCIUS: Listen up everyone! Listen up! I have an announcement to make. And this body of mine doesn’t allow me to speak loudly. (pause)
(to Margaret) Margaret, come stand next to me dear. 
(to crowd) I have with me tonight a very special young girl, whose mother was taken from us far too soon this past year. And maintaining tradition, I have met with the girl… and deemed her worthy!

(clapping)

LUCIUS: (cont’d) The cycle continues as the eldest male and the eldest female in each line receives their ancestral inheritance, if found forthright and just, and able to distinguish evil intention. I present to you, Margaret.

(clapping)

LUCIUS: (cont’d) May we all bear witness, as family, as Margaret undergoes the change. I know you’re all hungry and I could eat a horse myself…

(laughing)

LUCIUS: (cont’d) …So without further delay, Margaret, please drink this now. 

FATHER: (close to Margaret) Go ahead, we’ve all done it.

(Margaret drinks)

LUCIUS: And let us all make our way to the stable now to join the party, where our other guests have gathered and are enjoying our hospitality, though they deserve no such thing!

(loud cheers, then fade into background)

MARGARET: Will it hurt, father?

FATHER: Maybe for just a second, but it goes away really fast. Let’s move. You get to go into the stable first.

MARGARET: Are they all really bad people, father?

FATHER: Yes, dear. I can assure you that none of these people deserve to live. Do you recall the large man that visited us just before your mother passed?

MARGARET: Is he the one that…

FATHER: Yes, dear. He’s the one that murdered your mother, and because of his wealth and social stature, he has not faced justice.

MARGARET: But don’t you want to do it, father?

FATHER: Nothing would make me more proud than to watch my only daughter instill justice on the man that has brought us so much pain over the last year.

MARGARET: Ugh… my stomach hurts, father!

FATHER: That’s supposed to happen. You’re about to feel more hungry than you’ve ever felt in your life. Give into the hunger once we open those stable doors, Margaret, but not before then.


SCENE 4: FEAST: LUCIUS / FATHER / MARGARET / FAMILY
EXT: The family arrives at the stable, where there is music playing loudly inside. All of the people inside are about to be eaten as transformations of each family member are about to take place.

LUCIUS: Okay everyone, remember tradition! Margaret, my dear… the first transformation is the most uncomfortable. You will feel hunger and rage, but we direct it toward those inside the stable tonight, and never at family.

MARGARET: (uncomfortable) Are we like vampires or werewolves or something?

LUCIUS: No, my dear. We’re something… different. 
(voice gets younger-sounding/stronger) But we are feared just the same. 
(shouting) Ready at the doors!

MARGARET: (straining, voice growing deeper and raspy) I’m ready father!

FATHER: Remember, he’s the large man in a gray suit. Everyone will wait until you take him before they start attacking. I’ll be right there, sweetie.

(Margaret growling and in pain)

LUCIUS: (growl-speak) Margaret, are you ready?

MARGARET: Yes!

LUCIUS: Open the doors! 

(music stops, crowd gasps, and growling, gory flesh-tearing murder noises happen with screaming)