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Archive for July, 2014

Working Title: The Stories We Tell Part 1 of 3 WIP

So, I blew my goal of a new post very two weeks. Between starting a new job, packing, and going out of the country for a week, I’m barely holding together. Here is something that I was working on prior to the trip, or at least the first half. I’m afraid it’s turning into a much longer story than I usually write, and so it makes sense to post it as a two parter. The second half is 1/3-halfway done, depending on how much I decide to lengthen it out. Thanks, and enjoy!

*After working on part two, this has turned into a three parter! Links to subsequent parts at the end. I also found one or two wrong names sprinkled throughout, so I tried to clean that up. Enjoy! 8/6/14


Every one of us on this chaotically spinning planet has a story, but not all stories are created equal. Some stories are grand, sweeping epics of terror, bravery, and courage. Others are the mundane but essential stories of the 9 to 5 grind, raising a family, and experiencing all the boring miracles life has to offer. There are tragic stories, funny stories, joyous ones, and those filled with heartache. The fact remains: everyone has a story.

My story begins in an upstate national park a bit off the beaten path for some not 100% approved camping—though if I were being honest, my story began in the county hospital in late fall 1987, but I don’t think all that lead up is necessary. What is important is that Jocelyn and I had been dating for about four months, and I thought it would be nice to go on a double dating trip with my college roommate Brian and his girlfriend Hayley. I was actually really nervous because Brian and Hayley had been together forever. We used to tease them in college that they acted like they had been married for 50 years, and nothing had really changed since. I kept pushing Brian to man up and put a ring on it already, but they both claimed to be against the “formalized institution of marriage.” Instead they lived together without the tax benefits and griped at one another daily. True wedded bliss.

I was really worried that Jocelyn might get the wrong idea, feel pressured into the relationship. Maybe she’d think I was moving too fast. But when Brian asked me to go camping, I couldn’t turn down a weekend with my bud, ya’ know? And when he said Hayley was coming, I knew I’d have to invite Jocelyn along to prevent that terrible third wheel syndrome. Nothing lonelier than sharing a sleeping bag with yourself in the great outdoors while people get in touch with their animal sides (not to mention other unmentionables) right nextdoor. Fortunately, Jocelyn agreed to save me from my awkward loneliness, and I spent the next week and a half stressing over all the potential ways this could go terribly wrong. Many of them ended with a long and awkward drive home with Jocelyn as the wreckage of our relationship smoldered to cold ash. When, of course, I was not devising clever ways to defend her against an inevitable bear/mountain lion attack. What stupid things we worry about.

The first night was great. We parked our car in a winding cut-off from the main forest road and hiked in for a few hours to the spot Brian just knew was right over that hill over there. While we never found the mystical clearing he promised, we did find a nice spot that was pretty close to the lake and a couple deer trails. We set up both tents, got a fire roaring, and started roasting some hot dogs over the flames. We hoped that we were far enough from any traditional trails that the fire would not be visible to a passing ranger. Plus, the summer foliage was so thick through there, you were lucky to see much of anything at a distance. Brian had labored to haul a cooler of beer all the way through the woods, so we graciously celebrated his perseverance with more than a few icy beverages.

Jocelyn and Hayley got along great, probably too well as their conversation soon turned to analyzing our shared flaws with the look of untiring patience nearing its limit. Brian and I just got louder, providing them hours of fodder.

That night Jocelyn and I turned in to our little tent. I can still remember the warmth and pressure of her tiny frame pressed up against me in the night. Or how her hair smelled like strawberries and smoke mixed together. She lay against me, my arms wrapped heavily around her as she slept peacefully. I’ve always been a rowdy drunk, but she made me sentimental too. As tired as I was, I just looked at her face in the moonlight, feeling for once that I had not entirely screwed things up. I fell asleep happy, maybe for the last time.

The next morning came way too early. When you’re in a thin tent without the home comforts of black out curtains, morning always comes too early. The campfire had cooled to low embers by the time we got up, and the morning air was unusually cool. It was summer, but beneath the heavy shade of the trees and as close as we were to the lake, the heat didn’t penetrate. I shivered, returning to the tent for a pair of socks and jeans just as Jocelyn shot out of the ten. She looked startled, and I’m sure I did too as her face hurtled towards me without warning.

“Was something out here?” she asked, her voice rising with panic.

I caught my breath, put on my bravest face. “No, nothing. Why? Did you see something?”

Her fear dissipated, confusion shifting across her face in its place, then embarrassment. “No, I guess not. Probably just the wind or a bird or something.”

“We are outside, after all,” I quipped. Judging by the shadow that passed across her face that was not the right response.

“Right.” She snapped back and then joined Hayley picking through the food and snacks still packed from our arrival. They found breakfast as we sat around the embers, listening to the woods around us begin to wake. I tried to avoid the lances of sunlight stabbing through the trees, hoping that doing so would alleviate the pain that every so often bounced through my eyes and head with very little success. Brian looked like he was in much better spirits than me.

“So, I know Brain and Mark used to go camping all the time, but have you ever gone?” I turned to the conversation between Jocelyn and Hayley just as Jocelyn replied.

“I did once or twice with my dad when we were kids. We also camped out in our backyard every summer. But it’s been a while.” I loved watching the way her face lit up as she talked about these happy childhood memories. I was head over heels and I hadn’t even realized it yet. If I could go back, I’d ask her right there to marry me, and then die happy.

“It’s great to find someone else who knows her way around a tent. If it goes well, maybe we’ll make this a regular summer tradition,” smiled Hayley, her eyes sneaking towards me. I saw Jocelyn look at me and smile.

“I could probably handle that.”

All the pain in the world couldn’t keep me from gazing into those sunlit eyes right then. She was beautiful all that time, but something about her tousled hair, faded makeup, and the crisp green forest behind her was irresistible. And she was willing to give a noncommittal agreement to potentially staying with me for another year. Life was good.

As she turned back to talk to Hayley about her previous camping trips, I noticed something moving. Even now, I have trouble remembering exactly how to describe it. It was almost like the sunbeam falling just to the right of Jocelyn was shining, like it had been doused with glitter. The light there bent and warped in unnatural ways, almost like heat waves on hot pavement. But this was brighter and more real. Unlike those mirages, this shape truly had some kind of form to it. Two flecks of light grew more apparent, solidifying into two round spots darting through the light. At one point, they turned towards me and I got the distinct feeling of eyes. As it “looked” at me, I could begin to make out an image. It was a body that was there and wasn’t all at once. Again, like a heat mirage on the road wavers and fades, it struggled into focus, but I don’t think I ever really saw it. It was small, just a few feet off the ground. Thin, with no other discernible feature besides those watching eyes. The eyes danced around us, flitting from sunshine to shade.

I’ve thought a lot about that shape. About the “body” of that thing. It always seems like I can see it in my mind, but when I focus on it, there’s nothing there. Nothing in my memory but the firm recollection that that shadow and sunlight were different than any others. Like it couldn’t—like it can’t really exist in our world. I’m stuck with the endless torture of surety and doubt that I even saw a flicker of the supernatural on that day.

“Seen a ghost?” shouted Brian, dropping heavily next to me on the log. I winced at the noise, but it shook me out of my study of the figure that wasn’t really there.

“No, just admiring the scenery.” I motioned in the direction where I had been staring for far too long. Nothing there but some dust floating through the air. I told myself I had just drunk too much last night, and this was my payback.

Brian took a deep breath f the cool morning air, weighing the view in his own eyes for a moment. “It is pretty great out here, huh?” He smiled, pleased with his good idea and at peace with the moment, but Brian never was one to stay reflective for long. “So Hayley told me about some sort of mountains around here or something—”

Hayley jumped in to provide the much needed content to Brian’s half-formed idea. “They’re caves, Bri. Your ‘genetic selective deafness’ kicks in at the worst times.”

“And caves are in mountains, right?” There was a brief prickle of tension in the air between them as he spun to face her, but it fizzled away as she shook her head with a smile.

“My logician,” she laughed to Hayley, making a sweeping gesture toward Brian. Jocelyn laughed and the two women turned to join Brian and I in the thus far riveting conversation.

“So, like I said, there are some caves in some mountains around here,” he began again, glancing sideways from his eyes to Hayley with his correction and addition, “and I thought—Hayley thought it would be fun to go spe—” Brian’s face became confused momentarily as he tried to find the right word. “Cave exploring,” he substituted, looking at Hayley for confirmation.

“Yes, cave exploring,” she shook her head again and I began to worry that she would sprain her neck at the frequency of such an exercise. “Have you ever been spelunking, Mark?”

Before I could answer, Brian broke in. “Spelunking! That was it. That’s one of those weird German words, right? Like schadenfreude?”

No one answered him, but Brian did not mind as he continued to roll the word around again and again, swearing to remember it for the rest of the day. “I haven’t ever, really. Don’t we need gear for that? Light lights, ropes, harnesses, helmets, shovels—” I began, wondering why I had not considered caving accidents in my fevered anxiety about harm befalling Jocelyn.

Jocelyn, however, cut me off with a laugh and a wave of her hands. “The caves around here are pretty much harmless little things that go a few miles in. We have our flashlights and as long as we don’t dive down any massive black holes, we don’t need that other stuff. We can just wander in, take a lunch, and eat in the ‘belly of the earth.'” She ended with a gravelly voice that reminded me of old voiceovers from those B Sci-fi movies she always insisted we watch.

“But won’t we get lost?” I added, feeling a knot of panic rising in my chest.

“Geez Gretel, we’ll leave a breadcrumb trail for you to get back out, okay? I brought some chalk to mark any hiking we did, anyways,” scoffed Brian.

The panic subsided, but I still felt a raw sense of unease. There was no logical reason, I was sure, but I was nevertheless certain that this would not end well. But Jocelyn looked excited to do so, already swapping caving stories with Hayley, and I did not want to let her down.

We packed day bags with water bottles, chips, peanut butter sandwiches, and a few pieces of fruit a piece. Jocelyn seemed really excited about the cave picnic idea, and I was beginning to warm up to the idea myself. If all went well, I was sure that Brian and Hayley would sneak off on their own for a few minutes, leaving Jocelyn and I alone in the dark, cold cave. In my head, the concept seemed more romantic than when I try to describe it, which might have something to do with my general ineptitude at all things classically romantic. I was never going to be the devilishly suave Harlequin Hunk. That just wasn’t my story.

We began our hike through the woods, following Hayley’s suggestion and moving back towards the main road. About halfway there, she found the marked trail that led to the caves, at least according to the friends she had heard about them from. Jocelyn agreed.

“I didn’t take you for a spelunker,” I smiled as we walked side by side. That same nostalgic glow covered her face again.

“I went once or twice with friends in college, but I’ve wanted to go again. It’s just the right mix of spooky, dangerous, and exciting.”

“So you went to these caves? I mean, you’ll be able to play tour guide for us, right?”

She laughed. “I’ve only been a couple of times. But, I do know a couple of pretty interesting spots to investigate.” The suggestive lilt of her voice confirmed my own romanticized caving ideas, but also led to a hint of jealousy and insecurity. I knew she was a human who had dated other people before, but nevertheless, I felt a little angry that I would have to explore those spots she had already explored with someone else. It was stupid, really, but human nature.

“Oh, so I guess you really enjoyed your little outings, huh?” I tried to remain joking, keeping a smile plastered to my face, but I could hear that slighted edge to my voice. Her smile faded a degree as she looked to me with concern.

“Oh, man, that’s probably pretty weird for you, huh?”

“What? No. I mean, we’re both adults and all—” Her eyes pinned me to the spot, and I sighed, deflated. “Okay, it’s a little weird.”

Jocelyn smiled again, taking my hand in hers as we continued following Brian and Hayley ahead. “Don’t worry; I know you’re not some jealous monster. It’s always weird to think about past partners. God knows I try to forget you ever hooked up with Macy. How about this: you and I can find out own spot to explore together. “

“Only if you swear to tell me afterwards that it’s the best spot you’ve ever explored,” I joked back, easing into the conversation again. She was perfect—understanding and funny in one amazingly gorgeous package.

She laughed and planted a brief kiss on my cheek as we walked. “Deal.”

We walked that way, hand in hand for a while until Hayley got turned around again. Jocelyn skipped to the front of the group and led the way. By that time, the hike had caught up with me. I was beginning to get hungry, and carrying even the relatively light pack was a chore. I did not want to be grumpy on our adventure, but I could feel it sneaking up on me.

Then, Jocelyn stopped and pointed up a short mountain or tall hill to another signpost sitting in front of a shadowed rock overhang. “Entrance is just there. Maybe a water break before we go?”

She was an angel. I collapsed onto a rock, dragging out a water bottle and gulping furiously. The cool morning air had been replaced by heavy, wet heat that sat on my shoulders like an unpleasant child. My stomach rumbled unhappily, but I ignored it. Jocelyn wanted her cave picnic, and I was going to give her a cave picnic.

Our break was short-lived as we quickly repacked the bags and dragged ourselves up the faint outline of a path. The sign marking the entrance was badly faded by the weather. There had once been a great deal of writing on it, but most of that was now just shallow ridges in the wood. The once bright red “WARNING” was still clear, now faded to a pale suggestion of red, but the remainder was illegible. Beside the entrance was a metal plaque, similarly eroded by its time on the mountain. Jocelyn filled in the missing letters. “Kepperman Cavern,” she chirped, indicating the entrance with a broad flourish. Her cheeks were flushed, strands of dark brown hair clinging to her sweaty face as she smiled broadly.

I pushed aside my clinging uneasiness. I was being ridiculous, really. Seeing the joy on Jocelyn’s face, I resolved to enjoy myself. Even if it was a bit out of character for me, today I would be a spelunker. For her.

I was confident as I walked towards the entrance, laughing good naturedly at some joke Brian made. I was confident peering into the dark and deciding to get out a flashlight. I was confident as the first beams of light played along the cold gray walls of the depths. But I was decidedly not confident as I saw two specks of gold floating in the darkness, as I saw a sunbeam dance across a room it could not exist in. In that moment, I was stupid. And I plunged into the darkness.


Part Two

Part Three

Hope you enjoyed it and, as always, feel free to leave any helpful comments or critiques!

Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Working Title: Mr. Sunshine WIP

I’m incredibly on the fence about this one, but finally decided to put it up. I’m not happy with it, but I have an idea that I think will make me a lot more happy with it, detailed below. As a note, this is likely only part of the story, with a secondary piece to follow at some point soon. But, should I decide the second piece does not actually work, it is also a standalone story, so there’s that. Enjoy!


“Have you ever heard sunshine? I did, once. I heard it in his voice. It’s really hard to explain what sunshine sounds like, but I’ve tried really hard. First, imagine the sound of a bell, and then imagine the most delicate bell you’ve ever heard. Everyone always imagines some really high-pitched sound, but that’s not it at all. It’s more of a baritone sound, but the most delicate baritone bell you can possibly imagine. Then, once you’ve got that, I want you to imagine dozens of those bells, all with slightly different tones. And those bells ring all at once, in perfect harmony. That’s what sunshine sounds like. That’s what he sounds like.”

Josie scratched some notes onto the legal pad in front of her, and looked up at Devon with a smile. “That sounds really beautiful. I was wondering if we could get back to what he said to you.”

Devon smiled and nodded. “Oh yes, he said so many things to me. It was all so beautiful, like the sound of sunshine, and I—there were just so many things,” he concluded, dodging the question yet again.

Josie opted to change her tactic. “So, he had a lot of nice things to say to you.”

The smile disappeared immediately from Devon’s face, his expression turning instantly to one of abject sadness. “I guess they were. But he only told me these things when he showed me terrible things. It was always terrible what I saw and felt, but…” His smile returned, dimmer, as if he was trying to convince himself of the emotion. “But he’s wonderful, you know. He tells me wonderful, terrible things.”

Josie nodded and blinked, her eyes remaining close for one beat extra as she tried to gather her thoughts. “So, on the one hand he sounds wonderful, but on the other, he shows you things that scare you.”

“Exactly,” the smile faded to a pale grin as he relaxed in his chair, seeming content with the apparent paradox. Josie waited, but he provided no further information.

“So, what kinds of things did he tell you? Use his words if you can.”

Devon shuffled in his chair, his eyes skipping across the room without finding anywhere safe to alight. “He said—well, he didn’t really say anything. Or he did, but they’re words I can’t really remember. But they were wonderful, comforting words. Instead, he showed me things, and it felt like he was talking to me with those pictures. He showed me Shelly and Marcie dead. They didn’t have any faces left when he showed me, but they were screaming and I knew it. He showed me the whole world burning and black, empty of everything. There was so much blood in the ashes.” His voice had faded away to a breathless whisper, as his eyes widened like those of a frightened animal. His chest hitched with uneven breaths.

“Remember our breathing exercises,” Josie prompted, demonstrating a few slow breaths in and out. Devon began to calm, and she pressed forward, thankful for the break to gather her thoughts. While she wanted to clarify all these apparent inconsistencies, it seemed fruitless. Instead, she opted to delve into the heart of the matter. “So, did he make you do those things to Shelly and Marcie?”

Josie watched the man in front of her wither, tears building in his eyes as he withdrew into the plush chair. He nodded, a slight squeak of assent sliding through his lips as the tears began to roll in heavy tracks down his cheeks. “He told me to. I had to do what he told me.”

“So you killed them?” He nodded rapidly, as if he could assent quickly and push the memories aside before more tears broke free.

“I didn’t want to,” he gasped, the words running together into one unbroken utterance. “But he’s so wonderful. I had to.”

Josie decided it was time to back off. He had been more than forthright with her, and they had made a great breakthrough. This was the first time he had ever actually identified any of his hallucinations, and it was a breakthrough worth reinforcing. However, it was not worth pushing him any farther, as that could very easily prevent any future progress. “I know you didn’t mean to, Devon. In my time getting to know you, I can see that you are a very kind and caring person. But you are sick, and so we’re here to help you with that. I think today was a great step forward, and can really help us make some plans on how to best help you. How are you doing right now?”

Devon sniffed, his eyes meeting hers again. “You know, I’m doing okay. But it’s hard,” he said, drawing the last word out as his eyes pleaded with her.

“I know. And you have been so willing to go into this and explore with me. These are really difficult things to talk about, but you’ve been willing to dig through all of this hard stuff. How are the groups going?”

That made him smile, even if it was a dim reflection of his prior joy. “They’re great. Everyone is so nice and supportive. I really like those.”

“And your medicine? Any side effects?”

Devon shrugged at that question, his eyes darting around the room. “They’re okay. I mean,” he sniffed again, “they make my thoughts feel all fuzzy. Like I can’t really think straight.”

Josie nodded understandingly. “Well, maybe I can pass along to Dr. Leeson, and he can make some adjustments at your next appointment. Have you heard him since taking the medicine?” There was silence from the other side of the desk, and Josie studied him as he stared pointedly at the worn blue carpet. “Devon?”

“No,” snapped the man, sorrow appearing across his face again. “Does the medicine mean I can never hear him again?”

“Well, we can’t really be sure. We’ve talked about some of the risks of command hallucinations like him,” she began, and noted the way the sorrow began a subtle shift towards anger, “but I think we have to make sure you’re happy with what we’re doing. Do you want to talk to him again?”

Light bloomed behind his eyes. “I just miss the sound of sunshine.”

With that, a loud knock sounded on the door as it squeaked open on ancient hinges. A bespectacled face appeared beneath a mop of dirty blond hair, almost as if she had been waiting for that very moment. “Time for our appointment, Dr. Lewis!”

“Gloria, yes, I’ll be right with you,” she smiled as she made the mental note to discuss boundaries yet again, then turned her attention back to Devon while the door settled back closed. “It sounds like you have some concerns about what you might be giving up here. I think that’s something really important for us to discuss. Do you think we can pick this up next time? If we need, I can ask Gloria to wait a few minutes so we can discuss this today.”

Devon was already out of his chair and moving toward the door, no sign of his prior sorrow, anger, or joy. He looked like a deflated person, walking about empty inside. “No, doc. I’m okay. I mean, you’re right; he’s dangerous. It’s just if you had ever heard him—” He shook his head, cutting off the thought, his hand on the door knob. “Some days, I’m not sure I’ll ever really be happy again. Not after what I did—what he made me do. But I think I’m getting happier, and that’s pretty amazing.” Then he was gone, the door squealing in protest as he flung it open.

His chair remained empty for a brief second before Gloria plopped herself down, smiling from ear to ear. Josie closed the door. “Good afternoon, Gloria. What’s on your mind today?”

__________________________

As usual, Josie was exhausted by the time she made it home. The winter months meant that dark shadows loomed from the front of her house as she walked up the steps. It was days like today, when her feet could barely pull herself up the few steps, that she wondered about changing jobs. She could open a nice private practice, set her own hours, and step away from the daily rush that accompanied an inpatient ward. As tempting as the thought was, she also knew she could never actually leave the challenge and reward her work provided. She would just sleep solidly tonight.

Josie washed her face and changed into sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt. She microwaved her dinner before falling into a too deep chair to binge on mindless television for a few hours before bed. There were some days where she felt like her brain had spent so long gathering and holding information that she could not summon the resources to even follow the plot of inane television shows. But that was okay because she was not responsible for these lives. You’re not responsible for anyone’s life but your own, she reminded herself, but the words bounced off her internal psyche. She knew that was true, but it did not always feel that way, true as it was. But your feelings don’t define reality, chimed her internal counselor, squeezing in one last jab before Josie drowned her out with useless reality TV.

It was hours later—and even darker outside—when the phone jolted Josie awake from the comfy confines of her chair. The television had switched over to drone on about some miracle invention, and she drowsily groped in the dark for the phone. She always forgot to put it back on the charger, and tonight was no different. Finally, she found the switch for her lamp, flooding the room with light. The phone screamed from the coffee table as she picked it up.

“Hello?” Her voice cracked with sleep; what time was it anyway?

“Dr. Lewis? This is Cici.”

The night nurse, her sleepy thoughts provided. The microwave in the kitchen stated that it was 3:46am. An ungodly hour of the night for a work call, but not unheard of. “Hi, Cici. What’s going on?”

“Uh—well.” The woman’s voice cut off as silence hung between them. There was the sound of shuffling papers, Cici cleared her throat, began and stopped a few times, then silence.

“Hello?”

“Sorry, Dr. Lewis. I don’t know how to say this. Devon Jackson died. He killed himself.” She spit the words out swiftly, and they poured out of the phone like water.

“What? He did what? Are you sure?”

There was a heavy period of silence. “Yes. We’re sure. Would you like to come in?”

Josie already had her keys in her hand. “I’m on my way.”

Getting to the office was easy on the empty streets, but there was little for her to do once she arrived. Her first instinct had been to rush to his room, but the door was cordoned off with detectives swarming about. Josie caught one glimpse of Devon before she was shuffled away, but for a moment she was certain his eyes were screaming. Rebuffed and uncertain of how to proceed, she gathered her case notes, pouring over them as if she missed some clue to his intentions. But it wasn’t there, no matter how hard she tried to see the signs. How did something like this even happen? He was on suicide watch—had been since he got there two weeks before. Did the overnight staff forget to check on him?

It didn’t take long for the gruesome details to leak out. Night staff had conducted their fifteen minute check, just like they were supposed to. One round he was sleeping soundly, the next he had painted his walls with blood. He had gotten a pen knife from somewhere and used that to carve around every major artery in his arms and legs. He excavated them from the remainder of his body, leaving those pulsing arteries exposed. He had then carefully cut each one. The coroner asserted that there was no way he could have done so much to himself in 15 minutes. They asserted that there was no way he could have stayed alert through all of it period, but the facts were there. The door was locked, the security cameras showed no one else enter or leave the room, and the body was on the floor.

Josie saw the autopsy pictures, heard the coroner’s assert that there was no evidence of antipsychotics in his system—he had been tonguing the pills since he arrived. She poured over her notes, over the reports, over every scrap of information she could find, but there were no answers in there. All she was left with was the image of his face, twisted into a grimace of pain, anger, and terror. And those screaming eyes warning her of blood and ash.

In the weeks that followed, Josie took comfort in the internal voice that sprang up to comfort her. He spoke softly, gently. His voice sounded like soft blankets by a glowing fire, roaring and warm with baritone notes. The voice was wonderful, and she wrapped herself in it as the days went by, though she was never quite sure what things the voice said that comforted her so.

It was a wonderful voice, and Josie felt a brief moment of peace in all the chaos that her life had become. And then the nightmares began.

At first, Josie brushed off the dreams. She was stressed, possibly depressed, and feeling like an absolute failure. Such dreams were not unheard of, she assured herself, even as reality began to steadily intrude into her lies.

In the first one, she stood outside of her quaint little house while flames licked at the frame. It crumpled downward, sparks flying towards her and kissing her skin with fiery lips. As it fell to ashes, she looked out to see everything covered in ash, the finally remnants of civilization smoldering at her feet. There were screams, screams she had at first confused with the groans and screeches of her burning home, but now screams that echoed across an empty wasteland. The wind ripped at her, blowing dust and ash into her eyes until all she could see was death.

In the second, she watched her car drive down her suburban street, speeding along with screaming tires. It struggled around corners, nearly flipping to its side with the force of each turn, but continued driving its familiar route through the little two-level homes. Police sirens blared after her, painting the suburb with fading blues and reds, but none of that could slow her. She watched as her car slammed into an elementary school playground, saw little arms and legs tumbling over her car. Josie woke up in a chill sweat.

In the third one, Josie realized she was not dreaming. She watched as Gloria’s face melted away in session, the face of her skin peeling away to reveal jabbering muscles and tendons. As blood began to fill in the space vacated by skin, her eyes oozed out of her face, dripping onto the desk. The voice told her it was okay, told her wonderful things as it showed her these terrors, as it began to rip Gloria apart from her jaw. Josie gasped as she saw the internal workings of head, throat, chest, and abdomen. The chair and carpet shifted from pale blue to black with the pooling blood. He whispered to her, told her not to respond, promised her wonderful things. His voice was like blankets and fire and comfort, but his visions were Hell.

Devon was right. He was terrible and wonderful. Josie locked the door and picked the scissors from her desk. He was wonderful. She had to.


 So, I think I’m going to bring Crypto into this one. I intended his character to be a one-off, but I’m getting an interesting idea about his role in this particular story that I think could be a lot of fun to write and very interesting. We’ll see how it actually feels on paper, but for now that’s the direction I plan to head with this.

I also wanted to note that I went back and forth with this to make sure I was being truly fair to mental illness. As this note may suggest, I’m not actually attributing any of the events to mental illness in this piece, but that may not be evident. So, if anyone feels that it does not align with my goals as put forward in my discussion on Horror and Mental Illness, please let me know in the comments, because I can always be oblivious to my own mistakes.

Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.