Cryptic Fiction

Welcome to Cryptic Fiction, a place where the unexpected becomes the expected. Here you will discover limitless imagination, with a dash of darkness to spice things up. Break boundaries, explore the extreme, and journey to the other side. Step out of the day and smile at the night. Don't worry, the night will smile back. It's been waiting for you your entire life...

Tales of the Tormented - Volume 1

I felt them all around me, coveting the common thread of life that we once shared. It is a world filled with horror and beauty, a world that chills and excites, and a world that we only catch a glimpse of in the fractions of a second that mark our souls in the stream of time and consciousness.

As a child I remember the night I spent at my grandmother’s house. That was the first time I felt them, even though I didn’t understand the significance. It was only later when I was well into my teens that my mother told me of her unusual gifts, and connected me to the spirits that would haunt me for the rest of my life. She, my mother, told me how my grandmother came from the old country. She was Greek, from the isle of Kythera near the mountains of Pindus.

My grandmother believed in the “old ways” that were passed down from the Ottoman Era. This included her belief in spirits and the ability to commune with them. Now I won’t go into great detail because it’s not an integral part of the story I will share with you. But what I will say is that my grandmother, Mariana, was adept at her craft. A tale for another time will be the one in which I lie awake in the middle of the night, a small boy, frightened rigid as I watched a statue of Saint Michael cry out above her mantle; the small bed shaking violently, and a tall shadow moving across the room to engulf me in frigid ice.

Yet for now understand that I have known about spirits, felt them, and been visited. You might be saying to yourself, “That’s nice. I know about spirits and I believe in them.” Which is all fine and good, but do you really believe? How would you face the darkness if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that spirits existed? How would your faith suffer if you knew the truth, and could feel the intrusion of the spiritual into the physical? How would you deal with life every day when you know there is so much more beyond the veil of our gelatin eyes, and electrochemical synapses firing through a string of DNA which is then wrapped into a flimsy shell of chemicals and water?

Now I’ll tell you why I was compelled to write this tale, because there is a reason beyond the paltry entertainment value of someone else’s misery. For you see this time a spirit actually spoke to me. Up to this point I knew only shadows and silence, an attempt at communication but without the ability of the spirit to consummate the intent. Yet this time it spoke to me in a clear voice and with such malice that I still shiver as I sit here, fumbling over words like a madman. And perhaps I am mad, but I don’t care because this is my story and it’s true and frightening. I have to get it out before it fades, or my mind convinces me that it never happened, dulling the experience to a subconscious relic that will allow me to live with it.

Let me begin by saying that my current vocation requires me to travel. Most people don’t realize how solitary a life it is, or how physically and emotionally draining it is when you spend day after day shuffling from one hotel, car, and airport, to the next. Time spent passing the crowd of humanity as it struggles to survive. But I digress, and this particular tale begins in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I decided to drive that day, watching the dashes in the pavement for ten hours, slowing to a crawl in construction areas, and twice being stuck in bumper-to-bumper gridlock before my big meeting with a client the following morning.

The hotel was, shall I say, middle of the road. It wasn’t the most expensive, but I stayed there before and the rooms were clean and comfortable. I liked this particular chain because they were new and they had coffee available in the lobby any time of day or night, with hazelnut creamer that was a staple of my diet whenever I was away from home, which was, unfortunately, most of the time.

After an uninteresting dinner I found myself in the hallway to my hotel room fighting with the keycard, trying to get the light to turn green so I could enter. And it was then that I felt the first rumbling of something dark watching me, something trying desperately to push its way into the world. A chill passed through me and I hoped that I wasn’t coming down with a cold, because to a road-warrior there is nothing more terrifying than to have a bout with the flu when you’re hours from the comfort of home and your friendly neighborhood physician.

Admittedly much of what comes after is deathly boring so I’ll skip to the good part. Pulling the covers over me, I tried to get as comfortable as I could on a bed with about as much give as a two-by-four covered with a sandpaper sheets. And it took a while but I finally managed to fall asleep. That night the third floor was almost deserted. All was deathly silent, with the occasional creaking of the walls and floors as the massive structure continued to settle, the hum from the heating and cooling unit inviting me to embrace a deep sleep that my tired extremities welcomed. My mind conjured images from the Steven King novel, The Shining. I pictured two little girls in matching dresses standing at the end of the hallway on the third floor of my hotel. And there, in the dim lighting, they implored me, “Come play with us Danny. Come play with us. Forever, and ever, and ever…”

When I awoke the alarm clock on the nightstand informed me that it was three in the morning. With the exception of the red glow from the clock the room was completely dark, and I felt cold even though it was a pleasant night. I didn’t have the air conditioner turned on yet it felt like the room had been transported to the arctic tundra.

I shivered, drawing the covers tightly around me and it was then that I felt invisible hand’s grab me. I shrieked, bolting upright in bed only to be thrown back down by hand’s that I couldn’t see. I tried to shout, calling out to any and all deities I could think of for help but the hand’s kept me down, pinning me to the bed. A type of madness crept over me and I began to repeat the Lord’s Prayer over and over as I fought to break free. I didn’t know what this spirit meant to do to me now that I was immobile, and I didn’t want to find out.

I was so cold that I thought I would freeze to death, my body slowing as my blood thickened, stopping my heart and killing me right where I lay.

“My God!” I cried. “Help me!”

I clamped my eyes shut, screaming in my head, fighting over every twitching muscle in my arms and legs as I tried desperately to break free before the icy finger’s could take me. As a boy I remembered learning the names of the Twelve Olympians. I repeated them in my head while I begged for help and suddenly I shot up in bed as the hand’s released their grip on me.

I launched out of bed so quickly that I almost fell. It was pitch black in the room, darker than before as the red glow from the clock was gone. And I could feel the shadow around me, a swirling mass of cold hatred that longed to tear at me again. I wanted light, any light to take away the darkness that engulfed me. Recalling the layout of the room I circled the bed and opened the door to the hall.

The light-switch next to the door didn’t work, and my spine tingled as I glared down the hall to discover a haze of emergency light’s blinking off and on. I used my foot to keep the door from closing behind me and I was insanely petrified, my breath coming out of me in a long white stream while the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. The darkness returned as the last light in the hallway winked out and the hand’s grabbed me again. I was yanked from my feet and dragged back into the room, screaming for my life as I clawed at the carpet.

The last thing I remember was the groping, clawing, cold hand’s as they wrapped around me. Then, lying on my side, I felt the cold breath of someone looming over me. I was hysterical, on the verge of complete and utter madness as it touched me. And suddenly I heard the low cadence of a voice that I never want to hear again for as long as I live. It was angry, vile, and without mercy or sympathy. The voice growled, shouted, and seethed every syllable as it called out only one word, my name…

My eyes opened and I sat up, soaked in sweat and taking huge gulps of air. The clock on the nightstand said three twenty-one in the morning. I couldn’t believe that what just happened was a dream, and the echo of the terrible voice was still ringing in my ears, calling my name. I tried to move but I couldn’t, yet this time I knew that I was awake. Suddenly the voice called my name out loud, and a hand caressed my arm. I was terrified, so terrified that I fought for ten minutes to move an arm or a leg, to turn my head or even blink my eyes. Yet all I could do was watch as the clock on the nightstand counted away the minutes.

As quickly as I had been immobilized the hands turned me loose in a violent rush that caused me to lunge forward, catapulting myself from the bed and onto the floor with a blinding flash of white hot pain. As I scrambled to my feet I reached for the light on the nightstand. Thankfully the light came on and then, just out of the corner of my eye, I saw the shadow of what looked like a person melt into the wall. I didn’t waste any time as I stumbled around the room and turned on every light, along with the heat.

I wish I could say that it was all just a dream, but the voice I heard when I awoke put an end to my debate. So I sat before the heater that sleepless night. Alone, surrounded by strangers, far from home, and with the knowledge that my attacker was waiting for another chance…