The houses have no doors.

My name is Eleanor. That much I am sure of. Whatever else I tell you from here on out are the facts as I know them, but I cannot promise, with any certainty, that I am telling the truth. It’s not that I’m lying – it’s that reality is shifting. Changing shape.

Being replaced.

But for now, my name is Eleanor.

I live in a house I’ve never seen before, in a town that nobody can identify, with a young boy who says his name is Mr. Eli.

He is six-years-old, likes dinosaurs and aliens (“But not alien dinosaurs,” he tells me angrily, toys frozen mid-air in his white-knuckled fists. “The law forbids it.”), and has a monster under his bed he calls “Nana”. He is my son.

When I went to bed in my other life, I did not have a son.

I believe I do have family, though. Just not here… wherever “here” is. I have tried to contact them, but phone numbers are out of order; texts won’t send; e-mails come back “user unknown”; letters are returned unopened, a large red stamp across the front reading “UNAVAILABLE”.

I got through once. The man on the other end – my brother, James – said he didn’t have a sister, and hung up. I hit redial, but the phone number had been disconnected.

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Excerpts taken from the diary of Angela Pleasant.

Had the dream again.

*                 *                 *

I think I’m running out of air.

My room smells funny. I asked Mom about it, thinking maybe she’d installed some new air freshener or something without my knowledge, but she insists that not only would she never (although she has before, which is why I asked), but she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. She says my room smells “fine”.

But there’s an earthy smell in here, something damp and almost… sweet? Not in a good way.

I’ve searched everything, even the closet, but there was nothing to find. I finally gave up and tried to open my window, but the wind was doing that howling thing again, and I couldn’t stand it. I had to close it again.

*                 *                 *

Still smelling it. Can’t find a source.

I’m afraid it’s in my head somewhere.

Something rotting and meaty inside of me.

I can’t get it out.

*                 *                 *

I take the pills to help me sleep.

I can’t manage without them. Sometimes, I can’t manage with them. But when they work, I burrow so deeply in the darkness that not even the nightmares (and I know they’re looking) can find me.

Rule of Rain, Chapter 4: Let the Games Begin

A couple of things about this “chapter”:

  1. This is actually only a half-chapter. Photoshop crashed the other night and killed the action I was using on these pictures. I really liked the action and the way it looked on this particular set of pictures, so rather than redo them in a new (and likely inferior) action set, I decided to just release the first half as is.
  2. This “chapter” uses a loooottt of game dialogue. A lot. Beware.

title

TW: None?

Continue reading

Dear Lilith,

I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve decided to name my journal after you. I just like writing “Dear Lilith” better than “Dear Diary”. Who knows… maybe someday I’ll be able to give this to you, and you’ll finally get to know me. The me I became without you there to hold me together.

I should have started this sooner. There’s so much to catch up on now. It’s a little overwhelming.

I’m back in Pleasantview. What’s left of it, anyway. Back in our childhood home, with mom. If you’ve been watching the news, then you know about dad, but I’ll get to that eventually anyway.

I spend a lot of time in “my” room. It’s more like some generic, anonymous hotel room now, though. They even changed the paint. I try to sleep as much as I can, but the nightmares make it hard to really rest. Sometimes I lock myself in the bathroom and just sit in the bathtub, like we used to do when we were hiding from mom and dad. It’s significantly more lonely and pathetic without you, though. Like, it was special back then, when it was the two of us against the rest of them. Now, I’m just some twenty-seven year old lying in a bathtub, avoiding her mom/life/the past/everything.

I’m in therapy now. Mom’s idea. She thinks I need to talk to someone (not her) after everything that’s happened. All the deaths and sadness. I’m so fragile now.

In case you haven’t been keeping up:

About three months ago, Dad went out for a late night jog. Except not really. He went out for a late night with Kaylynn Langerak (I know you remember her) – she later confirmed this. Mom just kind of brushes it off, dismissing Kaylynn as “fame hungry” and a “slut”.

Maybe. But you knew Dad…

At some point on the way home, he decided to take a detour through the park, where he was killed and partially eaten.

When I first heard about that, I thought of you. I imagined you, being you, bringing that news to its natural conclusion, you leaning in and whispering something terrible and inappropriate, like “My other casket is a pooper scooper”.

I almost laughed. Standing there alone in my half-empty apartment, surrounded by boxes and packing tape and styrofoam peanuts, with the phone in my right hand, and mom’s voice making this weird snuffling, wheezing sound in my ear, telling me over and over that Dad was gone, dead, dead, gone, deadgonedead, and I almost laughed.

The knife in my left hand didn’t even make a sound when I dropped it. Styrofoam peanuts. It caught my bare foot, though, on the way down. That’s the only thing that kept me from losing it right there in the kitchen. That sudden shock of pain and my foot drooling blood, it kind of reset my sanity meter.

I remember that I sat down next to it. Right there on the floor, and I picked it up and I was still thinking that I might, but there was mom’s voice on the phone, begging me to come home.

So I put it in the nearest available box and taped it shut and came home on the train, and she was late picking me up.

But I can’t really be mad about it, can I? I have literally no room to talk here, because Dad died, and I almost laughed.

It eats at me. I feel so bad, because I don’t feel bad enough. He’s dead, I should feel something, even relief, but I don’t. There’s just a lot of nothing where the grief should be. Sometimes I forget all together.

My therapist (Don Lothario – remember him? He’s married to Cassandra now, so I guess we were wrong. I don’t think he remembered me, though) keeps wanting me to tell him about dad, to talk about what happened and how it affected me, but I can’t. Not with him. He wouldn’t understand. And I guess I’m a little ashamed of it – my apathy. My father’s dead. Our father. The man who never held us, never changed our diapers, never fed or bathed us. The man who didn’t really want any part of fatherhood until all the “gross” bits were over, and by then, what did we need him for? Who was he but a pushy stranger mom let yell at us?

I don’t know how to talk about it. I don’t know how to admit to people that he was a shitty, disinterested father who thought he could just step in and take over once all the hard work was done and we were self-sufficient enough to be fun for a while. I don’t know how to admit that I don’t really care that he’s gone.

I wish I could talk to you about this. Shit, I wish I could talk to anyone. The problem is that there isn’t anyone left. The problems I’m having… who would believe me, but you?

– Angela

Rule of Rose Gothic

( x-posted from my tumblr )

  • You wake up on the bus, your skin sticky cold from the dirty window. It’s dark outside. Was it dark when you got on? How long ago was that? You don’t know where you are; you’re not sure where you were going.
  • The little boy hands you a ragged, handmade story book. All of the pages are blank. For now.
  • You find scraps of paper, and scribbles on the walls. The legend tells of Stray Dog. Stray Dog gives kids sweets. Stray Dog kidnaps kids. There’s candy on the floor; where are the children?
  • The children greet you by name. You’ve never seen them before. They don’t bother to introduce themselves; you already know who they are.
  • The children put you in the box with your dear friend. Your dear friend is in the bag. Your dear friend isn’t moving. The box is.
  • You wake up on an airship. The airship is shaped like a whale. The whale is made of metal and glass. It swims between the clouds.
  • Money is obsolete. The currency of choice is Red. Red crayons, red roses. Red all over your dear friend. Red all over the bag. Red all over your filthy hands.
  • There is candy all over the floor. You eat it without question. They come in unpopular flavors, like “Dirty” and “Old”. You eat them, anyhow. You’re sick from the sugar.
  • The airship is massive; it’s impossibly large. Up and down the stairs, down to the belly and up through the blowhole, and all of the children are gone.
  • You search for the children. You can’t find them. The children are lost, the children are hidden. You are all alone on the metal whale, floating in the stars.
  • Animals roam the halls. Grotesque configurations. Rabbits, goats, pigs. They’re all wearing suits. They’re all holding weapons.
  • The children are behind the door. The door is locked. You ply The Door with gifts. A beautiful butterfly, but it’s not enough. A battered rabbit, but it’s not enough. The Red Bird of Happiness, but it’s not enough. An unmarried mermaid, but it’s not enough.
  • Scratchy music plays constantly. All of the rooms are empty. The record player is broken. The music is inescapable. It plays endlessly in every room.
  • The children stop talking when you approach. They look at you with those cold, expectant eyes. They lift their dresses, and bend their knees. They smile those wise, knowing smiles. They ask if you’ve found what you’re looking for yet; something dear to you. Well. Have you?
  • The Door is unlocked. Your dear friend is in the bag again. You deserve to be gobbled up.

Jennifer’s Veil

jennifersveil

So you’ve come back for Jennifer
You know, she hides her face behind a veil
And I’m warning you, Frankie, leave on the next train
Your Jennifer, she just ain’t the same
– The Birthday Party

Today’s voice is a whisper, a whimper, a red, wet noise. It twists and staggers through the ruins left by last night’s screams.

Somewhere in my head, the nightmares are waiting. At night, they slither and writhe through the darkness, all fingertips and teeth.

At night I see my daughter’s face beneath the shadows that shimmer and glisten.

At night I crawl to the edge and reach, stretching until it burns, but she never reaches back. On my knees I beg her, don’t leave me. On my knees, I pray, don’t leave me… don’t leave me.

At night she turns and swims away, serpentine in the cold, black rivers, and the shadows hiss and swallow hard.

I watch as the dragonflies drift by, lazy and aimless and impossibly blue. I hold out my hand until one settles in my palm. Seconds go by, only seconds, and then I curl my fingers into a fist, squeezing until my knuckles turn white.

Tonight’s screams are already building.

willowcreek

We came to Willow Creek to escape the inescapable. To “start over”, as if there were some new beginning awaiting us on the other side of the pain.

Pleasantview is world’s away now, an already fading memory. I remember it in moments and fragments, the way I remember bits of stories I used to enjoy.

If I try, I can remember the weather, heat and leaves and snow… the sound of dogs barking… Lucy laughing as she skipped ahead, a bright flash of yellow and blue dancing in the cold light of the sun… None of that exists in Willow Creek. It’s so quiet here. Days go by and all I can hear is the wind.

Sometimes, if I’m lucky, not even that.

Today is lucky; I walk the empty streets and not even my shoes scraping the sidewalk can penetrate the thick layer of silence that smothers this town.

Pleasantview falls away. It is a phantom, haunting a forgotten life.

Back then, I used to wander.

Now, I’m just lost.

jennifersveil3jennifersveil4

Everything in this town is so beautiful and bright. Everything is fresh and green and alive.

I wish we had moved to the desert; a barren wasteland where I could trudge through the hot sand in any direction and never know for certain which way is home. I could have disappeared…

Our new house has a large tree in the backyard. It sprouts from a silky pool of impenetrable darkness. I am drenched with it.

Lucy lays beside me on the cold grass, pointing out interesting shapes in the leaves. She sees dogs and fish and butterflies. Only she can see them; that’s part of the fun. I try to only see her.

An eternity drifts by, creaking and moaning beneath its own terrible weight. An ugly and bloated forever. It’s gone now, though. I take a deep breath and feel the darkness in my lungs.

“Look.”

My dragonfly floats past, little body broken and destroyed. One wing is bent and torn. The other is still smeared across my pants.

“He came back,” she says, sounding delighted. “He must have followed me.”

I tell her: “I want to follow you, too.”

She says: “Not yet.”

The wind returns from wherever it goes and the leaves shiver and the branches sway. The sound is the dry bone rattle of my nightmares.

“Look.”

The dragonfly is gone.

Lucy is laughing beside me.

A tiny ragged wing is caught in the corner of her smiling mouth.

jennifersveil5

All the lights are out inside. John has given up and gone to bed. How long ago was it that he asked me to come in? A minute? An hour? Did I even see him today? It’s getting harder to remember.

I sit outside and wait for the night to expand.

I remember Lucy when she was four. Her little beating heart, and her little sugared bones. We used to tell her that we’d pieced her together out of moon beams and lullabies and wishes. That the darkness couldn’t touch her.

Now she hides within it, dancing on the blackened shores that cradle a bright sea of moonlight. Now the light can’t reach her.

Sometimes, if I look hard enough, I can find her. I can see the whites of her teeth as she bares them at me from under bushes, ducking around trees, sharp little pearls flashing behind windows that look upon darkened living rooms as she darts up stairs and disappears down empty halls.

The night unfolds around me, and I wait.

And I wait.

And I wait.

Down by the sidewalk, the bushes start to whisper.

And I wait.