Written at Henry’s.

Right now, I am in my room at Henry’s house. My parents aren’t talking with me ever since I quit my job and moved in with him. I wish I could describe how Henry’s face lit up when I said I would move in with him and spend the rest of my life with him.

The living’s okay here. I have a nice bedroom in the middle of the house, cleverly disguised so that it looks like a closet when seen from Henry’s bedroom. There aren’t any windows here either. Just a waterbed, a small dresser and a nightstand.

Every day it’s the same routine. I get up between 10am and 1pm each morning and turn on the TV Henry put in my room. I stay in bed and watch TV until 3pm, when Henry comes home. Henry undresses and climbs into bed with me and we watch TV some more until 5pm. Then I get out of bed, get dressed and go watch TV in the living room while Henry cooks dinner.

Now here comes the part where I pay the rent. I strip down to my underwear and dance around the kitchen while Henry claps his hands and begs for more. He has me climbing the counters and appliances like, as Henry describes it, “a pretty monkey.” After the dance is over, Henry rewards me with a meal. After dinner, I get dressed and go to my room and watch TV. Sometimes Henry checks out a movie on his way home and he watches it with me.

That’s all I can do anymore. I don’t have a car or a bike since Henry made me sell them. In fact, he had me sell my bed, my furniture and everything in my apartment. I moved out of my apartment and into Henry’s house, much to the dismay of my parents. In fact, they won’t even talk to me anymore. Fine. Jealous bastards.

But they do have a point. Living with Henry is scary. I don’t want him reading this, but sometimes Henry acts like he’s about to die sometimes. Sometimes he hyperventilates and sometimes he gags unexpectedly.

But Henry tries to change my mind with his feats of strength. He runs around the house and lifts one end of the sofa to prove how strong he is. But Henry has yet to explain why he occasionally walks around the house at 3am, carrying a gun and talking loudly to himself. Occasionally he comes in my room in the middle of the night to scream and fire his gun and chase something around my room, knocking over furniture and throwing my things around the room.

Still other incidents saw Henry going into the bathroom and making loud, gagging noises. Sometimes he screams. These incidents have shaken me so much that I have not been able to sleep for several nights.

Yet, I cannot leave Henry’s house. I have no car, no wallet and no money. Henry leaves me with nothing to wear but a pair of shorts, a T-shirt and some underpants. Before he leaves for work, he locks me in my room. I feel like a prisoner. There is no sense escaping from Henry. He has the house locked and alarmed. I am not allowed to use the phone to call for help. Henry is a monster.

Oh, SHIT!

Henry’s home!

I just heard the front door slam shut. Henry always does that to wake me up. Oh, there he goes.

“Hello, pretty boy!” Henry just screamed. “Is door unlock after I taked da shit. Henry going da takeda shit.”

Great, When Henry says that, he will be in the bathroom for the next three hours. Hell, he’s even got a TV and telephone in there.

Oh great. I just heard Henry screaming. He’s wheezing, coughing and gagging. That really scares me. Is Henry okay?

Now what? I just heard a door slam open. Henry done so soon? Oh – I forgot. He’s checking for toilet paper, which he’s been out of for 25 years. Now he’s going to use his hands. Disgusting, and he’s going to smell like shit for the rest of the evening.

YIPES! Now I hear the deadbolt on my door unlock. Henry’s coming! Yes, he’s opening the door right now and he’s coming in, stark naked and smelling like shit. I hate it when he’s in the mood to come in naked. I better stop writing this before he

Things that make noise in the night.

I can’t believe I’m doing this.

Yet I must.

I can’t sleep.

There I was, sitting at my computer at what, 3 o’clock in the morning, going on YouTube for some video with some advice addressing my predicament.

Ah, there it is.

I clicked the screen to start the video.

Welcome. If you’re watching this video, chances are you can’t sleep due to strange noises coming from around your house.

Go on.

It happens to all of us. But don’t worry, I’ll help you pinpoint the source of the noises.

Yes.

Chances are you have some household appliances running, such as the dishwasher in your kitchen or the icemaker in your freezer. And let’s not forget that washing machine and dryer.

None of the above.

Maybe it’s the ceiling fan in the bedroom or your computer nearby, maybe it’s the radio you forgot to shut off, or maybe it’s your next door neighbor’s appliances going haywire.

This is going nowhere fast.

But if the noise sounds like it’s nearby, then nine times out of ten it’s definitely the coffin in your closet.

That’s it.

I know it’s hard losing your loved ones but c’mon, you don’t need to stow away their remains in the closet.

Really?

That’s the source of the noises, the steady shifting of dehydrated internal organs accompanied by postmortem flatulence.

I should have known.

Now that we’ve found the source of the noises, let me give you some advice. First off, you have got to get rid of the coffin. As hard as it may sound, you need to let your loved ones go. Because if you don’t, your bedroom will start stinking real bad and trust me, your neighbors will take notice and suspect foul play. Then what? Your reputation as a kindly neighbor will be damaged beyond repair and your neighbors will never see you the same way again.

You are so right.

Now let’s get that coffin out of there. In a few seconds my boys will be at your door to give you a hand.

A few seconds later, the sound of knocking at my front door sent me jumping from my seat.

How did they know?

Oh wait, real time logging and IP address tracking to my exact geographical location.

Some privacy policy.

I answered the door and three hulking men greeted me, ready to help. Within minutes we loaded the coffin on their trailer and were on our way back to the cemetery. It wasn’t that much longer before the coffin was reburied. I thanked the men and they gave me sympathetic pats on the back as if to understand my situation.

I drove home, relieved that this was over.

At last I could get some sleep.

I crawled into bed and was just about to fall asleep when I heard it again.

From the closet.

A postmortem fart.

The nightmare.

“Daaaaah!”

I sat up in bed with a start, my slumber rudely interrupted by a most frightening dream.

“What’s wrong?” my wife asked, now awake.

“I just dreamt you were buried alive,” I sighed, still regaining my senses while trying to calm myself down.

My wife laughed softly before she replied, “Thank God it was only a dream.”

“Yeah,” I sighed again, “I gotta try not to have that dream again.”

Then I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths before finally feeling my body slowly return to its relaxed state.

Suddenly my calm was shattered by a frightening thought.

My wife’s funeral was this morning.

Vagrant busters.

I quietly made my way across the attic towards the light behind the door. Many years ago my father slept in the small bedroom behind that door, but now it seemed that anyone could sleep there now, including vagrants. Just because my dearly departed grandparents’ old house stood vacant and unsold for years didn’t mean anyone could sleep there.

I began pounding on the door. Immediately I heard a yelp from the bedroom, but I was only getting started. I kicked the door open and began switching the light on and off in rapid succession. The fact I was completely invisible to the vagrant amplified the poltergeist effect tenfold, effectively intensifying the terror inflicted on the terrified vagrant. He fled the bedroom and the rest of the attic, hopefully never to return.

One down, who knows how many to go.

Time to check the basement. I made sure the attic windows were locked before going downstairs to the kitchen which had a nearby door leading to the basement below. Already I had a feeling there was going to be several more vagrants to deal with down there.

I was right. There were three of them sleeping in the basement. Angered at this sight, I slowly tiptoed down the stairs and snuck past the sleeping vagrants as I walked to the small closet in the corner that doubled as a workshop. Inside, on a coat rack next to the door, hung my grandfather’s winter jacket and hat, still there, decades after his passing. I stepped into the workshop and closed the door as I put on the jacket and hat.

“Yaaaaaah!” I screamed as I kicked the workshop door open and ran out into the basement towards the terrified vagrants. Of course, I was invisible so only the jacket and hat were seen flying through the air. The vagrants fled the basement and I slammed the door shut behind them and this time made sure it was secured and locked. Hopefully that’s the last time I’ll have to deal with this problem.

Satisfied, I opened my eyes to be greeted by the moon shining through my cabin window. Maybe, just maybe, I can now enjoy my cruise without any further worries.

Rack diving in Aisle 13.

“This is what I was talking about,” Jeff said as he pointed at the shelf in question. “It’s a really tight squeeze but there’s a huge pile of boxes back there that need to go back on the shelf if our inventory numbers are to be accurate this year.”

I nodded, silently enthusing at my chance to do some rack diving, the latest phase in helping the store prepare for inventory day. Other members of the inventory prep team were working in other aisles also to retrieve any fallen boxes from the tight space behind the shelves. And now my chance finally came.

I kneeled down on the floor and started clearing the bottom shelf in preparation for the task at hand. It did look like a tight squeeze but I recalled tighter squeezes than this during the years past when I worked this job. It did mean working nights for a month but served as a much-needed change of pace from my day job working as a parking lot attendant.

“Can you fit in there?” Jeff asked.

“Oh yeah,” I replied as I began to slide onto the shelf with ease. “This one’s OK.”

“I’ll be back to check on you in a bit,” Jeff said, “I’m going to check on the others. Just get what you can, okay?”

Just get what I can? Heck, I’ll get all the boxes back there.

I continued my slide towards the back of the shelf and already I could see the large pile of boxes that had fallen to the floor. What a mess, I thought. There was barely room for me to stand up but somehow I managed to get back on my feet and start clearing the space behind the shelf.

Then I heard what sounded like a whisper. I stopped working and listened intently. Nothing but the cheesy music playing on the store’s PA system. Before I resumed my task, I heard it again, this time loud enough for me to make out the words.

“Potato chips.”

It was a hideously raspy voice that sounded like fingers scraping across a chalkboard, maybe worse, and it sounded like it was coming from just a few feet from where I was standing. Only I couldn’t see what it was.

“POTATO CHIPS.”

This time the voice was louder and I could now see the hideously deformed creature emerge from the shadows. Its skin was deathly pale and lumpy with a few strands of hair at the top of its head. It had two small dots for eyes, mere slots for a nose and a large mouth filled with the most grotesquely misaligned teeth I had ever seen…

“POTATO CHIPS!” the creature screamed before beginning its wobbly scramble to where I was standing.

Suddenly a bag of potato chips slid into view from the bottom shelf.

“Hurry,” I could hear Jeff’s voice, “Just get what you can.”

The creature grabbed the bag and wobbled back to its hiding place. As it began devouring the potato chips, bag and all, I hurriedly put away enough boxes to at least clear a larger section of floor but it was still a mess back there.

“Okay, that’s good enough, you can come back out.”

“But there’s still a lot do to back here.”

“Please,” Jeff insisted, “the creature’s almost done eating and I don’t have any more potato chips!”

I glanced at the creature one last time and saw that it was in fact almost done with the bag. The panicky tone in Jeff’s voice suggested a very unpleasant outcome of this particular situation so I stooped down for my return trip across the shelf and back into the aisle where Jeff was standing.

“You okay?” Jeff asked.

“Yes, but what was that back there?”

“No matter,” he sighed, “let’s find you another aisle to work on.”

I walked with Jeff towards the middle of the store to aisle 26, which seemed brighter with all the lights on display. “You can do this one,” he said as he led me to the shelf bearing my next task, “I don’t think there’s anything back there but boxes.”

I hesitantly cleared the bottom shelf and proceeded to slide towards the back of the shelf where once again I saw a mess of small boxes on the floor. I started working, trying to forget about the horrific sight I had seen just moments before.

Then I heard what sounded like a whisper. I stopped working and listened intently. Nothing but the cheesy music playing on the store’s PA system. Before I resumed my task, I heard it again, this time loud enough for me to make out the words.

“Pretzels.”

The Ungone.

Ding dong.

Ron answered the front door and saw his neighbor Peter whom he hadn’t seen in decades.

“Ron, how the hell are ya?” Peter asked. “Welcome home!”

“Thank you,” Ron smiled as they shared a tight embrace. “It’s great to be back.”

“And back in your old house,” Peter grinned back.

“And back in the old neighborhood, just the way it was before my transfer to Florida.”

“Amazing how time flies,” Peter shook his head. “The golden years sure catch up to you before you know it. ”

“Thanks for reminding me,” Ron sighed. “Please come in.”

Peter stepped inside and looked around the house before taking a seat in the living room next to Ron. “Looks nice in here. Just the way it was when you lived here back in the 60’s. Where’s the wife?”

“She’s out running some errands. She’ll be home shortly.”

“Ah. So how’s the rest of the family? Kids all grown up?”

There was an uncomfortable pause in the conversation before Ron responded, “Mostly.”

“Mostly? What happened?”

“Ian passed away last year.”

Another uncomfortable pause.

“Ron, I’m so sorry,” Peter replied softly. “What happened to him?”

“Well, basically I threw him out of the house. He spent his 50 years just idling away in his room with no job, no education and no desire to move out and start living his own life. I lost my patience with him and just showed him the door.”

Peter nodded.  “Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.”

Ron nodded back. “Anyway, a month later, someone found Ian’s body in the woods. It’s sad to see a life wasted like that.”

“Ron, no one ever lives a wasted life.”

Yet another uncomfortable silence began to set in. Peter’s eyes began wandering around the living room before they focused on what looked like a family portrait hanging on the wall. Ron noticed this and spoke up, “That was taken at Disney World last month. A family reunion of sorts.”

Peter stood up and walked to the portrait for a closer look. “Nice. Ah, there’s Jeff and Sue. I still remember them when they were just kids. And now, they’re all grown up with families of their own.”

Then Peter fell silent. The silence lingered to the point where Ron began to sense something was wrong.

“Are you all right, Peter?”

“Ron, did you say Ian passed away last year?”

“Yes, I did.”

“And this picture was taken last month?”

“Yes. Why do you ask?”

Peter turned to face Ron. “Ian’s in this picture.”

What?

“Take a look at this.”

Ron stood up and joined Peter. Peter pointed a shaky finger at the person standing behind Ron in the portrait.

“Oh my God,” Ron whispered. “You’re right.”

Would you rather?

I was sitting at my desk at home paying bills while playing a game of “Would You Rather” with my smart speaker.

“Would you rather predict the future or change the past?” it asked.

“Change the past,” I replied.

“You are unique,” my smart speaker responded. “47% of people agree with you. Next question. Would you rather have a book written about you or a song written about you?”

“Song written about me.”

“I like the way you think. 53% of people agree with you. Next question. Would you rather drown in the bathtub or self-combust in the kitchen?”

I looked up at my smart speaker.

What kind of question was that?

“95% of people agree with you,” the smart speaker said without waiting for my response. “Next question. Would you rather be squeezed to death by a boa constrictor or trampled on by a herd of elephants?”

No way I’m answering this.

“Stop,” I said to my smart speaker, hoping to put an end to this typically family-friendly game.

“45% of people agree with you. Next question. Would you rather gouge out your eyes or cut off your tongue?”

“STOP!”

“76% of people agree with you. Next question. Would you rather-“

Before I could hear the next question, I unplugged my smart speaker, opened the window and threw it out on the street. Then I gasped at the sight I had just seen.

There were smart speakers flying out the windows of homes all over my neighborhood.


The ghost hunters.

Our first night. Steve and I arrived earlier this afternoon at Galilee, the abandoned retirement community rumored to be haunted by ghosts and poltergeists. We found our way into one of the apartments, which, to our surprise, was still fully furnished. We set up our gear in the bedroom which had two beds. All that was left to do was wait until dusk and watch for any signs of paranormal activity. To help us wait, we decided to take a nap.

A few hours later, it was beginning to get dark. As the sunlight faded, we could hear noises, noises of scratching, tapping and the occasional whisper. Steve and I held our breaths, hoping we weren’t spotted by the ghosts. Suddenly Steve’s bed began to swell as if it was being inflated. He tried to hang on but the mattress took on a round shape as it became so large that it began pressing up on the ceiling. Finally, the mattress exploded with a loud bang as Steve fell to the floor. He sat up in a daze, trying to figure out what has just happened.

“Bummer with the inflatable mattress, huh Steve?” I said.

After a long pause, Steve’s reply filled me with terror.

“Ian, I don’t think my mattress was inflatable.”

One unfortunate night at the bar.

It was a very rough day at work. Instead of working 8 hours, I put in 12. Countless deadlines, aggravated clients and misguided negotiations boosted my stress levels beyond tolerable levels. By the end of the day, though, everything jelled and worked themselves out to everyone’s satisfaction. But my nerves were still shot.

On the way home I stopped at a bar for a drink. The mood here was festive as a live band played its string of contemporary hits. I sat at the counter and saw dozens of bottles on the shelf along the mirrored wall behind the counter where the bartenders worked. Curiously, there were also lit candles along the bottom of the shelf.

A bartender walked up to me and placed a coaster on the counter in front of me. “What can I get you?” she smiled.

“I’d like a Bloody Mary, please.” I replied.

The bartender leaned forward and said, “I’m sorry, it’s really loud in here. What did you say you wanted?”

“Bloody Mary,” I repeated.

“One more time?”

“Bloody Mary!” I shouted.

Suddenly the candles behind the bartender began to float as bottles began to fall off the shelf. The entire bar fell silent as the lights began flickering. All eyes were focused on the mirrored wall that was now trembling and shaking to the point where it almost looked ready to break. Suddenly a ghostly woman with deathly pale skin and long black hair leapt out from the mirror with her hands trained on my throat.

As I lay on the floor weakened by the attack, I could see the bartender take a piece of chalk and draw a diagonal line over four short vertical lines on the chalkboard behind the counter.

“That’s the fifth time tonight,” she announced. “Now taking bets for number six.”