Archive for: October, 2017

Waters of the Abysm by S. Alessandro Martinez

Oct 29 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

Behind our house was a large, deep lake, stretching out about three miles shore-to-shore at any given point. It was ringed by beautiful, multi-storied, wood houses built close to its quiet shores. And I hated it. I had hated it ever since we first moved into a house next to it. My parents had never seemed to notice anything strange about Mishipeshu Lake, but I felt a chill in my bones the very first time I laid my eyes upon it. I had never seen a real corpse before, but I imagined it would evoke the same feelings of revulsion and icy dread.

My parents, older brother, and I moved into the lakeside house when I was thirteen. I was distressed and anxiety-ridden the whole drive up there from our old home two states away. I would be in a new neighborhood, an unfamiliar house, a new school, and I would have to make new friends. It was all very daunting. I hadn’t been very popular at my old school, so how was I supposed to make friends here? Maybe I could reinvent myself, be someone new? But all nervous thoughts about my social life vanished when my dad pulled up the long dirt driveway and parked the car, and I got out to look at our new home. Instead of the gorgeous, two-story log house, with its multiple gables, large windows that would let in plenty of light, and charming stone chimney, my eyes were immediately drawn to the lake that the house overlooked, its green water softly lapping onto the sandy shore about fifty feet from the back porch. That was the first time I felt the dread.

I had an unobstructed view of the water from my bedroom window up on the second story. I would watch it at night as the pale moon reflected off its pristine surface, a surface frequently so smooth you would think it was made of glass. But then, every so often, something would briefly breach the water and then return beneath its darkness, sending small ripples outward, becoming smaller and smaller, until everything was still once more. Fish? Perhaps it was. But the dark shapes I could make out rising and falling in that water some nights were far bigger than any fish I ever saw caught there.

All things considered, the first year of my new life by Mishipeshu Lake was relatively uneventful. I was in school, in eighth grade, preparing to transfer to high school. My brother, Sam, was two years older than I, and already a sophomore. We didn’t hang out much during that year. He was also trying to make friends in this new place and said he didn’t have time for his little sister. Unlike Sam, who slowly became friendly with most everyone, I hadn’t really made any friends. I was the perpetual outsider, the “weird girl.”

A few months into the school year, my brother introduced me to one of his new friends, a tall, brown-haired boy named Ben. He seemed nice enough. He had lived in this community his whole life, was in the same grade as Sam, and was, I came to learn, obsessed with the paranormal, conspiracies, local legends, and the like. I had never been into that stuff, but I had been interested in learning more about the area my family now called home.

One cloudy Friday evening, Sam had brought Ben over to have dinner with us. After we had eaten, and while our mom and dad did the dishes, Sam put in some old 70’s horror movie.

“Could I ask you something, Ben?” I asked him, kneeling down beside the couch as he and Sam watched the flick.

“Sure thing, Blaire,” he said, his eyes still glued to the television. “What’s up?”

“You know a lot about this town. Are there any…stories surrounding Mishipeshu Lake? Like…weird stories?”

“Haven’t learned anything about it in school, huh?” Ben chuckled, turning to look at me with a grin.

“Well, sure we have,” I replied. “But just things about the first settlers here, how they raised livestock and grew crops, braved harsh winters, blah, blah, blah. Then they up and left, and the land wasn’t resettled until about a hundred years later. You know, standard, boring history stuff.”

Ben chuckled again, stretching out his legs and putting his arms behind his head. I could tell he was excited to share some of his weird knowledge with me. “Of course the teachers wouldn’t get into the neat stuff.” He glanced over at Sam who seemed uninterested in our conversation.

“Like what?” I asked eagerly, my heart beginning to race a little.

“About all the mysterious deaths and stuff,” Ben whispered. He paused dramatically, then raised his hands and wiggled his fingers at me. “Ooooo!”

Both he and Sam laughed at the disappointment that must have been written all over my face.

“Fine, whatever,” I replied grumpily, turning away and waving my hand dismissively at Ben.

“Okay, okay,” he said, settling down and placing his hand on my shoulder. “Sorry. But there really were creepy things that went on back when the town was first settled around the lake.”

I turned back around with an eyebrow raised. “Are you going to tell me? Or are you going to be dumb?”

“Feisty one, your sister is.” He elbowed Sam in the ribs and chuckled, but then continued on in a more serious tone. “Anyway, when the town was first being settled, in 1856, one of the local tribes came down from the hills and told the townsfolk to move on. They said that this was a cursed place belonging to the Mishipeshu and nobody should be near those waters, let alone live next to them.”

“And what exactly is a Mishipeshu?” I asked.

“An ancient spirit that lived in the water, I think,” Ben answered, scratching his chin in thought. “It was supposed to resemble a panther or something.” He shrugged. “But who really knows?”

“So, this spirit was dangerous, I assume?”

“Well, this is where it gets interesting,” Ben said, rubbing his palms together eagerly. “The settlers chose to ignore these warnings, of course, and make a home here anyway. They believed that either the natives were spewing some local superstition, or that the land here was valuable and the natives wanted to scare them away from it.”

“Seems logical, I guess,” I said slowly.

“Yes, seems so, doesn’t it?” Ben continued, leaning closer to me as Sam went back to watching the movie. “The settlers lived well and built a thriving town. That is, until fifteen years later.” His eyes glittered with excitement.

“What do you mean?” I could feel goosebumps rising on my arms and legs.

“Everyone simply vanished. One day, traveling traders and merchants discovered the town empty. In some of the houses there were signs of a struggle, some blood here and there, but the weirdest thing was that all around the lakeshore were clothes-as if people stripped down naked and swam into the water. No bodies were ever found though. Not on land, anyway, and no one’s ever searched the lake itself properly. They didn’t really have the proper gear back then. And there’s not much interest these days for the town to hire all the equipment to go down to the very bottom of the lake. It’s quite deep in the center.”

“Weird,” was all I could say, trying to keep my voice nonchalant. The story had creeped me out, though. Was there any truth to any of this? Could it explain why I disliked the lake so much? I couldn’t be sure. Who knew where Ben had gotten this information? Books? The internet? I didn’t know, but I liked the lake even less after hearing it. I wished I hadn’t asked at all. Being near the water made me feel even more uneasy now.

I didn’t bring up the subject again with Ben or Sam after that night. I tried to stop letting my mind dwell on the lake; the dark unexplored depths, the softly lapping waves upon the shore, the occasional mysteriously loud splash at night, or the way the moon reflected off the sleek water, making it appear as if the twin orbs were two monstrous silver eyes staring at me.

The lake frightened me, but somehow also enthralled me. In a way I couldn’t even explain myself, it called to me and enticed me, even though I had never once stood closer than twenty feet from it. I would sometimes catch myself staring out the window at the dark waters as I sat in my room trying to complete my homework, imagining a strange lizard-panther hybrid prowling about. I was doing exactly that as darkness started to descend one evening, when I noticed my brother standing outside by the lakeshore. How long he had been standing out there, I had no idea, but the sun had slipped about halfway below the horizon.

Dropping my homework, I went downstairs and hurried out the back door. Sam was just standing there, a foot from the water’s edge, arms crossed, staring out across the lake. The sun had sunk even lower now, turning the sky and water the color of dying embers. I hesitated, seeing as he was so close to the water, but eventually mustered up the courage to walk over to where he stood, my feet dragging reluctantly as I moved closer toward the water. I had never been so close to the lake’s edge before.

“What’s up, Sam?” I asked, looking around to see what had caught his attention. Turning away from the water to look at his face in the gloaming light, I noticed that his eyes appeared red and puffy. “Everything okay?”

He remained silent for a moment before answering. “It’s Ben,” he said, his voice barely a whisper.

“What about Ben?” The flat expression on my brother’s face and the tone of his voice began to worry me. “Did something happen?” My eyes searched his face, trying to glean the cause of his obvious distress.

“Ben’s gone,” he said in the monotone voice he always acquired when he was upset.

“Gone?” I repeated. “Gone where?” Dread began to creep down my spine, sending shivers throughout my body.

“I don’t know,” Sam replied in the same dead tone, shaking his head slowly. “I hadn’t seen him at school for a few days. He hadn’t been answering my texts. I thought maybe he was really sick, so I went to his house. His parents told me that he’s been missing since Sunday evening.” He turned to look at me. “They’re frantic.”

Sunday? Today was Wednesday! That did sound strange and very worrying. Of course I didn’t know Ben as well as Sam did, but he didn’t seem like the kind of guy to cut class or just run away.

“His parents told me,” Sam started up again, fear now pervading his voice, “that before he went missing, Ben said something about going for a swim in the lake. That he wanted to ‘check something out’. His exact words. People go swimming in the lake all the time. His parents thought nothing of it.”

“That’s…weird,” I whispered, a cold feeling permeating my stomach. The story Ben had told of the Mishipeshu gripped my mind and I instinctively took a step back from the water. “Have they searched the lake yet? For his—for him?” I couldn’t look away from the incoming waves.

“Not yet,” Sam said, as he cleared his throat loudly. “There is only one qualified police diver in the county and he is on vacation.”

“How convenient,” I said sarcastically, kicking at some sand on the ground, trying in vain to think of something to reassure my brother. “I’m sorry, Sam. I know you two were becoming good friends.”

“Don’t say that,” Sam said softly, a tinge of anger in his voice. “Don’t talk about him as if he’s dead!” He glared at me briefly before his expression softened and he turned back to the lake. “We don’t know what’s happened. He could be perfectly…fine.” His voice trailed off with uncertainty.

“Yeah, of course,” I said, meekly. I looked upward at the shadowy sky. The sun was gone by now, and I could see the moon trying to peek out from behind the dark clouds that had been slowly rolling in since this morning. I thought I heard a faint rumble far off.

Where could Ben be? Had he really gone swimming in the lake? Or was he somewhere else?

I had trouble getting to sleep that night, so I ended up sitting up in bed, propped up on pillows; the unnatural glow of my laptop the only source of light in my room. I had been looking up anything I could find about Mishipeshu Lake; it was a search I had avoided undertaking until now. According to Native American lore, a Mishipeshu was a lynx or a panther covered in scales. Some stories said it had spines covering its back, while others said it had large horns on its head. It supposedly lived deep underwater and could either be malevolent or benign, and had the ability to conjure storms. The information I found wasn’t clear if there was supposed to be just one or more than one Mishipeshu, but either way, it sounded about as plausible as Bigfoot or Nessie. I couldn’t find anything specifically relating to the story Ben had recounted. Where had he gotten his information? I tried to convince myself that he had just made everything up to spook me.

It was then that I heard a soft tapping on my bedroom window, and looked up. It had finally begun to rain. I closed my laptop and rubbed my eyes, sending stars and colors swimming through my vision. With a sleepy groan, I got out of bed, stretched, and walked over to the window. Pulling aside the half-closed curtain, I looked out into the darkness, barely able to see anything, since the moon was again covered in clouds. I stood there listening to the taps on the glass. I loved the rain, it made me feel at peace, even the sound of the rain on the lake was soothing.

But then I noticed the soft orange glow of the back porch light below my window flicker on. I thought it must have been the wind messing with the motion detector. But as I looked down, I saw a figure standing by the water’s edge. By the faint light of the full moon that had just made an appearance through the clouds and the illumination from the porch, I could see that Sam was out there, staring across the water. He had come inside for dinner earlier; what was he doing standing back out there in the rain? He must have been really worried about Ben. Poor guy.

I slipped on my coat and rain boots, then quietly made my way out of my room, down the stairs, and out the back door as I had earlier. Sam was standing there, arms crossed, staring at the lake, the same as before.

“Sam,” I said, just loudly enough so he could hear me over the rain and rising wind. “Come back inside, you’re getting soaked out here.” I pulled my coat tighter around me, trying to keep Sam between the water and me.

He said nothing, and didn’t even seem to have heard me, so I stepped closer and tugged on the wet sleeve of his shirt.

“Sam, come on,” I begged, feeling cold, wet, and more than a little uneasy at our proximity to the choppy water. The little whitecaps the wind formed on each waved seemed to be reaching for me.

“He’s out there,” he suddenly said, not turning to look at me.

“I’m sure he is, Sam, but not in the lake. And I’m sure he’s fine. Now let’s go inside.” I pulled his arm, trying to ignore the dread building up inside of me.

But Sam wouldn’t budge. “He’s out there, Blaire. He wants me to join him. I heard him calling.” His expression was blank, and he almost looked hypnotized.

“He…he called you?” I asked, perplexed. The rain was coming down even harder now and the wind was blowing my wet hair into my face. I turned to glance quickly, yet longingly, at the house. I desperately wanted to go back inside, snuggle under my blankets, and forget all this weirdness. But what was Sam going on about? Had he actually heard from Ben?

When I turned back to look at Sam, he had his eyes closed, the heavy rain spraying his face. His arms were stretched out, as if he were going to catch a giant beach ball.

“Can’t you hear him, Blaire?” he said loudly above the sound of the rain, startling me.

I strained my ears, desperate to hear whatever he was talking about. But all I could hear was the rain splattering down and the wind. The wind. Was that a voice? No, it was just the wind messing with me. Sam was mistaken.

“Sam, let’s go inside now!” I demanded.

But he either didn’t hear me or didn’t care, because at that moment he tore off his clothes and launched himself into the black, choppy water. I was momentarily stunned as I saw him splash determinedly through the water, being knocked around by the churning waves, and finally begin to swim furiously out into the depths of the lake.

“Sam! What are you doing?” I screamed after him upon overcoming my initial shock. But I quickly lost sight of him as the wind and rain tossed the lake waters violently about. A deep, rumbling boom sounded somewhere behind me. That thunder didn’t sound too far away. “Oh god, oh god!” I shouted. “Mom! Dad!”

Before I could turn and run into the house to get my parents, a beam of moonlight penetrated a small opening in the blanket of black clouds and shone down upon the churning water like a spotlight. Out in the distance, about halfway to the center of the lake, I could see something…someone. Someone was floating there; a body being thrown about by the waves. The figure looked as if it was floating face down!

“Sam!” I screeched, terrified as I had never been before. I hesitated for only a moment. If Sam was unconscious in the water, I couldn’t let my stupid, irrational fear of the lake keep me from helping him. He was my brother!

I frantically ripped off my coat and kicked off my boots, and ran into the raging water, slipping and stumbling on the smooth stones that littered the bottom. I was instantly chilled to the bone as the icy lake sucked every bit of warmth out of me. Feeling the lake floor drop off into the depths, I launched myself farther out into the water, moving my arms and legs as best I could, trying to focus on reaching Sam, and silently thanking my dad for all those swimming lessons he made me take.

I paused after what I thought was several minutes to tread water and catch my breath, the wind howling in my ears. I could see the dark shape floating there, rising falling in the waves just ahead of me. I put all of my energy into reaching him. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get back with Sam if he was unconscious, but I couldn’t give up. I coughed and spluttered as I swallowed icy water in my struggle. My arms and legs were turning to jelly, and it was a struggle to keep my head above water, but I finally reached my brother.

I made to grab him, but it didn’t feel like Sam. Something was wrong. And in that moment there was a blinding flash overhead and a deafening boom, and I could clearly see what I had swum out to rescue.

“No,” I panted. “No!” It wasn’t Sam, it was a log! A damn log! Is this what I had seen? It couldn’t be. “Sam!” I yelled into the air as I frantically treaded water, my limbs almost completely numb. He was in the water somewhere! But I couldn’t see any other object floating nearby. In fact, I now couldn’t even see the shore. The heavy rain and darkness obscured everything around me. I couldn’t have swum that far out, could I?

I told myself that it didn’t matter. I knew I would reach shore no matter what direction I decided to swim in. I just hoped whichever way I chose was the shortest distance. I surveyed the area as best I could for Sam, but still couldn’t see anyone. What else could I do? Without further delay, but with a sinking heart and sick feeling in my stomach, I randomly chose a direction and began kicking.

But I wasn’t moving. By the time I realized that something had hooked my frozen and numb left ankle, I had been violently pulled completely underwater. I hadn’t had time to get a proper breath. That, along with my instinctive scream, and I had no air in my lungs as I was dragged deeper into the lake’s black depths. It was utterly dark and I couldn’t see what was gripping my ankle. I thrashed and flailed, trying to free myself, my lungs burning for fresh air, but I couldn’t escape. I suddenly understood that I was probably going to die here.

As I was pulled farther down into the crushing abyss, I saw a light beneath me, a growing red luminescence. I realized with fresh horror that I had been dragged all the way down to the bottom of the lake, and my bare feet were now touching the cold, slimy sludge of the lakebed.

By the light of the steadily increasing glow around me, I could just make out a hole in the mud at the bottom of the lake. But it was much more than just a hole. A tunnel? A passageway? A portal? It was big enough for several people to fit inside at once. And there was that light. That was where the reddish illumination was coming from. But it wasn’t a bright light, it was a dark light. It looked dark, felt dark. I couldn’t quite understand it.

It was then that it occurred to me that my lungs were no longer burning, and that my leg was free from whatever had gripped it. But my mind didn’t care. I was transfixed by this light. It was if I could sense it, hear it, taste it even. I could feel myself sinking toward the hole. Or was I being sucked into it? I was terrified, yet at the same time a part of my brain wanted, no, needed to know more. I floated right over the aperture, looking down into it.

That’s when…it…appeared from out of the darkness within that mystifying tunnel. At first it was no more than a dark shape, but the strange dark light soon made every detail as clear to me as if I were standing under a bright streetlight. I saw the thing and it was large, menacing, and horrendous. It had the general form of a beastly man with ferociously clawed limbs. The gray flesh covering its enormous body, tinted red by the surrounding illumination, looked scaly and armored like a crocodile’s. In places the skin was torn and ripped, hanging off in chunks, rotten and decayed. What I thought was another limb at first turned out to be a long and powerful-looking tail, similar to that of a lizard. And its head, if it could be called a head, was grotesque. Elongated and unnaturally stretched out, the head looked like the body of a grub with a ragged gash near the neck where a long, black tongue slid hungrily across brown, jagged teeth. All over its body, seemingly at random, were what I could only describe as rusted pieces of metal. They looked like they had been grafted and embedded in the thing’s flesh. Metal plates and blades adorned its torso, while what looked like steel wire was wrapped around its limbs. And on the top of its squirming head were two metal rods that were securely lodged where eyes could have been.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to yell. But I was held there like a deer watching two bright lamps flying ever closer. The thing reached out of the hole and grabbed me by my throat, its claws digging painfully into the sides of my neck. It was then that the spell broke. I suddenly felt the crushing, icy water all around me, the desperate burning of my lungs for air, and heart-stopping dread at what I saw before me.

The creature pulled me closer and licked its hideous teeth with its black tongue. From the thing’s clawed hand, I felt a surge that made my skin burn as if it were being torn away from muscle.  There was an excruciating pounding in my ears and chest along with the sickening feeling that my stomach had been filled with poison. My mind began to rupture as if it was trying to destroy itself to escape this terror.

A single bubble escaped my mouth and I was pulled into the endless darkness of that watery pit to witness and experience horrors beyond comprehension.

 

Bio: S. Alessandro Martinez has had several stories published in various horror magazines such as Sanitarium and Deadman’s Tome, and three of his stories have been selected to appear in anthologies. He has self-published a book of twisted poems, and is working on several short stories and a fantasy novel. Some of his inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Joseph Delaney, and Brian Lumley. Alessandro lives in Southern California. Find out more at: salessandromartinez.com

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The Corner Booth by Brandon Schneider

Oct 22 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

They’re out there, somewhere. I don’t even know what “they” are exactly. Good, bad. Male, female. Self aware or just as lost as the rest of us. But they wander, and I’ve seen them.

Ten years ago, a few years after college and a few years before I met someone fool enough to take my name, I took a job while doing some wandering myself. Like most people unsure what to do with their lives, I had a knack for selling myself short. Bar back. Dishwasher. Busboy. I didn’t know what I was good at and sure as hell didn’t care to find out.

After my first twenty odd years on the east coast I ended up out a ways in New Mexico. The plan had been to hightail it all the way to California but somewhere along the way someone offered me a job. Dealing with car troubles and not the heftiest of savings, a couple months making easy cash didn’t seem such a bad idea. It was a diner gig, fifty miles from the nearest town and only a couple from the nearest string of motels. I stayed at the cheapest one which didn’t matter because I spent most of my time working.

I started off bussing and washing, but the owner found me tolerable enough to be put out front after my first week. I hadn’t waited before but it was slow enough that even on my own I could cover all the tables without breaking a sweat. More tips, too.

My routine set in pretty quickly. Work one ‘til close and head out by nine, nine thirty at the latest. Then I’d get drunk by the pool. Sometimes with another wanderer, usually by myself. I’d pass out until noon the next day and barely make it in time for my next shift. I would get one day off a week, maybe two, but those were the worst. The t.v. in my room had four channels, none of them dirty. And the closest town was not worth a fifty mile drive.

Well, it was a routine. The money piled up pretty quick, as it does when there’s nothing and no one to blow it on, and I rather enjoyed the ritual of it all. I’d chat up the guests who popped in, where they came from and where they were headed. All fine and dandy. But what intrigued me most was how quickly they’d tell me what they were running from. Whether they realized it or not, it usually came pouring out all too quick.

Maybe people love talking to strangers. Or maybe out in the desert, where so many things big and small have come to meet their maker, that need for confession presents itself. Either way I’d listen, and usually get a pretty decent tip for doing so.

Two months in these strangers started losing my attention. The nights of drinking had lost their luster as well but I soldiered on, and I caught myself looking out to the road more and more. What I was running from was close to catching up.

Ten months prior I’d lost my brother and sister in a car wreck. My brother, the eldest by four years, was taking her back to college for spring semester. When they didn’t make it my parents sold the house and headed for Europe. I didn’t blame them for leaving, not even for leaving me. It was like we were all sickened by the sight of each other afterwards. The fact that it was no one’s fault didn’t seem possible.

Ten months crept towards eleven. I didn’t know where I wanted to be a year after their deaths, but I knew it wasn’t at some hole in the wall diner fifty miles from anywhere.

I was mulling this over one slow evening, an hour ‘til close with one guest working on a slice of apple pie. I would have offered him more coffee but I’d just cleaned the pots and wasn’t looking to dirty another. So I let him be and he let me. Whether he gave a tip or not didn’t amount to much of a fuck at this point in the day. It had been a slow one and I wanted to get drunk.

Then a small man appeared at the window. I couldn’t see his car, it’s possible he’d wandered over from one of the motels. Guests had done it before, underestimating the distance between the two. He was just short of five and a half feet, with round little glasses that suggested intellectual. He peered in, looking at the menu on the wall, looking at the guest, then looking over at my sorry ass slumped behind the counter. I stared right back, hoping this guy would just fuck off, but knowing he’d come in and keep me late.

So I turned back to the paper I’d already read half a dozen times that day, waiting to hear that door jingle as he shuffled in. “How late are you open?” he’d ask. And I’d tell him he had an hour, and fuck me I’d have to dirty one of those coffee pots again.

Except he didn’t enter. And when I looked back I could barely see his silhouette shuffling into the night.

Peculiar? Sure, maybe. To an over active mind. I myself didn’t give it a second thought. He probably saw we were closing and figured he’d try elsewhere. Makes perfect sense. Except there was no other elsewhere. I let it go because closing time was coming with drinking time right after.

About a week later I had a rather full night. Luckily one of the other servers, Mary Lou, bothered to show up. A couple businessmen laughed their asses off in one booth, a family of four minded their own at another, and three truckers sat huddled at the counter. For us that meant a full house.

And in the midst of handing out dessert menus I glanced to see what had gotten caught in the corner of my eye. A young woman, no older than twenty five I’d say. She had a nice dress on, a little dusty sure, but cute. A pang hit me as I thought of my sister.

The woman stood for a moment, eyeing the menu, when her attention turned to me. I returned her gaze, and a strange sensation struck that she was waiting to be invited in. It was like that feeling while out on a date and you realize it’s the moment to make a move. Except this had none of that giddy excitement behind it, only a cold dread.

A drunk businessman tugged my shoulder wanting to know if I could refill the toothpick holder and I finally started breathing again. Peculiar. Yeah. Maybe even strange, to the over active mind.

I glanced back, but the girl was already walking off. Perhaps to her car. Perhaps to nowhere.

Towards the end of the night I asked Mary Lou if she’d seen the girl but she seemed more focused on splitting tips than my idle chatter. So I went home and got drunk. A sour drunk, the kind you head into knowing it’s the wrong direction, already seeing the debris in the lanes ahead. And I dreamt of the girl at the window.

The next few days provided no new excitement, although more than once the owner asked me what in the hell I was hoping to spot outside. She wanted to have her camera ready. Then after a week of nothing I decided to let it go. The fact was I’d spotted two people who considered visiting a diner and changed their minds.

Then I saw my third wanderer. A middle aged woman, a tad overweight with graying blonde hair and a limp in her left leg. She wore blue jeans and a red country shirt. Had a wedding ring on. I remember these things because I served her.

Dusk set in as the last guest shoved off. Bob Seger cut in an out from the radio when the woman came shuffling down the road. No car, it was bright enough to see that. Maybe she came from a hotel, or her car sat just beyond the horizon.

Plausible, sure. But why did she come all this way just to stare through the window? Not like there was a steak house down the street, or a pizza joint that might be cheaper. We were it, sister.

But stared she did, and I stared back. And just as she turned to push on I waved her in. She paused, eyeing me, so I waved again. With the second wave she headed towards the entrance and I felt my bowels contract in a way that I would have sworn was fatal.

I didn’t shit my pants, but I’ll tell you it was a fifty fifty chance for a moment. “Evening, ma’am,” I croaked. Cleared my throat. “Sit anywhere you like.” That part came out only a little bit more clear.

She chose a corner booth, furthest from the door, and kept her eyes on me the entire time. I gave her a menu and ran through it friendly enough, but what she understood or didn’t I can’t tell you.

In the end she ordered a ham sandwich, no mustard, no cheese, and a coffee with one sugar. She paid cash with a two dollar tip, thanked me for my kindness, and headed out into the night. Oh and she had a little scar, just above her right eye. As if she’d slipped on some black ice as a child and was left with a life long reminder to take it slow come winter.

By the time she did leave it was about close, and I drank so hard that night that I actually did miss my shift the next day. I got yelled at sure, but this being my first fuck up it was forgotten pretty quick.

I ignored the next couple window gazers, the best term I could think to use for them. And off they would go, no problem no sir. But after spotting a little old Asian man wandering away curiosity got the better of me again.

I spotted a young hispanic man with short hair and a tattoo on his arm that I couldn’t make out. He wandered up, eyed the menu, glanced at the guests, then landed on me. I waved and in he came.

He took the corner booth, ordering a ham sandwich with no cheese and no mustard. One coffee with one sugar. I asked him if he wanted to see a dessert menu, to which he either didn’t hear or didn’t know how to respond. He left a two dollar tip, thanked me for my kindness, and headed off into the night.

And he had a scar above his right eye.

After that I started welcoming the window gazers in rather regularly. I’d even finish their order for them, casually, as if we’d known each other for years. And hell, maybe we had in some nightmare world.

Even when I’d cut them off though, “no mustard, I know,” I’d say, they’d continue right on script.

“No mustard, no cheese, please. And a coffee if you have it. Black.”

“One sugar?”

“One sugar, if you have it.”

Sometimes I’d tell them I didn’t have coffee, or that the ham had gone bad. They would thank me for my kindness and leave, just like that. Hell of a diet.

And just as I settled into my new spot in the outer limits, they stopped appearing. Or he, or she. One person or a thousand, I still don’t know. But they stopped.  And for some fucked up reason I was disappointed. Maybe I had expected to find an answer, that it was all a coincidence or prank. Or maybe I just wanted a clear glimpse at the other side.

After a month more of nothing I decided it time to move on. I gave my two weeks which the owner took worse than I would have guessed, and started puzzling over where to head next.

Then my sister visited, a year after her death. I was in the middle of serving this couple, the woman sending her burger back for the third time. Part of me wanted to tell her there’s no way she’s getting a burger safe to eat at this point, but most of me did not give a shit. So I took it back a fourth time and watched as the cook slapped a new patty on the ground and rubbed his boot on it for good measure.

As I came back out with this fouled piece of beef, there my sister stood at the window. She wore a tattered hoodie, none that I recognized, blue jeans and sneakers. Beat up ones that looked familiar but I could not be sure. I slammed the burger down in front of the woman so hard I nearly broke the plate, but she didn’t say anything and if she did I didn’t hear it.

I waved my sister in. There might have been a slight smile, or smirk rather, but my heart was going so fast my vision had blurred.

She went to the booth, the furthest one from the door, and took a seat. Part of me wanted to hug her. Another part wanted to retrieve a meat cleaver from the back and open her skull. I decided on neither and took a seat opposite her.

“Evelyn,” I said as I sat, my body shaking so badly that even my teeth felt numb.

“I’d like to order one ham sandwich. No mustard, no cheese, please.”

“Evelyn is that you?” It looked like her alright, except for the scar above the eye. It sounded like her too, I thought as the tears formed. They felt odd running down my still numb face.

“And a coffee if you have it. Black.”

It couldn’t be her. Could it? The real Evelyn had died in a car crash. Bad one. The one you don’t identify a body from. But here she sat, and I saw details my memory had already begun to lose… the bump in her nose, slight gap in her teeth. It had to be her. Except for the scar.

“Evelyn, how did you get here? You’re dead. You died, Evie.”

“One sugar, if you have it.”

And I grabbed her. I grabbed her so hard I saw her wince. So it felt pain.

“She didn’t have a scar, you fuck,” I spat as I started shaking her, so hard I hoped to break her neck. The guests all stopped to watch but I didn’t care.

At some point we were pulled apart, me landing on the ground and crying so hard that my ribs hurt.

Evelyn pushed through the crowd, I could smell her breath as she crouched down. Foul, dark. Like something that had subsisted off of ham sandwiches and black coffee for a couple hundred years.

“Good luck in California,” she said in a voice not my sisters, something not at all human. Then she kissed my cheek, a kiss so cold I could have sworn frostbite would form.

She rose to her feet, thanked me for my kindness and headed for the door. I don’t remember her leaving but I do remember Mary Lou pushing away the gawking customers.

“You never invite them in,” she scolded as she brought me to the back. Before I could respond Mary Lou produced a photo from her wallet. The girl in the dusty dress.

“My daughter,” she said as I took the photo. “Gone sixteen years this August.”

“You ignored her.”

“I ignored it. Your sister’s the first one you recognized?”

“What does it want?”

“Coffee and a sandwich. Beyond that I don’t much care to find out.”

Mary Lou gave me the money I was owed and sent me off. I drove far that night, but not towards California. A cheap parlor trick that lived off caffeine, deli meat and human misery had seen to that.

Before leaving I asked Mary Lou why she hadn’t stopped me… all those times I’d let it in. Her answer didn’t mean much at the time. My drinking’s gotten worse since then, bad enough that the woman fool enough to take my name wasn’t fool enough to stick around. And I think about all those wanderers that I’d waved in, and all the other beasts that followed over the years.

“It only feeds if you leave something out for it.”

 

Bio: Growing up in Northeast Ohio I recently moved to Southern California after graduating college in 2012.

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Hints by Mark Bilsborough

Oct 15 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

It rained. I remember that much, even though most of my memories from that time have been mercifully removed. I take my eyes from the television and ease myself out of my chair.

“Stop muttering, you old fart,” Jimmy shouts out from across the room. He’s not really called Jimmy, of course, just as I’m not really Frankie. Code names. I’m a sleeper agent, probably. Jimmy’s mostly asleep, except when he’s yelling at me to switch over to EastEnders.

Jimmy’s been at Dreamlands for nearly as long as I have: five years and counting. Jimmy’s eighty three and looks closer to death than any man has a right to and still be alive. He’s a survivor, is our Jimmy. Held together with gristle, meanness and sheer bloody mindedness. He used to be a train driver, and part of him still thinks he is. He probably thinks he’s on some sort of endless strike and he’s picketing a run-down nursing home in Margate. All the others turn down their hearing aids when he rambles on about decades old incidences of minor rudeness from his long suffering passengers, but I listen. I’m listening now, because the wheezing sound coming from poor old Jimmy doesn’t sound entirely natural, and I’m beginning to develop a theory about that.

Plenty have come and gone since I got here and I can tell by the slightly worried look on the faces of the staff that it’s less of a miracle and more of a bloody inconvenience that I haven’t followed them out of the door.

But I’m one step ahead. I’d been in a month when it occurred to me that people in here were sick. Not the normal sick of people who’d lived too long and were ready to go but the kind of sick you get when someone’s messing with your medication. So I stopped taking mine and started watching.

Five years, twenty four deaths, two survivors. Jimmy never sees me swap his pills for smarties every morning at breakfast, and I reckon that’s why he’s still here. I make sure the staff never clock the swap, though I doubt if all of them are in on the conspiracy.

But Jimmy’s wheezing is a concern. That’s how the others started, one by one. I didn’t mind at first. A steady stream of funerals gets you up and about and the cakes at the crematorium are certainly worth the trip. And every time someone in a better room than mine died I got to move up. After a while, though, there’s nowhere to move up to; only out.

Young Chrissy. She’s the ringleader. I’ve seen the look in her eye as she scopes out her next victim. Jimmy’s the latest, then it’ll be me. They must know about the medication by now.

I surprise her in the kitchen as she prepares a cup of tea for Jimmy. I bet that’s how she’s doing it now. Tea so strong he’ll never notice it’s laced with rat poison.

“I’m on to you, you know.”

She turns and smiles. She might be pretty if she didn’t have an evil glint in her eye. That, or too much mascara. “Hello, Freddie. Want a cuppa?”

No one human has ever said ‘cuppa’. And that’s how I know for sure.

“You’re not from round here, are you?”

She pours another cupful of the tea. I don’t see her slip the poison in but my eyesight’s not what it was. “No, love. I’m from Middlesbrough.”

Further than that, if I’m not mistaken. Much further than that.

“And what are your plans, Chrissy from Middlesbrough?”

“Me? Always wanted to be by the seaside. And I met this bloke…”

I cut her off. “Your real plans. Don’t forget I’m on to you.”

Her mask slips and I see the shrewd interior. “Ah you mean the plans for world domination? Clever. You found me out.”

My collar starts to feel tight. I’ve overplayed. She’d only be this honest if she was about to kill me. Let the victim know the full horror of his defeat.

“Where are you actually from?”

“Midd… oh hell. Why not. I’m from a planet circling a star you call 61 Cygni, about ten light years from here.”

“I knew it!”

“And we thought the best place to start our quest for world domination would be a retirement home in South East England. Sugar?”

I’m not in the mood to be distracted. “I bet by now you’ve infiltrated the government; got your hands on those nuclear codes.”

She gives me a long appraising look, as if marvelling at my perception. “Well, you know the new leader of Thanet District Council…” She leaves the implication hanging.

He’d come from nowhere. Could he…?

“Nah, just joshing. I really am from Teeside. Digestive?”

I shuffle back over to Jimmy, who’s fast asleep even though the television’s on at full volume. I turn it off and suck on my biscuit.

Rain. Something to do with the rain.

Jimmy’s funeral takes place two weeks later. For some reason the old fart had left a will, and it specified a proper burial. That means standing outside while a bunch of old railwaymen lower his slowly rotting carcass into the ground. And, being England in June the skies are grey and even with my umbrella I’m soaked. I realise it’s the first time since I entered Dreamlands that I’ve felt the rain.

Memories. Rain washed them away, rain sweeps them back, like a trigger. I’d read that sleeper agents usually come awake with a code word or a flashing image, but I can testify that a drop of water in the right place works just as well.

I’m not really supposed to be in the nursing home, I know that now. And I’m not really a sleeper agent; just an agent who because of the vagaries of the British weather found himself inexplicably asleep for five years.

Why did I think the staff were killing the residents? The hints were there. My aversion to their dreadful food and ridiculous TV isn’t anything to do with old age; it’s because I don’t belong here. And I have no access to smarties: I was swapping Jimmy’s pills with my own.

I’m the alien. I need to get on a train to London as soon as I can.

Chrissie intercepts me as I fumble for change at the ticket counter. She leans a hand on mine, and that’s when I realise we’re the same, her and me.

“Frankie. Time we went home.” I start to object but she cuts me off. “And none of that nonsense about taking over the world. You’re retired from all that, remember?”

Now that Jimmy’s gone we can watch the sci-fi channel. And I truly believe that Chrissie really does come from Middlesbrough, just like I do.

Because that’s where we landed, all those years ago.

 

End.

 

Bio:

Mark always wanted to be an astronaut but left it a bit late, so he writes fiction instead. His work can be found dotted around the internet. He has work upcoming in On The Premises, The Colored Lens, Digital Science Fiction and Storyteller.

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Boots by Rory Angus

Oct 08 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

He took another step.

The mountains of Benren faded out in their slow descent into the emerald plains of Kalanan, which were fertile and green and glowed like a field of jewels. They were crisscrossed by the scars of the tracks of the armies and war machines from Dakria, most of which were long gone on their journey to Kassia City. A web of rivers wound across the plains, and he unknowingly stepped into the waters of one of those rivers, but the river at that place was very shallow, and it did not rise over the tops of his heavy, ornate boots. The sky overhead was blue and clear, though dark clouds were gathered to the east, where the Dakrian armies feasted and made cheer in the capital.

He took another step.

The farmlands closer to the capital had been rich and brimming with a surplus of food which was sent to other lands as trade or gift or tribute. This generosity, among other virtues, had once endeared the land of Kassia to its neighbours. However, like many virtues, it was, to some, a sign of weakness. Now the farmlands were in many places smoldering – the fires still swirled together and flocked up like ugly incorporeal birds to the sky. He did not like to linger there. The contrast between what that part of the land had once been and what it was now was too painful, and he was a sensitive man.

He took another step.

Around the outskirts of Kassia city, many buildings rose. The architects of Kassia were renowned far throughout the land, and the Dakrians had not seen it necessary to slaughter all of them, nor to destroy the fruits of their labours utterly. So many of the buildings were still standing. Patrols of Dakrian soldiers ranged through the streets, and in places there were only blackened piles of char where there once had been buildings, and other buildings were only the burnt-out shells of their former selves. The man stood in the middle of a mostly-deserted street, and looked down into the ruin of the city, along a line of hastily-erected tents where the Kassian slave-girls were kept, out to a barricade set up down the street. A few people turned to look at him. He did not even know if they were Kassian or Dakrian.

He took another step.

The stairs up to the great palace of Kassia City were heavily guarded, and protected by soldiers and magic spells. The streets before the grand stairs were utterly deserted, by order of the Dakrian Empress. He looked down at the streets behind him, for a moment, even as he heard shouts from the guards who had spotted him standing on the stairs where no one was meant to be. He had only seconds to look before his death was certain. The city, being so empty, was eerily foreboding. He had been here when the streets were bustling with throngs of happy Kassians going this way and that about their lives. He had learned, of late, to make the most of moments and seconds. So, for a moment, he imagined the streets the way they had once been. It was pleasant to indulge in that fantasy, but a second later his time was up. He turned around. He saw guards with their spears and bows levelled; saw the crackle of an unknown, killing magic in the air.

He took another step.

The throne room of the palace had been greatly changed by the occupation. He had never truly been in the throne room, for even though Kassia had been, and perhaps would be again, a free and happy kingdom, there had to be limits upon everything. No one of such common background as himself had been allowed into the throne room. Nevertheless he could only be certain that before the invasion the room had not been designed in the fashion of the great sunken temples of Dakria. He stood just behind a dark, ornate, towering throne. It was nothing that the rulers of Kassia would have chosen, but their line was now extinguished and their throne was gone. A crowd of well-dressed people gathered in the expansive floor below the steps that led down from the throne. Some of them were arrayed in armor, and others in religious robes, and others in fine civil clothes. The man carefully crept forward, hiding behind the great throne, edging closer to the statuesque woman who stood on the steps above the crowd. Her back was to him; he could not see her face. Her robes flowed out from her and spread down the stairs, blanketing them in sheets of gold and black. Her form was enclosed in intricate wiry armor, but the back of her neck was exposed, and the man carried a dagger in his left hand. As he crept forward, the noise of conversation swept over him.

“No one has died in the attacks, highness. Whoever this bandit is, he seems content to cut ropes and spill oil and set fire to supplies. Inconveniences of note, certainly, but nothing that the army cannot bear.”

“It is impossible to catch the man, great lady,” another, pleading voice said. “Whatever the power behind the artifacts, their wearer appears and is gone in an instant. We have summoned all the magic we can muster. Without the means to track the bandit’s disappearances, we are forced to keep the mages ready at all times for an attack – which, may your greatness forgive me, is beyond them.”

“Excuses, excuses, excuses,” came the cold, cultured voice from the figure whose face the creeping assassin could not see. “All I understand is that a single man, and a Kassian, at that, has caused such chaos in our armies. And what great power does he possess, one wonders? Nothing but a pair of magic boots!”

“My lady! Forgive me, but he is right behind you!”

Swords and spears and arrows sprang forth from a dozen places; mages around the throne room summoned their terrible powers; figures darted up the steps, heading right for the young man who stood behind the empress and the throne. The woman herself turned around, and for a moment he was face to face with the leading power behind the ruin of his land, and perhaps he had hoped to see fear or shock on her face.

To his dismay, he saw only scorn.

He took another step.

The marshes to the east of Kassia City were wide and treacherous, but he was fortunate enough to step onto solid, if squishy, ground. Here, the land had been spared from war, for few armies could pass through the swamps. Gone was the noise and confusion of the uproar in the throne room. There was only the soft wind, and a bird crying far away, and the rustling of the foxtails in the water. He took a moment to collect himself, wondering. He had had his chance. It had taken days to learn that the Dakrian empress would be in the throne room of the palace in Kassia City at that particular time, on that particular day. From now on she would be far more heavily guarded, if she ever came to the throne room at all. He could have taken his chance to strike down the scourge of Kassia, but he had not. Perhaps he had wanted to wait for the perfect moment to end her life. Perhaps he had been too absorbed in the conversation occurring. Perhaps he had simply been unwilling, for he had not yet done so in the weeks of his lonely campaign of insurrection, to kill.

It did not matter. The moment was gone. As fast as he was, time was faster. Surely, he would have another chance, and when that chance came again, he would take it.

Perhaps it was time, the man reasoned, to cease fighting the war alone. Word of his exploits would have spread among the Kassian people by now. All was not lost. There was much work to do.

He took another step.

 

Bio: My name is Rory Angus. I am an aspiring fantasy writer from Victoria, B.C. Canada. I have studied creative writing and philosophy at Camosun College. I prefer to write high fantasy and science fantasy stories. I also write formal poetry and have been published in the 2014 “Island Magic” anthology by The Poetry Institute of Canada and Young Writers, for the short fantasy poem “Giants”.

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The Returning Avalanche By Charles G. Chettiar

Oct 01 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

Inspector Sathi didn’t like night shifts. Many of the crimes were committed in the night and he didn’t like frequent calls on his time. It was raining outside when he saw the albino coming near the police station. Inspector Sathi was at the end of his fag—a one of many—till the night ended.

Complainants normally didn’t reach him. They were unusually disposed off by the head constable or the sub-inspector. He raised his eyebrows when his door opened and the albino came in.

He pressed the buzzer for the sub-inspector. When the head constable entered he looked at him.

“He wants to only meet you, sir,” said Dhondu.

“And you let him?”

Dhondu scratched his head looked at a spot behind the inspector.

Sathi turned to the albino and said, “So what is your problem?”

“My name is Vishnu Sahatrakar. I have been robbed.”

“Did you see the robber?”

“Of course, I also know where they live.”

Another dead-end case like so many. He would file an FIR and then get to it after loads of other cases were cleared.

“Tell the address,” said Sathi.

“Pinkaria mall, 1st level,” said the albino.

Blood rushed to Sathi’s head. He had felt lethargic but hearing the Mall’s name he came wide awake.

“Dhondu? Come here,” he shouted through the door. “Do you think we are fools?”

“No, sir,” said the albino.

“Then what’s this.” He tapped the file with his baton. “Your robbers live in a mall?”

“But yes it is sir. They stole all my ATM pins, netbanking passwords and credit card info.”

“How?”

“They just took it.”

Sathi twirled the pen in his fingers. He looked at his watch. More than six hours till his shift ended.

“I can show you my bank account. Not even a single rupee is left,” said the albino.

Sathi called Subedar his sub-inspector, and told him to verify. After about a quarter of an hour Subedar reported that the complainant appeared genuine.

“Has the man left?” he asked Subedar.

“No sir. He says that he could take us there.”

Sathi sighed. He’d anyway would get bored in the next six hours. He’d just stretch his legs. The night was cool after a very hot day. He could use the fresh air.

“Ready the jeep,” said Sathi.

“Sir?”

“You heard me. We are going to Pinkaria mall,” said Sathi.

The mall seemed deserted when they reached it. Sathi entered it brandishing his baton.

“Where are they?” he asked.

“First floor,” said Vishnu.

Sathi used the escalator. It stood still but started as he took a first step.

The place was deserted except for some people leaving after the midnight show.

“It is at the corner,” said Vishnu.

The board of Pikari toys glimmered as they rounded the corner.

“A toy shop?”

Sathi looked around but couldn’t see Vishnu. The door of the toy shop opened and he ascertained the faint shape of Vishnu going inside.

“Subedar? Dhondu? Where have these people gone?”

Sathi’s feet told him not to go but still he felt himself gravitating towards the toy shop.

Sathi couldn’t help himself. He slid towards the door. he willed his legs to not move. The red carpet on which he stood slid under him. it pulled him forward. He got through the door. the shop’s counter twinkled with lights. He put his baton on the glass counter.

A girl materialised in front of him. he didn’t see her enter. He looked back. Where were Subedar and Dhondu? And where was the complainant?

“Sir?”

“I am here on a case. Robbery,” said Sathi.

“We don’t rob. They get robbed themselves.”

“So you agree,” said Sathi, “that you rob.”

Did he detect a faint hint of blackness in her teeth? He wasn’t sure.

“We can give you a deal to drop the case. It will be a deal of a lifetime,” said the girl.

“First I got to find my people.”

“Your people are being taken care of magnificiently.”

Sathi’s stomach rumbled. Somehow the girl’s violet hair and green lipstick was making him nauseous. The twinkling lights added to his exacerbation.

“Are you ill, inspector?”

“Uh.”

“We have a pill which could cure all your illnesses in one go.”

“No.”

“Then a gift. We need to be generous to the police. The ever grabbing criminalised police. Criminals in uniform.”

“Watch your tongue girl!”

“That’s why a gift is so necessary,” she said twirling her hair.

“I want my men,” said Sathi. He couldn’t believe the pleading tone which had crept up in his voice.

“All in time inspector. All in time.”

He looked away from her. she looked large, as if her head had swollen.

The bell beside her head jingled twice.

“Good inspector, we are ready to go. Your men are done with.”

“I want to go away.”

Sathi turned his face towards the door. It beckoned but he couldn’t move his feet towards it. He moved his hand and it moved. He reached out for the revolver in his holster.

“Uh oh. It’s time is not yet,” said the girl. “But if you insist, you can keep it. But don’t play with it.”

The girl pushed the door.

“Welcome inspector, to the hall of illusions,” she said. “I didn’t tell you my name. I am Mistress Illusia. The hall has a lot of my inputs. But sorry to say that it isn’t my sole brainchild.”

Like a blade cutting into skin, Sathi was through the door.

“Good, that you accepted my invitation.”

Then he was inside like a knife searing through butter.

“Don’t you feel warm?” asked Illusia.

“No,” said Sathi.

His hands could move. His feet could move.

He had felt a certain amount of freezing of his hands and feet, but the freezing had gone off. He lifted the gun and levelled it at Illusia.

“Oh my goddamn. You are free. I didn’t expect this to happen,” she said.

“Where are my men?”

“Don’t shoot me,” she said. “I’ll do whatever you ask.” She winked.

Sathi’s hand went limp and fell to his side. His fingers unclenched and the revolver clanged to the floor.

“Don’t shoot me,” she said. She winked.

Sathi’s knees gave way. He knelt.

Something elemental came to him. Something in the start of fear.

When he came to, Dhondu stood over him.

“I killed her,” said Dhondu.

In Dhondu’s hand was a dagger dripping blood. Illusia lay on the ground her left eye a bloody smear.

“Witch!” said Sathi.

“Get Subedar,” said Sathi. “Fast.”

Dhondu scampered away.

Sathi kicked Illusia.

“Bitch! Bad that you died too soon. Otherwise I would have shown you the repercussions for messing with the law.”

Involuntarily his hand went to the holster.

A bullet should teach that bitch, he thought.

A bullet should.

But his revolver was no longer in his holster. He had dropped it. He looked around the girl but couldn’t find it. he searched but he couldn’t find it.

What could be more certain than grieving with your eyes open. The grief which comes in waves could only come in small measures. Only if he could find the door. A door which would lead him away and beyond.

Away and beyond.

He would have stopped stark without a hint of further prodding. But he didn’t.

“You killed her,” the old man said.

“Who are you?” said Sathi.

“I am Illluson, her father. Wait what I will do to you now.”

He raised his hand. But Sathi was quicker. Sathi launched himself at Illuson and began throttling him.

“Nooo!” cried the old man.

Sathi increased the pressure. Sathi paid no heed to the nails of Illuson digging in his wrists. He kept applying pressure till he old man’s hands grew limp. Sathi withdrew his hands and Illluson crumpled to the floor.

Sathi’s hands shook from the exertion. He could kill not just by weapons but with his bare hands too. He puffed up his chest motioning his hands here and there. He was invincible.

His legs gave a tick. It became a very bad tick. With all the various things in his head, he could make anything suck.

“Sir?”

Sathi had squatted beside the old man with his hand on his heart. Sathi stood up.

“You killed the old man too?”

“Yes,” said Sathi.

“But he was the doorway,” said Subedar.

“The doorway?”

Subedar morphed into a dagger and then into the girl. Dhondu morphed into a doorway and then into Illuson. The bodies on the floor morphed into Dhondu and Subedar—their khaki uniforms splattered with blood.

“No.No.No…,” said Sathi.

Sathi’s knees gave way and he covered his face with his hands.

“It won’t go away inspector,” said Illusia. “Why are you so afraid of your gift? It takes some time to prepare the gift. Do you need gift wrapping?”

“No.”

“You wanted your men inspector. So there they are,” said Illusia.

“I want to get out,” said Sathi.

Illusia’s green lips turned blood red. Her dazzling smile grew crooked with mottled teeth filling them. The teeths grew into fangs. Her hands turned to feathery wings and topped with green claws.

The old man grew different in ways like Illusia. His clothes got ripped as he burst through them. His mouth became a snout and his legs spindly thin their edges razor sharp.

Sathi’s hand grew heavy. His palm had the gun. He levelled it at them.

“No, no,” said Illusia, “you are being hasty.” Spittle dripped from her mouth.

Sathi squeezed the trigger. He kept squeezing till his gun emptied out. With every bullet they grew larger.

He flung the gun at them and shouted,

“I want to get out!”

“First bring your superintendent of police,” said Illusia. An array of light disturbed the darkness.

Behind Sathi a door opened.

THE END

Bio: I am an Engineer by circumstance and writer by choice. I work in Engineering in Mumbai. I started writing short stories when in college, and have just now completed my first novel. My fiction genres include, horror, fantasy, political thrillers & historical. I am looking out for a publisher at present and working on my second book.

 

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