“It’s close to midnight and something evil’s lurking in the dark. Under the moonlight, you see a sight that almost stops your heart. You try to scream but terror takes the sound before you make it. You start to freeze as horror looks you right between the eyes. You’re paralyzed, ‘cause this is thriller, thriller night.” - Michael Jackson, Thriller
TABLE OF CONTENTS
One: Screams in the Night by Joseph Carr Two: The Romantic by Ting Rui Three: Sigbin by Erin Callow Four: The Berries by Rachel Newman Five: At the Gates of the Underworld by Marvin Ho Six: The Child by Bimochan Niraula Seven: We Donâ€™t Go to Ludvestrom by Alexandra Klaassen Eight: Der Schrei der Natur by Wei Shi Lai
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ONE This is an interactive story: you are the protagonist and you will be able to make choices on how you behave in the story. At certain times you may be told to write down words or pick up objects, so keep a pencil handy when you read.
1 The sun falls. In the night, the muffled sounds you hear in the distance are almost unrecognizable. Perhaps there is a car driving by the street outside your house making a low hum as it passes by. Perhaps that background noise is an electric appliance in your kitchen. Perhaps there is a clock ticking in the distance. But it is all so faint. You lie in the deafening silence, unaware of these small background noises. Then a scream shatters the still air of the night. Your eyes flick open at the noise and you jerk up. Call security? 2 Go out into the hall? 3
2 Security comes quickly to your aid. The guard looks through the entire building but doesn’t find anyone or anything. He escorts you back to your room and comes in briefly to search it. You hear the door close behind you. Turning around, you see the security guard pulling on the skin of his face. He removes his mask to reveal a monstrously deformed visage. Its eye sockets are blackened pits and its mouth lacks teeth. The sounds of screaming and wailing seem to emanate from its body, petrifying you. It advances and you scream, and scream, and scream. The end.
3 Out in the hallway there are a few others who have been roused from their sleep by the screams. You whisper to each other quietly, worried and confused as to what’s going on. You notice at the end of the hallway one of the doors is ajar and it’s dark inside. Go through the door 7 Go down to the basement 4 Go to your best friend’s room 5 Go to the kitchen 6
4 The basement is empty and, despite the emergency ceiling lights, it is filled with shadows. As you walk down the hall you hear another piercing scream come from somewhere nearby. Find the security guard at the main door of the building 2 Go back upstairs 3 Go through the door to the common room 10 Go through the door to the study room 11 Go into the laundry room 19
5 You knock on your friend’s door and you hear some rustling from inside. The rustling stops but the door doesn’t open. Turning the handle you find it is locked and there is nothing you can do. If you have a “Room Key” go to 8 Otherwise there is nothing else to do, go back upstairs 3
6 The kitchen is empty and silent. The only sound is the hum of the refrigerator. In the middle of the table there is a kitchen knife. You take it to arm yourself. You look out the window; for a second you see a contorted screaming face, then it’s gone. You run from the kitchen, unsure if even the knife can defend you from whatever is causing the screams. With nothing else left to do, you return to the hall. 3
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7 You push the door open wider and try to turn on the lights; however they don’t turn on. You peer into the darkness, and timidly call out “Hello?” Something in the darkness moves. Peering into the inky blackness you can make out a form crouched in the corner, covered by the shadows. Even in the dim light you can see the gross disfigurement of its naked body. The skin is swollen and covered in what appear to be blisters, sores, and other abrasions. It takes a step toward you, and you realize that the deformities on its skin aren’t abrasions; they’re eyes, and mouths. The creature’s body is covered in screaming faces. You shriek in terror and run. As you run out your foot snags on something, causing you to stumble on your way out. The others in the hall ask what you saw, but you are unsure how to tell them without sounding insane. Are you insane? Looking down at your feet you see what snagged your foot; the wire of a pair of earbuds. You carry on 3
8 The key fits in the lock and you open the door. Why was your friend’s key downstairs? You enter the room. It’s a mess inside: things have been knocked over and books lie on the floor in heaps. Despite having heard rustling before, you don’t find anyone or anything inside. However in the center of the desk you see a large book lying open. It is the Odyssey, and it is open at the passage about Odysseus’ encounter with the Sirens. In the margin of the page the words “Silence the Screams.” If you know the word “Quiritatio” and have a kitchen knife and earbuds go to 12 Otherwise go to 9
9 The door closes behind you. It is so dark you can barely see anything. As your eyes adjust to the darkness, you see a crouched form in the middle of the room. You are not alone. “Hello?” you ask uncertainly. It crawls toward you and you are able to make out the shape of the figure. It is human-like, but severely disfigured and naked. Something isn’t right about its skin; it doesn’t seem natural, with all the bumps and blemishes. Then you realize that the bumps and blemishes are faces, covering the monster’s body. The sunken eyes of the faces stare at you and the mouths open, releasing a cacophony of horrible screams. You are paralyzed as the screeching creature approaches you. Your eyes widen as you scream, and scream and scream The end.
10 The common room is dark and empty. All is silent and all is still. In the middle of one of the tables there is a key lying by itself. You take the key apprehensively and discover it is your friend’s. You go back to the main hall of the basement 4
11 The study room is cold – a window has been left open. No one sits at the tables, the chairs are all vacant, and the only sound you hear is the wind whistling through the open window. On the table there is a single book lying open. Why would someone leave their book down here? It is a compendium of folklore and ancient legends. It is open to a page describing a monster called a Quiritatio. According to the legend it is a manifestation of the screams of the dead. The monster kills others to add to its collection of deathly screams by causing paralysis via its screams and then absorbing its screaming victims body into its own. You shiver, not just from the cold, and leave quickly. Go back to the main hall of the basement 4
12 Suddenly it all makes sense; the Quiritatio is haunting the building. Your friend’s warning, “Silence the screams,” is telling you to beware. The door slams behind you and you whirl around. The crooked form of the Quiritatio crouches by the door. Quickly you put the earbuds into your ears before the mouths on its skin open. You ears having been shielded from the screams, you advance with the kitchen knife and plunge it into the deformed screaming flesh. The door opens and light floods the room. Your friends stand in the door-way looking at you. You realize the Quiritatio is no longer there; you are standing alone in the room with a knife in hand. Have you rid the world of the screaming monster or become one yourself? The end
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TWO Every day he scales the mountain in his backyard To fill a pitcher of God’s tears. The creaking of the door And a disillusioned hearth Is his welcome home. When he unloads his watery burden The cooking pot hisses back at him With a tongue of the Serpent And a burst of reproach. Even the bathtub—an artifact of sympathetic days gone by— Now nourishes worms That nestle within His murderous soul. But though he is frozen In the chaotic fantasies of A sickly conscience, There is a certain melody to his ragged breaths And majesty in his senseless mumbles. Driven into an exquisite madness He births into the world An unrestrained and wild temptation A thing—a creature—a human being The portrait of his desire: Company. But his morsel of rationality still Defiant against the heaving pants of time Knows all too well that such unnatural talents Is not power but A farce. Oh, how the mighty beast howls In a lustrous robe of Fine shackles.
THREE It was the size of a dog, though it could never be mistaken for one. Its hind legs were horrifically disproportionate to its front legs, giving the Sigbin a strangely kangaroo-like appearance. Kangaroos, however, were not accustomed to crab walking with their heads tucked beneath their legs, a position the creature shifted into and out of as it crossed the field. Its wide, gaping mouth never actually closed fully, leaving its disturbing yellow fangs bared in a perpetual grimace. Its bone thin torso was matted with short black and red fur, and its jutting spine trailed down into a thin, whip-like tail. This, Malaya realized, was the creature from her grandmother’s stories. She stared at it, and in that moment it whipped its head around and pierced her with its death-black eyes. They were a carnivore’s eyes, and they oozed black with a longing to devour her, but Malaya remembered something her grandmother had told her. She began to make the sign of the cross thirteen times and repeated the only prayer she knew, with one added request: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Protect me. Amen.” She wasn’t a religious person, but she would pray if it meant saving her life. She clamped her eyes tightly shut and prayed the monster away. Thirty seconds – or maybe it was an hour – passed before she finally gathered enough courage to open her eyes. She found herself alone at the edge of the forest, in the company of nothing but trees, shadows and the moonlight. She heard a rush of air near her face, jumped back, and realized it was a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. Malaya glanced around one last time, and then in a burst of adrenaline, bolted back in the direction of her home. She was crying. Out of fear, but mostly out of a deep desire to have her grandmother with her once again, to protect her and love her. Her Nanang would have been able to tell Malaya what to do. Nanang would have known. She was covering the last hundred metres to her home when she noticed a rank odour rising from the ground. It wasn’t coming from one particular spot, but rather from the pores of the earth surrounding her home. As she grimaced at the stench, she was reminded of marked territory. What had her Nanang said about the Sigbin? “The stench is often the sign that the Sigbin has marked its next victim.” Then she would pounce on Malaya and tickle her through the covers. She knew the creature was going after her mother, so she pushed her way through the stench, up the front steps and stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the corpse splayed across the small porch. Something had savaged the body horrendously. A hand was connected to an arm only by a few tendons, the face was crushed inwards, intestines lay spread all about the porch, and the spinal cord was visible through the chest. She stepped backwards to distance herself from the repulsive scene, but she stepped into empty air and fell over backwards to the bottom of the front steps, landing flat on her back. She looked up at the sky, dazed, and for a moment she couldn’t smell the death just three feet away from her. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she realized that the mess
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of a corpse was her grandmother. She knew because she had seen one of her Nanang’s handmade necklaces lying around the remaining tendons of the body’s neck. “If the Sigbin is offended, or if it is fed the wrong food when held in captivity, it is said that the creature will dig up bodies of the recently deceased, gnaw on them, and leave them for the person who has made such a mistake to find. So don’t you go offending any Sigbin now, Apong Babae.” Malaya would answer her grandmother’s warning, “If I had a Sigbin, I would never feed it the wrong thing. It would make me rich and famous and I would be the luckiest girl in the land.” “One day maybe you will have one. Did you know they could be passed down through generations?” Malaya racked her brain trying to figure out how she may have offended the Sigbin. She certainly had never owned one. She stayed on the ground for a while, trying to put off the inevitability of facing the corpse again, before she finally came to her senses and remembered her mother was inside. She pushed herself up, climbed the stairs, and kept her eyes focused away from the ground as she pushed open the door. She stepped inside to see her mother standing at the kitchen doorway, looking inwards. The lights in the kitchen were as bright as they had ever been, and her mother’s thin shadow trailed across the entire living room. Malaya walked behind her mother to see what she was looking at, since she hadn’t noticed her entrance. As she crossed the room, her shadow grew to be side-by-side with her mother’s, stretching across the length of the room. “What are you looking at?” Her mother sounded hollow and distant, “I have these…bites on my arms…” “The victim never shows any sign of attack when the blood and soul are taken from the victim’s shadow. All that appear are two or three puncture marks, where the blood is drawn from.” “And on my neck…” “If you do survive the small bite of Sigbin, it means you’ve been marked for certain death within the month, or even days.” “And on my thighs…” “A sure sign of the bite is the appearance of three tiny marks on the wrists, neck, thighs, ankles, or feet.” “They’re everywhere.” Malaya stared at her mother helplessly, wishing for her grandmother. Her mother had not only been marked, but had also had a large portion of her soul sucked out. Malaya looked at her mother’s empty face, and she wrapped her arms around the shell of a woman.
She whispered, “I love you.” And as she put her chin on her mother’s shoulder, ooking into the dark room behind them, she saw the Sigbin sitting at the edge of her shadow. “If it is behind you, there is no hope left…” It let out a piercing whistle. “It will bite you and drink your blood…” Malaya watched it bare its horrible yellow teeth and sink its fangs into her shadow. She lifted her hand to her neck, where she felt a warm, sticky liquid. When she brought her hand away, it was covered in the deep, rich, red of blood. Keeping her eyes on the appalling creature, she said to her mother, “Nanang is… She’s on the porch.” But her mother didn’t understand, “Oh yes. I put some of her clothes in that old pot of hers for storage, when she…” “During the day, owners of these creatures sometimes put them in a large bottle or a clay pot.” Malaya broke her gaze at the monster to look at her mother, “Did you ever…did you ever see anything in the pot?” “They can become invisible at will.” “I didn’t see anything…” “You put her clothes in the pot?” “Never feed it a dead person’s worn clothing…” “Why wouldn’t I?” “… or it will revert to its evil, monstrous ways…” “No reason. Mom, the room is getting darker.” “… and it will devour the owner’s entire family as well.” “Do these cuts look like they’re–” Malaya’s mother swayed and Malaya’s vision blurred, so that she could no longer hold her mother up. Her mother fell to the floor, and Malaya stood above her, still looking towards the far side of the room. The Sigbin was still there, and, seeming to feel her gaze, looked up and met her stare with a blood-soaked, open-mouthed grin. She passed out from the blood loss.
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FOUR The berries shine with wholesome luster From the granite kitchen countertop. Red strawberries spotted with slight seeds, Blueberries of soft, symmetrical roundness, Blackberries â€“ little clusters of purple. They sit and scream and smile at me, From the smooth granite kitchen countertop, From the pressed bamboo cutting board. The fact that theyâ€™ll be sweet goes Without saying, with a sugary tenderness, They sit and scream and smile at me, As I contemplate their existence. Shining little thoughtful fruits, Grown to the peak of their prime, Watching from the bamboo-wood cutting board, Admiring the gleam of my blade. Nurtured to timid perfection They tremble with silent squeaks. While hardly expecting any fruitful scheme, Cute mouths make O's of muted screams, The berries sparkle with tempting luster From the granite kitchen countertop. Red strawberries, blueberries, and black, Hold still as I bring the knife down.
FIVE Within the uniform colors of the gallery, one passes by portraits of sentimental maidens, their lugubrious miens topped by austere buns or crowns of flowers, followed by the histrionic magnificence of mythological and Biblical scenes. Then, as academic certainties wear thinner, the atmosphere grows more ominous and disquieting, as the surrounding pictures start to speak of corruption, murder, and madness, until finally all visitors are compelled to arrive at the foot of an overwhelmingly murky and grisly monstrosity, its label reading, “At the Gates of the Underworld.” The subject — a howling, scorched figure — wavers in what seems to be the light of the crimson dusk. The backward-glancing phantom of a girl. Encircling beasts with horns of gold, their glint menacingly alluring. Half-eaten, rotting fruits littering a dreadful plain of wilting flowers and grasses that have lost their original flush of life. A nest of coiling vipers on the ground. Dr. Hastings enters the exhibition room thirty minutes before closing. She had been searching for the final conclusion. In the anthropology lab, the packages were unwrapped, unveiling their jarring contents. Dr. Hastings and her colleagues examined the century-old bones, fragmented and deeply discolored. The skeleton exhibited signs of stunted growth, for its full length was less than four feet ten inches. Based on forensic observation of the carpal bones, the deceased was barely out of puberty, pinpointing her most likely very sordid demise at the tender age of around nineteen. The discoloration suggested that she was afflicted with syphilis, prevalent among low-ranking nineteenth-century prostitutes. Most likely untreated, the syphilis had advanced to the tertiary stage, slowly killing all of the soft tissue, disfiguring features of beauty such as the nose. During break, Dr. Hastings skimmed through the exhibition guide of the notoriously neurotic artist, and in the reflective gloss, she saw him, a century ago.
A century ago, he sat on a stool waiting for her. There she entered in her slightly soiled tutu, with her mother behind her. The small head was like a precious orb perched atop a scrawny set of shoulders; her features were angular and her hair thin. The mother was a short and grasping kind of creature, shoving her daughter forward as she extended her hand to receive the payment. The artist handed the older woman some coins, and soon he was left alone with the pubescent girl. There she stood rigidly with her delicate yet strong jaw tilted upward, a blank
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pair of eyes — devoid of the timidity or suspicion so common among ordinary girls deserted with older men — noting his presence. Her oblong skull readily reminded one of a baboon; her jutting pout was ungraceful and rather mean-looking. In short, she was the perfect subject. The apathy – as if she had not a care, as if she was acclimated to her life being governed by forces greater than herself – overseers both natural and acquired. Reticent, disinterested, perhaps even contemptuous. Yet underneath the veneer of unconscious maturity she was still a child in so many ways: her spontaneous fidgeting, the constant stretching to ease the strain in her muscles — things that she would do between dance practices. That was what she had always known, the repetition and dullness and submission. Under her silent surveillance, his hands molded the clay, fashioning the flat torso of a malnourished adolescent out of a nameless pile of substance. His fingers gave birth to her, the supposedly everlasting her. Peasant by midnight, idol by day. The Galatea that might come alive should he stare at it long enough. But he did not want a living thing, just a fossil. A screeching fossil that can break the walls of glass that would soon encase it. Her coarseness was refreshing — exhilarating even, a sewer rat desecrating the pantheon of Psyche and Venus. This subversive thought alone satisfied him.
Combing through the drawers in the archive, Dr. Hastings drifted through the undulating currents, crossing the vast meadows that had hitherto been obscured by impenetrable mist. Landing on the shore, the anthropologist stepped into the garden of yesteryear, igneous trees spiralling into the air like slender intertwined fingers. On the barren island, partially submerged, she sought for the fugitive specter. In this sunken world, other itinerant voyagers paid their respects and wordlessly hurried onward to their disparate ends. There she believed that she saw what had been forsaken years before. Always striving to stroke the elusive back, Dr. Hastings was nevertheless continuously thwarted. 5:58 A.M. Dr. Hastings woke up to the chanting of drunkards outside. The books about the artist she had bought or borrowed were piled haphazardly on her nightstand, in the bedside armchair, and on an adjacent cabinet. Perturbed by being surrounded by so much history, she transferred some of the books to her study next door, banishing them from her nocturnal retreat. Not willing to so quickly bid farewell to the island of static permanence, she promptly resumed her sojourn. He washed his hands, which were smudged with paint. It had only occurred to him yesterday that the neglected sculpture had yet to be disposed of. A compulsion drew him to behold his craft, to regard it as he once did, when he played creator and robber of nature. Its imitation of transient youth, not jejune and delightful, but alarmingly worldly and antagonistic, was cocooned in a shell of civilizing softness, ostensibly refined but inwardly putrid. That perversely gleeful triumph occupied him then, but the sensation gradually fled from him. His
thoughts eventually flowed in one direction, one relevant to him and her now. In his sudden onset of peculiar restlessness, he was uncertain about his transformation of an unfortunate urchin into a spectacular display for the paying public, garnering him, not her, notoriety and acclaim. His temporary muse, if one could call her that, was ultimately dismissed and ejected back to the grey masses. Every other model of his hardly registered in his memory at all. They were projections upon projections, upon projections, their clarity diminishing second by second. But not her, and he had to admit to that, however reluctantly. Picking up a sheet of linen, he cast it over her head; her fragility was unbearable to witness.
Days later, on his way home from his dealer's well-appointed townhouse, he recounted to himself the joys of meeting the wives and mistresses of fellow artists, all complimenting on his succĂ¨s de scandale with the statue of a â€œbarbarousâ€? maiden. To relive the most amusing sequences of the evening, he fully entrusted his navigation to intuition and habits. Before long, his private revelry was rudely interrupted by an onslaught of urinary stench. The lanes behind the theatres and taverns, the haunt of earnest Reform Society members and patrons of a very different character and purpose in mind. The brazenly vulgar streetwalkers flaunted their wan merchandise amid repugnant squalor. In the shadows of a recess, his eyes were confronted by a maddeningly infernal vision, the casualty of earthly vice hunched in front of him. Wrapped in rags and ravaged by disease, an emaciated skeleton glared at him; to his horror, the face was nothing but a melting mass of skin, clinging loosely onto the skull, infected with ulcers and burdened with a partially collapsed nose. The messy thin strands of hair hung like cobwebs, framing the nightmarish visage. To his shame and astonishment, he cried out in disgust and fear, as the moribund flower of the dung-infested gutter grabbed hold of his memory of the beloved little dancer, now apparently festering agonizingly in the wasteland of temporal misery. At once he ran, and ran far away.
Dr. Hastings lingered as a mere spectator, before the large canvas aptly framed in somber brown. The poignancy of the row of mourners clad in black. The hazy vanishing apparition of a young girl. The central figure with his flesh blown away by fiery gales, exposing two upwardglancing ocular spheres within their pitch-black sockets, his bellows sober, quiet, penetrating, perpetually reverberating down the spine of the ages.
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Something occurred to Dr. Hastings, but before she could formulate it into concise terms, a guard asked her to leave before the museum closed. Dejected, she gathered her belongings and with a tepid pace stepped out into the winter cold.
SIX The hounds at heart are wailing high A child with spotless keep Skips, and steps and so forth, hands in pockets deep. A girl of youth, of innocence comes walking down the lane looks at the child and calls him cute and thinks of fairer men. Into his pocket, reached the child While the girl was dense in dream Out came the dagger, smiled the child. There was no time to scream.
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SEVEN Decree Five-Hundred and Seventy Four The Seven Councilors of Free City, under the behest of Lord Falstar, First of His Name, hereby order an expedition to the abandoned city of Ludvastrom to confiscate vital artifacts and inquire into the fate of prior unsuccessful expeditions.
* The train cars on the outskirts of Ludvestrom stand silent and empty as they approach. Some have been overturned, caved in, but most stay straight and hollow. The gray, brittle things whisper with aging frames as they pass between them. They had all agreed to come in this way, from the east, through the train tracks, rather than the front. The vote had been quick and unanimous – but Alf doesn’t like to think about that. The east gates of Ludvestrom lay open; the upper edges of the doors are bent out, and some spikes have blown off while others are matted in things dry and old. The surrounding fence is iron, like the gates, the bottom four feet of it solid and rusted over. Sometimes there are dents – outward bends – where the metal is weak and jagged. The posts and watch towers fare no better. Thum is appointed the scout and moves ahead, through the bits of rubble and train. He slips through the doors silently. “Seems pretty dead,” Cerb says, fingers rubbing the ridge of his nose. Thum reappears, fingers curling around the door’s frame. “Might be a way,” he says. Lord Drest grunts, shifting a pile of rubber in his way and marching through the garbled quagmire of metal and stone. The others follow, passing through the bones of a train car with careful steps. Alf can feel the pliability of the floor, can feel its quivering in some reverberating hollow that echoes in the dull silence. It’s just a frame of what it once was, the bare lines of past memories, too decayed and old for true recollection or hope. Alf's mouth turns dry and a tremor runs through his knees. The windows are shattered like something has pushed through them. A gust of wind whistles through, skating around a swinging line and they stop for a moment, waiting. But it dies down, slowly, and they move on. They pass through the gates and Alf stops to rest his head on his arm, dizzy. He has an awful feeling – no, a culmination of a feeling that has been crawling up into him since they set out for here. Nothing ever comes out. Nobody comes out. “It stinks,” Cerb says. Yes, it does. They all know what it smells like, but there are no bodies.
Alf’s gaze wanders over the greying houses, the blackened windows and the buildings’ dilapidation. A basket lies amongst the shattered glass and tattered bits of stuff: cloth, broken metal, rotted wood. Something awful is here, but none of them say it. How can they? To voice the tinkling uneasiness, the slow crawl of something like terror whispering at their necks would be to turn back, and they cannot do that. They are inside what Alf guesses is the train yard. A track stems from the mouth of the mountain’s side and drifts out toward them, before swooping through the broken gates. The wall to the city is a thick, unyielding cement, cracked from water and time. They move toward the barred doors on the far left, and Alf realizes how silent it is. Thum reaches the door first. “Can’t get through,” he says. “Why not?” Drest replies irritably. “There’s no lock.” Thum points to the bottom junction of the doors, where they jut out and a few rocks have spilled. “Something collapsed on it.” “He’s right,” Freman says, bending down to peer in between the doors. “If we open them it could fall on us.” “Do we know where the tracks lead?” Orth asks. “Taking a peek around won’t harm anythin’,” Cerb adds. “We’ll see if we can find something. If not, we’ll try the front gates.” No one speaks, but Freman shuffles around in his bag, bringing out three thin, black bars. “Light this,” he tells Cerb. Drest examines the bars before dropping his bag. “Orth, take one, cover the left; Cerb, you have the right. Thum takes the center. Freman, the mason boy and I will follow. Wence, stay here and guard the bags. String your bow.” They follow the orders, fanning out and striking light into what are some sort of torches, but they do not flicker like fire does, and the color is white bordering on green. As they walk into the darkness the three lights bob ahead, outlining the moving shadows. The metal of the tracks shimmers into the darkness as the group moves past. “Nothing but wall here,” Cerb calls, his voice a whisper. “Nothing,” Orth agrees, his light bobbing as he crouches. Alf cannot see Lord Drest in the darkness but he senses his disappointment. “How much longer does this go on?” Freman coughs. “I cannot say, my lord. They had only begun digging when I was here.” “There’s a rockslide here,” Orth says. “Might’ve been a door before.” Alf can hear Drest breathe as he shifts. “Thum,” he suddenly says. “What do you see?” The peripheral lights still, lingering out in the darkness, close enough for Alf to see Cerb leaning against the wall. “Thum? Answer me,” Drest calls again.
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The center light is still, too far ahead to see Thum. It wavers, like distant starlight, bobbing before stilling. There is nothing but silence. “Draw your sword,” Drest orders and Alf complies, but he wants to tell Drest it won’t matter, that whatever might be here has no fear of steel, however sharp. He can feel it, a finite certainty he cannot place. A flicker catches Alf’s eye and Drest’s face is illuminated. Freman holds a light in hand, the green glow glittering as he raises it above them. “Call the men back,” he tells Drest. Drest turns to him. “What?” Alf hears it then, something whirling down on them, a rushing, inhuman moan; confusion crinkles in Drest’s face, the shadows deepen, a rumbling rushes forward, screeching... But then there is nothing but the silence, echoing. “Cerb, Orth, to me,” Drest commands, and Alf can see he has his own sword out: a pale, bony one, as thin as thread against the black. The two lights grow larger, the men grow clearer. Thum’s light waits in the distance, unmoving. “What was that?” Cerb asks. His sword is out too. Drest makes no answer; his eyes are fixed on Thum’s dot. “We should return to Wence,” Freman says. “Thum will follow if he can.”
They make their way back to the entrance and Alf can feel the hair stiffen at the back of his neck. His hand grips a sword that feels too heavy, too blunt, but he keeps his head forward. He feels it then, the tiniest breeze, shifting over his neck and through his hair. He even thinks, for a moment, he had heard breath.
EIGHT I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature. -1895, Edvard Munch 7.29 a.m. She got up, just in time to switch off the alarm before it goes off, as if she were the keeper of time and the alarm, her duty. She still wound it up every night, for the sake of habit, that wonderfully fastidious thing that kept everything in order, everything just as it should be. She padded silently to the bathroom, where, in movements rehearsed to mechanical perfection for 34 long years, she pulled down her pyjama pants, urethral sphincter relaxing by its own accord, and pulled it back up again after tearing off four squares of toilet paper from the roll that hung on the wall. She flushed the toilet, brushed her teeth exactly the way she was taught in primary school, splashed her face with cold water and dabbed it dry with a pale pink cloth by the sink. She noticed the small brown mole on her shoulder. Had it gotten half a shade lighter? She stared at it hard until the outline seemed to blur into the density at the middle. For some reason – maybe because its shape resembled one of those islands in the Sulu Sea – it often brought back memories of the stifling heat of her fifth grade classroom and the even more stifling repetitions of the configurations on the atlas. No matter; the dark brown was definitely lighter now than it was when she was a child, or even last week. 7.55 a.m. Breakfast was a bare and short affair. After sending the children and husband off with lunchboxes, she turned to do the housework she had planned for today. The floor needed mopping, the fridge had to be cleared, and laundry was sitting despondently on the washing machine. She did them all in twelve replays of Tchaikovsky. 10.15 a.m. The rest of the day stretched out before her like a looming shadow. The sister-in-law dropped by. They chatted about everything over lunch: the kids, the husband, their next lunch date, green beans, a free yoga class. While eating, she heard the rhythm of a fly’s wings near her soup to be too fast, or too slow. She wasn’t sure which, but it was out of beat. It broke her line of concentration, like a tempo increasing rapidly in volume and overriding all other sounds, pervasively occupying the space in the head reserved for private thoughts. Private thoughts, such as the monotonicity of her husband’s lovemaking, the fading mole, the extinct romance of youth, missed opportunities for impulse, and a certain fascination with a girl who pursued her more desirably than anyone ever had.
A PAPE R'S EDGE PUBLICATION
1.57 p.m. When her sister-in-law left, she immediately emptied the gassy contents of a nearly full can of insect repellant into the living room, until a fine layer of dampness presided over every surface. The buzzing tempo in her head stopped immediately. 2.23 p.m. Towards the end of every month, she would dutifully go over household expenditures. The mechanical nature of balancing the accounts had a strange calming effect on her. Bringing a glass of water to her lips, she saw a colorless speck of dust floating solemnly on the surface, its shape breaking the otherwise cohesive surface. Impulsively she used a fingernail to fish it out. Feeling she had contaminated the water even further, she proceeded to empty the entire glass and left it standing ominously on the kitchen countertop, a thirsty reminder. Passing a mirror on her way back, she turned to stare at the reflection of the mole. It had completely disappeared. At least now she didn’t have to keep thinking of that hot, sticky, oppressive classroom and that crazy world atlas that had in the beginning and over time appeared so distorted to her, she thought. She stood there staring at the empty spot for a while. Then she saw that the crack in the mirror, a result of an innocent accident, had grown deeper and longer, its dark silver-lined fingers extending two-thirds of the way down the mirror. 3.43 p.m. She covered the crack with the children’s sticky tape. A broken mirror is seven years of bad luck. 4.05 p.m. An early sunset was expected. She left for a meeting with friends at the west side of the city. There was a quiet wooden bridge extending from the coast, over the fjord, to the island opposite. Since it was still early, she walked idly along the coast through trails of wild daisies. From her vantage point she could see the asylum – for mad people, they say – standing at the base of a hill rising from the island, whitewashed with green shutters framing its dark eyes. Everything was very beautiful but the wild daisies bothered her. Was it that error within nature again? It made her feel helplessly annoyed that the petals of a flower were too perfectly engineered – the angle at which their base met and the degree to which they diverged had too much of a mathematical precision in them – and that would spur her to delicately pull the edges of the petals slightly lower over and over again, until they were bent – sometimes completely deformed – but exactly to her liking. She went back to the mouth of the bridge, her friends were waiting while admiring the intense colors of the sky above. They began to cross the fjord. The ordinariness and orderliness of the whole situation –her friends walking up ahead after what was a day exactly the same as hers, repeated for years to come until time itself lost its concept – gripped her with a sudden panic. She looked around her. Beautiful, yes, but there was something abnormally normal about everything. Too normal. It felt as if a cello’s taut string, perfectly woven together and craftfully pulled around its peg, was at any moment about to expand and fill out the infinite space of normalcy with a sudden erratic break, a staccato among the ordered frenzy of Tchaikovsky’s lyrical notes. It felt like lungs on the brink of bursting, holding an abated breath in a breast swelled up with curious expectations.
5.12 p.m. It seemed that her mouth opened by the will of a scream that had a life of its own, that took over her soul and smeared real blood across the pregnant red sky, that passed from the composed chaos of nature through her veins and back to nature again. She had never felt more alive and more dead. Her friends who heard her said they heard the devilâ€™s whisper; those who saw her said they saw her soul.
“I will not scream for ice cream.” - Bart Simpson
Editor-in-Chief: Kimberly Kidani Editors: Pamela Caccese, Kegan Chang, Catherine Gao, Laura Giuliani, Margaret Gordon, Jenny Han, Karen Huang, Jenn Jesmer, Alexandra Klaassen, Wei Shi Lai, Lucy Li, Kathy Ma, Emily Martin, Alexis Montgomery, Alex Park, Anastasia Pivnicki, and Kate Sprung Art by Jenny Han Scream is the Halloween mini-journal for Read This, Dammit! – Paper’s Edge Creative Writing Club’s creative writing journal. Paper’s Edge is a community of writers that meets every Wednesday at 6 p.m. for workshops, critique sessions, and more. If you are interested in joining the club or just want more information, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org The next edition of Read This, Dammit! will be our Valentine’s Day mini-journal. We are currently accepting submissions. Prose should be 1200 words or less, and poetry needs to be no more than two pages. Send your pieces to email@example.com as a word document or equivalent. Priority deadline is December 6th, 2012.
Scream was entirely funded by donation. Thank you to everyone who came to our bake sale or donated at our coffee house! Keep a look out for more bake sales and fundraising projects throughout the year.