Storage

By Chef Unxmaal

//Source.

//This is the sequel to The Stairs and the Doorway

“Your honor, I’ve seen shit that would turn you white!” — Winston, Ghostbusters.

There’s not a lot of work out there for a twenty-ish ex-security guard with a bad case of PTSD. And if that dumb kid was hideously scarred by a ‘serial killer’ that had carved a swathe of victims across three states and disappeared without a trace? That kid can barely get a hamburger at McDonald’s, much less gainful employment.

My parents weren’t able to help much. The wounds on my forehead and cheeks healed after a few weeks, or months. I wasn’t counting. You can still see them if you look closely, or in the moonlight. Nobody looks too closely these days. There’s something about my eyes that seem to reflect the things that I’ve seen.

I can identify with Winston. I’ve seen some shit. And that shit would turn you white, if not stark raving mad. And I may in fact be mad, because I keep seeing shit.  Continue reading “Storage”

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Someone Knocks on my Door Every Night

By Chef BloomMilk

//Source.

Around last Wednesday on the 20th my roommates and I finished moving into our new apartment. The place is pretty nice, nothing too fancy, but a good size for the three of us. Our apartment has a nice open kitchen and family room, and connecting to it is a narrow hallway with all of our bedrooms. Every night since we moved in has been really odd though. Continue reading “Someone Knocks on my Door Every Night”

The Stairs and the Doorway

By Chef Unxmaal

//Source.

//Some parts of the beginning have been cut down, resulting in a shorter total run length than the original.

I don’t feel like I’m a nosy person. No more nosy than the next guy. I just have what my Ma would call an unhealthy amount of curiosity. I was the kid who climbed to the top of the big oak, just to see what was in the crows’ nest. I was the kid who dug a hole in the backyard so deep that I hit groundwater because I was convinced there was a cave under our house, and I wanted to see it. To see.

I never felt like a scholar. In high school, I kept my head down and did enough to get by, pulling off B’s and a few C’s. I wasn’t interested in learning, because learning wasn’t interesting. Uni was different. I took mainly core classes, math-English-history-science, but they were fascinating. For one thing, nobody cared if I showed up or not. It was entirely up to me to succeed, so I did.

In exchange for my education, I worked security and did some light maintenance duties. Maintenance was a no-brainer. I’ve always been handy, and most of the fix-it jobs were the type that could be solved with a liberal application of WD-40, or elbow grease, or both. Security was a different story. Security gave me super powers. Continue reading “The Stairs and the Doorway”

I Worked Night Security in 2013, Please Help

By Chef SacredMythos

I’m scared, guys. I really am.

In the summer of 2013, I had what I considered to be the best job of my life. I was the Night Security Watchman, meaning I was the guy who watched the monitors for ten hours a night and got paid ridiculous amounts of money to do so.

Let me get one thing clear: I was a college student who was trying to get by. I had a decent scholarship to a decent state-level university, and I was avidly pursing my degree in Pediatric Healthcare. So, as you can guess, when summer came and classes stopped, I needed to occupy my time and try to save enough cash to supplement me over the break. Thankfully, I had a good friend (Let’s call him Will) who had been working around the town for a long while. He hooked me up with an interview with the company, and I was hired on the spot.

I was assigned as overnight security for a parking garage used by one of the local banks, as some of the higher-ups had a habit of staying overnight for their corporate whatever, and were worried about a string of recent break ins. I really didn’t care about the criteria. I was just happy because I got to spend ten hours (albeit bored) watching the office TV, playing Pokemon, and generally dicking around with whoever was on watch with me. Pranks were frequent.

A fake “severed hand” in front of a camera, one of them popping out with a yell, or anything of that stupid nature were common. After awhile, I grew desensitized to it. A short while after that, I often shut off the audio feeds altogether. Besides the random homeless guy wandering in or the teenagers trying to find a secluded place to drink, get stoned, or have sex, it was completely and utterly uneventful. Often times the other guards would just pass out in the office out of sheer boredom.

August 11th was a night like that. It was about 2AM, and I was halfway through my shift. The hours drug on, and in a last-ditch effort to stay awake, the roving guards (there was two at all times, and tonight, Will was one of them) decided to go to the roof to get some fresh air. Meanwhile, I was glued to my laptop, browsing reddit and drinking as much coffee as my body could handle. It was a completely and utterly average night.

Around 2:30, a car pulled into the lot. This was unusual, but not much of a concern. I watched it for a few moments, became uninterested, and went back to the laptop. Ten minutes later, the car was still there and its driver had yet to show themselves. It made me slightly uneasy, but I had just figured that there was a late night bottle of scotch between the executives and one had called for their spouse to pick them up instead of risk the DUI.

It stayed this was for 40 minutes. Then finally, at 3:30, the car door swung open, and the driver stepped out. He was thin, almost skeletal, wearing a tight shirt and slacks. His eyes were sunken and he was wearing a black skull-cap, and he had a half-burned cigarette in his hand. Naturally, he gave me the creeps. He wasn’t maintenance or a watchman, but he did seem familiar.

After a few moments, he put the cigarette out, and began walking towards the stairwell. There were no cameras in the stairwell, so i decided to notify the rovers.

“Tom, we have an intruder moving towards Stairwell F. Be advised, he seems pretty sketchy.” I droned over the radio.

A loud sigh blared over the radio, then his response: “Roger that. We’re on our way.”

They were armed with tasers and the like, so I wasn’t worried. Still, I decided to activate the audio for the floor, hoping to at least get a sense of where he was going. I expected to hear the sound of his shoes against the metal stairwell, but instead, I was met with a peculiar dragging noise, one which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

After a few moments of this, he appeared again, now toting a large, black sack. It looked heavy, but he was dragging it single-handedly with ease. He stopped upon reaching his car, and began looking around for something. Curious, I decided to update Will.

It was now that I realized just how nervous this was making me. My hands were visibly shaking and my voice cracked over the radio. All I could manage was “Will, please hurry.” Before the receiver slipped out of my hand. I took my eyes off of the monitor for half a moment.

When i looked up, I literally jumped out of my chair in shock. He was staring directly at the camera, but it seemed like it was going beyond. It felt like he was staring me in the eyes. The bags under his eyes added to the look of absolute malcontent and made him look like some cheesy action movie villain. It was completely silent, he wasn’t even breathing. He didn’t move. He didn’t flinch. I was losing my mind looking at him. If this was some kind of shitty prank I was NOT up for it.

I reached for the radio one more time, but somehow it seemed like he knew. He ran at the camera, with a look that I can only describe as sheer darkness on his face. I screamed aloud, and the camera went dead. In the audio, I heard footsteps. Doors Slammed, then after a few moments, yelling, an engine firing, and then a restless silence.

I sat there for a few moments, breathing heavily. What the hell did I just see? Suddenly, the radio came alive. It was Will.

“CALL THE POLICE. TELL THEM TO SEND AN AMBULANCE.” Will’s voice screamed, as groans sounded eerily in the background.

All in all, it took about five minutes for the authorities to arrive. As it turns out, Will’s roving partner had given chase to the man, but had stumbled near his car. Upon the man’s escape, he had backed out over the guard’s leg. Luckily, he avoided any fatal damage, but they still rushed him to the hospital.

For the remainder of my shift, Will and I were questioned. The police took the video tapes and audio logs, and the bag was searched. I wasn’t allowed to view the contents, but the officer’s pale faces and somber tones were enough. They told me it was a man, dressed in a suit, mid forties. He had been strangled, beaten, and had most of the fingers on his left hand removed. Apparently it was one of the employees. Nobody used that stairwell on a regular basis, so the rovers usually avoided it. After a short while, they realized we were as clueless as they were, and we were released.

Two days later, I resigned. I just couldn’t do it anymore. Every time I looked at the monitors I saw his sunken, half skeletal face in the corner. A shadow. Something. It stressed me out.

I don’t tell most people about this story. It just didn’t seem relevant and I just didn’t care to share it. Three days ago, I got a call from the detective’s office. They had apparently found the man after a year on the lam. Will didn’t manage to catch a look at him, and the guard who was injured couldn’t remember much of what happened before the accident, so they wanted me to identify him.

The video evidence had been enough to arrest him, but due to the shitty playback quality, they needed an eyewitness to make sure they had the right man. They told me that they would need to wait for statements, alibi investigations, and booking to occur before they wanted me for the process, but told me they would be in touch. They wished me a good day and hung up.

To most people, this would bring a long, scary story to a satisfying end. But not for me.

Last night, I got a manila envelope in the mail. No return address. I shouldn’t have opened it, but curiosity got the better of me.

What was included made my heart stop, and immediately created a cold sweat that still hasn’t stopped.

Inside were three putrid, grey, decomposing fingers, and a single post it note reading “Don’t you dare.”

Stranger in the Night

By Chef Big_Sid

Around 2006 my girlfriend at the time, Chloe (now ex) and I were looking for a house to rent in Nottingham. We didn’t have much of a budget and most of the places we looked at were in really shitty areas or ridiculously small. We eventually found a place in a nice neighbourhood, that was easily big enough for the two of us. A red-brick Victorian semi-detached built in 1839. It was old and creepy, but big enough and cheap enough for us to decide to move in. The place was pretty run down and hadn’t really been modernised much. It still had single-glazed windows and a crap heating system, so it got very cold in the winter, to the point that ice would form on the inside of the windows.

When we moved in we shifted a lot of the landlords furniture and crap to make way for our own stuff. We were originally going to put this stuff into the attic, but it was really difficult to gain access to it. The way into the attic was through a hatch in the ceiling of a closet outside of the master bedroom and the ceilings in the house were so high we could barely reach up even standing on a table, so neither of us fancied trying to maneuver large objects up there. We just piled stuff up in one of the spare rooms. This was our first place together, so it was quite nice to have a home to call our own, even if it was only rented. However, We both worked odd shifts, so many nights, one of us would be alone in the house while the other was at work.

Chloe started complaining that she was hearing creaking and bumping noises in the middle of the night. I tried to reassure her that the house was old and was bound to make some odd noises as the temperature changed but she always seemed nervous whenever I was working nights and she was going to be home alone. She started spending some nights staying with friends nearby, just to avoid sleeping in the house alone. I just thought she was getting upset over nothing. One night, I was at home on my own, in bed trying to fall asleep, Chloe was working a night shift when I heard a sneeze. I wasn’t sure if I’d dreamt it or actually heard it. I assumed If I had heard it, it must have been someone walking down the street outside.

Things went on like this for a while, we both felt a bit uneasy staying in the house on our own at night and I think it started taking a bit of a toll on our relationship, possibly combined with the fact our shift patterns meant we were usually only sleeping together for one of two nights a week.

The lock on the front door was broken since we’d moved in so we’d bolted it from the inside, and were using the back door to get in and out of the house. Only one of the deadbolts on the front door was working, the other was jammed. The back door had a single flimsy lock, so seeing as how at the time Nottingham was burglary capital of the UK and how Chloe was uneasy enough as it was, I decided to fit some new deadbolts to both the front and back doors. I reminded Chloe that she must be sure to lock them before going to bed, but that she would have to get up in the morning to unlock them so I could get back in after work.

Every morning I’d arrive home from work and be able to get into the house because the deadbolts were unlocked. Most mornings Chloe would already be up, but on a couple of occasions she was still fast asleep when I went to the bedroom. I had gotten annoyed with her for forgetting to bolt the door but on each occasion she swore she had bolted it. She assumed she must have been getting up early in the morning, still half asleep on autopilot, going downstairs, unbolting the door and going back to bed. I assumed she was just forgetting to lock the door properly at night.

Chloe confronted me one day and asked me why I kept messing with her phone, and asking me if I was spying on her or didn’t trust her. This took me by surprise because I hadn’t touched her phone to my knowledge. She accused me of deleting text messages and photos from the phone. I denied this, but she didn’t seem to believe me.

One weekend I was working nights yet again and Chloe was at home. She’d arranged to meet up with some friends and go out for drinks. In the early hours of the morning I got a hysterical call from a clearly scared and clearly drunk Chloe telling me that there was someone in our house. I had an overwhelming feeling of dread. I worked fifty miles away from home, it would take me the best part of an hour to get back. I’d assumed she was inside the house when she’d called, but thankfully she wasn’t. Once I got her to calm down and explain what had happened, she said she’d been on her way back home after seeing her friends. The taxi had pulled up outside the house to drop her off, and she’d been just about to get out when she saw our bedroom light switch off and a figure move past the window inside the house. She freaked the fuck out and told the taxi driver to carry on driving, and was currently on her way to a friend’s house.

I told her to call the police. Later she called me back, the police were fucking useless as expected on a Saturday night in the UK. Too busy dealing with drunks to do anything else. She explained to them what had happened, they’d heard how drunk she was, confirmed that none of the occupants (e.g. me or her) were in the house, so therefore deduced that it was not a matter of life and death and could wait until later, gave her a crime number and told her some officers would be in touch.

I left work and headed home. I wasn’t going to sit there while someone stole all of our belongings, even though I assumed it would already be too late by the time I’d got back. As I got to within about 10 minutes of home, I called the police, quoted the crime number, explained who I was, told them I was going to the house and that if I found anyone inside that shouldn’t be there that they’d better make sure the officers that did eventually attend had a body bag in their car.

Strangely when I arrived home a police car was already there and two officers were stood on the driveway. One was shining a torch around while the other talked on his radio. I parked up, and went over to talk to them. I explained who I was, and what had happened. They told me that they could not see any signs of forced entry. I asked them if they would come into the house with me and have a look around to make sure all was well.

Once satisfied that there were no criminals hiding inside, they spent then next 10 minutes giving me a lecture about veiled threats involving body bags, drunken girlfriends seeing things and so on before a radio message came through to one of the officers and they hurriedly left, speeding off in their patrol car with the blue lights on. It was about 5AM by this point on Sunday morning and it was starting to get light. I wasn’t in any mood to sleep, and was still freaked out about the events of earlier. I called Chloe but her phone was off, I left her a voicemail explaining that I was home, police had looked around with me and everything was safe. I sat in the living room watching TV and drinking coffee while the sun came up.

At about 9AM a taxi pulled up at the end of the driveway and out of it climbed Chloe, looking a bit disheveled. She walked into the house bare footed, holding her high heels in her hand and just started crying and shaking uncontrollably. She was so sure of what she’d seen, she was convinced she was going to come home to find all of our valuables taken and windows smashed or door locks forced. Now she realised nothing of the sort had happened, she was now convinced she was going insane. I tried to put it down to her being drunk, or maybe a weird reflection in the window of the taxi had made her think she’d seen something, but she was insistent about what she’d seen. Eventually I stopped trying to reason with her, because she was just getting more and more upset. Eventually, she cried herself to sleep in my arms as we sat on the sofa.

I took a few days off work, so I could be at home with Chloe. Things started to settle down a little and seemed to be getting back to normal after a few days. I eventually went back to work, and Chloe said she was OK being by herself at home during the night. I didn’t believe her, but I had to go back to work. They’d been pretty good about it all, and had let me take special leave but after a week they started calling me asking when I might be able to come back otherwise I’d have to go on unpaid leave which we could not afford.

The morning after my first night back at work, I got home and could not get into the house. The door was bolted from the inside. I tried calling Chloe’s phone but it eventually went to voicemail. I stood below our bedroom window and shouted for her. There was no reply. I peered in through the downstairs windows but couldn’t see Chloe anywhere. I went back around to the back door and was about to try and break it down, when I glanced up and noticed a ghostly white face peering through the frosted glass of the bathroom window above me. I called out to Chloe. There was no reply, but now I could hear sobbing coming from inside the house.

I unlocked the main lock of the back door, pried a paving slab out of the lawn with my bare hands and used it to smash my way through the deadbolts. I struck the door at the bottom where I knew one of the bolts was and heard a loud crack as the wood gave way. I did the same at the top of the door and it flew open, bouncing back towards me and nearly knocking me out in the process. I ran up the stairs, calling out to Chloe. I could hear sobbing coming from the bathroom. The door was locked. I drove my shoulder into the door, as hard as I could and it burst open as the small privacy lock gave way.

Inside I found Chloe, sitting naked in a bath full of water, with her knees up to her chin and her arms wrapped around her legs, rocking back and forth, crying, shaking from cold and fear and as white as porcelain. I grabbed a towel and scooped her up in it. She was ice cold and just had an empty look in her eyes but was otherwise seemingly unharmed. Several hours passed with me just holding her, until she stopped shivering and seemed to snap back to reality. Her skin had regained a healthy pinkish hue and after a few cups of tea, she finally began to tell me what had happened.

After I left for work, she’d gone to run a bath. After about an hour of relaxing in the tub, she was about to get out and dry off when she thought she heard footsteps on the landing outside the bathroom door. She sat quietly and listening. A shadow appeared along the crack under the door and someone whispered “Chlooooeeeee.” from right outside. At first she thought it was me, and that somehow I’d come home from work early and was trying to spook her and was just about to lay into me for being an arse hole after everything that had happened recently, but then louder the voice came again. “Chlooooeeeee”. She did not reply, because by now she was sure it wasn’t me. There was a knock at the door, like someone tapping it with their knuckles. Then louder banging as the door was punched by the unknown person on the other side. She froze. Her phone was not in the room, so she had no way to call for help, so she just sat there, being as quiet as possible while the voice outside taunted her. It called her names, said it was going to set fire to the house, going to break the door down and rape her. This went on for about 10 minutes, and after the voices stopped, Chloe had not been able to bring herself to leave the bathroom. She just sat and waited, and waited until I’d eventually come home and broke down the door. After the first incident, I think she somehow doubted herself, and she seemed genuinely uncertain if any of what had happened had actually happened or if it had all just been in her mind.

Chloe went to stay with her friends indefinitely. I didn’t have anywhere else to go, and was determined to prove one way or the other whether she really was going insane or someone was fucking with us. I spent the day re-securing the broken deadbolts on the back door, and then got busy setting up a laptop and webcam downstairs. I hid them on a bookshelf, and set the laptop up to record an image from the webcam every 5 seconds. The webcam had shitty low light ability but it was all I had. I headed off to work.

The next morning, I arrived home and cautiously went inside. I quietly crept through the house checking all of the rooms. No one was there. I rushed to the laptop to check through the images. There were in excess of 10,000 photos. I spent ages looking through the thumbnails, looking for anything that looked unusual. As far as I was concerned, I should have 10,000 identical photos of a dark empty room. In the end that’s what I had. I deleted the photos and set up the laptop again for the following night. This went on for about four days. Each time I would check through the pictures and find nothing.

Finally on the fifth morning, about 2,000 photos in, I saw something. Over the course of about 3 pictures, I could see a dark figure in the room. It looked like a man, about six feet tall. I could not make out anything about his features or clothing because of the quality of the pictures, but there was definitely someone in the house. The pictures showed the person coming down the stairs and heading towards the kitchen and the returning in the opposite direction and going back upstairs, rather than coming in from one of the external doors. I nearly lost my shit. My flesh began to crawl, I slammed the laptop lid shut, picked it up and RAN out of the house. I jumped in my car, locked the doors and called the police.

They arrived quickly this time, and I showed them the photos I had, explained everything that had happened over the last few weeks and begged them to turn my house upside down to find out who was hiding in there. Another police car arrived with two more officers in it, to make a total of four and they began a thorough search of the house while I waited outside chain smoking.

About 10 minutes later, two of the constables came outside looking worried. I asked them what they had found, but they told me to stay put, before hopping the garden fence and going to our neighbour’s front door. They banged on the door hard. “Police! Open the door!”, they yelled. After doing this a few times one of the officers kicked the door repeatedly until it burst open, shattering one of its small windows in the process and they both disappeared inside. Another police car turned up. Both of the officers, a man and woman got out and headed into our neighbours house. I still didn’t know what was going on, until about 15 minutes later when the female officer approached me, and asked me to come and sit in the back of the patrol car.

She explained to me that her colleagues had discovered the mortar missing from between the bricks in my attic. The bricks were loose and could be removed by hand. Upon removing the bricks, they were able to gain access to the attic of our neighbours house, but found that the hatch into the upstairs of the building was locked shut. When they gained access to the house, they found a man asleep in an upstairs bedroom, who they arrested on suspicion of unlawful entry and possession of a controlled substance.

They got in contact with the owner of the house to come and secure the place. It turned out that the house next door was supposed to be vacant. The landlord was currently looking for a new tenant he told me, having evicted the previous one months before after noise complaints and finding the house had been damaged. What had actually happened, is the old occupant had himself a set of keys cut, pretended to move out, and hidden in the attic then continued to live in the house, with some of his junkie friends and had removed the mortar from the bricks in the party wall of the attic so they could gain access to my house. Inside they’d apparently found hunting knives, needles and small quantities of drugs but the police had taken all of it was evidence. What they left behind, whether intentionally or just because they didn’t spot it, was a shrine to my girlfriend made of a stolen photo of her, one of her thongs and a lock of her hair that looked as though it had been neatly cut from her head. I never told her about that.

Never Answer the Door After Midnight

   By Chef MrBaubas

I’ve never been a social person. If asked, I could name all of my acquaintances in a single breath and count my friends on one hand. Not to say that I hate people. I love people. It’s just that I get really bad anxiety when it comes to talking. If any aspect of a conversation catches me off guard, if I haven’t mentally prepared myself, then I shut down. I can’t think no matter what I do. It feels like my head is weighted and I’m drowning in burning sand.

I’ve tried fixing this problem before. Believe me I’ve tried. I’ve given it a shot at everything from self-help books and meditation to exposure therapy and the ever present advice, “Stop being a pussy.” Nothing works. As you can imagine I’ve messed up more than my fair share of job interviews because of this. In fact the only job I managed to get was a night janitor’s position at my old high school. It made sense really, I knew the building so the learning curve was easy and since I was there at night I didn’t have to worry about running into anyone. It was a perfect fit.

Due to my work schedule however, I usually found myself awake at night even when I wasn’t working. My whole circadian rhythm was messed up.

So there I sat, alone in my one room ground floor apartment at 3 am on a Friday. I finished work early and had the whole weekend to myself. So I settled in with a movie and was winding down when there was a knock at the door.

I quickly muted the movie and turned. It was a faint knocking that I almost didn’t hear. I had to sit in silence just to make sure that I actually heard something. It knocked again. Someone was definitely there. I briefly questioned whether I should answer. The low intensity of the knock made me uneasy. The only reason I could figure someone would knock on a door at 3 in the morning that softly would be to see if there were any dogs inside.

Burglars.

Freaked by this thought I turned the television off. I didn’t want even that slight ringing sound a muted television makes to escape.

My eyes slowly adjusted to the sudden dark. The white of the front door stuck out from the shadows casting a ghastly glow while I sat. The knocking continued. It wouldn’t cease. The gloom around me shifted with imagined horrors as the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

Though the door was closed I couldn’t help but feel watched. Either someone knew that I was home, or they were insane. I didn’t want to know but the knocking was incessant. I had to check it out.

I crept through the dark careful to avoid making the floorboards cry out. Once I’d made it to the door I carefully placed my hands on either side of the wall and leaned forward. I had to avoid putting pressure on the door or I’d give myself away. As I leaned toward the peephole the knocking came right by my head. As close as I was it sounded like thunder in my ears. It took everything I had to keep from shouting out. Slowly I lifted the brass latch over the peephole inching it with glacial speed so it wouldn’t squeak. When it was secure I allowed myself a deep breath. I had darkness to my back and uncertainty before me, I looked.

There on the other side of the door, in the dead of winter, stood a man who had managed to avoid making any footprints in the snow behind him.

Even in the dark I could make out the details on him. He was dressed in all white. Short sleeves and a hat with a black band on it. It took me a few seconds to realize what he was.

A milkman, but not quite.

His appearance was haggard. His clothes were filthy, stained with sweat and somehow streaked with dirt. The right leg of his pants was ripped to the knee and his belt was hastily fastened leaving it dangling about his waist. He looked like a 50s era milkman who was in a rush to get dressed.

The color was drained from his face and his yellowed eyes were gaunt as if sick. They were sunken in his skull with dark sagging bags. Yet in the middle of his forehead sat a perfect circle, dark in contrast to his pale skin.

He stood silently for a moment before taking his hat off. He ran a scraggy hand through greasy brittle locks then worriedly looked behind him. As he turned I saw the back of his head and instantly knew what the circle was. A large portion of it had been blown out, the entry in his forehead reciprocated in a grisly display of ripped flesh and shattered bone. Skin hung in tatters around the cavity and chunks of pink and red dripped out in gooey clumps. This was no burglar.

A gasp escaped my lips and he quickly turned. He knocked again, this time louder.

“Is someone there?” He asked nervously. “Can I come in?”

I pulled myself away from the door incredulous. This couldn’t be happening. I was just sleep deprived or something. This wasn’t possible. At least, this is what I tried telling myself. The growing lump in my throat however didn’t buy it.

“You’re home early,” his tone was different, confused. It was as if he was suddenly talking to someone else. “Why are you home so early?”

My breathing started to pick up and I slowly backed away from the door. I tiptoed away staring at the nocturnal blue glow coming from the still open peephole. A phone, I needed a phone.

He kept talking as his knocking grew louder. “Come on open the door already.”

I fumbled through the dark like a blind man until I reached the couch. I reached down and on the middle cushion my phone sat. I grabbed it and hit the screen unlock. Nothing. The phone wouldn’t come on.

“Why were you home so early? You shouldn’t be here.”

I pulled the battery pack out and put it back in, still nothing. Maybe I was hitting the wrong button because I couldn’t see? I flicked on a small lamp expecting the room to be illuminated. The lamp wouldn’t come on either. I tried another and was met with the same result, in fact nothing powered on.

“This isn’t what you think, just open up.” He jiggled the handle.

I sat in the dark watching the door shake. What was I supposed to do? I couldn’t call for help and there was only one way out. His voice was pained and he sounded impatient. I still get chills thinking about it. Why was he so nervous?

“Why are you doing this to me?” he asked angry. “Fine. I see how it is…” The knocking stopped.

Seconds stretched into agonizing minutes of silence. It seemed like time crawled on broken fingers as I sat there. Had he really gone? Nothing turned back on yet I couldn’t hear anything from outside.

When ten minutes had passed I got up to check the peephole.

I put my eye to the aperture and was met with a sight I dreaded. On the other side of the door the specter stood staring straight at me with a look of pure hatred. He slammed his fists on the door and started screaming as I fell back. The entryway shuddered under his assault and dust rained from the ceiling.

“I knew it!” he screamed in a shrill voice “You were hiding from me! Now open the door!”

The handle violently exploded into movement as he pushed and pulled. Furiously he beat on the door and it seemed the whole apartment came alive with noise.

“Open up! Open this fucking door damn it! I swear to god I’ll kill you!”

I scuttled away as fast as I could eventually backing into the side of the couch. I stared wide eyed as he bombarded the door like a raving beast. He was angry, beyond furious but he kept diverging, his voice switching from demonic to frightened.

“Why? Oh Christ why are you home so early!?” he nearly sobbed.

I could hear wood groan as the door started to give.

“Open this door! Open it! Open it! Open it!” each shout was followed by pounding.

I curled up in a ball quickly losing my mind. Nobody was hearing this. I was alone without a chance at help. He grabbed the handle with both hands again and pulled back and forth letting out a howl. The latch to the peephole flew up and down as it clattered against the wood noisily.

There was a final crash against the door and he began crying in frustration.

“Please!” I heard him say. “It’s not what you think!”

My eyes were shut tightly as he cried out. His voice was now pure fear. It sounded as if he was being murdered. “Don’t do this to me, I’m begging you please!” he was breaking down almost completely incoherent. Then a noise resonated that immediately caught my attention. It was a gun cocking.

Oh god.

A gun shot ripped through the air with the sound of bottled thunder. I could feel the pressure wave as if I was right next to the barrel. My head began throbbing violently and felt like I could throw up. There was a ringing in my ears as the smell of gun smoke wafted through the apartment.

Then silence.

There was no more banging. No more screaming or crying. The smell lingered for a moment before dissipating. I lifted my head and stared at the open peephole. The opaque light of dusk hung in the air as ceiling dust visibly filtered through it. It speared through the black of my home resting at my feet. My heart had long since leapt into my throat, but when that light was suddenly blocked out I swear I could taste the blood.

A malicious silence flitted through the air with the sound of heavy breathing. Then a voice cut through. It was a different voice this time, a cold voice. One that could have belonged to Hannibal Lector.

“Thanks for not letting him in.” It rasped.

The shaft of light returned and I heard the telltale crunching of snow as someone walked away. This time I did not get up to see who it was. Even when my lights cut back on and the migraine died away I stayed put. I don’t know what all of that was about but that second voice scared me deep in my bones. I don’t how I knew, but I could tell that as that voice was speaking its owner was smiling.

Just Another Night

By Chef Vital_Dual

//Source.

It’s about thirty minutes to midnight when my phone vibrates and starts to blare its ringtone. I jump off the couch and nearly have a heart attack. It’s just another night, one that’s been wonderfully quiet so far. After a chaotic Friday evening that lasted until five in the morning, it’s nice to spend this Saturday alone at home, watching whatever crappy movies are on TV.

I recover and answer it. It’s Mike, though I can barely hear him over the pounding music in the background. “We’re leaving the club now!” he screams. “The girls ditched us and Trent wants to get home early so he can go to church with his family.”

“Sounds good,” I say. “Did you bring enough cash for a cab this time?” Mike’s stories of getting stranded downtown in the middle of the night have become legendary.

“Nah, Jason’s friend has a car. He’s driving us back.”

I frown. “Has he been drinking?”

“Like, one or two beers. He says he’s fine.” He says something to someone nearby, but I can’t make it out. “I’ll be home soon. Don’t worry about staying up for me.”

“Thanks, but I’m not tired. That, and mom and dad told us to always deadbolt the door, and if I do that you won’t be able to get in.”

He laughs. “I’m not sleeping in the front yard again! ‘kay, I’ll be home soon.”

He hangs up and I go back to my movie. There’s something about mindless violence and explosions that just seems so relaxing. Or maybe it’s the fact that school’s finally done for the winter holidays, and my parents wisely decided to go on a cruise with friends for a week before Christmas. Mike and I have the house to ourselves: for him, it means no stern looks when he staggers home reeking of alcohol; for me, it’s no constant reminders to start looking for a job in time for graduation.

The movie goes to its fifteenth commercial and I head to the kitchen for a snack. As I throw a bunch of eggs, cheese and vegetables into a skillet, I hear a loud cracking noise in the backyard. I press my face to the cold, frosty window and look out, but there’s nothing out there but a few bare trees and some fresh-fallen snow. Probably just an animal. It can’t be easy to survive the winter.

My cell phone rings again, so I wander back into the living room to grab it. It’s Mike. I can hear sirens in the background. “Uh, so Jason’s friend kinda, um, lost control of the car.” It sounds like he’s holding the phone half a foot away from his mouth.

“Oh God. What happened?”

“We hit a pole. Car’s totaled, but we’re all okay. I think. Cops are here. They’re talking to the driver.” He laughs. “He’s definitely drunk.”

“No kidding.”

“They’re ignoring the rest of us, and there’s a bus here so I’m gonna on and get home.”

“Sounds like a plan.” I pause and grimace. “Wait. Do you know what bus to get on?”

“I’ll figure it out. Will call you when I’m close.” He’s gone, and I go back to the movie.

There’s a lull in the action, when attractive male protagonist and attractive female protagonist engage in an awkward sexual conversation, which might have worked if they had any sort of chemistry, and my mind wanders to my job hunt. A few of my classmates say they know great companies to work for—apparently mechanical engineers are invulnerable to the bad unemployment rate—but I’m really not sure if I just want to jump into things. Travelling would be fun. There’d be something immensely rewarding about sending Mike a photo of me on the beach while he’d be studying for midterms in the middle of October. Totally worth passing up on an easy job for.

A sudden blaring noise comes from the kitchen. I jump up into the thick smell of smoke. The omelette. Damn it. There’s about a foot of black smoke hovering in the kitchen. I run in, pull my burnt snack off the stove and open every window, letting the chilling air in. My creation is little more than ash, so I open the backdoor and throw it out for whatever animals are trying to get through the night. So much for that.

There’s some leftover pasta in the fridge. I’m happy to eat it cold; at this point, I’m better off not heating anything up. I settle down and continue the movie, but my mind’s going back to travelling. I’ve always wanted to go across the pond, check out Europe, maybe backpack through Germany, see the sights in France, practice my fake accent in Britain. What’s it like there in the summer? Hot, I’d bet, but not any hotter than it is here. Hopefully less humid.

Again, my ringtone snaps me back to the real world. “Now you pick up!” Mike’s shouting, but I can barely hear him. Wherever he is, the reception is terrible. “I’ve been calling for hours!”

I look at the clock and roll my eyes. “You last called forty-five minutes ago. Where are you?”

“I have no idea. The bus is going in the middle of nowhere. I have no idea where any of these stops are. Hell, I don’t even think they’re in English.”

I sigh loudly. Not this again. “How much did you have to drink?”

“Drink? I can’t even…” He trails off, replaced with a loud, harsh static. I pull the phone from my ear. A few seconds later, it disconnects. Whatever. He’ll find a way home.

The movie eventually ends, but it’s just past midnight and I’m hardly tired. Now I’m regretting allowing my roommate to convince me to leave my gaming console at school. This is the perfect sort of boredom for grabbing a sniper rifle and telling twelve-year-olds how great their moms are in bed. And then Mike could have joined right in. He probably spends more time playing than I do, and he doesn’t even live with me. I think my parents are relieved that we’re going to the same school. He’s been trying his absolute best to get his life back on track, and I’m able to be there in case he needs a shoulder to lean on.

A loud scream comes from the backyard. I go back into the now-freezing kitchen and grab a flashlight from the cupboard. I shine it around, but there’s nothing out there. The remains of the omelet are gone, and there are a ton of paw prints around the area. Raccoons? Squirrels? Maybe coyotes? Whatever they were, they moved quickly.

The smoke in the kitchen’s gone. I close all the windows and lie back down in the living room. I guess I doze off, because when I wake up it’s one-thirty in the morning. There’s been no contact from Mike, so I give him a call.

“Hello?” Now it’s like he’s talking into a phone on the other side of the room. “Are you there? Please say something!”

“I’m here,” I say slowly. “Have you figured out the way home yet?”

“I can’t.” Despite the low volume, I can hear panic in his voice. “I’ve been riding for days. Maybe weeks, I can’t tell. Transferring from bus to bus. None of them are going anywhere.” I swear, I can hear him whimper. I can’t help but grin. I’m going to hold this against him for YEARS. “I don’t want to get off. There’s something wrong around here. Something dark. It’s waiting for me.”

“Yeah, it’s called the night, and it’s not very friendly to blackout drunks, now is it?”

“Stop it. Just stop…” He fades away.

“Hello? Mike?” I check my phone. It’s still connected. “If you can hear me, just get off and grab a cab, okay?”

He comes back, with a slightly clearer voice. “We just passed Wedmore. I recognize this place!”

“That’s good, seeing as we drove by it nearly every single day when we were kids.” I sit up, and suddenly I’m feeling groggy. Time for bed. “Anyway, I’m gonna go—“

“No!” he shouts forcefully. “Please stay. Don’t hang up.”

“Okay…” Now I’m wondering if he took any substances beyond alcohol. It’s like he’s combined the hallucinations of shrooms with the depressants of beer. I grimace. It’s what the old Mike would have done.

“Just… just talk to me. How are things at home?”

“They’re good,” I say. “There’s a bunch of animals outside, making lots of noise. I think they’re raccoons, but they could be bears. Might want to watch yourself.”

“Cool.” The connection’s even better. “Just went over the bridge. I’m a few stops away.”

“And there you go. Was there any reason to have been concerned?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe.” He pauses. “Man, I cannot wait to get home. I think I can hear my bed calling me.”

“Is it saying ‘Clean me?’”

He laughs, loudly and heartily. “I’m nearly there. Jesus, I’m glad the night is over. Thanks for not hanging up.”

“I’m always here. You know that.”

“It was weird,” he continues, “I couldn’t call or text anyone. I tried to get on Facebook, but it looked really strange. And as soon as you called, I realized where I was. It’s like it came out of nowhere.” His voice rises. “And there’s our street! I’ll call you when I’m near the house. Holy crap, that’s dark…” He hangs up. I go to the front window and look out. All the street lights are on, casting their pale-orange tint on the road. I gaze as far down as I can. No sign of him.

I’m about to go and clean up the kitchen, but my phone rings. “Where the hell is our house?”

I throw my free hand up incredulously. “The same place it’s always been, you idiot?”

“I can’t see it. The street is way too dark. I don’t even know if I’m on the sidewalk or the road.”

“What are you talking about? It’s bright as day out there.” I go over to the front door and flick the outside light a few times, showing off our snow-covered driveway, the one Mike was supposed to shovel before heading out. “There. Can you see—“

“I saw it!” he screams. “The light! Turn it back on!” I do so, even though it adds nothing to the overall brightness of our neighbourhood. “I see it. Okay, yeah, I’m close now.”

I look out the window, but still can’t see him. There’s just a pair of headlights coming down the street. “How close are you?”

“Nearly there. Oh, thank God, I’m nearly there.”

The headlights slow down at my driveway. “Are you in a car?”

“No. Do you know how easy a car would have made all of this?”

I scoff. “I think there’s a lot of things that could have made this easier.”

He’s silent for a moment, and then he sighs. “Look, I know what you’re thinking, but I swear, I only had a few drinks.” His voice lowers. “I’m done with that other stuff. I made that promise, and I’m going to keep it.”

“I know.” The car’s pulling into my driveway. It’s the police. What the hell is going on here?

“I’m steps away. The house has never looked so good,” Mike says. The car stops and two officers get out, both struggling on the slippery driveway. They take their caps off and hold them against their chests.

“No…”

“What is it?” Mike asks. “I’m at the driveway. Can you see me?”

The world stops around me. This was supposed to be just another night. Everything I’d done—the movie, the omelet, those animals outside, what I’m going to do when I graduate—had been so inconsequential. That was the point. That was the goddamn point.

The officers are walking up the steps. My throat is suddenly very tight, but I manage to get the words out. “Yeah, bro. I can see you.”

“Awesome. I’ll be there in a minute. Thanks for guiding me home.”

“It’s what I’m here for.” I take a deep breath. “See you soon.”

“Can’t wait.” He hangs up. A few seconds later there’s a knock on the door.

I open it.

Jimmy Works the Night Shift

By Chef Nightwatch_SRB

My name tag reads: Hi! I’m Jimmy. How can I help you?

I work at a gas station in a forgettable little town in Illinois about six hours south of Chicago. When I was a kid I never thought I’d end up working the graveyard shift five nights a week a hundred feet from the off ramp. I always dreamed of being a firefighter or a teacher, maybe even playing guitar in a rock band. But by your late 30s you start to realize the difference between dreams and reality. I don’t know whether it was my own bad luck or my inability to stick with college. But I was stuck working from nine at night to five in the morning for my paycheck. Que Sera, Sera.

You meet a lot of interesting people in my line of work. Maybe interesting isn’t the best word. I’ll just say there’s a lot of characters roaming around at two in the morning. To tell the truth, I like the night shift. It’s slower and I get paid an extra 75 cents an hour. Though, I haven’t been robbed yet and I’m sure looking down the barrel of a gun would change my tune.

I have my regulars, and I’ve come to enjoy their company. Mostly. Some I could do without. There’s Scratchy. I don’t know his real name, but he comes in around eleven nearly every night to buy ten dollars-worth of instant lottery tickets.

There’s Mrs. Fletcher. She lives down the block and rolls up on one of those mobility scooters every week to get milk and cat food. Nice old lady. Made me a plate of cookies last Christmas.

One of my favorites was Steve, and not because he was a great conversationalists. He wasn’t as far as I knew. I only know him from his name tag on his McDonald’s uniform. He sometimes rolled in around 3:30 in the morning to get gas before his 4:00 shift. Whenever I saw good ‘ole Steve I knew it wasn’t long before I got to go home.

Those are some of the nicer ones I get to interact with. Now let me tell you about one of the nasty ones.

It was a Wednesday morning in early spring, I think. I was reading a horror anthology; King, Bradbury, Bloch. The usual suspects. An oldie but a goody turned off Main Street and rolled up to the entrance. That’s what I call classic cars. I always liked older cars, and since I started working here I would often glance through the many “Hot Rod” magazines we sold.

I recognized it immediately. A 1978 Diamond Jubilee Edition Thunderbird. All black with tinted windows. A tall man with pale drooping features stepped out. If I had to guess his profession from how he was dressed I would say something like funeral director. A black suit jacket hung from his rigid frame. I noticed mud on his shoes and the hem of his slacks.

I nodded and mumbled, “Hello.”

He walked to the aisles, ignoring my greeting as if I didn’t even exist. He brought a box of garbage bags, a roll of duct tape, our biggest size bottle of Clorox bleach, and a hacksaw to the counter. And yes, we sell hacksaws. You’ll find them between the ratchet sets and the shot glasses.

I make it a rule not to think too hard about what people buy. It’s none of my business unless it’s an underage kid trying to buy booze or wannabe meth maker trying to buy up all our cold medicine or nail polish remover.

The old guy’s selection was suspicious, but suspicion and guilt are two different things. It wasn’t until I rung him up that I got that uneasy feeling that comes so easily to someone who works alone late into the night.

He pulled a small red purse from under his jacket and rifled through it. A long uncomfortable moment later he pulled out a two twenty-dollar bills to pay for his stuff. I glanced at the purse in his hand and noticed a woman’s driver’s license amongst the jumble of items within. That wasn’t really strange. Married couples often co-op each other’s wallets, checkbooks, debit cards and various other devices used for payment. It all went toward the family’s needs anyway.

But his too-perceptive eyes caught mine looking. I counted his change then handed it to him. He smiled, but it seemed more like he was baring his teeth. For whatever reason he reminded me of a predatory animal gloating over wounded prey.

“Your name is Jimmy?” he asked. The accent was something I had never heard in real life. Only in movies or television. It was something Eastern European, very thick too.

“Yes,” I replied. “Let me bag this up.”

I bagged it then pushed it across the counter.

“You work alone at night do you?”

I panicked. Said nothing.

He smiled again. “See you around, Jimmy.”

I was glad he was gone. I hoped I would never see him again. Some people just make your skin crawl and I’ll be damned if could really tell you why. It wasn’t his transaction, but his presence. Does that make sense? I’ll admit it doesn’t. Maybe I shouldn’t read horror stories when I get bored at work. As my manager likes to say, “If you got time for leaning you got time for cleaning.”

Two nights later I found myself grabbing the local paper. I saw a woman’s face. The story was brief. She had left a bar two towns down the highway a couple of nights earlier. She never got home. I didn’t know this woman, but my mind insisted that I’d seen her face before. But the mind plays tricks. I see a lot of faces. Who am I to make a fuss without something better than a fleeting look at a woman’s face on a driver’s license?

Spring turned to summer, and sometime in late June I had another visit from the man in the black Thunderbird. This time I knew I had seen something I shouldn’t have. He walked inside stoically and made his way to the bathrooms in the back. I noticed his hands were coated in something red. I wanted to tell myself it was ketchup or maybe paint, but I knew it was blood. Tiny scarlet drops fell to the floor creating an intermittent trail leading to the back of the gas station.

I considered running to my forest green Cavalier accentuated with bondo and rust. But I choked down the rising terror, telling myself no one could be so audacious as to partake in a foul deed then walk in public with blood soaked hands. I reasoned that he must have injured himself. Right? What murderer in his right mind would walk around with bloody hands for the world to witness? But murderers aren’t in the “right” frame of mind. And is a gas station at three in the morning really that public? No one had been in for nearly two hours. I heard the bathroom door open and my whole body tensed.

I stared, paralyzed by the man’s approach. Now his hands were clean and wet with water from the sink. But his face was decorated in thin lines of red that radiated out from the corner of his lips. He grabbed the local paper and the USA Today and tossed them on the counter. I must have stared too long.

He dabbed his cheek delicately then inspected the red spot on his finger. “I suffer from gum disease, Jimmy.”

Hadn’t he seen the blood around his lips? The fluorescent light in the bathroom is bright, almost overbearing. And there’s two mirrors. One above the sink and a full length mirror next to the little machine that sells cologne and condoms.

He paid then went outside. He placed the newspapers on the roof of his T-bird then stood to peer into the night as if contemplating something. I watched him stand there for at least five minutes, watching the sky and occasionally sneering with his blood smeared mouth. Then his body snapped into action, turning to rush back into the building. The automatic doors opened. I saw his face, but his animalistic smile was missing. He bared his teeth. I saw large canines set in his mouth like tiny white daggers.

Before he could step inside, a SUV sped into the parking lot. The man in black retreated to his T-bird, started the car and drove into the night.

I was never so glad to see a group of drunk club-hoppers in my entire life. There’s only one bar in the county that stays open until 4 in the morning. There had been an ordinance proposed to restrict last call to midnight throughout the county. It was voted down. If it hadn’t, I wonder if I would be alive to tell this story.

They were a slightly obnoxious group. I think one of the guys stole a candy bar. The women stared into the screens of their iPhones while I rung up their transactions. I wished them good night. They walked out not saying a word. They were my best customers of the night.

In the parking lot were the bloody man’s newspapers. All summer and into the fall I wondered if he was reading up on the people who went missing that summer. There were at least two in my part of Illinois. But people go missing all the time in America. All over the world really. Most of them disappear for good.

I kept an eye out for the man in the black Thunderbird, but I haven’t seen him again. However, something last night got my attention. I was reading Dante’s Inferno (Scary stuff). Steve had been by to get ten bucks in gas before his shift. I was looking forward to breakfast and sleep.

I saw something move in the alley across the street. It was a long black car with its lights off. The kind they don’t make anymore. It could have been a Mercury Cougar or Lincoln Continental. Maybe even a Thunderbird.

I would have quit this job long ago, but where would I have gone? I’ve got to pay the rent. Que Sera, Sera.

I should be cleaning the bathrooms right now or doing inventory, but I bought Bram Stoker’s Dracula today. Think I’ll read a few chapters first. No hurry really. The place is really dead tonight.

I Used to Work Night Security at a Zoo

     By Chef SeasideConflux

“Damned, dirty apes,” Ronnie cursed into the radio.

“What’s going on out there?” I asked, giving his quote a chuckle. I could hear the shrieking of the baboons in the background.

The storm came down worse than the pretty weather girl said on the television earlier that night. In fact, it was the complete opposite. The wind gusts blew through the zoo accompanied by torrents of cold, thick rain. She said it was supposed to become a drizzle in the next couples hours yet it was intensifying.

“They’re really agitated tonight. I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with them,” Ronnie answered back.

“Must be the storm. It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. Animals have a sixth sense about them, you know? They know when the shit is about to hit the fan,” I said back to him and lowered the radio volume.

“Oh come on, you know that’s some pseudo-science bullshit!” Ronnie shouted as I expected he would. It was easy getting under his skin when it came to stuff like that. He had no tolerance for bullshit and that’s part of the reason why we got along so well. We had plenty of time to get to know each other while working the day shift and often walked around the zoo shooting the shit while telling the visitors not to feed the animals and occasionally dealing with an obnoxious or drunken patron.

Everything changed the day after the first incident at the zoo. Several animals were found eviscerated in their enclosures and some were missing altogether. Security was ramped up in response forcing us to man the night shift until the police could figure out what had happened. Neither of us minded being re-assigned since our pay was slightly increased and we wouldn’t be dealing with the nasty heat in the daytime. Best of all, there weren’t any visitors in the zoo.

“I’m kidding, buddy. Relax,” I said adding fuel to the fire.

“Fuck you, Al!” Ronnie shouted and cut out. I walked underneath the awning near a row of snack stands staying out of the rain. I felt bad for Ronnie since there was nothing on his side of the zoo besides restrooms that would offer shelter from the rain.

“Hey Ron, why don’t you hide out in the bathroom for a while until this shit blows over? Give’em a good cleaning while you’re at it,” I suggested.

“Shut up,” Ronnie replied in a whisper.

“Oh come on, I’m just trying to help,” I replied back laughing that I’d gotten under his skin again.

“No seriously, be quiet a sec,” Ronnie commanded in a serious tone. In the time we’d worked together, I’d never heard Ronnie be serious about anything. I waited for what felt like hours for him to radio back. I was about to squeeze the Call button when the crackle of radio static startled me.

“Get the fuck over here now!” Ronnie shouted frantically.

“What is it?” I answered back.

“Seriously man, whatever you’re doing just drop it and get the fuck over here now. You gotta see this.” Ronnie’s voice wavered in the static of the radio. Though I was cold and soaked to the skin, I felt colder still when I heard him speak those last words. I’d never heard his voice waver like that. I’d never heard that undercurrent in it that couldn’t be disguised: fear.

“Be over there ASAP. Sit tight.” The radio crackled and I headed from the shelter of the snack stands back to the parked golf cart. The plastic roof of the vehicle did little to shelter the console from the pouring rain, everything was soaked and dripping. I hopped in and turned the key, my hand shaking from the cold.

I buzzed away in the silent vehicle, along the black pavement of the zoo paths toward the primate enclosures where Ronnie awaited. The grounds were empty and quiet. Much too quiet. Why in God’s name did we have to work on a night like tonight? Why couldn’t we just stay in the office until this shit blew over? And now this nonsense with the apes. The thoughts buzzed in my head and more and more I began to weigh how much I actually needed this job.

When I arrived at the baboon enclosure, Ronnie stood by the edge of the cage, his plastic poncho flapping in the wind behind him like some kind of comic book superhero. I slammed the brakes hard and brought it to a dead stop behind him, but he didn’t turn around.

The shrieking of the primates was frenzied, high-pitched and perpetual, and set my teeth on edge. They couldn’t have been too happy about being stuck out in this god-awful weather, but I got the feeling from what my partner had said it was something more than that. I hopped from the seat of the cart and lightning flashed in the sky, followed by a boom of thunder, low, loud, and close. The baboons’ shrieking intensified and I felt like I was walking into that scene from 2001. I expected to see a giant black obelisk rising from the center of their cage. I came up beside my co-worker.

“Ronnie, what the hell’s going on, man? What’s got into them?”

He still didn’t turn his head. The pouring rain ran down his cheeks as he stared into the center of the cage. I followed his gaze and saw a swarm of the shrieking monkeys encircling something. They were feeding, tearing pieces of flesh and blood and ligament from an animal torso lying between them. Ronnie just kept staring his thousand yard stare.

“It’s human,” he said slowly. “There’s a human body in there.”

I felt ill as I glanced around the top of the enclosure. I figured that whoever’s body was being torn asunder by a frenzied troop of baboons had gotten in from up there. There was an altogether too-short railing at the top that opened up into the main level of the park. During the day people could come and watch the baboons play from above instead of below. A few times in the past there had been a few idiots who decided that they wanted to climb the railing to play with the baboons. There was only one time someone had successfully made it into the enclosure but the guards were able to rescue them before the baboons got to them.

This person hadn’t been so lucky.

“What the hell are we going to do?” Ronnie said blankly, staring at a rather large baboon leisurely chewing on a handful of flesh. I stood unblinking and uncertain of the best course of action. Obviously we couldn’t go in, getting between a wild animal and its meal is . . . inadvisable. And really, there was no point. The person in there was deader than disco. Risking our lives for a corpse wasn’t a reasonable course of action, especially because we didn’t get paid enough for that.

“We better call the boss,” I said turning toward the exit of the exhibit.

“I think we should just call the cops right away,” Ronnie said to me as we made our way back to the small office where our phones were protected from the rain.

The boss had told us clearly after the first couple of incidences that we should contact him first, he’d take care of it. Something about us not getting paid enough to deal with this shit. He was right. Reminding Ronnie of this, he didn’t seem pleased. He started quietly grumbling under his breath, spitting the rain water from his mouth with every movement of his lips.

Grabbing my phone, I sifted through to find George. After several rings his wife answered the phone, her quiet hello sounded groggy from being awoken. “Hi, Mrs. S. Is George around? There’s been another incident.” My voice cracked, “It’s pretty serious.”

She yawned, “Hi Al, George said he was going into work tonight. Something about a problem with the security system. You haven’t seen him?”

Placing my hand over the receiver so she couldn’t hear me, I spun around to Ronnie who was looking a little pale. “You seen George tonight?” He simply shook his head.

“We haven’t. I’ll keep an eye out.”

She yawned again, “Alright dear, you two be careful in that storm.”

The only option now was to notify the cops. I didn’t like it, but damned if we were going to go searching for George in the storm. Ronnie seemed relieved, more color flooding to his face.

“I’ll call them,” he said.

“Alright. I don’t want to, but I’ll head back to the enclosure to make sure everything is secure.” I said as Ronnie started dialing.

The office was close by and I could still hear the monkeys shrieking. I made my way to the top of the enclosure to double check the locks on the doors. Realizing they were secure, I sighed and put my weight on the rail, tilting my head to the left in an attempt to not look down. My focus fixated on one of the trees, and that’s when I noticed the piece of clothing that had been left behind.

A few years back George had gone on a trip with his wife. He came back with a red cap which seemed to be superglued to his head ever since.

My stomach dropped and I sprinted back to the office, Flinging open the door, I yelled out to Ronnie. “I think it was George. Fuck, Ron. His hat was in the enclosure.”

Ronnie froze with his thumb hovering over the call button, staring into the space I occupied. He blinked, “No fucking way.”

I sighed, “Yeah, way. I can hardly believe it myself.”

“No. I mean, no fucking way. George never went near those things. You know, ‘Those damn dirty apes’? He hates them.”

His hat was hooked on one of the branches with smears of brown and deep red. Apart from that, there was no way to identify the mess of viscera lying in the bottom of the enclosure now. “His hat was in there, Ron.”

He shook his head with a little too much conviction, “That don’t mean a thing. Coulda fallen off. Then maybe the wind blew it in there.” Ron hit “Call” and put the phone to his ear.

I slumped in the chair next to him, barely listening to his requests for police and an ambulance. I shut my eyes for just a minute when the sound of the rain became cracks against the window. Hail stones fell and littered the ground with pale icy beads. By the time Ron explained for the third time that we were on Fifth and Eighth, not Sixth and Seventh, the hail stones were as big as golf balls, and slammed against the window, threatening to come straight through.

The cries from the park changed from excited gibbering to panicked shrieks. The lemurs in the enclosure next to the office ran around trying in vain to hide under the trees. Hail stones crashed down against the bars, exploding into fragments. Some got through the gaps and hit the ground inside like grenades.

The unlucky animals took direct hits, some reeling from broken ribs, some slumped to the ground with a bloody mess on their skull. The ones that found hiding places fought for the space, pushing smaller, weaker ones into the fray.

“Shit.” Ron hung up, “I could barely hear them on the line. The dispatcher didn’t hear a word of what I said. This storm is seriously fucking with us.”

“I think we’re in here for the night, Ron.”

As the words came out of my mouth, there was a crash above us. It thudded heavily like it would break through the roof. The office shook with the impact. Then there was another one and another afterward. Ron and I both jumped out of our seats and stared up at the ceiling expecting it to come crashing down on us at any moment.

“Those pieces of hail must be the size of freakin’ basketballs to make that noise,” I said to Ron as we both went to the office door and into the administrative area. As we approached the window for a look outside, there several more crashes on the roof. Neither of us said a word at what we saw when we looked out the window.

Dozens of animal corpses littered the pavement outside the office as far as we could see. We couldn’t tell what any of them were. Each corpse was a tangled mess of flesh and viscera. Broken bones ripped through skin and fur. They looked just like George’s body in the baboon enclosure. Ron put his head down and puked. I was too in shock to do anything else but stare ahead and watch as animals continued to fall from the sky.

“It’s fuckin’ raining all creatures great and small of God’s green earth.”

Ron looked up at me, his face pale, and wiped the vomit from the edge of his mouth with his hand. He stared at me incredulously. The pounding on the roof continued above us, a continual thump thump thump. I stared out the window and watched the rain of animal corpses hitting the pavement. Body after body rained from the sky with the hail. Giant fleshy sacks of muscle and blood and grizzled guts exploding against the hard wet surface of the zoo asphalt and splattered everywhere.

“I’m worried the roof is gonna come in,” Ronnie said. His eyes were wild. “This is some end times shit we’re dealing with right now, man. I –”

His proclamations were cut short by a sound coming from outside. It was a viscous, bone-rattling monstrous squawk that was deeper and louder than any boom of thunder I’d ever head.

“What the fuck was that?” I said. “We need to get outta here!”

“No!” Ronnie yelled. “What the fuck’s got into you, man? It’s fucking raining animals outside!”

I didn’t care. I ran for the door and burst out into the cold insanity that was the storm. It was a wasteland of carnage, animal bodies strewn everywhere, and the unrelenting hail and wind pounded me. Then I heard it again, that animal sound, that scream – shaking me to the core and making a chill run up my spine.

“Al!” Ronnie yelled from behind and tackled me. We fell to the tarmac, and I looked just in time to see a giant hulking gorilla drop like a stone and explode into a puddle of gore right where we had been standing.

“Holy shit!” I yelled over the thump thump thump of bodies hitting the pavement everywhere around us.

“Thanks man!”

Ronnie was frozen above me, staring up into the sky. “Ronnie?”

I followed Ronnie’s gaze. At first I thought he was staring at the storm, then lightning flashed and I saw what he was looking at. It was only for a moment but whatever I saw was huge, flying on massive wings. Now that I knew it was there I could see it, turning round and round in the sky. It was circling the mess of meat that had just splattered behind us. I glanced down at myself and realized that Ronnie and I were covered in the gore too.

“Ronnie,” I choked out, trying to remain calm “Ronnie, we have to get back inside.” Ronnie still had his eyes glued to the sky. He was whimpering prayers to whatever deity he worshiped.

“Ronnie, dammit!” I stood up and grabbed his arm and began yanking him towards the building. “We need to get back inside now!”

I heard the creature getting closer. The wings shaking the air warning that death was only a few yard away. I could feel the beating of the wings in the shifting of the air. It squawked again and I dropped Ronnie’s arm to cover my ears.

I looked at Ronnie again, he’d finally come around and was standing. The squawk seemed to shake him loose from his paralysis. I took that chance to bolt for the door.

“Hurry up!” I shouted to Ronnie while he was still making his way back into the building. He slipped on the gore that covered the ground almost falling over but regained his balance as he bolted towards the door. A flash of lightning lit up the sky and then there was the crash of thunder a moment later. Ronnie’s eyes widened into pure terror. Another powerful squawk ripped across the air, making my ears drums feel as if they were going to burst. Whatever it was that he saw gave him a second wind and he quickly made it back inside.

I slammed the door shut behind him and twisted the lock into place. The door started to shake a second later, as if as group of people were hitting it with hammers. The sound of wood splintering ran out through the office and an ear-piercing squawk filled my soul with fear. I had no time to think as the window next to the door shattered and something flew into the administrative room. The impact must have dazed it as it fluttered around on the ground trying to regain its composure.

I felt a tug on my arm and Ronnie dragged me away into the security room.

“Did you see that shit?” I shouted knowing damned well that Ronnie had seen it. There were a million and one questions on my mind. My adrenaline rush wouldn’t allow me to formulate the words that I was trying to say. I was hoping he would have some sort of an answer that would put my mind to ease as to what that creature was.

“The sky…it’s…full of them,” Ronnie replied through chattering teeth. I couldn’t tell if it was from being cold or from fear.

“I only saw the huge one and the one in the office,” I said back confused.

“I saw them all when the lightning flashed. They’re circling above us. Hundreds of them,” Ronnie explained. A cold shiver went up my spine. Ronnie sat down on a chair and put his palms to his face. He wiped away the blood that was getting into his eyes. I did the same hoping to remove whatever I had on my face as well.

“Coco,” Ronnie said as if figuring out the answer to all our questions in life.

“What about Coco?” I replied.

“Dude, that was Coco that splattered in front of us on the pavement,” Ronnie answered with wide eyes, nodding his head in a daze.

“Yeah, there were a lot of animals out there. The whole fucking zoo is splattered outside,” I replied still not understanding where he was going with it.

“Coco is a 300 pound gorilla,” Ronnie said looking at me like I was an idiot.

“I really don’t know how that fun fact helps us right now,” I said feeling irritated.

“Whatever the fuck it was that dropped him from the sky has to be about the size of a god damned bus to have done that!” Ronnie shouted at me while tossing the chair to the side and pacing around the room. He opened the desk drawers and ransacked them until he found a can of mace and tossed it at me.

“So what do we do now?” I asked hoping to calm him down.

“We barricade the door, hunker down, and hope to God that they don’t break through,” Ronnie replied while turning over the desk and pushing it against the door. I started to search the room for something else to add to our makeshift barrier and found nothing. We took our chairs and placed them against the door too. We both sat there listening to the thump thump thump and muffled squawks between the rumbles of thunder.


“Al, wake up,” Ronnie said shaking me out of my slumber. I didn’t realize that I had fallen asleep. Between the sound of thunder and squawks, I didn’t think I’d ever get to sleep but my exhaustion must have won out at some point in the night.

“What’s going on?” I asked wiping the sleep away from my eyes. The whites of Ronnie’s eyes were blood-shot and there were bags under his eyes. He must have stayed awake the entire night.

“It’s morning. The storm is gone. There hasn’t been a thump on the roof in hours. I think it’s safe but I don’t want to chance going out there without backup,” Ronnie explained pointing at the mace on the floor next to me.

We made our way out of the security office remaining as quiet as we could. Ronnie led in front holding an improvised spear made from a broom handle we’d found in the closet. I stayed behind him with the mace ready to spray anything that came at us. As soon as we stepped out of the office door, the smell of rotting meat punched us in the face like we owed it money. I tried to hold back from vomiting but the smell was too wretched. I tossed up whatever I had in my stomach and then we continued onward with our hands over our noses and made sure to breathe through our mouths. It didn’t make it any better.

As we exited the hallway and entered the administrative office, we were met with the sound of squawking birds. That almost sent me running back into the security office but Ronnie held my arm and told me to listen. They were nothing like the squawking we heard the night before. We tiptoed to the shattered window, crunching over the broken glass, alerting the birds to our presence. A few turned their attention to us then immediately went right back to enjoying their scavenged meal. They paid no mind to us as we took in the grisly view that the darkness of the night had hidden away from our eyes.

Thousands of birds from miles around had smelled the stench of festering zoo animals and came to enjoy the buffet of leftovers the creatures from last night left behind. Entire carcasses were left behind that looked like they had been torn apart but none of the meat was taken. Only the bones seemed to have been removed.

Birds of all shapes, colors, and sizes pecked away with blood smeared beaks at the carrion. Before leaving the safety of the office, we searched the skies for any sign of the creatures from last night. Aside from a few birds circling above, there was nothing threatening.

We made our way out to the parking lot carefully to avoid slipping on the gore that coated the ground. Once I got my phone on a charger, I called for the police and told the dispatcher about what happened. I couldn’t believe my ears when they told me that they would get to us in an hour or two. The storm had wrought havoc across the state causing traffic accidents and bringing down power lines making travel very difficult. All officers on duty were busy.

Ronnie took the phone from me and tried to berate some sense into the dispatcher but apparently even if every animal on Earth was killed, the police would still be more worried about taking care of human life first. Looking back on it now, I can see their reasoning but after spending the night in a security office worrying about being lifted into the air and then dropped to my death by some monster, there was no reason left in the world.

We waited an hour before an officer showed up at the zoo. As he stepped out his car, he placed his hand over his nose and coughed at the smell in the air. It was beginning to warm up too. The smell would get worse as the day went on. The officer asked us what happened and we had no choice but to tell him the truth. He didn’t believe us until we offered him a tour of our newly renovated zoo. Once he finished puking, he called for backup. I imagine that the rest of the day must have been like that for everyone else that showed up at that horrific scene.

It’s been almost twelve years since the events of that horrible night. The zoo never reopened and a month later, it was bulldozed and the land was sold off to a company that built a warehouse there. Ronnie and I heard through the grapevine that the zookeepers and everyone else that worked there were told that it was closed because the owners had a change in morality about keeping animals caged up for human amusement. They were told that the animals were released into the wild or transferred to other zoos around the world. Any further inquires led nowhere.

The company offered very generous severance packages to the employees that lost their jobs. Ronnie and I were offered a substantial amount to compensate us for our troubles that night and to buy our silence. Non-disclosure agreements were a stipulation to getting our payouts and keeping them. Unfortunately, money talks and its very loud in the ears of a couples of guys that used to work security in a zoo. Plus, who was going to believe our story anyway?

George’s wife was the only loose end that the company had to contend with. She filed a missing person’s report with the local police and there was an investigation into his disappearance. The last anyone had seen of him was a security camera video showing him getting a drink at a convenience store and leaving the store never to be seen again. George never turned up.

It pained me to have to keep my mouth shut about it knowing that she was suffering the entire time. Luckily for her, it was discovered later on that George had a life insurance policy through the zoo and Mrs. S got a pretty huge payout. She soon went silent on the matter as well. A few months after George “disappeared”, she moved out of town never to be seen or heard from again.

Just to be safe, I changed the names of the people involved and left out many of the specifics in case anyone from the company’s legal department happens to stumble upon this. After more than a decade, I doubt anyone even bothers thinking about that zoo anymore except for me and I’d guess that Ronnie may think about it often as well.

There are still scars from that night that will last me a lifetime. The sound of thunder sends a cold chill down my spine and sends me running for cover in a panic. I’ve imagined seeing the outline of the mammoth beast circling in the clouds waiting for me to come outside so that it can fly me into the air and drop me. The deafening squawk is the only that I can hear as I plummet to Earth. My bones snap on impact and everything goes dark but I’m not dead. The smell of rotting animals awakens me from death. I see the birds pecking away with bloody beaks at the remains of splattered animals. I can’t breathe. I can’t think. Nothing feels right anymore.

Once it passes, I’m fine again and I can continue to live my life as I have all along with only one lingering thought in the back of my head that continues to haunt me to this day:

They’re still out there. One day, those creatures will be hungry again. And the next time, they’ll be bigger and looking to eat animals more like Coco instead of baboons.