Michael came home from the library that night as he had done every night that week. As a senior in college, he had gotten used to putting off having fun in exchange for studying. He was determined to graduate with honours and was well on his way to doing so. He lived off campus in a small apartment by himself with his cat Jack. He had gotten Jack for his 13th birthday and had practically grown up with Jack. Living alone in the apartment was dry after having spent his first year in a dormitory with plenty of friends his age. However he had decided that to really be able to focus on his work, he would not have roommates. To make it less lonely, Michael had brought Jack up to live with him. He liked the feeling of being in control of his surrounding and yet not being completely alone. Michael would occasionally go out with his classmates but not as often as they would.

The year was half over at this point and classes had ended so that the students could prepare for Christmas exams which were coming up soon. Michael had spent many days and nights at home studying and tonight was no different. As usual he had divided his day between his various subjects and tackled them one at a time. He understood that he was less focused the more tired he got and so he studied the harder subjects in the morning, the easier ones later in the day, and his elective courses at night. He did not drink coffee until he got to college, at which point he soon became practically addicted. He drank so much coffee to help him stay away and study that his urine smelled of it when he went to the bathroom. This being his final year, Michael was putting an especially large number of hours into attaining the best grades he could. He would stay up for as many as 20 hours per day and get only four hours of sleep. To make matters worse, when he did finally get to bed, he would be so twitchy from the coffee that he would lay there awake for a few more hours.

After several hours of studying and occasionally attending to Jack, Michael finally decided to wrap things up and go to sleep. He made sure that Jack had food and water to last until the morning and that his litter box was clean. He brought Jack out to his cat-bed in the living room and headed back to his own room. Setting aside his books, he slid into his bed. He lay in bed staring up at the ceiling thinking about his studies. He tried to get his mind off of his school work by looking around rapidly in an attempt to tire his eyes. He stopped when he heard a loud cracking sound.

Michael was used to noises in this old building. The building had been around for many years and was in a state of disrepair, which is how he was able to afford such a large apartment on his own. Even so, Michael was always uncomfortable when he heard the noises because they were so unnatural. There were cracking noises, squeaking noises, bending noises, and various other types, all of which would occur in very unnatural ways. There was one night where he would swear he heard a creaking noise actually moving around the house. He knew it was not Jack because Jack was too small to make that kind of a noise. Another night, he heard a thumping noise in the living room and thought that it was Jack jumping off the couch but was surprised to see Jack lying on the desk in his room. Over the past couple of years, Michael had slowly built up a nervous dislike for the apartment but had accepted it since he had no other choice. He needed a place of his own and could not afford much. He decided that since all they were were just noises, he would force himself to ignore them and keep this place until he graduated, which was now only a few months away. This turned out to be easier said than done. Except for him, there were few other residents, and the security was sloppy at best. It was not difficult for anyone to enter the building, and this was not the best neighbourhood. On top of all that, there were some red neon lights across the street which shone ominously into parts of Michael’s flat, throwing horrendous shadows around. Even worse were nights with full moons. Those nights were the worst because the everything would take on a creepy blue glow which in parts would blend with the red neon lights to form a most grotesque look. Overall, Michael had felt really torn about the place. On the one hand he needed privacy to study, but on the other hand, he would have liked to have several roommates to reduce the foreboding and creepy feeling this old place gave him. That’s one of the reason that he brought Jack to live with him. Jack was company and quite brave at that. Being a cat, Jack was not afraid of noises, lights, or shadows. Quite the contrary, Jack welcomed the novel breaks in what were usually boring days, and delighted at the thought of what kind of vermin was causing them.

His ears pricked up as he did what he always did when he heard a noise in the flat. He lay perfectly still, breathing as slowly and shallow as possible in order to pretend that he was not even there. He was a reasonable and rational person and knew that there was nothing there. As a scientist, he had calculated the odds of there being some kind of crazy person in his apartment, let alone a monster were ridiculously low; he had better odds of winning the lottery. Still, the darkness, the coloured light, the shadows, and the noises all built up to quite a terrifying experience that even the most brave and logical person would have difficulty to simply set aside. Michael listened closely to determine the nature of the noise, and attempt to figure out where it was coming from. The large cracking sounds was followed by a thump which was in turn followed by a sort of beating sound. He could not be sure, but he suspected that the beating noise was coming closer. He closed his eyes hoping that the sooner he fell asleep, the sooner he would lose consciousness. After all, when he is unconscious then he is not afraid. If the noise is nothing, then he will awaken in the morning just fine. If the noise was in fact something, then the worst that would happen is that he would awaken briefly just before dying. Either way it was better than the torment his mind was putting him through. Or maybe not. He opened his eyes. The thought that a large creature or person could enter his room while he is oblivious and completely helpless forced him to leave his eyes open. He considered turning on a light to dispel the shadows and allow him to get some sleep in peace but that would require moving and moving would require disturbing the balance that he was currently a part of; a balance where nothing was occuring. He glanced at the clock. The glowing red digits read 5:42am. This was getting ridiculous, it was very late and he had to get some sleep. He could no longer afford to lie there awake, afraid of the dark like a silly child.

Michael wracked his brain for a solution. He was a smart person, how difficult could it be to think of a way out of this silly mess? He decided that he would reach for the small 3-stage desk lamp and turn it to the lowest setting. That would be sufficient to put him at ease without making him feel like a little boy who needs the lights on. But how would he do this in the dark? His bed was in an unlit part of the room as was the corner of the desk with the lamp on it. He did not need to get out of bed, but would have to sit up. Suddenly a thought struck him. He would turn the tables. Instead of being scared by some unknown, and probably non-existing monster, he would be the one to scare it! He would count to three, no five, no ten. On ten, he would jump up as fast as he could, flailing his arms wildly, and making the most horrible noise he could conjure. That would catch any monsters off guard and give him the second he needed to reach for and activate the light. If there was nothing there, then all that would occur is he would feel a little silly and go to bed. If there was something there, then he would catch it by surpri
se and have the advantage. Michael steeled himself for his plan. He counted to ten, then eleven, and twelve. When he got to 30, he chided his cowardice and was thankful that he did not have any roommates to witness this show. By the time he got to 75, he was determined to do it on 100. As he approached 90, he took a deep breath. On 95 he thought that he might abandon the plan since he had not heard any sounds for the past several minutes but it was too late. By the time he had finished that thought, he had reached the count of 100, and he sprung into action. He pounced up as fast as his muscles could flex, and waved his arms like a madman. He shouted and screeched through several different variations of noises from a loud popping noise, to a high-pitched squeal, to a rolling, gurgling yodel. As he did this, he tapped once on the touch-activated base of the lamp and just as quickly slammed himself back down into bed. The whole thing lasted about three seconds. Michael was not staring at the slightly lit ceiling. He lay as quiet as before trying to listen for any noises. He heard nothing. He glanced quickly out of the corner of his eye and saw no movement. The room was barely lit but it was enough. He saw no monsters or madmen and felt a wash of relief flow over him. He closed his eyes and at some point drifted off.

The next morning Michael got up and went through his usual routine for the day. He hopped in the shower, got dressed, and prepared breakfast. He poured some food and water for Jack and got himself a big cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal. He called for Jack and ate his cereal while checking the news on the television. A few seconds later he called out to Jack again and finding no interesting news, turned off the television. After a few more minutes, he finished his cereal and called Jack again. He was starting to worry because Jack was as used to his routine as Michael was. He looked around the kitchen and living room. He searched behind the couch and in all of Jack’s hiding places. He checked the litter-box and the bathroom on the way to his bedroom. There was no sign of Jack anywhere. Michael entered his bedroom and looked around but found nothing. He looked under his bed and behind the desk; still no Jack. He opened the closet doors and collapsed backwards. Jack was lying there in the closet on his side, in front of a small hole in the wall. Michael prodded Jack to wake up but knew the horrible truth. He picked Jack up and found him to be quite cold. Hoping that whatever happened to Jack had just occurred, but knowing that it was too late, he jumped in the car and rushed Jack to the animal hospital. Michael pleaded with the receptionist to get a doctor and paced impatiently in the waiting room, holding Jack in his arms. A veterinarian came out and inspected Jack. With no more than a glance and brief touch, he confirmed to Michael that Jack was indeed dead and had been for several hours. Michael was crushed. The doctor asked Michael if he knew what had happened but Michael was at a loss to explain the death. He was told that they can do an necropsy to find out if he would like and Michael agreed while biting back tears. He left the hospital and drove home.

He slumped back in his couch and waited for the phone call. He did not study at all that day, and could not have cared less. He simply lay back on the couch waiting anxiously and soon dozed off. He fell asleep and had nightmares the entire time. He dreamt of horrific monsters and giant rats clawing and biting at Jack in slimy holes and sewers. He dreamt of crazy humans attacking Jack while he was tied down to his bed by invisible chains, helpless to do anything but watch.

Around midday, Michael awoke with a jolt. He was covered in a cold sweat and quickly remembered what had happened. He felt a pain run through him when he realised that Jack was dead for real. He threw himself across the couch and reach for the phone. He answered it, dreading what the vet might tell him of how Jack died. It was indeed the vet who was calling with the results of the necropsy. He told Michael that Jack did not suffer and died quickly, that Jack was not poisoned nor injured. Michael was relieved to hear the doctor tell him that Jack’s death was more or less natural. He dropped the phone in abject horror however when the doctor told him the ultimate cause of Jack’s death: last night, Jack had experienced some kind of shock or trauma that had caused him to have a heart attack.


Jennifer was a single mother of one. She had a seven year old daughter Melissa. The two of them were quite happy in their little town. During the days Melissa would go to class in the second grade while her mother would teach the fifth graders. They did not live in luxury on Jennifer’s income but they got by just fine. They lived in a nice little townhouse and drove a healthy car. They ate home cooked food most nights but would get some fast food as treat once in a while. Jennifer did everything she could to make Melissa happy which included buying her whatever toys she wanted. They would often go to the local curio shop to buy old things for around the house. Jennifer particularly liked antiques and had collected quite a few of them. Melissa liked to imagine the children who played with those old-fashioned toys so many years ago.

Friday morning was like any other. After getting up early and preparing for the day, Jennifer woke Melissa up and nudged her to get ready for school. Jennifer made breakfast while Melissa showered and dressed. They ate a humble breakfast of cereal, fruit, and juice together as they always did. Jennifer drove herself and her daughter to school. They hugged and Melissa got out and headed for class.

She loved her mother because she was all she had. Melissa did not remember her father who had died when she was three and had no friends at school. The other children didn’t pick on her, but neither did they embrace her. Because of this, Melissa kept to herself and longed for the end of each school day when her mother would driver her to the safety and comfort of home. Jennifer also kept to herself. She was always polite to the other teachers and participated in conversation, but did not socialise with them outside of work. She had not gone out since her husband’s death and stuck close to her daughter, the only one she had left in this world.

The day dragged on and both were weary. Melissa did her school work as usual and spent recess inside reading, while Jennifer taught her class and read in the teacher’s lounge at lunch. Eventually the school day ended and both mother and daughter rushed to the car. They decided that because they had both been exhausted by the dreary day and in fact whole week, to go out for dinner and a little browsing to kick off the weekend. After a small dinner at a fast-food restaurant, they headed to the curio shop.

The curio shop was small but filled with old items. There were tables, chairs, clothes, dolls, instruments, pretty much anything you could imagine. Many of the town’s residents avoided the place because they felt it was a thrift shop for the poor but the wiser people knew better. This was not a place for the poor to buy second hand goods, but a place to find forgotten gems from a long time ago. Who was to say that the old brass table with the intricate design work did not once belong to a king or that the ugly painting hidden in the corner was not a lost original worth millions? There were enough knick-knacks and bric-a-brac to look at to keep a person busy for days. Over the past few visits Jennifer had been making her way around, carefully looking through a small section each time. She moved to the next section without hesitation and began searching for something of value. Meanwhile, Melissa went straight to the toys as she usually did. She liked the old-fashioned dolls she found here and preferred them to the plastic ones in toy stores. She browsed through the dolls and noticed a colorful one. It was a clown dressed in shiny, burgundy sequins. It had a bright red nose and a large, red smile. It’s arms stuck out to the sides and had white gloves. Each hand had four fingers and the right one had two held up in the manner of the “peace” sign. On it’s head was a cute little hat with colorful flowers and it’s hair was made of soft, bright yellow rabbit fur. She thought it was cute and instantly desired it. She took up the clown doll and continued looking through the others. Jennifer checked her watch and realised that they had been there for almost and hour. It was getting late and the store would be closing soon, so they had to get going. She looked around for Melissa and saw her standing near the front of the store. She brought the little box of ceramic figurines that she had found with her. Melissa offered up the clown doll to her mother with a big smile and without hesitation Jennifer placed it on the counter. She paid for the purchases which the shop owner bagged for them and they left.

At home they showed each other their new acquisitions before heading off to bed. Jennifer displayed her ceramic figurines to Melissa. There were six little Oriental characters in various poses of acrobatics. They were hand crafted and painted with the most exquisite detail. Jennifer had always liked watching the acrobats in the circus and had taken gymnastics as a child. Melissa said that they were pretty and watched as her mother looked longingly at them. Jennifer then arranged the figures on the mantle and asked to see Melissa’s doll. Melissa handed her mother the clown but was upset by her mother’s expression. Jennifer had a frown, almost a look of disgust on her face. She looked at the clown’s ceramic face and did not like the way it’s gaze seemed to follow her. She never liked clowns for some reason and was always upset when they came out during the circus. Jennifer always asked her mother to let her know when the acrobats were performing and when the clowns were out so that she could avoid them. She tried to recall what could have upset her so much about them but could remember nothing traumatic. Nevertheless, she did not like clowns of any kind, not even the cute child-like ones like this one with their innocent faces and big puffy noses. She handed the doll back to Melissa and told her that she didn’t like it but she was happy that Melissa did. It was a relief that her dislike of clowns had not been transferred to her daughter because she felt it made her daughter better, and more complete. Jennifer held up two of her fingers to the doll and said “peace clown” with a smile and kissed Melissa on the forehead before sending her to bed. Jennifer went to bed and lay there thinking back to her trips to the circus and the gymnastics classes. She drifted off to sleep practically feeling the rush of performing amazing stunts on the parallel bars.

The next morning Jennifer woke up and headed to Melissa’s room. She cracked open the door and saw her lying under the covers. She went to the kitchen and made herself some coffee and poured two bowls of cereal. Deciding to let Melissa lounge for the day, she headed to the living room and turned on the television. She watched the news for a little while and flipped through some channels before growing bored. She turned off the television and admired her figurines for a few minutes. A yawn came over her and she stretched out the kinks in her muscles. Feeling impatient, she went back to Melissa’s room to wake her up. She thought that they could go for a drive today and perhaps a picnic since they had not done so for quite some time now. When she arrived the door was closed. Melissa was already awake, so Jennifer knocked and related her plans for the day. She received no reply to her ideas and knocked again. When still had no answer, Jennifer opened the door. She saw Melissa still lying there under the covers. She moved toward the bed to nudge her a wake but slipped and fell, hitting her head on the floor. She got up and looked to see what she had slipped in and saw a small puddle of what she feared to be blood. Melissa was still too young to be having her period so a bolt of fear shot through Jennifer. She threw back the covers and stumbled backward, crashing into the closet at what she saw. Melissa was indeed lying in bed beneath the covers, except that she was cut up very badly. She had gashes all over her body and face. She had deep cuts that were still oozing blood into
the mattress. Her eyes were glazed over and her mouth gaped open. Jennifer looked around in panic and saw to her confusion that everything in the room was undisturbed. The window was closed and except for the pool of blood and the mess she had made in the closet, there was no sign of anything unusual whatsoever. She was speechless and stumbled around for a while trying to understand what had happened. She grasped for the phone to call the police when she finally saw something that was unusual. Lying on the chair next to the bed was the clown doll which she had purchased for her daughter the night before. It was lying there inert in it’s burgundy sequins with the same large, red smile as the night before. It was lying there with it’s arms outstretched just as the last time Jennifer had seen with it’s white gloves and four fingers on each hand. The only difference was that this morning, on it’s right hand, the clown was holding up three fingers.


I recall a scary event that occurred to me when I was younger. Our junior high is next to an old Chinese restaurant that served Cantonese and Szechuan style foods that was shut down a long time ago. We used to tell each other all kinds of stories about it and why it was shut down. We even used to sneak around it to try to see inside.

One dark night in winter my friends and I were walking home when decided to force each other to go inside and see what we could find. One guy completely chickened out and said he would not go in whatsoever. I said that I would not go in, but I would pick the lock for the others. I ripped out a crowbar-like metal rod out from a part of the roof and used it to break open the rusty old padlock (we had had quite a lot of rain for the past several years and a lot of things were rusty in the neglected areas of town.) One of my other friends went in for a few minutes but came running out soon after completely freaked out. We asked him what he saw but he said nothing, he just got too scared to go on. Then last guy went in.

We waited for almost ten minutes and didn’t see him. We called in to him in the most taunting, jovial manner we could to allay our own fears. We didn’t hear from him. A few more minutes elapsed and suddenly we heard all kinds of crashing and banging and the noise was coming towards us. We practically wet ourselves figuring that we were about to die.

We were about to turn and run for our lives when we saw our friend running out as fast as he could. When he got out bent over and began to vomit furiously. He must have vomited up five pounds of bile for as many minutes before he stopped, pale as the moon. We now knew the stories were true. We could only imagine the horrible things our friend had seen, the decaying bodies, the blood stains, the jars of body parts. The unimaginable horrors that could make a person vomit so badly. We summoned every bit of courage we could and asked him what was in there, not really wanting to know. He was too flustered and could not. We walked him home and went home ourselves. The next day we walked to school together and noticed that he gave a wide berth to the old restaurant as we neared school. At recess he related his ordeal.

He told us that he had gone in and looked around. He tried the lights but not surprisingly they did not work. Fortunately the moon was pretty full and quite bright so he had enough light to see well although the place had an eerie blue glow. He had found the main dining hall to be boring so he moved into the kitchen. The kitchen was pretty much what he expected but found it a little creepy that a bunch of old equipment was still there. He looked through the cupboards and refrigerators and found some old cans and jars. He told us that they all looked normal albeit kind of old. He found some bottles of wine and thought we could take them, drink them, and perhaps make some good money since wine gets better with age. He also found some old cans of Chinese soups and noodles, dried pasta, fruits, old candies, and a supply of chopsticks and fortune cookies. He went on to tell us that he took a swig of the wine but it tasted awful, tried a little bit of the canned noodles which also tasted awful. I asked him what he expected since they were several years old. He said that the candies were okay and the fortune cookies were good if a little stale and had eaten a few and put some in his pockets for us. We told him to hurry up and get to the scary part, the part that made him run out and vomit. He told us that after the kitchen, he made his way into the office. He checked around to see if there was any cash but found none. He looked for anything of value but other than paperwork, there was nothing around. So he looked at some of the papers and that’s when it happened. On top of the pile of papers on the desk was a formal looking letter from the health inspector. We knew this was it. We knew that he was about to tell us what had caused this place to be shut down, and we were right. He told us that he read the letter and found a list of offences that the inspector had found. There was the standard fair like cooks not wearing hair nets and garbage not being taken out often enough, but the thing that had really shaken up our friend and scarred him for life was this part of the list:

6 – Wine stored improperly, mold found in older bottles
7 – Traces of rat feces detected in a can of noodles
8 – Hair found in a fortune cookie