My Shadow Spoke To Me As A Child

My Shadow Spoke To Me As A Child

Growing up I had an imaginary friend like most kids. I don’t remember how he came into existence but I remember him always being there. It was a shadow, more specifically it was my shadow. It would whisper to me throughout the day.

Even around twelve years old it still hung around and most times would just stand beside me vibrating like it was struggling to keep its form. It had no name, it would just whisper incoherently. I remember trying to have conversations with it, I would ask questions but could never decipher what it whispered back to me.

A few weeks before I entered high school, I started to understand parts of what it was saying. The more I ignored its requests the more viciously it persisted. It begged me to kill something and would say anything to get its way.

For a week the whispers tormented me until I gave in. I found a toad in the front yard and did what it asked as it loomed over me. Once I had finished, the shadow though unimpressed stopped whispering for a few days. It still followed me but for that short time I felt free.

My first day of highschool I made a friend and he was just like me. I spotted him at the canteen, I could see that his shadow followed him and it vibrated just like mine. I went over and introduced myself. His name was Ben and his shadow had been following him the same time as my own.

After that we hung out every lunch and would speak almost exclusively about what these things were. Ben told me that his shadow also whispered to him but it was never malicious and he was convinced it was a good force looking out for him. In fact it had warned him about my shadow being dangerous.

Of course I knew my shadow wasn’t inherently good, it had asked me to kill but had been with me so long I felt a certain attachment to it. Since I’d met Ben, the shadow started to whisper more softly, it was like white noise. The only thing I knew for sure was it was saying the same thing over and over. This fact alone raised questions in my own mind. If Ben’s shadow was “good” then was it trying to silence mine from speaking to me?

One Friday after school Ben invited me to sleep over and I agreed. That night all we did was play Tekken on his new Playstation trying to unlock as many characters as we could in one night. All the while my shadow continued to whisper the same inaudible words to me. I remember being happy that I finally had a real friend and was having fun at my first sleepover.

I had a dream that night, there was a dark figure sat on top of me watching me sleep. Streams of saliva fell from its face. The liquid covered my face and began to suffocate me. I felt the growing pressure of its weight on my chest. This was the moment my shadow started to whisper to me and for the first time since I’d met Ben, I understood it. “Kill Ben” the whisper repeated over and over again.

I awoke thrashing, the pressure on my chest was getting worse. I opened my eyes to find Ben sitting on top of me. The light from the lamp on the bedside table highlighted his facial features. He had been crying, I heard a deep sob and felt his tear hit my face. “I’m sorry” Ben mumbled lifting a kitchen knife above his head and bringing it down towards my neck.

The whispers became screams but it was two voices this time, both of our shadows were screaming on either side of us. Cheering for their side to kill the other. I grabbed Ben’s hand before he buried the knife in my neck and edged my face away. His heart wasn’t in the fight. In the corner of my eye I saw the shadows slow dancing together as their screams continued.

I used my other hand to push Ben off me and rolled on top of him, I pried the knife from his hand and buried it into his chest. He let out a soft whimper of defeat and went limp. I didn’t stop, I wanted to but I continued anyway. The screaming got louder with each strike and silhouettes continued to dance on the walls in the background, their pace quickening with each strike.

The screams hushed to whispers as I slowed down and stopped. They left me to the silence as I laid atop of Ben, the knife still in his chest. Panting and covered in his blood, I heard the door burst open and looked up to see Ben’s mother. At that moment the two dancing shadows slowed down and finished their performance.

She pushed me off his body and screamed for her husband. I collapsed into the corner of the room. I hadn’t taken my eyes of the shadows, they were beginning to fade and in their final moments bowed to the audience and shook each others hands.

The last whisper I heard before they disappeared was “See I told you he’d win”.

My Brother and I found A Body In My Fathers House

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Recently my father passed away from a heart attack and it was up too my brother Ben and I to clean out his house. Our mother had passed away a few years prior from another heart related disease. After her passing he became more antisocial than usual. We didn’t see him too often after that and it wasn’t from a lack of trying. He didn’t leave the house, return our calls or open the door when we came over. Now that he was gone it was just the two of us left and if I’m honest, it scared the shit out of us.

We cracked open a few of his favourite beers and left one open on the table for the old man. He had poured my mother’s favourite wine in a glass after her passing and we saw it fitting to do the same for him. After reminiscing on the good times and shedding a few tears we got stuck into sorting his belongings. I was in the living room when Ben called for me to come out to the garage.

He had found a large box completely covered in duct tape. We were both drunk at this point and found the whole thing hilarious. It was no family secret our father was protective of his stuff but this was excessive even for him. The box was wrapped so tightly that we couldn’t rip it apart with our hands. Ben used a grinder to cut through the tape and after a few seconds sparks started flying as the disc hit metal. We started peeling and cutting the rest of the tape with garden shears.

When we were through the duct tape we found the box had also been padlocked. In the absence of bolt cutters, we used the grinder to cut through the lock and opened it in anticipation. Inside we were confronted with skeletal remains covered in at least twenty air fresheners. They only aided in mixing the putrid smell with stale mint and watermelon.

There was a plastic bag inside and Ben pulled it out with two fingers holding it at arms length. My curiosity outweighed my disgust and I began tearing through an endless number of bags. When I got to the last bag we discovered a picture of a young woman taped to a VHS tape. If I had to guess she would have been in her early twenties.

Ben’s face went pale and he asked what I was going to do with it. I thought that was a stupid question. I intended to watch it and didn’t have to do much convincing for Ben to agree. Keeping our morals in order we agreed to call the police afterwards. It was our father after all and we may never see what was on the tape if the police took it. Dad never got rid of his VHS player though we begged him to upgrade.

I wondered if this was the real reason he rejected our efforts to bring him into the 21st century. Who was I kidding, it had to be right? We got the TV ready and I blew the dust off the tape before pushing it in. I hit play and we distanced ourselves from the TV hoping it would somehow shield us from what we were about to see. The player started up and a black leather couch came into picture, a man walked past the camera and sat on the couch.

It was our father only much younger. He let out a loud sigh before burying his face in his hands. “Okay, okay” he said under his breath before pulling his face from his hands and staring at the camera. His eyes were red and puffy, I felt I could feel his pain through the TV. Our mother came and sat next to him and held his hand before he continued.

“Ben, that woman in the box is your mother. I killed her son.” he stopped for a moment to wipe away tears.

“If you’re watching this then I’ve really fucked up. You need-” the screen went to static before his sentence finished.

“No, no, no” Ben cried hitting the top of the VCR. It was no use, the tape was fried. Ben and I sat in disbelief trading blank stares. The room felt colder, I was disgusted, speechless and furious all at the same time. I told him I was going to call the police, it felt like the only sensible thing we could do. Ben gave me the same sombre look our father had in the tape and said “We’re not going to do a damn thing”.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” I demanded walking out of the room and to the beer we had left out in honour of our father. I intended to pour it down the sink but it was already empty. Confused, I turned around and almost collided with Ben who repeated “We’re not going to do a damn thing Michael”.

I shoved him out of my way and walked back into the living room “Why the hell are you so quick to jump to his defence?” I asked. Ben followed close behind grabbing me by the shoulders forcing me to face him. “I’m not defending him. I just think we just need to think about this. There has to be a reason for this.”

We talked for another few hours but Ben only became more combative as time went on. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that he was defending our father. If he was alive we might be in a sticky situation but he had passed. What was there to gain in hiding this? I told him we needed some time to cool off and I was going to call my wife to pick me up. I offered him a lift home but he declined because he was still pissed at me.

I said I had to use the bathroom and on my way through the living room I slipped the photo we’d found into my wallet. On the back was the name “Grace Taylor”. When I opened the door to leave, Ben walked over to see me out. “Just promise me you won’t call the police. Not yet at least. She was MY mother you know?”

“YOUR mother is a skeleton in a box because of OUR father” I spat back at him. The look in Ben’s eyes made my heart ache and I couldn’t help but apologise. “I’m sorry, that’s not fair. We decide together”. With a final hug and exchanging’s of “Love you” I closed the door behind me and stood on the porch to wait for my wife Sophie.

Trying to comprehend this new found information, I smoked a cigarette and fought off the guilt. I shouldn’t be leaving Ben after such a bombshell. We were getting nowhere and it’s late. I’ll call him tomorrow morning. I thought to myself in an effort to justify my actions. When Sophie arrived, I got in and looked at the house one last time before we pulled out of the driveway.

Ben came out and stood on the porch watching us leave. The headlights of our car projected his shadow behind him. That last image gave way to an uneasy feeling. I didn’t tell Sophie about what we had found, I was scared she would try convince me to call the police. I just needed some time to try make sense of it all. I desperately wanted to know what was on the rest of that tape. There weren’t many words spoken on the way home and I headed to bed soon after.

That night, Sophie and I awoke to the sound of glass shattering downstairs. The debate on whether I should go down or just call the police was cut short by loud footsteps making their way up the stairs. There was a rhythm to the movements that confused and terrified us. Two loud heavy steps followed by a thud on the wall.

I grabbed the broken golf club stashed under the bed while my wife called the police. The drum pattern of our intruders movement continued slowly up the stairs. One step, followed by the second and ending with a thud against the wall. I was in front of the door preparing myself to swing on the intruder if they entered our room when they got to the top of the stairs.

“They are coming upstairs” My wife whispered into the phone. The drum pattern was broken by a loud crash on the floor, followed by a gurgled moan. My wife and I exchanged quick but terrified glances before looking back at the door in anticipation of what was to come. A new pattern of sounds started, two loud bangs on the floor and the sound of something dragging itself towards our room.

My breathing quickened, the fear of the unknown was terrifying and absolute. The sound was now outside our room and a moments silence was broken by two weak knocks on the bottom of the door. Communicating with a few hand movements, I clenched my weapon and my wife jerked the door open as I prepared to strike.

“What the fuck” I sighed “Get them to send an ambulance Soph”.

A barely conscious Ben was laying stomach down on the floor, covered in his own vomit and what I hoped was his own blood. The walls leading up the stairs had also been covered in blood as he hit against them trying to get to our room. “Jesus Ben” I said turning him over to try clear his airways. Sophie peeked around the door and also let out a sigh. Whether it was of relief, frustration or a mix of both, I didn’t know.

Though barely conscious Ben wore a smile albeit a vomit covered one. His clothes were covered completely in thick layers of dirt. I helped him down stairs, ignoring his drunk incoherent ramblings. When we got downstairs I found my front door wide open. The glass coffee table in my living room was shattered and a trail of blood revealed Ben’s movements through our house.

While we waited for the ambulance to arrive, I tried patching up the cuts on his legs and arms. “Shit Ben, what happened?” I muttered to myself not expecting an answer.

“I buried every-” Ben’s head fell backwards.

“You idiot, why?” I shook his shoulders trying to wake him “Don’t tell me you buried the tape”.

It was useless, he was out cold. “What’s he talking about?” Sophie asked. I was about to answer when the ambulance arrived and saved me from explaining. While Sophie and I sat in the waiting room of the hospital she asked again “What’s going on Michael?”.

“Come with me” I said grabbing her hand and leading her out of the hospital. I spilled the beans immediately, telling her everything that had happened ending with the tape. “When were you going to tell me about this tape Michael?” Sophie said loudly. A nurse that had made her way out for a smoke break overheard and shot us a disapproving look. “Not that kind of tape” Sophie blushed.

I pulled her further away from the nurse and pulled the photo out of my wallet. “I think her name was Grace Taylor. I just wanted to look into it and see what I could find before police got involved. That’s all, I was going to tell you. Okay?” I said softly. It took some time but Sophie reluctantly agreed to give me some time before we contacted the police.

Seventy stitches and a stomach pump later, the doctor said Ben would be okay. Not good, not great but okay. They told us he’d be sleeping awhile and to come back later tomorrow if we wanted to see him. When we got home, it was already seven in the morning and we crashed immediately. I woke up late in the afternoon unsure if it was all a dream.

My blood and dirt covered walls provided enough evidence to assure me that it wasn’t. I called the hospital to check on Ben’s status. They told me he had already checked himself out. When I tried calling his mobile it went straight to voicemail. I got in the car and drove to his house, his car was there but he wasn’t. I could only guess one other place and was almost certain he’d be there.

I stood on the porch of my father’s house and took a deep breath before going inside. I was worried for Ben but I also needed to know if he really had buried the body and tape. When I opened the door, I heard my brother talking in the kitchen. Creeping closer I tried to listen in but could only make out that he was muttering the same thing over and over again. I tried to get closer to make out what he was saying when the floor creaked under my boot.

I tried to play it off and walked in asking timidly “Talking to yourself?”. My brother turned to me with cold unblinking eyes and smiled at me. He looked like a cartoon character only more terrifying. “I guess you could say that” he replied softly. I started slowly walking towards him, intending to comfort him when tears formed around his eyes. Despite the tears his smile was unflinching.

I reached out to put my hand on his shoulder when I heard a door upstairs slam shut, I jumped back startled and looked back at Ben who didn’t seem phased by the sound. “Ben, what the hell happened last night?” I asked inching closer. Another door slammed shut as I finished my sentence. Ben didn’t reply and continued to stare at me. In front of him there was an electric hot plate and knife on the table.

“Ben?” I asked again. His smile faded and he finally responded “I’m dinner. I’m running late. You need to leave”.

“You’re what?” I asked in disbelief. Ben let out a cackle, I felt his saliva spray across my face. I waited for a response but nothing came. “Leave? What the hell are you talking about?”. Again I was met with silence. Ben’s hand began inching towards the knife in front of him.

Every door in the house started slamming viciously as his hand grew closer. It’s hard to describe but it felt like something was encouraging him. The doors slamming screamed “DO IT”. I’d never believed in ghosts but at that moment I felt the atmosphere around me change and it was begging for blood. “Ben, what’s going on? Talk to me mate” I pleaded.

“You need to leave Mike” Ben’s monotone voice betrayed the insane smile that returned to his face. The doors upstairs quickened their pace and continued to slam violently against their frames. I’m not proud of what I did next but I’ll tell you anyway. I ran to the door before taking one final look back. A little girl with brown hair stood at the top of the stairs and with a raised hand she slowly waved at me.

For a moment I was frozen in pure terror when Ben broke my trance. “You need to leave Mike. I’m late.” When I looked back to the stairs the little girl was gone and so was the last of my courage. “Don’t come back” Ben screamed from the kitchen. My heart was racing, I was too scared to stay. What I did next I will regret for the rest of my life. I left my brother alone, in the house for a second time and ran outside.

I got in my car, pulled out of the driveway and drove as quickly as I could to get away from him. I felt sick on the drive home and battled the thoughts screaming “coward”. I had failed Ben when he needed me the most. The moment I got home I started to search for Grace Taylor on the internet. Missing person reports, online obituaries and anything else I could find. There was nothing that fit the time frame and I grew increasingly frustrated with the events that led to this point.

When Sophie got home I told her what had happened. She sat quietly while I explained and I watched her facial expression change from horrified to doubtful but by the end of it I could only see fear in her pale face. We talked about going to the police, but the problem was Ben had disposed of the evidence which implicated him in a crime.

Neither of us believed in the supernatural but there was no rational way I could explain what had happened in that house. Ben and I had grown up there and nothing like that had ever happened before. Sophie started helping me search for Grace Taylor when she said something I hadn’t considered.

“What if Grace Taylor isn’t the woman you found?”

Sophie started on the white pages in our town and the surrounding areas and I searched through Facebook. I became accustomed to hearing the same two sentences from her.

“Hi, sorry to bother you. I am trying to get in touch with a Grace Taylor that may have known a Harold Knight” and the subsequent “Okay, thank you for your time”. After the second hour, I took over the phones and Sophia started searching Facebook.

Next on the list was a Grace Taylor in her sixties living one town over. A woman answered and I used Sophie’s line.

“Hi, sorry to bother you. I am trying to get in touch with a Grace Taylor that may have known a Harold Knight”

“Who wants to know” a woman’s voice replied coldly

“Well ma’am, I’m.” I paused thinking of how to put it. In all my efforts to find her I hadn’t planned what I would actually say.

“Spit it out porkchop”

“Uh right, yes. Well, I’m his son. Did you know him by any chance?” I said trying to mask my nerves.

“Brown hair, blue eyes and six feet of ugly. That sound like him?” the lady replied. The sassy attitude she gave me warmed a little piece of my heart.

“Yes ma’am, although they say I look like him, so I might have to correct you. Six foot of handsome, I’d say.” I smiled.

“Oh my god, is that you Benny?” her voice now sounded wobbly.

“No ma’am, I’m his younger brother Michael. I’d like to meet you in person. I think Ben and I need your help”

“Well first off you can stop with that ma’am business. I wondered if this day would come. When can you get here?”

I checked my watch, if I left now I could probably get there in the morning. “Well ma-. I mean Grace. I could be there by tomorrow morning”

We said our goodbyes and I put the phone down with a smile. I was one step closer to getting some answers. “Well, let’s get going then” Sophie said reaching for her coat.

“Wait you’re coming? What about work?”

“Oh honey. No good story involves the main characters going to work.” Sophia smiled.

“Well, let’s get going then” I replied kissing her on the forehead.

On the drive to meet Grace we called Ben repeatedly but he wouldn’t answer. Giving up hope, Sophie returned to Google, searching different newspapers and publications. “So what’s the game plan?” Sophie asked.

I eased off the gas suddenly aware I was speeding to talk to this lady without any inkling of what I would do “Well, it’s probably not a good idea to come out and just tell her everything, right?”. Sophie sat up straight in her seat before she spoke “She expected a phone call. She obviously know’s something. Whats more important? Your brother or your fathers reputation?”

“It’s not like that at all Soph. Ben’s buried the evidence. What will the police say?” I replied.

“Well from what you’ve told me, the threat of police is the least of Ben’s problems. If you haven’t lost your marbles and what you saw is true. Then Ben is in real danger. The type that won’t let you walk out after you’ve served your time.”.

“Remind me why I let you come again?” I said with a sigh. Sophie leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. “Because you love me”. She slumped back in the car seat and continued searching through her phone. “Look, all I’m saying is that Ben is in real trouble. Whether it’s some creepy little girl you swear you saw or a full blown breakdown. It doesn’t matter. You need to decide what’s more important.”

Sophie was right. It was rare that she wasn’t. I opened my mouth to agree when Sophie let out a cry. “Holy shit. Pull over Michael”. I pulled the car over and she pushed the phone in front of my face before I came to a stop “Grace is her sister.”

The article was a photo of a newspaper clipping that read

“Mother of missing daughter flees town leaving husband and child behind.”

July of this year shocked the small town of Horn Hill after the disappearance of Angela Rhiel. Despite the residents search efforts little Angela was not found. Susan Rhiel has now fled town leaving Harold and Benjamin Rhiel behind. Many townsfolk have grown suspicious of Harold but Grace Taylor (Sister) has come to Harolds defence in our very own interview.

Wilson: Many suspect Susan’s husband Harold of having something to do with the disappearances. What would you say to those people?

Grace: Oh no, that poor man has been through enough. Long before Angela went missing they were already having some issues. Susan had been seeing a man behind Harold’s back. Angie was the last straw, she came to me before leaving. Susie just wanted a fresh start.

Wilson: A fresh start without her son? Many find that hard to believe Ms Taylor.

Grace: Some women aren’t meant to be mothers. As much as I love Susan, I don’t think she was meant to be one.

The emotions I was feeling were hard to describe. I wanted to scream in anger, I wanted to cry. But mostly I just wanted this to be over. “Maybe the little girl you saw was Angela?” Sophie said softly.

“My half sister.” It was more of a revelation then a reply. Sophie did the rest of the driving while I rested in the passenger seat. The sun was rising by the time we pulled into the driveway of Grace’s small cottage. “We’re here honey. What the verdict?” Sophie asked.

“We tell her everything” I said.

A small lady in her late sixties made her way out of the house to greet us. After a few pleasantries, I moved the conversation to the topic I had come to discuss. Grace seemed nervous, heck we were all nervous.

“Who is this woman?” I asked pulling out the photo from my wallet.

“That’s Susan. I forgot how beautiful she was before everything went to hell.” Grace sighed.

“And Susan was your sister right?” Sophie chimed in.

Grace squirmed in her seat at Sophie’s question. “That’s right. Might I ask why you’ve come all this way to speak with me?”. Sophie and I exchanged glances, I took a deep breath and told her everything. I couldn’t stop once I’d started. Grace remained silent and I watched her face turn whiter each second I continued.

After I had finished the three of us sat in uncomfortable silence, I was about to break it when Grace did it for me. “I thought Harold was crazy when he said he still saw Angie. Now I don’t know what to believe.”.

“Why don’t we just start with what you know” Sophie said getting up to sit next to Grace on the arm of her lazyboy.

“Okay” Grace said giving Sophie a weak smile.

“Harry and Susan were high school sweethearts, I remember being jealous of what they had. Susan fell pregnant shortly out of high school and trouble started after Angie was born. Susan would leave the house at random times for hours and Harry could never find her. She would come back but refuse to answer about where she had been and ignore him for days.”

Just before Ben was born Angie went missing” Grace let out a sob and Sophie passed her a tissue.

“Susan wasn’t phased by her daughter disappearing and would say that Angie was always with her. Harold was convinced she had started cheating on him and came home early from work one afternoon to catch Susan cheating. Heard her talking in the kitchen and spied on her from the living room. He said she was talking to Angela and he ran into the kitchen to find Susan preparing dinner.

He looked around the corner just as the cleaver sliced-.” Grace’s buried her face into her hands and cried.

“Angela?” I asked hoping I was wrong.

Grace nodded and continued “What was left of the poor girl. Susan had kept her in a freezer hidden outback and had been serving her for dinner over the months. She had also been seeing a man. One that she said would come looking for her. Said she had to leave soon and wanted to take Harold and the children with her to. Though she didn’t mean that in a literal sense. When Harold told her she was insane she turned on him. He beat her half to death before calling the police.”

“If he called the police then why was she reported as missing?” Sophie interjected.

“Well you see, Horn Hill’s always been a small town. There was a big development deal on the table. They hoped that it would provide an influx of new residents, stimulate the economy and all that other talk. A story like this might affect that deal and they couldn’t have that. They told Harold to deal with it and if anything got out they’d turn it on him.”

“So my father killed this woman over a development deal? None of this makes sense” I said

“He didn’t care about the development deal and neither did I” Grace raised her voice “Do you know what it feels like to eat your own child while you mourn their loss? I don’t blame him for wanting to kill her.”

It was hard to argue with that point.

“So what happened next?” I asked. Grace sighed “Susan told Harold and I that we were missing out on an opportunity to be together forever. She said her boyfriend would come to rescue not only her but all of us. My honest thought was she’d just seriously lost her mind.

Despite that I couldn’t forgive her and there was no empathy in my heart after what she’d done. No matter the pain, I still couldn’t watch Harold kill her. I waited for hours in the living room preparing to console him. But he couldn’t kill her.

“If it was revenge, why did he hold off” Sophie continued to probe.

“He started seeing Angela in the house and said Susan was allowing him to see her again somehow. I never saw Angela and thought he was going crazy like Susan. But if you’ve seen Angela then Harold must have seen her as well. Harold hid Susan from the police and kept her alive in order to see his daughter. The deal ended when Carol came into the picture “

“My mother?” I blurted out “Sh- she was on the tape too”.

“Her child disappeared first and then her husband. She had tracked him down to our little town. I saw a picture of him, he was a lanky blond pale man, well dressed with round glasses. The type that would stick out like a sore thumb in these parts. When I introduced her to Harold she finally convinced him to do what needed to be done. Susan was put into a metal box and trapped inside. Harold wanted to prolong his time with Angela and let Susan starve to death over 25 days.”

I could feel tears forcing themselves out of my eyes, I just stared at Grace who started to tear up to. What sense was I to make of all this? And how was I supposed to save my brother?

“Why did he keep the body? Wouldn’t it be best to dump it and try to forget it ever happened?” Sophie asked.

“As long as Harold kept Susan’s body around, he still saw Angie but there were times when he saw Susan watching him from the corner of his eye. No amount of pleading would convince him to bury her somewhere.”

“How was my mother involved in this?” I asked.

“She was convinced her husband was Susan’s boyfriend.”

“I’ve heard enough. Let’s go Sophie”.

“Where? And to do what?” she asked with a worried look

“We get Ben out of the house and get rid of that” I said made before making my way to the door. Grace grabbed my arm before I left.

“Don’t judge him to harshly dear. When something so painful and beyond imagination is inflicted on you, there’s no way to tell if you wouldn’t do the same given the chance”.

“Fuck you. You’re part of the problem.” I snapped pulling my arm away and getting into the car. I sat there and felt regret at what I’d said to Grace but I was to worked up to make amends. I waited for Sophie to hurry up and finish apologising so we could leave this shithole town.

Sophie and I drove into the night until we arrived back at my father’s house. All the windows and doors had been boarded up. I tried calling for Ben but there was no answer. I attempted to kick the door down and when that failed I jumped the fence into the backyard. All the tools were still in boxes in the garage, I pulled out an axe and started hacking into the backdoor in a frenzy.

Sophie had followed me and watched my hysterical efforts to get into the house. She did the sensible thing and told me she was calling the police. I heard her what she said but continued to try break the door down. I’d cut a hole through the door and boarding’s and stopped to look through it.

There was little light in the house, I could make out not one but two figures sitting in the living room. One was sitting upright, the other slumped forward in its chair. Between each axe strike and heavy breath I called for Ben but received no answer. I finally broke through the door and entered the living room.

Ben sat slumped over, one of his hands removed and an electric hot plate in front of him. He’d used it to cauterise his wound. The other figure was the skeleton we had found, propped up against the chair and now dressed in women’s clothing. I rushed to Ben’s side, slapping his face and begging him to stay with me. Sophie tentatively made her way into the house and let out a scream at what she saw. “Get out of here! It’s not safe” I screamed desperately at Sophie who thankfully ran out of the house.

I pulled Ben up and started leading him to the back door when I saw it. The third chair held the skeletal remains of a small child missing its limbs. “Oh god no, Angie” I stood for a moment in shock before Ben murmured reminding me of the situation at hand. I was almost out of the door when a dark figure passed through the kitchen and stood between us and the exit. It started wailing, it was so loud and so high pitched out of reflex I dropped Ben to cover my ears.

Under my palms, I felt blood and myself losing consciousness, I edged towards Ben in a sad attempt of a rescue as I could no longer stand. I felt something tug on the back of my shoulder and made out a small dark figure. “Angie?” I murmured. “Get up, get up” I heard repeatedly though it felt like more of a thought then a voice. My senses though dulled had started to come back to me, I got to my knees when the figure loomed over me.

I looked up to see her. It was Susan, her face was decayed and looked as if the skin would fall off at any moment. However, that’s not what scared me. It was the inhuman smile she wore, one that a clown would paint on. Her eyes were bulging out of her skull, I felt as if my heart would give out. I stared helplessly at her, frozen with fear when I heard the most beautiful and profanity riddled sentence my wife had ever spoken.

“Burn in hell you fucking whore” Sophie screamed throwing gasoline on the body in the chair. The figure passed me and slammed into Sophie sending her sliding into the side of the wall. “You should have kept away.” a voice screeched.

I frantically scanned the room for something that would start the fire. I saw Angie peer around the corner timidly watching the chaos ensue. “Please help us” I screamed at her. Her face pulled away behind the wall. I ran towards the hotplate and turned it on but Susan let out another screech and ran towards me.

I stumbled back and fell over my own feet hitting the ground. In moments Susan was on me, her long tongue salivating over my face. I felt her grasp around my neck and struggled to free myself. Darkness swallowed my peripherals and I feared this rotting figure would be the last thing I’d see.

I averted my gaze to the side in an attempt to avoid looking at her when I saw Angie standing there, holding the hotplate that was now glowing red. My eyes went wide enough for Susan to look behind her. But it was too late. Angie dropped the plate on the body causing it to burst into flames. The last thing I heard was Susan scream before all that was left was the crackling of the flames.

I gasped for each precious breath of oxygen and stumbled to Sophie attempting to shake her back into consciousness. I lifted her up and pulled her past Ben and to the backyard. As laid Sophie on the grass I heard a loud bang behind me. The gas can had exploded filling the house with fire. “Ben” I screamed trying to get back into the house. The flames were to fierce, I couldn’t get back inside.

The police and ambulance arrived and I screamed at them that someone was still inside as they loaded Sophie onto a stretcher, I followed them to the front and watched the house in tears. Sophie was carted away while the police shouted questions at me. I told them again that my brother was inside but they said it was to dangerous for them to attempt a rescue. They led me to a police cruiser to answer some questions. Neighbours had crowded outside to satisfy their curiosity and for a moment I swear I caught the disappointed stare of a tall man with a blonde hair and round glasses.

The bodies were hard to explain, our lawyer’s strategy was to pin it all on my father and Ben. A dark family secret that I didn’t know about. I was to play the part of a helpless sap whose brother had lost his mind after our father passed. In the end, Angie and Ben paid the price for their parents actions. Only they did so thirty odd years apart.

 

The Coincidence

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In the 80’s I was employed as a correctional officer at an Ohio jail. It wasn’t where I thought I’d end up but it was a job and I was happy to have one. I was booking in some new detainees when a man caught my eye, I did a double take and waited for this man to get closer. He was a spitting image of a colleague named Luke. If I hadn’t seen him an hour prior I’d be convinced it was Luke.

While I was booking this man in, I found his name was Ryan and not Luke. A small breath of relief left me and I told him he was a spitting image of someone I knew. Ryan had a sombre attitude about him and didn’t pay much attention to my comment. Considering the circumstances I wasn’t really surprised.

I mentioned it to the coworker next to me and he agreed but shrugged it off. It’s just a coincidence he said with an indifferent tone. I ran into Luke later in my shift and told him about Ryan. We looked him up on the computer and Luke was visibly surprised. “Looks like you have a doppelganger” I joked. At first, Luke shrugged it off as a coincidence telling me he just had that sort of face.

I thought nothing of it after that, it was just something that made the day a little more interesting. A week later Luke told me that he’d been monitoring Ryan out of sheer interest. He had borrowed Luke’s favourite book Atlas Shrugged  from the library. “Another coincidence?” I jokingly asked him. “I guess it is” Luke replied. His face was hard to read but there wasn’t much to it other than a heightened interest.

Over the next month, Luke became even more engrossed with Ryan. He would come to me every so often and tell me about another thing they had in common.  Some traits had more merit than others. When Luke told me they both bit their fingernails, I thought it was a little far-reaching but hearing his comparisons made the job more interesting.

Luke started to speak with Ryan and they shared the same interests but again it wasn’t anything you’d consider crazy. Luke and Ryan enjoyed sports, namely football and they enjoyed the same beer. Luke was spooked and I started to become worried for him. Millions of people like football and millions of people drink the same beer I said to him.

Luke would say Ryan was a good person and if he had grown up in a better environment that this would have never happened. I wasn’t convinced of that, I argued that we all make decisions that lead us to where we are regardless of the cards we are dealt.

The obsession started to get out of hand when Ryan was in danger of getting jumped for a disagreement with a shot caller. Luke pulled strings to move him into a new cell block but unfortunately it isn’t always that easy to escape the grasp of some pissed off prisoners. An inmate ended up jabbing him with a dirty needle.

Luke came to me visibly shaken and told me that Ryan had contracted Hepatitis from the incident. I didn’t have any sort of feelings about it. Luke began acting strange and was more pedantic over Ryan’s safety. I confronted him about it, we weren’t supposed to play favourites even though many guards did. I thought we were above that sort of conduct even if he did have hepatitis.

Luke’s voice was trembling as he defended himself “You don’t understand. Now I have it to”. He’d known for a while now but kept it quiet knowing he’d lose his job. He told me he needed to protect Ryan to protect himself. I argued with him over it, the amount of fights we had to break up that involved potentially contaminated blood. It was a coincide and nothing more.

I ignored my better judgement and let it go for a while because despite all else, Luke was a good friend and I knew he needed the money. Although he tried hiding it, I noticed the white in Luke’s eyes start to turn yellow. I decided I couldn’t keep quiet and told the higher ups. It wasn’t fair on the prisoners or the staff that he was infected.

Luke never forgave me for this action. The last thing he said to me was more of a desperate plea. He wanted me to do all I could to keep Ryan safe until he got out. Out of pure guilt I did what I could until he was released. To this day I haven’t heard from either of them. I still think about it from time to time. Was it really just a coincidence or something more?

I was raised to believe I was an android

i was raised to believe i was an android

From a early age I was told my father had “built” me and that I was built to help the family. Any feelings or thoughts that differed from his programming were to be reported to him as a malfunction that he would fix. It didn’t take me long to associate malfunctions with pain and I reported them less and less over the years.

I slept in the basement in a box with a thin layer of foam and a pillow. I didn’t go to school, I didn’t know school even existed. My education, if you can call it that was a list of books on topics to upload. Most of these books were on topics useful to my parents such as basic plumbing and electrical work, cooking, gardening and those written by my father on my programming.

My mother would then give me a list of questions to answer about these books to ensure the upload was successful. Sometimes, the questions would be tricks or I would answer them incorrectly in the eyes of my outraged father. My uploads were almost always successful, I had nothing but time and the intense fear of “corrupting my processors” if I didn’t properly concentrate.

Writing this now, so many years later it does sound ridiculous but as a child unexposed to the world, I only had my parents to guide me. Between uploads and maintenance, I had tasks to complete. This included mowing the lawn, tending the garden, cooking meals, cleaning and fixing things such as lawn mowers, washing machines, dryers and fridges.

There was no down time, I always had broken things to fix. I later found out my father would sell these once I had fixed them. When I was 17 years old (I didn’t know of birthdays or my age, but this is what police have told me) my father had to stop work and decided it was time for me to earn some money.

The thought scared me but I obeyed orders as I had been programmed to do. My father would send me to do cash jobs mowing lawns and doing general yard work. He would usually wait in the car until I was done or leave and come back if no one was home.

During these times he would put me on mute mode and said that he would know if I spoke with anyone. It was forbidden, if I malfunctioned there would be serious consequences. No one ever approached or spoke with me. Even if they had arrived home before my father returned, they would make their way inside without a word.

I discovered later that he had told his clients I was deaf and mute and liked to be left alone to finish the job. It was simple, he would drop me off on a large property, I would do my job and we would leave. One day I was mowing a regulars house, no cars were in the driveway so my father left me to do the job. Shortly after a girl came out with a drink. She looked the same age as me and for a moment I considered she may be an android to.

“It’s pretty hot outside, I thought you might want this” she said handing me a black drink. “Its Pepsi, I hope that’s okay” she smiled. I had no idea what Pepsi was, it was black like the oil mother made me drink so I thought it should be okay.

I still remember that first sip, it was the single greatest thing I had tasted. It didn’t leave my mind feeling scrambled like my mothers drink. I wanted to ask what Pepsi was, where she got this drink from. Did she make it? “I haven’t seen you around, what school did you go to?” Pepsi girl asked. I put my head down and walked back to my mower. What was I supposed to do? “You’re not even going to say thank you?” She said following me.

I looked back at her, she made me nervous for reasons I was yet to know about. “I have to work” I replied to her. Without another word she huffed and walked away. I spent the rest of the day counting down the minutes until my father came to pick me up. I was convinced they would know I had gone off mute, that I had spoken to someone.

When my fathers dusty red wagon pulled up, I loaded my gear into the car and got in. No words were spoken, I felt a small sense of relief but a small voice in the back of my head spoke to me. He may not know now but wait till you get home. Nothing was out of the usual that night, I did my chores, worked on my uploads and recharged my batteries.

The rest of the week was business as usual, my father was in one of his moods that lasted from days to weeks. The longer the mood, the more aggressive he would get with me. The small voice in the back of my head spoke to me once more. Maybe he really doesn’t know. Maybe he is lying. Once this seed had been planted, over the next few months its roots took hold of me.

The rare moments I was left alone, I did something I’d never done before, I watched TV.

Though usually on mute and in short intervals, I started seeing images of the outside world. Happy families, cartoons and animals, it was mesmerizing and terrifying at the same time. The day that changed my life however was the day I turned on the TV and caught a glimpse of I, Robot. Real androids that had sown real doubts within me.

Though I knew something was inherently wrong about my situation, I didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I was sent back to Pepsi girls house and got to work. I was really hoping she would bring me some more but didn’t get my hopes up. I was almost done mowing the lawn when she pulled into the property. I watched her drive up to the house and get out. A part of me screamed to talk to her.

I thought of the scenarios carefully

  1. I would find out the truth about myself

  2. She may tell my father and my malfunction would need to be fixed

  3. I might get Pepsi

I caught her at the door almost out of breath from running and she turned to look at me with a glare. “Am I an android? Father says I’m an android.” I blurted out.

“Android?” she asked raising her eyebrows.

I told her everything that I’ve told you and about the movie I’d seen with real androids. She stood quietly, I guessed she was trying to make sense of it all. I heard footsteps behind me and immediately lost all my courage. My father said nothing and grabbed my arm pulling me away. I looked back at her, still with the same perplexed look she wore when I first approached her.

I had blown it.

That night was the worst night of my life. The “fixing” my father did was worse then ever before and now I knew. I am something, I’m someone. The seams were splitting, my father no longer bothered with the usual half assed facade that had become so apparent to me now. It was just straight punishment.

Both my parents tried scaring me, telling me stories of police and the outside world. They were both furious but also shaken. I wasn’t allowed out of the basement after that, the days passed slowly and my parents screaming matches were the only form of stimulation I had. I would put my ear to the door to try hear what they were saying.

One sentence drove fear into me that I didn’t know I had. “I’m going to shut it down for good”. I was that “it”. I heard someone coming down the steps and fled from the door. My father pushed it opened but stayed outside. I stared at him from across the room, uncertain of what I was supposed to do. He threw a shovel into the room and it clanged against the floor breaking the silence.

“Come” he said motioning me out of the room. I obeyed his commands and was lead into the backyard. We walked further out onto the property before he ordered me to dig a hole.

“What am I digging for?” I asked him.

“What the fuck is with all these questions? What happened to you? I didn’t program you right?” My father had to be in his 60’s at least but this shriveled up man still terrified me.

“Are you going to shut me down?”

“Yeah, that’s right. Gonna shut you down and get a new one. One that can keep its fucking mouth shut” A half smile appeared on father’s face, as if satisfied with himself.

That smile pissed me off, that man pissed me off. As much as he scared me, I thought of what I was missing. Though, I didn’t even know what I was missing apart from the magical world I had put together through the TV shows I’d seen. I thought of Pepsi girl, I thought of the fucking Pepsi and then all the pain this man had caused me.

I clenched the shovel and swung at him connecting with the side of his face. The sound rung out into the night but no part of me was sticking around to enjoy it. My father hit the ground and I started running. There was no plan, I hadn’t intended for this to happen and had no clue where I was going or where I should be going.

After cutting through a few properties, I finally stopped running. I collapsed into some tall grass and caught my breath. The stars were beautiful, it was the first time I’d be out at night on my own and despite the fear and uncertainty it was the most beautiful night of my life.

I decided I would go to Pepsi girls house, I knew it was close and had an idea of where it was. I continued walking and found myself at the driveway just as the sun was coming up. I knocked on the door until a worried man came out to greet me. I told him everything I’d told his daughter and he believed me. Thank god he believed me.

The police arrived at the house to find my father with a gun in his mouth, he had already disposed of my mother. They told him to put it down but he pulled the trigger and it was over. Over for them but not for me, my life was just beginning.

It was revealed to me that they weren’t really my parents. They had stolen me, stolen my childhood, my mind and at times I wonder if they just might still steal my sanity. Thank god for malfunctions.

Note: Thank you Gary, Emily and Grace (Pepsi girl). Thank you.