Logbook of Terror : Milo’s Yard

“Milo’s Yard” 

Every year Milo’s Halloween decorations grew more elaborate, ambitious, and horrific. Milo’s yard had become so scary during the month of October that all the neighborhood joggers and walkers rerouted their familiar paths to avoid that peculiar house until November came and the terror was put away for another year. 

Halloween night was especially dreadful, so much so that none of the adults would come within a block of Milo’s yard. Only the children were brave enough to go, and yet still, only the bravest would return, their faces ashen white, their eyes deep pools filled with dread. And the children who weren’t so brave, the ones who were called The Lost, the ones all the neighbors whispered about during the months that followed Hallow’s Eve, they seemed to somehow disappear; they would enter Milo’s yard and never return as if their own fear kept them trapped there forever. But, everyone knew that Milo had the best candy. There was no candy like it anywhere else in the whole neighborhood, and no one could ever figure out where it came from. It was beyond delicious. It was legendary. It was worth the risk. 

Milo checked his watch – it wouldn’t be long now. He surveyed the yard and smiled far and wide at his creation. Gargoyles leered from every corner of the roof. Phantoms hoisted on unseen wires and pulleys flew back and forth above the headstones, zombies, witches, and ghouls that filled the front yard. Lights burning orange and purple lit the scene. Two meandering rows of glowing skulls illuminated a path that weaved its way through the yard to the front door. Wireless speakers hung hidden in the trees, waiting to come to life and proclaim their fearful song.

Milo hurried into the house. He powered up the six fog machines. Three minutes later dense fog began to fill the yard. Excitement and anticipation filled Milo’s soul. He pressed the play button on the stereo. As his favorite haunted house tape echoed out into the gathering gloom, Milo sat in the dark of his front window and waited for the trick or treaters to arrive. 

***

Chase Cabrini stood with his parents and little sister at the top of the hill, just up the street from Milo’s house. “You know we can’t go with you, son, it’s just the way it is,” Landau Cabrini said to his oldest boy. 

Chase had just turned eleven and was teetering on the edge of adolescence and the loss of childhood wonders. He looked up at his father. “It’s alright, dad, I’m not scared.” 

Landau looked down at his boy. His eyes filled with empathy. He knew the kid was full of shit. 

“Alright, son, we’ll wait here for you,” Chase’s father said. 

The small family stared down the street toward Milo’s yard. Horror music wafted up the hill, carried along on the ever advancing fog. Chase took three steps before he turned back and glanced at his family. He grinned and then trotted away and disappeared into the mist, his black vampire’s cape flying in the wind behind him. 

***

The fog seemed to clear a bit as Chase neared the house. He could hear odd, unearthly voices underneath the music, inside the fog. He felt eyes on him. His shoes hit soft earth. He was there. He was in Milo’s yard. He stopped and took a breath, taking in the sweet aroma of the fog. A cool wind chilled his skin. He gazed into the fog and saw the lighted path that led through the cemetery and to the front door. Chase felt his nerve start to shrink. The door suddenly seemed so far away. His dad was right after all; he was totally freaked. “Shit…” Chase muttered to himself. He stood still and listened and hoped to hear the reassuring voices of other children coming down the hill but there were none. He was all alone in Milo’s yard. 

Peering through the fog, Chase saw the front door creep open. He choked down the lump in his throat and began to walk. 

The front door seemed impossibly far away. His ears burned hot with fear. His eyes watered. His hands trembled. Leaves crunched under Chase’s feet as he walked the path. He felt fingers and hands brush across his back. Strange creatures beneath the gloom breathed hot breath onto his legs and nipped at his toes. Chase’s eyes darted around, searching for the monsters hidden in the fog. Two zombies lunged at him, one from either side. An ancient black cat tore at his pants leg. A coffin lid moved and a mummy rose up into the fog. A sudden banshee shriek tore the air behind him. Chase jumped and bolted straight for the door, his heart racing out ahead of him. He tripped and stumbled on to the porch. He looked up and there was Milo, standing in the doorway, staring down at him with a devil’s grin. Chase straightened up and cleared his throat. “Trick ‘r Treat,” he squeaked out. 

Chase held out his trusty plastic pumpkin bucket. Milo smiled and dropped a handful of candy in. “Why don’t you go ahead and try a piece now?” Milo asked the boy. 

“Sure…!” Chase said, his face beaming with eager joy as he reached into the pumpkin. 

At first bite, the candy didn’t seem all that special, but then something happened. The flavor changed. The chocolate coating somehow seemed indescribably delicious. Chase felt a wild euphoria sweep over him and he cooed like a baby. His eyes went limp and numb. 

“This is delicious,” Chase said through a full mouth. 

“Good…” Milo said. “Have another.” 

So Chase stood on Milo’s porch and ate another and another and still one more. And Milo dumped more candy into the plastic pumpkin bucket. Chase’s feet felt light. Pure happiness flooded through him. He couldn’t feel the porch beneath him. He looked down and saw that he was floating. He began to laugh and Milo laughed along with him. Chase dropped his trick or treat pumpkin and flapped his arms. He felt his teeth grow into sharp fangs. He drew his cape up around him and floated out into the fog of Milo’s yard. 

“I love it here!” Chase exclaimed. “I never want to leave!”

“And you’ll never have to!” Milo said with a huge smile. “You can stay in my yard forever and ever and have all the candy you like.”  

“I’m a real vampire now!” Chase shouted as he perched on the limb of a withered old tree, enshrouded in fog, and waited for the next trick or treater to come by.

Logbook of Terror : Mr Punctuality

By Russell Holbrook 

Robbie flung open the door to Warrington’s Curiosity Shop and ducked in to escape the gray, weeping sky. His eyes roved across the store. He was amazed: It was just as he remembered it. The ceilings were high, the lighting was dim, and the wooden floors wore a well-traveled sheen. The shop was crammed full of every odd and end imaginable, and the air was thick with the scent of age. Robbie reached the counter and rang the silver bell that sat next to the antique register. The bright chime reverberated through the shadowy haze. 

“Hey,” a voice said from behind. Robbie started and spun around. “Can I help you?” The clerk asked.

This wasn’t who Robbie was expecting to see. This man was young and pale and, according to the tag on his shirt, was named Kirk. Robbie’s brow bunched up. “Where’s the old man?”

The clerk fixed Robbie with a blank stare and said flatly, “He died.” Then he sighed and said, “I guess you haven’t been in lately?”

Robbie replied, “No, not since I was a kid really. Who are you?”

“I’m the grandson, Neal.”

“But your name tag says Kirk.”

The clerk chuckled. “Oh yeah, I found this in the back and thought it’d be funny to wear it.” He grinned and exposed a rotted row of teeth. Robbie’s skin crawled. A dark chill swept over him, and it wasn’t due to the cold rainwater that clung to his clothes.  

Robbie paused. A silence fell between them, then Robbie said, “I need a watch; one that will make sure I’m always on time.” 

“You have a problem with tardiness?” Neal said with a chuckle. 

Robbie nodded. “Yes, a big one. No matter how hard I try, I’m always late. It’s like I’m… cursed.” 

Neal’s left eyebrow rose to a peak. For a brief moment he stared at Robbie, then abruptly said, “Okay, man, c’mon,” and slouched over to a short glass case that sat along the left wall of the long, narrow building. 

Robbie followed the clerk to the case, where three shelves full of antique pocket watches rested on burgundy, crushed velvet. Robbie hunched over and peered into the case. Rain beat down on the roof, cold wind whipped around the building, and behind the case, Neal waited. After several minutes, Robbie pointed to a burnished silver watch in the left hand corner of the bottom shelf and said, “That one.”

Neal bent low, slid the case’s door open, and brought out the watch. He smiled. “Oh yeah, this one’s a beauty. You’ll never be late with this one, no way. With this watch, man, you’ll always be right on schedule.” 

Robbie returned the clerk’s smile. “I was hoping you’d say that.” 

***

Robbie sat at the bus stop, gazing into the face of the timepiece, watching the second hand make slow loops. His eyes felt dry and he noticed that he couldn’t remember the last time he’d blinked. He heard a shuffle next to him. A woman was shaking water off an umbrella beneath the covered bus stop. She looked at Robbie.

“Hey, neat, a pocket watch,” she said. “I haven’t seen one of those in ages.” 

Robbie smiled at the woman and said, “It’s almost your time.” 

The woman’s mouth twisted down on one corner. “Pardon me?” 

With a dazed look on his face, Robbie repeated himself and then added, “I’m sorry.” 

The woman’s eyebrows knitted. She backed away from Robbie, out into the rain, into the path of a cyclist barreling down the sidewalk. 

“On your left!” The cyclist yelled.

Alarmed, the woman spun to the right. Her foot snagged on a piece of uneven concrete and she twirled out into the busy street. A car blared its horn and swerved around her. She gained her balance and rushed back toward the sidewalk. Raindrops stung her eyes. She tripped over the edge of the sidewalk and stumbled to a stop a few feet in front of Robbie. The woman heaved, desperately trying to catch her breath, her eyes wide with terror. 

“Oh my God!” She screamed. “I almost–”

The speeding truck seemed to come out of nowhere. It hopped the curb and plowed into the woman. Her body bounced into the street and rolled under the wheels of the oncoming traffic. 

Tires squealed and slid across the wet, slick pavement. The hurtling mass of machines pulled left and right to avoid hitting the woman. Several vehicles slid into the opposite lanes, colliding head-on with the rushing automobiles. A cacophony of bending metal and shattering glass roared into the sky. Screams echoed from cars and trucks and vans. 

And Robbie stared at the watch, his eyes fixed on the languid movement of the spinning second hand. 

A massive city bus, its horn screaming, slammed into the pile-up. The enormous crunch of the impact snapped Robbie out of his trance. He jumped up. A man in a business suit was staggering out of the wreckage, holding his side, with blood pouring from a wide gash on his forehead.

“Help me!” The man shouted to Robbie. 

Robbie froze, clutching the watch. The second, minute,  and hour hands spun at a frantic pace. 

A lone garbage truck swerved away from the growing crash, spilled over sideways, and fell on top of the shuffling businessman. Blood flowed out from under the truck and mixed with the rain. 

Laughter boomed in Robbie’s head. He looked around to see where it was coming from and then realized that it was his own voice he heard ringing in his head. He lurched out into the rain, howling like a maniac, and ran into the deepening evening as emergency response vehicles appeared on the horizon.  

***

Robbie woke up in his bed. He was soaking wet and his head was throbbing. He squinted and glanced around the darkroom. The cell phone on the bedside table let out a shrill ring. Robbie rolled over and answered. 

“Hello,” he mumbled. 

“You bastard!” A woman’s voice screamed from the other end, sharpening and focusing the agony in his head. “You couldn’t even make it to your own son’s birthday party! Where were you, huh? Where the hell were you?!”  

“I, uh, what?” Robbie sputtered. 

“You were drunk again, weren’t you?!” 

Robbie’s heart raced. He tried to swallow although his mouth and throat were a desert. He sat up. The room spun. He gripped the mattress with one hand and held on. “But I,” he began. “I got a watch so I could be on time.”

“Your cell phone tells time, you moron!”

“But, Sheila, this is a special watch, one that tells the real time, the true time. The man said I’d never be late again. And I thought that once I had it, I wouldn’t miss anything ever again. I’d always be there, on time, always.” 

The woman on the other end sobbed and her sobbing became weeping. “Well, it doesn’t matter now, it’s too late!” She shouted. “The party was the day before yesterday, and you missed it. And then–” Sheila’s voice broke off. She drew in a long breath. “—and then, yesterday, when Nana was driving him home from pre-school, they were in a sixteen car pile-up and—and–”

Robbie gasped. Shelia wailed into the phone and hung up. Robbie’s stomach turned. He fell to his knees and threw up on the floor. He shuddered. I need a drink, he thought. He wondered what time it was. He’d need to get to the liquor store before it closed. 

That was when he realized he was gripping a cold, metal object in his right hand. Robbie opened his hand and clicked open the pocket watch. In the gloom, he watched the second hand make its slow rotation and it all came back to him.

He’d been hammered drunk, staggering back to his efficiency apartment in the late afternoon when the sky turned angry and a storm erupted. He’d taken refuge in the old curiosity shop that he’d loved as a child. He hadn’t been there in decades and he couldn’t believe it was still in operation. After relating his woes of tardiness and missed appointments at length to the patient employee, he’d bought a watch. Yes, this watch, he thought. And then what had happened? Had he blacked out again? He needed to know.

***

Robbie struggled to his feet. He felt like he was wading through molasses as he stumbled through his studio apartment and out into the dim evening. A light mist fell lazily from the slate-gray sky. The streetlights blinked on. Robbie hugged his jacket tight around his body and hurried to the antique district, his favorite cut through to avoid the beat cops that liked to arrest the drunks and vagrants that crowded Main Street. The mist turned to a full-on rain when Robbie came out of an alley, turned the corner, and stopped in front of the tattered awning emblazoned with the name, Warrington’s Curiosity Shop, across the front. Robbie’s eyes bulged. 

The front display windows were filthy, covered in spider webs and years of accumulated dust and grime. The rubber Halloween masks still sat on their displays, their colors cracked and faded. The dust jackets of the books on magic and decorating were yellowed with age and eaten away at the edges. The eyes of the spooky dolls and stuffed monkeys with their brass cymbals had all been gouged out. A gust of stale air, reeking of age and neglect, rushed over Robbie. He looked for its source and saw that the tall glass panes in the front door had been kicked in. Shattered glass littered the doorway. 

An old man sat in the shadows near the entrance, dressed in rags and clutching a liquor bottle in a brown paper bag. He looked up at Robbie. “Hey man, how’s the watch workin’ for ya?” He said.

Robbie shifted, as if noticing the old man for the first time. 

The old man arched his left eyebrow. “Well?” 

Robbie looked intently at the old man and noticed he wore a name tag on his jacket that read “Kirk” in faded blue letters.

Robbie’s heart raced. He felt his eyes water and his bottom lip quiver. “Where’s Neal?” He asked. 

The old man grinned wide, revealing a mouth full of rotted teeth. “He’s dead.” 

Robbie’s mouth fell open. The old man cackled. Robbie stumbled back, away from the old man. “He’s dead!” The old man shouted as his cackling turned into roaring laughter. 

 Robbie ran into the street.  A moving truck plowed into him, crushing him beneath its monstrous tires. 

The driver slammed on the brakes and slid to a stop. He cursed to himself. He knew he shouldn’t have been speeding, especially not in the rain, especially not after those six whiskeys he’d had with lunch. But he was running behind. And his boss had said that if he was late one more time he’d lose his job. He just wanted to be on time. He couldn’t understand why he was always late. He tried so hard. It wasn’t fair; it made him feel like he was cursed.  

Logbook of Terror : Peggy’s Flower Basket

Peggy’s Flower Basket by Russell Holbrook

The bell attached to the front door jingled, making its cheery announcement that another customer had entered the store. Peggy looked up from the flower arrangement she was working on and smiled. Resting her shears on the table, she scurried to the front counter. 

“Good morning,” Peggy said. “How can I help you?”

The young man’s eyes darted around the flower shop. “Um, yeah, I, uh, need some flowers in a vase. It’s for my friend. He’s getting married.”

“Oh, I see,” Peggy replied. “Well, let me…”

“He’s my best friend,” the man said, interrupting. “And he’s marrying the only girl I ever loved. And he knows I still love her. He’s always known and he doesn’t care and she knows and she doesn’t care either.” 

Tears welled in his eyes. Peggy’s brow crinkled. The man sniffled. Silently, Peggy waited. 

After a moment, the man went on. “I don’t want them to be happy. That’s what I told them. I told my aunt Emerian about it too. I can tell her anything, cause, um, she always listens. Anyway, she, uh, she sent me here. She said you could help. She said you can, uh… do things.” 

Peggy’s eyes sparkled. “Well, I have been known to do a thing from time to time.” She smiled and walked out from behind the counter. “Now, just come with me and we’ll see what we can dig up.” 

The young man turned and followed Peggy as she led him to a room in the back of the store. Beams of bright, mid-morning sun streamed in through large windows, filling the space with warm, natural light. Cameron entered the room and stopped in the center. Peggy walked to the back wall and began looking through the vases, of which there seemed to be every shape and size and type, sitting on ornate shelves that ran five high across every wall. Peggy’s high, blond bob bounced as her head moved back and forth, her eyes scanning the vases until they settled on one in particular. She reached up.

“Ah, here we go,” Peggy said, “I think this one is just what you’re looking for.”

Peggy held the container out for Cameron to examine. He peered down at the vase, a seafoam green ceramic piece with faded etchings running along its round base. 

“This will, uh, help me?” Cameron asked. 

“I think you’ll find that it will,” Peggy replied, her eyes and lips radiating optimism and joy. 

Cameron sighed morosely and said, “Great, I’ll take it.” 

“Wonderful!” Peggy chirped. “And what kind of flowers would you like to go in your beautiful new vase?”

“Succulents, please. They’re her favorite. The, uh, the bride’s favorite, I mean.” 

Peggy smiled her tender and winning smile. “Oh, of course. And what a lovely choice.” 

Cameron shrugged. Peggy left the room. Cameron listened as her shoes clonked across the hardwood floor, creating an echo that sang through the quiet store as she made her way back to the front. The sad young man looked around at all the unique and ornate vases and thought of how pointless and absurd they were. Just like life, just like everything. He hung his head and shuffled back to the front of the store where he found Peggy the flower lady filling the vase with fresh, aromatic flowers. 

***

The phone was ringing. Peggy answered on the third ring. 

“Peggy’s Flower Basket, how may I help you?” She said in her bright tone. She paused, listening, and then said, “Why yes, Emerian, he just left.”

Another pause, then, “Yes, I did. I made sure he got that exact one, just as you asked.” She smiled wide. “Yes, I’m sure that it will. The bride and groom are sure to have a wedding that they will never, ever forget.” She tossed back her head and let out a loud cackle, causing her hair to jiggle and crow’s feet to sprout on the corners of her eyes. And howls of laughter rang out through the little shop of flowers.  

***

Cameron held the vase up and examined the stamp on the base. A-Pox Designs, made in Transylvania. Cameron’s eyes narrowed. He huffed and sat the flower holder down on the kitchen table. He brushed his fingers over the soft tops of the flowers and mumbled, “Stupid vase. Stupid flowers. Stupid wedding.” 

Suddenly, the hall clock chimed, letting him know it was time to go. Cameron grabbed the vase and headed out the door. 

***

The wedding was boring. The reception was depressing. Cameron sat alone with the vase, watching the guests and the happy couple drinking and dancing. Envying their joy and hating their love, he cursed them in his heart and wished death on them all. No one that happy deserves to live, he scowled. 

As Cameron’s thoughts turned in his mind, his eyes fell on the bride. He would never love another woman the way he’d loved his dear Abigail, and now she was gone forever, into the arms of another man. 

Abigail twirled, her wedding dress spinning out wide, her face beaming with bright joy. She danced across the floor until she reached the table where Cameron sat. She stopped in front of him and smiled. “Cameron, Brian and I are so glad that you’re here. Really, we are. I know it’s weird but…” She trailed off, the vase catching her attention. She pointed. “Are those flowers for me?”

“Yeah,” Cameron said sheepishly. “I wanted to give them to you myself. I was just, um, you know, waiting for, uh, a good time.” 

Abigail picked up the vase. “Succulents! My favorite! And in such a beautiful vase!” The bride’s eyes widened, watered, and glazed over. She didn’t blink. 

Cameron smiled. “Yeah, I’m uh, glad that you like it.” 

“Oh Cameron, I love it! I love it, love it, love it!” Abigail exclaimed. Brian, the groom, and several of the guests turned in her direction, following her voice. 

Abigail twirled around again, holding the vase high. Cameron watched as the guests left the dance floor and formed a circle around the bride. Abigail shouted, “Hear me now: this vase is above all vases, and is the gift above all gifts!” 

The groom and the guests cheered and clapped. Abigail took the flowers out of the vase, one at a time, giving one to each guest and saying, “This is my body, eat it in remembrance of me.” And the guests smiled and ate the flowers. 

When Abigail got to Brian she held the vase out to him. “Dear husband,” she said, “Drink this holy water. It is my blood, which fed my flesh. Drink this in remembrance of me.” And Brian smiled and drank the water from the vase. Abigail took the vase from him and they shared a long, passionate kiss that made Cameron want to slit his wrists, and that’s when the screaming began. 

It was Abigail’s grandmother. Black roses were growing out of her eyes, their thorns tearing through the soft vitreous body. Vines grew out of her ears and wound around her neck, choking her while moss blossomed on her protruding tongue. 

Succulents sprouted from the bridesmaids’ eyes. The groom’s best man threw up bloody mud while the hairs on his head all turned to long, brown weeds. All the guests clutched at their eyes and mouths and throats, falling on the floor, writhing and suffocating as vegetation fed on them and grew out of their flesh. 

Abigail and Brian were slow dancing in the center of the chaos when Abigail started shrieking and convulsing. The flawless skin on her perfect forehead expanded, cracked, and burst. The red tip of a massive earthworm pushed out of the crevice in her head. Her body went limp and swayed as the worm continued to crawl out of her head, peeling back skin and flesh and bone in its wake. 

Brian held tight to Abigail’s deflating body, smiling radiantly as if he was unaware of anything that was happening around him. The giant worm opened its enormous mouth, revealing rows of unnatural, jagged teeth. It hovered over Brian for a brief moment, and then slammed down on him, engulfing the top half of his body and sucking it in. The worm, Abigail’s empty husk, and Brian’s lower half all crashed to the floor with a wet thud. 

Cameron watched the worm eat Brian, its long body expanding as it ingested the groom. He blinked and noticed that he was standing, breathing heavy,  and that the vase was back in his hands. He took one last, longing look at Abigail and thought about how he wished he could have touched her in all her special places. Then the screams of the wedding guests registered in his ears again, and he ran. 

***

The bell on the front door of Peggy’s Flower Basket rang, announcing the arrival of another customer. Peggy looked up from the arrangement she was working on to see a young, teary eyed woman walking toward her. 

“Good morning, dear,” Peggy said. “What can I help you with?”

The woman sniffled. “My friend Cameron, he said you sell…” Her voice dropped. “…cursed objects.” 

Peggy smiled. “And just what kind of object are you looking for.”

“I need a vase,” the young woman said. “A vase that will hurt… someone.”

“And would you like some flowers too? Maybe some… special flowers?”

The woman nodded.

Peggy’s smile widened. She said, “Well, I think I might have just what you’re looking for. Come with me.” 

“Okay. Thank you,” the woman said, her words slipping out on an undercurrent of grief. And she followed Peggy and they walked to the back room where all the most special vases were kept. 

Logbook of Terror: Miss Unsinkable

Miss Unsinkable by Russell Holbrook

The old man staggered forward, pointing at the couple. “You’re doomed if you get on that boat!” He shouted. 

Morgan wrinkled her nose at the man’s stench and winced at his volume. 

Brady smirked and laughed. “A harbinger… classic!”

Morgan shot her boyfriend an amused look. Their mutual love of horror and the paranormal had bonded them from the beginning. 

The elderly vagrant swayed and waved a finger at the cruise ship. “It’s got a curse on it! The Lord showed me! He told me to warn ya! I had a vision!”

This time Morgan laughed and said, “I think it was the vodka that gave you a vision, not the Lord.”

Brady giggled. He reached out to Morgan to put an arm over her shoulder. The harbinger leaped at Brady, curling bony fingers tight around Brady’s shirt, pulling the young man close. 

“You fool!” The old man shouted in Brady’s face. “You’ll die if you get on that boat!” 

Brady held up his hands as if in surrender. He spoke in a soft, soothing tone. “Hey, hey, man, it’s alright, everything’s okay here. You don’t have to get upset.”

Standing by Brady, Morgan rested a caring hand on the wizened man’s arm. He turned to Morgan. She nodded and said, “You’re okay.” 

Tears welled in the corners of the ancient man’s eyes. His fingers uncoiled. His hands slid down the front of Brady’s shirt. He stepped back and began to sob. “It’s not alright. It never will be, not while she’s on board. Ya gotta know-”

Two police officers appeared at the old man’s side, each taking hold of an arm, abruptly ending his warning. 

“C’mon, Ralph, let’s go,” the officer to Ralph’s left said. They gently began to pull the old man away.

“I’m so sorry he bothered you, Miss. Ralph does this sometimes,” the officer on the right said to Morgan. 

Morgan shook her head. “No, no, it’s okay, he wasn’t-”

“She’s still on there!” Ralph howled. “She’ll kill ya all! She won’t stop! Ne’er!” 

A small crowd of passengers on their way to board the ocean liner had stopped to observe the commotion. They stared intently at the harbinger. With wild, bulging eyes he surveyed the gathered throng. “You’re all doomed! Doomed! Dooooomed!” 

The old man’s screams faded as the police officers led Ralph away and quietly slipped him into the back of their cruiser. The travelers whispered among themselves, scattering, moving onward toward the ship. Morgan turned to Brady. She smiled and said, “Incredible!” 

“I know!” Brady replied, his own smile beaming from his lips. 

“I do hope Ralph is okay, though,” Morgan said, her eyebrows scrunching.

Brady wrapped an arm around Morgan’s waist and kissed her softly on the forehead. “I’m sure he’s fine. Those officers were pretty nice. They’ll probably just take him home, or, somewhere to sleep it off.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you’re right,” Morgan said.

Arm in arm, the young couple fell in line and shuffled toward the boat with the other passengers.

“You know, he really seemed like a true believer,” Brady said. 

“Definitely,” Morgan agreed. She looked up at the boat. Looming just ahead in all her tattered glory was Miss Unsinkable, the last of the great cruise liners from the 1980s. Morgan whispered in awe, “There she is, the most tragic, haunted ship in America.” 

“Wow,” Brady said.

“Do you ever wonder why she’s still in use, you know, after all the murders and disappearances?”

Brady shrugged and said with a wry grin, “Probably because people like us keep buying tickets.” 

Morgan laughed softly. “So true, so true.” 

And as the glow of the morning sun began to give way to the summer afternoon’s harsh glare, the last of the passengers boarded Miss Unsinkable and the captain and crew prepared to set sail. 

***

Morgan clutched her stomach. “Oh no, I think something on that buffet didn’t agree with me. How do you feel?” 

“I’m good, actually,” Brady said with a characteristic shrug. 

Morgan groaned and bent low.

“Why don’t we go to the infirmary and get you something?” 

“I’ll go,” Morgan said, slowly rising off the bed, “you stay here and finish getting the equipment ready. We’re still exploring below deck tonight, no matter what.” 

“Eww, you mean where Violent Violet chopped up the teenage couple, Barry and Lisa, when she walked in on them gettin’ busy?” 

“Nothing says coitus interruptus like an ax to the groin,” Morgan chimed with a giggle that morphed into another moan of pain. 

“I’ll never, ever understand why anyone would kill their own daughter like that,” Brady said as he removed an EVP recorder and an EMF detector from a sturdy case. 

“It was the 80s, that’s why,” Morgan replied. She kissed Brady on the cheek and moved to the cabin door. “Be back in a jiff.” 

“Love you bunches,” Brady said without looking up from the equipment he was setting out on the bed. 

“Love you mega bunches,” Morgan said before she hobbled out the door and disappeared into the hall. 

***

The medical center was deserted. Morgan peeped around and called out. After a moment, an attractive woman with long, flowing brown hair, wearing pastel pink scrubs, appeared from the medical supply closet. She smiled warmly and greeted Morgan. After Morgan described her symptoms, the nurse went back into the closet and quickly returned with a small cardboard box. 

The nurse held the box out to Morgan. “Here,” she said, “this should take care of your troubles.”

Morgan reached out to take the box of tablets. A jolt like a knife twisting in her gut assaulted her with fierce and sudden agony. She cried out and doubled over. The nurse caught Morgan and led her to a nearby bed. 

“Something’s really wrong,” Morgan said through the pain. 

“There, there, you’re going to be fine,” the nurse said. “I’ll get you something a little bit stronger.”

The nurse reached down under the bed and pulled out a bright red emergency ax. She frowned. “Dirty girls like you need strong medicine. Those little pills weren’t gonna cut it.” 

Morgan’s eyes bulged and watered. Her lips trembled. The nurse raised the ax. 

Morgan screamed, “Wait! You’re – you’re- I didn’t know! I didn’t-”

The nurse buried the ax blade in Morgan’s gaping mouth. 

“Fan girls…” Nurse Violet said, blowing a stray lock of hair off her face. “When will they ever learn?” 

***

Just as Brady was beginning to wonder what might be taking Morgan so long at the infirmary and hoping that she would be bringing enough medicine for them both since his stomach had begun to hurt as well, a loud metallic banging echoed off their cabin door. He hurried to the door and flung it open. 

“Room service!” Nurse Violet said. 

Brady’s eyes narrowed and then ballooned with recognition. “No way!” He exclaimed. 

“Yes, way!”

Violet swung the ax, swift and steady, slamming the blade into Brady’s forehead where it sunk in deep and split his skull in half. His expression fell blank and he plummeted to the floor. 

“Well, at least he recognized me right away,” Nurse Violet quipped. She looked at Brady’s lifeless body, lying prone in the doorway. She heard music blaring from the main deck. Feet were shuffling. People were laughing. She guessed a conga line might have started. She sighed, shoved Brady’s body into the cabin, and shut the door.

Violet strolled past the row of closed cabin doors, making her way to the upper deck, smiling as she imagined the laughter of the passengers turning to screams of terror. Poisoning the ship’s food supply was already making her work go that much smoother; killing that first couple had almost been too easy. Still, she was grateful her boss had suggested it. He always did have the best ideas, and even after so many years, she never tired of their work together. She rounded a corner and came to the steps that led to the upper deck. She could already sense the growing of sickness and fear. It was intoxicating. 

How wonderful it is to be at sea, Violet thought, and she knew that there was no place in the world she would rather be. 

Logbook of Terror: Jessie, Don’t You Loose That Number

Russell Holbrook

Jess sat in his car, watching the windshield wipers in their futile battle against the torrential rain, irritation seeping through his pores. He hated this. He didn’t want to change his number. But Clara wouldn’t stop calling, so it seemed he had no other choice. He was baffled.

They’d broken up a week ago, why couldn’t she leave him alone? What did she want? As he thought of her as if in an act of clairvoyance, Jess’s phone rang. Clara’s name flashed across the screen. Jess cursed under his breath and swiped to decline the call. The stoplight flashed green. Jess crossed the intersection and turned into the Metro Phone parking lot.

The rain pounded on the roof as Jess entered the empty store. A lone clerk, young and disheveled, sat behind the counter scrolling on his phone. He looked up and smiled. 

“Hi, welcome to Metro Phone, how can I help you?” The clerk asked. 

“Uh, yeah, I need to, um, change my number,” Jess replied.

The clerk chuckled. “You coulda done that online. You didn’t have to come into the store.”

Jess frowned. These fucking kids. “You can do it online, you can do it online.” He jeered in his mind. 

“I still prefer to do things in person,” Jess said, and impulsively added, “and I, uh, I want to get a new phone too.” His expression tightened. Why did I say that? Jess wondered. I like the phone I have just fine.

“Ahh,” the clerk said, brightening, “new number, new phone, new you!” 

Eased by the clerk’s cheerful demeanor, Jess smiled and said, “Yeah, exactly.” 

“I think I have just the one.” The clerk walked to the end of the counter and removed a bright, silver phone from the glass display. He held the phone out to Jess. “It’s the new Nebula9000.” 

Light bounced off the phone’s shiny surface, startling Jess. He suppressed a gasp.

“Go on, check it out,” the clerk said.

Logbook of Terror: Dean Can’t Drive Sixty-Five

Russell Holbrook

Startled by the roar of an engine and the screeching of tires, Dean looked up and nearly spilled coffee down the front of his partially wrinkled button-up shirt. He sputtered and coughed as the hot liquid went down the wrong way. The car charged toward him until its driver slammed on the brakes and swerved to a stop mere feet in front of him. The car door flew open. The driver leaped out. Stomping toward Dean, she yelled, “You have to do something with this goddamn car!”

Bewildered, Dean said, “Excuse me, miss, I-”

“It’s the car!” The woman screamed, cutting Dean off in mid-sentence. “You have to get rid of the car!”

Dean examined the woman, observing the fear in her eyes, hearing the sincerity in her voice. He glanced at the car which sat idling before him. He knew it instantly. Holy shit, a Delgorian 130, just like in the movie! Dean held out a hand to the woman. “I’d love to help, if you could just-”

The woman cut him off again. “Just get rid of it! Put it somewhere no one can find it!” She pulled an envelope from her bra and slammed it into Dean’s chest. It was the first time he’d been touched by a woman since his divorce six months earlier. He flinched and spilled his coffee. His eyes watched the envelope fall to the pavement below.

Several potential customers and employees who were milling around the used car lot stopped to observe the commotion.

“You deal with cars,” the woman shouted, “You deal with this one!”

She took long, deliberate strides back to the car, reached inside, and snatched up her purse. Throwing the strap over her shoulder, she glared at Dean, let out a heavy sigh, and then said, “And for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t drive it. Don’t let anyone drive it. Please.” She stepped closer to Dean. “Do you understand me?”

Dean fixed her with a blank expression and squinted.

“Do you fucking understand me?!” She shouted.

Dean gasped and stepped back. He nodded. “Y-yes. I understand you.”

The woman stepped within inches of Dean. She lowered her voice. “No one drives this goddamn car, especially not you. Got it?”

A soft wind blew the woman’s scent of perfume and fresh shampoo up to Dean, stirring bleak memories and sorrow within. He nodded again and said flatly, “Yeah, I got it.”

The woman turned and hurried away, the short heels of her shoes clacking harshly against the pavement. Dean’s thoughts caught up with themselves and he realized how attractive he found her. He wondered if she was an actress or a model. He picked up the envelope and opened it. Inside were several folded papers. Dean glanced up, intending to call after the woman, just in time to see her ’round the corner out of the lot and head down the sidewalk. He looked at the car. It idled calmly. Dean suddenly felt like it was staring at him.

“Fuck me, man, a Delgorian 130!” An excited voice declared. “Where the hell did this come from? Don’t tell me someone was dumb enough to fuckin’ trade this in?”

“A woman just dropped it off,” Dean said to his co-worker.

“What?! You gotta be shittin’ me!” The co-worker boomed. Alec was loud, almost all the time.

Dean raised his eyebrows and shrugged. “Yep, she just left it, just like that.”

Alec looked around. “Well, where’d she go?”

“Fucking took off,” Dean said.

“What?!” Alec yelled.

Dean winced at Alec’s volume. He explained, “Yeah man, she roared in here –literally- scared Beelzebub outta me, told me to take the car and get rid of it, slammed this envelope on my chest, made me spill my coffee, and took off.”

“Dude,” Alec said, “She made you spill your coffee?”

Dean nodded. “Yes, that she did.”

The car’s engine revved and sputtered. The two used car salesmen started at the sound.

“A Delgorian 130,” Alec said, his tone nearing reverent awe. “On the shittiest car lot in the shittiest part of town. What the actual fuck, man.”

“I know, right,” Dean said.

The late afternoon sun sparkled off the spotless silver hood of the car. Dean saw his and Alec’s images reflected in the dark, tinted driver side window. Their reflections bent and warped. Their bodies curved in the middle. Their faces melted. Their mouths opened and stretched as if in a silent wail.

Dean jumped back. “Did you see that, man?”

“See what, dude?” Alec gave Dean a look of concern. “I didn’t see anything other than a badass car, man. What’d you see?”

“I…” Dean began. He stopped. “Nothing, man, I think it was the light or something.”

“Alright, man,” Alec said.

Dean cleared his throat and straightened his tie. “Um, let’s get this car moved off the lot before Hinland comes out here and starts giving us shit. We can explain it to him later.”

“Good deal,” Alec agreed.

With a foreboding feeling in his gut, Dean walked toward the car. The engine cooed in a low idle. Dean approached the door, which the woman had left wide open. Get in, a voice said in the back of his mind. Dean’s brow wrinkled. He stopped. The woman’s admonition rang loud in his memory: No one drives this goddamn car, especially not you. He quickly reached in, killed the engine, and tore the keys from the ignition. They dangled loud as he stuffed them in his pocket.

“Um, hey man,” Alec said.

“Yeah?”

“I thought you were gonna move the car.”

“The lady said not to drive it.”

Alec scoffed. “What?”

“Yeah, she said no one should drive it, especially not me.”

“Dude,” Alec said. “Why would she say some shit like that?”

Dean shrugged. “I dunno. She just did. And it gave me this weird feeling too, you know. Let’s just get Tony to move it with the wrecker.”

Alec shook his head and held out his hand. Dean sighed and turned over the keys. “Don’t be superstitious, dude,” Alec said.

Dean eyeballed Alec as he slipped into the car and brought it back to life. He revved the engine and lowered the window. “Hear that?” He shouted over the revving engine. “That’s power, dude!”

Alec stuck out his tongue and hooted. Dean chuckled and felt a bit of his apprehension slip away. Maybe that lady was just some whack job, he thought. Dean watched the car purr its way up the hill to the garage and he walked back to the showroom to get a new cup of coffee.

***

He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the car. When Dean found himself in the garage standing in front of it that evening, he wasn’t so surprised. Alec had hung the keys with all the other sets after he parked the car in the farthest stall of the garage, after which he’d seemed to forget about the car altogether. Inexplicably, none of the other employees seemed to notice that it was there. None but Dean, who now held the keys tight in his right hand.

The woman’s stern words from that morning rang loud in his memory. A feeling in his gut and a fear in his heart told him to heed her warning. There seemed to be something wrong about the car. But what could be wrong about such a beautiful, perfect creation? Was this even a machine? It just seemed so… alive.

Dean’s pulse quickened. His mouth watered. His thoughts raced. It’s just a car. It’s just a car. It’s just a –

A sudden rush of pain registered in Dean’s mind. He opened his hand. He’d squeezed so hard that the car keys had cut into his palm. Blood glistened on the silver metal of the keys. “Ow, fuck!” He said.

Broken from his trance. Dean hurried out of the garage.

***

Dean was late to work the next morning. He slouched into the break room and grabbed a mug from the pantry. Alec stood near the coffee maker finishing the last bite of a doughnut.

“Dude, you look like roasted shit,” Alec said as Dean poured his first cup of coffee.

“Wow, thanks, fucker,” Dean returned.

The two chuckled and sipped on their coffee.

Dean said, “Hey, did Hinland mention anything about the car?”

“Um, which one? We work on a car lot.”

“You know, the Delgorian 130,” Dean said.

Alec laughed. “Yeah right, as if one of those would ever be here!”

“What the fuck do you mean? You drove it into the garage yesterday. Remember, that wacko lady left it here?”

Alec looked puzzled. “Uh, what lady? You alright there, buddy?”

“Of course I’m alright, I’m fucking fine!”

“Hey, dude, no need to raise your voice.”

“I’m not!” Dean screamed.

Alec stepped back and took a deep breath. Exhaling slowly, he said, “Dude, I don’t know what the fuck this is all about, but I think you need to walk outside and cool off, and I think you need to do that right the fuck now.”

“I. Uh. Gree.” Dean said through clenched teeth. He took his coffee, left the breakroom and stomped out onto the lot. Two minutes later he was standing in front of the Delgorian 130, eyes wide in terror, wondering why the front of the car was covered in blood.

***

“Hey Dean, what’r ya lookin’ at?” Tony said.

Dean stuttered. “Th-th-the c-c-car. Th-the b-bl-blood.”

“The what?” Tony said, “There ain’t nothin’ there, bru. That stall’s been empty all week.”

Dean stopped breathing. His coffee mug fell from his hand. The mug exploded on the concrete floor. Tony stepped back.

“Hey, watch it, bru!” Tony exclaimed. “You just got frickin’ coffee all over my new work shoes!”

Dean faced Tony. The salesman’s mouth hung open. His skin was pale and clammy. Sweat was breaking on his brow.

Tony recoiled. “Jeez, bru, what the frick is wrong with you? You need to go to the doctor or sumthin.’”

Dean’s eyes jumped back and forth between Tony and the car, the car and Tony. His lips trembled. He babbled nonsense under his breath.

Tony reached out a hand. “Bru, lemme help you, c’mon.”

Dean yelped, turned, and ran out of the garage.

***

Reaching the showroom entrance, Dean slowed to a brisk walk. Trying to be inconspicuous, he slipped into the building and headed straight for his desk, where he collapsed into his chair and buried his face in his hands. He took deep breaths to slow his heartbeat, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Above the sound of his own breathing, he heard the showroom television. Someone had turned on the news. Dean tuned in to the droning voice of the reporter.

“It was here, in this off-ramp tunnel referred to locally as ‘bum alley’, that a classic sports car roared through the tent city at approximately two o’clock this morning, killing seven and wounding three others,” the newscaster said.

Dean raised his head toward the mammoth television. The screen cut to an eyewitness. A haggard woman dressed in varying shades of camouflage said, “It was a Delgorian 130, just like from the movie. I’d know that car anywhere! It came flying into the tunnel, musta been doin’ over a hundret, and ran everybody down and just kept on goin’. I didn’t see the driva, though, cause the windas was all kinda black. I was lucky I was over here and they didn’t see me and try to get me too.”

Another cut brought back the on-location reporter. “Lucky, indeed,” he said. “Police are asking that any sightings of the car in question -a silver 1985 Delgorian 130- be reported immediately. This is Leslie Keene reporting live for Action News. Back to you, Cindy.”

Dean puked in the plastic wastebasket by his desk. Tears streamed down his face. “What the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck oh god oh god what the fuck,” he whispered to himself.

With a trembling hand, Dean opened the top left desk drawer to retrieve the package of tissue he kept handy. Through blurred vision he saw the envelope the woman had left with him the day before. He opened the envelope and removed the car’s registration, bill of sale, and title. Dean frowned. His eyes watered anew. He let the registration and bill of sale fall back into the drawer. He held the title in his shaking hands.

“Oh God,” he sobbed.

On the title, on the line marked “New Registered Owner”, Dean saw his name, in his handwriting, written in what looked like dark red ink. He glanced to his right hand. A dark red spot bloomed on the white bandage that covered the gash in his palm. Dean dropped the title into the drawer and slid it closed. He remembered the keys in his pocket, and suddenly, he felt like going for a drive.

Logbook of Terror: Debbie’s Box

Russell Holbrook

A chilly wind brushed Debbie’s hair back from her shoulders and caused her eyes to water as she stared down at the box in her hands. Children and their parents milled around her, exploring the items strewn across the tables at the yard sale. Low thunder rolled across the gray sky and Debbie’s mother appeared at her side.

“Whatcha got there, kiddo?” Debbie’s mom asked.

Debbie successfully repressed the urge to roll her eyes at her mom’s use of the word “kiddo” and replied, “It’s some kind of weird box.”

Without asking, Debbie’s mom took the box from her teenage daughter’s hands. Thunder cracked again and the wind picked up. Her mother squinted at the box, a rectangular chest that looked like it could’ve been built by a high school shop class dropout. It was composed of ill-fitted, matte black planks of wood held together by tarnished silver corners, hinges, and clasps. Both the sides and top were adorned with symbols that leapt and curled in bright, sparkling purple. Painted in pink cursive, the proclamation “Debbie’s Box” was plopped down into the scrawl of symbols that covered the top of the lid.

“Huh, look at that,” Debbie’s mom said, pointing at the lid. “It already has your name on it.” She added sarcastically, “It was meant to be.”

This time Debbie let her eyes roll while her mother laughed at her own joke.

“You want it?” Debbie’s mom asked.

“Yeah, I can keep my tapes in it,” Debbie said.

Debbie’s mom chuckled. “It’s 2020 and cassette tapes are making a comeback. I didn’t see that one coming.”

Debbie frowned. “It’s an underground movement, mother.”

Debbie’s mom smiled and handed the box back to her daughter. “I’m sure it is.”

Another clash of thunder reverberated overhead. Debbie’s mom looked up. “That one was closer. We better settle up and get back home before the rain hits.”

Twenty minutes later Debbie was sitting on her bed, staring at the box, wondering what -if anything- might be inside, and who the other Debbie was; what was she like, and what did she do? Where was she from and where did she go? The woman running the yard sale hadn’t had had any answers to the questions that Debbie asked her. She’d claimed she didn’t even know where the box had come from and assumed that one of the other three yard sale participants must have brought it. There wasn’t even a price tag on it so the lady had just accepted Debbie’s mother’s offer of five dollars.

Debbie reached out and flipped the dull silver clasps. She lifted the lid and leaned over to peer inside. A putrid stench wafted up out of the box. Debbie coughed and recoiled, covering her mouth and nose. With eyes watering from the odor, she slowly moved closer and looked into the box.

There were teeth. They covered the bottom of the burgundy velvet-lined box. They looked human. Debbie’s brow crinkled. She looked closer. Mixed in with the teeth were locks of hair, all blond and all held together with pink bows. Debbie counted the clumps of hair. There were thirteen. Beneath one of the locks of hair was a folded square of notebook paper. Debbie brushed the hair aside and picked the paper up. She unfolded the square and read.

Dear Debbie,

             If you are reading this note, you have found the box and been led to open it. That also means you have been chosen and you are now the new Debbie. The burden and chore which were mine are now yours, may you carry them well until the time comes for you to pass them to another.

             Sincerely,

             All my love,

             Debbie

            

“What in the…?” Debbie gazed at the box and its contents, confounded and bewildered.

Footsteps echoed in the foyer. Debbie’s mom called her name from the bottom of the stairs.

“Yeah, mom?” Debbie answered.

“Soup’s ready!” Her mother yelled.

“Okay, I’ll be right down!” Debbie replied, even though she thought it might be difficult to eat with so many questions brewing in her mind.

******

The soup was terrible, as Debbie’s mom’s homemade soup always was, but Debbie choked it down and felt grateful to have a mother who would cook her something warm to eat. An hour later she was hungry again. She found her mom in the den watching TV and told her she was heading out to the supermarket to get her favorite, frozen cheese pizza. Her mom told Debbie that she was nuts to go out in the storm but handed over the keys anyway, gave her a kiss, and sent her on her way.

The supermarket was empty. The standard pop fare flittered out of dull, hidden speakers. Debbie stood in front of the frozen pizza selection, wondering if she would try a new brand or just go with the usual. She heard a voice next to her. A man. He said, “Can’t make up your mind?”

Debbie turned and their eyes met. He’s cute, Debbie thought, looking into his blue orbs, taking note of his clean, blond hair.  She smiled.

Holy fuck I can’t wait to get this one back home and take my hacksaw to her filthy baby maker, the man thought.

Debbie gasped. Her face hardened. “Excuse me?” She said.

The man grinned and held up his hands. “Woah there, I was just saying it looks like you can’t make up your mind on which pizza to get.” You dirty goddamn slut.

The man’s thoughts and intentions invaded Debbie’s mind, heart, and soul, cutting her, bleeding her spirit. She felt tears well in her eyes. She remembered the note. The burden and chore which were mine are now yours.

Debbie cleared her throat. She chuckled nervously. “Oh, yeah, just trying to decide if I should try a new brand or stick with the old reliable.”

The man grinned again. Suddenly, Debbie saw the smile through the eyes of another woman, and another, and another, and still yet another and another. Blood dribbled from the thin lips, trailing down the chiseled, handsome chin. The smile widened and revealed sickeningly white teeth. Debbie saw what the teeth had done. She blinked. The visions faded.

“I think it’s healthy to try new things,” the man said, still smiling.

Debbie’s mind focused. A bright, new power bloomed inside her. She felt a smile of her own growing across her lips. She opened the freezer door and grabbed the first cheese pizza she saw. It was a brand she’d never heard of before.

“You know,” she said. “I think you’re right.” She dropped the pizza into her basket. “How do you feel about frozen cheese pizza?”

The man seemed to smile even wider. “I think I love it.”

“Good, because I don’t like to eat alone,” Debbie said, simultaneously marveling at the words coming out of her mouth and the confidence with which they were being spoken.

“We can go to my place, it’s just around the bend,” the man said.

“Wonderful,” Debbie replied. “I just need to swing by the hardware section and pick up one last thing.”

“Oh, what’s that?” The man scoffed.

“A hammer,” Debbie said.

“What for?”

Debbie let her own smile widen and fill with mischievous glee. “I’ve got some work to do.”

The man shrugged and followed Debbie out of the frozen foods aisle.

Logbook of Terror: Ranger Danger

Russell Holbrook

The park ranger crouched in the bushes. Moaning voices echoed from a nearby tent. Black clouds collected overhead and the thick aroma of a gathering storm filled the night air. The ranger smiled. Roy had been doing this for years but it never got old. He looked up. A flash of lightning lit up the sky. Roy felt the familiar, electric buzzing in his bones. With stealth that was practiced and perfected, he crept up beside the tent. The mercury fillings in his teeth hummed. Roy stood up straight, right next to the tent. A woman in the tent announced that she was coming. A man testified in agreement. Their voices rose in tandem. They called out to God. Thunder roared. And a furious bolt of pure, white lightning hammered the tent. 

The lightning bolt pierced the tent’s ceiling. Burning heat struck the lovers. Electric waves fried their insides while their screams echoed in Roy’s ears. Flames danced inside the tent, growing and spreading over the thin fabric to create a funeral pyre. The bodies of the man and woman bounced in the fire. Their screams echoed through the mountains. Roy drew his gun. He waited. 

The woman sprung out of the fire, her skinned blackened and her hair ablaze. Roy shot her in the forehead. She stumbled into the brush and collapsed. The man followed. His arms flailed. He shouted and ran toward Roy. The ranger shot the man in the stomach. The young lover collapsed and Roy shot him two more times in the back of the head. Roy looked down at the young man’s charred skin. It glistened in the moonlight. “Barbeque for the bears,” he sneered.  

After watching the burning tent dwindle down to a smoldering pile, Roy stomped out the embers and strolled into the woods. 

***

“Yo, this weed is the bomb,” Mickey said. He coughed out a monster cloud of smoke and passed the joint to his left. Jane handled the fat spliff in her nimble fingers. She took a long drag and broke out in a coughing fit. Mickey giggled and took back the joint. “Damn, you’re gonna be so fried.”

Jane snickered. “I’m toasty.”

The two teens laughed and swung their legs from the tailgate of Jane’s truck. Leaves rustled and twigs snapped in the darkness behind them. 

“What the eff was that?” Mickey said, looking around. 

“What the eff was what?” 

“What?”

“That’s what I just asked you.” 

“Oh,” Mickey said.

“Oooohhhh!” Jane exclaimed.

Guffaws pealed from Mickey and Jane, covering up the rustle and crunch of approaching footsteps. 

Thunder cracked and shook the forest around them. Lightning burst through the sky, lighting up the dark, revealing Ranger Roy standing in front of them, his beady black eyes peering out from behind his thick glasses. His singed ranger hat sat snug on his head. A crooked smile crossed his face. 

Mickey and Jane started with a screech. Pure reaction caused Mickey to toss the half-smoked joint onto the ground. The ranger stepped closer.  

“Hey, kids, great night for a smoke, ain’t it?” Ranger Roy bent down and picked up the smoldering doobie. Smirking, he put the smoke to his lips and inhaled deep once, twice, three times. He held in the smoke and then let out a great plume into the air. The wind blew and carried the white cloud away. Another peal of thunder rattled the pines. “Ah, that’s a fine flavor there.”

Ranger Roy handed the joint back to Mickey and retrieved a cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket. “Helluva storm brewing,” he said. “You kids might wanna find shelter or head on home.”

Jane stared at the forest ranger through the thin slits that her eyes had become. “Old dude?” She said.

“Yes, young lady.”

She pointed at the black mark that covered the top of Roy’s hat. “What happened to your hat?”

“Oh, that’s just where I got popped with a bit of lightning,” Roy answered.

“Shit, man, I’ve heard of you!” Mickey piped in. “You’re that ranger.”

Roy grinned.

“What, is he like… famous?” Jane asked as Mickey passed her the joint.

“This old dude has been struck by lightning seven times!” 

“No shit?” Jane said.

“Seven times!” Mickey repeated. “He’s like, a fucking legend. You’re a legit legend, aren’t you, old dude?” 

The ranger cleared his throat and spit. “My name’s Roy, young man.” He straightened his hat and pulled his shoulders back. 

Jane elbowed Mickey. A deep, intoxicated smile came over her face. “Seven times… Seven times!” She fell into Mickey, laughing uncontrollably. 

Mickey sputtered and his sputters became wide, echoing booms. He and Jane clutched each other, wrapped in hysterics, oblivious to the lightning crisscrossing the sky overhead. 

“Seven times!” Mickey shouted, doubling over and nearly falling off the truck’s tailgate. “How does that even happen?”

Ranger Roy felt indignant. “Just an occupational hazard, that’s all.”

“Maybe you should get a new job, idiot!” Mickey howled.  

As the teens made fun of Roy, he felt the same, reliable buzzing in his back teeth. A pulse of electricity tickled his veins. The rolling chortles from the stoned teenagers punched him in the heart. He screamed, “Shut up!” 

 A monster bolt of lightning shot down from the clouds, forking just above Mickey and Jane, striking each of them in the face. Like melons under a jackhammer, their heads exploded. Blood and flesh and gore showered ranger Roy. Spewing blood from their necks, the teens’ headless corpses swayed and fell off the tailgate. 

“That’s what I’m talking about!” Roy shouted at the sky. He cackled triumphantly and skittered off into the trees. 

***

“Really, seven times?” The man asked.

Ranger Roy nodded from across the campfire that burned in the center of the small clearing. The man on the other side appraised the ranger.

“How’d you get all that blood on you?”

“Exploded teenagers.”

“Yeah, that happens.”

The man wore a careless, disheveled appearance. Roy figured him for either a weekend camper or someone on the run from the law, or, maybe even one of those hippie vagrant types. Ugh, hippies. The man took a long swig off the whiskey bottle and passed it to Roy, who allowed himself a generous gulp. He winced as the liquor burned its way down. Thunder struck above them, close. 

Ranger Roy glanced up. “Storms almost here.” 

The camper joined Roy in gazing up into the night sky. “Yep,” he added. 

Roy handed the bottle back to its owner. The man gripped the bottle and turned it up before setting it down at his side. He coughed and cleared his throat.

“So,” the camper began, “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you still out on the job if you’ve been struck by lightning so many times? I mean, considering the probability, seven times is a high number.”

“I’m just doin’ the lord’s work,” Roy sighed. “Someone’s got to, you know.”

The camper snorted. “The lord, yeah right.” He spit into the fire. “I always wondered about you rangers. Are you protecting nature from us, or us from nature?” 

Roy grimaced. “Nature don’t need my protectin’, I’m just doin’ what’s asked of me, that’s all.” 

“What did nature… ask of you?” The camper said. His eyes glazed over as the whiskey took hold and slowed the man’s words. 

Roy looked at the man with hard, serious eyes. “Just to help maintain the balance. That’s what I do. I help.” Roy pulled out a cigarette and lit up.   

“Sure you do, old-timer, sure you do.” The camper eyeballed Roy’s cigarette. “You got another one of those?”

Roy reached into his front shirt pocket. The camper leaned forward and reached out his hand. A crack of low thunder bounced through the trees. A jagged streak of lightning shredded the darkness. The white-hot bolt stabbed the camper’s outstretched hand. A second flash lit up the pines and a ribbon of light nailed the man in the back. He cried out in agony. Electrical currents filled his body. Foam poured from his mouth.  

A third firebolt struck the camper on top of his head. Bright bolts of electricity bounced over the man’s convulsing body. He surged forward and fell face-first into the campfire. Ranger Roy stood up slowly. The camper’s body spasmed and became still. Roy threw his cigarette down on the man’s burning corpse. He removed a piece of paper from his pocket and unfolded it. He grimaced.

“I thought I recognized you,” Roy said, looking from the paper in his hand to the man in the fire. 

In stark black and white, the leering face of the camper stared up at Roy from the flyer. Above the photo, bold letters announced that the man was wanted for the murder of a family of four. Roy tossed the flyer into the flames and watched it change form. He reached into his pants pocket and retrieved a short newspaper article. The headline read: After Killing Five Year Old Child in Hit and Run, Marijuana Using Teens are Released on Technicality. Roy thought of the teens’ exploding heads. He grinned and dropped the column of paper into the fire. For a third time, Roy reached into his pocket. Another article. A malicious husband and wife burned down a nursing home and eluded police. “They didn’t elude me,” Roy muttered. He tossed the paper into the fire. 

Roy lit another cigarette and listened to the quiet of the forest, of his home. He smiled and looked up into the dark sky. “Nice workin’ with you tonight.” 

A bright star peeked out from behind the cloud cover. It glimmered in the dark and seemed to wink at Roy. The tired old ranger laughed to himself and shuffled into the darkness, satisfied with a job well done. Once he was deep under the canopy of trees, the first drops of rain began to fall. 

Logbook of Terror : Just a Scratch!

Just a Scratch

By Russell Holbrook

Devon’s appearance was plain and unremarkable, and that’s the way he wanted it to be. He believed that blending in helped him move through life without being noticed too much, which made things easier for him. But Devon’s appearance wasn’t what the strangers he met on dark streets were thinking about. They were usually wondering why he was plunging a meat cleaver into the side of their neck. Well, sometimes it was a hacksaw or a plain, old-fashioned butcher knife. That last one was an undeniable classic, and besides, Devon wasn’t too picky about his instruments. He liked having variety in his work. He was saving up to buy a chainsaw.

It was on a Thursday evening that Devon ran into his arch-rival, Mach Tudor, at the local Slurp Fountain and Elixir Emporium. Devon fixed his enemy with a harsh glare. “I thought I told you to stay out of here, Mach.”

Mach returned Devon’s glare with a grin. “I can go where I want.”

“That’s not a reasonable explanation.”

Mach stared at Devon and sucked bright blue Slurp through an orange straw. 

Devon stepped closer. He clenched his fists and whispered, “Get out. This is my spot. It’s where I go to think and right now you’re interrupting my thinking.” 

“I like it here,” Mach replied. 

“If you don’t leave now, I’m going to make you,” Devon said, fire burning behind his eyes. 

Mach leaned his lanky frame against the counter and took another casual pull off his Slurp. “Yeah, I’m sure,” he said. 

Devon fumed. “You arrogant prick! You know how much I need a Slurp after I…” he looked around and lowered his voice. “After, you know… I’ve been out… working.”

“Uh-hu,” Mach said. He took another drink. “I needed one too. I just did my sixth one of the night.”

Devon’s nostrils flared. “Six!? In one night?! That’s impossible!” 

“Not when you’re as good as I am. Everyone knows I’m the best in town.” Mach’s voice lowered. “Maybe even the greatest of all time.” 

Devon frowned. He looked Mach over, taking in the tall, trim man’s swagger and appearance. He’s so cocky, so self-assured, Devon thought. But I have to admit, he really is well put together. Then, something caught Devon’s eye: a bloody rip across Mach’s tight, ironed, otherwise spotless gray slacks. Devon could see through the tear, which was near the top of his right thigh, about three inches across. He pointed at the wound. “What’s that?”  

 Mach looked down, following Devon’s finger. “Oh, that?” Mach said. “That’s just a scratch.”

Devon grinned wide. “They fought back?”

Mach nodded. “Hard.”

“I like it when they fight,” Devon said. 

Mach shrugged indifferently. Devon felt outraged by Mach’s flippant attitude toward the work that he himself had dedicated his life to. He shook his head and plowed into Mach’s personal space. His broad, muscular shoulders edged Mach out of the way. “You take no pride in your craft. You have no respect. You don’t care about anything. Get the hell out of my way.” Devon grabbed an extra-large cup. 

“They’re out of grape,” Mach said lackadaisically.

“Dammit!” Devon cursed. He threw the cup on the floor and watched it bounce away. “I was having such a great night before I saw you!” 

Devon stomped away from the purring Slurp machine and picked up the cup. He slammed it into the trash can. “Six? Really?”

“I have their heads in my trunk if you don’t believe me,” Mach said.

“I thought you drove a hatch back.”

Mach slurped the last of his drink, dragging his straw over the bottom of the plastic cup. He swiped the back of his hand across his mouth, sat the empty cup on the counter for the clerk to clean up, and walked past Devon toward the door. Devon followed. 

Out in the murky night, in the empty rear parking lot, Mach popped the trunk. There, spread out on black plastic trash bag, sat six severed heads. Devon leaned in and inspected them under the trunk’s dim light. Dammit, they’re fresh

“Told ya,” Mach said. His upper lip curled like he was about to do a Billy Idol impersonation. 

For a moment Devon was speechless. He had no idea of what to say. Then, a new perspective, sudden yet welcome, came upon him. He turned to Mach. “You really think you’re hot potatoes, don’t you?”

“The hottest.”

“You’re an idiot,” Devon spat, “an arrogant, reckless, idiot. You think you’re invincible, but you’ll get caught and that’ll bring the heat down on the rest of us, and then everyone’s work will be in danger.”

“Shut up! I’m never gonna get caught!”  

Devon sighed. “We’ll see.” 

“I’m too good to get caught,” Mach asserted. 

Devon walked away to begin the long trek back to his basement apartment. He hung his head and mumbled to himself, “We’ll see.”

Mach considered yelling a sarcastic remark or an insult at Devon’s back, but then felt that it wouldn’t be worth the effort. He reached down and plucked one of the heads out of the trunk. It had belonged to a student who was taking night classes at the community college. Her name was Sandy. She had been pre-law. Sandy’s mouth was locked in the scream position. Her canines protruded out beyond her thin, bloodless lips. Mach held the head up to eye level. “Hey there, little fighter,” he said, just before he shut the trunk and hopped behind the wheel with Sandy’s head cradled in his arm. The night clerk of the Slurp Fountain and Elixir Emporium found Mach’s empty cup and cursed the lazy customer’s insolence just as Mach squealed out of the parking lot. 

Cool night air rushed in through open windows. Sandy’s head rested in Mach’s lap. His favorite band, The Power Trippers, came on the radio and he turned it up. As the chorus kicked in, Mach felt something cold and slimy sliding across the wound on his upper thigh. Ugh, what the… His eyes left the road and shot down to his lap, where Sandy’s head was tonguing the gash in his leg. He screamed. The car swerved. Reflexively, Mach’s leg bounced. Sandy’s head sunk her canines deep into Mach’s flesh. His scream turned to a wail. He slammed the break and slid the car off the road. He lept from the car with Sandy’s teeth still buried in his leg. Running into the woods, with a howl Mach tore Sandy’s teeth from his leg and threw her head into the trees. Pain radiated through his leg and lower body. 

“I give you the honor of being a part of my work and this is how you repay me!?” Mach shouted into the woods at the severed head which he could no longer see. “You can just stay out there all alone forever!” 

Grumbling to himself, Mach got back into his car and drove home. When he reached his house, he carefully placed the other five heads in the freezer and went to sleep. 

Five Days Later

The headline surprised Devon so much he had to read it twice. House of Horrors Discovered on East Side. Devon’s eyes jumped down to the front page article. Gripping the paper between shaking hands, he read:

When local, award-winning jewel thief Kristen Calle’ entered 618 Maple Street on a routine heist this past Friday night, she found something most people hope to never see during the course of their lives. It was a sight so grisly, so macabre, Ms. Calle’ ran from the residence and didn’t stop running until she burst through the front doors of police headquarters in tears. Officers and CSI units were immediately dispatched to the scene and, following a routine survey, investigations began in earnest. Over the next five days human remains in varying stages of decomposition were discovered throughout the home, which CSI veteran Pauline McCabe called, “A museum of grotesque depravities.” She went on to say, “In all my thirty-seven years on the force, never have I witnessed such a vile display of human carnage.” 

Devon was spellbound. He read on. 

To date, the remains of three-hundred and sixteen victims have been discovered, having been found buried in the backyard and cellar, boxed up in the attic, hidden between walls and beneath floors, and stored in the refrigerator. The kitchen pantry was full of dried and cured skin, and a bedroom had been converted to a walk-in freezer which was dedicated entirely to the preservation of severed heads.  

“Nice touch,” Devon said to himself. He turned the page and straightened the paper. 

Investigators have linked the crimes to the home’s owner, local tennis shoe model MachTudor. Mr.Tudor was found unresponsive in the master bedroom, the apparent victim of an infected leg wound. As the number of remains discovered continues to grow, investigators suspect that Mach Tudor will go down as one of the most prolific serial killers of all-time, if not the most prolific, ever. Lead investigator Saul Grey stated, “All he needs is a spooky nickname and he’s ready for the true-crime history books. This guy was a true sicko; clearly, he really loved his work.”

Devon’s face turned red. Trembling, he ripped the paper in half and threw the pieces to the floor. He fell out of his easy chair and rolled across the floor, beating his fists against the hardwood floor and screaming, “Dammit!” over and over and over again. Disturbed by the violent outburst and annoyed by the noise, his upstairs neighbors called the police. Half an hour later, two officers knocked on Devon’s door. 

Logbook of Terror: Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House

More than any other human invention, I find firearms to be the most tragic, heinous, and unnecessary. Yet I found myself walking the halls of a mansion built with the blood money earned from the sale of untold thousands, perhaps millions, of the life-taking invention known as the Winchester rifle. A yawn escaped my mouth as the tour guide expounded upon the lavish architecture which surrounded the small group of which I was a part. Terminally bored and feeling that I could fare better on my own, I walked away to explore. 

First a left turn, then a right, then another left, another left, and a quick jaunt down a hallway full of windows that looked into more interior spaces. Alone with my thoughts, I indulged my personal scorn for automated weapons of all ilk while I followed one twisting and winding passageway after another until I had absolutely no clue as to where I was. I told myself not to worry, turned around, and went back the way I’d come, all the while listening intently for the voice of the tour guide, or the voices of the tour group to hopefully guide me along. Every turn led to another turn which led to another turn. Then, I saw a door ahead which looked familiar. Feeling heartened, I hastened to it and swung it open. Behind the door stood another door. I opened the second door to find yet a third, which opened onto a brick wall. Confounded, I closed the doors and made another attempt to find my way back to my starting point. A nervous fear set in, a sinking dread that I would be lost in this house and become stranded alone once business had ceased for the day. But, then I heard them: low murmurs, voices from somewhere nearby. My fear lessened. With stealth, I followed the sound in hopes to be led to the tour group. 

As I approached a closed door, I could clearly tell that the voices were just on the other side. Believing my troubles to be over, I opened the door and crossed the threshold into a dimly lit room. Two women sat at a round table in the center of the room, an oil lamp burning between them. Upon my entrance, one of the women –an elderly lady in solid black clothing, with a shock of unkempt white hair and wrinkled skin- looked up in my direction. The lamp light illuminated the woman’s eyes, of which only the whites were visible. She shook in her chair, announcing that the spirits were among them. The other woman demanded to know what the spirits wanted. I calmly told the elderly one that I was most certainly alive, not a phantasm as she claimed. She told the other woman that I wanted revenge for the deaths of my people. I protested and denied any desire whatsoever for vengeance of any sort, telling the woman that I was simply lost and looking for my tour group. The old hag explained to her companion that I was doomed to wander the halls of the mansion for all of eternity and that she must construct more halls for me to walk. Then it struck me –I must have happened upon a dramatic scene intended for the tour! I smiled to myself as I went to the room’s door, which seemed to have closed on its own, probably due to a wind or an old, uneven floor. I grasped the doorknob and turned. It was stuck. I jiggled the handle and pulled at the door. It did not budge. I glanced back at the two women. They sat closer to one another, staring at me, their hands intertwined. I slammed my hand on the door and yelled to be let out of the room. The women jumped in their seats. The elder shouted at me to leave at once. I told her I was trying but the door was stuck. Again she commanded me to begone. Frightened and frustrated, I returned her shouts with screams of my own. The women shrieked and huddled together. I cursed aloud and desperately twisted the doorknob in the opposite direction. The door latch clicked and the door swung open with a great gust of wind. The two ladies howled in fright. Just before I walked out, I looked back at the table to see it deserted and the room cloaked in gloom. I shuddered and tripped over my own feet as I hurried down the hall.

For what felt like ages I wandered twisting and turning corridors and passages. Daylight was fading. My heart raced. There had to be a way out of this dreadful house! I turned down yet another unfamiliar passageway and noted the scent of sawdust lingering in the air. The faint sound of a hammer on nails floated to me. I followed the sound to another door. I flung the door open. Entering an unfinished room, the ambient noise of heavy construction assaulted me. I held my ears and fell back out into the hallway. A gunshot rang out, its sharp report shattering my nerves. Another shot exploded at my back and echoed down the hall. I pitched forward and ran. A thousand invisible hammers beat on the wooden walls, the sound enveloping me, ripping at my eardrums and sending waves of pain through me. Hammers and guns escalated in their violence and intensity, creating a mad symphony that threatened to crush my skull. Peals of laughter joined the cacophony. I fell to my knees, screaming for the noise to cease. Blood began to flow from my ears. Please, please stop! I begged. The reverberations only increased and were joined by the sounds of sawing, sanding, and scraping. I struggled to my feet and stumbled down the corridor. A man’s coughing, the sound of someone taken violently ill, came from a room to my right. I looked and saw a middle-aged man, prostrate in a large bed, coughing up what appeared to be pint upon pint of dark, heavy blood. A doctor and a nurse attended the man while the younger woman from the previous room sat by the bed and wept. My skin crawled. I lurched down the hall and fell down a flight of stairs. 

My screams bounced off the stairwell walls. When I stopped tumbling, I opened my eyes. The tour group was gathered around me, eyeing me with curious stares. The tour guide knelt at my side and informed me that I must have fainted from the heat. After being helped to my feet I saw that I was still in the same room in which the tour had begun. It appeared that I had never left the group after all. The tour guide explained to the group that only the very weakest and worst guests fainted. A woman to my left suggested that they ought to simply shoot me so as to make for certain that I wouldn’t ruin any more of the tour. A hearty round of agreement sounded among them, and they all drew their rifles on me. The tour guide instructed the group to fire on her command. I pleaded to be spared. They laughed. The tour guide yelled, Fire! An explosion of gunfire filled the air. My body came apart in a hail of bullets. Blood showered the smiling faces of the tour group. My limbs fell from my body, severed by the storm of ammunition. I felt bullets enter my brain and erase all of my memories and thoughts, the last of which was, why didn’t I call my mother and tell her I loved her when I still had the chance.

I woke up screaming, still in the rocking chair on the Winchester Mansion’s front porch where I had decided to sit down and wait until the tour began. The guide walked out onto the porch and announced that the tour would begin momentarily. I lept from the chair and ran for my life, never considering looking back at that accursed abode. 

Logbook of Terror: Myrtles Plantation

Myrtles Plantation

Even in the deepest, darkest hours of the night, the summer air of Louisiana is thick and oppressive. It bears down on me with a hot, wet weight that makes me want to sink into the ground and go to sleep. But I am not here to sleep. I stare at the massive Myrtles Plantation house that looms before me, an imposing giant cloaked in bleak black and mystery. A nervous fear trickles down my spine. I’m not supposed to be here, roaming the grounds at night, but I knew that to get the real story, I couldn’t simply tramp through the house in the daylight hours. Despite the rumors, despite what I had read online regarding sightings of spirits and apparitions during the day, the only time for me to visit this cursed abode was while the rest of the world slept.  

I let out a deep, steadying breath. Not a single light burned within the house or on the grounds, allowing me to approach in stealth. As I neared the steps leading up to the sprawling wrap-around porch, planning to seek entry through one of the windows on the lower level, a voice, its tone wrapped in the sludge of alcohol, beckoned to me. I turned. A lone man leered at me, pointing a pistol at my chest. I froze. No longer calling out to me, his pale lips emitted ghostly whispers that I strained to hear. His gaunt framed staggered toward me. The pistol held higher, he steadied his aim. I held up my hands and pleaded with the man to leave me be. His only response was to whisper to himself while his eyes bore into me with their insane glare. I screamed for him to halt. The pistol fired. Then I was looking up into the Spanish moss that swayed gently in the tree limbs above me, my hands clutched against my breast, my blood flowing out between my fingers. My ears rang from the pistol’s explosive shot, and within the ringing, I heard the mad laughter of the gunman. I struggled to my feet and stumbled up the stairs and onto the wooden landing. The insane cackling followed. 

I flung myself at the front door, grasped the handle, and turned. Miraculously, the front door flung open. I fell into the parlor and staggered to the steps which led to the home’s second floor. A young woman in an antebellum dress hurried through a doorway. She addressed me kindly and helped me to my feet. My only thought -obsessive, irrational, playing in a wretched loop- was to reach the seventeenth step. I had to climb the stairs, I told the girl. She grasped under my arm and steadied me. I looked into her face. Oh, how horrid was the sight! So pale, so ghastly, was her rotting skin! So foul her aura! So putrid her aroma! She had endless black holes for eyes, maggots and worms fell from her gaping mouth, and brown swamp water trickled from her ears. She shoved me onto the stairs. Horrid screeches creaked from her mouth, creeping out past the maggots and worms that squirmed and crawled on her mouth and chin. 

Seventeen, seventeen, seventeen… the number boomed and echoed in my skull, my final destination nearing as I counted each successive step, crawling with one hand while the other was held tight against my bleeding chest. My breaths were short and full of agony, my vision blurry, and the iron rich smell of my own blood filling the air. Only one more… 

When my hand hit the seventeenth step, an unseen force pulled me into the stair and I plunged into complete and total darkness. Wind rushed through my hair in a deafening roar as I fell and fell and fell, until…

I felt soft ground beneath me. Moonlight floated over my body. I ran a hand over my chest. My shirt was dry. I sat up. I was behind the great house. Glancing over myself, I saw that I had no injuries to speak of. My pounding heart slowed. As I sighed with relief and moved to get to my feet, hands thrust up through the ground, grabbing my wrists, tearing into my ankles. I screamed in terror. More hands shot out of the earth and ripped at my clothes and skin. I writhed in horror, fighting off the fiendish limbs. At last, I tore away, rolled, and sprung to my feet. I turned to run and an arrow pierced my side. I fell to my knees, howling. Blood gushed from the wound. I clutched the arrow to pull it from my flesh. I began to pull and another, deeper, older voice called out to me. 

A band of Native Americans stood before me. It was the chief who addressed me, demanding to know why I had chosen to dishonor his people by building my home on their sacred burial grounds. I pleaded with him, fumbling my words in hopes of explaining that it was not I who had built the house and that I was but an innocent traveler. The natives responded by brandishing their hatchets. The chief pointed at me and, with a dire expression on his face, uttered an admonishment in a tongue unknown to me. With grim faces, the tribesmen set upon me. I closed my eyes, cried for my life, and waited for the blows to begin. 

A soft hand touched my shoulder and I heard myself stop screaming. I opened my eyes to a sunny day and a group of tourists circled around me. A young man, his hand still resting on my shoulder, asked me if I was alright. Indeed I was not, I replied. 

I stood and ran from the plantation grounds. I must have run untethered until I reached the nearby town, though I cannot clearly recall, for the horrors of what I’d seen the night prior still plagued my mind and heart, as they surely will for days and weeks to come. Indeed, this cursed plantation is a home which I shall never visit again.

Logbook of Terror: Jump! (the dog suicide bridge)

Overtoun Bridge, Scotland

The voices screamed in my head. Insistent, unrelenting, the words pounded against my skull with their morbid demand: “Jump, Jump… JUMP!”

I hovered between the final two ramparts on the right side of the bridge. In crossing the structure, I’d neared the end of the bridge, I was almost to safety, but the voices stilled my movement. A malignant force beckoned me to the edge of sanity until I stood trembling, preparing to throw myself onto the rocks below. How did I get here? I was just out for an evening stroll. I must remember…

Ah, yes. Following dinner, I’d gone out for my customary evening constitution. I wandered aimlessly through the Scottish countryside, absorbed in the beauty that surrounded me, making mental notes so not to lose my way back to the inn where I was staying. After some leisure minutes had passed, I felt a presence behind me. Turning, I saw a large dog of an unknown breed, dirty and soaking wet, some paces behind me. Thinking strays were probably common here in the country, and not feeling threatened, I continued on. A short time later I again sensed that someone or something was following me. I glanced back and there again was the same large mongrel, only this time, the canine was joined by another dog of large size, yellow eyes, and filthy black, wet, mud-caked fur. The crisp air rushed over me, chilling my bones. Something about those dogs wasn’t right, something… I stopped, not giving my imagination another inch, and merrily pressed on with my country walk.

Evening settled into dusk, and a large moon loomed on the horizon. Fog drifted over the lane. I whistled and took in a deep breath of the fresh air. While relishing the chilly air, I wondered about the dogs I’d seen. Could they still be behind me? I listened intently and only heard the sounds of my own footsteps and the breeze caressing leaves of nearby trees. No padding paws, no panting –nothing but the quiet of the countryside and the day seeping into night. Considering my fears, I laughed under my breath. Dogs don’t follow people around on their evening jaunts. The thought is preposterous!

I told myself not to turn, not to look, then promptly stopped and spun around. Before me stood a pack of at least a dozen dogs of medium to large size, all of them sopping wet, covered in mud and filth, their eyes hollow yet fixed intently on me. I gulped. I stepped back. They stepped forward. The largest dog of them all, the first I’d seen, stepped out in front of the pack, barked, and showed his teeth. My blood froze. The alpha dog leapt forward, the pack followed closely behind, and I hurled myself along the path.

Trees rushed past me while the moon lit my steps and I rushed into an unavoidable wall of fog. Gray and white covered my vision. My feet and heart pounded in unison. I smelled water and the cooing of a flowing stream came to my ears.

I looked down. I was no longer moving. I stood still, my hands on the cold stone of this ancient, cursed bridge. And, to my right, there they were –the dogs, slowly stalking toward me, drenched in fog, their voices in my head screaming as one, commanding: Jump, jump… Jump!

I clenched my eyes shut and cried out for them to stop, to leave me be, to let me go. Suddenly, cold hands were grappling at my limbs, pulling me, pushing me to the ground. I thrashed and screamed to be set free. Then, a soothing voice, telling me I was safe. I opened my eyes. A kindly woman and man knelt over me. I recognized them as the keepers of the inn.

After bringing me to my senses, the couple helped me to my feet and we began our walk back to the inn. Along the way they explained that they’d heard my terrified cries and had run out to find me at the bridge’s edge, appearing as if I intended to throw myself into the stream below. Horrified and embarrassed by my own actions, I thanked them profusely for saving me from any possible self-harm and vowed not to take another solitary evening stroll for the remainder of my stay at their lodging. As we entered the inn I remarked that I was glad the pack of dogs had not attempted to follow us back from the bridge. The innkeepers fixed me with a curious look. I’d been all alone, they said, there hadn’t been a single dog in sight.