I’m still traumatized by what happened when I answered that Craigslist ad.

teeth

The ad wanted a male companion for 6 hours. No sex, nothing illegal, and, get this: it paid $10,000. Who wouldn’t jump at 10k?

We met at his house. His handshake was firm. He seemed solidly middle-class; modest home, basic decor, nothing ostentatious. A suburban bachelor pad. After our hellos, he asked if I’d like something to drink. His fridge was stocked with microbrews. Good stuff! I grabbed a Dogfish Head 90 and he guided me to the basement. “That’s where we’ll be working,” he said.

The basement was sparsely furnished. Most prominent was what looked like an old dentist’s chair with a table next to it. The table was covered in a gray cloth. The man handed me an envelope he’d been carrying. $5000. “You can have the rest when we’re finished,” he told me. “It’ll only be a few hours.” Continue reading “I’m still traumatized by what happened when I answered that Craigslist ad.”

Haha guys my parents think I’m a virgin but I’m kinda, like… not lol.

Yeah so for those who don’t know me I’m Madison. I told a story about my stupid sister, then my gross brother, then my poor hot gay friend Kevin. If you don’t know those stories, I kinda hate you because they’re really important and like who the h*ck do you think you are coming in here and acting like you’re going to read about my first time and not care about the other things that are happening in my life? You should go, like, assistant manage a small diner or something just as sad lol.

Omg anyway guess what? I’M GONNA TELL YOU A STORY!! 😀

Continue reading “Haha guys my parents think I’m a virgin but I’m kinda, like… not lol.”

Devil’s Hole

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I’m a geologist working at Death Valley National Park in Nevada. Over the last few months, we’ve been studying the geological formation dubbed “Devil’s Hole.” Here’s what it looks like, for those interested.

Anyway, I’ve always found this place somewhat disconcerting. We have a vague idea of how it came to be and what makes it do what it does, but there’s something else. Something…off.

The other day, we sent a little submarine drone into the water to see if it could map out the labyrinthine cave system we know is there, but has been completely inaccessible for decades. Also, we wanted to find out how deep it goes. The fact an earthquake in China could cause the water to rise so substantially at this spot in Nevada makes us think it goes way deeper than preliminary estimates.

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Open Mouths

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Their pale faces were tilted skyward. Each pair of eyes brimmed with hope. In the moonlight, their skin seemed luminous; a battle of bright flesh against the surrounding darkness. Their mouths were slightly open, as if expecting to receive holy communion. They stood in a circle on the mossy ground, hand in hand. Their open throats drooled blood down their young chests.

Under my bare feet, the moss felt so comforting. So inviting. With the children standing guard, I would curl up on the ground and fall asleep.

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When Malcolm and I were kids, he told me he was terrified of the floaty things in his eyes. He said they were alive and they forced him to do things to himself.

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I didn’t understand. I had those floaty things. My teacher said everyone did. An artifact of our eyes developing, or something like that. I guess he’d been told the same thing, but it did him little good. His parents were concerned, of course, and they brought him to ophthalmologists who were all in agreement: his eyes were fine. When he denied the experts’ claims and doubled down on his insistence that something was wrong, his worried parents got him into therapy.

I guess the therapist helped him a little bit. Malcolm’s paranoia seemed to diminish somewhat and his anxious habits like twitching and blinking weren’t as pronounced. That was good – a lot of kids made fun of the way he blinked. He told me it helped push the things out of sight for a couple seconds.

Continue reading “When Malcolm and I were kids, he told me he was terrified of the floaty things in his eyes. He said they were alive and they forced him to do things to himself.”

The Last Words of an Explorer

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September 9th, 2016

This city is on no one’s map. If it had ever been, those people have long since died. As have their children. And grandchildren. And great grandchildren. And great-great grandchildren. And so on.

Nonetheless, here the city stands. My source was right. My money was well spent. These ancient structures are black tombs. We’ve set up our camp on the outskirts. The city is far too cold.

September 10th, 2016

Charles kept watch while I slept. He claimed to see no signs of life, but sounds kept him constantly alert. Soft sounds. Soft, wet, and unimposing. Sounds which drifted in and out at the limits of audibility, as if they were whispers, but windblown and damp – redolent of dying breaths and last words.

I heard nothing. My sleep was as black as the structures ahead of us. No sounds penetrated the dreamless morass. For a brief moment upon waking, I believed to have been dead.

Today, we tour the city.

Continue reading “The Last Words of an Explorer”

The Squirming Man

earthworm

Don’t pretend this is anything other than a suicide note. You are reading the words of a dead man whose body may still be warm.

For the last 40 years, I’ve been terrorized by the squirming man. At this moment, his name means nothing to you. If you wish for that to continue, stop reading now.

The squirming man first visited when I was six. I was in the shower. When I’d finished and pulled back the curtain, he was standing there. Waiting. Before I could scream, my mouth was filled.

To describe the squirming man is to revisit decades of trauma. Regardless, I need to be strong and write about him. I don’t want him to be a mysterious figure. I want my knowledge of him to be out there. I want people to know he exists. People should be ready if he visits them; I have no doubt he will once I’m gone.

Continue reading “The Squirming Man”

Roo

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I’ve lived in the same house for 40 years. After Ralph passed and I was left alone for the first time in three decades, I turned to my neighbors for comfort. They provided it in spades. I was honored and brought to tears by their kindness. Not too many places would make sure a lonely old man was taken care of. I’m surrounded by wonderful, beautiful people.

I took on the role of a grandfather to some of the neighborhood children. I was more than happy to babysit; Ralph and I always wanted to adopt but it wasn’t permitted in our state. So, having the opportunity to be a formative figure in the lives of these children was a great privilege. It made me feel like I was getting another chance to do everything that had been denied to me. I wish Ralph could’ve been here to take part. Still, I know he’s watching with the same love and pride he expressed every day he was alive.

One girl, Madison, formed a particularly strong connection to me. Her father was out of the picture. Her mom, Helen, who was forced to work full time, was rarely home during the day. Helen had always been the most supportive and loving of the neighbors after Ralph’s death, so when I had the opportunity to help with Madison and watch her during the work day, I was more than willing.

I started looking after Madison soon after her 10th birthday. She fell in love with the collection of toy kangaroos all over the house. Ralph was born in Australia and I always used to call him my little roo – especially when he got excited and his accent became more pronounced. On his birthdays, I’d give him some type of kangaroo toy. They’d been gathering dust after his passing and I was glad Madison could give them some life again.

Years passed and Madison started to grow up. I worried she was becoming depressed. She never had very many friends in school. She’d come straight over when her day was done and do her homework while waiting for her mom. Her mood was less bubbly than I’d remembered. Part of it, I’m sure, was her age. Adolescence is tough for everyone, let alone someone with a difficult family life like Madison. Still, I worried about her. She was perfectly nice to me and was never rude or disrespectful, but she’d withdrawn. She didn’t watch television with me anymore after her homework, either. She’d just sit on the floor in her kangaroo pajamas, which were far too small for her at that point, playing with Ralph’s figurines. Just like she did when she was little.

When Madison was 16, she got a boyfriend. Her first one, as far as I knew. I didn’t like him. At all. He was your typical teenage tough-guy type; a chain-smoking, foul-mouthed loser. There wasn’t anything I could do about it, though. Madison wouldn’t bring him over and I think she sensed I didn’t approve. But it wasn’t my business. I told myself years before that such situations were purely between Madison and her mother. Only if I felt like Madison was in danger would I interfere.

Madison spent more and more time with the boyfriend and less and less with me. The house grew quiet again. The other children I’d taken care of had grown old enough to watch themselves. Their parents stopped by every so often for coffee, but my general person-to-person interaction was far less than I’d previously enjoyed. I was lonely.

One night, Helen came to me in a panic. Apparently, Madison had admitted to using drugs. Helen had no idea what kind or anything like that, but she was terrified for her daughter’s safety. I tried to reassure her that there had to be something the school could do, but that was when she told me the other half of the story: Madison was pregnant.

This floored me. I’d seen Madison around town over the last few months and I’d noticed she’d gained some weight, but it never occurred to me she might be pregnant. Now her drug use was even more worrying. We tried to figure out a plan together and the only thing we could agree on was that the school had to know. Even though the local school system wasn’t the best, they had to have some resources dedicated to problems like these.

The school did nothing. Madison’s reckless behavior continued. Helen was too terrified to notify the police because she feared she’d be put in a foster home. I, too, was clueless. Time went by and the rare times I’d see Madison in town, she’d be stumbling around drunkenly with her idiot boyfriend, her protrusive belly an obscenity against the background of her intoxication.

On a late afternoon in February, I was leaving the supermarket when Madison spotted me from across the parking lot. She wasn’t with her boyfriend, thankfully. She rushed up to me and gave me a big hug. She didn’t seem drunk, but she had to have been on something. Her pupils were dilated and her words were slurred as she said how much she missed me. Then she asked if she could come over later to see the kangaroos. I told her that would be wonderful and that I missed her.

At some point around 7, Madison came over. I ushered her in quickly; it was way below freezing outside and she looked ill. I could tell she was high. She shuffled in without saying hello and went to the mantle where the kangaroos stood. In a singsong, childish voice, she talked to them. When she was 11, I thought that type of thing was cute. Now, though, knowing she was under the influence of something that was poisoning not only her, but the baby as well, it was far less adorable.

I walked up to her and asked if I could take her coat and if she’d like some tea and chocolate cake. She didn’t reply. She just kept talking to the kangaroos. I sighed and sat down on the couch, waiting for her to either snap out of it and talk to me or leave and hopefully go home to her mom.

Madison went down the line of the kangaroo toys on the mantle, saying “I love you” to each one. Then she walked back, doing the same thing in reverse order. Then she faced me. “I love you too, Michael,” she cooed, a thin smile cracking her pale face. “But you know what? I love Roo most of all!”

Madison dropped her heavy coat to the floor and I screamed. A gaping wound had been carved across the top of her belly. The blue head and chest and right arm of her baby stuck out from the opening. “Look at little Roo,” she said weakly. “Such a good little Roo.” Madison tried to hop toward me, mimicking a kangaroo. The limp head and arm of the child flopped back and forth with the movement.

“Sweet little Roo. All warm and safe in his pouch.”

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The Empty Cribs on Hawthorn Lane

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The bloody pacifier I found hanging from my tree belonged to Alyssa Harris, who went missing from her crib two nights ago. I figured it had to have been Alyssa’s when I saw it, but while I waited for the police to arrive, I realized it could’ve belonged to Matthew Roman. Or Muhammad Ahad. Or maybe even Hailey Davis. Over the last four years, they’d all vanished.

Hawthorn Lane developed quite a bit of notoriety in 2015 after Matthew and Muhammad disappeared on the same night. The Romans and the Ahads lived four houses apart, and as far as the detectives were able to tell, the children were abducted within minutes of each other. Both houses were securely locked and there was no sign of a forced entry.

As far as I’m concerned, though, the notoriety and brief rush of attention from the national news wouldn’t have happened if their disappearance hadn’t been on the anniversary of the 2012 abduction of Hailey Davis.

Hailey’s case was special, if it could be called such a thing. That’s because on October 1st, 2013, exactly a year after she went missing, pieces of her were found stuffed in the mailboxes of every family on the street who had, or were expecting, children. A swarm of investigators, both local and federal, descended on our quiet, suburban lane, and worked around the clock for months before admitting defeat. There was no evidence.

No fingerprints. No hairs. No mysterious DNA.

When the media came to town in 2015 after Matthew and Muhammad went missing, the rumors started. Rumors and threats. People from all over the country decided to get involved. They felt it was their duty. They began sending harassing letters and making threatening phone calls to the single adults who lived on Hawthorn Lane. These were people who’d lived here for years; people who had grieved alongside the parents and families who’d lost their children. But that didn’t matter to the crazies, who’d been thoroughly brainwashed by cable news into believing the abductor had to be someone from the neighborhood.

In December of 2015, a Georgia man named Alvin Stovall drove 300 miles up the coast, parked in front of Jose Partida’s house, and shot him to death when he came home from work. Alvin was certain Jose was the murderer of Hailey Davis and the abductor of Matthew Roman and Muhammad Ahad. He’d heard from a cable news anchor that Jose had a criminal record. That, as well as Jose’s name, was all Alvin needed to justify his action.

What the anchor had neglected to mention was Jose’s record was from 1977. And it was for nothing worse than being a passenger in a stolen car. Jose did his three months, got out on his 22nd birthday, and had been a model citizen ever since. He was my friend.

After Jose’s murder, the local police were ordered to keep a tight lid on any information pertaining to the disappearances. When Alyssa Harris was reported missing two days ago, it was printed on page four of the local newspaper. So far, there hadn’t been anyone from the major media outlets poking around. I know it’s only a matter of time, though. Yesterday morning, someone who looked like a reporter was tailing the police cars when they came to investigate the bloody pacifier. For the rest of the day, my phone rang and rang. When I answered, whoever was on the other line just hung up.

That alone was enough to make me worried. My name is Luis Goncalves. I’ve been on Hawthorn Lane for 40 years. I’ve lived by myself since Robert passed away in 1999. Jose Partida was my next-door neighbor. While I appreciate the efforts of our law enforcement officials, they weren’t able to stop Alvin Stovall from murdering my friend. They aren’t able to stop whoever is taking the neighborhood children. I’ve resorted to keeping my pistol holstered to my side all day, every day; even in my house.

I know that may sound paranoid, but look at it from my perspective. Someone is abducting and killing children on my street. An innocent man was gunned down because the news media has convinced a large group of people that Latinos are dangerous criminals. And yesterday morning, hanging from a small branch on a tree in my front yard, was a pacifier dripping with a child’s blood. I can’t take my chances.

All that said, there’s one more thing. I’m reluctant to talk about it, because it’s something I saw when I was experiencing a dizzy spell from my blood pressure medication. I’d blacked out from the medication before, so this could’ve been nothing but a hallucination. Still, these days, with everything that’s going on, I think it bears mentioning.

I was washing up after a midnight snack. The sink is in front of a large picture window that overlooks the front yard. Since it was dark out, I couldn’t see anything but the reflection of myself and the kitchen behind me. I was already feeling dizzy from my medication, but it wasn’t severe enough for me to have to sit, so I kept cleaning.

As I washed the last dish, the overhead light blew. The kitchen went dark. It took a moment for my eyes to acclimate, but I could now see the neighborhood outside. And there was something across the street, opening the Richter family’s mailbox.

A wave of dizziness went through me and I gripped the edge of the counter to steady myself, but I’m certain, despite what I’m about to write, what I saw was really there. It was a pale, nude man with freakishly long legs and even longer arms that protruded from his hips, rather than his shoulders. Despite him being bent down, it was obvious he was tall enough to peer through a second-story window.

He paused with the mailbox half open, then abruptly stepped away and turned around. In two, long strides, he crossed the street into my yard. He gazed through my kitchen window with massive, gray eyes. I stared back. A toothless mouth opened, stretching wide enough to fit a basketball. I reached for my pistol. Through the glass, I heard the sound of infants screaming from deep inside his throat. His mouth shut, then twisted into a grin. Then his long, spindly legs carried him away, down the street, and into the woods.

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