Dear All,

I’m writing on behalf of Kidechka because she’s at work and can’t post so here we go! At the bottom of this post is a strawpoll with the option to vote. Vote for THREE entries (not 1). This has been scientifically proven to provide a better way to vote on stuff. Seriously!

Without further ado the 2017 TAY Spooky Story Contest Entries:

The Man in the Woods

My youngest daughter, Phoenix, loves scary stuff. Movies, stories, games- all of it. Ever since she was 4 (she’s now 6) she’s loved Halloween because that’s the one time of the year that scary stories are ENCOURAGED, and out of all her friends, her stories are the scariest.


In fact, back in June I had a neighborhood parent yell at me because their kid was totally freaked out to go to the park. Apparently my daughter told their kid a “very scary” story about a “man in the woods”. I had a talk with her, telling her that not everyone likes scary things, and though she seemed rather shook (like she scared herself with her own story) she promised to go apologise. Still, nobody’s kids played at the park for the rest of the summer, and they all started to have theories and ideas about the “Man”.

It’s a very superstitious neighborhood, and I’ve heard no shortage of tales about “Indian Burial Grounds”, haunted homes, ghosts, spirits, and all manner of creepy legends and supernatural anecdotes from the adults living here. So it’s no stretch of the imagination to think of how the neighborhood children responded to the idea of a “Man in the Woods” (especially since last year’s “killer clown” incidents). As time passed, the myth grew.

I will admit that the woods really are weird, though. When near them there’s this lurking, voyeuristic feeling that pervades through and induces an uneasiness that’s I struggle to describe. On a quiet evening or night, when walking by them you can hear twigs snapping and leaves crunching. The area is pretty rural, so I know it’s just animals, but it’s still super creepy when alone. Have you ever walked into your bathroom, noticed the shower curtain was closed, and began to panic slightly while imagining who could be in the tub? If so...that. That feeling. That’s how our woods feel always.


Anyway, the stories started getting out of control. Some kids claim that “they told me, he said, she heard” that “The Man” tried to lure them into the woods. My own kids were too freaked out to go to the park. Eventually, the office had to issue a statement assuring all residents that there was no “Man in the Woods”, and asking them to both reassure their kids and tell them to stop spreading this tale because it was getting out of control.

Not long afterward, mid-August, a neighbor had the idea of heading into the woods and looking around. His thinking being that the neighborhood would calm down if we came back empty handed, and also that we should err on the side of caution by investigating (ounce of prevention and whatnot). He asked my brother and me to join him on his “Man” hunt. So, we obliged.

We decided to journey out on a particularly bright day to look around. I had my hat (because I didn’t have sunglasses), my brother had his sunglasses (because he didn’t have a hat), and the neighbor had snide comments about not being able to “handle a little sun”.


The plan was to enter the woods near my building, work our way up and around the park, then head down the other side- thus sweeping the entire wooded perimeter of the whole complex. After we walked through and came back empty handed,the neighborhood could calm down.

It was exactly what we expected, at first. Little paths wound through the trees, forcing us into single-file formation as we marched quietly. Sometimes we would fuck with one another, sometimes we stopped because somebody thought they heard something, and nerves undoubtedly played a role in the already-palpable atmosphere of the ominous growth. But overall, there was nothing out of the ordinary.

Until we were behind the park.

Near the basketball court it was just regular old woods. That area had the least amount of pathways to walk on and we were mostly trudging through a thicket of “elephant ears”, those stupid things with the sticky, round, Velcro-on-Steroids seeds, and a myriad of other plant life. But as we made our way behind the jungle gym area, it was like night and day.


Plenty of paths- some large enough for two adults to walk side-by-side in relative comfort- criss crossed the area, and there were little clearings strewn about. It was the kind of area I would have loved as a child, especially since there was a clear walkway from the jungle gym to where we were standing. I stood soaking it in and daydreaming for a moment.

“Dude, what the fuck is THAT?” My brother, eloquent as always, snapped me back to the present.

“Strange,” the neighbor added.

I was about to ask, “what?” But I noticed as soon as I turned around.

Toward the back end of the woods, in a little clearing all its own, there lay a mattress. Old, dirty, and stained, with a few minor rips and tears, but a mattress nonetheless. We were incredulous. Why was a mattress, a nasty mattress at that, the middle of the woods? Obviously we had to check out this anomaly. We began our approach, cautiously. As we got closer we saw all the beer cans.


Some looked very old, stomped into the ground by footsteps and weather. Some were definitely newer- still containing those last few drops of liquid that prevent finished drinks from truly being empty. There was also garbage- empty Doritos and jerky bags, candy wrappers, and other foodstuffs. The neighbor, being more, shall we say...rurally inclined, pointed out a “tree stand” above us, saying that the area was too small and too close to residential property for hunting. We were more than a little freaked out, assuming I even have to say that.

Basically, we either stumbled upon the lair of a psycho killer or the party spot for local teens, and considering that our journey hadn’t started off as trying to figure out where teenagers could be partying... We decided to continue on through the woods.

We finished our jaunt with nary an incident after that. Despite all the hairs on my neck standing up and losing my hat...



As quickly as the stories had appeared, they faded with similar speed (I like to think our “brave” trek played a role). The end of summer/start of school began to guzzle up all the available focus from the kids, and things went back to normal rather swiftly. After a month of learning and homework, the “Man in the Woods” had all but disappeared from conscienceness.

I’m thinking now we should have paid more attention.

After school on October 6, we were all hanging outside my brother’s apartment. Damn near every kid in the complex decided that Friday was the perfect time to hang around our area. That aside, it was a typical day, our kids were playing, the adults were bullshitting, etc. This little boy from the building behind ours showed up with some toy guns, and Phoenix decided to teach him how to play “Metal Gear”.


As the day wore down, so did the number of kids. By dinner time, the vast majority of the random kids were gone. By dusk the rest left, along with the little boy, leaving behind only close friends and family. After the sun was gone and everyone was cleaning up, Phoenix realised the little boy had left two guns behind and asked if she could go return them. My partner said she could, and she happily skipped off into the blackness towards the other building.

Quite a few minutes passed when I realised she was taking kinda long to return. I asked if she had returned without me knowing and my partner said no, so we walked over to the side of the building to see where she was.

We saw her frozen at the neighbor’s door. I don’t know how to explain this, but it was clear just by looking at her that she was afraid- like she was hiding at the door- and she was looking off to the side.


“What is she doing?” I asked my partner.

“I...I dunno,” she replied before calling to our kid, “Peeps! Just leave the gun there if nobody’s ans-”

Before she could finish the sentence, Phoenix dropped the guns and came running toward us like she was being chased. Tears streamed across her face and a look of sheer terror was etched so visibly in her expression that worry instantly started to fill in my body.


I have never in my life seen her scared like that.

“MOMMY!!” she screamed when halfway across the parking lot. We walked a little closer and she ran to our embrace.

“There’s a Man! There’s a Man in the Woods and he’s trying to get me!”

“Calm down a second, baby,” her mother said. “What are you talking about?”

We took her around to the front so she could sit down, take a drink, and explain. She said she went walking down to the little boy’s house to return his guns. Halfway between buildings, she noticed a man standing by the woods. His eyes were “all black” (probably from shadow) and his clothes were dark, all she could see were his hands and his “scary smile”. She said at first his hands were up in “a monster grab” position, but as she got closer to the building “he started waving them like ‘come here’”. She was really scared so she ran to the little boy’s house and started knocking at the door, hoping they would answer before “the Man came and got [her].”


By this point, all the other adults came over to take turns questioning her and her mom (and since not one of them is a lawyer, no one could say “Objection, leading”).

I didn’t know what to do or think, I went to talk to my brother about it. The way we saw it, if someone WAS there (and my kid’s demeanor told me there was) they wouldn’t still be there after hearing us yelling. So any attempts to catch them had to occur on a different night. The ladies felt differently, and as they left in a hunting pack to search the perimeter, our neighbor came over to us (the one we walked with before).

“You reckon she’s telling the truth?” I told him I did. “Ok. I got an idea on how to catch this guy. But we gotta at least wait until tomorrow, he’s prolly gone now.” We told him we agreed.


“I’ll come over after work to discuss the plan. But you guys gotta keep it between us, word spreads way too fast here and if it turns out to be a neighbor...”

He wasn’t kidding about how fast a story spreads, either. Before the “hunting pack” even left, my partner’s phone was utterly inundated with calls and texts from friends and neighbors- some of who we never spoke with- wanting the story. People came out of the woodwork that night to join the search and get a slice of that hot goss.

Meanwhile, the kids were having their own gossip session. They were asking Phoenix different questions about what he looked like and what went down, while also throwing in their own 2 cents on “His” appearance and their own “encounters”.


“No, he spoke to me. He was like, ‘Hey kid, come here I have presents!’...” “I heard he dresses like a clown and...” “My cousin had to fight him off!...”

I told the guys it was good that we already got the story from Phoenix already, because her version of events would be super warped once everyone was done telling their own stories. That’s when I was informed that a helpful neighbor had called the police. Something I only then realised had never crossed my mind.

The first officer arrived about 20 minutes after everything happened. Pretty fast, all things considered. Another neighbor pointed him our way, and he came to speak with me and my partner.


We told him our version of events, informed him of another child who swore this had happened, and introduced him to Phoenix so she could share her tale. He talked to her and had her take him to where she saw the “Man”. He looked around the area before returning and asking for the Man’s description. My previous worry was validated as Phoenix described the man in much more elaborate detail, adding in bits and pieces from the other kids’ accounts.

Shortly after, another officer showed up, got the story from Cop #1, chided him for not taking our names, and proceeded to be “Doubting Dickhead Cop” (DDC) in contrast to “Compassionate Hero Cop” (CHC).

DDC decided to ask Phoenix about the incident without us being around, then go through all the same steps as CHC (with bonus, unknowingly-racist questions added in for flavor). When they all returned, DDC gave his professional opinion that our daughter made it all up in her imagination because of television, nothing was ever there, and it’s just a silly situation. CHC offered that she could have seen a deer’s eyes reflecting the lights off the building, but mostly agreed with that take on it.


I told both officers about the mattress and beer cans, but they waved it off. “People dump shit in the woods all the time.”


October 10, a day I will never forget.

We sent the kids off to school and went to lay back down until around lunch time. That nap was cut short by the sound of police sirens around 10 o’clock, followed shortly by my partner’s phone going wild. She checked it and said she had to go talk to the neighbors.


I could hear her from the window, a bunch of people were near our building and they were all talking to her. She text me shortly after.

Her:”They found him.”


Her:”The Man in the Woods. [Somebody] was walking their dog and they saw him.”


Her:”Yeah. Guess it wasn’t just tv, huh?”

Me:”Or deer.”

I text my brother to see if he knew what was going on, but he was at work. The group outside received some news that made them get real intense.


Her:”OMG babe he ran into the empty apartment!!!”

The people who lived behind my brother had moved out recently and no one had moved in yet.

Me:”He’s trapped now. Po po gonna gitum! Lol”

Despite it being on the opposite side and end of our place, I could hear the bumping around through the walls. The Man must’ve been trying to find a way to escape.


Her:”They’re headin down from the woods now & look pissed! Guns drawn :O”

The bumping sound started to intensify and I was real confused as I tried to think of explanations for how. As the sounds made their way overhead and realization began to form in my brain, I received another text.

Her:”What about the attic?”

That’s right. Every apartment has a closet with access to the “attic”. It’s really just a crawlspace, a little area between the ceiling and roof. Technically, you could enter any apartment from another using it.


I heard sounds coming from my closet.

I quickly looked around and grabbed a double-bladed Batman knife I received as a Christmas gift. I stood ready for attack, scared shitless, in my boxers and t-shirt. I heard him drop into the closet.

My closet door began to open, and there he was. A tall, lanky man, clean shaven. He wore black jeans, a dark blue hoodie, working boots...and my hat. He had dark eyes and an evil look on his face. We stood there for an eternal moment, staring at each other.


I’d like to say that I did something. I lunged, I screamed, I slashed, anything. I’d like to say I was overcome with “Fight or Flight”- that, without thinking, I just DID. But I didn’t. No fight, no flight, just “freeze”. I stood frozen, mouth half-open, throat too dry to speak. He looked at my knife, then back, winked (he fucking winked at me!) and ran downstairs.

I was still standing there, sweat now pouring down my face, hands trembling, when I heard my front door open and the group outside shriek. My partner began calling out to me, audibly worried. I snapped out of my trance, grabbed my phone and headed outside.

When I got there, the police were already heading back into the woods, and more sirens could be heard approaching from all around. I saw DDC running into the woods with a few other officers and I couldn’t help but think of all the things I’d like to say if he caught the guy.


Off in the distance we all heard shouting from the police, followed by some gunfire. We saw a cop come bolting out of the woods like an Olympic sprinter. Wait, was the Man! He was headed straight at us.

Everyone scattered back except me. Not because I was brave, quite the opposite. I was once again frozen in place, watching this man barrel closer and closer, getting larger with every step.

“Babe, move!” my partner screamed. But I couldn’t. I just stood there like an idiot.


Right before impact, someone came from my left and tackled the Man to the ground. It was CHC, and I stood there as he read the Man his Miranda rights.


The Man had no ID, and no one knew who he was. So far, police have found a couple areas where he allegedly stayed, and I hear that there’s a few local kidnappings he might be linked to. As for me, I’ve decided to take my daughter seriously the next time her stories involve real things.


The Curse


When the call finally came Frank found that he wasn’t prepared at all. His grandfather had raised him after his parents were killed in a car accident as a child. And now. Now there would be no one. Frank was a grown man now with a child of his own but it still hurt like hell. Beyond that, Frank had been dying slowly - cancer eating him from the inside out and Frank felt helpless as the disease had claimed first his grandfather’s body, and then eventually his mind as well. Now, the shell that was the man who had raised him was well and truly dying. The doctor had given him a scant few hours to live. Frank put on his coat and headed out.


At the hospital nothing much had changed outwardly. Although the cancer was busy doing its best to kill its host, outwardly his grandfather seemed at peace. His breathing was shallow and his skin had a sallow, yellowish tint to it but that was nothing particularly new from the last few visits. Frank held his grandfather’s hand for few minutes before he leaned down and kissed his forehead tenderly and whispered, “Goodbye.” At that moment his grandfather’s eyes shot open, an unexpected lucidity in them as they fixed on Frank. The hand holding his squeezed so tightly that it hurt.

“Frank. Listen to me! LISTEN!” his voice a hoarse whisper but compelling nonetheless. All Frank could do was nod to indicate he was listening.


“Frank, they’ll be coming for you. They came for your parents. I did my best to protect you,” here his grandfather took a moment to catch his breath. A nurse passing by looked in with interest and then hurried on.

“Frank, they got your parents do you understand?”

Frank did not understand. “What are you talking about? Mom and Dad died in a car accident when I was 11.”


“No Frank, that’s what we told you.” His grandfather hung his head, “What I told you. I wanted more for you than that. I wanted you to have a normal life, to protect you from…them.” His grandfather, still gripping Frank’s hand, sat bolt upright in bed. “Frank. there are ways to deny them. To protect yourself from them.”


The lights above his grandfather’s bed flickered.

Frank repeated, “Them?!”

“They got your parents, and now it seems they finally got me. They’re here.” His grandfather just looked at him with wild eyes, “Frank, can’t you feel them? They’re here. I’m sorry Frank.” Tears streamed from the corners of his grandfather’s eyes.


Frank found he couldfeel something. He felt as if something were watching him, the hairs on his neck standing straight up and goosebumps forming on his arms. A very real aura of malice radiated from, his...grandfather?

His Grandfather’s eyes rolled back in his head and his body began to convulse.

“Nurse! NURSE!” Frank bellowed as he wrenched his hand free of his grandfather’s iron grasp and ran to the hallway. “Nurse we need help in here!”


A woman in pale blue hospital scrubs looked up from her clipboard and, seeing Frank, deposited the clipboard in a wall mount and then began to jog down the hall.

“He’s having a seizure or something, something’s not right!” Frank cried to the Doctor.

She rounded the corner into the room and asked, “Mr. Malum? Mr. Malum? Can you hear me? Stay with me Mr. Malum” As she spoke, she yanked a cord from the wall which set a siren in the hall blaring, then violently pulled the sheet underneath Frank’s grandfather, moving him onto his side from his back.


An odor of ammonia filled the room and Frank realized with dismay that his grandfather, the man who had raised him from a child, had just had an episode of incontinence. Frank remembered reading somewhere that at the moment you die your muscle tone just...goes, and so then, do your bladder and bowels. As if on cue, a horrendous sulfurous stench filled the room. Frank looked away.

The Doctor who had been busy taking vitals and doing whatever it is that doctors did on patients that were terminal and had DNR orders, yelled into the hallway, “Can I get some help in here?” Faintly, Frank heard large carts being hauled out of closets, the sound of feet wanting to appear in a hurry but really who would care? Grandpa was dead. There was no curing that.

Something caught Frank’s eye. Was he though?

Movement came from under the blanket and his arm that had been buried beneath a blanket now wiggled free and lay limp over the guardrail. As Frank watched in horror, the skin near his grandfather’s inside wrist bubbled and swelled, from the size of a quarter the bubble grew to a half dollar, now 3 inches in diameter, now more skin bubbles appeared: one at his elbow one on his index finger. The original bubble split with an audible pop and more of the horrific sulfur odor filled the room as black sludge oozed out of the rent. The ooze lazily moved along his grandfather’s hand and then dropped to the floor with a wet plop. It looked like wet, brackish, swamp mud and smelled even worse. “What kind of cancer causes something like that?” Frank wondered detachedly as more and more of the skin bubbles burst. Several unseen bubbles popped causing the blanket to turn from hospital, “bleached to hell” white to a yellowish brown - darkening quickly to a dark black color.


“What the hell?” The doctor, eyes wide with terror, backed up quickly, sliding in the muck. Her backside pushed up against the tray table and sent the urinal, water pitcher, and spit bucket sprawling. She shouted, “Stay out!” to the growing crowd of people at the door as the amount of sludge reached critical mass on the bed and began to slowly plop out of the bed and on to the floor. Frank moved towards the door from the foot of the bed and noticed with horror the black sludge oozing out of his grandfather’s mouth, nostrils, and even leaking from the insides of his eyes. The doctor finally turned and broke, ill equipped to deal with this horrific sight. Several people near the door were throwing up. Of the ones not running to find something to retch into, many sat transfixed with their arms across their nose.

Shaken terribly, and not knowing what else to do, Frank fled taking one last look at his grandpa. With his last glimpse he noticed that where before the blanket had held the shape of a man’s hips, legs, torso, now the outline was misshapen - as if parts of the hips had dissolved to nothingness. As Frank’s eyes slid down the contour that was left he noticed with horror that a foot had popped off and sat on the floor, black sludge oozing from the stump created where the foot had recently been attached. And still the popping continued.

Frank turned and ran.

Frank sprinted up the steps to his apartment, entered, and slammed the door behind him. Breathing heavily he took his phone out of his pocket with shaking hands. It took him several tries but eventually he was able to dial his ex - wife, who answered on the third ring and sounded as out of breath as Frank.


“Frank! What is it?”

“Cindy, sorry, i just..I just.. I want to hear David’s voice.”

“Sorry Frank I’m on my way to the hospital now, I’ve been trying to call you where have you been?”


“I’ve been bu— Hospital? What happened? What’s wrong with my son!” Frank shouted. Fear sneaking steadily into his heart.

“Frank, David’s sick. Real sick. He woke up this morning coughing up some black mucus. The doctor’s don’t know what it is.”

Icy cold daggers plunged themselves into Frank’s stomach and his legs gave out. Slowly he slid down the door to sit on the floor.The phone fell from Frank’s fingers as his whole body went numb.


“Frank? Frank! ...Frank?” Cindy’s voice came from another planet.

As he went to grab the phone the illumination from it shone through his fingers. It had the same effect as when he was a kid and would use a flashlight to shine through his thumb so that he could see the blood running through his capillaries.

The difference was that this time there was no blood, only a black ooze pulsing just below the surface.


Under the Bed


Late one night (I don’t recall if it was stormy or not) an 11 year-old Ben decided that he would like to revel in the glory of his completed Pokedex. A goal that he had worked tirelessly towards for nearly a year. Over 250 hours of catching, trading and battling Pokemon he had managed to fill his dex and produce an unstoppable team.


Ben bounded from the bed and pulled open the top drawer of his desk, where he stored all his favorite Game Boy titles. As he riffled through the well-worn copies of Kirby and Tetris it began to dawn on him that Pokemon Red was missing.

Gone. Vanished. It wan’t still in his Game Boy Pocket. Not anywhere to be found.

When questioned, the rest of the family denied knowing anything relating to the games whereabouts. Not believing their filthy lies, Ben tore the house apart like a tornado with a vendetta.


His final stop was the room closest to his own, the bedroom of his younger bother. Jackson, like the others, had claimed no knowledge of where the game had gotten to. After searching through the toy box and his dresser drawers, Ben dropped to the ground to peer under his brother’s twin bed.

That’s when he saw it. Bright red, like carpet stained with fresh blood. Pokemon Red. Flipped upside down and pushed back as far as possible under the bed. Extending his arm at full length Ben grabbed at the game, and eventually managed to pull it from under the bed.

Hands shaking, Ben loaded the game into his Game Boy, praying that his brother had just wanted to play around in the completed game. As the title screen faded away his greatest fear was realized.


The screen read

Player: Jack

Badges: 0

Pokedex: 1

Time: 00:15


Stone Cold Asshole


I wake up from a night of partying kind of sweaty kind of itchy. I figured I better get my ass in the shower and wash up. And I’m toweling myself dry, my left arm still feels itchy, rough and dry. Maybe I didn’t notice because I was a bit hungover or the water running over me had me feeling like I was one with the Waters of Atlantis had me feeling good. But my left arm feels hella stiff. What the hell did I do last night? I think to myself trying to recall what happened.


Nothing really comes to mind maybe I should cut back next time. Anyway, I guess this gives me an excuse to start using all the damn lotion my mom keeps sending me in her care packages. Anyway, with that taken care of I got dressed. Then it hit me the rumbles in my tummy had stopped all other motivations. I have a might need for pancakes I rushed to my sad little kitchenette that came with my “modest” Efficiency when I moved in.
I set to it and quickly recalled why I hated this little stove top range. Not enough space for me to dual skillet pancakes and eggs at the same time! Well I already had my heart set on pancakes so let us do just that.

“Flour! Eggs! Water! When whipped into a slurry with my special blend of spices They create ‘THE BATTER’.”, I proclaimed!

Now to grease the heated pan. I dropped an unreasonably sized dollop of butter in the pan and well let’s just say maybe I shouldn’t have had it on high heat because in that moment I saw it happening the butter popped and began is hot oily revolt


It began to pop all over the place I was almost unscathed but my left arm got caught in the burned buttery crossfire. I feared the worst but I didn’t feel the heat of the hot oil. In fact, I felt fine. I cautiously lowered heat on the to the pan of now burned butter and wiped away the traces of my buttery mess. More importantly I gave my arm another once over it wasn’t itchy anymore but it still felt hard and dry save for the butter splatter all over it. Aw shit didn’t think I got butter on my sweater I better go wash it off and make sure I’m not secretly in shock and suffered a burn. Aw shit didn’t think I got butter on my sweater I guess I better go change completely.

I took off my favorite sweater in fact I struggled with maneuvering my left arm and my shoulder also felt stiff now. What the fuck did I do? How much did I drink? Did I get into a fight? So many question were a buzz in my mind. Maybe I should go to a med center and get it checked out to make sure it’s not broken. I can’t really feel it but It also doesn’t hurt like that tingly numb feeling I’d normally get if it fell asleep from me lounging in weird positions.

Oh, but damn I still need to eat though I’ll make a sandwich and catch the next bus down to the med center. Peanut butter jelly time! I recite the classic tune to myself as I smear crunchy peanut butter and grape jelly on the left-over pieces of a twelve-grain loaf of bread and smash them together. We shall be sustained I proclaim to only myself in my lonesome. As I’m going to town on my PB and J sandwich I hear a tune a good tune in fact it’s a tune I set My damn phone is going off! Literally the worst time to call is A when you’re trying to get intimate with someone or you have a mouth full of peanut butter or both… a man can dream dammit I will achieve my sexy PB&J all day foray eventually. I choke down the last of my sandwich and picked up my phone. it’s a call Jimbo who was at the concert last night.


“Hey Jimbo are you recovering all right?”, I asked.

“Dude! Are you doing alright!? I got some bad news you may want to sit down,” Jimbo said.

“Okay I am on my couch so I think I am good to go. Lay it on me.”, I prepared myself.


“I woke up last night from the party and Regina is stoned dude!”, He cried.

“What’s so bad about that I know Regina likes her Mary Jane man.” I replied.

“No dude she’s a goddamn statue I tried to get her out of bed but I can’t move her!” Jimbo cried.


“Are you fucking with me man?”, I asked in disbelief.

“No dude I thought I was still having my damn snake nightmare, but I’m not waking up and now I’m on the phone with you. Do you remember what happened last night? I only vaguely remember the concert and then the after party and snakes.”, Jimbo explained.

“I am going to be completely one hundred percent with you my dude. I have no fucking clue what happened last night and I honestly didn’t remember we went to a concert l until you told me just now.”, I said.


“Are you serious you don’t remember that you pissed yourself in a snake pit?!” Jimbo wondered.

“No and I deny that it ever happened. Wait is that why I woke up in pants I don’t own?” I replied.

“Dude I swear to god I can’t stand you sometimes. What the fuck do I do my sister is a statue and besides the panic and this shitty situation I feel fine a bit of a panic or anxiety attack but I feel fine and I look fine so what the fuck did she do that I didn’t.”, Jimbo fumed.


“Did she pee in the snake pit too?”, I asked.


“Whoa man no need for name calling. Also, not to derail everything that’s super crazy but who did we see last night. Because I can’t remember anything.”, I asked.


“I am almost so fucking done with you. You bought the tickets and invited us to go see Medusa’s Incarnate, you know the band you have like 3 albums of and even a vinyl which you have no means of playing. Which I only remember because you bring it up anytime we talk about music.”, Jimbo stated angrily.

“Ah yes Medusa’s Incarnate I like that band it’s like a mix of Heavy Metal and Rock It’s Heavy Rock kind of like Regina right now from what you told me.”, I recalled.

“This is no time for shitty jokes dude. Regina is a fucking statue for no damn reason.”, Jimbo yelled.


“Wait did you try a Gold needle?” I asked.

“What are you talking about man?” Jimbo said in a confused manner.

“It should cure petrification man trust me it works in the videogame.” I explained.


“I’m fucking done with you man!” Jimbo hung up the phone.

Oh, man maybe I went too far and I didn’t tell him about my arm. In fact, I still can’t feel my arm. I rolled up my sleeve and well I’ll be damned. I’m going stone cold grey. I can still move the hand but I think my arm is fucked. The hardness is almost in my shoulder as well. Well I always wanted to die in a cool way. Becoming a Statue wasn’t on my list but it certainly is different. I’ll just put up a post on social media letting everyone know I am going to become a statue.

Yeah that should do it. “LOL later y’all going to become a Stone Mason #chiseled #Stoned #RockHard” I wonder if I should pose when it ends. Maybe I will be the inspiration for some new Vaporwave album art. I wonder if I will get to be in a museum. I can’t imagine they aren’t starved for new stone statues. Oh, shit maybe I should like to make a plaque and credit myself. I have neither the tools or no how to make a plaque though. I have an alternative though first I will write a letter about how much work I put into it. Then be praised for the rest of my existence. Yeah, I will put it in an envelope and tie it. Or maybe when I pose of for my final moments I will hold it in my hand.


I feel my neck beginning to stiffen up. Oh, shit if it gets to my head first I may not have as much time as I thought. Well let’s get naked and leave this door unlocked. I am ready to succumb to my rock-hard future. I slowly feel my body begin to harden I think about what could have possible caused this. Oh well I am still drawing a blank. This is at least a peaceful way to die. Just a constant onset stiffening of the body good thing I unlocked the door and wrote that letter when I did. I can’t feel or move legs any more. My right arm is the only thing left with feeling.

Better prepare for my final move. With my right arm across my face I manage to pull off my final DAB! It is complete or at least I think it is. I am waiting to die still I don’t feel anything anymore no temperature, no nerves, no skin irritation, but why? Oh, my fuck am I gonna be a living statue. I wasn’t ready for this! I thought I was just gonna be gone when all was said and done. If I knew I was gonna be conscious for this shit I wouldn’t have Dabbed. Shit’s not gonna be relevant in the years to come and I am gonna have to live with people making fun of me for it and I can’t do anything about now.

What’s that noise? My phone alarm is going off. Can’t do anything about that though. I hope someone comes to visit me soon. I made sure to leave the door unlocked right. I am not sure anymore. I don’t hear the alarm anymore. Why can I still hear? Is it because I am a statue with ears? I can’t feel or see but luckily, I don’t think I can get hungry. I have been thinking out about things lately since it’s all I can do now. I think I know where I fucked up now. The night of the concert and the after party.


I think I know what I did now. I think I had an encounter with an honest to goodness Medusa or a gorgon or something else that was supposedly able to petrify. But it was at an after party for Medusa’s Incarnate. So, the snake pit makes sense. Honestly, I don’t remember how I got there or how I got in that snake pit or pissed myself. I am sure though It was probably an alcohol related though. I hope I didn’t piss off any of the band members. I always had a feeling something was off about Lexi the lead Vocalist. Her hair was always weird looking maybe it was snakes the whole time. Maybe she looked at me too hard making a fool of myself when I was super drunk. I may have done something dumb to piss them off too.

Oh well I guess I am screwed this is my life now. I am not sure how much time has passed. My alarm has gone off a few times. I think my phone died it’s been at least 4 days. Since no one can call hopefully someone can visit soon to discover me. I would really like a visitor. Or just someone to know. I wonder if Regina is in the same boat as me. That must suck she was in bed at least she may still be clothed. Unlike my dumbass that went for a naked dab. Well at least Jimbo is there for her.

God, I hope he’s doing all right even though I wasn’t the best friend. That last call got derailed by me being me. That’s kind of a shitty move on my part too. Seriously though this fucking suck I hope the building gets knocked down and I get shattered. I just kind of want this to end. I never thought being trapped with your own thoughts would be a bad thing. I also think my hearing is going so. I hope my mind goes soon after.


Post notes:

Sorry I have not done this in a long time this story was all over the place. But yeah don’t fuck with a band that uses mythos as a name no telling how that’s gonna play out or if they are gods or immortals in disguise. This one came from a book idea I have been wanting to do for a while now like an anthology of things made of like loosely mythological stories or like an odd afterword to some stories. Like this one was about a fan of a band that had an actual gorgon in it. He pissed her off at the party when he was drunk and although I don’t say what got him stoned or Regina for that matter he fucked up and was disrespectful so now he a statue forever and he didn’t even get to die he’s got to suffer until he’s broken.
Moral of the story: Don’t be a hole of ass. Alcohol isn’t an excuse either.


One Thousand, Three Hundred and Thirty-Two

Papito Quinn

Monday, 30th of October, 2017. It’s been 3 years, 7 months, and 22 days. I shouldn’t be alive. I was traveling in Asia; taking a year off after graduating college. I enjoyed Malaysia well enough, but my next stop would have been Vietnam. The plane ticket said that boarding starts at midnight. But I was still tired from the night before. I fell asleep. As a heavy sleeper, no amount of PA announcements were going to wake me up.


I was beating myself up about it when I woke up, that was until I saw the news. The plane never made it to Vietnam. In fact, it never made it anywhere, it vanished. Most people accepted the idea that something went wrong and it crashed in the ocean. I remember watching CNN and the anchor Don Lemon was speculating about whether or not it the plane could have flown into a blackhole. “I wonder what the IQ requirement for working at CNN is.” I remember thinking.

It’s been almost 4 years and I can’t get over it. I manage to hide it well enough. But every morning I do this to myself. I open my eyes and my thoughts go back to that day. Enough, get up, go to work. It’s just another day. You gotta get in early today.

I’m walking in the city, passed municipality buildings, and I check my watch. It’s 07:27 when I hear a loud THWACK! Screams filled the air as people witnessed what looked like a splattered bag of flesh and blood that used to be a human being. They must have jumped from one of the buildings. Upon closer inspection we could see a hat and a suit jacket. This person appears to have been wearing a pilot’s uniform. A suicidal pilot in full attire in the middle of the ci- Someone else just jumped, but this time they landed on a man, killing him. Then another body landed on a parked car. People look up and see the empty rooftops, and a sky full of dots. The dots grew bigger and bigger until we could see that they were people.


From a clear blue sky, people were falling like raindrops. Some weren’t moving, some were flailing, all were dying. A cacophony of screams was all anyone could hear. Cars and people alike were being crushed by impacting bodies, flagpoles were turned into pikes, as if Vlad the impaler was alive and well. The once metallic silver giving way to a thick crimson.

I was petrified as a body fell onto the car in front me. Warm blood splashed my face. What I saw when I looked at his head resting on the hood of the car rocked me to my core. If I had a gun on me, I would have eaten it. Through the blood and broken bone I could still make out the face.

It was me.

I was staring my dead self in the face until another body came down on it, crushing it. I feel a hand grab me from behind and pull me into a nearby building. Next thing I know I’m sitting on the floor and woman is screaming at me: “What the hell were you doing just standing there?!” I didn’t answer. There were no answers. Nothing about what’s happening is possible. Regardless, the impossible continued to happen for another minute. After that minute, the streets were red, sticky, and smelled like copper.


The following investigation found that most of the 200+ bodies were unidentifiable. But the few that could be, were identified as passengers from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the same flight I was supposed to be on. Since the body I saw couldn’t be identified, I wasn’t declared dead. I never told anyone about it, even the woman who saved my life who I ended up marrying. I didn’t want to join the circus of conspiracy theorist and religious doomsayers that were let loose afterwards.

A memorial was set up in both Kuala Lumpur and in my city. There were pictures of the entire crew and passengers. One day after work I mustered up the courage to go see it. The city certainly put a lot of effort into it. A scaled down, but still pretty big, replica of the plane, with all the pictures encased in glass and placed in a circle around the plane. I start walking around looking for a picture of myself, I don’t see one. But my eye does land on a picture just as my phone rings and my heart skips a beat. The ringtone of Sir Mix-a-lot’s “Baby Got Back” indicates that it’s the wife calling.

Why am I looking at a picture of her?


Papito Quinn


Several years ago, pokemon trainer Ash Ketchum released his beloved butterfree. The butterfree had fell in love with a shiny pink butterfree. It was the right thing to do. Or so he thought. Some time after the birth of their son caterpie. Butterfree began to doubt his wife’s loyalty. Caterpie was a shiny type, but was neither purple, nor pink, he was yellow.


One day while returning home after a long day of foraging for food and using “confusion” on unsuspecting horror novel writers, he spotted his beloved flying with a different male butterfree... A yellow butterfree. Butterfree’s mind had snapped at that moment. Once pink butterfree had gotten home, butterfree was there waiting for her, along with a little present.

“Hello, honey. I have a surprise for you. Our little caterpie is evolving so fast.” Pink butterfree knew that this was impossibly quick. In reality, butterfree had completely wrapped caterpie in string shot and suffocated him. Just as pink butterfree was about to scream, the sleep powder took effect.

She woke up several hours later string shot to the ceiling. Butterfree started hitting her with gust. He continued throughout her screaming. Reveling in it he yelled out what he had suspected and what he saw. Finally he induced toxic into her for a slow and painful death.


Pink butterfree could barely speak, but used every ounce of strength to explain that the yellow butterfree was her brother and shiny pokemon are always born different colors from their parents. Butterfree was shocked. It was too late, the toxic was too developed at this point, pink butterfree spat up blood and vomit as she died. Butterfree was devastated.

This is all Ketchums fault, he rationalized. If he had been a more assertive trainer, he never would have let him leave. It only took butterfree and his physic abilities days to track ash down to Alola. It was time to pay him a visit.




You awake from a slumber you do not remember falling into. You wipe the crust from your eyes and sit up on your bed. The ever familiar feeling of déjà vu begins to set in as you gaze around the room, your room. A dreary grey color blankets everything in the room aside from a circular blue rug in the middle of the room. A solitary window resides above above the headrest of your bed although a heavy curtain prevents any sunlight from entering. The only light in the room emanates from a small lamp atop a desk on the wall opposite your bed.


You lay back down on the bed, not quite ready for the day ahead. Your eyes slowly close and you drift off into something resembling sleep.

You awake again, unsure of how much time has passed. A moment passes, and you realize you aren’t in your bed. Quickly scanning your surroundings you notice that you are standing in the center of the little blue rug. Something is wrong.

What starts as a subtle feeling of pressure around your legs rapidly begins to increase. Lowering your gaze brings you onto a horrific sight. Jagged, spindly hands have emerged from the floor and latched onto your legs. You attempt to pull yourself free, but the pressure only increases. More of the hands begin to rise and grab onto your body. Hips, hands, shoulders, they continue to climb up and up. In a matter of moments only your head is free from their crushing grip, your body aches and threatens to collapse under the immense pressure, yet the hands support you just enough to keep upright.


As you stand helplessly you see more hands rising. They stop their ascent once level with your face. Before you can so much as blink they’re on you. Everything goes dark and you struggle for breath under the weight on your face. You attempt to fight back, but the hands’ grip is unbreakable. You keep trying, but it is not enough. Eventually you begin to succumb to the monumental pressure across your entire body and all feeling ceases.

Once again, you awake. This time you’re laying on the floor, on the rug. Taking a rapid look around the room you see nothing. There is nothing here. You are alone.


Eye Surgery


A flock of rare birds nestled in a tree just outside of Alistair’s field of vision Kelly pointed them out. Once again, he cursed his bad genes. Due to the nature of glasses, his peripheral vision was lacking. If he had been alone, he would have missed his favorite sight. He remembered an ad that he had seen yesterday for a cheap LASIK Center. He remembered it was Phisher and Macey. He vowed to look up their number after this hike.
Hours passed by and at last the trek was over. He was muddy, sweaty, and tired. But he remembered his promise to himself. He looked up the name from the commercial and quickly found the number. A mere half hour later, he hung up the phone with an appointment for the next day.
He spent the rest of his evening on showering, food, and rest. Barely exchanged any words with his parents that he still lived with. Didn’t contact his girlfriend despite her contacting him. In short, he failed to tell anyone about his appointment because he didn’t like sharing things with anyone. It never occurred to him that his silent ways would put him at risk for something bad to happen.
He arrived at his appointment alone. They had told him over the phone that it would be a short verbal consult and exam. No need to have anyone else drive him though. There wouldn’t be any dilation. He was a little late and the receptionist chastised him before handing him a stack of forms. It irked him when people pointed out his flaws; however, he remembered why he was here and responded with fake politeness while grabbing the forms. Inwardly scowling, he began his tedious task. The questions got more and more intrusive, which only further soured his mood. But he kept answering. The promise of a good deal too tempting to pass up. At last, he finished. The receptionist took the forms and bade him to wait quietly.He passed the time by reading a forestry textbook until he heard his name called. He lead into a tiny room and told to put on a plastic gown. He wondered why when it was only his eyes that would be operated on but not enough to ask. An examination of his entire body followed. When the doctor had her hand cupped on his balls and he was coughing, there was a sharp rap on the door. A young woman barged in telling the doctor that he had to take a call. The doctor stopped and swept swiftly passed her. She looked at Alistair with an embarrassed blush. Then she stammered out a quick apology and compliment. She then left quickly leaving him feeling flustered and aroused. Perhaps that combined with his stinginess explained why he said yes with no questions asked, when the doctor told him that an appointment had been canceled for the next hour and wondered if he wanted to take it for an even greater reduction in cost. He also didn’t question it when he was told he would be under full anesthesia. It never occurred to him that that was probably unnecessary. Or to remember that they had never demanded his ID or financial information. He simply went along with the flow, never realizing where it would lead.
He laid down on the surgical table. Counted backwards. His last words were thirty-three, thirty-two, thirty-one, and thirty. The last was ironic considering that he had been anxious for months about turning thirty but his birthday would never come.The doctors were real doctors just without any scruples. While he was under, a nurse used his finger to unlock his phone. She sent his girlfriend an all too believable break-up Facebook message then texted his parents that he was going camping with a friend for a week. The forms and quick snooping through his phone made it obvious that no one would suspect anything for awhile. They then harvested his organs. His heart was still beating when they plucked it from his chest. His body was dumped in some remote woods. They put some bird food on top to encourage birds to peck at it. A hiker found it three weeks later. The animals had torn it up so much that the police chalked it up to an accidental death. None of his very few friends mentioned a camping trip at his funeral. It was assumed that he went off with a new woman that he met while he was browsing Bumble despite being in a relationship. Therefore, no one doubted the official death report and no one told his (ex)girlfriend that he was dead. She didn’t find out until four months later after she had already met someone much more loving. His friends replaced him with other work friends. The only ones that were truly devastated were his parents. They missed his sulky presence and had to move up north to be with other family. The doctors went on to kill dozens more miserly patients before they were caught. Even after their trial, no one connected Alistair’s death to them. They had gotten away with murdering the perfect victim.


I Only Like Real Stories

Mind if I Slytherin?

I only like real stories. This is something that happened to me around 2005.

I was in middle school and fostering a deep interest in the supernatural/occult. Monsters, possessions, hauntings, aliens, cursed items - you name it, I was into it.


Me and my mom had just moved to southern Indiana and, being the nerds we were, immediately set out to find our local library and register for cards. The building was this drab, brown place with weirdly dim lighting for a place you’re supposed to read in. It also smelled funny, like it was a touch moldy.

But, to my tiny delight (and my mother’s exasperation), it had a pretty sizable occult section - while most libraries will have maybe a shelf or two, this was an entire aisle. I checked out two, one of them about the story of the possession that inspired “The Exorcist”. It was literally called “Possessed”.

I get checked out, skip home, and my mom tells me that she’s going out to pick up some things for dinner, be back in a few. Great - that just gives me some solo reading time. I flop out on the bed, get my new book, and crack it open.


Now, some context. It’s the middle of the afternoon on a bright, sunny day. Most people are still at work, and all the kids are either on the playground blocks away or elsewhere. We’d just moved in, so there wasn’t even furniture out. We didn’t own a pet.

Which is why I found it deeply concerning that, the exact moment I opened the book to a random chapter, I hear a growl. A deep, gutteral growling that sends vibrations through my chest and most certainly did not come from a human. And, without a trace of doubt, it came from someplace right behind my ear.

Now again, I’d been into the occult for years by then. I know the beginnings of a horror movie when I fucking see one. So I immediately bolted out of bed, frisbee that bitch into the guest room across the hall, slammed the door, and said a prayer. I told my mom what happened when she got back - she was generally a skeptic and I guess I wanted her to explain away what I’d heard for me. Instead she just gave me a “didn’t I tell ya? cause I told ya” look and went to go start dinner.


That wasn’t the only spookiness that happened in that apartment, but it was far and away the scariest.

Dead 3DS

Zee The Baka

You wake up one morning. It’s a day like any other, except it’s Tuesday and Tuesday sucks. Only one thing cheers you up, your 3DS and Pokemon. You get to the bus before the sun even rises, sit down uncomfortably, and get ready to play.


But, to your horror, your 3DS is dead.



It’s been a long day of work, a very shitty day of work. You’ve left work late, and dealt with a bad commute. The best part of the day is coming home to a nice warm meal, and greeted by your SO in your suburban home.


You’re walking up to your house but notice all the lights are off. Odd but okay, maybe no one is in the living room.

You’ve open the door, it’s eerie silent and no light in the kitchen. Creepy but okay, maybe your SO is upstairs.

You called out to your SO, no answer. Unusual but okay, maybe they called in early for the night.


You’ve stumble your way in the dark through the kitchen and open the fridge. There was nothing left for you! In panic, you’ve turned around, turned on the light!

No food on the table either?!

You’ve turned back to the fridge, and saw a note.

“Gone to sister in hurry, broke up with her bf. Please order delivery. xoxo”

Not a bad idea, pizza it is! You speed dial your favorite pizzeria.

One ring. brrrrrrrrrnnnng

Two rings. brrrrrnnnngg

Three rings. brrnnnngggg

and on the seventh ring, brnnnnnngg, you thought to yourself “What time is it?”

You looked up, it’s 9:37pm, and your favorite pizzeria is already closed.

So is your favorite chinese food place.

Tonight, you’re going to bed hungry


Obligatory Donald Trump Joke


Donald Trump is our president.


Papa Bois


Once upon a time, a young man and some friends left a forest where they had been hunting and started on their way home. It was late. About 2am and the men, previously boisterous and in good spirits, were now subdued and spoke infrequently. Hunting had not been good that night. The small forest creatures and large had mostly evaded them and they had finally decided to quit after a disappointing haul of two opossums to be shared between the four.


The men lived in a remote area, before the introduction of street lights and so relied on kerosene lamps which they held carefully as they made their way along the dirt roads to their village. As they made their way closer to the houses, the men could see a few lights in the distance dotting the dark night. The young man knew that his father was waiting up for him and he strained his eyes to see his father’s form sitting in his usual spot on the porch of their elevated house when the lights from the two kerosene lamps he and his friends were carrying flickered and died.

The lamps were relit and the men continued on their way. No one thought anything of the lights going out on a still night, they were just eager to reach their destination. As they walked a few more steps, the young man became aware that someone seemed to be walking beside him but a little behind and he was alarmed because his friends were on the other side of him and he could see them clearly. He turned to throw light on the person beside him, exclaiming to alert his friends to another, when once more, the flames went out on their lamps.

The young man thought he heard a chuckle.

Confusion reigned and the lamps were hastily relit.

“Someone is out here, man,” the young man said with a note of worry in his voice, “you guys heard that?”


No one admitted that they had but they hastened their steps and made their way home, walking closer together than before, looking over their shoulders now and then. The young man thought of his father waiting for him and he felt better knowing that he would be home soon.

The young men walked a little further, the lights of their distant homes becoming a little clearer when they all heard a hollow cough that came from none of them and the flames of their kerosene lamps were once more extinguished.

They ran.

The young man got to his house at last and his father was sitting there with a small lamp, dimly lit, waiting for him.


“Why did you guys keep outing the lamps?” the father asked the son.

“We didn’t. They kept going out.”

The young man began to feel like a fool and hesitated to continue the tale.

“Who was the other guy with you all tonight? The short fella with the hat? He turned back when you were closer to home.”


The young man felt the blood draw from his face. The father noticed in the dim light and laughed.

“Seems like Papa Bois* kept you boys company a little bit tonight. Did you catch anything?”

Over 40 years later, my uncle feels his pores raise whenever he tells that tale as do ours when we hear it. As mine are now.


- Swan

*Papa Bois in Trinidadian folklore is a French patois word for “father wood” or “father of the forest.” Often called the “keeper of the forest,” he is thought of as the protector of the forests and their flora and fauna. His appearance is thought to be that of a short, old man of African descent. It is believed that if one meets Papa Bois, one must be polite and refrain from staring at his hooves, and say a polite greeting to him. For example, “Bon jour, vieux Papa” meaning, “Good day, old father.” He is usually represented as a huge Manicou (Opossum). Hunters of the forest are always afraid of him because of his appearing and disappearing trick.


The Man Who Read His Own Brain

C.R. Ghostcat

“How did I get stuck in this predicament?” I read from the worn pages within the leatherbound book. “Was it because of the tattooed man? How do I know he was even real?”


As I am thinking these words they appear before my eyes. In order to fix this I will have to reflect back “Back on when this first started.” The words are already etched in, finishing my very thoughts.

Yes. Back when this all begin. I dare not flip back and begin reading older entries, as that may get me stuck forever in a loop. So I begin to remember the best that I can. A true chicken and egg situation” I think, before realizing that made it all the worse. I now hear the squacks and pecks in the background. Focus. Focus on how it started. As I begin to remember, the book fills in.

“It was October 21t. I was at a local magic show. No, it was a Denny’s resteraunt open mic thing and the magician went on to do a routine. Mainly card tricks. Nothing amazing. But afterwards he came over to my table. He was covered in tattoos.” Already I could see him lingering over me, watching me as I recounted the events.


“I remember being confused when he first sat down, and even more surprised by his deep voice.”

I can hear him repeating what he said then in my ear, “Picture something in your mind and I will make it appear.” The sound of his voice just now sends shivers down my spine.

“He told me to reach into my backpack, and sure enough, a 5 inch marble bull statute was in there. I have probably 15 of these now. I should have stopped then, but no. I had to ask ‘How’d you do that?’...That was all it took. Then he told me to picture solving that question. That’s how I ended up with this damn book. This book has the answer in it, I know that. But it keeps going forward.”


Frustrated, I slam the book shut, knowing it is still hammering out every thought. I glance around the room, filled with flapjacks and marble statutes and now eggs and chickens. Even other copies of the book litter the floor. And he is there too, staring blankly, waiting for me to think up what’s next.

I look back down at a small chick pecking at my sofa. It looks like me. I open back up the book and read what was just inscribed. “A chicken representational of you appears.” Yep. Chicken and egg. Me and the tattoo magician from Dennys.

When the book first appeared I remember glancing through its early pages. Seeing my thoughts from birth, reading my insecurities in my teens. The sheer amount of information stored within its bindings. But I have yet to look back on any pages since October 21st. Should I? Should I read my thoughts for since last night? I glance around the room. Even more books are piling up. This is ridiculous, I think to myself, flipping back through to find the October 21st entry.


“How did I get stuck in this predicament?” I read from the worn pages within the leatherbound book. “Was it because of the tattooed man? How do I know he was even real?”

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