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When my wife slunk out of the bathroom in her underwear, damp and rosy from the shower, I let out an exaggerated wolf whistle. wwHHP wheeooo!
The whistle cracked the serious mask of her face into a smile, but something about the peak and valley of the tone didn’t sit right with me.
My bedroom faded from view.
I’m eight or nine and staring into the face of another little boy. It’s Nolan, my best friend. Our mouths are puckered into o’s, and we are both blowing. Who is Nolan? Do I know a Nolan? He is pushing a shrill, reedy sound from high in his throat. My breath is nothing but a rush of soundless air. “Don’t worry, Sam, you’ll get it,” he tells me. My name’s Jacob. Who is Sam?
I blinked and it vanished. Poppy crawled into bed and slotted herself into the slice between my arm and my torso. She ran her finger down my bare chest, a prelude and a promise.
“Pops,” I said, “have I always been able to whistle?”
She frowned at me. “Of course you have. You whistled at me just like that, the day we met.”
“Did I?” I couldn’t remember.
She crept closer, her hair sweeping my skin, but I was trying to grasp that flittering vision. “It’s just that I don’t think I ever learned to whistle.”
Poppy peeled herself up, her eyebrows rigid lines. “Of course you did. You just whistled, so you must have learned sometime. Why are you worried about this?”
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The Zolg was there before me. As much a fixture of my life as gravity or air or the sense of my own body. It exists in even my earliest memories as a constant warning against carelessness. It was there when I brushed my teeth, giggling in the bathtub. It was there, stealing food that fell under the table at every meal. It was there, sitting above my bed, stroking my hair with hands the size of dinner plates. Every morning there were new rules, all learned from close calls that happened the day before. Every week we reviewed its effect on us, how to improve, how to be smarter, how to be safer. For a long time, I couldn’t even distinguish the rules made for it, and the rules made for us.
Don’t touch the oven when it’s on.
Be careful of the kettle.
Don’t play with plug sockets.
Don’t put cables in your mouth.
Watch where you step.
Never use any appliance without first checking the wiring.
Always help daddy look for the Zolg as he backs out of the driveway.
Rules upon rules upon rules, growing in number and complexity until we felt stifled, all of us slowly going mad from the suffocating need for constant vigilance. Other teenagers had fun, other teenagers stepped away from the rules and embraced freedom, that’s what adulthood was meant to be about (or so I thought at the time). But not for me. The rules just kept growing. Eventually, I realised that other families don’t have Zolgs, just us. There’s only one of him and whatever inexplicable force brought him into existence saw fit to put him with us. For years it had never occurred to me to evaluate its presence as anything other than a simple fact of life, but when I saw the madness for what it was something inside me changed.
A hatred crystallised into an icy core. I was filled with memories of his little egg-shaped body and lanky arms with those huge yellow-green hands. Whole nights spent listening to him waddling down the hallway as he scratched his dangling yellow fingers over the walls, gagging at the things he’d sneak into Mum’s cooking, crying at every dead animal left on our doorstep. I hated that stupid thing, I hated it so much that one day I snapped and lashed out.
Part 1 — The call from the museum’s acquainted priest, one Father Martin, had shaken us quite a bit. He hadn’t specified what had happened on the phone and had merely stated that something had gone wrong during the cleansing. After hastily dressing up, my husband Clarence, Elias and I got into the car and practically raced back to the school.
«Slow down!» Clarence shouted at Elias from behind. He was driving like a madman. My husband had joined me in the backseat, probably due to a sinister premonition regarding the museum’s co-owner’s temper behind the wheel. I squeaked when Elias took a sharp turn and I was pressed against husband’s side. Clarence helped me sit back up before barking at Smith once again. «I said slow the fuck down! Getting us killed won’t help!»
This finally seemed to help Elias find the brakes and I let go of a sigh of relief. «God… you probably ran over, like, ten stop signs on the way,» I muttered.
«Are you okay?» Clarence asked upon seeing me rub my temples. He shot another angry glance into the rearview mirror before reaching out to pat my arm.
«I’m fine. Just a little dizzy,» I told him.
«I’m sorry,» Elias said. His voice was apologetic, but I could hear the nervousness resound within it. «This is… this is terrifying. What in the world could have gone wrong during a cleansing? He sounded real scared over the phone too. Barely said two sentences, just told me to come and then hung up.»
«Father Martin is capable,» Clarence remarked in a calm tone. «I have yet to see him lose his cool over anything.»
«But that’s what makes it so creepy!» Elias argued. «When I said he sounded horrified, I meant it!»
I swallowed. This was starting to get me uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t met this Father Martin before, but I trusted Clarence’s judgement on him. I could hardly begin to imagine what must have been going on back there.
Upon arriving at the school, we jumped out of the car and dashed towards the entrance door. Principal Spinel and a slightly disheveled older man in priest’s clothing, quite obviously Father Martin, were standing beside it. When they saw us approach, they came running towards us.
Part 5 — Current
Take a look outside your window. Gaze upon the beauties the world beholds; the trees, the skies, the laughter of children. They walk around, ignorant of the fact that their world might end at any given moment. It could happen in less than a second, while you sleep peacefully at night, and you’d never even realize it.
Imagine yourself, driving home from work. A brief flash fills the sky, an instance of surprise, and then… nothing. The world ends, leaving no trace of life behind. That’s how a Gamma ray burst would appear, a vast source of energy created by colliding stars, millions of light years away.
On the other hand, a false vacuum could extinguish all life in the universe just as easily. Collapsing beneath the rules of physics, erasing everything humanity has ever been, or ever could be.
We wouldn’t be able to stop it.
Scariest Story 2019, Most Immersive Story 2019, November 2019
14 hours ago
Gran loves mirrors but she said we need to cover all of them in the house every night.
“Mirrors are fine things in the dayling,” she told me once, pulling a heavy black drape over the vanity in my bedroom. “But mirrors are so close to windows, little bird, and at night they get even closer.”
I stopped brushing my teeth as Gran moved to cover the bathroom mirror. “What’s so bad about windows?”
“I don’t know about you, darling, but I don’t think I want people looking in at me when it’s dark and I can’t see ‘em back. Besides, if mirrors are windows…well, any window is a door if you push hard enough.”
She clicked her teeth and laughed in her sing-song way. I shivered as she finished taping up the thick tarp across the glass. If I looked long enough at night, could I see through the mirror? If I pushed would it open? I stared so hard into the black cloth I imagined I could see the threads as they slithered around each other. Was that a glint of silver under the material? The smallest rip in the fabric? Closer. Was that my reflection looking back, the barest suggestion of an eye?
I blinked. It didn’t.
“Come to bed, little bird,” Gran said, holding out her hand. “I’ll tell you another story.”
With a final glance over my shoulder at the covered mirror, I followed.
In the winter,
We were never cold. That was nice. I’m not sure what it was about Gran’s house but the chill never managed to slip in even on days when the wind came calling against the old walls. I can only remember being cold once, as I walked past a covered mirror in the kitchen. Gran asked me to get her some water.
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