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The Return of Imray, Part 1 of 4

By Rudyard Kipling

First of four scary stories kids like

Imray, a rather colorless civil servant, achieved the impossible by becoming featured in several of those scary stories kids like. Without warning, for no conceivable motive in his youth at the threshold of his career he disappeared from the world—-or at least from the Indian station where he lived. 

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Me
After three or four months of your own police-led inquiries, you say you have rented Imray’s bungalow?
Strickland
He must have left clues about his disappearance. I should find some there! 
Me
But how will you find them, Lieutenant, when fishing rods and other sporting goods occupy half the bungalow? No doubt the other half is given up to you and your giant, shaggy dog.
Strickland
The villagers say she speaks to me in solving crimes. Perhaps she will. 
Strickland
Secondly, some say that if she sees things calculated to destroy the peace, she returns to me and lays out the information.
Me
Yes, your neighbors decried your great Rampur hound to me.
Strickland
Certainly, the natives believe Tietjens is a familiar spirit and they treat her with great reverence.
Me
Reverence born of hate and fear, yes.
Strickland
In contrast with my own love and awe for her. I owe my life to Tietjens, after all, for she once caught a man crawling into my tent with a dagger between his teeth. 
Me
Yes, I remember that case: He was found to be an escaped cutthroat and was hanged. 


A most welcome guest

Strickland
Tietjens has ever since had a silver collar and bowl, and a monogrammed night blanket of double-woven Kashmir.
Me
But my purpose in visiting is not only to reminisce. A short time hence my business will take me through this station, and naturally, the club quarters being so often full, I wondered if I might quarter myself upon your large bungalow next Tuesday. 
Strickland
You are welcome any time. It is a desirable bungalow, eight-roomed and heavily thatched against any chance of leakage from rain. But there is the usual drawback. 
Me
Certainly, I am aware generally. But what is the specific problem?
Strickland
Under the pitch of the roof runs a ceiling-cloth that looks just as neat as any ceiling. The landlord has repainted it. But above the cloth lays the dark three-cornered cavern of the roof, where the beams and underside of the thatch harbour all manner of rats, bats, and foul things.
Me
That’s what I thought you meant by “the usual drawbacks.” I will chance it for that one night.
Strickland
You will be a most welcome guest, but not the only one. There does seem to be a spirit stalking the place at night.

Look for Part 2!

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The Return of Imray, Part 2 of 4, a scary ghost tale

By Rudyard Kipling

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A scary ghost tale such as the one I was to derive from my visit with Strickland seldom begins like this adventure. His fluffy Afghan, Tietjens met me on the verandah with a bay like the boom of the bell of St. Paul’s, putting her paws on my shoulder to show she was glad to see me.

Strickland had clawed together a sort of meal that he called lunch, and immediately after he went out and about his business. I was left alone with Tietjens, and the rain and my own affairs. 

Me
Home so soon? I’m glad, because I have a scary ghost story to relate.
Strickland
Has anyone who’s still living called?
Me
My servant had just summoned me into the drawing-room on a false alarm when some loafer tried to call on you. As if thinking better of it, though, he fled after giving his name. 
Strickland
Dinner is at eight. I will order a real dinner with a white tablecloth attached, and we can sit down and exchange scary ghost stories. **********
Me
Why did Tietjens leave us so suddenly after calmly lying underneath the table for hours, and then swing out onto the verandah as soon as you said you were going to bed? I thought she at least might move to her own bed chamber next to yours. 
Strickland
If a wife had wished to sleep out of doors beside that pelting rain it would not have drawn comment.
Me
But Tietjens is a dog, and thus open to comment without complaint. I looked at you afterward half expecting to see you flay her with a whip. 
Strickland
She has done this ever since I moved in here. Let her go. 
Me
The dog is your dog, so I will say less, but I feel all that you must feel In being thus made light of. 

Tietjens encamped outside my bedroom window, and storm after storm came up, thundered on the thatch, and died away. The lightning spattered the sky pale blue: and, looking through my split bamboo blinds, I could see the great dog standing, not sleeping, in the verandah, the hackles alift on her back and her feet anchored as tensely as the drawn wire-rope of a suspension bridge. 

The thunder ceased, and Tietjens went into the garden and howled at the low moon. I ran into Strickland’s room and asked him whether he was ill, and had been calling for me. He was lying on his bed half dressed, a pipe in his mouth. 

Strickland
I thought you’d come. Have you been walking round the house recently?
Me
You, or someone, has been tramping in the dining-room and the smoking-room and two or three other places.
Strickland
Ho! Huh! Oh, go back to bed.
Me
I shall go back to bed and try to sleep till the morning, but I hope all my dreams will not be haunted by the fear that I am doing someone an injustice. Someone was reproaching me for my slackness in my earlier dreams tonight, and, half awake, I saw Tietjens standing guard amid the endless rain.
Strickland
She dislikes this place. Stay another day, please, and help us find the hidden clue.
Me
I will live in this house, out of friendship, for another day and night, but not more. One must rest up before visiting such a place!

Strickland went to his office daily, leaving me alone for eight or ten hours with Tietjens for my only companion. As long as the full light lasted I was comfortable, and so was Tietjens; but in the twilight she and I moved into the back verandah and cuddled each other for company. 

Me
We are alone in the house, Tietjens, but none the less it is much too fully occupied by a tenant with whom I do not wish to interfere.
Tietjens
Woof-rowl! 
Me
I never see him, but I can see the curtains between rooms quivering where he has passed; I can hear the chairs creaking as the bamboos spring under a weight just lifted; and I feel when I go to get a book from the dining-room that Somebody is waiting in the shadows until I have gone. 
Tietjens
Gr-rowl.
Me
Why are you growling and glaring into the darkened rooms? You see it, eh? I mean, how else could you follow the motions of something in that darkness?
Strickland
What are you doing out here with Tietjens, telling her your scary ghost tale?
Me
Saying goodbye. Unfortunately I shall be deserting her, as I have business at the club, and sad to say I shall be staying there for my convenience. 
Strickland
I see. You admire my hospitality, claim to be pleased with my fishing rods, furnishings and food, but then quarter yourself there!
Me
I did not much care for this house or its moribund atmosphere. Something is restless in here.
Strickland
Stay on, and see what this thing means. All you have talked about I have known since I took the bungalow. Stay on and see it end. Tietjens has left me. Are you going too?
Me
I have seen you through one affair, that small matter connected with the heathen idol, and it brought me to the doors of a lunatic asylum. However I have no desire to help you through further such experiences. You are a man to whom unpleasantnesses arrives as do hot dinners to ordinary people.
Strickland
Thanks so much; old friends are best.
Me
Ha-ha! Please don’t misunderstand me, I like you immensely, and would be happy to see you in the daytime; but I did not care for the atmosphere for sleeping under your rented roof. Already Tietjens has gone out to lie in the verandah, a vote of no confidence. And I agree.
Strickland
‘Pon my soul, I don’t wonder, if you have noticed the ceiling-cloth. Look at that! The tails of two brown snakes are hanging there between the cloth and the cornice of the wall. 
Me
That is merely the final straw in the scary ghost tale of your new house.
Strickland
If you are afraid of snakes of course — 
Me
I hate and fear snakes, because if you look into the eyes of any snake you will see that it knows all and more of the mystery of man’s fall. I believe that it feels all the contempt that the Devil felt when Adam was evicted from Eden. Besides which, the bite of this snake is generally fatal, and it twists up trouser legs.
Strickland
Yet you live here in brown snake country!
Me
You ought to be getting your ceiling repaired, and your thatch overhauled.
Strickland
Give me a mahseer-rod, and we’ll poke  ’em down. They’ll hide among the roof-beams, I can’t stand snakes overhead. I’m going up into the roof. If I shake ’em down, stand by with a cleaning-rod and break their backs.
Me
I will assist you in your work, but I am not anxious to get started.
Strickland
Take the cleaning rod and I will bring a gardener’s ladder from the verandah, and set it against the side of the room.

The snake-tails drew themselves up and disappeared. We could hear the dry rushing scuttle of long bodies running over the baggy ceiling-cloth. Strickland took a lamp with him, while I tried to make clear to him the danger of hunting roof-snakes between a ceiling-cloth and a thatch, apart from the deterioration of property caused by ripping out ceiling-cloths.

//Strickland: Nonsense! The’re sure to hide near the walls by the cloth. The bricks are too cold for em, and the heat of the room is just what they like. I shall just rip this ceiling cloth from the cornice and lift my head up. 

Me
Can you see anything yet?
Strickland
Hm! There’s room for another set of rooms up here, and, by Jove, someone is occupying  em!
Me
Snakes?
Strickland
No. It’s a buffalo. Hand me up the two last joints of a mahseer-rod, and I’ll prod it. It’s lying on the main roof-beam.
Me
I am handing up the rod. Look here it is.
Strickland
What a nest for owls and serpents! No wonder the snakes live here.
Strickland
Come out of that, whoever you are! Heads up, below there! It’s falling.
Me
A shape has dropped and is sagging the ceiling-cloth in the centre of the room, a shape that is pressing it down. I shall rip it out from the walls. There it’s fallen into the table!
Me
It strikes me our friend Imray has come back. But — Oh! you would, would you?

There had been a movement under the cloth, and a little snake had wriggled out, to be back-broken by the butt of the mahseer-rod. I was sufficiently sick to make no remarks worth recording.

Strickland meditated, and helped himself to drinks. The arrangement under the cloth made no more signs of life.

Me
Is it Imray? If so it’s the punchline to our scary ghost tale!
Strickland
Let me see. It is Imray, and his throat is cut from ear to ear.
Me
So that’s why he whispered and stalked about the house.
Tietjens
Rrr, awoo, ow-ow, ooh!
Me. Yes, But Who Killed Him, And Why, And Can Our <a Href="https
//captivatedchat.com/index.php/2019/04/24/the-purloined-letter-part-1/">detective friend prove it?

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The Open Window

By Saki (H.H. Munro)

The following is another of the scary ghost tales adapted as free interactive stories with our chat fiction format. We hope you enjoy it!

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Niece
My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel; in the meantime you must try and put up with me.
Me
You are most agreeable, thanks very kindly, and please call me Framton if you would. A friendly address may help with the nerve cure I am supposed to be undergoing.
Niece
Do you know many of the people round here?
Me
Hardly a soul. I have letters of introduction to so many, and I have presented only a small number. You are among the first people to whom I have spoken. But I wonder whether your aunt, Mrs. Sappleton, could possibly be any more charming.  
Niece
Kind of you to say. I trust you do not feel buried down here, and are getting directions.
Me
No problem there. My sister was staying here at the rectory you know, some four years ago, and she gave me the letters of introduction and directions to some of the people here.  
Niece
Then you know practically nothing about my aunt?  
Me
Only her name and address. I was wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton was in the married or widowed state.   
Niece
Her great tragedy happened just three years ago; that would be since your sister’s time.  
Me
Her tragedy? (Thinking: Somehow in this restful country spot, tragedies seem out of place.)  
Niece
You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon.  
Me
It is quite warm. But what has a large French window being left open got to do with the tragedy?  
Niece
Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers went off for their day’s shooting.  They never came back.   
Me
Extraordinary! What happened?  
Niece
In crossing the moor to their favourite snipe-shooting ground they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog. It had been that dreadful wet summer, you know, and places that were safe in other years gave way suddenly without warning.   
Me
My condolences. How awful for you all.  
Niece
Their bodies were never recovered.  That was the dreadful part. Poor auntie always thinks that they will come back some day, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do.    
Me
So that is why the window is kept open?  
Niece
Yes, it is left open every evening till it is quite dusk.  Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing ‘Bertie, why do you bound?’ as he always did to tease her, because she said it got on her nerves.    
Me
I am so sorry for her.  
Niece
Do you know, sometimes on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that they will all walk in through that window—  
Me
I can see that you are still quite choked up about it. We must not dwell on … Ah, here is your aunt now. 
Mrs. Sappleton
I hope Vera has been amusing you?  
Me
Well, Mrs. Sappleton, she has been very interesting.  
Mrs. Sappleton
I hope you don’t mind the open window, my husband and brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way.   
Me
Oh? But–   
Mrs. Sappleton
They’ve been out for snipe in the marshes to-day, so they’ll make a fine mess over my poor carpets.  So like you men-folk, isn’t it?  
Mrs. Sappleton
The shooting is said to be going poorly for most, as the scarcity of birds after the harsh winter makes it difficult, I am told, and the prospects for duck in the winter are also dampened a bit. But our family is not easily discouraged.   
Me
It is all horrible. I think the winter is forecast to be mild this coming season, if the almanacs are right. So I am given to believe. (Thinking: The poor lady is able to give me only a fragment of her attention; her eyes are constantly straying past me to the open window and the lawn beyond. It is certainly an unfortunate coincidence that I should have paid my visit on this tragic anniversary.)  
Mrs. Sappleton
I am a true representative of the family in this dislike of being discouraged.  
Me
How brave to carry on. In contrast, the doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise.  
Mrs. Sappleton
Do tell.  
Me
On the matter of diet they are not so much in agreement.  
Mrs. Sappleton
Uh, no?  
Me
I assure you–  
Mrs. Sappleton
Here they are at last! Just in time for tea, and don’t they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!  
Me
But– (Thinking: Oh, now I understand. But the poor niece, living with this muddled old woman! Wait, what is the girl looking out at in that dazed, horrified way? There, three figures approaching the open window; all with guns under their arms, and one carrying a white coat. And tired brown spaniel is at their heels.) 
Ronnie
I said, Bertie, why do you bound?  
Me
Oh, say you will excuse me. Is that really the time? Lord, I must fly!  
Mrs. Sappleton
Why,?  Please don’t go–he is running out the door!   
Niece
He is past the front gate by now, I expect.  
Mr. Sappleton
Here we are, my dear. Fairly muddy, but most of it’s dry.  Who was that who bolted out as we came up?  
Mrs. Sappleton
A most extraordinary man, a Mr. Nuttel. He could only talk about his illnesses, and dashed off without a word of apology when you arrived.  One would think he had seen a ghost.  
Niece
I expect it was the spaniel, he told me he had a horror of dogs.  He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him.  Enough to make anyone lose their nerve.
Mr. Sappleton
Romance at short notice is your speciality, young lady.  

Look for additional free interactive stories throughout, including the future addition of Twine tales and other kinds of free interactive stories.



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The Willows, Part 1 of 4

A horror story in four parts

By Algernon Blackwood

Adapted to Chat Story format by Captivated Chat

Tap on arrow to listen to the story.
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Me
What a river! To think of all the distance and varied waters we’ve traveled from its source.
Swede
The river won’t stand much nonsense now, though, will it? That first week in the Black Forest, in contrast, was all getting out and slogging through shallows and pushing our boat, eh? We’ll have scary chat stories to share on our phones for years!
Me
But today we were only concerned about the boat possibly being ripped open by the jagged shale beneath those rapids. Yet despite it all, we made it! Now you rest on the sand right where you are. You single-handedly tugged our boat ashore, after all, so rest and I’ll survey this little willow island of ours in preparation for camping here. *********
Me
I’m back, and it really is a small place and quite as overgrown with willow bushes as the shopkeeper warned. It’s enough to make walking unpleasant, but I made the tour. The island is triangular, wind-swept — with almost no full trees — and quite unwelcoming.
Swede
Certainly, I could see those last features from here. Any luck?
Me
Yes, there is a slight depression in the island’s center, where we may pitch the tent. The surrounding willows break the wind quite a bit there.

**********

The rising flood

Swede
A poor camp it is, with no stones and precious little firewood. This sandbar won’t hold up against the flood for many hours; I’m for moving on early tomorrow — you?
Me
Sure. Later this evening we can set about collecting a store of wood to last until bedtime.
Swede
With that incessant cold wind, this is not a fit place for a man.
Me
What’s worse, willow bushes drop no branches, and so driftwood will be our only source of fuel. I hunted the shores pretty thoroughly. Everywhere the banks are crumbling as the rising flood tears at our tiny island and carries away great portions of it every few minutes.
Swede
The place is much smaller than when we landed. It won’t last long at this rate. 
Me
We’d better drag the canoe close to the tent, and be ready to start at a moment’s notice. I shall sleep in my clothes.

Tried to call to us

Swede
Ho-ho-ho, ha-ha-ha! By Jove!
Me
I heard your laugh, but now you are hidden by the willows, where are you?
Swede
But what in the world’s this?
Me
Suddenly you sounded quite serious. Stand still; I’m coming right over.
Swede
Good heavens, it’s a man’s body out there! Look!
Me
All I see is that black thing, turning over and over in the waves.  It keeps disappearing and coming up to the surface again.
Swede
No, it’s an otter, by gad! Ho-ho, ah, ha-hah!
Me
It is an otter, very alive, and out on the hunt, yet it looked just now like the body of a drowned man turning helplessly in the current. 
Swede
You saw it too? Thank heavens, for the mind plays tricks when you’re tired. Look, there goes a boatman along the far shore!
Me
He’s crossing himself! Look, he’s making the sign of the Cross!
Swede
I believe you’re right.
Me
He tried to call to us beforehand, but the wind rose up and drowned him out.
Swede
But what in the world is he doing at nightfall on this flooded river? 

Not welcome

Me
Where is he going at such a time, and what did he mean by his signs and shouting? D’you think he wished to warn us about something?”
Swede
He saw our smoke, and thought we were spirits probably, ha-ha, ha-hah! These Hungarians believe in all sorts of rubbish; you remember the shopwoman at Pressburg warning us that no one ever landed here?
Me
She said it’s because it belonged to some sort of beings outside man’s world!
Swede
I suppose they believe in fairies and elementals, possibly demons, too. That peasant in the boat saw people on the island for the first time in his life, and it scared him, that’s all.
Me
Heh. If they had enough imagination, they might very well people a place like this with the old gods of antiquity.
Swede
The river’s still rising, though, and will be under water in two days.

The psychology of places

Me
True, two days at most.
Swede
I wish the wind would go down. I don’t care a fig for the river.
Me
The scarcity of wood will make it a business to keep the fire going. The wind that’s driving the smoke into our faces right now will make a fierce cross draught. 
Swede
We can take turns fighting it and making expeditions to grub in among the bushes for wood. **********
Me
When this next bundle of branches is in camp, I shall turn in. So I’ll make this final expedition brief.
Swede
Good. I’m dog tired.
Me
Glad to hear you are tired, it proves you can get tired. I’m bushed and all your loads of wood have been twice as heavy as mine. So long for the moment, Swede!  
Me
(Thinking) The psychology of places is vivid for the wanderer; thus camps have a note, either of welcome or rejection. And the note of this willow-camp has become unmistakably plain to me; we are interlopers, trespassers; we are not welcome. The damn willows are against us.
Me
(Thinking) And talking of bad omens, I could swear that boatman, if it was actually a man, was warning us against some danger, warning us off this filthy island.

Look for Part 2 soon!

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The Willows, Part 2 of 4

Scary chat stories, by Algernon Blackwood

Adapted as scary chat stories by Captivated Chat

Tap arrow button above to hear theme music called Monster at the Door, by Sir Cubworth.
Tap arrow above to listen to this story being read.
Me
I have been gone so long you probably thought something happened to me, so you came out after me! (Thinking: But there is a look on your face that conveys concern. I certainly see the real reason now for your coming after me: the spell of the place has entered your soul too, and you did not like being alone with your own scary chat stories about this.)
Swede
River’s still rising, and the wind’s relentless.
Me
Luckily our tent’s in the hollow. I think it’ll hold up. But I can’t hold up searching for wood in this wind much longer, what with the increasing difficulty of finding any.
Swede
(Nodding) We will be lucky if we can get away from this island without disaster!
Me
I am almost angry at you for putting my own thought into words. There is trouble coming, and soon.

I awoke at around midnight and looked out. Feeling some disquiet, I crawled quietly out of the tent. I noticed the tops of the bushes opposite, with their moving tracery of leaves. It was incredible, surely, but there, opposite and slightly above me, were shapes of some indeterminate sort, and as the moonlit branches swayed in the wind they grouped themselves about these, forming a series of monstrous outlines that shifted rapidly.

Me
The village shopkeeper was right.
Swede
Then you saw these beings?
Me
Yes. They first became properly visible, these huge figures, just within the tops of the bushes—immense, bronze-colored, moving, and wholly independent of the swaying of the branches.
Swede
You saw them plainly?
Me
I saw them plainly and noted, when I came to examine them more calmly, that they were very much larger than human, and indeed that something in their appearance proclaimed them to be not human. 
Swede
Were they malevolent?
Me
Certainly. Men fear this place with good reason, clearly.
Swede
I have felt that was a possibility since we landed.
Me
They were interlaced one with another, making a great column, and I saw their limbs and huge bodies melting in and out of each other, forming this serpentine line that swayed and twisted spirally in the wind. 
Swede
What did their faces look like?
Me
I never could see. They were nude, dull bronze, fluid shapes, passing up the bushes, within the leaves, almost—rising up in a living column into the heavens. 
Swede
What proof have you?
Me
I admit, none. It may have been an optical illusion. It must be a subjective experience, I argued to myself — none the less real for that, but subjective. These pictures formed upon the mirror of my imagination, and for some reason I projected them outwards and made them appear objective. Perhaps it is just that.
Swede
I’d have thought so, of course, if I had not had the opportunity to observe otherwise.
Me
You too? What was your experience?
Swede
Outside on the tent there was a sound of many little patterings. In spite of the hot night, I woke feeling clammy and cold. Something was pressing steadily against the sides of the tent and weighing down on it. 
Me
Was it possibly caused by wind or the spray and rain?
Swede
No. I raised a flap and rushed out to see. But when I stood upright I saw that the tent was free. There was nothing impinging, no fallen bough, no rain or spray, nothing approaching, either. I walked around it and then into the bush to look.
Me
What did you see?
Swede
From the shadows a large figure went swiftly by. Someone passed me, as sure as ever a man did….
Me
So you saw one of them!
Swede
Yes, and arriving here, a dreadful discovery leaped out at me, as well, and compared to it my terror of the walking one seemed like nothing.
Swede
For a change, I thought, had somehow come about in the arrangement of the landscape. The bushes now crowded much closer—unnecessarily, unpleasantly close. Certainly they had moved nearer!
Me
I noticed it, too, but I was afraid to believe my eyes.
Swede
Denial was my first reaction, as well. Then the truth followed quickly. Their attack will come, and is coming.
Me
Well, we can do nothing tonight. We must rest, sleep or no. (Five minutes later)
Swede
The porridge is cooked and there is just time to bathe. 
Me
I welcome the aroma of that frizzling bacon.
Swede
River waters around this wild island are still rising, and several islands out in mid-stream have disappeared. Our own island’s become much smaller.
Me
Any wood left?
Swede
The wood and the island will finish tomorrow in a dead heat, but there’s enough to last us till then.
Me
I plan to plunge in to bathe from the point of the island. 
Swede
I did the same. But stay in close.
Me
Right, and I will be quick about it, for we’d better get off sharp in an hour.
Me
(Thinking: The island has changed a lot in size and shape overnight. The water feels icy, and chunks of sand are flying by like countryside from a speeding car. Bathing under such conditions will be at best exhilarating.)
Me
(Thinking: What did Swede imply? He no longer wishes to leave quickly? “Enough to last till tomorrow”—he said. What changed his thinking?

But the state of his mind is more interesting than anything in his words. He has changed it overnight. His manner is different—a trifle excited, and shy, with a sort of suspicion. I am certain he has gotten frightened, this brave man who is not given to imagining things. He ate little at breakfast.

Swede
Agreed. If they’ll let us.
Me
Who’ll let us? The elements?
Swede
The powers of this awful place, whoever they are. The gods are here, if they are anywhere in the world.
Me
Stop looking down at that map. You can’t tell me you believe the elements can stop us.
Swede
Yes. The elements are always the true immortals.
Me
So you have said, and I agree if you mean the weather, however we can handle the things going on right now. Agreed?
Swede
We shall be fortunate if we get away without further disaster.

This was exactly what I had dreaded, and I screwed myself up to the point of asking the direct question.

Me
Further disaster? Why, what’s happened?
Swede
First — the steering paddle’s gone.
Me
The steering paddle gone! This was our rudder, and canoing the Danube in flood without a rudder is suicide. But what could —
Swede
Secondly, there’s a tear in the bottom of the canoe.
Me
A tear in it?
Swede
There’s only one. But here it is.
Me
Yes, a long, finely made tear. Thank heavens you spotted it. 
Swede
Had we launched without observing it, we’d have foundered. 
Me
At first the water would have made the wood swell so as to close the hole, but once out in mid-stream the water would have poured in and our low-riding boat would have filled and sunk rapidly.
Swede
There you see an attempt to prepare a victim for the sacrifice. Mmmph, two victims, rather.
Me
Hmm.
Swede
It wasn’t there last night.
Me
We must have scratched her in landing, of course. The stones are very sharp. I know just as well as you do how impossible my explanation sounds. We both examined the boat last night, but we were tired.)  
Swede
And then there’s this to explain too. The paddle, look at this blade.
Me
(Thinking: The blade is scraped down all over, beautifully scraped, as though someone had sand-papered it with care, making it so thin that the first vigorous stroke would snap it.) 
Swede
Well?
Me
One of us walked in his sleep and did this thing.
Swede
Ah, you can explain everything. (Turning away) Ha-ha-ha.
Swede
I see.
Me
One of us must have done this thing, and it certainly was not me.
Me
(Thinking: To even suppose that my friend, the trusted companion of a dozen similar expeditions, could have knowingly had a hand in this sabotage is a thought not to be entertained. But just as absurd is to say this imperturbable, densely practical fellow has suddenly gone mad and is busied with insane purposes.)
Me
But he is suddenly nervous, timid, suspicious, aware of goings on he does not speak about. 
Swede
What do you make of the many deep hollows formed in the sand around our tent?  
Me
I noticed, basin-shaped and of various depths and sizes. The biggest is like a large bowl. The wind, no doubt, was responsible, just as it was for lifting the paddle and tossing it to where it got caught among the willows as the eroding sand and the flood sanded it down.
Swede
Really? 
Me
The rent in the canoe is the only thing that seems quite inexplicable; and, after all, it is conceivable that a sharp point caught it when we landed. 
Swede
Ah!
Me
(Thinking: My examination of the shore does not support this theory, yet I must cling to it with my diminishing reason. An explanation of some kind, however, is an absolute necessity.)
Swede
Please set the pitch melting, and soon I’ll join you, although the canoe can’t be safe for traveling until tomorrow. 
Me
Of course it won’t.
Swede
You know those hollows in the sand? They’re all over the island. But you can explain them, no doubt!
Me
Wind, of course. Have you never watched those little whirlwinds in the street that twirl everything into a circle? This sand’s loose enough to yield, that’s all.
Swede
Hummph!
Me
(Thinking: He is watching me, and yet listening attentively for something I cannot hear. Why else keep turning and staring into the bushes, and up, and out across the water through the willow branches?) Sometimes he even puts his hand to his ear. Why?)
Swede
Ummph!
Me
(Thinking: Fortunately he says nothing as he works, because I vaguely dread he will speak of the reason for the willows’ changed aspect. And, if he has reached the same conclusion, my thought that “it’s just our imagination” will no longer be a sufficient response!)

Look for part 3

.

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The Willows, Part 3 of 4

By Algernon Blackwood

Tap arrow button above to hear theme music called Monster at the Door, by Sir Cubworth.
Tap arrow above to listen to this story.
Swede
Oddest thing about that otter last night.
Me
  Ha-ha. I had expected another of your scary chat stories or at least something totally different.
Swede
I mean—do you—did you think it really was an otter?
Me
What else, in the name of heaven?
Swede
You know, I saw it before you did, and at first it seemed—so much bigger than an otter.
Me
The sunset as you looked up-stream magnified it, or something.
Swede
It had such extraordinary yellow eyes.
Me
That was the sun too. I guess you’ll wonder next if that fellow in the boat—
Swede
You just decided not to finish that sentence, I noticed.
Me
Damned if you are not listening for them again, turning your head to the wind, with something in your expression that makes me wonder. 
Swede
I did rather wonder, too, if you want to know, what that thing in the boat was. I remember thinking at the time it was not a man. The whole business seemed to rise quite suddenly out of the water.
Me
Excuse me but I must laugh, only this time out of impatience, and a strain of anger too.
Swede
You are angry at me?
Me
Look here now, this place is quite queer enough without going out of our way to imagine things! That boat was an ordinary boat, and the man in it was just a man, and they were both going down-stream very fast. And that otter was an otter, so don’t play games!
Me
And, for Heaven’s sake, don’t keep pretending you hear things, because it only gives me the jumps, and there’s nothing to hear but the river and this thundering wind.
Swede
You fool! That’s just the way all victims talk. As if you didn’t understand just as well as I do!
Swede
The best thing you can do is to keep quiet and try to hold your mind as firm as possible. This feeble attempt at self-deception only makes the truth harder when you’re forced to meet it.
Me
Well, please don’t sneer! (Thinking: I do know your words are true, and that I have been the fool, not you. Up to a certain stage in the adventure you kept ahead of me easily, and I think I felt annoyed to be out of it!)  
Me
But you’re right about one thing, and that is that we’re wiser not to talk about it, or even to think about it, because what one thinks finds expression in words, and what one says, happens.
Me
A good thing the wind has died down.
Swede
Come and tell me what you make of it. Hold a hand to your ear. Now do you hear anything?
Me
I hear only the water’s roaring and hissing. 
Swede
Wait. The willows for once are silent, so it should be a good chance to hear the other sound.
Me
Yes, faintly I hear a peculiar sound—something like the humming of a distant gong. It is repeated at regular intervals, but it is certainly neither the sound of a bell nor the hooting of a distant steamer. I can liken it to nothing so much as to the sound of an immense gong, suspended far up in the sky.
Swede
A fair description.
Me
The wind blowing in those sand-funnels, or the bushes rubbing together after the storm perhaps.
Swede
It comes off the whole swamp and from everywhere at once. It comes from the willow bushes somehow—
Me
But now the wind has dropped. The willows can hardly make a noise by themselves, can they?
Swede
It is because the wind has dropped that we now hear it. It was drowned before. It is the cry, I believe, of the—oops!”
Me
Oh, the stew was about to burn! No wonder you dashed back without finishing your thought. Come and cut up bread for the pot. This stew-pot holds sanity for us both, and that silly thought makes me laugh. (Thinking: He has emptied the entire contents of the provisions bag on the ground-sheet!)
Me
Hurry up! It’s boiling.
Swede
There’s nothing here! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Bread, I mean. It’s gone. There is no bread. They’ve taken it! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
Me
You’re kidding.
Swede
Hah! Ha-ha-ha.
Me
Hah-hah, hah-ha. Must be the strain, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
Swede
Hah-hah, ha-ha-ha.
Me
Hah-hah, hah. But, no! How criminally stupid of me! I clean forgot to buy a loaf at Pressburg. But that chattering woman put everything out of my head, and I must have left it lying on the counter or—”
Swede
The oatmeal, too, is much less than it was this morning.
Me
There’s enough for tomorrow, and we can get lots more at Komorn or Gran. In twenty-four hours we shall be miles from here.
Swede
I hope so—to God. Unless we’re claimed first as victims for the sacrifice. He-he, Heh-heh, he. Mumble, mmmph –.

Our meal was beyond question a gloomy one, and we ate it almost in silence, avoiding one another’s eyes, and keeping the fire bright. Then we washed up and prepared for the night.

Me
There are things about us, I’m sure, that make for disorder, disintegration, destruction, our destruction. We are in unsafe modes, somehow.
Swede
I don’t think a tape recorder would show any record of that ‘gong.’ The sound doesn’t come to me by the ears. The vibrations seem to be within me, which is precisely how a fourth dimensional sound might be supposed to make itself heard.
Swede
I agree that we have strayed into some region or some set of conditions where the risks are great, yet unintelligible to us; where the frontiers of some unknown world lays close about us. 
Me
What made you decide to become the spokesman for it?
Swede
Face the terrible facts. This is a new order of experience, of horror, and in the true sense of the word unearthly.
Swede
It’s the deliberate, calculating purpose that reduces one’s courage to zero. Otherwise imagination might account for much of it. But the paddle, the canoe, the lessening food—
Me
Haven’t I explained all that once?
Swede
You have; you have indeed, however unconvincingly. These outsiders have demonstrated a plain determination to provide a victim. 
Me
I can’t disguise it any longer, I don’t like this place. There’s something here that beats me. I’m in a funk. If the other shore was—different, I swear I’d be inclined to swim for it!
Swede
(Staring me down) It’s not a physical condition we can run away from. We must sit tight. There are forces close here that I expect could kill a herd of elephants in a second as easily as you or I could squash a fly. Our only chance is to keep generally still. Our insignificance may save us.
Me
That seems rather far fetched. What do you mean?
Swede
I mean that so far, although aware of our disturbing presence, they have not found us—not ‘located’ us, as the Americans say. 
Swede
They’re blundering about like men hunting for a leak of gas. The paddle and canoe and provisions prove that. I think they feel us, but cannot actually see us. 
Me
We must keep our minds quiet—it’s our minds they feel. We must control our thoughts, or it’s all up with us.
Me
Death, you mean?  
Swede
Worse—by far. Death, according to one’s belief, means either annihilation or release from the limitations of the senses, but it involves no change of character. You don’t suddenly alter just because the body’s gone. But this means a radical alteration, a complete change, a horrible loss of oneself by substitution—far worse than death, and not even annihilation. 
Swede
We happen to have camped in a spot where their region touches ours, where the veil between has worn thin—a horror portal! 
Me
But who are aware?
Swede
All my life, I have been strangely, vividly conscious of another region—not far removed from our own in one sense, yet wholly different in kind—where great things go on unceasingly, where immense and terrible personalities hurry by, intent on vast purposes compared to which earthly affairs, the rise and fall of nations, the destinies of empires, the fate of armies and continents, are all as dust in the balance; vast purposes, I mean, that deal directly with the soul, and not indirectly with more expressions of the soul—
Me
I suggest just now you hold back — stop your exposition!
Swede
You think it is the spirit of the elements, and I thought perhaps it was the old gods. But I tell you now it is—neither. These would be comprehensible entities, for they have relations with men, depending upon them for worship or sacrifice, whereas these beings have absolutely nothing to do with man, and it is mere chance that their space happens just at this spot to touch our own.
Me
Your words somehow are so convincing, they’ve set me shaking a little. So what do you propose?
Swede
A sacrifice, a victim, might save us by distracting them until we could get away, just as the wolves stop to devour the dogs and give the sleigh another start. But—I see no chance of any other victim now.
Me
The gleam in your eye is terrifying.

Look for Part 4!

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The Tell-Tale Heart, Part 1

By Edgar Allan Poe

The first of four scary chat stories under this title.

Click arrow above to play a carefully selected musical accompaniment while you read, a creepy, cinema-style tune titled Lurking, by Silent Partner.
Click arrow above to hear this story read aloud.
Me
You are nervous, but I must say, as an experienced detective, nervousness could be sign of madness.
Suspect
TRUE!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? 
Me
Not I, but it is just possible. Doubtless you have a nervous disorder, some disease no doubt dulling or destroying your ability to sense what is real.
Suspect
True, but the disease has sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. 
Me
Please explain. And pray tell how then you did not hear anything of the old man’s destruction and disappearance?
Me
Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily—how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

The whole story

Suspect
It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object? There was none. Passion? There was none. 
Me
You did not dislike the old man?
Suspect
I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire.
Me
You must have disliked something about him! What could it have been?
Suspect
I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.
Me
But it’s so trivial, so pointless! And yet you say you are not mad?
Suspect
Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. 
Me
I did see you. 
Suspect
Now that seems mad. You are the detective, as you stated, although how you came here so quickly after—
Me
You were saying?
Suspect
: You should have seen how wisely I proceeded—with what caution—with what foresight—with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. 
Me
Ah! So, you admit it!
Suspect
And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it—oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in!
Me
But I dared not laugh in observing you! Any audible sound might have been your undoing, or the old man’s, who we loved! The lantern revealed an angelic face in slumber.
Suspect
I moved it slowly—very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this?
Me
Doubtless it seemed wise to you at the time, I know. But does it still seems wise after your confession? But I digress; pray continue your own account, and tell us why we have not found the corpse.

***********

Look for Part 2!
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The Tell-Tale Heart, Part 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Click arrow above to play a carefully selected musical accompaniment while you read, it’s a creepy, cinema-style tune titled Lurking, by Silent Partner.

Click arrow to hear the story read aloud.
Me
What did you do then, you clever intruder?
Suspect
Then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously—oh, so cautiously—cautiously (for the hinges creaked)—I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. 
Suspect
And this I did for seven long nights—every night just at midnight—but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. 
Me
And yet you remain steadfast in denying that you are mad! Who kills over an eye? 
Suspect
But if you had seen the vulture eye.
Me
I have seen it. I knew the victim and his eye. But what did you do when after seven days the eye was always closed?
Suspect
Every morning when the day broke I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see, he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.
Me
Indeed, I know that! Go on, please.
Suspect
Upon the eighth night, I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. 
Me
That didn’t strike you as odd behavior on your part? Hadn’t you always been more free in your movement?
Suspect
Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers—of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. 
Me
Yet it looks to me that you are shaking with nerves. Why?
Suspect
To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. 
Me
We both know that he had heard you.
Suspect
Perhaps. Now you may think that I drew back—but no. 
Me
No, and you no doubt recall how quickly you thought and reacted, and that it was a very clever response.
Suspect
True! His room was black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers). So I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.
Me
Yes. But your next move was what?
Suspect
I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out—“Who’s there?”
Suspect
I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening;—just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.
Me
Naturally you were well practiced then. But continue, for we can come back to that last comment.
Suspect
Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief—oh, no!—it was the low, stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe.
Me
Perhaps I can appreciate your understanding of his emotions, but is it logical to confess all this to a policeman? Some may wonder how you understood him so well. Pray explain, for the record.
Suspect
I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. 
Me
I know, I know.
Suspect
I repeat that I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. 
Me
No doubt. One remembers such a groan!
Suspect
His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself—“It is nothing but the wind in the chimney—it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or “It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.” 
Me
Yes, I suppose he would be trying to comfort himself with these suppositions.
Suspect
But he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. 
Me
You have already admitted that it was you who stalked him!
Suspect
But it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel—although he neither saw nor heard—to feel the presence of my head within the room.
Me
Perhaps. So then what did you do? 
Suspect
When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little—a very, very little crevice in the lantern. 
Me
Then what did he do?
Suspect
So I opened it—you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily—until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.
Me
I disliked that eye myself. I suppose it vexed you to see a spotlight shone upon it!
Suspect
It was open—wide, wide open—and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. 
Me
Odd reaction, but no doubt you feel it scarcely can be called mad under the circumstances.



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

Look for the next segment, Part 3!

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The Tell-Tale Heart, Part 3

By Edgar Allan Poe

Click arrow above to play instrumental theme music.
Suspect
As I say, I saw the eye with perfect distinctness—all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones.
Me
  You say you could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person, for you had directed the ray as if by instinct, on the eye.
Suspect
Yes, and  precisely upon the damned spot! And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses?
Me
Have you not noticed that I do not disbelieve you! You were ill, after all. But continue with your account, please!
Suspect
Now there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart.
Me
How did that sound make you feel?
Suspect
It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.
Me
 But even yet you refrained and kept still, is that correct?
Suspect
I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased.
Me
True, very, very dreadfully true! And the world calls you mad!
Suspect
Hah! It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!—do you mark me well?
Me
You have told me that you were nervous, and are.
Suspect
So I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. 
Me
Yet, for some minutes longer you refrained and stood still, eh? 
Suspect
I did so, but the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me—the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. 
Me
He shrieked once—once only, is that right.
Suspect
Yes! In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. 
Me
Then you heard his still-beating heart, yet you did not relent?  That establishes your wish to kill him.
Suspect
At length the sound ceased. 
Me
The old man was dead.
Suspect
Indeed! I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.
Me
That is one mercy for you, at least. But the police shall trouble you and vex you to the end of your days.
Suspect
If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I detail the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. 
Me
Don’t trouble to.  No, please don’t!
Suspect
First of all I dismembered the corpse. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence…

………..

Look for the ending, Part 4, coming soon!

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The Tell-Tale Heart, Part 4

By Edgar Allan Poe

Tap arrow above to play theme music.
Tap arrow to hear this story read to you.
Me
You mean that you cut off the head and the arms and the legs of the corpse?
Suspect
I did so in order to elude detection.
Me
Why do you admit the deed now, in that case?
Suspect
As you know, my neck is already in the noose. 
Me
Then please complete your statement. Be aware that you may be proved mad by your own words, although you appear reasonably sane in my view.
Suspect
Thank you. In my own view, too, but your words are encouraging. So, I cut him up, and I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. 
Suspect
I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye—not even his—could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash out—no stain of any kind—no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all—ha! ha!
Me
I know!
Suspect
I almost feel as if you can read my thoughts.
Me
You know perfectly well that I am able to do so. But pray continue.
Suspect
For the record? Surely! When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o’clock—still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart,—for what had I now to fear? 
Me
How singular. This certainly could be repeated as one of the finest scary stories to tell in the dark. Trailer of murderers though I am, I am not sure I shall ever wish to repeat this. But what happened next?

At ease

Suspect
There entered three men, who introduced themselves with perfect suavity as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.
Me
What did you think about that?
Suspect
I smiled,—for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house and bade them search—search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. 
Me
Don’t you think that may have been a bit too much?
Suspect
No, no! I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.
Me
Did you think they believed you?
Suspect
My manner had convinced the officers. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. 
Me
The police were so readily being thwarted, but it was all a laugh to you, I suppose.
Suspect
Certainly not. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted.
Suspect
The ringing became more distinct:—It continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness—until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

Excited to fury

Me
No doubt, for you now grew very pale!
Suspect
I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. But the sound increased—and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton.
Me
Most disconcerting! I too noticed it.
Suspect
No doubt! I gasped for breath—and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly—more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. 
Me
I know! Why would they not be gone?
Suspect
I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men—but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed—I raved—and I swore! Then I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. You must understand that it grew louder, louder!

Making a mockery

Me
What was their reaction to all this?
Suspect
Nothing, for still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. 
Me
Was it possible they heard not? 
Suspect
Almighty God!—no, no! They heard!—they suspected!—and knew!—they were making a mockery of my horror!–this I thought, and this I think. 
Suspect
But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! For I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! 
Me
You felt that you must scream or die? 
Suspect
True, and now—again!—hark! Louder! Louder! Yet louder! Louder! “Villains!” I shrieked! 
Suspect
I screamed, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks! Here, here!—It is the beating of his hideous heart!”
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Death Shares

Sargeant
You have a scary story to tell us, I understand.
Me
Look, a kid caused all of this. I was coming through the revolving door at the Hotel Moravia’s front entrance when the boy handed me this doll. Have a look.
Sargeant
This was given to you?
Me
Yes. Nothing supernatural or magical about it. It was a ten-year-old kid’s prank. Except the scrawny kid didn’t talk to me. In fact, he looked away from eye contact and made a sign of the cross as he handed this to me.
Sargeant
And he told you that you have only two more days to live, you say?
Me
That’s right, Detective Partre.
Sargeant
It isn’t pretty, but it’s not unlike a lot of these voodoo dolls in N’Awlins. But as a doctor you see how absurd this is, right?
Me
Sure, a bit of bone and feathers, but it gave me a cold chill. I stuck it in my pocket, and the momentary distraction helped lead me to trip and fall through a section of plate glass window.
Sargeant
And that’s how you got cut up like this and landed in the hospital?
Me
Yes. The nurse said a piece of glass just missed my carotid artery, and I also got a nasty infection. But it’s not why I called you guys: being out of circulation means I can’t check into what I came here to consult on.
You accepted that doll
Sargeant
Which is?
Me
Above all, to find out why a perfectly healthy man is dying in the next room, dying of some unknown cause.
Sargeant
Listen, Doc, if you believe in these curses, you can make ’em come true. I have interviewed your patient, and he does one hundred percent believe. And he had been failing fast.
Me
I know. His doctor has consulted with me, although I have not seen the patient. Fortunately he seems to have turned the corner.
Sargeant
Yes, and you seem to have gotten a bit worse since you came in here. So what do you want us to do about it?
Me
The point is, I want you to find that kid who gave me the doll, and ask him to lift the curse.
Sargeant
Look, Doc. No can do.
Me
But why?
Sargeant
There was no kid. I’ve seen the security camera footage of that incident at the front-door. You accepted that doll from the man ahead of you at the door, and that just happens to be the guy in the next room!

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THE RAVEN

By Edgar Allan Poe

Adapted by Captivated Chat

Press play button above to listen to Audio reading authored by Librivox.
Poe
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
Poe
Tis some visiter, I muttered,
Poe
tapping at my chamber door — Only this, and nothing more.
Me
Nothing more.
Poe
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December, And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Poe
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore— For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Poe
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before; So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating

Poe
Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door— Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
Poe
This it is, and nothing more.
Me
Nothing more.
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
Poe
Sir, said I, or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore; But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping, And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door, That I scarce was sure I heard you —here I opened wide the door;——
Poe
Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token, And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, Lenore! This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word,
Me
Lenore!—
Poe
Merely this, and nothing more.
Poe
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning, Soon I heard again a tapping somewhat louder than before.
Poe
Surely, said I,
Poe
Surely that is something at my window lattice; Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore— Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;— ‘Tis the wind and nothing more!
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore; Not the least obeisance made he; not an instant stopped or stayed he; But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door— Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door— Perched, and sat, and nothing more. Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling, By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
Poe
Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou, I say, art sure no craven, Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore— Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Quoth the raven
Me
Nevermore.
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly, Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore; For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door— Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door, With such name as Nevermore. But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour. Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered— Till I scarcely more than muttered:
Poe
Other friends have flown before— On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.
Poe
Then the bird said
Me
Nevermore.
Poe
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken, Doubtless, said I, what it utters is its only stock and store Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore— Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore Of “Never—nevermore.”
Poe
But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling, Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door; Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore— What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore Meant in croaking
Me
Nevermore.
Poe
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core; This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o’er, But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o’er, She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Poe
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer Swung by Angels whose faint foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor. “Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore; Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!” Quoth the raven,
Me
Nevermore.
Poe
Prophet! said I, thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!— Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore, Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted— On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore— Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore! Quoth the raven,
Me
Nevermore.
Poe
Prophet! said I, “thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil! By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore — Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore— Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.” Quoth the raven,
Me
Nevermore.
Poe
Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend! I shrieked, upstarting— Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore! Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken! Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door! Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door! Quoth the raven,
Me
Nevermore.
Poe
And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming. As the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted — nevermore!

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The Monkey’s Paw, Part 2

By W. W. Jacobs

format by Captivated Chat

Me
Last night’s fancies do seem silly in the light of day.
Mrs. White
I suppose all old soldiers are the same. But the idea of our listening to such nonsense! After all, how could wishes be granted in these days? And if they could, how could two hundred pounds hurt you, father?
Herbert
Might drop on his head from the sky.
Me
Morris said the things happened so naturally, that you might, if you so wished, attribute it to coincidence.
Herbert
Well, I’m off. Don’t break into the money before I come back. I’m afraid it’ll turn you into a mean, avaricious man, and we shall have to disown you.
Mrs. White
Ha, ha, ha. Have a good day, Herbert.

(Eight hours later.)

Mrs. White
Herbert will have some more of his funny remarks or he’ll tell us a scary ghost story, I expect, when he comes home.
Me
I dare say. But for all that, the thing moved in my hand; that I’ll swear to.
Mrs. White
That is, you thought it did.
Me
I say it did. Certainly I had no thought about it —- But what’s the matter?

A visitor

Mrs. White
The matter? That man by our gate peering through the window just then. Appeared to be trying to make up his mind whether to come in.
Me
He’s finally deciding to come up.
Mrs. White
Come in, sir.
Stranger
I, uh, I—was asked to call. So I came to tell you, from Maw and Meggins.
Mrs. White
Oh, no! Is anything the matter? Has anything happened to Herbert? So what is it? What is it?
Me
 There, there, mother. Sit down, and don’t jump to conclusions. You’ve not brought bad news, I’m sure, sir.
Stranger
Above all, I’m sorry— .
Mrs. White
But, is he hurt?
Stranger
Badly hurt, but he is not in any pain.
Mrs. White
Oh, thank God! Thank God for that! Thank–
Mrs. White
You mean?
Stranger
 He was caught in the machinery.
Me
Caught in the machinery. Yes. (taking his wife’s hand between his own)
Me
But he was the only one left to us. So it is hard.
Stranger
(Coughing) Finally, the firm wished me to convey their sincere sympathy with you in your great loss. But I beg that you will understand I am only their servant and merely obeying orders.
Me
Oh.
Stranger
I was to say that Maw and Meggins disclaim all responsibility. They admit no liability at all, but in consideration of your son’s services, they wish to present you with a certain sum as compensation.
Me
H-H-How much?
Stranger
Two hundred pounds.
Mrs. White
I-Aiii!

(The old man smiled faintly, put out his hands like a sightless man, and dropped, a senseless heap, to the floor.)

Look for part 3, the finale of the scary ghost story, The Monkey’s Paw

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Chance, Part 1

Scary kids stories such as this can give a person the creeps at any age. Enjoy!

Me
The boat ride was fun.
Stan
But it’s too bad it drifted off. Guess we’ll walk back.
Me
It’s getting so dark!
Stan
I’m worried.
Me
What have you got to be scared about? Wait. We’ve got to go the other way!
Stan
Listen, Brain, I’ll do the pathfinding!
Me
But you’re wrong; it’s the other way!
Stan
We’ll flip for it as usual.
Me
I have a nickel. Heads we take the right-hand path, tails we take the left-hand path.
Stan
All right.
Me
OK, call it.
Stan
Heads.
Me
Ugh, heads it is! OK, Eagle Scout, lead the way!
Stan
No. You go first! I never made Eagle.
Stan
But if this path leads us up to the middle of nowhere, so help me, I’m gonna pull you apart like a sardine! So, uh, keep movin’ dude!
Stan
Wait up!
Me
Dude, what’s the matter now?
Stan
Listen, you hear that? I swear, it’s a fiddle. See, I told you we were heading the right way!
Me
Keep movin’ pal! After all, I’m hungry.
Stan
Well, that’s funny. That’s awful sad music, and the house has a scary look up on that hill with the headstones all around it. Somehow my heart sank at the sight.
Me
But it’s just a family plot. I just care about food!
Stan
Maybe we shouldn’t disturb whoever’s playing.
Me
‘Disturb’ is right! One side, Sir Walter Raleigh. I’ll do the knocking!
Stan
They don’t seem to hear us.
Me
But they’ll sure as hell hear this door knocker!
Stan
I think that did it. The music stopped. Tell horror stories
Me
It’s kind of fun isn’t it?
Stan
Okay you enjoy the fun and you do the paying if they can’t find our boat.
Ms. Kurtz
Good evening! Welcome to the Kurtz residence.
Me
Oh, how do you do! We’re sorry to bust in like this, but we lost our way, I mean our boat, and thought maybe you could direct us.
Ms. Kurtz
Of course. Won’t you step in? I’m more than glad to see you. Sorry, I still have the chain on.
Stan
Okay, it’s going to rain.
Me
Yeah, we certainly were lucky to find this place!
Stan
We heard you playing the violin, and so very well!
Ms. Kurtz
How kind. If you’ll step this way.
Stan
Oh God, isn’t she the strangest girl?
Me
Yeah, turned her face away before we entered.
Ms. Kurtz
Step in here. I have a small fire going.
Stan
It’s so dark.
Ms. Kurtz
Yeah, the fire is dim now but still warm. Your eyes will adjust. Do me the honor of being seated.
Me
All right. Oh boy what a chair!
Ms. Kurtz
Yes, it’s comfortable. Now if I might be permitted to introduce myself, I’m Henrietta Kurtz.
Me
Pleased to meet you, Ms. Kurtz. I’m Bob and he’s Stan. Believe me, Ms. Kurtz, it’s a pleasure!
Stan
It’s good to sit. Results from an illness
Ms. Kurtz
I’d like to sit and talk with you both. There’s so very much to talk about.
Me
Well, we should be getting back home.
Stan
Yeah.
Ms. Kurtz
Oh, with the storm upon you, we’ve got plenty of time.
Stan
Anyway lady, you don’t know what a lifesaver you were.
Ms. Kurtz
Is that so?
Stan
Everything gets Bob scared.
Ms. Kurtz
I must apologize for not having more light in here. But you see, my eyes.
Me
Oh that’s all right, Ms. Kurtz. I guess I don’t really mind it being dark in here. We can chat and tell horror stories.
Stan
If you have a candle?
Me
Don’t bother. He was hit on the head by a candlestick when very young.
Ms. Kurtz
Oh will you listen to that wind? The storm will come through in just a few more moments.
Stan
That thunder gives me the shakes. Is your husband home, Ms. Kurtz?
Ms. Kurtz
No, I’m quite alone in the world.
Me
Sure must get lonely out here!
Ms. Kurtz
It was very lonely.
Stan
Getting awful dark in here.
Ms. Kurtz
The power went out as you arrived. But don’t be alarmed at that sound, its a door banging in the wind.
Me
If it’s a bad time to visit, sorry.
Ms. Kurtz
If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’ll go close it.
Me
Stan, you’re shaking!
Stan
I’m not scared. It looks so odd, and those shadows keep moving.
Me
That’s the fire. But what’s that funny smell?
Stan
Yeah I noticed it, like medicine. She walks and holds her head so strangely.
Me
People do have infirmities, however, maybe it all results from an illness. That could be why she’s hiding.
Stan
Still it’s kinda creepy. So let’s just get out of here.
Ms. Kurtz
On the contrary, I suggest you stay!
Me
Is that a gun?
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Taps for Earthlings, Part 2

Me
How did I get here? Excuse me mister, how did I get here?
Stranger
I don’t know.
Me
I can’t take time for pleasure trips.
Stranger
Don’t ask; I may have been murdered.
Me
You mean we’re dead?
Stranger
Don’t ask me. Ouch! I don’t think we’re dead, after all. That much I can tell you. You’re standin’ on my toe!
Me
Some of those people complained they had families to take care of, others about leaving their businesses. And they all went quiet when a man climbed up on a big platform in front.
Sam
Politician? 
Me
No, it was a very tall and dignified alien and he had formal clothes and a white beard, like the chief mourner at a politician’s funeral.
Tall Guy
Welcome to you all. If you were here and listening carefully to this orientation lecture you will know where you are and why.
Me
What is it?  
Stranger
It’s a pitch!
Tall Guy
I know you are puzzled at all this, now let me explain. You’ve been chosen, yes, carefully screened and selected to help us in what is undoubtedly the greatest cause of all human history. You will learn more about it as we work together in this vast and noble experiment.
Me
Experiment? I don’t like the sound of that.
Sam
What was it?
Boss Tunney
These guys out for something? Smells like a con.
Tall Guy
Now you know that the universe contains billions of stars and typically stars are encircled by planets, and we find a good many of these planets are inhabited. In almost all instances the dominant form of life is quite different.
Me
I knew it; they are among us!
Tall Guy
But ours is very different from yours. I am NOT of your planet or solar system. I am not as you see me; my true appearance would seem to be rather confusing to human eyesight.
Sam
Get to the point.
Me
He was trying to!
Tall Guy
Truth is we are not “here” and neither are you. Here is a projection of a hypothetical point in space, a place that exists only by mental force. Actually our bodies are on our own respective planets.
Boss Tunney
What was he saying? What did he mean?
Sam
Wait, they always give the convincer after the build-up.
Me
It’s not a con!
Tall Guy
For many centuries we’ve explored the universe physically and telepathically and during this we discovered your planet. We tried to establish communication, but difficulties arose.
Stranger
I’m not getting’ it. Where am I?
Tall Guy
Last time it was the era of your dark ages; and I’m sorry to report that those people we did make contact with were generally burned at the stake.
Sam
Here it comes. He’s getting ready to slip us the sting.
Me
I don’t think you want to say a thing like that about a fine decent gentleman. He sincerely wants to help preserve cultures.
Tall Guy
Your so-called leaders have doomed the human race. The history of your race is a record of incessant wars, each more devastating than the last.
Sam
Typical “repent and join us” pitch.
Tall Guy
And now finally man has tamed the power of worldwide destruction; the next war or the one after that will unquestionably be the end, not only of civilization but of humanity.
Sam
So they’re saying “join us instead,” eh?
Boss Tunney
I can feel his hand in my pocket now!
Me
They’ve never mentioned money.
Tall Guy
Then why have we brought you here? Because man, in spite of his suicidal blunders, is a magnificent race! He must not vanish without leaving a complete record of his achievements. This is our joint task.
Sam
Did you join up?
Me
Certainly not, at that point, but it turns out it’s legitimate!
Tall Guy
Each of you has a skill, a talent, a special knowledge we need for the immense record we’re compiling.  We must cover every area of human society in making our record. Your data will become part of an imperishable social document!
Sam
Boy he had a slick con! I’ll bet he had that crowd in the palm of his hand.
Boss Tunney
I once saw a guy sellin’ pearl necklaces on Sixth Avenue who worked the same way.
Me
No! True, we all cheered; we were all flattered to think we were joining in this vast project to make a record of the human race, just in case.
Sam
What happened then?
Me
After a while they asked us to break up into divisions. They suggested I visit a building marked Sports and Rackets. They took my name and my occupation, like I was applying for unemployment insurance.
Alien Two
Now here’s our problem, Mr. Locke, we’re making two kinds of perpetual records. One is written precisely on microchips. The other is a wonderfully exact duplicate of your cerebral pattern, preserved in more durable material than brain matter.
Me
Of course, of course.
Alien Two
The substance we use in place of brain cells absorbs memory quite slowly. But you’ll be happy to know the impression, once made, can never be lost or erased.
Me
That idea tickles me, to be honest.
Alien Two
I knew it would be so. Well, let’s proceed, shall we? First a basic description of this baseball specialty, please.
Me
I started telling him about advanced metrics in baseball, beginning in one sentence I had to repeat so they could record it. They projected a picture of my body back on earth, just repeating that sentence.
Alien Two
Well that’s enough for the day! Isn’t it amazing we have a more detailed record of human society than man himself ever had? Your life. . .  
Me
My life?
Alien Two
and the life of this girl, Elena, whom you came here to rescue, are trivial. For we must all die eventually, but the project, the project will last eternally.
Me
You’re telling me you know what I’m here for?
Alien Two
To secure the return of your wife! I would naturally be aware that you’d submitted yourself to our control voluntarily, because it was in your file sent to me by admissions.
Me
And why did you let me in?
Alien Two
We admitted you because we approve the ‘friend’ pitch.
Me
I’m here on business.
Alien Two
As you wish. We ‘let you in’ because you have knowledge that we should archive. We had hoped you’d recognize the importance of it. Most people do recognize it once they’re told!
Me
Yes I see that, Elena.  
Alien Two
Oh yes, yes. Elena’s extremely cooperative, quite convinced! Would you like to see her?
Me
Yeah, sure I would!
Alien Two
Well that can be arranged!
Me
Now!
Alien Two
I’ll call the Arts and Entertainment section and arrange an instant meeting.
Me
Elena! Elena, baby!
Elena
Clark! Give me a kiss!
Me
You bet! But let’s get out of here!

***********

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Taps for Earthlings, Part 3

Elena
Hello, Clark.
Me
Aren’t you glad to see me? I’ve spent weeks searching, just thinking that I’ve got to find you!
Elena
Well sure I’m glad to see you, hon, but I can’t waste any time. This work is so important!
Me
I want to talk to you without that con artist with the white robes.
Elena
Isn’t he wonderful? Molatta. Aren’t they all wonderful? Regular scientists devoting their whole lives to this terrific cause!
Me
What’s so wonderful about it? When it’s completed they could let the earth go boom,and it wouldn’t mean a thing to them!
Elena
Everybody wiped out? Gee, wouldn’t that make you feel simply awful?
Me
I wouldn’t feel a thing. I am worried, though, but it’s about us, baby. Who cares about the rest of the world doing a disappearing act some day?
Elena
I do, and so do they. They aren’t selfish like some people I could mention!
Me
Selfish?
Elena
You’re almost done here right?
Me
I am, but Elena, listen! I am selfish because I’ve got a wife and I’m nuts about her, and I want her back. What about your vows?
Elena
I have to help out on this project; it’s the least I can do for history.
Me
History? What did history ever do for us? Go turn in your time card, baby.  Tell them you got a date with me back on earth.
Elena
No! This is my job as much as the others! They don’t ever keep anybody here against their will. I’m staying because I want to, sweetie.
Me
What?
Elena
Honey, excuse me, I’ve got to get back. I’m teaching them the soft shoe now.
Alien Two
You satisfied, now, Mr. Locke?
Me
Listen, take away your prediction of doom and this racket folds like a cheap umbrella.
Alien Two
OK, I wish we could retract it, but it is a genuine prediction.
Me
You’re knocking yourself out because your guess is we’re going to commit planetary suicide.
Alien Two
Is there any doubt of it? Do you honestly believe a world holocaust can be averted?
Me
I think it can be stopped, yes. Between these catatonics and me, we could change it.
Alien Two
Tell me what you’re suggesting.
Me
I notice you’ve got people from all over the world here. They get along fine because they have a vital job.
Alien Two
Certainly, but…
Me
So they don’t have time to hate each other. Well, it could be like that back on earth.
Alien Two
Mr. Locke, we have experimented in the manner you suggest. But a human psychological mechanism defeated us.
Me
Yeah? What was that?
Alien Two
Protective amnesia. They completely and absolutely forgot everything they’d learned here.
Me
Well, what are the odds on me remembering?
Alien Two
Well, you are our first volunteer.
Me
Look, I’ll give you a deal. You let me out and maybe I’ll be the first case that didn’t get amnesia, and I can tell the world of this. I am a writer…
Alien Two
Harmless enough idea.
Me
Sure, I’ll come back! If I fail, you can pick me up any time you want. But if I make headway you gotta let Elena go too.
Alien Two
That’s a reasonable proposition. We will lift our control and if you can arouse a measurable opposition to human racial suicide…
Me
I’m just the boy that can.
Alien Two
Measurable, mind you! Then we will agree to release your wife and revise our policy completely.
Me
I awoke back on Earth, up at Glendale. It took me about two weeks to convince them that I was all right again. But I had to convince the world that they were throwing the ultimate World Series.
Boss Tunney
We know that you wrote some stuff on that topic, and I had to print something, but I thought you was jokin’ with that stuff.
Me
No! I started to write it all out in my tip sheet, in and around the player rankings. You did publish it, though.
Boss Tunney
In future I need more rankings and less aliens. But I kept it in the paper, just for human interest.
Me
Thanks! You may be saving the world, Boss. Then I ran into Sam.
Sam
My boy! How anxious we were about you! Reading your stuff…
Me
Why?
Sam
I remember I first said you were looking fit.
Me
Yeah, and I said “Thanks, wish I could say the same about you, and the rest of the world.”
Sam
Again, no need to worry about us, we’ll muddle along somehow.
Me
Oh you think so, huh?
Sam
I’m glad to see you’ve got your tip sheet going again. As long as my ‘Sam Yankees’ win, who cares what happens to anything else!
Me
Gosh, has nobody listened to me?

* * * * * * * * * *

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Not Dead, Part 1

Me
I stopped the bleeding! It looks like just a cut on his forehead from when he hit the ground.
Chad
It can’t be that bad, officer. I didn’t hit him hard. I was inching along and then I hit the b-b-brakes.
Bystander
Yeah, that’s right it looked like just a little bump.
Me
That’s all right. All right, now, clear back, clear back! Let’s have a little air in here.  I have to take down some information. What’s your name?
Chad
Chad Kohl. Here’s my license.
Bystander
Hey, you kids there!  
Me
Yeah, you, stay back!
Bystander
Those kids, they picked up something off the street. I saw it.  
Me
Where’s that ambulance? Oh, here it comes, and not too soon! It doesn’t look like he’s breathing!
Chad
My gosh, he ain’t b-b-breathing!
Me
I told you kids to get back there! Come on now, get back.
Me
I’m glad you got here, doctor, he’s out cold.
Doc
Let’s have a look here.
Chad
Yeah. I know some good injury lawyers.
Me
Don’t say yeah.
Doc
All right, let’s get him packed away; he’s dead. Well, at least it didn’t happen in the ambulance.
Me
Keep back, will you!   
Bystander
Sure officer. The guy’s dead, he don’t need air or injury lawyers.   
Chad
D-d-d dead!
Bystander
You might have to Donate Your Car for Kids!
Me
Back! It’s the second one today.
Doc
Yeah, I know. Bye.
Bystander
Hey who’s coat was that under his head? He was laying on a coat.
Chad
I don’t know.
Bystander
Did you pick it up?
Chad
No.
Bystander
Well you’re gonna need a new car insurance quote, PA! Hey officer!  
Me
Yeah?  
Bystander
Where’s the coat?
Me
Oh my gosh, it’s gone!

(Wright Lauer had lost his medical alert ID; that is, he had lost the identification telling of his condition, and a similar letter that was in the inside pocket of his jacket. The silver chain he wore on his right wrist had snapped and fallen to the pavement. Two youngsters had picked up the chain: Roberto Pinella, aged nine and one half, and Tommy Stoner, eight.)  

Me
Hey, maybe we should give it back.  
Bob
Yeah, what for?
Me
Bob, it sure is a nice chain. Hey there’s writing on it!
Bob
Maybe it’s the guy’s name.
Me
Was he hurt bad?
Bob
He died, and it was just a little bump.
Me
What’s the name?  
Bob
Just a second, we’ll be out of the alley.
Me
Yeah, Pop’s gone home to eat.
Bob
Well, let me see it.
Me
Wait a second will you? Give it back!
Bob
“Do not — something — me, I am not dead,” that’s Phooey!
Me
What we doing with it?
Bob
Sell it, fool!
Me
That’ stealin’, Bob!
Bob
It ain’t stealing! We found it, didn’t we? When we sell it, I’ll swear we found it on the street.
Me
What else do we tell them?
Bob
Nothin’ more! You know what we’ll do?
Me
What?
Bob
We’ll use Pop’s welding torch to melt the writing flat.
Me
He told us not to use it!
Bob
Pop ain’t here. And it’s not like the dead guy’s gonna need this thing, is it?
Featured Vaping illness shows on x-rays

No Lights, Part 1

Bernice
So what if we must work overtime, Mary! What are you afraid of? That a ghost will puff out of the pages you’re typing and turn your head upside down?
Me
If you don’t stop it right now… Wait, how do ya like that?
Bernice
What’s the matter now?
Me
My screen is blank and I can’t move a key! I’m moving to a different workstation.
Bernice
Just when we were getting comfortable.
Me
I’m going to use Evelyn’s. She’s gonna be away anyhow.
Bernice
Good choice, she’s always talkin’ about how big the screen is.
Me
Why it’s frozen at this one, too.
Bernice
It’s the computer gremlin. Mary, what’s the matter? Your face!
Me
Bern, let’s get out of here now!
Bernice
Well, what’s the matter? There’s no reason to panic.
Me
I’m getting out of here, and you better come with me!
Bernice
You’re crazy! Now what are you standing at the door with your back to me for?
Me
Come here, quick!
Bernice
Why are you standing there with your hand on the knob?
Me
It’s not moving, it’s locked…
Bernice
Oh you’re crazy!
Me
Let me out!
Bernice
Let me try. Why, it is locked! But why?
Me
They thought everybody left.
Bernice
The boss must’ve locked the door out of habit, that’s all. Who are you calling?
Me
All I gotta do is call building services! They’ll get us out of here.
Bernice
Sure, good idea, call them.
Me
I’ll tell them we’re not all right! Hello, hello?
Bernice
What’s the matter?
Me
Thanks for nothing! Somehow the phone’s gone dead!
Bernice
That’s all? Of all the things to cry about! Why panic?
Me
Call it a feeling. You don’t understand!
Bernice
I’ll say I don’t. Stop crying.
Me
Something terrible’s going to happen.
Bernice
What are you talking about, we’re in a major film company here, remember?
Me
But something froze the computers, something locked the door and killed the phones! And something just flattened me.
Bernice
I never knew you had bats in your belfry. It’s nothin’! Why did you stop talking? Answer me!
Me
This phone cord, it’s torn off the wall!

Look for Part 2!

Featured Vaping illness shows on x-rays

Rented Ghosts, Part 1

Me
We’ll have to get some help in to clean this place. Looks like my sorority house after we all went through our monthly allowances!
Chuck
We rented this place with service. That is, according to what’s-his-name, Old Jeff Hawkins, the real estate guy! I have a receipt for the next two months.
Me
Yeah, I know.
Chuck
Well, the news is, you have a caretaker!
Me
Yes?
Chuck
As I was saying, certainly this is a real palace.
Me
Hah!
Chuck
Well it is! But the real estate guy said there hadn’t been anyone living here regularly for 13 years, and those people all died. So I figured that’s what frightened off all the buyers.
Me
Oh, yes, the Reynolds family. But how did they die? . . . Wait a minute, what was that? Oh man, oh man! 
Chuck
Imagine that! Creaking noises from an old house. But that’s just the house settling. We did get a bargain, a mansion with entertainment built in!
Me
A haunting and 23 rooms, all for only $650 a month!
Chuck
Why was Hawkins so angry?
Me
Don’t ask me; I’m no psychiatrist! But let’s pop up to your crackpot salesman tomorrow, put a few bucks in his hand, and I’m sure he’ll be all right with letting us out of the deal, provided we trade up for another house.
Chuck
Well . . .
Me
Now let’s wake up that snoozing son of ours and..
Chuck
Look! Why you little faker! How long have you been sitting there watching?
Me
You all right, Billy?
Chuck
We’re in a great big house. Certainly you and dad are going to have a good time for the next two months, isn’t that good news?
Me
Why don’t you answer?
Chuck
Billy, aren’t you glad we’re gonna be staying here in the country?
Billy
Dad?
Chuck
Yes?
Billy
Please, let’s get out of here!
Chuck
I wonder —
Me
Keep your voice down.
Chuck
Billy is picking up on your vibes, Judy! I don’t want to have him grow up into a lily that falls over at the sight of his own shadow.
Chuck
Oh no, Mrs. Cook, he sleeps in that room across the hall and likes it.
Me
That didn’t sound like your voice! Anyway he’s not been asleep, so that could be a problem. Secondly, he may not be able to sleep.
Chuck
I’ve locked all the doors and windows, so we’re safe.
Me
Yeah I’m sure, but —
Chuck
Please tell me if that crazy old ghost decides to come back to continue his talk.
Me
But Chuck, I want to know why the ghostly noises? That soundedsounded like a voice just now!
Chuck
You shouldn’t get so excited. What’s been worrying you?
Me
Nothing. Are you sure it’s OK? Is it just because the house is so big and old?
Chuck
Forget it and go to sleep.
Me
It gives me the jitters.
Chuck
Save the ghost talk until tomorrow morning when the sun is shining.
Me
Oh Chuck, I’m scared. Above all, I knew something was wrong the minute I walked in!
Chuck
You mean you’ve been having a funny dream.
Me
Would you say? — What’s that? It’s Billy’s voice!
Me
Billy listen to me. What were you just talking about?
Chuck
Son, answer your mother!
Me
I’m coming to see you. Now, who or what were you talking about?
Me
Let me get this around your shoulders! Surely is a strong wind blowing in from upstairs.
Me
We should have stayed upstairs.
Billy
No, not there!
Me
No, I’m certain you’re right!
Chuck
Now don’t get upset again. Here we three are, and here we stay until daylight.
Me
What was that thumping noise in the wall? See Part 2 for the story’s exciting conclusion!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Featured Vaping illness shows on x-rays

Down in Flames, Part 1

Artie
The dead do talk, Sam. They’re all around you, but you won’t listen to them.
Me
You’re mad as a March hare!
Artie
A match for you, then. Speaking of matches, take one out, strike it. Beautiful flame, isn’t it?
Me
So?  If I throw it away, it’s horrible: it may cost me my life.
Artie
Don’t worry, be happy!
Me
You know you ought to be just about the happiest guy in the world: great grades, a fine career ahead, money, now Barbara.
Artie
Yeah, I know.
Me
She’s the loveliest girl in town.
Artie
In the world Sam, in the world.
Me
My fireplace agrees with you, Art.
Artie
So who’s to disagree? Therefore, let’s Talk more about my idea.
Me
When are you going to grow up! I don’t mind you risking your own neck, but think of Barbara. What does GQ say about a wedding in white tie and bandages?
Artie
Well, fires have always fascinated me.
Me
That doesn’t mean we have to jeopardize our lives chasing them all the freakin’ time.
Artie
Maybe it does seem odd, chasing fires. Look though, Sam, don’t flames get to you?
Me
What do you mean?
Artie
Look in your fireplace; look at those flames, orange and red, like small living things.
Me
We need to change the topic!
Artie
What’s the matter, Sam, did I scare you?
Me
No, you were talking like an idiot! Living things?
Artie
Was I? I said that flames seem alive; others have said that. Earlier generations. They worshipped flame as a living thing, a god-like thing.
Me
Artie Nicolas, are you out of your freakin’ mind!
Artie
I’m talking facts!
Me
That’s lame! Contrary to your statement, fire is not a living thing.
Artie
How can you, or I, or anyone else, say that it isn’t alive? How do we know that it isn’t?
Me
Because it isn’t intelligent, there is no evidence of intelligence.
Artie
No? Do you know the definition of life? It is a living thing, moving about; it not only moves by itself but it feeds by itself!
Me
Big deal. So what?
Artie
When a man chokes to death, why does he die?
Me
Because, well, because his air supply is cut off.
Artie
Exactly! That’s just how you kill a flame, by cutting the air supply. I tell you, I’ve sat for hours watching flames. Flame is a living, breathing, entity.
Me
Yeah?  You’re talking out of your head! Come on, let’s meet up, and I’ll buy you a drink.
Artie
Wait, Sam, there’s something I want to read to you, a book I just found. Spirits?
Me
While you’re getting it, do you mind if I throw another piece of wood on this living entity of mine? It’s getting chilly in here.
Artie
I have the book, listen. But first let me say, it tells of a race of fire worshippers who lived in medieval times, people who believed that every flame held its own godlike being.
Me
I still want to go to Joe’s Bar!
Artie
In here is a prayer these fire worshippers used to call up the spirit of the flame!
Me
Wait a minute, Artie! They did what with that prayer?
Artie
Conjured up the flame spirit, so that they could see it.
Me
You mean they’d recite some hocus-pocus and have something pop out at them?
Artie
Yes, but I need to find just how to read this prayer to the fire in a fireplace, say! If I knew just what inflections to use, I would be able to see the spirit of the flame, too, Sam. Joking
Me
In other words, you think it exists?
Artie
Maybe, I’m not sure.
Me
Good thing you’re not sure, dude. Or I’d call for a straitjacket! Come on, buddy. Let’s bust out of our cabins and go meet for a drink someplace!
Artie
No thanks, Sam, I’m not going.
Me
Oh, okay. Go ahead, sit at home and stew, but don’t let anyonewho isn’t a friend of yours hear all that stuff about flame spirits or you’re gonna find yourself in front of a looney doctor.
Artie
Don’t deny the possibility.
Me
But all this nonsense, you were just kidding me along, right!
Artie
What? Yeah, yeah, that’s right! LOL!
Me
And you wanna marry my sister!
Artie
That’s so. Well, you know how it is.
Me
But a joke’s a joke, huh?
Artie
Of course, ha, ha. So I’ll be in touch, bud.
Me
Later, man! “Beautiful flame,” huh? LOL!
Artie
…and I humbly give unto thee this sacrifice. A sacrifice? But what? Barbara’s ring! I have it here. Oh yeah, and I humbly give unto thee this sacrifice, Great Most High! I beseech thee to reveal unto me the life within life, the heart of life that beats within the heart of fire, as I repeat the sacred words…”

Look for PART 2.

Featured Vaping illness shows on x-rays

No Place Like Home

By Karen Adkins

Sylvia stretched and wriggled her toes, still pleasantly aware of wearing slippers at ten a.m. Retirement agreed with her. Being home agreed with her. She took another sip of coffee and looked happily around the kitchen. After years of re-modeling and re-decorating, everything was exactly the way she wanted it.

Recalling the junk she had thrown away, she wished every irritation could be disposed of as easily. She had in mind a particularly nettlesome one: her neighbor Agnes Braxton.

Agnes was an annoying woman who always scheduled noisy outdoor projects for the break of day, often on Saturdays and, almost psychically, on her neighbor’s days off. Also, she conducted one sprawling, ongoing garage sale from April to December.

Agnes would wrap up business early in the evenings so she could get what she dubbed her “beauty sleep.” Her calls complaining about Harry’s barking, other sounds and bright lights could be expected shortly after eight o’clock.

For once Agnes’ early-to-bed habit was about to benefit, rather than disturb, her neighbor.

Walking Harry, a wire-haired terrier, Sylvia checked to see if Agnes’s lights were out. All but one. She always left the light in the bathroom turned on “so burglars will think someone’s awake.”

By eleven-thirty, the surrounding homes would be dark, despite Mrs. Braxton’s complaints of late-night parties. At midnight, Sylvia slipped out her freshly oiled side door, crept close along her juniper bushes, then darted across her neighbor’s yard and onto the front porch. Patches of ice still remained there.

Sylvia planned to turn the woman’s front porch into a skating rink and cause one of those accidents she had read about so often. She laid a section of her garden soaker-hose over the porch, supported by a pair of stone gnomes. She turned it on.

Sylvia had found it all too easy to get used to sleeping late again. She had to force herself to open her eyes and keep them open. Ten-thirty! She jumped out of bed and tore open her curtains. Nothing had happened. The street was deserted.

She pulled on sweats, attached Harry to his leash, and strolled out. To Harry’s dismay, Sylvia stopped abruptly. Everything was melting — it must be at least forty degrees!

She had called for the latest forecast before setting her plan in motion. The robust voice had advised her to expect “flurries tonight and much colder temperatures toward morning, well-below freezing, and wind chills in the single digits.

“What did we ever do to deserve such great weather?,” asked Mrs. Darby brightly as she surveyed the world from her driveway.

“Just lucky I guess.”

Returning home, Sylvia noticed the light flashing on her answering machine. So she pressed the message button releasing a booming voice.

“Hello? Are you there? (A large pause. . .I know you’re there, pick up the phone!) This is Connie Braxton. (Another pause. . .now that you know it’s me, I’m sure you’ll want to pick up.) Aunt Agnes had an accident. . .she fell down the escalator at the mall. They took her away in an ambulance! It was just a bad sprained leg and some deep bruises. Of course, she’ll be on crutches and painkillers for a while. I know you’ll want to get her mail and help her out. Aunt Agnes said you wouldn’t mind, with all the time you have on your hands now. Bye-bye.”

She watched the light blink, dumbly. Her plan ruined, only to be drafted to help Agnes. Pushiness thy name is Braxton! She considered her next move.

Sylvia’s mind drifted back to last summer:

“What are you up to Syl? Pulling weeds I hope. I was wondering why I have so many dandelions this year. . .must’ve come from your yard. While you’re at it, yank those tiger lilies—they’re over for the year—I wish you’d dig ’em up and plant something nice.

Now that the pain was lessening, Sylvia could think. Press your advantage; she’ll be more wobbly than ever; any accident now will be put down to her injury.

Many of the next-door neighbors held each other’s key as insurance against being locked out; Sylvia had Agnes Braxton’s.

The rusty black box sporting the name BRAXTON in curling plastic letters was stuffed with catalogs, bills and ads. No letters.

She remembered the times Agnes had said she was so sorry but the mail carrier must have made a mistake. She’d already opened it before realizing it wasn’t addressed to her.

Now Sylvia let herself in, dropped the mail on a dusty entry table and went into the kitchen.

Dirty coffee cups smeared with lipstick dotted the counter and table. Smatters of dried egg and bits of burnt toast decorated dishes stacked in the sink.

In the midst of the clutter, four throw-rugs caught her attention. The worn chenille had not been attractive when new. She tested one rug with her foot. It immediately bunched and slid forward. Sylvia knew just what would set things in motion: the silicone spray she used to lubricate her treadmill.

But how could she get Agnes to come out here? She needed her to come tearing into the room, not paying attention to what she was doing. She would not be moving around much, let alone racing into rooms.

Something would have to demand her attention. Something impossible to ignore. The smoke detector!

She had seen one in the kitchen. It didn’t take much to set these older models off: dust, a wisp of smoke or steam from the stove. The ear-splitting noise had led many people to remove the batteries, including Mrs. Braxton.

Sylvia wondered whether she had the right batteries at home. Her gaze wandered to an empty humidifier. Its mist could set off the smoke detector. The rugs could be arranged just so. Hurriedly, she straightened the room. She refilled the humidifier and then darted home, undetected.

She gave Harry food and water and retrieved the silicone spray and some thin latex gloves. Next she found a fresh battery. She shoved everything in her coat pockets and popped next door.

Sylvia took a stepladder from the laundry room. She climbed up, attached the battery and pressed a button. The shrieking was immediate. After resetting the detector, she returned the ladder and took out the silicone. She sprayed the linoleum and rearranged the rugs in the path to the detector.

While admiring her handiwork, she heard a car pull up. From the peephole, she watched Connie attempt to help her aunt out of the car.
Sylvia bounded outside. “Sorry to hear about your accident, Agnes. How do you feel?”

“How d’ja think I feel? Damn pills. Want to go to bed.”

Connie rolled her eyes and muttered: “She’s a load.”

“Stop griping and let’s go. I’m cold,” snapped Agnes.

Connie looked as though she might use what energy she had left to push her aunt onto the driveway before peeling out.

“I’ll get her inside,” Sylvia said quickly. She offered a shoulder and arm to Mrs. Braxton who leaned on them heavily.

Connie fished around in her aunt’s bag for her medicine with no success until, exasperated, she took it to the more brightly lit bathroom and dumped it on the counter.

“It says `take one pill every four hours,’” yelled Connie. “I’ll get some water.”

“If that doctor thinks I’m wakin’ up just to take his damn pills,” said Agnes.

Connie returned with the water and medicine.

“I heard that. Just take this pill and I’ll set your alarm for four hours. You must follow the doctor’s instructions,” said Connie.

“I can cope,” mumbled Agnes. “Gonna sleep late. I’ll call when I want you.”

“I’d be glad to check on her tomorrow morning.”

“Thanks Sylvia, but I have some early errands to run anyway.”

“Quit gabbing and go! I’m tired!”

They laughed their way to the front door as Connie regaled her with a less-than-flattering anecdote about Aunt Agnes.

“I’ll lock up.”

Sylvia waved as Connie sped away. Then, she turned off all but the kitchen light and glanced at the clock. The second hand lurched between ceramic bunches of now-gray grapes. Her gloved hand switched on the humidifier, pointed the nozzle at the smoke detector and adjusted the mist to high. She turned off the light and locked the door behind her.

Sylvia made coffee and waited. She wasn’t sure how long it would take. She decided she’d return in two hours. If her plan failed and Mrs. Braxton was still alive, she’d say she’d come to check on her. If her plan succeeded, everything would have to be cleaned up and put back. Nothing must seem out of place.

She tried to read but couldn’t concentrate. The coffee wasn’t helping her nerves. How could she have thought she’d need it to stay awake? She began to pace and, with increasing frequency, to stare out her bedroom window at Mrs. Braxton’s house.

The house sat as quiet and dark as any other on the street. An hour crept to an end. Sylvia couldn’t stand it any longer. She would get Harry and take a closer look from outside. Then “hearing something,” and being the good and concerned neighbor she was, she’d go in to check on Mrs. Braxton.

Harry strained at his leash, determined to go everywhere, smell everything and claim new territory. Sylvia struck a pose of annoyance mixed with boredom at being dragged out of bed at this hour by her dog, in case any wayward neighbor might be driving by or looking out a window on the way to get an antacid. She was anything but bored, however, and all her senses were primed for any clue as to what was happening next door. But it was no use. The only one getting anything out of this expedition was Harry. She couldn’t detect anything from the front.

Harry didn’t need any prodding to redirect his operations to the back of the house.

The kitchen window shouldn’t be dark. She should have turned on the light when she went to disconnect the alarm. So what is going on?

Sylvia took Harry home, then returned and let herself in through the back door. The only sound she heard was the muffled whooshing of the furnace. From the kitchen doorway, she saw the steady stream of mist continue its climb towards the smoke detector. On the floor lay an overturned stepladder and a crumpled heap of flannel that had once been Mrs. Braxton.

It had worked. Finally.

“I wondered when you’d get here,” said a familiar voice from the darkened living room.

Sylvia jumped. Trying to keep her voice calm, she said, “I didn’t know you were here, Connie…I was out walking Harry and thought I heard a noise so I came over…”

“To check on my poor aunt,” Connie finished. “That’s very neighborly of you. I think that’s the main reason I’m going to enjoy living here. . .the neighborliness.”

“Living here?”

“My aunt objected to relatives living too nearby, but that obstacle has been removed…thanks to you.”

“Me? I was just coming by to check on her and see about the noise…”

“Oh yes, the noise,” said Connie as she shifted her position on the couch and drew her aunt’s afghan closer around her. “Do you think it might have come from something like this?”

Connie held up something small that Sylvia had trouble making out. She had a sinking feeling she knew what it was.

“In case your eyes haven’t adjusted, it’s the battery you installed in the smoke detector tonight.”

“I didn’t…”

“Don’t interrupt,” snapped Connie. “She always used to interrupt: another of my aunt’s lovable traits. The smoke detector used to go off while she was cooking, so she disabled it years ago. Said she’d rather take her chances. But when I came by to check on her, it was blaring away.

I found her on the floor. Thought she must’ve lost her balance, but when I got out the stepladder to stop the noise, I slipped on one of those damn throw rugs I’ve been asking her to get rid of for years and almost broke my neck.”

Sylvia, who was periodically wiping her sweaty hands on her jacket and eyeing the nearest door, managed an “oh?” 

“When I went to put the rug back, I slipped again and noticed the floor there was slick. I checked under the other rugs and found the same thing. I assume that’s your doing, also? It sure isn’t from cleaning. My aunt was never one for cleanliness…I don’t know the last time she mopped the linoleum. A lot will have to be done to bring this place up to my standards.”

Sylvia could only nod as though hypnotized. Connie seemed to know everything; what was the point of denying it?

“I don’t see any reason why you should have to spend your retirement in prison…if you do as I say.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Sylvia eased herself carefully onto her couch, groaning as she did so. She was stiff and sore all over, as if she’d been in a gardening marathon. She was engaged in a type of marathon, though it involved nothing as enjoyable as gardening. Every day now, beginning at dawn, she started a long-distance relay race whose seemingly unreachable goal was to carry out Connie’s wishes.

Connie’s wishes, her orders, were relentless and exacting. From morning til night Sylvia had to divide her time between the moderate sprucing up of Connie’s soon-to-be previous residence and the extensive, cleaning, repainting and redecorating required to make Agnes Braxton’s home habitable.

It was just past nine now; pleased with her progress, Connie had let her knock off early.

A real treat, thought Sylvia, bitterly sipping her cup of decaf. She gathered a week’s worth of unread newspapers toward her and began skimming them, starting with the oldest. In a matter of minutes she tossed it aside. The news was stale. The radio she listened to while working kept her abreast of major stories. She was just looking for items of local interest: weddings, divorces, births, deaths. A couple more, then bed. (Now that mornings were so ridiculously early, bedtime had to be too.)

Sylvia skimmed several more papers and yawned. Responding to the noise, Harry rearranged himself on the floor but still slept with his back to her, silently protesting all the recent departures from his routine.

Sylvia was about to toss the last paper on the pile when a small item caught her eye: “Accidental overdose causes death.”

She read on: “The coroner’s jury, Wednesday, ruled an accidental overdose was the cause of death of Agnes Braxton, age 76. Braxton was found dead in her home at 64 Laurel Lane, February 23. Autopsy results indicated an overdose of a painkiller recently prescribed for injuries received in a fall. Interviews with relatives led to the verdict of accidental overdose.”

Sylvia was suddenly wide awake. An overdose killed her, not the fall. She read it again. There was no mention of injuries from a fall as the cause, or even a contributing cause, of death.

She took another gulp of coffee. Sylvia tried to recall exactly what happened when they were getting Agnes ready for bed. She remembered Connie saying something about how often the doctor wanted her to take the pills, then Agnes arguing, Connie bringing in the medicine and the water to take it with…

“Interviews with relatives led to the verdict…” 

Connie had been Agnes Braxton’s only living relative. And she had handled the medicine. And the water. Plus she was there waiting for Sylvia that night. And wasn’t Connie with Agnes when she had that fall on the escalator? 

Sylvia jumped up and began to do a little jig, until her sore muscles reminded her who was boss. She was free! 

Tomorrow she would sleep in. Have a big breakfast. Read the morning paper at an unhurried pace. Not dress until noon. When Connie called, threatening her for being late, Sylvia would inform her she had recently caught up on her reading and found it most interesting. So would her attorney if ever anything should happen to her. 

Sylvia smiled and (painfully) bent down to pat Harry before turning out the light. 

So, Connie Braxton was going to be living next door. 

Did she say living?

© Karen Adkins

 

Scary vaping illness horror worsens!

Grave damage unveiled in vaping illness X-rays

The CDC says more than 1,300 people in the United States have been diagnosed with vaping illness, using x-rays and other diagnostic tools. There have been at least 29 deaths.

Fatalities result from a rare form of pneumonia, but officials are struggling to identify the caustic substance responsible.

Vaping illness x-rays show damaged tissues comparable to those in the diseased lungs of the very old.

Although it appears to be fading from the “front page” of news coverage in many media, the increasing number of deaths and illness cases has not abated.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has pledged to get a policy in place soon to help. Meanwhile the FDA also is reportedly conducting criminal investigations of various e-cigarettes.

The death toll continues to rise, according to health officials.

Must do more

X-rays confirmed diagnosis of many of the new vaping illnesses, which are found in almost every state.

As of October 1, deaths had included two each in California, Kansas, and Oregon. There had been one each in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Missouri. 

“We must do more to stem vaping deaths and teen addiction,” FDA announced. The federal agency pledged to regulate flavors and many bootleg e-cigarettes.

The lone factor in common in the vaping illnesses was that the patients had all recently vaped.

How vapes might be doing harm

One or more of the flavorings in e-cigarettes are apparently damaging blood vessels in much the same way heart disease does, one study found. 

Chemicals added to impart vapor flavors, such as cinnamon and strawberry, may cause inflammation in the arteries and heart.

The chemicals cause body responses that mimic early signs of heart disease and heart attacks. Or so said the study by Boston University in June. Vaping illness x-rays seem to confirm the finding.

Other studies indicate smoking e-cigarettes might actually cause mutations in DNA that lead to cancer. The mutations also may allow pneumonia-causing bacteria to stick to the lungs more readily. 

New York University researchers subjected human lung and bladder cells to e-cigarette product vapors. Makers sometimes market e-cigarettes as healthier to use than tobacco.

The cells subjected to vapes mutated and became cancerous more quickly than expected.

Most patients have said they vaped products containing THC, the ingredient that produces a high in marijuana. The investigation has been increasingly focused on products containing THC. But, as mentioned, some attention is on ingredients added to marijuana oil.

Yet some of the patients said they had vaped only nicotine. 

Currently, health officials are advising people not to use any vaping product until the cause is better understood.