I buy and sell memories

You know those people who treat everything like they’ve just been asked to climb mount Everest? Where every little thing is an insurmountable ordeal, whether it’s waking up, taking a shower, or even just going outside? Almost as if the whole world was an elaborate conspiracy designed solely to slightly inconvenience them, god-forbid some effort was actually required to survive. (more…)

Hell is Heaven to the Demons

Justice isn’t blind. If she cannot see, then it’s simply because she doesn’t care enough to look. She turned away that dark night my sister was attacked, where even the moon and stars must have hidden their faces in shame. From all accounts it was an anonymous act of brutality: an impulsive flight, a brief struggle, the humiliation of rape, and then the lifetime of silent nightmares that must surely follow such depraved violence.

I’ve heard it’s a common story where the lonely roads meet beyond the protective halo of street lamps. For all the virtues we profess, there is a savagery dormant in us waiting only for our fellow man to blink. It is easy to be noble while someone is watching and the fear of judgement may yet steady our course. In solitude the moral compass will lose its bearing, replaced by whichever base instinct can scream louder than our pounding blood.

It is some consolation that I found the one who valued his greed over human dignity. Through the course of these confessions you will see that I am no better than the animal I hunted, so I will waste no time professing my merit now. I buy substances from a man who knew everything that happened in his neighborhood, and like anyone who seeks profit from another’s misfortune, he was willing to sell me the name I required.

I found the rapist where he returned to the street my sister suffered upon: pacing and circling like a hungry animal haunting the doorstep of his last meal. He didn’t see me coming, and I made no sound nor spoke no word save for the poetry my bullet inscribed in his skull. I should have departed at once, but the satisfaction that his last throes of life promised lured me into complacent voyeurism. I stayed to tell him that my sister sent her love, hoping to purchase her closure with the death rattle rising in his throat. I wasn’t expecting repentance, nor did I receive it.

“It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last,” were his final words to reach living ears.

I have no-one to blame but myself and my zealous retribution for failing to notice that he didn’t work alone. They were on top of me in moments, wrestling me to the ground and stomping my gun away from my shattered hand. Knives punctured my back and neck, leaving great sucking wounds which inhaled the night air; wounds breathing in place of my my lungs which were swiftly filled with blood. There weren’t any magnanimous thoughts or profound revelations as the light went out. One moment there was simply light and pain and noise…

And then nothing.

And then nothing.

And then…

I opened my eyes to find I was no longer of this world. I knew at once, despite the fact that I was sitting at a quite ordinary wooden desk in a room no larger than janitorial closet. On the desk was a piece of paper, and on the paper was a question, and in that question was written my fate for eternity:

Welcome to Hell. Would you like to:
1) Remain Human. You will be tortured by those who became Demons.
2) Become a Demon. You will torture those who remained Human.
P.S. If there aren’t enough people to volunteer to remain Human, they will be chosen randomly.

I do not believe it is within my nature to torture anyone. Even my sister’s abuser received death as fast as an executioner’s axe. But no more could it be said it is within my nature to receive torture: as unnatural a human construct as can be imagined. But if I had to choose – as I’m sure many of you would have done so far removed from the judgement of both man and God – then I choose to accept my new home and dawn the mantle of Hell I was offered.

I steeled myself against the horrendous transformation I pictured, imagining razor talons growing from my bones to rip holes in the flesh or an entropic decay to wrack my body until my skin ran down my face like candle-wax. No physical transformation came over me though, a phenomenon which I can only account to the Devil’s ironic sense of humor. I knew it from the first moment the floor dropped underneath to fling me down into the charnel realm however; I was a Demon now.

And it was Heaven to me. I expected the first time to be harder. The woman was presented to me in perfect physical health. I haven’t noticed any discrepancies in age since I’ve arrived – everyone looks to be their mid 20s here. The room sealed and I was given an hour to work on her. I find it distasteful to dwell on exactly what I did, but I remember rationalizing it cleanly with the knowledge that she was only here because she deserved it. Never mind that I was here too – never mind that it could have been me randomly chosen – never mind that she could have volunteered to suffer like this to spare another. She was in Hell, and it was my job to make sure she knew it.

It wasn’t until I’d finished that I learned the second rule to this infernal game. Once the hour of punishment had been completed, the human is offered a choice: they can get revenge on me, or they can accept their pain and continue their journey. Those who refuse the chance to retaliate shall be incrementally elevated, until at last their soul is cleansed and they are set to be reborn on Earth. If however they choose to turn the torture on me instead, I will be nourished by the pain and descend further along the dark road I have chosen. For each blow inflicted upon me, my skin hardens, my muscles tighten, and my power will flourish.

It didn’t take long for me to realize how to properly play. The only way for me to progress was to inflict a punishment so foul and induce a hatred so deep in my victim that they choose revenge over the quality of their immortal soul. And progress I must, for untold centuries of this game repeated has refined some Demons into legendary masters of their craft. Those Demons have carved out kingdoms for themselves in this infernal domain, and through their countless successes have transformed themselves into towering behemoths of apocalyptic ability, shattering the landscape with their tread and sending their lessers into groveling servitude. Since the moment I chose to become a Demon the gates of absolution have been closed to me forever. It may be my fate to dwell in this realm, but it was my choice to rule it.

And so I went to work honing my skill. It wasn’t enough to simply batter the humans into submission; if I was to force their hand against me I had to get inside their mind, caressing and nurturing their spirit into one of mindless wrath. I learned to expose the subconscious dread lying dormant that even the bravest dare not shed light on. I mastered the art of wetting my brush in nightmares to repaint their memories until all they once knew of life was corrupted by my influence. I promised false salvation, or deceived them into thinking they had escaped, or spoiled their loved ones until they could not contain the anger I imbued within them.

But I didn’t stop there. I studied the ancient texts of Demonic lore recounting the torment of dying stars from the beginning of time. I served under the foulest creatures I could find, watching their methods and improving upon their design. Experimentation, research, and endless practice refined my mastery over the subtle art until I could induce a pain so exquisite that Angels would shed their wings for the chance to smite me down. And ever I grew stronger, building a devoted following of my own to gather more humans, ever inventing and facilitating the process of extracting unbearable anguish. My human form twisted into a sentient shadow to reflect the pervasive nature of my approach, each victory making it that much easier to dismantle my prey.

And I loved every second of it. I relished in my progression and thought I could live here until the end of time, prospering and expanding my reign to all corners of the nether realm. Perhaps one day I would supplant the Devil himself, designing my own games to watch the universe fold and decay beneath my guiding hand. And perhaps I would have continued this road forever, had it not been for the fateful encounter where I finally met my match.

A human was pushed into the room with me and the door closed behind. I had an hour to play, but I wanted more. It was the man who murdered my sister: infuriatingly smug and dismissive of my ability to break his spirit. I thought I would enjoy this more than anything, but to my mounting dismay he stubbornly resisted my influence. He remained passive through the acid wash of his nerves. His mind did not falter as I summoned the image of his father’s lamentations against him. Every trick, every torment, every mental ravaging left him smirking, until with exasperation I resigned myself to simply goad him into action.

“You must feel cheated. Forced to remain human at the mercy of every lowly criminal who cares to punish you.”

“I wasn’t forced,” he replied. “I made the choice.”

“Then you’re an idiot who deserves what he gets.”

“And what I’ll get is freedom. I told you this wasn’t the first time, and that it won’t be the last,” he said. “I’ve been to Hell so many times that it bores me.”

So that was his secret. He had gotten out before. He knew how to play the game. But it didn’t matter, because no-one played it like I did.

“So you won’t retaliate?” I asked. “No matter what I do?”

He shook his head, the smirk unaltered. “I’m going back to Earth. And when I do, I’m going to remember this like I always do. I’m going to wait until I’ve grown strong again. And just for this, I’m going to find your sister and I’m going to do it again.”

I had almost forgotten about my sister. About the world above, filled with its myriad of joys and sorrows. I missed her in that moment; I missed being alive. And as much as I enjoyed the role I had carved for myself here, I wanted to be back again. The thought that this monster would patiently wait out his trials, cheating the system over and over to return to his life of sin; it made me sick. The tables had turned, and all the hatred I sought to pour into him was rushing into me instead. I wanted nothing more than to flay him down to the core of being and set such a fire in what remained to burn for all of time. But even if somehow I could force his hand against me; even if I broke him so badly that he never escaped; I would still be here forever. And I hated him, and I hated myself, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to hold onto that hatred and turn it aside.

And harder still to let him walk away. To bide my time, sending the weakest demons in my possession so that he might easily resist their influence. Watching, and waiting, and even helping my sister’s attacker elevate through the Hell until the time of his salvation was at hand. It was hard, but it was worth it, because that is when I chose to strike.

I had already learned to infiltrate the mind in my pursuit of torture, and through my mastery I infiltrated the spirit as well. I hid within his soul when his judgement was passed, concealing my hatred within his hatred, tempering my fire with his calculating patience. And when that soul was whisked away, I traveled with it, sleeping so softly within his dreams that even he did not know he bore me as his silent passenger. Until the day when he was born again on Earth, and I with him.

The struggle was violent but brief. It is easy to wrestle an infant’s mind from them, and when the child’s eyes opened it was I who looked out. He may resist me yet, but I bear with me all the subtle crafts I have honed in Hell, carrying them to Earth where they can be put to better use.

You see Hell is Heaven for the Demons, but all the worst of us have found our way back home.

Dogs can recognize Skinwalkers

It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to lose someone you love before it happens. Of course I’ve seen it a hundred times in the movies: dramatic affairs for the most part, with lots of screaming and crying and carrying on. The shock, the disbelief, the unconstrained rage; all lashing out at the world for the most ordinary and predictable thing in it. (more…)

Dreams are a Two-Way Window: How to Lucid Dream

How to Lucid Dream: The Dangers and Rewards 

Infinity captured in an hourglass, turn it over and it begins again. That’s what dreams are to me. I always romanticized dreams as a window into innumerable secret worlds and forbidden fantasies. It wasn’t until I began lucid dreaming that I realized every time I look out through the window, something else is looking back at me. (more…)

For Sale: Human Head. Condition: Used.

For sale: Human Head.
Condition: Used.

Best ad I’d seen on craigslist all day. I’d spent the last hour surfing the site for a passive-aggressive gift for my ex-girlfriend’s wedding. Was this a possible candidate for gag gift of the year? Well I certainly thought so.

I didn’t think it was a real for a second when I texted the user. I just told him what I wanted it for and asked if he had any left. It didn’t even have to look that real – just enough for a little jump scare and a good laugh.

Here’s the reply I got a few minutes later:

PLENTY LEFT. DO YOU CARE WHOSE?

Screw the fact that he’s shipping heads. There’s nothing that labels someone crazy like typing in all CAPS. But hey, let’s be fair here. Considering I was asking about buying one, maybe I didn’t have a right to condemn his eccentricities. I replied and told him I didn’t care, just as long as it wasn’t someone I know (I mean come on, he’s got to have a sense of humor, right?).

WHO DO YOU KNOW? I’LL CHECK.

I asked for a picture and told him I would let him know if I recognized them. I didn’t hear back after that and figured the joke had run its course. Just as well really. Maybe it was petty to try to sabotage the happiest day of her life. Then again, she did sabotage my entire life when she decided to wait until I’d finished paying off her college loans to tell me she was seeing someone else …

It wasn’t until that evening when I got the next reply.

SHE WILL LOVE THIS ONE. NICE AND FAT. HE DOESN’T NEED IT ANYMORE.

I almost choked on the pizza I was eating. Fat was a generous description of the picture he sent. Bloated would have been more accurate, like it had been sitting out in the sun for a long time. Congealed blood still clung to the base where several inches of spinal chord extended past the tattered flesh of the neck. The nose was gone, replaced with an explosion of sticky cartilage from where a massive force like a shovel had pummeled it in.

I’ve had a few hours to contemplate my life choices, and now that I was staring at the picture while trying to eat, I knew this was a bad idea. Sorry not interested, I replied before blocking the number.

The next morning I woke up to three more pictures sent from a different phone. Each bore a macabre description:

THIS LITTLE LADY WAS A FIGHTER, SO SHE’S A LITTLE MORE KNOCKED AROUND.
MY ONLY OLD MAN. THOSE BLOTCHES ON THE SKIN WERE THERE BEFORE.
IF YOU WANT MINT CONDITION, CHECK OUT THIS LADY. POISONED. NOT A MARK ON HER.

There are some things you just have to ask even if you don’t want to know the answer. Stuff like “do you love him” and “how long will dad be gone for this time?”

“Where are you getting all these heads from” is another one of those questions. I typed it in, simultaneously eager and afraid for the reply.

I ONLY NEEDED THE BODIES.

I seriously considered reporting this creep to the police, but again I still figured it was just a bad joke that I didn’t want to waste more time on. I told him not to contact me again and blocked this number too.

A week later I arrived at the wedding empty handed. Without a date. My ex gave me a tight smile and that half-assed hug which is usually reserved for people with a severe skin condition. She said it was nice of me to be here and thanked me for the present.

Present, what present? She told me someone dropped one off with my name on it. I found it sitting on the table in the reception room; a little brown box about the size of a bowling ball with a flair of red string tied up in a dainty bow. A note was slipped underneath which read:

YOU SEEM TO HAVE TROUBLE DECIDING. HERE’S A FREE DEMO TO TRY OUT. IF YOU AREN’T 100% SATISFIED, YOU CAN EXCHANGE IT WHEN YOU’RE DONE.

So many questions came to mind, like how he found me or what exactly one does to “try out” a head? When I lifted the box up to grab the note I couldn’t help but notice the dark sticky stain soaking through the bottom and onto the table. I couldn’t exactly leave it there. Shit, what was I thinking? It had my name on it and everything. Most of the people were still arriving and talking outside, so I just grabbed it and made for the door. There was a return address after the “demo period” had expired, so at least I could get rid of it.

I scuttled across the dance room, trying my best to wipe up any errant drips which were soaking through the bottom. I almost made it to the door before I spotted my ex. Quick turn-around, racing for the backdoor instead. More people were flooding in now, including her family and many of her friends who knew me. None of them could have guessed what I was carrying though, so as long as I could make it to the door …

… or at least I could have if backdoor wasn’t wired to the fire alarm. The blaring sound shocked me so much I almost dropped the box. It started to open and I caught a glimpse of the bloody pulp inside. It half-flopped out of the box as it tumbled, and I had to scramble to keep it closed. From the shards of splintered bone to the puddle of dried blood around the base, I had no doubt that it was real. By the time I looked up, the whole room was staring at me.

There was only one thing louder than the alarm after-that: my ex’s mother screaming “he’s trying to steal the presents!”.

My panic-stricken brain didn’t want people to think I was a thief, so I just dropped the box. If I had bee able to think even a little more clearly I would have realized it was much worse for them to think I was a murderer, but I couldn’t deal with that accusing siren or all those disapproving eyes. I dropped it and ran, swearing to myself that it wouldn’t matter as long as I never saw any of those people again for the rest of my life.

I did get some messages though. The next day, my ex told me that my present was a big hit. Everyone loved the gag. They thought the head was a symbolic gesture which meant her past romances were dead, and I was so sweet for giving my blessing like that. I guess no-one looked close enough to decide whether or not it was real.

It’s the other messages that bother me more though. All CAPS, sent to remind me that:

YOUR FREE TRIAL IS UP. YOU CAN PAY 10,000 TO KEEP THE HEAD, OR SEND ONE BACK IF YOU’RE FINISHED.

Now where the hell am I going to get another head?

From Rags to Stitches

For those who feel they are not good enough

Growing up without a dad, it was so easy to blame him for everything that went wrong. Mom wouldn’t have to be gone all the time if he was here. She wouldn’t be so stressed and angry. I would have done better in school if someone helped me with my homework. I wouldn’t be so alone. (more…)

Two Dead Playing the Elevator Game

The fatal repercussions to playing the Elevator Game

I just wanted to get home that night. An impromptu board meeting ran late, and I had to stay until almost 9 PM just to take notes. When I finally did get out of there, waiting for the elevator was absolute torture. My heels were killing me, my bra was a dagger in my back, and all I had to show for my hard work was a legal pad full of inane political drivel and off-colored jokes.

Five minutes. Ten minutes before the door opened. Inside a pair of giggling teenagers were shoving each other back and forth. One girl, one boy. Baggy hoodies. Ripped jeans. Smelled like they thought marijuana was a perfume. It didn’t take a legal secretary to guess they had been playing an elevator game by pushing every button.

I thought about reprimanding them, but the moment I stepped inside they went dead quiet. Maybe they knew they were busted. The building should have been locked by now anyway. I don’t even know how they got in here, but at my energy was so depleted that didn’t really care.

“Where are you going?” I asked, just to be polite.

The boy started to giggle again for a second. Then stopped. So abruptly I almost thought I was imagining it. It looked like the girl was holding her breath. She hid her face beneath her hair and went to push floor #1.

Not my kids. Not my problem. What was my problem is that the elevator was going up instead of down. I moved toward the row of buttons, and the girl fell flat to the floor and scrambled out of my way like I was made of lava. I mashed the highlighted #1, but we were going up quicker than ever.

Faster than it had ever gone before. There was nothing to hold onto, but I had to press myself to the wall to stop from falling over. It was shaking now too, buckling back and forth as it screeched up the cable. The lights flickered, and a cold wind started to whistle through the crack in the doors. It wasn’t like a storm or anything though. It was more like all the heat in the elevator was flooding out into the shaft.

Another lurch. The hardest one yet. I fell straight on my ass. The kids playing the elevator game were holding onto each other and managed to remain standing, but even after we’d stopped they kept clinging on as though holding for dear life. The #1 button went dark. #10 turned on. Slowly, ponderously, as though it were struggling against a nearly insurmountable pressure, the door slid open.

I started to stand, then slipped again as one of my heels snapped cleanly off. I took the other shoe off, so frustrated that I just threw it at the kids.

“Now look what you’ve done. You broke the fucking elevator.”

The boy glanced in my direction, but immediately turned away again. They were straining to look outside, but terrified to get close to me. Good, they should be scared. Vandalizing a legal office was as stupid as picking a fight in a police station.

“I want your names, and IDs. Both of you,” I snapped. “You will be held responsible for any damages incurred. As far as the trespassing is concerned -“

But they still wouldn’t look at me. The boy grabbed the girl by the hand and darted out into the hallway. I couldn’t just let them run havoc.

“Hey, you can’t go in there!” I had to run to keep up now. “That’s Mr. Bogles office. You aren’t allowed to -“

Annnnd they were inside. Of course. I patted myself down for my cell phone, but it wasn’t there. I must have dropped it when I fell in the elevator. I half-turned back, but the door was already closing. I took a step in that direction, but then I heard something crash from the office. I spun again, sprinting down the hallway in my bare feet.

The boy was sitting on Mr. Bogles desk while the girl stared out the window.

“Look at the sky!” she said. “And how tall the buildings are!”

“Dude, this is crazy,” he replied.

Either they were stoned out of their minds or it wasn’t just marijuana. They were running their hands over everything, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if they were rolling too. The boy was even poking the potted plant like it was some alien creature he’d never seen before.

“That’s enough!” I roared. Finally they both looked at me. Then at each other. Then back at me. Did they regret playing this stupid elevator game yet?

“Let’s get out of here!” the boy rammed straight through me with his shoulder, sending me spinning back to the ground. The girl was trying to jump over me now, but I managed to grab her by the ankle and drag her down. She thrashed melodramatically on the ground for a few seconds, but before I could get to my feet she planted a kick in my face and broke free.

The door was already closing by the time I got to my feet. They were both inside, staring at me with wide trembling eyes as though they were somehow the victim in all of this. I felt absolutely feral as I lunged at them. I managed to get my fingers in the crack before the elevator closed and the sensor reflected the doors open wide. Half a dozen buttons had already been pushed, glowing like one big middle finger. The final stage of the elevator game had been played.

They were cowering in the corner as I loomed over them, an inferno of retribution burning in my eyes. Fine, let the elevator take the long trip down. That was just longer for them to be trapped in here with me. Now that they couldn’t run, the struggle was absolutely pitiful. The boy’s throat was almost comically fragile, and I was amazed how little pressure I need to ram my broken heel through it. The girl was almost gone by the time I got to her, withering to a husk in seconds after the venom from my nails coursed through her leg where I had grabbed her.

I got out of the elevator at the bottom, straightening my dress. I’d found my phone again and fixed my hair, and after snapping the other heel off my shoe, I was able to look almost presentable again.

I thought I could finally go home after that, but it didn’t take long to realize that I’d never been further from home in my life. What strange green plants they have here, and the dark blue sky was nothing like the purple and orange we have at home. No wonder they were so surprised by everything in my world. If everyone here is as fragile as those two little ones, then I think I’m going to have a lot of fun here.