Family Tree

tree

I was five the first time Grandpa invited me into the basement to see his safe. It was massive. Apparently, the original owners told him the house had to be built around it; there was no way it could’ve been brought in afterward. When I asked him what was inside, he just smiled and said, “maybe I’ll tell you when you’re older.” I remember being frightened by that smile. Everything about my grandfather frightened me, to be honest. I was never able to put a finger on why, but the feeling was real. I dreaded whenever Mom said we were going to visit.

Every time Mom and I were there, his housekeepers would wait on us hand and foot. Even at an early age, I noticed how they seemed intimidated by my grandfather and were quiet, timid, and unwilling to speak unless they were spoken to. It was almost like they’d been traumatized.

When I was 13, I learned an unsettling fact about the housekeepers: they were, in fact, his wives. The grandmother I’d known, who died when I was very young, was merely one of nine. Mom didn’t want to explain the whole thing to me. I could tell she was afraid of him, too. When I asked why she’d chosen to keep in touch with him after Dad died, she told me I needed a male figure in my life. It sounded strange to me, but I never pressed the issue.

On the day before my 16th birthday, Mom said Grandpa wanted to take me hunting. I absolutely hated the idea. Being alone with my grandfather on his sprawling property which comprised countless acres of deep, dark woods was one thing, but the addition of guns to that already-unpalatable scenario basically made it the last thing I’d ever want to do. I protested and argued and whined. Mom wouldn’t have any of it. “He’s done a lot for you over the years,” she insisted. “You’ll go and you’ll be polite.”

And that was that.

Mom woke me up before dawn on my birthday and drove me the two hours it took to reach Grandpa’s home. She didn’t get out of the car. I knocked on the door and one of his wives, Gert, ushered me into the kitchen where there was a hearty breakfast waiting for me. Despite not being even remotely hungry, I gnawed on some bacon and shoveled some eggs into my mouth. I didn’t want Grandpa to get angry at Gert for making food I didn’t want to eat.

As I was finishing up, my grandfather came down the stairs. Despite being in his 70s, he was strong and enormous. His 6’6” frame dwarfed me; at over 300lbs, he was more than twice my weight, too. As usual, he grinned and exposed teeth that were too straight and too perfect for a man his age. I tried and failed to prevent gooseflesh from rising along my spine.

He greeted me with a cheery rendition of “Happy Birthday,” his deep voice resonating throughout the cavernous kitchen. I smiled at him and did my best to make it look like I was deeply appreciative. He asked if I was finished eating. I nodded. After instructing Gert to clean the place up, he put his massive right hand on my shoulder and told me to follow him.

I trudged along as he walked across the house to the basement door. He flipped the lightswitch and we walked down the thick, wooden stairs. He turned the corner at the bottom of the stairs and I immediately knew what he was going to show me. We stopped in front of the colossal, iron safe.

“I think you’re ready to see what I’ve got in here,” Grandpa informed me.

Excitement and fear churned in my breakfast-stuffed stomach. I’d wondered what was in that safe for as long as I could remember. Now that I was about to find out, I was borderline terrified. What did he have in there that had needed to stay secret? I’d learned he was a polygamist, and probably an abusive one, but he and my mother acted like it was a normal fact of life. What was so bad that he had to keep actively hidden from the world inside a safe the size of a small car?

Grandpa turned the old, chrome-plated combination lock a few times. I heard something unlatch from deep inside the iron bowels of the thing. With a grunt of effort, my grandfather pulled open the heavy door.

I let out the breath I’d been unconsciously holding in one, long sigh. Inside was an arsenal of firearms. Rifles, shotguns, pistols, and countless boxes of ammunition.

“John,” he said, staring intently at my face, “some of these guns aren’t legal anymore. I’m showing them to you because you’re family, I trust you, and these will be yours someday. I don’t want you to tell anyone about what’s in here because I could get in a lot of trouble.”

I nodded my understanding and promised him I wouldn’t say anything to anyone.

“Good!,” he exclaimed. “Now pick one for yourself. We’re going hunting.”

I didn’t know anything about guns. I thought back to the television show’s I’d watched and tried to remember what hunters used in them. I selected a long rifle-looking thing.

“M1 Garand,” Grandpa announced. “Excellent!”

He pulled the gun from the safe, loaded it with ammunition, and handed it to me.

“Keep it pointed at the ground and don’t touch the trigger until you’re ready to shoot something,” he warned. He pulled another, similar-looking rifle from the safe, loaded it for himself, and picked out a small revolver, which he loaded and stuffed into his front pocket.

“Come on,” he boomed cheerily, “let’s go for a walk.”

The morning was cold and the sun had barely started to rise. It was overcast and every so often, a flake or two of snow would float to the ground in front of my face. I stared at the ground while my grandfather walked ahead of me.

We walked at a brisk pace for what felt like an hour. The sun rose behind an overcast curtain and its light barely penetrated the dense, coniferous canopy above us. The longer we walked, the more unnerved I became. It seemed like the day was getting darker, not brighter, as the density of the forest swallowed nearly everything the shrouded sky could produce. I noticed animals as we walked, but they were all ignored by Grandpa. I wondered what it was we were hunting.

We passed deer, squirrels, rabbits, and raccoons. Eventually, growing tired of walking in silence and becoming increasingly aware we’d have to walk the whole way back, too, I spoke up and asked where we were going and what we were hunting.

Without turning around, Grandpa replied. “I’ll be honest with you, John; we’re not hunting anything. Bears like to roam around these woods and I’ve seen a lot of them over the years. They never bothered me, but I want us to be prepared in case today’s any different.”

I just said, “okay,” but I wondered why the hell we were out here in the first place if we weren’t actually going hunting. I didn’t want to say it just like that to my grandfather, though, so I just asked, “are we near where we’re going?”

Grandpa stopped walking and turned around. That same, unnerving smile was plastered across his lined face. “Just on the other side of that rock formation,” he said, pointing. “Come on.”

Instead of going ahead, Grandpa slowed down and walked next to me.

“You’re a man now, John. Your father should be the one walking with you, not me. The good Lord saw it fit to take him when you were a baby, though, and I knew I had to step up and show you what that means.”

We stopped at the rock formation. “We’ll have to climb over.”

Grandpa climbed next to me. It wasn’t steep and the footing was solid. We moved easily. He kept talking.

“Your mom told me a few years ago that you knew my housekeepers were actually my wives. And that’s okay. I worried you might be confused, but you always surprised me by your maturity. That’s what’s important to me. Not age.”

We reached the top of the rock formation. I looked down at the forest below and started to climb down with him.

“It’s your job as a man to claim as many women as you want.”

I thought about protesting, but I didn’t dare interrupt. I let him continue.

“They’re yours. It’s their duty to be there for you, to bear your children, and to take care of your needs, whatever they may be.”

We climbed down in silence for a few minutes, as if he wanted to make sure I had time to reflect on the importance of what he’d just said. A little while later, we reached the forest floor.

“When your Dad died,” he started, his voice breaking with emotion that he quickly swallowed, “I was put in a difficult position. He was my son, and my son embraced the tradition of all the men in our family; me, my father, his father, his father, and so on.”

The trees seemed much taller than before. The forest on the other side of the rock formation was older than what we’d been walking through, and even darker. I had to squint to see, even though, when I snuck a look at my phone, it was almost 10am.

“You have a unique family tree, John. Remember, your father respected the tradition of the family. That means your mother was not his only wife.”

This news made my head spin. I didn’t remember much about Dad, but I always thought he was a decent, caring person. Hearing he was anything like my grandfather was a terrible revelation.

“Like I said, I was put in a difficult situation. Your father had 12 wives. For whatever reason, despite him impregnating all of them, only one gave birth to a boy. Your mother.”

I felt mildly dizzy. “You mean I have sisters?” I asked, hating that my voice cracked an octave higher on the last syllable of the sentence.

“12 of them. One of your father’s wives had twin girls.”

“Can I meet them?” My voice was back to its normal pitch. I sounded calm and oddly hopeful, despite the intense discomfort I felt.

“A woman’s duty is to serve the men in her life, John. Your mom had you, and it became her duty to serve you. When your father died, the other wives couldn’t serve anyone. They no longer had any purpose. It’s not like the daughters could have carried the family name.”

“I understand,” I said, not understanding. “So I’ll never get to meet them?”

“John. They lost their only purpose in life. The daughters couldn’t carry the family name. What purpose could they have had?”

I stared into Grandpa’s eyes. Their intense blue was startlingly bright against the gloom of the forest. As we’d stood and talked, the clouds had given way to partial sunshine. It was still dark, but I could see more than 10 feet in front of me.

“I asked you a question, John. What purpose could they have had?”

I shifted in place with acute awareness of how uneasy and timid I must have looked to the giant man in front of me. It was obvious I needed to tell him what he needed to hear.

“They didn’t have any purpose at all, Grandpa.” The words felt disgusting as they came out of my mouth.

The smile returned to his face. “Good boy, John.” He paused before he spoke again. “Good boy.”

We stared out at the endless forest ahead of us. I got ready to ask if we could start heading back before Grandpa spoke again.

“I had to make things right after your father died.” He pointed up, over his head. “No waste.”

I started to shake as a feeling of dread suffused throughout my body. Grandpa kept his hand raised with his finger pointing up. Despite not wanting to look, I craned my neck and stared into the shadowy canopy. It didn’t take long before I realized what he was pointing at. I gasped with such force I began to choke.

Skeletal bodies in ragged clothing hung from the branches above. Some were big, some were small. Some were tiny. All were dead. Long, long dead.

“Meet your stepmothers and your stepsisters, John. I know you don’t remember them, but they all loved you and your father very much.”

Tears streamed down my face as rage began to replace my fear. “Did you -”

“I did,” he declared. There was pride in his voice.

He watched as I raised my rifle and pointed it at his barrel chest. “You don’t need to, John. I’ll take care of it so you don’t have to.” He produced the pistol from his jacket pocket and held it against his temple.

“I’ve done my part, John. I know you won’t actually shoot me, but you’ll report what happened here and I’ll be arrested. I’m going to make it easy for you and take care of the ugly part myself.”

He tightened his grip on the pistol. “Let what I told you sink in, John. Talk to your mother about it. She knows all about this. She’ll help you. It’s her job to help you. You’ll see it my way when you’re a little older.”

A breeze whistled through the trees. Above us, I heard the ragged dresses on the bodies rippling in the wind. My mind wandered to the poor women back at grandpa’s house; women who’d been abused for decades by a man who thought they were nothing but property. The thought of how they’d been so conditioned over that time to buy into the hideous tradition of the awful man in their lives prompted a terrifying realization.

“Your…your wives,” I choked out. “What will happen to them?”

That repulsive smile gashed my grandfather face as he spoke. “They knew why we were coming out here, John. And they knew only you were coming back. I’m sure they did what they needed to while we’ve been away.”

A sob burst from my lips as I thought about Gert’s sad smile while she watched me eat the birthday breakfast she’d made for me.

The clicking of the gun’s hammer being cocked caused me to look back up at my grandfather. He stared into my eyes with an intensity I’d only seen from animals about to maul their prey.

“Happy Birthday, John. Don’t ever forget the day you became a man. And don’t forget what it means to be one. Tradition over all, John. Tradition over all.”

He took the gun from the side of his head and placed it in his mouth. He squeezed the trigger and dropped heavily to the soft blanket of pine needles on the forest floor. Blood gushed from his mouth and nose.

I stood, motionless, watching the blood drain out of his head. Sounds of the forest gradually replaced the ringing in my ears. Birds chirped. Squirrels chittered. Branches clattered. Dresses fluttered.

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Butt Stuff

It’s hard to keep the physical aspect of a relationship going over the years. My wife and I are in our late 30s, and things had started to cool down for us in the bedroom. Thankfully, we’re both very into communication. Whenever we sense something might be amiss, we talk it out until we discover a solution. Our stagnating sex life was no different.

After a few lighthearted discussions, we decided to start experimenting. Nothing too crazy. Just basic kinks. A little bondage. Some mild butt stuff. You know.

Everything went really well. We learned new things about ourselves and one another. Our creativity blossomed as we tried to figure out fun, different activities we could engage in. The fact we’re so comfortable with one another was a huge plus; I couldn’t imagine this all working out if either of us felt shame or nervousness.

About a month into our experimentation, I walked over to Olivia and held my phone in front of her. I’d found a hilarious and pretty impressive clip on Reddit. It featured three porn actresses attempting a unique challenge: they had a small sex toy attached to a string, the other end of which was attached to a small helicopter drone. The goal was to use their vaginal muscles to keep the toy inside while the drone tried to pull it out. They all tried with varying levels of success with the last woman appearing to hold onto it indefinitely.

Olivia, like me, thought it was hilarious. Then she got a look on her face that told me immediately we were thinking the same thing.

“You know…I bet I can hold one way longer than you,” she informed me.

“You’re on,” I told her.

My lovely wife had given me a quadcopter drone for Christmas. We used it a lot for the first couple months, but then the novelty wore off and it’d been sitting in my closet ever since. I headed upstairs, got the drone and a small vibrator, and headed to the garage.

It took a little while to properly secure the fishing line to the vibrator. It didn’t help that Olivia and I had downed a bottle and a half of wine with dinner and were still drinking. Eventually, though, I had the line on tight. It wasn’t going anywhere. Olivia wanted to test the strength of the line, too – the vibrator wasn’t designed for anal use and the last thing she wanted to do was show up at the hospital and ask them to dig it out of one of us.

Olivia said we needed to have a brief conversation about lube. It would definitely make the thing easier to go in, but also easier to come out. Since the vibrator was pretty small, neither of us thought it was necessary, but I had some ready just in case. We were taking this all pretty seriously; we’d made serious oral sex wagers that’d have to be delivered by the loser of the contest over the coming days.

We headed outside with our setup and chose a spot by the pool with a few comfy chaise lounges. I gave the quadcopter a quick test flight. The drone is operated with an iPhone app that’s pretty intuitive. We’d gotten pretty good at it since Christmas, so even in our semi-drunken states, it was going to be a piece of cake.

We’re fortunate enough to have a pretty big backyard and no nosy neighbors. It’s allowed us to go skinny dipping and get a pretty good all-over tan without having to worry about anyone getting an eyeful. Not that Olivia would have minded, but that’s another story.

Olivia said she wanted to go first. I’m not going to get graphic or anything, but I’ll just say she got the thing in there, I waited for her to tell me she was ready, and then I had the drone take off. I was laughing so hard at how hilarious she looked trying to hang on to the damn thing. Still, I had the presence of mind to keep an eye on the stopwatch. Olivia was able to hold onto the toy for almost two minutes before it popped out.

“Beat that!,” she shouted. I was worried. She went way longer than I thought she would have. I had the drone land, Olivia brought the setup inside to rinse the toy off, then came back. I was ready. It was my time to shine.

I jammed the thing up myself without much ceremony. I’d tested the line again beforehand, making absolutely certain it wouldn’t break and force me to explain to the ER nurse how I fell on it in the shower or something. I pushed the idea out of my mind and did a few practice clenches. I felt the toy move a little deeper, but I figured that could only help me hold it inside.

“Ok,” I said, realizing how ridiculous I must look with my dick and balls dangling underneath the fishing line sticking out of me. I glanced at Olivia over my shoulder and hollered, “let ‘er rip!”

Olivia activated the drone and started its ascent. I felt it tugging the toy inside me, but it was nothing more than I could handle. The line moved back and forth as my wife flew the drone around like I had, trying to dislodge the vibrator from its position. I’ll be honest: it was way easier than I thought. I could’ve done it all day.

The ten feet of fishing line moved back and forth, around and around, and there was no way in hell it was getting away. A minute passed. Then a minute and a half. Olivia had started playfully buzzing the drone by my head with the hope of startling me into letting the toy go.

Right before I was going to eclipse my wife’s time, Olivia moved the quadcopter straight out, using the momentum she’d gathered from passing by my head, and I felt something pinch inside me. “Oh fuck, the corner of the battery compartment must’ve come off,” I thought with a twinge of worry, and I felt a much harder pull. I clenched as hard as I could, but the pulling sensation only intensified. Olivia shrieked and dropped the phone onto the pavement.

Further startled by my wife’s scream and the sound of my phone breaking on the concrete, I unclenched the toy. The feeling of pulling turned into white-hot pain as I flipped onto my back and saw what had frightened Olivia.

Between my legs was a grayish-white tube leading up to a slightly thicker, bright red tube with fishing line hanging out of it. The fishing line was still attached to the drone. Right where the line met the red part, the toy bulged at a semi-sideways angle. Dizziness overcame me as I reached out and pulled the slick, veiny, tube, trying to get the drone to stop flying and pulling more of it out of me. Olivia screamed again and sat down hard on the pavement before falling over sideways. She’d passed out.

The tube continued its slow unravelling. It slipped and slid through my hands as I tried to get a grip on it. The drone crashed into the branches of a nearby tree and stuck there. At least 12 feet of my intestines hung out of my body. The air was filled with a nauseating, estuarial scent.

The terror of my injury was eclipsed only by my concern for Oliva. She’d hit her head on the pavement when she fell. I got up from the chaise lounge and tried to maneuver over to her without causing any more damage to myself. I felt a series of dull, disjointed pains in my stomach. My shattered phone sat next to Olivia, who I could tell was still breathing. The moment of relief I felt was fleeting; more and more twinges of a pain unlike any I’d ever experienced pulsed through my stomach, although I knew even though I felt it in my gut, it was probably from 12 feet away.

I yelled for help as my wife regained consciousness. It appeared the fall hadn’t hurt her. She was alert again quickly and ran into the house to call 911. I was on my stomach under the tree with my intestines sticking straight up out of me. While I waited and did my best not to panic, more dull pain filled my belly. It felt like I was being punched in the stomach over and over.

Possibly because I’m the most unlucky person on earth, a bee landed on my hand while I waited for help. Before I could swat it away, it stung me. I smashed it and let fear overcome me while the stomach pain got worse and worse. I knew if I wasn’t going to die from this, my digestive system would be severely damaged. One stupid contest had ruined the easy life I’d taken for granted.

Sirens filled the air and an ambulance drove directly into the backyard. As I sobbed with pain and fear, I distinctly heard one of the EMTs say “holy fucking dog dicks.” The reaction was enough to make me laugh for the first time since the ordeal, but another wave of crushing pain filled my belly as soon as I did. I passed out.

Countless hours later, I woke up in the hospital with Olivia by my side. There were doctors, nurses, and med students milling around. My pain, mercifully, was gone. The fear remained, though. I asked Olivia how bad it was. She said I’d be okay – there was no real damage. The doctor came in and told me I’d have to be on a special diet for a while so my stitches wouldn’t pop, but I’d probably be fully recovered within a year.

I couldn’t believe it. I asked him how long I’d have to be on the heavy pain medication I assumed I must have been on because I felt hardly discomfort at all. He told me I wasn’t on anything major and when I was discharged, I wouldn’t need meds stronger than Tylenol. I asked about the pain I’d felt in my stomach. He smiled, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small plastic bag, which he handed to me.

I inspected it. There were hundreds of tiny, black pieces that looked like splinters.

“You’ll probably want to get rid of that bee hive in your tree,” he told me. “They weren’t too fond of being bothered.”

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House Sounds

Carol heard it first and woke me up. She told me to listen. Then I heard it. Bumping and scraping. Shuffling and clattering. I turned on the light. The sounds stopped.

It was still our first month in the new house. By new, I mean “new to us.” It was quite old; over 100 years. Like any old house, it had its share of creaking and groaning, but we’d grown used to all that after the first couple weeks. These sounds were new. Unfamiliar. Unsettling.

We listened in silence for a few minutes. Nothing. Carol flipped on the TV and we watched Chopped! for a little while before getting tired enough to go back to sleep. And we did.

The next morning, a Saturday, which was supposed to be a day for yard work, was spent sealing all the visible cracks and holes around the baseboards and windows. Carol’s concern, which I echoed, was a vermin infestation. Rats were a problem for some of the houses in the area. Our neighbor, a strange, elderly fellow named Herman, had mentioned an opossum infestation in his barn in the 1990s. “Just the cost of rural living,” he proclaimed, before regaling us with the details of how he dispatched them all in the course of an afternoon with a pitchfork.

I made a trip to the hardware store and picked up a few rat traps. Nothing major; just enough to put in the basement and in a few other areas we thought they might traverse. Over the next week, when we heard those strange sounds again, we just assumed we were dealing with rats. We were a little grossed out, but the concern was mostly gone. Their days were numbered. It was only when the traps remained untouched that we started to feel a little uneasy.

During a particularly bad, sleepless night, when the bumping and shuffling sounds went on for hours and I’d gotten out of bed and walked all around the house trying to find the source, I was frustrated and exhausted. I’d traced the loudest of the noises to a closet in the hallway. Hoping to scare the rats into shutting up, I pounded on the closet’s interior wall. When my fist struck the old board, the board next to it fell out. Scared the hell out of me.

Expecting rats to start scurrying toward me, I grabbed the board and got ready to beat as many to death as I could. No rats came. But the sounds had stopped. There was only the soft din of whatever TV show Carol was watching in the bedroom. I was getting ready to replace the board when I saw something on the ground behind where the piece had fallen out. I picked it up. A scrap of newspaper with the headline: “Another Infant Missing: 17th in 10 months.” It was dated March 3rd, 1933.

I shuddered and shoved the scrap in my pajama pocket. Of all the things the rats could use to make their nests, it had to be something so morbid. As I started to replace the board, the sound resumed. This time, it was far louder than ever. The bumps shook the house and a clattering like a thousand rattlesnakes filled the air. The power cut out. Upstairs, Carol hollered. I ignored her. Something else had grabbed my attention.

After the first, violent bump, before the lights went out, I saw the two adjacent boards in the closet had fallen away. They revealed a much larger space behind the closet than I’d thought.

I felt my way to the kitchen and grabbed a flashlight out of the drawer. I flipped it on and jumped a mile when I saw Carol standing across the room. She looked frightened and annoyed. I grabbed her hand and we marched to the hall closet. The rattling persisted.

We peered into the hidden compartment and followed the beam of the flashlight. Something on the floor glinted back. I started to squeeze between the boards to get closer. Carol grabbed my arm and told me not to go in. I shook her off. I made my way inside and saw something bizarre: a metallic, glittery wand and a very large tiara – way too big for a child. A piece of cloth was underneath. I picked it up and shook away the dust. The letters “TF” were emblazoned across it in garish, cartoonish cursive.

The rattling grew deafening. I turned around and saw Carol holding her ears and crying. I aimed the flashlight around the rest of the space. A large bucket sat in the corner. The two steps it took to reach it only served to increase the amplitude of the noise. As soon as I pointed the flashlight beam inside it, the sound stopped. The bucket trembled in the yellowish light.

Inside were more newspaper clippings with equally disturbing headlines. More missing infants. The more I pulled out and read, the numbers kept rising. The last one said “88”. December 12th, 1941. There was a thick piece of card stock under them. I lifted it and uncovered more pieces of paper. They were different. Handwritten. Just numbers and dates and what looked like prices:

4/4/39 – 3 – $30
6/23/45 – 10 – $95
10/1/46 – 2 – $25

And so on. There were lots of these. Receipts, I assumed. Carol had entered the room and stood next to me, clutching my arm. Under the receipts was another piece of card stock. I lifted it away and uncovered a few handfuls of little pebbles or seashells. Sticking out of them was a small, colorful placard with the same cursive as the cloth. We read it together. Carol screamed and I felt faint. Right then, I knew what the “TF” meant on the cloth. Cloth that had been, I realized, a cape.

I dropped the placard back in the bucket. The contents rattled. In bright, pink, hand-painted letters, the words stared back up at us.

For sale: baby teeth. Never used.

I was kidnapped by my girlfriend and what she did to me was beyond comprehension.

About ten years ago, I dated a masseuse named Valerie. Well, masseuse in training. She was passionate and enthusiastic and she practiced as frequently as she could. That meant I got a ton of free massages. Obviously, since we were a couple, those massages would escalate and turn into that usual thing couples do, but it was only after she felt she’d gotten in a good practice session.

After one of our, ahem, “sessions,” Val looked a little confused but also relieved. I asked her what was up. She told me the sores she had on the inside of her mouth didn’t hurt anymore. We’d talked about those things before. She said they weren’t contagious, thankfully, but she’d had to endure them for most of her life and they were intensely painful; sometimes even debilitatingly so. Doctors prescribed an ointment for her to put on them when the outbreaks occurred, but they barely took the edge off. Plus, she was deeply attached to the ideas of natural healing and homeopathy and all that, so she very, very rarely used the medication. But that night, for the first time in a while, I could tell she wasn’t powering through her pain. She genuinely felt good and had no idea why.

Her pain returned a few hours later. As always, she did her best to ignore it. Fast forward a couple days – another massage, another occasion for sexy times. Midway through, she stopped kissing me and exclaimed, “that’s it!” I didn’t know what she was talking about. She rolled off me and stuck her finger in my mouth. Not really sure what the hell was going on, I just sat up on the bed and let her do whatever she was doing. She pulled her wet finger from my mouth and stuck it in her own. I saw her rubbing the inside of her cheek. Her face brightened and she informed me, with complete certainty, that my saliva was taking away her pain. I laughed and said something encouraging despite thinking she was nuts. Then she hopped back on me and I completely forgot everything she’d said. Continue reading “I was kidnapped by my girlfriend and what she did to me was beyond comprehension.”

I should have never ordered that acne cream from China.

July 5th, 2015

I can’t believe how long it’s taking. Yeah, I get it, things that ship from China are going to take longer to get to Rhode Island than if they shipped from Canada. IDC. I paid so much money for this shit I’d expect the people who sell it to actually care about their customers. Such bullshit.

The tracking info says it’s in fucking Rotterdam. I thought it was going to be flown over here because it needs to be refrigerated. If it’s just sitting in a hot cargo ship next to baby clothes and ballpoint pens and dildos I’m going to be so mad. $155!

July 6th, 2015

So fucking pissed. It’s going to be another week. I sent an email to the company and they got back real quick and told me, “yes, it’s refrigerated” and, “yes, it will be perfect when it arrives.” But I have to wait SEVEN MORE FUCKING DAYS. That’s cutting it so super close to Carlotta’s wedding and I need my skin to be PERFECT for all those pictures. I’m not going to look worse than my sister, even if she’s bride. I want people to look at her wedding pictures and be like, “yeah Carlotta’s beautiful but Rachel is the one in the family with the looks.” Because I am.

July 10th, 2015

Another three days of waiting. My skin is AWFUL. I don’t have a ton of zits but the ones I have are huge and they don’t just look gross but they hurt. None of the stuff I’ve gotten at the store works. Yesterday, I went to Whole Foods and found some natural coconut oil cream that people online said was good. I put it on last night and this morning I woke up with another massive pimple right in the left corner of my nose. I did a test with my camera and I stood 15 feet away like how the photos will be taken for the wedding. The pimples were so obvious. Even with makeup, you can see them underneath. Especially if one starts leaking. So fucking gross. I’m so mad.

July 12th, 2015

IT’S HERE IT’S EARLY THANK GOD!

The package came in a really well-sealed box that looked like it had some weird refrigeration packs inside. It was definitely cold. The acne cream was in a clear tube. The stuff looked almost exactly like the Neutrogena scrub I use every day but instead of being blue with gray exfoliating beads, the Chinese stuff was yellow with white exfoliating beads. I have no idea what the writing on the tube says but I’m texting a pic to Mei so she can translate.

Update @ 11:25am

Ok, Mei said the writing just says “skin care” and “for use on blemishes.” The instructions say: “Keep refrigerated, use a thumbprint-sized dollop on the face immediately after getting out of a hot shower, let sit for a half hour, then rinse off with warm water. For best results, use twice a day for one week. Mild swelling may occur, but it is normal. If severe peeling occurs, stop using immediately.”

I jumped in the shower and turned it as hot as I could stand so my pores would open up. I squeezed the pimples that were ready to blow and almost threw up when the biggest one popped so hard i heard the glob of pus hit the shower wall. That one bled a lot. I hope the new acne cream won’t sting too badly.

I got the cream out of the little dorm fridge I keep in my room and started to spread it on my face. It stung SO BAD. I thought it smelled pretty good, though. Reminded me of Mei’s mom’s perfume, although there was something weird in the background. Not chemicals, either. Just…weird. Whatevs. I left it on for a half hour like it said, washed it off, and went to work.

Update @ 10:50pm

Work sucked as usual. My face felt nice, though. The stinging went away pretty quick after I scrubbed the stuff off and my skin feels smooth. Definitely less greasy. I could see in the mirror at work that my pores were a bit larger than normal. But they didn’t look or feel oily. The blackheads were gone, too. So far, so good.

I got home and took another hot shower and put on the stuff. I rubbed the exfoliating beads over the worst of the remaining zits, hoping to erode them down. One of them popped and hit the mirror like a mashed potato javelin (I’m working on my similes for English 102 next semester) and the cream stung like crazy when it touched the open sore. I gritted my teeth and rubbed the beads across the bleeding crater, working them into the skin to bring down the edges.

After a half hour, I cleaned it off and went to bed.

July 13th, 2015

My face looked SO MUCH BETTER this morning. The big pimples are still there but I can tell they’re starting to shrink. None of them have whiteheads. The skin’s a little swollen and feels hot, though. I’m glad the cream’s still working even after it’s been washed off.

I’ve got a lot more confidence today even though my face still is way worse than I want it to be for the wedding. I’ve gotta go to work now but damn it feels good to not want to cut my stupid skin out of my head.

Update @ 10:30pm

Apparently the cream helped me grow some balls because I asked out Todd from the deli department. I’ve wanted to fuck that dude for two years. I’m so going to, too.

July 14th, 2015

Last night after I showered and did my face, I started peeling a little bit. I’m not too worried because all the acne stuff in the past that stung going on always made me peel later on. I’ll keep an eye on it just to make sure it doesn’t get really bad, but I can’t believe how happy I am with how well it’s working. I take back everything I said about that company and the Chinese people in general. I’m glad Mei hadn’t heard me. Jeez.

Update @ 9:19pm

Todd looked so good at work today. I can’t wait until we can go out next weekend. Mei came in to see me and I pointed him out and I think he noticed but he didn’t say anything. She agreed he’s hot as fuck. She told me if I didn’t hit that this weekend she’d be on him an hour later. No way she’d have that chance lol.

My face feels pretty okay but it’s definitely more swollen than I’m used to. The biggest pimples are almost all gone, though. I dare say my complexion looks almost GOOD for the first time in 10 years. Jesus, I’ve gone from 12 to 22 with fucked up skin. No wonder I’m such an asshole. Oh wait, I’ve always been an asshole lol.

July 15th, 2015

My skin is smoooooooooooth! It’s not peeling anymore and even though it’s still swollen and the pores look way big, I’ve got no new pimples. Not one. Hasn’t even been half a week. I’ll be recommending this stuff to everyone once the treatment is finished and I’m in the wedding pictures looking like a total goddess. You’re so screwed, Carlotta lol.

July 16th, 2015

Nah, nothing. Same ol’ shit.

July 17th, 2015

Face is smooth as a baby’s buttcheeks. Still swollen, still big-ass pores, but not a single zit. Two more days of my skin treatment, five more days until date night with Todd, and eight more days until the wedding. Things are pretty damn good right now.

July 18th, 2015

Tomorrow’s my last day of the acne cream. I started peeling again just a little bit, but everything is still pretty damn smooth. I used the exfoliating beads in the cream to get off the majority of the peeling skin, anyway, and I don’t think anyone but me noticed. That said, my housemate said something about my cheeks being swollen and I told her it was just my acne meds. She nodded and said I might want to stop using it. I just laughed and told her I’d be stopping it tomorrow anyway.

After Olivia mentioned that, though, I’ve become pretty aware of the swelling. I can feel it when I smile and furrow my brow. When I poke my cheeks, they’re still smooth but they feel a little hard underneath, kinda like my ankle did when I sprained it and it swelled up. I’ll write the company tomorrow after I finish with the cream.

July 19th, 2015

Done! Today was boring as fuck ‘cause that’s how I roll but I just finished my last application of the acne medicine. I just looked at the “before” pic I took of myself the day before I started, and it’s RIDICULOUS how much better I look. I was fucking HIDEOUS last week! Omg. Yeah, my face is a lot rounder and stuff right now but it’s clear and smooth and TOTALLY awesome for the wedding AND my date with Todd. This is going to be awesome.

I’m writing an email to the Chinese company about the swelling just to put my mind at ease. I think it might have gotten a tiny bit better overnight but I really can’t tell. Neither could Olivia. I’ll ask some of the people at work later how it looks to them.

July 20th, 2015

Holy shit Todd texted and wanted to see if I could go out with him tonight instead of when we’d planned because something came up. I’ve just spent the last hour showering and shaving every hair below my eyebrows. I have to admit, I’m a little self-conscious about the swelling in my face. When I got out of the shower, I pressed on one of the larger pores near my nose and one of the damn exfoliating beads came out. That made me worry. I’d pushed those beads in pretty hard when trying to get the flaky skin to go away. The last thing I wanted to deal with was an infection. Everything I’d read about those was how bad they are for the environment. They can’t be good if they’re trapped inside your skin.

I’m going to go on our date and maybe tomorrow I’ll go to the walk-in clinic just to get looked at. It really doesn’t hurt much and I pressed on a couple other pores and got more of the beads out. There wasn’t any blood or any gross pus or anything else that would make me think my face was infected, so it’s probably fine. Whatevs. I’m getting dick tonight.

August 13th, 2015

I’m in the hospital. And fuck it, I’m going to write what happened because I missed the wedding and Todd thinks I’m a freak and I’ve got nothing else going for me but this story. And Todd told everyone already. I’m done for.

The first part of our date went so well. Dinner, drinks, then a romp at my place. I was riding him and leaning forward and sucking his tongue when my face started to hurt REAL bad and he opened his eyes and yelled. Then he threw me off him and ran out the door with his clothes in his arms. My skin hurt so bad I could hardly breathe but I got up and ran into the bathroom. I almost died.

My pores had erupted with thin, white worms. And they were still coming out. Each pore released a few cracked exfoliating beads. No, not beads, I realized. Eggs. As each broken egg came out, a thin, pure white worm slithered out behind it. They slid and dangled eight inches out of my face. I screamed as I grabbed a handful of them and pulled. Hard. I felt them stretching out of my pores from deep inside my head. From behind my neck. From my scalp. I reached arm’s length and they were still in me. I dropped what I held in the sink and used both hands to frantically yank the things out.

As I pulled, they curled up in the sink like vermicelli noodles. Finally, after what must have been five feet of length, that group was out. My pores oozed gray and yellow pus that smelled worse than anything I’d ever encountered. It was then I understood what the underlying smell of the acne cream had been. I vomited into the sink as I kept pulling, but more of their bodies poked out of the pores.

I ran out of my bathroom, feeling the things slapping against my neck and naked chest as I scrambled to find my cellphone. I could see them dangling when I reached down for the phone. And they’d started to move. No longer did they just slide out, but they wriggled and thrashed, finally sensing they were in some sort of danger. I screamed over and over and eventually was able to dial 911. Somehow they were able to get my address from the cell phone data and they said an ambulance would be there ASAP.

While I waited, I stood in my kitchen, puking and crying, snipping the things out of my face with a pair of scissors. They squirmed over the linoleum, dripping the same yellow and gray pus that was squirting from each gaping pore. As a crop of worms, a fatter ones than I’d seen so far, started to crawl out from underneath my left eyelid, I knew I was losing my mind. And I did what anyone who loses touch with reality does: I carved underneath the eyelid with the scissors. Immediately, everything in the room blurred and lost some level of dimensional perspective. I shrieked as the pain of the injury exploded through me, but I couldn’t stop.

I snipped down the eyelid, down my cheek, and unzipped the side of my face. I took my fingernails and dragged them under and through the incision, feeling unwound masses of the things buried within the muscle. I pulled and pulled, not feeling any more pain, and I watched the blurry, blood-soaked bodies drop to the kitchen floor with a wet sound.

Some time later, my door was being kicked in and I saw firefighters and EMTs staring at me in abject horror. I said something like, “be careful, there’s worms in my face” before I fell forward and cracked my head on the counter.

Two weeks later, I woke up. I wasn’t allowed to see my face for another few days, either. I could tell I was really messed up but apparently I’d be fine aside from some pretty bad scars and a damaged eye. The doctors had no idea what kind of parasite was in me, but said they’ll be taking the rest of the acne cream to run tests on it. They said that while it was refrigerated, the eggs would have been dormant. They figured once they got into the steamy humidity of my skin, they were able to gestate. And gestate they did.

Once Carlotta learned I’d survive the whole thing, she went and had the wedding anyway. And she had a great time. The wedding pictures were in an email attachment I got after I woke up. She looked amazing. Most gorgeous woman at the place. Before her email, though, was another one. The mail I sent to the Chinese company about my facial swelling had bounced back. No such recipient.

Fuck everything.

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I found a diary while I was out hiking in New Hampshire. I have to admit, I’m thoroughly creeped out by what was written inside.

The diary was from a while ago; 21 years, according to the dates. It was sealed really well in plastic wrap and stuffed in a watertight bag. It I hadn’t hit the thing with my shovel when digging a hole to take a dump, I never would’ve found it. I wish that would’ve been the case because I can’t stop thinking about the stuff I read. I’m only going to share the fucked up parts, but all I’m leaving out is the lady talking about how she and her husband were spending the month camping and having a good time. There, I just saved you 5 pages. Here’s where it got weird:

————————————————————-

7/2/1994, 7:00am

Last night, James and I got woken up by a ridiculously bright flash of lightning. There was no thunder, either. James said it must’ve been heat lightning. He’s probably right because it was disgustingly hot and muggy all day and once the sun went down it got even more humid. We eventually got back to sleep and this morning the air seems a little less like a wet sponge. We’re hoping to do 12 miles today.

7/2/1994, 8:00pm

I don’t even want to write this down because it’s so gross. James asked that I do it anyway so we’ll remember to report what we saw once we get to a ranger station. Like I could forget something like this. Anyway, here: all day, while we walked, we saw animals. Deer, birds, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and a black bear. That’s pretty par for the course out here. But when we went off the path for a little bit because, well, James was staring at my ass for the last hour while we walked and I guess he got some ideas, we were stopped by the sight of something awful about a hundred feet off the path. Well, many somethings. Strewn across a wide area that I estimated to be a couple thousand feet were miscarried animals. They were all at different stages of development. It was horrible.

7/3/1994, 2:45am

I’m not able to sleep after the events of yesterday. James, of course, is snoring like a buzzsaw despite the big flashlight lighting the tent up. What the hell could’ve caused something like that to happen? I’ve heard about animals going to find a safe place to die when they’re sick or old, but I’ll be damned if something like what we saw is in any way normal.

That heat lightning just happened again. This time it was three flashes clustered together within a couple seconds. No thunder. Fuck that’s creepy. James is mad that I just kicked him to wake him up and tell him about it. Sorry hon.

7/3/1994, 7:30am

I got to sleep about an hour after the lightning. Thank God we brought some good coffee to brew over the fire. We’re going to do 10 miles, although it might be a little less because the map says we’re getting into a pretty hilly area. Good for the glutes!

7/3/1994, 9:15pm

Pretty good walk today. We’re both going to be sore tomorrow, though. The map does a decent enough job telling us where the hills are going to be, but it’s shitty at indicating how steep they are. On the bright side, and I never thought I’d be at a point in my life where this sentence would make sense, we didn’t see any more fields full of animal fetuses. Whee.

7/4/1994, 6:10am

My dickhead husband smuggled some fireworks in his pack and decided to wake me up by setting them off right outside the tent while screaming, “Happy 4th of July!” Of course he was naked as he did all this and was presenting himself to me through the tent flap while holding a sparkler in each hand. I’ve come to the conclusion that I love his sense of humor between 8am and midnight, and anything from 12:01am until 7:59am makes me want to choke him. Waking up to explosions and his dick and balls is not quite how I envisioned our mornings together. Take away the explosions part, though, and I’m pretty okay with it.

It looks like it’s going to rain today. The clouds are low in the sky and it’s pretty breezy. Gusty, too. The rain gear we bought before we started our hike kept us dry during the storms last week, though, so I’m not too bummed out about it.

7/4/1994, 6:30pm

No rain while we walked. James shot a rabbit an hour ago and he’s about to skin it and get it ready for the fire. He’s making me learn how to do it, too. It’s pretty much the last thing I want to do, but there’s no reason why he should have to be stuck with the job every time we want to eat some cute forest critter. Ugh. Here we go.

7/4/1994, 7:30pm

I just finished throwing up. As soon James started working on the rabbit, we saw how sick it must’ve been while it was alive. Again, I’m only going into detail so we can report it at the ranger station, but for fuck’s sake James, if I have to learn how to skin a rabbit you can learn how to write clear, descriptive sentences. That’s a fight for another day. Under its fur, the rabbit was absolutely covered in what looked like big whitehead zits. They were under a lot of pressure, too, because when James poked one with the tip of the knife it burst and flung grayish white pus like 10 feet and onto the tip of my shoe. Cue me throwing up for a half hour while he apologized and tried not to laugh.

We still have a good amount of beef jerky and stuff in the food pack, so it’s not like we’re going to go hungry, but it would’ve been nice to have something a little different. The rain finally started and we’re stuck in the tent.

And here’s the lightning again. It’s flashing over and over and over. Sometimes it’s a few quick bursts, others it’s just single ones that last upwards of 4 or 5 seconds. It’s those long ones that scare the shit out of me. I’ve never seen lightning like that before. James keeps telling me it’s unusual but not unheard of, especially at this time of the year. It appears to be tapering off a little now, and I’m pretty glad it coincided with rain this time. I guess it really is just plain lightning. James is a pretty reassuring guy. Early bed time.

7/5/1994, 10:10am

I’m freaking out because James is trying hard not to freak out. We’ve been up since 6 and when we opened the tent the ground outside was covered in dead birds, dead bats, and dead bugs. And I mean covered. I guess we didn’t hear them hitting the ground because of the rain that started up again while we slept, but we still have no explanation as to why they’re all fucking dead. That’s not the worst part, though. They’re ALL covered with those zit things like the rabbit.

We’re deciding to cut the trip short and get the fuck out of here. The map says there’s a ranger station about 40 miles to our west, and James said we can get there by tomorrow afternoon if we really move. Both of us are at the point where really moving sounds like a great plan.

7/6/1994, 12:30am

We walked fast and we walked far. The whole way, we saw dead animals. They weren’t as tightly clustered together as they were around our tent, but we still saw a lot. I remember walking under a tree where the ground was littered with dead wasps. When I looked up, there was a huge nest with nothing flying around it. The forest is almost silent, too. No birds. Only insects. And even their sounds are few and far between. I never realized how omnipresent their din was until it was nearly gone.

Fuck. Just a minute ago, the first live deer we’d seen in all day walked into the lit area around our tent. It stared at us for a while on the outskirts of where the light fell, and when it turned around, I saw a dead fawn hanging halfway out of her body. As the deer trotted away, the fawn slid out and hit the ground with a wet thump, still connected to its mother by a tangle of afterbirth that stretched until it, too, slid out a few feet later. Fuck everything. Good luck trying to sleep tonight, Mel.

Okay something just happened while we were sleeping and I am freaking the fuck out and can barely breathe and I don’t know what to do other than write it down to make it make sense. The lightning came and just…stayed. The whole forest was lit up. James and I tried to convince each other it was just the weather. But it stayed lit for a whole minute. Then two. I begged James not to go outside but he unzipped the tent and went out. I panicked and didn’t want to be alone so I followed him and the entire sky, not just one area where lightning might be, was white. Brighter than the sun at noon. It hurt my eyes really bad to look at and James was squinting hard, too. I squeezed my eyes shut to recover a little and when I reopened them, he was gone. I ran around and looked and didn’t see him until I turned back around and he was right there again, staring at the sky. Except, he was…wrong.

He didn’t answer me when I screamed his name. He didn’t even blink. And I could see bumps starting to form on his neck and face. The light was so, so bright. I pushed James to try to get his attention and when I did the area under his shirt where I pushed got soaked with something. Well I know what it was but I couldn’t look. I couldn’t. I can’t. He is still outside and he’s not moving. Just standing and staring at the terribly bright sky. His pupils are gone and all that’s left is the blue and white. He’s different. He’s wrong. His skin is getting worse. And I am fucking terrified.

Little bumps are popping up on my hands while I write this and they’re coming to a head and now one of them just broke open and that’s my blood on the page. I know the wetness I feel on my thighs is blood, too. Blood signifying the end of what I’d been waiting to tell James on our anniversary next week. I keep thinking about the dead fawn sliding out of its mother.

I’m going to wrap this journal up in a bag and run in the direction of the ranger station. I don’t know what else to do. I’ll leave it under a tree or in some safe spot right off the trail so someone can find it if something happens to me on the way. This page is soaked through now. I have to go before I get worse. Before James gets worse. The light is so bright.

————————————————————-

And that’s what was in the diary. As soon as I read it and typed out what was inside, I mailed it to the CDC because I have no fucking idea what was wrong with that lady and her husband and I sure as hell don’t want to catch anything. That last page she wrote on was disgusting. I wish I’d been wearing gloves when I touched it. It was encrusted with dried stuff, probably that pus she wrote about, and it smelled awful. I washed up real good and left a note for the CDC guys to be careful with it.

I’m pretty reluctant to go back in those woods again, but I’m just being stupid. I bet the whole thing was a prank by some high school assholes and I’m going to waste the time of some pretty important guys when they get what I mailed over. Still, I’m more than a little creeped out. Everything that lady wrote about is just so far-fetched. But I still wonder. I wonder because I vaguely remember hearing about some massive animal die-off back in that part of the state in the mid 90s. It was probably something else though. It had to be.

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