The first time I realized I was an adult was when I was 23. I was in the grocery store when a kid asked me to get some sugar-blasted excuse for a breakfast off the top shelf. I pulled the box off the shelf and stared at the cartoons gorging themselves on the luminescent emoticon-shaped diabetes pebbles. He took the box and said “Thanks Mr.” Hearing that almost made me feel dirty.
Now at 27, I know I must be an adult because I’m tired all the time. I go to bed tired, I wake up tired, and in that brief blur of confused social awkwardness in-between? I’m spending that day-dreaming about actual dreaming back in bed.
I went to a doctor to see if he could prescribe me something (since apparently self-medicating on adderall like I did in college is discouraged and anyway I couldn’t find a dealer). No I wasn’t depressed. Yes I was getting at least 8 hours a night. No I didn’t have congenital heart failure or explosive herpes (wtf?). So why didn’t I ever have any energy?
The doctor said I might have sleep apnea, a condition which obstructs my breathing while sleeping and causes me to wake up multiple times in the night. I didn’t remember waking up, but he said that was common. He wanted me to spend the night in a sleep lab and get a nocturnal polysomnography which measures my heart rate and oxygen levels for detection.
Screw that. I may be an adult, but I’m not old. It was hard enough getting everything done while being tired. The last thing I wanted was trying to get some rest in a lab. I opted instead to just leave an audio recorder on overnight.
Apparently the periods of obstructed breathing would audibly contrast with the heavy breathing which compensated afterward, thus potentially allowing me to detect the issue. No downside, right?
I used an Android app which is a sound activated audio recorder. I messed around with the calibrations a bit, and finally reached a sensitivity which detected heavy breathing.
Giggling. Like a little girl. That’s what I heard when I played back the audio. I could faintly hear myself breathing in the background. There were three distinct instances during the night where I heard it. I was getting more tired every day though, and this still seemed like an easier solution than going into the lab.
Obviously this was a joke from the app developers. There weren’t many reviews on this one, so I downloaded a new recorder and tried again the following night.
Isn’t he a precious thing?
Shh. You’ll wake the poor baby.
Just his back? Their backs aren’t very sensitive.
Let him sleep. He isn’t ripe yet.
That’s what played back to me the following morning. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve never felt less like an adult than I do now. It’s times like this when I really wish I wasn’t single. I had a mini panic attack and almost smashed my phone on the nightstand right there.
Tonight I’m going to try a video recording too. I hope I’ll still be able to sleep tonight.
Let him sleep. He isn’t ripe yet.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a good night’s rest after hearing that in your room?
I’ve never been one to freak out about superstitious or supernatural things. When I see a black cat crossing my path, I just figure he has someplace to be. Sure I’ve read scary stories for their thriller aspects, and I’ll watch horror movies with friends just so I can laugh at them for being scared, but I never personally bought into that kind of stuff.
Shh. You’ll wake the poor baby.
After playing the tape for what felt like the hundredth time, I was ready to expand my boundaries of reality just to find some explanation. Even deciding that it was a ghost or some nonsensical shit was better than having no explanation at all.
Calling my friends or family though? I would be ruining decades of my carefully maintained image of ‘the chill guy who doesn’t let anything bother him’. I was resolved to give it one more night with the video recorder to see if I couldn’t catch the trickster before asking for help and embarrassing myself.
I tossed and turned for hours last night. I got up about a dozen times to check my laptop to make sure the video was still recording. Just to be safe, I saved the video stream to a password protected google drive folder so it was stored on the cloud. Even if someone tampered with my computer in the night, I should still be able to see what was going on.
I watched the slow minutes drain through my digital clock as though they resented their obligation to pass the time. I don’t even remember falling asleep, but one moment I read the time as 2 AM, and the next moment it was 3:30. I must have slipped out for at least a little while.
The red recording light was off. I immediately jumped up and checked my laptop, but the video file was gone from my computer. The backup stream on the google drive was still there though, so I scrubbed through the video.
Me on my back.
Me on my side.
Oh look. There’s me upside-down with my feet on the pillow.
And then a face was peering into the screen. A little girl – couldn’t have been more than 14 – was in front of the camera. It was difficult to tell much about her though, because her skin was charred black and flaked off all the way to her heat-splintered skull. Her hair and nose were completely burned away, and all that was left of her eyes and mouth were sticky pits of darkness.
I skipped back to the moment she appeared and played the video. She rose up from below the camera angle as though she was lying on the floor. She turned her head towards my sleeping body, then to the computer.
What’s he looking for? she asked.
He’s looking for us, the other voice said from somewhere behind the camera. Shut it off.
Can’t we just tell him what’s happening? He deserves to know.
Jessica we agreed about this. It’s either you or him. Get rid of it, now!
That’s where the video stopped. The time-stamp read 3:21 AM. They were here just a few minutes before I woke up. I checked my window. Locked. The door? Locked from the inside. I even opened the closet and every cupboard in the small apartment kitchen. There wasn’t any sign.
In about five minutes, I had returned to my computer to watch the video again for clues. I’d left the google drive folder open though, and the backup video file was now gone too. They were still in my room somewhere.
Unless I was just going crazy and had woken from a nightmare, but I don’t think so. Even with the video gone, my floor was still littered with the black crumbled flakes of burned skin.
It’s either you or him. I didn’t like the sound of that. I couldn’t stay in the apartment knowing they were here, but where could I go at 4 in the morning?
I called the number for the sleep lab my doctor gave me. There was a staff still on duty, but they said they were all booked up through next week.
I grabbed my jacket and keys and headed out the door. As long as I stayed still, I was in too much danger of falling asleep again. I didn’t have any real plan, but I figured I would just walk around until the sun rose.
I was more exhausted than ever after that restless night. I still couldn’t quite accept this was happening to me. Maybe I was just so tired that my mind had started playing tricks on me. It was hard to be afraid while walking around the familiar park near my home. Vivacious bursts of spring decorated the ground, and I gulped down deep breaths of the fresh air. I could just call in sick today, get a good long sleep, and maybe all of this would just go away.
“Hey buddy.” I nearly jumped out of my skin. It was just some homeless guy sleeping on a park bench. I pulled my jacket up and started walking faster.
“Hey don’t be like that. Got any change?”
“Sorry. Nothing to spare.”
“Yeah right, bastard,” he said.
Unpleasant, but it’s a common enough encounter in the city. It was what he said next that made my blood run cold.
“I hope the Lady burns you next. Like she did to that girl.”
I slowly turned to face him. But he was just a crazy hobo who would rant about anything. This couldn’t have anything to do with … but the image of that burned skin was not so easily banished from my mind.
He grinned to have my attention. I could clearly count all five of his yellow teeth peeking through his tangled mass of facial hair.
“Jessica. I could hear the Lady screamin’ her name the whole time the girl was burning alive. I hope she gets you too.”
He isn’t ripe yet.
The words kept playing a loop in my mind while I walked. I was getting hung up on the word ripe. The connotations implied I was getting ready to be harvested for food, but what entity would possibly choose me? I’ve never built on ancient Indian burial grounds or disrespected a primordial altar.
I did once find out some guy’s gamer-tag password in high-school and stole his characters, but I hardly think that’s grounds for being tormented like this. There was absolutely nothing about my life which suggested I should be the target for this madness.
Ten bucks was enough to get the homeless man talking. He said he gets thrown out of the park if he sleeps here too often, so he’s also set up a camp a little outside town in an aspen grove. The last time he was there, about three days ago, he witnessed a young girl (Jessica) being burned alive while an older woman (the Lady) watched.
Of course, he didn’t actually say it in those words. His version had a lot more colorful phrases like “I’d sooner eat my shit and eat the next shit afterward then go through that” or “she was screamin’ like a dozen cats getting raped by a tiger.”.
I passed the last gas station in town, and he said the aspens were only about a ten minute walk from here. I’ve never been so tired in my life. This had to be more than sleep deprivation. It was a mortal weariness – a spiritual weariness, almost as though the bond tying me to this world was starting to unravel. I kicked a rock in my way, and I half expected my foot to pass straight through it.
My best guess is that the Lady is some kind of Demon, and she sacrificed the girl and now she’s going after me. But the older voice in the recording had said Jessica we agreed on this. It’s either you or him. How could Jessica have agreed to go through that? Was she tricked? What could she possibly stand to gain?
I knew something was wrong the second I stepped into the aspen grove. The cool morning breeze died the moment I passed the first trunk. The green leaves hung frozen and unnaturally static. The only thing that seemed to be moving was a steady stream of sap which poured down the trees.
Not sap. Blood. I could tell by the dark red streaks left behind on the white bark as it oozed toward the ground. I considered turning back right there, but the more unnatural it seemed, the more important it was for me to stop whatever was happening to me.
There was a clearing in the center of the grove where a circle of salt was lain upon the earth. Sitting in the center of the circle was a middle aged woman who I can only presume was ‘The Lady’.
Her face was plain and warm, although heavy lines of grief pulled her eyes downward. She wore jeans and a simple floral sweater – not exactly how I would have imagined a witch or Demon. Her eyes were closed; hands folded calmly in her lap as though she were waiting for someone – for who? For me?
“You’re the Lady.” The moment I said it, I realized the homeless guy probably just called her that because he didn’t know her name. “You’re the one who burned Jessica alive.”
She opened her eyes wide – comforting, soulful eyes. Eyes I would have trusted under any other circumstance.
“You weren’t supposed to find out until the end. I’m sorry you became involved in this,” she said.
“Until the end? You mean when I was ripe? What was going to happen then?” I wanted to hit her. To throw a stone – to yell – anything. But seeing her so calm and ordinary and sad, I couldn’t even raise my voice. The little energy I had left was fueled with indignation and anger, and without that it was all I could do just to keep standing.
“I told you, mother. He deserves to know what’s going on.” My skin prickled. Jessica was sitting outside the ring of salt – or at least what was left of her. The whole body was as black and rough as charcoal. All of her clothes had burned away, and the skin had burst in many places to reveal flayed sinew and cooked bone underneath.
“You burned your own daughter alive?” I felt the rage building again, and I didn’t fight it. I had to hold onto it. This feeling was all that reminded me I was still awake – still alive.
“You’re right, Jessica. I’ve been so selfish,” the woman sighed, and seeing her in such dismal misery, my anger was once more replaced by profound pity.
That’s when she explained everything to me. She wasn’t a Witch at all – only a mother who couldn’t bear to watch her daughter suffer.
Jessica was born with cerebral palsy – an incurable disorder which devastated her mind and body. She could barely swallow on her own, and her mother had done everything within the boundaries of medical science only to find that was not enough. After that, she’d tried alternative medicines – crystals, powders, ointments, prayers, and finally at the end of all things: rituals.
Her pursuit of the arcane led her subtly down the road of the occult until she discovered a process known to cure someone of all mortal ailments. In this vain hope, she burned Jessica alive in order for her to return purified.
“The entity I made the pact with was willing and eager up until I lit the fire in her flesh,” her mother told me, “but afterwards he began to make demands before he would bring her back.”
At the Demon’s request (for that is what she found herself bound to), she planted seven black seeds in the food where she worked as a grocer. Only once the seeds had ripened within their victims, Jessica would be allowed to return.
By the end of her tale, the last of my strength had fled me and I was sitting beside her in the salt circle while Jessica watched from the outside.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled, no longer able to meet my gaze. “I had already burned her. I couldn’t stop before I…”
“What happens? When they’re – when we’re ripe?” I asked. My throat was choked and dry. I couldn’t help but glance back at Jessica’s grotesque disfiguration. Was that what was in store for me too?
“The seeds are a portal into the other side,” she said. “Once they’re fully grown, the Demon will enter this world and -”
“And possess me.” I finished.
“I’m so sorry. He told me you would just go in peace. I never thought one of you would find out what was going on -”
“How long do I have?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Not long. That’s why Jessica and I have been watching the people with the seeds. We’ve been waiting for them to burst.”
“Can you stop it?” I knew what her answer would be before I even asked, but I had to hear it anyway. If it meant bringing her daughter back, would she have stopped it even if she could?
“No. All I did was plant the seeds in the food. How they work is as much a mystery to me as you.”
We stared at each other for a moment. I lifted my hands and felt their unnatural weight, and she flinched as though afraid I would strike her.
“Do you hate me?” she asked.
“No.” And it was true. I hated that this was happening – I was afraid – but I didn’t hate her. I might have even done the same in her place. “I can’t hate you, because I need you.”
“I told you there’s nothing I can do -” she protested.
“You can stay with me here, and keep me company until it comes. You’re a lucky girl, Jessica. Your mother loves you very much.”
I didn’t even have enough energy to sit upright anymore. I slumped against the Lady – it’s easier for me not to know her name – and she wrapped her arms around me. I pulled out my phone and considered calling my family, but I didn’t know how to make sense of my situation. Instead I’m posting my final update, which they will find and come to understand. The Lady held my hand as I rested against her, and together we are waiting for oblivion to come.
A man has been ripped to shreds in the Coconino National Forest. It wasn’t a hungry bear waking up from hibernation or the growing number of grey wolves which have been reintroduced to the area; this was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It was almost as if there was something inside of him trying to rip its way out.
I was hiking with my girlfriend (Clara) and our husky (Trogdor) when a deranged homeless man came staggering down the trail toward me. I was afraid he was going to attack us at first, but he just fell to his knees beside me and started praying.
“Oh Lord who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name…”
Clearly an unstable person. My girlfriend wanted to help him, but my my dog was already agitated and I didn’t want to risk him trying to mug us or something. I pulled Clara past him to continue up the trail, but he immediately started following me.
“Don’t go that way! The Beast is coming!”
There was something about the way he said The Beast which unsettled me greatly. He spoke with a hushed reverence, as though it weren’t a wild animal but some deity which lay in waiting.
Trogdor would have started barking if there was an animal though – he could sense a squirrel from a mile away. And even if there was a mountain lion or something, right then I liked my chances of avoiding a confrontation with it over going back down the trail past that madman.
We jogged a bit to get away from him, and pretty soon we’d left him behind. Trogdor gets excited whenever we run though, and he tore past us to jump through an aspen grove up ahead. He started howling at something up there, and I was afraid he really had found some animal.
Clara and I jogged up through the trees, but we couldn’t have expected what we found. The white bark was sprayed with blood, and the shredded remains of a human was lying in the middle of a salt circle. All around the outside was strewn a thick layer of human ash and charred bones.
The only identifying object which could be found was a cell phone. Clara immediately picked it up to see what she could find out – she’s always so impulsive. Before she’d even opened it though, we heard voices that sounded like park rangers coming from the opposite direction.
The last thing I wanted was to be caught standing over a dead body and having to deal with all that questioning and nonsense. I just grabbed Clara’s hand and ran back down the trail. I wish she hadn’t brought the cellphone with her, but I guess it was for the best considering her finger prints were all over it.
We didn’t see the homeless man on the way back. I don’t know if this sort of thing has happened before though, because there wasn’t any mention of the incident online or in the news.
I wanted to wipe the phone down and anonymously hand it into the police, but Clara wanted to see what was on it first. She figured if this thing was being covered up, then we’d never find out happened if we gave the phone up now.
The phone was logged into this reddit account, and it had already typed the following post. I’m attaching it below, so hopefully some of you already knew this person and can give us some info. It seems to be linked to some of the previous posts that he’s made.
The Beast is coming.
For a man has slept while an Angel wakes,
For his secrets kept, for the word he breaks,
For the tears he’s wept, his reckless hate,
Seven heralds of the Beast begin their wait.
I woke to a woman cradling me within a circle of salt. I do not know who she believed me to be, but I did not harm her. She is the first vision of my waking mind, and she is precious to me. The burned soul she harbored however, the girl she called Jessica, that is no more. I lit a fire in her that would burn until the anguish of her mind matched the disfigurement of her body.
Scream child. Scream until he wakes.
That is why The Beast has willed the seven Demon seeds be planted – to unleash me, first of his shepherds of fear. My raw skin against the elements, the strain of my muscles coiling beneath me, the flesh and blood of my design: it is glory to walk beneath this mortal mask.
My heart is fire, my mind is clear, my spirit is the roaring sea. Has this poet written so to name my first breath of life? For no heart has burned to match the crescendo of my inferno, nor born witness to a mind so keen as to pierce the veil between life and death.
So the pen of man strikes feeble against the oblivion he is suspended within, for his power is limited to the conceptions of an imperfect vessel. The nameless horror of The Beast shall be impossible to contain within a single mind, and not until this scattered race of children scream with a one voice shall The Beast be witnessed.
I do not come to you in warning. Your false prophets have already led you astray and divided you against such heedings.
I do not beseech you change your ways or absolve your sins. There is no dawn so bright as to banish the coming night.
But neither am I here to instill fear within you, for already I feel you afraid. Every night you start awake without knowing why, every flickering of a trepidatious heart, every sourceless dread which haunts your mind – did you think they were without cause? Failing to find reason for your terror, you pushed it back into the depth of your mind and implored yourself to forget.
And again and again each new terror is buried atop the old, until the twisted knot inside you drags your soul to a preternatural rest. While once your mind was free and curious, now every sound grates against your vulnerable nerves and you cannot meet the eye of your fellow man without doubting both him and yourself.
That is why I am here. To force you to acknowledge the nameless horror inside you, and to source it to the coming Beast. He is not God or Devil, but both were born out of fear of him. You will not find him in the darkness between stars or the splintered vaults of heaven, for he has slept outside of time until the alignment of his greater plan bids him wake.
But he sleeps no longer, and I am proof of that.
The first Demon seed is ripe. I go now to find my brothers, and I shall speak to you as my formal vessel has done to awaken your fear. Call to him with me, until with one voice our scream bids him rise in answer.
The time of The Beast has begun.