Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Headlights in the Fog

My flight landed three hours late. I was beyond exhausted. I can't sleep on planes. I waited for my luggage looking like a zombie and feeling even worse.

I bought a coffee from an automated machine in the lobby. It was too hot to drink and tasted like muddy water, but it was caffeine and God knows I needed it.

My car sat where I'd parked it five days ago. It looked like a woman waiting in the door for her cheating husband who'd been gone three hours longer than he'd said he'd be. I schlepped to the trunk and heaved in my suitcase. At the time I didn't even notice that no one else was going to their car, despite the flight having been booked to maximum.

It was November 12th. Snow wasn't falling yet, but was threatening to. The lights in the parkade glared in my eyes and beyond the lot I could see only blackness. I put the key into the ignition and pulled out, leaving the airport behind and heading west on Highway 348.

Within just a couple of miles I realized I was surrounded on all sides by a dense fog worthy of a John Carpenter movie. I wasn't bugged so much by that as the fact that my headlights were reflecting little back to me other than a swirling wall of white. The street lights were more hindrance than help. I switched to low beams and drove a bit slower than normal.

I still had not realized that I was the only other car on the road.

The fog was thicker than cotton. I could see only a few feet ahead. Passing a streetlight meant momentary light-blindedness. I began to feel disoriented, as if I was driving through clouds.

After a while, the streetlights ended and my own headlights were the only light source around. I turned on the radio, but was met with low-humming static on every station. It only added to the rudderless feeling in my bones. I was a sailor on a tiny skiff adrift in strange, silent waters.

I could see glimpses of landscape here and there beside the road. Open fields with unknown crops, the odd scarecrow, but no houses. No people. No other cars.

For the first time, I realized that I was utterly alone. I have always enjoyed the comforting quiet of chosen solitude. This was not that. This was the quiet of the crypt. There was no movement within the fog, aside from the odd tree waving slightly in the low early winter breeze. I could hear the running of my tires against the asphalt. I could hear the low hiss of the heater. I could hear my own heart beating in my ears. These noises seemed to shout in the stillness.

And then, as if summoned from the ethereal fog, two pinpricks of light sprouted in my rear-view. Seeing them, my heart began to thud more loudly. There is nothing less natural than the feeling of utter isolation except for when that isolation is broken just when you have begun to accept it.

The headlights from behind crept closer. Their approach filled me with an inexplicable terror that gnawed at the edges of my vision, making the world tremor before my eyes. I was suddenly sure that whoever was in that car was following me, had been searching for me, and would hunt me.

An off-ramp became evident in the fog. My rational self surfaced just long enough to remind myself that I was already on the correct road, but...was I? Had I passed endless fields with no houses on the way out to the airport? Were there not streetlights for mile after mile on the correct road? Was I perhaps already lost?

I took the off-ramp.

"If he's not following me, he'll keep going," I whispered to myself. This was pure folly, of course. The driver could live on this road. It was I who had taken the wrong path, but that didn't mean it was the wrong path for everyone.

The lights followed me. To my fevered mind, they were no longer headlights, but malevolent eyes, hunting me through the darkness, glowing their eldritch glow as they searched for me. I kept driving, trying to talk myself into believing that I being ridiculous, but as the headlights grew closer, the more like eyes they seemed.

I turned across the bridge at the head of the off-ramp, taking the other ramp on the far side to turn back toward the airport. Any actual car would never follow me back the way I had come unless it was indeed following me.

And, as I was somehow certain they would, the lights turned with me and headed back the way I had come.

I was the prey. It was the hunter.

A sudden thought rose in my mind. What if the car belonged to a police officer who just wanted to tell me a tail light was out? I didn't think either of my tail lights were, but what if my license plate light was out? This time it was my rational self that knocked that thought down. A police officer doesn't follow you for miles without so much as flashing his red-and-blues or sounding his siren.

Once again I was left with the thought that I was being hunted by an unseen, otherworldly predator.

I was so preoccupied with the lights in my rear-view that I failed to notice that I should be seeing streetlights again by now. I had been driving in the other direction, headed back to the airport, for a good hour before I realized that, aside from my headlights and the ones behind me, there were no other light sources whatsoever. The fog was still thick, but translucent in patches. I still saw nothing but endless fields.

This entire ordeal had gone far enough. I pulled over. As I was now certain it would, the car behind me, if car it was, pulled over as well. I steeled myself, screwing my courage to the sticking point, as the saying goes.

I didn't have a gun. The closest thing I had to a weapon was an 18-inch crescent wrench that was old and rusty. It was laying in my back seat. I picked it up and got out. Viewing the lights from this angle made it clear that they were indeed headlights. The only question now was what sort of person was following me, and why. I conjured up a picture of a faceless man in a long coat with a hood over his face.

Slowly the car began to take shape around the lights. It was rather small. Almost pitiful. It was... was a tiny Honda Civic, painted an almost purplish shade of blue. Seated at the wheel was a thin man with thick horn-rims. He was losing his hair.

"Alright," I said, brandishing my wrench. "Come on out of there!"

Timidly, the man did so. Suddenly I felt in control. I scowled my fiercest scowl and made sure he could still see my wrench.

"Just what in hell do you mean by following me?" I growled.

The man was hardly looking at me. His eyes darted about in the fog. "I...uh..." he said. "I didn't know what else to do!"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Your car was the only one I've seen in over three hours," he said. His voice was high and tinny. "I don't know where I am...where...where we are. I thought if I didn't let your car out of my sight that maybe...maybe we'd get out of here. Wherever this is."

"Start making sense, moron," I said. I was starting to feel justifiably angry. "We're on Highway 348. You probably came from the airport the same way I did!"

"Airport?" The guy seemed utterly mystified. "There's...there's no airport around here. I was on the road from Kingsport to visit my sister in Bristol. Wait, what highway did you say this was?"

"This isn't Tennessee!" I said. "It's Colorado!"

"Ah...actually," he began, then broke off in a fit of bitter laughter. "I...ha ha...I don't think it's either place. Look around you, friend. Do you think we're still anywhere we should be?"

Until he said this, I had been focused entirely on him. Him and that tiny little car. The fog shifted all about us, and I could see as little as before.

Except...I realized that I could see more now. Both our cars were turned off now. No lights shown around us at all except a thin, wan glow that filtered through the fog like a tea light through a diaphanous curtain. I saw how still everything remained...but then, nothing was still.

Silently, as though walking on pure air, shapes were moving through the fog. Gigantic, monstrous shapes. They writhed and danced in the low light, and what I could see of them made me feel quite certain that they should not exist. They boiled together in obscene movements, never ceasing, never confirming their own eldritch shapes to my unbelieving eyes. I saw a giant being with arms protruding from all sides ushering thousands of smaller versions of itself through the curtain of fog.

I turned to the other man, my former tormentor, now my only friend. "Where are we?" I asked.

He turned and looked into the fog. "I think we both took a wrong turn," he said.

I couldn't help it. I started laughing. I kept laughing even long after I was out of breath to do so.

I laughed like one who knows he is utterly damned.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fragments of Memory

Ah, lost episode stories. They've been done before, right? They're passe. Everyone hates them.

But there's a reason they were popular for a while. Everyone has a story about that one thing they saw on TV years ago that they barely remember and cannot explain...

...And yet has still caused them to wake up in a cold sweat years later.

In my case, there's more than one.

Summers when I was a kid were spent at my grandmothers's place. At the time, my parents didn't have cable, so I spent a lot - and I mean a lot - of time in front of her TV watching whatever I could find that was even a little entertaining. I remember a lot of it, but there's other stuff that exists as fragments of memory and to this day I have no idea if I was hallucinating or if this stuff really exists somewhere.

Mostly it was pretty innocuous stuff that I probably can't find because I don't remember more than a line or two from it. But twice, something came on my grandmother's television that I happened to watch, and it scared the unholy fuck out of me.

The first was a scene with several old men sitting around the table. It looked like it was filmed on video, and I remember the men having British accents, though, since I lived in the south, it could very well have been New York accents and it would have sounded just as foreign to me. Anyway, they're just having a meeting of some sort or another when one of them suddenly says "...what's happening to him?"

I don't remember the name of the man he was pointing out. All I remember is that the camera cut to the man in question and his face was melting. As in, falling right off his skull. It looked like a mudslide with an eyeball or two thrown in. The effects might have been cheap and cheesy, and if I saw it today, I probably wouldn't think much of it. But at the time it sickened me, and in my memory it looks more realistic than the Nazis having their faces melted in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not to mention slower, so you have more time to absorb what's really happening.

To this day that face-melting just shows up in my memory. I have no idea what this is from. Google, again, was no help. As far as the world at large is concerned, this scene did not happen. It was never on television. No one I've talked to remembers it, even on websites all about trying to pin down various movies and TV series and putting names to them. But I remember. I can't stop remembering, and I remember just enough so that, while I can't forget it, I can't figure out if it was real, either.

A similar experience concerns a much longer scene that I saw in its entirety, but, again, I don't recall much of it.

My memory says it's a short film that aired on TV just before, or perhaps just after, the behind-the-movies TV show Standbye: Lights, Camera, Action! that was hosted by Leonard Nimoy. I remember because I blamed that show on this short film.

It takes place on a minimalist stage that contains a single, round table and two people sitting at it, their chairs turned so that they're facing the camera, holding newspapers up so that you can't see their faces. I've seen junior high stage productions that put more effort into their scenery.

A young teenager comes in and sits at the middle spot, also facing the camera. He begins "Well, Mom, Dad..." but I don't really recall what he says after that, or even really what the parents say in response, except that they seem increasingly dismissive of him, almost to the point of pretending he's not there.

I do remember the mother saying, to the father, "Sometimes you slay me", but in response to what, I don't know.

The son becomes increasingly creeped out by his parents' behavior, and so did I. But then, finally, the parents drop their hands from the newspapers...

...And the newspapers stay in the air, hovering before the parents, still refusing to let us see what they look like.

"You're not my parents!" shouts the teenager. "You can't be! Somebody help me!"

He then leaps to his feet and runs out, while the father says something else dismissive and then laughs, mirthlessly, "Ha. Ha. Ha."

End scene.

These aren't nearly the only programs I vaguely recall from my youth, but in each other instance, I have been able to find online proof that these films and/or TV series are real, even in some cases popular or even award-winning.

Just not these.

Let's go over the facts. The scenes in question have the following in common:

-They were disturbing in nature.
-I saw them once and once only as a child.
-I saw all of them at my grandmother's house.
-Even in the age of information, I have yet to uncover any evidence that these programs ever existed.

But here's why I'm bringing all this up.

My grandmother died recently. She was over 80 and Grandpa died a long time ago, so it was time to go through her estate, get it all divvied up and put the house on the market. I wasn't responsible for most of that, but I did travel upstate for three days to help clear out the attic, basement and bedrooms and help get the house looking sellable.

All three nights that I slept there, I kept hearing voices coming from other rooms in the house. Not dreams, because I hadn't fallen asleep yet. I'm not the type who generally hears voices, and these were not voices of people I knew.

They were the voices from the programs. I would be laying in bed, and from my grandmother's den where the television was, I would hear a sudden shout of "You're not my parents! You can't be!". I would hear robotic, monotonous laughter. "Ha. Ha. Ha." I would hear "What's happening to him?"

And here's the kicker, the reason I decided to make a post about it; each time I heard these voices, I would go into the den and the TV would be on, showing static. The voices would be silent at that point, but I never turned the TV on. I turned it off each time, only to hear the voices moments later, and realize it had turned back on.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Joe the Creep

I've worked a lot of odd jobs over the years. What can I say? The economy sucks.

My level of education is not sufficient to get hired at the jobs where you make the big bucks. For a long time I cut grass, shoveled sidewalks or flipped burgers. And then there was the time I scored a position as a night watchman at a local office complex.

The Maynard Building has been around a long while. It's an old brick structure that I've driven past for years, barely even looking at it, but when times got really lean I found myself in its lobby, interviewing for a position.

There wasn't much to the night watchman job. The building is three floors and a basement, most of which is viewable from a bank of monitors in a back room. The building's in a pretty quiet area of town, and there's nothing in it to steal, so really, I discovered on my first shift that this was a pretty low-key sort of job.

Gerry showed me the ropes, along with the guy I'd be sharing part of my shift with, a younger guy named Mike. Gerry was nearing sixty, if he wasn't already past it, but the best you'd ever get from him was "Forty-five and holding." Mike was younger than me; didn't even look like he's been out of high school for very long.

Gerry was the afternoon security guard who, technically, was in charge of Mike and I. Which is to say that he made sure we kept the sheets properly and caught hell if we didn't, but he didn't actually have any authority over us, and never acted like he did. If anything, it was more like three guys who did the same job; Gerry did his from 4 PM to midnight, Mike came on duty at 5 PM, which is when the business day was officially over, and stayed until 1 AM, and I started at midnight and finished at 8 AM, officially opening the doors in the morning to let in Lester, the morning security guard, whom I rarely ever interacted with.

Within a week, I fit into the rhythm of the place very easily. Gerry and Mike were fun guys. I'd get there in time to hang out with both men for a bit, share a smoke with Mike and Gerry before Gerry departed for the night, and then hung out, joked, smoked and argued with Mike until he left, at which point I'd usually pick up a novel, play games on my phone or just about anything to keep my mind occupied, until the morning.

There were duties other than monitoring the stations, of course. Every hour, on the hour, a full circuit of each floor, and the basement, was necessary, and I was to mark on the sheet that I had done so, and put an "AC" for "all clear" next to my name, unless I found something out of the ordinary, which rarely happened. I was told that at worst I might right down that a light needed replacing or there was a drip in the ceiling somewhere.

Mike wasn't a stickler for doing his rounds, and Gerry didn't care if we missed a few corners, but I usually did my best to ensure I'd done my duty there. After all, it was the only part of the job that actually felt like work, plus I was pretty sure that if I missed something big, it would be recorded by the cameras that I didn't do my rounds.

About three weeks into the job, I first heard the term "Joe the Creep". Gerry said it in response to something Mike had said. When I think back to the conversation, I can't really recall what Mike said to prompt him, but Gerry had laughed and said "Yeah, and I'm gonna let old Joe the Creep get me, too." Mike laughed back in response.

I didn't pay too much attention then, but after a couple of other references to "Joe the Creep", I started to get a little curious. It would always be a snide reference of some sort, like "Don't take too long in the toilet, Mike, Joe the Creep's probably watching you masturbate" or "Shower before the next shift, okay, Gerry? You're starting to smell like Joe the Creep" or even "Dude, the only guy interested in your story is Joe the Creep."

The straw that broke the camel's back happened on my last night there. I'd been there for just over three months. You'll understand in just a bit why I quit the next morning.

I was running slightly behind. The bus was late. Mike and Gerry were having a smoke, and I walked up to join them. Everything was normal for the first bit. Gerry was telling a ribald joke, Mike was laughing and hocking spit between each puff, and both greeted me like always when I walked up to the smoking area.

"You're a bit late," said Gerry. "For a little bit I wondered if Joe the Creep got you." Mike snorted.

"Dude, I hear you guys talk about Joe the Creep all the time," I said. "But you've never bothered to tell me who he is."

Gerry cocked an eyebrow. "Really? I was pretty sure we told you on your first day."

"Nope. But you guys reference him enough. What's up with that?"

Mike smirked and said "Old Joe the Creep, died in the deep. Gerry told me about him. I never met the guy, personally."

So. He was a real person. This was an interesting turn. Up until now he seemed like a story; an in-joke among the staff. I looked at Gerry and said "Well?"

Gerry took a long puff on his smoke and smiled, looking a little abashed. "Coulda sworn I told you, but oh well. Joe was a guy who used to work here back in...I wanna say it was the mid-80's but it could have been the late 70's. He wasn't here all that long, but while he was here, he made an impression. He didn't talk much, or at least, not to other people. He would come in, staring at the floor, mumbling to himself. He took his lunch breaks alone, didn't speak to anyone unless they spoke to him first, didn't seem to even realize others were around. You've worked with guys like that, right? Something's just a little off?"

"Sure," I said.

"Well, Joe, it turns out, actually was a bit of a creep. He kept writing stuff down in a little notebook, and never would let the rest of us see it, but one day he accidentally dropped it while in the elevator. There was a woman who worked here then, her name was Sue, I think, and she saw just a bit of what was in the notebook. It was enough to make her notify HR about him."

I wasn't all that surprised, but I pretended to be. "Oh, really? What was in it?"

"Sue wasn't allowed to talk about it, but boy did HR tear him a new one. He got a one-week suspension, and when he came back, he was even worse than before. Now he would stare at people, hardly even blinking, until they looked at him and then he would look away. He did this to me, once, but I told him if I caught him looking at me like that again, we'd have it out in the parking lot.

"But then the day came when a woman came shrieking out of the file room. Turned out that Joe was in there, hiding behind the cabinets and staring at her. Her eye managed to accidentally land on him, and he hissed at her. Nobody saw that but her, but I never had any trouble believing her, and they did find Joe in the copy room, still behind the cabinets. Needless to say, he was fired on the spot, but he asked if he could go get some of his personal files out of the basement before he left."

"I think I know where this is going," I said.

"Yeah, probably," said Gerry. "Back then, they didn't really think about sending someone down with him. They just had a guard wait at the top of the stairs. I mean, you know there's only one flight of stairs going down there."

"And...don't tell me," I said. "They found him dead."

"Cliched, isn't it?" said Gerry. "Yep. Hanging by his belt. That part I can verify, because when they were carrying out his body, the sheet that was over it slipped a little, and I saw the ligature marks. That was the end of Joe the Creep, or so they say."

"Or so they say?" I mimicked, wiggling my eyebrows. "Don't tell me. Joe the Creep haunts the basement to this very day?"

"Well, that part's the silly part," said Gerry. "See, there was a rumor that he had stashed that notebook down there, and that was what he was going to get. But for some reason he decided to hang himself instead. And, just like any story, it's sorta grown since then. Now there's even a rhyme you're not supposed to say."

I started laughing. This was too much. Sure, all old buildings had legends, but this one was just pure hoakum.

"A rhyme," I said. "Like what?"

"Well, let me see if I remember," said Gerry. "If you go to the top of the stairs, you're supposed to look down into the darkness, without turning the light on, and say,

Joe the Creep
Who died in the deep
I'm coming downstairs
So don't make a peep.

Kid's stuff, really, and I don't even remember who made it up."

"Somebody with a creative mind, I guess," I said. "But hey, don't tell me you never tried the rhyme."

At that, Gerry's face got a bit red and he seemed to choke a bit on his smoke. "Well, I..." he began. "Well, not...not really. I started to once, but...well, I don't like to play with stuff like that. Never did the Bloody Mary trick either. I been down in that basement lotsa times, and nothing ever happened, so why play around and invite something like that, right?"

Something felt cold on my neck. Up until that moment, it had all seemed like an amusing story. But Gerry's reaction was real. He believed in Joe the Creep. Believed enough to never test the legend, apparently.

We finished our smokes and went inside. When we got to the security booth, Gerry started packing up his stuff and I realized that we were all three as quiet as the grave. We usually were still laughing and joking at this point. Gerry even stayed quiet when he started heading out, not even saying good night. Mike must have noticed, because a few seconds later, he leapt up and followed him out.

I sat at the station monitors and stared at the various rooms as they flashed by. And I thought: Joe the Creep. How silly. But somehow, the image of being watched through a crack in filing cabinets, of a crazy man hissing as I spot him, stayed with me. Joe the Creep, who died in the deep. Don't close your eyes or he'll kill you in your sleep.

I wasn't helping myself by adding to the rhyme.

Mike came back a few moments later. I wasn't in a laughing mood yet, but he was. He usually was, actually.

"Well," he said. "Let's do our first circuit."

This surprised me, because Mike was never the guy to suggest we get up and do the circuit, and he often sat at the station while I did it alone. This time he was eager to start it.

"What's gotten into you?" I asked.

"Nothing," said Mike, but gave himself away a second later. "Hey, let's start with the basement this time, okay?" Usually the basement was last.

"Oh, for the love of..." I began. "You want to say the stupid rhyme, don't you?"

"No, " he said, grinning again. We were almost to the basement doors. "You're gonna say it."

"I am doing no such thing," I said. "I'm a grown man."

"Yeah, okay," said Mike. "Who'da thought you were a chicken?"

"You're not gonna get me into your little games by name-calling," I said. "What are you, fifteen?"

"Well, listen, man," said Mike. "If you won't say it, I'm gonna say it. But then I'm not going down there, so it's up to you if you want to leave it off the rounds for the night."

I had just about had it with Mike's idiocy, when I realized we were standing in front of the doors already. Mike threw them open and called clearly into the dark:

"Joe the Creep
Who died in the deep
I'm coming downstairs
So don't make a peep!"

He looked back at me with a mocking grin. "All yours," he said.

"Screw you," I replied. I shut the door.

"So you're not checking the basement?" asked Mike "It's part of your job, you know."

"You've skipped out on a majority of your job every night that I've worked with you," I said. "So this one night, you'll forgive me if I skip out on one part of mine."

"I knew you were scared," said Mike. "You believe in the legend, don't you? You're practically shittin' in your drawers at the idea of old Joe the Creep coming for you."

But I wasn't listening. I headed back to the monitor station. Let Mike do the rounds by himself for the rest of his shift, if he was gonna be like that.

Oddly enough, he did. By the time his shift was over, he had done two full circuits of all the floors; all, I noticed, except the basement. He didn't even so much as crack the doors the rest of the night.

Finally, he left, tossing a smirky "Don't let Joe the Creep get you!" over his shoulder before he left. I heard the front doors closing several minutes later.

And I was now completely alone.

It was dark outside. It was dark inside. Outside I heard wind howling. Within the building, nothing but pure silence.

I realized I was holding my breath. Stupid of me. Well, I decided enough was enough. I was no child, to believe such silly stories. It was time to man up and do my job.

I grabbed my flashlight and notebook, and headed up the stairs. I made my circuit of the top floor, the second floor. Nothing out of the ordinary. The ground floor, where I had started. All clear.

The basement doors stood closed, their presence looming in my mind. Time to get it over with.

I opened the doors and immediately flicked on the light switch.

The basement was a fairly large room, but smaller in floor space than the above-ground floors. A bank of twelve lights for the entire room were spread out over the ceiling, none of them all that powerful. The basement was a dark room at the best of times. Think the level of lighting in an sub-ground bar at night.

The stairs were steep, and they went down surprisingly far. There were stacks of shelves down here that stood anywhere from five feet to fifteen, and the ceiling extended a good ten feet above them. I was pretty far underground.

Joe the Creep, who died in the deep.

I started my circuit. There were twenty rows. From each one, the one next to it was only visible through tiny spaces between stacked boxes of files.

I was mid-way through the third row when I saw something on one of the shelves. Who knows how many times I'd walked past it and never noticed.

It was a small, leather-bound journal. The kind an accountant might keep.

Before I knew what I was doing, I was pulling it down and looking through it. In a scrawling hand, multiple pages were filled with entries. All the ink used was red. As I read them, I realized that if I saw this from a subordinate, my next call would be to the police, not HR.

-Jane Grossman bumped into me coming out of the ladies room and didn't say "excuse me".

A cartoon head of a woman's head was drawn crudely next to it. Dots of red were underneath it, and I realized they were meant to represent dripping blood. Her eyes were angry spirals of red.

-Steve Linden took my parking space today. He didn't even apologize.

A crude figure of a man with a red, leaking hole in his chest.

-Nancy Palermo grabbed a handful of forks for everyone to eat a piece of John's birthday cake, but there wasn't a fork left over for me. I was forced to use my hands like an animal.

He'd underlined that last part, and a photo was drawn of a woman on all fours. A talk balloon above her head read "arf arf".

Page after page of tiny, petty grievances. He never said in words what he wanted to do in retaliation, but the drawings implied enough.

I began to notice a stink in the air. No, not a stink. A fetid stench. It was like someone had let off ten stink bombs right next to me.

The air had grown still, and I heard something in the silence. A schlep that sounded wet and rubbery. I shown my flashlight down the row and saw movement in the row next to mine.

My blood froze, and I struggled to breathe. The figure continued to walk slowly, inexorably down the row. Within a few short minutes it would round the corner and I would be face to face with it.

It turned to look in my direction and my flashlight beam caught it. Barely human features glared back at me. The intense, fevered eyes of madness burned through me.

My feet came unglued from their spot and I bolted down the row at top speed. The thing was barely moving, apparently expecting me to remain frozen in fear. I made it to the steps and locked the door once I had ascended.

I spent the rest of my shift with all the lights on around the monitor desk, wide awake and watching every corner for movement. I was still like that when Lester came and I let him in. My hand was still shaking as I wrote "AC" on all the hour entries on the sheet.

As I was gathering my things and preparing to leave, eager to get home, Gerry came into the office. It wasn't like him to come in before his shift started.

"Hey," I said. "What's up?"

His eyes got large when he looked at my face. "Aw, geez," he said. "Listen man, I...I owe you an apology."

"For what?" I asked.

"Well, when we told you the story of Joe the Creep, you looked a little spooked and Mike...well, Mike came out and asked me if he'd help me pull a joke on you. It seemed harmless enough so I agreed."

"Wait," I said. "This whole thing's been a joke?" I thought of the thing in the row next to me, of the journal that must have been planted for me to find, of the stench of something long dead.

"Not all of it," he said. "But if you heard anything weird last night, someone trying to get in at the back, or something, that was just us. We thought it would be fun to give you a little scare."

"Heard?" I exclaimed. "I didn't just hear you idiots, I saw you! What did you do, rig up some kind of Halloween prop? Let off some stink bombs? That wasn't funny. I've never been so scared in my life!"

"What?" Gerry seemed very confused. "We planned to come in through the back while you were on your rounds and scare you, but there's something wrong with the lock on the back door. We couldn't get it open. We never got in the building once Mike left. I just...felt bad and wanted to apologize."

I quit that job later that day.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

-11/8/12 -
Let me start by saying, thanks for reading. You guys have been amazing to me. I started this blog when I wasn't even sure what blogs were, or what I wanted to do with mine. I never dreamed that in just five short years, I'd have such a large, and loyal, group of readers. Even the trolls, I thank you as well, because every time I get a comment, my hit count goes up and that adds to the revenue I collect from my sponsors. Each and every one of you who have read, liked, disliked, commented or flamed has helped me go from just another college kid to a person who can make a living doing what he loves; writing.

Anyway, I'm saying all this because I wanted to announce that I'll be moving to a new URL starting in two weeks. I've decided that today will be my last post on this blog because there's going to be a ton of work involved in my next venture. I'll be joining the ever-expanding ranks of the professional bloggers on I cannot say enough how thrilled I am to be working with these amazing people. Blogging never felt like a real job before, even with the ad revenue I was generating, but now, now I feel like I've found my calling. I'll be writing the same stuff I've always written, but now it's actually my job.

My old content will still be at this url, but new content will be available at starting in two weeks. I'll still be blogging about as often, but it will be there, not here. I wanted to move my entire back catalog with me, but apparently there's some potential legal snarls there, and it might work out as too expensive. So, loyal readers, please bookmark the above link and be sure to share it with people you know who read my page on a perhaps more sporadic level than you and might miss this message.

That's all I have to talk about today, but once again I want to say a sincere thanks to all of you who have made this blog what it is. I can write all day until my fingers are numb, but a blog is nothing without readers.

So, really, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. All of you.


Well, here it is.

Officially, CH's page on has gone live.

Some of you might think that because I've moved, I'm gonna start holding back a bit with my viewpoints as to what's happening, but really, guys. The fantastic folks at would not have wanted me if they didn't want my opinions. So, if you thought I was gonna start pulling my punches or changing my opinions, think again. Sorry, trolls. Then again, no, I'm not sorry, and really, you aren't either. You come here to be entertained by me, anyway. I know you do, no need to lie about it.

Last week, as I'm sure many of you have heard, the lie-spreading time waster known as Wikipedia got hit with a massive hack and was offline for over 48 hours. I want to stress that I was not involved, though I have nothing but love for the hackers that accomplished it. Hopefully soon the web's most infamous deceit factory will be completely unable to spew its filth. I am not in contact with the hackers but I hope their next target is

As I'm sure my readers know, I cannot believe how easy it is to mislead so many people at once. Make a website, get some views, suddenly you're an authority. Wikipedia allows its readers to generate content. How do they know the content being generated isn't a lie? Sure, they have to provide citations, but a citation can just be a link to another lying website, like snopes.

How do I know snopes is a group of lying scumbags? Simple. Just go check their page on Impetus Sand. They say Impetus Sand is a myth. A fraud, conducted by conspiracy theorists. Folks, you know that's ridiculous. I have seen Impetus Sand in action with my own eyes, and I'm certain you all have, as well.

In fact, just the other day I was speaking with a man while riding the bus, and it hit me halfway through the conversation that I was speaking with a man who did not exist. He might have existed once, but no longer. He was a construct; a being formed from Impetus Sand. What tipped me off was that at one point he stopped, mid-sentence, blinked his eyes, and started his entire sentence over again, same inflection and everything. He had to reset himself. I see it all the time, but you don't have to believe me. Just check out this link at and have a look at what Dr. Magnus Ellison has to say about it. He's looked at Impetus Sand under a microscope. Wonder how long it will be before the government disappears him.

Anyway, my point is that sites like Wikipedia, Snopes, and others exist mainly to keep us coddled, with the wool over our eyes, never questioning the official story. Even google gives you the hits they want you most to see first. They have created a generation of people who will only believe something if one of these "reputable" websites tell them it's true. What is true anymore? It's certainly not "verifiable fact" because there's nothing verifiable in anything either site gives us, while stuff like Impetus Sand is proven and verifiable, but you won't catch these sites talking to you about it.


Happy New Year!

I hope you didn't get too drunk night before last. Your friendly neighborhood blogger might have had just a wee too much of my uncle's patented North Dakota Sour Mash, and well, yesterday I didn't have the will to write.

This was not a great Christmas season for me, and I don't have any fear of telling you why. Most of you know I've gotten death threats before, and to be honest, I'm proud of them, because being threatened just tells me that they consider me a threat. But over the Christmas season, the threats started being launched at my new employers at, including a virus that got sent to my bosses' computers. The link I provided last week at is down now, and in fact, when I google "Magnus Ellison" I get zero hits. They've done it; they've unpersoned him. I have little doubt that in a few months, he or someone suspiciously similar will return to his job as though nothing happened, and will deny that such a thing as Impetus Sand exists. But it won't be him, not really. His wife will call him the same man, his kids will call him Daddy, but he'll just be a construct.

They want to shut down blogs like mine for telling the truth. If this blog and others like it weren't out there spreading the truth, they could just keep saying anything they wanted to say about what's really going on behind closed doors within the most secret offices of the government, and the public would gladly lap it up.

Of course, pains are being taken to ensure that they can't find where I am. There are umpteen different proxies and redirects surrounding my IP address, which changes every day. That's one of the reasons I wanted to work with, but, it appears that they've managed to infiltrate their offices somehow.

I'm going to be speaking with the CEO at to ensure that this sort of thing can be prevented in the future. I'm also going to refrain from posting links in my blogs from now on. If I have something to share, I'm now only going to do it through private messages. This way I will also be able to ensure that people who are clicking on my links are actually interested and reading what's there.

I've decided I'm not going to put up a new post until I can be assured by's security team that the anonymity I've fought so hard to maintain will not be compromised. I'm sorry for the upcoming lengthy silence from me, but I'll be back, I promise.


I had an interesting conversation with my brother-in-law today. He likes a good conspiracy theory himself, or at least, he used to. Today he seemed different. More withdrawn. I brought up my old post on the Orpheus Device, which, as some of you may remember, casts a field over you so that literally you are a walking radio to them. You don't have to use a cell phone or speak in a place where there's technology around. All you have to do is just speak. Of course, I have screens up around my house which filter sound and add white noise to anything they here, so we were safe to talk, but he still acted like he didn't want to talk about it.

He even seemed confused when I mentioned that I had moved my blog from my old site to this one. Almost seemed like he didn't know what a blog was, though I know he's read it before.

In fact, he is far from the first person that's started reacting strangely when I talk about my latest online discoveries. Yesterday my neighbor gave me the strangest look when I mentioned Wikipedia, as if she'd never heard of it. Hmm.

You really gotta wonder what's happening. Why would they be hiding websites that they themselves own and maintain, and use to spread their lies?

Side note: for those of you who might be wondering, yes, I have spoken with the security team at and they assure me that their network has been all tightened up. There have been no incidents with other contributors to their site, or to the site itself, so I'm back in business.


It is becoming increasingly clear to me that my friends and family have been gotten to. I don't think all of them have been replaced with constructs, though I know a few have. This is a mild concern, because it makes me feel like they're closing in on my location.

My wife started acting abnormally when she switched to a new moisturizer. I don't know how many times I warned her to never do that, in fact to pretty much only use what hygiene products you have to, and even then to make sure you buy them from places like the Dollar Store or other places that it's unfashionable to shop in. Nanoseeds are in everything, these days. The more you use it, the more you likely have in you, altering the way you think, getting you to suppress the desire to think too much about what you hear, what you read. I'm sure I have some Nanoseeds in me; it's unavoidable. I tried for a few months boiling and refrigerating jugs of tap water and only drinking that, but I kept running out of the boiled stuff and needing to drink something, so I'd break down and have a glass of water straight from the tap. I do my best to counter-act whatever Nanoseeds I might have by relentlessly fighting against any urge I might have to just forget about this stuff for a while and enjoy life.

In fact, even today I find myself just plain tired of having to worry about everything like this. I find myself wanting to just say "screw it", take down my screens, cancel my blog and just live like the other sheep live. After all, would it be so bad? I know it would improve my marriage, would improve my relations with others in my neighborhood.

But that's not me thinking that. It's the Nanoseeds.

In fact, I think those Nanoseeds are starting to convince people that the things I blog about, even the stuff that other websites acknowledge as true, don't actually exist. My wife blew up on me the other day during an argument, telling me that there is no such thing as She honestly believes that no such website exists. I offered to fire up my laptop and show her, and she just yelled "There you go with that laptop bullshit again!" She didn't even want to look.

My brother-in-law won't even speak to me anymore. He might actually be a construct now, but if he were, wouldn't he be trying to influence me away from my so-called delusions instead of breaking off contact? No, I don't think they've gotten to him. I think he's just becoming more afraid of what they can do.


I am becoming troubled in regard to my new employers. I signed on with because it was clear that they knew and understood the dangers of the items I mention frequently on my blog; the Orpheus Device, Impetus Sand, Nanoseeds, even acknowledging that the biggest, most frequent news sites online are all owned and managed by the same group, only reporting the items they approve.

Lately, though, I'm not so sure but what hasn't been bought. I was recently warned about my content. My content hasn't changed in five years, so I don't know why they'd hire me if they think they can make me say different things from what I believe.

I'm not going to back down. It's important for people to know this stuff. There are so few of us who have discovered the truth, so many who would rather just swallow whatever pablum they're given and go along to get along. I thought would help me to spread the word. Now I'm starting to wonder if they're not part of the problem.


This will be my last post on A representative of theirs called me today. He didn't even have to tell me; I could hear it in his voice. He was a construct.

I'm done with this company. I'll be registering a new url soon. I've already reserved it, so my readers, if any of you can actually still see my content, can find me at


Tell me something, people. You can see my posts, right? You have computers, right? You surf the net, right?

I ask because today my wife told me today that she was through with my delusions, that she was taking me to see someone, that she would prove to me once and for all that this silly thing called the "internet" was not real and that in fact, "computers" are giant machines that only the government and prestigious universities can use, so the idea of a laptop was absurd. She told me that my laptop is only a briefcase.

It's happening. They're unpersoning me. First they got me questioning myself on the bigger stuff, wondering if Nanoseeds, Impetus Sand or Orpheus Devices even exist, and now making me question even if I have readers, a blog, or so much as a computer.

I refuse to allow myself to question it. My wife is the delusional one, not me. She's the one who let more Nanoseeds get inside her thanks to that new moisturizer brand. It's not going to work. They're not going to unperson me.


Out of nowhere I got an email from my brother-in-law. He wants to meet with me. He wants to discuss a few things he's learned and make sure I can defend myself. He apologized for disappearing, but explained that he realized he was being followed around on a daily basis by men who were doing their best to look innocuous but were always there, every time he examined his surroundings.

I hope this isn't a trick. I'm going to meet with him today but I am truly afraid that this isn't what it seems. If all goes well, I'll blog about it later.

If I don't post again, you'll know that they finally got to me.



"Thanks for showing us this, Mrs. Lyman."

"It's so strange, Dr. Winthrop. My husband was a normal man until five and a half years ago, and then he started talking about strange things like laptops, and blogs and this Internet or Interweb thingy. He would spend hours at a time just staring at an open briefcase, as though there were people in there talking to him."

"Not talking to him, Mrs. Lyman. Reading what he supposedly wrote and replying. We've seen this delusion in others, a sort of mass psychosis which affects only about one out of a hundred people, but the delusion they share is so real to them that when they discuss it with each other, you could almost believe they're talking about something real. Of course, in most cases, it's harmless. They just think they're getting the latest updates on their favorite singers, or actors. They think they're sharing photos or brief statements with each other. But in other cases, such as your husband's, the delusion turns paranoid. But rest assured, your husband will get the treatment he needs."

"Thank you Doctor. You have no idea how relieved I am to hear that."

Update: 06/29/13
Log: Dr. E.D. Winthrop
Subject: Walt Lyman

Patient is secure and his synaptic patterns are being loaded into our machines as we speak. Will have new Impetus Sand simulacrum created for him by tomorrow.

Lyman believed his screens protected him from our Orpheus Devices and that his brother-in-law believed him, when in fact Dan Orton has been our agent from the beginning, as some of you reading this might already know.

Orton managed to work around Lyman's efforts to alert Linda, Orton's sister and Lyman's wife, of our existence. Her Nanoseeds have convinced her that she has delivered her husband into psychiatric care, and that the internet, even laptops, do not exist. It may be necessary to program all Nanoseeds to believe this within the next five years, as more and more websites like are springing up. I recommend once again cutting off the source of such sites rather than simply taking over each site as we discover them.

Linda Lyman is the 1,395,983th individual we have had to reprogram to believe that the Internet does not exist. Eventually one of them will say the wrong thing and alert more people to our presence.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Call me a misanthrope, an introvert, whatever. The fact is, I always thought I preferred being alone.

I had a couple of friends. Well, mainly acquaintances. People I worked with. People I lived near. Family.

But I had tried doing the companionship thing, and it never seemed to be for me. I had a girlfriend for two years, but she left me because I rarely wanted to go out with her friends, preferring to stay home,  just the two of us. The feeling that was most prominent after she left was relief.

I also tried hanging out with a group of people I met online. As in, hanging out with them in the real world. I did this because my ex-girlfriend told me I needed to get out more, to meet people, to come out of my shell.

I realized after hanging out with them that I liked my shell better. Again, it's not that I didn't like them. I'm just not a hang-out kind of person. I'm not an Asperger's patient or anything. I can have conversations, I can be friendly. I've stopped to help strangers on the side of the road who were having car trouble. I've helped people move who I barely knew. I've donated blood just because I could. I've volunteered at a homeless shelter. It's just a matter of preferring to stay in on a Friday night with a good book, when having a group of friends would mean I'd feel obligated to go out instead.

I say all that to say that the loneliest I'd ever felt was when I was in a crowd of people, and I truly believed that the best feeling ever was the feeling of being alone.

That is, until this morning.

I woke up, and the first thing I noticed was that the power was out. I live in an older building just south of downtown. The kind of place where the carpet in the halls is stained all over with god-knows-what, the paint on the walls is chipped and peeling, in many places the ceiling is just a collection of exposed pipes, the elevators make odd noises like they're straining on even the lightest load, and the whole place carries the heady bouquet of booze, cigarettes and weed. The power's gone out before. The last time it happened, it didn't come back on for two days. I had just gone grocery shopping the day before. Sucks having to throw out stuff you just bought.

So, when I woke, my first feeling was irritation. "They had better not take forever getting it back on this time," I muttered. Now, where you live, the power probably mostly goes out only after a storm, fire or heavy snowfall. In my building, with wiring that was probably installed during the Ford administration and hadn't really been upgraded since, the power could go out at any time of the year, and needed no outside catalyst to do so. So it never crossed my mind to wonder why, on a wet-but-not-stormy day in April, the power would go out like this.

I opened all my windows for light, but it didn't help much, as it was pretty grey outside. The weather had been cloudy all week, with a few light showers, and even with my largest window open, I still couldn't see much in my house, and my bathroom, which had no windows, was darker than a crypt.

My alarm clock was dead, of course, so I checked the time on my phone. I swore and leaped into the shower, not caring that the water was ice cold, and that I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. Even if I walked out the door this very minute, I was going to be an hour late for work. I hate being late. I usually try to be at least fifteen minutes early. It's a weird side-effect of introverts that we're usually pretty anal retentive about being on time.

Throwing on some clothes, I bolted out the door, headed for the elevator. Mid-stride, I turned for the stairs, remembering almost too late that no power of course meant no elevator.

Now, this is probably when I first felt it; that sense of unease. I did my best to ignore it, because I wasn't a child anymore, and feelings like that are just your mind running away on you. But it was hard to ignore, and not just because of the total darkness of the stairwell. It was because I realized at that point that I had not seen another human being that entire morning.

This, by itself, was not an alarming thing. I had often made it to the elevator before without seeing another person. However, while descending into the dark, holding my phone before me, LED light shining, I realized a couple of things that seemed out of place. First, I heard no noise coming from behind any of the other apartments' doors, which I should have considering the air was off. Second, I was late. I usually left for work before the rush, but today I was leaving at the same time that a lot of other people should be. On an ordinary day, maybe some of them took the elevator and few took the stairs, but today, they all should be on the stairs with me.

When I got to the ground floor, things got even stranger. When I had first opened my windows, I had failed to notice just how still the morning was. But I noticed now.

The only cars on the street were parked. Not another soul was in sight. The businesses at street level didn't appear open or closed; they were just dark and empty. I swallowed the lump of fear that was rising in my throat and told myself that there had to be a good reason for this. But my mind was refusing to accept that. It was 8:30 AM on a Tuesday. The streets should be deluged with cars, the sidewalks filled up with people. There should be noise, there should be life. But the only sound was the light wind that wailed between buildings.

The power was out on the block. That had to be it. Everyone was inside still, waiting for the power to come back on.

Well, I thought. If they can all wait inside, so can I. I went back into the building and stood in the dim gloom of the lobby as I called work.

One ring. Two. Three. Several more. Then voice mail. My boss's bored voice saying "please leave a message" was the first voice other than my own that I had heard all morning.

I opened up a browser and started checking local news. But there wasn't anything new since yesterday. In fact, my connection was sluggish and eventually dropped out completely. I tried calling a co-worker, the only co-worker whose number I had. He had been the one to offer it to me. Others were always trying to reach out. That wasn't something I did.

He didn't answer either. I began to wonder if the power outage was affecting the cell towers in the area. Could the power really be out for that wide an area?

I went back to the stairs, phone LED light on again, and began climbing. My apartment was on the eighth floor. I'm not in the best of shape, and my legs were starting to ache by the third flight. It was the fourth flight, though, when the light on my phone began to fade and then went out completely.

"No, no, no!" I whispered. I thumbed the home button. I then remembered that the phone had not charged during the night as it normally would have. There would have been just enough power left for the one phone call and momentary surfing, plus these trips with the light on. I must have ignored the low power warning, and now it was too late. The phone was a paperweight. "Piece of shit," I muttered. Somehow I already knew to keep my voice to a whisper. I put the phone back in its clip and stood on the stairs for a moment, calming down.

That's when I heard it. The sound of another set of footsteps, coming up the stairs behind me.

You'd think I would be glad to know that another person was still around. You'd think that after noticing how empty my world was all of a sudden, that I'd be relieved to know that I was not alone. And for a moment, I tried to tell myself that I was.

The footsteps were slow, inexorable. They echoed through the darkness like the slow drumbeat before a death march. They were somewhat soft, at first, though I could tell the feet that made their tread was heavy. But they were getting nearer. From their sound, they were less than two flights below me.

I didn't think. I bolted up the stairs. I paused at the top of every flight to listen. They kept coming. I thought of calling out, but every instinct said that would be foolish. I tried telling myself it was just my misanthropy rearing its ugly head again, but this feeling wasn't a mere wish to be by myself for a while.

Every sense I had told me that in this unnatural stillness, this unthinkable emptiness, that nothing should be moving. I had not heard so much as the bark of a dog from within this building. But something else was here besides me. I knew, at the core of my being, that it wasn't supposed to be there.

I reached my floor and headed out into the hallway. I paused at the door after pulling it closed and listened. Those footsteps continued, not even having increased their pace. They sounded much closer.

The hallway was empty, as I knew it would be. I pulled myself away from the door and listened. My own heartbeat, hammering in my ears, and my heavy breathing were the only sounds I heard. There was a window at the end of the hallway, letting in dim grey light, but it was still hard to see. I began walking left. The hallway had an intersection up ahead. I turned right, the direction of my apartment, and kept walking.

Behind me, I heard the door to the stairwell open. The footsteps, still slow but unrelenting, started down the hallway. I waited. Maybe they had turned in the other direction. But no, they were getting louder. Coming toward me. I turned and walked quickly in the direction of my apartment. I didn't run. If I ran, I would make more noise. I tried to keep my breathing quiet as well.

I reached my apartment, but still heard those footsteps behind me. At any moment their owner would turn the corner. I reached for my keys, but a new thought struck me.

The footsteps sounded close enough that this...person...could turn the corner just as I was closing the door. Then my one safe hiding place would be exposed. Thinking quickly, I turned and ran as quietly as I could in the same direction as before, heading for the other stairwell on this floor.

I made it there, and felt a moment's elation as I realized that the sound of the footprints had receded somewhat. I could still hear them, but they were fainter, as though whoever this person was had become confused in their pursuit, or had headed in the wrong direction.

I quietly opened the stairwell door and pelted down the first flight, heading out into the hallway of the seventh floor. My plan was to circle around, head back up the other flight, and make it to my apartment while the owner of those footsteps was looking for me in the wrong place.

And then I began to feel a little silly. After all, why was I so convinced that this person was pursuing me? I was the only person I had seen today, but that was the unnatural thing, not the sudden appearance of another person. Somehow, some incident, a disaster or abduction or rapture, or whatever, had emptied my neighborhood, but left me behind, and if I was still here, why would I assume that no one else was? This person could just be someone else who lived on the eighth floor, likely just as confused and terrified as I was.

I shook my head and laughed at myself, but I stuck with my plan. I circled around the building, headed for the other stairwell. Reaching it, I began to climb up...

And I heard those steps again, coming down. They had found me.

I instantly flew back down the stairs and back into the hallway, running full tilt for the very stairs I had just come down, bolting back up them. I cautiously opened the door back on my floor, listening. No steps as of yet. All thoughts of the footsteps belonging to another confused, frightened person had left my mind. Those heavy treads did not belong to a person who was in the same situation as me. They did not sound frightened, or confused. They were purposeful. A purpose that I knew could not be good.

This time, I reached my apartment and managed to get inside. I locked the door, the deadbolt, and secured the chain on the door. I stood there for a second, feeling like that wasn't enough, and finally put a chair under the knob. Then I went into the living room and huddled against the large window.

For a very long time, nothing happened. And then I heard them again. There was no doubt in my mind now that the footsteps were coming for me. They trod, persistently, inescapably closer, starting to slow further as they reached my apartment door.

They stopped. Just on the other side of my door, something waited, possibly listening for me, but knowing beyond a doubt that I was inside. I thought I could smell something from the hall. Something that That's the only way I can describe it. It smelled hot.

I waited. It waited. The silence was palpable. I felt that the air between us had solidified, waiting, as the world did, for the inevitable.

My doorknob rattled. First a little, then vigorously. I sat there, numb, my breath coming in short gasps, my heart beating so fast it felt like a continuous pressure in my chest.

Finally the rattling stopped. I slowly pulled myself away from the window and fired up my laptop. Unlike my phone, it had not been on all night and the battery was still fully charged.

As I have written this, the rattling at the door has returned three times. The last time was the most insistent, and was accompanied by a loud banging.

I don't know if anyone is still out there to read this. I don't even know how long the internet will continue to work. I never needed people before today, but I sure need them now. Being a misanthrope has its oddities, but no situation I've been in has been more odd than this.

I was alone, and did not want to be.

Now I'm not alone, and I desperately wish I was.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Grandfather Suffered from Dementia

Grandpa was 97 years old when he passed away.

He lived far from where his three children had settled. Grandma died when I was a small child, and he ended up remarrying another woman a few years later who demanded that he move out west so that she could be nearer to her sons. She was a piece of work, was Grandma Hester. We all wondered how Grandpa could stand her. It turns out that perhaps he could not.

We're not precisely sure when he developed dementia, but it was probably years before we noticed it. He'd tell us about people he was speaking to, or visiting with, or a trip he took. Years later, after we learned he was suffering from dementia, we'd learn that conversation, that visit or that trip never actually happened. For all we really know, any story he told us from the last decade and a half leading up to his coming back east could be a false memory. We would have no way of knowing. Hester rarely communicated with us herself.

Probably our first clue that Grandpa wasn't himself anymore happened a few weeks after he came back east to live with my parents. Most of the family had settled in one area; my wife and I lived in the south end of our city, as did one set of cousins, but my father and his two sisters all lived in the north, within driving distance of each other. A few of my aunts' children had moved out of town, and my brother had as well, but there were still enough of us around that Grandpa could visit with. We would often have gatherings at my parents' house where Grandpa would either hold court with some story or would go to sleep.

One afternoon, my daughter Breanne, who was in her late teens at the time, came in from playing with my cousin's kids and sat down at the table, where Grandpa had been napping. He suddenly woke and smiled at her.

"Well, hello, Claudia!" he said, brightly. Claudia was my aunt; Dad's youngest sister.

"I'm Breanne, Grandpa," said my daughter.

"No," said Grandpa, almost sounding offended. "You're my daughter, Claudia."

Later that same month, he told my aunts and uncles the story of how he came out east after living with Hester got to be too much. "I prayed to the Lord," said Grandpa. "And the next thing I knew, Martin was there." Martin was my father. I remembered him driving out to the tiny, cold house on a hill in Colorado to get Grandpa. He had not come due to any divine intervention. He had come because Grandpa called him in the night and pleaded with him to come get him.

We all loved Grandpa, but caring for him was not easy. For one thing, Grandpa had gotten it into his head that he was a young, single man with many years ahead of him, and the only thing missing was a young woman at his side. If he spoke for any length of time with a younger woman, he became convinced that she was in love with him, and that perhaps she should be his new bride. Hester was even still alive at this point. He had forgotten her utterly.

The women he made advances on included my mother, two of my cousins and my own wife. Thankfully, he couldn't do much more than talk, so it was just a matter of politely changing the subject whenever he would start with that, but it got worse when he decided he could do things like take walks on his own or try to drive my father's car.

Dad and Mom didn't let him go on walks by himself, but that didn't mean he didn't sneak away sometimes when Dad was away and Mom was in the basement. He had to use a walker to get around, and simply couldn't do stairs, but refused to admit this to anyone, including himself, leading to a lot of falls. He would also get confused as to where he was, or where he lived. At times, during his walks, he would attempt to find the old family home that he raised my father and aunts in, despite it having been long gone since before I was born. Dad picked him up from a police station, where he had been taken after some patrol officers saw him wandering around, clearly lost.

The time he tried to drive Dad's car was after that. He decided that the reason he got lost is because he had to walk. He managed to get the E-break off and rolled right down the fairly steep incline outside my parents' house, crashing into a fence. The damage was minimal, but after that incident, my parents realized he needed to be in a full time care facility.

He got worse after that.

My father visited him three times a week. I have no idea how often my aunts went, or if they even did. I tended to only go when there was a family gathering, and increasingly I began to realize that he had no clue who I was. He'd smile and greet me as though I was someone he had just met. He'd tell me about his children, describing them as "little kids", and even going as far as to invent a friend who was looking after them while he was in this home with "all these old people." Grandpa was 93 at the time. He was much older than many of the others who lived there. But somehow, they were the "old people", while he was not.

But when I say he got worse, I mean he changed. The false memories, the refusal to acknowledge that he was elderly, the attempts to chat up ladies and inability to remember that his children were grown and that he had grandchildren and great-grandchildren had been a part of who he was for years, ever since his early 80's.

But he had never been violent before. That changed one night when Dad was called to come to the facility quickly. Grandpa had wandered into the wrong room, and had come out screaming, raising his walker up in the air and slamming it into the ground, taking a few swings at people who tried to calm him down. He began accusing the staff of stealing his things. He was bellowing as loud as he could: "Give them back! Give them back!"

I wasn't there for it, and I still have a hard time picturing it. Grandpa barely raised his voice above normal volume during the last decade of his life, except to laugh.

When Dad got there, they had gotten him into his room, and he was somewhat appeased. Somewhat. He had a can of Ensure in a tube sock, and almost hit my father in the head with it when he came in. He apologized (Dad was one of the few people he always recognized), and said he had been waiting for "the thief" to come back. "A man who'd steal from me'd just as soon kill me," he explained. The Ensure-in-a-sock was his weapon to fend off the thief. He told Dad about the men who had come to give him all his things back. "They put it all back, just like it was," he said. "Didn't take 'em long."

Later that night, he told Dad about how much it had scared Florence. He hated that she'd had to go through that. Florence was my grandmother; the one who died when I was six.

He finished by saying that Florence had gone somewhere, and when he went looking for her: "They told me she was dead. One day, they're gonna come looking for me, and they're gonna find me dead." That was a jolt to my father. Grandpa had never, at any point before that, acknowledged his mortality, his advanced age, or the fact that he had probably no more than a handful of years left at best. Aging, and death, was something that happened to other people. But here he was, accepting that death was near.

That wasn't the last night he mentioned the thief. He even gave the thief a name; Charlie Rosen. It was strange that he would invent a whole person, name included. He didn't even name the friend who was looking after his kids. In fact, that person ceased to exist; Charlie Rosen had stolen his kids. Had killed Florence. Had come to his home in Colorado and routinely taunted him, beat him, and he even declared that Hester had been sleeping with him. He remembered her now, and was certain that she and Charlie were ganging up on him to make his life a living hell.

In the last six months of his life, he would become increasingly agitated. Dad could not have a single visit wherein Grandpa would not mention Charlie. And then the violence started up again.

In one visit, Grandpa accused Dad of being Charlie, and attacked him. After that, Dad's visits dropped to once a week, and he didn't stay long. Once, I went with him. It was the last time I saw my grandfather alive, and I will never forget it.

"Charlie was here again today," Grandpa told us as soon as we arrived. "He told me I couldn't leave this room anymore. He's trapped me here."

"Dad, this is where you live," my father tried to explain. "See, here's a picture of Mother. Why would Charlie let you keep that?"

"He killed your mother, you know," said Grandpa. "Murdered her in her sleep."

"Mother had an aneurysm," said Dad. "You and I decided together to unplug the machine. She died in her sleep, but no one killed her."

"No, no, it was Charlie." Grandpa's voice was not agitated. It was solid, like he knew for a fact what he was saying. "He poisoned her. Made something go wrong in her head. I didn't know it then, but I realized it later, after he introduced me to Hester. Conned me into marrying her. He's my personal demon, that Charlie."

Dad finally had had enough. "There is no Charlie!" he said, nearly shouting. You aren't supposed to correct people who have dementia; it just confuses them more and makes them upset. But my father forgot this in that moment. "Charlie is someone you made up! Mother died naturally, you met Hester at a coffee shop years after Mother died, and while she was not a nice woman, she was not unfaithful to you! Please, stop talking about Charlie!"

"Dear Lord in Heaven," said Grandpa. "He got to you. He told you to say these things. You're part of it too!"

"Uh, Grandpa," I said. "Why don't we start a game of checkers?" Usually he loved checkers.

"I don't want to play any fucking checkers!" screamed Grandpa. I couldn't have been more surprised if he'd hit me. Grandpa had never used profanity in his life. "By-words", as he called them, were only used by bad men, as far as he was concerned. "Not with you! Not with him! Charlie Rosen's pet demons! He comes to me every day. He talks to me about Florence. He taunts me. He reads my mind and he takes thoughts away and puts in new ones, worse ones. He tells me about how he rapes my little ones. How he and Hester keep them half-starved and chained in their basement. I can't stop him! He can go inside my mind! He's controlling me!"

We left after that, without saying goodbye.

Driving home, I almost wanted to cry. This kind, loving man was ending his days as a raving, violent lunatic. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair. What kind of monster was this Charlie?

That thought stopped me cold. For an instant, I had accepted that Charlie was real. Giving my head a shake, I resolved to think about something else. But an image of Charlie had been forming in my mind, beginning a few months back, when Grandpa had first started talking about him. I only now realized that when Grandpa spoke of this demonic man, I was picturing him in my mind, and I could see him as clearly as I could memories of real people.

I thought of the last time I had visited Grandpa in that tiny house in the mountains of Colorado, when I was a teenager, sitting at that little round table while Hester served us some of her inedible glop, and I would see a man standing in the corner of the kitchen, watching us eat. A tall, gangly man with leathery skin stretched over sharp-looking bone and corded muscle. Shaggy grey hair hanging down, obscuring the upper part of his face, his smile stretching like a knife-slash across his jaw.

I thought of the wedding. I was twelve years old. I met Hester for the first time. And standing a ways behind her was that same man. I remember a family gathering at the facility Grandpa was concurrently staying at. Didn't we pass that man in the hall once?

No, of course not. These were just images my mind had cooked up the more Grandpa talked about this shady character that never existed. The brain can do that; insert false people in your memory just because you decide, subconsciously, to remember them. It doesn't mean you're insane; it's just another way for your brain to play tricks on you. Grandpa had invented a person who he talked about with such conviction, as though Charlie was real. So my mind had conjured up a Charlie Rosen. But there was no Charlie Rosen.

Grandpa died two months later. I remember the funeral like it was yesterday. I still wake up at night in a cold sweat, remembering.

Everything was normal at the start. My parents, my aunts and uncles, my wife and I, and our children, my brother and his wife, and their son, my cousins, their spouses and their children, we all gathered under the same roof for the first time in years. No one was missing. No one was out of town and couldn't make it. Two of my cousins I hadn't seen since they were children. It was nice to catch up with them.

The service was nice, as well. The pastor who served the spiritual needs at Grandpa's facility was the officiator. Grandpa looked calm and peaceful, whole, so unlike what he had been in the last few months of life. I started to feel calm myself; Grandpa was where he belonged now, where the devils of his own fevered, decaying brain couldn't get to him anymore.

And then we drove to the cemetery. The coffin was lowered. We all sprinkled a handful of dirt on the coffin and began our walk back to the cars. And then the gravedigger came out of the shadows to start shoveling the rest of the dirt. I could barely read the embroidered name tag on his coveralls. It looked like "C. Rose" or "C. Risen". It couldn't be.

He was tall, gangly, with leathery skin, sharp-looking bones, corded muscle, long grey hair. And that smile. That smile that haunts my nightmares to this day.

I watched as this phantom dumped shovel-full after shovel-full of dirt on my grandfather's coffin. He was laughing, softly, under his breath, but I have never heard such cruel laughter.

Today, I felt like I had to write all this down. To make sure I remember it all, before things get worse. Because today, my father called me to complain that Charlie was driving past his house and staring in his windows.

Friday, January 9, 2015

I'm Worried About My Son

I'm very worried about my son.

More than worried, at this point. Terrified. His behavior these past few weeks is not normal, not healthy. It makes me think there's something wrong.

At first, he would just come and stand at the door way. He did this at night, just before I'd be ready to fall asleep. I'd roll over to turn off the lamp, and he'd be standing there, in the doorway. I used to try to speak to him. I don't do that anymore. He never has answered me.

He just stares.

A couple of days ago, he graduated from standing in the doorway to coming in and sitting on the bed. He still doesn't speak. I have asked him what he wants. I've asked him if anything is bothering him. It's not like him to be so quiet.

He usually waits until my wife is asleep. That's the part that gets me. She always falls asleep before me, and he has never come in when she's awake. But then, she didn't have a hand in this.

If something doesn't change soon, I don't know what I'm gonna do. I'm starting to feel like he knows that I'm the one who killed him.