Something a little different

So, this one will be a bit different, but I’m hopeful it will be at least a little interesting. I have always loved weird fiction and strange tales. Particularly the works of HP Lovecraft – I’m sure I read all of them when I was far too young to appreciate the brilliance of the author, but I still loved them and still do. I decided to try my hand at writing some of my own, and am going to list the stories I submitted for the HP Lovecraft Film Festival Micro Fiction contest held annually in Portland. At the end, I’ll list the story I sent in that was actually selected to appear in the 2020 edition of the micro-fiction collection – volume 6. They are all a bit creepy and fair warning, they might be too weird for some folks. The rules for the contest are simple – each story has to be an original work, and must contain 500 or less words.

The Stairs

This was the first trip with my dad since I became a teenager – thirteen only 8 days ago!!! We planned it forever, at least 6 months! We were going to camp and walk along a barely used trail to the east.  It was my job to make sure we stayed on course on the map my dad got me along with the army compass he gave me for Christmas last year. The first two days were great! We got to eat the military rations and survival food my dad brought. On the third day just after lunch, we had been walking for about an hour when we saw it.  There was a freaking staircase in the woods miles from anywhere – at least according to my map. The stairs just started then went up to a landing, then turned back and continued then ended. My dad and I both stared at these bizarro stairs. We looked at each other than the stairs, then back at each other.  Long silence.

“Dad, what is…?” I croaked out.

“Just stay back,” he said holding out his arm and blocking me from getting closer.

“But what is…?”

“I don’t know son. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“But, what the actual heck!!!” I said.  My dad glared at me and eased forward to get a closer look. I followed him and tried to stay calm.

“Stay here” he warned me.  We got to the stairs and both cautiously touched the bannister – it was real and ordinary.  Just a stairs in the woods. No problem with that, right?

“Wait here,” he said and slowly climbed the stairs. One step and then another. After about nine or ten steps he arrived at the landing. He looked back at me and nodded. I watched as he kept going. He was climbing the next set of stairs and I lost view of him, but could see his hand on the bannister. He kept climbing up then I could see his head then chest as he arrived at the top stair.

“Seems okay,” he said from the top step. “Pretty good construction. Heading back.” He turned around and started down the steps.  I could see his hand on the bannister again.  Then I heard him say “That’s weird” and his hand left the bannister.  I waited a moment and expected to see his hand on the bannister again.

“Dad…?” I said, “you alright?” Nothing.  The woods were still.  I stepped onto the first step and the most horrible feeling nearly overwhelmed me. Something told me I would never survive climbing those stairs. I tried again, but couldn’t make myself go any further. “Dad!!” I cried, “What’s going on??” I never saw my dad again. I activated the emergency satellite tracking device and within 6 hours a helicopter arrived with rescue crews. They took me back to civilization and after looking at the ordinary stairs and not seeing anything they started searching, but never found anything.

Olly Olly Oxen Free

Nothing I’d been through before had prepared me for what I was looking at along the trail.  What could that possibly be?  It looked like a shimmering oval a bit over six feet tall and maybe three feet wide.  It did not belong in the woods and definitely wasn’t there as I made my way along the trail earlier in the day. It was an hour or two before dusk and I couldn’t delay too long, I’d have to hurry up some to get back to my truck before nightfall. I didn’t know what to think or what to do – it seemed to be blocking the trail.  I cautiously approached it, and squinting could just see things moving but the colors were weird and disturbing. What was this thing?  It seemed to almost beckon to me – silently urging me closer. I got closer than carefully eased around the side.  When I tried to look at the side it disappeared.  Two dimensional?  This didn’t make any sense.  Easing further and trying to see the back, there was nothing. I could see the trail I came from just a few minutes ago.  Carefully easing back to the side with the object, I verified there wasn’t any way get past it.  On the left, was the mountain the trail was carved from while on the right was thick impenetrable trees.  I looked again at the object just suspended in mid-air and now the view seemed a bit clearer.  I could see trees and ground, but they definitely weren’t normal.  It was unlike anything I have ever seen or heard of.  The ground looked burnt; I could see something like trees that were spotted with disgusting puss filled nodules.  The very air in the object looked like it had ash swirling all around and the atmosphere was red tinged, angry and threatening.  I’ve always made sure to note interesting things in my journals, and this definitely qualified.  I made sure to write everything about this mysterious object. I leaned forward a bit to get as close as I could when I spotted the smallest movement out of the corner of my eye. Before I could react or do anything, I felt hands push against me from behind, pushing me into the object.  I was already crouching, so was unable to catch myself.  Before I could inhale to take a breath, I tumbled into the nightmare landscape. The object, or portal, because that is what it is won’t allow me to get back.  I’m writing these final notes hoping that they can go back. Fortunately, I had my rifle and supplies when I went through.  I’ve already had to fire a warning shot at a large rabbit creature that moved toward me.  My ammo won’t last. It’s getting too dark to write.  Horrible awful noises coming from around me. The portal is shrinking.  This is all I’ll have time to write.  I pray these notes go back.  Thinking of my family.  Don’t look for me.

It Feeds

The city was a horrid living thing, a blight upon existence.  Pulsing while moving and slowly gliding through the ether. The city itself didn’t really think, it just consumed. What thought there was wasn’t really thought, just instincts; the need to feed, and it was never satiated. The creatures who dwelt within the city willingly sacrificed themselves to the city, donating their skin, tissues, blood and bones to keep it functioning and aloft. The city drifted like an impossible jellyfish through the air, consuming everything it could. The doomed things that lived in the city and maintained it were the most dreadful kind of life, only existing to be used as parts for the city. The creatures knew nothing else and were determined to become part of the city at the end of their usefulness. For them it was a fanatic fervor to become part of the eternal city. The blood of the creatures propelled the city, their bones made its structure, their tissues were consumed by other creatures living on the city. All of the mindless things in the city lived only for one thing, to keep the city moving and consuming. The city continually floated and drifted as it could, consuming the essence of the beings it knew lived on the other side of the boundary between dimensions. The other ones, the beings beyond the city, weren’t aware of its existence, except in the most basic sense. Sometimes, if there was a dread feeling for no reason, it was the city pulling living essence from the being, shortening their already pitiful lifespans. The city moved, parts of it crumbling from extreme age. The city was endless and timeless but, it evolved. The creatures that lived on it remained in their blighted pitiful existence, even while the city evolved to hunt the cross-dimensional beings with more skill and fervor. It became adept at extracting the most precious of living essence from those beings. The beings on the other side of the boundary slowly, so slowly over time became aware of something – something they couldn’t explain but knew must exist somewhere else. They developed means to detect the city – not understanding what it is or how it came to be, but knowing it was harmful to them. But the city was hungry and it kept evolving, becoming more and more adept at extracting essential living essence from the beings it fed upon. Eventually after centuries the beings just accepted the city and its effects as a natural part of life. They forgot the reason to be afraid of the unknown. The city won’t forget, its exists endlessly to consume, and it knows about us as well.

The one below is a bit weird – it was the first one I wrote after thinking about entering the contest. Of course, it was also written before I really knew the rules – one of which pretty much specifically mentions not writing in the style I did. The idea here is to write down all of the capital letters used in the middle of words. There is a hidden message. I’ll put it later in the article to make things easier, but I really did think I was clever – not so much. Hope you enjoy!

Warning

I swear I’d take everything back if I knew how.  Everything that has happeneD is because of my curiOsity. Morbid fascinatioN really.  Doesn’t and can’t forgive anything, but it’s impOrtant you realize I didn’t know what I was doing.  Right now I can hear some low moaning.  Some would misTake that sound as the wind or soMething else, but I know what it is.  It’s bEcause of me, I know it.  Let me try to orgaNize my thoughts and give you a biT of background.  I found the documents and old books when I was cleanIng out the room my great uncle lived in at that old bOarding house for the last forty odd years.   They were buried under a mass of old magaziNes he saved for some reason.  The last several years he suffered from demenTia and alzHeimer’s and evEn occasionally rEquired strong sedatives when he feLt people weren’t listening to him.  When he passeD a couple of months ago, as his only living relativE I was given the task of cleaning out his room.  I’m not suRe what I thought I would find but I definitely wasn’t expecting what was there, all the documents, all hand written, all of them ramblinG and incOherent even to the point of complete lunacy.  No wonDer he was careful about where he kept those writingS, some of the things he wroTe about gave me a headacHE almost instantlY.  The pAper felt bad, gREasy and old but preserved, somehow tAinted by something I can’t describe.  I just needed to get the job done in his room and continue with my life.  One of the items I found was a small journaL which was bound with a large amount of tightly knotted string.  I’ll admit my curiosity was piqued when I saW the title “na‐qabu.”  I did some reseArch after everYthing happened and found out it meanS “don’t read” – in ancient Sumerian, super good advice there.  It WAs the only thing whose tiTle was in a different language.  Everything else though mostly rambling and inCoHerent was in English.  I put the journal into a pocket and put everythIng else either iNto a garbaGe bag or a plAstic biN.  I forgot about the journal for a couple of weeks then founD it agAin just a few days ago and undid aLl the string.  There was an aWful smell that cAme off the pages, which looked like old but badlY preserved leather material.  I opened the book and started reading the entrieS.  The language WAsn’t anythIng I recognized, but somehow I felT compelled to read It.  As sooN as I finished I felt a cold shudder run through myself, I was sweatinG and my throat hurt.  Had I rEad the passages ouTloud without rEalizing it?  That was absurd.   HoweveR, wheN I sAw the news that night – everyone was talking about fire and smoke, I knew somehow I was the one to blame, that I’d reLeased something that had previously been sLumbering peacefully into our realitY.

What We Don’t Know Will Hurt Us

The universe is filled with wondrous and advanced life.  We don’t see any of it, because, they’ve hidden themselves, wisely.  The technological advancement of any civilization can be based partially on how efficiently energy is stored and used.  One means to determine the ability of any species to defend itself from threats is the usage and storage of energy.  The Kardashev Scale gives an idea of how advanced lifeforms are based on how much energy from a star that civilization is able to store and use.  Humans for all their advancements don’t even quality to be considered a type 1 civilization.  Type 1 technological civilizations can use and store all of the energy output from their star that falls onto their planet while type 2 would be able to harness all of the energy from a star system using a Dyson sphere or array.  Type 3 civilizations would potentially harness and use the entire energy output from a galaxy and be able to construct devices or structures which would absorb and store the energy output from an entire galaxy.  One can easily surmise that type 3 cultures have unfathomably advanced technology.  The odd thing about the cosmos, is that despite there being prolific advanced life almost everywhere, we have yet to discover any, or even find any evidence to prove there is life outside our planet.  There are many places in the universe where nothing can be seen.  Unexplained blank spots are common and exist.  Dark nebulas are absences of everything where even the most powerful telescopes on earth and orbiting above can’t see anything.  I know for a fact that those blank spots are merely enormous enclosures around entire galactic civilizations.  Most life, if advanced enough knows to be afraid of what lurks in the dim corners of deep space.  Those civilizations are aware of the threats and things that prowl between galaxies, and they have taken steps to make sure they are nearly imperceptible.  Not being seen by things that are hungry and can consume entire galaxies filled with life energy is essential for a species to survive.  Do you ever wonder why we’ve never discovered life anywhere else in the Universe?  I know why, though it would be best to think about it in the dark.  It’s best to avoid the well‐lit visible areas of the cosmos – there are hungry and terrifying things that hunt there – and they are always watching and waiting.

The Real Problem With Forbidden Knowledge

I’ve made a horrifying and terrible mistake.  I’m doomed and forsaken, but before they find me, I need to write this down so it won’t be lost.  I’ve always sought knowledge, even forbidden knowledge barely whispered in dark corners by ageless mystics.  Despite warnings and my subconscious I searched for greater understanding.  I’d been told that one of the gateways to enlightenment was an organ in the brain called the pineal gland.  Wise scholars told me it atrophies as adults whereas children see and learn so well due to the healthy nature of theirs.  I remember being filled with wonder long ago and I desperately I sought that again.  After years of searching fruitlessly I met with several mystics in a ruined temple on the wind blasted steppes of Arkhangai.  I was taught breathing and meditation techniques to restore proper functioning of the pineal gland.  When I finally left that ancient weathered sanctuary it was against their urging me to remain safe.  I went back to my homeland and returned to normal life but continued my mediation and breathing techniques.  An hour ago I felt a pain in my skull swore I was going blind.  Blindness would have been a mercy – the truth was inconceivable.  When I could open my eyes things seemed different somehow my perceptions had shifted substantially.  I opened the window and saw amidst the busy pedestrians outside things I can’t describe – among all of the other people, seemingly ignored were others – not human.  While I marveled at them suddenly all of their terrible dripping mutated faces turned toward me with a singular purpose – they knew I could see through their disguise.  I had restored my pineal gland and now perceived the Others or djinn as the mystics called them – the very thing I was warned about.  They said “Don’t look at them, they will know you can see them” and “This is why we live solitary lives.”  I couldn’t believe they were right.  Nothing prepared me for the hideous reality I saw.  Somehow they all knew at the same time I could see them, telepathy maybe.  As I stood agape I felt simultaneous hate and revulsion as they gazed at me.  I looked away as quickly as I could and quietly backed inside and sealed the door.  I hear them now, disturbing noises I know normal people can’t hear, coming up my hallway.  Slimy slithery whispering sounds that I can’t shut out no matter how much I cover my ears.  I’ve backed into my office to write this final note.  I can hear the door knob clicking back and forth as they try to open it.  The doorknob lock just broke with a twang of the steel casing.  I can hear guttural whispering sounds as they come up the stairs, I don’t have long now.  I turned out the lights in my office, I’m in the dark in my office, and perhaps they will think I’ve already fled?  They’re outside my door now.  Please forgi

The picture above isn’t exactly what I imagined when I wrote this story, but it seems to evoke the thoughts I had. The location mentioned below is real, though I doubt there is anything like the story there. Or …? This story was actually feature in the Micro Fiction collection volume 6 which can be found at the Arkham Bazarre site.

The Control Room

I’m a computer forensic analyst and machine language researcher for a three‐letter government branch I can’t mention.  You know it.  I’m the one they call when there’s a problem no one can solve.  I’m very good, but I do occasionally see things even I can’t explain.  Not too long ago, I was assigned to assist with an on‐site omega level issue.  The location had been recently “scrubbed” but there were some lingering questions.  It was a large abandoned cement factory on the far eastern edge of Oregon, near an empty town called Lime.  You can find pictures if you look.  Nobody who had ever been there knew about The Control Room.  The Control Room at the end of a corridor at the bottom of a twenty feet deep concrete shaft and was why they called me.  The room had a strange hum that never seemed to go away almost like a fluorescent light tube.  It was strange being that no power went to the room or anywhere in the complex.   The only thing in the room was a huge metal desk that had a vintage computer terminal on it that was turned on.  The terminal had a bright green television sized screen and a very old keyboard, no name‐brand could be found.  The screen had the word “Input?” on it then space for me to type something.  I typed “Hello.” and the system skipped a space then said “Error ‐ Input?”  I tried more instructions but my experience was not helping me figure out this system.  Inspiration struck me, and I looked under the first drawer and saw folded paper taped there – that’s where people keep their passwords, right?  When I got the paper off and unfolded it, it read “Never turn this system off – Bury it deep – Forget you ever heard about this place.”  I looked again under the drawer for anything else and there were letters scratched in the paint that said “Start Program.”  I looked back at the blinking cursor on the screen after the question mark.  I slowly typed “Start Program” then pressed the enter key.  The screen went blank then flashed “No program specified – Default Program Executing, Press ESC to stop any time.”  Suddenly the air was filled with terrible shaking and the hum increased until it was the only thing I could perceive.  As quickly as I could, I slammed the escape button frantically.   Immediately the shaking stopped and the hum quieted down, though I had an awful ringing in my ears.  The screen went blank again and then letters on the screen said “Default Program Gaia Initialization Cancelled.”  Then it skipped a line then wrote “Input?” on the screen again.   I left the room without touching the keyboard any more.  My report suggested the control room access shaft be buried under a hundred tons of concrete.  I learned later that the US Geological Service recorded an unexplained magnitude 3.5 earthquake in the region while that program ran in the Control Room.

The hidden message from the story Warning is: do not mention the elder gods they are always watching and always waiting eternally

Many of the stories above deal with forbidden knowledge and unexpected things. Those themes scare me – searching for enlightenment, perhaps with the best intentions only to realize that search led to some kind of damnation. For the unexpected things, that fear in me just comes from my legitimate fear of unremarkable places that are assumed by everyone to be harmless – but I think we all know there are times when the most harmless situation can quickly degrade in to disaster.

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