feat. the Midnight Collective
Chapter One: Know Evil
There were three of us that night. That horrible, twisted, yet seemingly harmless and innocent evening we spent on Ben’s driveway.
I have convinced my friends, Ben and Liz, to share their encounters following that night. Our goal and understanding is that maybe someone, somehow, can provide sane and rational explanations for our experiences. We need help. Please forgive our vain attempts to convey the description and imagery of the horrors that we have experienced in the small suburban neighborhood of Ivy Road, but… we just don’t know what else to do.
This isn’t easy to talk about, and it’s likely you won’t believe me anyway, but I guess I should start from the beginning.
Rewind to a little over a week ago. Liz, Ben, and myself are three college graduates, fresh out of school and ready to tackle our own various industries of interest: IT, Journalism, and the army. Essentially, this watered down and translated to the three of us living at home, siphoning our loving parents’ generosity as we hounded the hiring websites. We were desperate for an outlet to escape the dull and tedious lifestyle of our former childhood. Then again, it wasn’t all bad.
What made it convenient… and nearly manageable, was the fact that we all lived than a block away from each other. We were the same as we were in our younger days, nestled in our respective cubes of suburban heaven and hell. Life was, in a word, content.
Our development, known as the Ivy Road cul-de-sac, always held a more ominous feel at night. Children had long since retired to homework and bedtime stories, while middle-aged men and women wrapped up their mid-life crisis jogs. Eager, of course to get inside and catch the latest episode of CSI: New York, or whatever dribble the television served up this week. The roads were empty, and various night time creatures had already taken to the streets and front lawns in search of leftover food and makeshift shelter.
You see, surrounding our development on nearly every side was a dense forest a few miles wide. As kids, we had traveled these woods time and time again. We played hide-and-seek, hosted snowball fights, and occasionally spent hours exploring the fossil beds that lay in the shallow creeks that cut through the endless steep hills.
At night, however, we had always steered clear.
Maybe the simplest explanation for this is a young child’s fear of the unknown. The creatures that rustle in the bushes, the shouts and screams that could come from any corner of the vast wilderness… The shapes and the shadows that melt and obscured, forming your own personal terror. In the daytime, these phenomena bore rational explanations: a squirrel darting between the trees, a deer laying down for the night, a child yelling gleefully from a nearby neighborhood…
At night, these sounds were the vehicles of our unknown.
On the evening in question, the three of us were relaxing on Ben’s driveway, sipping a few beers as the sun came and went overhead. After a suggestion and rejection of a hand-rolled joint to pass the time, we found ourselves nearly ready to wrap up the night. We had been listening to our favorite local rock station, but something must have messed with the signal. All that played over the airwaves now was the low hum of static and white noise. I quickly packed up my lawn chair to return to Ben’s garage, my mind occupied by the despair of having to wake early the next day. As I turned to walk away, something caught my eye.
I wish it hadn’t, more than anything. If you ask anyone what they would do if they could turn back time, the results are always the same. Spend more time with my father, or my mother, or my kids. Chase down that long-lost high school love. Play the lottery, buy a mansion, buy a car, travel. But for me, more than any dream or goal or ambition, I wish I could change that night. I wish I had turned away, gotten in my car, and jetted down the first highway I saw.
Sometimes, when I am alone and covering my eyes from this mindless fucking terror, from the never ending images and scenes dancing through my peripheral, I wonder.
Would it have mattered?
At first, it appeared to be nothing more than a brightly lit planet or star. Well, to say it was brightly lit was an understatement. It looked as though it encapsulated all the light in the sky, even the stars seemed to lose their luster in the reflection of that light. As I stared in wonder and astonishment, trying to decipher why I had not noticed it before, it began to move. I turned and eagerly pointed up to Ben and Liz, but they only returned my gaze with one of confusion.
It advanced slowly across the sky, lazily zigging and zagging in a stutter step motion uncommon to any plane or helicopter I had ever seen. As it advanced across the tree line, it moved nearer and nearer. Then, as suddenly as it appeared, it flew off in a direction beyond our line of sight.
“Whoa, what was that?” I said, turning to the two of them as they looked up at the sky quizzically.
“I don’t see anything…” Liz said, turning to me.
“Cmon Matt, I’m too tired to be messed with,” Ben said, as he tore his gaze from the sky, and quickly packed up his radio with a deep, tired breath.
He pulled the plug, and he turned to head inside, muttering goodbyes as I continued to scan the night sky.
Suddenly, he stopped.
“Do you hear that?”
Liz and I craned our ears, but I shrugged my shoulders and responded with:
“The music… quiet, it’s getting louder.”
He began to hum quietly, growing in volume as he closed his eyes, meditating to a noise neither I nor Liz could hear. The radio fell from his hand and nearly shattered on the cold cement ground. He did not seem to notice, as his eyes squeezed shut to the point of a look of pain.
Wordlessly, he raised his hands to cover his ears slowly.
He pulled them back, and they were covered in blood. He fell to his knees and screamed.
I spun around to find Ben on the ground, clutching his ears as blood escaped like maple seeping from a tree. I stood in shock for a moment, unsure of whether he was fucking with me, or he was actually hurt.
I rushed to his side all the time.
He desperately tried to speak a few anxious words, as Liz cried and begged him to tell us what was wrong.
“Can’t…. you…. hear…. the…. music?”
As soon as the last words escaped his lips, the tears on Liz’s face seemed to dry up as she turned to me. This may sound exaggerated, but it’s true. One minute she was crying, and the next, her entire complexion changed.
A slow smile crept along her lips, starting from the center and moving to the corners at a slow speed. She stood, slowly, and turned towards the driveway. Then she opened her mouth and uttered one horrifying sentence.
“Can’t you tell? He’s here.”
She began to walk slowly backwards, her arm stretched out, pointing to the blackness of the woods across the road. With that, my peripherals reflected quick movement, as if something darted through the woods to my right, just as I turned my head to follow Liz’s finger.
My eyes readjusted to the lighting, and there he was. He was standing, waiting patiently in front of the clearing across the street, like he had somehow been there all night.
My first thought, was this could not be any type of human being I had ever seen. Except… he was. He stood at about 6’2. Dark, stringy hair drifted down his shoulders and rested on his back. This was coupled with thick, stubby hair covering nearly every inch of his body. It was matted with a sticky, red substance. He was holding something in his right hand.
He never looked away from me. He stood, eyes locked in the distance as Ben’s now pitiful screams echoed through the night. He smiled the same sickly smile I saw on Liz’s face only moments before, and beckoned towards me.
I followed his call.
Leading one foot carefully in front of the other, like my legs had a mind of their own, I descended down the driveway as the man’s smile grew. My mind pleaded with my body to stop. To turn around, to run, to get away from that shape in the night. But I walked, fixating my gaze on the object that swung casually in the man’s hand, as it slowly became clearer in the moonlight.
He was holding the severed head of a young woman by the hair. She had been beautiful once, I thought. Long, blonde hair drifted down from the top, meeting a small upturned nose and a pair of luscious red lips. Funny, her hair was still smooth though it was gripped by a massive hand. Blood dripped her neck openly, that much was visible now. She swayed back and forth in the casual breeze, seemingly searching for its lost connection.
Her eyes were crudely sewn shut, and yet I felt like they still watched me. I followed those empty eyes, and I swayed from side to side to mirror their movement in the wind. I don’t know for how long I walked, to be honest. Hours, days, minutes, seconds quickly faded into a fog of a memory. It’s like the sensation of dropping something down a hole. When you reach for it, your fingertips may brush against it. Enough so, that you’ll know it’s still there. But you can never grasp it. It’s like the beach constantly reaching out for the coast.
The last clear thing I remember with clarity is standing a few feet in front of the man, waiting. His expression grew serious as he gripped the head with both of his hands and lifted it towards the center of his body, as if displaying it. He muttered a few unintelligible words as he looked down.
And then, her eyes opened wide.
To put it simply, they consisted of vast white emptiness. It was as if someone had taken an eraser and rubbed out the iris and pupil, leaving an empty, blind canvas. They drank me in, and consumed me. I stared into them, never blinking, never moving, never running. My entire existence was tied to those endlessly clear eyes as my reflection swayed back and forth inside them.
I awoke the following morning, and I was deep inside the woods. But I was not alone.
This was only the beginning. Since then, it’s gotten far, far worse.
Chapter Two: Speak No Evil
I dreamt that night, of the severed head of a beautiful woman. The head swayed like a pendulum as it hung by its hair. Her lips were sewn shut, just like they’d been when I saw the head in the woods outside Ben’s house. That must’ve been some sort of hallucination though, it couldn’t’ve been real.
In my dream, the woman’s face twitched, her jaw muscles spasming. She was trying to open her mouth. The stitches strained, finally tearing through flesh as the mouth gaped wide. I winced, but couldn’t look away. Through mangled flesh, the woman began to speak.
I woke up.
The first thing I noticed was the massive hangover. My head ached, and my throat was parched. I didn’t even remember getting home, but I was in my own bed so I must’ve gotten here somehow. As much as I tried, I couldn’t even remember saying bye to Ben and Matt. I hadn’t blacked out like this since college, and I really didn’t miss the experience.
Drenched in sweat, I groaned as I looked at my clock. I’d slept in, and the timing couldn’t be worse. Today was my job interview, the job interview, and I had to be there at ten. I studied myself in the mirror. I looked like shit: rumpled hair, dark circles under my eyes, and I was covered in a sheen of sweat.
Pull yourself together, Liz.
The shower calmed me down, but it brought back memories of that man, that thing, in the woods. Last night had been some weird shit, that was for sure, but there had to be a rational explanation. Some sort of mass hallucination or something. I couldn’t let it distract me, not when I was interviewing for a job at CCNB, the local news station. Sure, it was a reception position, not anything directly related to journalism, but it was a foot in the door. Who knows, maybe someday I’d make it out of Ivy Hill.
I yelled bye to my mom and dad as I ran out the door, only returning when I remembered I needed two copies of my resume. I put on my make up at stoplights and reached the station with minutes to spare. Whew.
“Why do you want to work at CCNB?”
The interviewer, a rail-thin blonde woman who’d introduced herself as Lori, peered down at me. Her chair was positioned much higher than mine, which I knew to be a power trick in interviews, but it disconcerted me nonetheless.
“I—I, uh,” I stammered. “I just really love the media industry. It’s such an important part of our society; it’s what spreads information throughout the world in seconds. I want to be a part of that, know that what I’m doing is reaching and helping countless people.”
I cleared my throat nervously and added, “Even if it’s in reception, I know every role counts.”
“Well, you know we only broadcast in three districts. We’re not exactly reaching the whole world here.” Lori smiled though, and I grinned in return.
“So,” she continued, glancing down at my resume. “You don’t have much prior experience, is that right?”
I glanced down at my own copy, ready to defend my lack of job experience. I hadn’t worked or interned during college, but I excelled in school so I was confident I could spin that into a positive. When I looked down at my resume, however, my breath caught in my throat.
Written under the “Work Experience” heading was writing I hadn’t seen before, sentences I’d never typed.
seconds she doesn’t deserve your mercy / in one hour and four minutes and two seconds one foot deeper and they’ll never find him / in thirty-two seconds you won’t know unless you pull the trigger / in five hours and forty-eight minutes and eleven seconds you’ll be happier once he’s gone / in three minutes and
“Oh!” I gasped. My face flushed and I wondered how I would explain this to Lori. How could I explain this to myself, for that matter? It must be some kind of joke, I bet Matt had snuck onto my computer while I wasn’t looking and typed this out. I’d give him hell when I saw him again, it was seriously crossing the line typing this sick shit up on my resume.
“I am so sorry,” I gushed. “I don’t know how that got there, my friends are real jerks sometimes.”
I reached across the desk to pull the resume from Lori’s hands, and stopped short when I saw her paper. There under “Work Experience” was just one bullet point highlighting my summer retail job two years ago. No strange, twisted writing.
I froze, still leaning halfway over the desk, and glanced back at my own copy. It looked normal, no trace of the writing I’d just seen. What’s going on? Lori was staring at me in confusion. I felt light-headed, and got up from my seat.
“I’m so sorry, I have to go.”
I hurried out of the building, debating whether or not I should seek out a therapist or just figure out what bars were open this early. Once at my car, I kicked at the door in frustration, leaving a noticeable dent.
I called Ben as soon as I got home. Something strange was going on, and I needed someone reasonable to talk to. Plus, he was there last night, he saw what I saw.
Ben picked up on the second ring. “Hello?”
“Hey, it’s Liz. Can you talk?”
“Yeah, sure.” He sounded distant.
I took a deep breath. “I want to talk about last night, about that thing we saw in the woods. That man, or whatever it was.”
“Liz, can you speak up?”
“I want to talk about that man we saw last night,” I said louder. “In the woods outside your house.”
Ben was silent for a moment, before he said, “Do you hear that? The music…”
Another second of silence, and then the dial tone. Ben had hung up on me. I cursed, and then paced the living room, trying to figure out what to do next. I’d just screwed up the only job interview I’d lined up in months, and even worse, I was seeing things. The TV was on in the next room, distracting me from my crisis, and I picked up the remote to turn it down.
It was an older sitcom, one I used to watch a few years back, and as I began to lower the volume, something happened that made my blood run cold.
The actor onscreen, the current love interest of the season, turned and looked straight at the camera. Straight at me. In a flat monotone, he opened his mouth and spoke.
“In eight minutes and fifty-four seconds she will beg you to do it. In twenty-seven seconds the guilt will pass. In three hours and eighteen seconds no one will be watching. In nineteen minutes and twenty-two seconds the school—“
I shut off the TV. My whole body was shaking, and I felt like I might throw up. Sinking to my knees, I held my head in my hands for a minute.
The front door opened, and I heard happy chatter as my parents walked in the house. I hadn’t realized they were out, and I quickly got to my feet, trying to wipe the fear off my face.
“How’d the interview go, sweetie?” Mom said when she saw me.
There was no point in hiding it. “Bad, really bad.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that, honey,” Mom said sincerely. “I’ll admit, I thought you got the job and were out all night celebrating!”
My mother continued, sounding a little annoyed now: “But whatever the reason, I wish you’d tell me when you won’t be home. And I mean actually telling me, not just drunk dialing me.”
She headed into the kitchen now where Dad was unpacking groceries. I realized my mouth was agape. What was she talking about? I’d just gotten home from the interview not even a half hour ago. And what did she mean by ‘drunk dialing’? My phone was lying on the table, so I picked it up.
To my utter shock, my phone said I had 73 unread texts and 24 missed calls. Then I saw the date, and my stomach dropped. My phone said it was Thursday, yet I’d left for the interview on Wednesday. I was missing a whole day.
Hesitantly, I opened the first unread text. It was from a girl I hadn’t spoken to since college. She wrote: WTF ARE YOU ON ABOUT? STOP CALLING ME! The next text was from a guy I dated back in high school: DID YOUR PHONE GET STOLEN? SOMEONE LEFT ME A WEIRD MESSAGE. The next, I realized with embarrassment, was from my uncle: LIZ, I HOPE YOU DON’T THINK THIS IS FUNNY. I KNOW YOU’RE A SMART GIRL, PLEASE STOP THIS BEHAVIOR. The texts went on. I didn’t even want to listen to the voicemails.
Pulling up my call history, I realized in horror that I’d called every single person in my contacts multiple times during my missing day. I felt numb. Thinking back to my resume, and the actor on TV, I had a pretty good idea of what kind of things I’d been saying over the phone.
I didn’t know what to do, but I suddenly felt exhausted and went up to my room. Even though it only made me feel worse, I rifled through my phone again, feeling more and more nauseated as I looked at all the people I’d called: friends, family, networking connections and one night stands. One number stood out, however. It wasn’t in my contacts, it had been typed in on the keypad and the call went on for almost ten minutes. I puzzled over it, but couldn’t bring myself to look up the number online and see whose it was. I needed sleep.
I was standing in the middle of a crowded mall. I thought I was dreaming at first, but it soon became clear that I was very much awake. How did I get here? The last thing I remembered, I was lying in bed, about to fall asleep. I was holding my phone…those strange calls…
I patted my pockets and found my phone. With sudden dread, I checked the date. It was Friday afternoon. I’d lost more time. No new messages, luckily. Re-pocketing my phone, I spun in a circle, trying to get my bearings. I’d been to the mall plenty of times before, but the sudden change of scenery was disorienting. I spied a directory nearby, and went to look at the map.
I located the “You Are Here” sign quickly, but that wasn’t the only thing that drew my attention. An odd block of text was crammed into the store listings, and without thinking, I read the first line aloud.
“In two hours and four minutes and one second she won’t hear you coming.”
It was almost imperceptible. If I hadn’t been fearfully alert already, I would have missed it. But, as I spoke those words, the man next to me straightened up ever so slightly. I saw his face just before he walked away with a determined spring in his step: He was smiling. Because of what I said?
Somehow, I knew the answer to that question was yes. Whatever I’d said had triggered something in him. I felt like I should be afraid, but instead I felt alive. Empowering. I wanted to try it again.
It didn’t take long for the words to come to me again. This time, they were written on a coupon an older woman handed to me as I passed the pretzel stand. I read the words loud and clear.
“In eighteen minutes and forty-three seconds you just need to cut a little deeper this time.”
No one around me seemed to take notice, except for one woman. She was sitting on the bench reading a book, and as soon as the words left my mouth, she raised her head, a small smile playing on her lips. I watched in wonder as she stood up right then and disappeared into the crowd.
I wanted more.
The words appeared in the most trivial places: the sign outside Macy’s, an announcement on the loudspeaker that only I could hear, a man’s novelty t-shirt. And each time I spoke, it triggered something in someone nearby. A lingering thought in the back of my mind made me wonder if I should care what might result from these words, but the truth is, what I was doing just felt right. So right.
I was ready to call it a day, when my phone rang. My pulse quickened when I saw the number: it was the unfamiliar number I’d called during my missing time. For the first time in hours, I felt a rush of fear. I wondered if I should ignore it, but I had to know who it was.
I answered the phone. “Hello?”
A crackle of static, and then:
“Hi Liz, it’s Meredith. We spoke the other day?”
I frowned, but simply said, “Yes?”
“I was wondering if you’d like to come in for an interview next week,” she said, more statement than question. “You know, it’s rare for a national news station to hire someone with so little experience, but I have to say, you really impressed us over the phone.”
National news station?
“So what do you say? Interested in joining the number one news team in the world?”
I was glad she couldn’t see me, because I’d broken into a face-splitting grin. Something new, something dark, was welling up inside me, wanting me to speak for it. It was begging for an outlet, and I was going to get just that. Sure, I could speak to the people around me now, tell them how to unlock their darkest desire. But soon, very soon…
I will speak to the entire world.
Chapter Three: Hear No Evil
I wanted to yell out for Liz to call the cops. To get Matt and tackle that sick son of a bitch holding the head of that poor girl. My mouth was open and the words were right on the tip of my tongue when the slow spin of the head brought it full circle to face me. I caught a glimpse of a mangled ear as the head spun around, only a mass of red flesh peeking out from the stringy hair.
It should have continued spinning. Free dangling object like that, that’s what they’re supposed to do. But it didn’t. It came to a dead stop when it was facing me. Her eyes were half open, only whites showing. The worst thing was her mouth. Her lips were still moving. I paused, mid-stride, at the impossible sight. She was saying something. No, singing something. The music I heard from earlier. It was coming from her mouth. The song stopped me in my tracks. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. The song was getting louder. Like it was the only sound in the entire world. I felt every fibre of my body.
The song didn’t stop. It got louder and louder. The volume revealed new wonders in the song, like little sub-tunes and arrangements hidden under the voice of the woman. Then the pain started. It felt as though my eardrums were fit to burst. I slapped my hands over my ears but it was too late, the song was coming from everywhere now. From inside my head too. I felt a warm wetness on both my hands and I knew that I was bleeding.
The pain drove me to my knees. Liz was right there. Her lips were moving but I couldn’t hear anything over the sound of the song. I didn’t believe that the song could have gotten any louder but it did, building up to an unearthly crescendo as the blessed darkness finally took me.
My head ached horribly when I woke up on my bed. I didn’t remember how I got back. Two aspirin and an ice pack barely took the edge of the headache off. I decided to take a walk through the city to soothe my head. Stepping out of my home, I found myself whistling a catchy little tune. It took me a full 5 minutes to realize where it was from. It was the tune from the night before. I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was like I was 16 again listening to Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. It kept looping in my head. I hummed it to Shazaam on my phone. There was no hit.
I wondered the streets aimlessly, trying to walk off the twin distractions of the song and the thumping in my skull. That’s when I heard it. Above the low rumble of traffic, like a ray of sunlight in the darkness. The slow lilting tune of the song. I swung my head around, trying to figure out where the song was coming from. I grew impatient. Like a bloodhound, I took large strides down the empty streets, swinging my head around, trying to identify the source of the song.
Nothing. There was just a couple down the street having some kind of argument. The guy had his back towards me. He was a big dude. Maybe six and a half feet, wide as hell. I could barely see the outline of the woman he was shouting at. I only knew she was there because I saw her arms twitching wildly as the two of them argued.
The man draws a muscular arm back, palm open. In that split second where his arm cocked back, I found the source of the music. The same straggly hair. The same half opened eyes, rolled up, whites exposed. Her mouth was still open, just like it was the night before. Still singing to me.
My heart was still thumping in my chest when I slammed the door to my home. I told myself that it must have been a mistake. Some deranged fever dream brought on by lack of sleep. Or maybe a blow to the head. For a second there, I thought I had heard the singing out there on the street, seen the face of girl again. Then the man brought his hand down in a big sweeping arc, the rifle shot of the slap made me blink and the face was gone, all that was left was the scared face of a different young woman.
The phone in the hall rang, making me jump. It sounded like it was a mile away.
“Hey, it’s Liz. Can you talk?”
I pulled the phone from my ear and tapped it. Liz sounded distant, like the volume of the phone was off.
“I want to talk about last night, about that thing we saw in the woods. That man, or whatever it was.”
“Liz, can you speak up?” I could barely hear her. The response was a quiet whisper I could barely hear. Then there was something else. “Liz, can you hear that? The music?” The phone went dead. Or at least, I couldn’t hear anything over the faint tune calling out to me from the window. The lullaby felt like an old friend. I leaned out of the window. It felt like it was coming from across the street. Then I saw her. One of those people on the fringe of your vision that your mind filters out. A scavenger on the seabed of society, pushing a shopping trolley filled with the detritus of her sorry life. She could have been anywhere between 20 to 60. Her hang hung down in matted dreadlocks, covering her face. On a good day, a sympathetic pang would have been the appropriate response, on any other day, in disgust and feigned ignorance. Today, hearing her humming that song filled me with an inexplicable joy instead.
I burst out of my house. She was only 30 yards away, moving her trolley at a snail’s pace. I caught up with her easily, but slowed for the last few yards, both to savour the sweet strains of the song as well as to avoid the smell wafting downwind. The faint white marks on her arms stood still stood out against the unhealthy pallor of her skin. She was humming the tune I remembered. It filled my entire world. I couldn’t hear anything else.
I hesitated, then gently tapped her on the shoulder. “Ma’am, excuse me but I need to know the name of that…”
Half opened eyes peered out at me from behind the cage of her dirty hair. It was her again. The beauty of the tune in stark contrast with the gaping hole in her face from which it poured forth.
I took a step back in horror at the apparition before me. The heel of my foot caught on the edge of the sidewalk and the visage in front of me was replaced by a view of the open blue sky as I landed hard on the cold asphalt.
The sunlight was blotted out by the slightly concerned face of the shopping trolley lady. Her mouth opened and closed soundlessly, like some predatory eel. I frowned and raised one trembling hand to my ear. I snapped my fingers till they were sore, just to make sure. I couldn’t hear a thing.
I think lost it for a few minutes. I screamed for an eternity. Only after pausing for breath for the third time did I accept that I could not hear my own voice. I didn’t remember how I got into my car and started driving, or where I intended to go. The silence in the car was eerie, even as I whipped down the empty roads. No growl of the engine. No wind howling by the open window. I don’t know how far I got before I saw the accident. The tiny car had wrapped itself around a tree. The hood, crumpled like so much tin foil. As I stopped my car, I heard it again. The faint sound of the song, coming from the other car. It filled me with a terrible joy, to be able to hear again and to have my ears filled with such beauty.
I peered into the car. The driver was a young woman about my age. No seat belt. Her face was pressed up against the airbag, presenting me with only one flawless half. A syrupy crust of blood gluing the other side of her face to the airbag hinted at the damage that had already been wrought there. Not the face of the woman from the night before. Just an ordinary lady. Just like anyone on the street.
Her one blue eye focused on me, pleading. The song was very loud in my ears. I had my very own front row seat to the best live performance in the world. I watched with childlike fascination as her lips purses and forced out words slightly out of sync with the song.
A single perfectly formed tear rolled down her face. I squatted there by the roadside until the song got softer and softer. Then it stopped. Then I drove home.
There’s nothing wrong with my hearing. I try hard enough, I can still catch hints of the dross that fills the ears of the rest of humanity. There’s no reason for me to want to do that. The man in the woods showed me something else. That there is a song in pain. In madness. It’s played on flesh and sinew and nerve.
I have everything I need. It’s amazing what you can get from a Home Depot. Cable ties. Duct tap. A sturdy knife.
Someone will sing for me tonight.
Chapter Four: See No Evil
I awoke. My eyes and lips were crusted, and my throat was dry. I was lying on the ground. You know the way the ground gets on a cold, November morning? Hard and solid, almost like the dirt has morphed into round needles, tearing into your side. I was in the woods.
I groaned, and rubbed my eyes as I attempted to sit up and look around. My eyes began to focus, and I realized I was not alone.
Standing in front of me was a man. He was about average height, maybe 5’10 with buzzed brown hair and light blue eyes. He was wearing a suit, with a thin black tie and white shirt covered up by a seemingly expensive black jacket. To be honest, he appeared to be straight out of a GQ magazine. He smiled down at me.
“What the… who the fuck are you? How did I…” I sputtered.
His loops moved. It was if he was singing, the way his lips fluttered up and held in position. But no sound escaped. I blinked, refocused my eyes, and he was gone.
Frantically, I looked around and realized I had even more pressing problems. I was deep in the woods, probably a half mile from my home by the looks of it. I could not see the lights from my neighborhood, which bordered the woods on nearly all sides. It was still dark, though it looked as though light was slowly creeping its way through the branches. I stood, and brushed myself off as I desperately tried to remember the events that had led to me sleeping in the woods.
The man with the head.
It was the last thing I remembered, standing inches away from this sadistic man carrying a severed head like it was a deflated basketball. What had led me to walk towards him? Why hadn’t I run the fuck out of there and dialed 911? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you.
I reached into my pocket, and pulled out my phone. The time and date read 4:15 A.M, November 21st, over the blinking signal of a new text message. I opened it up, and was none too surprised to see several new messages.
“Where are you? Was going to order some food for dinner.” – Mom, 9:30 P.M.
“Really wish you would call if you’re staying out so late.” – Mom, 12:30 A.M.
“Yo, are we doing anything tomorrow night? I’m sure your busy, that wall isn’t going to stare at itself, right?” – This one was from one of my buddies at my old school. He had been hoping I’d come up to visit that weekend. 12:45 A.M.
The last, however, was quite frightening under the circumstances. It was a voicemail from Liz. In a flat, monotone voice that was clearly still her own, she said:
In thirty minutes and twelve seconds, all it takes is one match.
After I heard that, I began to run. You have to understand, that after just waking up in the woods with no memory of what happened, seeing a man disappear in front of my eyes, and receiving a creepy voicemail from one of my only friends who had seen me last, I had no idea what to do. Fight of flight, right? Well, my instinct at the moment was flight.
I jetted down the path cut into the side of the hill in the woods. Light had crept up through the trees as the sun made its ascent in the sky, which gave way to shadows in the dark.
As I ran, I swore I saw the man in the suit several times. Leaning against a tree, standing between the tall evergreens… he was waiting. Watching. I kept running.
After a few minutes, I finally made it through the exit to the woods, and collapsed on the grass outside. I gasped and coughed as I looked around frantically and briefly considered my options.
Option A, I head to the police station and explain what happened.
“Well, hello officer, I saw a possible apparition of a man with a severed head outside my buddy’s house last night. Then I woke up in the woods with no recollection of how I got there. Oh, and I saw a dude in a suit.”
That would earn me a first class trip to a psych ward.
Option B, call my friends and assess the situation.
This was a more reliable option, but neither answered my incessant calls. Since it was still only 4:30 in the morning, I assumed they were sleeping.
Option C, sleep this horrible fucking nightmare off.
I stumbled to my house, shaking off the stiffness in my knees and the aching in my head as I fumbled for the keys. I jabbed the right one in the lock, pushed it open, and locked it behind me.
Serenity and safety awaited me. I shucked off my shoes and climbed the carpeted stairs to my bedroom and, with a loud exhale, collapsed.
The moment I fell, I was out like a light. The coolness of the sheets of a bed that hadn’t been slept in welcomed me, wrapping their frozen fingers around me into a tight cocoon. I awoke, in a dream.
The following is what I recorded on a notepad, a minute after I awoke. I’ve read that most dreams escape your memory quickly; it’s said you can forget up to 90% by the next day. I couldn’t let that happen with this one. I needed to remember. I needed every last detail.
I awoke in a cold, empty cellar. I can still remember the drip, drip of water landing on the smooth, yet unfinished floor. The cellar wasn’t very big, maybe fifteen feet wide and thirty long. There was a large metallic door in the middle of the room. There was one light.
The aching and stress of the past two days was gone. In fact, it was as if every worry and tedious to-do had been erased from my mind. I had no thoughts of the past or the future, or even the present. My mind was a beautifully, pristine white empty canvas. I felt alive, I felt confident, I felt…. Free. And I didn’t care to know why.
The sound of metal scraping against the floor caught my meandering perception. The door pushed inwards, as the man in the black suit slowly strode through. He turned to me, and smiled.
”Is it time?” I found myself saying.
He did not answer, but he turned around and pulled a figure through the door behind him. It was a woman. Her mouth was sewn shut, her ears were bloody holes, and yet she was still alive. Her eyes darted around the room frantically before they locked onto my own.
A feeling grew inside of me, rising from the pit of my stomach to top of my throat at I locked onto those eyes. I felt like a boy before prom…. nervous, unsure, determined… and most of all… excited.
I licked my lips, and spoke again.
“Hold her down.”
The man smiled again, as he grabbed her by the back of her neck and held her down, like an owner would to do to a mischievous pet. Her eyes never left mine.
In one swift motion, I threw the man to the side and grabbed his knife. I lifted it in my hand, as his grin only grew wider.
It glistened and reflected in the dim light of the cellar as I turned it this way and that. So simple… just widdled down and sharpened metal, really. I felt power course through my cursed veins, as if the moment had awoken some vast source of adrenaline stored deep inside me. I turned to the girl on the floor, and I slit her fucking throat.
She coughed and gagged piteously, her eyes wide as blood seeped through the crude stitches on her mouth. She slumped to the ground as blood pooled beside her.
The man laughed. The first noise he had made as he lay crumpled on the floor. He looked towards me, and spoke in a clear, crisp tone.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?”
I drew the flat side of the blade across my arm, cleaning the blood off of it as I pulled the girl back up. I slide the knife into the back of her eye socket, careful not to damage the serene white sclera as I worked my way around. I jetted it outwards, and was rewarded with a sickening pop. I repeated the motion on the left, and smiled as both of her eyes lay on the floor.
I turned to my left, and the man was standing next to me. He smiled, and struck a match to the back side of the pack. He dropped the flame to the floor.