You'll kiss your wife goodbye and leave.
That's the last anyone'll see
Plucked from the streets and not seen again.
They'll find just your car and your left hand.
You'll kiss your wife goodbye and leave.
That's the last anyone'll see
Plucked from the streets and not seen again.
They'll find just your car and your left hand.
I've got a fist in my left pocket,
and I'm gonna punch out all your teeth.
I've got a knife in my left pocket,
and I'm gonna stick you full of holes.
I've got a gun in my left pocket,
and I'm gonna plug you full of lead.
I've got a bomb in my left pocket,
and I'm gonna make the news.
I've got a flower in my right pocket,
and I really wish you'd notice me.
I sprang out of bed in a panic. It took all of what little presence of mind I had left to keep from screaming. And even as I caught my breath, the last words I heard before waking up echoed in my ears.
"That light socket is wired into God. If I stick my finger in that socket, I'll go straight to heaven."
I lay back down. I wouldn't be getting any sleep tonight, I was sure of it.
The bare socket hung in the ceiling, fixing me with its disapproving one-eyed stare. Clara has been hounding me to put a light bulb in that socket. I guess I should have done as she asked.
"What, you don't have the guts?" the socket goaded in a tone that was equal parts drill sergeant and schoolyard bully. "Do it, pansy!"
"Do it," it said again, this time in a motherly voice.
"Don't ya wanna go to heaven?" said the bully.
"Things will be better," said the matron.
"C'mon, slugger," said another voice in a Boston accent that was too slick to be trusted.
Noise, static filled my ears. In it was a multitude of voices -- the chatter of crowded subway platforms and shopping malls, the whispered murmurs in library carrels. All of them came together like cellphone crosstalk, signals crossed in transmission. None made any sense yet all said the same thing. I knew what they wanted.
They wanted me to electrocute myself.
See What Happens Next
He couldn’t remember when he had acquired the mask. He had come into the room one day and realized it was there on the great marble mantlepiece, in a place of honor, candles and sprigs of greenery around it. Days went by and it remained there, though the greenery eventually dried up and was cleared away; by the servants, he supposed, for he certainly had not moved anything. He did not go into that room very often. It was too large, too formal, too much in the middle of things. His scattered thoughts and a sense of restlessness led him to prefer the more remote areas of the mansion. But when he did enter the room, the mask was always there.
He liked looking at it. It was formed like the face of a man, eyes closed, serene smile on his face, but the lines were far too perfect, too beautiful to be any ordinary person. Perhaps it was the face of a god; had one of his friends who enjoyed traveling found it in some distant land where such idols were worshipped, and, knowing his love of beautiful perfection, brought it to him?
Come to think of it, he had once loved to travel. How long had it been since he had set foot on train or ship in search of beauty and excitement in faraway places? He didn’t know. This strange restlessness, accompanied by the equally strange inability to decide where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do, had had him in its grip for as long as he could remember.
The more he looked at the mask, though, the more it teased him with a sense of familiarity. Was it only because the mask itself was becoming so familiar to him? He spent more time thinking about it than about anything else, and when he left his lonely retreats and ventured down the grand staircase into this room, it was always the first thing he looked for.
Something deep inside of him told him that wasn’t the answer, though. He thought–he thought that perhaps the man depicted by the mask was someone he had known once, long ago. But he couldn’t call a name to mind, and surely he would have remembered an acquaintance–or perhaps someone even closer than an acquaintance?–who was so beautiful.
* * *
He had always lived alone in the house–at least, as far as he could remember–so it came as a surprise one day to wander into the grand room and find two elegantly-dressed women standing there. One of them he didn’t know, but the other seemed so familiar, like a long-lost relative he had once been close to and then lost touch with. The women were standing by the fireplace, talking, then the strange woman gestured towards the mask. Curious to hear what they might be saying about his treasure, he drifted closer, taking care not to interrupt them or startle them with his presence.
“Yes, that’s him,” the familiar-looking woman said. “So handsome! All the ladies sighed over him, but, sadly, he never married.”
The other woman made a tsking sound. “What a shame.”
“Yes, it is. And gone so young, barely even forty. Even though masks are out of fashion, we had to have one made, so that we’d always have something of him with us.”
His curiosity piqued even more, he moved to an angle where he could get a better view of the familiar woman’s face, and gasped in surprise. The two women didn’t seem to hear him. The familiar-looking woman bore a striking resemblance to the mask. Forty, she had said he was. She appeared barely older than that–the man’s sister, perhaps? Too young to be his mother.
“Why do you leave it here, then, instead of keeping it at your house?” the other woman asked.
“I’m not sure. It just seems more...fitting, somehow. As though his house would be too sad and empty without something of him in it. Though sometimes, when I come by to make sure everything is all right here, it almost seems that I can still feel his presence...”
The two women moved off towards the hall leading to the kitchen and pantry, the sister saying, “Of course, we’ll have to sell this place eventually...”
He went over to stand before the mask, and looked at it as though he had never seen it before. Of course. And he wondered why he hadn’t realized the truth before. Had it been simple denial? Or that sense of not quite recognizing yourself when you see yourself in a portrait or photographic image?
There was an ornately-framed mirror hanging over the mantlepiece. Why had he never noticed it before? Or had he been deliberately avoiding it? He looked directly into it, and saw only the room behind him reflected in it. An incredibly odd feeling, but he found himself smiling nonetheless. If he wanted to remember what he looked like, he had only to look at the mask, and see himself as he would always be–forever beautiful, forever in his prime, forever as he had been in life.
About The Author
This piece, A Familiar Face, was authored by Kyra Halland. She is the author of dark-edge tales of fantasy and romance and has written several books and short stories. She lives in southern Arizona and has two young adult sons, a very patient husband, and two less-patient cats.
Photo and picture by Ms. Halland.
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Growing up, I lived in a small town that had had its heyday in the 40’s. We were a rail stop for equipment during the war, and afterward many GI’s settled here. Unfortunately, when the war ended, so too did the regular visits from the trains. The town had just about had its coffin nailed shut when they built the freeway in ‘62.
My mom and I moved here in ’78, just the two of us. I was twelve years old. Mom waited tables at the truck stop diner. We couldn’t make the rent on her pay alone, and so at the tender age of twelve I got a job as a stock clerk at Madame Sundry’s Sundries Emporium.
Madame Sundry was an elderly Bahamian lady who ran the store from her home. She lived upstairs and had converted the first floor into her shop. No one in town liked her much because of her idiosyncrasies. For one, she was a black lady in a predominantly white town. She was also a successful entrepreneur. While not wealthy by any stretch, she wore her pearls every Sunday. That lady had a mind for business. Anything Madame Sundry wanted, she got. She was a regular at the estate sales and always paid in cash. Already well advanced in years, she had an ancient face that creased like dry leather. Among my friends I called her Madame Sun-Dried, but always glanced over my shoulder beforehand to make sure she wasn’t within earshot.
She hired me on and I started work on a Thursday, thinking the job would be easy. No one in town ever stopped by the store. Everyone knew everyone, and it would be awkward for Hankerson or Comstock to buy a brooch for his wife that once belonged to their deceased neighbor. Our only customers, the days we had any, were people driving through town. It got me into thinking how Sundry could afford to stay open. As it turned out, there wasn’t much time to think. Sundry was a tough boss, quick to remind me that she didn’t pay me to stand idle.
See What Happens Next
Howard smoked his cigarette to a nub, then flicked it to the ground and started on another. He smoked a lot, even for a Brit, especially when he was nervous. Today, Howard was nervous. It was rent day. Ms. Jin-Hee the Korean landlady took no prisoners.
"Oi, bloody hell. You really blew it this time," he said in his Cockney accent, as though he were the son of the last chimney sweep in London. With what worry and cigarettes had done to him, he looked like he belonged in the prior century. The tip of his cigarette trembled on his lips. "She's gonna send us to hell for this, she is, bloody hell."
Ben rubbed his eyes. "Shut up about hell. Hell is a place where you're a midget stuck in an elevator packed with fat guys after lunch, and egg salad sandwiches were on the menu."
"You're so bloody funny," said Howard, starting a slow clap. "You want we should make that what goes on your tombstone?"
"You got any ideas?" Ben roared. "Because your self-pity isn't helping." He loosened his tie and unbuttoned his shirt collar. "She's going to be here within the hour. We've got an hour to make the rent money -- that's plenty of time."
Eyes narrowed, Howard squeezed his lips around his cigarette and took a long drag. "Wishful thinking, mate."
Ben's eyes grew wide. He straightened up, and after a beat did a fist pump.
"What is it?" Howard asked.
"We'll write her a check," said Ben on a rush of inspiration.
"We don't have the money," said Howard flatly.
"What, you've never kited a check?"
"She'll know." Howard snuffed his cigarette and dug the pack out of his shirt pocket. "Damn," he said, peering into the empty box. He crumpled it in his fist and tossed it aside.
"She won't know," Ben said. "At least not for a few days. And that'll give us plenty of time to..."
A hard scratching sound snagged his attention. At his feet was a folded-over sheet of paper torn out of a yellow legal pad.
Howard's eyes fell onto the sheet like a piano from a rampart.
Ben jabbed an index finger at the paper and hunched his shoulders.
"It's her," Howard mouthed silently.
"She's here!" whispered Ben, then clasped his hands over his mouth for having said that out loud.
Howard's eyes bobbed over to Ben and back to the paper, as though to say that he should read it. Ben stooped and picked it up.
"What's it say?" Howard mouthed.
Ben sidled up to Howard and straightened the note.
PASS THE RENT UNDER THE DOOR.
The two glanced at each other.
"Do you think she heard that part about kiting a check?" Ben whispered.
No sooner had he finished speaking than another note scraped in beneath the door. Ben snapped it up.
NO CHECKS. CASH.
"Oi, bloody bugger!" Howard said, and hid his face in his palms.
"Damn it, Howie!" Ben rasped so Jin-Hee wouldn't hear through the door. "What do we do now?" He shook him by the shoulders. "Focus!"
Another note. Ben slinked away from Howard and picked it up.
I KNOW YOU'RE IN THERE.
"Maybe," said Howard, "if we just spoke to her, like normal human beings, she might cut us some slack?"
Ben wound up as if to backhand Howard. "What are you, crazy? We're lucky if she doesn't cut something out of us! This is Jin-Hee, man. Jin-Hee!"
A note slipped in with the text facing up.
I HEAR MY NAME.
Howard ran his fingers into his scalp and clenched his hands. "We're cooked, mate." He brought his knees up and curled into a tight ball.
A fifth note came in.
Ben pressed his lips into a tight line. His eyes set hard into his face. "Maybe you are," he said, wagging his finger at Howard. "But I'm not." He went for the door.
"No, don't!" said Howard, but too late.
The door swung open onto an empty hallway. Stunned, Ben poked his head into the hall to look one way, then the other.
"She's gone," said Ben.
"Like 'up the hall' gone?" Howard asked.
"No, I mean, as in the 'vanished' type of gone."
Howard stood. "That's not possible. What do you mean..."
"I mean she's gone!" Ben got Howard by the arm and hauled him into the corridor. "There. Do you see her anywhere? No."
"But," Howard stammered, "that's not possible." He glanced both ways up the hall, then again to be sure.
"Well, it just happened," said Ben.
The two walked back to their apartment and shut the door. They hadn't gone two paces before the flutter of paper at the hall door caught their attention.
"How the hell?" Howard asked.
Ben unfolded the rest of the note.
PMS -- PAY ME, SUCKER!
It sits on the bedpost and watches me as I lie here.
It isn’t much to look at, small and dark, only six inches tall, round hairless belly that never shakes when it laughs. Black eyes, all pupils, watch my blue, watery ones. When I look at its eyes, it looks into mine.
Drool spills down my cheek, but I can’t stop it. My twisted mouth opens more when I try to speak or call out for help, only increasing the stream. Six weeks I’ve been lying here, unmoving, watching it watching me.
Every two hours, a caretaker comes to my room, moving me into a new position to prevent bedsores. How do they know what feels comfortable? I can’t tell them, and they don’t usually ask. If they do, they pay no attention to my eyes straining to make contact with theirs.
My flannel sheets soften the hard mattress, but the large wrinkle pushing against my arthritic hip keeps me awake until I’m turned once again.
The staff are gentle, but hurried. They come and they go, leaving me with four beige walls, an empty bed next to mine for company and a window too far away to see. Sometimes, they change the television channel to a station they think my son said I like.
It drops down from the small gray TV set fastened to the wall onto my dresser, sitting now on top of the flower arrangement left by my pastor. It nibbles on the petals, turning their edges brown and withered. It belches and urinates on the flower. The plant wilts.
At two thirty, I face the clock on the wall. It’s an institutional style with large black numbers and a second hand painted red. The red hand hurries like the staff here, around and around, moving by rote, without thinking about what it’s doing or having what could be a conversation with the other hands. But, they at least catch up with one another occasionally and share gossip. I hear them whispering to It: “How long does she have? Where will you take her? How?”
It just smiles that wide-toothed grin, its greenish teeth gnashing and its black tongue waggling at me between its fangs.
Today, at six forty-five, my son Harold sits down on the bed beside me and takes my hand. He smiles and squeezes my fingers.
“How are you, Mom?” he whispers.
My eyes fill with tears, and he turns his head away from me.
“I brought you fresh flowers.” His voice strains to sound as cheerful as the bright card on the potted greenery, waxed and stiff, wrapped in purple foil and strangled with a bright white bow. He sets the large plant on the dresser in the exact spot as the last doomed cuttings. This one is still alive, its root ball crowded and overwatered, but, like me, yearning for the earth.
A knock on the door relieves him of further obligation. Harold kisses my forehead with promises of another visit tomorrow. I watch the back of his thinning hair as he disappears through the door, passing my next visitor.
It is back, swinging on the doorknob. It flies through the air and lands again on the bedpost, teetering there for a moment, then somersaulting onto the end of the bed to watch my treatment.
John, my physical therapist pulls my arm out and in. He moves my legs next, following the same rhythm, too fast. His tattooed arm lifts each leg, bending my knees. I watch the dragon tattoo swirl around his elbow, leave his arm to glide onto my sheets.
It leaps and lands on the dragon’s back. Long talons dig into the dragons scales; blood spurts onto the sheets and my face as they thrash on the blanket. I can taste the dragon’s blood in my open mouth. I try to spit, but only manage to drool again.
"I’ve got it, Mrs. Prendergast." The nice young man pulls a tissue from the box on my nightstand and dabs at my lips. “You’re moving much better tonight. Let’s see how you do tomorrow. I’ll get Wanda to give you your nightcap and maybe you can sleep better tonight."
He winks. "She said you were awake half the night. No midnight parties for you, you need your rest.” He laughs as he pats my arm.
The dragon has thrown It down beside me and slithers back onto John’s arm. There is no blood on him or on my sheets, but I still taste it.
The clock hands rest at eight and Nurse Allen comes in to change my urine bag. She adjusts my intravenous fluid bag, looking at her watch and flipping open a phone that she had concealed in her pants pocket, now playing a soft jazz tune. As she turns from my bed, It crawls under my bedspread. I lie on my back and watch the small lump move from the edge of the bed toward my leg. I feel its rough body climb onto my knee, pricking my skin with his claws.
It stands up now making a tent with its obscene body. The lump under the blanket waddles up my leg, pausing on my stomach. I feel its small weight pressing on my bladder. The blanket over me rises again and again as It
jumps in place, using my body its trampoline.
Nurse Allen turns back to glance over her shoulder at me, still arguing with her ten-year-old. She smiles at me before snapping her phone shut and sliding it into her pocket. “Your bag’s filling up again, Ms. P? I just changed it two minutes ago. I’ll bring another one later. Don’t do anything else before I get back, you hear?”
I hear the door shut and the sound of her laughter grows muffled. The blanket slowly rises and falls over my stomach. A loud snore comes from underneath. I feel Its cold weight curled up on me. I strain at my right arm and my arm moves, finally, after all these weeks. My right leg moves just a bit as well. The left side of my body lies still as death.
I move my right arm up and stare down towards my body. It is there, as I thought, snoring low now. It sounds like purring. My hand moves toward It and my fingers (bless them) open up to grasp. Its eyes fly open. A low growl rumbles between the green teeth that clamp down on my fingers. Blood seeps from my fingertips and I
scream silently. It releases my hand and I draw my fingers slowly to my face. It settles, satisfied to have made Its position clear, back on my stomach and closes it eyes.
Nurse Allen enters my room, sees the blood and my hand raised. "Oh, my goodness, Mrs. P., did you bite yourself? You must not be yourself. I’m going To have to restrain you."
She wraps my hand in a towel and pulls the alarm. Three orderlies race into the room and assist her in tying my legs and arms to the bedrails. My eyes shout to them, "Not me! Not me!" but they mistake my fear for anger.
The youngest orderly hangs back as if I might throw off my restraints and devour him next. He exits before Nurse Allen can explain that they need to visit me every hour tonight “until she calms down.”
“Mrs. P., I’m going to go call your son. He won’t be happy about this, but I’m getting off in thirty minutes. I can’t sit with you all night. Well, you take care. I’ll see you Tuesday. That’s two days from today, in case you’ve lost track.”
The door shuts again and she’s gone. They don’t bother to turn me this night, as that would entail undoing the crazy lady’s restraints. It sleeps, stretching occasionally, sometimes emitting an odor like stagnant ditch water. The stink permeates the room.
Sleep comes finally, just as sunlight pushes through the blinds.
I awake to Dr. Treble’s voice and his hands, removing my restraints. "Mrs. Prendergast, I hear you had an eventful night." He shines the pen light into my eyes.
It is awake now, too. It peeks out from beneath the blanket, yawns, and begins to crawl up toward my face. It wraps my hair tight around its claws and clambers up the side of my head. It sits on my forehead with a sickening squish as the doctor continues his examination. Its putrid odor wafts down to my nostrils.
“Can you move your arm again for me?” The doctor is moving my right arm. He lays my sore hand gently at my side. I close my eyes and will my arm to move. I raise my elbow a few inches into the air and stop before my arm flops back onto the bed. We continue in this manner for several minutes.
“This is splendid,” he concludes. “I was speaking with your son yesterday. I told him as soon as you could move and begin eating, you could go home with him. But, I’m not sure if it’s safe to discharge you if you continue to hurt yourself. Let’s give it a few more days. I’ll check back with you on Friday.”
He closes the beige folder with my name printed on the cover, hands it to Nurse Greene and leaves without looking back.
“Tch, tch,” It chides from my head. It slides backward down onto my nose so that its eyes are inches from mine. It rotates so that its bare buttocks face me, waggles its cheeks as it leans toward the tip of my nose and inserts
its fingers inside my nostrils. The sickening smell fills my head, my eyes water. I bring my hand halfway to my
face, and then remember.
Nurse Greene turns from filling my chart and sees my hand hovering in front of my bleeding nose. “Lord, she’s done it again,” she says. She bats at my hand, knocking it down on the bed and sending a pain soaring through my arm.
I moan, and this time the sound comes out loud and strong. It digs harder now; the blood flows across my mouth and onto the pillow. My head is turning. I’m turning my head! I shake it back and forth, but Its claws are
inside piercing my flesh It only retreats when Nurse Greene brings a wet washcloth over my nose. She pushes a button and I’m sitting up, the wet cold cloth a welcome relief.
It flicks blood droplets onto my face as it slides down my pillow. Jose and Gabriel, the day orderlies arrive and refasten my restraints. Nurse Greene inserts a needle into my IV fluid and I sleep.
Thursday arrives with tingling feelings in my left side. My left hand moves up a few inches. I grasp the blanket’s edge with my right and lift. It snores softly, head on the pillow It made from my nightgown. I lower the blanket squeezing the edge as I do, practicing, and building my strength.
A loud knock on my door startles It. I see the lump under my blanket rise; it tunnels toward me like a bed mole. It sits on my left cheek when John enters. He walks backward into the room pulling a wheelchair, tentative smile lighting up his young face.
“How’s my girl today?” he asks. “Feel like a spin around the farm?” I try to smile, but my face is still partially frozen. I imagine how grotesque I must look to him. He pretends not to notice while settling me into the chair, fastening enough straps to hold a gorilla, not an eighty-pound partially-paralyzed woman.
John places a cotton cloth in my right hand. “See how long you can hold this for me, Mrs. P.”
The cloth falls onto my lap as we enter the therapy room. I squeeze the fabric in my hand until the pain shoots up my wrist, and I count to eighty-five before my fingers release. How long does it take?
It does not follow us when we leave. It sits on my pillow, waiting, as I’m pulled back into my room, staring at me, black, thin lips drawn downward, eyes narrowed. I grasp John’s arm with my right hand as he lowers me to the bed.
It does not move. I raise my head to keep from touching down and John laughs.
“I won’t drop you, Mrs. P. Don’t worry.”
My head falls back onto Its mouth, open with teeth bared. They sink into my scalp and a scream leaves my lips. John scans my face, sees nothing and places his hand on my forehead. The blood seeps from beneath my head.
“Help!” I whisper, my voice gravelly from nonuse. Nurse Allen calls for the emergency doctor on site. I don’t know him or recognize his name. He and Harold whisper near my door, then throw looks back across their shoulders as they continue their conversation in the hallway.
Other voices come and go, some raised, some stammering. Harold becomes louder so that I can understand every few words.
“Needle... pillowcase? Irresponsible... morons! How could this happen? My mother...” Then, “My lawyer… not another night,” comes through the faux wood door.
Dr. Stevens appears by my bedside next, trembling, his large face reddish purple. “Mrs. Prendergast, I’m so sorry for what happened to you this morning. There was a terrible mistake… we’ll get to the bottom of this. Your son is taking you home. He’s bringing the car around. Is that okay with you?”
I stare past him. It sits on the bedpost, licking its thin black lips. I manage a twisted smile and narrow my eyes at It until It pushes out Its lower lip into a pout.
I wait until the doctor turns his back and then I push my tongue out between my teeth. I feel a laugh rising inside when It turns away, wrapping its arms around its body and rocking back and forth.
My son brings the wheelchair and John lifts me again, setting me down this time with only a waist belt attached. Harold pushes me toward the open door, spins me around and starts pulling me back.
Another wheelchair appears in the doorway being pushed by Jose. An old, frail woman stares ahead without seeing, weaving from side to side.
“Mrs. P.," says Jose, "meet Mrs. Johnson. She’s taking over your room."
Harold glares at him.
Jose moves the wheelchair over to the empty bed by the window and turns down the bedspread. As he lifts Mrs. Johnson onto the bed, It turns slowly. Black lips draw back from green teeth as It swings down from my bedpost,
scurries across the carpet and begins to climb up the bedspread of the other bed. I watch as her eyes grow wide, mouth frozen in silent scream.
I blink back the tears as I turn my head forward.
Harold rolls his eyes at Jose and leans into the wheelchair handles, pulling me out and into the hallway. We head to the glass door with the Welcome to Divine Care sign painted in silver flourishes.
I don’t look back.
About The Author
This piece, Mrs. Prendergast, was penned by Kathryn Rose Jacoby. She grew up catching fireflies and bees and making frog houses. In 2012 she published her first novel Delores Fletcher, Cobweb Catcher. She resides in eastern North Carolina with her husband, Henry, and their maltipoo, two tabby cats, and the occasional wild rabbit.
Story and photo by the author.
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What does it mean to say a man fell from the ceiling? That is, if what fell from the ceiling was even a man at all.
I'll warn you here: you're about to read a ghost story. Unlike most you've read or heard, this one isn't fiction. It's real. It doesn't have any plot or character development because its purpose is to relate the facts of these experiences. Believe what you will, if you wish, or not, if it suits you. As with last week's entry, its point is not to convince you that these events happened. Rather, it is to share with you that they did.
To fully understand the weirdness you're about to experience, we'll have to get technical. A ceiling is the overhead interior surface that covers the upper bounds of a room. In contrast, a roof is the uppermost covering of a building. While it is wholly possible to fall from a roof, it is not possible to fall from a ceiling. The surface of a ceiling faces downward, toward the floor of a room, and so it is impossible to stand on ceiling without first nullifying gravity.
One night, lying in bed, I awoke. For no apparent reason, my eyes simply opened. I had been sleeping on my back, and so the first thing I should have seen was the ceiling. Our ceiling was white with a popcorn finish. A ceiling fan hung in the center of the room. None of these things could I see. Instead, there was pitch black. This was peculiar because, although it was dark and the only light that entered was from the incandescent streetlight outside my blinds, there was usually enough light to make out the edges of things inside my room. Many a time had I awoken at night to see the ceiling fan hanging above my head (I'd been against installing it from the start, and too many of my nightmares consisted of the thing coming loose and scoring a direct hit on my face). Tonight was different. Tonight, it was as though a black tarp had been hung from the ceiling.
I looked left, toward my window, wondering why it was so dark. At first I thought there might have been a block-wide power outage, but discarded this notion when I saw the streetlamp burning outside. Shifting my eyes back to center, I noticed something very wrong in the corners of the ceiling. Thick ash billowed in the corners, as though the room were on fire and were filling with black smoke, yet I sensed no heat nor the smell of burning. There was a lot of smoke in the room. The entire ceiling, end to end, was completely consumed. (See: The Cyclone In The Corner).
Just as I was trying to make any sense of all this, the cloud snapped like a taut rubber band. The smoke collapsed into itself, forming a tight sphere about the size of a basketball. In the next instant it drew up into the shape of shadow man and plunged from the ceiling.
It struck me. With its palm. Right square on the flat of my forehead.
The thing that fell on me hit me with enough force to bow the mattress and send my legs kicking into the air. Then, nothing. It was over as quickly as it had come on.
I ran to the bathroom mirror and checked for injuries. A blow like that, and I'd have black eyes in minutes, possibly a broken nose. Nothing. There were no marks. My head didn't even hurt.
The following morning I checked again, thinking that by then the bruises would have started to show. Still nothing.
I've experienced several bizarre occurrences, as I've shared with you. This one is unique in that the manifestation touched me -- hit me pretty hard. Most times, when these things meant me ill, there was a feeling of menace about them, but never did they touch me.
I've only told this story to a handful of people. Very few know, excepting you, now, of course. No one believed me when I told them. I don't mind so much if you don't, as I'm writing this more for my sake than anyone else's.
Some things you just have to get out.
Continuing with our series of real-life ghost stories, we bring you a short run-in with shadowy manifestations: The Cyclone In the Corner.
Most ghost stories are fiction. Some are written with a moral theme in mind, or perhaps tell a story of some too-good protagonists triumphing over (or falling prey to) an age-old curse. The ghost story presented here doesn't fit those norms because it isn't fiction. Believe what you will, if you wish, or not, if it suits you. The point of this is not to convince you that this event happened. Rather, it is to share with you that it did.
Things come out of angles. H.P. Lovecraft was on to something when he wrote "Dreams in the Witch House," a short story about a house inhabited by a dimension-hopping witch. Within the house is a room with a bizarre design -- the corners, the angles are off in ways that make no sense and indeed, are hard on the eyes. It's done more for function than form, because the angles permit the witch (and her horrifying attendants) to travel between dimensions. Much like a knife's edge cuts through one surface of a two-dimensional sheet of paper to the other, so too does the witch traverse dimensions using higher-order mathematics that might stump even Stephen Hawking... only to perform such gruesome acts as might have been thought up by Stephen King.
Sorry. I thought the parallelism was funny.
In any event, Lovecraft's art seems to imitate life, as you'll find out now.
For some time before I married my wife we maintained a long-distance relationship. She left home to attend college upstate. I was still living with my parents. Since we couldn't see each other regularly, we made sure to call every night. Our phone calls usually started at 9:01 p.m. because that was when the free cellular talk time promotion kicked in. Often our conversations would go on well into the night, and I'd be the only person still awake in the house. As a courtesy to everyone else trying to sleep, I'd turn off the lights and TV in my bedroom at around 11:00 p.m., and shut my door.
This one night, at around 12:30 a.m., we were in the midst of a conversation too good to cut short. I noticed my cellphone battery was about to die, so I got up off the bed and plugged the phone into a wall socket under my window. The house was dark and silent, and the only light entering my room was the orange glow of the streetlamp coming through the blinds.
I cut off mid-sentence when I noticed something odd at the opposite end of the room. In the corner near my hall door was a billowing cloud of inky black churning up at the ceiling. At the floor directly beneath it was another cloud. Now, mind you, it was dark in the room, but the clouds were darker still, like the exhaust from coal-fired factories of the late 1800's.
"Oh God," I remember saying.
My wife (fianceé at the time) panicked. "What? What is it?" she yelled into the phone.
I could not respond. She kept demanding to know what was wrong.
"Honey," I said, eyes fixed on the thing in the corner. "Quiet."
The clouds churned and rolled in their respective corners. In their darkness there was an almost granular aspect, like they were dust devils or whirlwinds that kick up the dust when a breeze sweeps past tall buildings.
The clouds grew larger. Each let out a tendril as they spun in place. The fingers met in the middle and swirled in a tight spiral.
"Oh my God," I said. A funnel cloud had formed in the corner of my room.
"What's wrong?" my fianceé yelled.
Before I could tell her, the whirlwind spun itself out. The black clouds dissipated. Where once the clouds had been, I could now see into the corner, even with the dim light of the streetlamp outside my window. The corner was empty.
"I..." I stammered. "I'll call you tomorrow."
To this day, I'm not certain what it was I saw. I mean, I am certain what I saw is in fact what transpired, but whatever it was that I saw manifest in the corner is anyone's guess. It's not like an actual cyclone could have formed in my room. The room's only window was shut, and the air conditioning alone could not have caused so strong a breeze. Or the clouds, for that matter. Moreover, if a whirlwind had actually formed, there would be no dust or dirt to sweep up into itself, yet the thing was pitch black.
Another interesting point is this: my dresser sat near to where the cyclone formed. The dresser was covered in loose papers (mostly letters and other opened mail). When the cyclone touched down, it had formed a tight vortex, which would indicate that the "winds" were strong, yet it disturbed none of the nearby papers.
It's never happened before, or (thankfully) since.
Last week, we commenced our exploration of the creepier side of Miami-Dade County. This week, we delve deeper into the abandoned facility on the western fringe known colloquially as the "insane asylum".
Our last few entries have been ghost stories. Admittedly, this entry is not one. Even so, the experiences shared here are creepy in their own right.
Two things to point out before we proceed. First, these photographs were taken several years ago, in March of 2005. The facility may or may not have changed since then, it may since have been developed or brought back into operation. Regardless, the property was in no condition for anyone to be venturing in it. The place is dangerous, especially at night, and that says nothing of what creatures (wild hogs, venomous snakes, spiders, scorpions) one might stumble upon inside. In short: do not go there!
Secondly, and on a related note, "No Trespassing" signs have been stenciled in at the facility entrance (see the photo immediately below, courtesy of Google Maps). The land is purportedly owned by the U.S. government, as the signs indicate. When we ventured out here in 2005, there were no such warnings or "Keep Out" signs. We've heard from those in the know that people found on the land have been escorted off the premises by armed government agents. Thus, we reiterate: do not go there!
That said, read on.
We approached from the north along Krome Avenue (not shown, to the right-hand side of the photo below). It was the dead of night.
Upon pushing through the dilapidated chain-link gate, we found ourselves standing on a broad asphalt access road that ran the length of the property. We turned left, putting us in a parking lot at the front of the building. Once there, the gaping black maw of the facility entrance awaited us.
From this end, the building looked like a long strand of shotgun houses stacked end to end. It was a long, continuous hallway. The corridor was tight -- wide enough for foot traffic walking two abreast. There were small concrete rooms at regular intervals, built with their corridor entrances facing each other. None was much larger than an office cubicle.
Even if you knew nothing of the place, you'd definitely get the impression from this corridor alone, that the facility likely was built to restrain its occupants.
At one time, the building had had a dropped ceiling. The framework for the ceiling tiles was extant but rusted, falling from the ceiling, and warped out of shape. Strands of electrical wires hung from the roof like cybernetic ivy. Piles of pressboard ceiling tiles moldered on the ground, having succumbed to vandalism and the elements.
All the interior doors had been yanked from their hinges and removed; the windows were nothing but concrete encasements where once the panes had been. Errant bullet holes pitted the ceiling and concrete walls. The building showed evidence of fire damage. Everything that wasn't made of concrete was rotting away.
The corridor hit a dead stop at a wall. A perpendicular hallway bisected the hallway.
Here again is where the facility's design seems to point to its apparent use. Our corridor met a dead end at the intersection, but upon entering the intersection and taking a few paces to one side, we saw that the corridor continued on to the rear of the property. This bend in the main corridor prevents one from running the entire length of the facility to the doors leading outside. Were you to run full sprint down the hall, you would have to stop and change direction to continue down the passageway, or else charge face-first into concrete. This pause would buy your pursuers a few moments to circle up from the other side (further ahead in the direction you're headed) and cut you off.
It didn't come as much of a surprise that there was graffiti in the bathroom. Granted, there was graffiti everywhere else in the structure, but no bathroom is a proper bathroom without graffiti, even in an abandoned asylum.
Beyond the living quarters was what looked like a loading bay with an adjoining utility room. The utility room had been stripped of most of its electrical wiring. What remained of the room showed signs of fire damage.
Some time after our visit, we conducted independent research which indicates that the facility in fact operated as a mental hospital. While in operation, it was colloquially named "the annex" and it served as an overflow facility when the other local mental hospitals were at or over capacity.
This place definitely gives off bad vibes. It came as no surprise, then, when we found out the worst of the worst were sent to the annex. According to what we've heard, these walls housed people accused of heinous crimes who were too mentally ill to stand trial.
Is the place haunted? We think so. Even if it isn't, it's still not a place we'd like to return to.