The Whispering Timbers
I can’t think of anything better than opening up the windows in the spring time and enjoying the fresh air, gentle wind, and sounds of birds in the evening. It’s as relaxing as anything I can think of and one of my fondest memories growing up. It doesn’t matter what part of the country you’re from, you can still enjoy the peacefulness of a nice cool dusk. In fact, having such a nice open yard with large living room windows and big front porch is a large reason I bought the house I live in now. I envisioned having wonderful nights on the swing for many years to come when I first saw it on the market.
That all changed on one of the very first nights I was able have all the windows open. I just wanted some fresh air; instead all I got was an uneasy feeling and a bit of a fright too. I was sitting there, reading a book, sipping on some sun tea, and enjoying myself. It was a long winter and I was just happy to finally be able to air the house out a bit and enjoy the temperate weather like in the good old days. I can’t say for certain how long it was before I noticed that none of the birds were chirping, but it was long enough for me to finish a few chapters and half my drink. I only noticed because I began to listen to the wind and only then realized that there weren’t the familiar bird songs to accompany it. It was in that moment that I first heard what caused the shiver down my spine.
It was the sound of voices coming from somewhere outside, which wouldn’t have been unusual, had they not been calling my name in a very monotone, yet sing-song voice. I hadn’t lived in the neighborhood long enough for anyone to know my name and I certainly wasn’t expecting any of my friends that time of day to drop by uninvited. And if they had, why would they have just stood somewhere outside calling to me? That wasn’t a question I wanted to find out, so I closed the windows and tried to ignore what I had heard. A couple of weeks went by and the weather had shifted back to being too cold for open windows, so it was a relief in a sense that I didn’t have to be confronted with that again. And I even forgot about it for the most part by the time it warmed back up outside.
My mother had come down from Lincoln to have dinner and spend some time with me, as we didn’t get much of a chance during the winter months thanks to all the snow. She and I had a good time preparing a nice meal and she filled me in on all the details and gossip going on around town and with the family. It was quickly shaping up to be a splendid day and we planned on capping it off with a nice, relaxing sit-down on the porch with some coffee. We were both sitting on the swing and chatting away when I realized that the birds had stopped making sound again. The wind picked up and I knew right away what was going to happen once more; and right on queue it did.
The same voices that called out to me that first time while I was inside began to call out my name again, but were much more clear now that I was outside with them. And, to make matters worse, a few other voices were calling out my mother’s name. We both looked at each other with what must have been looks of shock but didn’t dare move. There was nobody in sight that could have been saying our names with as much clarity and pitch as they were, but whoever or whatever it was didn’t seem to want to stop. The trees began to sway and bend in the wind and the voices calling out our names got more and more intense.
A branch snapped and that sent the two of us jumping out of the swing and dashing back into the house. I closed the door and locked the deadbolt and went to every window and did the same. We weren’t sure what to do, so we called the police and waited together in the kitchen. It felt like hours but might have only been half of one before the police arrived. We watched them search around the house with their flashlights before one of them knocked on the door. I spoke with him and explained what happened, but he wasn’t sure what it could have been. They didn’t find anyone or anything that looked out of place and just told us to keep the doors locked and an eye out for anything else unusual.
I stopped opening my windows and sitting outside after that night, and the whole experience ruined what was once one of my favorite pastimes. I’m considering selling the house, but what if those voices follow me? What if I start hearing them inside the house? I just don’t know what I’m going to do. All I know is that I never want to hear my name called out in that way again; there was something very evil hidden behind that alluring voice.
The Startling Hologram
As a bartender, you get the privilege of seeing and hearing a lot of crazy off the wall stories from time to time. Most of those are fueled by alcohol, but perhaps the most memorable one for me happened to be told by a completely sober man. Before I get to that, however, I’d like to mention that I work at the bar of an old Inn and Tavern located on the east coast in Maine. The building itself has been here for hundreds of years and operates as a historical sight and restaurant now after they made the decision to stop allowing guests to stay overnight.
Like many old buildings in this area, it’s said that there are spirits who live here, though I suppose “live” wouldn’t be the right thing to say about them. I’ve been an employee here for a bit longer than ten years and have never experienced anything strange or unusual, but a lot of my fellow coworkers over the years have apparently had run-ins with the ghosts who haunt the building. I don’t personally believe in ghosts, but I do enjoy a good story, so I always humor them and listen to their tales.
The story in question wasn’t told to me by an employee, but rather a guest to the restaurant. Before I get into his story, I should mention that the tavern is located in the basement area of the building and the restaurant upstairs. Sometime ago they put in an elevator so that people with disabilities would have an easier time access both areas, as the original stairs are rather narrow and hard to navigate. The guest in question wasn’t a regular that I knew, but due to the area having a lot of tourism, it wasn’t unusual to see plenty of new faces every shift.
This man in particular came up to the bar sometime in the evening on a weekend in which the place was crowded with a mix of regular customers and tourists. He was dressed like a lot of the traveling bikers that we’d get during the warmer months, including a full beard, tattoos, and motorcycle club vest. Most of them were just older guys who enjoyed getting out on the road and weren’t really all that tough as the appearance that they gave off. This guy, though, seemed like the kind of motorcycle rider you wouldn’t want to get on the bad side of. But when he approached my bar, it looked as though something had given him a pretty big fright. His forehead was sweaty, face pale, and eyes bugged out.
I asked him if everything was okay and he responded by ordering both a shot of liquor and a beer. I got him his drinks and before he said anything else, he pounded the shot back and chugged half of the bottle of beer. Then he let out a pretty big over exaggerated breath and said “Boy that is one realistic looking hologram you guys have in the elevator; scared the shit out of me when it popped up!” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, though I thought he might have been talking about something relating to the museum part of the building and suggested as much to him.
He was adamant about seeing it in the elevator though and not in the museum area at all. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we didn’t use any modern kind of presentation for the museum anyway. I asked him what the hologram looked like and he described it as being an older woman in period clothing with a bonnet and holding some kind of basket with fruits or vegetables in her arms. It apparently appearead from thin air in front of him as he took the ride down. I didn’t mention this to him, but that was often the description of the ghost woman that people claim to see in the basement tavern. He had another drink and we talked a bit about the history of the building, but I never brought up the fact that we didn’t have holograms with him. I figured it was probably best if he just left that night thinking that is what he saw.
I keep hoping that I never have my own run in with that “hologram” when I’m working alone after hours ever since talking with that biker about his own experience. I’m not saying that I believe in it, but I could tell that he indeed see something in that elevator with him. I’d rather just go on my business without ever having that sort of interaction of my own and especially not in some dingy old elevator of a haunted building.
The Heavy Steps
Back in the early 1980s, my husband got hired to be a handyman at an older bed and breakfast. We were both retired from our previous profession and were allowed to move into one of the bedrooms downstairs in exchange for his work around the property. It was a nice, old house far out in the country but close enough to still be able to make trips into town when needed. We moved in during the winter during the off season, so we were the only people out there most of the time besides when the owner was there. As well as being a handyman, my husband would sort of be a look-out for the place and just be sure nothing foolish was going on.
The first couple of months went by great as we had settled in and took pride in helping spruce the place up. It had been a number of years since anyone had really gave the house the care and attention that it needed, so the progress we were doing was paying off visually almost immediately. And the owner was very happy with what we were doing, even going so far as to sending us weekly fruit baskets for our troubles. We couldn’t have been happier, but that is where the trouble comes. Someone, or something, wasn’t happy with our presence or our hard work.
It all started one night just before we had settled down to go to sleep. We both heard a series of very heavy, large thuds coming from upstairs in the house. We weren’t sure if it was the second or third floor and it only happened two or three times in quick succession. My husband went looking around in all the different rooms, but nothing seemed disturbed and the rooms were empty like they were expected to be. Our only guess was that maybe the wind had blown hard enough to cause the house to shift, as old houses were known to do.
A couple of days went by before we heard anything else unusual, but the thuds returned around the same time at night. My husband went upstairs again to have a look, but turned up empty once again. I suggested that perhaps there was some kind of rodents in the walls that were causing the sound. My husband agreed with me and said that he’d have a look the next morning. But that turned up fruitless, as well, and we once again just kind of tried not to think about it and go about our business of beautifying the place during the day.
That is when things became too spooky for us just to brush off and ignore. My husband was outside working on something in the shed and I was inside scrubbing some old tin that I had found in one of the cabinets. I heard, clear as day, the sound of very heavy footsteps walking down the hallway directly above me. I knew that nobody else was in the house, but still didn’t think to go look. But I stood there and listened to the footsteps as they moved down the hall and eventually to the stairs just in the other room. It was unmistakable and I just knew that someone would be walking through the kitchen doorway at any moment as the sound got closer and closer. But nobody ever came and I was left standing there bewildered at what I had just heard. My husband came inside and I explained to him why I was looking so pale. He didn’t outright say it, but I think we both knew that there was something in the house with us. I am pretty sure he wanted to still rationalize things and wondered if there was some prowler hiding around upstairs playing games with us.
I tried not to think about it for the rest of the day and just wanted to get to sleep and back to work to take my mind off of it. But just as soon as we had turned out the lamp to get to bed, the same footsteps I had heard began stomping around from somewhere above our bedroom. My husband jumped up out of bed and quickly grabbed the old shotgun he always kept near the corner of the room and loaded a shell into it. The time it took for me to turn the light on and for him to get up and get the gun was long enough for the heavy steps to make their way down the hallway and the stairs. He told me to get behind him and aimed the shotgun at the door to our room. The steps were just as loud as they were upstairs as they made their way down the small corridor to our back bedroom.
With gun trained at the door and the steps nearly on the other side, my husband let out a loud warning to whoever it was coming; but the steps did not stop until they reached our door. We stood there in silence for what must have been two or three minutes before he let out another warning for whoever it was to announce their presence or be shot. He got no reaction, so he inched his way to the door and swung it open expecting to see someone there. But to both of our surprise, or perhaps not, there was nobody there at all. If there really was a person that walked down the hall to our room, there wouldn’t have been anywhere for them to hide and we both heard the footsteps come all the way to our door.
The owner stopped by the next day to do some preparation work for the spring season. I asked her if they had ever heard unusual sounds in the house and she said that there were rumors about it when they were renovating the rooms back in the ‘70s but nothing since then and they never experienced anything themselves. She did ask me if I heard “the heavy footsteps” though.
The Chance Medic
I’m a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. I’ve deployed there multiple times during my long Army career, as well as a stint in Iraq and Kuwait. I’ve also traveled all over the world both as part of my service and because I enjoy sightseeing and architectural history. I’ve always been a good Soldier and feel as though my experiences in combat helped shape who I am as a leader and a non-commissioned officer. I had a lot of close calls, but only one of them nearly caused me to perish. In fact, everything that morning should have meant the end of my life. But something strange happened that prevented that.
My unit had just taken over a Forward Operating Base in some obscure valley in the mountains of Afghanistan. The war was in full swing and the Taliban had been hitting everyone in the province hard in a last ditch attempt at not losing ground to the coalition forces. I had just been promoted to Sergeant and was finally in charge of my own fire-team, which was something that I had been looking forward to for a long time. I was ready to be all gung-ho and volunteer my guys for the worst details if it meant impressing the Platoon Sergeant and everyone else. My Soldiers weren’t a fan of it, but I knew that it would pay off in the long run. So we ended up having to pull a lot of the worse tower guard shifts, which meant covering from like 0200 to 0600. You’d end up getting little to no sleep and have to be up and ready to go out on patrols for eighteen hours the same day. It was a rough schedule, but my team had been sucking it up and doing it with minimal complaints.
The F.O.B had been hit with some mortar fire off and on for the first month or so that we had been there, but nothing serious and nobody had been injured at all. But one early morning that my team was on watch, an unexpectedly large group of Taliban fighters launched a full on attack. Before I could even really react to the sudden barrage of small arms fire, mortars, and RPGs, the tower that I was standing in got hit with something. I learned afterwards that it had been directly hit by an anti-tank rocket that was powerful enough to completely blow the tower off its own support beams. I was knocked out from the blast and did not come to until a few minutes later. I was alone in the tower when it got hit, and it took me a moment to even understand what had happened.
I was lying face down in the rocks somewhere down the hillside and knew immediately that I was severely injured. Gunshots were still ringing out all around me, but it didn’t seem as though they were being directed at me specifically. I tried to turn over, but let out a loud groan as the pain overwhelmed me. I quickly stopped trying to move as I didn’t want to make any more sound to alert the enemy of my location. The last thing I wanted to do was become captured or just have them kill me right there without even being able to defend myself. I reached down my body to see if I could assess just how bad I was hurt, since it was still somewhat dark and I could not move much. I felt a lot of blood from somewhere near my waist and that’s when the realization started to settle in that I wouldn’t be making it out of Afghanistan alive.
I can’t say for sure how much time passed, but the gunfire and explosions hadn’t let up at all when I heard a voice call out near my position. I didn’t recognize the voice, but I could tell that they were an American and not Afghani. Whoever it was had turned me over and had begun to pat my body down and open up my vest and coat to assess the damage. Even though it was much lighter out than when I first woke up, I still couldn’t make out much. I just figured that a Medic must have found me and made his way down to help. “It’s going to be alright, just stay with me.” He said that right after I had that thought, confirming it to be true. But it wasn’t any of the Medics from my unit’s voice. I turned my head towards him and did everything I could to try and blink away the blurriness in my eyes.
I couldn’t make out his face, but I did notice something about it was odd. He continued to work on my wounds, cutting off parts of cloth, pressing bandages to the bleeding cuts, and going back and forth to his aid bag. I noticed that his uniform was different than what a U.S. Army Soldier would have been wearing, adding even more to my confusion. It was all olive drab green, without any kind of camouflage pattern. By that point in the war, we had already switched to the new digital pattern uniforms. But even still, this Medic was wearing a uniform that was two or three previous. He also had older style harness gear and a “doc’s bag” next to him that he was busy pulling out supplies from. His helmet had green nettling hanging off it, and his face seemed to have been painted green with camo. I let out a very faint “Thanks, but who are you?”
“Ah, just focus on not falling asleep, pal. You know who I am. Just stay in there, you’re gonna make it.”
With that, I closed my eyes again and passed out once more. The next thing I knew, I was being lifted back up the hill to the F.O.B by members of my unit on a stretcher. The sun was out now and the battle had ended. The morning was filled with the sound of yells for help and the hustle and bustle of everyone trying to gather their bearings. A Medic that I knew, SPC Lincoln, was at my side as two others were carrying me; he was putting pressure on my wounds as they lifted me along. He said that I had lost a lot of blood, but if I kept on fighting, I was going to make it. I asked him where the other Medic was, and he just looked at me confused. I explained to him the Soldier I saw earlier that had tended to me and how out of place he seemed. Lincoln figured I had just hallucinated because of shock or the loss of blood, but I was adamant about what happened. He said they would take care of me now and not to worry about what I had seen or thought happened after I fell. I knew by his voice that he didn’t believe me, but once we got back behind the walls and they sat me down, he got to work on me.
He opened my vest and lifted up my coat and shirt and was shocked at what he saw. Someone had wrapped my waist in old Vietnam-era bandages that had stopped the bleeding and kept me alive until they found me. I couldn’t explain who had been there or how they managed to find me and save me, but I was thankful for whoever it was. I got shipped off to Germany to recover, and had a lot of time to think as I sat in the hospital. I knew that I had an Uncle who fought and died in Vietnam, but never knew what he did. I called my Mom and asked her and nearly dropped the phone when she said that he was a Combat Medic who died saving a fellow Soldier in his unit somewhere in the jungles.
I knew that it was my Uncle, a man I had never met, who was in the valley there with me that morning. He was watching over me and made sure that I returned home like he never could. I don’t tell anyone else that I’ve come across in the Army this story, because I don’t want them to think I’m crazy, but I know that it’s the only thing that could have happened. One Soldier from a generation ago making sure another returns home to see his family once more.
The Howling Headstone
They always warned us not to go in there after dark. But what is the one thing you can say to an adventurous, rebellious kid to make him break the rules? “Don’t do that.” Of course I wasn’t going to listen to them and neither were my friends. We had to see it for ourselves and see if all the rumors and legends were true. There was never a moment to stop and think about what it is we were going to do if it turned out those rumors and legends weren’t myths at all. It’s something I can’t stop thinking about now though, even though I wish that I could. Every time I’m alone and it’s dark, I close my eyes and I see that face. And I hear that awful sound all over again.
It was a dark, cold night on that fateful evening that I sneaked inside the old Penbroke Cemetery. I went inside alone because I didn’t feel as though I had anything to worry about and none of my friends had the guts to do it. And I think that part of going in alone involved my ego; I wanted to be able to tell everyone that I went all the way in and saw the famed howling headstone all by myself. It’s that very mistake that I’ve been living with now for all these years ever since. I wasn’t sure where the headstone was actually located, but I always heard that you would know it when you saw it. And they were not lying about that.
It wasn’t long after darting my way through a multitude of plots and grave markers that I knew I had found what I set off to see. It was larger than the other markers in the area and seemed to glow in the dimness of the moonlight. It was as brooding and ominous as the stories said and even though I went in a skeptic, I had to stop in my tracks in awe of the sheer feeling of intimidation the thing gave off. The legend says that it was the final act of revenge by a man that was ostracized from the town for being rude with everyone else in town for most of his life. It was pure black stone, cut in the form of snakes, crows, vines, and one very large skull near the top.
I couldn’t break my eyes away from the space where the eyes would sit in the skull; that’s why I came to such a sudden stop. It was like it had some kind of hold over me and I could only just stand there in the dark and stare back. Deep down I knew what was going to happen next and I did not have to wait long. The jaw of the skull began to move down, somehow, though it was made of stone. It was dark, but I could still tell that it was moving. And from somewhere deep inside of that now open stone mouth emanated a rumbling, terrible guttural scream. It was the worst sound I’ve ever heard and I had to grab ahold of another headstone just to keep myself from passing out and falling over.
The next thing I remember, I was running full speed back the way I came, and doing my best not to trip over other grave markers. The entire time I ran, I could hear that horrible yell coming from that skull from somewhere in the darkness behind me. I kept running even after I got back over the fence and never looked back. My friends had no idea what happened and caught up with me down the road. I couldn't explain what I just saw and none of them had heard the sounds. I wish I could keep on running now, but it’s going to stick with me for the rest of my life. That horrible sound did something to my mind that will probably never be fixed.
I've been scuba diving, both professionally and leisurely, for almost thirty years now. And I've had the pleasure of diving all over the world, including some of the more unique places and situations the sport has to offer. I've swam with sharks, I've seen shipwrecks that still had skeletons of the crew inside them, and I've even been lucky enough to do some cave diving in the waters off the Bahamas. I've seen my fair share of interesting things and have also been privy to a few scary moments involving novice divers. You can see a lot of things underwater, but none of it will even compare to that one dive.
For a few years, I had worked as an Instructor at a beach resort that was geared towards the younger spring break crowd. We'd teach them the basics, certify them, and then take them out into the rougher, more exciting areas for their dives. It wasn't a bad gig, and afforded me the opportunity to do the kind of level of diving I was accustomed too on a more regular basic than if I was teaching sixty year old retirees in a pool somewhere. One afternoon, I had finished up a group of five or six college students that were all vacationing at the resort. Since it was a larger group, the plan was to certify them that day, and then have everyone come back the following day for a free water dive. But one of the kids, after hearing the plan, begged me to take them out that same day because one of them would be flying out early the next morning due to having work obligations back home. I normally would have told them “tough luck” and refunded half of that person's payment, but figured that we'd have a decent sized window of light to still take them out into deeper waters.
So I fired up the boat, and made my way out of the shallows towards the place that I'd usually take groups for their free dive. The group did well in following instructions and seemed like they had a good grasp on what they had to do in order not to find themselves in a bad situation. I knew it was risky for me to be watching over that many novice divers, especially with the sun on the wrong side of the day, but I wanted to get into the water as well. I stopped the boat in the usual spot, and began the process of prepping everything and everyone to get in. I went over the routine of safety checks and reminders, and helped each of the students into the water before jumping in shortly after them. We were in just about twenty five feet of clear water, and the water was as calm as you'd want for new divers. It was the ideal conditions, besides time of day, for a dive like that. And things went along without a hitch, at first.
I instructed everyone to stay close, as we descended down further towards the ocean floor. The students were having a blast, and were all doing very well up to that point. It doesn't take too long to get down to that depth, and it wouldn't have used up much air, so I wanted to take them to the floor to have a look around. But before we could all make it down there, I heard one of the students cry out over their radio before they began thrashing and fighting to get away from the group and go back up to the surface. This wasn't an unusual thing for new divers, though I didn't see it coming from a group like that, so it surprised me some. I tried to get to him and calm him down, so that he didn't burn through his tank, but before I could even say anything one of the other students yelled over the headset “WHAT THE FUCK ARE THOSE?”
That's when a bit of a panic set in among the entire group, and I had to fight to keep control of them the best I could while trying to figure out what it was that they were seeing to cause them to freak out so bad. There weren't really any big sharks in the area, and the most dangerous thing you'd see were barracuda or mostly harmless smack of jellyfish. I finally spun around enough to see what the group was attempting to flee from. And I had to fight the same urge to get away with them, as I too was starting to panic at that point. Not at first, anyway, but once the improbability of what I was looking at began to set in.
Not far from us, walking slowly along the floor of the ocean, was what looked to be a group of ten or more human-like creatures. They were tall, and mostly slender, but with large, powerful looking legs. They were moving at a slow pace, but clearly had no trouble fighting against the current as they walked. Their skin was a deep blue color, and it looked as though they were wearing some sort of full body cloaks that moved as fluidly through the water as they did.
I just sat there floating in a stunned silence as I watched the beings move along the bottom. My mind couldn't even begin to comprehend what I was looking at, but it must have been either some kind of unknown sea creature or something darker. I still don't have a good explanation or theory of what they were even now, but I can say for sure that we weren't just seeing things. We weren't in very deep water, it was still light out, and none of us had been drinking. Whoever, or whatever, they were didn't matter to any of us at that point though as we all made as quick of a mad dash to the surface as you'd see from a group of scared people.
The students couldn't believe what they had just seen, and asked me what they were. I told them that I had no idea either, and that I'd have never seen anything like that before in all my years of being under water. We figured the best course of action would be to fire up the engines and get the hell out of there quick. When we got back, I contacted the Coast Guard and let them know what we had seen. They scolded me for making a prank call and that I wasn't the first person to try the same story and to “be more original next time”. The guy also said that it cost them a lot of money to send out boats and helicopters for hoaxes and that I could be charged for it or arrested. Instead of pressing the issue and ending up in a psyche ward or prison, I just hung up on him. It was too crazy of a story for me to even believe, let alone convince others about what we saw. I still dive a lot, but haven't ever seen anything like those “blue people” we saw walking that day.
Let me preface this story by mentioning that I've never been a sleepwalker. Nor have I ever woken up some place different from where I had fallen asleep. I am not even that heavy of sleeper, with the smallest of sounds waking me up. With that out of the way, what I am going to tell you will seem even more strange, I hope.
It began with a dream. I was walking down a dirt road under the light of the moon, until I came upon a pathway that lead into the tall grass that was on either side of the trail. There were random pieces of rusted metal objects scattered about; old barrels and frames of long gone cars, mostly. The setting of the dream was a bit disconcerting, but wasn't what I would say was a nightmare. It was more a sense of feeling as though I was someplace that I shouldn't have been. A sense of foreboding, you could say. I woke up before I got too far off of the path into the grass, and quickly forgot about the dream after waking up for the day.
The next night, I had the dream again. Now, I've had a lot of reoccurring dreams, so I didn't really think much of it the next day. But it is rare that I'd have the same dream two nights in a row, especially when the dream itself wasn't anything overly memorable or spectacular in any way. Though there was something a bit different about the dream this time; I walked longer down the path until I saw what looked to be the outline of an old trailer. But I couldn't really make anything out, other than feeling unsettled by the sight of it, and woke up once more.
Again, I went about my day without thinking about the dream, however I did make a joke to myself before laying down to sleep about it. I wondered if I had jinxed myself for thinking about it right before sleeping. And I guess that I probably did, but I had the same dream for the third night in a row. But this time, I got a lot closer down the path and near the old trailer. I could finally make out details. It was white in color, but had clearly been exposed to the elements for a long time. It was beat up, had a number of large dents around it, and I could see that the windows were mostly broken out. It was like someone had moved it out into the middle of nowhere and forgotten about it. But if it really was just an abandoned trailer, why did it make me feel so uncomfortable to even look at it? To even walk towards it? It was just a dream, but I wanted to turn and run away from it the closer my steps took me. I couldn't though, since it was just a dream. I woke up right before I could see much more. This was the first time that it really felt like a nightmare and my heart was racing as if I had been there.
I spent the next day avoiding anything that I thought might trigger dreams. I cut out my daily caffeine, and made sure to not eat anything spicy. I also stayed up later than I usually do in the hope that I'd be too exhausted to dream at all. Sadly, none of that worked, and I had the dream again for the fourth day in a row. I walked down the same path, around all the rusted junk, and through the tall grasses. Until I could see the trailer that I was compelled to walk towards in spite of how wrong it felt. This time, I got close enough to read some lettering that had been hanging on the front of the motor home. I was shaking in my dream, but not from any feeling of being cold. The sign read “The Horsey's Corral” and something about the name drove me into a near panic at the sight of it. I woke up with nearly the same panic as in the dream.
Now, it's weird enough to have the same dream that many nights in a row, but it's actually not even the oddest part of this story. I couldn't get the name on the trailer out of my head the entire day, and my coworkers even mentioned how awful I looked. I hadn't gotten a good night worth of sleep for days, and it showed in my appearance. I thought that if I “overloaded” my brain with other stimuli, it would help me avoid having the dream again. So I played a lot of video games, watched two movies, and read a few chapters from one of my favorite books before finally passing out sometime well into the night. It didn't help though.
I once again found myself walking down the path, into the grass, and towards the trailer. The terror was building with every foot that I put in front of the other, but I kept on going. I saw the name, and though I just wanted to run, or wake up, I kept pushing forward until I found myself at the door. Well, the door frame, that is. The door itself must have been long gone by now. The moonlight was only lighting up what was directly inside of the trailer, which looked to just be piles of garbage, broken bottles, more rusted metal objects, and a disgusting old mattress. I didn't want to be there anymore, but I couldn't force myself to wake up. Instead, I just climbed by way past all of the refuge and laid down onto the filthy mattress. It smelled as grotty as it looked, but for some reason I had to lay down on it. I wanted nothing more than to wake up. But I wish I hadn't.
The moment I was pulled from the dream and back into reality, I knew I wasn't in my bed, or even in my house. The sun was shining through a broken window down onto my face directly into my eyes forcing me to close them. I was more confused than anything, and was too worried to even move. But that's when I began to smell the mattress from my dream and realized that I was laying on it now. I just laid there, motionless, hoping that this was just another version of the dream. I wanted to wake up again, but after what felt like hours, I hadn't. It finally sunk in that I wasn't dreaming anymore and I sort of snapped out of whatever crazy feelings I had. I sat up and looked around in the light and dust, and saw exactly what I had “seen” the night before in the dream: piles of garbage, broken bottles, rusted metal objects, and the mattress.
I pulled myself up, realizing that I was wearing my pajamas, and made my way through all the mess that was blocking the door of the trailer. I was lost, confused, and dumbfounded by the fact that I was in this place. I had no clue where I was, yet had dreams about this place for days. And here I was, having to pull myself out of it. I stumbled outside, and had to shield my eyes from the sun. Carefully, I made my way down the old, rotting wood steps and towards the trail that I knew I would find. I got a few paces away from the trailer, before turning around and seeing the name. “The Horseys Corral” in stick-on, black lettering like it was in my dreams. And this time the fear I felt was very much real. I ran away as quick as I could go without shoes on until I was on the dirt road heading away from the trailer. When I reached the end of the road, I noticed that the gate blocking me in was familiar. In fact, I was only just a few hundred yards away from my house and down a path that I pass by every time I leave my street. Had I sleepwalked to some place that I knew existed but just never noticed? Or was it something else? I guess I'll never really know. I just know that I always look the other way when I pass by now.
The Slip in Time
Remember back in the ' early 90s when it wasn't as easy to just pull out your phone and look something up? It took a little bit of work to get information on obscure subjects, or even common things that may not come up that much in your life. Sure, some people had computers and internet (really slow internet) by then, but hardly anyone I knew did. Because of this, you had to be creative about getting the answers to things you had questions about, or needed a bit more research into. My dad, for example, was a big fan of learning about ancient languages. Since my siblings and I weren't old enough to stay home, we would often end up going along to the local public library while he would spent a couple hours digging through whatever old books he could find on the subject.
The library itself must have been a hundred or more years old, and was one of the bigger buildings in the entire town. It had three stories, and was full of nothing but books of any and all subjects. They even had a pretty large section just for kids and teenagers. So we didn't mind much when we would have to go. They even had computer labs, with those old Apple computers that probably existed in every library back in those days. But sometimes, as I got a bit older, I would explore the rest of the building and see what kind of areas I could find. The place was big enough that I think you could go down certain nooks and aisles that people hadn't stepped foot in for months at a time.
On some random weekday during the summer one year, I was doing a bit of exploring and decided on a whim that I would hit the “B” button while in the elevator. There was nothing saying that patrons weren't allowed down there, even though I knew that all that was there was a bunch of old books. Every once in awhile, people would ask for a book and it would turn up in the basement, so a librarian would have to go down and find it. I thought that it might be kind of fun to have a look around down there. The building was old enough that I assumed it would be all dark and gloomy, and fun to explore. Boy, was I in for a shock.
I descended from the very top floor, in what was an old slow ride down. Let me ask you this, reader, when you're in an elevator, what do you think about? Usually almost nothing, right? You just stand there and stare at the numbers count down with a blank mind. That's exactly what I was doing that day. It seemed like an hour before the “B” light was finally completed filled, signaling that I had reached my stop. The bell went off to let me know I was there, and the door slid open. I was expecting a dark room filled with stacks of books in rows, lit up by just a few hanging light fixtures. But what I saw was something completely different. Something that didn't belong.
What I saw before me was a scene that looked to be some kind of hospital. Only, it was the kind of hospital you'd see in old pictures. There were rows of cots lined up with men in varying levels of pain, with busy nurses in white running about, and Doctors working their hardest to stop bleeding or revive a patient. I was stunned at what I was looking at, I simply stood with my hand on the door to keep it from closing. That's when I recognized that the injured men must have been Soldiers from long ago, Civil War perhaps. It was hard to make out at first, because the only light in the room that I could see came from lanterns, and there was a thick unnatural haze to the whole scene. And, as odd as it was, there seemed to be no sound at all. You would have expected there to be moaning and screams of agony, and bustling doctors yelling at nurses to hand them certain tools, but nope. There was no sound at all.
I pulled my hand back away from the door, and it closed back on itself. I pushed the button to go back up to the first floor, and seemed to be back in the library. I calmly found my dad, and told him what I had seen. He said that there must have been some kind of reenactment going on down there, and that I should have stayed out of there. When we went to the check-out desk, I asked about the Civil War Reenactment in the basement. The Librarian at the desk looked at me confused and said “Reenactment? I don't know anything about that. The only thing I know about the basement is that it was once used as a field hospital during the Civil War. But now we just keep all our old books down there."
The Sad, Sad Girl
College can be a bewildering, scary time for new students. For many, it's the first time they have ever been away from home for an extended period of time. And it's often also the first time that they have responsibilities beyond those of a teenager in high school. When you factor in that many more of them are going to new cities far from their hometown, it's no wonder that they sometimes feel overwhelmed. I must admit that I felt that way for the first few months when I was a new student. And I wasn't alone, apparently.
It was early in the semester the first time I heard her. The Freshman dorms consisted of two beds, a small kitchen area, and two more beds in another room. I shared a room with a girl who majored in Biochemistry and was almost always either studying or sleeping. That first night, she was fast asleep. I wasn't sure where the other two were, or if they were even there that night. They both liked to party and were quickly going down the path of “wild college kids” that many often do. I was reading some stuff for my Sociology class, while sitting on my bed with some earbuds in. I was always able to focus more if I was listening to music while studying. It helped keep out distractions, but not that first night.
As I was arm deep into the chapter, a song ended and there was a moment of silence before the next one began. That's when I first heard the sound of what seemed to be heavy sobbing. I pulled out my headphones and looked towards my roommates bed. She was fast asleep, snoring even, so the crying wasn't coming from her. I slid out of bed, and walked into the kitchen area. The neighbors door was cracked a bit, but I could see that no lights were on in their room. The crying sounded more sad than anything else. I thought that maybe someone just couldn't handle being away from home and decided that I shouldn't bother them.
A bit later, I heard the roommates door open and the two of them came in loud and obnoxious, as they had been out drinking at a house party I would learn the next morning. It sounded as though it was both of them, which didn't register to me until later that night when I was trying to sleep. If neither of them had been in their room, who did I hear crying?
A few nights went by, and I was so focused on my new classes that I sort of forgot about what I had heard. It was a Friday night, and my roommate's parents were visiting her to see the campus and the dorms. They ended up staying in a hotel, so I had the room to myself for the weekend. The neighbors were also out for the night, of course, so I was basically alone. I thought I was, anyway. A cold chill echoed throughout my body when I heard the crying coming from the other room again. I knew for sure that nobody should have been in there but that didn't stop the sounds.
I must have sat on my bed, stone faced, for ten minutes before mustering up every bit of courage I had to stand up and turn on my lights in my room and the kitchen area. The sobbing didn't stop with the lights turning on, and I could see that the door to their room was cracked a bit with the lights off, as it had been the other night. I had really hoped that the old “turning on the light” trick would have worked.
“Hello? Are you okay?”
I found myself saying, somehow. I'm not even sure it was me who said it, but rather it seemed like something normal people would say when in that situation. Part of me thought that I might be able to help someone who was clearly in some kind of anguish, while the other 98% of me was creeped out and wanted to run out of the entire building. I had hoped that by saying that, the crying would stop. But instead, it only seemed to make the sobbing louder. I inched my way towards door, with some sort of plan of reaching in and turning the light on.
To say that I was going slow would be an understatement. Snail-like might be a better term. My eyes were like saucers when I finally reached my arm in through the crack in the door to find the light switch. All kinds of awful things were running through my head about what I was going to see when I finally flipped the switch. But I just wanted the crying to stop. And to my surprise, it did once the lights were on. The trick finally worked. I put my head in, half ready to run back the other way and took a look around. The room was empty.
I was relieved, but also frightened. I didn't want to be there anymore, so I turned around to collect my things and go...somewhere for the night. When I turned, I saw someone move from my doorway into my room.
It was a girl, with long brown hair and a sad looking face. She started to sob again as she moved out of the doorway. It was the girl that had been crying, only now she was in my room. I started to panic and cry a bit too.
I did all I could think to do and said out loud: “Please, just go! You're scaring me.”
That's when the crying stopped again. I can't say for how long I stood there, tears in my own eyes, before walking back into my room. My empty room. I never told anyone about what happened. I didn't want my roommate or my neighbors being freaked out, or worse: thinking that I'm crazy. I never heard or saw the sad girl again, thankfully. But I do sometimes wonder who she was, who she is. And why was she so upset?
The Change - Part 3
I know that this has happened to everyone once or twice in their life. Maybe you're on a trip and you're staying in a hotel; maybe you just rearranged your furniture in your bedroom. At some point in the night you wake up and have a look around the dark. You're confused for a moment by just where you actually are. Nothing seems familiar and you don't really know why. Then the thought comes to you and you remember why you feel that way and it all goes back to normal before you drift back off to sleep. Well that happened to me last night, but the feeling never went away.
Somehow I managed to pass out again and slept a few more hours, even though I knew something wasn't right. When I woke up again, I kept my eyes tightly shut because I was too afraid to see where I actually was. I spun my legs to the side of the bed to get up, eyes still closed, and banged my knees into the wall. Every morning for the last dozen or so years, I've gotten out of bed on the left side. But today, I hit the wall. After blasting my knees, I opened my eyes to see that I had in fact hit the wall. And that my entire room was backwards.
It was like my bedroom was a mirror image of what I knew it to be. It all seemed in place, and was still so unfamiliar. This was by far the biggest change yet, and I had only seen my room to that point. I tried not to panic, because I had been doing enough of that the past few weeks. I was convinced that I must have been going crazy, but I didn't think crazy people could rationalize like that. Then again, I don't know what to think anymore. How could I when everything ends up different than what I know?
Of course, it wasn't just my bedroom that was turned around. I discovered that the rest of the world was too. Letters and writing were normal, but everything just flipped places from how I remembered them to be. I must have looked like I had just gone hell when I got to the office that day, because the receptionist asked me if I was alright when I walked by her desk. I don't remember if I said anything to her or not. I was focused on just making it to my desk before I lost my mind. Of course, my desk was now on the other side of the room from where I normally found it. So I had to make an awkward walk around the entire floor before finding it and slumping down into my chair.
I must have been sitting there, hands covering my eyes, for at least half an hour before I could muster up the courage to try and get through the day. I was on the verge of panicking at that moment, and thought that maybe putting my mind on my work would help calm me down. I picked up the stack of papers I had been working on the day before, and reached out for my favorite pen. I found the spot I had finished on the day prior, and went to right out some information that needed to be put down. I noticed right away that my hand-writing was terrible and that it wasn't even legible. It was like I was writing with my opposite hand.
That's when my heart sank. I slowly moved the pen from my right hand to my left, turned over the paper I had been working on, and scrawled out my name in my usual, clear freehand. I've never been left-handed. But now...now, I am. If I was going to go crazy, I just wished it would happen with a little more urgency. Because I could sure use it as an excuse, an explanation, for what was going on.
Just a places to archive some stories that will eventually be included in a book release.