Unknown Caller

I thought the first voice message was a wrong number when I heard it. Some young-sounding woman said she was going to meet “me” at the pub in three hours. Then a few hours later, a more angry voice message from her saying that “I” stood her up, but that “I” probably was attending some medical emergency. The thing that made me concerned was that my phone hadn’t registered any missed calls, nor had I gotten any SMS notifications from my telco either. Weird.

And really, me responding to a medical emergency? As if! I had a shitty job working at a warehouse where OSHA was a laughing stock “because of their sissy rules” and where pay was an even bigger joke. But I made do, it wasn’t a bad life considering how hard I’d had to fight to get there. Dad hadn’t always been able to make ends meet after mom walked out on him when I was six. Not that I remember mom that much, but still. I’d always harbor hate for her for doing that. He’d never been alright after that. The few times we’d been out and had a few too many, he’d sometimes confess that he still loved her. I remember asking him angrily how he could love someone that would just walk out on her family, his response was that I’d understand once I fell in love myself one day. He quit drinking after that one.

Yeah right, as if that’d ever happen when I was basically living paycheck to paycheck and never had the time to do anything but work and sleep most of the day. Sometimes I’d have a free weekend where I’d meet up with either dad or some friends at the pub. I just didn’t have the time for something as complicated as a relationship.

The phone buzzed and I picked it up, ah, missed call from dad. Shit, that’s what I get for spazzing out. I called him back and he wanted me to help him out with his new smart TV. I sighed theatrically and asked him if he’d tried the manual. After a few minutes of him complaining, I told him I’d be over after work the day after and that he’d better have some of his famous Coq Au Vin ready to make up for it. My heart warmed as I could hear him agree to it with a smile in his voice. We hung up and I realized that it was almost time for bed. Man, what a day!

When I woke up the next day, as I was going through my morning rituals, the weird messages from the other day had begun to fade in my mind. On a whim I called up my voice mail only to hear another one from the young woman, now thanking “me” for the thoughtful gift and that she was SO ON for going on a trip with “me”.

Enough was enough, I wasn’t about to hear about some romance crap like this, I phoned my telecom provider and talked to their support for a while. They promised to investigate the issue and get back to me with an update at a later time. Yeah whatever. As I hung up I considered that I was paying really well for my plan and that maybe just switching to a new number at a different telco would fix it. Ugh, what a pain in the ass that would be. Meh, I resolved to check prices later when I got home after visiting dad.

The rest of the day was mostly a blur, a big shipment of fresh groceries had come in and we were working our asses off packaging them and putting them on pallets while truck after truck came in to haul them off. By the time the bell rang for our shift, my arms were feeling like playdough. I headed out to my car and hauled up my phone to see a missed call from dad. Oh fucking great. .. I’d forgotten all about that. What a damn pain to go there when all I wanted to do is go home and just pass out. As I heard dad on the voice mail reminding me that we had a dinner planned, I briefly considered giving him a call with the excuse that I wasn’t feeling too well.

But all those thoughts evaporated like smoke when the automated voice said “one more message received on ” and then read a timestamp of a few hours earlier. It was the young woman again… gushing about how she had all these plans for the trip, asking a million questions about what “I’d” want or what we should do. I hung up when she lowered her voice suggesting more intimate stuff.

I was in a sour mood when I arrived at Dad’s. Hearing about someones perfect life really wasn’t my idea of fun. Not being able to even block this perpetual wrong number was even more aggravating. When he saw me standing there in the doorway, tired and miserable, he just laughed and gave me a hug, and asked me if I’d had a tough day. I nodded and while we were figuring out the TV, I shared the weird story with him about the mysterious woman calling me.

During dinner, he made up this elaborate fantasy about her being a ghost woman who was mistakenly haunting the wrong guy, forever bound to call me about things that had happened in the past. I shook my head and gave him a sharp look and told him that was oddly specific. Dad blushed and tried to play it off as a joke, but I could tell he was somewhat bothered by it.

After I’d stuffed myself with both chicken and red wine, I told dad that I was about to pass out. Since we’d already fixed the TV (of course it was easy once you read the manual!), he offered to drive me home since I’d had a bit too much wine. I graciously accepted and thought about how good it was that dad never really was too interested in alcohol that way. Having some of it in food, sure? But if he had wine or beer or anything, he made sure it was always alcohol-free.

When he dropped me off and handed me the car keys to my own car, I thanked him again and offered him cab fare home, as always he declined saying that if he ever stopped taking the subway “I’d become a stuck-up rich person like my successful son!” We shared a laugh and I made him promise to call me when he was home again. About an hour or so later, he called me and we wished each other a good night. I passed out immediately after that on the sofa and woke up to the alarm a few hours later, hating the fact that mornings… were in fact mornings.

The day after was calmer and in the lull in the afternoon, I got a call from the teleco support guy who told me that they hadn’t been able to find anything wrong with my voice mail. When I asked him if he could at least give me the number of the person that had called me, he said that the only recent calls had come in from one specific number, which turned out to be dads.

After we hung up, I sat down on a nearby stack of pallets in a state of disbelief. Was this some kind of joke? No, there’s no way anyone would construct something that elaborate just to mess with me right? The telco couldn’t be in on it too, that’d be paranoid. I called up the voice mail and pushed the buttons to start reading up past messages and the only messages present were those from my dad and my friends. As I hung up again, I broke out into a cold sweat. This… this couldn’t be happening could it? It had to be some kind of prank .. or hack .. or something!

I gritted my teeth and looked down at my aging smartphone, yeah, someone had probably gotten into this thing and installed some kinda prank software, it had to be. Well, the jokes were gonna be on them, because I knew a guy that specialized in fixing phones. I resolved to take it to him as soon as I could.

On Friday I went over to my old buddy Pike, who heard my story and laughed at my dad’s theory of the whole thing. He nodded when I described the call with support, their inability to find any data, my own inability to find any previously saved messages. So while I played some half-decent FPS game on his console, he got to work and checked out the phone’s software. A few rounds later of me constantly dying over and over and he came into the living room and shook his head.

He couldn’t find anything wrong with the phone, nothing at all. He’d even pulled the internal hardware cache logs that showed the interactions between the phone and the telecom equipment and nothing was out of the ordinary there. At this point, I could tell he was hooked as he practically begged me to let him borrow the phone for a day or two while he’d give me one of his other smartphones to borrow in the meantime. I shrugged my shoulders and told him that as long as I didn’t have to fiddle around with that hideously small SIM card, it was all good.

A few hours later, I was home when the phone rang. It was dad again, wanting to know if I was free the following weekend. I told him as usual that I had nothing planned, but that I couldn’t really guarantee anything because of work. Dad chuckled and cracked a joke that I didn’t have to pretend to be single anymore, because of my “new” girlfriend. I told him to get bent with a laugh and then we hung up.

But that had reminded me either way, I decided to call the voice line again in a fit of curiosity and sure enough, there was a saved voice mail from a few hours ago. Damn, changing phones hadn’t helped, so whatever this prank was, it must be someone from the telco that was in on it! All of my thoughts about digging into it stopped though when the woman started describing that she was lost, where was “I”? Why hadn’t “I” met her at the prearranged place? I could hear her walking around outside as she complained that it was getting dark and that being in a forest by herself really wasn’t her idea of fun. Then the call cut out mid-sentence and I realized that she’d reached the maximum length of the voice message. The automated voice stated that there was another message saved, this one from a minute ago, which meant that it’d come in while I’d been listening to her previous voice mail. I pressed the key to listen, with fingers that felt cold.

Her voice crying now, begging, pleading, saying she wanted me there, that she needed me there. That I was cruel to put her through this and then a sharp banging sound as the call cut out again.

My hands now felt like ice as I put down the phone on the table and stared at it. What the hell was this? What kind of a sick person would play this kind of prank on someone?

Then the phone rang unexpectedly, the display read “unknown caller”. With hands that were shaking, I pushed the answer button and said “Hello?” with a voice that I barely kept steady.

There was the sound of the outside, with some animals in the background, and then the sharp slamming sound of a door closing. I heard footsteps on wood and the creaking of a chair as the caller sat down.

“Oh my beloved son, I had to do it for your sake. She really wasn’t worthy of you at all.”

The voice was old and wizened, but I somehow managed to reply to it, “Who.. who is this?”

The reply came with a happy tone of voice “Oh dear, don’t you recognize the voice of your mother? I know it’s been a while since we saw each other, but I promise you, we’ll reunite soon enough. Just don’t invite your dad to the party.” and then a sharp click as the line went dead.

I looked at the phone in terror, what’d happened here? I almost dropped the phone when it buzzed in my hand, the screen lit up with an SMS from an unknown number.

As I opened it, my stomach churned when I saw the numbers in front of me.



It all started when I came across one picture, posted on one of those shock boards meant to get you to gag or freak out. I was your typical edgy teen back then, looking for the sickest gif’s that I could repost to our little group to reap the benefits.

And I’d seen it all, creepy/sketchy porn, animals being killed, people being beheaded/stabbed/maimed, people straight up just dying in accidents, it was like a sick drug and I couldn’t stop because it meant admitting I wasn’t edgy enough.

The picture was a classic meme template that just made me cringe a bit internally when I saw it, because it was so fucking shit. “Oh fucking hell how damn laaaaaame” I thought to myself as I looked at the picture of what seemed like a piece of styrofoam someone had drilled some holes into and photoshopped some bugs onto. Man that didn’t even fucking look real for a second.

And then the words “Observe the picture and then you’ll see them. But your mind forgets.” Like.. seriously that is the shittiest text for a meme ever. I reported the picture as “not gore” and kept browsing and later down in some posts it came up with someone responding “WTF it’s real?!”.

I smirked at the post, goddamn newbies trying to push memes. I fucking hated them, they always thought they had a creepy idea and that making it into a shitty meme template would somehow make it popular. Ech, I needed to take a piss. I got up and headed towards the toilet and stopped dead in my tracks in the hallway.

… oh god it was real. My hands started shaking uncontrollably as I saw it sitting straight in the hallway. White.. spongy, fucking shitty styrofoam texture. About knee-height too, just sitting there impossibly white and like some fucking weird termite nest. It couldn’t be… it .. no .. it had to be a fucking joke right? They were putting me on. But .. how? Had they remotely accessed my computer? I let out the air that I’d been keeping in my lungs and giggled to myself. They’d almost gotten me. Mother … fuckers.

Man, top tier troll that one. I was still shaking like a damn leaf when I went up to the thing and kicked it. Ow.. like fucking concrete! … as I recoiled from it a single thing crawled out from it.. it looked like an oversized bug… it chittered at me and suddenly I felt like shitting my pants.

That .. getting bugs into it would be too much. besides, it wouldn’t have stayed. Couldn’t have.

The phone rang and I looked away from the nest at it. What?! … I picked it up and it was a salesman ranting about insurance, I told him to go fuck off and hung up and looked again at the nest.. except now it wasn’t there. I walked over to the area where it’d been, expecting to bump up against it.. but it just .. wasn’t there.

I rubbed my eyes with hands that felt clammy, my entire body was shaking… this couldn’t be real. Fuck no… This .. no.. I was going crazy. Yeah this is how it started with delusions, first you saw shit that wasn’t real, then the voices would start. Oh god I was going crazy, I was losing it.

With legs that felt like pieces of wood, I made it back to my computer and opened up the post again. Deleted. Fuuuuuuuuck.. the panic set in for real. If I didn’t have the picture, I couldn’t see it right?

A few minutes later, it became apparent that the picture was completely gone from the board. Even clicking the other link references or checking the profile of the person posting it didn’t lead to anything. I tried the waybackmachine too, but it hadn’t have time to index either. I had to stop for a moment since my hands were shaking so damn bad. It felt like a nightmare, except SOMETHING was sitting in my damn hallway. Something I couldn’t see, or touch or.. even smell unless I had that picture!

Then relief washed over me as I remembered my browser cache. I silently thanked myself for being a lazy fuck as I headed into my temp directory and looked through all the cached pictures. I started shaking and feeling nauseous the second I got it up. I quickly mailed it to myself and copied it onto a USB memory as fast as I could. Shit.. shit shit shit.. it was real. It was actually fucking REAL!

I printed the picture and it came out a bit blurry, but otherwise OK. I slowly made my way into the hallway and looked at the nest again which was back. Shit… fucking shit… OK OK.. breathe.. I thought to myself, gotta keep it together, can’t freak the fuck out. If these bugs were dangerous they’d killed me by now right? … how long had they been there? Had they always been there?

As I made it into the hallway, the nest was back again, I gently touched it with my shoe again, just to convince myself that it wasn’t a joke. Nope, hard as concrete and stuck on my damn floor. I very carefully made my way past it and headed into my living room where I stopped dead in my tracks, pure panic flooding my system. Fuck fuck fuck fuck mother … fucking .. dick ass shit bitch fuck my brain ranted in a sort of dispassionate panic as I surveyed the room.

It was .. FULL of the nests of different shapes and sizes. Some were stuck on the ceiling above me, some even had this weird glow coming out of them. I stared at them, again almost absentmindedly thinking to myself that maybe .. just maybe I was going crazy. I took a long shaky breath and backed away. Oh god, I had to somehow get out of my apartment in some way without going into that room. Going in there meant death, I knew it, I’d seen enough creepy bug movies to know that. They’d wait for me to get to the middle of the room and then I’d be swarmed and .. eaten or something.

My phone.. yeah my phone, I got back to it and called my sister, who of course had her fucking phone turned off AGAIN. Shit shit shit, who else? I called my mother, no reply, I called my friend Kyle who almost immediately answered, thank fucking god. As I heard his voice go “Sup man?” I started explaining and after three seconds I heard “AHAHAH Psych man!” and a beep.


I even briefly considered calling my dad at that point, but I decided that whatever this was, I couldn’t call the cops. Someone upstairs had to know about this shit. Had to have deleted that link to keep it secret. As I tried another friend, my mind started thinking about it, how could you keep something like this secret? WHY would you fucking keep this secret?

As someone finally answered, I silently thanked lady luck for not being a bitch for once. It was Baj an old Indonesian guy I’d met in a chat ages ago. Thank god for Baj. He sounded sleepy as he asked who it was. I told him it was me and that I needed him to see something right away.

He groaned, saying that it was 5 in the morning. Oh fuck, I’d forgotten about the time difference. I told him it was a matter of life and death, he groaned and told me I stopped needing to be so fucking dramatic. But after some more persuasion, he agreed to get online on chat so we could talk.

I hung up and made it back to my computer, never taking my eyes off the nest in my hallway, that fucking impossible thing. How.. why.. fucking hell. I tried to keep my thoughts from spinning out as I got my chat online with a giggle that didn’t exactly feel entirely sane. Again the thought of me having gone simply insane washed over me and I thought to myself that if Baj couldn’t see them.. then I’d call the cops and turn myself in as suicidal or something.

My thoughts kept spinning as his chat lit up with a “Hey man, are you OK? .. what did you wanna talk about?” without hesitating I sent him the picture immediately as an attachment and wrote “This is serious shit, once you look at this picture, you can see some freaky bugs and their nests. But somehow you can’t keep seeing them unless you look at the picture for a few minutes. Please tell me you can’t see them.”

A moment passed and then the reply came back “LOL, you seriously woke me up to fucking troll me bro? That’s the shittiest photoshop I’ve ever seen man, seriously you’re so fucking lame. Damn drama queen.”

I typed back at him, trying my best to convince him, to print out the picture and take a look around his apartment. After moment, he started figuring out that I thought it was real and told me he’d do it. I sat there, staring at my screen as the seconds ticked by. I looked out into the hallway, hoping the nest had gone away, but since I’d looked at the picture, it was still there. Almost feeling like it was defying my senses just by existing.

As the minutes started to pile up on me, I typed at him and asked if he was OK. No response. Then it became a quarter, then it going towards half an hour. oh god oh god oh god, oh god, fuck no.. something had happened to him.

I looked out into the hallway, still no movement from the nest. Whatever the bugs were, they were calm ones at least. What did they eat? I mean, for them hunting must be easy since nobody could see them right? I shivered. I had to do something. Fucking hell.. what was I supposed to do? I couldn’t go out there could I? They’d eat me like in one of those mummy movies. I knew it.

Then the most stupid thought hit me: “Ignorance is bliss”. I let out a shaky laugh, oh god that’d be the most stupid shit ever. I took a breath and shut down my computer and looked down into the desk. OK .. OK.. so.. I’d been living with them for god knows how long, but without dying. Clearly they didn’t think you a threat unless you could see them. Alright, if I could just get out of my apartment, thing’s be OK. Then I could tell everyone and warn them and get the cops on my side.

Once the lid was off the whole thing, they wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret. Fucking government and their sicko shit. They probably came up with it somehow in some crazy experiment.

I stopped my thoughts right there as I looked out the hallway, where again the nest had vanished. Good.. good.. out of sight out of mind. I laughed again nervously and thought to myself about how many shitty quotes I’d recited to myself until this was over. I went into my hallway again and got my coat and headed for the living room which was again the old familiar place where’d I’d spent so much time.. best not to think about them. Maybe even remembering them would make them show up again.

I quickly made it out of the apartment and onto the street. Late evening, no people outside. I immediately got out of the stairwell and then got the picture up from my pocket and looked at it again. Yeah, cheap styrofoam fuck nest, fuck you, fuck all of you fucking bugs that had taken over my apartment. I looked back at my apartment complex which looked normal. I looked around where I stood and again, it looked fine. No nests. I let out a sigh of relief and went back into the stairwell. When I opened the door I congratulated myself with a panicked thought because it was completely sealed off by a gigantic nest. Yeah.. whatever these things were, they had some kind of semblance of intelligence. Or maybe instinct. They stayed indoors apparently. I went to the next stairwell and opened the door, same thing. Oh god that had to be some kind of deliberate shit right?

I went down to the basement door and opened it, same. I felt my skin crawl as I got back up again to street level. An old man came riding on a bike, I tried to get his attention by showing him the picture, but he just went past me and went faster, no doubt convinced I was some crazy hobo.

With determination I made it downtown towards the police station by walking, I laughed to myself hysterically a few times when I realized that I’d forgotten my phone in my apartment. Fuck going back for that, fuck EVER going into that place again or any other for that matter.

My thoughts went to Baj and what’d happened to him. Maybe he’d been eaten or something. My thoughts turned up one gruesome horror movie theory after another until I tried to mentally straighten myself out. This was reality, not some shitty gore flick. These things were real weren’t they? You could look at the picture and then see them. Whatever made them invisible also affected the rest of your senses too somehow. It was impossible it was insane, it was so crazy.

I stopped a woman and her two kids coming from somewhere and asked her if she’d please look at the picture and tell me if she saw the same thing as I did. She was skeptical as fuck, but still obliged. As I opened the door to a nearby stairwell and pointed at the nest covering the entrance, her and the kid’s eyes widened. Then she turned back to me and asked how I’d done it.

It took me a while to realize that she thought she was being pranked. As I tried to assure her that I was serious, her two kids had walked up to the nest and tried hitting it with rocks and screamed at it in delight. I watched in horror as they touched the surface with their hands which caused the bugs to swarm out from it and over them. As the kids screamed in terror and tried to run away, I backed off further into the street. Oh god, I knew it, I’d known it all along, fucking freaky shits!

The mother screamed at the top of her lungs and tried to get the bugs off her kids, but that of course just led to her being bit by them, ,one by one they collapsed onto the street as more bugs now came out of the doorway, pushing open the door with their insane flooding and just covered the bodies, no doubt eating them. My mind felt like it was melting away as I saw the bodies eventually being dragged closer to the nests. My whole body was shaking with fear, oh god, this was crazy, so fucking crazy. My palms were sweaty as fuck and I felt like passing out. No no no, I slapped myself back into reality. No fainting here. Fuck, no fainting at all!

I needed to get to the cops, so without wasting another second I made it the rest of the way to the station which was lit up like a damn christmas tree, assuming you had neon lights in it or something. I sighed in relief, I’d go in, show the cops the .. oh fuck…

I looked at the glass windowed entrance which was covered in yet another nest. Right. OK.. yeah that’d be a problem. I took another deep breath to myself and put the photo back in my pocket again. A few minutes later I looked at the entrance and the nest was gone. Alright.. great.. fantastic, awesome. That was their weakness too. Those fucking things couldn’t affect you if they couldn’t see you. It went two ways, it went TWO WAYS! I giggled to myself again as I went into the police station proper and walked up to a desk clerk that looked like he’d seen everything and then some.

As he asked me what he could help me with, I put the photo down on the desk and told him to look at it and then look at the doorway behind me. I told him not to freak out and to stay very still. I looked away from the photo as he pulled it up and looked at it and then at me and then told me with a bored tone of voice that pranks at this hour wasn’t really a cool thing to do.

I picked up the picture with hands that felt like they were a million miles away from my body and I looked at it. It was blank, completely blank. My mouth felt dry as the Sahara desert on a warm summer day when I looked back at his bored face in panic. I tried to say something but the shock of it all finally overwhelmed me as the darkness swept in from the right all of a sudden.

Next thing I knew, I woke up with a start and tried to sit up, except I couldn’t because I was tied down to a stretcher. I tried to say something but my throat still felt dry and I could only get out a weak croak. My clothes were gone, replaced with some kind of hospital scrub. Oh fuck no .. no no no no, not this, not here!

As the doctor came in through the door, smiling at me over his steel-rimmed glasses, I felt my mind again trying to freak out. For the next hour and a half, I tried my best to explain in as much of a rational tone as possible (with only minor giggling) what’d happened. Then he started asking questions about things, and with each question it became more and more apparent that he didn’t believe me. I told him that I still had the damn picture in my coat.. and then I remembered it’d been blank and I got silent for a long while.

I looked the doctor straight in the eyes as I asked him the dreadful question on my mind:

“Alright Doc, how fucking crazy am I?”

That Guy Named Daniel

He came out of nowhere while I was walking home in the night. I got a flash of a big guy, tall, muscles, an oval of a white face and then it all went black.

I came to and felt like I’d slept for hours. I moved and realized that I couldn’t since I was tied up. When I looked down at my body, I realized I’d been tied up in the way that you’d only see in the old TV-shows, where the villain would use an absolutely ridiculous amount of rope. This didn’t feel comical at all though.

The place I was tied up in was some kind of shed or .. shack maybe, the walls were simple planks. Whatever it was, it certainly was spacious from the look of it and filled with all the general junk that those sorts of constructions seem to collect automatically. I started noticing things like old rusty tools, hammers, saws, pliers, and so on. Garden tools were lined up against another wall and then my attention was grabbed by a shiny metal tray containing different tools, my balls immediately felt like they were made of ice.

I took a shuddering breath, trying to stave off the panic as I looked closer at the middle of the room where there was something which was a cross between a workbench and a table. It looked mostly like a big slab of wood that someone had carved out from a tree and put there. In a way, it looked incredibly primitive, despite the fact that it had a lot of tools and such attached to it.

The only illumination was a dim light in the ceiling and what appeared to be a street light shining through a window so dirty that you couldn’t see anything outside. I looked to my left and saw a dark doorway leading to an adjacent room.

At this point, my sense of panic had properly woken up too and I couldn’t contain it boiling up, so I tried to shout, but the only thing I could get out of my dry throat was a crowing sound. To my horror something started shuffling around what sounded like a bag in the other room and I could only struggle uselessly against my bindings as he came into the room.

“He” being my captor, my very big and intimidating captor. He was close to two meters tall with a tightly muscled body that revealed that this guy, whomever he was, wasn’t a stranger to working out. He was wide, but not so much as to compromise his agility. His arms and legs still made me realize that for all intents and purposes, I would not be getting out of here unless I got some kind of an upper hand against this guy. The most striking part was his face though, where I’d expected a scarred and hideous face, I saw two warm brown eyes behind a pair of round glasses and a smile that normally would have seemed charming, but that in this situation was definitely creeping me out.

No wonder that he’d managed to knock me out in less than a second, I’d always imagined myself to be somewhat of a decent fighter, but compared to this guy, I absolutely wasn’t a man, I was a mouse. And I was a very terrified mouse at that.

He came closer and kneeled down next to me and inspected my bindings. He then spoke and his voice was as smooth as silk as he said “Hi there, I’m very sorry for knocking you out, are you feeling well?” And he looked truly concerned.

I could only whisper as I responded “I’m fine, why did you, why did you do this to me?”

And he smiled again, it was like the sun coming out of the clouds on a rainy day and said “Oh, I’ve brought you here so you can see what I’m doing here. I’m terribly sorry about earlier, but it was very necessary as you soon shall see. In this situation, you are what’s known as the Observer. I’ve brought you here in order to ensure that you will do your utmost in your role as well.”

At this point, I freaked and my instincts kicked in to fight, so I headbutted him in the stomach and yelled “HELP! HELP! HELP! I’M BEING KIDNAPPED!” or at least that was the plan. In practice, all I did was to feebly headbutt him, but it felt like I’d hit my head against a tightly padded sofa. The next thing I knew, I was being held up in the air by two strong hands, one of which was cutting off my airflow in a very soft, but precise manner. At that point, I nearly pissed myself on the spot, because I realized I’d fucked up really, really bad.

His face was now uncomfortably close to mine as he said in a calm tone of voice “You’re being very disagreeable right now Sir. Please, I must ask you to desist from any such future outbursts since you are disrupting my very delicate experiment here.” Before he could continue, I heard somebody start crying in the other room and his serious expression turned to one of concern. He looked to the other room and then turned his attention back on me and finished “Oh dear, you’ve awoken her, this is too early I’m afraid. Oh my, I’ll have to revise my play I suppose.”

He then gently put me down on the floor and gave me a warning glare and said “No” and walked into the other room. Then I heard the sound of him mumbling something and the sound of fabric tearing. A moment later, I heard the sound of something like bags being dragged again and he appeared in the doorway carrying a woman that had her hands and feet tied up. She was wearing a fancy, but somewhat dirtied dress and her makeup had been smeared, giving me the impression that she was a party girl. It tracked though, I’d been heading home on a late Saturday night, so he’d probably grabbed her first and then me second.

He gently put her down on the floor and I could see she was gagged now, which explained why her crying had stopped when he entered the other room. She looked at me with an alarmed expression and I couldn’t help but to notice that she was absolutely gorgeous underneath all that dirt.

Before I could say anything, the big guy shoved some oily tasting rags in my mouth and fashioned a gag from the same piece of fabric he’d used to silence her. He then smiled and started pulling her behind the bench, out of my field of view. I could then hear her try and scream and out of fury I tried to scream as well as he started putting his tools to use. I heard strange snapping sounds and cracks that indicated that he was breaking something behind the table, but because of it’s size I couldn’t see much of anything.

I could see him get up with big red splotches of something covering his face, his hands and his torso. He gave me a really innocent and enthusiastic smile over the table that felt like it froze my blood into ice as well. Then he grabbed a pair of pliers and chuckled to himself and went down behind the table again. I could only hear her gurgling now, the sound made me sick to my stomach, because it was obvious that he was doing something to her that wasn’t right. Then I heard her again try and scream and grunt and then the big guy seemed to hold his breath and struggle really hard with something and then all of a sudden he went very silent.

The only thing that I heard was his tools making snapping, creaking and cutting noises and at one point, his other hand, also covered now in a deep crimson, came up to get a hammer which he then seemed to hit something with repeatedly with great force. I felt nauseous, this was all kinds of fucked up.

After another seemingly endlessly long period of silence, he came back up and adjusted his glasses, exhaled deeply in satisfaction and looked at me and said “So, are you ready now my most coveted Observer? Are you truly ready to gaze upon my work of art?” When I didn’t reply he continued with a louder voice “I asked you a question: Will you be my Observer or will you prove to be utterly useless to me? Nod if you agree, I need you to be complicit in this undertaking of mine, otherwise my , um.. my …” and here he looked down and seemed suddenly so small and helpless and frightened before he looked up again me again and continued “objet d’art will be utterly useless. It’s a time-sensitive piece after all…”

And then he pulled her up and I steeled myself for what I was about to see, I knew she’d be mutilated of course, ruined beyond recognition, her face smashed, her arms broken, her eyes gouged out, my mind kept racing through every goddamn horror movie I’d ever seen.

Then I saw her head which was unscathed, but it looked like it’d been tied to a ..bike saddle?

As he pulled her out from behind the table, I saw that he’d used steel wire covered in plastic to create a rudimentary bicycle shape around her. Both her arms were stretched out into a T shape, her left arm was intricately woven into the back wheel of the bike while her right arm was woven into the front one. As such it looked like she’d been fully integrated into the whole thing, her whole upper body was in fact tied into the bike in a way that she couldn’t move. But what made me relax a bit was when she opened her eyes and looked at me again with those frightened eyes of hers.

He then steadied the bike sculpture and her against the table and started to clean his hands and arms and face and that’s when I realized that it had been red paint that I had seen on him, but there wasn’t even a speck of paint on her or the bike thing that he’d created so quickly.

Then he walked over to me and tore off the gag and said with a boyishly enthusiastic voice “So, dear Observer, how do you perceive my newest sculpture? I call it “Evidences Of Morning Dew” and quite honestly, I think I managed to express quite a lot of myself in it too! My name’s Daniel by the way and I’m terribly sorry for capturing the both of you, but I just had to make this piece alright?”

Considering the surreal situation I was in, I started feeling crazier by the second, so I laughed to myself and said “Dude… seriously, you could have just asked us you know?”

And he joined me in my laugh and after a while he turned again to her, looked at her in a strange way and then turned back to me and said “So, you would have truly followed me here to be a part of my art project had I just asked?” and looked at me with incredulity in his eyes.

Seeing my chance to get out of the situation I continued “Why yes, I would have done it in a heartbeat, wouldn’t you have joined as well pretty lady?” I asked her and gave her a look I hoped conveyed my message of “humor the crazy fuck!” and it seemed that she got the message, because when he walked over to her and tore off her gag, she panted out “Why yes, I would have loved to be a part of an … uh… an amazing work of art like this.. I used to model you know? Back in high school and all that…” her voice trailed off.

“Oh deary me! Oh no no no, this was a huge mistake then!” he exclaimed and he looked as if he was about to cry as he looked at the both of us. “My abject apologies goes out to the both of you, I’m incredibly sorry for having put both of you through this, I truly never meant any harm here.”

When neither of us dared say anything he asked me “So, please.. just to make this whole thing right, can you please give me a review of this work of art? I think I shall have to release you both afterwards, because this definitely was not my intention. I’ve absolutely gone beyond the pale on this one. My arts teacher, he always told me that one day, I’d go too far with this whole performance art thing and now I have haven’t I?”

Then he stared at me and I looked at him and her and realized that he was being serious, he truly wanted me to tell him about this sculpture that he’d created out of steel wire, some bicycle parts and a woman. The absurdity of it all gave me new strength and I mustered my best serious face and started:

“Well, you see, the way you created it was impressive since I had no insight into your creative process. Because of that, I didn’t have any knowledge of what to expect, which made the final expression so much more impactful (this was a thing I’d learned from art class, the word impactful always stroked the ego of whomever it was aimed at) and surprising. But having looked closer at this piece, I have to say that I’m just floored that you managed to create this out of some wire and bicycle parts and then the inclusion of the woman in the middle of it, it just speaks volumes to me.

“Oh?” he said and fixated me with a sharp glance “What message does this convey to you?”

I continued bullshitting as best I could when I continued “Well, I think it speaks of fragility and the human condition (another buzzword I’d picked up), this is a woman on her way to wherever, but much like society at large, this construction has her trapped as it’s a part of her life that she can’t escape. It’s a metaphor for the need to use a tool that brings you closer together with the tool in such a way that you’re inseparable after a while. The fact that you also made her hands so tightly wound into the spokes of the wheels really conveys the idea that she and the bike are mutually trapped together in this.”

And then I went silent, not wanting to overdo it, but I still added a final “I really think it’s brilliant” and at some level, I really meant it, because this huge guy had created a frame of a bicycle with nothing than tools and some pliers and also woven a woman into it somehow. In mere minutes, it was insanely well done.

He looked at me and he looked at her and then he laughed and walked behind the table and fiddled with something behind it and said “I’m most pleased with your Observations here Thomas, I thank you in the deepest of ways” and then he walked out from the table and stood in front of me for a while and then in what felt like a fraction of a second, he quickly turned around and shot her in the face with a gun he’d been concealing.

It took me a few seconds to process the event, but then it hit me with full force. He’d shot her in cold blood, right in front of me.

Her once beautiful face now featured a big hole just to the left of her nose, there was blood spatter everywhere on the bike and on the table. I was speechless and just before I was going to scream he looked at me and laughed and said “Oh man, I fucking LOVE messing with people like you, FUCKIN HELL THAT WAS FUN!” and then the merciful darkness of unconsciousness claimed me.

The Hands

It was a warm and sticky night, the kind where the air felt like it was leaving a residue on your body the second you went outside of your apartment. I watched the condensation drip down the window and smirked, good thing my job had a working AC I thought to myself.

I was a security guard at a hotel, nothing fancy, but it paid the bills. The hotel was one of this middle of the road places that you’d stay and forget everything about after a week or two. After a few nasty break-ins and other incidents, management had decided to hire some guards on a case by case basis whenever they needed that extra bit of security or when there were big conventions happening.

And if you’re wondering why conventions in particular, well then you just have to attend one. Those things get wild as fuck sometimes if it’s the wrong people hosting them and that’s when me and my guys step in and straighten up the whole thing. Easy work, easy money. Sometimes one of the working stiffs take a swing at you, thinking they’re Conan the Beerbarian, but a whack or two with a stick and they calm right the hell down. Management always has our back when that happens too and they’re more than happy to put down any fees for destroyed inventory that we might suggest too.

This Friday night in particular had been just a general call-in, no profile, no nothing. No convention, no dignitaries, nothing at all. As luck would have it, me, Quint and Slade (three perfect miscreants who were good enough to stop the riff-raff from getting in, but not serious enough about our jobs to ask for a raise) had drawn the shortest straw. Great.

But every cloud has a silver lining, even in our shitty job. After most of the regular staff had left for the night, we settled in with a good game of poker and got something to drink from the bar. I knew the barman and he was kind enough to let us get away with it, provided we were discreet about it.

A few hours later, I was walking around the outer perimeter of the hotel when I noticed that the usual radio chatter had stopped. OK.. that’s a thing, I thought to myself. They’d usually report in at least once every 20 minutes with something, but all I got was dead air. I wasn’t about to take any risks, so I circled around the place to get a birds eye view of where they usually patrolled the heaviest, since probability indicated they’d likely be there. Besides, I’d often thought to myself that if I was looking to get in, that’s when I’d take out any guards first.

Yeah yeah, I think too much. But then again, I never patrol the same static route more than once either and look at me now eh? At least that’s what I thought to get my head into the game as I sped up and started moving a bit faster to find ANYONE doing something they shouldn’t be doing.

I got to the small stage where they’d put on plays. It always creeped me the fuck out in the evenings. I don’t know if it was the masks with their fucked faces or the smell of old fabric and polished wood, but the whole area had this weird abandoned feeling that I didn’t like. I stared at it all, props, seats, flat mountains and fake balconies and I shook my head. Then my eyes found what they were darting around for and my heart sank in my chest down into what felt like icy waters.

Splayed across the stage was Quint, he was positioned in such a way that told me that he was definitely dead. I took a few moments to check the place, still creepy, still empty and I looked back at his body. The way he was sprawled over the floor meant someone had done a serious number on him. I touched his body and noticed it was cold already, not good. My chest now felt like it was sinking into the Marianas trench, this was not some punk breaking in to score some cheap booze apparently.

I silently snuck over to where Slade would be, hoping I would have better luck there, two against one right? I have to confess, I really like the guy even though he’s a raging homophobic and his gay jokes get tiring after a while. Still, most of the time he does the right thing and I respect him for that.

The icy feeling in me got even worse as I saw Slade, or.. rather the body of him. Neck had been broken or he’d been strangled. Who the fuck could have done that? I still went over to check on him and noticed he was very cold.. whomever had killed them had been here for a while. And here my mind raced in a way that brought me back to school for a second, I almost heard with a creepy realistic recollection the words “Your mind always goes racing off everywhere, you need pay attention to this class if you ever want to pass!” coming from the teacher of my math class.

This time I wished my mind hadn’t gone racing, because I really quickly put a number of things together: These two had been dead for quite a while for their bodies to start getting cold and I’d been hearing them both on the radio until just recently when they’d both stopped abruptly.

My mind kept racing, I was powerless to stop it, stacking one fact after another, testing another theory one after another until it with a soundless click it all fit together.

The thought dawned on me that maybe I hadn’t been hearing them at all the last couple of minutes. Their dialogue had seemed.. off in some way. I’d chalked it up to all of us being tired as fuck since we were pulling a double shift from another location, but now I realized that the someone that’d taken them out probably had mimicked their voices while doing so.

My chest now felt like it contained liquid nitrogen. I started to shiver and I wasn’t stupid enough to pretend that it wasn’t anything else than plain old fear.

I heard someone behind the bar and pulled out my gun that felt suddenly very small to me. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, rent-a-cops don’t get to keep guns, but that never stopped me from keeping my ”shit-hits-fan” insurance on me, and this evening I was very happy about having skirted that particular rule. I crept up on the liquor safe and found a wiry guy trying to get the dial. I told him I had a gun and that I would shoot him at the slightest provocation and to quietly get on the floor.

He started to get down, but then tried to turn around to get at me. I slapped him quickly in the back of his head with my revolver and knocked him out cold. Better than what he deserved, the asshole. I should have shot him and called it self defense, but now he was out cold and now I didn’t have the stomach to do it anymore. But ridding the world of this cold-hearted bastard would have been a service.

However, my meager sense of duty compelled me to head back for the main safe, because I suspected now that management had pulled a fast one again.

A fast one means that they were storing something ridiculously valuable in the safe and that obviously someone had figured it out. It was typically an insider job at work. What I didn’t get was why, insurance on that safe wouldn’t cover anything over half a million dollars anyway. I guess management had lied to a client again, but what was worse was that they lied to us guys too. It wasn’t a secret when management tried something like this since we’d increase security on those days anyway. Just didn’t make any sense.

Click Click Click Click my mind silently went, almost flipping through possibilities with a kaleidoscope style of fitting the facts together.

I groaned internally when it hit me: they wanted to keep this under wraps in the fear that increased security would attract more attention. Or maybe it was just plain old greed at work or maybe they just didn’t trust us with this juicy morsel at all. Fuck I hate management, you can’t fucking trust those guys.

While this was unfolding in my mind, I had gone back to Quints body at the stage and I quickly went into the kitchen to reach the office behind that. In there, I stumbled upon a guy that looked really afraid when I bumped into him (I nearly shat myself in fear too) and I pulled the gun on his face. He was shaking like a leaf while I told him with a authority I didn’t feel at all to take things slow and to get on the floor.

He instead sat down and looked crestfallen and started to explain in a panicked voice that he wasn’t getting paid enough for this shit. He gave me the look I recognize, the crook that’s given up. But I kept on my guard and asked him how many people were there. He said there was one guy at the other safe and that it was himself and that it’d been a bad idea. He then started telling me about the plan without me even asking about it. Typical amateur.

I’ve busted so many fucking kids over the years that never learned to shut the fuck up, if they’d only been quiet, most of them would have gotten off scot-free. I mused about this to myself as this guy kept droning on about some shit management had put into the safe. And yeah, total fast one that they pulled again. My eyes widened at the number he mentioned though, I could see why they’d tried for it. And when he mentioned knowing the janitor.. everything clicked into place. Total amateur hour.

I was ready to start calling central for backup (and to secure my own arrest bonus which would be ridiculously high for this one since they’d have to pay me to shut up about the thing in the safe) when all of a sudden mister amateur handily knocks me over in a fraction of a second.

Fuck, I relaxed, fucking rookie move. Can’t.. believe it. How?

As he stood over me, he suddenly seemed so much taller.. and bigger.. what .. so hard to think. Dizzy, he’d hit me right where .. ah, so dazed, have to get up.

A kick in the ribs sent me back into consciousness and also a loud crack made it clear they were broken too. Pain blossomed across my side and I found it impossible to move since the sensation was overwhelming at this point.

As he looked down on me, I saw his hands.. saw his fingers being scarred.. oh god, how could I have missed it? This guy was the pro, not the other one. I had been lured into a trap. But he could he had known what to say? Of course, he’d been talking to me all night, possibly spying on me and deciding my routes were too random to risk jumping me. This guy was sharper than a razors edge.

Then something else also hit me, this guy was not just a pro, he was something else entirely. And at that point, that’s when I realized I was dead. He saw it in my eyes and propped me up against the counter. He hit me in the gut just right to send the last of the air out of my lungs, almost in a friendly manner. I could almost hear his fist make the excuses when it hit me. ”I’m frightfully sorry old chap, but I really have no choice in the matter..”

He then lifted up my head and looked into my eyes. I saw my death. My executioner. I I tried to beg, but all that came out was me mumbling ”make it quick, please.” And he nodded, we both knew. It was OK, it was the law of the jungle. He was clearly the top predator and I was the unfortunate prey. At least I had the good sense to understand this relationship and what it meant.

A shadow of a smile crossed over his stony face as he held my face with his hands in a firm grip. And I thought to myself that it was amazing how incredibly soft his hands were. Like a doctors hands. So careful, so delicate, so amazingly lethal. And at that moment, it struck me that this was perhaps the most intimate moment a human could ever have, to be ended by another in total understanding. Tears welled up in my eyes and his thumbs went up the sides of my nose. It wouldn’t be long now. Soon I wouldn’t be.


I woke up to someone shaking me roughly. I looked up all bleary eyed and in amazement at the cop that had awakened me. I knew instantly I had been spared since it was light outside. What I didn’t know was why.

The ensuing investigation was a farce, I kept my mouth completely shut, quit the job after a few token weeks of work and then moved across the country. I met someone there, a sweet woman. We’re together now and it’s definitely the real thing.

What still gets me though is that I know I would be lying if I said I considered us to be truly intimate with one another.