Tag Archives: family

White Devils

“The war made him first from a boy into a man, then from a man into a broken man.” Grandma always looked sad when she said that.

The three years of war never left him. You might have heard about PTSD, but hearing about it is not the same as experiencing it. Even when I was just a child I knew that something was wrong with grandpa.

When I was very young he scared me. He was nice to me, always nice and friendly, but I could hear him scream behind closed doors and stomping up and down the stairs in the middle of the night.

Whenever my dad came home late after his bowling nights I would tell him that he “smelled like grandpa.” That was grandpa’s way to cope and I think he inherited some of it to dad and dad in turn to me. When you grow up with the knowledge that alcohol solves problems and preserves sanity then it is hard to get around that idea.

Grandpa drank to forget; to forget the memories and flashbacks and nightmares. When Kim Il-Sung attacked the South grandpa’s boots were some of the first Western boots on the ground. They drove the North back; then they got too close to the Chinese border.

I still remember grandpa’s cursing when he spoke about the “millions of Chinese” that crossed the border. Their weapons were inferior, their training too. Still, by sheer mass, they drove the UN forces back.

Grandpa was one of thousands that came home with scenes and images etched in their minds. Some lived a normal life; grandpa barely functioned.

As a teenager I read many books about the war; their authors often served in the same battles as grandpa. Others I asked in person.

Still, no one else ever spoke about nightly attacks on the camps and no one else ever called the Koreans “White Devils.”

Grandpa always cursed about them. Ever since the war he stayed up at night and slept during the day, just because of them. He said that he needed to protect his house and family.

I hated it when we stayed over at my grandparents’ place; there sleeping was impossible for me. If grandpa’s cussing didn’t wake me up it was the baseball bat crashing on floors and furniture, and sometimes even gunshots at imaginary enemies.

I never dared to go down to stop him. I never dared to sit down and talk with him. I feel guilty for that now, but as my dad usually points out it was already much too late – no one could get through to him.

All grandpa talked about were his nightly encounters with the white devils. Dad usually cut him off and told him grandpa that he needed to go again to see his therapist. No matter what time of the day – grandpa always answered the same way: by pouring a large glass of liquor.

Twice grandpa tried to talk to me about the white devils. The first time I must have been around 11. I cried when he told me about the shrine he destroyed and that the Koreans, as revenge, killed most of his squad. That was the only war story he ever told that day – else he only talked about the white devils; that they were trying to harm his family and him.

After that I too began to have nightmares, but only whenever I stayed over at grandpa’s place. I saw small white figures behind the window, white-socked feet behind the door, and a few times even figures standing in or walking through my room.

When I told grandpa about my nightmares he made me sleep with the door open. He patrolled the house, the baseball bat in one and a cold glass in the other hand. His presence made me nervous and it was harder for me to fall asleep – but in return the nightmares ended.

The second time grandpa sat me down was when I was 14. I don’t remember the details of our conversation, but I remember the sickening smell of his breath, the way he slurred words and that he kept talking about the white devils.

He said that I was old enough, that I had to help him protect the family because my father refused to do so.

In retrospect it seems obvious that around that time grandpa’s mental health began to deteriorate rapidly. The shouting got more frequent, often furniture was broken in the morning and several times the neighbors called the police because grandpa’s gunshots broke through their wall. Back then I didn’t notice the change, it was too gradual and I think I wasn’t the only one deluding myself that the deterioration was just ‘temporary’ and that grandpa would return to his previous state.

Then he began to speak of “proving it.” A few times others had stayed awake with grandpa to help him hunt his memory ghosts, but no one ever saw anything.

Grandpa was prescribed new, stronger medication, but he never took it. He usually said that he needed “to be awake and alert.

His screams woke me up. Not cussing and cursing about white devils; screams. Grandma too was on the corridor and followed me downstairs.


“Get off me.”

“Let go.”


Grandma and I heard the shot from the stairs; just one. Then silence.

I tried to keep grandma out of the garage, but she was too quick. She too saw the open skull, the fleshy mass splattered on the floor, and the red spots on the ceiling.

The gun was still in his mouth.

At the other end of the room, on the floor, was a camera. It was on, but there was no tape.

Grandpa got a funeral with full honors. We were proud of him that day. Grandma cried, and so did dad. For me it was strange to hear grandpa being called “a hero.”

Now I too call him that, and not just for the war. Now I too have a house and a wife that I want to protect; I feel the urge and drive to protect.

My son is now six. This morning he told me that he can’t sleep. He said that there are figures next to his bed; small figures with dark black eyes that stare at him; he said that otherwise the figures are bright white.

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

He Took My Sister

From the very beginning I didn’t like Erik. There is not much I remember from that age, but I remember that Erik scared me; whenever mom left the room I followed her, just so that I wouldn’t have to be alone with him. Mom often scolded me for that, especially if Gia was in the room too.

I was six back then and Gia was three. I loved playing with her, but in contrast to me Gia didn’t mind playing with Erik either. I hated it when he played with her, often I felt he just played with her to taunt me. Most of our evenings ended with mom in the kitchen and Gia in the middle of the living room with a ring of toys around her. On the one side, the side closer to the kitchen, was me, on the other side, towards the stove, was him. Gia was the barrier between us, the protective wall that kept us in place and at the same time kept me away from him.

I remember mom and Erik fighting about me. They never fought about Gia, they only fought about me. They fought often during the three months that Erik slept in mom’s bed.

“She hates me.” I heard Erik say.

“She will get used to having you around.” Was my mom’s reply. “She will think of you as her dad.”

My mom was wrong. She was wrong about everything. She was wrong when she told me that Erik was a good guy and that he was just trying to be nice. She was wrong when she told me that I should stop glancing around corners to see whether Erik was hurting Gia. And mom was wrong when she swore to me that Erik would never hurt me.

After those three months, when he left, Erik hurt me more than I could have imagined in my wildest nightmares.

In retrospect it’s strange to think back of the weeks where the nice lady talked to me nearly every day. I knew she was a police officer, I knew I could trust her. And still, every time she asked me whether Erik had touched me somewhere I said “No.” And I don’t think that I was lying. He really never touched me. He tried hugging me a few times, but he gave up when I kept running away. I think that’s why he chose Gia instead.

When I think back of the times where the nice lady asked me questions I remember three things: the way she smiled, how the teddy sheep in my arms made me feel safe, and that the lights on the Christmas tree were twinkling at the other end of the room, behind the couch.

In the years afterwards I knew that mom always cried around Christmas because of Gia; she didn’t cry because Erik left – she cried because Erik took Gia with him.

I always thought that important things stay with you, that you don’t forget the memories that matter in life. Then, shortly after I turned sixteen, I read the protocols that the nice lady did – the protocols of her interviewing my mom and me. I felt my stomach cramp when so many memories, so many paranoid habits and fears suddenly made sense.

I didn’t remember that I had told the police why I was scared of Erik. And of course I didn’t know the things mom told the police either.

I told the police that I was scared because Erik was often hiding behind my window. Mom told the police that I cried on the day that she brought him home for the first time. I told the police that he had the same smile behind the window that he had when he played with Gia. Mom told the police that she thought I was just inventing things; that she thought the boogeyman I’d been seeing outside my window for over half a year wasn’t real.

That day, when I read through the old protocols, much of my past suddenly seemed in a different light; suddenly those Christmas with my mother crying on the sofa seemed almost evil, nasty. I felt that for all those years mom had not just crying because of Gia, instead she cried because I warned her and still she let him in.

And maybe mom was also crying because originally Erik was at my window, not at Gia’s; she was crying because I stayed safe because I refused to be alone with him. Mom would have taken Gia to go gift shopping; instead she took me and left Gia with Erik.

From my sixteenth Christmas on Christmas was even worse than before. It was suddenly not just the time when mom cried – and of course I was sad too. Suddenly it felt as if mom was blaming herself, and it felt as if she was blaming me.

Those days, when she cried, mom was blaming herself because she had ignored my warnings. And she was blaming me because it should have been me. Erik was outside my window. He always tried to be friends with me. But I fought hard to get away from him; I was never alone with him. The one Erik wanted to take was me, but because he couldn’t get me he took Gia instead.

I’m 23 now. It’s been seventeen years and it always made me angry that mom couldn’t get over losing Gia. I’m not cruel and I don’t want to sound selfish, but for me the fact that she mourned Gia around Christmas felt like a knife in my back. It always felt to me that she wished it had been me, rather than Gia, and it felt to me as if she rather mourned a family that doesn’t exist anymore than spend time with the family she has – with me.

I feel dirty and guilty for it, but for years I felt angry at mom – angry that Erik might have taken one part of my family, but she took the second part.

A wedding invitation changed all that. It came about three month ago; a stray mail with my name on it. My name is fairly common and I’m used to getting holiday cards or other letters obviously not addressed to me because my address is the only one in my town that shows up in a cursory internet search.

“Together with their families Jennifer Swift and Greg Murray request the honor of your presence…”

I stopped reading because I knew neither of the two. As said, a common mistake.

There was no return address, just the address of a venue in Jamaica and an email to send the RSVP notice.

I sent a short note that they sent the letter to the wrong address. Within three hours I got a one-line response:

“Sorry to hear that. – Greg.”

The letter went in the trash and the memory fell out of my mind.

Then, last week, I got another email, an obvious mass message:

“We are sad that you weren’t able to attend – here are some of the photos from our wedding. Love, Jenn & Greg.”

I’m not sure if it was curiosity or the peeping tom-like instinct to look at private photos that you are sent; to see what other people’s lives look like.

The venue looked great, with open spaces, a beautiful beach backdrop and a perfect ceremony, but there weren’t many guests and even those looked uncomfortable. The groom stood at the altar with a smile on his face.

The bride looked ugly, nearly scary, in the way she was standing at the end of the aisle. Her nose was bent and despite the beautiful white dress several scars and blue and yellow bruises were visible on her face and arms.

On the next photo she was led down the aisle. The bride was crying.

It took me a moment to register it, to pull my eyes away from the scared bride and onto the man next to her. He held her arm gently, had a beer belly, and his hair and beard were gray. Still, I recognized first the beard and then the nose and finally the eyes. I hadn’t seen his face in seventeen years and still I held my breath and felt cold sweat running down my skin.

The man walking the bride down the aisle was Erik.

My mom came over. She cried when she saw the pictures – she cried just the same way she cried each Christmas.

It’s strange to discover that there are some important things you don’t remember, for example that your sister’s full name is Jennifer.

And it is even stranger to loathe your mom for many years for hurting you every Christmas; to loathe your mom for not allowing you to be happy and be a family – and then, one day, you learn that she was just protecting you. All those years, all those tears for Christmas she wasn’t mourning Gia, she was crying for Gia. She was crying because once a year, once every Christmas, she received an envelope with a photo inside – one photo of Gia, sitting on a stone floor and with dirt on her clothes and bruises on her face.

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.

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

This story has been featured in the NoSleep Podcast.

Back in 1994 my brother Josh was working as an on-site technician for a large phone company. His role was twofold: Firstly to set up new lines, and secondly to find the problem with and fix broken landlines.

He was based in a small town, but most of his time was spent catering to farmers in the nearby areas. The problems were usually hard to find but easy to fix. Sometimes Josh had to walk half a mile up and down dusty roads to find where a particular cable was broken – and the repair didn’t even take ten minutes.

One of those calls, in August of 1994, led him to a rather large family-owned farm. A girl called Kasey had called in from a neighbors’ house, saying that the family’s phone was dead. Josh drove out the next day.

I don’t know how it’s done now, but back then Josh told me that phone cables are buried together with other cables, sometimes even together with piping, in hollow tubes of either hard plastic or cement. In areas where that wasn’t possible the cables were usually placed on high poles. But in rural areas where not all houses were connected to the electric grid, it was sometimes more cost effective to lead the wire, covered in a thick plastic coating, simply along a road.

When Josh was called out to a farm those ground-led cables were usually at fault. A machinery drove over the cable, an animal ripped it or maybe some bored kid cut through it. Either way, those jobs kept Josh employed and so he didn’t mind slowly driving along country roads, stopping every few meters to stop potential breaks.

The MacDonald farm was an easy case. Already while on the route to their house Josh spotted the ripped cable. It was a clean cut and the separated ends had been pulled apart for several meters. Josh figures it was likely from a plow or similar device, a simple accident, likely done by the farm owners themselves.

He had all the right tools and Josh fixed the cable break within half an hour. Then he drove to the farm to tell the family the good news and make sure that the problem was fixed.

He arrived at the MacDonald farm around 4pm. The heavy wooden gate was open and so Josh drove his van straight inside to drive up to the house.

When he turned into the gate Josh saw a cow lying on the driveway. He was used to that. He honked the horn to shoo the cow away. Usually that worked but this particular, all-brown cow refused to move.

Josh slowed down, drove closer and tried the horn again – longer, this time. Still the cow didn’t move.

There was no way around the cow, other than to drive into a ditch next to the driveway and Josh didn’t want to risk breaking the car. Finally, just a few steps away from the cow, he stopped and let the motor roar. When the animal still didn’t react Josh carefully and well-aware that a diseased cow might attack him without warning, got out of the car. He grabbed his toolbox from the back, then slowly walked around the car to pass the animal from behind.

Only then, two steps in front of his car, did he notice the puddle of dark brown, dried blood around the animal.

The animal was lying, with its head on the floor and towards the direction that Josh had come from. He saw a large, gaping cut through the brown throat and three long slits through the enlarged stomach.

Josh was on edge, but not seriously worried. Occasionally farmers have to put pregnant cows down when the calf refuses to be born – and to get rid of a cow’s body is not easy and it can take days for the specialist to arrive.

Josh figured the MacDonald family or the veterinarian had tried to save the calf by cutting open the mother’s body, like a cow’s C-section, just without the anesthesia that humans would receive. Likely they killed the mother first, by cutting her throat, then, when the animal sank on the floor, they cut the body open.

From the looks of it, Josh concluded, they hadn’t succeeded. The bulge in the cow’s body was clearly visible; the calf without a doubt still inside. The skin had been placed back into its original position, only the cuts and a small gap between skin flabs was still visible. Josh resisted the urge to look inside the animal’s body.

Holding his nose, Josh walked around the cow and further towards the farm. The driveway was long. To his right was a pasture with several cows, some were standing, but most were lying on the grass, probably chewing the cud. To Josh’s left was a thick corn field that made him feel slightly uneasy.

Josh reached the farmhouse about five minutes later. He called out and rang the doorbell but there was no response. He knocked against the wooden door and called out again. He thought they might be out, trying to organize the removal of the cow’s body in the driveway.

To make sure that they weren’t just not hearing him Josh turned to the right and circled the house. He glanced through the windows while he passed them, first the kitchen, then a living room window, but everything inside seemed calm and dark.

At this point, before he saw it, Josh told me, he began to feel uneasy. There was nothing unusual, except the dead, pregnant cow, but still he felt a tingling in his legs and back, like a warning of bad news.

Then he turned the corner.

Josh only saw the scene for a few seconds, but he says he still remembers it today in vivid detail; like a photograph burned into his brain.

A large dog lay on the back porch. His body was slit open lengthwise and the organs and intestine were pulled out.

Right next to the dog’s body laid the bodies of an older couple. The man’s body was naked, his head separated from the body and placed between his leg. Two large cuts went through his body, one from the throat to the groin and one from left to right through the abdomen. His intestines were pulled out and placed to the left of the body, near the dog.

The woman’s body was dressed, but the clothes were cut open. A deep cut went through her throat and a large sideways cut through her abdomen. She too was gutted. But what Josh remembers the most, the thing he still has nightmares about, are the bloody spots where her breasts should have been. There were two straight cuts, as if someone had carefully sliced the breasts off her body.

Both, the man and the woman’s eyes and mouth were sewn shut with a thick, dark thread. The man’s lips were split in several places, as if he had forcefully opened his mouth, but the thread had been stronger than his lips.

Josh threw his toolbox on the floor and ran.

He turned back around the corner, ran back onto the driveway towards the dead cow.

While running he saw that some of the cows on the pasture were looking at him, following his movement. But most of them were still on the floor. Most of them still hadn’t moved. Around one of them he noticed a large, dark puddle on the grass.

Josh ran so fast that he twice nearly fell over stones or potholes. He stumbled towards the cow, curved to the left around the body and ran around the back of his car to get to the driver’s seat.

Just before he reached the driver’s door Josh stopped dead in his tracks. The cow was still there. But the flap of skin was pushed further open. The bulge was gone. Inside the cow’s abdomen, where Josh had thought was a calf, was now just a large, gaping hole.

Panicked Josh ripped the car door open. He screamed when he felt the thick, brown-red liquid on the door handle. Still he pulled the door open, looked inside the car and jumped on the driver’s seat. He felt a large, squishy ball exploding when his feet pressed on the accelerator.

He looked down to his feet to see what it was – and just in that moment noticed movement in the corn field to his left. He slammed the key in the ignition, turned it, heard the motor howl, threw the car in reverse and hammered his foot through the squishy mass back on the accelerator.

The movement in the corn field came closer. The car moved backwards and swerved; Josh was barely able to avoid driving into the ditch at the side of the driveway. He slowed down to regain control over the car, saw the corn being pushed aside, then pushed again hard on the accelerator.

The car sped backwards, through the wooden gates and back on the country road. Back in the driveway, just when he was out of the driveway and backing onto the road Josh saw a figure emerging out of the cornfield, a few steps away from the cow. He swears the figure looked like a teenage girl with dark hair, covered from head to toes in dried blood.

Then Josh sped off.

Josh walked into the police station with the cow’s heart still stuck around his right foot.

The newspaper articles said that the MacDonald’s didn’t have any children.

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

The Perfect Man

Trigger warning: Sexual violence

I met him in the park. He wore a suit and held a coffee in one and a leash in the other. Two black and white puppies whirled around his feet. He stumbled over one of the puppies, spilled coffee, the other puppy ran off; the leash slipped from his fingers.

The puppy ran towards me. I caught the leash, scratched the small head until he arrived.

“Thank you.” He said. “I’m Matt.”

When he spoke it felt as if my ears were tingling.

“Amber.” I said.

I think I blushed.

We met for coffee two hours later. He didn’t bring the puppies. I made a joke that he had only been in the park with puppies to pick up women. He laughed.

I never saw those puppies again.

I have never felt like that before; the butterflies in the stomach, the involuntary smile when I thought of his face; or of his hands on my back – or on my thigh.

He always led me, but he never pushed me. He led me in the restaurant with a soft touch on my arm. He led me out with a soft touch on my back. He walked me to the front door. He ran his fingers over my chin; refused to kiss me; just ran his fingers on my chin and down my neck until my desire was so strong that I couldn’t resist.

Matt liked the same things. He laughed at the same jokes. He even hated the same things and the same jokes as me. He was perfect. He made my heart spin and my head beat with excitement.

Two months. He knew how to talk without talking; he knew how to make me talk. He always laughed and smiled and stayed mysterious. I didn’t even notice it – until after he drove me out of town, pulled me through the woods, led me to the most serene lake I have ever seen. He went on his knees; mine began to shake. “Yes.” I said.

I wanted to elope; to do it in private, abroad, on an island. But he insisted on the big ceremony.

Matt said “I want to show everyone that you are mine.”

That made me proud.

His mother gave me the wedding dress. “It’s used,” she said. “But it’s a special dress; we use it every time we welcome a woman into the family.”

That made me smile.

His family, jointly with my mother and my sister, Ellen, scurried around me. They did all the planning. I chose the color and the venue – for the rest I only nodded; they did it all.

“Matt’s mother is great,” said Ellen. “She knows everything about weddings.”

That made me worry less.

The ceremony was a breeze. One night in a hotel. After breakfast he led me upstairs. “Get dressed.” He said. “I have a surprise for you. I packed our stuff already.”

The taxi drove us to the airport. The display board said “Chongqing.”

“I have a house there.” Matt said. “I want to show you one of the rooms.”

Chongqing. 7 million people in the city; 21 million more pressing on the city boundaries, streaming in and out every day. 28 million people; the largest and ugliest city you never heard of.

The perfect place to disappear.

A black car picked us up at the airport. The driver called Matt “Sir.” For me he only nodded.

“I have a company here,” said Matt. “I’m good friends with some in the government and with the police.”

The house was large and surrounded by a large area of grass. White walls. Several floors.

I noticed that only the top floor had windows.

I also noticed that, somewhere between the plane and the car, Matt had stopped making jokes.

“I have a collection.” He said. “I really want to show it to you. Now it’s nearly complete.”

A guard stood at the large door, entered a code, it opened.

Statues and paintings, baroque stairs, fluorescent light.

A second, larger guard opened a second, smaller door.

Matt grabbed my hand, pulled me inside. The guard followed us, closed the door behind us.

The lights sprung on.

“Look.” He said. “My collection.”

They looked like prison cells. Prison cells with large, floor-to-ceiling windows towards the corridor.

Young women, looking at me with sad eyes.

Several of them had big bellies.

“Girls.” He shouted. “Welcome Amber.”

They all stared, some shook their heads.

There’s a wall in the middle, so that we can’t see each other. I tried knocking on the walls, but there was no response; I think they are too thick.

I don’t know how long I was there. I don’t know how many times he forced me.

My belly began to grow.

It is hard to count days when there is no natural light.

He came back, long after, with another girl. I looked at her when she came in, shook my head.

He forced me again.

He left; my water broke.

The ones that bring food brought me to the hospital.

I gave birth.

They brought me to a room. They left me alone.

I ran; stole clothes from a locker room.

My stomach hurts. My whole body feels as if it is turned inside out.

The money wasn’t enough for a train ticket, just enough for a hotel room.

You need an ID to use the phone. At least they allowed me to use the computer.

All the websites I can think of are blocked. I signed up for some strange email account, but all emails just bounce back and I don’t understand the message.

The money I stole is running out.

My lower body hurts a lot, and I think I have a fever.

I just saw my face on the TV in the loby. There was a number with a dollar sign next to the picture.

Since then the receptionist stares at me. I think I have to go.

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

The Earth Ripped Open

The only thing left of Alicia was an empty human-shaped shell. The 17 year old was pale, most of her brown hair was ripped out and large scratch marks covered her arms, face, and throat. She sat straight, without a single movement, until I addressed her.


Her head rotated slowly in my direction.

“Yes?” Alicia’s voice was rough and throaty. “That’s me.”

I explained the procedure and asked her to speak freely about what happened. It took a while until she began to speak.

“I’m not sure of everything.” Alicia spoke with a slow, monotonous voice. “I woke up on Sunday, three weeks ago, from a loud crashing sound. It sounded nearly like an explosion and was followed by absolute silence – I was still half-awake, looked outside, and saw this hole in our garden. My parents came running into my room, they probably thought something happened to me, and my brother followed right afterwards. We all stared at that hole; the opening was the size of a small car, but perfectly round. Dad called the firefighters and they told us to quickly leave the house, that it was a sinkhole, and that more of the area could collapse.”

“You think the sinkhole is the reason why your family disappeared?”


“How?” I asked

“They walked inside.” Alicia said.

“But weren’t you evacuated?”

“Yes, first. But after two weeks they told us that it was safe and that we could go back. I think they were planning to fill it up with cement. Either way, the specialists told us that we shouldn’t get too close. My parents and I were far too scared, but Quentin went straight to the hole. I saw him walk to the edge and stare inside. He called at us to come and look, but we refused.”

“You never looked inside?”

“Not directly, no. We had been warned that the edge could break off and it was so deep that they didn’t even have an estimate yet. But Quentin took pictures and showed them to us. It looked crazy. It was this straight hole into the ground, smooth borders at all sides. But on one of the pictures it looked as if there were some sort of openings or caves deeper inside the sinkhole. The specialists later told us they had never seen anything like it. The specialists seemed really enthusiastic; we were mostly worried that it might swallow more of our garden, or even part of the house.”

Alicia shifted slightly on her chair.

“But for the first days nothing else happened. There were noises, occasionally, especially at night. It sounded like falling stones, deep clonking sounds that seemed to reflect in the hole. But the sinkhole stayed exactly the same, just the way it had been on the first night.”

“How do you think this relates to your family’s disappearance?”

“Completely,” Alicia responded without hesitation. “It was definitely this hole, or something in this hole. I’m not sure how, but it was definitely this hole. My brother spent the whole of the fourth day back in our house circling around the hole, like a shark. He kept trying to look inside and I heard him mumbling to himself. But no matter what flash or flashlight he tried, he always came back with a disappointed look on his face.”

Alicia smiled.

“Quentin is… was always like that. He loved strange things. I was worried that he could fall inside, but my parents said he was careful. On the fifth day though he kept walking closer to the hole. Dad caught Quentin sitting on the edge, with his feet dangling inside. That’s when they ordered Quentin to stay inside and away from the hole.”

“But,” Alicia said. “At night my parents were out and Quentin went straight back to the hole. He was older and I knew he wouldn’t listen to me. I threatened I would call mom and dad, but he laughed at me. I went inside to get the phone while Quentin stared into the hole. It was already dark and I’m sure he could barely see anything on the inside, and still he seemed so fascinated by it. I called mom and told her everything and she asked me to put Quentin on the phone. But when I walked back in the garden he was gone. Just gone!”

“I called out to him and searched the house, but he wasn’t there. I told mom and dad to quickly come back and then Quentin’s phone. There was a dial tone, but I couldn’t hear it ring in the house, and neither in the garden. When my parents came back they said that Quentin probably went to see friends without telling me. But I knew that wasn’t true. He had been right next to the sinkhole, and I was gone for at most three minutes.”

“Your parents didn’t do anything?”

“No,” Alicia replied. “I mean, of course they did. They called his friends and I kept calling Quentin’s phone. And then dad called the police. But the police came, took the report, and then they were gone not even five minutes later. They shouted into the hole, but there was no response and so they just left. The police said there was nothing they could do, at least not during the night.”

“The next day I woke up pretty early, but dad was already standing outside, next to the sinkhole. He was screaming into the hole, and he had some large lamp that he was shining inside. The police arrived later and they brought more lamps. But even that didn’t help at all. I still didn’t go close to the hole; I didn’t want to fall in there too.”

“They didn’t find any trace of Quentin?”

“No, nothing. And in the afternoon the phone began to go straight to voicemail. The police made my parents file a missing person report, but I mean, we knew where he was! The police said they were missing equipment to go in the hole, and that it would be another day until it arrived. At least one of them stayed for most of the day and tried to help dad shine deeper and they tied microphones and lamps on a rope and lowered it inside the hole. But I think it got stuck or something, I later saw half the rope lying on the grass and dad didn’t want to tell me what happened.”

“That was the same day that your dad disappeared?”

Alicia paused.

“Yes,” she finally said. “I saw dad in the garden after the officer had left. Mom told me to get him for dinner, just when the sun was setting – but dad wasn’t there. We searched the house for him, and we called his phone too, but he had left it in the kitchen. Dad was gone, just like Quentin, gone after standing to that damn hole.”

Alicia began to scratch her arm.

“We called the police again. They questioned us and then went to the hole again. It was dark already, but at least they tried. The two officers called into the hole for half an hour, and afterwards mom and I did, but from a bit more distance. But there was no response. I heard some stones falling at some point, but it was deep inside and even when we got closer we couldn’t see anything.”

“I couldn’t sleep that night. I just sat at my window, staring at that car-sized hole, crying that both Quentin and dad had fallen inside. I was tired and nearly going to bed, it must have been at least 2am.”

“But then I saw movement in the garden. There was a shadow, moving from the back of the garden towards the hole. It looked long and thin at first, but when he got closer to the hole I saw it was a man. First I thought it was dad; then I recognized the thick jacket and the short haircut – it was the officer that had stayed all day to help dad.”

“I thought he must have come back because of some sudden idea how to help, so I pulled my window open to call him, but just when I was pushing the glass to the side I saw how the officer took a slow step forward. He looked completely relaxed, and it all happened as if in slow motion. I screamed, but he just walked further, and then strangely slowly disappeared in the hole. He didn’t scream; he didn’t even look panicked; he just walked calmly inside the hole.”

Tears ran down Alicia’s face. Her arms were red from where she was scratching them. I asked her to stop scratching, but Alicia kept scratching, and kept speaking.

“And then I saw mom walking into the garden. I thought that I maybe woke her up and I shouted at her to come back inside. But mom didn’t react at all. She kept walking. I ran downstairs, to try and get her back inside the house, but when I got to the back door she was just steps away from the hole. I shouted and screamed and ran towards her, but mom stepped forward.”

“I was half-way through the garden when mom took the first step over the edge. It looked as if she was stepping on some invisible surface, then her other foot too stepped off the grass and while I was running towards her I saw how she began to fall. It was surreal, I mean, maybe it was the fear, but it seemed as if mom was falling too slow, as if she was falling at only half the speed.”

“I was so close to her.” Alicia’s voice was weak. “Just a moment longer and I maybe could have grabbed her, could have saved her. But instead I had to slow down so I wouldn’t fall myself. I saw how mom turned during her fall, how she turned around, and she looked at me, reached a hand towards me, and smiled. She looked incredibly happy. It felt as if the floor was shaking below my feet, and seeing her face so happy, I felt like stepping forward myself. I took half a step – but just the moment before mom disappeared in the darkness her smile disappeared; she opened her mouth as if to scream, and I saw horror in her eyes.”

Alicia had scratched her arm bloody; she didn’t seem to notice.

According to the report from the Department of Environmental Protection no reason for the sinkhole has been determined. By the next day, when rescue equipment arrived, the hole had filled with water. Divers later determined the depth to be around 200 meter, 650 feet, but they found neither any bodies, nor any connected caves. They only found a ripped piece of rope with a flashlight clipped onto it.

“I backed away from the hole, “Alicia said. “The further I got away, the less the ground was vibrating, and this strange desire to jump disappeared. But, and I only realized that after the police arrived, I never heard a noise from my mom; neither a scream, nor her body hitting the ground.”

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