Top 5 Scariest Horror Stories From the Internet to Spook Yourself on Halloween

best creepypasta
 
If you have not heard of Creepypasta, you are in for a treat of a lifetime with this digital treasure trove of horror stories that can scare the bejesus out of you for hours and hours on end. If you are staying home on Halloween night, we suggest curling up on the couch with a couple of friends over beers and taking turns reading out these chilling Creepypasta stories.
 
 
Jeff the Killer
 
Excerpt from a local Newspaper:
OMINOUS UNKNOWN
KILLER IS STILL
AT LARGE.
 
After weeks of unexplained murders, the ominous unknown killer is still on the rise. After little evidence has been found, a young boy states that he survived one of the killer's attacks and bravely tells his story.
 
"I had a bad dream and I woke up in the middle of the night," says the boy, "I saw that for some reason the window was open, even though I remember it being closed before I went to bed. I got up and shut it once more. Afterwards, I simply crawled under my covers and tried to get back to sleep. That's when I had a strange feeling, like someone was watching me. I looked up, and nearly jumped out of my bed.
There, in the little ray of light, illuminating from between my curtains, were a pair of two eyes. These weren't regular eyes; they were dark, ominous eyes. They were bordered in black and... just plain out terrified me. That's when I saw his mouth. A long, horrendous smile that made every hair on my body stand up. The figure stood there, watching me. Finally, after what seemed like forever, he said it. A simple phrase, but said in a way only a mad man could speak.
 
"He said, 'Go To Sleep.' I let out a scream, that's what sent him at me. He pulled up a knife; aiming at my heart. He jumped on top of my bed. I fought him back; I kicked, I punched, I rolled around, trying to knock him off me. That's when my dad busted in. The man threw the knife, it went into my dad's shoulder. The man probably would've finished him off, if one of the neighbors hadn't alerted the police.
 
"They drove into the parking lot, and ran towards the door. The man turned and ran down the hallway. I heard a smash, like glass breaking. As I came out of my room, I saw the window that was pointing towards the back of my house was broken. I looked out it to see him vanish into the distance. I can tell you one thing, I will never forget that face. Those cold, evil eyes, and that psychotic smile. They will never leave my head."
 
Police are still on the look for this man. If you see anyone that fits the description in this story, please contact your local police department.
 
Jeff and his family had just moved into a new neighborhood. His dad had gotten a promotion at work, and they thought it would be best to live in one of those "fancy" neighborhoods. Jeff and his brother Liu couldn't complain though. A new, better house. What was not to love? As they were getting unpacked, one of their neighbors came by.
 
"Hello," she said, "I'm Barbara; I live across the street from you. Well, I just wanted to introduce my self and to introduce my son." She turns around and calls her son over. "Billy, these are our new neighbors." Billy said hi and ran back to play in his yard.
 
"Well," said Jeff's mom, "I'm Margaret, and this is my husband Peter, and my two sons, Jeff and Liu." They each introduced themselves, and then Barbara invited them to her son's birthday. Jeff and his brother were about to object, when their mother said that they would love to. When Jeff and his family are done packing, Jeff went up to his mom.
 
"Mom, why would you invite us to some kid's party? If you haven't noticed, I'm not some dumb kid."
 
"Jeff," said his mother, "We just moved here; we should show that we want to spend time with our neighbors. Now, we're going to that party, and that's final." Jeff started to talk, but stopped himself, knowing that he couldn't do anything. Whenever his mom said something, it was final. He walked up to his room and plopped down on his bed. He sat there looking at his ceiling when suddenly, he got a weird feeling. Not so much a pain, but... a weird feeling. He dismissed it as just some random feeling. He heard his mother call him down to get his stuff, and he walked down to get it.
 
The next day, Jeff walked down stairs to get breakfast and got ready for school. As he sat there, eating his breakfast, he once again got that feeling. This time it was stronger. It gave him a slight tugging pain, but he once again dismissed it. As he and Liu finished breakfast, they walked down to the bus stop. They sat there waiting for the bus, and then, all of a sudden, some kid on a skateboard jumped over them, only inches above their laps. They both jumped back in surprise. "Hey, what the hell?"
 
The kid landed and turned back to them. He kicked his skate board up and caught it with his hands. The kid seems to be about twelve; one year younger than Jeff. He wears a Aeropostale shirt and ripped blue jeans.
 
"Well, well, well. It looks like we got some new meat." Suddenly, two other kids appeared. One was super skinny and the other was huge. "Well, since you're new here, I'd like to introduce ourselves, over there is Keith." Jeff and Liu looked over to the skinny kid. He had a dopey face that you would expect a sidekick to have. "And he's Troy." They looked over at the fat kid. Talk about a tub of lard. This kid looked like he hadn't exercised since he was crawling.
 
"And I," said the first kid, "am Randy. Now, for all the kids in this neighborhood there is a small price for bus fare, if you catch my drift." Liu stood up, ready to punch the lights out of the kid's eyes when one of his friends pulled a knife on him. "Tsk, tsk, tsk, I had hoped you would be more cooperative, but it seems we must do this the hard way." The kid walked up to Liu and took his wallet out of his pocket. Jeff got that feeling again. Now, it was truly strong; a burning sensation. He stood up, but Liu gestured him to sit down. Jeff ignored him and walked up to the kid.
 
"Listen here you little punk, give back my bro's wallet or else." Randy put the wallet in his pocket and pulled out his own knife.
 
"Oh? And what will you do?" Just as he finished the sentence, Jeff popped the kid in the nose. As Randy reached for his face, Jeff grabbed the kid's wrist and broke it. Randy screamed and Jeff grabbed the knife from his hand. Troy and Keith rushed Jeff, but Jeff was too quick. He threw Randy to the ground. Keith lashed out at him, but Jeff ducked and stabbed him in the arm. Keith dropped his knife and fell to the ground screaming. Troy rushed him too, but Jeff didn't even need the knife. He just punched Troy straight in the stomach and Troy went down. As he fell, he puked all over. Liu could do nothing but look in amazement at Jeff.
 
"Jeff how'd you?" that was all he said. They saw the bus coming and knew they'd be blamed for the whole thing. So they started running as fast as they could. As they ran, they looked back and saw the bus driver rushing over to Randy and the others. As Jeff and Liu made it to school, they didn't dare tell what happened. All they did was sit and listen. Liu just thought of that as his brother beating up a few kids, but Jeff knew it was more. It was something, scary. As he got that feeling he felt how powerful it was, the urge to just, hurt someone. He didn't like how it sounded, but he couldn't help feeling happy. He felt that strange feeling go away, and stay away for the entire day of school. Even as he walked home due to the whole thing near the bus stop, and how now he probably wouldn't be taking the bus anymore, he felt happy. When he got home his parents asked him how his day was, and he said, in a somewhat ominous voice, "It was a wonderful day." Next morning, he heard a knock at his front door. He walked down to find two police officers at the door, his mother looking back at him with an angry look.
 
"Jeff, these officers tell me that you attacked three kids. That it wasn't regular fighting, and that they were stabbed. Stabbed, son!" Jeff's gaze fell to the floor, showing his mother that it was true.
 
"Mom, they were the ones who pulled the knives on me and Liu."
 
"Son," said one of the cops," We found three kids, two stabbed, one having a bruise on his stomach, and we have witnesses proving that you fled the scene. Now, what does that tell us?" Jeff knew it was no use. He could say him and Liu had been attacked, but then there was no proof it was not them who attacked first. They couldn't say that they weren't fleeing, because truth be told they were. So Jeff couldn't defend himself or Liu.
 
"Son, call down your brother." Jeff couldn't do it, since it was him who beat up all the kids.
 
"Sir, it...it was me. I was the one who beat up the kids. Liu tried to hold me back, but he couldn't stop me." The cop looked at his partner and they both nod.
 
"Well kid, looks like a year in Juvy..."
 
"Wait!" says Liu. They all looked up to see him holding a knife. The officers pulled their guns and locked them on Liu.
 
"It was me, I beat up those little punks. Have the marks to prove it." He lifted up his sleeves to reveal cuts and bruises, as if he was in a struggle.
 
"Son, just put the knife down," said the officer. Liu held up the knife and dropped it to the ground. He put his hands up and walked over to the cops.
 
"No Liu, it was me! I did it!" Jeff had tears running down his face.
 
"Huh, poor bro. Trying to take the blame for what I did. Well, take me away." The police led Liu out to the patrol car.
 
"Liu, tell them it was me! Tell them! I was the one who beat up those kids!" Jeff's mother put her hands on his shoulders.
 
"Jeff please, you don't have to lie. We know it's Liu, you can stop." Jeff watched helplessly as the cop car speeds off with Liu inside. A few minutes later Jeff's dad pulled into the driveway, seeing Jeff's face and knowing something was wrong.
 
"Son, son what is it?" Jeff couldn't answer. His vocal cords were strained from crying. Instead, Jeff's mother walked his father inside to break the bad news to him as Jeff wept in the driveway. After an hour or so Jeff walked back in to the house, seeing that his parents were both shocked, sad, and disappointed. He couldn't look at them. He couldn't see how they thought of Liu when it was his fault. He just went to sleep, trying to get the whole thing off his mind. Two days went by, with no word from Liu at JDC. No friends to hang out with. Nothing but sadness and guilt. That is until Saturday, when Jeff is woke up by his mother, with a happy, sunshiny face.
 
"Jeff, it's the day." she said as she opened up the curtains and let light flood into his room.
 
"What, what's today?" asked Jeff as he stirs awake.
 
"Why, it's Billy's party." He was now fully awake.
 
"Mom, you're joking, right? You don't expect me to go to some kid's party after..." There was a long pause.
 
"Jeff, we both know what happened. I think this party could be the thing that brightens up the past days. Now, get dressed." Jeff's mother walked out of the room and downstairs to get ready herself. He fought himself to get up. He picked out a random shirt and pair of jeans and walked down stairs. He saw his mother and father all dressed up; his mother in a dress and his father in a suit. He thought, why they would ever wear such fancy clothes to a kid's party?
 
"Son, is that all your going to wear?" said Jeff's mom.
 
"Better than wearing too much." he said. His mother pushed down the feeling to yell at him and hid it with a smile.
 
"Now Jeff, we may be over-dressed, but this is how you go if you want to make an impression." said his father. Jeff grunted and went back up to his room.
 
"I don't have any fancy clothes!" he yelled down stairs.
 
"Just pick out something." called his mother. He looked around in his closet for what he would call fancy. He found a pair of black dress pants he had for special occasions and an undershirt. He couldn't find a shirt to go with it though. He looked around, and found only striped and patterned shirts. None of which go with dress pants. Finally he found a white hoodie and put it on.
 
"You're wearing that?" they both said. His mother looked at her watch. "Oh, no time to change. Let's just go." She said as she herded Jeff and his father out the door. They crossed the street over to Barbara and Billy's house. They knocked on the door and at it appeared that Barbara, just like his parents, way over-dressed. As they walked inside all Jeff could see were adults, no kids.
 
"The kids are out in the yard. Jeff, how about you go and meet some of them?" said Barbara.
 
Jeff walked outside to a yard full of kids. They were running around in weird cowboy costumes and shooting each other with plastic guns. He might as well be standing in a Toys R Us. Suddenly a kid came up to him and handed him a toy gun and hat.
 
"Hey. Wanna pway?" he said.
 
"Ah, no kid. I'm way too old for this stuff." The kid looked at him with that weird puppydog face.
 
"Pwease?" said the kid. "Fine," said Jeff. He put on the hat and started to pretend shoot at the kids. At first he thought it was totally ridiculous, but then he started to actually have fun. It might not have been super cool, but it was the first time he had done something that took his mind off of Liu. So he played with the kids for a while, until he heard a noise. A weird rolling noise. Then it hit him. Randy, Troy, and Keith all jumped over the fence on their skateboards. Jeff dropped the fake gun and ripped off the hat. Randy looked at Jeff with a burning hatred.
 
"Hello, Jeff, is it?" he said. "We have some unfinished business." Jeff saw his bruised nose." I think we're even. I beat the crap out of you, and you get my brother sent to JDC."
 
Randy got an angry look in his eyes. "Oh no, I don't go for even, I go for winning. You may have kicked our asses that one day, but not today." As he said that Randy rushed at Jeff. They both fell to the ground. Randy punched Jeff in the nose, and Jeff grabbed him by the ears and head butted him. Jeff pushed Randy off of him and both rose to their feet. Kids were screaming and parents were running out of the house. Troy and Keith both pulled guns out of their pockets.
 
"No one interrupts or guts will fly!" they said. Randy pulled a knife on Jeff and stabbed it into his shoulder.
 
Jeff screamed and fell to his knees. Randy started kicking him in the face. After three kicks Jeff grabs his foot and twists it, causing Randy to fall to the ground. Jeff stood up and walked towards the back door. Troy grabbed him.
 
"Need some help?" He picks Jeff up by the back of the collar and throws him through the patio door. As Jeff tries to stand he is kicked down to the ground. Randy repeatedly starts kicking Jeff, until he starts to cough up blood.
 
"Come on Jeff, fight me!" He picks Jeff up and throws him into the kitchen. Randy sees a bottle of vodka on the counter and smashes the glass over Jeff's head.
 
"Fight!" He throws Jeff back into the living room.
 
"Come on Jeff, look at me!" Jeff glances up, his face riddled with blood. "I was the one who got your brother sent to JDC! And now you're just gonna sit here and let him rot in there for a whole year! You should be ashamed!" Jeff starts to get up.
 
"Oh, finally! you stand and fight!" Jeff is now to his feet, blood and vodka on his face. Once again he gets that strange feeling, the one in which he hasn't felt for a while. "Finally. He's up!" says Randy as he runs at Jeff. That's when it happens. Something inside Jeff snaps. His psyche is destroyed, all rational thinking is gone, all he can do, is kill. He grabs Randy and pile drives him to the ground. He gets on top of him and punches him straight in the heart. The punch causes Randy's heart to stop. As Randy gasps for breath. Jeff hammers down on him. Punch after punch, blood gushes from Randy's body, until he takes one final breath, and dies.
 
Everyone is looking at Jeff now. The parents, the crying kids, even Troy and Keith. Although they easily break from their gaze and point their guns at Jeff. Jeff see's the guns trained on him and runs for the stairs. As he runs Troy and Keith let out fire on him, each shot missing. Jeff runs up the stairs. He hears Troy and Keith follow up behind. As they let out their final rounds of bullets Jeff ducks into the bathroom. He grabs the towel rack and rips it off the wall. Troy and Keith race in, knives ready.
 
Troy swings his knife at Jeff, who backs away and bangs the towel rack into Troy's face. Troy goes down hard and now all that's left is Keith. He is more agile than Troy though, and ducks when Jeff swings the towel rack. He dropped the knife and grabbed Jeff by the neck. He pushed him into the wall. A thing of bleach fell down on top of him from the top shelf. It burnt both of them and they both started to scream. Jeff wiped his eyes as best as he could. He pulled back the towel rack and swung it straight into Keith's head. As he lay there, bleeding to death, he let out an ominous smile.
 
"What's so funny?" asked Jeff. Keith pulled out a lighter and switched it on. "What's funny," he said, "Is that you're covered in bleach and alcohol." Jeff's eyes widened as Keith threw the lighter at him. As soon as the flame made contact with him, the flames ignited the alcohol in the vodka. While the alcohol burned him, the bleach bleached his skin. Jeff let out a terrible screech as he caught on fire. He tried to roll out the fire but it was no use, the alcohol had made him a walking inferno. He ran down the hall, and fell down the stairs. Everybody started screaming as they saw Jeff, now a man on fire, drop to the ground, nearly dead. The last thing Jeff saw was his mother and the other parents trying to extinguish the flame. That's when he passed out.
 
When Jeff woke he had a cast wrapped around his face. He couldn't see anything, but he felt a cast on his shoulder, and stitches all over his body. He tried to stand up, but he realized that there was some tube in his arm, and when he tried to get up it fell out, and a nurse rushed in.
 
"I don't think you can get out of bed just yet." she said as she put him back in his bed and re-inserted the tube. Jeff sat there, with no vision, no idea of what his surroundings were. Finally, after hours, he heard his mother.
 
"Honey, are you okay?" she asked. Jeff couldn't answer though, his face was covered, and he was unable to speak. "Oh honey, I have great news. After all the witnesses told the police that Randy confessed of trying to attack you, they decided to let Liu go." This made Jeff almost bolt up, stopping halfway, remembering the tube coming out of his arm. "He'll be out by tomorrow, and then you two will be able to be together again."
 
Jeff's mother hugs Jeff and says her goodbyes. The next couple of weeks were those where Jeff was visited by his family. Then came the day where his bandages were to be removed. His family were all there to see it, what he would look like. As the doctors unwrapped the bandages from Jeff's face everyone was on the edge of their seats. They waited until the last bandage holding the cover over his face was almost removed.
 
"Let's hope for the best," said the doctor. He quickly pulls the cloth; letting the rest fall from Jeff's face.
 
Jeff's mother screams at the sight of his face. Liu and Jeff's dad stare awe-struck at his face.
 
"What? What happened to my face?" Jeff said. He rushed out of bed and ran to the bathroom. He looked in the mirror and saw the cause of the distress. His face. It... it's horrible. His lips were burnt to a deep shade of red. His face was turned into a pure white color, and his hair singed from brown to black. He slowly put his hand to his face. It had a sort of leathery feel to it now. He looked back at his family then back at the mirror.
 
"Jeff," said Liu, "It's not that bad..."
 
"Not that bad?" said Jeff," It's perfect!" His family were equally surprised. Jeff started laughing uncontrollably His parents noticed that his left eye and hand were twitching.
 
"Uh... Jeff, are you okay?"
 
"Okay? I've never felt more happy! Ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaa, look at me. This face goes perfectly with me!" He couldn't stop laughing. He stroked his face feeling it. Looking at it in the mirror. What caused this? Well, you may recall that when Jeff was fighting Randy something in his mind, his sanity, snapped. Now he was left as a crazy killing machine, that is, his parents didn't know.
 
"Doctor," said Jeff's mom, "Is my son... alright, you know. In the head?"
 
"Oh yes, this behavior is typical for patients that have taken very large amounts of pain killers. If his behavior doesn't change in a few weeks, bring him back here, and we'll give him a psychological test."
 
"Oh thank you doctor." Jeff's mother went over to Jeff." Jeff, sweety. It's time to go."
 
Jeff looks away from the mirror, his face still formed into a crazy smile. "Kay mommy, ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaa!" his mother took him by the shoulder and took him to get his clothes.
 
"This is what came in," said the lady at the desk. Jeff's mom looked down to see the black dress pants and white hoodie her son wore. Now they were clean of blood and now stitched together. Jeff's mother led him to his room and made him put his clothes on. Then they left, not knowing that this was their final day of life.
 
Later that night, Jeff's mother woke to a sound coming from the bathroom. It sounded as if someone was crying. She slowly walked over to see what it was. When she looked into the bathroom she saw a horrendous sight. Jeff had taken a knife and carved a smile into his cheeks.
 
"Jeff, what are you doing?" asked his mother.
 
Jeff looked over to his mother. "I couldn't keep smiling mommy. It hurt after awhile. Now, I can smile forever. Jeff's mother noticed his eyes, ringed in black.
 
"Jeff, your eyes!" His eyes were seemingly never closing.
 
"I couldn't see my face. I got tired and my eyes started to close. I burned out the eyelids so I could forever see myself; my new face." Jeff's mother slowly started to back away, seeing that her son was going insane. "What's wrong mommy? Aren't I beautiful?
 
"Yes son," she said, "Yes you are. L-let me go get daddy, so he can see your face." She ran into the room and shook Jeff's dad from his sleep. "Honey, get the gun we..." She stopped as she saw Jeff in the doorway, holding a knife.
 
"Mommy, you lied." That's the last thing they hear as Jeff rushes them with the knife, gutting both of them.
 
His brother Liu woke up, startled by some noise. He didn't hear anything else, so he just shut his eyes and tried to go back to sleep. As he was on the border of slumber, he got the strangest feeling that someone was watching him. He looked up, before Jeff's hand covered his mouth. He slowly raised the knife ready to plunge it into Liu. Liu thrashed here and there trying to escape Jeff's grip.
 
"Shhhhhhh," Jeff said. "Just go to sleep."
 
 
Smile Dog
 
I first met in person with Mary E. in the summer of 2007. I had arranged with her husband of fifteen years, Terence, to see her for an interview. Mary had initially agreed, since I was not a newsman but rather an amateur writer gathering information for a few early college assignments and, if all went according to plan, some pieces of fiction. We scheduled the interview for a particular weekend when I was in Chicago on unrelated business, but at the last moment Mary changed her mind and locked herself in the couple's bedroom, refusing to meet with me. For half an hour I sat with Terence as we camped outside the bedroom door, I listening and taking notes while he attempted fruitlessly to calm his wife.
 
The things Mary said made little sense but fit with the pattern I was expecting: though I could not see her, I could tell from her voice that she was crying, and more often than not her objections to speaking with me centered around an incoherent diatribe on her dreams — her nightmares. Terence apologized profusely when we ceased the exercise, and I did my best to take it in stride; recall that I wasn't a reporter in search of a story, but merely a curious young man in search of information. Besides, I thought at the time, I could perhaps find another, similar case if I put my mind and resources to it.
 
Mary E. was the sysop for a small Chicago-based Bulletin Board System in 1992 when she first encountered smile.jpg and her life changed forever. She and Terence had been married for only five months. Mary was one of an estimated 400 people who saw the image when it was posted as a hyperlink on the BBS, though she is the only one who has spoken openly about the experience. The rest have remained anonymous, or are perhaps dead.
 
In 2005, when I was only in tenth grade, smile.jpg was first brought to my attention by my burgeoning interest in web-based phenomena; Mary was the most often cited victim of what is sometimes referred to as "Smile.dog", the being smile.jpg is reputed to display. What caught my interest (other than the obvious macabre elements of the cyber-legend and my proclivity toward such things) was the sheer lack of information, usually to the point that people don't believe it even exists other than as a rumor or hoax.
 
It is unique because, though the entire phenomenon centers on a picture file, that file is nowhere to be found on the internet; certainly many photomanipulated simulacra litter the web, showing up with the most frequency on sites such as the imageboard 4chan, particularly the /x/-focused paranormal subboard. It is suspected these are fakes because they do not have the effect the true smile.jpg is believed to have, namely sudden onset temporal lobe epilepsy and acute anxiety.
 
This purported reaction in the viewer is one of the reasons the phantom-like smile.jpg is regarded with such disdain, since it is patently absurd, though depending on whom you ask the reluctance to acknowledge smile.jpg's existence might be just as much out of fear as it is out of disbelief.
 
Neither smile.jpg nor Smile.dog is mentioned anywhere on Wikipedia, though the website features articles on such other, perhaps more scandalous shocksites as ****** (hello.jpg) or 2girls1cup; any attempt to create a page pertaining to smile.jpg is summarily deleted by any of the encyclopedia's many admins.
 
Encounters with smile.jpg are the stuff of internet legend. Mary E.'s story is not unique; there are unverified rumors of smile.jpg showing up in the early days of Usenet and even one persistent tale that in 2002 a hacker flooded the forums of humor and satire website Something Awful with a deluge of Smile.dog pictures, rendering almost half the forum's users at the time epileptic.
 
It is also said that in the mid-to-late 90s that smile.jpg circulated on usenet and as an attachment of a chain email with the subject line "SMILE!! GOD LOVES YOU!" Yet despite the huge exposure these stunts would generate, there are very few people who admit to having experienced any of them and no trace of the file or any link has ever been discovered.
 
Those who claim to have seen smile.jpg often weakly joke that they were far too busy to save a copy of the picture to their hard drive. However, all alleged victims offer the same description of the photo: A dog-like creature (usually described as appearing similar to a Siberian husky), illuminated by the flash of the camera, sits in a dim room, the only background detail that is visible being a human hand extending from the darkness near the left side of the frame. The hand is empty, but is usually described as "beckoning". Of course, most attention is given to the dog (or dog-creature, as some victims are more certain than others about what they claim to have seen). The muzzle of the beast is reputedly split in a wide grin, revealing two rows of very white, very straight, very sharp, very human-looking teeth.
 
This is, of course, not a description given immediately after viewing the picture, but rather a recollection of the victims, who claim to have seen the picture endlessly repeated in their mind's eye during the time they are, in reality, having epileptic fits. These fits are reported to continue indeterminably, often while the victims sleep, resulting in very vivid and disturbing nightmares. These may be treated with medication, though in someses it is more effective than others.
 
Mary E., I assumed, was not on effective medication. That was why after my visit to her apartment in 2007 I sent out feelers to several folklore- and urban legend-oriented newsgroups, websites, and mailing lists, hoping to find the name of a supposed victim of smile.jpg who felt more interested in talking about his experiences. For a time nothing happened and at length I forgot completely about my pursuits, since I had begun my freshman year of college and was quite busy. Mary contacted me via email, however, near the beginning of March 2008.
 
To: jml@****.com
From: marye@****.net
Subj: Last summer's interview
Dear Mr. L.,
 
I am incredibly sorry about my behavior last summer when you came to interview me. I hope you understand that it was no fault of yours, but rather my own problems that led me to act out as I did. I realized that I could have handled the situation more decorously; however, I hope you will forgive me. At the time, I was afraid.
 
You see, for fifteen years I have been haunted by smile.jpg. Smile.dog comes to me in my sleep every night. I know that sounds silly, but it is true. There is an ineffable quality about my dreams, my nightmares, that makes them completely unlike any real dreams I have ever had. I do not move and do not speak. I simply look ahead, and the only thing ahead of me is the scene from that horrible picture. I see the beckoning hand, and I see Smile.dog. It talks to me.
 
It is not a dog, of course, though I am not quite sure what it really is. It tells me it will leave me alone if only I do as it asks. All I must do, it says, is "spread the word". That is how it phrases its demands. And I know exactly what it means: it wants me to show it to someone else.
 
And I could. The week after my incident I received in the mail a manila envelope with no return address. Inside was only a 3 ½ -inch floppy diskette. Without having to check, I knew precisely what was on it.
 
I thought for a long time about my options. I could show it to a stranger, a coworker… I could even show it to Terence, as much as the idea disgusted me. And what would happen then? Well, if Smile.dog kept its word I could sleep. Yet if it lied, what would I do? And who was to say something worse would not come for me if I did as the creature asked?
 
So I did nothing for fifteen years, though I kept the diskette hidden amongst my things. Every night for fifteen years Smile.dog has come to me in my sleep and demanded that I spread the word. For fifteen years I have stood strong, though there have been hard times. Many of my fellow victims on the BBS board where I first encountered smile.jpg stopped posting; I heard some of them committed suicide. Others remained completely silent, simply disappearing off the face of the web. They are the ones I worry about the most.
 
I sincerely hope you will forgive me, Mr. L., but last summer when you contacted me and my husband about an interview I was near the breaking point. I decided I was going to give you the floppy diskette. I did not care if Smile.dog was lying or not, I wanted it to end. You were a stranger, someone I had no connection with, and I thought I would not feel sorrow when you took the diskette as part of your research and sealed your fate.
 
Before you arrived I realized what I was doing: was plotting to ruin your life. I could not stand the thought, and in fact I still cannot. I am ashamed, Mr. L., and I hope that this warning will dissuade you from further investigation of smile.jpg. You may in time encounter someone who is, if not weaker than I, then wholly more depraved, someone who will not hesitate to follow Smile.dog's orders.
 
Stop while you are still whole.
 
Sincerely,
Mary E.
 
Terence contacted me later that month with the news that his wife had killed herself. While cleaning up the various things she'd left behind, closing email accounts and the like, he happened upon the above message. He was a man in shambles; he wept as he told me to listen to his wife's advice. He'd found the diskette, he revealed, and burned it until it was nothing but a stinking pile of blackened plastic. The part that most disturbed him, however, was how the diskette had hissed as it melted. Like some sort of animal, he said.
 
I will admit that I was a little uncertain about how to respond to this. At first I thought perhaps it was a joke, with the couple belatedly playing with the situation in order to get a rise out of me. A quick check of several Chicago newspapers' online obituaries, however, proved that Mary E. was indeed dead. There was, of course, no mention of suicide in the article. I decided that, for a time at least, I would not further pursue the subject of smile.jpg, especially since I had finals coming up at the end of May.
 
But the world has odd ways of testing us. Almost a full year after I'd returned from my disastrous interview with Mary E., I received another email:
 
To: jml@****.com
From: elzahir82@****.com
Subj: smile
Hello
 
I found your e-mail adress thru a mailing list your profile said you are interested in smiledog. I have saw it it is not as bad as every one says I have sent it to you here. Just spreading the word.
 
:)
 
The final line chilled me to the bone.
 
According to my email client there was one file attachment called, naturally, smile.jpg. I considered downloading it for some time. It was mostly likely a fake, I imagined, and even if it weren't I was never wholly convinced of smile.jpg's peculiar powers. Mary E.'s account had shaken me, yes, but she was probably mentally unbalanced anyway. After all, how could a simple image do what smile.jpg was said to accomplish? What sort of creature was it that could break one's mind with only the power of the eye?
 
And if such things were patently absurd, then why did the legend exist at all?
 
If I downloaded the image, if I looked at it, and if Mary turned out to be correct, if Smile.dog came to me in my dreams demanding I spread the word, what would I do? Would I live my life as Mary had, fighting against the urge to give in until I died? Or would I simply spread the word, eager to be put to rest? And if I chose the latter route, how could I do it? Whom would I burden in turn?
 
If I went through with my earlier intention to write a short article about smile.jpg, I decided, I could attach it as evidence. And anyone who read the article, anyone who took interest, would be affected. And even assuming the smile.jpg attached to the email was genuine, would I be capricious enough to save myself in that manner?
 
Could I spread the word?
 
Yes. Yes I could.
 
 
The Russian Sleep Experiment
 
Russian researchers in the late 1940s kept five people awake for fifteen days using an experimental gas based stimulant. They were kept in a sealed environment to carefully monitor their oxygen intake so the gas didn't kill them, since it was toxic in high concentrations. This was before closed circuit cameras so they had only microphones and five inch thick glass porthole sized windows into the chamber to monitor them. The chamber was stocked with books, cots to sleep on but no bedding, running water and toilet, and enough dried food to last all five for over a month.
 
The test subjects were political prisoners deemed enemies of the state during World War II.
 
Everything was fine for the first five days; the subjects hardly complained having been promised (falsely) that they would be freed if they submitted to the test and did not sleep for 30 days. Their conversations and activities were monitored and it was noted that they continued to talk about increasingly traumatic incidents in their past, and the general tone of their conversations took on a darker aspect after the four day mark.
 
After five days they started to complain about the circumstances and events that lead them to where they were and started to demonstrate severe paranoia. They stopped talking to each other and began alternately whispering to the microphones and one way mirrored portholes. Oddly they all seemed to think they could win the trust of the experimenters by turning over their comrades, the other subjects in captivity with them. At first the researchers suspected this was an effect of the gas itself...
 
After nine days the first of them started screaming. He ran the length of the chamber repeatedly yelling at the top of his lungs for three hours straight, he continued attempting to scream but was only able to produce occasional squeaks. The researchers postulated that he had physically torn his vocal cords. The most surprising thing about this behavior is how the other captives reacted to it... or rather didn't react to it. They continued whispering to the microphones until the second of the captives started to scream. The two non-screaming captives took the books apart, smeared page after page with their own feces and pasted them calmly over the glass portholes. The screaming promptly stopped.
 
So did the whispering to the microphones.
 
After three more days passed. The researchers checked the microphones hourly to make sure they were working, since they thought it impossible that no sound could be coming with five people inside. The oxygen consumption in the chamber indicated that all five must still be alive. In fact it was the amount of oxygen five people would consume at a very heavy level of strenuous exercise. On the morning of the 14th day the researchers did something they said they would not do to get a reaction from the captives, they used the intercom inside the chamber, hoping to provoke any response from the captives they were afraid were either dead or vegetables.
 
They announced: "We are opening the chamber to test the microphones; step away from the door and lie flat on the floor or you will be shot. Compliance will earn one of you your immediate freedom."
 
To their surprise they heard a single phrase in a calm voice response: "We no longer want to be freed."
 
Debate broke out among the researchers and the military forces funding the research. Unable to provoke any more response using the intercom it was finally decided to open the chamber at midnight on the fifteenth day.
 
The chamber was flushed of the stimulant gas and filled with fresh air and immediately voices from the microphones began to object. 3 different voices began begging, as if pleading for the life of loved ones to turn the gas back on. The chamber was opened and soldiers sent in to retrieve the test subjects. They began to scream louder than ever, and so did the soldiers when they saw what was inside. Four of the five subjects were still alive, although no one could rightly call the state that any of them in 'life.'
 
The food rations past day five had not been so much as touched. There were chunks of meat from the dead test subject's thighs and chest stuffed into the drain in the center of the chamber, blocking the drain and allowing four inches of water to accumulate on the floor. Precisely how much of the water on the floor was actually blood was never determined. All four 'surviving' test subjects also had large portions of muscle and skin torn away from their bodies. The destruction of flesh and exposed bone on their finger tips indicated that the wounds were inflicted by hand, not with teeth as the researchers initially thought. Closer examination of the position and angles of the wounds indicated that most if not all of them were self-inflicted.
 
The abdominal organs below the ribcage of all four test subjects had been removed. While the heart, lungs and diaphragm remained in place, the skin and most of the muscles attached to the ribs had been ripped off, exposing the lungs through the ribcage. All the blood vessels and organs remained intact, they had just been taken out and laid on the floor, fanning out around the eviscerated but still living bodies of the subjects. The digestive tract of all four could be seen to be working, digesting food. It quickly became apparent that what they were digesting was their own flesh that they had ripped off and eaten over the course of days.
 
Most of the soldiers were Russian special operatives at the facility, but still many refused to return to the chamber to remove the test subjects. They continued to scream to be left in the chamber and alternately begged and demanded that the gas be turned back on, lest they fall asleep...
 
To everyone's surprise the test subjects put up a fierce fight in the process of being removed from the chamber. One of the Russian soldiers died from having his throat ripped out, another was gravely injured by having his testicles ripped off and an artery in his leg severed by one of the subject's teeth. Another 5 of the soldiers lost their lives if you count ones that committed suicide in the weeks following the incident.
 
In the struggle one of the four living subjects had his spleen ruptured and he bled out almost immediately. The medical researchers attempted to sedate him but this proved impossible. He was injected with more than ten times the human dose of a morphine derivative and still fought like a cornered animal, breaking the ribs and arm of one doctor. When heart was seen to beat for a full two minutes after he had bled out to the point there was more air in his vascular system than blood. Even after it stopped he continued to scream and flail for another three minutes, struggling to attack anyone in reach and just repeating the word "MORE" over and over, weaker and weaker, until he finally fell silent.
 
The surviving three test subjects were heavily restrained and moved to a medical facility, the two with intact vocal cords continuously begging for the gas demanding to be kept awake...
 
The most injured of the three was taken to the only surgical operating room that the facility had. In the process of preparing the subject to have his organs placed back within his body it was found that he was effectively immune to the sedative they had given him to prepare him for the surgery. He fought furiously against his restraints when the anesthetic gas was brought out to put him under. He managed to tear most of the way through a four inch wide leather strap on one wrist, even through the weight of a 200 pound soldier holding that wrist as well. It took only a little more anesthetic than normal to put him under, and the instant his eyelids fluttered and closed, his heart stopped. In the autopsy of the test subject that died on the operating table it was found that his blood had triple the normal level of oxygen. His muscles that were still attached to his skeleton were badly torn and he had broken 9 bones in his struggle to not be subdued. Most of them were from the force his own muscles had exerted on them.
 
The second survivor had been the first of the group of five to start screaming. His vocal cords destroyed he was unable to beg or object to surgery, and he only reacted by shaking his head violently in disapproval when the anesthetic gas was brought near him. He shook his head yes when someone suggested, reluctantly, they try the surgery without anesthetic, and did not react for the entire six hour procedure of replacing his abdominal organs and attempting to cover them with what remained of his skin. The surgeon presiding stated repeatedly that it should be medically possible for the patient to still be alive. One terrified nurse assisting the surgery stated that she had seen the patients mouth curl into a smile several times, whenever his eyes met hers.
 
When the surgery ended the subject looked at the surgeon and began to wheeze loudly, attempting to talk while struggling. Assuming this must be something of drastic importance the surgeon had a pen and pad fetched so the patient could write his message. It was simple. "Keep cutting."
 
The other two test subjects were given the same surgery, both without anesthetic as well. Although they had to be injected with a paralytic for the duration of the operation. The surgeon found it impossible to perform the operation while the patients laughed continuously. Once paralyzed the subjects could only follow the attending researchers with their eyes. The paralytic cleared their system in an abnormally short period of time and they were soon trying to escape their bonds. The moment they could speak they were again asking for the stimulant gas. The researchers tried asking why they had injured themselves, why they had ripped out their own guts and why they wanted to be given the gas again.
 
Only one response was given: "I must remain awake."
 
All three subject's restraints were reinforced and they were placed back into the chamber awaiting determination as to what should be done with them. The researchers, facing the wrath of their military 'benefactors' for having failed the stated goals of their project considered euthanizing the surviving subjects. The commanding officer, an ex-KGB instead saw potential, and wanted to see what would happen if they were put back on the gas. The researchers strongly objected, but were overruled.
 
In preparation for being sealed in the chamber again the subjects were connected to an EEG monitor and had their restraints padded for long term confinement. To everyone's surprise all three stopped struggling the moment it was let slip that they were going back on the gas. It was obvious that at this point all three were putting up a great struggle to stay awake. One of subjects that could speak was humming loudly and continuously; the mute subject was straining his legs against the leather bonds with all his might, first left, then right, then left again for something to focus on. The remaining subject was holding his head off his pillow and blinking rapidly. Having been the first to be wired for EEG most of the researchers were monitoring his brain waves in surprise. They were normal most of the time but sometimes flat lined inexplicably. It looked as if he were repeatedly suffering brain death, before returning to normal. As they focused on paper scrolling out of the brainwave monitor only one nurse saw his eyes slip shut at the same moment his head hit the pillow. His brainwaves immediately changed to that of deep sleep, then flatlined for the last time as his heart simultaneously stopped.
 
The only remaining subject that could speak started screaming to be sealed in now. His brainwaves showed the same flatlines as one who had just died from falling asleep. The commander gave the order to seal the chamber with both subjects inside, as well as three researchers. One of the named three immediately drew his gun and shot the commander point blank between the eyes, then turned the gun on the mute subject and blew his brains out as well.
 
He pointed his gun at the remaining subject, still restrained to a bed as the remaining members of the medical and research team fled the room. "I won't be locked in here with these things! Not with you!" he screamed at the man strapped to the table. "WHAT ARE YOU?" he demanded. "I must know!"
 
The subject smiled.
 
"Have you forgotten so easily?" the subject asked. "We are you. We are the madness that lurks within you all, begging to be free at every moment in your deepest animal mind. We are what you hide from in your beds every night. We are what you sedate into silence and paralysis when you go to the nocturnal haven where we cannot tread."
 
The researcher paused. Then aimed at the subject's heart and fired. The EEG flatlined as the subject weakly choked out, "So... nearly... free..."
 
 
Psychosis
 
Sunday
 
I’m not sure why I’m writing this down on paper and not on my computer. I guess I’ve just noticed some odd things. It’s not that I don’t trust the computer… I just… need to organize my thoughts. I need to get down all the details somewhere objective, somewhere I know that what I write can’t be deleted or… changed… not that that’s happened. It’s just… everything blurs together here, and the fog of memory lends a strange cast to things…
 
I’m starting to feel cramped in this small apartment. Maybe that’s the problem. I just had to go and choose the cheapest apartment, the only one in the basement. The lack of windows down here makes day and night seem to slip by seamlessly. I haven’t been out in a few days because I’ve been working on this programming project so intensively. I suppose I just wanted to get it done. Hours of sitting and staring at a monitor can make anyone feel strange, I know, but I don’t think that’s it.
 
I’m not sure when I first started to feel like something was odd. I can’t even define what it is. Maybe I just haven’t talked to anyone in awhile. That’s the first thing that crept up on me. Everyone I normally talk to online while I program has been idle, or they’ve simply not logged on at all. My instant messages go unanswered. The last e-mail I got from anybody was a friend saying he’d talk to me when he got back from the store, and that was yesterday. I’d call with my cell phone, but reception’s terrible down here. Yeah, that’s it. I just need to call someone. I’m going to go outside.
 
Well, that didn’t work so well. As the tingle of fear fades, I’m feeling a little ridiculous for being scared at all. I looked in the mirror before I went out, but I didn’t shave the two-day stubble I’ve grown. I figured I was just going out for a quick cell phone call. I did change my shirt, though, because it was lunchtime, and I guessed that I’d run into at least one person I knew. That didn’t end up happening. I wish it did.
 
When I went out, I opened the door to my small apartment slowly. A small feeling of apprehension had somehow already lodged itself in me, for some indefinable reason. I chalked it up to having not spoken to anyone but myself for a day or two. I peered down the dingy grey hallway, made dingier by the fact that it was a basement hallway. On one end, a large metal door led to the building’s furnace room. It was locked, of course. Two dreary soda machines stood by it; I bought a soda from one the first day I moved in, but it had a two year old expiration date. I’m fairly sure nobody knows those machines are even down here, or my cheap landlady just doesn’t care to get them restocked.
 
I closed my door softly, and walked the other direction, taking care not to make a sound. I have no idea why I chose to do that, but it was fun giving in to the strange impulse not to break the droning hum of the soda machines, at least for the moment. I got to the stairwell, and took the stairs up to the building’s front door. I looked through the heavy door’s small square window, and received quite the shock: it was definitely not lunchtime. City-gloom hung over the dark street outside, and the traffic lights at the intersection in the distance blinked yellow. Dim clouds, purple and black from the glow of the city, hung overhead. Nothing moved, save the few sidewalk trees that shifted in the wind. I remember shivering, though I wasn’t cold. Maybe it was the wind outside. I could vaguely hear it through the heavy metal door, and I knew it was that unique kind of late-night wind, the kind that was constant, cold, and quiet, save for the rhythmic music it made as it passed through countless unseen tree leaves.
 
I decided not to go outside.
 
Instead, I lifted my cell phone to the door’s little window, and checked the signal meter. The bars filled up the meter, and I smiled. Time to hear someone else’s voice, I remember thinking, relieved. It was such a strange thing, to be afraid of nothing. I shook my head, laughing at myself silently. I hit speed-dial for my best friend Amy’s number, and held the phone up to my ear. It rang once… but then it stopped. Nothing happened. I listened to silence for a good twenty seconds, then hung up. I frowned, and looked at the signal meter again – still full. I went to dial her number again, but then my phone rang in my hand, startling me. I put it up to my ear.
 
“Hello?” I asked, immediately fighting down a small shock at hearing the first spoken voice in days, even if it was my own. I had gotten used to the droning hum of the building’s inner workings, my computer, and the soda machines in the hallway. There was no response to my greeting at first, but then, finally, a voice came.
 
“Hey,” said a clear male voice, obviously of college age, like me. “Who’s this?”
 
“John,” I replied, confused.
 
“Oh, sorry, wrong number,” he replied, then hung up.
 
I lowered the phone slowly and leaned against the thick brick wall of the stairwell. That was strange. I looked at my received calls list, but the number was unfamiliar. Before I could think on it further, the phone rang loudly, shocking me yet again. This time, I looked at the caller before I answered. It was another unfamiliar number. This time, I held the phone up to my ear, but said nothing. I heard nothing but the general background noise of a phone. Then, a familiar voice broke my tension.
 
“John?” was the single word, in Amy’s voice.
 
 
I breathed a sigh of relief.
 
“Hey, it’s you,” I replied.
 
“Who else would it be?” she responded. “Oh, the number. I’m at a party on Seventh Street, and my phone died just as you called me. This is someone else’s phone, obviously.”
 
“Oh, ok,” I said.
 
“Where are you?” she asked.
 
My eyes glanced over the drab white-washed cylinder block walls and the heavy metal door with its small window.
 
“At my building,” I sighed. “Just feeling cooped up. I didn’t realize it was so late.”
 
“You should come here,” she said, laughing.
 
“Nah, I don’t feel like looking for some strange place by myself in the middle of the night,” I said, looking out the window at the silent windy street that secretly scared me just a tiny bit. “I think I’m just going to keep working or go to bed.”
 
“Nonsense!” she replied. “I can come get you! Your building is close to Seventh Street, right?”
 
“How drunk are you?” I asked lightheartedly. “You know where I live.”
 
“Oh, of course,” she said abruptly. “I guess I can’t get there by walking, huh?”
 
“You could if you wanted to waste half an hour,” I told her.
 
“Right,” she said. “Ok, have to go, good luck with your work!”
 
I lowered the phone once more, looking at the numbers flash as the call ended. Then, the droning silence suddenly reasserted itself in my ears. The two strange calls and the eerie street outside just drove home my aloneness in this empty stairwell. Perhaps from having seen too many scary movies, I had the sudden inexplicable idea that something could look in the door’s window and see me, some sort of horrible entity that hovered at the edge of aloneness, just waiting to creep up on unsuspecting people that strayed too far from other human beings. I knew the fear was irrational, but nobody else was around, so… I jumped down the stairs, ran down the hallway into my room, and closed the door as swiftly as I could while still staying silent. Like I said, I feel a little ridiculous for being scared of nothing, and the fear has already faded. Writing this down helps a lot – it makes me realize that nothing is wrong. It filters out half-formed thoughts and fears and leaves only cold, hard facts. It’s late, I got a call from a wrong number, and Amy’s phone died, so she called me back from another number.
 
Nothing strange is happening.
 
Still, there was something a little off about that conversation. I know it could have just been the alcohol she’d had… or was it even her that seemed off to me? Or was it… yes, that was it! I didn’t realize it until this moment, writing these things down. I knew writing things down would help. She said she was at a party, but I only heard silence in the background! Of course, that doesn’t mean anything in particular, as she could have just gone outside to make the call. No… that couldn’t be it either. I didn’t hear the wind! I need to see if the wind is still blowing!
 
Monday
 
I forgot to finish writing last night. I’m not sure what I expected to see when I ran up the stairwell and looked out the heavy metal door’s window. I’m feeling ridiculous. Last night’s fear seems hazy and unreasonable to me now. I can’t wait to go out into the sunlight. I’m going to check my email, shave, shower, and finally get out of here! Wait… I think I heard something.
 
 
It was thunder. That whole sunlight and fresh air thing didn’t happen. I went out into the stairwell and up the stairs, only to find disappointment. The heavy metal door’s little window showed only flowing water, as torrential rain slammed against it. Only a very dim, gloomy light filtered in through the rain, but at least I knew it was daytime, even if it was a grey, sickly, wet day. I tried looking out the window and waiting for lightning to illuminate the gloom, but the rain was too heavy and I couldn’t make out anything more than vague weird shapes moving at odd angles in the waves washing down the window. Disappointed, I turned around, but I didn’t want to go back to my room. Instead, I wandered further up the stairs, past the first floor, and the second. The stairs ended at the third floor, the highest floor in the building. I looked through the glass that ran up the outer wall of the stairwell, but it was that warped, thick kind that scatters the light, not that there was much to see through the rain to begin with.
 
I opened the stairwell door and wandered down the hallway. The ten or so thick wooden doors, painted blue a long time ago, were all closed. I listened as I walked, but it was the middle of the day, so I wasn’t surprised that I heard nothing but the rain outside. As I stood there in the dim hallway, listening to the rain, I had the strange fleeting impression that the doors were standing like silent granite monoliths erected by some ancient forgotten civilization for some unfathomable guardian purpose.
 
Lightning flashed, and I could have sworn that, for just a moment, the old grainy blue wood looked just like rough stone. I laughed at myself for letting my imagination get the best of me, but then it occurred to me that the dim gloom and lightning must mean there was a window somewhere in the hallway. A vague memory surfaced, and I suddenly recalled that the third floor had an alcove and an inset window halfway down the floor’s hallway.
 
Excited to look out into the rain and possibly see another human being, I quickly walked over to the alcove, finding the large thin glass window. Rain washed down it, as with the front door’s window, but I could open this one. I reached a hand out to slide it open, but hesitated. I had the strangest feeling that if I opened that window, I would see something absolutely horrifying on the other side. Everything’s been so odd lately… so I came up with a plan, and I came back here to get what I needed. I don’t seriously think anything will come of it, but I’m bored, it’s raining, and I’m going stir crazy. I came back to get my webcam. The cord isn’t long enough to reach the third floor by any means, so instead I’m going to hide it between the two soda machines in the dark end of my basement hallway, run the wire along the wall and under my door, and put black duct tape over the wire to blend it in with the black plastic strip that runs along the base of the hallway’s walls. I know this is silly, but I don’t have anything better to do…
 
Well, nothing happened. I propped open the hallway-to-stairwell door, steeled myself, then flung the heavy front door wide open and ran like hell down the stairs to my room and slammed the door. I watched the webcam on my computer intently, seeing the hallway outside my door and most of the stairwell. I’m watching it right now, and I don’t see anything interesting. I just wish the camera’s position was different, so that I could see out the front door. Hey! Somebody’s online!
 
 
I got out an older, less functional webcam that I had in my closet to video chat with my friend online. I couldn’t really explain to him why I wanted to video chat, but it felt good to see another person’s face. He couldn’t talk very long, and we didn’t talk about anything meaningful, but I feel much better. My strange fear has almost passed. I would feel completely better, but there was something… odd… about our conversation. I know that I’ve said that everything has seemed odd, but… still, he was very vague in his responses. I can’t recall one specific thing that he said… no particular name, or place, or event… but he did ask for my email address to keep in touch. Wait, I just got an email.
 
I’m about to go out. I just got an email from Amy that asked me to meet her for dinner at ‘the place we usually go to.’ I do love pizza, and I’ve just been eating random food from my poorly stocked fridge for days, so I can’t wait. Again, I feel ridiculous about the odd couple of days I’ve been having. I should destroy this journal when I get back. Oh, another email.
 
 
Oh my god. I almost left the email and opened the door. I almost opened the door. I almost opened the door, but I read the email first! It was from a friend I hadn’t heard from in a long time, and it was sent to a huge number of emails that must have been every person he had saved in his address list. It had no subject, and it said, simply:
 
seen with your own eyes don’t trust them they
 
What the hell is that supposed to mean? The words shock me, and I keep going over and over them. Is it a desperate email sent just as… something happened? The words are obviously cut off without finishing! On any other day I would have dismissed this as spam from a computer virus or something, but the words… seen with your own eyes! I can’t help but read over this journal and think back on the last few days and realize that I have not seen another person with my own eyes or talked to another person face to face. The webcam conversation with my friend was so strange, so vague, so… eerie, now that I think about it. Was it eerie? Or is the fear clouding my memory? My mind toys with the progression of events I’ve written here, pointing out that I have not been presented with one single fact that I did not specifically give out unsuspectingly. The random ‘wrong number’ that got my name and the subsequent strange return call from Amy, the friend that asked for my email address… I messaged him first when I saw him online! And then I got my first email a few minutes after that conversation! Oh my god! That phone call with Amy! I said over the phone – I said that I was within half an hour’s walk of Seventh Street! They know I’m near there! What if they’re trying to find me?! Where is everyone else? Why haven’t I seen or heard anyone else in days?
 
No, no, this is crazy. This is absolutely crazy. I need to calm down. This madness needs to end.
 
 
I don’t know what to think. I ran about my apartment furiously, holding my cell phone up to every corner to see if it got a signal through the heavy walls. Finally, in the tiny bathroom, near one ceiling corner, I got a single bar. Holding my phone there, I sent a text message to every number in my list. Not wanting to betray anything about my unfounded fears, I simply sent:
 
You seen anyone face to face lately?
 
At that point, I just wanted any reply back. I didn’t care what the reply was, or if I embarrassed myself. I tried to call someone a few times, but I couldn’t get my head up high enough, and if I brought my cell phone down even an inch, it lost signal. Then I remembered the computer, and rushed over to it, instant messaging everyone online. Most were idle or away from their computer. Nobody responded. My messages grew more frantic, and I started telling people where I was and to stop by in person for a host of barely passable reasons. I didn’t care about anything by that point. I just needed to see another person!
 
I also tore apart my apartment looking for something that I might have missed; some way to contact another human being without opening the door. I know it’s crazy, I know it’s unfounded, but what if? WHAT IF? I just need to be sure! I taped the phone to the ceiling in case
 
Tuesday
 
THE PHONE RANG! Exhausted from last night’s rampage, I must have fallen asleep. I woke up to the phone ringing, and ran into the bathroom, stood on the toilet, and flipped open the phone taped to the ceiling. It was Amy, and I feel so much better. She was really worried about me, and apparently had been trying to contact me since the last time I talked to her. She’s coming over now, and, yes, she knows where I am without me telling her. I feel so embarrassed. I am definitely throwing this journal away before anyone sees it. I don’t even know why I’m writing in it now. Maybe it’s just because it’s the only communication I’ve had at all since… god knows when. I look like hell, too. I looked in the mirror before I came back in here. My eyes are sunken, my stubble is thicker, and I just look generally unhealthy.
 
My apartment is trashed, but I’m not going to clean it up. I think I need someone else to see what I’ve been through. These past few days have NOT been normal. I am not one to imagine things. I know I have been the victim of extreme probability. I probably missed seeing another person a dozen times. I just happened to go out when it was late at night, or the middle of the day when everyone was gone. Everything’s perfectly fine, I know this now. Plus, I found something in the closet last night that has helped me tremendously: a television! I set it up just before I wrote this, and it’s on in the background. Television has always been an escape for me, and it reminds me that there’s a world beyond these dingy brick walls.
 
I’m glad Amy’s the only one that responded to me after last night’s frantic pestering of everyone I could contact. She’s been my best friend for years. She doesn’t know it, but I count the day that I met her among one of the few moments of true happiness in my life. I remember that warm summer day fondly. It seems a different reality from this dark, rainy, lonely place. I feel like I spent days sitting in that playground, much too old to play, just talking with her and hanging around doing nothing at all. I still feel like I can go back to that moment sometimes, and it reminds me that this damn place is not all that there is… finally, a knock on the door!
 
 
I thought it was odd that I couldn’t see her through the camera I hid between the two soda machines. I figured that it was bad positioning, like when I couldn’t see out the front door. I should have known. I should have known! After the knock, I yelled through the door jokingly that I had a camera between the soda machines, because I was embarrassed myself that I had taken this paranoia so far. After I did that, I saw her image walk over to the camera and look down at it. She smiled and waved.
“Hey!” she said to the camera brightly, giving it a wry look.
 
“It’s weird, I know,” I said into the mic attached to my computer. “I’ve had a weird few days.”
 
“Must have,” she replied. “Open the door, John.”
 
I hesitated. How could I be sure?
 
“Hey, humor me a second here,” I told her through the mic. “Tell me one thing about us. Just prove to me you’re you.”
 
She gave the camera a weird look.
 
“Um, alright,” she said slowly, thinking. “We met randomly at a playground when we were both way too old to be there?”
 
I sighed deeply as reality returned and fear faded. God, I’d been so ridiculous. Of course it was Amy! That day wasn’t anywhere in the world except in my memory. I’d never even mentioned it to anyone, not out of embarrassment, but out of a strange secret nostalgia and a longing for those days to return. If there was some unknown force at work trying to trick me, as I feared, there was no way they could know about that day.
 
“Haha, alright, I’ll explain everything,” I told her. “Be right there.”
 
I ran to my small bathroom and fixed my hair as best I could. I looked like hell, but she would understand. Snickering at my own unbelievable behavior and the mess I’d made of the place, I walked to the door. I put my hand on the doorknob and gave the mess one last look. So ridiculous, I thought. My eyes traced over the half-eaten food lying on the ground, the overflowing trash bin, and the bed I’d tipped to the side looking for… God knows what. I almost turned to the door and opened it, but my eyes fell on one last thing: the old webcam, the one I used for that eerily vacant chat with my friend.
Its silent black sphere lay haphazardly tossed to the side, its lens pointed at the table where this journal lay. An overwhelming terror took me as I realized that if something could see through that camera, it would have seen what I just wrote about that day. I asked her for any one thing about us, and she chose the only thing in the world that I thought they or it did not know… but IT DID! IT DID KNOW! IT COULD HAVE BEEN WATCHING ME THE WHOLE TIME!
 
I didn’t open the door. I screamed. I screamed in uncontrollable terror. I stomped on the old webcam on the floor. The door shook, and the doorknob tried to turn, but I didn’t hear Amy’s voice through the door. Was the basement door, made to keep out drafts, too thick? Or was Amy not outside? What could have been trying to get in, if not her? What the hell is out there?! I saw her on my computer through the camera outside, I heard her on the speakers through the camera outside, but was it real?! How can I know?! She’s gone now – I screamed, and shouted for help! I piled up everything in my apartment against the front door –
 
Friday
 
At least I think that it’s Friday. I broke everything electronic. I smashed my computer to pieces. Every single thing on there could have been accessed by network access, or worse, altered. I’m a programmer, I know. Every little piece of information I gave out since this started – my name, my email, my location – none of it came back from outside until I gave it out. I’ve been going over and over what I wrote. I’ve been pacing back and forth, alternating between stark terror and overpowering disbelief. Sometimes I’m absolutely certain some phantom entity is dead set on the simple goal of getting me to go outside. Back to the beginning, with the phone call from Amy, she was effectively asking me to open the door and go outside.
 
I keep running through it in my head. One point of view says I’ve acted like a madman, and all of this is the extreme convergence of probability – never going outside at the right times by pure luck, never seeing another person by pure chance, getting a random nonsense email from some computer virus at just the right time. The other point of view says that extreme convergence of probability is the reason that whatever’s out there hasn’t gotten me already. I keep thinking: I never opened the window on the third floor. I never opened the front door, until that incredibly stupid stunt with the hidden camera after which I ran straight to my room and slammed the door. I haven’t opened my own solid door since I flung open the front door of the building. Whatever’s out there – if anything’s out there – never made an ‘appearance’ in the building before I opened the front door. Maybe the reason it wasn’t in the building already was that it was elsewhere getting everyone else… and then it waited, until I betrayed my existence by trying to call Amy… a call which didn’t work, until it called me and asked me my name…
 
Terror literally overwhelms me every time I try to fit the pieces of this nightmare together. That email – short, cut off – was it from someone trying to get word out? Some friendly voice desperately trying to warn me before it came? Seen with my own eyes, don’t trust them – exactly what I’ve been so suspicious of. It could have masterful control of all things electronic, practicing its insidious deception to trick me into coming outside. Why can’t it get in? It knocked on the door – it must have some solid presence… the door… the image of those doors in the upper hallway as guardian monoliths flashes back in my mind every time I trace this path of thoughts. If there is some phantom entity trying to get me to go outside, maybe it can’t get through doors. I keep thinking back over all the books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen, trying to generate some explanation for this. Doors have always been such intense foci of human imagination, always seen as wards or portals of special importance. Or perhaps the door is just too thick? I know that I couldn’t bash through any of the doors in this building, let alone the heavy basement ones. Aside from that, the real question is, why does it even want me? If it just wanted to kill me, it could do it any number of ways, including just waiting until I starve to death. What if it doesn’t want to kill me? What if it has some far more horrific fate in store for me? God, what can I do to escape this nightmare?!
 
A knock on the door…
 
 
I told the people on the other side of the door I need a minute to think and I’ll come out. I’m really just writing this down so I can figure out what to do. At least this time I heard their voices. My paranoia – and yes, I recognize I’m being paranoid – has me thinking of all sorts of ways that their voices could be faked electronically. There could be nothing but speakers outside, simulating human voices. Did it really take them three days to come talk to me? Amy is supposedly out there, along with two policemen and a psychiatrist. Maybe it took them three days to think of what to say to me – the psychiatrist’s claim could be pretty convincing, if I decided to think this has all been a crazy misunderstanding, and not some entity trying to trick me into opening the door.
 
The psychiatrist had an older voice, authoritarian but still caring. I liked it. I’m desperate just to see someone with my own eyes! He said I have something called cyber-psychosis, and I’m just one of a nationwide epidemic of thousands of people having breakdowns triggered by a suggestive email that ‘got through somehow.’ I swear he said ‘got through somehow.’ I think he means spread throughout the country inexplicably, but I’m incredibly suspicious that the entity slipped up and revealed something. He said I am part of a wave of ‘emergent behavior’, that a lot of other people are having the same problem with the same fears, even though we’ve never communicated.
 
That neatly explains the strange email about eyes that I got. I didn’t get the original triggering email. I got a descendant of it – my friend could have broken down too, and tried to warn everyone he knew against his paranoid fears. That’s how the problem spreads, the psychiatrist claims. I could have spread it, too, with my texts and instant messages online to everybody I know. One of those people might be melting down right now, after being triggered by something I sent them, something they might interpret any way that they want, something like a text saying seen anyone face to face lately? The psychiatrist told me that he didn’t want to ‘lose another one’, that people like me are intelligent, and that’s our downfall. We draw connections so well that we draw them even when they shouldn’t be there. He said it’s easy to get caught up in paranoia in our fast paced world, a constantly changing place where more and more of our interaction is simulated…
 
I have to give him one thing. It’s a great explanation. It neatly explains everything. It perfectly explains everything, in fact. I have every reason to shake off this nightmarish fear that some thing or consciousness or being out there wants me to open the door so it can capture me for some horrible fate worse than death. It would be foolish, after hearing that explanation, to stay in here until I starve to death just to spite the entity that might have got everyone else. It would be foolish to think that, after hearing that explanation, I might be one of the last people left alive on an empty world, hiding in my secure basement room, spiting some unthinkable deceptive entity just by refusing to be captured. It’s a perfect explanation for every single strange thing I’ve seen or heard, and I have every reason in the world to let all of my fears go, and open the door.
 
That’s exactly why I’m not going to.
 
How can I be sure?! How can I know what’s real and what’s deception? All of these damn things with their wires and their signals that originate from some unseen origin! They’re not real, I can’t be sure! Signals through a camera, faked video, deceptive phone calls, emails! Even the television, lying broken on the floor – how can I possibly know it’s real? It’s just signals, waves, light… the door! It’s bashing on the door! It’s trying to get in! What insane mechanical contrivance could it be using to simulate the sound of men attacking the heavy wood so well?! At least I’ll finally see it with my own eyes… there’s nothing left in here for it to deceive me with, I’ve ripped apart everything else! It can’t deceive my eyes, can it? Seen with your own eyes don’t trust them they… wait… was that desperate message telling me to trust my eyes, or warning me about my eyes too?! Oh my god, what’s the difference between a camera and my eyes? They both turn light into electrical signals – they’re the same! I can’t be deceived! I have to be sure! I have to be sure!
 
Date Unknown
 
I calmly asked for paper and a pen, day in and day out, until it finally gave them to me. Not that it matters. What am I going to do? Poke my eyes out? The bandages feel like part of me now. The pain is gone. I figure this will be one of my last chances to write legibly, as, without my sight to correct mistakes, my hands will slowly forget the motions involved. This is a sort of self-indulgence, this writing… it’s a relic of another time, because I’m certain everyone left in the world is dead… or something far worse.
 
I sit against the padded wall day in and day out. The entity brings me food and water. It masks itself as a kind nurse, as an unsympathetic doctor. I think it knows that my hearing has sharpened considerably now that I live in darkness. It fakes conversations in the hallways, on the off chance that I might overhear. One of the nurses talks about having a baby soon. One of the doctors lost his wife in a car accident. None of it matters, none of it is real. None of it gets to me, not like she does.
 
That’s the worst part, the part I almost can’t handle. The thing comes to me, masquerading as Amy. Its recreation is perfect. It sounds exactly like Amy, feels exactly like her. It even produces a reasonable facsimile of tears that it makes me feel on its lifelike cheeks. When it first dragged me here, it told me all the things I wanted to hear. It told me that she loved me, that she had always loved me, that it didn’t understand why I did this, that we could still have a life together, if only I would stop insisting that I was being deceived. It wanted me to believe… no, it needed me to believe that she was real.
I almost fell for it. I really did. I doubted myself for the longest time. In the end, though, it was all too perfect, too flawless, and too real. The false Amy used to come every day, and then every week, and finally stopped coming altogether… but I don’t think the entity will give up. I think the waiting game is just another one of its gambits. I will resist it for the rest of my life, if I have to. I don’t know what happened to the rest of the world, but I do know that this thing needs me to fall for its deceptions. If it needs that, then maybe, just maybe, I am a thorn in its agenda. Maybe Amy is still alive out there somewhere, kept alive only by my will to resist the deceiver. I hold on to that hope, rocking back and forth in my cell to pass the time. I will never give in. I will never break. I am… a hero!
 
====
 
The doctor read the paper the patient had scribbled on. It was barely readable, written in the shaky script of one who could not see. He wanted to smile at the man’s steadfast resolve, a reminder of the human will to survive, but he knew that the patient was completely delusional.
 
After all, a sane man would have fallen for the deception long ago.
 
The doctor wanted to smile. He wanted to whisper words of encouragement to the delusional man. He wanted to scream, but the nerve filaments wrapped around his head and into his eyes made him do otherwise. His body walked into the cell like a puppet, and told the patient, once more, that he was wrong, and that there was nobody trying to deceive him.
 
 
Anansi's Goatman Story
 
Here's my story:
 
>be 16
>be black and have family down in Alabama
>they farm and own a huge amount of land down in Huntsville
>uncle owns a big house and a bunch of trailers they put out in the woods for hunting or camping
>down south cousins suggest that we go out there to camp
>know I'm a city kid from Chicago so they tease the fuck out of me
>collect food, kill a pig and some chickens, and bring necessities to camp out for a few days
>we get to the camp and it's obvious something is weird
>air has this weird electric smell like right before a storm, like ozone
>we think nothing of it and unpack and go down to a little creek to swim for a few hours
>All of a sudden some older white guy and a white teenager come out of the bushes
>he has a shotgun in the crook of his arm and says hello and ask us what we're doing this far back in the woods
>tell him about my uncle, who he knows, and say we're camping out
>he tells us we need to be real careful out here and stick together there was a big animal in the woods
>His son, who is my age asks if he can stay and hang out with us
>he says OK
 
I'm going to stop greentexting because the story is fairly long and the format is harder to write in.
 
So we end up playing football. Dicking around with me, there's the white kid "Tanner", five of my cousins, and then four of their friends. In total, there were five girls and six boys. We all were around 15-17.
 
We ended up just dicking the day away. So, we head back to the camp and pulling out some stuff for a campfire, even though the trailers both had kitchenettes. Tanner says that his family's property sits up against my uncle's. He wants to run home and ask his dad if he can come out camping with us. My cousin Rooster says he's going to go with him since it's going to get dark soon. One of the girls also wants to tag along.
 
It's about 7 o'clock, and it's starting to get pretty dark. They take flashlights and take the trail toward Tan's property. The rest of us chill. We make smores, drink and kiss on the girls.
 
About thirty or forty minutes later, there's the smell of ozone again. You could smell it over the smell of the fire we had started. This really nasty, coppery smell like right after you've had a nosebleed and it's stopped. It wasn't exactly like dried blood, but it was that nasty metallic, back-of-your-throat smell.
 
We immediately think that it's some kind of electrical malfunction, or someone left a hotplate on or some shit. We search the trailers and nothing is on, and we can all smell it. All of a sudden, we can hear people booking down the path toward us, and Rooster, Tan and the girl all come running into the clearing, out of breath. And they don't even break stride; they all run into the trailer, right by where the fire is.
 
We all get the fuck outta there and into the trailers. They end up calming down; even Rooster is crying his fucking eyes out at this point. All the while, the fire is guttering lower and lower, so my other cousins say fuck it and are about to go outside to get the generator out of a shed between the trailers.
 
Tanner goes, "Fuck no! Lock the front door, ain't nobody else going outside!" He's been crying too, and his eyes are bloodshot and puffy and his pants are dirty as shit.
 
He goes on to tell us that they went up to his house. His father said sure, he could go out camping, but to make sure they were careful on the way back, and that maybe they should take one of the hunting rifles just in case.
 
Evidently, Tanner had seen something in their yard a few days before. One of their pigs had come up, ripped up and half eaten. They assumed it was just some big cats or coyotes, even though they don't usually fuck with live animals.
 
He had gone upstairs and packed his stuff, and told his dad they would be OK without the rifle because coyotes avoid people. So they started walking back toward where we were camping.
 
So, Rooster finally stops crying and shaking; the girl already had, but she was just staring out the window with a dumb look on her face. He says they had gotten halfway into the woods toward the camp when they started to hear shit in the forest. It was almost pitch black by this time, so they weren't sure at first what the fuck it was. The girl says that she heard something in the bushes right off the trail and they all beamed their flashlights over there and there was someone standing back in the woods in a little hollow. Rooster said they shouted at him and told him that he was scaring the fuck out of them and what a dick he was.
 
He says that's when he realized that the guy was facing away from them. So they keep walking, and they start smelling the nasty coppery ozone smell. They say that they look off into the forest on the opposite side, and it's a dude standing in the forest, backward slightly closer to the path.
 
So now they start powerwalking and Tan keeps going, "I should have taken the fucking rifle."
 
As they're telling the story, the smell is still super strong even inside the cabin.
 
They say that after they started walking faster, a kind of low gibbering had started coming from both sides of the wood. And as they started booking it back to the trailer, the girl said she had flashed her flashlight out into the woods to the side of them and had seen something jerking itself through the woods. The gibbering just got louder and louder, and when they could see the light from our camp fire, something had come out of the woods about 40 yards behind them onto the track, and they had just flat out ran as hard as they could to the trailer.
 
So we're out in the fucking woods, and we're assuming at this point it's some rednecks or some shit trying to fuck with us.
 
All of a sudden, my other cousin, Junior, starts going on about how he went to school with a native kid that was telling him about the 'Goatman' or some shit. We promptly tell him to shut the fuck up because we don't need any spooky talk right now.
 
But he just keeps going on and on about how it's the fucking 'Goatman,' and how we're in his woods and blah, blah, blah. Now at the time, I had never heard of this goat man or any of that, but then a couple years ago -- the year before I graduated from college -- I had a Menom for a roommate and I ended up asking him about it. And to sum it up, it's basically a fucking man with the head of a goat and he can shape shift and he gets among groups of people to terrorize them. It's also supposed to be kind of like the Wendigo, and it's bad mojo to even talk about it and even worse if you see it.
 
Keep in mind, I didn't know this back when I was sixteen. So my cousin is going, "The goat man's going to get in and fucking get us." The girls are all terrified and my cousins and I are all fucking trying to figure out if it's just some hillbillies or if it's some animal.
 
So all of a sudden the smell just goes away. Like to this day, I haven't even experienced anything like it. Like, usually smells fade away or lessen. It just literally was there one second and then not the second.
 
So it's after an hour, making it around 9 or 10. We've stopped shitting bricks enough to go back outside and stoke the fire again. We figure it was just some assholes trying to fuck with us, so we don't go back home, because we think if we do, they'll chase us through the woods or some crazy shit.
 
Nothing else weird happens that night. And we stay another night, and for the main part of the night nothing happens. At about 1 in the morning, we're outside getting drunk and telling ghost stories. As someone is finishing some 2spooky story -- I don't remember what about -- the smell comes back. It's so fucking strong, that one of the girls literally starts vomiting.
 
I stand up, and you can actually feel how clammy the air is. I say we should get inside and this isn't right; we should have just fucking left.
 
We all go back inside, and we're standing around. My cousin just keeps going on about how it's the goat man. And my cousin Rooster tries to shut him the fuck up, and all the while I'm just feeling that something is wrong, and I can't figure out what the fuck it is.
 
We end up sitting in there for a while; the smell is just as strong, and we're terrified and all huddled in this camper. We end up cooking brats for everybody because nobody wants to go outside. It's one of those packs with four brats. We have a total of 3 packs. I grill them up on the stove and give everybody a hot dog. I get mine. After a while, one of my cousins gets up and goes over to the pot to get another one.
 
He starts grumbling about about how I get two brats and everybody else only got one, and I look at him like he's fucking stupid. I tell him that everybody only got one because there were only 12 brats, if he wants more he should open up a new pack and cook some more.
 
That's when the girl that had been out with Rooster and Tan just starts screaming, "OH JESUS, OH LORD, GET IT OUT!" She's crying and shivering, and then it dawns on the cousin standing up what the fuck is wrong. Me and him both glance around the room, and then I feel my heart fucking sink. I run the fuck out of the cabin and the girl runs out with us. The trailer door is banging against the side of the trailer as everybody books out of the cabin.
 
One of my cousin's friends ask us what the fuck was wrong. I start counting us. There's only 11 now.
 
"I shit you not," my cousin verified. There had been twelve people in the cabin. But being that everybody didn't really know each other well, nobody had really noticed the whole fucking time that there was an extra person. And then I realized earlier that I had kind of noticed something was off. You know how when you're just dicking around having a good time that you don't sweat the smallest shit, and you don't always keep track of certain stuff? I'm dead sure that someone else had been in the trailer with us, and that they had been there for at least a fucking day, eating with us. What makes it worse is, I could figure out which one because I don't think anyone ever actually interacted with the other person/the Goat-man.
 
The girl kept praying to Jesus and we're all sitting outside; eventually we get big-ass sticks and go back in the cabin, but there's nobody in there. We count again, and there's 11 people. We go back into the trailer and lock the door. We explain what the fuck happened, and the girl says that she realized too, and that when he was about to say something, the person sitting next to her had grabbed her leg hard and leaned over toward her and said something she couldn't understand.
 
So we are pretty much scared as fuck as we huddle together, and I fall asleep. When I wake up, the sun is just coming up, and half the people are asleep and the other half are packing our shit up.
 
We all want to walk back home, but like four people want to stay until the sun is all the way up. And some people think that we're just fucking around and still want to stay at the trailers. I just want to get the fuck out of the woods.
 
The girl's name was Keira, the one that the Goat-man had touched. Anyway, I asked her if she really thinks it was something bad, and she says she just wants to go home and she doesn't want to be out in the woods alone for another night.
 
So we decide to split up; the four that want to go can go, but I have to stay because I have the keys to the cabin and it's my uncle's and I have to lock up. I'm super pissed at this point, because I feel like people aren't taking this shit seriously, and I definitely didn't want to be out in the woods for another night. I spend the rest of the day trying to convince the rest of the people -- now 4 girls and four guys -- to get the fuck out of dodge. Tanner leaves with them to go get a rifle and says he's going to be back. So there are just 7 of us left by 4 PM.
 
At around 5 PM he hasn't made it back yet, and we're getting extremely fucking antsy, and the only reason I stopped begging them to go back was because he went to get a gun.
 
it's about 5:30 PM or so, when the one cousin that did stay says that the girl Keira is outside. We all look outside, and sure enough, she's standing by the firepit with her back to the cabin.
 
I'm thinking to myself, if she was so fucking scared, why the hell would she come back? And then I get this nasty feeling in my gut. Keep in mind, the whole time the coppery smell has been gone. Now I realize I can smell just a twinge of it.
 
I say this to the rest of them and everybody -- and these are the people that wanted to stay in the fucking woods after we had the goddamn Goatman in our midst -- is laughing at me and asking if I set this up to scare them.
 
I'm looking at them like, "I'm not fucking bullshitting you at all right now." I ask them why the fuck would I play like that? So one of the girls goes outside to get Kiera. She gets halfway to her and stops cold. Keira starts heaving; I don't know how the fuck to describe it. Sort of like if someone with their back turned was laughing without actually making any sound. It was this fact that made me realize there was not a fucking sound in the whole woods; it was dead silent.
 
This was like later in September, so it was still fairly hot at the time, but it was super chilly some days too. And you could usually hear big-ass geese honking or some kind of birds or squirrels chitchatting.
 
So I step out the door and tell her to come back in the fucking trailer right goddamn now.
 
She backs up into the trailer and we lock the fucking door. We pull down all the shades except one, and put a guy there in a chair to watch her. She stands there for another 20 minutes or so. The guy turns to say that she's still there. And there's a HUGE fucking bang on the door.
 
We all jump the fuck up and scramble around the living room of the trailer. The banging is super fucking loud.
 
So now my cousin is holding one of the girls and the other two are kinda giggling with nervous laughter and me and the other two guys are shitting brix.
 
Then we hear Tan. He's screaming.
 
"LET ME THE FUCK IN, STOP FUCKING PLAYING!"
 
So we go over to the door and open it, and he stumbles in with a rifle. There's nobody else outside.
 
Evidently, he had walked up to the campsite. Nothing weird happened in the forest, but he had seen a girl. Mind you, he said it was not Keira standing there. When he had gotten to the edge of the clearing, she had turned toward him with the slackjawed look and just stared him down, slowly tracking him as he walked around the outside of the clearing towards the camp. He said it wasn't till he was almost halfway to the trailer he had realized that she was getting closer to him. She had started off by the fire, and without him even seeing her move she had been turning, inching closer. He said he just ran the rest of the way back to the cabin thinking it would open. And when he got to the door and it was locked, he turned and it was about half the distance to the door.
 
He looks around the room and then gets super pale. He pulls me to the side and whispers in my ear, "You know there are only seven of us in here, right?" I get that feeling where you stomach drops to your nuts. It had been back inside the trailer while we were sorting out who was going where, and then when we all went outside to talk earlier in the day. It has just slipped right back in.
 
We looked out the window and there is nobody out there. So we recount everyone and then basically, I go over and ask everyone how many people were here earlier. And everybody says 8. I say, "Well, how many are here now?" They all do the count and then realize there are only now seven people in the cabin.
 
So Tan had brought back a couple boxes of ammo and his rifle. And he had told his dad that there was some kind of animal in the forest because he didn't think his dad would believe him if he said it was Goatman. He says that his cousin is supposed to be coming down in a few hours and that in the morning we can all go back to his place and his cousin will drive us home.
 
Now I'm really fucking terrified, but I at least feel better because we can be American and shoot the fuck out of whatever it is if it comes back. But then my cousin gets into this huge argument with one of the girls because she thinks that I'm trying to be funny and prank them, and that she's getting really scared and that I'm not funny. He keeps telling her I'm not that kind of person, and she says, "Well, how do we know the girl wasn't just Tanner in a wig? Or if it's really the Goatman, how do we know that this is the real Tanner and that Goatman just didn't kill Tanner in the woods and take his gun?"
 
So we fucking get into a huge argument about this, where me and Tan are like, "we could seriously be in danger because at the very least someone has been sneaking themselves into our fucking trailer without us knowing and mingling with us, and at worst, something bad is in the forest fucking with us."
 
One of the girls is crying and saying she wants to go right now, and we're trying to tell her we shouldn't because none of us are walking through the woods in the middle of the night. At this point the sun is starting to go down and it's getting a little cloudy out.
 
We eat something and turn on the radio for a while, but we can't really get a station out there with anything decent. So we turn it off at about the time that Tan's cousin shows up. He was like 19, I think. At this point, the sun is just barely over the horizon and he has one of those heavy duty lantern flashlights and another rifle. He walks up to the trailer and we whisper to Tan asking if he's sure that's his cousin and he says yes.
 
The guy looks behind him and all around the camp, then walks in. He kind of glances at all of us and looks a little confused.
 
He says, "Where's your other little buddy at? I figured she would meet me up at the cabin. Is she a little slow or something?" He also asked whether we had been cooking blood in the cabin, because it smelled like blood and hot pans all the way up the trail. We are all like fucking "NOPE." But we ask him what the fuck he's talking about with the girl he saw.
 
He had come down the same trail Tan had been using and he had come up on "one of youse guy's buddies" standing in the middle of the trail, looking at him slack jawed. He had asked her a bunch of questions, but all she did was just look at him. Then, she smiled at him and he said he kept walking. She couldn't seem to keep up with him and kept lagging a little behind him. He said he asked her if she was hurt or something, and if she needed any help. But, she had continued to stare. Eventually, he had been walking and turned around a bend in the trail. But when he turned around and went back to see if she was okay, the trail was empty. He'd assumed she had taken some short cut through the woods to our trailer.
 
We tell him the whole story of what's been going on. I half expected him to say we were full of shit, but he just listened and then sat down on the couches in the living room.
 
Tanner's cousin gets back to the girl. He says, when she had kept trying to lag behind him, it had kinda weirded him the fuck out, so he tried to keep her in front of him, but no matter how slow he walked, she was always lagging a little behind. And that he smelled this nasty smell, and it got stronger as he got to the camp. Eventually it got really strong. She had said something really low that he didn't catch, and when he had turned around she had been right the fuck up on him, and he stepped back from her.
 
It was at this point he asked her if she was okay, and if she wasn't, him to carry her back the rest of the way, and she just kept staring. He said he reached out for her, as in to grab her on the shoulder, but he must have "misjudged the distance" because she was off to the side of where he had put his hand, like she had moved while he was looking dead at her.
 
So at this point, we know this shit's real, unless Tan is playing a joke, which we can tell he's not because he's almost pissing his pants.
 
So they load up their rifles, we eat some more, and we just kind of sit around until about 11. To this fucking day, every time I think about this, I really pray to God that it's some huge prank that my cousins played on me and just never revealed so I would shit for the rest of my life.
 
At 'round 11, the stink of copper turns into an actual nasty gross blood-like smell, like cooking blood and singed hair. Tan and his cousin, Reese, get the fuck up instantly and grab the rifles.
 
There's like a half-knocking, half-clawing at the door, and I shit you not, there's this voice, and it sounds like when you see those YouTube cats and dogs whose owners teach them how to "talk." It says in this halting, weirdly toned voice, "Let me the fuck in, stop fucking playing."
 
It made my fucking nuts creep up against my body, and one of the girls just starts crying and calling on Jesus.
 
It was so fucking obviously not a person talking. It didn't have the right cadence, and that's some shit that I never realized until that moment, but all people have a certain cadence when they talk, no matter what language. All people have a certain kind of rhythm to talking.
 
This shit didn't have any kind of cadence or rhythm. One of those YouTube cats, that's what the fuck it sounded like outside the door. So now I'm in full on terror mode. We keep yelling outside, "Who is it? Stop fucking around, man!" and it just keeps saying, "in" or "Let me the fuck in" for almost 15 minutes.
It sounded like this almost, just not funny. Sorry for being on a tangent, but if you can't imagine how this shit sounded, then you can't imagine how fucked up the whole situation was.
 
So then the smell goes away for a while. And for the next hour or so, you can hear someone basically creeping around in the woods and shit. Every couple minutes it'll come back into the door, and say something.
 
Finally when the smell fades away, it's around 2 in the morning right now. Reese says, "Man, fuck this!" and opens the door and walks outside with his rifle.
 
He fires a shot into the air, and says something to the effect of, "In the name of Jesus Christ, go away!" He fires two more times, and then from the woods right up against the river across from the trailer, it sounds like something is slowly jibbering and hooting.
 
Then it starts screaming and it sounds almost like a woman and a cat in a bag screaming together. Like I seriously have never heard any shit like that, and you can hear the brush over that way start to shake, Reese fires over into the treeline and then starts backing into the house.
 
We lock the door, and we can hear this shit keening and screaming. Reese says something had come out of the bushes, super low to the ground and crawling toward the cabin. He had shot at it.
 
Pretty much, that was how the rest of the night went; it was literally screaming constantly for the next two hours, and we could hear shit moving out into the treeline. But it never came back up to the cabin until everyone had finally fallen asleep.
 
Tan had been sitting in the chair watching the door with his rifle; nobody else heard or saw this, and he told me two days later, after the whole thing was over.
 
He said he had been nodding off after the screaming and noises finally stopped, and he had been almost asleep when he saw someone come out of the bathroom and then lay down in the middle of the floor and go to sleep. He just assumed it was one of us and he had nodded off.
 
Then he said he kind of realized something was wrong, and while pretending to be sleeping, he counted us. There were 9 people in the cabin. He basically didn't want to try to shoot at the fucking thing in the cabin and have it kill us all then and there, or have Reese wake up and start shooting and then we kill ourselves. So he just stayed awake all night, pretending to be asleep.
 
He said sometimes, it would stand up and kind of do this weird jittery thing, or heave like it was laughing. But then it would lay back down.
 
The story closes pretty weak, because from my perspective nothing happened. We woke up. And I noticed that Tan was a little jittery, and that he was avoiding looking at all of us. But we ate some breakfast, packed up and started walking to his house. He stayed last in the cabin and said he'd lock up and bring me my uncle's keys; to just start walking and he'd catch up. Which I didn't really want to fucking do.
 
We got a little bit up the path, and when he came running up, basically we just jogged back to his house. His cousin took us home.
 
There was a window in the bathroom. Tan had gone back to lock up and looked in there. We were too stupid to lock a screenless window. The window was fucking up when he went in there.
 
I'm guessing it had been doing that all along, waiting for us to fall asleep or slip up and then getting in among us. It walked with us all the Goddamn way back to his house, and then he said it lagged to the back of the group and looked him dead in the eyes before walking into the woods.

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