The Annelidologist

•November 1, 2015 • 1 Comment

Last night I stood outside my neighbour’s crooked house, just beyond the street lamp’s little pool of brightness. Eyes closed, listening. I was trying to convince myself that the thudding noise I could hear was not the sound of several huge hearts beating in unison, but only my own blood thumping through my skull. As I stood there, I heard something else, the wet sound of some kind of flesh sliding over mud. I looked into the upstairs window to see a pallid shape slither past, caught in the moonlight.

I have to get out of this place.

My next-door neighbour moved in six years ago. I have forgotten his name, just as I have forgotten his face. He seemed a decent sort, a tad manic maybe. He and his wife had moved out here into the countryside to restart their lives after some kind of tragedy. I never asked for any more detail, they never told me. I had my own demons to live with.

He was a nice enough guy, but I would never have called him my friend. He was too difficult to get to know. Talking to him, you got the feeling that he was looking through you at something else far more interesting. He was a scientist of some kind, a biologist or zoologist I would guess. Not really my area. I tried not to take his attitude personally though, I know how things can be with people who are passionate about their work.

I did get on very well with his wife. Her name was Jan. I remember what she looks like, although we no longer speak. She came over to chat soon after moving in because she was worried about me rattling around that big house all by myself. We bonded over a shared interest in gardening.

That’s how the two of them met, I think. My neighbour was an expert on worms (or is? Impossible to say what’s going through his head now). It was at some sort of gardening convention, where he was talking about the use of earthworms as fertiliser.

He once told me that the earthworm was the most elegant being in all of creation. I nodded and smiled awkwardly.

I remember the day I noticed something was wrong, although I am sure the rot set in before I’d even met them. I remember that it had been raining, and that there were worms all over the place. I was just getting home when I heard Jan screaming. There was blood everywhere. He’d been doing some kind of DIY and had cut off his left thumb. I bundled the pair of them into an ambulance but we couldn’t find the thumb, so that was that.

My neighbour never made a sound the whole time. In fact, he was almost smiling. Before they closed the ambulance doors I heard him mutter something about it being “much more elegant now.” A shudder ran through me as I turned towards my home.

Jan left once it became obvious that he was doing it to himself. First another finger came off. Then he came home from the hospital missing his whole left hand. He blamed it on some ill-defined accident at the lab. I’d been to his lab once before. Textbooks and microscopes. The most dangerous thing in there was an incubator. Jan mirrored my scepticism but he wouldn’t change his story. He made a big show of being traumatised, and even joined a support group.

He started having to duck to get through door frames. I could have sworn that he was getting, not taller, but somehow… longer.

The day Jan left, I came over to borrow something, or return something; neighbour stuff. As I went to knock on the door I heard yelling and crying. Before I could react, Jan burst through the door, pausing a moment as we made eye contact. She looked hurt, furious, but most of all, frightened. Then she barged past me, threw her small bag into the back of her car and sped off down the narrow lane. That was the last time I saw her.

Concerned, I went into the house. All the curtains were drawn. I stepped into the living room, almost tripping over something wrapped in a black rubbish bag. Sat on the couch, smiling to himself, was my neighbour. Minus his right leg. Bloody tools on a side table. For just a moment, I admired how neat a job he’d made of the suture for a man with only one hand. Then the reality of the situation hit me, and I realised what was in the bag. I ran home, the gall rising in my throat.

I was left helpless by the situation. Consumed with indecision, I didn’t leave the house for three weeks. Sometimes I would look out of the window in the morning to discover a new addition to the pile in his back yard. The pile of objects wrapped in black bags. Sometimes big, sometimes small.

One day I woke up to a crisp, clear winter’s morning, to find the cobwebs had cleared from my mind. Possessed of a sudden resolve, I marched next door. I was going to offer him my help. To insist upon it. I was going to say whatever it took to get him to accept, and if he didn’t I was then going to march straight back home and call everybody I could think of who might be able to cure him of this rising madness.

My neighbour’s house sat at a slight angle, like it had started to subside. As I barged through the front door my feet sank into some kind of mud where the carpet had once been. I stared in disbelief as a few earthworms wriggled across my shoe. Everything seemed to be coated in a thin layer of slime. I shuffled into the living room, my resolve evaporating into the murky air.

I found him writhing on the couch, the elongated form of his limbless torso hanging off either end. There was something wrong with his neck. His shoulders seemed just to taper off into his round, bald head. I let out a gasp of revulsion.

His eyeless head turned towards me and let out a gurgle that sounded a little like “hello”. I saw what might have been a smile play across what was left of his mouth. I fled into the woods, and spent the night shivering in a ditch. Unable to sleep, unable to go home. Only the worms for company.

My neighbour once told me that an earthworm will eat basically anything organic, as long as it is dead. The dog went missing that night.

Don’t ask me how he was able to do all this to himself. I have no idea. That day I found him on the couch, wriggling in the foetid dirt of his former life, he must have been at least two and a half metres long.

Something about it left a mark on me. My mind’s eye refuses to turn away from that awful scene. Yesterday I looked down at my hand and wondered if I really truly needed so many fingers.

Last night I stood outside my neighbour’s crooked house, just beyond the street lamp’s little pool of brightness. Eyes closed, listening. I was trying to convince myself that the thudding noise I could hear was not the sound of several huge hearts beating in unison, but only my own blood thumping through my skull. As I stood there, I heard something else, the wet sound of some kind of flesh sliding over mud. I looked into the upstairs window to see a pallid shape slither past, caught in the moonlight.

I have to get out of this place.

A Third Attempt

•October 24, 2015 • 3 Comments

It’s been more than six years since the start, and more than two years since the end.

I don’t know what I have learned in that time, other than that it’s difficult to maintain a writing project if its central conceit is roleplaying and you’ve lost interest in doing that. Perhaps also that if you stop writing for a long time it’s foolish to expect to be good at it when the mood suddenly takes you again.

I plan to write more short-form horror fiction to be posted here and in other places. Updates will come soon, once those rusty instruments are cleaned and sharpened. I hope that abandoning the need to behave as though I am also a part of these stories will feel less constricting than my last attempt, allowing for more depth and variety. And maybe something a little longer-lasting.

If there is anyone who still subscribes to the feed, or checks in every now and then, please leave a comment.

I am Mr. Sleep, but in a different way than before.

What is The Structure?

•May 6, 2013 • 5 Comments

I have been sent the following.  I was impressed, she came so close to understanding, closer than anyone else.  You need to know.  More to follow, provided the pain stops.    golgotha.

Causality is a finite resource.

We continue to operate under the delusion that we are special, that because our tiny corner of this universe isn’t completely inimical to life, that reality should continue to allow us to exist. That we are entitled to something other than oblivion or aeons of unfathomable pain and terror.

We are wrong. We are wrong about so many things. We stand in a tiny circle of candlelight, surrounded by a vast, hostile darkness, and the candle is burning low. If you understood what horrors you waded through every single day, you wouldn’t be able to wake up without screaming until you were coughing blood.

There are so many things that we have got wrong.

For example, humanity is vastly older than we realise. We have lost knowledge that makes Alexandria, Baghdad and Babylon seem a tiny misunderstanding.

Causality is a mathematical anomaly, a rogue term in an equation that always spits out a negative answer.

Those that came before us grew to understand what reality really was, and fought against it. They built a vast machine, a Causality Well. To begin with, it mined cause and provenance from empty, unused parts of this universe but soon that wasn’t enough. They began to stockpile it, their growing awe at their own achievements leading them to believe that they could become like Gods, if only they strove hard enough. Soon, this universe ran dry and they began to probe other branes, other realities in the infinite, extra-dimensional sea that is the Multiverse.

That’s when it came out of the endless darkness.

It destroyed them before they could even begin to understand what it was. Attracted by the vast energies and the huge streams of raw causality being moved across unimaginable barriers, it struck.

Thought turned to ash; places became corrupted, wrong things; love and hope became twisted machines of bile and blood.

But the Causality Well was something incredible, the apex of a vast and powerful civilisation. It was able to contain that peril, to lock it away in the quantum equivalent of the cupboard under the stairs. It would be dealt with in time, and meanwhile the store of causality was vast enough to maintain.

But the damage had been done, and that ancient and powerful civilisation crumbled to nothing but dust and whispers. We are completely ignorant of our only inheritance, of the machines that support our fragile reality. And those machines are dying.

We stand in a tiny circle of candlelight, surrounded by a vast, hostile darkness, and the candle is burning low.

Fall 1956

•May 1, 2012 • 2 Comments

I have been sent the following.  You need to know.  More to follow.    golgotha.

In the Fall of 1956, in the states of Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania, a series of strange and disturbing occurrences haunted the records of provincial police stations. A person, and it was always someone who lived alone, would come in to the station clutching a collection of Polaroid photographs. Each of them showed the same thing: a photograph of their sleeping figure, and a date. The dates always started from about a week before, and moved on, to two weeks from the day they showed the photos to the police.  As the dates moved forward, the position of the camera drew closer and closer, until there was nothing in the frame but the face of the sleeping person, a slight frown casting a shadow across their features.  These people would report that the photographs had arrived in an unmarked brown envelope, slipped under their front door earlier that day.

Officers would always visit the house to check for signs of intrusion, but finding no evidence, could do nothing more than instruct them to lock up at night, and to be on their guard.

Two days later, without fail, the people would turn up again.  This time, visibly distressed, often outright terrified, they would hand over another set of Polaroids.  They were labelled with the same set of dates, but this time the photos were taken from the point of view of the sleeper. They showed a man of indeterminate age, grinning widely and staring intently into the camera.  With each passing day he got closer and closer, leaning over the bed towards the viewer, his rictus grin and intense stare never changing, until his face filled the frame.

At this point, most of the local police involved posted a guard on the person’s house.  There was never any sign of trouble however, and the sleepers quickly became sullen and withdrawn, eventually asking the police to leave.

Every single one of them ended their lives before reaching the final date on the photographs.

Police were completely unable to find any workable leads in these cases and soon they were all but forgotten, the officers in question all too happy to rid themselves of the disturbing pictures.  Most of them suffered nightmares all winter, dreaming of a figure leaning over their bed, grinning down at them.

The last known case was in October 1956, in Pennsylvania.

What nobody has been able to satisfactorily explain, is just who the grinning man is, nor why a new set of photographs turned up in the Library of Congress archives the following year, showing the same man and a new set of sleepers, all of them dated Fall 2016.

Also posted at r/shortscarystories/

Within the Screech

•January 17, 2012 • 7 Comments

I have been sent the following.  You need to know.  More to follow.    golgotha.

Harry used to do everything the blackboard said.

The house he grew up in was always dark, he remembers that.  Furniture, wallpaper, even the paintings were all in sombre colours.  His father was a maths tutor.  He helped high school drop-outs and adults taking night classes learn just enough about numbers to get by.  He tried to help people that the system had failed, get them get back on their feet.

He worked out of the quiet, empty front room, drawing simple calculations on a battered old blackboard set up on an easel.  Harry was only little. He wasn’t allowed in the tiny classroom. But that never stopped him waiting until he was alone, to go into his father’s room and rest his head against the cool slate.  He was alone a lot.  They would never admit it, but Harry made his parents nervous.  He was so solemn, even when he smiled.

One day, the blackboard spoke to him.

He heard it in the screech.  He liked to scrape his nails down the surface of the board.  There was something in the sound.  A whisper, from some forgotten place in between the edges of things.  It helped Harry, showed him how to stop feeling sad and frightened.  It told Harry to do things.  Just a few small things.

By the time anyone realised what was happening, what Harry had been doing, too many lives had been ruined to ever completely sweep it under the rug.  They threw the blackboard away, burned the easel.  His father would only write his calculations on paper after that.  They didn’t understand the connection with his actions, but watching Harry scrape his nails down the board, smiling through that awful sound, terrified them.

Harry has only the vaguest memories of the wake.  It was so long ago, and he was so young.  He remembers his dark house.  He remembers that no-one would look at each other.  He remembers being mostly alone; nobody wanted to be in a room with him.  He remembers the tiny coffin, though his parents wouldn’t let him anywhere near it.

There were a lot of waiting rooms after that.  In the end the doctor showed him other ways to stop feeling sad and frightened.  The medication gave him back some of the control that only the whisper within the screech had given him before.  People tried to forget, and almost managed it. Things evened out.

When they hear that screech, most people flinch, try to make it stop.  There’s something in the sound that sets them on edge, gives them a sense of something terrible.  They don’t understand it, can’t hear the true nature of it, but it upsets them all the same.  Harry could hear it.  The whisper greeted him like an old friend, gave him purpose and control.  Harry liked it, before they took it away.

Harry stopped taking his medication recently.  He’s sick of the way the pills dull his senses.  He doesn’t want to perceive the world through that mist anymore.  He lives alone now.  He’s struggling at work, and he misses his parents, even though they were barely more than strangers.  He wants the sense of control back.  The real one, not the medicated counterfeit.

He’s set the new board up in the front room.  He hadn’t been in there in nearly twenty years.  But he hasn’t tried to listen for the whisper yet.  He’s frightened.  Frightened that his old friend has abandoned him.  He doesn’t have the nerve to try yet, but he will soon.  He’ll go in there, rest his head against the cool slate and listen to everything the whisper has to say.  The balance will return.  He’ll do anything to be in control again.


By the Light of a Distant Ending

•October 12, 2011 • 6 Comments

You are a question asked by a fool, and answered by an idiot.


The Clean Bones Are Gone

•July 21, 2011 • 30 Comments

It seems one or two of you have noticed.

Well, fair enough I suppose.  I might as well get on with things now that certain… obstructions are removed.  I’m sure there are others who may want to know that he’s gone.  Tell them if you wish.  Or not, it’s all simply moments in time.

At any rate, I thought I’d pique your interest, if there’s any interest left to pique in those sluggish shells.  Ask me.  Anything.  You can even ask me about… him, if you’re feeling particularly foolish.