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Lakewood Times

Lakewood Times

Gothic Fiction Story

“Thanks for your help, ma’am.”

“Anytime, Chris,”  the old woman croaked. “You have a good day, honey!”

Mrs. Johnson shut her front door. Chris scribbled into his journal while holding his camera under his armpit. He had begun to feel uneasy as dusk fell. Thorny branches from the surrounding woods jutted out like bony fingers. Fear lurked in the shadows of the neighborhood. Chris shivered as a chilly autumn breeze blew down the street. A few moments later, the reassuring crunch of car tires sounded down Pin Oak Road. Chris knew exactly who the tires belonged to. A skinny, balding man in his 30’s stepped out of the bronze 1997 Toyota Camry. Chris felt a sense of reassurance as he approached his friend.

“Look who decided to show up,” Chris lamented.

“I’m sorry, rush hour traffic was brutal,” Adam moaned tiredly.

“I just talked to Mrs. Johnson, she said there’ve been weird noises out in the woods.”

“How long have you been out here?”

“An hour or two. I‘ve been knocking on doors but nobody’s answering.”

“Should I start unpacking?”

“I already set us up. Let’s get to work.”

“I see,” Adam sighed passive-aggressively. He had hoped he could help set up and unwind from his long day at the office, but his unemployed friend had taken care of it. He wouldn’t give up their friendship for the world, but Adam had grown tired of Chris’ immature antics. He was like a perpetual teenager who never learned to take responsibility for his life. Hell, he was still living with his poor old mother. She’d been desperate to get him out the door for the better part of a decade.

Suddenly, Chris tossed a weighty piece of equipment in Adam’s direction. He caught the thing with both hands.. The device was heavy, heavier than its slim profile might suggest. In the center was a circular speaker with a line of dials and buttons below. A strangely shaped antenna was affixed to the top of the gadget. Adam couldn’t quite figure out what the thing was supposed to be. Without meaning to, he shot his friend a confused look.

“That’s an EVP recorder,” Chris mumbled. “It lets you talk to ghosts.”

“You think there are ghosts here?”

“You never know. Stay alert.”

“Uh… sure thing…”

Chris flipped open the lid of his trusty camcorder. Suddenly, another gust of wind blew through, nearly knocking Adam off of his feet. A mildewy funk wafted out of the woods. The wet and woody odor was invasive; it crept into every corner of the mens’ awareness. In the distance, they spotted a tiny shack. It was barely big enough to house one person, let alone a family. It looked like it had been abandoned for years. The planks were haphazardly nailed together with noticeable gaps in between. The flimsy roof had long since caved in and the windows were boarded up, completely concealing the inside. 

As they stepped onto the porch, Adam and Chris were met with the distinct but disgusting smell of rotting animal. Something must have died inside. Chris reached out slowly and rattled the doorknob. It was locked. After sharing an uneasy glance with his friend, he reared back and kicked the knob straight off the door. Adam threw his hands weakly in the air.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“What do you mean, ‘what am I doing?’ I’m getting us inside.”

“You can’t just do that!”

“Are you joking? This place is abandoned!”

“You never know!”

Chris reached into his bag and grabbed a flashlight. He clicked the switch, filling the empty cabin with artificial light. A hazy wall of smog hung in the air, making it impossible for Adam and Chris to see past their own noses. Chris stumbled across the creaky floor and began to feel around. He figured if he could find a breaker switch, he might be able to reactivate the electricity. A swinging overhead light hung over the center of the room, so there had to be some source of power. Suddenly, a light scuttling cut through the silence. Chris frantically turned his light to the corner. A fat rat scurried out from beneath a crunching pile of leaves, making a panicked run for the door. Adam yelped and leapt out of the way, dropping his EVP recorder in the process.

Just then, a low howl sounded from beneath the moldy floorboards. Chris held up a lone, all-silencing index finger just as Adam began to curse the rodent. He turned on his video camera and crept across the room, feeling blindly in front of him with the edge of his shoe. Eventually, he hit a raised hatch in the corner of the room. When he lifted the door, a dim light emanated from the cellar below. The stairs down were steep and narrow. They were a disaster waiting to happen, Chris thought. He held onto his camera tightly, taking the first step down. Adam followed closely behind. At a first glance, the place was empty. Shadows consumed the far side of the room. Adam walked ahead into the darkness in hopes of finding a lightswitch. He felt nothing but cold stone and what felt like a fire extinguisher. Eventually, though, his fingers met a smooth surface. It felt like glass to the touch. At first, Adam thought it was a mirror, but he couldn’t feel a frame. The giant pane extended beyond his reach.

“Could I get some light over here?” Adam mumbled.

When Chris turned his light to the dark corner, Adam’s heart stopped. The glass panel wasn’t a painting, and it definitely wasn’t a mirror. To Adam’s horror, it was a cell. The man’s lungs deflated when he spotted what waited behind. On the other side of the glass, a mass of brown fur shifted through the shadows. Upon closer inspection, its extended forearms connected to a pair of large leathery wings, fused at its sides. Atop its head were two large ears that surveyed the room like satellites. The batlike creature stood taller than any normal person, it was roughly seven feet from its head to its hind legs. Adam didn’t even want to imagine its wingspan. That’s when he noticed a second bat hanging from the ceiling. Adam knew he should run, but he couldn’t bring himself to move. The shock had frozen him in place. Chris, on the other hand, let out a blood-curdling shriek. He dropped his flashlight, revealing a series of identical cages along the shadowed wall. Inside were a wolfman, a pair of floating lights, and a motionless insectoid being.

As the two looked around at the strange animals, they started to draw connections to local legends. They’d heard about the Wolfman in Wood County, OH. The bats resembled the Mothman of Point Pleasant, MI. Even the insect may have arrived in one of the many UFO sightings the two had recorded over the years. For the longest time, townspeople had doubted Chris and Adam’s outlandish conspiracies. Their theories about cryptozoology and the paranormal previously seemed unbelievable, but not anymore. They’d just stumbled upon proof that their crackpot speculation wasn’t so crazy after all.

Suddenly, the wolfman let out a low howl that made the hairs stand up on Adam’s arm. The beast reared up and clawed at the glass before falling to the ground. The canine’s body began to disturbingly contort. Its claws retracted into its body while its digitigrade hind limbs straightened out into a more humanoid shape. The anterior cruciate ligament grew into the legs like roots taking hold of fertile soil. Finally, its thick and furry hide disappeared beneath a pale and fleshy exterior. In the beast’s place sat a starved, naked man in fetal position. His pasty skin clung to his bones; his ribs jutted forward like malnourished fingers reaching desperately for food. Suddenly, he shot awake. As he stood, he held his palm on the glass. Adam met his touch on the other side of the pane. The pale man’s glance was confused and unfocused, however– he never managed to look his visitor directly in the eye. Adam’s lip quivered at the sight of the poor man. His voice trembled as he went to speak.

“C-can you hear me?” Adam shuddered.

Yes…” the man managed to say. His breath sputtered like an empty can of compressed air. A few more days in his cell may have killed him.

“Why won’t you look at me? Adam asked.

Can’t… one-way glass…

Adam turned away from the glass, his eyes drawn magnetically to the floor. Chris sensed his unease. He stepped forward and reassuringly patted Adam on the back.

“I’m sorry, buddy,” Chris muttered. “There’s nothing we can do.”

“We can’t just let them die! What are you thinking?”

“What are you thinking? These are dangerous animals, we’d be sentencing people to death if we let them out! People we know!”

“Does he look like an animal to you?” Adam asked, gesturing to the werewolf.

“Adam, I’m sorry. We should leave.”

“We never should’ve come here in the first place!”

“Yeah, I’m starting to see that. Let me get my footage and we’ll go.”

Chris took one last walk around the cellar, filming each of the cryptozoological wonders in their holding cells. Adam’s eyes remained locked to the ground. When he was finished, Chris closed the viewfinder on his camcorder and shook Adam on the shoulder. Adam slapped his hand away.

“Hey!” Chris exclaimed. “What was that for?”

“Don’t play games with me!” Adam yelled.

“Dude, chill out!”

“No. I’m gonna free these creatures, Chris.”

“You’re insane!”

“That’s rich. Get a job, you lifeless NEET.”

Adam’s words pierced through Chris like bullets. Without saying a word, he grabbed his bag and stormed off. Meanwhile, Adam ripped the fire extinguisher off of the wall. With a series of powerful swings, he thrust the extinguisher into the glass, shattering it. The giant bats awoke from their nocturnal slumber and fled from captivity, circling around the room on their gigantic wings. One by one, Adam released the creatures from their cells. When the spirits were freed, they gave Adam a reassuring nod before evaporating into thin air. The insectoid alien remained motionless in the corner, seemingly oblivious to its newfound freedom. 

Upstairs, Chris searched for the exit with outstretched arms. He was blind as the man-bats circling beneath his feet. As he stumbled through the pitch-black cabin, he tripped on a loose floor board, hitting his head on the ground. He was thrust into a state of vertigo.Out of the corner of his eye, however, he spotted a hole where the doorknob once was. The night air beckoned him to flee. When he threw the door open, however, a fleet of cop cars awaited him. He threw his hands in the air as the police swarmed out of their cruisers, guns pointed at his chest.

Back in the basement, Adam made his way to the lonely werewolf. He crawled across the ground, narrowly avoiding swoop attacks from the angry bats. He tightly gripped the extinguisher. Adam rose nervously to his feet amidst the chaos, tossing the extinguisher through the wolfman’s cell. The second he shattered the glass, though, the scrawny man unleashed his canine form. The snarling wolfman pounced on Adam, crushing him beneath its immense weight. It dug its claws into the man’s left shoulder, drooling on his face. Adam managed to break loose, making a run for the stairs. A trail of blood spilled behind him, alerting the insect. Police broke down the basement door, filing in the doorway one by one with blinding lights and assault rifles. Adam limped his way up the stairs, but the werewolf had other plans. It clawed onto his foot, dragging him all the way to the bottom. Adam’s head bounced off of every stair. The starving beast feasted on the concussed man, leaving behind nothing but a bleeding pile of bones. The SWAT men opened fire on the wolf. The rampaging monster clawed its way upstairs amidst gunfire. The wolfman grabbed onto a screaming officer before rising to its hind legs, tearing the poor man limb from limb. 

Suddenly, the man-bats soared out of the basement on thumping wings. The titanic mammals each plucked an officer from below, carrying them off into the night sky. Chris ducked beneath a police cruiser. His head began to throb. He feared a concussion after his fall inside the shack. The last things he remembered were the sound of gunfire and the cold feeling of handcuffs being slapped around his wrists. Chris awoke to a pair of blinding lights. He immediately knew he was in an interrogation room. A suited man sauntered in from the hall and took a seat across the table. Chris recognized the man from previous times he’d been questioned. Adam had once suggested he was FBI, but Chris found that hard to believe.

“I assume you know why we brought you here, Chris,” said the agent.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Chris groaned. “Just call my mom”

“Not so fast.”

“Why not? She always bails me out!”

“I need you to sign a non-disclosure agreement. If anything you witnessed makes it to the press, I’m afraid we’ll have to press charges.”

“What does it matter to you?”

“This is my job. I keep snot-nosed brats such as yourself from sticking their noses where they don’t belong.”

“Just gimme the paper.”

The suited man handed Chris a lengthy document. The pudgy man-child gave it one look before flipping to the last page.

“Do I have to read this?” Chris asked.

“I can’t make you do anything,” replied the agent.

“Thank the lord.”

As Chris went to sign the document, something caught his eye. Above the line was a bolded passage which read as follows: FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE AFOREMENTIONED GUIDELINES WILL RESULT IN PENALTY. BREAKING THE CONTRACT COULD MEAN UP TO FIFTY YEARS IN PRISON. YOU MAY ALSO BE SUBJECT TO INVESTIGATION BY THE U.S. FEDERAL BUREAU OF INTELLIGENCE. DON’T GO MISSING. A drop of sweat rolled off of Chris’ face. Visibly disturbed, he scribbled his name onto the dotted line and rose from his seat. He sheepishly glanced back at the agent. The suited man stared solemnly before signaling Chris to leave. He wasted no time leaving the station, calling his mother to pick him up. On the way home, Chris’ mother listened to Tchaikovsky on the radio. He gazed glumly out the window as they cruised down main street. Suddenly, the man shot forward in his seat. Something had caught his eye.

“Mom, stop the car!” he shouted.

“What? Why?”

“Just pull over.”

Chris’ mother swerved into the McDonald’s parking lot. He threw off his seatbelt and dropped down the passenger side mirror, straightening up his hair. His mother shot him a puzzled sideways glance.

“Christopher, what are you doing?”

“I’m hungry. Talk to you later.”

Chris jogged across the lot, narrowly avoiding death by an incoming car. As he entered the establishment, an air of confidence washed over him. Approaching the register, he looked the employee dead in the eye and laid it all on the table.

“Hello, I’m Chris Romero. Are you hiring, by any chance?”

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