Fiction: Creepypasta

I don’t know how a lot of you feel about ‘creepypasta’ stories. That’s a creepy story that gets cut, pasted, and shared with others. I wrote this last year and never did anything with it, but I came across it by accident and decided to share.

It’s a casual and light-hearted attempt to give people the creeps, sort of like the modern internet equivalent of ghost stories around the camp fire. So, enjoy!

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If fish have nightmares, I know what they dream about. They dream about Cymothoa exigua, also known as the “tongue eating louse.” It’s a parasite, a kind of tiny crustacean. The creature enters a fish through its gills, and attaches itself to the base of the tongue. Tiny claw-like legs dig into the tongue, choking off the blood supply. The muscles of the tongue atrophy and die, and the tongue rots away and is eaten by the parasite.

What’s unusual about Cymothoa exigua is what happens next. It stays latched onto the sinew and tendons of the tongue, still getting nutrients from the blood of the fish, and actually functions as the fish’s tongue. The fish continues to eat normally, and the lifespan of the fish does not appear to be affected by the presence of the parasite. Whether the fish’s quality of life is affected is unknown. It seems to me that even a fish must be cognizant of such an invasion. I can’t imagine any creature not knowing that its tongue has been replaced by a parasite.

While there is only one parasite that can eat and replace the function of a part of the body, there are multiple parasites that can, subtly or completely, influence the actions of the host.  The Guinea Worm starts off as a microscopic egg, floating in the water. It enters into the pores of the skin and creates a large, burning blister. The desired effect is to get the host organism to dip the infected appendage into water to cool it. Once this is achieved, the worm pushes itself to the surface and releases a putrid white fluid. The fluid is full of millions of eggs, thus contaminating the water.

Other parasites are more drastic. Gordian worms control the mind of their hosts directly. They live in water, and infest most damp areas.  It’s unknown how they enter their host beings, but they enter their hosts as larvae. They grow to many times their original size, shedding their skin many times while inside the body of their host. When they are ready to return to the water, the parasites then infect the mind of the host organism, compelling it to drown itself. Science is unable to explain how the parasite is able to accomplish this. Once the host is drowned, the worm then exits through the mouth or the anus. Their ability to escape the body of their drowned host has proved quite inventive in some cases.

The thing that these parasites that manipulate their hosts have in common is a desire to return to their element of origin. They are born in water, their hosts take them out of this element, and they must return to water in order to reproduce. As we all know, there really is no stronger drive than the drive to propagate our own species.  So, evolution has given them ways to find their way back to their element.

To go back to the issue of the cymothoa exigua, one was recently found off the coast of the United Kingdom, in the mouth of a snapper. This was unusual, because the creatures are usually found off the coast of California. In Puerto Rico, a lawsuit was filed by a person who claimed to have been poisoned by eating a fish with the parasite inside of its mouth. This lawsuit was dismissed, as it was determined that people who eat fish likely consume cymothoa exigua all the time and never realize it, and that the parasite was not harmful to humans.

In 2008 a young man by the name of Anthony Tatum was found dead, floating face down in the Colorado River in Needles, California.  The police ruled his death an apparent suicide. There was no note, but there was no struggle. Witness said they saw him jump off the Colorado River Bridge of his own free will. It was as open and shut as suicide can be. Except, Tatum’s mother swore that her son did not commit suicide. She swore that he was a happy, well adjusted young man. He had a job he liked and a girlfriend he loved, and that he’d never exhibited any signs of depression of mental illness. He had no history of drug or alcohol abuse. His girlfriend too came forward and confirmed all of this too, that Anthony had been a content, normal person. Most people speculated that he must have had a secret life that no one knew about.  Maybe he’d had outstanding debts to someone who would do a much worse job on him than he did on himself. No one really knows for sure. Everyone expected some dark secret from his past to emerge, but none ever did.

The autopsy confirmed the girlfriend’s and mother’s statements that Tatum had been drug-free. There were no illicit substances found in his system. The only damages done to his body were the massive fractures in his skull and facial bone structure when his head hit the rock as he jumped off the bridge, and the broken right arm and leg. Most people assumed that these occurred as the current took him downstream.

Most people also assumed that his missing tongue was due to the head trauma. It had probably been caught between his teeth and bitten out when his head and face hit the rocks. That was the only logical explanation. Everyone just assumed, when it never turned up, that something in the water must have eaten it.

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My Strange Relationship with Spiders

This past week was the ever popular “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel. And well, don’t we all love Shark Week? Hours of the most dramatic programming possible about the most efficient predator possible; what’s not to love?

Well, it got me thinking.

I myself am vaguely arachnophobic. I’m not one of those people who have a panic attack looking at a photograph of a spider. I’m just more creeped out by spiders than the average person is, I’d say. But, because of this, I’m also extremely interesting. I know the species that live in my area, which ones are poisonous and which ones aren’t. If I know a species isn’t poisonous and can’t hurt me, I can even find watching them kind of exciting, because I’m just a little bit afraid of them.

Most of us have the compulsion to look at something that frightens us at a safe distance. It’s the same reason why people rubberneck at traffic accidents and go to horror movies.

It’s also the same reason horror is one of the most popular fiction genres, and why writers like Anne Rice and Stephen King are best sellers.
So, when I’m staring at a spider for a cheap thrill, or watching Shark Week, I think about what draws us to the horror genre. Maybe it’s the rush of engaging our “fight or flight” response while knowing that we’re not really in danger. Maybe it’s because it makes us feel like children, telling each other ghost stories by flashlight in a dark tent. It might even be Schadenfreude.

Maybe it’s a mixture of all of these. Or maybe, we all just like things that go bump in the night.

Do you like things that scare you? What are your favorite horror stories?
Did you watch shark week? Or do you just stare at things that frighten you?

Leave me a comment!

Fiction: A Different Dance

Originally Published on “Necrology Shorts.”

Her feet knew the steps and fell into the light and graceful pattern easily. Her little satin shoes carried her across the polished floor, their pink roses peering from under her pink and lavender skirts. They swam through the waves of music that broke across the spinning couples.

Still, her heart was even lighter than her steps. Everyone noticed her bright eyes and brilliant smile. Effervescent, her delight was contagious. The other couples smiled as she danced past, in the arms of a young man she didn’t seem to see.

The young girl’s partner believed that he understood the reason for her delight, but he was wrong.

*

The blow struck across his face. He tasted the metallic, copper flavor of blood as he hit the ground. He spat into the dirt floor and drug himself up onto his elbows. Fighting for breath, he worked to pull the dark room before him into focus.

He did not want to hurt the man in front of him. Leaping to his feet, he made a bolt for the door and the man lunged after him. He caught Michael around the legs, and together they fell against a rack of tools.

A heavy piece of equipment fell off the wall and landed against his assailant’s shoulders. The cry still in his ears, he made another break for freedom.

*

Freedom was the only thing Lucy could think about. Her partner had requested the next waltz for her. It was a melody by Strauss, one of her favorites. He had done it especially for her, to please her. The realization of this merely irritated her, interrupting her bliss.

He tried to kiss her, but she spun into the next step. She knew what he expected from her, but that didn’t matter anymore.

Soon she would be gone from here forever, and none of this would matter.

*

Michael spun to avoid the next blow. On his back now, he dug the heel of his boot into his attacker’s abdomen and flipped over, scrambling for the way out on all fours. He screamed as the attacker grabbed his ankle, pulling his leg from under him and he was sprawled out onto the dirt floor.

He felt the blow as the handle of a shovel was brought down across the back of his ribs. There was a crack, and the cold breath he sucked in through his teeth sent white hot sparks of pain down his side.

*

Lucy’s breath was beginning to come harder and faster as she kept dancing to the music. Noticing she needed a rest, her partner guided her to a seat and went to get her some punch. While she waited, her thoughts wandered.

She began to wonder if she would even feel married, what with only eloping and not having a proper wedding. Ever since she was a little girl she always thought she’d have a big wedding in a church. The white dress, the organ playing, her brothers in attendance; would she even feel married without these things?

Still, she told herself, her new life with Michael was worth more than a day in the limelight.

*

Michael swung the pitchfork handle and felt it connect with the man’s shoulder. He didn’t want to hurt him. He didn’t. Yet, all reasoning was gone. Growling in pain, the man lunged low, under the weapon and his shoulder connected with Michael’s gut. He dropped the fork and choked as his shoulders and the back of his head connected with the wall behind him.

*

Lucy heard an old maid whisper about how in love she was with her partner and how she’d never seen a young lady’s eyes glow while dancing like that. It made her laugh. She was in love, but not with him.

Her thoughts drifted to what Michael must be doing now. It would be time for her to leave the dance soon, time for them to be together. Her thoughts turned to freedom and her feet flew.

When she saw her partner speaking to her father and two of her brothers, she knew what it was about. Their expressions were so serious. Her dance partner even looked anxious. Her father smiled a dry smile, and pressed his hand against his shoulder.

The men looked pleased and shook each other’s hands. She knew that an agreement had been made and accepted. Under different circumstances, she would be horrified at the prospect. But now, it just didn’t matter anymore. Tomorrow, she would be miles away and none of them would be able to touch her.

She wondered briefly where her oldest brother was.

*

The man’s hands closed around Michael’s throat. He could feel the man’s skin tear under his fingernails as he clawed, but his grip remained. The breath stuck at his closing windpipe.

Michael was seeing red. Spots danced before his eyes as he choked. The back of his neck was warm and wet, and the world was dancing before him. The other man’s face was in front of him. He could smell sweat and blood and the gin on his breath. His hands finally sank to his sides.

In his last moment of consciousness, he felt his fingers grip around something. As he realized what it was, he smiled.

*

Glancing over her shoulder, she saw them talking. They wouldn’t notice her leaving now. As she opened the door and the rush of winter air touched her bare shoulders, she felt like a kite whose string had escaped the sticky hands of a child. Goosebumps rose on Lucy’s arms as she ran down the carriage path, but she didn’t mind them. She rubbed her little white hands against the exposed skin. Snowflakes hit her like little pin pricks, but she just laughed at them.

It was a long walk. She and Michael didn’t dare risk hiring a carriage for their flight, so they’d have to reach the train station by foot. She desperately hoped he’d be there when she arrived at the churchyard.

Cold began to tear at her, but her heart stayed light. It was as though she could see him, waiting for her. She imagined him taking off his coat and wrapping it around her. She imagined walking with him, his arm keeping her warm.

Time wore on and she shuddered in the cold. The church bell tolled, and she knew the wait was too long. She told herself that any number of things could have detained him, and that there was no reason to worry. She tried to smile and remind herself of the new life she was headed for. Humming a wedding march, she leaned against an oak tree, trying to shelter from the wind.

“He’ll be here.” Exhaustion began to take her, and she closed her eyes, resting her head against the tree trunk. She imagined his touch, his embrace, his kiss, and began to feel warm.

“Please forgive me, dear lady, for keeping you waiting.” She couldn’t see for a moment. The fog was thick, and it diffused the light into a dull gray pallor that washed out the surroundings.

“Oh, you did give me a fright. Why, what’s the matter? You seem so strange.” Michael’s face was before her.

“It’s nothing, nothing at all.” He extended his hand and helped her to her feet.

“Are you very cold?” He put his arm around her.

“Not now. Not one bit.”

Short Fiction: The Crow Girl

Short Fiction by Georgette Graham

“The Crow Girl” has been published by Necrology Shorts and Conceit Magazine. I retained rights when they published it, so I decided to share it here. Its genre is horror/dark fantasy.

I never really believed in the supernatural. It was my opinion that everything had a scientific explanation; we only had things for which no explanation had yet been found. But, while I was a denier of the supernatural, it was also my fascination, my endless curiosity to find the real-life origins of those supernatural beliefs.

This curiosity had led me to dig up graves in Eastern Europe to look at bloated corpses with blood at their mouths, to see first-hand why the native villagers believed that the dead had come back to drink the blood of the living. I spent weeks on boats looking at carcasses the sailors said were the remains of monsters or mermaids. I spent sleepless nights in houses thought to be inhabited by ghosts and spirits, to see where the stories that spread across the town had been born.

It was the reality of the monsters and ghosts that I wanted. It was the natural from which the unnatural had sprung that fascinated me, and I’d loved every moment of it.

“So what happened then? Tell me about this crow girl you keep speaking of.”

I looked up in answer to the voice.

I’d nearly forgotten someone was in the room with me. Yes, the crow girl: my final investigation, the one that lead me to this asylum. I turned in my chair to look up at the face watching mine.

“I believed the crow girl was a myth, yes. I didn’t even consider her a genuine  worth investigating. I mean, feral humans growing up among animals are common enough. Take the case of the boy that was raised by wolves…”

“Indeed.”

“Had it not been for my boredom, the lack of cases that year, and my partner’s fascination with the stories of her, I never would have gone.”

“And that was your assistant, the late Mr. St. John Padget, correct?”

“Oh yes, St. John was quite taken with the tales of her. I told him she was nothing special, merely a feral child, but something about her grabbed hold of him and would not let go. He was convinced she was the one genuine mystery we could not explain. Though, for the life of me, I could not explain why. It seemed such a silly thing. I hadn’t the first idea why he thought she was even worth investigating, let alone something that could not be explained.”

“And what was the relationship between you and Mr. Padget like at the time?”

“Nothing like what’s been implied, if that’s what you mean!” I felt my anger rise in me as I remembered the lurid insinuations that had come out, after the terrible incident had found its way into the papers. Why had the need been felt to invent such things? Human beings love filth, I suppose.

“All right then, whatever you say. Tell me about him then.”

“St. John was a bright young man, eager to learn, with an appetite for understanding and an ability to charm people. He liked to talk… to listen… He was open to people, but also strangely susceptible to them. He took eyewitness accounts far more seriously than he should, and I was always concerned that he was too trusting of the strangers we met while traveling. I worried that he would fall prey to robbers and con men, but he never did.” Suddenly I felt snappish. “Why are you asking me this? Why don’t I just tell you what happened to him?”

“Very well then, tell me what happened to Mr. Padget.”

I began to speak of the events that lead up to the tragedy, starting with the day St. John had burst into my study with another three photographs in hand.

*

“Look! Even more have surfaced!” A smile was broad across his handsome face as he dropped the pictures onto my desk, directly onto the files I was organizing. He was nearly dancing from foot to foot as he awaited my reaction, his grin blinding.

I pushed them away. “Now St. John, really, I don’t see any merit in wasting time…”

“You’re not doing anything now. You’re just sorting some old case documents. Please?”

“Honestly, these are merely blurs. I can’t even see what you’re…”

“Oh, do look again! If you isolate the shadow just there and if you outline this shape you can see…”

He edited the amber-toned photos verbally for me, but I still didn’t see anything.

It was more to placate him than it was to satisfy any curiosity of my own. I for one did not find this figment worthy of investigation. I still maintained that she was at best, a myth, and at worse, a dangerous wild person, most likely without her wits intact. Either way, I had no interest in pursuing her.

At the time, I did not understand what it was that captivated my young companion. Since the first time he’d heard of her, he had been like a man possessed. He kept saying that he needed to see her with his own eyes. I offered to take him to an asylum and show him many Ophelias just like her. St. John took some offense to that. I think the real reason I offered to take that trip with him was simply to get it over with, to return his mind to what I saw as more worthwhile pursuits.

Had I known then what I know now, we never would have made the trip.

Before our journey began, St. John had been practically giddy every time he made a new discovery regarding his muse. I’d expected him to be delighted as we began our journey. But, it didn’t happen. The moment we left on our way, St. John changed.

We took the train out of London on the first of the month, and traveled deep into the countryside. Usually talkative and energetic, it came as a surprise to me when St. John merely sat, shifting listlessly through his transcribed accounts of eyewitness sightings or sometimes just gazing at one of his photographs of sepia colored shadows and light. Any efforts I made to draw him out into conversation or contact were met with uncharacteristic sharpness.

Obsession was beginning to consume him.

By the time we arrived at our destination three days later, St. John had given up sleep entirely. I still remember the look of him, pale with purple shadows under his eyes, as he stood on the railway platform in the early morning light. His gaze over the remote platform was empty. I could barely recognize him, once so beautiful, now so spent and wan looking.

“You’ve got what you were after, aren’t you pleased?” I asked him gently, laying my hand on his shoulder as he surveyed the countryside. “We’ll see what we find, all right?”

He only nodded.

For another three days we stayed in the woods. We lit fires, slept on cots under trees, and searched for St. John’s crow girl. On the third day I finally spoke up.

“Let’s go home, St. John. There’s nothing here.” I had kept my doubts to myself. But, watching the sun struggle bleakly through the cold fog as it rose, I found the thought of another day of watching him search for nothing unbearable. Also, the state of my companion’s health was becoming an increasing concern. “You look ill, and you seem perfectly miserable. I don’t like seeing you this way, St. John. Let’s go home and forget all about this nonsense.”

“It isn’t nonsense!” His voice had more force to it than I had heard in days. He lowered his head and let his eyes slide shut. “And we’re not leaving… not yet.”

Dawn continued to break, cold and hard. I wish now that I had told St. John that enough was enough; that we were leaving. I wish now that I could have foreseen what would happen in the next few hours.

We found her.

Well, we found something. Even I will admit that there is no explanation for what I saw happen.

*

“But wait.” I found my words interrupted. “You know that the coroner found that Mr. Padget had been dead for approximately a week, yet you claim you traveled with him for three days, and were in the woods with him for three more, and that you saw him alive on the day the body was found. What do you have to say to that?”

“I say that if I was not telling the truth, I’d change my claim in order to correspond to the coroner’s findings in order to make my lie more believable and less fantastic. However, the truth is that it was three days, and three days I am saying. St. John was with me on the trip for those six days.”

“That’s impossible.”

I did not respond, and sank into my remembering and my monologue. My interviewer fell back into silence.

*

Fog had erased all color from the woods. The air was wet and heavy as the morning light struggled to reach us. St. John was deathly pale now, eyes sunken and cheeks wasted, but he seemed strangely alert, keen on something, like a hunting dog that noses a grouse.

“St. John, please. You look ill. We’ll come back when you’re…”

“Shh!”

He’d seen something. As he stood ashen and motionless as stone, I followed his line of sight. I wanted to scream, but my mouth merely hung open in terrified silence.

A young woman, clothed only in the mist, stood in-between two enormous ash trees. Her skin was as pale and dusty looking as the fog, and her hair was as black as ink and hung in matted elf locks over her shoulders and down her back, nearly down to the backs of her knees.

“There, you see? She’s merely a human being, probably abandoned or orphaned. We’ll simple take her to an asylum and that will be that.” I could hear the tremor in my own voice betray me.

The girl opened her little round mouth and let out a noise like the cawing of a crow.

“St. John! Come away, clearly she’s mad. We’ll notify the authorities and…” but the scene before my eyes clearly told me that St. John was lost to me.

He walked closer and closer to the darkly ethereal girl. She opened her mouth again and made clicking, purring noises, oddly similar to a contented hen. I felt my stomach turn. It was like watching the butterfly drift into the web of the spider. He drew closer and closer, until he was very nearly able to touch her. I remember thinking it odd that a feral child would allow him to get so close. Yet, her movements looked as though she was drawing him in for a kiss, like a lover. I saw their mouths meet.

I bolted forward to stop the atrocity, only to be met by a wall of black feathered bodies that seemed to come out of nowhere. Ink-black crows flew around me, their cries deafening, their black feathers blinding, and their beaks and claws tearing. I fought through them, I believe I attempted to scream St. John’s name, but too soon everything turned black and I knew no more after that.

*

“They found you unconscious in the woods, and Mr. Padget dead.” The remark was blunt enough to sound obscene. “The condition of his body was quite shocking. Though, I find it interesting that you reference an appearance of a kiss. The damage to Mr. Padget’s face and jaw indicated…”

“Stop it. I don’t want to hear.”

“Well, the reality is that they have yet to determine how Mr. Padget died. He’d been dead too many days and had been picked over by beasts. That is why we were hoping you’d come to your senses and shed some light on the subject.”

“I told you what happened. My head is clear.”

“And you maintain that the marks of a struggle on you were from when…”

“When I rushed through the crows to get at him, yes, I said.”

“That’s not possible. There’s no way this story…”

“That’s what I would have said if you’d told the story to me.” I smiled. “And would you like to know something else?” I pulled St. John’s photographs out of my breast pocket.

“What is that?”

“I can see them now, what St. John saw in the photographs. I can see her quite clear.”

“They’re just shapes and shadows.”

“Oh yes, it’s very plain to see. And the only thing I want right now is to see her again.”