Tag: creepy

I Picked Up a Hitchhiker

I was driving through rural New Jersey when I saw him.

A hitchhiker, standing by the side of the road. Surprisingly well-dressed – black suit, slicked-back hair, narrow briefcase.

Now, I know I shouldn’t pick up hitchhikers. But I’m 6’ 4”, 230 pounds, with all kinds of hunting equipment in the back of my truck. It’s not like this prissy-assed businessman is going to beat me to death and leave me on the side of the road.

Besides, I need gas money.

“Hey, man,” I said, pulling over to the side of the road. “I’ll give you a lift, if you pay me for gas.”

“Of course,” he said in a polite, almost British, accent. He reached for his wallet, and pulled out three crisp, $20 bills. “This enough?”

I grinned. That’s way more than enough. I greedily snatched the money from him and clicked the locks. “Get in, bud.”

He climbed in. His blue eyes shifted from the crumpled Wendy’s wrapper on the dashboard, to the mysterious, sticky goo on the middle console.

“Sorry, the car’s not clean. I’m going hunting,” I said, turning back onto the highway.

“Hunting. Interesting,” he said, in a strangely enthusiastic tone. “Have you always liked to hunt?”

“No, it’s the funniest thing. Never thought I’d ever hunt. Love animals, got three dogs at home. But there are so many deer around these parts, when the winter comes… a lot of ‘em starve to death. Not to mention all the car accidents they cause.” I trailed off, and we fell into uncomfortable silence.

“Just hunting for the day, then?”

“No, my buddy Matt and I will be out there the whole weekend.”

He let out a laugh. “The whole weekend? Your wife’s a saint for letting you go.”

My wife? How did he – But then my eyes fell on the steering wheel, and the silver ring on my finger. “Ah, yeah. Mary’s a doll. She’s actually pregnant, you know. 5 months with a little girl.”

He gave me a crooked smile. “A girl, huh?”

“Yeah.”

I could feel him staring at me long after we had fallen into silence. It made me feel uncomfortable; I clicked on the radio.

“How did you meet Matt?” he asked, fiddling with the dial. All that came through was static.

That’s a weird question, I thought. “Um. He and Mary were close friends. So when we got married, I got to know him well.”

“Mmm-hmm,” the man said. He stroked his chin thoughtfully, and I was suddenly reminded of a psychiatrist.

“Are you a psychiatrist?” I blurted out.

He laughed. “Definitely not. I work in finance.”

“What type of finance?” It was my turn to ask the questions, now.

“Futures,” he replied, noncommittally.

I glanced over at him. A small smile was on his lips, and I noticed his fingers had gravitated from his lap to the briefcase at his feet.

My heart began to pound.

Click, click. He undid the clasps; the case creaked open.

“What’s in your briefcase?” I asked.

“Work.”

“What kind of –”

His long fingers disappeared into the darkness of the case. He was pulling something out! My body began to seize up; the steering wheel felt like ice under my fingers. “I have a lot of hunting equipment back there,” I said, “so you better not be –”

I stopped.

He was only pulling out a sheet of paper.

For a few minutes, he was quiet. Reading the paper, intently and silently, as if his life depended on it. Scrtch, scrtch – his fingers slid over it, as they traced the text.

Then he slipped it back into the case, and snapped it shut.

What was he reading? I thought. But before I could get the question out, he turned towards me. I could barely see his face in my peripheral vision; but I knew he was staring at me, for minutes on end.

Then he broke the silence.

“Don’t go hunting,” he said, his ice-blue eyes boring into me.

“What?”

“Turn the car around. Go home to Mary.”

“What?!”

“She needs you.” He paused. “Madeline needs you.”

I paled.

I never told him we were going to name our baby Madeline.

“How did you –”

“He’s going to make it look like an accident,” he said, his voice gravelly and halting. “Just a simple hunting accident. The most punishment he’ll endure is thirty-five minutes in the police station, writing out his statement.”

“But –”

“Let me off at that diner, up ahead. I like their Cobb salad very much.”

“Matt’s going to kill me? What are you talking about?”

He turned to me, eyes wide. “What are you talking about?”

“About what you just said!”

“All I said is I’d like you to let me off at the diner, please.” He pointed to the exit, curving off the highway. “You’re going to miss it if you don’t slow down.”

With a shaking hand, I clicked on my blinker. Pulled off the exit, into the parking lot. My heart pounded in time with the click-click-clicks of the cooling engine.

“Thank you for the ride,” he said, pulling his briefcase out with him. “Have a good drive, will you?”

I couldn’t squeak out a reply before the door slammed shut.

***

I didn’t believe him. But my nerves were too shot to continue the trip, either. I texted Matt that I was sick, turned around, and went home to Mary. Mary was thrilled; Matt was disappointed. A little too disappointed, if you ask me.

A month later, after ignoring most of Matt’s calls and texts (which became increasingly frequent and desperate), I heard a faint thumping noise at the door. When I flicked on the porch light — there was Matt, hunched over our doorknob.

Holding a lockpick.

We called the police. Since then, life has been great. Just a few months later, our wonderful little Madeline was born. And as soon as we got back from the hospital, on our doorstep was a little teddy bear, a pink bow sewed on its head. There wasn’t a return address, or a card of any kind.

But I think I know who it’s from.

There’s Something in the Cornfield

At 3 AM, I jolted awake to a sound outside.

Snap, snap.

That was unusual for our Ohio farmhouse. We were surrounded in every direction by vast fields of corn, miles from the nearest neighbor. And I’d know if we left the gate open, or one of Madison’s toys was out – I’d done my nightly check of the backyard about a thousand times.

But as I lay there, still under the blankets, the noise continued.

Snap, snap, snap.

I ran to the window and threw back the curtains.

The corn stretched out as far as the eye could see, rippling and churning like some great, dark ocean. It stopped just short of Madison’s swing set, casting long shadows onto the grass that nearly reached the back door.

Snap, snap! The stalks shifted and swayed, shaking the husks so hard they threatened to fall.

“David! There’s something out there!”

“Probably just a raccoon,” he slurred, pulling the covers over his head.

“That’s bigger than a raccoon. Look at it!” The corn rippled and roiled, as if something large was moving underneath. Snap-snap-snap. “What if there’s someone out there?! I’m going to check the locks –”

“You already checked them a million times, like you do every night,” he groaned. “Just go back to sleep.”

I didn’t listen. I opened the door and stepped out of the room.

No.

At the end of the hall –

Madison’s door was hanging open.

“Maddie?” I called, my voice shaking. And then I got that terrible feeling that only a parent knows. Something’s terribly wrong. Sinking, paralyzing, throbbing in your chest, as you try to tell yourself she’s okay, don’t freak out, I’m sure she’s fine.

But she wasn’t fine.

The bed was empty.

“Madison?!” I ran out the back door, into the yard. “Madison! Where are you?!” I screamed, out into the night.

The corn was still.

Now that I was out there, I saw the evidence. Little bare footprints in the mud, leading up to the cornfield’s edge. Where they disappeared, the corn was slightly trampled – two stalks leaned in opposite directions, as if forcefully pushed apart.

“Madison!” I screamed, as loud as I could.

But I was met with only silence.

David stumbled out after me. “She must’ve just went out in the corn, to explore or something. We’ll find her,” he said, his tone barely convincing. He pulled out his phone, turned on the flashlight, and squeezed himself between the leaning stalks. “Hey! Maddie!” he yelled, with panic trembling his voice.

I took a deep breath and squeezed in after him.

The corn scratched my body. My legs were shaking so badly, every step threatened to send me tumbling into the mud. The white orb of David’s flashlight hovered a few feet in front of me – but other than that, the cornfield was pitch black.

I was about to collapse with panic when the corn thinned out.

And then we were in what appeared to be some sort of clearing or crop circle. The corn had been trampled into the ground in a small circle, roughly ten feet in diameter.

In the center stood Madison.

Facing away from us.

“Madison!” I screamed.

She didn’t turn around.

David was frozen, staring at her back, the flashlight shaking in his hand.

“Are you okay?! Madison –” I turned her around.

No.

I was staring at a blank face.

A face made of burlap. A brown wig was stuck on top with safety pins. An Elsa shirt was stretched over the bloated waist of straw. The bottoms – patterned pink fair isle – were put on backwards.

I began to shake.

“Those are the pajamas I put her to bed in.” My voice cracked. “She wanted the My Little Pony ones, but they were dirty, and – and –”

“What kind of sicko would do something like this?!” David said, his panic boiling into anger. He pulled out his phone and began dialing 911.

Snap, snap, snap.

The corn shook and shivered all around us. Shadows, slowly coalescing between the stalks, surrounded us in a ring of black. And then, before I could react –

A hand shot out between the dark stalks.

It grabbed David by the arm. He lost his balance and toppled backwards, his phone flying to the ground.

“David –”

A cold hand latched onto my waist.

I was yanked into the corn. My back hit the cold mud; the corn scratched and poked at my sides. “Get off me!” I screamed, swatting blindly at the stalks. Black slowly faded into hues of indigo and gray, as my eyes adjusted to the darkness.

And then I could see them. Interrupting the vertical pattern of the corn stalks, there were several short shadows standing over me.

Then the whispers started.

Hissing, hurried whispers, that seemed to generate the very wind that blew through the stalks. The corn shivered and shook, and then a heavy silence filled the air. I tried to scream – but quickly realized one of them had tied something over my mouth.

But then I heard it, and my heart soared.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

A tinny voice, breaking through the silence. I pulled my neck up, and through the stalks I saw the white light of the phone, glowing against the trampled corn.

“Mmmph – mmmmph!” I tried to scream through the gag. It didn’t work. Similar grunts several feet away from me rung out in the night – David.

Crrrrrrsssshhhh.

A low rumbling sound filled the air. The corn shook above me, harder than I’d seen it all night – stretching and swaying, stalks wildly crashing into each other. And as the voice continued – 911, hello? What’s your emergency? – a loud rush, like an airplane flying right overhead, filled my ears.

I looked up just in time to see the lights. Red, purple, and green, blinking in an odd asynchronous pattern.

The scarecrow, wearing Maddie’s clothes, was enveloped in white light.

And then, with a deafening hiss, it was yanked up into the night.

I looked back at my captors. In the strange, flashing lights, their faces were illuminated – and I saw that they weren’t terrors, monsters, or murderers.

They were children.

Horribly disfigured children.

Some were missing noses. Others had long scars running straight down their faces, as if someone had split open their heads to explore what was inside. Quite a few were missing ears, and one had no teeth. All of them had a profound sadness in their eyes – except for the one to my left, who had no eyes.

But they were also smiling, just a little.

As the light disappeared, and the faces faded back into the shadows, the hands on me loosened. The gag fell away; the shadows receded into the corn.

Except for one.

“Mommy!”

Snap, snap.

With a squeal, two warm arms wrapped around my waist. Maddie.

“Oh my God – Maddie –” I began to sob, hugging her tighter than I ever have in my life. “Are you okay? And –”

“Maddie?” The broken, hopeful voice of David sounded to my left. Crunch, crunch – he ran over to us.

“I’m fine, Daddy.”

“Let’s get out of here,” he said, grabbing both our hands and yanking us back through the corn.

We ran back into the house, locking the doors and calling the police. Madison was in a different set of clothes – ones dirty, smudged with mud and riddled with holes. But she was smiling, safe, and happy.

“They saved me, Mommy,” she kept saying, tugging on my arm. “The bad men were gonna get me, but they tricked them.”

As the police were taking our statements – as the sun was cresting over the corn – Maddie stood at the back door.

“Bye-bye,” she said, waving wildly at the corn field.

Maple Syrup

When I was 11, my dad and I tried to make our own maple syrup. (I don’t know how he convinced a rebellious girl on the verge of tweenhood to embark on such a project, but somehow, he did.)

So one chilly, February morning, we woke up early and went out to the large maple tree in the backyard. Setting up the tap was easy – Dad drilled the hole, and we hammered the spile in together. Within minutes, clear sap was dripping into the soda bottle we attached underneath.

“Check the bottle each morning,” Dad said, with a smile, “and write down how much we collected.”

“It’s the coolest project ever,” I told my friend, Shelby, on the bus to school. It felt good to put her in her place – she was always bragging about how she lives on a farm. “Dad lets me feed the pigs and milk the cows,” she would say, flipping her hair. “And he pays me for it. I basically have a job, and I’m only twelve.”

But her dad was a total weirdo. Mine was cool, and gave me cool projects to work on.

Anyway.

On the morning of February 27th, I approached the tree as usual – skipping in the snow, humming Walkin’ on Sunshinethrough the heavy scarf around my face. I walked around to the tap, and peered in.

I gasped.

The bottle was halfway filled with dark, reddish liquid.

Not clear sap.

I ran back to the house. “Mom! Dad!” I yelled. “There’s something wrong!”

Dad followed me out into the backyard, not looking very concerned. I don’t blame him. Last time I pulled him out here, it was because I found “monster footprints” in the snow.

Also known as raccoon footprints.

“The syrup is dark now,” I said, pointing rapidly at the bottle. “What happened? Did we ruin it?”

To this day, I don’t think I’ve seen my dad so shocked. His face went white, matching the surrounding snow, and his mouth hung open. “It’s – it’s fine,” he stuttered, pulling the bottle from the tree. “But I’ll bring it in and take a look at it.”

He detached the bottle, and brought it inside. I followed. “Go get ready for school. I’ll take care of this.”

“I am ready.”

He sighed. “Go, uh, get me the encyclopedia from my study, will you?”

As I walked down the hall, Mom’s whispers to him echoed towards me.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know.” A sharp inhale. “It smells metallicy. What do you think?”

“I’m not sniffing that!”

“Okay. Fine.”

“I knew this whole maple syrup thing was dumb. The tree is probably diseased or something. Don’t let her near it!”

“Okay, but –”

“And get the rest of it out of the basement! I don’t even have enough space for laundry anymore.”

I walked back into the kitchen with the encyclopedia, and they fell silent.

“I’ll drive you to school,” Mom said, grabbing her keys and shooting a glare at Dad.


When I got home, they seemed even more stressed.

“Michaela,” Dad said, sitting me down, “don’t go near the tree, okay?”

“Why?”

“We – uh – just don’t, okay?”

Apparently, my dad didn’t understand the concept of forbidden fruit. Now that he said it, I had to go back to the tree.

So after my parents went to bed that night, I snuck out of my room, grabbed a flashlight, and ran into the backyard. It was bitterly cold, and the icy wind blew through my pajamas as if they were made of tissue paper. But I soldiered forward, until I was standing underneath the maple.

As the beam of light fell over it, I saw a long red streak staining the bark, emanating from the spile.

As if it were bleeding.

I touched my fingers to it. They came away wet and red, and a chill coursed through my body.

Blood?

Is that what that dark stuff was, earlier?

I walked around the tree, my flashlight bouncing off the bark. As I did, I realized – there was a deep crack that ran horizontally across it.

But it was too long, too perfect, to be a natural crack.

I poked and prodded the groove with my fingers. The bark shifted and jiggled. I jabbed my fingernails in it, and pulled, until a large panel of bark fell away.

It hit the snow with a dull thump.

And I screamed.

Stuffed into a cavity of the trunk, still and lifeless, was the carcass of a pig. And in its belly was a small hole –

Where the spile had been attached.

I leapt back from the tree, screaming. The beam of my flashlight caught on the snow. And in it, there was a fresh set of footprints, leading up to the tree…

But none leading away.

I sprinted across the snow. I locked the door behind me.

And then I glanced out the window.

In the darkness, I could make out a shadow, climbing down from the branches of the maple tree.

The Escape Room

Last weekend, I went to an escape room.

Our company wanted to send the three of us interns for “team-building” and “camaraderie.” But because they’re cheap as fuck, they booked some dingy one in the middle of nowhere.

“Your cellphones, please,” the lone employee – a woman named Meredith – said, extending a plastic bin. “This is an immersive, team-building experience. No texting allowed.”

With a few grumbles, we plopped our cell phones in the bin.

“Here you are,” she said, swinging the door open. “The Medieval room.”

While Kate and I filed in, Derek stood on the threshold, staring at the blinking red light in the corner. “Is that a camera?

“Here he goes again,” Kate whispered to me, snickering. Derek was crazy like that – always thinking his phone was tapped or the government was spying on his emails. Because, you know, the life of has-been frat bro is just the most fascinating thing ever.

“That’s just for surveillance. Or in case of emergency,” Meredith explained with her unwavering smile.

Derek shot her a glare, then slowly stepped into the room. The door swung the door shut; the lock clicked behind us.

The room was small and windowless, as most escape rooms are. Stone wallpaper covered half the wall; the other half was covered in sky, complete with a crudely-painted dragon. Banners hung from the ceiling, and a suit of armor stood in the corner.

“I’m fucking starving. Let’s get this over with as fast as we can,” Kate said, running over to the bookshelf. “Each of you take one. Flip through it, see if anything falls out.”

Derek got lucky. After a few minutes of wildly shaking a Bible, a slip of paper fell out. He picked it up and read: “Take the painting off the wall, and God may save you all.”

We removed the painting. Behind it was a coded message, and Kate found its cipher taped to the underside of the table. It all went smoothly, clue after clue, until we got to the suit of armor.

Put on the suit of armor, and you’ll become a charmer.

I looked at it – a beautiful thing, made of engraved pieces of metal. It looked surprisingly realistic for escape-room décor. “They… really want one of us to wear it?” I said.

Derek shrugged. “I’ll do it.” He stepped forward and yanked the helmet off the stand. Kate and I helped him get the plates over his shoulders, the bands over his arms. Finally, I placed the helmet on his head.

“You look great in that, Derek,” Kate said, with a hint of flirtation in her voice.

“I can’t see anything, and it’s hot,” he complained, ignoring her. “How long am I supposed to wear this thing?”

“No idea,” I said, shrugging. Kate was already on her hands and knees, combing the floor for clues that might have fallen out.

Five minutes went by. Then ten. We didn’t find anything, and Derek’s complaining grew louder, more hurried.

“Can you guys take it off?” he said, his voice muffled through the metal. “It’s tight, and itchy, and something is poking into my stomach –”

“Fine, if it’ll quit your whining,” Kate said. “Marisa, can you help him?”

I walked over and grabbed his helmet.

I pulled.

And pulled.

“It’s, uh… it’s not coming off,” I said.

Kate ran over and started tugging on one of the leg plates. But it was no use; it was like the suit of armor had somehow locked itself shut.

I could hear Derek’s panting breaths echo inside the metal, feel heat coming off the armor. “Get it off! Get it off!” he yelled, the armor clattering as he writhed and thrashed.

“Stay still!” Kate shrieked, as he accidentally kicked her in the head. “We can’t get it off if you’re moving like that!”

I ran over to the door. “Hey, we need help in here!” I yelled.

No reply.

“We need help! Open the door!” I pounded on the door with all my strength.

“Get it off, get it off!”

Pop.

Kate finally pulled the helmet off. It rolled to the ground with a hideous, echoing clank.

“Derek? Derek, are you okay?”

His face was red; his black hair was wet, sticking to his forehead. “Just get the rest of it off!” he yelled.

Now that the helmet was off, it was like the armor had somehow unlocked itself. The pieces quickly popped off, and when it was done, he collapsed onto the floor. “My stomach… it burns,” he muttered, wiping the sweat of his face on his sleeve.

“Okay, okay, sssssshhh. Let’s see.” Kate gently lifted his shirt.

We gasped.

Across his stomach were red imprints, as if something had been pressed hard his skin. Forming letters, forming words.

CHECK THE CLOSET

I bent over, grabbed the chest plate, turned it over.

“Oh, my God.”

There were the fourteen metal letters, sticking out from the surface. Backwards, so when pressed against skin, they’d leave the message.

“That’s sick.”

“We’re leaving. Now.” I walked over to the door and pounded on it again. “Hey! We don’t want to play anymore! Let us out!”

Kate turned to the camera, its red light blinking in the corner. “Hey! Can you hear us?! Let us the fuck out!”

Five, ten, twenty minutes went by.

No one came.

Derek stared blankly at the red light. “What if – they want to keep us in here? To watch us, to record us –”

“Stop it with the fucking conspiracy theories, Derek!”

“But he’s right – if the camera’s for surveillance, why haven’t they come and saved us by now?”

She stared at me, nostrils flaring, but didn’t say a word.

“This isn’t an escape room. It’s some sadistic game.” Derek was standing up, now. His young face looked at least a decade older, the lines of panic cutting deep. “We have to get out of here. Kick the door down, if we have to.”

“Or we could check the closet,” I said.

“No! We are not giving into their fucking game!”

But I was already pulling the door open.

They ran over. The closet was about six feet deep, twelve feet across. It was pitch black, save for the light that spilled in from the main room. And as my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw the message painted on the walls, in bright red paint:

‘How can I escape this room?’, you wonder

Here’s the answer: six feet under

I looked down. The floor… it wasn’t carpet, or wood, or anything else. It was dirt. And there, glinting in the light, leaning against the wall –

Were three shovels.

Kate began to sob; Derek awkwardly put his arm around her.

“The only way out… is death?” Kate said. “Is that what that’s supposed to mean?”

I stared at the message. A shrill ringing filled my ears; my vision swam and shimmered. Six feet under… six feet under…

I grabbed a shovel.

Kate scoffed. “So what, Marisa, you’re just going to give up, and dig your fucking grave now?”

I didn’t dignify her comment with a response. I just started digging.

I hit the first body after only two feet.

Kate began screaming. Derek hid his face, forcing down vomit.

Shreds of plaid cloth caked with dirt and dust. The waves of decomposing stench hit me like a truck; but I pushed everything away and kept digging.

A foot later, I unearthed a clump of long, dark hair.

“Stop digging,” Kate sobbed. “Please, stop.”

But Derek grabbed the next shovel and started to help.

It took us three hours to finish. By the end, we were starving, exhausted, and weak. Kate was lying on the floor, in a half-faint, half-asleep way; Derek looked like he was about to pass out.

But we found it.

At about six feet under, the shovel clanged against metal.

And on that metal was a doorknob.

It took several tries, but I was able to lower myself into the hole and kick it open. And when I did, I dropped through the opening – and into a damp, cold tunnel.

“Come on!”

The rest of them followed. After walking through muck and sewage for an hour, the tunnel opened to the outside. We found ourselves standing on the street, a few miles down the road from the escape room.

We flagged down a car and made it to the police station.

But by the time they made it over there, no one was there, save for the decayed remains we found in the closet.

And the “surveillance footage” was gone.

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