The Bad Son

Billy stood over his sister’s crib where the infant lay crying in wet, choked sobs, the ugly red bruises on her face and arms darkening before his very eyes. He slowly reached down and wiped the tears glistening on the baby’s swollen face with the tip of his finger.

“Billy!” His mother grabbed the boy by the arms and whirled him around, sending him stumbling into the dresser on the other side of the room. Billy fell to his hands and knees, stunned, as he noticed his little brother, John, watching from the corner, wide-eyed and silent.

His mother stared down at the baby in horror as the full import of what she was seeing dawned on her. “Not again, Billy…,” she cried. “Not again!” Angry, sorrowful tears stung her eyes as she gently bundled the little girl into her arms. “Billy,” she said, careful to keep her voice even, “this was your last chance. It’s over, Billy. This is going to end now.”

As a trembling, speechless Billy and his mother left the room, John stepped out from the shadows and peered around the doorjamb into the hall.

“Billy…,” John whispered as his mother and brother disappeared down the stairs.

That night, John lay in bed listening to his parents’ whispers that floated down the hall from the baby’s room. He closed his eyes and pulled the blanket up to his chin.

“Hey there, kiddo.” John’s father entered the room and sat down slowly on the edge of the bed. “How’re you doing?”

The boy shrugged from beneath the covers.

His father sighed. “I know you were a little scared by what you saw today, son. But you remember what Mom told you earlier, right? Billy’s just not feeling well. He needed to go away for a while to get better.” He patted John lightly on the shoulder. “But it’s only for a few years. He’ll be back before you know it.”

After his father left the room, John lay for a while staring at the ceiling. The corner of his mouth trembled. Only for a few years. That was a very long time. But the important thing was that Billy would be coming back.

The tremble subsided as John’s lips curled up in a smile. He settled himself deeper into the pillow and sighed contentedly.

Billy would be coming back. John could play with the baby again when his brother returned.

I Said “Good Day” to the Devil in Disguise


When first I saw him, I was a young man,
no more than twenty and three.
He said she left me because of my past.
Her future lay not with me.
I asked for salvation, and he replied,
“With me now you must surely stand.”
He gave me a blade that I pressed to my wrist.
His smile said, yes, that’s what I planned.
And even through tears, his true face I could see.
I let the blade fall fast away.
“You are not the Angel, Sir.”
That I did say.
“And so I must bid you good day.”

Message Read

Chloe had a special notification tone just for him. She rarely bothered even looking at her phone unless she heard that special sound.

That morning, she grabbed the phone eagerly when the sound pulled her from a restless sleep haunted by strange voices calling out to her from the darkness.

See you tonight – be there 6ish ❤️

Her heart soared and she knew it would be a good day after all.

After a hard day at work, Chloe quickly tidied the small apartment and ran a brush through her hair. The clock read 5:45 and he would be there any minute. Opening a bottle of wine, she took one last glance in the mirror and forced herself to sit down to relax before he arrived, barely able to contain her excitement.

At 6:02, she heard the special sound again.

I’m here 😘

They sat briefly on the small sofa, her phone completely forgotten on the coffee table now that he was finally with her, sipping wine and laughing and exchanging sensuous glances, but the week spent apart proved to be too much and they quickly moved to the bedroom. She pulled him down to the bed, her breathing quickening, her whole body aching for his touch.

As he wrapped his arms around her, holding her fast against him as he kissed her, all at once her excitement fell away as though a switch had been flipped inside her when a sound rang out from the living room.

His sound.

She pushed him gently away, staring intently into his eyes, her breathing coming faster, though no longer from the thrill of his touch.

“I… I should just check that quickly…” Her voice was steady though her knees felt weak. “It might be work.”

He smiled what looked like the familiar smile. “Go ahead. I’ll be here…”

She wandered in a daze to the living room and picked up her phone. The time read 6:27.

So sorry – running so late. Be there in 10. Love you.

Hands trembling, Chloe turned toward the bedroom, eyes widening and the blood pounding in her ears as she stared into the darkness. Her eyes flitted uncomprehending back and forth from her phone screen to the vaguely silhouetted shape in her bed.

A voice called out from the darkness and a cold shiver ran down Chloe’s back.

“Come back to bed, sweetheart. I’m waiting…”

Meet Me in That Nightmare Forest

I was walking a solitary path through a deep, dark forest. There were no sounds around me. I glanced left and right as I walked, but there was nothing to see except the trunks of trees so thick and tall no light broke through from the sky above, their bark so rough I thought my skin would be sliced open if I reached out to touch them. Despite the darkness, I was not frightened. I did not wonder why the leaves did not crunch under my feet nor did I ask myself where I was going. The path narrowed and curved suddenly but the forest barely seemed to change, no matter how far I progressed.

On a whim, I glanced back over my shoulder and was certain I could make out a lone dark figure following behind me, just coming around the bend in the path. Even though I could not discern any distinguishing features, I felt a deep aversion to that dark figure. It did not matter what it was or why it was following behind me. I dared not look back again, somehow sure that were I to do so, that figure would be even closer.

I looked down at my feet, overcome with the desire to walk faster, but they kept moving at a steady pace, and I was carried ever farther along that forest path. The ground grew suddenly steep, and the path widened enough for two people to walk side by side through the trees. I felt a surge of panic, as I could not quicken my pace as I started up the incline. Try as I might, I could not force myself to move faster and, even as my fear of the dark figure intensified, I tried to resist the urge to look over my shoulder again. The need to know what was coming overcame me, however, and I stole a fast glance behind me.

The dark figure that had been almost one hundred yards behind had gained on me by more than half that distance.

A certainty that I must quicken my pace gripped me like an icy fist. But try as I might, I could not force myself to move faster, although I did not grow weary or lose my breath as I climbed up that forest hill. I felt a chill run down my spine and I knew the dark figure was closing in on me. I lowered my head and pumped my arms desperately, but my feet stubbornly continued to move at the same pace. The silence around me was as the thickest liquid through which I attempted to push my legs, pressing on me from all sides.

It was at that moment that I heard the unmistakable sound of a footfall.

My heart beat faster and faster but my legs continued to walk with the same maddeningly slow stride. Another footfall, and then another, echoed in the dense forest of trees and my eyes rolled frantically from side to side as I searched for any route of escape from the path and the figure that pursued me. I stole one more glance back over my shoulder and saw the dark figure just ten feet behind me. It, too, seemed to be walking at the same, ever unchanging pace, yet it had gained on me so quickly. It was tall, but with no distinguishing features other than the long, long legs that carried it ever closer. When I turned back to the path in front of me, I saw that I had almost reached the top of the slope. More footfalls rang out, and I suddenly realized that the steps were not coming from the dark figure behind me.

They were coming from the hilltop in front of me.

Slowly, as though rising from inside the earth, you approached me from over the crest of the hill. At the very top of the path, you stopped and waited for me to meet you, your arms outstretched. Your face seemed to glow with a heavenly light that banished the darkness deep into the trees. Your smile brought hope to the lonely, never ending forest and you regarded me with eyes so full of kindness. I reached out my hands to embrace you just as the chilly breath of the dark figure gently grazed the back of my neck. It was then that your gaze shifted ever so slightly and I knew that you caught a glimpse of the dark figure that was practically upon me. Your arms dropped to your sides and your expression changed to one of such horror, your eyes wide, mouth straining to scream, your entire visage twisted into a grotesque parody of human emotion.

And then I woke up.

Upon awaking, I cried bitter tears, only not because of my fear of the dark figure in my nightmare or the eerie forest from which I could not escape. Not even because of the look of abject terror on your face that was the last thing I saw before emerging from a fitful sleep.

I cried because I longed to return to that nightmare forest and walk that path again. For it is only in the dream that I can remember your face.