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Do you consider yourself a feminist? Is your feminism intersectional? March is Women’s History Month, and I have two books in my arsenal that I am going to make a point to read before the end of the month.
The first book had me at the title: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.
Roxane Gay is a bad mamma jamma, and I encourage you to check her out. Bad Feminist is a collection of essays in which she speaks on past and modern-day issues that affect women in general and as a woman of color. Part musing, part call-out, this one is definitely worth consideration. Any woman who is willing to sacrifice money for principles is aight with me!
The next book on my list is a collection of historical romances. Daughters of a Nation: A Black Suffragette Romance Anthology has been in my TBR for a…
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We cooked up something new for y’all while Black Girl Squee takes a brief holiday break. There’s a new show on the BGS feed called Ratchet Research. Author Katrina Jackson (Encore, @katrinajax) and I (@dustdaughter) host the monthly Black pop culture podcast with an historical perspective. We combine the ratchet pop culture news we all hate to love with the analytical eye for research and historical references. That’s where the name of the show comes from.
The first episode of Ratchet Research talks about The Knowles Sisters, Beyonce and Solange. We talk about the importance of their two brilliant albums, Lemonade and A Seat At The Table. And we also just stan out for these two supremely talented Black women. It’s a long episode but I think it’s a lot of fun. We sure had a lot of fun recording it!
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I don’t know the person who said it, but this tweet is the best description I can think of: this year was a terrible movie with an awesome soundtrack. Or something to that effect. In a year when we lost Natalie Cole (technically 2015), David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Glenn Fry, Sharon Jones and… Prince… we lost Prince…, it’s easy to lament the genius we lost rather than celebrate the genius we might have gained. In that spirit, I am going over some of the artists and their albums and EPs that contributed to the year 2016’s awesome soundtrack. I tried to focus on talent that might not appear on the lists of bigger publications, so albums like Rhianna’s Anti, A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It from Here and Frank Ocean’s Blonde are all awesome but absent here. There will be some overlap, but this list is…
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No matter how we feel about arbitrary time markers, we have to admit that this year did too much too fast. An absolute bullshit of a year determined to make us mourn every little thing we ever held near and dear to us. This isn’t to say this year didn’t offer us a few gems. It did. While some of us are still wounded by the loss of knowing we’ll never get new music from a few legends, we’re still celebrating some amazing music we got this year. Here are a few tracks and artists who made this year just a little more bearable.
The list of prompts can be found here. Please join me in taking on this self-imposed, challenge if you want. I’m excited to see what anyone else comes up with.
Also I decided to keep the same characters from my first prompt. Mainly because I don’t want to keep coming up with new characters but also it’ll be a fun way to tie them all together.
Prompt: “You can’t tell me you don’t believe in ghosts after all we’ve been through.”
Eriq and Greg sat in a diner in Some Town, USA. After uncountable years on the road, they all blur together eventually. Large cities like New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans were virtually indistinguishable from Podunk towns that even an extensive Google search couldn’t find. The men swore they had sat in this same dinner over a hundred times. All the waitresses were different yet the same. Same tacky uniform; same stale coffee; same half-warm, half-sincere greeting: “What can I get for you today?”
“The Special,” they would say. Every diner had them. Whether they were burgers, chicken fried steaks, over-cooked platters, they all tasted the same.
“This case,” Greg said while sipping back the weak coffee, “is unusual.”
“You say that about all of them, Greg, and they never are.”
“Granted,” he conceded. “But this one is.”
“Lemme guess. Vampires? Werewolves?” Eriq sighed heavily before adding: “Aliens.”
Greg chuckled at that one. Their last case started off typical then turned out to be a big hoax involving aliens. Rather, involving teenagers who found their website and thought it would be fun to waste the men’s time and resources. They ended up apologizing but not before Eriq put the fear of God into them. “Nah, man. A haunting.”
Eriq rolled his eyes. Not this shit again. “Bruh, how many times do I have to tell you—”
“‘There’s no such thing as ghosts.’ Yeah, I know. I heard you the first million times but you’re wrong. Ghosts are real.”
“Oh really? And you know this because you’ve seen one?”
“C’mon, Eriq! You know better than anyone that seeing is not always believing.”
“True. But in this case…”
“Oh, c’mon now! You can’t possibly tell me that you don’t believe in ghosts! Really? After all we’ve been through?”
“Ghosts are—” Eriq paused when the waitress returned to their table with two steaming plates of greasy cheeseburgers and thick cut fries. The men smiled politely at the food. They had seen this exact “special” at least twenty times.
“Here you go, hon,” the waitress said while refilling their coffees. “Can I get y’all anything else?”
“This will be fine for me thanks,” Greg said as he snatched the bottle of ketchup before Eriq could grab it.
Eriq rolled his eyes at the gesture before shaking his head “no” to the waitress. He watched her walk away, making sure she was out of earshot. The diner was sparse. Including the duo, two waitresses, and the cook in the back, Eriq counted ten people. “Ghosts,” he resumed their previous topic, “are explainable. A creaky door, a drippy faucet, a gas leak causing hallucinations.”
“Or… they’re real,” Greg countered. Eriq groaned again before popping a fry into his mouth. The food had no distinct taste or flavor. He ate it out of habit than hunger. “Alls I’m saying is, is that, while there are some stories that are fake, not all of them are.”
“I’ve never heard of a real one. All these shows… they have everyone with an iPhone thinking they can ‘catch’ ghosts and whatnot. But really, they’re just conning the people. People who need actual problems solved; not to have their fears solidified.”
“Ooh… ‘Solidified,’” Greg joked. He took a large bite of his sloppy burger.
“It’s my word of the day, pal. Maybe you should get one.” Greg made a face and shimmied his shoulders in a mocking manner. Eriq laughed at it then looked out the window. The sun was setting, casting a golden-purplish hue over the land. Another day ending.
Strange, he thought, that he couldn’t remember it beginning. Just like he couldn’t remember the outside weather. Was is Spring or Summer? Was it scorching hot or warm and windy? Matter of fact, what day was today? Something in him wanted to say Friday but was that the actual date or just longing for the weekend? What month was it? What year?
He pushed all these thoughts away. Another effect of the job. People and places didn’t just merge together, dates and seasons did too.
“I’m just saying,” Greg added after swallowing his bite, “there are more to ghosts than that. They’re much more complicated than creaking floors and whispering voices.”
Greg nodded his head and wiped his mouth. “Yeah. See, intelligent hauntings are so common now. Everyone can fake them, like you said. If you got a camera, basic understanding of video editing, and a YouTube account you can fool a million people with one video. But the residual ones are killer.”
“Yeah. Think of them like…” he clicked his tongue as he pondered a proper simile. “Like a video set on repeat.”
“Okay?” Eriq raised a brow.
“No, listen! You know how you go to one of them electronic stores? The ones that sell computers and shit?” Eriq nodded. “And how in the TV section there’s some film playing on them?” Eriq nodded again. “Well it’s like that. See… the store is us, the living. The film on the TV is the residual haunting. It’s playing regardless of us. It doesn’t care if we’re watching, it has no idea that we’re there, it just plays out like it’s supposed to. Get it?”
Eriq shrugged. “A little. So,” he licked his lips and leaned forward, “you’re saying that residual ghosts can’t be faked because they just… repeat themselves?”
“Something like that, yeah. See, they relieve a moment—either traumatic or otherwise—over and over. You can speak to them all you want but they’re not really there. They’re stuck in that moment. You know how the TVs at those stores never have remotes? You can play with the buttons but the channels won’t ever change? Nothing you do will affect them. Residual.”
Eriq pondered his partner’s words; trying to soak them in. “Okay. Okay. I think I got you. But what does this have to do with this case you were telling me about?”
“Well the client—”
“Possible client,” Eriq corrected.
Greg shrugged it off and continued: “The client says that the haunting happens every night at the same hour for the same length of time. She claims that she tried to make contact with it, to ‘see what it wants,’ but got nothing. Basically, she’s terrified. If we can go over there and prove that it’s residual and, therefore, nothing to worry about, we can put her mind at ease.”
“And how much does this ‘peace of mind’ cost?”
Greg shook his head and chuckled. “Always about money with you, huh?”
“It’s the only way to pay the bills, my friend.”
Greg agreed with a nod. “I told her the usual starting fee.”
“And… I told her we’ll be there some time tonight.”
“Not good! Dude…”
“You didn’t hear her! She was desperate.”
“So are half the quacks who contact us! You can’t just agree to shit without checking in with me first. Goddammit, we still haven’t gotten paid for the case out in McCormick!”
“Lower your voice,” Greg admonished under his breath. They looked around the diner to see if anyone had heard them. None of the other patrons seemed to be concerned with them at all. The men continued: “Listen, I took it because one, some things are more important than money…”
“Oh god…” Eriq scoffed.
“…and two, it’s only an hour away. We can check it out and if it’s nothing, no harm; no foul. We were going that way out anyway. But if it’s legit… then we owe it to her to help. Remember why we started this business, man.”
“Yeah. Okay, okay. But I tell you right now if it’s like that alien shit again, I’m leaving your ass in St. Noshitwhere, got it?”
Greg chuckled. “Got it.”
The duo paid for their meal and headed outside. The sky was illuminated only by the crescent moon peaking behind a thick fog. They entered their pickup and headed toward the town’s exit. Some country tune played out of the static-y radio. Every so often it would overlap with a commercial from another station. They never tuned it; the dial sat permanently on 98.6FM. It was easier than having to adjust it every time they entered a new town. The song continued to play while another commercial overlapped the chorus.
Although the static annoyed him, Eriq didn’t bother to turn the radio off. He knew Greg liked the noise. He was one of those types. The kind that would be driven insane if the air wasn’t constantly permeated with some sort of sound. If there were a lull in a conversation, for example, even if he had nothing to say, Greg would hum just to fill that silence with something.
Normally, that type of behavior would drive Eriq up the wall, but when you love someone you take them flaws and all, right? Besides, that was one of the man’s less egregious ticks. The one that irked Eriq the most, was his naïveté. Someone could tell him rain fell upwards and he’d run to the window to look. In some ways, Eriq admired his innocence but usually it worked against them. Like now. With them driving through a town with one cross light and long stretches of unlit dark roads. Just to help a woman that might have a paranormal issue. He shook his head at the very thought. There were a lot of things that Eriq could believe (hell his profession counted on them); but in the ten years that he had been a supernatural hunter there are three entities that he’d never accept: ghosts, aliens, and Bigfoot. (And he wasn’t entirely sure on the latter.)
The radio was now playing two overlapping songs: another country hit and some pop tune. Eriq’s irritation grew. “Greg, please put in a CD or something.”
“I can’t. The player’s still broken, remember?” Eriq mentally kicked himself for putting off on repairing it.
“Fine. Plug in your cell. The AUX should be in the back.”
Greg dug through the backseat for the cord. Once he found it, he plugged it into his phone. “Shit,” he lamented. “My cell’s dead.”
“Just plug it up to mine.”
“Why?” Greg asked with a laugh. “You never have music on it. Honestly, what is the point of having an iPhone…” His voice trailed off as he returned to the back of the vehicle. He rifled through their duffle bags but found nothing. He turned on the overhead light to aid in his search.
Eriq winched at the sudden bright light filling the cabin. “Shit, turn that off! I can’t see.”
“You’re the one who wanted to listen to something else.”
“Well, I change my mind. Shut it off.” Greg readjusted in his seat and turned off the light. “Thank you. That’s b—oh shit!”
It was a deer. Eriq swerved to avoid it but overcorrected and ran the truck off the road. It smashed into a tree but miraculously neither man was seriously injured. They groaned at the pain in their necks and backs. “Shit! Fuck!” Greg mumbled as he freed himself from his seatbelt. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m good,” Eriq replied. “I think our truck’s dead, though.”
“Better it than us,” Greg stated with a groan. Eriq laughed lightly in agreement before sucking in a hiss of breath at the pain. “You got your phone on you?”
Eriq patted the pockets of his jeans in search of his mobile. He pulled it out then swore, “Shit.” He showed the damaged phone to his partner.
“Damn. We’re not too far from the diner. If you have the energy, we could walk back and get some help.”
“Well, it’s either that, or wait here in hopes of someone to come along,” Eriq lamented as he popped open his door. “Let’s go.”
They arrived to the diner and returned to their original booth. They were greeted by the same waitress from before. “How do y’all like your coffee, hon?”
“Black, no sugar,” Eriq replied.
“And for you, hon?” she asked Greg.
“He’ll have the same,” Eriq answered for him.
“Be back in two shakes.”
As Eriq watched her leave, an odd feeling of déjà vu creeped over him. “Do you ever have that feeling like we’ve done this before?”
“You mean sit in a diner and be offered the nasty coffee?” Greg asked. “Yeah. We’ve done that for over a decade now.”
“No, no. I mean…” Eriq tried to find the right words but were a lost for them. “Nevermind. It just… it feels like I’m forgetting something.”
“No.” He patted his jeans and pulled out the near-pristine cell. “I have that.”
“Left the keys in the ignition?”
Eriq pulled out the keys and set them on the table. “Got them as well.”
“Huh. I’m sure it’ll come to you. Give it some time.”
“Yeah. I guess you’re right.” The waitress returned and filled their cups with the watered down coffee. She asked for their orders; again they went with The Special.
“So about this case,” Greg said as he took a sip of the disgusting liquid. “It’s… unusual.”
“Oh god, it’s not the aliens again. Because I swear to Christ—”
“No! It’s not that. This one is a haunting.”
“Even worse. You know there’s no such thing as ghosts!”
“You’ve been saying that forever and I refuse to believe you.”
Eriq looked out the window. The sun was beginning to set. The day felt odd. It felt like a Friday. But not any Friday; the same one set on repeat for months, maybe years. This day—this particular one, in this specific place—felt old. Half-remembered like a dream. He couldn’t recall waking up or getting dressed. He couldn’t even remember walking into the place. How did they get here?
“Ghosts,” Greg’s voice pulled him from his thoughts, “are more than what people think. See those shows only show one kind—intelligent. They know you’re there and interact with you and shit. That shit’s easy to fake.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Eriq added, resuming a conversation he didn’t realize he was in the middle of. “With the proper tools and editing, anything can be haunted.”
“Which is why ghosts aren’t real!”
“Oh, c’mon, now. What about—”
“Residual,” Eriq finished. How did he know that? Admittedly he was ignorant on the varieties of ghosts. So how did he know?
Greg took a large greedy bite of his cheeseburger. When did their food arrive? The waitress must’ve brought it out but when? And who ate most of his fries? Those greasy, tasteless fries that he had a thousand times over. Just like he had been in this place, on this day, at this time, in this booth numerous times. Except not.
“…it’s like a movie playing on a TV in the background, you see,” Greg continued.
“Yes. See, they don’t even know they’re dead. You could be standing right next to them but nothing you say or do will affect them.”
“They repeat themselves.”
“Like scenes from a movie.”
“We have to help her.”
“What’s the cost for ‘peace of mind?’”
“Always about the money,” Greg said with a chuckle and a shake of his head.
“How else are we supposed to pay the bills?”
“If it’s nothing, no harm; no foul. We were heading out anyway. But if it’s legit…”
“We have to help,” Eriq finished. “We owe it to her to help.”
“Right. That’s why we started this business, yeah?”
They were in the truck now. Eriq didn’t remember leaving the diner or climbing inside the cab. “I can’t see. Turn off the light!”
A screech of tires followed by a loud crash. “You okay?” Greg asked between groans.
“Yeah. I think the truck’s dead, though.”
“The diner’s not far. We can get help there.”
“What can I get for you today?” the waitress asked. That same tacky uniform; the same ten people. Always.
“The Special,” Eriq replied. He looked down at the table. His plate sat before him a few fries already missing.
“…residual…” Greg said, continuing a thought in a conversation that Eriq knew too well, even though they’ve never had it.
“Think about a scene from a movie being played on loop. No matter how you try, you can’t change it. It just plays out like it’s supposed too. Forever.”
Eriq stared out the window. Some Friday, early evening, golden purple fading into blue black. Always. He shook his head then popped another flavorless fry into his mouth. “Poor bastards.”
The list of prompts can be found here. Please join me in taking on this self-imposed, challenge if you want. I’m excited to see what anyone else comes up with.
Also I decided to keep the same characters from my first prompt. Mainly because I don’t want to keep coming up with new characters but also it’ll be a fun way to tie them all together.
Prompt: “What’s behind you in these pictures…?”
Dana wiped the sweat from her brow as she carefully loaded a heavy box marked “dishes” onto the back of Eriq’s truck. Her friend Michelle just signed on a bigger home and she, Eriq, and Greg agreed to help her move. She had been packing and lugging boxes from the house and garage all morning. The constant bending and lifting was starting to get to her. Dana paused to crack her back. “Ew,” Eriq said as he placed the box in his hands down. “That sounded awful.”
“Yeah but it feels amazing.”
“It won’t later on. Don’t worry about carrying any more boxes out, okay? Greg and I will get the rest. You just go help Michelle finish packing.”
She smiled at his concern. “Thanks, man.” She rubbed her lower back with her thumbs. “I and my back thank you.”
Dana climbed out of the truck and headed inside. She ran into Greg who was wrapping more dishes. “Double wrap the ones in the cabinet,” she pointed to the large China cabinet standing in the corner of the dining room. “They’re a family heirloom. Irreplaceable. ‘Chelle will be crushed if anything happened to them.”
“Got it,” he replied before rising with a grunt and walking towards the cabinet.
Dana left him; trusting that he’ll take care of the valuables. She then made her way towards the back of the single story home. The muffled sound of music wafted down the hall. Upon recognizing the tune, Dana hummed along to it then rapped twice on the door before opening it. She stifled a laugh at the sight she walked in on. Michelle was dancing—more like thrashing—about the room. Dana watched her friend for a moment more before greeting, “Hey, hey, hey.”
Michelle stopped short and let out an embarrassing laugh. “Oh… Hey, D! H-how long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough to know you still ain’t got no moves.”
“Excuse me?” Michelle asked in mock offense. “Girl, I’m the next Beyoncé.”
“Maybe Beyonce Jenkins down the block but definitely not Queen Bey.”
Michelle laughed at the remark then tossed a pair of balled up socks in response. “No more mouth! Help me pack the rest of this shit up.”
“Okay, okay.” Dana pulled down a crate from the top shelf of Michelle’s closet. “Hey, look!” she exclaimed while digging through it. “Your old photo album.”
“God, when was the last time we owned literal albums? God these must be so old.” Michelle took the large book from her then cleared a spot for them on the bed. They sat and began flipping through it.
Every so often they would pause and giggle at a picture. Long faded memories began to refocus: birthday parties, sleepovers, school dances, family trips, prom. Yet as they continued on Dana noticed something strange in a number of them. She was currently studying a photo of Michelle posing and smiling in front of an old house. Michelle was about the flip the page but, Dana stopped her. “Hold on. What’s…. what’s that?”
“That,” Dana pointed to the white blur. “What’s behind you in these pictures…?”
Michelle squinted but still couldn’t make out the image. “I don’t know. Maybe a lens flare?”
“Yeah,” Dana agreed weakly. “Maybe.” They flipped the page and continued their reminiscence until Dana saw that spot again. She said nothing, however, sure that it was just another flare. Yet then it appeared again and again. Sometimes it was directly behind Michelle; others it was hanging out in the background. It changed shape as well. One was round; another looked like ribbon; one was misty like a fog hanging in the back ground; and yet another appeared to look almost human. Finally, it was too much for Dana to ignore. “‘Chelle, this is really… odd. It’s not just flares. It’s more that something on the picture. Have they always been like this?”
“Yeah. I mean… I guess so. Honestly, I’ve never seen this album before. My brother found this hidden in our grandmother’s attic when he was cleaning it out one day. I always meant to look through it but I got so busy that—”
“The attic?” Michelle nodded in reply. “Since when did your grandmother hide pictures away? As long as I’ve known you she kept all her albums out front for easy showing.”
“Yeah. I thought that was weird too.” She dismissed the thought with a shrug. “I just figured she had forgotten about it. I mean that house was a mess when she died.”
Dana continued to think it over while flipping through the book. “It just… It doesn’t make any sense. Do you remember taking any of these pics?”
“Vaguely. My parents were photographers. There were always countless pictures in the house. You know this. It was hard to keep track of them sometime. Which is why my grandmother probably stored these away. Who would miss one of a thousand albums anyway, ya know?” Michelle rose and grabbed an empty box from a stack in the corner. “Enough of that. We need to pack my cl—”
“Aren’t you concerned?”
Michelle exhaled a long dramatic sigh. “Not really.” She was over the conversation entirely. There was nothing else to say about an explainable processing error.
“Let it go, D.”
“I can’t. There’s too many unanswered questions. Like—” Michelle cut her off with another groan. Yet Dana would not be deterred. “Like if they are simple errors then why did your parents keep them?”
“Maybe they liked the pictures? Ever think of that?”
“No. I knew your folks, remember? They usually took multiple shots before they found the perfect one. Any pic with them was a test of patience.” Michelle shot her a look of warning. Dana quickly clarified: “I didn’t mean it like that. I’m sorry. I loved your parents. I just meant that every shot had to be perfect. There’s no way they would have kept these pictures.”
“Okay, well, maybe Gramps kept them. She was a hoarder after all.”
“True but she was also sentimental, remember. Only things she locked away were broken and useless. Old sewing kits, defunct typewriters, broken mannequins. She wouldn’t care about a few spots in a photograph. She’d’ve had it on display with the others.”
“Oh god, Dana, just let this go.” Michelle tried to remain calm but her tone was showed her growing annoying.
“Please, D. For me?”
“Not even for you, ‘Chelle. I can’t. I just can’t.”
Michelle’s patience had run out now. “Goddammit, Dana! Why the hell not? Why can’t you just let this go?”
“Because it’s too weird to just ignore, Michelle! You should be worried about what the hell ever this thing is too but you’re not. You’re too calm and, honestly, that’s even creepier. You would think you would want to find out about this more than I do!”
“I do! Alright? There! Happy now?” Michelle confessed; her eyes were red and threatened to tear. “I would love to know what this thing is because it’s been following me for as long as I can remember.”
“Wait… I thought you said you’ve never seen these pictures before.”
“I haven’t.” She looked at her feet and sniffled. Her eyes stung with unshed tears. Michelle hated to show her vulnerable side even to her best friend. “Those… those aren’t the only pictures,” her voice was barely above a whisper.
She looked back at her friend now. “I said, ‘Those aren’t the only pictures,’” she repeated.
“H-how many more are there?”
Michelle shrugged. “I don’t know. Thousands, I guess. It’s been there so long. I remember my grandmother first mentioning it, though, when I was, like, seven or eight. She was talking to them, whispering, telling them something. She said something about ‘getting rid of it’ and my mother just… lost it.” Her eyes began to water now as the memory replayed in her mind. “She started yelling and shit; calling my grandmother crazy. I didn’t understand. I thought they were talking about me. You remember that summer I said we should run away?”
“That was it. I thought if I ran away they couldn’t get rid of me. I dunno. I was young…” She sniffled and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. She returned to her spot next to Dana on the bed. “For the next two years, whenever we would go visit, my grandmother would mention something about a ritual. She was always vague on the details but she said that it would free me. I was a kid, I didn’t know what that meant but I trusted her, you know? That was Gramps. She’d never hurt me. Or so I thought…”
Michelle’s vision drifted off. She stared into the distance as if she could see the following scene played out before her: “One day, she took my hand and told me that we were going to play a game. I was so excited! She always came up with the best games. She dressed me in this white gown. It looked and smelled old. Like it had been locked away in some cedar trunk somewhere—but I didn’t mind. Then she took me to her bathroom and told me to sit in the tub. It was filled with water. Lukewarm. I did. Then she told me, ‘Close your eyes and think of all the things you love. No matter what happens next or what you feel, focus on that love.’ I started feeling a little uneasy then but I didn’t dare question Gramps. I started thinking of everything I had ever loved up ‘til that point. Then she put her hand on the back of my neck… and pinched my nose… and dunk me into the water.”
“Th-then…” Michelle choked on her word. Not only had the images returned but the emotions as well. “Then it got weird. She… she started saying something in some foreign language and when she did the water started to boil. I mean boil! It was so hot I swore I could feel my skin start to burn off. I tried to sit up but… she…” She inhaled deep then exhaled in hopes that it would calm her; it didn’t. Michelle could almost feel the hot water splashing against her skin as she continued, “She held me down.” Her voice cracked now. “I kicked and move but she wouldn’t let me go. I tried to scream but I only choked on the water. I… She…” Long overdue tears finally fell down the curve of her cheek.
The image played before Michelle now as if she was back there. Her grandmother shouting gibberish as Michelle’s skinny limbs fought and kicked to be free. “Things went dark. I-I-I blacked out I guess. When I came to, my father was holding me in his arms. He was screaming at Gramps. To say he was mad was an understatement. He started swearing at her, telling her that my mama was right. He said she’ll never see us again as long as she lived. And we didn’t. Not until her funeral when I was fifteen.”
The images faded away and Michelle returned to the present. She turned to see Dana sitting in stunned silence; her face stained from crying. Before Michelle could speak again, Dana wrapped her in a tight embrace. “I’m so sorry, ‘Chelle,” she cried into her friend’s shoulder. “I had no idea.”
Michelle wanted to pull away, to calm her emotions, but she enjoyed the warmth of the hug. Truthfully, she was glad to be able to finally share the traumatizing secret with someone. Who better than the person she trusted more in the world.
They held each other and cried for ten minutes straight before parting in exhaustion. They shared a small laugh while they whipped the dried tears from under their puffy eyes. “You know,” Dana opined, “in the twenty years I’ve known you, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen you cry.”
“Real shit. Not even when you broke your arm in eighth grade. You were a tough lil’ broad.” Michelle chuckled at the comment. She rose again and resumed folding and packing away her clothes. They’ve wasted nearly twenty minutes travelling down memory lane. She didn’t have spare time to spend now. She wanted to have everything packed and moved before the week ended. By then, work would have called her attention away.
Dana followed suit and continued helping her pack. Minutes passed and the previous tension in the room seemed to ease a bit. Yet a thought continued to niggle in the back of her mind. She dropped the shirt in her hand into the box at her feet. “Did it work, though?” Dana cautiously asked. She didn’t want to re-dig into a twenty year, still-open wound but her curiosity got the better of her.
“Did what work?” Michelle replied while pulling out the drawers from her dresser.
Michelle stopped and looked at her friend. “What?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t want to dig up old hurts for you. I know that was very traumatic but… I mean… did it at least work?”
Michelle’s eyes dropped back to the floor. She shook her head. “No. Actually I think it made it worse.”
“How do you know?”
“I can feel it now. Before… I…” She sighed. “I didn’t know it was there except in pictures. But now… it’s… You know that feeling when someone’s watching you? That nervous tingle that travels all the way up your back?” Dana nodded. “That’s it.”
“Do you feel it now?”
“No. I haven’t felt it in a couple of days. It does that sometimes. It’ll suddenly leave. Sometimes when it comes back it does things?”
“Like… The Entity kind of things?” Dana questioned in all seriousness.
“Oh, God, no! Just… at first it was little things. Moving shit. A pen here, an earring there. Small things that could easily be lost. I didn’t even know it was this thing at first. Not until larger things started going missing. I remember sitting at my computer at work, sipping on a cup of coffee. I put it down, looked away for a second, the when I reached for it, it was gone. I thought it was my coworkers playing tricks on me. I even asked around about it. No one knew anything. Even after it reappeared in the same spot ten minutes later, still piping hot. I just assumed no one was mature enough to admit they took it. Then about a week or so later, I was working from home and it happened again. My laptop would go missing constantly. I’d leave it in the living room and find it in the hall closet later on. Once I came home and my entire living room was rearranged.”
“Oh my god, ‘Chelle! Why didn’t you say or do something?”
“What and have people look at me like I was crazy? I didn’t even believe me. I doubt anyone else would.”
Dana placed a reassuring hand on Michelle’s shoulder. “I believe you. Furthermore, I think I can help you. God knows it’s only a matter of time before this thing escalates.”
Michelle looked down at her feet in shame. “It-it already has.” She lifted her shirt and showed Dana a large, discolored mark on her stomach.
“Oh my fucking god!” Dana gently touched it causing Michelle to suck in a pained breath. “What happened?”
“I don’t know. I had a nightmare one night—a really bad one. I can’t even remember it. I just know that I was running from something I couldn’t see. But I could hear and feel it. Then this strong wind knocked me down. It was so real that I shot awake. I felt this burning on my stomach and when I looked down it was there.”
“No. No, no, no. This isn’t good. ‘Chelle, you can’t live with this another day. It might kill you… or worse.”
“What can I do? I’m not attempting another ritual ever again.”
“No, nothing like that. I know someone. She’s not cheap but she’s good.”
An hour passed before Madame Zuri arrived. Michelle had scoffed at the ridiculous name and with good reason. Madame Zuri had chosen it because she thought it sounded “authentic.” In actuality, she had been born Marie Ann Hopkins in a little town in Alabama. Despite the showbiz name, she was anything but fake. She had been blessed—though some would say cursed—with the gift of second sight since she was a small child. Madame Zuri could see both the dead and those close to dying. She could call forth spirits and angels and send forth malicious entities and demons back to the deepest pit of hell. She was the one you called in cases such as these. Results always guaranteed.
Michelle, Dana, Eriq, and Greg sat in a circle as Madame Zuri blessed the house with incense. Every so often she would ask questions and Michelle would answer them as honestly as possible. Madame Zuri told her from the beginning that she had to have Michelle’s utmost trust or else the entire ceremony would be in vain. She couldn’t help if there was no belief. “This thing… it’s very nasty,” she said while fanning down the corners of the room. “It has left a trail behind. One that is very heavy. It’s a miracle that you are even still alive. Someone must’ve cast a great protection spell on you, my dear, for you to have come this far.” Michelle briefly thought about her grandmother’s ritual. Could that be what she was trying to do?
“Ooh. I feel that,” Madame Zuri said with a shiver. “Who was the bruja in your family?”
“Bruja? We… Nobody. There wasn’t one.”
Madame Zuri studied her face intently. Michelle, understandably, was put off by having the young woman’s face so close to hers. Yes, she wanted her help but—my god!—personal circles were still important! “No, my child. There was one.” Michelle stopped herself from rolling her eyes. Since this woman entered her home nearly thirty minutes ago, she had been calling Michelle her “child” nonstop. It was doubly annoying since Michelle easily had a decade on the woman. But she trusted Dana. If she said the woman was on the up and up, she had no choice but to believe her.
“Your grandmother knew of many things. Things she didn’t tell you. You were too young to understand but I suspect you knew too. This thing that has attached itself to you, she could tell it was evil. She tried to cleanse you once, yes?”
“I-I-I guess. I don’t know.”
“Oh you know. The tub? The burning?”
Michelle’s eyes widened. She shot a look to Dana. An unspoken glance that read: “Did you tell her?”
Madame Zuri laughed at the exchange. “She said nothing to me, child. Your grandmother speaks to me. She says she tried but your father stopped her. Because she could not finish and because you were taken from her constant protection, this demon grew in power. Though she weakened it some. Which is why it’s taken this long to show take hold of you.”
“I’m sorry, back up there for a minute. Did you say ‘demon’?” Eriq questioned.
“Yes. Demon,” she repeated slowly. “Did you catch it that time.”
“Yeah…” Greg said now. “Not to sound all… rational but there’s no such things as demons.”
Madame Zuri turned to him and laughed. “A skeptic. How fun.” Her tone was sarcastic. In her profession, skeptics came a dime a dozen. They would traipse into her shop to mock and belittle her but she paid them no concern. The ignorant always mock what they do not understand. She was sure, though, that she would make a believer out of him before the night’s end. Just like she had countless others.
She sat in the empty chair across from Michelle. “Let’s get started. We don’t have much time. Everyone clasp hands.” The group did as they were instructed, although with some reluctance. “Now it is very important that you listen to me. When this thing comes in, do not, under any circumstance, break this circle. Think about good things, things you love. Not just enjoy but truly, truly love: family, friends, etc. Before this night’s ended, Michelle will be free, as will you all.”
That last remark made the group collectively question her but she gave them no replies. Instead she closed her eyes and began to murmur a chant. Michelle immediate recognized it. “That’s… Those words! I think… Gramps said them to me when she…”
“They’re words of protection and cleansing, my child. Your grandmother was very strong indeed. She’s with us here now. She’ll protect you. Think on her. All of you now. Think on those good things.”
The group closed their eyes and lost themselves in deep reflection as Madame Zuri continued to chant. Everyone, that is, except Greg. He still scoffed at the entire ordeal. Ghosts, demons, physics? None of them were real. And this hack of a woman would prove that. He didn’t know what was upsetting Michelle but he did know that this woman could not help her. After the show was done and their money settled deep in Madame Zuri’s pocket, Michelle would be left to wrestle with her metaphorical demons.
The group sat quiet for a couple of minutes as Madame Zuri muttered prayers and supplications to the spirits. “The one who demands this child’s soul, let him come forth and answer for it.”
Greg rolled his eyes. More nonsense.
“Come forth and answer for it!”
He was tempted now to break the circle to end this foolishness. He briefly wondered what would happened if he did.
“Come forth, you profane thing, and answer for it!”
Greg felt a strange feeling shoot across his entire back. It felt like every inch of his skin prickled. No, it felt like when tries to stand only to realize their foot had fallen asleep. No, it wasn’t that either. It was hard to explain. All he knew was that a great fear fell over him.
“He’s here,” Madame Zuri spoke. “Do not open your eyes, children. Do not look upon it.”
For the first time that evening, Greg wanted to obey the young woman’s advice. He tried to close his eyes but couldn’t. His body felt like it wasn’t his own.
“Speak, you profane thing, tell me your name.”
“A woman asks so much of me.” Greg heard it. Loud and clear. He felt the tongue rise and fall, the mouth move. It was his voice and not. Something was speaking through him.
“Ah. I see you have found a new host. You cannot have him either.”
“I do not want him.” Greg looked at Michelle. He could see her through eyes that were not his own. She looked different. The whole room did. He could see a bright ring of light surrounding the group. A faint shadow stood behind Michelle and a group of them stood behind Madame Zuri. What were these creatures? How could he see them?
“You cannot have her.”
“She is mine!” The voice roared. Greg could feel it’s anger in the pit of his stomach. It was so strong. It felt as if it would rip right thorough him.
“She is protected.”
“A dead thing does not scare This One.”
“You know better than most that power does not die. Don’t look, my children,” she reminded the group. “Don’t stop thinking on good things. If you can, call upon the memories of the passed love ones.”
Greg tried to think about his deceased uncle and grandfather but his mind only produced vicious thoughts. He saw viscera of people. Were they his friends? We’re they those already long dead? He could almost feel the blood on his hands. The thought pleased him. Rather it pleased the thing within him.
“I call upon the ancestors brought here now.” Greg looked about the room and saw more shadows appearing as she spoke. “Come forth and protect your own. He cannot harm you.”
“You lie!” the demon roared.
“There is more power here than within you. Tell me your name, you filth, and I shall cast you down gently.”
The demon laughed loudly. It was ugly. It sounded like a thousand voices screeching at once. Greg’s body started to grow cold then colder. It was as if someone had sat on his lap and claimed his body as his own. The demon had fully taken over now. It made him stand to his feet. Madame Zuri’s grasp on his right hand tightened. Her nails sunk deep into the palm of his hand. He could both feel it and not. He jerked his left hand but Dana held on to it equally as tight. Madame Zuri began to chant.
The demon growled as she called on the ancestors and gods. Greg could see the shadows walking towards him. He wanted to run but the demon held still. He had no fear of them. Not even when they reached out to him and made him howl in pain. Greg had no idea what was going on but he was grateful for it. The more the shadows pulled at the thing inside him the weaker he could feel it become.
“Continue calling on your ancestors, children. They need your strength to fight on. Have faith in them.
The demon jerked and bent Greg’s body in a way that he never thought physically possible. The demon screamed as the shadows continued pulling him. They whispered something but Greg couldn’t quite make it out. It was one word stuck on repeat. Every time they said it the demon would bend or shout anew.
“Free us from this arcane beast!” Madame Zuri shouted to the spirits in encouragement. “Let us send him back to hell. What is your name foul demon?”
That was it! The word Greg heard. The demon would not speak it but he was weakening. Greg was more in power now. The shadows continued to whisper it urging him to say it aloud. “My… name… is…” The demon shrieked again. Having a demon’s name would give one power over it. The shadows continued to whisper. “A-A-A…” The demon continued to howl. It was stubborn. It didn’t want to leave. It’s been lying in wait for over twenty years. Why would it give up now?
But the spirits were stronger now. They would not allow him to remain. The name started to shout in Greg’s head now. “My name is…” The voice sounded more like Greg now. The demon must’ve been so weak now that he couldn’t fight both the physic and spirits. “Atarak!”
The sound the demon made at his own name was indescribable. The group, having never heard something so horribly inhuman, covered their ears. “No!” Madame Zuri shouted. “You must not break the circle! It’s not over yet!”
But it was too late. The loud demonic howl faded into nothing. The group looked around the room. Nothing had moved or changed but they all knew something supernatural had transpired. Greg, however, looked a lot worse for wear. He looked exhausted; as if he hadn’t slept in years. “What… what happened to him?” he croaked out.
“Atarak is gone.”
“You… you mean I’m free?” Michelle asked in relief.
“For now,” Madame Zuri answered honestly. “You broke the circle before I was able to cast him down. He’s in hiding. Weak and angry. I’ll make you all protection bags to keep you safe and, Michelle, I’ll have to bless your new home as well.”
“Can’t you just call him back and finish the ceremony?”
“I’m afraid it’s not that easy.” She tried to rise but fell back into the seat. “Every time I perform an exorcism, it takes a lot out of me. I must regain my strength: physical and spiritual. When it has returned, so will I. I never leave my job undone, my child.” Michelle smiled gratefully. “Now someone help me up. I must make your protection bag immediately. I doubt Atarak would have gotten far. He’ll be back and he’ll be much wiser now.”
Greg sat on the edge of his bed rubbing the tension in his neck away. His protection bag sat next to him. He still wasn’t entirely sure what happened tonight. Did the events really occur or was he so caught up in the moment that he imagined them? Either way he could really use a hot bath and a good night’s rest.
He opted for a shower instead. He feared he would fall asleep in the tub and drown. When it was done he grabbed a towel and headed back toward his bedroom. He barely got two feet down the hall when he felt it.
That odd sensation that crept up him back at Michelle’s place. It was then he knew that the previous events of the evening were, in fact, real. He ran towards his bedroom in search of the little brown bag Madame Zuri gave him. But it was gone. He was certain he left it on the bed. Then he remembered that it fell when he rose to shower. “I’ll pick it up later,” he had said in his exhaustion. Stupid! Madame Zuri had said to wear it around his neck at all times!
Greg fell to his knees and lifted the covers under his bed. There it was! The bag sitting within reach! He grabbed for it; his fingers flicked against the drawstring. Almost… almost…
That odd numbness fell over him again. That heaviness of having another being within him returned. He tried to move; to continue grabbing for the bag but the demon stood him to his feet. He felt it drag him to his hall closet, pull out a broom, and sweep the tiny bag from under the bed. It picked it up with the towel then tossed it into a nearby trash bin. Greg was a smoker so he always had extra lighters lying about. The demon found one sitting unused in the nightstand.
The demon curled Greg’s lips upward as he lit the bag on fire. No more protection. Not for him anyway.
Next the demon turned to the mirror. Greg could see it blending over is features like an ill-fitted mask. The demon smiled at him but didn’t speak. It didn’t have to. Greg knew his thoughts better than his own.
The demon quickly dressed itself it a pair of Greg’s sweats and a tee. It went to the kitchen and grabbed a large butcher’s knife.
Greg wanted to yell; to plead; to beg it not to do what is was about to. It wouldn’t listen, of course. It would not be commanded. Never again. It fished Greg’s keys out of the bowl on the living room table and chuckled that dark, shrieking laugh of its before leaving for Madame Zuri’s.
The list of prompts can be found here. Please join me in taking on this self-imposed, challenge if you want. I’m excited to see what anyone else comes up with.
Prompt: “Come on, it’s just an urban legend…”
The camp fire flickered as the group huddled around it. Dana groaned and rocked uncomfortably on the hard, wet rock she sat on. A cool breeze ran past her causing her to shiver. The mound of fire before her provided a weak light; but it was an even poorer source of warmth. She pulled her thick coat tighter but it didn’t ward off the night air. She leaned into her friend, Michelle, and whispered, “Can we go?”
“What? Why? We just got here.”
“I don’t care! I’m freezing and my ass is soaked.”
“Please, Dana,” Michelle pleaded. “Let’s stay just a little longer. At least until Eriq arrives?”
Eriq was the one of Michelle’s co-workers that she currently had her eye on. The only reason either of them were at this silly campsite was so that she could flirt with him outside of a work environment. Michelle had dragged Dana along because she hated the woods. She had watched enough horror stories to know that nothing good ever happened in them. The women had been sitting in the chilly, late-October weather for over twenty minutes with no sight of Eriq.
“He’s coming,” Michelle reassured. “I know he is.”
Dana, beyond irritated, shook her head. “Nuh-uh! I don’t give a damn! I’m not sitting out here another min–”
“Hey, guys!” Eriq greeted.
“Hi, Eriq,” Michelle chirped back. Dana rolled her eyes and groaned.
“Sorry I’m late,” Eriq said. “I got held up. So what did I miss?”
“Nothing much,” Michelle answered with a smile while patting the empty spot next to her. Eriq chuckled at the invitation before sitting. “Uh, Greg, here was just telling us stories.”
“Not just any stories,” Greg corrected. “Horror stories. Urban legends, to be exact.” He pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose.
“Ooh,” Eriq replied. “I love a good urban legend. Can I tell one?” Greg was visibly not too pleased to relinquish his role as storyteller, but the camp collectively affirmed their desire for a new narrator. Greg, defeated by the majority, folded his arms in contempt and conceded with a nod.
Eriq leaned closer into the fire, allowing the light of its flames to accentuate the features of his face. He lowered his voice an octave and began: “Years ago, there was a vagrant by the name of One Eyed Joe—‘cause, ya know, he only had one eye. Joe used to live in the alleyway between Fourth Street and Main. One day, the mayor decided that it was ‘time to clean up the streets.’ Supposedly the man was obsessed with beautifying the town. Anything that wasn’t shiny, pretty, and new would be torn down and destroyed. Well, ol’ Joe was none of these things. The mayor hired a few men to clean out the alleyways, Joe’s alley. Except, ol’ Joe wouldn’t go.”
The fire continued to crackle. Eriq licked his lips and smiled menacingly as he continued. “They tried asking him nicely, at first. They even offered to move him to a shelter downtown where they kept the other hobos. But no! Ol’ Joe wouldn’t go. They did this every day for a month until the mayor had it! He said, ‘Boys! Go down there and drag him out! I don’t care if you have to pull him out kicking and screaming, just do it!’ Well, the men were getting paid so they had to follow orders. It took four men to remove him. Ol’ Joe yelled and screamed so much that people ran out of the surrounding buildings. They tossed him in a van and locked him away in an asylum b—”
“An asylum?” Dana questioned.
“Yeah, an asylum.”
“What happened to the shelter or wherever?”
“I don’t know. I guess—”
“And where was this asylum? We don’t have one here or in any nearby towns. Is this a local urban legend?”
“God!” Eriq groaned in annoyance. “I don’t fucking know! Does it even matter?”
“Yes! I mean, if you’re going to tell a horror story, the details are everything!”
“Oh my god,” he mumbled before resting his face in his palms.
“Dana!” Michelle admonished before shooting her friend an irritated look. “I’m sure he’ll explain all of that if you just let him finish.” She spoke low and strained.
Dana rolled her eyes. “Fine!” She folded her arms and shot her friend and her intended conquest a dirty look.
Michelle, completely unfazed by the glare, turned back to Eriq and said, “Please continue,” with a broad smile.
Eriq returned it before resuming. “Anyway,” he shot Dana one last disappointed stare, then addressed the rest of the group. “They locked him away in an asylum but the town began demanding answers. I mean, what kind of place were they living in where an old hobo could be dragged away in the middle of the day. At first, the mayor denied everything. Tried to convince the people they were imagining it, but they wouldn’t give up. Soon more and more people wanted to know what happened to the old man. The mayor had to do something. It wasn’t enough to just lock him away. He had to be gotten rid of. So he calls up his goons again. ‘Make sure every trace of him is gone,’ he says. So they go get him out of the asylum…” He paused to look at Dana in case she wanted to comment again.
She sat arms folded, face stern, lips pressed so tightly they appeared non-existent; but she said nothing. He took it as a cue to continue. “The men drove him out to these very woods and, with no one around to stop them, began beating Ol’ One Eyed Joe, to death. They say they bashed him into a pulp and buried his body somewhere deep in the forest. With Joe gone, the mayor could continue on like before. One day, weeks later, the mayor, not know that it was these exact woods that Joe was buried in, decided to go camping with his family. Now, no one knows what exactly happened next but they say the mayor and his family went missing. They say that when they finally found them, there were only bits and pieces of the mayor left. And his family? They were all found headless with their eyes gouged out. Nobody knows who did it but legend has it that Joe, angry at his untimely death, wouldn’t stay buried. That he came back for revenge. But he didn’t stop at just the mayor. Oh no. Any- and everybody that chooses to camp in these woods could become his next victim. You’ll know if it’s him. First you’ll hear the sound of a body dragging, followed by a gurgling noise, and finally…” he leaned in even further allowing the fire’s flames to make his features appear darker and malevolent, “he’ll snatch you up. You won’t even be able to run. All you can do is scream. Aaaaaah!”
The group collectively jump at his sudden yell before relaxing into a chuckle. “Wow,” Michelle said, holding a hand to her chest. “That was really creepy.”
“That was bullshit!” Dana yelled.
“Of course you didn’t like it,” Eriq said with a roll of his eyes.
“No it’s not,” Michelle corrected. “It’s very scary.”
“It’s stupid!” Dana repeated.
“Wow,” Greg chimed in. “You really mean to tell me you’re not scared of a vengeful ghost? That could possibly kill any of us at any moment?”
“What’s there to be scared of? An old one eyed man? How can I be scared of someone that has no depth perception?”
“Well, I think—”
“And how exactly did he rip a man apart and behead his family? Does he have some sort of ghostly weapons? Like, is there a Home Depot or Ace’s in the afterlife? Does he get store credit?”
“Dana.” Michelle scolded.
“And what does a ghost need with the eyes of the living? I mean, I know he’s only got the one eye but, if he’s supposedly out here killing all these people, it seems like he’s doing pretty well with his dead ones. Does he keep them as a trophy? Is there a Revenge Ghost Convention where he shows them off? Does he get badges like Girl Scouts?”
“And who are ‘they’? If this dude kills everyone who camps out here, then where do the stories come from?”
“Michelle!” Dana mocked. “This story was stupid, this evening was stupid, and I hate that my weekend was wasted on it!” She rose to her feet.
“Where are you going?”
“Back to the car. I had enough of this foolishness. I want to go home, wash the stink of outdoor off of me, then dive face first into my bed.”
“But…” Michelle shot up to her feet. “What about One Eyed Joe?”
Dana rolled her eyes. (It seemed she had been doing that more times tonight than she had in her entire life.) “Michelle, really? C’mon, girl. It’s just an urban legend. A bad one at that.”
“You’re right,” Michelle replied with an uneasy smile. “I got so worked up I forgot that.” She gave a small laugh. “But, are you sure you don’t want to stay? C’mon… It’ll be fun.”
“That’s the lie you told me to get me here and, so far, it hasn’t been. Look, you don’t have to leave. I know you’re still trying to dig your hooks into the poor man’s Stephen King over there,” she signaled Eriq with a nod of her head. “You can stay and try your luck with that but I’ve had enough. I’m going home.”
Michelle pouted but decided to not press her friend further. She hugged her and said, “Stay safe” in farewell.
Dana grabbed a nearby flashlight, switched it on, then made her way down the trail they entered from. The earth was still wet from the two days of non-stop rainfall. Her boots sunk into the dirt with every step. “Fucking nature!” she cursed. “I hate you.
The dim light barely illuminated the ground before her. It was a miracle she hadn’t already tripped and fallen into the mud. Dana continued muttering to herself and trudging along the path. She was almost to the main trail. That ground was covered in rocks and would be a much better walk to the wood’s main entrance. God, she could almost feel the heat from her car. She could even almost hear the radio playing, bringing her back to modernity.
No wait. Not music. A light snap came from the distance to her right. Normally a noise that gentle wouldn’t have caught her attention; but in the dead silence that surrounded her, it gonged out. Dana cast her light into the direction of the sound. Her hands trembled as she attempted to make out the shape of the environment in the darkness.
Eriq’s ridiculous story had not affected her one bit. Of that she was sure. Rather her fear was born out of rationality. Earlier, the park ranger informed them that this area would be wildlife free. “For the most part,” he added before spitting on the ground. Dana had questioned that addition but the man assured her that any animals would be non-aggressive. “Deers, squirrels, things like that. It’ll be rare that a predator would come your way,” the ranger had said. “You have my word, ma’am. Y’all are safe as houses.” Whatever that meant. Still Dana was uneasy. “Rare” didn’t mean “never.” So her luck could very well run out tonight and she could find herself square with a wolf or, worse, a bear.
Another snapping sound came from the left now. She quickly flashed her light to the area. There was the other, non-supernatural, non-bullshit, threat to fear: humans. What if some pervert decided to make these woods his murdering ground? Folk who thought they were safe from animal predators, would find themselves face to face with human ones. Real-life, corporeal humans who did not need a half-assed myth to scare someone.
More snapping, followed by the rustling of leaves. “H-hello?” There was no response, only more rustling. “Hello?” she called again. This time, a reply came in the sound of something dragging across the ground. It was unmistakable. That slow trudging against dirt and rock.
First you’ll hear the sound of a body dragging…
Dana mentally kicked herself for letting Eriq’s words seep into her thoughts. It was a stupid story. The possibility of it being true was in the negative percentile. And yet that dragging noise persisted. It didn’t have a specific point of origin. One minute it sounded as if it were coming from behind; the next it was to the right of her; and a moment later the left.
“Hello?” she asked the darkness again. This time there was a response.
…followed by a gurgling noise…
It wasn’t quite gurgling actually. More like gagging or choking. Like someone was drowning. Rather being forced underwater. It was like that spitting noise one makes when they swallow a drink too fast. That quick choking in the throat before it’s spat up.
The sound of it sent a shiver through her. The wet, cold wind from earlier had nothing on this chill. This made her flesh goose; made her body freeze despite her thought’s pleadings.
The dragging noise got closer.
Her hands trembled as the dim flashlight flickered. The dragging was even closer now. She could feel the ground behind her soften as if another person just stepped behind her.
…he’ll snatch you up…
Dana’s fear compelled her to face the horror. If this were to be the last thing she’d ever see, she’d had to look upon her torturer. Be it animal, human, or… other, she had to know. Curiosity, it seemed, could not be quelled even in moments of great trepidation.
She willed her body to turn. When she did, when she finally looked upon the creature, her eyes widened in disbelief. There were no words to describe the sight. Even if she had them, she couldn’t use them. All that she was able to do before her painful death, was let out a long, shrill scream.
You won’t even be able to run. All you can do is scream.
It was so loud that it caught the attention of Michelle and the camp a mile away. The group quickly grabbed their flashlights and made their way towards the sound. When they arrived, they only found Dana’s muddied boots and a dead flashlight.
“Wh-wh-what happened to her?” Michelle tearfully stuttered out. Yet before anyone could offer an answer, the group heard a snapping of a twig; followed by the rustling of leave. Then, finally, a long, slow, dragging sound.