Nocturnal Walk

Few times I use a personal experience for one of my stories, but this is one of those times. It happened a couple days ago, on the night of the Fourth of July, to be more precise. After having some friends for barbecue, my boyfriend and I decided to go for our nocturnal walk. People were lighting fireworks on the street, and we saw some of them bursting in the sky, too, so I thought that our walk would be something special.

That night, we decided to walk in a new direction. It was a part of the neighborhood that we had not been before, and it looked very pretty: nice new and old houses with well maintained front yards. At some of these places, people still had tents and light series to add up to the atmosphere while they were enjoying with their friends. From all over, one could hear chatting and some music. It was a beautiful night, full moon included.

We kept on walking and talking about how nice it would be to have some of those lights ourselves when we saw a house with something very different. Instead of having lights, they had actual torches, probably six of them, burning intensely. At a first glance, I did not made any of that but, after a few moments, I thought that it was kind of weird to have the torches going on when nobody was there. “Maybe the party is over,” I thought, and forgot about it.

After wandering for another half an hour, we came back following the same route. We passed again the house with the torches, and they kept on burning as if they were just set up. This time, a woman was there staring at the sky. You might think that maybe she was looking at some fireworks, but they were long ended at that point.

For a split second we stared at her. My boyfriend and I looked at each other, and he was the first one to say something. “Why is she wearing all black?,” he asked me. By the time I tried to see her again, she was getting into the house saying something that I could not understand. “It is so weird,” he said. “Do you want to see her?” “No!, ” I replied. And right when I was saying the word, I fell how a chill crawled all over my spine.

It was the very first time in my life that I actually understood what “having the hairs in the back of your head risen” means. Immediately I felt like running from there. Call me crazy but there was something with that house and that woman. What is it? I do not know, but the only thing that I am sure of is that the nocturnal walks should not take us there ever again.

 

Nocturnal Walk

Underwater (cont.)

“Are you sure you want to do this?” “Absolutely,” Maria reassured her. “From what I have observed, whatever that it is down there, it only takes people who are alone. I will attach the camera to myself so, whatever happens to me, it will be recorded. You will wait for me at the beach. Understood?” “Sure. Whatever you say, but I don’t like this.”

The next morning, the two women came back to the park and set up the equipment that Maria would take with her. Whenever people were “taken,” they would return to the shore after 10 minutes, so if Maria did not come back in that time, Elizabeth would bring help. There were not a lot of visitors that day, so it was easy to spot Maria while she was swimming towards the platform.

Once she reached, she turned back and gave Elizabeth one last sight. Maria jumped into the water and everything became dark. It was like something  was dragging her. How long has she been down there? How come she could… breathe? A pair of thin hands received her at the bottom, and took her inside a room. Maria felt like it was a dream; like it was one of those extra-corporeal experiences.

She was put on a stretcher and taken to a second room. Maria could not see who or what was moving her. In the room, there were four people, if “people” is the right word. They were tall and their skin was gray-ish, big eyes, and no sign of mouth. One of them inserted a needle into Maria’s neck and blood went into a small tube. They took hair, cut a nail, took her fingerprints. These creatures were scanning her with devices that she has not ever seen.

After looking at their screens, the creatures assented in agreement. Once again, Maria was moved to another room. A tray with instruments was right next to the table; it looked like an OR . Maria was moved to the table, and the last thing she experienced was the sharp pain of a scalp cutting through her chest.

Elizabeth was growing impatient at the beach. More than ten minutes have passed, but there was not sign of Maria. She was about to make the call when she saw it. The water had washed out the submarine camera. Elizabeth watched the last minutes of the tape and ran towards the water. She swam all the way to the platform and started looking for Maria. Less than a minute later, there were the invisible hands. She was going down.

It was after 7 p.m. when the beach closed. Nobody saw or heard anything. And over there, in the sand, only a pile a clothing, two purses, and a camera remained. The footage was found the next day by a kid who thought it was just a movie. Eventually he gave the device to his parents who also watched the last minutes of the clip The gray creatures looked disappointed. Apparently, the experiment had gone wrong. The were removing Maria’s body while another one was coming in: a woman in a red swimming suit.

Underwater (cont.)

The Green Centuries

It started to cool down in the woods. The end of summer was coming rather quickly this year, and some of the surrounding trees were losing their leaves already. The two old friends were standing right by the trail head; they had had the same spots since they were just seeds. A warm breeze blew from the Eats and moved their branches along with the nests sitting on top of them.

“Do you remember when people used to come here?” “Oh yeah… kids would run all the way to the top of the mountain while women would make food right here.” How many visitors did we give shelter to, how many crossed hearts did we get carved in our bark… Oh those were good times, weren’t they?” “They were, Oaky, they were.”

The two old trees were over a hundred years old. They had seen more than a century together. They had seen from the first planes, to war planes, to more war planes, and then countless steel birds carrying hundreds of people inside. They had seen entire generations come and go: parents and children, children that became parents, and children that became grandchildren. Every time something would change.

But families would not be the only type of humans that visited the forest. The ones with chainsaws would come too. Whenever that sharp and loud sound was heard, everybody knew that it was a synonym of death. Many friends of Oaky and Elm would parade in front of them all chopped off and ready to become drawers, bed frames, and coffee tables.

“I wonder when is going to be our turn.” “Oh don’t be so pessimistic. All in all there are still people that come and take care us. Also, they have brought new inhabitants.” “Yes, but they are so young. They’re just sprouts! I wish there were more of us left.” “Me too, but we still have each other and, trust me, I won’t be moving anyway.” Both trees laughed at that last silly joke. Actually, they laughed so hard that all the nests moved on their respective branches, getting a complain from their tenants in return.

The next morning there it was: The sound of doom. This time the men were coming for them. “It’s been an honor to share over a century with you, my friend.” “Same here, my dear Elm. Goodbye.” When Oaky felt the sharp pain caused by the chainsaw, he just closed his tree eyes and hope not to hurt any of the young ones when falling. Elm tried to resist by making his bark stiffed and hard, but then the men threaten to burn him. He gave up and fell right next to his lifetime friend.

The Green Centuries

Underwater (cont.)

“What do you mean you don’t remember swimming back?,” interrupted Maria. “I… I mean… I just remember jumping into the lake and then next thing I know I’m walking out of it. I don’t even know how long I was in there.” “I would say ten minutes.” “Ten minutes? I should have drowned, right?” “Technically, yes. But you didn’t, and I want to know why.”

The woman in red started to look annoyed by Maria’s impertinence. “Anyway who are you? Water police or something?” “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. My name is Maria Miller, and I’m a journalist. I work for…” “Of course you are… whatever… I’m Elizabeth James and if you want to find out what’s in there, be my guest. I’m not coming back.”

Maria attempted to talk more with Elizabeth but, at that point, she noticed the other woman was clearly bothered. It was better to let her be. “Here’s my card in case you remember anything or just want to talk, okay? Seems like all your friends are gone now.” “I came by myself, thank you.” And with that, Elizabeth took the card and walked away.

Two or three days passed before Maria’s received a text from an unknown number. It was almost 11 p.m., and she was not on call,, so it could not be from work.

Are you free to talk? E.

Maria called back.

“I’m sorry to disturb you. I just didn’t know what to do.” Elizabeth sounded edgy. “Are you alright? Did you remember something?” “I found something in my body…. like marks. It looks like one of those times you get blood drawn and you can see the exact point where the needle punctured.” “Interesting. Where do you have those marks?” “I have a pair on my wrist and another pair in my neck.” “Let’s meet.”

30 minutes after they hung up, both girls were talking in the parking lot of a 24 hour drugstore. Elizabeth explained that she noticed the marks two days ago and, for some reason, they were not healing. The marks were tiny, but you could see them as fresh. “Have you seen a doctor?,” Maria asked tentatively. “And what do I say? ‘Hey, doc, I was swimming and then blacked out, and now I found these in my body?'” “Well,  yes!” “Forget it. Just let them be.”

“Elizabeth I went to the beach the day after I met you and… and the day after that. I saw three people experiencing the same thing: Getting into the water and then coming out around ten minutes later.” “What? Did you talk to them? What happened?,” Elizabeth started to sound excited. “Just to two of them; one was a kid. But the story is the same: Jumping and then nothing.” “I think we should call the police then. This is not normal!” “No!,” Maria interrupted. “I think we have a story here, and I think I’m going into the water myself tomorrow.”

Underwater (cont.)

Underwater

It was the perfect day in the beautiful neighborhood of Madison. Summer was at its peak, and people were flocking to the public beach. Over there you could find every color, shape, and form: Teenagers, young adults, moms, dads, babies, grandparents, hipsters, and no hipsters, you name it. It was the perfect setting for people watching.

The temperature was unusually high, so it was not rare to see many people in the water. Maria was not one of them. She was sipping a coffee in a café whose terrace was pretty much at the beach. She had a book in her hand, but every once in a while she distracted herself with the splashing sound of kids jumping into the water from the public trampoline.

Maria could see how they immersed themselves and then come out again laughing and splashing some more water to their friends. She thought that maybe it would be a good idea to invite some people the next day and swim a little. There she was when she saw a young woman in a red swimming suit jumping and then… Five seconds, ten seconds, fifteen seconds passed and nothing. Maria did not know if she should get the lifesaver or just start screaming because nobody seemed to notice.

She grabbed her stuff as fast as she could and ran towards the beach. People started to stare at her because she was dropping things on her way: Bag, book, sunglasses, shoes… but above it all, she was running into the water fully dressed. When Maria reached the platform, there was still no sign of the woman. She submerged herself once more and could see nothing. That was unexpected. She was hoping to see what you normailly see under the water: some algae and dirt, but over there the water was sort of murky. It was like there was fog in there, if that makes any sense.

After a few seconds, Maria emerged again. She thought about moving further when she turned around and saw the woman getting out of the lake. Astonished, she swam back and, when she finally made it to the shore, she thought about approaching her but immediately discarded the idea. She felt like a complete idiot and thought that the woman might find her a little bit too creepy, so she decided to just let it go. She kept herself close though because something was not connecting.

While she was collecting her scattered belongings, she noticed that the woman in question was acting weird. She was just standing there staring at the lake. Maria had to talk to her. She did not want to scare her, so she walked slowly and asked her softly, “Are you alright? I’m sorry, I couldn’t help seeing you jumping and then you just wouldn’t come out again, and I…” “I don’t remember swimming back here,” the woman replied. “It was so dark.”

To be continued…

Underwater

The Girl Who Didn’t Like Mathematics

Once upon a time, there was a girl who did not like maths at all. It was her least favorite subject at school and, when she had to attend class, her stomach and her spirits just went right down her toes. Lilly could not understand how there were other kids that actually enjoyed that stupid class. If the option could have been to clean blackboards instead of going into the classroom, she would have taken it gladly.

If there was something worse than the session at school, that was homework. She felt that in class, the teacher taught them 2+2=4 but at home, she felt she had to solve a formula for quantum physics. Lilly had an older brother but that was not helpful either. The kid was a freaking genius and he could understand everything. Of course, he would not help her under any circumstance. He had a reputation to keep. Teenagers…

The night before her maths final exam, the little girl was next to terrified. She could not understand half the concepts, let alone remember all the formulas for areas and perimeters. If uncle Bob wanted to put a fence around his field and find out how much water his new tank could hold, he should go to the hardware store or wherever you buy fences and tanks and ask a professional, instead of tormenting elementary school kids.

Decided to at least nail a few numbers, Lilly grabbed her book and notebook and started scribbling shapes and formulas. Every time she got the result wrong. Desperate, she continued going page after page but nothing seemed to make sense. She even considered praying and sleeping with the book under her pillow. Learning by osmosis was a thing, right?

It was past midnight, and the girl was still trying, tears threatening to come out any second. All of a sudden, she realized she was not alone anymore. She turned around and saw him: Her favorite hero in a bow tie. “Hello! Please don’t be scared. My ship always takes me wherever there is somebody that needs my help and, just by looking at those measures for uncle Bob’s field, I assume I am just on time. Come on! I want to show you something.”

Lilly followed him inside his ship and could not help but stare with her big, giant eyes. “I know, I know, it’s bigger on the inside but that’s not important now. I want you to meet a good friend of mine.” A second later, she was stepping out of the ship into a place that seemed to be far, far away a long, long time ago. When did people use to wear tunics?

“Lilly this is my friend Euclid! I think he can help you,” the man said and excused himself by saying he had to save the world or something like that. “Are you really, Euclid?” “Yes, yes I am,” said the old man proudly. “Oh okay,” replied Lilly softly. “It’s just that I don’t understand anything of your work, sir,” continued the girl shyly. “Oh not to worry, child! I have had to explain this even to kings. Ask away!”

A strange sound took out Lilly from wherever she was. What was that? An alarm clock? Her alarm clock? How did she made it to bed? She didn’t remember leaving her desk but her books and pencils were already packed in her school bag. “What a weird dream I had.” she thought. “Better not to tell my parents… or anybody.”

She was surprisingly calmed considering the exam would happen in a few hours. On the bus to school, she took away her notebook and saw all the practice problems solved. They all were correct! Who did it? But wait, that was her own handwriting! Lilly started to remember her “dream” more clearly and the more she remembered the more excited she was. She couldn’t wait for the exam to start.

When finally was time for math, she was the first one to run into the classroom and sit down in the front row. Her teacher was astonished not only to see her sitting there but to see such a change in her; she was beaming! She was the first one to finish and when she came back to her seat, she grabbed her book to keep reading. When she opened it in the perimeter topic, she saw it: A big, bright “E” on the bottom of the page.

The Girl Who Didn’t Like Mathematics

Vapor in the Mall (cont.)

Seeing this, Nina ran towards the doors and did not dare to look behind again. She was not the type of person that believes in ghosts. Ghosts does not exist, do they? Somehow she managed to reach home and convinced herself that what she saw had a totally rational explanation. Lost she was in those thoughts when it was time to go to work again.

For her surprise, Patricia the manager, was at the store when she arrived. “Nina I allowed you to leave early last night but that didn’t mean you just could leave the place in such a state!” Nina did not know what her boss was talking about but then she looked around: Papers, envelopes, stickers, pens… everything was on the floor. “Pat I’m… I’m so sorry. I didn’t do any of this. What happened?”

Patricia looked at  her for about three seconds and finally said, “Alright. It is not the first time, you know? I am actually surprised it is the first time this happens while you’re here. This is the reason I lost my previous employee and the reason why other merchants just take their shops somewhere else.” “What are you talking about? Please don’t tell me you believe there is something supernatural here.” she replied.

“Is it really that hard to believe, Nina? You saw it yourself last night, didn’t you?,” said Patricia. “How do you know? You weren’t here! All stores were empty!” “It’s okay, calm down. Now let me ask you a question: Have you spoken to anybody today? Did you see your parents this morning? Did they see you?” “What are you talking about? Of course I saw them! I had breakfast with them! I was talking to my mom and…” “And she didn’t even notice you were there?,” Patricia interrupted softly.

“What happened to me?,” said Nina desperately. “Well you had quite and impression yesterday and your heart… well, let’s say it couldn’t take it. We found your body in the corridor and…” Nina could not believe her ears. “Long story short, now you are one of us. You are our newest resident. Welcome!” “Resident?” the girl asked. “Yes! Long before this place was a mall, the municipal cemetery occupied this space. Well, technically is still here. Why do you think all this “accidents” and knocked down stuff come from? It’s us, the residents who do all these things. We want our last dwelling to be left in peace.”

As soon as Patricia, or her spirit, finished talking, vapor started to inundate the shop. And not only the shop, but the corridor and other stores. The rumbling, the voices, and the murmurs became louder and louder. The lights began to flicker and light bulbs burst. Ovens at bakeries, coffee shops, and the supermarket turned on and the heat quickly made all wood structures catch fire. The residents were finally claiming what was theirs and taken without any respect a long time ago.

A few months after the incident, the mall was finally torn down and the land sold to the city. Most of the structure was already reduced to ashes except for one solitary wall by the food court. Surprisingly, it looked like the fire did not even touch it. The wall did not have anything special but the words “Rest Easy.”

Vapor in the Mall (cont.)