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Illustration by Elise Siegmund (age 11)
A Glass of SpiritsBy Elizabeth Alder
It was after 10 o’clock when the phone rang. Glancing down, I saw it was my neighbor who had never called that late at night. I put down my glass of red wine and answered.
“Elizabeth? Can you come over here? I’m pretty shook up,” said my neighbor who never gets shook up. “What happened Dorie?” I asked. “Well, I heard a woman’s voice loud and clear saying, ‘Hello, anybody home?’ There is no one here and no one outside either. My roommate is working late and she isn’t home yet! Can you come over and help me figure this out?”
“I’ll be right over.” My psychic sense shot straight up. This just didn’t feel right. So I changed from my pajamas to jeans and a T-shirt, grabbed my dowsing rods and drove the short path to her house. Walking was out of the question. I had to get there and fast.
When I got to Dorie’s house she answered the door which went into the kitchen. From there she led me into the den. “I had to put the dogs in the basement,” my friend said nervously. “I distinctly heard a woman’s voice twice saying, “Hey! I’m here!”
I took out my dowsing rods which led me toward the living room, but I stopped right there. At the entrance I felt a wall of cold pain as thick as any closed door which told me, “Don’t even try to go in there.”
I drew in a sharp breath. “What is it?” She asked. I calmly said, not wanting to alarm her, “I’ve just had a glass of wine, so I can’t do anything tonight.”
“Tell me what happened in this house.”
Dorie told me the story about the murder that had happened in the living room almost 30 years before. She had lived there for just a few years and a couple things had happened which were strange, like the bottle of bourbon which had shattered one night, but she had discounted them. This was different.
Mr. and Mrs. Elder had lived there. “Bubber” Elder owned a liquor store in Athens. He was a mean drunk and his wife kept saying she was going to kill him. He had died on the couch in the living room, shot in the top of his head, the bullet exiting through his chin. His wife claimed it was accidental.
I told Dorie that we should at least pray for them tonight, but first could we get their names? She brought in a newspaper clipping I looked at the names and the date of the event and got a shiver. This night was the anniversary of the murder and also the full moon!
I closed my eyes to pray and found that Mrs. Elder was remorseful, she was so sorry. So I asked for her forgiveness and that she be released from this house. I felt this was done almost instantly. I asked the same for Mr. Elder too.
The next morning, I came over with sage and copal to ceremoniously release “stuck” spirits. Dorie already had the windows opened allowing the sunshine and breeze to clear the house as well.
Recently she has stated that she sometimes feels Bubber Elder sitting beside the fireplace to warm himself. On the next full moon, I might place a glass of bourbon on the hearth and have a talk with him about going on to his real home.
A.P.R.I. By DJ Thomason
Saturday night, downtown Athens, a tavern. I sit at the bar and sip a Creature Comforts beer—one called Athena—while I wait for Miss Right (or even Miss Close-Enough) to take the stool beside me. Instead, a middle-aged man in scrubs climbs upon the worn stool. I glance at his blue outfit. On the left breast: APRI.
“What does that stand for?” I ask. “APRI.”
He grins. “Well. Since today is my birthday, I’ll tell you the truth.” He leans close and whispers, “Athens Paranormal Research Institute.”
Now, I grin. “Riiiiiiight.”
“It’s true,” he says, straightening up. “I work in the labs, analyzing things.”
“Is it really your birthday?”
I wave at the bartender and buy my new friend a beer. He takes a long swallow then exhales a pleasing sigh. “I needed that.”
“So what does the APRI do?” I ask him.
He glances away for a moment. “Hmm. To summarize, we collect, catalog, and monitor magical entities in the greater Athens area.”
“Magical entities? Like what?”
He shrugs. “Want an example? Did you know that there are three werewolves who live near what we like to call Abnormal Town? They’re domesticated, though.”
“They’re agreeable and friendly, most of the month. But during the tri-moon—the three days of the full moon—we lock them up because they get a little nippy.”
I chuckle. Nippy. That’s funny. “What else?”
“Flagpole Magazine? Would you believe it’s secretly run by a two-hundred-year-old vampire named Dame Voluka, who sleeps in a coffin in the basement. She was a personal friend of Beethoven, or Wiggie as she calls him. She loves music but hates—loathes—modern music, which includes anything in the last hundred years. She fights with the staff all the time.”
“Werewolves AND vampires, huh?”
He smiles; he knows I don’t believe a word he’s said.
He takes another swig of beer. “We even have our own Area 51. It’s called Dawglot 27. It’s down on South Milledge, past the perimeter. You couldn’t find it unless you knew where it was. I spend a lot of my time down there with the specimens.”
“Let me guess . . . you have a beautiful mermaid in a pool?”
“Mermaids are nowhere near as alluring as you would imagine. The sea is not kind to soft skin.”
I laugh out loud. I kind of like this guy.
A man and a woman enter, both sporting the same blue scrubs. They head toward my new friend. “There you are, Arnold,” the woman says, condescension dripping from her lips. “It’s time to come back to work, okay?”
I notice APRI on her scrubs too, but they contain the entire name: Athens Psychiatric Rehabilitation Institute.
“I’m not ready to go back,” Arnold whines. “Can’t I finish my drink?”
“Sorry,” she says.
He glances at me and rolls his eyes. They stand him up and march him from the room.
I take a sip of beer and think, It would’ve been fun talking more with that weirdo.
A woman in a pantsuit—very professional—climbs effortlessly onto the now-empty stool. She slides something in front of my beer and says, “I’m gonna need you to look into this device.”
I’ve seen Men in Black. I know exactly what that device is. A memory eraser.
“Oh my god,” I gasp and point. “A vampire!”
She whips her head in that direction and I do the only thing available to me . . .
I run like hell.
And I take my beer.
What can I say? I like beer.
Dog CountryBy Lark Feng
Banna’s Akita nose is hypersensitive and propels her curiosity. Coupled with Native American tracking skills I learned from my grandfather, we make a formidable pair. But nothing could have prepared us for the creature we encountered after moving from Normal Town to our countryside property on the skirts of Athens, Georgia.
Gardening chores beckoned my attention that late summer day. Banna laid under her shady pallet teepee while I graveled in dirt pulling weeds. Timberlands border our vegetable plot on the small acreage. I’d lost track of time and stopped to drink water. An eerie silence had noticeably fallen. Fear stole my breath as ferocious, guttural growls roared from the woods behind us. Banna barked hysterically as I grabbed a pitch fork. But, for what? Scanning the thinly treed area, I expected to encounter a lunging beast. Nothing was there. Banna continued barking, bewildered. It was obvious she couldn’t see what menaced us either.
“Maybe it’s hiding behind a tree,” my brain raced through possibilities. But none of the trees were over a foot wide. Hiding coyotes or dogs would need to stand. “Perhaps a homeless person tried to scare us away from his camp.” The railroad tracks were close and hobos have been spotted in the neighborhood. “Maybe a ghost?” We were spooked! Perhaps that’s why the pup’s barking was aimlessly focused.
Grounding my composure, I surmised Banna’s ruckus muted crunching leaves from the fleeing monster, hence vanishing into its lair. I loaded weeds into the wheelbarrow. But still, something wasn’t right. I felt eyes piercing my back. Banna hid in her teepee, whining. A sudden urgency to leave gripped me. I snatched the pup’s lead and she gladly sped home. On our way, we whiffed a ‘dead gator’ stench in the air, probably roadkill.
Early morning walks are usually peaceful. But that next morning, predator tracks, big as elephant feet, surrounded the chicken house. They appeared to be canine, wolf perhaps, yet peculiar. Whatever made them was bipedal and heavyweight. The building’s peak stood eight feet tall, tin roof slanting to six. A chunk was ripped from the top of a six foot corner post. Muddy pawprints streaked the paint. My hens were frightened, but unharmed. Banna’s sniffing exhausted itself and I took some photos thinking, “Was this our growling stalker?”
Raindrops fell as I walked the pup before bedtime. She seemed out of sync with her routine. Other than a full moon rising, our yard was exceptionally dark that night. Banna sniffed the wind. Musty feline odor permeated the landscape. My home’s motion activated floodlight suddenly beamed from the garage. Except, we weren’t close enough to have tripped it.
“Banna, hurry. Let’s go,“ urgently, I tugged her leash. Uneasiness rattled my voice. She began whining as a shadow formed on the ground beside us, swiftly growing in stature. Panic raced my heart. An intense roadkill odor enveloped us. Banna tucked her tail and ran. I grabbed her, stumbled inside the house, and slammed the door shut. In the streetside bamboo patch stood a seven-foot half dog-half man, with shiny black fur and red glowing eyes, stalking us.
Locked doors and lights out, I searched online for matching cryptid descriptions while Banna hid under the bed. “Skinwalkers or Shapeshifters? Hmmm.… Werewolf? Maybe… Wog of Nodoroc-Dogman of hell’s gate… located in… Winder, Georgia? CREEP OUT!… Wait, what’s this?” I clicked on Flagpole’s article link.
“Beware! Roadkill Zombies are infesting Athens/Clarke County, hounding for refuge. CALL FOR ASSISTANCE! Bulldawgs are on the loose, sending wannabes back home!!!”
Welcome to Dawg Country!!!
Dream She Had By Andrew Benzinger
“Hey, what is it?”
“Just a dream I had.”
“A dream? What was it about?”
“It was really creepy. Don’t even wanna talk about it here. I feel so dumb. Shouldn’t have called you.”
“No, no, it’s okay. I’m okay with it.”
“Why don’t you want to tell me?”
“It gives me a bad feeling.”
“It just gives me a really bad feeling all over.”
“Oh, I see.”
“For calling so late.”
“It’s okay, really.”
“Thanks… It’s creepy cause it took place in this room.”
“No, not like that. But still creepy.”
“Yeah. The medication must be messing with me tonight.”
“You think it was your medication?”
“Definitely. The new stuff makes me feel weird.”
“Causes craaaaazy REM stuff.”
“I’m not kidding.”
“No, I believe you.”
“It was in your room?”
“Yeah, I was lying in bed. Right here. And you were coming in through the door.”
“You were coming in my door.”
“Sorry, I heard you the first time. I was just saying ‘huh’ as an affirmation.”
“Oh, okay. But I don’t wanna talk about this anymore. Not here.”
“Okay, you can tell me later. You can tell me tomorrow.”
“Okay, so you walked in and hid in the closet.”
“Why would I do that?”
“I don’t know. I think you were hiding from something.”
“Hiding from what?”
“Something, I’m not sure.”
“It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“I know. I don’t wanna talk about it, not here. Aren’t dreams weird?”
“Yeah… dreams are weird.”
“My dreams are normally really boring. Like the ones where I’m working cash register at Arby’s even though I work at Wendy’s. But in this one… you were in my closet.”
“I don’t think I’m in your closet.”
“Don’t say that. That sounds creepy.”
“It’s okay. I’m being stupid.”
“No, you’re not being stupid.”
“You peeked through the closet door at me. Just your eyes floating in the dark…”
“Yeah, yeah, your eyes. Your eyes, looking at me. Just looking. They were so scared and sad and real. Then you closed the door… and there was a gunshot.”
“Yeah, and I got up and went to the closet and opened the door and found you in the closet, but…”
“I know. But you were dead. You had been…”
“No, cut in half. Your legs and your torso were torn apart.”
“You’d been sliced in two. As if you’d been running from some blind, evil force and it had reached through the walls and snapped you in half like a twig. Your blood… it covered the walls and floor of my closet. You had been killed… but not just killed… sacrificed… mutilated by something for some unreasonable cause… a reason lost in dream logic. And your face… it was frozen in this horrible expression. Something like… unadulterated, animal horror filled your face. Pure, raw, animal fear… Your eyes… they were dark and just barely alive but dying… quickly dying… going away… and your skin cooling… and your mouth… gaping wide open… like a guppy… gasping for air… and your…”
“Hey, you don’t sound so good. Are you okay?”
“… I’m looking at it right now.”
“Are you okay?”
“The closet door…”
“Are you okay?”
“Listen! Are you okay?”
“Yeah… yeah. Are you okay?”
“Am I okay? Yeah, yeah, of course I’m okay. If you’re okay, I’m okay. So we’re okay, right?”
Illustration by Elise Siegmund (age 11)
Wild RumpusBy Cameron Mojock
“Do you have your phone?”
“Yes.” “Do you have your flashlight?” “Yes.” “Do you have your treat bags?” “Yes!” “Did you remember….” “Mom,” Mali interrupted, rolling her eyes. “I’ll be fine. I’m twelve.” “I know, it’s just that I’ve always been with you on Halloween. You’ll be all alone.”
“Don’t worry, Ms.Ganhd, she’s got us, remember?” said Layla folding her arms around Mali.
“Ya,” said Phoebe. “Uh, ok. Have fun.” Mali, Layla, and Phoebe went out the door. They climbed the stairs and entered the dusky night sky.
“We’re gonna’ get so sick! I’m excited!” said Phoebe as they descended into the darkness.
“Be safe!” cried Mali’s mother, unsure if they heard her. “Do you think there’s going to be any scary costumes or just sugar plum fairies?” asked Layla, flapping her arms like wings. Mali shrugged.
They had only gone to a couple of houses trick or treating, when Mali noticed that there wasn’t anyone else on the sidewalk or the street.
“Where is everybody?” she asked as she scratched her itchy werewolf costume. Layla and Phoebe looked to the street.
“Huh. I don’t know.” The three girls huddled on the sidewalk. At night. All alone. “This is freaky,” squeaked Phoebe in a small voice. “Ya, no kidding,” the others said, timidly. A few minutes later they realized something was behind them. The girls walked faster. The figure crept closer. They sped up. The figure hurried, too. They began to run. The figure ran after them. Suddenly, they came upon a small crowd of people. Mali let out a sigh of relief and ran to one of the men. She tugged on his coat and panted, “Someone’s…whew… chasing us. Please…huh…help.” But the bystander didn’t even turn around.
Mali noticed immediately that the group was moaning and swaying side to side. Their eyes were glassy and red. They stood along the curb of Washington Road engulfed in the foggy light of a street lamp.
The three girls turned around only to see the figure right behind them. They tried to run, but suddenly Layla screamed, “Augghh!” The figure held her.
“Let go of her, Monster!” cried Mali, pulling her from the figure’s grasp.
“Mali! Calm down it’s just my brother Kevin.” “Oh, sorry,” Mali said, red in the face. “What are you doing here anyway?” asked Layla. “I’m here for the parade, like you. Come on. Follow me,” he said, motioning toward the large stage in front of the Court House.
“Ladies and gentlemen! Please welcome, the Vultures!” roared the emcee. Suddenly, music blasted. The crowd danced along with the music. A group of people sauntered from behind the stage . The platform pooled with fog. The fog parted every time someone spun wildly.
Seconds later, the music stopped playing. The crowd stopped dancing. The guitarist stopped strumming. The drummer stopped tapping away at his dark blue drums.
“What’s happening?”asked Mali.
“I don’t know,” said Kevin. The dancers’ eyes glowed glassy and red. The band jumped off the stage, grabbed the revelers and dragged them back up the stairs. The second the fog seeped into their costumes, they acted like their characters.
Chaos struck. People were being grabbed and dragged. Everyone screamed and ran. “What’s happening?” cried Mali.
“I don’t know!” cried Kevin. Suddenly, Mali felt a piercing pain in her side. “Aughh!” One of the dancers pulled her up the stairs, onto the stage as Mali clawed and scraped at the dancer’s tight grip as only a werewolf could do. “No! No! Layla, help! Help! Help-hoowwll!!”
The HouseBy Ella Bridges (age 11)
“Back in the day when I was a young girl we lived near the train depot in Athens. On Georgia football games, folks would ride the train in. People would flood the streets walking down College Avenue headed to Sanford Stadium. Oddly, as if they all knew but never spoke it, they would all cross the street at the top of the hill. They didn’t want to walk on the sidewalk in front of the “peek-a-boo” house. Claimed it was haunted. Always dark, never got close to see why. Called it the “Peek-a-boo” house ’cause that was what was written in tiles on the sidewalk in front.”
“More,” I begged.
“The Harrisons had lived there—Sue, Johnny and their daughter, Carlie. Dad fought in a war, maybe made some enemies of his own. Mostly a law abiding, church going family. “Twasn’t good what happened to them.” Granny muttered.
Rainy, dark; thunderstorms had taken out the electricity. April 16, a night not to be forgotten. Crackling lightning and booming thunder covered the screams and shots. The door to the house was torn apart.
The confessor said Johnny had been his seargent, led them into ambush, lots of their friends died. Johnny needed to die too. Sue was first, she had screamed then bang it was over. The daughter, shot in her sleep. Then Johnny.
A family named the Browns, evicted from their house, living on the streets. Ernie and Beth with their son, Martin. Once Ernie found a well paying job and saved enough to buy them a house. An older home, two story, a huge front porch. Beth said she felt a strangeness but was happy to have a home. Martin said the house gave him a tummy ache. Strange sounds, like groans, but Ernie just said it was old house noise.
Night time was the worst, and once they had woken up to find some sticky stuff looked like blood in the hallway. Spring was when things got worse. Noises had been more than creaks, screams, lights going on and off at random.
Then it stopped and the family had several peaceful nights, that is until April 16 rolled around. Lightning flashed in the sky, thunder rolled; the power went out. Martin heard what sounded like the door being kicked in. He ran to his parents’ room. They all huddled in the bed together. Sounds of footsteps, screaming, gunshots. Over and over until the night had become day.
The family ran out of the house and flagged down the police. Officer Perry said, “Yup, triple murder, the dead like to let the living know about how they died.”
Ernie called an exorcist. “Unhappy Spirits,” she said. Then got her bowl and feather. She put fire in it and smoke came out. She said a little ritual throughout the house.
More peaceful nights until another stormy April night. Screams filled the air, footsteps of the unseen, gunshots and with morning light, it seemed the Browns had disappeared.
I asked Granny how she knew the details. Her only reply, “And all I know, the train doesn’t bring folks, the depot refurbished and the “Peek-a-Boo” house , been torn down for years.”
If you dare, to visit the spot where the house stood. Beware, if it’s stormy April 16, you might get carried away in gunshots, footsteps and screams.
Glass OctopusBy Leslie A. Mohler
He shattered the glass octopus against the wall, and a thousand shards glittered up at him, grey-green and mocking like winking eyes.
He tried to slow his breath. The cold sweat gathered in the corners of his eyes and burned, his hand shaking as he flicked it away.
This would be the end of it. No more. No more glimpses of her dim outline in shadowed corners, nor flickering out of the bathroom mirror, tangled blonde hair and eyeliner smeared from her tears. No more hearing her pad tiptoed across the creaking wood floor or the smell of her breath, American Spirits and cheap beer, fluttering across his face as he fell into fitful sleep.
She was no longer breathing at all, but she had always been a creature of habit.
He didn’t remember it, really. A wash of red, searing and overbright like ambulance lights glinting off water droplets on a windshield. Part of him wanted to squint through them to see the memory that twisted there (red, red, all of it red, a dog crying, lapping blood, the sound of white teeth cracking), but his mind shuddered away.
He remembered afterwards. He watched her sink (green-grey eyes open and serene, hair drifting around her, coils of floating gold) into the muddy water.
A crack in the dark. He heard the sound of her laughter. He whipped his head around, peering into the humid darkness, nausea rising in his throat. He looked back down into the water. Only the faintest white sliver of her remained, the tips of her fingers still reaching up to him, and he heard it over the churning of the water, over the gentle rustle of the leaves in a warm breeze.
He dropped to his knees and retched into the red mud.
The man asked him where Trix was, and he stared at him and wondered if there was really a current, a faint whisper, of suspicion and accusation beneath the seeming concern. Some people’s eyes always see too damn much.
‘She . . . she went back west. She’s had enough of this town, and enough of me.” The tequila felt like poison as it slipped down his throat, its taste foul and fetid, like stagnant pond water. River water. Ever since . . . ever since, he could not stomach booze, it churned in his guts and tasted like bile upon his tongue. He ignored it.
Over the music and din, he heard her laugh, sudden, cutting, so close he felt it rustle his hair. The shot glass shattered on the bar as it slipped through his fingers. The bartender shouted his dismay, but all he couldn’t hear anything beyond the raucous laughter. He stumbled into the bathroom to retch violently, the red walls shifting out of focus as tears that seemed to scald his eyes plopped innocently into the pool of regurgitated alcohol.
He could not have said how long it took him to rise, all shakes and bloodless skin, from the bathroom floor. He haltingly made his way to the sink, looked in the mirror. One breath, then another. This is madness, you are going mad. It will fade. Forget her, and all this will go away, sink into mud and darkness like she did, just gone.
He wiped his face off with a stiff paper towel, rinsed the bitter taste out of his mouth. He breathed deeply. Just subconscious shit. Waking dreams. That’s all.
He looked up into the mirror again as he went to flick off the light.
A hoarse voice chirped at him through a grin of broken teeth.
At the bar, people heard a scream and a sickening crack.
The glass octopus had looked at him with her eyes. So he flung it against the wall and gathered up the shards in a box of Jack Daniels playing cards and cast it into the river so it could join her in hell and leave him at peace. He smoked a cigarette by the riverside, flicking white tufts of ash into the thick, silty water.
He heard no laughter now save his own, mad and bitter, and warm tears slid off his cheeks into the red mud.
It was over.
His bed was warm, but he awoke to sudden cold, fingers of ice burrowing into his skin, into the hollow under his ribs and the back of his neck.
A voice, plaintive, booze-blurred, familiar, and the press of impossibly cold lips. The fingers burrowed deeper.
“We lost each other for a minute, hon.”
He opened his mouth to scream but he could only gulp silently like a drowning fish.
“I’ll never abandon you again.”
Her laughter was soft as fingers of burning ice closed around his throat.
Hail Storm By Bain Mattox
I was startled when I looked out of my window to see a man with a big floppy hat on my neighbor’s roof. It was a my landlord’s handy-man inspecting the roof after the hail storm. No one in Athens had ever seen anything like it. The hail itself were the size of golf balls but resembled tiny, blobby clouds. The handy-man came over and knocked on my door next to let me know he needed to get on the roof to check mine out. I explained to him that I had to leave for work, but he said he had a key to get into the house if he needed to look in the attic. Instead of acting annoyed, I just asked him to please not let Susan, my cat, out.
I clocked out later that night and walked back home to my lovely abode on Nantahala Avenue. I was totally pooped, and ready for bed after a busy night at work. I approached my door, it was wide open. Despite my history of watching horror movies and knowing that I should NOT go in, I grabbed the door knob anyway and slid inside. That’s when I felt the key-chain still dangling from the door. “That bastard,” I said out loud. He’d left his keys in the door and the house unlocked. I was pissed and called the rental company’s 24-hour number to complain. No one picked up the phone, I left a very threatening message.
Susan had gotten out. I called for her, and walked up and down the block calling for her to no avail. That numb-skull not only left his keys behind, he left my house open to the natural world and now my cat was gone. I assumed Susan would just come home when she got hungry as she had done before. I walked into my bedroom, I was startled by the attic stairs still pulled down and the attic light still on. I turned the light off, and lifted the spring-loaded door to close it back.
I was almost too mad to sleep, but I drifted quickly. I was awoken by a rustling sound in my attic. I figured Susan must have gotten into the attic and is now stuck up there after that bozo left it open. I flipped the switch and pulled the stairs down. The light didn’t turn on, it must’ve worn out. From the bottom of the pull-down ladder, I could see moonlight shining through my roof through golf- ball-sized holes. “Susan!?” I called out, “C’mon Susan, come on down sweet kitty.” I grabbed a flashlight and climbed the ladder. “Suuuusaaaan,” I called out again. As I approached the opening to the attic, my eyes met with the brim of a big floppy hat. I shined my flashlight on it to verify that my eyes were in fact seeing what I thought they were seeing. As I continued to enter the attic, I heard what sounded like a pile of mice frantically squeaking inside of a Styrofoam cooler. I shone the light further in the attic and saw where the noise was coming from. It was a pile of white cloud-like puffs moving about like static on a TV screen. I couldn’t believe my eyes as some of the white globs fell from what they were on top of. It was the hail, the hail that came through the roof. It was alive. It was feeding. I screamed and a section of them broke off of the bloody skeleton they had made of the handy-man and were coming for me!
Sarah and I were walking down South Harris street. It’s in prime fraternity territory near Milledge, so it was somewhat terrifying of its own accord. After dark, when shadows are darker than you remember and seeing through the trees becomes near impossible, it’s even spookier.
This was no problem for us. In fact, nearing Halloween, the whole reason we went outside was to play “Scary Hide-and-Seek”, which for the uninformed is just hide-and-seek in the dark in October. Good idea right? It was a lot of fun for a while.
Until we couldn’t find Eric.
I was the proverbial “It” and being well-versed in the art of seeking, I found Sarah quickly (She was hiding behind a car: an amateur move). Unlike her and after 20 minutes of looking, Eric was nowhere to be found. The magic of our childish game was quickly piddling out. We called and texted him “like twenty-seven thousand times,” according to Sarah, but we got no response. Knowing him, he probably thought it was a trap so we could catch him. Knowing us, it definitely was.
“Olly, Olly, Oxygen-free!” Sarah yelled, finally admitting defeat. I raised my eyebrow at her as we froze to scan for Eric’s presence. Nothing.
“I’m pretty sure it’s ‘Oxen-free’,” I said, still holding for a response from Eric. Another moment passed without him revealing himself. Our bodies resumed motion and we both started walking towards the stop sign. Maybe he was on another street and couldn’t hear us?
“Why would it be ‘Oxen-free’?” Sarah said a few paces in front of me.
If you’re wondering, I was right; I looked it up later. I might’ve looked it up and showed her right then but a movement in my periphery alerted me. Something was in the window of the fraternity house under construction across the street.
Sarah must have seen me start, because she looked over as well. There, in the window, was Eric. His eyes were glowing like a coyote’s and he had a creepy little smile on his face. He stared straight at me.
“Eric, why?” Sarah asked, clearly exasperated at the fact he won by trespassing. He continued to stare unnervingly at me.
“Eric,” I began, “You look super cree—”
“Yoohoo!” Eric’s voice called from the end of the road. He was skipping towards us, looking pleased with himself. “You guys suck, you passed by me like five times.”
Sarah stared at the real Eric. Maybe she was too scared to look at the other one. I couldn’t stop myself from looking back. The wrong Eric was still there, still staring at me, and was now beckoning me with his hand.
“Yoohoo!” Eric’s voice rang out again, this time from the building, but glowing-eyes Eric didn’t open his mouth. It sounded like his voice, but it was too similar. In fact, it was exactly the call he made earlier. His smile widened to painful, unnatural proportions.
And then he blinked out of existence.
We stood there for a while. Sarah still wasn’t looking at the building, but Eric was staring almost as unwaveringly as wrong-Eric had stared at me. We never spoke about it, but I could tell he’d seen it too. As far as I know, it was the last either saw of it.
But not me.
The other night, I made the mistake of looking out the window. Sarah was halfway concealed behind a tree, eyes glowing, mouth smiling, hand beckoning. I heard the exact same voice she used to seek out Eric, though her smile remained unopened.
It was late October when I finally made my way back to Athens. It had been seven years since I had seen the town of my birth and I was anxious to visit all the old spots and reconnect with friends. As I looked around it seemed like nothing had changed but I realized that that was just an illusion a bit of nostalgia on my part. I was not alone for my homecoming trip for I had my five year old daughter Bella with me. I hoped to get settled into an apartment and and introduce her to the town I loved and spend some much needed time with her. We checked into the Holiday Inn Express on Broad while we waited for our place to be ready to move in to. We were assigned room 109 and as the desk clerk handed me the key card I remember thinking how lucky we were to get a room at such a good price on a football game weekend.
We gathered our luggage and went to see the room that would potentially be our home for the next week. I used the key card to enter and set my stuff down on the bed. It was a nice enough room with two twin beds and I was very happy with how spacious and clean it was. I saw that the window blinds were still drawn so I went to the window and drew back the blinds. There wasn’t much to see but a steep cliff and a large boulder that jutted out from the landscape. The boulder was covered in graffiti and spray paint. Other than that it was just an access road that separated our room from the cliff by about 100 yards. Not much of a view I thought and drew the blinds closed again.
It had been a long day of travel, so we decided to have a pizza delivered and get a good nights rest. I tucked Belle into one of the twin beds and kissed her goodnight and turned out the lights and crawled into bed. I was exhausted after my long day of driving and quickly drifted off to sleep. I awoke to a low murmuring sound a few hours later. I struggled to wake up and as my eyes adjusted in the semi darkness I saw my child standing by the window peeking through the blinds. When I asked her what she was doing, she turned around and said that she was talking to the girl outside the window. When I asked her what the girl was doing outside the window at this time of night she simply replied with the innocence of a five year old and said that the girls name is Laura and she has to stay out there because she died. She says she got bitten by a snake and went to the boneyard mommy and now she is lonely and wants someone to play with. Why can’t she come in mommy?
I felt a cold chill as I stared at the blinds that were not completely closed. I immediately got up and turned the bathroom light on closed the blinds all the way and tucked Belle back into bed. I did not sleep very well the rest of the night and as I drifted off into a restless sleep somewhere around dawn I decided to see if I could find us another place to stay. The next morning, Belle and I went to breakfast in the lobby of the hotel and after we had finished eating I made my way to the front desk to see if the might have another room for us to move to. Belle was wandering around the lobby looking at the old black and white photographs on the wall and she ran up to me after a few minutes and grabbed my hand and said mommy I found Laura. She led me over to a series of old photographs in frames hanging on the walls of the lobby. Apparently the land that the hotel was on used to be a farm and in the picture Belle was pointing to was a little girl of about eight in old fashioned clothes standing in front of the house that occupied that spot in the 1890s. Underneath was her name: Laura Doyle.
I was asleep when Jamie Johnson shot me in the heart. I woke up long enough to see him turn the gun on his own chest and fire again. The note he had written to his mother tumbled to the floor. The other three men in the dormitory were frozen in their beds.
“The girl,” one of them said, glancing at me. “Jamie?” cried the other two, and they leapt over my body.
I have been dead since then. My body left Waddel Hall that morning, and I suppose it was put on a train and buried back in Jackson. Jamie’s body was taken, too, but he was left here with me.
In the century since, a campus sprung up around Waddel and a town sprung up alongside it. We sat here and watched it all happen, noses against the glass, shoulders in the doorways.
I have watched every student pass and read every scrap of paper in the house, but what I yearn for is not inside. Jamie finds grim satisfaction haunting: frightening children with a cold hand or a hot breath. He likes it here. I have been plotting my escape.
This year, I learned to sink into the floorboards. This fall, I learned to crawl through the dirt. Tonight, I learned to walk on the grass.
There were very few students still out on the night that I escaped. I tried to be seen by one, hopeful that leaving Waddel meant coming into the world. I was not seen. The wet grass on my dress and the cool air on my cheeks were little comfort.
I looked back at Waddel Hall. I had not viewed its exterior since the night Jamie took me here, away from our hotel, to stay with his old friends in their dormitory. It felt improper, but he told me I could trust him, and I listened.
It was January 1918 when I last saw the outside of the building, and a winter storm had us running. Strange that this would be the first clear picture of the home in which I have been trapped for so long. A simple, squat, off-white residence. Unimpressive.
Jamie stood in the window, shock on his face for the first time since I had known him. I turned my back on his hanging jaw and wide eyes. I crossed the North Campus lawn.
The library was closed, but not to me. I slipped inside, and upstairs. I hunted, combing the shelves, drifting through each floor until I found it.
A book of local history recorded the first murder on campus. Jamie Johnson, traveling through town, killed his girlfriend and then himself. His suicide note was printed in full.
He asked God and his mother for forgiveness. He justified. He called what he was about to do an act of nerve, not cowardice.
After all this time plotting, waiting to read this letter, imagining it, I only had to read it once.
I only had to read it once to know that I was not mentioned.
I only had to read it once to know that, despite him ending my life before his, I was an afterthought.
The sun rose. I descended the turning staircase. I felt drawn back to the place I had been calling home, to the man who kept me there.
I resisted the pull. The sunshine flooded the room, lighting the stacks of books with gold. I would be alone here, but I knew this place would be a finer home to haunt.
The most I can say about the band that played on the rooftop of the Georgia Theatre that night is that they all looked human.
They advertised themselves as some kind of ultra-experimental act, billed under no name in the back of the Flagpole. The only information about them was their photo. Five ordinary-looking people staring blankly at the camera, two women and three men. It was a free show, with no opener. All of this piqued the interest of me and a couple of my friends, so we decided to go downtown and see what they were all about.
It was on the cusp between late fall and early winter, and the days were short enough that it was already dark by the time we all got to the Georgia Theatre. A sizeable crowd had gathered already, and none of them seemed to know anything more about the band than we did—they had all come after seeing those five faces in the paper with no name attached. It’s unusual how many people were there, looking back at it now. I guess it’s the lure of the unknown. None of us knew if we’d like the music, we were just in it for the experience.
After a while, the band came out. They were dressed in black clothing, yet it didn’t seem gimmicky—they weren’t gothic, they just looked like they were trying to blend into the night. The first thing they did was work together to haul out one of those massive Japanese drums—Odaiko drums, they’re called. Then they came out with their other gear: a bass guitar, one mic stand, and something that looked like a long plank of wood with three strings attached to it. I never did find out the name of that thing.
They never introduced themselves. Never said a word to the audience. Just started right up with… whatever it was they were doing. I can’t honestly call it “music”, but it did have a kind of hypnotic rhythm. One guy banged on the Odaiko drum in a steady beat while the guy with the bass churned out something that sounded like five guitars were playing at once. The stringed plank of wood was played with a bow, and it sounded like a woman crying. The two girls at the front shared the single mic; one would chant something that wasn’t quite loud enough for us to hear, while the other would make weird signs with her hands. One of the friends with me knew some ASL, and he said she wasn’t signing any words he’d ever seen.
I know this all sounds kind of cheesy, like a bunch of art students trying to be edgy, but it genuinely felt like something was happening that I shouldn’t have seen that night. In the middle of the concert, I broke my concentration long enough to glance up at the sky, just to look at something other than those five strange people, and I swear, there were no stars in the sky. I looked around to see if anybody else noticed anything, but they were all staring at the performers.
And here’s the weirdest thing—neither I, nor any of my friends remember getting home. We all just woke up in our beds the next morning. Nobody took any pictures or video of the show. It was like it never happened, but me and my friends remember it.
I don’t know who those people were or what they did to us, but in some way… I want to go back.
Singular CityBy Jay Barnes
The lettering on the door read, ‘Dr. Ernst M. Cronister, II, laws of physics broken while you wait!‘ I knocked and went in.
“My friend!” Doc waved, without looking. “You’ve brought… the materials?”
“Sure did.” I tossed the half-folded pieces of paper on the bench beside him. “Sorry I’m late, but the traffic is…”
He swung about, lightning fast. “Traffic…” He intoned, in his thick accent, “Is bad in this town, even in the summer, yes?”
“Yep, all the main roads are a mess. And then you have GDOT tearing up things at random, especially at lunchtime. I was late for work today, and I only commute two miles!”
He nodded, and examined what I’d brought. It was the latest issue of Flagpole, the last bastion of truth, freedom, the American way, and local music listings, in all of Georgia. Even as I thought this, I imagined eagles soaring skyward, fireworks blazing in the background… followed by reviews of the newest Tex-Mex openings from the past two weeks.
“What if I told you that I could eliminate all traffic problems in our fair town, with just the press of a button?”
“I’d say prove it, you snake-oil salesman.”
Doc chuckled, and led me towards a large mass of buttons, switches, and readouts, resembling a super-oldschool, room-sized computer. “Behold, the Quantum-Clarke Singularity Device, or ‘PBJ’ for short.”
“How do you get PBJ…”
“It’s irrelevant. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but the key is this magazine!” He jabbed it, eyes ablaze. “Quite simply, my device will consolidate all matter and energy within Athens-Clarke to a single point of infinite density. Your travel times will be instantaneous, since you’ll already be at your destination!”
“Yeah… and all the shows would start on time, since all the clubs would be infinitely full! I’m in… how is Flagpole involved?”
“This rag contains sufficient random data to fill the logic circuits of the singularity generator. It’s dependent upon several factors, including whether Hot Fudge is playing at Caledonia, and if there’s yet another letter to Bonita from whiny 30-somethings who can’t find a date.”
Stunned, I gestured for him to continue.
“We take the data I mentioned, cross reference it with last week’s Sudoku solution…” He entered several large numbers into a keypad at breakneck speed. A light on the console blinked, then held steady green.
He chuckled. “Please, my friend, you have the honors.”
Being a sucker for anything science, I pressed the button below the indicator. For a few seconds, there was only an odd hissing noise, like a kettle about to boil.
When I blinked, I could see everything, and everyone. There was infinite music, football, new Creature Comforts selections, and parking; all in a kaleidoscopic, fifth-dimensional array. I was simultaneously at Little Italy, a frat party, and a rooftop concert, drinking a beer in each reality. But then, I started sensing something off: eviscerated co-eds, decapitated fiberglass bulldogs, macabre demonic displays, infinite parking tickets, and what looked like a jumpsuit-clad Sam Neill murmuring in Latin, presenting his eyeballs in his hands. Then, I beheld the Georgia Tech score, and screamed.
Instantly, the vision ended, and I stared at Doc, who shook his head angrily at the now-red indicator. “So close! The singularity collapsed. I failed to take into account the second letter in the advice column, which was about annoying co-workers! Maybe next week.”
Humming Beethoven, he returned to his workbench, and I backed out of his lab, suddenly thirsty for infinite amounts of PBR.
Scary Story Contest EntryBy Tai McElhannon (age 13)
On the very first Halloween to ever be celebrated in Athens, GA, a young girl by the name of Trisha Pumpkin was kidnapped and murdered. Nobody looked for her or even noticed she was missing for three years straight. By the time someone realized she was gone it was too late. Legend has it that every three years the ghost of Trisha Pumpkin returns to curse all pumpkins to attack and kill the trick or treaters. Three years ago there were 201 injuries and 79 deaths all caused by deadly possessed pumpkins. This year who knows what could go wrong, so hide your kids and watch your back,” Ryan said creepily. “HaHa very funny Ryan, it’s Halloween and no pumpkins have killed any of us yet,” Daisy joked as she joined the party. “Hey everyone, it’s time to trick or treat!!!,” yelled Ashlee from the back of the room. Every year the most popular girl in school, Ashlee, holds a giant Halloween party on Halloween and everyone in school goes trick or treating together. Zombies, vampires, devils, ghosts all spilled out of Ashlee’s house and began walking down Whit Davis Road looking for houses with candy. “AHHHHH, a pumpkin! It’s got me!!!,” a young boy screamed. Everyone jerked their heads around quicker than an owl only to see the boy being chased by a hopping pumpkin dripping with blood. Screams quickly filled the streets as kids ran into any shelter they could find. Ryan spotted a cabin from afar and sprinted towards it and locked himself in for his own safety. He turned around slowly when suddenly his mouth was covered so he couldn’t scream. “Hey Ryan! It’s me Ashlee and Daisy and her little sister Hanna,” Ashlee whispered. “We have to find a way to stop these pumpkins before they kill everyone,” Daisy said quietly while cocking a gun. “Okay guys, if we stop Trisha, we stop the pumpkins. Everyone grab a weapon,” Ryan said and picked up an axe. “I always carry a portable straightening iron! That could burn em’ right up.” Ashlee said. “ I may be younger than all of you but I sure know how to use a knife,” Hanna said with a smirk. Daisy kicked open the door and everyone ran out and were immediately attacked by pumpkins. The four bravely took on the first three pumpkins and found a trail of pumpkin goop which they believed would lead them to Trisha. After following the trail for almost an hour they stumbled upon a large white house by a graveyard on Morton Road. “Look! A Ouija board,” said Daisy. “I got an idea you guys!!,” Hanna squealed as she hopped over to Ryan. “What if we trap Trisha inside this Ouija board and bury it in the graveyard?! That way no one will ever find it and release her!” Hanna said. The four of them circled in the darkest spot in the graveyard and started saying at the same time “Trisha come to us, Trisha come to us.” The Ouija board piece started to move towards yes and they froze and looked at each other. They could hear footsteps and then Daisy yelled, “Make this monster return to hell!,” and threw her rosary necklace on top of the Ouija board. Everyone stood up and saw no more pumpkins moving in the distance. “This has been a Halloween I’ll never forget,” Ryan said with a sigh of relief. 17 years later, “Woah, Charlie look! It’s a Ouija board, wanna play?” To be continued…
The Curse of the Florida GatorBy Eliza Everson
It was a Saturday afternoon in Athens, Georgia. The sun hammered down on Sanford Stadium, and the air was heavy and hot. 92,746 souls sat in the stands, watching as the UGA Football team battled their biggest rival; The Florida Gators. The score is tied; 14-14. The Bulldogs get down to the 10-yard line. The ball is snapped. The quarterback looks. He throws the ball. It finds a pair of hands, and bodies hit the ground. The Bulldogs take the win; they’ve beaten the Gators!
The Florida players are suspended with defeat. They stand, heads hanging, sweat dripping from there forlorn faces. In a moment of excitement, no one notices their bodies begin to straighten. They all tense up, and all begin marching in step. Orange cleats drag across the freshly cut field, shredding the grass left and right. Two walk over to the field goal post and quickly go to destroying it. A small group begins to engage the Bulldogs, fighting and tearing. Chaos breaks out quickly, and no one in the stands knows what is going on. However, the Gator fans soon begin to do the exact same thing. They all enter into a haze and begin damaging everything in sight. Struggle breaks out all over Sanford. Everyone in sight is -competing.
The mascots get into a brawl. Harry attacks the Gator, who is destroying the scoreboard. Harry gets him pinned, and begins beating him up. The roles reverse, and Harry is getting pounded. They continue fighting, until finally, Harry pins the gator. In the stands, fans are flying everywhere. Left and right, people are being thrown around and pummeled by rabid Gator fans. As the fighting continues, police officers are omnipresent, trying to control the crowd. The yell and point their guns, to no avail. The fans cannot be controlled, and neither can the players. The fights among them are even more intense. 200-pound men fighting each other with no intention of stopping anytime soon. The football players eventually overpower the police officers.
All the gates to Sanford are locked, and no one can go anywhere. The zombified players fight there way through, and in a herd, destroy the gates and spill out by the thousands. Florida members flood left and right and every direction. A large group heads to Baxter, destroying everything in sight. Another group head for the Ag College, leaving no garden untouched. Classrooms overturned and looted, with broken glass scattering the streets. No one could contain these crowds, and no one makes an attempt to. As they head for the abandoned dorms, people try to stop the Gators, to no avail. The Gators surge through the doors…
I snap awake, panting heavily. I quickly scan the room and realize that this entire scenario was just a dream. I breathe a sigh of relief to find that the pride and joy of Georgia is still flawlessly intact. One thing about that dream I know was real, though. The Gators lose to the Bulldogs, just as they should!
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