Tag Archives: AL_365

She tried to convince me that she’s not a figment of my imagination and I played along.

The young pale man sat upright in his chair. When I entered the room Dalton only glanced at me for a moment. His eyes seemed to be focused on the corridor.

When the door shut his eyes flicked around the room. Finally his pupils honed in on me.

“She’s not here, right?”

“We are alone,” I said.

“Okay. Okay. Sometimes I’m just worried that she comes in. She likes open doors.”

“You are talking about your girlfriend?”

“No. Well, yes, in a way. I imagined her as my girlfriend when I was a teenager.”

“And you are now 21?”

“Yes.”

“And you still see your imagined girlfriend?”

Dalton nodded.

“She just didn’t want to leave.”

“You don’t mean that metaphorically? You are really talking about an imagined girlfriend?”

“Yes. Her name is Arielle. You know, like Arielle the mermaid because I had a crush on her.”

“So this girlfriend is imaginary but she is bound by walls and doors?”

“Not really,” Dalton said. “I mean, she didn’t use to but now she pretends that she is.” Continue reading

“I am sorry mommy.”

Grace rubbed the sole of her right foot against her left.

She forced a smile.

I smiled back.

“You had some rather tough weeks.”

“Tough is an understatement,” she said.

“It is normal that you are not feeling well after losing a child.”

“Not just a child,” she said. Continue reading

The Dark Red of the Night

“I can’t relax,” she said.

“That’s why I would like to prescribe you something.”

Nateal shook her head.

“It is absolutely safe,” I said.

She shook her head again.

“For how long haven’t you slept?”

“I can’t sleep.”

“For how long?”

“Three days,” Nateal said. “A bit more than three days.” Continue reading

Deep Down, Where He Should Be

“You think they want to drown you?”

“I don’t just think so,” He said. “I’m sure of it.”

His arm jerked to the side.

“Okay, Steve, when exactly do they try to drown you?”

“All the time.”

“Even right now?”

Steve nodded; his whitish-yellow face seemed to reflect the light.

“Yes, right now. They are pulling on my arms.”

“I can’t see anyone.” I said.

“No one else can see them. It’s only me.”

“And you can feel them pulling on your body?”

“Yes, and when I am close to home I can sometimes smell them too. That’s when they are also the strongest.”

“How many are there?”

“Twelve. Eight men and four women.”

“And they just stand around here, right now, and pull on your body to try and drown you?”

“Not all of them,” he said. “There’s always at least two, sometimes three or four, but never all at once.”

“And since when do those figures attack you?”

Steve jerked sidewards; his chair leant to the side. Steve grabbed the table just in time to catch himself.

“See?” He said.

It seemed as if there were tears in his eyes, but otherwise Steve was composed.

“Okay.” I said. “Since when do those figures appear?”

“Since I’m eight, I think.”

“Did something unusual happen that caused them to appear?”

“I was playing with my friends next to a lake.” Steve said. “And my friends dared me to swim to the island in the middle.”

“And you did?”

“I wanted to be cool.”

“So you did?”

“Yes, I did, and I made it to the island. But I was exhausted and couldn’t go back; so I stayed on the island for about an hour and then, when it began to get dark, I tried to swim back.”

“You tried? So you didn’t manage to get back on land?”

“I’m not sure what went wrong.” Steve said. “I was swimming towards where the others were sitting; I was already halfway there, but then either my leg cramped or maybe something pulled my leg down. I screamed for help, but the others didn’t do anything; or maybe they just were too slow. I sank and I couldn’t breathe anymore and then I felt this immense pain in my lungs.”

“So you nearly drowned?”

“I’m not sure.”

“How did you get out?”

“I don’t really know. I remember that I was struggling and then suddenly I had ground under my feet and I pushed myself out of the lake. My parents were there and everything was dark already. But my friends were gone.”

Steve leaned his head backwards.

“Sorry,” he said. “That’s not me.”

“And since then the figures appear?”

His head first leaned further back, and then quickly returned into a normal position.

“Yes,” Steve said. “They started attacking me while dad carried me home. Mom was walking next to dad, crying, and then one of them grabbed my leg and pulled. Dad told me to stop struggling; I told him that it wasn’t me – and he said that I should stop making silly excuses. But mom cried even worse and said ‘Maybe God wants that we leave him.’”

“And your dad still brought you home?”

“Yes. But since then they kept me at home. They didn’t allow me outside at all and they didn’t invite any friends over. I thought they were just scared of the figures pulling me back in the water; but it stayed like that all the time – the figures kept pulling and dad made me stay inside.”

“And your mother?”

“She wanted to bring me to the lake.”

“Your mother wanted to drown you?”

“I don’t know what she meant. But whenever I told them about the figures mom said that maybe it was the right thing and that it was the way things should be.”

“So your mom agreed with the figures.”

Steve lowered his head.

“I think so. I don’t know whether she really wanted to drown me; I guess she just wanted it all to stop.”

“So your parents kept you inside and the figures kept pulling on your body to try to drown you?”

“Exactly.”

“So you didn’t go to school or anything?”

“No, my parents didn’t allow me to. They said I would harm the other kids. I mean, it makes sense now, but back then it made me cry. I was so incredibly lonely. That’s why I ran away when I was fourteen. I couldn’t take it anymore”

“And your parents found you?”

“No.”

“No?”

“I don’t think they were even looking for me. I think they were happy I was gone. Dad was happy when I called and he asked whether I was okay, but mom didn’t even want to talk to me.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“It’s fine,” Steve said. “It hurts, but I understand her. I’m a freak, with those things and everything.”

“Things?”

“Those people I mean; the ones that want to drown me. It’s hard to hide that when they keep pulling on my body.”

“They never leave you?”

“Never.” He said. “But at least they are weaker here, when I’m far away from the lake.”

“So you don’t go home anymore?”

“I don’t, but it’s not because of them. I think they aren’t strong enough as long as I don’t get too close to the lake where I drowned. I just don’t want to meet my mom. I think she is scared of me.”

“Your mother is scared of you?”

“Yes. It took me long to accept that, but it’s true. She is scared of me and thinks that I might harm her or others.”

Steve pushed his body forcefully to the right. The chair moved with him.

“Why would she think that?” I asked.

“Well, I think she thinks I’m one of them. She thinks I’m one of the figures and now I also understand why.”

“And, why?”

“Please, just tell me how to get the figures away.”

“I’m not sure how to do that, Steve. We can try some medication, but –“

“I tried medication. They don’t go.”

“Then what do you want me to do?”

“I don’t know, maybe you can talk to them, tell them to go away, tell them I’m alive and that they have to find somebody else. They don’t listen to me and when I talk to them they always get stronger. It feels as if every time I talk to them part of my strength goes over to them.”

“So your strength is feeding them?”

“I don’t know,” Steve said. “I think it’s more my soul or something. I think they have my soul.”

“Why would you think that?”

“I don’t really remember any of this, but a few weeks ago I tried to look for articles about other people drowning in the lake; I thought that maybe if I knew what they wanted I could make them go away.”

“And you found them?”

“I found a few articles,” Steve said. “And one of the articles had a picture that looks like one of them.”

“And it helped?”

“No,” Steve said. “But he also died while swimming back from the island. And they never found his body.”

“So you think the figure that’s pulling you is this other guy that drowned?”

“One of them,” Steve said. “But my point is that while I was looking for these articles I found articles about myself.”

“Yourself?”

“My own drowning.” Steve said.

“I thought your parents saved you?”

“That’s what I thought too,” Steve said. “But the newspapers said that I had drowned and that they looked for me for a week and couldn’t find my body.”

“I don’t follow.” I said.

“I was down there for a week.” Steve said. “They sent divers and everything but they couldn’t find me.”

“You mean –”

“I think I died.” Steve said. “And I’m still dead, but somehow I got out of the lake, and now those things try to pull me back down where I should be.”


This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.

Blinded by Love

“You know the expression, don’t you?” He asked.

“What expression?” I asked.

“Oh, you know,” Nikolay said. “Blinded by love.”

I nodded.

“Well,” he said. “For me it was like that. She blinded me. She made me go through all those challenges and tests; it wore me out.”

“You are talking about Lauren?” I asked.

“Yes, Lauren.”

Nikolay smiled.

“I always like her name. It sounds like ‘laureate’; it sounds smart.”

“Sure.” I said.

“But that’s what she used, you know? She used her smarts against me.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“She kept testing me with her games.” Nikolay said. “She always had some new tricks that she played. That started right when we met at the bar.”

“How did you meet?”

“Oh, she talked to me.” He said. “She dumped some cocktail on me and then she apologized and we made small talk.”

“And you fell in love with her that day?”

“Yes.” Nikolay said. “But first Lauren fell in love with me. I saw it in the moment she threw the cocktail – there was so much passion in her eyes. But she was shy about it; she always tried to hide it. That’s why she left so quickly and took the taxi home rather than let me walk her to her house. That was her first challenge.”

“She left, right after meeting you?”

“Well, we talked for a bit. Must have been at least half an hour. But that girl, her eyes, she was just so greedy – she had to control herself by looking away from me. She barely even spoke before she left and I knew that secretly she was already dreaming about us.”

“How did you know that?”

“Oh, it was obvious,” Nikolay said. “The way she averted my gaze and she barely even answered. She was so aroused that she couldn’t even hold her thoughts together.”

“Are you sure she didn’t just try to avoid you?”

“No.” Nikolay shouted. His fist slammed on the table. “She was into me. Why else would she have said her address so loud to the taxi driver?”

“Why did she?” I asked.

“Because she wanted me to hear it, that’s why!” Nikolay said. “She wanted me to come but she didn’t want anyone else to see it; you know how women are, with their reputation and everything.”

“So you think she took the taxi because she wanted you to follow her?”

“Yes.” Nikolay said. “Isn’t that obvious? And that’s why she wasn’t surprised when I showed up at her front door. I rang the doorbell and she didn’t answer the door. But I saw her glancing through the curtain and I’m sure she was smiling. Oh, she was definitely smiling; her smile was intoxicating; that’s the moment I fell in love with her – when I saw her standing behind that curtain in her white nightie.”

“So she didn’t answer the door?”

“No.” Nikolay said. “She wanted to get in my head; she wanted to make me crazy for her – that’s why she did all of it, you know?”

“What did you do?”

“I rang the doorbell a second time, but Lauren was too shy. So I just waited; I waited all night for her and dreamt of pulling the tank top of her body and kissing the smooth skin on her neck. Despite the cold I felt happy; just by thinking of her.”

“So you were in love with her?”

“Of course I was. That was her plan, don’t you get it?”

“Okay, maybe.” I said.

“You sound just like the officer.” Nikolay said. “But it’s true. That was her plan. She knew I would wait. That’s why in the morning she walked into the kitchen with just her bra. And she pretended not to see me, but when she drank the tea I saw her blushing; I saw how aroused she was.”

“What did you do?”

“I just enjoyed the scene. That’s what she wanted me to do anyway. And then when she came out of the house I tried to talk to her again.”

“And she talked to you?”

“She just walked past me.” Nikolay said. “She wanted me to see those tight pants; ah, they just drove me nuts.”

Nikolay had a wide smile on his face.

“She wore them quite often, you know? During those two months she wore them for 22 days. And I’m sure she knew why; she knew what effect she had on me.”

“You stayed outside her house for two months?”

“Well, not the whole time.” Nikolay said. “I also went to some of her classes – history bores me but I knew I had to sit through it for her. And with her it wasn’t boring. Those were the most exciting lectures of my life, while someone talked about Roman history – and she sat in the fourth row, always the fourth row, with her head lowered and her hands making smooth round squiggles on the paper.”

“So you followed her all day?”

“No, of course not. I mean, I had to eat, but sleeping I did mostly outside her house. And then I showered and shaved every two days; I shaved just for her because she told me in the bar that she didn’t like my beard.”

“And while you were outside her window – did Lauren talk to you? Did she maybe ask you to go away?”

“No.” Nikolay said. “A few times she asked me whether I didn’t need to go home and shower or work, but she never told me to go. She just looked at me with these serious eyes and ordered me to go home – and of course I obeyed. It made me happy to know that she liked what she saw.”

“And she never asked you inside or so?”

“Well, she asked on the last day.” Nikolay said.

“We’ll get to that in a moment.” I said. “But you are telling me that you stayed outside her house for two months and she didn’t speak to you?”

Nikolay shrugged.

“That’s the way she was, you know? That was her game, her plan, her strategy; she wanted to make me wild and passionate. And of course she succeeded. A girl like her always succeeds at making drooling idiots out of men like me.”

“But she didn’t give you any signs that she was actually interested in you?”

“Of course she did.” He said. “All those peepshows she gave me through the transparent curtain, and all those times she walked seductively past or in front of me, or when she commented on my appearance, or when she winked while she walked past me, and of course with the love notes she left me.”

“She left you love notes?”

“Yes.” Nikolay said. “I would show them to you, but the police took my coat. Every time in class she made those little notes, twice she even filled a whole page –hearts and of course large ‘N’s everywhere on the page.”

Nikolay smiled.

“’N’ for Nikolay.” He said.

“She left you pages with ‘N’s and hearts in class?”

“Yes.” Nikolay said. “Lauren left them on the table for me. There were other squiggles on there, you know, because she wanted to be tricky about it. But she always left the crumpled papers under her desk for me to find.”

“And you think she did all that to make you want her more?” I asked.

“Exactly.” Nikolay said. “For the same reason Lauren sometimes sent her roommate out. Her roommate was the one that asked me to leave; she said that seeing me made Lauren uncomfortable.”

“And you stayed?”

“Of course I did.” Nikolay said. “I knew that I was arousing her. It was so nice of her to send her roommate out to tell me about it. And of course then she asked her roommate to invite me in.”

“Lauren’s roommate invited you inside the house?”

“Yes.” Nikolay smiled. “She left the door ajar for me. So of course I went in – and Lauren was pretending to be asleep.”

“You went to her room.”

“Of course,” he said. “That’s why she invited me in. She wanted me to crawl under the blanket with her. And of course I did.”

“You went into her bed?”

“Sure.” Nikolay said. “I had waited long enough and she made me crazy for it. It was nice to finally feel her body next to mine. Lauren didn’t even say anything when I rolled on top of her; she just stared at me with those beautiful eyes of hers. And then she began to passionately hit and scratch me. She got really red from her arousal and even screamed from the pleasure. I held her mouth so that we wouldn’t disturb anyone – and then that roommate of hers barged into the room with the knife.”

“Her roommate came with a weapon?”

“Sure.” Nikolay said. “I knew that they just wanted to force me to stay. But luckily the roommate fell and so their nice little plan failed. The roommate even hit her head pretty nice and the moment I had the knife they stopped fighting. They knew I’d won. And so, of course, I paid them back.”

“Can you be more precise?”

“Well, the roommate was a bit too loud so I had to, well, silence her.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“First I cut her tongue.” Nikolay said. “But she was still loud, so I had to, well, silence her for good.”

“You killed her?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t mean to.” Nikolay said. “I just gagged her. The thing with the blood in her lungs that wasn’t on purpose; I guess tongues just bleed a lot and the gag kept it in.”

“And Lauren?”

“Well,” he said. “She took two months of my life so I wanted to take two of hers.”

“You kept her locked in for two months?”

“Only for two weeks. She got too annoying after that, the way she constantly cried.”

“And so you murdered her?”

“Well.” Nikolay smiled. “I’m sure you know the expression ‘An eye for an eye’?”

I hesitated.

“Yes?” He asked.

“Yes.” I said.

“Good, so you understand what justice is.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I thought she would be able to handle it, to find a doctor to fix it. I thought I was actually being nice – I took only two weeks rather than two months, and I only hurt her body. She hurt my heart, you know? You can’t heal a broken heart; it will always hurt.”

“What did you do to her?” I asked.

“Just justice.” Nikolay said. “She blinded me with love; well, so I did the same thing to her body that she did to my heart.”


This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.

Old Smoke and New Fire

It was summer when I met Naomi. We were at the barbeque of a mutual friend and she wore a yellow summer dress with blue details and smiled while she talked.

I don’t remember who introduced us; probably it was the host or maybe the host’s girlfriend-of-the-day. Naomi laughed when she said her name – and she laughed louder when I forgot it for the second time and she introduced herself for a third time. “Na-o-mee.” She pointed at herself while pronouncing the “mee.” Then she laughed again.

That day it was normal; that day I expected everyone to smell of barbeque smoke.

Only a week later we met for the second time. It was a random encounter at a far-too-common coffee franchise. She wore a white dress that danced around her body while she walked.

That day we arranged to meet for a lunch; since then we have been friends; just friends. I admit there was a spark, but we have never been more than that. We were both in relationships at the time, and by the time those ended our friendship had grown too comfortable. Somehow the spark disappeared and only the joy of spending time with each other remained.

That day, in the coffee shop, I noticed the smoky smell again. I made a joke about her addiction to barbeques and again she laughed with this inviting, all-encompassing laugh that makes everybody want to hear the joke.

All that was two years ago. Our friendship remained, and so did our regular meet-ups over coffee or lunch. Usually monotony bores me; regular meetings with the same regular people become draining and exhausting. With Naomi things are different. I think it’s because her smile is genuine, and so is her laugh – genuine, honest, fresh. Genuine smiles and laughs and conversations don’t get boring.

For a while I told myself that the smell was just my imagination – an olfactory memory of the day we met; an association that my mind replayed every time I saw her face and her smile. But there was no repeating memory for the perfumes she wore or the foods she ate. The only memory that returned every time I met Naomi was the faint smell of old smoke.

I never dared to ask her about it. There is something insulting about telling a woman that she always smells of smoke – or any other thing. Of course, on the one hand a friend deserves honesty and bluntness, but on the other a friend ought to protect a friend, not make her self-conscious about a smell that is either just in the friend’s head or that she is already aware of and tries to ignore.

The smoky smell was faint, and I have always been a particularly smell-conscious person. I told myself that probably nobody else noticed it; certainly no one else ever mentioned it. Naomi’s strong perfumes usually covered most of the scent anyway.

Whenever we hugged hello or goodbye, or when we sat or stood next to each other for a while; that’s when it was hard for me to ignore the smell. It was like the common joke– “Now you are aware of your breathing.” – From the moment you hear or read the sentence it is hard to not feel your own heaving chest or the cold air moving through your nose and the back of your throat.

I learned many things about Naomi: why she had tried to learn sitar (too many Bollywood movies), the way she had become vegetarian (on a trip to France she became friends with a cow that later ended up on her plate) and even that she thought the size of a man’s heart and the way he valued his woman’s pleasure was more important than the size of the probably most size-compared object in the world.

The only thing Naomi never spoke about was her family. I knew that she left home with sixteen and that her mother had had an accident, but not much more.

Last Friday, when Naomi pressed a gin and tonic in my hand to celebrate a pay rise, I finally asked.

“I don’t talk about that.” She said.

“Why not?”

“Because my family believes we are cursed. That’s why I left home.”

“They actually believe you are cursed?”

“I really don’t want to talk about it.” Naomi said. “Let’s just say the gist is that supposedly all women in my family are cursed. We will all die in a fire.”

“As in ‘burn to death’?” I asked.

“Something like that.” She said. “And my grandma used to say that there is a sign for it, that you can smell it on our bodies.”

“Just like you smell a bit of smoke?” I asked and immediately felt like sewing my mouth shut with a hot needle. Naomi stared at me with her eyes and mouth wide open.

She hesitated.

“You can smell it?” She asked.

I bit my lip.

“Yes.” I said. “You smell a bit like old smoke.”

In the end we did talk about her family.

Naomi’s maternal grandparents had fled their home country. Naomi was never told why, but she thought it had something to do with their superstition.

It was hard on Naomi when her dad left. At the time she was only nine. That her dad left was hard on her, not just because he always made Naomi feel safe and protected her from her overbearing mother, but also because it was shortly after her grandmother’s death.

Naomi didn’t meet her grandmother very often, but when she was told that her grandmother had died Naomi cried for a long time; then she cried again at the funeral. At home, after the funeral she locked herself in her room and then cried more. But this time she cried because of the fight outside her room; the angry shouting of her father, the furious insults and pleas to “think of Naomi” voiced by her mother.

There were three such nights of fighting. Naomi stayed in her room most of these days. She played loud music so that she wouldn’t have to hear the words being spat. Still she remembers part of the fight:

“It was an accident.” Shouted her mother.

“I don’t care.” Shouted her father. “I don’t want my children to die like that.”

The next day his part of the wardrobe was empty. A year later he had a new wife – and two years after that he had twins. He sent Naomi photos and gifts and talked to her on the phone, but he never allowed her to visit.

When her grandmother died Naomi was told it was an accident; something had gone wrong in the kitchen. She was young and didn’t want to know any details, and her mother was careful not to say any more. Naomi was only nine; she didn’t understand the significance of a closed casket.

Her mother found a new partner, one she never married but with whom she had a son. Naomi felt they preferred her brother over her.

When Aunt Iris died Naomi was 14. Again nobody told Naomi how her aunt died, but while she listened to a funeral speech about pain as the path to redemption Naomi stared at the dark wood of the casket and tried to imagine what her Aunt Iris’s body might look like. With 14 she understood the meaning of a closed casket.

After Iris’s death Naomi got close to her cousin Cassandra. They talked nearly every day on the phone and met every few weeks. Naomi was even invited to Cassandra’s 18th birthday party. Naomi made a card for Cassandra and gave her heart-shaped chocolate.

Not even a week after the party, about a year after Iris’s death, Cassandra stopped calling. Naomi and her mother heard only three days later what happened. Cassandra had been in her bedroom. A problem in the electrical wiring. The fire killed her and three others.

Naomi’s mother didn’t allow her to go to Cassandra’s funeral. She said it would bring bad luck. Naomi never forgave her for that.

For her sixteenth birthday Naomi refused to have a party. Her mother insisted. She said that they should “seem normal.”

At five in the morning Naomi carried her packed suitcase downstairs, collected her shoes and coats and left. That day, while pulling her full suitcase out of the front door, Naomi stopped being angry at her father. That day she finally understood why he had broken her heart.

While she told me about her past, the glass long empty in her hand, Naomi wasn’t smiling her usual smile.

Back then, when I saw Naomi’s expression, I thought she was just scared for her mother’s life; suffering because she knew a loved one was in pain; scared because her mother’s dress had caught fire at a New Year’s party. Now I know Naomi was also scared for herself.

“My mother survived the rocket.” Naomi said to me last Friday. “I thought that it would all be over; but when I visited her in the hospital I could still smell the smoke. It was more intense than ever before.”

“Oh.” I said.

“When I was small my grandma told me to tell her whenever the smell got worse. She said that if the smell got worse something bad would happen.”

“Oh.” I said.

“I should call mom.” Naomi said. “I hope she’s okay.”

When she got up to refill our glasses I blew out the candles.

“You like your gin strong, I remember?” She said.

“I just don’t want to fall behind.” I said.

She laughed.

We talked about gin, drinking, and then about other things.

I swayed when I walked home. I could barely keep my eyes on the road. But it wasn’t the alcohol, or at least not the alcohol alone, that got to me.

Since our conversation a question was stuck in my head. I kept wondering whether I should tell her that the smell of burnt wood, the scent of smoke that had always hid under Naomi’s perfume, had gotten stronger.


This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.