My Daughter Learned to Count
My daughter woke me around 11:50 last night. My wife and I had picked her up from her friend Sally’s birthday party, brought her home, and put her to bed. My wife went into the bedroom to read while I fell asleep watching the Braves game.
“Daddy,” she whispered, tugging my shirt sleeve. “Guess how old I’m going to be next month.”
“I don’t know, beauty,” I said as I slipped on my glasses. “How old?”
She smiled and held up four fingers.
It is 7:30 now. My wife and I have been up with her for almost 8 hours. She still refuses to tell us where she got them.
I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, “Daddy check for monsters under my bed.” I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, “Daddy there’s somebody on my bed.”
I hate it when my brother Charlie has to go away.
I hate it when my brother Charlie has to go away.
My parents constantly try to explain to me how sick he is. That I am lucky for having a brain where all the chemicals flow properly to their destinations like undammed rivers. When I complain about how bored I am without a little brother to play with, they try to make me feel bad by pointing out that his boredom likely far surpasses mine, considering his confine to a dark room in an institution.
I always beg for them to give him one last chance. Of course, they did at first. Charlie has been back home several times, each shorter in duration than the last. Every time without fail, it all starts again. The neighbourhood cats with gouged out eyes showing up in his toy chest, my dad’s razors found dropped on the baby slide in the park across the street, mom’s vitamins replaced by bits of dishwasher tablets. My parents are hesitant now, using “last chances” sparingly. They say his disorder makes him charming, makes it easy for him to fake normalcy, and to trick the doctors who care for him into thinking he is ready for rehabilitation. That I will just have to put up with my boredom if it means staying safe from him.
I hate it when Charlie has to go away. It makes me have to pretend to be good until he is back.
My daughter won’t stop crying and screaming in the middle of the night. I visit her grave and ask her to stop, but it doesn’t help.
There was no pearly gate.
The only reason I knew I was in a cave was because I had just passed the entrance. The rock wall rose behind me with no ceiling in sight.
I knew this was it, this was what religion talked about, what man feared .. I had just entered the gate to hell.
I felt the presence of the cave as if it was a living, breathing creature. The stench of rotten flesh overwhelmed me.
Then there was the voice, it came from inside and all around.
“Who are you?”, I asked, trying to keep my composure.
“You know”, the thing answered.
I did know.
“You are the devil”, I stuttered, quickly losing my composure. “Why me? I’ve lived as good as I could”.
The silence took over the space as my words died out. It seemed like an hour went by before the response came.
“What did you expect?”
The voice was penetrating but patient.
“I don’t know .. I never believed any of this”, I uttered “Is that why I am here?”
I continued: “They say the greatest trick you ever pulled was convincing the world you don’t exist”
“No, the greatest trick I ever pulled was convincing the world that there is an alternative”
“There is no God?” I shivered.
The cave trembled with the words: “I am God”
You hear your mom calling you into the kitchen. As you are heading down the stairs you hear a whisper from the closet saying “Don’t go down there honey, I heard it too.”
He Stood Against My Window
I don’t know why I looked up, but when I did I saw him there. He stood against my window. His forehead rested against the glass, and his eyes were still and light and he smiled a lipstick-red, cartoonish grin. And he just stood there in the window. My wife was upstairs sleeping, my son was in his crib and I couldn’t move I froze and watched him looking past me through the glass.
Oh, please no. His smile never moved but he put a hand up and slid it down the glass, watching me. With matted hair and yellow skin and face through the window.
I couldn’t do anything. I just stayed there, frozen, feet still in the bushes I was pruning, looking into my home. He stood against my window.
Don’t be scared of the monsters, just look for them. Look to your left, to your right, under your bed, behind your dresser, in your closet but never look up, she hates being seen.
So I lost my phone…
Last night a friend rushed me out of the house to catch the opening act at a local bar’s music night. After a few drinks I realized my phone wasn’t in my pocket. I checked the table we were sitting at, the bar, the bathrooms, and after no luck I used my friend’s phone to call mine.
After two rings someone answered, gave out a low raspy giggle, and hung up. They didn’t answer again. I eventually gave it up as a lost cause and headed home.
I found my phone laying on my night stand, right where I left it.
After working a hard day I came home to see my girlfriend cradling our child. I didn’t know which was more frightening, seeing my dead girlfriend and stillborn child, or knowing that someone broke into my apartment to place them there.
The Black Lagoon
To celebrate their first year in university, six friends went camping in the wilderness. After driving for several hours from the nearest town, they discovered a lagoon, nestled beside a cliff ideal for diving. They set up camp in the woods nearby and spent the evening swimming in the warm, clear water. As the sun sunk below the trees, one of the friends went up to the highest point on the cliff and jumped off, while the other 5 watched. Their laughter slowly subsided as they waited for him to surface. It only took half a minute for them to dive in after their friend. Struggling and sputtering among the reeds in the lagoon, they searched hopelessly for him. Finally they disentangled themselves and came up, but they never saw their friend again. Heartbroken they returned to the city and passed a strange and lonely year in which their only solace was the knowledge that they would return to the lagoon to honor the anniversary of their friend’s death.
A year passed and they returned to the lagoon as a memorial, but as they approached they saw their friend standing there, head bowed. Excitedly they called to him and began running towards him, but he didn’t turn. As they got closer they called him more desperately, but still to no avail. With joy they ran towards him, but stopped dead when they saw not one but five crosses on the waterside.
The last thing I saw was my alarm clock flashing 12:07 before she pushed her long rotting nails through my chest, her other hand muffling my screams.
I sat bolt upright, relieved it was only a dream, but as I saw my alarm clock read 12:06, I heard my closet door creak open.
“The Moores are having a baby.”
I glanced up from the table, surprised. “They got the okay?”
My husband nodded. “The paperwork came in today, so I heard.” He lowered his eyes in sorrow. “Poor Joanna.”
“She’s only 53,” I breathed.
A bead of sweat dripped down my brow, landing on the cool, concrete floor of the bunker. I tried to remind myself to be thankful for this place, this concrete tomb, but it grew more difficult each day. Perpetuum Technologies, the company that sprung up just in time for the largest nuclear war the world had ever seen, had designed the vault to sustain one thousand people for as long as it took the surface to be inhabitable again.
Exactly one thousand people.
Poor Joanna indeed.
A quiet cabin deep in the woods
My wife was shaking me quietly. I looked around the cabin. The girls must have gone to bed. The fire had burned down to embers. My glass of scotch was still in my hand.
“Something is tapping on the porch.” Then I heard it too. I grabbed my ax and lit the lantern. I opened the door expecting a raccoon or a skunk, but instead found a boy of about 10 years old.
He stared at me petrified for a moment, then bolted down the path through the woods. I gave chase. He was losing me but I heard him tumble to the ground. I leapt on top of him in a rage.
“Why were you knocking on my porch?” I screamed. “My uncles told me to.” He stammered.
I was no longer angry, but confused. “But why?” I asked. “To get you out of the cabin.”
Any day now, she’ll say her first words.
My wife and I have been playfully betting on what she’ll say first - ‘Mama’ or ‘Daddy.’ I can hear my wife crooning over and over while she feeds her ‘Mama’s little girl! Mama loves you so much!’ Sometimes, she’s not even subtle about it - ‘Say ‘mama!’ Come on! ‘Mama!”
I don’t mind it though. I still believe I’ll win. When we first brought her home, she would scream and cry and nothing my wife would say could calm her down, but I knew just how to hold her to help her fall asleep. Our daughter was a daddy’s girl - my wife needed all the handicaps she could get.
I sit our daughter in her chair and my wife and I begin babbling like chickens - ‘Mama!’ ‘Daddy!’ ‘Say Mama!’ ‘Who’s daddy’s baby?’
I pull the gag from our little girl’s mouth.
“P-please… what do you want from me? Please let me go…”
My wife’s smile falls from her face. With a heavy heart, I put the gag back in as the girl starts to scream. I take her back to the room, locking her in and shutting the lights out. When I return, I find my wife crying.
“It’s ok, honey,” I tell her, “The next one will be better. I promise.”
He had been given the watch on his tenth birthday. It was an ordinary grey plastic wristwatch in every respect except for the fact that it was counting down. “That is all of the time you have left in the world, son. Use it wisely.” And indeed he did. As the watch ticked away, the boy, now a man, lived life to the fullest. He climbed mountains and swam oceans. He talked and laughed and lived and loved. The man was never afraid, for he knew exactly how much time he had left.
Eventually, the watch began its final countdown. The old man stood looking over everything he had done, everything he had built. 5. He shook hands with his old business partner, the man who had long been his friend and confidant. 4. His dog came and licked his hand, earning a pat on the head for its companionship. 3. He hugged his son, knowing that he had been a good father. 2. He kissed his wife on the forehead one last time. 1. The old man smiled and closed his eyes.
Then, nothing happened. The watch beeped once and turned off. The man stood standing there, very much alive. You would think that in that moment he would have been overjoyed. Instead, for the first time in his life, the man was scared.
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