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1
Fleming Storage Units WIPs / Content Warnings?
« on: 10:57:05 AM 11/06/17 »
It occurred to me that my story gets into some territory that someone might prefer to avoid, so, content warnings? Should we or shouldn't we?

2
The finished product.

Abstract Algebra by Chris Codina

   My dad had always kept track of the storage unit; he's the one who rented it in the first place. I would have forgotten about it if I didn't visit the plaza next door every week. Naturally, the Fleming Storage Unit Center waited until a few months after his sudden death to get shut down, so now it's on me to clear the place out. I left my apartment and swung by the house to pick up the keys and paperwork from my mom the morning of October 10th. The unit needed to be emptied by the 14th, so I wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible. Unsurprisingly, the center was somewhat busy, so I was glad our unit was on the end right by the entrance. After parking the U-Haul van in front of unit #51, I hopped out and stuck the key in the padlock at the bottom of the door. With a turn, it popped open and I rolled up the sheet metal.

   The unit was about 10 feet wide and 25 feet deep, but the contents only took up around half of that. Cardboard boxes and small furniture lined the grey walls on either side, stacked neatly and accessibly. Dad loved yard sales and the unit used to be full of odds and ends that he had picked up. He must have been slowly clearing out clutter before the accident. My brow furrowed, curious as to why he continued to pay the $260 a year when this stuff could have easily fit back in the basement. We first rented the storage when I was a kid. My aunt had left her douchebag husband and she lived in our basement for a few years. I guess mom and dad got attached to the extra space after my aunt left.

   Stepping inside, I tried to play mental Tetris to determine if I could fit everything in the van in one trip. “Doable” was the answer I settled on and took a moment to convince myself I wasn't just being optimistic. “Well,” I said to myself, “shall we?” I pulled down the lighter boxes on top of the stacks, filled with my parents' old clothes, bed dressing, etc., and set those aside intending to load them last. Many of the containers were labeled with black marker. One of the boxes had my name scribbled on it and curiosity forced my hand. I pulled apart the cardboard flaps and looked inside. It was clothes from when I was little.

   Nostalgia flowed through me like the cool breeze that was blowing that day. A Ninja Turtles t-shirt, a Hulk Hogan tank top with deliberate shredding on the back, even my goddamn Monster in My Pocket pajamas; it was all in here. I yelled at myself to not get caught up in the traffic of memory lane and shut the box, grinning dumbly. After a few more boxes, another label caught my eye. It was my collection of action figures. I opened this box and again was carried on a wave back to the front line of the Transformers wars and the GI Joe/Cobra conflict. Once again, I had to shake my head clear to stop myself from taking out and inspecting every single figure from the box. There were a lot of memories hidden here that I hadn't expected to bring back.

   I scanned the stacks for which item would fit in next and noticed something else from my past. Not toys nor clothes, but something belonging to my father. It was a wicker basket with a hinged lid. It had tan leather straps on the side which acted as handles. Another strap hung from the front of the lid and latched onto a metal pin to prevent the lid from opening. When I was 7 or 8, he brought it home and placed it not in the basement, but on a high shelf in his bedroom closet. He instructed me to never touch it, telling me that the contents were very dangerous. As a child, I couldn't help but imagine the dark treasures he could be hiding within. As a young teen, I assumed he was hiding porn in there.

   Of course, I would learn shortly after from my mom that it was where dad kept his gun for home protection. My mom absolutely hated guns and never dared to touch the basket out of fear that it would fire every round directly into her chest. I wasn't all that into guns either, although I remained convinced that there was probably still porn in there too. I was a 14-year-old boy, what else would I think? There were a couple boxes on top of it, so I placed them on the floor. With way more giddiness than someone in his early 30s should have, I lifted the lid. I nearly gasped in triumph at what was inside, until I realized the magazines weren't porn, but old pulp publications.

   Two piles of pulps rested on top of a disorderly mess of books, both hardcover and paperback. No gun or ammo, but my dad would have kept those at the house if he wanted protection. There were yellowed and tattered copies of Weird Tales, Ghost Stories, The Shadow, and others in there. I didn't want to flip through them too much as the paper seemed fragile and it occurred to me that my dad probably bought them at a yard sale hoping they would be worth something. There was no ventilation in the unit and, though Montana weather tends to be dry, mold surely built up over the years. It had definitely taken its toll on the magazines. Still, they were mostly intact. I had to show these to Gregg over at Stars and Bards; this was right up his alley. I was hungry anyway and could use a break.

   Closing the lid, I carefully hefted the basket by its handles and placed it in an open spot in the back of the van. I made sure my packing was sound and that nothing would slide too much, then got into the driver's seat. Nodding to Deputy Dan as I exited the gate, I made a left onto Pollock and another left shortly after that into Fleming Plaza next door to the storage center. The lunch rush was clearly in full swing as cars packed a significant portion of the parking lot and I considered myself lucky to snag a spot near the corner of the plaza where Stars and Bards was located. Opening the side doors, I picked up the basket and used my hip to bump them closed. I made my way over to the comic shop and nudged the entrance open with my shoulder.

   “Well, well, well,” said the tall, middle-aged man behind the glass counter, “what have we here?”

   “Hey, Gregg, have I got something for you.” Gregg Lucas had about 15 years on me, but he was one of my better friends in town. As a proud tabletop nerd, I had spent a lot of time and money in Stars and Bards and Gregg was a genuinely good guy. He was an open and accepting geek, basically the opposite of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. His bread and butter were collectibles; a large section of the shop was dedicated to old comics and pulp books. I approached the counter and set down the basket. I opened the lid, removed the magazines, and set them on the glass, turning my palms up in a “ta-da” motion.

   “Whooooa,” Gregg's eyes went wide, “look at these!” He gently took the magazine on top of the pile and slid it off to see what was next, and repeated the process as he spoke. “You know, Nick, I got a guy who loves these things. I can give him a call later and might be able to get you a buck or two for these beauties.” I scratched my beard thoughtfully for a moment before replying, “They belonged to my dad, I guess, he had them in storage. I should probably check with my mom before I make any decisions like that, in case she wants to hang on to them.”

   “True, true,” he nodded his head somberly. “You know, I- oops.” He cut off mid-sentence as he moved the next magazine in the pile. “One of these things is not like the other,” he laughed and I saw that sandwiched between the piles of magazines was a hardcover book. In my excitement, I hadn't even noticed its heft. Reaching over to pick it up, I saw that it was a math textbook. The cover was an ugly teal and featured an image of a Rubik's cube.“'Abstract Algebra,'” I read aloud, “that's weird. My dad must have picked all these books up in a bundle without looking.” I examined it front and back and noticed something sticking out between the pages. I slid the object out and my mouth went dry.

   If the nostalgia that I felt earlier was like a crisp breeze, this was a tornado. It was a Polaroid of myself when I was 6 years old and Lindsey Khol. She lived a couple houses down from me and was my best childhood friend until her family moved away. I remembered being so sad that she hadn't told me she was leaving and that I didn't get to say goodbye. Scrawled in black permanent marker, “September 1991” occupied the blank space below the image.

   “What's that?” Gregg's voice snapped my trance.

   “It's an old friend and I when we were kids,” I answered, not taking my eyes off the photo. He made a contemplative “hm” sound. In the picture, we were in my backyard, laughing as we played with some of my toys. The corners of my mouth turned up as I breathed out a soft chuckle. An old, forgotten sadness took hold in my chest and I reflexively sniffed, wiping at my eye with my thumb.

   “Everything alright, man?” My friend was clearly concerned as he saw me growing emotional.

   “Yeah, just some ancient history,” my voice nearly cracked, “we used to say we would get married when we grew up. You know how kids are.” Gregg nodded. He had two girls of his own and knew this stuff all too well. “Her family moved when I was, shit, 8, I think? All of a sudden she was just gone. No goodbyes, no address that I could write her at. Still, this was what? 24 years ago? And I'm letting it get to me like this?” I shook my head and half-chuckled, half-sniffed back another sob while I slid the photo back between the cover and first page of the book.

   “Hey, it was an important time of your life,” he said warmly, “no shame in it, man.”

   “Yeah,” I croaked, trying to regain my composure, “listen, Gregg, I'm gonna grab a bite to eat and get back to clearing out the unit. I'll let you know about the magazines.” I packed the pulps back up and set the textbook on top of them, then lifted the basket.

   “Alright, man, I'll see you for D 'n' D Saturday,” he stepped out from behind the counter and pulled the door open for me.

   “For sure, thanks.” I made my way back to the van to stash the basket, but decided to retrieve the Abstract Algebra book from inside and bring it into Marg's with me. Marg Madness shared the corner of the plaza with Stars and Bards and served some pretty solid if not terribly authentic Tex-Mex. I was seated at a table suitable for two diners, the restaurant still buzzing from the tail end of the lunch hour. It was a little early in the day for a lightweight like myself, but I found that I wanted a drink. One of Marg's famous margaritas felt a little too festive, so I just ordered a Jack and Coke to go with my steak fajitas. I began to flip through the textbook page by page while I waited for lunch.

   The photo I had found was there right inside the cover and I turned the first page before I could get caught up in the memory again. My eyes skimmed the lessons and figures on groups and rings for anything that stuck out, but there was nothing of note in the first several pages.

   “Studying?” The waitress, who had introduced herself as Carly, set a rocks glass filled with dark, amber liquid and ice cubes on the table, “Whose class are you in?” I looked up at the pretty young woman, who wore a sunny smile as well as a completely ridiculous sombrero. She must have been a student at MSU-Northern.

   “Oh,” I chuckled, “No, no studying, I'm just looking for something. Thanks for the drink.”

   “No problem!” Her cheerfulness was almost oppressive to my current mood, “Your food should be right up.” I watched her walk away before returning my eyes to the book. After several more pages and a few sips of my drink, I came upon another Polaroid, marked “March 1992.” It was of Lindsey in her yard, her attention focused on a cute, stuffed plush horse. The smile crept its way back onto my face as I remembered Howard. Howard the Horse was Lindsey's favorite doll and he often accompanied us on our adventures or served as a noble but over-sized steed to my action figures. I recalled then that my dad had bought it for her birthday; that was probably when he took the photo.

   “Here we go! Careful, it's hot,” the bubbly waitress was back and I lifted the book so she could slide the sizzling skillet in front of me. She set a warmer with white flour tortillas inside next to the dish and gave me a sing-songy “Enjoy!” before returning to her duties. The smell of the seasoned steak, peppers, and onions drifted up and evicted the stale stench of musty storage unit from my nostrils. My hunger must have been stronger than I realized because I placed the book aside and enjoyed my meal for a bit. It was delicious. The food was about half gone when Carly came to check on me. I assured her everything tasted great and decided to get back to Abstract Algebra while I finished eating.

   Idly flipping through pages as I chewed, I eventually found another photo. It was Lindsey and I again, only this time we were in my house. Specifically, we were in my bedroom. We gave big, exaggerated smiles for the camera. We were wearing pajamas, in fact I was wearing the Monster in My Pocket PJs I had found in storage earlier. The marker caption dated it as “October 1992.” This must have been at a sleepover. Lindsey stayed over at my house often. She would take my bed and my mom would lay a sleeping bag on the floor for me. I remembered my dad explaining that giving Lindsey my bed was the gentlemanly thing to do and that I should treat her well because she was special. I hadn't argued with him. Like I told Gregg, I firmly believed she was my future wife, even if I didn't entirely understand what that meant at the time.

   It had been some time since I had thought this much about Lindsey. Now and then something would spark a memory, but I wouldn't dwell on it for any real length of time. I don't think I wanted to forget her, per se, but it was a sensitive subject for me. I guessed that my mind was just trying to protect me from what it interpreted as harmful. We spent much of our formative years together and my parents thought the world of her. I remembered my dad saying that she was like the daughter he'd never had. These memories were a specific kind of pain that clashed with a specific kind of joy. That sort of thing could be exhausting to deal with.

   I finished my meal and Carly brought the check. She cleared the skillet and tortilla warmer, but saw that I had a few more sips of my drink that I had been nursing. “Whenever you're ready,” she said before once again leaving. I fished out my wallet and slid my credit card into the plastic pocket of the little folder the check was held in. Sliding the folder to the side of the table, I finished up my drink as I continued flipping through the book. There wasn't much left, maybe 50 pages. The waitress retrieved the check folder and assured me she'd be right back. Turning the next page, I found something. It was another photo of Lindsey, she was in the living room of my house and wore a wide smile for the camera. The date read “May 1993.”

   As I looked it over, Carly returned, showing me which copy of the receipt to sign and which to keep. She saw the photo and her eyes brightened, “Awww, is that your daughter?”

   “Ah, no,” I replied, “She's a childhood friend of mine named Lindsey. I found some photos in storage and was wallowing in sad memories.”

   “Lindsey?” Carly leaned over my shoulder to get a closer look at the photo.  The ridiculous sombrero from her uniform bumped the top of my head as she turned to me and half-whispered, “Not Lindsey Kohl, right? That picture looks like Lindsey Kohl.” My eyes squinted at her, confusion pulling my eyebrows together.

   “Um, yeah,” I responded warily, “how did you know? I'm not sure you were even born when she moved out of Havre.” It was her turn to look at me in confusion. She reached out her hand, “May I?” With hesitance, I passed the photo to her. She raised it close to her face, studying it for a long moment. She shook her head, speaking in a serious tone that was a stark contrast to her glee during the service.

   “I'm sorry,” she said dourly, “I'm sure this is Lindsey Kohl, the missing girl.”

   “What?” There was no way I had heard her correctly.

   “In '93, a little girl named Lindsey Kohl went missing,” it sounded as if she was reciting a news article from memory, “they never found her. My mom would use the story as a sort of stranger danger thing when I was a kid. It's something I've been obsessed with forever. I even wrote in to my favorite true crime podcast to tell them about it. You knew her?” Carly's tone had almost grown excited until she asked if I knew Lindsey. She sounded sad, then. Before I could answer, someone at another table waved at Carly to get her attention. “I'm so sorry, I have to get back to work, I'm so, so, sorry.” She took half a second to reapply her cheerful demeanor before walking over to the other customer.

   A number of feelings wrestled in my head, with bewilderment overwhelming the rest. Unconsciously, I signed my check, slipped the photo back into the book, and headed for the door. I trudged back to the van and got in. Resting the textbook on my lap, I opened it back up and took out the photo. Carly had to be gravely mistaken. She must have been thinking of a different girl. There was something about May of 1993 that felt important to me, but I struggled to recall what it was. Pulling my phone from my pocket, I began to type “May 1993 Havre Montana” into Google's search bar. A thought occurred. Why hadn't I ever tried to look her up on social media? I deleted what I had typed and replaced it with “Lindsey Kohl Montana” before tapping the magnifying glass.

   Upon reading the first link to appear, the breath caught in my throat. It was the website for the Havre Daily News. The headline for the link read “No Leads in Case of Missing Havre Girl.” I clicked it and the page opened, featuring a high quality scan of an old newspaper page. There was a black and white yearbook photo of Lindsey; her bright smile and honey brown hair dulled and stained a sickly yellow on the aged paper. There was a caption underneath the picture reading “Lindsey Kohl, 8, was reported missing May 10th.” I flung my phone and the textbook onto the passenger seat with a whimper. This had to be a joke. It had to be some sort of mistake. My eyes darted around as if expecting to find an answer somewhere on the console of the van. I tried to gain control of my breathing as the near hyperventilation made me choke and gag. My instincts told me to drive, apparently believing this horrible situation would stay in the parking lot if I left it.

   Something like autopilot controlled my muscles and guided the U-Haul back to the Fleming Storage Unit Center, parking in front of #51 once again. I gripped the steering wheel hard and shut my eyes in an attempt to focus my thoughts and steady myself. When I felt like I wasn't at risk of choking to death on panic, I opened my eyes and removed my hands from the wheel. Eyeing my phone on the seat next to me like it was a venomous snake, I reached over and picked it up, unlocking the screen. This wasn't right. How could Lindsey have gone missing in May 1993? August 1993 was when Lindsey's family moved out of Havre. I remembered that. They went to live with Lindsey's grandparents in Helena. I remembered.

   No. No, that was wrong. It all came back to me, a ripping hurricane force of memory crashed into my brain and the space between my eyes ached terribly. The Kohls did leave, but not with Lindsey. Lindsey disappeared from her home sometime after midnight on May 10th, 1993. My parents tried to hide it from me at first, but they had to tell me the truth before I started going over to their house asking after her. They kept me home from school the day a mandatory assembly was held to explain the situation to all students. There was no sign of her, no one knew what happened. The police thought that she may have been a runaway, but everyone was convinced she would never have done that. Her family couldn't take living at that house without her and left when it became clear that she wouldn't be turning up alive. Tears streamed down my face and I sobbed loudly, entirely oblivious of any of the other unit owners around me. I had made myself forget. I had manufactured a spurious memory that was easier for me to believe. I had convinced myself of a falsehood for my own peace of mind. People rarely mentioned her to me and I was sure it was because they knew I missed her and didn't want to bring up old ghosts.

   Lindsey, my dearest childhood friend, was probably dead. Most likely, she had been dead for a very long time. In spite of this fact, it felt like it only just happened. I let my grief play out, laying my arms across the steering wheel and resting my head on them. I'm not sure how long I cried, but I did so until my eyes burned. When I managed to reign myself in, I felt only the need to think about something else. Getting out of the van, I opened the storage unit up again and got back to packing the remaining boxes and furniture. Only a couple boxes and folding chairs remained when I realized something.

   I hadn't finished looking through Abstract Algebra. There had to be a reason my dad kept these things hidden like this. Maybe there was something further in those remaining pages that would shake more memories loose. I opened the passenger door of the van and grabbed the book. Returning to the unit, I pushed the seat of one of the folding chairs down and sat. I began turning the pages starting where I found the last photo. There wasn't much left and with each turn my heart sank as I feared there was nothing else for me to find. I was into the index of the textbook by that point, rows of text giving specific terms and the pages on which to find them. Hope had all but left me until I turned to the 4th to last page.

   At first, I didn't entirely understand what I was looking at. There were a number of things I expected I could find in these final pages, but this was not among them. My ability to process the signals my eyes were sending to my brain had momentarily failed me. A clear, plastic Ziploc bag had been pressed between the pages. It was wrinkled, as if it had been handled many times throughout the years. Sealed inside the bag there was a thin, pink ribbon, tied into a bow. The bow held together a lock of hair, honey brown in color.

   My dad was always fond of Lindsey. He always suggested inviting her over, bringing her along on family outings, bought her presents. I remembered that now. He would compliment her, talk about what a beautiful woman she would grow up to be. He would talk about how pretty her hair was. I remembered that. I shut the book and finished loading the last few things. I pulled the overhead door of the unit closed. Getting in the van, I took my cell phone out of my pocket and dialed my mom. She answered, and I let her know that we needed to talk when I got there.

My info:
Unit #51
Vocab. word: Spurious
Picture object: Wicker basket
Wiki article: Abstract Algebra

3
Your Stories / Trick
« on: 02:26:07 AM 10/29/17 »
I narrated this for my channel's Halloween episode, but decided to post it here a couple days early. I'll post the video on here when it goes live on Halloween.

Last Halloween, I had set up for my usual tradition of handing out candy to trick 'r treaters. Two huge bags of candy filled two equally sizable bowls set upon a TV tray next to my front door. As the sun began to set, costumed children took to the streets, the younger ones accompanied by parents. I lived in a relatively small town, but there was no shortage of little ghouls and witches on the street. My neighborhood had a reputation as a rich vein of sugary goodies,so early on in the evening it almost wasn't worth it to sit down. Once you did, the doorbell was sure to ring again and a little vampire or superhero would be looking for their treat. There's a motion sensor light on my front porch that seemed to be on constantly throughout the night. As the night went on, the visits became less and less frequent and the visitors became older. Young teens who were out of eggs and toilet paper took to gathering up their share of candy before houses ran out of supply.

   It was nearly 10:00 when a group of four boys came to my door, calling out “trick 'r treat!” in between laughing at some inside joke. I couldn't see their faces, but they couldn't have been more than 13 or 14 years old. They each wore store bought masks, which likely functioned more as disguises for their mischief than for a festive spirit. One was dressed up as Ghostface from the Scream movies. Another wore a bestial werewolf mask with a button down plaid shirt and jeans. The next wore a grotesque zombie mask and his clothes had been intentionally stained and dirtied. Finally, the last wore one of those skin tight, white spandex masks and black clothing. They each held out book bags and I smiled as I dropped two party-sized pieces of candy into them. They took off at a jog down the street, shouting their thanks as they hurried off.

   Traffic at my door ceased midway through the 10:00 hour and I figured it was about time to douse the light of my Jack o' lantern. As I reached for the doorknob, the bell rang. I hadn't noticed the sound of anyone walking up my porch, so I was somewhat startled by the sound, but quickly recovered and pulled open the door while reaching for the candy bowl. “Trick 'r treat!” called the four boys whom I recognized from before. A corner of my mouth turned up in a wry grin as I stepped out onto the porch and said, “I normally don't give out seconds.” The four boys stood unresponsive, holding their book bags out, waiting. I snorted and dropped another piece of candy in each of their bags. “You're lucky things are winding down. Happy Halloween, boys.” I leaned over to the glowing pumpkin sitting on the ledge of my porch and blew out sharply to kill the light. A trio of police cars raced by, lights and sirens cutting through the dark, peaceful night. Watching the emergency vehicles speed down the street, I told the teens, “Be careful out there, people can get crazy with their pranks.” When the blue and red flashing was out of sight, I gave the boys a nod, shut the door, and locked it.

   I took the mostly depleted candy bowls and dumped the remnants into a small, glass dish on my dining room table. Continuing on to the kitchen, I washed my hands in the sink and grabbed a beer from the fridge. After returning to the front room, I plopped down on the couch to relax and catch a couple horror movies before the Halloween TV season ended. Sipping at my beer, I watched Micheal Myers stalk and slash around Haddonfield. I must have dozed off because it was just after 11:30 when my doorbell ringing jolted me awake. The haze of sleep was still heavy in my head and I quickly stood and made for the door. It didn't occur to me how strange it was to have someone showing up this late, even on Halloween. Rubbing the focus back into my eyes, I opened my front door. “Trick 'r treat!” It was the same four boys. They stood in the same position as the previous two visits, holding their arms out and their book bags open.

   A seed of panic took root in my throat and I tried to swallow it down. What were they up to? Mischief on Halloween is of course a common thing, but this seemed out of the ordinary. Why wouldn't they say anything else? Why wouldn't they move? I steeled my gaze and put on my best responsible adult voice. “Listen, guys, I already gave you candy twice and I'm all out anyway. It's late, go home, don't make me call the cops.” Closing the door with just enough force to emphasize my point, I listened for a moment, half-expecting to hear a couple dozen eggs break against my house. Only silence followed. The unintentional nap had left me wide awake now, so I settled back in with the TV and another beer.

   Michael Myers was well into his rampage in the sequel when I finished my second drink. As I tipped the bottle way back, I noticed something in my peripheral vision. I almost didn't catch it, but because I did, that panic started to work it's way back up my esophagus. Through the curtains, outside the bay window, I could see that my porch light was still on. It's motion activated; it only turns on if something breaks its sensor line. The only way for it to be on was for someone to be on my porch. I stood up slowly, my mouth going dry. As stealthily as possible, I moved to the window and attempted to pull the curtains aside just enough for me to see out. It was a somewhat difficult angle, but I was certain I could see the black material of a Ghostface costume on the porch. Again, I attempted to quietly move to the door, leaning to look through the peephole.

   “Trick 'r treat!” They were all still there. The four of them stood there, not moving, arms stuck out holding their open book bags. Pulling back from the peephole, I reached for my cell phone in my pocket. These kids hadn't done anything malicious, not yet at least, but I didn't need them messing with me like this. The last thing I wanted to do was go to bed with four teenage boys that I didn't know hanging out on my porch. There's a point when pranks go too far and they had crossed it. I dialed 911 and the dispatcher answered, inquiring about my emergency. “Hi, I have four boys who have been coming to my door all night after being asked to stop. They're acting really weird and won't leave. Would it be possible to have someone come by and get them out of here?” “We'll get someone to you as soon as we can, sir,” the dispatcher replied, sounding tired. “I'm sorry but our officers are spread  thin tonight, so it may be a bit until someone can come. We're dealing with a situation. If they start doing anything threatening, call back and we'll send someone right away.” I didn't like the answer, but accepted it. I gave my name and address before hanging up.

   With a sigh of frustration, I set my phone on the tray the candy bowls had previously occupied, and turned the doorknob. I swung the door open quickly, but the four of them didn't react. They still just stood there, waiting for their candy, not moving. I couldn't see their eyes, but I could feel them on me through the material of their masks. It was tough to tell, but it was almost like they weren't breathing. I didn't take the time to think about this in my anger. Instead, I snapped, “I called the cops, guys, you'd better get out of here now.” I slammed the door hard, not waiting for a response and hoping that was enough to scare them away. It occurred to me then that it was probably really stupid to open the door at that point and I gave an involuntary shake when I considered what could have happened if they tried to get in. A pit formed in my chest at the prospect of a very real danger standing on the other side of my door. I double checked that my lock was secure and went back to the kitchen.

   Another beer sounded great, but I opted to leave it in the fridge in favor of keeping my head as clear as possible. Instead, I went to the knife block on the counter and extracted the chef's knife. My stomach turned over several times at the faintest thought of having to use this to defend myself, especially against a group of 13 year olds. It was security, though, and the only protection I could think of if they tried something. I hoped that it would be more intimidating than anything and would lead them to think twice about continuing their prank further. After taking a deep, centering breath, I returned to the front room and sat down, keeping the knife within arms reach. I flipped through the channels, my interest in horror movies having left me by that point. I found a censored version of Caddyshack and settled on that. I couldn't help but keep glancing at the window to see if the porch light was still on and would promptly look back to the TV when I saw that it was. It was nearly 1:30AM when my eyes finally got too heavy to keep open.

   When I awoke I instinctively grabbed for the knife assuming I was surrounded by four costumed teens ready to carry out the next stage of their sick joke. Seeing that I was alone, I gathered my senses. It was almost 3:00AM according to the clock on the wall. Once I had blinked enough to clear my vision, I turned to the window. It was dark, save for the street light. My porch light was out. I let out a breath of relief; they must have gone. There was no way they could have turned off the motion light on their own without a ladder. I set the knife down, now feeling somewhat silly over getting this worked up about kids playing tricks on Halloween. I patted my pockets and looked around the room for my cell phone. I remembered leaving it by the front door. I walked over and found it on the tray where I had left it. The blinking light notified me that there was a new text. It was unusual for me to get text messages this late, so I started to check it as I turned from the door.

   “Trick 'r treat!” I heard four voices call from the other side of the entrance. I froze mid-step and nearly dropped my phone, doing my best to stifle a scream. Did I really just hear that? Or was my sleepy brain playing tricks on me? I slowly turned and leaned to the peep hole. They were still there. They were in the dark now, I could only see their silhouettes from the light cast by the street lamps, but they were still there. They remained in the same position as before with their arms held out begging for more candy. They didn't move, not an inch. They just stood there. I threw myself back from the peep hole with a gasp. What the hell was the matter with these kids? There was no way I was opening the door again this time. Continuing to back away from the door, I found my way back to my knife on the front room table. I picked it up and remembered my phone in the other hand.

   Intending to call 911, something caught my eye when I unlocked the screen. The text message I had received was from my sister, who lived on the other side of town. I wasn't going to read the text, but then I happened to notice a few of the words. She had been on the way home from a Halloween party when she asked me about what happened a few blocks up the street from me. Apparently everyone was talking about it in a Facebook group for locals. Someone had lost it and started shooting at trick 'r treaters shortly after 10:00. Almost every on duty police officer was on the scene dealing with the shooter and the aftermath. There were four victims. Four teenage boys. I set the knife back down and returned to the the front door. I opened it. No one was there.

4
Hey, all, this is my first of hopefully many posts on the Too Spooky forum. I wanted to share with you the first episode of my new creepypasta/internet horror/whatever review channel on YouTube. I'm looking for all the feedback I can get, so anything is greatly appreciated. My first episode is on "The Smiling Man" by blue_tidal.



Read along: https://www.reddit.com/r/LetsNotMeet/comments/rvzaq/the_smiling_man/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChMi_prPj7PnxagZpdKfnQQ

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HauntCollection

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheHauntCollection/

Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/thehauntcollection

Thanks for checking it out! New episode out tomorrow in which I cover "Psychosis."

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