Apartment 18 B

By J.J. Cheesman

 

My stay at Apartment 18 B was brief, but I assure you it has put its mark on me for good. I was looking for an apartment after just moving out of my rented home due to a horrible smell coming from the basement. I am an artist, and I found that the smell that had gotten exponentially worse over time was making it hard for me to concentrate on my work. So I contacted one of the apartment complexes I lived near and turned in an application. I was soon called back to be shown an apartment, Apartment 18 B to be exact, and I fell in love almost immediately.

Apartment 18 B was small, it contained only four rooms if you included the bathroom, but it was perfect for my needs. Plus, the rent would be cheaper than it was at my old place. However, odd things began happening on the very first night I was there. It was late, and I was engrossed in my work on the art easel. I was painting a piece that was inspired by the smell of the basement of my old place. A pile of four corpses, piled in the basement of the house they once lived in, that’s what I was painting when I began to hear voices. Whispering, commanding, and almost angry, the voices drew me over to the window. When I reached the window, I drew back the curtains revealing the glass. I could see nothing but darkness outside, as that side of the complex was poorly lit. In the reflection of the glass however, I saw a face, angry and twisted whispering terrifying words. I looked down to try to make sure that the window lock was secure, but I noticed it was broken, something the landlord must not know about because he didn’t show it to me when I was first shown the apartment, I snapped the curtain shut and went back to my work on the easel, but still the voice persisted. Day in and day out those voices assaulted my ears. When I was eating breakfast, the voices were there. When I was taking a shower, I could hear the voices through the sound of pounding water in the tub. The worst came to me when I tried to sleep, where in my bed somehow the voices were much louder. It wasn’t long before I decided I had to leave that place. I told the landlord I was very sorry, but for reasons I couldn’t explain I had to go. He said that he understood but he was sad to see me go. I moved most of my things into a storage unit, and I checked into a hotel.

It was a week ago that I happened to be driving by the window of Apartment 18 B, on the side of the complex that was poorly lit. I noticed a light was on in the living room, which meant someone must have already moved into that apartment. As I parked on the shoulder of the road, I briefly wondered if they too heard the voices. I brushed that thought away almost immediately however, the voices have always been my own, they have always shown me the inspiration for my art. I could see movement in the living room, which meant whoever now lived in Apartment 18 B was still awake. That night didn’t feel right anyway, so I drove back to my hotel.

 I am almost nearly done with my new painting now, only one thing is missing, and I think tonight feels right to go get it. I have packed my bag properly with my favorite knife, my drill, and rope of course. I’m going to sit and admire my canvas for a while before I go… On the canvas is a painting of a dark space illuminated by a lit window. I need to paint someone within the window, but I don’t have the face painted yet.

 It will come soon however; the landlord doesn’t know that window’s lock is broken.

Apartment 18 B

Sweet Angela

 

By: J.J. Cheesman

All that I ever was, and all that I ever became or will become, is thanks to Angela. Sweet Angela. The woman who, at one time long since passed was just a girl who came to me. Angela came to me, who at one time, was just a child.

 I was crying. There were older boys, much bigger than me. The boys wanted something, a plastic green top that I had brought to school that day as I recall. I was much too small to stop them. They hurt me, minor childish hazing, really. But it was enough for them to take what they wanted. I was so upset I ran into the bathroom and locked myself in a stall. I cried and I cried and I cried. As silly as that top was, to a child with no friends it was everything. But then for a moment my crying was stayed by a knocking on the bathroom door.

When I calmed myself down enough to open it, there stood Angela, and in her hand was that stupid green top. I thanked her with my hesitation at full throttle, but her warm beautiful smile whisked all trepidation away. I told her my name.

 Jon.

 She told me her name.

 Angela. My god. Angela, from then on would be the very one I wished to not part from that day forward. In a sense I suppose my wish came true.

 Time went on, I grew older, as did she. We were about ten years of age I believe, when Valentine’s Day arrived and I was very nervous. My family was very poor, and so while all of the other children brought candy and Valentine’s Day cards to share, I brought nothing store bought and certainly nothing for anyone else. I did bring one gift, one I made myself. Just small piece of folded paper, in which I drew in crayon my best depiction of an angel, who I of course named Angela. Then below the angel were the words, MY SAVIOR. I gave this gift to sweet Angela, afraid of what she would tell me.

“It’s beautiful.” She said, and gave me the biggest hug I had ever gotten.

Angela was my first and only girlfriend. She also became my first and only wife. When I was eighteen, I proposed. I was a little more adept at drawing by then. My proposal came in the form of a painting, Angela once again the main focus as the beautiful angel she was. Her wings wrapped me in a tight embrace, the light she emitted chasing away the darkness around me. The darkness in the form of many bullies. Bullies in the form of many demons, who threatened to take away all that I held dear. Words at the bottom of the painting this time read, WILL YOU BE MY SAVIOR?

After than memory, things get hazy. I made good money with my artwork. Angela was doing well in law school. But then something went wrong….

Leukemia.  The word comes to me now, though for some reason the meaning of the word escapes me…

I remember a deep sadness. I remember white walls and bags on polls. I remember long nights with loud beeps. God why is my memory fading so?

 

I stand, looking at the sleeping form of my Angela now. She looks so peaceful in our bed. For some reason though, I can see myself lying there next to her. Is this a dream? Why does it seem like I’ve been here for so god damned long?

Angela… she lies there with her eyes open, glossy and perfectly still. Why is she sleeping with her eyes open?

Leukemia… I remember now. I remember how she fought so hard, and I remember how tired she became of fighting. I hated seeing her in so much pain. I promised we would go together, she took the first handful of pills, I took the next. I remember that now.

But where then, if I can now look upon the physical forms of my Savior and I, has her soul gone? Why am I alone here in this awful house of false saviors and broken dreams? Is there a hell? Is there a heaven? And if there is a heaven did my broken savior make it there?

Angela… my Angela… I’m so sorry. I don’t know how long I’ve been here, as my memory comes and goes while time marches on. But I do know that I lost faith in you. You became broken, and I no longer saw you as my angel. I saw you as a burden, a ruined reminder of things that were once great. I gave you a way out, and you thought me a hero for it. But I should have held on, encouraged you to be strong while I stood by your side. But I didn’t. When you needed ME to save YOU, I took the fucking cowards way out. Maybe that’s why your soul is gone, and I am forced to stand here unmoving.

I am forced to watch the ruin I created, the broken, horrible and ugly catastrophe that I could have stopped. If only I would have been as strong as you.

I wonder, what will happen when our bodies are discovered? Will I be forced to lay with you in your coffin? Or have they already found us, and this is just a mockery of our death that I am forced to bear witness to for all eternity? I don’t know. But I do know this Sweet Angela, I don’t deserve you as my angel, and I never did.

Sweet Angela

Blue Lights

 

By J.J. Cheesman

 

Recently, I moved into a new home. I was excited because up until then I had only ever lived in an apartment. In my sleepy little town of Charity, at the very end of a street named Bridgett, stood a stoic red brick house.

It was a bit out of the way, which is why I assumed the house across from it and adjacent had also stood un-occupied with ‘For Sale’ signs in the yard. But it was that beautiful house that I had my eye on for a while. I worked at the machine factory in town, so the location of the house was no issue for me.  

Once I was all moved in I found I had trouble sleeping at night. I was so used to all of the random noises that came with living in an apartment building that to me the silence was less than comforting. Since my nearest neighbor was a block away, the only sounds that could be heard at night was the very occasional car that would travel down my street. The sounds of rolling tires and running engines would accompany the soft yellow or blue glow of headlights spilling into my bedroom windows as the vehicles passed. The car-light was just an added disturbance to my sleepless nights.

So I ended up getting a box fan and I placed it on my night stand, facing it away from me. My hope was that the added white noise would help me to sleep better at night. The fan did help, for the most part. But I still found that although I could barely hear a thing outside thanks to the whirring blades of my new purchase, I still found it hard to fall asleep with my room being illuminated every now and then by glowing headlights. Even though my street was relatively devoid of life it seemed that a lot of people liked to use it as a detour, and it was even busier the later it got. I didn’t understand it. One particular night that I lay in bed, I swear my room was lit by blue light at least five times in a half hour.

I was nearly at my wits end. Work became a living nightmare due to lack of sleep. I was often grumpy with co-workers and friends. Life was just becoming a mess. Then one night I decided to hell with it, I was going to duct tape my windows. I know it sounds atrocious, and it was. But I didn’t know what else to do, and I figured that an occasional passer-by thinking I was trashy was worth a good night’s sleep. The next couple of nights were absolute bliss. With my bedroom now completely drenched in darkness throughout the night I slept better than I’d had in a long time.

 Nearly a week after I decided to put up the tape, I found myself unable to fall asleep due to a rather nasty cough. So I rolled out of bed and made my way into the kitchen to get some water. I grabbed a glass from the cabinet and began filling it from the faucet, when in through the window above my sink came a flash of blue light. I was hardly certain I saw it at first. Then the blinding flash came again, going out as soon as it came. ‘A storm is coming’ I thought. Two or three more flashes came in through the window as I downed my glass of water and set the glass in the sink. I then turned, looking out of the kitchen into my living room, just a passing glance to see if I had left any windows open. The light from my kitchen window flashed again, spilling into the room.

It’s funny what happens to the body when something completely terrifying occurs in one awful moment. Like the feeling of missing the last step of a flight of stairs. Your whole being becomes completely tense, almost soaking up the horrifying reality of the situation. That’s what my body did when that flash of light came in through my kitchen window, but my un-lit living room remained completely dark. I turned around slowly to look out through that window above my sink. I could see nothing but total darkness.

I stared out into the darkness beyond that glass for what seemed like several minutes, but I couldn’t see anything. That awful feeling came back to me once more but instead of missing the bottom step, it felt as though I was missing an entire flight of stairs all together. I COULD see something through that window, though it was a little misshapen. Just beyond the window frame I could see what appeared to be a vague outline of a human’s head, but there was something not quite right. That brilliant flash of light came again, partially blinding me and I had to shield my eyes. The light stayed on for just a couple seconds longer this time, and I could see now that the source of the light was something that looked like headlights. The light went out again and the afterimage that it left in my vision made me cold.

In the afterimage, I saw that misshapen head, and I saw what was bothering me about it. The source of the light wasn’t coming from headlights. There in that ghostly apparition that only existed in my own sight, I saw two giant and bulbous eyes. Eyes that I now realized were emitting that blinding blue glow. An incredible terror over took me then, as the full scope of the situation over took my mind. I had to tape up my windows because of the late night traffic that bustled down my street. But how often had it actually been the very thing that stood outside my house at that moment, looking in at me as I laid in bed? Were there ever any sounds of engines going down my street passed a certain hour? I try to recall that now as I tried to recall then, and still I’m not sure.

The afterimage in my vision went away after a second or two, but that light didn’t return. I looked hard outside that kitchen window then, searching for any sign of the creature’s head, but there was none. I turned and ran to the living room, making sure every window there was closed and that their respective blinds were drawn. I double checked the front door ensuring that the lock was in place. My head was buzzing and thinking straight was impossible. I grabbed a baseball bat that I kept by the front door and I sat on my couch, laying the bat across my knees. I couldn’t believe what was happening, this couldn’t be true. My mind raced at the possibilities of what might be lurking just outside my home. A ghost? An alien?

My thoughts were interrupted by a knock at my door. I jumped in surprise, but other than that I didn’t make a move.

“Sir, this is Sheriff Lutz of the Charity Police Department, is everything okay in there?”

I was stunned, I certainly didn’t call the cops. I wasn’t sure what to say then, so I kept quiet.

“Sir? Do I need to force the door open? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine! No need to force the door open! I’ll be right there!”

I got up, and slowly unlocked the door, bat at the ready. I opened the door slowly, and on the other side stood a portly man dressed in a policeman’s uniform. He had a very concerned look on his face and his palms were open, showing me he had no weapon.

“Son” He said, “I think it’s best you come with me.” My bat was raised, but at the sight of the defenseless police officer I lowered it, dropping my guard for the moment. I looked out behind him to the vacant, trashed houses that lined the street. Empty, save for all the random debris stuffed within each of them. It didn’t add up to me. How would the sheriff have known that I was in distress? No one was around to make the call. I looked back to the seemingly concerned, portly sheriff and smiled.

“Yes, I think I will come with you, I’m sorry I’m just a little jumpy.” I said.

“That’s quite alright son, just hand me the bat.” He outstretched one of his palms, never taking his eyes off me. Pale blue eyes that I swear shined like headlights in the night. I slowly outstretched the bat with both hands, offering it to the man. Then, my head jerked to the left, giving off the impression that something caught my eye just beyond the sheriff’s right shoulder. That fool actually turned around. I raised the bat high above my head, and brought it down on that bumbling oaf’s dumbass head. He slumped and fell hard to the concrete of my porch steps, and I watched for a moment waiting for him to transform back into the monster I knew him to be. After a minute went by, he began to move, but he didn’t change in appearance. That was fine with me. I could keep it up.

I swung the bat again, and again. The bat slammed down on the sheriff’s skull and broke it open like a visceral piñata. Spewing chunks of bone and gray matter all over my face, but I kept swinging. I didn’t stop until there was only a stump below a blood stain. Still, the bastard never revealed his true form. That was fine by me, I wasn’t going to fall for their tricks. I looked up then, into the house across from mine, and saw movement. There was another one trying to hide from me. I reached down and grabbed the sheriff’s gun from his holster and marched across the street. I kicked the door down with some difficulty, and once I made it into the house I found the monster curled up and shaking on a pile of newspaper. What a pitiful sight it was, I put that ugly bastard down with one gunshot to the head, but I fired a couple more rounds for good measure. This was my first time dealing with these creatures, better to be safe than sorry.

That’s when I looked up across the way at my house, and saw something strange. My house, that was previously a beautiful red brick home, was now gray and dilapidated. From what I could see inside my home, it now looked much like the dirty, trash filled one I stood in. How had these creatures destroyed my home so completely in the time it took for me to walk over to the neighboring home? I didn’t understand it.

I searched the sheriff’s pockets and I found a phone, because mine has somehow been taken by those abominations. I quickly jotted down my story on a word app on his phone and I’m going to post this wherever I can. This is my warning to all who read it. Beware of the blue lights, don’t let them trick you. I have to go; I hear them now. Their cries resound an echoing siren throughout the night, and I will avoid them at all costs.

Blue Lights

Twenty-Four Hour Gym

 By: J.J. Cheesman

There are things on this earth that simply cannot be explained away with reason and logic no matter how hard you try. Things that, don’t want to be explained because they don’t want to be known. After what I have been through this is what I now believe to be true. I used to think of the supernatural as something entirely fictional, but life has a funny way of making fools of us all, and I have become its latest fool.

 

I am a night manager at a department store located in a strip mall. We are open until eleven, so it’s not uncommon for me to leave work at around twelve or later and then arrive home at around one in the morning. The half-hour drive from work to home was always the worst part of my working nights as I would always be exhausted by the time I was on the road and the drive always seemed to take FOREVER.

At some point, not long ago, the Chinese restaurant that was located right next to us closed down. I don’t know why it went out of business. I used to eat their often so frankly, I don’t want to know. Only a day or two after the restaurant closed we saw movers coming in and pulling out all of the tables and chairs and throwing them into the back of a large truck.

“Wonder what they’re gonna’ put in that spot now?” Jenna, one of my employees asked as we watched the men do their work.

“I have no idea, but I hope it’s another place to eat.” I told her, I didn’t want to have to drive anywhere on my lunch break.

 

We didn’t get another restaurant however. More workers came, and they took down the lettering on the building that read: ‘The Green Dragon’ and replaced them with: ‘Twenty-Four Hour Gym’. To me this was a metaphorical sign as well as a literal one. My ex-boyfriend Marcus; who I had been dating on and off since high school, told me when we were together that I should be in better shape. No, that’s not why we weren’t together but yes he could be an asshole sometimes. Marcus was someone I will always love on a deep level; we just could never work.

Marcus…… had his demons. He always went from one extreme to the next, happy and excited about life one moment and then the next he found himself in a dark and angry depression. I felt bad for him even though he refused to seek help. He was always so sweet when he was having his good days and I could tell he really did care for me. But on his bad days he would yell and cuss and drink, unhappy with anything I would try to do to make it better.

 

 But I digress, Marcus WAS being a jackass when he told me to get in better shape. Unfortunately, as much as I hate to admit it, he was right. In high school I ran track, and I was pretty good at it. But high school was going on nearly eight years ago, and the toned smooth skin of my stomach had grown a bit flabby and uneven. So I decided to get a membership as soon as it opened.

Now, I had a very hectic schedule. I went to my classes during the day at eight in the morning and at four o’ clock I would be at work. So the only time I could go work out was after work and at night. I had some reservations about this, because it would mean I would be at the strip mall after every other store there had closed and it was likely that the whole strip mall would be empty. So I asked Jenna one day if she would want to work out with me.

“It’s just not my thing Sarah, I don’t really feel like I should lose any weight.” She said, ‘Great’ I thought.

“Besides, it’s not like you have anything to worry about, there has to be an attendant watching the gym so you won’t be alone anyway.” She had a point. I could just make sure my car was parked in front of the gym so anyone working could see if I was being attacked, and I always carried mace on me.

Without any excuses left to stop me, I got my gym membership. Thirty bucks a month is what it was going to cost me to run on a treadmill for one hour five days a week. I’ve spent more on worse I guess. 

On the first night that I decided I would be going to the gym, I was admittedly still nervous. I was counting the cash in my drawer at four o’ clock while the store wasn’t busy. I had been on edge, because Marcus had called me seven times two nights before, and I didn’t answer it a single time. Not that Marcus is exactly the stalker type; when he got in his moods he preferred to be alone, but it still made my mind uneasy. So, as Jenna was cleaning some handprints off of the glass of the front door (left by the handprints of some lackadaisical patron, no doubt) I asked her if she would reconsider going to the gym with me. When I asked her, she turned around and walked over to the counter setting the bottle of Windex down as she did so.

“Sarah, if you really are worried, I will stick around for a half-hour or so, but I’m not joining any gym” She said matter-of-factly. The lack of enthusiasm on her face made me change my mind and quickly shoot back.

“That’s fine I’m not THAT worried I just thought you might want to.”

“Hell no, I don’t need any of that.” She said, and turned back around as I raised an eyebrow. Jenna wasn’t a plus-sized girl, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say she couldn’t use a couple rounds on the treadmill herself.

Later that night after closing down the store I locked the front door and looked out into the mostly empty parking lot of the strip mall. There were only two cars in the lot, one being my own. I walked the couple feet that was the distance between my store’s entrance, and the gym’s. When I reached for the door handle and pulled I found it locked. I was caught off guard for a moment, but the I saw a device attached to the door with a little red light. I remembered when I signed up for the gym, I got a spiel about how it would be locked passed a certain hour at night. After the lecture about not losing it, they handed me the little white card. I dug through my purse a bit frantically forgetting what exactly I had done with the key card after I received it. To be perfectly honest the guy who helped me with signing up was that type of good-looking that made it hard to concentrate on anything.

I found the card at the bottom of my purse however, and I slid it into the slot of the device on the door. The light on the little black box went from red to green, and then I heard a *click* as the door unlocked. I pulled on the handle and walked through the door of the gym and saw that Jacob; the really cute guy that helped me out with setting up a membership a few nights before, was working again tonight. He said hello and gave me a wink as I made my way to the locker room. All I could do was blush and give a small wave. I changed from my nice dress-clothes into some shorts and a track-tank, then I stretched a bit before finding a treadmill.

I had my pick of the machines as the gym was completely empty save for Jacob and I, so I chose one of the treadmills that was facing the ceiling-to-floor glass windows that looked out into the parking lot and set the machine to a low pace. After a couple minutes, I set the pace a little higher. My old leg muscles seemed to be remembering what they were once for rather quickly. As I ran, I could feel Jacob’s eyes on me from the counter behind me. Every now and then I would sneak a glance behind me and I would catch him staring. When I did catch him looking, he would quickly look down and pretend to be looking at something on the counter. Jacob’s watching didn’t bother me and in fact, I liked it. It was nice to know that someone thought I was something to stare at.

That’s how things went for a little while. I would close the store, go to the gym, and often catch Jacob staring at me while I ran. Sometimes I would stop and talk to Jacob and make some light conversation before I ran on the treadmill. At that point, I was hoping he would ask me out but he never got around to it.

Then one evening when I was doing my mid-day cash count Jenna called me over to where she was cleaning more handprints off of the window in the entrance door.

“Is that the guy you’ve been wanting to ask out?” she asked when I walked over. I craned my neck to look out of the store over to the gym to see who she was talking about. It wasn’t Jacob, but he was certainly handsome.

“No, that’s not him.” I said

“Good!” She said “That means I can ask him out” “Be my guest.” I said lazily as I walked back to my cash drawer.

“People must be inconsiderate assholes in this town, he’s cleaning handprints off of his windows too” Jenna observed, still looking out over at the gym.

“I don’t think it’s the cleaning that has you interested” I laughed.

“Any man who knows how to pick up a damn paper towel is already halfway to perfect in my book.” She shot back. I admitted, she had a point.

When closing time came I was excited. Yeah, I got to see Jacob who I was becoming increasingly infatuated with, but I was eager to get back on the treadmill that night. After entering the gym and some more small talk with Jacob, I was changed and began running on my normal treadmill in front of the windows. The gym was completely empty as usual, and all the sound that could be heard was the sound of my feet hitting the treadmill. I took note though, that their seemed to be more handprints smudged on the window. ‘What was it with people?’ I thought when I saw the glass.

 After about a half hour, I looked back to see if Jacob was looking at me. When I turned I saw that Jacob was not behind the counter and was nowhere else to be found. I knew he was a smoker, so I just figured he went out the back to light up. I turned back around, still running, and looked out at the barren lot of the strip mall. Looking out there into the lit lot even though was empty actually comforted me. I couldn’t believe I was ever scared to come here. Even if there was some would-be attacker waiting outside he would be easily spotted. As those thoughts passed through my mind, I saw him.

Standing on the other side of the lot just out of the light, being so still he could be mistaken for a statue, was what I assumed to be a man dressed in all black. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up keeping his face concealed, but he was facing in the direction of the gym. I turned off the treadmill and ran with it while it slowed to a stop. I then studied the man, trying to discern what he would possibly be doing out there. That strip mall was located at the edge of town, the only thing within walking distance was a gas station just down the road. Just behind where the man was standing, was the main highway that stretched on for twenty or so miles until you reached the next town over, so I really hoped he hadn’t walked. The whole time I stared at the figure in black he didn’t move one inch. I wondered for a brief moment if I should call the police, but then decided against it. I turned back around and yelled out.

“Jacob!” But he was still outside. I considered going behind the counter and out the back door, maybe Jacob would know what to do. Just then I heard a loud *BANG* as something slapped against one of the glass windows of the Gym. I whipped my head around and saw the hooded man standing directly in front of the window, his hands on the glass and head lowered, keeping his face was hidden. I stumbled back off of the treadmill taken by surprise but thankfully I was able to keep my balance. That parking lot was at least one hundred feet across, there was no way that guy could of ran from one end to the other in that amount of time.

I began stepping backwards slowly until my back made contact with a treadmill that was set a few feet back from the one I was using. I then stood there breathing heavily, watching the intruder outside. He had not moved since he had slammed his hands against the window. His ghost-white hands were still placed upon the glass, and I could see that some dark liquid had stained the hood and shoulders of his Hoodie. He just stood there outside the gym as if he was waiting for something to happen.

On that silent and empty gym floor, I was completely alone. I thought that the man must have been hyped up on bath salts or something, though that didn’t explain how he got across the parking lot in such a short amount of time. Just as a thought of making a break for it entered my head, I saw something I hadn’t noticed before. The man’s hood was pulled up close to his face, guarding his eyes from sight. But his mouth was not covered by the hood, his pale blue lips were inches from the window. The window which had no condensation on it. If the man were breathing, the glass would be fogged up.

 When I came to that conclusion I bolted to the front counter of the gym, scrambling over the table and into the doorway that led to an area in the back. As I ran passed the workout supplies I heard the sound of shattering glass as the intruder forced his way into the gym. I burst through the door at the back of the small room, and when I came out of the other side I put all my weight against the door, forcing it shut and keeping it barred. Soon there was pounding from the other side of the as the man dressed in black banged on it from the other side.

“Sarah, I need you!” His voice rang from inside the gym, it was deep and gravely. The voice sounded as if he hadn’t spoken in a long time. I put all of my weight on that door but he was so strong, I didn’t know how long I could hold. Soon I knew I would have to just make a break for it, but I was hesitant to try to out run him when I remembered how quickly he made it across the parking lot.

“Sarah, you’re mine, you know you are just come to me!” He screamed through the door, and I screamed back.

“Just leave me alone! I don’t know who you are just leave!” In that moment, I happened to look away from the door to the asphalt of that dark alley for the first time. What I saw there made my decision about running for me.

 As soon as I looked down my eyes were met with the sight of Jacob’s broken, lifeless body lying in the alley behind the strip mall. Jacob’s eyes and lips were ripped out of his bloody mangled face and lay next to him in a visceral mess. His stomach was torn open, and his innards were strewn all around his lifeless body. In that moment of seeing Jacob in that state, I snapped.

 I screamed and ran out of that alley and I didn’t stop running until I made it to the gas station down the road and shrieked at them to call the police. All the while that I was running in the direction of the gas station I only stole a glance back at the strip mall once. The man in the black hoodie, was nowhere to be found.

 

As you can imagine, I have been pretty shaken by the experience. That last night at the strip mall was a full week ago, and I haven’t been back since. I have taken some time off work, but every day I call Jenna and I ask her about the store, particularly about handprints.

“No, no handprints today.” She would say in a voice that seemed irritated. Meanwhile I was pissing my pants. The police still haven’t found who had killed Jacob and had been harassing me that night, but they have made sure a squad car has been posted near my house to be on the lookout.

 This morning however, I woke in my bed at my third-floor apartment to the sound of my phone ringing. It was my friend Alex.

“Oh my god Sarah, I just read it in the news I’m so sorry!” She said. I rubbed my eyes and yawned.

“It’s okay, I didn’t really want to make a big deal out of what happened to me, I’m just lucky I’m alive.” There was a silence from the other end of the phone, and then Alex spoke again.

“Sarah, what are you talking about?” she said sounding confused.

“Uh… me being attacked at that gym, I thought that’s why you were calling.”

“Sarah… you haven’t heard?” Came Alex’s voice, a big more shaken than when she first started the conversation.

“Heard what?” I asked as my attention was drawn to my window where some birds were chirping.

“Sarah… Marcus shot himself a couple weeks ago. He did it in hotel room a couple towns over… It was quick, the bullet went through his brain…. Oh god Sarah, I’m so sorry!”

I didn’t reply, not because of the news I’d just received.

But my eyes became focused, and I saw something on my third-floor window that shouldn’t be possible at all on that side of the building. It’s just a straight drop, eighteen feet below to the pavement outside. But there, in the glass of that window, was a pair of handprints.

 

 

 

Twenty-Four Hour Gym

Monster

 

By: J.J. Cheesman

 

I remember my Father-in-Law’s fifty-fifth birthday party very well. Smoking in my wife’s parents house was not aloud. So I spent some time outside, dragging on a cigarette while the festivities went on inside. I happened to glance over at the house across from the yard I was smoking in, and in the window I saw something peculiar. There was a girl that I could see through a second floor window. She was giving me gestures I didn’t understand in the slightest.

The girl had her right palm outstretched and open, her left hand was shaped into a fist and she was bringing the fist down onto her open palm. She did this two or three times until I shrugged at her. She then switched her gesture, bringing both of her hands near her face with her palms out. Her fingers were curled and her expression became slightly angry, almost as if she was growling at me.

“Honey! Dad’s about to open his presents!” my wife called from the front door of her parent’s home. I gave her a wave.

“Be right there!” As my wife went inside I turned my gaze back to the window across the street. The girl was gone and curtains now obscured my view of the room where she once stood. I thought it was strange obviously, but I laughed it off just a kid being a kid. I went back inside to enjoy the party and thought nothing more of it.

Then a couple weeks later my wife and I were having dinner conversation when all of a sudden she blurts out,

“Oh! Did I tell you about the couple who live next door to Mom and Dad?”

“No, what?” I replied, having forgotten all about my experience with the girl a couple weeks prior.

“Their daughter went missing! It’s crazy, they said there was no sign of a break-in, she just vanished while her parents were downstairs watching television. The parents said she was upstairs in her room playing!” A feeling of dread began to loom in my chest then as my wife spoke on.

“Poor girl, Dad said the only clue to her disappearance is that for some reason, her clothes were all torn out of her closet and were thrown around the room.”

“Wait” I said, “Wouldn’t her parents have heard her screaming or something?”

“That’s what I thought!” my wife said, then her look became solemn as she went on, “Dad said she was deaf though, and spoke completely with sign language.” At that point I became very anxious and my wife must have seen it on my face because she asked me what was wrong. I didn’t say anything other than I needed to smoke. I quickly went outside on the porch and lit up, pulling my phone out as I did so. Using my phone, I googled the signs that the little girl was giving me on the day of my Father-in-Law’s birthday.

The first sign I researched was the one with the open palm and fist. Tears came to my eyes when I saw that it meant ‘help’. The second sign, the one with the curled fingers, made my heart sink when I saw the first result that came up after I searched it.

‘Monster’

Monster

The ‘C’ Word

By: J.J. Cheesman

 

As a writer, I have always struggled. But my wife had always been supportive. She constantly urged me on to keep at the craft, even on the days she wasn’t feeling well.

But lately I have found it hard to concentrate. I can only stare blankly at word documents while the insertion cursor blinks idly. What’s worse, is my wife no longer offers her support. She simply sits at the kitchen table watching me with cold staring eyes while I sit at my computer desk.

Sometimes she yells at me. She says things like ‘fool’ and ‘you’re nothing’. I don’t understand it. She is so angry with me and I don’t know why. I have tried to ask her what I did to deserve her animosity. But when I ask, she just stares back with her angry and glossy eyes.

Whenever I bring up the ‘C’ word in occasional bursts of pent up frustration… god… it only gets worse. As you can imagine, bringing up that word sends my wife into a flurry of angry howling screams.

But still, I don’t understand why she is taking it out on me. After all, I did all I could to make her comfortable before the cancer took her life.

The ‘C’ Word

Salvaged Souls

By: J.J. Cheesman & Robert Harrier

 

Last night, marked the end of my very first week (and last) at my new job. It was supposed to be an easy job, and easy money. After all, what could be easier than a night shift at a junk yard?

I would be working security, patrolling the countless rows of rusted metal making sure no one was around looking for anything to salvage. Not that thieves were a huge problem. Most of the idiots who did take something would try to sell it back to us, or so I was told. No, the real worry was that teenage kids; spurred on by some dare or misguided need to be accepted by their peers, would break into the junkyard and hurt themselves while fooling around.

The first couple days were simple enough. I would fill out my nightly checklist, do a couple patrols and yes, run off a punk kid or two. But I have to say, it was pretty eerie walking down those long dark rows of rusted out mechanical hulks in the middle of the night. I was alone, but I always felt as if I was being watched. The mounds of metal seemed to be comprised of enormous beasts stacked on top of the other. The headlights of the cars; like huge unblinking eyes, silently evaluating every move that I made. The loud creaks and groans of metal settling on metal only added to my paranoia.

Despite how uneasy the junkyard made me I kept my cool. I’m not one that scares easily, especially when there is nothing to be logically afraid of. Then came my third night.

I was filling out my checklist at the start of my shift, when I heard a sound that I recognized as human speech coming from out in the junkyard. I walked out of the guard shack and began searching up and down the rows of stacked cars and trucks shining my beam up and down the aisles. My search came to an end when I reached the fourth aisle however, when I could see lights shining from the very end of the lot. With some trepidation I made my way toward the source of illumination. I gripped my flashlight; my only means of protection, as tightly as I could with my sweaty palm as I walked. When I was nearly halfway there I realized the source of the light was coming from an old 1959 Coupe Deville. I recognized the car immediately, it was the very same make and model of car that my Grandfather gave to my Father as a gift just before he passed away. I couldn’t believe I had never noticed it before.  My unease for the moment slightly abated by my curiosity, I increased my pace toward the glow of the headlights. Once I was nearly upon the old Coupe, the illuminating beams that cast their glow across the end of the lot went out. My eyes had to adjust to the sudden dark and I found myself a bit dazed as I listened for any trouble makers running about. I assumed; as anyone would, that some prankster had found the car’s battery fully intact and began playing with the dials inside. But as I listened, my ears were met with only silence. After a minute or two of waiting, I decided that maybe the wires in the car were somehow malfunctioning and caused the headlights to come on and then back off. I began patrolling the rows of rust once again. The sound of voices had long since gone, but I hadn’t forgotten about them. I conducted a thorough search of the junkyard but never found anyone, and I figured they had run off.  

The next night before I clocked in I struck a conversation with one of the men who worked there during the day. I told him about the previous night and asked him if he had ever seen the wiring in a vehicle act up.

“Are you messing with me or something? We strip out all the batteries in the cars that come in, it’s one of the first things we do.” I laughed at that, but his expression became stern.

“I knew you were playing with me boy, go bother someone else with your nonsense It’s been a long day!” The guy then turned and stormed off in the other direction. I was confused and thought that there had to be some misunderstanding. So when I went inside the guard shack to clock in I asked my supervisor. He confirmed that indeed, pulling out car batteries to resell was done almost immediately when the cars arrived. I didn’t know what to think, but I decided to check for myself that night after everyone had left. I thought maybe someone had forgotten to yank the battery from the old Coupe.

So that night, a little after five o’ clock, I held off on my check list and decided to get my rounds done before anything else. As the orange sun began to sink into the horizon basking the junkyard in a soft blue light, I made my way over to the 59’ Coupe. The faded pink of its paint almost glowed in the now low-light of the evening. I knew from my previous experience with this type of car that the hood release rested in the grill. I quickly found and pulled the lever, a loud *Thunk* told me that the latch released and I lifted the hood.

Empty. Not one single thing was left in the front end of that vehicle. The gravity of what this revelation meant settled in my stomach like a brick. What the hell was going on? Was I just crazy? I shut the hood of the car and walked away from that old boat quickly. I decided that for the remainder of the night I would stay in my guard shack until my shift was over. I sat down in my chair and cracked open the book I always brought with me and began reading. As far as I was concerned, if anyone broke into the junkyard they could have their run of the place. Job be damned.

It was a quarter passed nine, and I had long abandoned getting any reading done. It started raining sometime around eight, and the light drizzle on the tin roof of my guard shack was putting me to sleep. There was another sound just under the rain though. A sound I thought was familiar. But it was so quiet that I barely could barely make it out. I started to wake up a bit as I strained my ears hard to listen past the water on metal sound above, and then I stood abruptly from my chair with such force that it toppled to the floor behind me. The sound under the rain was indeed a sound I recognized. It was the song ‘Sleep Walk’ by Santo and Johnny. The sound of sliding guitar strings grew louder and penetrated the small space of the guard shack. I grabbed my flashlight, and headed out of the door into the rain. Shutting the door behind me it was clear that the song was coming from the end of the lot, in the same direction of the 95’ Coupe Deville. When I looked in that direction, I could once again make out two beams of light shining out into the darkness. With great disdain I made my way over to the end of the lot where the Coupe sat, the beam of my flashlight giving my trembling hand away as its beam shook in tandem. When I reached the Coupe however, I found that the song wasn’t coming from that old boat. Instead, the sound was coming from and old Bonneville that sat beside it. I shined the beam of my flashlight into the back seat of the Bonneville and there sat an old A.M. radio along with a speaker that I assumed was recently pulled from the car. The sound of that haunting song rang out from that speaker, and on closer inspection I saw that there were no wires plugged into either the speaker or the old radio.

I began to back away slowly, my mind now entering a state of surreal numbness. It was then that the darkness of the entire lot was illuminated as every headlight that was still attached to their respective cars flickered to life. I was blinded, and had to cover my eyes with the arm that wasn’t holding my flashlight. In my temporary blindness with only my sense of sound to aid me I backed farther away in the opposite direction of the sound of sliding guitars coming from the Bonneville. Then all at once, my ears were assaulted by the sound of hundreds of engines that all spurring to life at once. That music by Santo and Johnny drowned out by the deafening roar of autonomous voices. I put down my arm trying to see through the blinding lights and what I saw when I did is still burned into my brain. Behind the wheel of the pink Coupe, behind the Bonneville, behind every car that stood in that lot were the shadows of indistinguishable drivers. I yelled out then.

“What’s going on?!” It was a silly question, more of a statement to myself as I knew I would receive no answer. I stared hard into the coupe and tried to make out the features of the driver. Though the driver was completely shrouded in darkness I could still make out the shape of a fedora, but that was it. The sound of engines grew loud and threatening then, and I turned and ran. I ran passed the faceless gaze of every shadow, looking right and left making sure none of them left their vehicles. None of them did. As my feet slapped against the pavement of the car lot the sound of the revving hulks of steel and aluminum grew even more in intensity and within the roar I could hear another sound formed by the union of all the engines resounding at once, a sound that formed one single metallic voice that soon rose above the din. And the voice screamed ‘Leave us be!’

I soon found my way to the locked gate of the Junkyard, and with reckless abandon I climbed over the chain link fence and jumped to the ground on the other side. When my feet hit the ground I kept on running and didn’t stop until I reached my apartment five blocks away and still, I could hear that awful voice as I opened the entrance to my building.

I will never return to that junkyard, and though my boss has called me many times since last night I have yet to answer. Though my brief time in that place was frightening for sure, there is one thing that bothers me above all else.

You see; after calling my Dad and asking him about his old Coupe, he told me that when it was totaled in an accident a few years back he did indeed give it up to that junkyard. So not only was the pink boat in that junkyard the same TYPE of car from my childhood, it was the same car altogether. And the shadowy figure behind the wheel of the old Coupe last night? Well, I think you can probably guess my grandfather always wore a black fedora. Hell, he was buried in that silly hat.

Now what gets me is I have heard of spirits being attached to things they loved when they were alive. In my grandfather’s case, that’s disturbing enough. But the rest of those people in those vehicles… oh god. Though I could not make out distinct features of their faces but I could see what were clear gashes in their shadowy bodies. I saw broken necks hanging loosely to one side, I saw arms crumpled and disfigured beyond recognition. I even saw what must have been the small figures of children in some of the back seats.

Now I suppose it is bad enough to suffer within a metal coffin and not be able to do anything about it. But to be dragged from wherever you passed away, and end up at a graveyard of metal and rust.

 How sad must they all be? What eternal suffering of immortal afterlife comes with the knowledge of knowing that you are nothing but a salvaged soul?

 

 

Salvaged Souls