Read Me: 1-3

READ ME

I used to narrate stories for the pleasure of those that frequented my podcast. I told all sorts of stories scary, funny, magical, thrillers, and even true stories. I would get submissions from my listeners, and they would get to vote on what the next week’s tale would be.

My little program aired on Sunday evenings. It was called “A Place in Time” with Robert Zephyr, and my listeners would be taken to another dimension, not unlike the Twilight Zone.  

I had gotten into narrating after twenty years on the stage. I was nearing sixty-five years old, and the stage had become too political, and I didn’t fit in with the “in crowd” any longer. There were so many up and coming actors that I finally took my opportunity to retire from the stage and focus on enjoying my life. After raising my young daughter as a single father, she was now off having a family of her own, so my listeners became my adopted family. 

Over the years, I had met many fine people. One such person was a young actress Julia Wilmington. She was a deep southerner, and her accent made me think of Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind or Streetcar Named Desire. She rang me up one afternoon to let me know she had sent me a package from her recent travels to Morocco. 

“Robert, tell me,” she began in that deep southern drawl. “How have you been keeping yourself?”

“Oh, you know, keeping up with the Joneses.”  

“Well, you should love the gift I sent. I just got a text that the package arrived in the last half hour. Check your mailbox.” Julia said to me in a tone that I knew I had better, or I’d be getting an ear full. 

I walked out to the narrow driveway and at the very end of my long drive was my old black mailbox. I reached inside and pulled out a rather hefty package.

“What on earth did you send me? Is it a brick?” I joked.

“No, you silly old man, open it. I’m just so excited for you to see it.”

I ripped the flimsy packaging, and when I did, it was a large mahogany book. It looked ancient and looked as if it was dipped in some sort of red sticky candy.  

“Oh, a book.” I tried to sound enthusiastic.

“Open it!”

I opened it, and the words “READ ME” scrolled inside as though someone had written it with an old ink pen—the sort you had to dip in ink with the feather.

“Well?” she asked. “Did you see it? Clever, isn’t it?”

“There is nothing written in it,” I said, flipping through the pages.  

“It is a fun joke, Robert. I couldn’t help but buy it. Some old hag nearly tackled me to death when I bought it, and you know how foreigners are. Always superstitious of us Americans. Joke’s on them I got to it first. Don’t you like it?” she asked, finally inviting me to get a word in.

“It is very clever, Julia. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will add it to my collection of items you have sent me over the years.”

“Okay, I’ll call you next week, and we can have dinner. I should be home by then unless I lose my passport.” Julia laughed in that deep husky way and then hung up the phone.

I looked down at the thick book, what a waste of paper to have this old thing but never have had anything written in it.  

My hands were now sticky from whatever had eased its way out of the creases of the book. I sat the book down on my desk and went to wash my hands. 

I wiped my hands with the kitchen towel, and then my eyes went towards my desk and the book. It was now wide open, and I didn’t recall leaving it open.

I walked over to the book slowly. The pages were blank, and as I closed the book again, I accidentally cut myself on the corner of one of the pages.  

It stung something horrible. I had had papercuts in the past, but nothing quite as painful as this. Instinctively I put my index finger up to my mouth and sucked on it. The blood was gushing from it, and it was such a small cut. Some blood dripped on the book, and the book flipped open all by itself. I stood back in awe, not entirely understanding what I was witnessing. Perhaps I was in shock from looking at the blood. I leaned in towards the book’s open page, and without realizing it, my bloody finger dripped on the blank page. I was about to get a band-aid when I looked down and there suddenly on the book appeared on the blank pages. They spread out and formed sentences to what looked like instructions. I held my finger absentmindedly as more blood dripped down onto the counter. Soon the book was sucking in every ounce of blood from where it was leaking blood, and soon pages of the book turned in a quick motion until the book closed. When it did, it took a deep breath. Yes, I said it—a deep breath.  

To my shock, my finger was no longer in pain and bleeding, but then I was not sure if I were seeing things or not. Maybe it hadn’t taken a deep breath. Suddenly, a rather disgusting beetle crawled out from under it. It made its way toward me, and then another followed. Then maggots and then the book opened up to the first page that said, “READ ME.” There was a permeating smell of death that came out of it that is indescribable. 

I took a deep breath, nearly ready to pass out from shock when I read what it said.  

INSIDE, YOU WILL FIND THE SOULS OF MANY WHO LOST THEIR WAY. READ MORE ELSE YOU TOO SHALL LOSE YOUR WAY. IT ISN’T HARD, SIMPLY PICK ME UP AND TELL OUR STORIES. WHEN EACH STORY IS READ ALLOWED, WE WILL GO BACK TO WHERE WE CAME.  

WARNING: IF YOU FINISH EACH STORY AS INSTRUCTED, AFTER EACH STORY, YOU WILL RECEIVE A GIFT. FAILURE TO FINISH THE BOOK ALL GIFTS WILL BE TAKEN BACK AND YOUR SOUL WILL REMAIN INSIDE THE BOOK.

FOR WHO SHALL EVER BRING US TO LIFE TO TELL OUR STORIES SO WE CAN BE FREE WITH HIS OR HER LIFE FORCE; WILL REMAIN OURS FOREVER.  

I wanted to throw up. I had never experienced anything like this in my life. I was nearly sixty-five years of age and had never had a hallucination quite like this.  

I sat down on my desk chair and took a very long and deep breath. I rubbed my forehead and scratched my chin. I was nearly afraid to read the pages, but I was more afraid not to.

I decided that I would read the story, but I would do one better. I would record the information as written and air it for this week’s upcoming podcast as a special show.  

I leaned in and read the title of the first chapter.

The Ski Trip

I wasn’t expecting this to be the first title; I expected something dark and magical for a book that could drink blood and breathe.  

So I read on.

The Ski Trip

My name is Michael, and my story begins with a relatively normal beginning. My wife Sylvia and I decided to take a rather romantic trip to the mountains for Valentine’s Day. We stayed at a beautiful lodge overlooking a frozen lake. It was picturesque, to say the least. It was a perfect Hallmark Christmas Card or one of those paintings by Norman Rockwell. A pretty little New England town at the edge of one of the coldest winters we had ever seen.  

The blizzard came fast and instead, unexpectedly. Yes, it was winter- February, to be exact. I guess I wasn’t much of a planner. I had planned the trip all by myself without Sylvia’s help for once as a surprise. I wasn’t much of a skier, but my Sylvia loved every minute of it. 

The first day we were at the Cascade Mountain Lodge, I planned a romantic dinner with her, and we made plans to wake up early and hit the mountains.  

It was the perfect way to start, romance by the fireplace, hot chocolate, and steamy hot tub.  

That next morning we had to take a shuttle to the far end of the mountain where the best skiing was. I held my beautiful wife’s hand when the shuttle hit a large bump and then stopped moving altogether.  

“Is everything alright?” I asked the driver.

“Oh, I have to get out and take a look. I think a tire went flat. That was a pretty big chunk of ice we hit.”

I sighed and rubbed Sylvia’s back. She seemed nervous about the fact we were now one of six strangers stranded on this mountain in a shuttle that could no longer move us to where we needed to go.

The driver inspected the damage and then opened the door.  

“Looks like we will have to hike it the rest of the way, and then one of our other shuttles can pick you up just before sundown. It is only half a mile up that hill. Luckily for us, we were almost there when Birtha took a dump.” 

Colorful language. I thought to myself. Regretfully, we all gathered our things, and the driver acted as our tour guide up the mountain.

One thing I had not counted on was the fact that the wind was so strong it nearly knocked me over. It was brutal, and my poor Sylvia was crouched over so that the wind did not hit her in the face directly.  

We walked some ways up the hill, and then the blizzard from hell caused a whiteout like none I had ever experienced.

The wind was deafening, and while it was not loud, the chill scraped across what little parts of my face remained exposed. 

I grabbed hold of Sylvia and made sure I had her in my grasp so that we would not lose one another.

We walked and walked for what seemed a very long while before I yelled to the driver.

“Shouldn’t we have reached the top of the mountain by now?”

“I’m sorry the whiteout got us a bit turned around. I’m familiar with the area, so no worries.” the driver tried to calm us.  

After another long while, we got towards a clearing, and the wind died down. We walked towards a large patch of evergreens, and when we got in between them, the driver took out a walkie talkie.  

“This is Dan, you copy?”

I waited for a response, but nothing but static remained.  

“Do you think maybe we should turn back? If it is this bad, I don’t think I want to ski anymore.” Sylvia said.

Just then, a few more of the riders from the shuttle caught up with us. 

“I think we are facing North. My compass says so anyhow.”

The driver looked at him, and the growing concern on his face was telling. 

“I think we better stay put. Compasses have a way of not working where we are. There is a magnetic field up here that causes glitches with equipment now and then. If we stay put, we can make our way up the mountain once this storm blows over, and it always does.” he smiled reassuringly. 

The gentleman stood in front of us and seemed every bit as concerned as the rest of us. We were lucky to find some shelter amongst the trees, but a part of me wished that perhaps we had planned a different getaway trip. 

Next year we will be going on a trip to the Bahamas, I said to myself.

We stood amongst the trees when we noticed the sun was now peaking through the whiteout, and the wind had died down. I went to step down, and when I did, I fell into a hole the size of myself.

In shock, the rest of the group was able to get me up, but when they did, the ice and snow beneath me caved in, and a much deeper cavern appeared. It was like a snowy sinkhole. I clutched on to the shuttle driver as he and two other men pulled me up to safety.  

When I was standing up again, I hugged Sylvia.  

The wind died down, and we were all finally able to get a good look around us. We were nowhere near the mountain we needed to be atop of. Instead, it looked as though we were in the middle of a deep forest of trees that seemed to float above icy cliffs.

Every move would have to be calculated. From our vantage point, we each tried to see if we could see the ski resort.

There was nothing in sight for what looked like miles. It was as if we had stepped into another dimension. 

The gentleman with the compass, whose name I learned was Jon, took out his compass, and instead of facing any direction, it merely spun out of control.

Jon and I realized that we had been in this forest for what seemed hours, and the sun was beginning to dwindle among more storm clouds.  

We had no choice but to keep on moving. The shuttle driver kept on trying to reach one of the rangers for assistance. Yet, to no avail, we were alone.

Two women in their twenties offered us snacks while we waited. I was grateful for what little nourishment they provided, even if it was in Cheetos’ guise.  

I was mostly worried about Sylvia now, who had grown quiet. I knew she was scared to death, but we had to keep ongoing.

We all voted on trekking up the most prominent mountain as there had to be a better vantage point to where we were. We all seemed to be in a strange sort of daze too. I can’t explain it.

We all followed along a single file line, up the hills and through the dense forest of evergreens.  

We were walking again for what seemed forever when suddenly I felt boiling.

I didn’t understand why considering the temperatures were way beneath twenty-eight degrees. I began taking off bits of clothing and wiping sweat from my brow.  

Sylvia began to complain of a headache, and the two women that were with us began wailing as they clutched their ears. 

“Don’t you hear that booming?” one of them yelled at me.

I heard a faint sound in the distance that sounded like drums. My mouth was now going dry as well.

Still, that drumming went on.

I felt like my mouth was going to fall off of my face. The numbness didn’t make sense because I no longer felt the sting of frostbite.

Jon then looked at me with a terrifying look on his face. The drumming seemed to get louder and louder, and as I looked down at his hands, they were now bent backward. They were broken as if something had twisted them one by one.  

Soon we were all in pain from some illness or another.

That drumming, it was growing louder still. 

Sylvia crying is the last thing I recall. The worst was seeing her.  

The ice froze her body stiff as though pressing pause on her.  

My mouth failed to work when I tried to scream.

The drumming was louder now, and as the sound reverberated through my bones and body, it seemed to chip away at parts of my body. I collapsed to the ground, unable to move as I felt every bone in my body breaking.

Still, that sound. I was the only one now watching as the light went out in my eyes.

I don’t know if I was hallucinating, but I felt my tongue as it fell to the ground. It lay in the icy snow. I felt no pain, nothing.  

I was in the ice and snow for days, an eternity. My ghost watched on as my body turned blue like a lobster. My eyes were frozen open and were crystalized over. White like the snowy winter that had taken our lives.

That sound in the forest had killed us all. What was that sound? What power did it hail?

There was something primal about it. The darkness inside it was worse than an atomic bomb. Yet, it is now your gift, reader. Now they will know what became of us and no longer wonder. 

***

I read the end of this man’s life. I hit STOP on my recorder and sighed. As I did so, I watched the words to the page lift off and fly out of the book. It was a significant relief leaving my body. It felt good seeing the story of their last days being told so that someone out there knew what happened to them. Instinctively, I knew that they had been waiting for someone to tell their story. The words written in blood went back into my cut on my index finger, and as they did, I felt a surge of energy run through my body.

I took a deep breath.

“Holy shit!” I said out loud.

As I spoke, my words vibrated my entire house. One of the wine glasses I kept in the kitchen cracked. My voice sounded as though it were a drum, like thunder in the sky. 

I thought of the story I had read. That sound had caused such damage. Was this going to be my new gift? They said after retelling each story, I would inherit a gift.

I looked down at the book and the blank pages and found myself turning the page to the next story.

I stopped at the title.  

Ripping Flesh

I could not go further for now. I would wait until I had more energy. Suddenly I was growing quite tired and in need of rest.

Rest assured, I will return soon. I just need a rest before I continue.

part 2

I sat in my car in a coffee shop drive-thru staring out the window while watching the rain pouring down my windshield.  

I had this grotesque feeling that I had been given a most sinister gift. Whenever I breathed now, I could see the rattling of glass or the tremors of random items on my dining room table.

A thundering god-like gift for the ages. I proclaimed I would never touch that damn book again. It had been a week since I last felt its pages, and yet it still taunted me. 

Yet, the fear only bred a curiosity in me. I got to the drive-thru window, paid, then took my coffee, and drove home.

I opened the door to my messy house. I had not felt like cleaning, cooking, or doing much else for myself since discovering that book. It fascinated me that there it was magic born by telling stories.  

It was not just any stories, but true stories where all the characters had souls that could only possess us by retelling their stories. Then they could live once more and evermore.  

The rain began to pour down and nearly flood my street. I had planned to do yard work, but since I was now alone in my old cottage held captive by a downpour, I drank my coffee and stared at the book. I had placed it on my bookshelf, but it called out to me. I turned my eyes away from it and sipped on my coffee.  

Then I heard singing. At first, it was barely audible, and then it got louder and louder. I stood up thinking, who in the world could be singing outside in this storm? 

I looked out of my window, but I did not see anyone. Then I felt it, something tapping me on the shoulder. I quickly turned to find no one there. Maybe I was going insane after my first bout with that book.

“La la la,” the singing continued in a soprano voice.  

Then I heard what sounded like waves crashing in my ears. The sound got louder and louder until I thought my eardrums were going to split in two. 

“DAMN YOU!” I screamed, and all at once, the sound stopped as abruptly as it had begun. I looked to see that I had cracked the coffee table and my wooden bookshelf in half with my scream. It was the same bookshelf that housed that atrocity of a book.

My new gift of thunder vibration, could that have been what caused the singing and the ocean’s crashing to end? Did I now have some sort of control over whatever this was?

I looked closer at the bookshelf. There was water leaking from the shelf where that book was. If this wasn’t a call to action, I don’t know what was.

I reluctantly walked over to the bookshelf, which now leaned to one side, and picked up the “Read Me” book.  

I sat with it on my lap and then tried to open it. The pages were hard to get open, but when I did, salty seawater fell out of it and a small fish that was now flopping on the ground beneath me. 

I picked it up and examined it. Was this real? I went to my kitchen and found an old fishbowl my daughter had when she was a little girl. I quickly filled the bowl with water and then dropped the fish inside. I looked around for some sea salt and tossed that into it as well; my guess was it was a fish from the ocean. It was yellow and black with several stripes. It seemed contented to be back inside water.  

I heard what sounded like men yelling at one another. I could make out the sound of bell buoys in the distance. I walked over to the couch and sat down, picking up the book.

I looked down at it and then noticed it was still wet but was now drying at my touch. The last time I read the story allowed, I narrated it for my podcast, but today I felt it needed a more personal approach.  

I looked down and gulped. The story was titled:

 Ripping of Flesh

I was born in Maine, where all the other lobsters live.

I’m joking; of course, I’m not a lobster. Although you live here, you probably eat enough lobster to become one. 

I had never been much of a water person, although my parents raised me right by a dock that led straight into the sea.  

I was never much of a swimmer either, although I knew enough not to drown.

Cecily, my father would say, you will drown one of these days if you don’t learn how.

I ignored him, of course. By the time I was seventeen, I was still not much of a swimmer, but I knew I would be off to college soon enough—all the way to Phoenix for college for music. I loved to play the piano and sing to the tune of Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan, and randomly Loretta Lynn. The idea of living so far from the nearest water source sounded like heaven. Especially if I never had to endure the horrible sound of a buoy bell ever again in my life!

So, my story began on a Friday night. It was getting closer to the end of summer. You could already see leaves changing and the temperature dropping. Yet, my friends, my crew, you could say, decided on a late-night boat trip. I wasn’t very fond of being out on a small boat in the daytime, let alone at night where you couldn’t see beneath you. Blackwater under a black starless sky was what waited on us that night. I had this sick feeling in my gut that I couldn’t place.  

My friends Janine and Samantha were with us as well as our two other friends Jason and Chase. Chase was the boat captain for the night steering us into the bay to what seemed further and further from the dry land lights. Chase slowed the engine, and we were now floating. I realized why when he pulled out a joint from his pocket. 

“Anyone want to hit this?” 

“Sure,” Samantha said, taking a hit and then passing it to me. I shook my head; the last time I smoked a joint, it made me sick. So I chose to pass. 

“More for us,” Chase laughed.

I rolled my eyes and continued watching the water. I tried not to look at it, but I was growing increasingly nervous. I listened to my friends chatting about prom and how homecoming would be a blast now that we were seniors. 

I barely heard them, though, I suddenly noticed a massive wave coming towards the boat about seventy feet away. It dipped down and rippled in our direction, and then another wave rose closer to us. My first thought was sharks. It seemed irrational, but I had been increasingly fearful of them since I saw my father get bit by one fishing. 

It was a small shark, but knowing that things with teeth could spill your blood was traumatizing. 

I watched for a while longer, and then I no longer saw the wave. It must have been something way further out than we were causing it. 

I tried to concentrate on the conversation we were all having when I felt the boat jerk. 

“What was that?” Jason asked, looking at me and then to Chase.

“Oh, it’s nothing. Probably a storm was coming soon. We can go back after I finish this.”

I wanted to go back now. I was too scared of looking like a dork in front of my friends, though. I held onto my seat and breathed a breath of relief when Chad began to start the engine back up.

We were headed back to land.  

Then it happened. Something was following our boat.

Something with amber eyes.

I tried to ignore it, thinking it was glimmer from the lights in the distance. There was no distinguishing between the two amber glimmers coming from under the water.

Soon they were only a few feet from me where I was sitting. I stared into those eyes, almost frozen by their enchanting gaze. I heard what sounded like music, and I fell into a trance until Janine tapped my shoulder, asking me if I were okay. I snapped out of it, and when I looked down at the water, I was overcome with intense fear. I backed away from the edge as those eyes got closer, but as I stood up, I lost my balance and fell into the water.

The cold, dark water embraced me, shocking my body into adrenaline. I went under, but soon I found my way to the surface. I choked, flopping my hands and feet, trying to stay above water to see my friends. 

I heard them in the distance screaming for me. 

“There she is!” Samantha screamed.

I could hear the boat, and I was getting closer to my friends as they were making their way towards me, and then it happened.

Several large, I don’t know how to describe them, emerged from the water, and attacked my friends. 

In a feeding frenzy like a pack of giant piranhas, they split open Chase’s neck and devoured Jason’s legs first, then Janine screamed, holding her hand out to me as two of them split her in half mid-air. 

I had no idea what these grotesque things were. They had the bottom half similar to a typical mermaid. The top half was humanoid, but they had no hair or distinguishable top halves like breasts, but I got the impression these were the females of their species. Their faces were not hideous. If anything, they were quite beautiful, chiseled cheekbones like supermodels and complexions were perfect and fair and appeared to glow in the night, blinking on and off like that of an electric eel. Their mouths were the color of pink roses shaped in a perfect heart shape until they opened them. When they opened each of their mouths, it nearly split their faces in half to reveal large pointed sets of teeth. Their eyes rolled back into their heads, going black as they bit into my friends’ flesh. There were at least three rows of teeth on the top and the bottom. I watched on in shock as blood stained the water all around me, creating a murky black film.

Then, as I was reeling from seeing my best friends in the world murdered at these creatures’ hands, one of them noticed me. It swam closer to me and then bit into my neck.  

As the creature bit into me, it stopped abruptly, screaming in pain. The boat engine was still running and had cut into her. When it did, the engine stopped, and they all scurried into the deep below me.

I don’t recall how I got back to land.  

I don’t remember any of it. When I woke up, my parents were in my hospital room on either side of my bed watching over me. 

I sat up feeling insatiably hungry. My head was sore, and my body ached.  

My father had a nurse bring me some dinner, and I gulped it down so fast they got me seconds. 

When I had eaten all of my food, I closed my eyes.

My parents let me rest as I fell into a deep sleep.

I kept dreaming of my friends, trying to save them at any cost. It was only a dream, however. I woke in the middle of the night feeling very itchy all over my body, but one of those things bit me, especially in the spot.

I rang for the nurse, and she came in to examine me. I explained what the issue was, and so the doctor was called. They thought I had some sort of infection as I now had a terrible fever.

They took my blood, and within a few hours, it was determined they had no idea what was wrong with me.  

The itching subsided within a few days, and I was sent home. My doctor thought that perhaps I had some sort of allergic reaction to something I had eaten that night. There was no firm explanation for it. My neck healed quickly, and there was only a scar now where the creature had bitten me. It was strange to my doctor that I had healed so fast after such a traumatic injury to one’s flesh. It had been very deep, and if it had been just one centimeter deeper, it would have hit my artery. 

A few days passed, and I had friends and family filtering in my house, some grieving over our friends, some family checking in on me to ensure I was okay. One of my visitors was Chase’s older brother Jake. He had been a sea captain for a large ocean rig. He had seen everything out there, but he wanted to talk to me about what killed his brother as I was the last survivor.  

I told my tale of devastation. Jake nodded, taking my hand.  

“I believe your story, Cecily, and I promise I’ll find these monsters, and I will kill them all.”

Jake had been the only one that believed my story. My parents shrugged it off, thinking I had been so traumatized I hallucinated the entire thing. I stopped talking about it.  

I missed school for the next two weeks, and I lost interest in nearly everything. 

Then something happened. I was standing in the shower, washing when I grabbed the shampoo. I lathered up my hair when all of a sudden, my hair began to fall out in clumps. 

I got out of the shower after rinsing off and combed my hair as best I could.

It would not stop falling out. 

My mother took me back to the doctor because not only was my hair falling out, but I was growing thinner each day even though I was eating everything in sight. 

“I’m afraid that fish that bit her may have given her a parasite!” 

“It wasn’t a fish, mom it was a monster!”

She had ignored me and kept on bitching to the doctor. I rolled my eyes, pulling my ball cap down over my face.

My hair wasn’t the only issue; my skin began to deteriorate as well.

This is probably the grossest thing that happened to me.

My skin began to get scaly and fall off in large patches. I could peel off my skin until it bled. I had scabs and bleeding patches of skin all over my body.  

The doctors didn’t know if I had contracted the flesh-eating disease or what. I spent hours crying in my bed, wishing I would die. 

Nothing helped my skin. Soon my flesh was falling from my body, and although it fell from my body like a snake layer after layer, it didn’t hurt. It was as if it had rotted to my bones. My lungs had nearly burst from my chest as I was now having trouble breathing. It was almost as if breathing had become a challenge. I was hooked up to oxygen tanks and breathing machines, and nothing helped me breathe.

Then my eyes changed. I was having trouble seeing well. I had never worn glasses a day in my life, but suddenly I was nearsighted. My eyes stung, and I noticed them changing color as if they were dimming. Instead of a pristine blue that they had always been, they were now green and yellow. The whites of my eyes always seemed bloodshot, yet all I did was sleep. It was to the point I could no longer return to school. I had to stay home completing classes online. After all, our daydreams of homecoming dances and prom. My life was now one of death and decay. 

Then I decided I would go out at night and throw myself to the mercy of those amber-eyed bitches. Maybe they would eat me like they ate my friends. I only knew I could not live this way any longer.

I walked towards the dock slowly as I could barely move without my body falling apart. Each step, clumps of myself, fell from my body in a disgusting array of vengeance. My salty tears were my only comfort. 

I crawled towards the edge of the dock, and when I finally got to the edge, I threw my body into the sea.  

I let myself fall as deeply as I could go.

Then I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. For the first time in weeks, my lungs did not feel like they were on fire. I was able to feel no pain; my flesh began to feel like it was healing.  

Then something strange happened. I began to feel like I was floating above my body. My soul was leaving my body. I could now watch on as I swam in the water.  

Then I saw them. It was like the creatures had a sense I was there that I had wanted them. It was as if they could read my mind, and they joined me. Surrounding me, they carried my body out into the sea.  

The amber-eyed monsters were now all around me. When I woke, my feet were swollen as I had never seen before. My flesh melted together, and my bones felt like they were breaking.  

I recall screaming from the pain as my inability to understand what was happening to me, overtook my mind and body.   

I woke to realize I had slowly become one of these amber-eyed monsters. My hands were now webbed, my legs were now wedging together, although they had not wholly merged. I was still half mermaid half-human freak. My hair was always on my head in patches. I felt like an infant in the womb, only half-formed but not utterly human as though still in its lizard-like fetus stage. 

There was no reason for my transformation. What sort of infection could cause it? I had loved fictional stories like the wolfman. There was no story of a girl becoming a mermaid after being bitten or a piranha lady. 

Would I even live through it?

That is when I fell into a deep sleep. It could have been days, weeks, or even months. I woke to a new body. The first thing I noticed was that my flesh had healed entirely. The second was that I could breathe underwater. I noticed was that all the hair on my body was now gone and all of my distinguishing features.

I settled in with my new pack of piranha maids. I noticed that each one of them had a hidden talent to lure food to them.  

Want to know what mine was? I could sing.

On the first hunt for food, we traveled together in sync. Our minds melted with one another. We were territorial with hive minds. Similar to a school of fish or a swarm of bees.  

I noticed some of them used talents like speed to surrounding their prey or strength. Some used charm and hypnotism to get their game, I sang beautifully to lure fishermen on boats to give up their catches to us quickly. Strangely enough, we were not frequent eaters of human flesh, although you grow a taste for it after time, and only when there is nothing else.

By now, I had long forgotten my friends. I was someone else.

I was also about to meet my fate.

What must have been months or years with this pack? I now traveled with, we found ourselves in one of the worst winters. There was barely any fish to eat in the waters. There had been a chemical spill in the water just off the coast. So all of our natural food sources were now extinct.

One night in a fit of desperation and hunger, we decided to pray upon a ship carrying cargo. We knew there were men on board who would make a tasty morsel.  

The first of the sirens noticed a captain all alone on the deck, so she began to concentrate, speaking to him with her mind. She lured him towards us.  

As the poor bastard fell into the trap she set, I noticed something from behind him. It was a man, a very tall man, and I recognized him immediately.

It was Chase’s brother, Jake. He shot off large spears that you’d use in spearfishing. They were large speers, and as I looked at his face, he was taking pleasure out of this. He was doing this deliberately to cause pain.  

Before I knew it, one of them hit my rib cage, and as it did, he pulled with all of his might and dragged my flesh onto the boat. When he caught me, he grinned as he speared me to death.

“That is for my brother!”

He had no idea he had killed me. After all, I was unrecognizable now. 

I bled out until there was nothing left of me or my young life. 

I took a deep breath after reading Cecily’s story.

Tears welled up in my eyes, and as they did, I felt the strangest urge to sing and play my old upright piano. 

This time I knew what my gift was.  

I looked down as my tears dropped onto the page. When they did, I could hear her whispering. “Thank you.”

More pages disappeared from the book, and more blood emerged from the book and back into my previously injured finger.

I looked down as the book began to show me another story.  

THE MURDER SHOW

To which I decided I would wait on that.  

Instead, I’d take some time to relax as the rain poured down all around me, and tickle the ivories.

part 3

It was a few days of me relaxing just taking in the mellow mood that our Cecily- turned sea creature left me with her musical talents. Cecily also gifted me with a relaxing feeling.

It helped my anxiety in a way I can’t explain. I fed Doby, the fish I confiscated from the magical book, and bought him a new tank for my kitchen. I think he was another gift from Cecily. I was just happy I was able to put her soul to rest.

I spent all that Saturday setting up the sea salt tank fit with plants. Typically, it took time to set up a tank, but I didn’t exactly have time to do that with Doby. I even got him a few companions to keep him company.  

Then a few days later, as I was feeding Doby admiring the new purple and turquoise blue decor, I felt a sudden need to cut my wrist. I felt like I was in a trance.

I walked over to the kitchen, opening the drawer pulling out a sharp knife, I began slicing my arm. I didn’t bleed much, but I had this overwhelming, depressing feeling coming over me. Then I heard my television pop on all by itself.

There was a news story about a young girl about sixteen years old that had gone missing. The report was dated three years ago. I knew then it was the book. Dropping the knife, I ran to get a paper towel and some alcohol to clean the wound I created. 

I heard guns firing lasers, and I saw a blue light illuminating from the book. I took a big gulp; what was I getting myself into?

I opened the book to THE MURDER SHOW, which was the next story I was to read, and took a deep breath. I looked down and could see a tiny television featuring two teenagers playing a video game in a room. It was like I was watching a movie. One of them had short bleach blonde hair, the other had long black hair, and I recognized her as the missing teenage girl from the news that had just been featured on my television.  

Instead of reading this story, I was watching it. I was hearing her voice inside of my mind, or maybe it was out loud. I couldn’t tell anymore.

I looked at the pages before me. They were turning on their own like an old fashioned picture book. I watched a girl as her eyes turned and faced me.

She had black hair, dark eyes, and pale skin. She had a black t-shirt on with a ton of bracelets. Her thin face was pretty, but she didn’t smile.

Instead, I could do nothing except listen to the story titled:

THE MURDER SHOW

My name is Andrea Becker, and as long as I could remember, I wanted to die.

I know it sounds strange, but I looked at death as that permanent nostalgic return to your soul.

I swear I’m not a freak. I know I look the part, don’t get me wrong. I am cliche for someone my age.  

Let me begin by telling you how it all began.  

When I was ten years old, my grandparents were visiting from out of town. My grandmother was taking a shower, and when she got out, she screamed for my mother as she was having chest pains. She fell over onto the bathroom floor. The EMT’s were there in record time; maybe it was slow- I just know it was all a blur. I watched them trying to bring my grandmother back. My grandpa wasn’t home; he had gone shopping with my dad and older brother. So, I had a front-row to the tragic end of a woman I had loved so much.

Then I knew the exact moment she died. I saw her ghost or her soul, whatever you believe. It floated out of her body, and it LOOKED at me! My grandmother’s spirit looked at me and smiled. I knew then everything would be fine, but it wasn’t about me. It was about how at peace she was. I longed for that peace.  

I lost my grandpa a few years later, but my grandmother’s death stuck with me. I started reading everything in the end. I knew it wasn’t simple science like some claim. You do leave your body when you die. Where you go is anyone’s guess, I just know what I saw that day my grandma died.

I had never considered killing myself. That was too weird. Then one day, my best friend, Carla, told me she liked to cut herself. She showed me her scars on her wrists. I was taken back by her self-harm. 

“What if you go too deep?” I asked her.

“I have a couple of times, but I have gotten good at stitching myself up,” she smirked.

“Doesn’t it hurt?” I asked her.

“Yeah, but sometimes it is the only way I can feel things. I just feel like the world gets to be too much sometimes, and I want to escape it. I just don’t want to die.”

That is when I looked at her. “I have always wanted to die,” I said tears in my eyes.

“What you mean, like kill yourself?”

“No, just be at peace.”

“I feel at peace after I feel that rush. Like I get a rush from the pain for a second, and it makes me less – I dunno how to explain it.”

“I get it,” I said, and my friend had become my best friend. 

I never told her, but I started self-harming after that. I had to know if it would give me the peace that I longed for when my grandmother showed me that look in her eyes. Like AT LAST, she could rest!

Sadly, over the next few years, Carla and I stopped being so close. She started hanging with a posh stuck up crowd. I still craved death. There was little in common with the mean girls’ squad.  

At seventeen, I had become close friends with a guy named Paul, whom I had a lot in common. We both enjoyed Mr. Fraziers English class, played tons of video games, and enjoyed hacking.

Not like professional hacking, just silly stuff like the local website to our local pizza shop. We hacked into it to say that all the prices had been reduced to 99cents. Silly kid stuff. We were never caught.

Then one day, Paul came over with two of his laptops.  

“I have to show you something.” He said to me, excitedly.

“You ever been on the dark web?”

I shook my head. “No way!”

“It isn’t all weirdos; I buy stupid shit on there like electronics. Lots of black market stuff. It isn’t all organs and creepers doing things to people.”

“You aren’t messing with those sites, are you?” I asked him, concerned.

“No, I just found one, though. I can’t tell if they are serious. It’s called THE MURDER SHOW.”

“What the hell, Paul?”

“No, I have everything blocked. They can’t find us. I wanted you to see these comments. It freaked me out.”

“You are on the DARK WEB PAUL!” I retorted.

“Listen, just look at this. Can this be real?”

I hesitated and then took his laptop and looked at the site. It was a chat room.  

I read a few of the posts they talked about murder and the best way to do it. Then I read on.

Der786: YOU READY, RANDY? One poster asked.

RANDY01: YEAH JUST DON’T HURT ME TOO MUCH. Another user name responded.

Der786: YOU GET THAT INSURANCE FILLED OUT?

RANDY01: MY WIFE WILL NEVER WANT FOR ANYTHING EVER AGAIN.

What the hell?

Paul grabbed the laptop. “They let themselves be murdered for entertainment.”

“On purpose?”

“Yeah, one guy had cancer and didn’t want to live anymore. It even says on the disclaimer that this is the Doctor Kavorkian of murder sites. It is all pity kills. They won’t do it to healthy, happy, or well-adjusted humans. You must prove you are worthy, and they will do the cleanup, so no one ever finds out.”

“It is real. Turn it off, Paul.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to freak you out. I just thought you would think it was at least interesting.”

“It is scary and unfortunate if I’m honest.”

Paul’s cell phone rang.  

“Sorry, mom, yes, I forgot. I’m with Andrea. I’m coming.”

I looked at Paul, and he ran out and left.

He was gone, and so I continued playing a new video game that I had bought with my allowance.  

I wasn’t paying any attention when I heard someone say, “I see you.”

Huh? I said to myself. 

“You there! Girl with the black hair!”

What the hell? Then I realized that Paul had left his stupid laptop on the floor of my bedroom, and it was still on that silly murder site!

I peeked over my bed and looked down at the laptop, and just as I was about to close it, a man spoke again.

“Don’t close it yet; you had to come here for a reason. Why don’t you tell me what brought you here.”

“I- I didn’t. My friend found it by accident, and we weren’t interested in the site.”

“That is okay, so you were curious. Can I answer any of your questions?”

This was getting too weird for me.  

“I am good. I think I get it.”

“Look, I get it. It’s real live dark web shit. I’d want to close the laptop and burn it too. Only I have seen you. How do you know I haven’t already tracked your address? How do you know I am not using facial recognition to figure out exactly who you are, Andrea Becker.”

He said my name. How did he know my name?

I was going to kill Paul.

I picked up the laptop and looked at the man who didn’t look like your typical weirdo. He was sitting at a desk wearing a polo shirt. He had a friendly smile and kind eyes. Suddenly I felt comforted instead of creeped out, and I didn’t know what it was.  

“My name is Milton. I founded this site to let people let out a little bit of carnal steam. Tell me about yourself.”

“This is weird. I don’t know you.”

“Okay, I’ll begin. I’m married. I am a father of two kids. Jessica and Jenna. I work in management. This is just a side thing. I can assure you I am every bit as human as you are. So tell me, why do you wish to die, Andrea Becker?”

At that moment, it was like he had spoken to my heart. No one had ever spoken so honestly to me before. It was like having someone see your soul. At that moment, I thought, this is fate. 

“Peace.”

I found myself speaking honestly, and even if I regretted it later, I couldn’t help it. It was nice to see that someone could read my mind. At least it felt like that.

“I think most of us who are empathic to the ways of the world feel the same way you do.”

“Yeah, I guess.” I sat up straight and leaned into the screen on my laptop.

I was beginning to feel much more comfortable than I had thought I ever would. It was strange to trust someone on the dark web like this, but there was something about this man. He had a hold over me.

“Tell you what, we are holding an event tonight at eleven, and I hope you will log on to join us to see what we are all about. I promise it isn’t what you think.”

“I will have to check it out,” I said, partially wondering if I wanted to have anything more to do with this man.  

The screen went black, and I shut Paul’s laptop.

I decided to go downstairs to grab a wine cooler out of the fridge. It was almost ten o’clock, and my parents were asleep, so I knew I wouldn’t get in trouble.

I drank the crappy drink, thinking long and hard about what had transpired and wondering if I wanted to know what went on in this so-called murder show.

It was five till eleven, and my cowardice was in full force, so I turned on the television.  

“A WHITE VAN IS THE SUSPECT IN THE MISSING TEEN’S DISAPPEARANCE IN FRANKLIN COUNTY. WITNESSES SAY THEY SAW YOUNG JAMES MADISON TALKING TO SOMEONE DRESSED AS A CLOWN AS HE WAS ON HIS WAY TO SCHOOL FRIDAY MORNING…”

I turned off the disturbing news program deciding I would see the big deal with this “murder show.” There could not possibly be any reason for this nice man I had talked to be part of some sympathy murder thing. 

The screen was still black, and then I saw a small room come into focus. The chat room was coming alive with flower emojis, and last-minute thank yous and best wishes from viewers who were donating bitcoin to the website’s owner. 

Then I saw a man sitting in a chair and typing away at his computer. Something oddly terrifying about it was because the viewers seemed to see it, but the man didn’t seem to have anything to do with the viewers as though he didn’t even know he was being watched.

I watched as some of the viewers suddenly were also aware of this fact.

RHONDA24: Do you think he even knows this is the last night on earth?

Davtelly45: Nope, that is how it works.

RHONDA24: I know, but I thought he would be more prepared. He has been with us so long here.

Davtelly45: He will die soon, but he will be better off. 

RHONDA24: No more cheating wife, no more debt, and no more anxiety about what tomorrow will bring.

Sassy-maria: I’m so happy for him.

Davtelly45: Me too, girl. 

IVANfist: I hope this one is bloody, though. I like them with a little bit of gore.

RHONDA24: I have to admit I do too. Maybe he will get slashed on the throat.

Davtelly45: I just want our boy to be happy.

IVANfist: Fuck that gore all the way!

I read the chat, and then I watched as the man sitting at his computer seemed to be working on something very intensely. That is when I heard what sounded like a doorbell ring. The man everyone was watching got up, and walked away. I guessed to answer the door.

Then I heard the sound of someone yelling. A man with a black mask on was soon dragging the man who had just been sitting at the computer into his office.

“No, I have changed my mind! Please, I don’t’ want to-”

His throat was slashed in front of the computer. The slash was so deep it nearly decapitated the man who was only moments ago typing away at his laptop.

I gasped, watching the scene unfold before me. Then the chat room exploded.

RHONDA24: Bye, Randy. We will miss you.

UNKNOWN: no, we won’t.

Davtelly45: SO long, Randy. I hope you can now be at peace.

UNKNOWN: Randy will never be at peace now. Hope he rots in hell.

Davtelly45: WHo is this?

RHONDA24: I will miss Randy, but anything will be better than dealing with a cheating wife, too much debt, and not knowing what tomorrow will bring. I long for my day to rest.

UNKNOWN: You should just put yourself out of your misery.

Davtelly45: Seriously, what the hell? Guy, this is pretty insensitive. We are celebrating the life and death of a warrior.  

There was some strange interference, and I shut off the laptop, unplugging it. 

I texted Paul to get his stupid laptop, and he told me he would be over tomorrow to get it. 

I was sick to my stomach.

Had a real-life murder just taken place?

I knew without a shadow of a doubt it had.

I was paralyzed with fear and yet oddly jealous. I secretly wished I would be able to feel that peace that Randy felt. It terrified me, though, to no end. 

***************

I woke up the next morning and prepared for school. I had strange dreams of the people on the computer screen. I had dreams of them talking about me the way they had Randy.

I was sweating when I got out of bed, and I readied myself for school and what the new day would bring. 

Paul came over after school to get his laptop, and I made sure I didn’t mention what happened the night before. I just wanted that website out of my life.  

Paul seemed unphased by the fact I had his laptop. He had a few, so what was one going missing?

Following that incident, I stayed off my computer as much as possible. Then I had to log onto my own laptop to finish a school project about two weeks later.  

When I logged into my email, there were many messages from a person that called themselves FALCON. 

“Andrea Becker, this is FALCON, Milton wanted me to let you know that he knows you logged on to watch Randy transition, and he wanted to see how you were since viewing our little show.” 

I deleted the messages. I didn’t want anything to do with these weird people.  

As I had this thought, I got an instant message from MILTON.

Milton: Andrea, I am sorry you seem alarmed by Randy’s transition. Tell me, how did that make you feel? It is okay to feel scared, terrified, sad, angry, or all of the above. 

I looked at what he was typing, and that same sweet consoling man made my guard go down. I would have asked him how he got my email, but I already knew that if it were easy for them to get my name, how much harder would it be to get my email?

Milton: Andrea?

Me: Hello, Milton. I don’t know how I feel about what I saw. I don’t think I want anything to do with this.

Milton: Andrea, talk to me.

Me: I don’t know what to say. You killed a man.

Milton: Yes, but he wanted it. We helped him transition. We can help you.

I looked at what he was saying. I had wanted so badly to feel at peace and lose all of my earthly worries, but this was too much too fast.

Me: I have to go to Milton.

Milton: Andrea Becker, reconsider. You don’t have to participate, but we are people that understand you. I read your online diary, your poetry, and I know what you wish for.

I was stunned and felt violated. How did they hack into my online diary? It was private thoughts on my blog site I never made public. I was terrified, and then Milton said something else that made me reconsider.

Milton: I have seen your interactions with others. We have watched you interact with your friends. We know it wasn’t you that initially found our website. We don’t care. We welcome you. We only ask that you keep our little secret to help others like yourself, and like Randy.

I don’t know what made me do it. I began to trust Milton. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel weird about my feelings on death. These people seemed to understand. 

Me: I feel so weird talking about it.

Milton: It is hard to acknowledge your feelings at first, but once you do, you will begin to understand.

Me: Are there others like Randy?

Milton: We try not to allow too many transitions at once. We give people time to mourn in our community after someone transitions. We have another coming up at the end of the month. This person has yet to be named.”

Me: How does it work?

Milton: We take a vote on who is next. Once the vote is in, the nominee gets contacted through a congratulations email to give them time to tie up loose ends. Then they are not told the day or time of their death. We feel that it would ruin the transition.

Me: What if they change their mind?

Milton: They are given no way to back out. It is in our clause. If you are on track for transition, which I feel you are, just being a part of our community is an agreement. You have already witnessed a transition – an illegal act. So you have already agreed to the clause.

Me: What about you?

Milton: What about me?

ME: Can you transition?

Milton: I will in time. My agreement was after my children will be old enough to understand. Once they are, then I will join others like Randy and you.

“Oh,” I typed

Milton: I have to go now; it was nice chatting with you. Remember, if you ever need someone to talk to, we are here. We understand how you feel.

He logged off the chat, and I sat in front of the chat. Then another name popped up.

RHONDA24: Hello, Andrea.

I didn’t respond right away.

RHONDA24: I just want to let you know if you ever need a friend. I am not much older than you, and I get how you feel. You can reach out to me.

Me: Thank you. I have to go now.

RHONDA24: Have a great evening, Andrea.

I logged off the computer.  

#############

As time wore on, I realized that I enjoyed the community. I had made a few friends within the community. I had several bad days in the last month; one of them was that I had a falling out with Paul. He was angry with me for spending time online in the “transition” community as I had learned to refer to it as.

The community helped me overcome some of my anxieties, so I didn’t think so much about dying anymore. If anything, I wanted to live because I felt relieved that I now had a group that understood how I felt. After all, they felt the same way as me. 

Then the day came out of nowhere. I was planning my graduation speech, as I had been elected by Mr. Frazier to give my class a short address. I typed, re-typing, and over-editing everything I was writing when I got a ding on my computer.

My email popped up, and I recognized the email address. It was from FALCON.

CONGRATULATIONS ANDREA BECKER YOUR COUNTDOWN TO TRANSITION BEGINS 5-4-3-2- NOW.

I gulped reading the email because I didn’t feel the way I had before. I didn’t want to panic. This had to be a mistake. I was no longer depressed; I had things to live for now. Why had they voted on me transitioning?

I saw that Milton was online.

ME: Milton? I think you made a mistake. I am the least qualified to transition. Especially that now I feel so much better!

Crickets could have chirped from the computer. Instead of responding as Milton had hundreds of times before, he ignored me and logged off.

This was a nightmare. I stood up, looking around my room.

Indeed, I’d have time to graduate. I was at the disadvantage of being home alone. My parents were at some Union banquet because my father was on the teamster’s board. I got up from my computer desk and locked all of the doors and secured the doors. 

I turned on the radio to think. There was a story on the radio about a White Van and how another child had been missing. Another witness saw someone dressed as a clown talking to the child.  

Ugh! Not something I needed to know to hear right now. I flipped the station to some soft music. Sarah Mclachlan came on, so I left it. I needed to think. I logged into the chat, and I could see all the congratulations Andrea comments in the chat.

ME: Hey guys, I think there is a mistake.

RHONDA24: Congratulations, Andrea!

DAVTELLY45: I hope you have the best transition.

UNKNOWN: I hope you bleed into the camera for daddy.

ME: WHAT?

Who would say such a thing?

UNKNOWN: I can’t wait to cut you from ear to ear.

RHONDA24: DUDE! Get out of here!

I got a private chat request from Rhonda24.

I accepted it.

Rhonda24: Don’t sweat it, Andrea. The guy is some weirdo that has been harassing a bunch of us. We can’t block him. He has this crazy firewall system. Just please know how happy I am for you and how much I will miss you.

I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

I was about to log off when there was a bang from outside my house. 

Before I could do anything, a stranger wearing a black mask burst through my bedroom door. I stood in pure terror and shock.

It was happening now!

I did the only thing I could think of and grabbed the desk chair in front of me, and flung it at the stranger.

He was tall, thin, and didn’t seem to have been prepared for my sudden means of survival.

He lurched forward and grabbed me by the throat. I could feel his large hands trying to suffocate me. I looked over to the computer and saw it had popped back on – all on its own accord. A red light flashed on the screen. I realized I was being recorded for someone’s amusement.  

The darkness engulfed me in this very moment, and I sprung up, kicking the man in the groin. 

He growled in pain, and for a moment, I had time to run but not for long before the man stood up and shut my bedroom door so I had no means of escape.

He pulled out a knife from behind him, and I looked around my room to find something else I could defend myself with. I saw a coffee mug, grabbing it and throwing it at his head. To my luck, he stopped to rub his head, and I barreled past him towards the door.

Then I was caught off guard by a swiping of the knife to the back of my leg, causing me to scream in pain.

I hit the ground, and he went for my throat with the knife. I rolled over quickly, causing him to stab the floor instead of me.  

I kicked him in the head this time as he struggled to get the knife out of the wooden floor. He fell to the ground, and for a moment, we both worked with the knife. Finally, I managed to grab it and stab him inside the chest.  

The struggle was over. Someone had transitioned tonight, but it wasn’t me. It wasn’t going to be me. I had far too much to live for. I took a deep breath and then took off the mask of the man.

To my utter despair, it was Paul. How had Paul gotten involved with trying to kill me?

It all made perfect sense now how they all had known so much about me. Still, Paul had been my best friend for years. I ran downstairs to find my cell phone and call for 911.

The dispatcher said they would be sending for someone as soon as possible. 

I saw a large white truck coming towards my house, barreling down my street. I jumped into the road, flagging them down.

There was something strange about the truck. I realized when the headlights were no longer blinding my vision that it wasn’t the ambulance. I backed up onto the sidewalk and continued to look down the street for the ambulance. The truck did something strange, though. They stopped in front of me back up, so my view down the road was blocked.  

A door to the back of the truck opened up.

There were two tall men dressed as clowns. One had blue hair and a red nose with what looked like blood around his mouth and dirty teeth. He grinned big at me. The other had on a red and yellow wig with green makeup. He looked more sinister than the other clown.  

They stood looking at me, and then circus music began to play. I was annoyed by whatever joke they were trying to play, especially at a time like this. I could hear the ambulance now as it was making its way down my street. I tried to walk around the two stupid clowns. It was all so ridiculous to me.  

That is when one of them grabbed me. I screamed for them to let me go! I had to help Paul! Then the other one helped get me by the legs. Before I knew it, I was no longer breathing.

I, Andrea Becker, died that night. I won’t bore you with the details. It was gruesome, and it was horrid. I have been missing for three years. I hope someone can see my story and relay what happened to me.  

I’d like my parents to be able to have peace. We all deserve some peace.

I saw the book close on its own then. There were tears in my eyes as I read the last words of Andrea Becker.

I wasn’t sure how I could help, but I went over to my computer. There were numerous reports on the sightings of clowns in connection to missing children. I decided to search for the area combining missing person cases from around the region. I didn’t know how I was suddenly able to hack into systems using multiple databases, but I was doing it. For Andrea Becker’s sake, I was doing it.

That is when I found something very crucial. There were several sightings recently in my neighborhood. There were also six missing persons in a five-mile vicinity.  I clicked, I typed, and I searched until I put the connections together. In all of the disappeared persons, there were three bodies found. One was of a seventeen-year-old female.  

I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it would be the remains of Andrea Becker’s young body. I forwarded the information to the detective working the case. How had they not put it together on their own, I had no idea. I did now have gifts now that helped me help those who could not help themselves.

Later that night, there was a break in three of the missing person cases. No thanks to me. I was tired after Andrea Becker’s story.

That book never rests, though. Last night in the middle of the night, I heard music coming from somewhere.

It woke me from a dead sleep. I decided to find out what the matter was. It sounded like circus music.

I walked into my living room, and parked in front of my house was a white van with clowns in the driver’s seat. I stared at them for a long while and then opened my front door.

Two maniacal clowns got out of the back, and as they slowly made their way towards my house, I let out a deep breath. Then I yelled.

I was using my new found thunderous gift their windows to the van all burst. They both held on to their ears as though they were in pain. I had no doubt why they were here.  

I heard someone yell, “HELP ME, PLEASE!” It was a woman.

I became momentarily distracted by the sound of wailing behind me. Sad, painful wailing.

I looked away from the clown van towards the READ ME book on my couch. When I looked back toward the street, the van with the clowns was now long gone. I would see to it they were punished, but until then, I had other pressing business.

I picked up the book, and inside it, I read the chapter to the next story.

I was the Youngest Member of the Lunatic Asylum… 

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