Nightmare November : Night Terrors by Daphne Strasert – Part 1

Editor’s note: Daphne Strasert is a writer of horror, science fiction and fantasy who works out of Huston, Texas.  In 2017, she placed third overall in the Horror Addicts’ Next Great Horror Writer Contest. She offered the following tale of horror for our November Nightmares feature and we thought it so suspenseful that we decided to give it to you in three weekly episodes for your reading pleasure! Enjoy!

My wife doesn’t remember the night terrors.

After all, Miela’s not even awake, not really. Her eyes are open, but unseeing. They aren’t focused on me, but on something that closes in on her from all sides. She shrieks until she chokes on her own bile, terrified tears streaming down her face. She throws punches and kicks at an invisible assailant until she tangles in the sheets, unable to do more than thrash against the bonds.

As a doctor, I’ve treated parasomnia before, but only in toddlers. Miela is decades older than any of my other patients. Medically, I know that the terrors are nothing to worry about. They’re just changes in her brain chemistry as she switches from one deep stage of sleep to another. It triggers the release of adrenaline and a fright response. They’re scary for me, but they don’t hurt her. But when she wakes with a shriek at three in the morning, that’s impossible to believe. Her few minutes of panic are agony for me as I try and fail to console her. The helplessness is the worst of all, holding her hands to keep her from clawing at her neck as if something is wrapped around it. And as abruptly as they start, she falls asleep again. When she wakes in the morning, she doesn’t remember them.

But I do.

Miela warned me, I suppose, before we got married. I was so busy finishing residency, we never had time to move in together. I could hardly ever stay the night. She told me about her troubles keeping a roommate, rounds of medications she’d tried to ease them. Maybe I thought she was exaggerating. Maybe I thought the sleepless nights at the ER had prepared me, that I could sleep through them somehow. I’m a doctor, for Christ’s sake – I’ve had more sleepless nights than I can count. I thought I’d seen sleep deprivation. I thought it couldn’t faze me. Holy hell, was I wrong.

I haven’t slept for weeks, not since our wedding night. I catch a few minutes or so, but each shift of her body jolts me awake. The creak of the house as it settles seems to be the precursor to a scream. Every sigh, every murmur heralds the coming fright. My body refuses to rest, too closely tuned to every movement of hers. Waiting. Waiting for the terrors to start.

And they always do. I can see them coming now. She doesn’t frighten all at once. It begins as a low moan, twitches of protest. She pulls away from something. Then she wakes. Or she seems to. She jolts upright, hands tearing at her clothes and hair. She rakes her nails against her skin hard enough to draw blood. And she screams. Long, unearthly sounds, nothing like what they record for horror movies. It’s worse than that, like something in the clutches of death itself.

Weeks of this. Weeks. She’s tried everything: pills, therapy, hypnosis, acupuncture. Nothing has worked.

I hold her against my body, stilling her as she shakes in my arms. Her screams rebound off the bedroom walls and rejoin to create a maniacal chorus. She struggles against me and pushes me away far enough to punch me in the nose. I let go, clutching my hands to my face. She scrambles across the bed on all fours like a wild creature and I retreat to the far corner of the room, watching her through the pain that throbs in my face. After a few minutes, she stops screaming and falls into an exhausted sleep, a peace I can’t reach.

I take deep breaths, my adrenaline coursing in response to her. The pain in my nose dulls. It’s not broken, but it will be bruised. As I go back to bed, something moves against the headboard. I think it’s my shadow, at first, but it shouldn’t cast that way. Light shifts along the paint, like the reflections of a car’s headlights against the wall, except there is no window there. I squint a little harder, but the effect is gone. All that’s left are the shadows, waiting where they should be.

 

Logbook of Terror: Ruins Of Castle Rocca Sparviera!

The ruins of Castle Rocca Sparviera!

After a frightful and dreary travel in which I mistakenly visited the wrong location and was chased from a decaying castle by the rotted corpses of a mob of re-animated skeletons, I finally arrived at my destination: the ruins of Castle Rocca Sparviera. A chilly night had fallen and a storm brewed overhead, hiding the moon and stars behind layers of thick, foreboding clouds. Thunder cracked nearby and with only the light of my electric lantern to guide me, I set out to explore the ruins. 

I walked the perimeter of the formerly grand castle, treading carefully over rocks and desolate mountain terrain, wondering what lonely spirits might be left wandering these hills. After hiking to what seemed to be the edge of the property, I turned and strolled along the inner side of a disintegrating wall. After several minutes I halted to take stock of my surroundings and, up ahead, saw a spot of soft light swaying in the darkness. Could it be a fellow explorer making camp and a fire for the night? I hurried on my way to find out. 

Upon drawing closer, I saw that the light was pouring out through a doorway in another crumbling wall. I stepped through and found myself in a great dining hall. My head swam in disbelief, for the hall and all its contents were in pristine condition. The stone walls and floor were clean, polished, and intact. High wooden beams secured the solid ceiling and the entire room was alight with the soft glow of a myriad of candles. The luscious aroma of fresh cooked meat, bread, and vegetables drew my eyes to the huge table in the center of the room. A disembodied voice called out to me, welcoming me home, inviting me to feast. The ghostly voice spoke in French, a tongue completely foreign to me, yet I understood the voice’s every word.  

Smiling guests materialized around the massive banquet table, their regal clothes in tatters and covered in dust and cobwebs. Their gray skin was spotted with deep holes, from which worms wiggled in and out, and blood and pus trickled in rivulets over decaying flesh. With loud, hollow voices the dinner guests beseeched me to join them. Entranced, I approached the table. 

Thunder crashed over the high ceiling. A fierce flash of lightning lit up the table and I saw before me, two children, their flesh roasted, their small bodies chopped in pieces and placed carefully on garish silver platters. Their heads were intact. The two dead little girls turned their eyes to me. Help us! Help us! They pleaded. 

Lightning and thunder exploded. Rain poured from the ceiling. The pieces of the children joined and melded together, forming the hacked children into morbid wholes. Once reformed, they rolled off the great table and crawled toward me. The dinner guests sang a church hymn while their bodies melted in the rain. I felt the children’s small, dead hands grasp my ankles. Feast with us! They screamed at me. Feast with us! Their small eyes burned bright red with horror. I gasped. Shocked out of my trance, I broke the children’s hold and ran. 

Once out of the banquet hall, I ran to the path at the edge of the property. There, I saw a woman in royal dress. She stood upon a large rock. Tears stained her face. She held her arms high and screamed a curse into the night. I felt a sudden surge of heat behind me. Turning, I witnessed what surely could not have been: a fully intact castle engulfed in flames of grief and fury which were so intense, not even the deluge of rain could quench their angry burn. The royal woman turned her fierce eyes on me. I knew at once –it was Queen Jeanne! With terror in heart, lantern in hand, and my satchel over my shoulder, I sprinted away down the mountain, desperately hoping to outrun the curse that the queen was casting. 

I do not know how long I ran. Dawn seemed to arrive without warning and I was back on a road with the warm sun drying my sopping clothes. Not far into the morning I was able to secure transport with some locals who were en route to a nearby village. They spoke clear English and we began to converse. When I remarked on the previous night’s storm their faces turned grim. They inquired if I had been at the ruins during the night. I confirmed that I had. The driver shook her head and said that the region had seen no rain for over a week. The driver’s companion held up her left hand. Her skin was maligned, covered in burn scars. She said that she too had seen the queen, apparently too closely. 

After the kind couple dropped me off, I acquired proper food and lodging. I have resolved to stay in this quaint and pleasant country village until I receive my next assignment. The past several nights have been difficult. Sleep eludes me, for whenever I close my eyes, I see those of the dead children staring up at me.

Free Fiction: Smart Machines | A Short by Kay Tracy

It was a Saturday, before the holidays. I had to pull some overtime on a few reports for the boss. Friday night, in the winter, now well after dark, and I couldn’t get the door to open. Something moved behind me low on the floor. A mouse? 

That was three weeks ago, and I am still here. I can’t get out. Gods help me, I truly wish I could say it was because of my boss.  How I wish a mouse was what I had glimpsed!

The firefighters who broke open the door keep trying to tell me I was in shock.

People sometimes ask about it, but no one really ‘knows’. Folks really don’t want to know. 

You have seen them in many offices, those machines that will print, copy, and, staple.  Oh, to be sure, there is someone who is designated to change the ink or toner as it calls for it.  And usually, office etiquette says, if you empty the paper, then you are supposed to put more into the machine.  Easy enough, but there is one thing most people never think about. I know I never did. At least, not until now. 

It was trivial at first. I started noticing little things go missing. It was easy enough to think it was my co-workers.  Steph had run out of paperclips and took some from my desk. No worry there. The odd safety pin that I would keep in my drawer was next. I did think it was a bit rude for folks to go into the drawers of my desk without asking first. I mean, really!

In talking to others, I found out that they too had had things go missing from their desks. Small stuff at first.  Then James complained that his new steel mug and thermos was gone. Julia’s power cord to her computer was next. Harold had an entire desk lamp disappear. The objects were getting larger, and stranger. Soon, anything that was made of metal was going missing.  Small pocket change, keys, it seemed odd. Then William asked when we got the pretty staples. Everyone came to see, and there on his desk was a stack of reports with copper-colored staples. I wondered about all those pennies that were once in the coffee fund can, which was now missing.  But then, so too was the coffee maker!

I am desperate now, trying to find a way out of here.  The parts inside the phone are gone now. The thing grows longer snakelike arms every day.   The larger, more complicated items it brings to me for disassembly. I have no idea when it will have all it wants or needs, maybe then I can leave.

People really should know about these things.   Maintenance includes more than just the paper and ink.  More than just the “machine guy” every three months for a cleaning and lube. The staples should not be overlooked on these ‘smart machines’.

My Darling Dead : Episode 10 | The Blacksmith

As Alasin fled the hut, she forgot that it was not sitting on the ground, but raised on stilts three steps high. She flew out the door and the ground rose to meet her sharply.  Tumbling end over end she landed in a heap at their bottom. She lay there, winded, her eyes unfocused as the cloud of dust she had raised settled in the early morning rays of sunshine. 

There was a scuttling noise from under Madam Flood’s hut that slowly acquired her attention as her eyes began to focus. Finally able to breathe, Alasin pushed herself up as she turned to face the noise. As her eyes focused, at last, she froze, her heart hammering in her chest. 

A small, thin woman had come out from under the house and was creeping toward her, crouched low, eyes bright and teeth bared. Her hair was matted and thick with dust, as were her clothes. Her nails, long and broken, reached out to Alasin, who could smell the foul creature from where she lay. The rat woman let out a high pitched cackle that sounded devoid of sanity and pounced. 

The woman was in the air for the briefest instant before a large hammer swung out of the blue and pulverized her face. Alasin, who had opened her mouth to scream, was showered in bloody chunks of skull, brain and flesh. She spat as though her tongue were afire and finally laid eyes upon her rescuer. He was a large man, thick shouldered with a blacksmith’s apron over a muscled chest. A dripping blacksmith’s hammer swung from one huge arm.

“Strewth! But that’n almost had ye! Still, no harm done, I’ll reckon. Up y’come, miss!” He said, and extended a hand to her with a smile. 

Alasin wiped her hand on her skirt and gave it to the man with a shaken smile. “Thank you, sir, and thank you for dispatching that…what was that?” she asked as she was pulled upright as though she were a feather. 

“Oh, ar,” the man said darkly, swinging his hammer over his shoulder, unmindful of the muck coating its head. “Them’d be the changed ones. Rat people, I call ’em. Best to do is put ’em down before they hurt somethin’.” He sighed. “Even though some of ’em be my best o’ friends.”

“Madam Flood mentioned something about them last night.”

The man’s face brightened. “Ma’am Flood! That’s right, this be her place, don’t it? How be she?”

“She’s, er… fine,” Alasin stammered, hoping he wouldn’t insist on speaking to the old woman.

“She in?” inquired the man. “I hain’t seen Ma’am Flood in an age, and I be–”

“No! She, ah, said she had somewhere to go this morning and left before I woke, so I took myself for a walk and fell down her stairs because I wasn’t used to them you see and then the creature came from under the stairs and–”

“Ne’er mind,” the man boomed, his chuckle cutting off Alasin’s frantic blather. “We best get ye where ye wish to go, little miss, lest one more of the nasty rat people get ye. Strewth!”

Alasin awoke in pitch darkness, a giant weight upon her chest. Her head was pounding and her mouth tasted of rot. She pushed at the weight. It felt like a dead animal, cool and smooth-skinned with a light coating of hair covering it. It was large, and heavy. Her fingers explored down its length. Her heart shot into her mouth as her fingers touched a palm, then fingers. She was able now to identify the giant weight as an arm, slung across her, as she lay in this bed. 

HIS bed, she realized as unbidden, memories began flooding into her fevered brain. Going off with the jolly blacksmith(whose name she could not recall) after he had saved her life, finding out that she really liked him, turning aside his questions about who she was and where she was going so she could spend longer with him, until he finally stopped asking. Becoming tipsy as they dined and drank as the sun first rose and set in the sky, finally a fog of stumbling back to his own hut and going to bed together. Now she could tell that beneath the arm and the animal pelts that served as a blanket, she was naked. 

Whimpering, she pushed at the arm which held her in a death grip, immobile in its deathly contraction. Finally she was able to wriggle out from underneath it and fall to the floor, sobbing as she pushed herself to the farthest corner of the room, wrapping her arms about herself against the night’s chill. There she sat, struggling to produce silent tears as she wept, for her own terror, for poor Madam Flood, for the unnamed blacksmith, before turning her tears back upon herself. 

When she awoke again it was the gray light of dawn, the sound of birds filling the silence that comes when most people are still asleep. Her neck ached from where she finally fallen into a doze, huddled in the corner hunched over. She was still nude, and shivering violently. Her gaze fell upon the corpse in the bed, face frozen in a peaceful expression, massive arm extended over where she had fallen asleep beneath it.

Unbidden, the tears started again, but she knuckled them aside and pushed herself up, hobbling on stiff legs across to the bed and pulling the bearskin blanket off of the blacksmith’s body, wrapping it around herself as she tried not to look at what remained of her lover. She stooped, picking up her scattered clothing piece by piece. As she did, her little bottle of wizard’s powder and chain dropped to the floor with a clink. With a happy swoop of her stomach, she dropped to her knees beside it and availed herself. 

“Farner! Hey mate, ’tis Bron! Yer not at yer shop! What gives?” 

Alasin’s head jerked up at a pounding from the door, white powder coating her nostrils, her eyes wide. She jammed the lid on the bottle and grabbed up her clothes while the pounding increased before the latch was pushed open from the outside and the door banged open. A small squat man stood framed in the early morning light, his face nothing but a silhouette.

“C’mon, I needs me sword t’day, Farn! Git yer…hoho, what’s all this then?” he said, noticing Alasin, looking frenzied as she clutched her clothing to herself. An ugly grin spread across his face. “Well hey there sweet’eart, me name’s Bron and I guess my man Farn’s been stickin’ it to ya, eh?” 

Alasin’s eyes were huge as she did her best to sidle sideways to block Bron’s view of the bed and Farner’s lifeless body. Bron was fortunately too busy examining the curves of the sheet Alasin draped around herself to notice the bed. 

“Porked ya good did ‘e?” giggled Bron, grabbing his crotch and making exaggerated grinding movements with his hips. 

Alasin’s eyes flashed with temper but Bron sniggered and to her great relief turned to leave. As his body moved, the shadow he had cast upon Alison moved as well, letting a slab of sunlight smack her in the face. “Well I’ll not begrudge ‘im a lie-in after a night wid a beauty like you. Yew tell ‘im Bron stopped by, an’…”

He trailed off, eyes widening. He took a step forward and looked more closely at Alasin. 

“You…” he whispered. Alasin’s heart, hammering like mad, simultaneously froze. 

“Yer…yer the princess!” Bron blurted, raising a hand to point at her. 

“Yes, you festering sore,” Alasin said, drawing herself up to her full height and looking down her nose regally at the little man. “I am Alasin, Princess of Dandoich, and I command you to depart from here immediately and speak of this to no one. Is that clear?”

“Yer… the princess,” the man said, a stupid grin spreading over his face. “Huh… what are you doing here?” His eyes crawled over her, insolent in their lingering. His tongue wet his lips. 

“Dog!” shouted Alasin. “How dare you look upon me! You have been given a command and you will obey at once. Leave!” She raised a hand and pointed to the door. The clothing she had clutched to herself slipped and fell to her waist, exposing a breast. 

“Whoaa…” Bron said, his eyes huge. Alasin swore and snatched the clothes to herself again while attempting to maintain her composure. She saw his grin had become nasty. He stepped inside and shut the door. 

“No one knows yer ‘ere, or yew wouldn’t be wid ‘im,” Bron whispered, gesturing to Farner’s still motionless body. “And that means, I can do what I likes wid ya. Farn won’t mind.” He was beginning to breathe heavily, massaging his trousers as he moved toward her. “And you can’ stop me, Princess, wee slip of a girl like ye.” 

Alasin did not move as he advanced. The rage in her at being spoken to thus had completely blotted out any hint of fear. In one move, she dropped all her clothing and stood before him completely nude, sending his jaw dropping. 

“Hear this, you squalid peasant,” Alasin said, her voice like iron. “If you come for me, you will end. Heed my warning, and desist.”

Book Review: The Butcher’s Tale

Hello Addicts.

Imagine a future where people addicted to reliving other peoples’ memories they will give up everything for the experience. That is where former shock jock, Johnny C. Vid, finds himself at the beginning of The Butcher’s Tale by Nicholas Walls.

In the future, a new technology known as Vicarious Reality (VR for short) has become a popular past time.  It allows you to experience your greatest fantasies without actually doing them yourselves.  Even though it is someone else’s memories, you feel like it is happening to you.  The sights, the smells, the excitement, all feel like the real thing when it is nothing more than a replay piped through a physical connection in your brain.  That is where we find Johnny C. Vid, a former popular shock jock, turned unemployed and homeless VR addict.  So desperate for a fix, he goes to where his current supplier obtains his recordings in the lowest levels of the city. It is there that he finds a massive man wearing a pig mask hunting for people to torture.  It doesn’t take long for Johnny to find himself impaled on a meat hook, wishing for death.

The first half of this book was a good read for fans of slasher horror tales.  The amount of blood and violence is on par with what you’d find in a “Friday the 13th” or “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” movie.  Johnny also gives off serious Captain Ahab vibes as he remains focused only on his pursuit of destroying the man in the pig mask, whom he calls “The Butcher.”  The reason “The Butcher” tortures his prey is also clearly given: he too is a VR addict.  The difference? He rips the recordings from his victim’s minds so he can relive every juicy moment of pain, fear, and anguish.  For Johnny C. Vid, it’s not some noble quest to vanquish the demon but straight-up vengeance.

What took me out of the story was, after the midpoint, the narrative shifts from horror to space opera/spy thriller.  To me, it felt a bit disjointed after Johnny got his revenge, and the horror aspect ended.  Overall it is a good read, but only if you look at it as two books, an original and the sequel, for the price of one.

Until next time, Addicts!

D.J. Pitsiladis

Logbook of Terror : Doll Island

A fictional representation of a real Cursed Location – Doll Island

I never should have taken the doll down from that twisted, blackened tree. I wish to heaven that I’d left its decayed, plastic corpse where I’d found it. But I’d promised my dear niece Tabitha a truly unique character to add to her growing collection of morbid and obscene figurines, and I would be damned if I was going to leave this cursed island without it. Taking a doll, just one of hundreds of thousands, seemed an innocent offense. I assumed that surely no one would notice its absence. Alas, I had been wrong… Dreadfully wrong.

The tourist group was easy to break away from. I waited in the shadows of a dense grove of tangled trees, observing until the last ferry boat had returned empty and the employees were gone for the night. Apparently, not even a single one of the workers had the courage to stay on the island after dark. When the last failing rays of sunlight gave way to the deep purple glow of sunset, I left my hiding spot and walked among the dolls. Thousands of eyes of every color and type stared at me, tracing my every footstep. Vegetation rustled beneath my shoes. Insects sang and welcomed the oncoming night. I breathed in the humid air, the odors of age and neglect, of rot and decay, that floated around me. A voice whispered behind me, high-pitched, like a whistling in the wind. I stopped. I shuddered. My eyes darted back and forth. Smiling doll faces, half-melted and faded by the sun, glared back at me. Cold fear slithered down my spine. Hairs rose along my neck. High, hollow laughter echoed through the trees.

I quickened my pace. I had to find a suitably awful doll and escape this place before I ended up in the trees myself.

In the steadily increasing dark, I rounded a curve and walked along the edge of the canal. Another laugh flitted through the air. I froze and looked into the trees. There, above me, I saw her: a most wretched, withered dolly hanging just within arm’s reach. Thin blonde hair covered in green mold, weaved itself over a grime-covered, cherubic face. A tattered and faded pink dress clung to the doll’s body. Her eyes pierced my heart with their cold stare. It was then that I knew. She was the one. Tabitha would surly adore her!

Retrieving the dolly from the tree proved to be as easy as I’d hoped. The twine holding the toy in place practically disintegrated in my fingers as I unwound it from the doll’s limbs. Night had fully fallen and I held the doll up, inspecting it in the moonlight. She was wonderfully awful–a truly unholy relic indeed!

After carefully placing her in my roomy satchel, I set out to find shelter for the night, as after a good night’s rest I planned on blending in with the first tour group of the morrow and taking the boat back to Mexico City as if I’d been with them the whole time. Nary had I taken a dozen steps when I heard the sound of quiet splashing among the lilies in the canal.

I stood in place and listened. My mind told me that any creature of the water could have made that sound but my heart told me that it must be something far more sinister. A trickle of sweat broke on my brow. I turned. With eyes wide, I saw her standing atop the lilies–the girl whose legend told of her drowning in the canal so long ago. She pointed a ghostly finger at me. Her black eyes stared like the marble eyes of the dolls. A thin, watery whisper crawled from her throat.

“Llevar a su espalda, ella me pertenece a mí!” The girl floated across the water toward me, her phantasmal form radiating a soft white glow, illuminating the mud, moss, and slime that clung to her tattered dress.

My mind told me to run but my feet would not obey.

“Llevar a su espalda, ella me pertenece a mí,” the girl repeated, her dark eyes fixed on the satchel slung over my shoulder.

Although I needed no translator to know that the girl from the water wanted me to fix the doll back in her resting place among the tangled tree limbs, through my limited Spanish vocabulary I knew that she was saying, “Bring her back, she belongs to me.” However determined as I was to bring a gift home to my adored niece, I would do no such thing.

Fueled by purpose and terror, I ran along the canal. The words of the girl floated on the wind and stung my ears. Still, I did not stop. A feeling of some strange possession came over me, warping my sensibilities. With my feet and heart pounding, my voice wailed in my mind, repeating, “She will never have her back. The doll is mine!” I then determined to commandeer my own vessel and leave the island at once after which point I would trudge back to the city on foot. I had lost all sense of reason. Onward to the docks–like a madman–I ran.

The drowned girl’s voice grew from a singular moan to a choir chanting a miserable command. Voices assailed me from every angle. I saw them in the trees. Small mouths of porcelain and plastic moved in their ghastly cadence. My eyes watered and my skin grew cold.

All the island’s dolls cried out, “¡Traerla, ella nos pertenece a!” Again and again they demanded, “Bring her back, she belongs to us!”

I shrieked at the dolls to cease their infernal wailing. Then, running across a tangle of roots, I lost my footing and crashed to the ground. I writhed about as if one stricken with demons, the rising chant of the dolls’ voices bearing down on me, enveloping me, tearing at my collapsing sanity. Cold, wet hands grasped my collar. The girl from the canal shook me and screeched. Her mouth stretched wide. Fetid brown water–mixed with blood–gushed onto my face, filling my gaping, scream infested mouth. I choked on the vile liquid.

The girl gazed deep into my heart with her pitch black eyes as water rushed from her mouth, pounding onto my face. Instead of splashing off my skin, the water held place and rose as if the girl were submerging me in a body of water.

I cried for mercy. Bubbles floated up through the water. The grim visage of the girl swam above me, fading, becoming murkier by the second. I felt my satchel slip from my shoulder. I sank deeper into the water, the pale moonlight barely visible above. I echoed a final plea for the girl to let me live before the water entered my lungs and my eyes fell shut.

What may have been moments or mere seconds later, an old man was beating on my chest and shouting at me in Spanish. Gasping, I rolled to my side and spewed bitter water from my mouth. I was on the bank of the canal, the full moon shining down. A young boy who carried towels and wore a shocked expression stood at the old man’s side. The old man sighed, shook his head, and helped me to my feet.

After leading me to their hovel, while drinking tea and drying off by the fire, the young boy explained in broken English how he and the old man lived on the island, that they were the keepers of the dolls, and that they had found me face down in the canal, on the verge of drowning. In return, I told them my tale of the girl who had pursued me and of the voices of the dolls which had driven me to the brink of madness. I inquired to the man and the boy if they had my satchel, and that’s its contents were of great import. They simply nodded and told me to try to sleep.

Dawn broke early on the morrow and cast a brilliant, sweeping glow over the island. Although the sun was warm and welcoming, it could not wipe away the previous night’s terrors. I shivered as I followed the old man and his young companion along the path to the docks. While en route, I dared look up into the trees. There the doll sat on her perch among the gnarled limbs, precisely where I had found her the night before. Upon seeing me, her eyes brightened and her lips curled. A faint laugh echoed from her chest and I fell to the ground screaming.

Two days later I regained consciousness in a hospital in Mexico City. I was informed that an old man and his grandson had admitted me and that I had been in a most fearful state, raving about dolls that wanted to kill me and destroy my eternal soul. I had been subdued and placed under watch. The physicians had seen this before and were apparently not surprised.

The next day as I rode the bus out of Mexico City, I vowed to never again trifle with dolls. Although I surely wanted to bring a present home to my dear Tabitha, she would have to grow her collection of foul figurines without my assistance.

 

Logbook of Terror : Plague Island | Poveglia Island, Venice, taly

Plague Island!

Pressing the sharp tip of the chisel hard against the young woman’s temple, I screamed at her to settle down and hold still. I was her doctor, I knew best. I kept telling her this, over and over, my voice rising in pitch and volume, my patience diminishing, my contempt for these unruly patients increasing. Didn’t they understand that I only wanted to help them? As I’d told her, I just needed to get inside her brain. If I could remove the plague infected section which caused her insanity, she would be cured, and then we could all leave this god-forsaken island. I steadied the chisel and raised my mallet high to strike.  

The male patient on the gurney to my right struggled against his restraints, spouting off some rhetoric about not hurting her. Oh, the cries of the insane, how they bore me! “Leave her alone, don’t hurt her! Please, doctor, please!” Always with the begging and pleading. Such weakness; how it sickens me! I am far above this station –a genius such as myself has no business in these wretched climes. How did I get here?

I felt my hands shaking. A sudden, agonizing jolt wracked my brain. Static, as if that of an olden television set in between channels, spit flurries of white across my vision. The well-lit operating room became a dirty, decaying chamber full of cobwebs and ruin. The female patient in front of me was tied to a grimy, rust-covered gurney, held tight by some type of colorful rope that I did not recognize. The man beside me was also strapped down with a similar colorful rope. He wore strange clothes which I’d never before seen: a coat made of a material unknown to me, orange and shiny and slick, that made odd swooshing noises when he turned beneath his restraints. As well, his shoes and trousers were indeed not from a time familiar to me. He howled at me in protest, his face turning red, spittle flying from his mouth, clenching his fists and struggling. I shook my head and blinked my eyes. It must be the ghosts again, I thought. When will they cease with their torments?

My eyes turned back to the male patient. He was once again dressed in his urine stained gown, his wrists bound with white cloth that held him to an almost clean gurney. I smiled. He screamed. Turning back to my female patient, I raised my mallet once again. 

A hard punch landed in my gullet. I doubled over, dropping the mallet and chisel. My patient had somehow wiggled free of her restraints. Curses! Another blow landed hard on my back, sending me to my knees. The woman was screaming. I could hear rustling cloth. She was freeing the male patient. No! They cannot escape! I must complete my work! I cried out for them to halt, snatching up my surgical tools and rushing after them as they fled the operating room. 

I gave chase to my patients through the corridors of the hospital, dodging pale and dirty patients who wandered the halls, their black eyes staring. Their mouths hung open, emitting a green vapor and filling the air with moans of pain and horror. How strange, the hospital’s residents seemed to appear almost translucent. Had they always looked as such? As we rushed past, the loitering patients turned to follow. 

Determination blazed in my mind –these two would not get away!  We scrambled through another short hallway, down several flights of stairs, and burst through a service entrance, out into the night. I grinned. I had anticipated their steps. As I suspected, they were heading for the tower! 

The sweet smell of rot and burned corpses filled my nostrils as I ran. The moans of the following patients echoed behind me. The screams of the two escapees led the way in front of me. Sweat poured from my brow, raining down my skin, stinging my eyes. I called out, commanding them to halt. I was their doctor, why weren’t they listening? Without looking back, my two patients rounded a corner and disappeared through the arched tower door. 

The ghoulish moans increased behind me, growing closer and closer with every step. I glanced back to see an endless stream of pale, rotted and decomposing patients hurtling toward me. They seemed to move effortlessly, as if floating at an ever increasing velocity, howling, crying out for my doom. Their empty eyes burned terror into my heart. These foul beings were not my patients; these were the cursed apparitions, back to torment me again! But they would not have their victory. I ran on, fleeing into the tower. 

Pursuing the living while being pursued by the dead, I pressed on, up and up the tower steps. Finally, reaching the top, I burst into an open room. Cool night air poured in through the open windows that lined the walls. I cried for my patients to show themselves. Without word, they pounced from the shadows, both assailing me at once. Grappling with one another, we stumbled back and forth. The male patient leveled a blow to my side. He screamed fiercely at me, calling me by a foreign name but speaking as if he knew me, telling me that some ghoulish force had taken control of my mind, begging me to halt my rampage. There was another flash of static –fierce and hot- and a quick, jarring memory filled my mind: A chance meeting at a café in Venice, a boat, a secret trip to a haunted island. Then my wits returned. I knew it was but a ruse, for he was my patient and I, his doctor and there was but one objective: to free him from the clutches of insanity. 

During our struggle, none of us had noticed the crowd of apparitions that flooded into the room. Icy hands gripped my shoulders, neck, and arms. My patients screamed anew, crying out for help. The female patient shouted in my face. I blinked. I saw her. It was Clarice, an American traveler who, along with her fiance Michael, had befriended me two days prior. We had met in the city. I had invited them to join me on my paranormal adventuring. 

I saw my own hands. I saw my own clothes. I remembered who I was. Horror filled my being at the realization that I had attacked my companions. But there wasn’t time to worry about that, for the ghosts were throwing us off the tower.

The three of us fell, screaming into the night. A dense bank of mist which surrounded the tower’s base swallowed us away. I waited for the impact of solid earth and the smashing of my brittle bones but such pain and agony never arrived. I floated in the mist, calling out to my friends, pleading for their forgiveness. Their voices echoed back at me from somewhere deep inside the fog. Then it came- the dreaded crash, only, it was soft. I rolled along the ground and came to a stop. The mist had deposited us at the island’s edge. We three watched in shock as the fog left us, floating out to sea and fading into the night. 

It seemed as if we screamed until we had no voices left. Just before dawn we were rescued by a passing craft helmed by local fishermen who were kind enough to ferry us back to Venice. Upon returning, my fellow adventurers and I vowed to never set foot on Poveglia again, the cursed plague island. May its malignant ruins one day be buried deep beneath the sea!