A Colder Place

Written in November of 2012.  Inspired by a hiking trip on a mountain in the Appalachian chain, during which the photograph at the top of the post was taken.

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Excerpted from the summary included in Nightmare on Black Mountain: A Review of the McCoy Peak FootageAuthor Carmine Gregory, University of North Carolina Press, 2013.

 

“My name is Taylor Cuvert, and this is a message for my family.”

“Sandy, I love you. I have always loved you, and I will always love you. I’m so sorry that it has to be this way, but I don’t see any way around it now. I don’t want you to watch anything else on this video. Not under any circumstances. If it comes on TV, I want you to change the channel, and if they give you this tape, then I don’t want you to keep it. I want you to always think of me…as the person you knew while I was alive. You remember that trip we took to Costa Rica, right after college? Remember how the sun beat down on the beach during the day, and how we spent the night together on the pavilion, just watching the moon over the waves? Hopefully I’ll see you again someday, somewhere sunnier than Costa Rica in the summertime.”

“Jordan, you’re my little girl. I want you to be strong for dad, okay? Mom is going to need you to be there for her for a while. I won’t be able to be there for you like I wish I could be, but you have your mom and you have your grandparents to help you out, so I’m not too worried about you. Just keep on keeping on. I know you don’t know about Costa Rica yet, but maybe you can go there when you get older. It’s a beautiful place, and there’s nothing in this world quite like seeing a toucan steal your sandwich on a warm…warm day. Just study hard in school, stay away from sleazy guys in fast cars, and make your dad proud.”

“Maybe I’ll get to give this to you guys in person and we can all have a good laugh, but more likely, I’m not going to make it down this mountain. I miss you both so much right now. Just know that you are always in my heart.”


McCoy Peak, on Black Mountain, is the highest point in the Blue Ridge of western North Carolina. Standing out against the sky at sunset like some ancient, sleeping giant, it’s easy enough to see how Black Mountain got its name. However, the peak’s legacy is more firmly attached to a video clip recovered by the United States Coast during a search following a freak blizzard in early November of 2012.

Taylor Cuvert, along with the husband and wife pair of Jonathan and Carrie Bleak, were caught out in the storm. Why they were on the mountain at all so late in the year, much less near the notoriously dangerous McCoy Peak, is unknown, although hints early in the video suggest that the three may have been looking for some sort of archaeological site on the hill’s northern flank. Given that both members of the Bleak family were instructors of Native American history at the nearby University of Western North Carolina, and given that Taylor was aspiring to the same office, this seems a rational enough assumption.

Regardless, it hardly seems important what the three ill-fated explorers were searching for. No site of historical importance has ever been located on Black Mountain, although the unusual topography and enormous scale of the hill (more of a ridge line than a normal mountain, stretching nearly nine and a half miles east to west) makes it difficult to say for certain what they may have been looking for. Substantially more important are the details of what happened after the group wandered off of the beaten path.

Black Mountain, like most publicly accessible hills in the state, is criss-crossed with hiking trails. One of these, the McCoy Summit Trail, is closed from mid-October through mid-April due to the dangers of winter at altitudes of over 7,000 feet. This, however, did not stop Taylor and his group from traipsing through the line of warning signs and beginning their ascent from the parking lot of the closed visitor’s center. The three continued on the trail, up through relatively flat areas (some with wooden stairs) and then on into relative wilderness. At higher points on the trail, the beaten path became weakly trodden and narrow, ascending and then briefly descending, then picking up again until at last the path came to a near stop. A brief hike up a boulder field (slick with an icey trickle of water coming down from the well known Boone Spring) would have taken the group up to the mountain’s windblown ridge. However, apparently in search of whatever they had come to Black Mountain for in the first place, the group chose to skirt the strewn field. and walk along the lower flank of the mountain’s ridge.

It quickly becomes apparent, from watching the tape, that all members of the group were freezing. Unbeknownst to them, a squall line was moving south, driven down out of New England by the sudden influx of a mass of cold air from Canada. Their first hint of snow comes less than twenty minutes before the viewer realizes that they are in serious trouble. Although Carrie, the first to notice flurries dropping from the gray sky above, looks at the camera and jokingly suggests that the mountain will become a winter wonderland, the danger seems to have been more apparent to the camera man. One of the most infamous frames of the video, sometimes hailed as the voice of Cassandra speaking truth about wilderness survival, is the one in which Taylor, with his camera pointed at the dead pine needles below his feet, says, “I think we may want to turn back, if it’s starting to snow.”

Whether it was already too late is irrelevant. With their goal solidly in mind, the two other members of the expedition stood firm in their desire to move on, and Taylor made the decision to go with them. The three walked for a few minutes, a high cliff stretching up to the ridge on their southern side, and a steep hill leaning down toward the valley far below on the other. When flurries became more visible and began to accumulate, there was another brief discussion about turning back, this time beginning with Carrie. However, this discussion is much more difficult to discern clearly. At this point, the footage experiences severe audio distortion, something commonly associated with what reviewers of the film have called “the Hound” or, perhaps more accurately, “the Watcher”.

Regardless of the decision reached, the snow picks up by the end of the conversation, to the point where turning back is already impossible. The cliff face could lead the group back nearly to the trail, that much is true, but after it terminates, there are still a few hundred more feet of tangled alpine forest (a strange feature of high Appalachia), and the trail is not clear enough so high up. The group apparently decided, off camera, to wait out what they hoped to be a brief snow. The next video, taken probably two hours later, includes the group huddled up against a rock lower on the hill, which they had made the decision to use as a windbreak. Jonathon is visible in the film trying to start a fire, and eventually succeeding. Despite being dressed for normal winter weather, no one in the group appears to be dressed for the kind of weather coming with the squall line, and it clearly cuts like a knife.

Normal, edited versions of the McCoy Peak Footage do not attempt to duplicate the few snippets of conversation and “interviews” which Taylor took, trying to keep spirits up during the storm. Usually, only the most important points are included, particularly Carrie and Jonathon explaining their jobs at Western Carolina, and Taylor explaining his work as a wedding photographer after graduation with a master’s degree in anthropology and no prospects of obtaining a PhD following the birth of his daughter.

Taylor takes care to note that his daughter matters more to him than any degree or job he could ever have gotten.

It is some time shortly after nightfall when the McCoy Peak Footage takes a darker turn. Our first view of the Watcher comes at this point, although it is very unclear whether or not Taylor understood that he was filming it. As the day becomes rapidly darker and the storm shows no sign of letting up, the film maker tries the night vision feature of his camera. Through the lens, we are able to briefly see the creature, moving on all fours like a strange deer. Snow obscures our view, and the being is certainly difficult to make out in infrared. Nevertheless, it is clearly there, less than fifty feet out from the campsite. It looks briefly at the camera, perhaps able to see the flicker of fire, but fortunately unable to detect human movement through the snow.

Things like the Watcher have been reported from California in the west, the Mexican highland in the south, coastal North Carolina in the east, and Nunavuk in the north. While being relegated to North America, they appear to inhabit relatively underpopulated areas across the country. It is unclear what the range of a single Watcher might be, what its diet consists of, and what numbers exist in the wild, although there clearly cannot be many. No Watcher had ever been captured on camera alive in the wild before the McCoy Peak Footage, and reports were assumed to be legendary for many years. Most reports are undoubtedly fictitious, particularly given the wide levels of intelligence associated with Watchers in different stories, ranging from the animalistic fury associated with the Watcher in the possible hoax circulated on the internet as “Behind the Line of Trees”, all the way to the city-building associated with the Watchers described by New Age guru Frances Kobalt. No Watcher has ever been recovered, either dead or alive, and so it is difficult to assess any claims about the creatures other than the near unanimous description of their blindness to unmoving prey.

It is difficult, viewing the quick eye movements of the Watcher in this film, to believe that members of the species are entirely without intelligence. Although Taylor appears to have not noticed the creature before it could slink back off into the forest, he does demonstrate marked nervousness for the rest of the night. Strange sounds cause him to bring the camera back to bear. Audio enhancement, performed on the video by California’s Industrial Light and Magic, suggests that an unusual pattern of infrasound (most likely coming from the Watcher) may have been the cause for his anxiety.

It is during one of these frightened episodes, trying to fight off sleep, that Taylor views Jonathon walking just into the forest with a flaming stick from the fire. Whatever provoked his fear this time, it also seems to have disturbed the others. Taylor watches for a moment before Jonathon starts to come back. It is in that moment that the Watcher finally makes its move. We see a flurry of motion, too rapid for the video to detect. Carrie yells something, and Taylor jumps out from the shadow of the windbreak, stopping suddenly when he realizes that Jonathon is already gone from the view of the camera. His torch lies on the ground, bright enough that Taylor snaps off the night vision and lingers on its glow. Snow whirls and dances in the torch light, the wind of the blizzard threatening to silence it forever. Then from the distance come the screams.

The first is clearly Jonathon’s. It lasts for only a moment before choking out into the blackness. The second is clearly not human. It forces Taylor back toward the wind break, to watch silently as terrifying night goes on toward horrifying day.

Now, all conversation has stopped. The fire begins to die, and Taylor makes a brief foray back into the forest, looking carefully for firewood. Thanks to poor planning, however, the group has not gathered enough to last, and all that Taylor can find is covered with snow. He brings some back, attempting to brush it off, but the wood is too wet to burn. Within the hour, the fire dies, leaving Carrie and Taylor alone in the cold.

At some point, the footage cuts off, with only one more snippet of video recorded just before dawn. Natural light illuminates the scene as Taylor gently tries to wake Carrie. After failing, he touches his fingers to her neck, then moves them away, appearing to cross himself while holding the camera with the other hand.

With day rapidly growing brighter, it becomes obvious that the squall has subsided. Heavy snow now falls vertically, enormous flakes that make the forest look like the winter wonderland that Carrie had predicted. As soon as the light is strong enough for Taylor to see clearly in all directions, he starts out from the windbreak, back up toward the cliff where he had been the night before. Taylor seems unable to run, too weak and short of breath to maintain more than a stumbling walk. He strains to reach the cliff, then slowly moves along its side, an easy hike the day prior suddenly becoming much more difficult. It quickly becomes obvious to the viewer how unlikely it is that the camera man will reached the bottom of the mountain, even if he makes his way to the trail.

Then, all hope is lost.

Regardless of the authenticity of the dubious Texas record, it is clear that the primary method of hunting for a Watcher is recorded accurately in its name. The creature simply waits out its prey, in this case a human being. Another hint that the beings are intelligent, perhaps. Although Taylor moves back too quickly for the creature to have seen him, it is clearly standing in his way, staring upward on the path out. It also seems to have positioned itself strategically on the path, one which Taylor would certainly not have the strength to bypass. For the first time, the size of its eyes becomes clear. Both look like fishbowls, giving it a nearly one hundred eighty degree panoramic view. This time, the creature stands bolt upright rather than prowling like a dog. It looks disturbingly like a man, except for its vaguely reptilian flesh.

Taylor cuts off the footage here. We see a few more shots, taken from ground level, of the camera man breaking a branch from a tree and tying a long Bowie knife to it with his shoe lace. He seems determined to fasten the knife securely.

Then, he goes into his dialogue addressed to his family, and vanishes into history.

The Cuvert family has never been contacted by reputable journalistic sources, out of respect for their loss. Tabloids are turned down unanimously, and from all reports, they seem to have never viewed the film, except for occasional (and inevitable) snippets on the news. While they are obviously not in the dark regarding its content, they have chosen to shun the lime light that the video has obtained. If a scientific name is ever decided on for the Watchers, however, it is likely to include the Cuvert name, in honor of the man who taught humanity a lesson it was able to forget for hundreds of years,

There on some places on this Earth which it is better to shun than to explore.

-C.S.B.-

The Nightmare Outside of Orwin

Originally written on the forums of the website creepypasta.com in the spring of 2009.  Lovecraftian themes should be fairly obvious, with the figure of Cal’Ulhunlat inspired (despite the Cthulhu-esque name) by a drawing of Shub-Niggurath.  Orwin is a fictional town unrelated to the real world community of Erwin.  I found out that Erwin existed after someone started “correcting” my spelling.

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Orwin, North Carolina, is a small town located just south of the state line with Virginia. The population of Orwin proper is 2,037, with another two hundred or so people living in the area around the town. Close by, the town of Roan Valley is much larger, with a population of roughly ten thousand, not counting students at the regional Roan Valley University.

Most people have never heard of Orwin, and those who have generally don’t think of it as the sort of place where the events of March 14th, 2008 could have taken place. Orwin is ‘anywhere USA’, a peaceful little slice of Americana where farm kids drive around in Ford trucks, grandma still cooks apple pie, and the biggest news story is usually related to the performance of the high school football team in state competition (where, in 2007, it made the finals). Still, that doesn’t change the horrifying reality of what happened there, and even though the scars are healing and life is slowly returning to normalcy, no amount of time will ever wash all of the blood from the field near the Olberson Homestead farm.

The story of what happened in Orwin is as complicated as it is terrifying, but most sources seem to agree that the first report of anything unusual occurring in the still-unaware community came into the Orwin Police Department late in the evening, at 7:34 P.M. Two elderly women, driving four miles outside of town on a rural back road, called in to tell the police that they had seen something strange in the forest across a grassy field. When asked to describe what they had seen, they told the officer on the phone that it was, “something large,” but indistinct because of the branches obscuring their line of sight. The police decided that the situation was probably nothing to worry about, and did not send anyone out to investigate what the elderly women had seen.

The next calls came in just before sunset, at 7:53 and 7:55. They came from a farmer, who was doing late work feeding his livestock, and from a young man coming out of the woods after a solo hiking trip, respectively. The latter described what he saw as a “black animal, moving through the trees,” by the hiking trail. Like the two elderly women, he did not offer a detailed description of the animal, but seemed to believe that it was very large, and felt horrified by what he had seen. He said, in a later interview, that he had run out of the forest, scared that the animal might follow him, or that there might be others. The farmer described a scene similar to that viewed by the elderly women, saying that he had seen something in the forest, across the field from his farm. It had apparently bothered his livestock, however, particularly the goats, which seemed terrified, and did not sleep throughout the night.

More sightings came in before nightfall, with an increasing frequency, until calls were coming in to the small town’s police station every few minutes. Some of them came from people who were absolutely terrified by what they had seen; one woman, alone in her house, said that she had heard something brush against the wall outside of her kitchen, and had gone to the window over the sink to see what looked like black, leathery skin pass by. She stayed on the line with police until her husband arrived, then went with him to a motel for the night, too scared to go back to her house.

After 8:00 o’ clock, the sun didn’t take very long to sink beneath the horizon outside of Orwin, and then, things took a disturbing turn. Whatever was in the forest seemed to get more active at night, and so did another, very human force, living inside of the town.

At 8:36, driving along a dark highway between Roan Valley and Orwin, a group of college students in an SUV saw a sight in their headlights which completely dumbfounded them. A cloister of around eight men, dressed in black robes, crossed the road in front of them, forcing them to stop. One of the men, according to all of the students, paused to look at the SUV before going on. The young man got a good look at the individual, which helped to identify him later as Gregory Santiago, a prominent banker and respected member of the community.

Behind the robed men, the college students reported seeing something else cross the road, presumably one of the animals which others had been encountering. They described it as being, “larger than an elephant”, with six legs, and pitch black skin. They stated that, although they could not see far above the tops of its legs, they believed the animal to be at least forty feet tall, with pointed spines or possibly tentacles sticking out of its back, and pointing up toward the sky. They did not describe the animal as having eyes, but they stated that it did have ‘faces’ covering its flanks. Five in all, one of which had a large mouth, opened in a permanent scream.

The students drove into town, arrived at 8:53, after two other people had independently reported sightings of similar animals in the fields around Orwin. None of the other reports which came in that night were as detailed as the students’ account, however, nor were any of them quite as baffling or horrifying in light of later events.

It was at 11:47 that the occurrences in Orwin ceased to be simply strange, and turned into something much worse. Eight and a half miles outside of Orwin, Janet and Neal Olberson, along with their six year old daughter Natasha, experienced a nightmare which none of us can ever really imagine. A group of invaders broke into their home, shattering the window in their living room, and shot Neal Olberson dead. These murderous intruders were later discovered to be the same eight men who the Roan Valley University students had seen crossing the road, and were found to be members of a cult, called the Sacred Arm of Cal U’hunlat.

After killing Neal Olberson, the three cultists who broke into the home, later identified as Nathan Henson, Daniel Walker, and his brother, Norm Walker, took Janet and Natasha Olberson hostage, dragging them outside of the house and into the field behind. There, both were tied to a rocky outcrop near the forest, and surrounded by the ring of eight men. The eight cultists chanted loudly, calling out to the stars in the clear sky high above, and bellowing for their goddess to come and accept her sacrifice.

What happened next is a matter of contention and controversy. Those who tend to believe the account of Natasha Olberson, which was given two weeks later after the child went through intensive psycho-therapy, something simply unimaginable came out of the forest and took her mother. The description of the horror is different from the description of the monsters seen earlier; it was much larger and, according to Natasha, very squid-like. She claimed to be able to see the head of the creature, extending roughly one hundred twenty feet over the trees. Mouths, eyes, and tentacles covered its entire body, along with ropey strands of flesh, which it used to pull itself across the Earth. Natasha told investigators in the case that she had turned away after the monster took her mother, but that she believed it killed her. Investigators later stated that, although they could not accept her testimony on the grounds that she was likely suffering from intense psychological trauma, the basics about the event were correct. Her father and mother had both been killed by eight men, all of whom had been members of an occult group.

Before the eight men could be located and brought to trail, however, they all either vanished off the radar, or were found to have committed ritual suicide. Two are believed to have fled to Mexico following the incident, while the whereabouts of three of the others are not known. All three of the men who broke into the Olberson household are presently known to be dead. It was in their homes that relics related the cult of Cal U’hunlat were found, tying the obscure, almost unknown group to the horrible crime.

Natasha Olberson is currently in foster care, and is living in an unknown location, under the arm of the witness protection program. Other than her account and those of other witnesses from that day in March of 2008, there is almost no evidence that anything out of the ordinary occurred in Orwin. Time will pass, but the bones of Janet and Neal Olberson will always be interred in the local cemetery beneath two lonely marble markers, testaments to a nightmare which no one can imagine, but which no one can forget.

-C.S.B.-

Onriyo

Written in February of 2009.

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I don’t think you can ever be sure how the day is going to end. Even if you’re in a nice house on the coast of Northern California when the sun rises over the hills, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to be there when the sun goes back down.

This morning I was reading my copy of the Oakland Tribune, trying to focus on the news with some kind of odd buzzing in the back of my head. I never would have guessed what that meant, or that I would be here, in the SFPD headquarters this evening, telling you about the darkest secrets of my life, and the darkest depths of human nature.

Funny how things turn out, isn’t it? I suppose all men must one day face their demons, though, and I fear that I will soon be facing mine in Hell.

There’s not much I can tell you that you don’t already know. I used to work for a software firm called Benji Computing, back in the 1990s. That didn’t really do much for me, but it did get my foot in the doorway of Silicon Valley. When Benji tanked in March of 2001, I had enough cred to land myself a position working with a little start-up with a lot of potential named Tancata Systems. This is the part you want to hear about, right?

I’m sure that you’ve already been told about all of the money the government poured into Tancate after they pitched their TSS network to DARPA in 2002. The TSS probably sounded like a good idea; a Telepathic Surveillance System which could monitor everything going on anywhere on Earth. No expensive satellites, no clandestine flights around the Arctic Circle. Just one computer, in Tancata’s main office in San Francisco.

The only problem with the TSS was that all it was was a good idea. We had no way to make it workable. Even though Tancata was able to monitor and prove the existence of Telepathic waves, we still weren’t sure how to manipulate them or observe them on such an immesne scale. Contrary to the image often given to the public, the “psychics” who bent spoons, used tarot cards, and read minds were universally either frauds or just people who believed that they could do something they couldn’t. Actual telepathic ability was something subconscious, and something uncontrollable. If we could figure out how to get it under control, then we would be able to give DARPA their machine, and we’d all be set for life. If we couldn’t, though, then we would almost definitely be accused of ripping off the federal government, and they’d take their funds back out of our skin.

Our early attempts to make the TSS work were pretty harmless, but they weren’t very effective. Andrew Thatcher was in charge of those. If you have him in custody, you might as well release him now; he was just a code monkey, trying to piece psychic wavelengths together out of C++ and Java. It didn’t work, but no one got hurt because of it.

We didn’t make our progress or do anything particularly dangerous until our CEO, Marcus Pliny, replaced Thatcher with Dr. Jeanne Meracor. She was the person who proposed the bright idea that we needed to replace our computer banks with live, human ‘processors’. I was initially opposed to that concept, but I eventually decided to give it my support.

We got a few people together, and we performed tests on them to figure out how much Telepathic potential each of one of them had. Some of them were volunteers we took from off of the street; some of them were employees who worked at Tancata. We thought at first that intelligence contributed greatly to Telepathic potential, so we encouraged Tancata employees with Master’s Degree or Doctorate level education to take our Para psychological tests. It seemed strange when not one of them scored even slightly above average.

Rather than intelligence, the most important deciders for Telepathic potential proved to be gender and ancestry. Out of the twenty seven people who tested in the ranges between ‘Slightly Above Average’ and ‘High Telepathic Potential’, twenty four were female. Way too high to be a coincidence. The three males all tested on the lower end of the spectrum, too, meaning that they were all out of the running for the later phases of the program.

Of our top ten, all of them were female, and six of them identified themselves as being ‘of Asian descent’. Only one, our top scorer, was able pinpoint exactly where in Asia her family had come from; her father had moved from Japan in the 1980s. Obviously, we didn’t have enough information to make anything out of that with any real certainty. I think that if we had done genetic testing on all of our high scorers, though, we would have found some distant link to a common progenitor living in Japan, or possibly even someone older who moved to Japan from mainland China during the Neolithic Era.

Someone at our office brought up the ancient Japanese myth of the Onriyu; vengeful ghosts, almost always female, who preyed upon those who committed injustices against them during life. The whole thing sounded really superstitious, but looking at our top scorer, it was impossible to avoid that image. She was the picture of one of those mythical beings dragged from a wood-cutting. Tall and frail, as pale as a sheet, and whenever she was in a bad mood, it was hard to go near her without feeling some dark shadow falling over you. The only thing they seemed to get wrong was that, outside of those long repeated legends, the Onriyu were still alive.

Unfortunately, or maybe very fortunately, we weren’t able to use her for the program. She was exponentially more powerful than her runner-up, but she was also emotionally unstable. When we checked into her medical records, we found a diagnosis of schizophrenia, another of borderline personality disorder, and strong indicators that she had tried to kill herself at least twice. We decided to take her out of the project for her own safety, and for ours.

We still needed ten people for the program, so we decided to call our eleventh highest scorer, another woman, also ‘of Asian descent’. She still wanted to be involved, but only the on the condition that we explain to her what she would be doing. We ended up using our twelfth highest scorer.

Over the next four months, the ten people in our program lived at the Tancata Systems office block. They were given nice rooms, good food, high pay, and anything else they might need. Twice a day, we gave the medication developed by our bio-tech lab and proven to increase Telepathic abilities in mice. Once a week, they were ‘trained’ by a researcher and taught how to funnel their mental energies. That part was really touch and go. Their telepathic brainwaves were also scanned to see if they were making progress. Within two weeks, they all began to show marked improvements.

Problems started after the middle of the third month. The scientists down in the labs said that the subjects were all complaining of headaches, and that one was reporting hearing voices outside of a laboratory setting. They were starting to see distant parts of the world through the eyes of other people, just like we had wanted, but they were seeing things in their dreams, too, and those things weren’t very pleasant. Our experts told us that it might be a good idea to terminate the program, but but Jeanne Meracor didn’t seem to agree. She told us all to continue what we were doing and not to report any ‘minor problems’ to DARPA.

When all of our subjects started going rogue, I suppose Meracor considered that to be a ‘minor problem’, too.

See, it turns out that the human brain really isn’t made to hold the equivalent energy of an electrical generator. That was why our top scorer had been so unstable, and why all ten of our test subjects lashed out one day and tore part of our office block apart.

It was my idea, when we finally managed to secure all of the test subjects, that we should keep them sedated and continue the program. We were too far by this point; we couldn’t just stop. We hooked the subjects up to brain monitors, and we pumped them full of drugs and nutrients to keep them alive. It probably wasn’t very healthy for them, but we did it anyway. Their heart rates were always elevated, and from time to time, the monitors would actually jump like the subjects were running marathons in their sleep.

We eventually managed to pull images and even videos from their minds, and with that, we should have been able to make the TSS a reality. There was just one little glitch. More often than not, their visions were of horrors we didn’t like to imagine. Nightmares, we guessed, but worse than any we could picture. Every now and then, their terror would get so bad that one of them would break through their chemically induced trance and start screaming in fear and pain. We would just sedate them again, and lower their dose of psychic enhancers slightly. Basically, we tortured them, and I’m pretty sure that they knew who was doing it.

This continued for a while, until 2005, when DARPA pulled our funding. They didn’t demand any money back, they just wanted out. Someone had decided that the TSS, if rendered functional, would be too big a potential invasion of personal privacy in the wrong hands. They had no idea. With all the opposition that the government was getting over the Iraq War, a machine that could read everyone’s thoughts didn’t exactly seem like something they wanted to be involved with.

Tancata was left with two choices then, and I can tell you, neither of them seemed too appealing. We could either level the subjects off of their enhancers and let them go, hoping that they wouldn’t remember what happened, or we could cut off their life support and terminate them.

Meracor, being the brilliant business woman she was, decided not to take either of those options. Instead, she did nothing about the TSS program. She just kept it going as always, and encouraged Tancata’s CEO to pour money into other programs to keep the company going.

Meracor had the TSS moved from the basement of the Tancata office block in the fall of 2006. It was starting to effect some of the people working above, and I think some of them were getting suspicious about what was going on. I know they talked about it at lunch; the headaches, the gnawing anxiety, the mild hallucinations they sometimes saw on their peripheral vision, moving through the hallways and cubicles like ghosts.

I’m not sure where Meracor moved the TSS. They shipped it in a huge metal crate with ‘Industrial Hazard’ written on the side. If I had to guess where it ended up, I would say Tancata’s Nevada Facility, south of Reno, but your guess is really as good as mine.

The company dragged on for a few more years, but the financial burden caused by the lack of DARPA funds, coupled with the growing national recession caused the company to file for Chapter 11 in November of 2008. I had already left by then, though. I jumped ship when I saw the chance nearly a year before. I had a good enough resume by that time to get myself a job as a high level programmer with a major company in Oakland, and I never looked back. I was hoping that all of this would be behind me forever.

If you can get Meracor into custody soon enough, she might be able to tell you what Tancata did with the TSS when they went under. My guess if that they tried to kill it, but it was just too powerful to die. At any rate, it’s irrelevant. I’m sure you know that the TSS is still somehow alive, and that it has grown into one entity. Something with teeth and claws, and tentacles stretching across the country. You’ve got someone from Tancata, probably the CEO, I’m guessing, who has linked the blackouts in the northeast to the false missile launches in the Midwest and the nightmare that’s breaking loose along the California coastline, and then he’s tied it all back to the TSS. Either that, or DARPA figured out what we were doing too late.

Anyway, if you think that you can stop the TSS I have some bad news for you. Unless you want to channel the force of every nuclear weapon on the planet into one electromagnetic bomb, you aren’t even going to be able to slow it down. Even then, you could just interrupt its frequency for an hour or so. What it wants to do, it’s going to do, and right now, it just wants to inflict pain and death until its rage is spent.

I can give you one bit of advice, though. If the lights start to flicker, then you want to get as far away from me as you can as fast as you can. You don’t want to be in here when the lights go out.

-C.S.B.-

Something Very Old

Written on the old forums of creepypasta.com in early 2009, and inspired by the older story Just Be Careful Out There.  The story is set in the present day, despite the intentionally antiquated linguistics.  It was never published on creepypasta.com, and wasn’t publicly available for a long time.

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In the annals of prehistory, behind the veil of the long dark age before the written word, there are secret things which would make a man’s blood run cold. Shadows in the night, nightmares in the trees. We know from the fossil record that the world was a very different place, that large animals roamed the plains and forests, that the very shape of the land changed greatly before our time, but what we don’t know is what can really hurt us.

My name is Dr. William Shepherd. I received a PhD in Archaeology from Princeton University in New Jersey, where I learned much of what I know about mankind’s earliest years on this Earth. For over forty years after that, I traveled the world, digging up clues and studying the ancient past. My true interest was in the islands of the Aegean Sea, but often, I found myself forced to study Egyptian History because that was where the money was. People are more interested in Mummies, in Pharaohs, and in Pyramids, it seems, than in the history of the Greek islands, so that is where the funding went, and I had to follow the funding.

Looking back on my life, I would say that it probably could have been better spent. I had a wife in my younger years, but we never raised a family, and she was killed in a car crash after we spent just over a year together. It was a nasty collision. Two semi-trailers rear ended each other, and her small car was crushed between them. After that, I spent more and more time on my work until it pretty much became my life. It seemed important and fascinating enough to me, but everyone told me that I was going to work myself to death. In a way, I suppose, they were right.

As I write this, I am sitting in my room aboard a cargo ship called the M.V. Douglas Southampton. I have my door locked firmly, and I’ve even tried using my bed and mattress as a barricade, but I don’t think that either will stand a chance if the thing on this ship notices that I am here. I don’t know if I’m the only survivor, but if there are others, then they are probably locked up just as I am. We’re all dead in the water, and it’s only going to be a matter of the time before we meet our end.

I wish I had never brought that horror to light and taken it aboard this ship, but how was I to know that it was anything but long dead? It was something very old; my team and I dug it up from under nine thousand years of strata in the desolate Sahara desert. We thought that we had found something big. Something important.

I was on a fairly routine tomb hunt in Egypt when I dug it up, traveling along with a team from New York’s Ithaca College. We didn’t really expect to find anything at all, except for perhaps a few empty burial places and catacombs full of stuffy air and wind blown sand. That would have been enough to secure the group a place in National Geographic Magazine, to gain a bit of printed word for Ithaca College, and to make sure that there would be funding for the archaeology department next year, which was all we were really aiming for.

When we heard locals talking about a secluded burial place several miles south of a lonely village called Al Russar, we had a discussion and decided that it would be worth a short departure from our planned route to investigate the purported ancient tomb. We traveled south, leaving the beaten road and going for about four hours across the hot sands on foot. The tomb was supposed to be beneath a place which the people in the region called ‘The Castle’; an outcropping of volcanic rock jutting up above the high, shifting dunes. We found The Castle in the still twilight of the afternoon, standing out like the dark teeth of some long dead dragon.

The decision was made to commence the dig in the morning, when we had some light, so we camped out beneath the sheer vertical face. A student from the college who was with us as part of his archaeology class told me that he thought he saw something walking through the dunes in the distance close to nightfall. The desert can play tricks on the mind.

In the early light of morning, we started our dig, going through the sand where it was shallowest, opposite the windward face of the igneous cliff. We would probably have given up after striking older dirt, had we not found some interesting markings on the rock; interesting, and disturbing. There were hieroglyphs, warning of a curse, then older, more primitive etchings, and finally what looked like the cave paintings found in Europe. They were the strangest of all. It was bizarre to think that, in their day, the desert had been a lush, thriving Savannah, yet it was shown clearly in the landscapes the ancient people had drawn. Of course, what stood out most were the images of what looked like people, their eyes missing, their skin charred black as though in a fire, and their emaciated bodies groping their way across the grasslands like living corpses.

Some of the students, I think, were anxious, so I told them that it was not uncommon for ancient civilizations to leave warnings of curses to ward off would-be tomb raiders. The paintings probably showed the consequences of an attempt to steal treasure from an underground sepulcher. Still, there was no way that I could account for the age of some of the oldest paintings, or for the prevalence of warnings going through the ages. Warnings of fates so gruesome I myself had to wonder what they were meant to protect.

We finally found what we were looking for in a surprisingly muddy patch of Earth, hidden beneath millenia of time and dirt. There, we found the tomb; a relic and a ghost of a time before time. It was not carved and built out limestone and rock. Rather, it was like a cave, just borrowed in the mud. There was no material treasure in that ancient place, but there was something which we knew immediately was the greatest treasure ever found in the history of mankind.

How should I describe our discovery? Our hunter? It had the general shape of a man, although it was significantly larger. Nearly nine feet tall, it had a misshapen jaw, dusty, ashen skin, and widely spaced, shovel-like teeth protruding from its crumbling gums. Its arms were long and thin, with six fingered hands at the end of each, and its two main legs were wide and a powerful, with a third dragging behind them which was so diminutive that it might have been a tail.

We took it with us, eager to share it with the world, but not until we got back to the harbor in New York. Egypt has laws regarding the transport of rare antiquities which would have made it difficult for us to take our find back to the United States. We boxed it up with some pottery we later dug up in the Valley of the Kings, and we stowed away quite possibly the most important find in human history in the cargo hold of the Douglas Southampton.

For two days, our ship sailed peacefully through the Mediterranean and then the North Atlantic, until, on the third day of our journey home, things went awry.

You see, somehow, the creature we found was still alive. After thousands of years of dormancy, a time during which human civilization rose out of the humbleness of prehistory and into dominance over the Earth, that eon old nightmare was still alive.

I think that it wanted to wait until we got somewhere with more people. Somewhere that would allow it to feed its insatiable appetite for suffering a bit more fully. It couldn’t contain itself, though. It just had to have a meal, and once it started, there was no way that it could stop. The captain told us all to stay in our rooms and lock the doors, that we had someone on board who was attacking crew members. I knew, though. Immediately, I knew that the horror I had brought aboard was doing it, even before I heard everyone yelling about a monster in the halls.

The worst thing about it all was the screaming. I could hear the people across the ship when that thing caught them. There were things I can’t possibly print here. Things too awful to even imagine.

Whoever finds this, I am sure that you will find that creature, as well. It will be dormant, but don’t let it fool you. Don’t touch it. Don’t go near it. Leave it here and put this ship at the bottom of the sea along with it.

I know that it is going to find me. It is inevitable. My only consolation is that I may get to see my wife again soon…

Faded Memories

An experiment in southern gothic from around April, 2012.  I actually grew up near eastern Tennessee, and the place creeps me out a little.

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I was born here in these mountains, out in eastern Tennessee where the high trees can almost touch the sky. It’s an ancient place, one where the hills are so old that the rivers have carved out dark and forbidden hollows for themselves. Some of those dark places have been abandoned since long before the Overmountain Cherokee ever hunted the land, and frankly they should stay that way.

You might call it superstitious to have the fear of the deep woods that we do here. You might even link it back to some basic primate fear of the unknown. I don’t think you can deny, though, that there are strange things you can remember that make you more than a little frightened of the irrational. Can’t you recall a time when you were driving down some deserted stretch of highway late at night and caught a glimpse of something that maybe, just maybe, wasn’t a deer crossing the road ahead of you? Isn’t there anything from the shadowy reaches of childhood’s earliest memories that might not be as imaginary as you tell yourself that it is? We remember those things, too. Out in the forest late at night, or in one of those hidden coves where the TVA lakes reach out into the hills, we can’t afford to repress them so deeply.

I recall, when I was maybe three years old, having an imaginary friend. I don’t think that I ever gave him a name, but I remember him as being more like a really big dog than a man. Beyond that, all I know is that he was very pale and very cold. My mom says that I would go out to play with him just within the tree line. She says that she made me stop when she noticed that I wasn’t alone.

That much I’m sure happened. I’m not as sure about the teeth or the claws that I remember now in retrospect. I could have invented those, and I could have also invented the smell of dirt and rot, and how he asked me that last evening to go with him to play deeper in the woods just before my mother called me back home.

Ten years after the last time I ever played with my “friend”, I started middle school. Back then, I was in class with a girl and her brother named Jessica and Danny respectively. I spent a lot of time then with Danny and his sister. Sometimes, all three of us would go out to play at Walker Lake, where they had a public beach before it had to be shut down because of industrial runoff. We weren’t supposed to leave that strip of beach, but one day Danny and Jessica snuck off. I followed them into the woods for about twenty feet before I chickened out and turned back.

I’m glad I was the chicken that day.

Turns out, they found a place to play in a cove where the water dipped down to over three hundred feet just a few yards offshore. The drop off went down into a valley that used to be called Johnson’s Woods before the TVA flooded it. Danny got out there and he drowned. Everyone said, of course, that Danny just got out there and couldn’t swim. No one challenged it, because no one wanted to admit that it might be something other than simple case of a teenage boy drowning. Problem is, Danny could swim like a fish. They never found a body, and Jessica would never talk about it. In fact, she wouldn’t talk at all for weeks, and she was never the same again.

Jessica could never move on, no matter how hard I know she tried. She grew up tall and sickly, probably never more than ninety pounds and never healthier than a two weak flu. They called it survivor’s guilt. Her eyes were sunken and hollow, and her hair was thinner than it should have been. The girls picked on her and the boys never spoke to her. I was the closest thing to a friend that she had, and to be honest, I was kind of scared of her. Not because I believed that she was dangerous, but because I knew that there was something deeply wrong about her that I didn’t want to get myself involved in.

Near the end, she gave me this notebook that she had used to draw ever since her brother’s death. I took one look at it, and I burned the thing. Two days later, the police found her under a tree outside of her house, screaming at the top of her lungs while her house burned to ashes.

I can’t ever forget what I saw in the notebook. Nothing can erase all of that from my mind, and nothing can make me believe that a ninety pound girl could kill two adults without even having a murder weapon.

Maybe I could erase it all from my mind, maybe I could accept the story everyone else tells themselves, if it weren’t for one thing that won’t leave my mind. It cuts in there like a sharp rock, sticking and slicing away in the back until I can’t deal with it anymore.

They found her under a tree. Her family didn’t have a tree.

-C.S.B.-

Faces in the Storm

I wrote this story in December of 2008, when I was a senior in high school.  For whatever mysterious reason, it’s apparently the one that people like the best, so I’ m not going to criticize it too much.  This is sort of an “updated” version, lacking a random bit from the original that didn’t really fit in the story (my 17 year old self just felt like it needed some more death and badly botched geography).  Mr. Creepypasta has a great reading of this story in its original version on YouTube at this address:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZ59pZOmJw0

A lot of people compare this story to The Mist.  That’s a pretty obvious inspiration, although all I really got from that was the idea of writing it in the form of a letter.  The rest was inspired by a combination of metalcore music, the Cthulhu mythos, and the movie Cloverfield.  Some people have also assumed that the story is a Pokemon fan fiction.  While I appreciate almost any interpretation of the story, I honestly don’t even know any Pokemon beyond the second generation, and I have no idea what the characters this theory talks about are.

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I think I’m going to go insane…

It’s been twenty eight days since the seventeenth of December, and the rain hasn’t faltered for a second since then. It keeps falling in sheets, driving down from the heavens like a waterfall. Outside, you feel like you could drown walking.

When this all started out, I don’t think that anyone thought much of it. I mean, this nightmare was just another winter storm then. It started in kind of an odd place, out in the North Atlantic across from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but I’m not sure that meant anything to people who weren’t meteorologists or oceanographers. The storm started out expanding very rapidly. I’m not sure if it’s still growing or not, since the TV hasn’t come on for more than three weeks, but it sure hasn’t moved at all.

Things started looking more bizarre when the wind failed to move the storm. It just kept hammering New England, growing south along the coastline from Maine all the way down to where I lived in Nassau County, just outside of New York City. The weather forecasts changed every few minutes, as forecasters revised their estimates, going from saying that there would be light flurries, to saying that there would be a few inches of snow, to saying that there would be an absolute blizzard across the city, and that everyone should stay inside.

My wife, Sarah, couldn’t heed that warning, though. She had to go to work, and I had to stay home and take care of our five year old daughter, Tanya. When my wife walked outside that morning, I promised her that I would keep Tanya safe. Watching Sarah pull out of the driveway in her Nissan Altima, I had no idea that would be the last time I would ever see her.

As the day wore on, the weather took a turn for the worse. It looked like the weather forecasters were right, predicting one of the worst storms New York had seen in over a century. It amazed me when the power stayed on late into the night, but I wasn’t complaining. You never know exactly how bad a blackout really is until you go through one with a five year old who’s still terrified of the dark.

Not that I can say I’m not scared of the dark anymore, myself.

The last time we saw the cheerful, smiling forecasters on the Weather Channel, they were saying that the storm had expanded south into New Jersey, and that we could receive two feet of snow during the night. It was at about 6:23 P.M., I think. Less than a minute later, the Weather Channel cut off, and every program on the television changed to a warning, telling everyone to get out of New York City along whatever bridge they could take and avoid Manhattan Island.

I tried to reach the company where Sarah worked on my phone, but the lines were down. I didn’t really know what was going on, but I decided to listen to the reporters on my TV, and get Tanya out of the city. I struggled with the idea that I shouldn’t just desert Sarah, who worked on Manhattan, but when I got outside, I realized that I couldn’t possibly risk going there.

To the south, across the horizon, the dark clouds of night were painted red with flames.

The traffic was horrible, but not as bad you might think. A lot of people were reluctant to leave. They all seemed to be in shock. I drove my Cadillac along the roads through Nassau and Queens, seeing a lot of people standing by the roadside watching the shadow of the flames flickering against the sky, but running into far fewer actually driving along the road. Some of the people were slowly making their way by foot out of the city, and as time went on, the traffic congestion got a bit worse, but amazingly I was able to get myself and Tanya out of New York before it became so bad that I couldn’t drive at all.

I still remember looking across the harbor on the road from Queens to the mainland, and seeing Manhattan Island burning. I don’t think that I’ll ever forget that. Tanya kept staring out the window, speechless, and tired, too, I believe. I don’t know for certain what time it happened to be, but I think it was past eleven.

All night, I drove through the countryside, trying to pick up a radio station that could tell me what was going on. There was nothing anywhere, though, except news of the mandatory evacuation of New York. It seemed odd to me that I had seen very few police officers and no military officials anywhere. Now, looking back, I think they were probably all either elsewhere, or dead.

The next day, things were worse. The weather started getting warmer, and the snow turned to rain. Piles of snow by the roadside were melting, and the blacktop was covered with water and mud. The clouds kept getting darker as the day went on, and as we ran into more and more traffic, coming from places all along coastal New England. The radio evacuation order was going out then to everyone from Massachusetts south to New Jersey.

By the time that night fell, it was pretty hard to tell night from day. Tanya started asking me where her mother was, and I had to lie to her, and tell her that Sarah was okay. Really, I was lying to myself, too. I thought that maybe she was somewhere along the highway right now, safely in her silver Altima. I have no doubts now that she was already dead.

We eventually had to pull off of the road and go to sleep in our car. There were some strange sounds in the night around us, and my daughter kept waking up, scared that the monster she believed had been living under her bed in Nassau was there with us, living under the car. I told her that it was all just her imagination, but I couldn’t help hearing the scratching on the undercarriage, or the occasional low purr coming from somewhere further out in the night.

When morning came, everything seemed well again. That is, until I got moving. I wanted to believe that the sounds I had heard the night before, and the ever present sense of something out there in the night had all been figments of my imagination, but what I saw along the roadside shook that pleasant notion from my head. Everywhere, there were cars still sitting on the roadside, their windows broken out, and their doors sometimes torn off of their hinges. In front of some, deep trails led through through the melting snow into the distance.

There was no way that I was oging to stay out in the car that night. Instead, I chose to find a house along the road which looked empty, and, well, I broke in. To be more accurate, I knocked on the door, and it creaked open on its own. No one was inside, so I decided that I and Tanya could stay in there for the night. The door locked safely and securely behind us, and we seemed to be safe.

We’ve been in that house ever since.

At first, we stayed in the upper part of the house, but as the nights and the days grew together into one dark, pitch black blur, we decided that the basement was probably safer. Just in time, too. Soon after we went down to the basement, I heard something break down the front door and crash around in the upper part of the building, toppling tables and knocking over the television.

Time passed slowly, eternally dragging on. The temperature kept getting warmer and warmer, until it began to feel more like the middle of summer than the middle of winter. Then, one night (I think, it was impossible to tell), the world around us grew warmer than the inside of an oven.

I can’t say that the temperature was lower than one hundred and fifty degrees. It was almost literally scalding. A little bit of water had started creeping into the basement through windows high up on the walls, and I and my daughter tried to stay out of it, because it was nearly hot enough to boil.

That was the night I saw something I really wish that I could just unsee.

My daughter went to sleep early. She was tired, and, I think, a little sick. For a little while, I let her sleep alone, choosing to look out through one of the closed windows, where no water was pouring in.

At first, I saw nothing but the pitch black of the storm. Then, I noticed something out there in the night. A few darkly glowing patches of luminescent green, coming from something I couldn’t see. I watched them for a while as they bounced through the depthless darkness, moving along at a distance I couldn’t really understand.

Then, there were several bright flashes of lightning, and I realized that what I was watching was much larger than anything I could have possibly imagined.

How tall it was, I’m not totally sure, but I know it had to be bigger than a mountain. It was still just a shadow in the distance, but it had enough form for me to know that it was not normal, even in the twisted alternate version of reality which comes with the storm. I could feel the heat, coming off of it, and coming through the window; like an open fire, less than an inch from my face. In its wake, there were flames, spouting up from the forest of southern New York, and casting black trails of smoke against the black sky.

Soon, the light from the brief outburst of lightning strikes fell away, but the green glow continued. I kept watching for a while before going back to sit with Tanya, those images burned forever into my mind.

When morning came, the world was a bit cooler. As the next day wore on, and the next after it, the temperature went even lower, and so did our stocks of food.

The owners of the house had a few weeks worth of food in the basement. Apparently, they were farmers who had kept old traditions of canning and drying their own produce. It lasted us longer than I thought, but now, we’ve been out for a while I think that I and Tanya are going to head out. If the car works, we’ll take it. If it doesn’t…we’ll figure something out.

There’s water everywhere, and it’s more than foot deep on the flat land here. The ground reached its saturation point weeks ago, and the water hasn’t had time to drain away fully. I don’t know what’s going to happen if it keeps raining; I guess this part of New York is going to join the Atlantic Ocean.

I’m just thinking that maybe we can get to safety somewhere. There has to be some place where this storm hasn’t reached. I’m leaving this note here, just in case someone finds it eventually. I just want there to be some remnant of I, Tanya, and Sarah passing through this world. I don’t want us all to just be three more faces in the storm.

-C.S.B.-