Tag Archives: scared

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

Sinner’s Cave

The moment we entered the cave all light was gone. It didn’t just get weaker, it completely disappeared the second we walked through the opening.

“Let’s go back.” I said.

“What, no way!” Will said. “Don’t chicken out on me.”

“We could get lost in here.” I said.

“Stop whining,” Will said.

He pulled the mobile phone from his pocket and unlocked the screen. A dim light flooded the area in front of us. There were deep footsteps in the dry ground.

I curse that day just like I blame myself for staying friends with Will.

I keep telling myself that I just stayed friends with him because it was the right thing to do; because he was investigated but never charged – and good friends believe each other. But in reality I just stayed with him because he was my only friend.

Brice and Will had been an odd couple anyway. She was shy and two years younger than him, barely legal – and he was the large, overconfident, rude dropout.

I remember the text message Will sent to tell me that their relationship was over.

“We’re over. Lol. Fuck that bitch.”

A week after that she went to the police; half a day later he was arrested.

I heard that Brice cried a lot after the breakup. Maybe that’s why she too lost so many of her friends. But Will lost all of them, even after the police let him go, after the investigations ended.

“No evidence; it’s her word against his.” Was the official statement.

“She just wanted to take revenge.” Said Will.

I believed him.

Either way, they were both alone. Each had their family, Brice had a few of her friends – or at least so I heard – and Will had me.

That’s why we went hiking together; the two of us and no one else. It was his idea. He chose the location. He told me what to pack.

Three days – one day to get to the camp grounds, one day stay and one day to get back. Our backpacks were heavy with booze and sleeping bags and not too much else.

We never needed any of that, because we never made it to the camp ground, because we took a shortcut. And then we found the cave.

Will stepped off the path to empty his bladder; I waited for him. The forest was beautiful with all its shades of green and the soft ground under my feet; the loneliness scared me a bit – the distance from everybody else – but the sound of leaves in the wind and bird songs calmed me.

“Check this out!”

“What?” I called back. “I don’t want to see your dick.”

“Just come!” Will’s voice shouted.

I dropped my backpack next to his and stepped off the path and past the bushes. I saw Will’s red t-shirt in the distance and walked in his direction.

It might have been just the wind, but in that moment I began to feel cold. The summer was warm, even when we walked in the shades of the large trees the back of my t-shirt was drenched in sweat. Still, in that moment, when I walked towards Will and his excitement, my skin was slowly forming goose bumps.

“This looks huge.” He said.


“Don’t you see?” He said. “There’s a cave.”

I stepped next to him and felt the cold draft moving over my arms. It came from the hole just a few steps below us.

“And?” I asked.

“We have to go in!” Will said. “Maybe we find drugs or something.”

“There’s no one else around for miles.” I said. “What if we fall in a hole or something?”

“Come on,” Will said. “This is cool.”

It was cool. Freezing cold to be precise.

After we stepped inside not just the light was gone; the warmth was gone too.

With his mobile phone as a light source Will took a few steps forward. I looked around to remember the place where we had come in, but the light was barely visible from the inside.

“Let’s not go too far.” I said. “It’s freezing in here and I don’t see a thing.”

“Oh, come on.” He said. “The mobile is enough to see.”

Will held the bright phone towards me.

“Hey!” I said.

He lowered the phone.

“Besides, it’s not cold at all.” Will said. “Stop being scared.”

His words echoed off the walls.

Stop being scared.

Stop being scared.

Stop being scared.

Will walked further.

“Dude, this is really creepy.” I said.

Still I ran to quickly catch up with him.

I pulled my own mobile from my pocket; the light seemed weaker than his.

Will kept walking forward, I followed him and shone my light to the sides of the path. It definitely was a path below our feet, well-trodden earth with some deep footsteps that looked as if the floor had once been mud. The frequent holes made it difficult to walk.

“There must have been dozens of people here.” I said.


“I think this really must be some drug place.” I said. “Let’s get out of here.”

Will laughed.

“No way.” He said. “This is like paradise.”

More like the opposite. I thought to myself.

On the sides of the path it looked as if there were thick pillars that seemed to hold up the high ceiling.

“This place is high.” I said and shone the light upwards.

“Yeah,” Will said. “We must be deep.”

“But we didn’t go down much,” I said.

“Whatever,” Will said. “Maybe it’s some sort of hill.”

“It might be unstable.” I said. “Let’s go back.”


Will turned around.

“Look at all the footsteps; they look centuries old. This shit is not unstable. Fucking stop whining!” Will said.

Stop whining.” Said the echo.

Stop whining.

Stop whining.

“This is creepy.” I said.

The dim light showed me that Will too had goose bumps. Either he was lying about the cold, or –

“A bit.” He said. “That’s what makes it awesome!”

He shouted the awesome.

“There’s no echo.” I said.

“Yeah.” Will said.

He slowly shone the light around us. There was nothing except the bare pillars of dark stone and darkness in between them.

“Okay,” Will finally said. “Let’s go back.”

Go back.” Sounded the echo.

Go back.

No back.

“Dude.” I said.

“Holy fuck.” He said.

We walked quickly, on the same footpath that we had come. This time I was in the front; Will behind me was quickening the pace further, as if he didn’t want to walk behind.

I shone my light on the floor to avoid the holes. The way back seemed longer.

“Are we on the right path?” Will asked.

“There is only one path.” I said.

“Are you sure?” He said. “It feels really warm here.”

“What?” I asked. “It’s freezing here! I feel like I’m walking through ice.”




“Did you hear that too?” I asked.

“Fuck man,” Will said.

He ran past me.

His footsteps echoed from behind me.

From behind me.

“Let’s get out!” I screamed.

We ran, Will in front of me and me right behind. Our footsteps kept echoing through the wall like a legion of men behind me.

We ran, stumbled over the holes. Will fell and I pulled him back up; then I fell and he pulled me forward and again ran in front of me. The echoing footsteps followed us.

We ran for what felt like ten or fifteen minutes.

“Stop.” I shouted between my breaths. “We didn’t go that far!”

“Fuck.” Will said.

He slowed down.

The footsteps faded away.

“We must have missed it.” I said.

“You missed it.” He said. “You were running in the front.”

“Fuck you.” I said.

“It’s your fault.” He said.

“We have to go back.” I said.

I turned around and shone my light on the path.

It was empty.

“We have to search for the exit.” I said.

I shone my light to the side.

I have never screamed that loud in my life.

The corpse was hanging in a hollow pillar. His thin arms were slightly stretched out to the sides, like a moth stuck on a pin in a collector’s set; the man’s feet were hanging straight down and the head was bent forward.

“Oh god.” Said Will.

The skin was not just a whitish gray; it was hanging in folds off the body, as if it was wrapped around the mere skeleton.

We ran past the pillar, careful to stay on our path.

“The exit must be to our right.” I screamed.

Just then Will screamed a second time.

His light was on the left side; on another pillar.

Another body was hanging in the hollowed out center.

“Fuck.” He screamed and we sped up.

My light was on the path again.

Will pulled his light from one pillar to the next.

“They are everywhere.” He screamed.

And they were everywhere.

We ran until we were out of breath; then we walked as fast as we could.

There was no light from the right side; only pillar upon pillar upon pillar.

My lungs were burning; my skin felt as if it would freeze to death. I stopped walking and Will stopped next to me.

Will shone his light on the pillar to our right. The corpse’s face looked Arabic and there was a dagger in his hand. Most of them were men, but there were women too.

The man was naked except for his dagger and a necklace. His head was bald; the body hair was a tone between gray and brown.

I didn’t see any obvious wounds; just the thin, folded skin that on his face seemed to trace the skull.

I shone my light around us.

“There must be hundreds.” I said.

“Who would do such a thing?” Will asked.

Such a thing.

The man’s lips moved.

Such a thing.

His head rose.

Such a sin.

We ran.

The army of footsteps returned; we hadn’t noticed that it was gone just before, just when we ran.

My light was still on the ground so that we wouldn’t fall; Will was shining his light around us.

“It’s their feet.” He screamed. “Their feet are all moving!”

While we ran past the hanging bodies I saw it too; saw the bare, thin feet stamping against the stone of the pillar.

We ran faster; they stamped louder.

We screamed; their heads followed us.

Whenever we stumbled they smiled.

I felt my heart exploding and my lungs and mouth on fire.

“It’s so hot.” Will screamed. “I can’t anymore.”

I was freezing.

“Me neither.” I whispered.

Will was falling behind me.

“Don’t slow down!” I screamed.

Then, just in that moment, I saw the light. Soft, yellow light from a place to our right.

“The exit!” I screamed.

I didn’t hear Will’s footsteps anymore. I looked over my shoulder and saw him hunched on the ground in the light of his mobile phone.

“Come on!” I screamed.

“I can’t.” He said.

Will bent forward and leaned on his hands. He crawled in my direction.

I stopped running.

They didn’t stop stamping their feet.

“Quick.” I screamed. “Let’s get out of this insane cave!”

Insane cave.” They repeated.

Next to Will two of them jumped out of the pillars.

“I can’t!” Will said.

Insane cave.

The first two stepped towards Will. Several more jumped out of their pillars; now closer to me.

I turned towards the light and ran.

The light from outside was bright; I saw the corpses’ lips moving.

Sinner’s cave.” They said.

When I looked back I saw them pulling Will away from his phone; into the darkness.

I stumbled through the hole; crawled up the edge we had climbed down while I still heard and felt them behind me.

Sinner’s cave.” They said.

I stumbled back between the trees and fell on the ground.

The warmth woke me up.

The hole in the ground; the whole cave was gone.

I screamed his name and ran in circles; I begged a group of cyclists to call the police; there was a search mission.

Will was never found.

But sometimes I wake up, freezing but with sweat on my chest. When I hear their chant, that’s when I know where he is:

Sinner’s cave.

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.

I dreamt of a Black Teapot

When I was eight I went through a bout of fevers. I suppose most children have that at one time or the other and most children forget about them a few weeks or years later.

I never forgot those fevers.

I remember the first time I felt them coming. I was playing in the sand with one of my friends. There was Nana, she always wore flowers, and there was Cara, she always had great ideas. We were playing, building castles and digging patterns in the moist, cold sand while the sun burned on our backs. Cara and Nana were wearing hats, but I didn’t.

Maybe it was the sun, or maybe the fever came from something else. Nana said that I looked tired and Cara said that I should talk to her mom because Cara’s mom always knew what to do. That’s the last thing I remember in the sand.

I woke up with something warm and wet on my forehead and pressure on my throat. I screamed; the door opened and my mom sat down next to me. She said that everything was alright, that her friend Jennifer, Jenn the Botanica shop owner, had given her something for me. Mom said that I would smile and laugh again.

I remember seeing mom, and then the hallucinations – patterns of crossing lines and a shiny marble rolling on those lines. I remember that I was the marble and that I was trying to escape, but there was no way out. Wherever I rolled the lines just got tighter or the edges suddenly rose and I wasn’t able to get up. I rolled around, more and more scared – and then, once in a while, I woke up with sweat on my forehead and a cold and hard spoon being pushed in my mouth.

There was sweat on my forehead, a few times – and then, finally, I woke up and there was no sweat and I began to solve puzzles with my mom. We even ate nice food, mac and cheese and capresa – tomatoes with mozzarella and basil. Those were my favorite foods. Mom gave me some other medicine of Jenn’s.

Then I went to bed and again I was the marble. Again I rolled through a labyrinth of glowing lines on pale ground and again wherever I rolled I realized I was locked inside.

When I woke up there were Nana and Cara. They were playing with dolls on my blanket. They laughed and I tried to laugh with them because the dolls were dancing funny.

I was a marble again and there were two other marbles, laughing marbles. They were rolling after me and I was rolling away. They kept telling me to wake up and to play with them, but I was scared, I rolled over, rolled away from them, but the glowing lines grabbed me and held me in place. I felt something pulling on me and there were screams and then pain.

When I woke up my mom was crying. She held a tissue in her hand, but there was loads of red on the tissue. I tried to keep her arm away, but she kept hurting me with the tissue. Over and over she pressed it against my head and every time it hurt more.

I got better again. Mom gave me green pills and some bitter liquid from Jenn’s botanica shop. They made me want to puke.

We ate salad and then chocolate mousse for dessert. I fought against the blanket but mom kissed me goodnight.

The bright lines were hunting me; they kept pushing me forward, towards a wall without lines. I tried to roll to the side but the lines only allowed me to roll forward. I remember being scared.

The beige wall kept coming closer and I rolled right into it. The lines didn’t give me a choice.

There was a wooden bedside table in front of me. I knew that it was real, heavy wood and on it stood a black teapot. It was an Arabic teapot; I knew that because it didn’t have the usual spout. Instead it only had one opening at the top where the hot water went in and the tea went out.

The teapot slowly raised itself from the wooden table. It circled in front of me, showing off its lack of a spout and its shiny, perfectly smooth shape. I remember thinking that my dad would like the tea it made. Dad liked mint tea.

When I woke up my mom was there again. I asked for my dad but mom said he was at work. I told her about the teapot and she laughed and gave me chamomile tea with honey.

That night I saw the teapot again. I was happy that I wasn’t the marble anymore; but I remember that the teapot scared me. I felt it was too dark to make nice tea; it would only make bitter tea. And then I saw my dad putting his hand inside the teapot and when it came back out it was all black, just like the teapot. Dad smiled at me.

Still the teapot danced in front of me. Maybe ‘danced’ is the wrong word – it hovered and turned in circles. The teapot was showing itself and it tried to show me how big it was. It tried to show me that it would be able to eat my dad. I told it to stop, but the teapot just kept pulsing and dancing. It danced and turned in circles until I felt sick; I felt dizzy and like vomiting; I had felt like that as a marble with the glowing lines suffocating me. But the teapot was worse. It kept spinning even when I felt sick. It kept spinning until I didn’t know anymore whether it was me that was moving around the teapot or just the teapot spinning in front of me.

The teapot made me feel sick. I felt that it was smelling sick, but mostly it was its looks and the way it kept turning faster and faster. With the teapot I felt the world spinning around me.

I don’t know whether I woke up from the spinning teapot and then began to throw up, or whether I woke up because of the vomiting. I just remember the sour taste and the yellow, lumpy liquid falling on my favorite blanket, on the one with the small elephants. The world kept spinning around me, faster and faster, and the teapot was still there while I was vomiting.

My mom came running from somewhere. I remember a wet towel on my face, and then warm water that made me feel sicker. I sat down on the cold, smooth floor of the shower. The teapot was getting darker and it came closer and it spun faster until it hurt my head.

I woke up back in my bed. My throat hurt when I called for my mom. She smiled and gave me pretzels. It was the third of April.

Mom didn’t talk about the teapot until much later. It must have been at least a week afterwards; time felt longer back then, particularly when I was sick and home all day. Mom said that Jenn said that the teapot might be a sign for bad things. Mom rubbed some rough leaves on my wrist.

Nana and Cara played with me when I came back. But they had learned new games and they were much better at them than I was. I felt lonely. I sat at the back of the room and made a painting of the teapot. I used only black and a bit of yellow to draw the lines around it.

Mom bought me teapots to play with but they were all wrong. They all were western teapots with spouts and they were all made of plastic. And mom didn’t understand that the teapot needed to be black, the ones she gave me were all pink or red or turquoise.

I was nine when the homeroom teacher called me out of class. Miss Braun looked very serious, although I knew that it was the first of April. I knew that it was April fool’s and that she was just playing a prank on me. Miss Braun said that it was serious and that my mom was going to pick me up. I was happy that mom would pick me up, school was boring that day.

I got scared when mom hugged me really tight. Her eyes looked red and wet while she was driving. I didn’t like the smell in the hospital, and I didn’t like the annoying beep-beep-beep. But it was worse when the beep stopped and all the people ran into the room and they ripped dad’s shirt open and mom pushed me out of the room and cried even more. I heard the people shouting in the room and I wanted to tell them to stop shouting with dad in there but mom didn’t let me go. The way mom pressed me to her chest hurt, but I was scared to say anything because mom looked so sad.

I wasn’t sure what ash was. It made me sad when they talked about dad and all the people were crying.

It took me a few years to understand why they told me that dad was in the teapot we took home. I remembered the golden stripes around the thick part and the way it didn’t have a spout.

It’s strange to think back to those fever dreams. I would like to say that I just remember them wrong; I would like to say that I couldn’t have known the teapot more than a year in advance. But mom kept the drawing I did at school.

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

Even the Dead Try to Warn Her

“You told the receptionist you are worried about death. Is that why you are here?”

“I’m not just worried.” Augustine said. “I’m positively terrified of death. It’s just out there and I know that people keep dying around me. I think they are warning me. That terrifies me.”

“Augustine, you are only seventeen. Why are you scared of dying?”

“No. I’m not scared of dying. I’m scared of others dying, I’m scared of dead people; and maybe also that they die because of me.”

“Why do you think that people are dying because of you?”

“I don’t know.” Augustine paused, looked around the room and finally thumped her hands on the table. “It’s just – I feel that they die because of me. So many people die around me. It started with my granddad and now it’s like there is no month without death.”

“What happened with your granddad?”

“I don’t know. I think it was a heart attack, or maybe something with his brain. The thing wasn’t his death, it was the way I saw him on the bed.”

“After his death?”

“Yes, my mother found him and she called my stepdad to help her or something, and he took me along. I was only fourteen then, so I mean, I knew what death was, but I had never seen it; I had never seen anyone dead.”

“And you saw your grandfather dead?”

“He was in the bedroom. My mom said I should stay outside. I already smelled it, this weird sweetly rotting smell. But Mark, that’s my stepdad, he told me to go inside to say goodbye. I didn’t really think about it. I knew I didn’t want to, but he told me to go inside and so I did.”

“And my granddad was lying there, with one arm on the bed and the rest of his body sitting on the floor and leaning against the bed. He looked like he had just fallen out of the bed – but then his face, it looked so full of pain and his mouth was open and his eyes were completely gone. Those eyes, I still see them in my dream, the gaping holes in his face.”

“You have nightmares about your grandfather?”

“I had a few. But that’s not what I mean. I can still see him, you know? I still see this face in front of me, while I’m eating or showering or watching TV. He seems to be saying something, something horrible and painful, that’s how I see his face, as if he is telling me that I did a horrible thing, or maybe somebody else.”

“Did you feel that when you saw his body?”

“I think so. I was just so taken aback by the way he looked, how his face was falling apart. I stared at his eyes and then I ran out of the room and threw up. But already then I noticed the way his mouth was open, as if he had tried to say something.”

“And you said there were more deaths?”

“Yes.” Augustine said; then she pulled her hands back to her body.

“Can you give me an example?” I asked.

She hesitated. “Okay. I mean, there were just so many. It’s been nearly three years and every month somebody I know dies.”

“For example?”

“Like, the next month, after we found grandpa, our neighbor died. We went to the funeral but it was a closed casket. We sat far in the back during the funeral, but even then I felt uncomfortable, I felt as if this casket was going to open and that woman would scream something at me.”

“And then the next, I think the next was one of my former classmates. He had a car accident. And I heard that they found him too with his mouth wide open, as if he was screaming or shouting.”

“I wouldn’t think that is unusual for accident victims?”

“I don’t know whether it is. But when I close my eyes or think about him, or even when I see his old pictures, all I see is this wide open mouth, and it seems to be trembling, as if he is desperate to tell me something.”

“You think the dead want to tell you something?”

“I’m not sure. It’s, you know, I’m not hundred percent sure. But really, every single month someone dies; a neighbor or old friend or acquaintance, or the guy at the corner store, or a classmate, or a friend of my mom’s, or one of my old babysitters. But every single month somebody I know dies. And – “

Augustine pressed her lips together.

“And?” I prodded.

“And all I know of died with their mouth wide open. Not just open, but wide open. As if they were trying to scream or shout something. As if there was something they knew that they desperately needed to tell. And I’m the only thing that connects those people, you know? I think they are trying to tell me something. I think they are trying to warn me or something.”

“Are you sure that many of them died with their mouths open?”

“Yes. Like, all of the ones I know of. At the end of last year it was one of my mom’s friends, the burial was in an open casket and she had her mouth shut. But during the ceremony one of the persons in the front row screamed and then some others started screaming and people started rushing out of the room. Outside one of the people said that her mouth had opened during the ceremony. They had sewn it shut, you know, for the ceremony. But her mouth opened and she ripped those strings.”

Augustine shook her head.

“That was for me, you know? That was for me. I just know it. They all want to tell me something. And in my dreams I can see them, how all these people that died are standing there, just standing, not doing anything else, and then they open their mouths and I can’t hear it.”

“Augustine, we could give you something to sleep better and against the anxiety.” I said.

“No!” She screamed. “I can’t go back out there. I have to hide.”

“You have to hide?”

“It’s this guy I met last month. I mean, he talked to me in a coffee shop and then asked me for a second date and I went. I never should have gone; I knew it was a bad idea. I knew I shouldn’t meet any people, that I’m a danger for them. And I’ve been feeling really paranoid the last weeks, as if something is behind me and following me and watching me. Not really anything specific, just something is there, and it feels as if this thing is getting closer. I always was a bit scared of the dark and stuff like that, but now I can’t even sleep with the lights off anymore. I always have to have light and I hate being alone. It’s as if any time I’m alone this thing gets closer.”

“And then, this guy, he was really nice and fun and really cute. I knew I shouldn’t, but I wanted to meet him again, that was last week.”

“You had your second date last week?”

“Yes, I mean, we would have. He had asked me to meet him in the same coffee shop where we met. I was running a bit late and feeling guilty for it. So I just slammed myself onto the chair across from him, I didn’t even really say hello. I was searching in my back for money, I think. But the thing is I didn’t really look at his face. I should have looked at him. I should have seen how pale he was, how he was gasping for air.”

“He smiled at me when I came in. And then when I sat down, I didn’t look. He must have been pale already. But I only noticed it when he began to lean to the side, when he was nearly off the chair, and I saw his hands cramped to his chest.”

“I caught him the moment he fell on the floor. But I couldn’t save him, you know? I didn’t know what to do. I thought I had to press on his chest or something, like in the movies. But I didn’t want to make it worse. And all the other people just stared and nobody did anything.”

“He died before the ambulance arrived. He died right there, in the coffee shop. And I had my arms on him and pushed his chest, but I didn’t even know what I was doing. I probably made it even worse.”

“But the thing I really can’t forget was his mouth. It was shortly before he stopped moving; he suddenly opened his mouth really wide and then moved his lips and whispered something. At first I heard ‘bride’. I said ‘bride’ back to him, as a question, but he only ripped his mouth open even wider, and then his lips moved together again and he whispered again and I heard it right that time. He said ‘hide’. He said ‘hide’ and then his mouth ripped open and he stopped moving.”

“And since then this paranoia, I have it all day. Every moment I feel that there is something watching me, and that it is just waiting to attack. Every single moment, and it keep getting worse. And since he died, you know, every night I wake up crying because I hear his voice in my head and see his mouth wide open and this fear in his eyes. And once, during the night, I also saw my granddad and I also saw my mom’s friend, the one who ripped her mouth open at the funeral. They are still standing there, with their mouths wide open, but then it closes for a moment and I can’t hear them but I know what they are saying. They say ‘hide’.”

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

Do you know how hard it is to keep grinning?

“I always had this absurd fear of costumes.” Kelly spoke slowly, her brown eyes steadily shifting from the paper on the table to my hand and finally my face. “I hated Christmas, even as a child, because of all the Santa Clauses behind their impenetrable white beards and fake bushy eyebrows. And for my fourteenth birthday my mom brought me to Disneyland. That was the worst day of my childhood. I was terrified when all those huge costumed figures with their large fake smiles came towards me and when they tried to hug me. Half the day I was in the bathroom and the other I was hiding behind my mom, just to make sure none of them could suddenly grab me and take me away from her.”

“But with circuses”, Kelly brushed the long hair out of her face. “I was always fine with them. It was okay when I had a distance to the ring and the performers. Sure, the performers wear costumes, but at least for most of them you can see the face. Only the clowns – I was always terrified of those; especially the ones that walk through the audience to play pranks.” Continue reading