Shadow Demon

Hi. My name’s Sammie. This is going to sound crazy, but I’m pretty sure that something is planning to kill me. I don’t know what it is, but he’s been toying with me for years. I say he because that’s what I can most assume from its shape, but honestly, I don’t know. What I do know is that he’s terrifying and every time I see him, he’s somehow more intimidating.

I don’t really remember the first time he visited me, but I first recall his visitations shortly after my father died. I think I must have been five or six years old at the time. I woke up late in the night. It was an extremely peaceful night which is why I think I remember it so well. There was no wind or noise from traffic, no strange lights to cause unnatural shadows. It was so peaceful, I almost immediately fell back asleep. However, just as I was closing my eyes, I heard a brief creak from across the room. My eyes opened back up just enough to see that my closet door was open just a crack. I stared at it for a while, and then after nothing, began to close my eyes again. This time, however, just as my eyes began to close, I saw the door open just enough to see inside.

At first, I thought I saw nothing, just blackness as one would expect from a closet in the middle of the night. I stared at the blackness for a bit and after a time of seeing nothing, I started to roll over and saw him. Not instantly, mind you. What I noticed was that the darkness at the top of the closet was not as dark as the rest of the closet. I squinted a bit and realized that the darker darkness had a shape. I couldn’t make out all of it, but I could definitely make out the side of a head and part of a shoulder.

And I froze up. I couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t look away. I couldn’t do anything at all except for lie there and watch.

As I stared at the darkness in my closet, I could make out a faint red where an eye should be.

And I screamed.

My mother came rushing into my bedroom, flicking the light on, and slid onto my bed pulling me close. I don’t know for how long I continued screaming. I just know that it scared the hell out of my mother. She stayed with me in my bed that night. By the time I finally fell back to sleep, the sun was beginning to rise.

After that first incident, I didn’t see him for quite a long time, or at least, not that I can remember. In fact, it was such a long time that I had completely forgotten about him until I hit my early twenties when I saw him again.

I was living on my own then. I had a small studio apartment that was cheap and since I was single, it was large enough for me. It comprised of three rooms; a kitchen, a bedroom living room combo, and a bathroom. One room led right into the next. My bed was between the kitchen and bathroom doorways, the foot of it facing the kitchen.

Three or four years passed before I had my first incident in that apartment. It was summer as I recall and though warm weather was expected, that night when I woke up, it was unusually warm. I was sweating heavily and my mouth was parched. Groggy, I attempted to build some saliva to wet my mouth but I could move neither tongue nor lips. Thinking this strange, I attempted to push myself up to get a glass of water, but my arms would not work. Not just my arms but also my legs and fingers and head and neck. Not even my eyelids would bring me respite by closing. All that I could do was to look around by rolling my eyes towards the various corners of my room.

That’s when I saw him, standing in the middle of my kitchen, staring at me through his two dull red eyes.

He was immense in stature, his head nearly touching the ceiling. Though he was darker than the shadows themselves, I could strangely make out definition and form. Two very small horns protruded from his mostly smooth head. Sparse wiry hair seemed to hang from the sides of his head, crooked and bending in many directions before falling down. Had long teeth that kept his lips from closing that were as black as the rest of him. Each of his fingers ended in points like claws and though I could not see his feet, I image they were of a similar nature.

The creature’s body was very muscular and toned, as though an artist has sculpted it out of marble. I could tell that even if he did not have those terrible claws or teeth, it would be no great feat for him to rip me limb from limb, tearing me apart effortlessly. Don’t ask how I could see all these features. I, myself, do not know either for the creature was darker than the darkness and logically, I could not have seen anything except for the basic shape and eyes. It’s as though he communicated something to my subconscious, filling in the details that I could not actually see.

And he just stood there, staring at me, barely moving. He must have stared at me for a good fifteen or twenty minutes, though it felt like much longer, every second the terror becoming much more intense.

I do not know when he left, because as soon as I regained the function of my eyelids, I immediately closed them. And then, almost as soon as I closed them, I was asleep. When I opened my eyes again, it was mid-morning and I felt strangely refreshed. I must have expended so much energy in my terror that my body took all the time it needed to fully rest.

I told of the incident to my friend Tom. He seemed to immediately recognize it.

“Oh yeah!” he exclaimed. “Sleep paralysis. That sucks. I get that from time to time. The most frightening thing I’ve ever been through. Happens to me every now and then. For me, it’s generally a witch crouched over the side of my bed just watching me.”

“How do you deal with it?” I asked.

“Honestly, I just keep telling myself it’s all a dream and that it will pass. The effect is minimal and it generally helps divert the fear.”

“Generally?” I asked.

“Well, sometimes, it seems to intensify it. A lot. You know, it’s moments like those when I wish I was one of those Christian fuckers.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Well, you look up anything that has to do with Christians and sleep paralysis and they’re always so sure it’s demonic. So they pray to Jesus, with their mind I guess, and it immediately goes away and they’re filled with real comfort and peace. What I would give to be able to make those moments disappear just like that. It’s like some kind of Jedi mind trick.”

I took in what Tom had to say and spent some time at my computer researching. It certainly sounded like I experienced sleep paralysis. People waking up during the REM stage of sleep report seeing all sorts of things, demons, aliens, witches, shadow men, etc., often in relation to their culture. For example, in the fifties after reports of UFOs and became more mainstream, sleep paralysis incidents reported as alien abductions jumped up drastically. It was good to know that I was not alone and that the demon was not real. I thought I would be able to cope should it happen again. I was, unfortunately, quite mistaken.

It was roughly three or four months before my next incident and it was so much worse. I woke up in the night again, completely paralyzed. I told myself that it was simply sleep paralysis and that there was nothing to fear, that it was all in my head. I looked around as best I could and saw nothing but my small apartment. If I could’ve, I would’ve have smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. As the only thing I could do was move my eyes, I just stared ahead into my kitchen. And that’s when I saw him.

At first, he wasn’t completely visible. He was there but hiding, as though he were waiting for me to notice him. I noticed an odd shape at the edge of the kitchen doorway. It was a just a shoulder barely visible from behind the door frame. The moment I saw it, what I can now only refer to as the demon leaned in from behind the frame. As he emerged, my heart began to race. First his hair, then his head and horns, and finally his dull red eyes appeared. The doorway being so near to the foot of my bed, he was much closer than the previous visit. And nearly as quickly as he leaned in and made his presence known, he quickly and quietly leaned back behind the frame.

At once, I let out a deep gasp of air and regained control of my body. Daring not to go into the kitchen, I closed my eyes and pulled the covers over my head, whimpering quietly. Hoping he wouldn’t hear me. Hoping he wouldn’t come after me.

Exhausted, I fell asleep in my own tears.

I woke up to birds chirping. The sun was shining through my windows. I was exhausted and still frightened. Carefully, I got out of bed and made my way to the kitchen. It was exactly as I had left it. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing it was, in fact, another bout of sleep paralysis.

After this incident, I thought future episodes would be easier, eventually learning to ignore the demon and go back to sleep. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

As time progressed, the shadow demon began appearing more and more frequently. First, he would appear once every few months, then every other month and then once a month. Soon the monthly visits would be every few weeks and then weekly, and so on and so on until it was every single night. He never did anything other than stare at me, so you would think that I would’ve grown used to it, but I didn’t. Somehow each night was more terrifying than the last. It got to the point where I could swear I was even seeing him before going to bed.

See, my bathroom mirror was right in line with the door to the bedroom which was right in line with the door to the kitchen. When I was brushing my teeth, if my eyes glanced up, I would often just stop and stare into the kitchen through the mirror. I would sometime stare for minutes, worried that he would be there. Climbing into bed wasn’t any easier. Even though he was always in the kitchen, I couldn’t bring myself to get close to the underside of my bed. I’d have to leap in so that the nothing that wasn’t there wouldn’t grab me.

All of this was taking its toll on me. I hadn’t had a goodnight’s sleep in months. It got to the point where I was trying to force myself to not go to sleep. I managed to stay up for nearly three days before I fell asleep on the couch in front of the TV. For better or worse, I fell asleep watching A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge. I’m not really sure why I was watching that while being tormented nightly, but it seemed to help, at least for the moment. Perhaps it was to help me cope, perhaps it was simply a distraction. Either way, I fell asleep watching a horror move about a pedophile who murders children in their sleep.

The next morning I woke up shortly after seven-thirty; the sun shining through my windows. Good Morning America was on. Al Roker was giving the latest weather forecast. Sitting up, I scratched my head and looked around. I couldn’t believe it. I actually slept the entire night and I felt completely rested. For once, I had a glimmer of hope.

Though in the past, I’ve had difficulty getting to sleep if there was any light brighter than a dim VCR clock, I now kept the TV on every night. For the first few weeks, I still went to sleep on the couch. It did not face the kitchen and it put me directly in front of the TV. Once I had gotten comfortable with sleeping again, I moved back to my bed.

My bed felt so amazing. It was like reuniting with a good friend that hasn’t been seen in years. I just sunk into the mattress and fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. Being able to sleep in my own bed again was true bliss. All was good for a few more weeks.

And then I woke up again.

I woke up on my side unable to move. The TV was still on; Austin City Limits was playing on PBS. It sounded like they had a country artist playing, a very lively country artist. As the credits began to roll, the glow of the TV cast shadows of a Coca-cola can and an empty box of crackers sitting on the coffee table onto the couch and opposite wall. Despite being paralyzed, I wasn’t immediately afraid. There was light in my room and though I could not see into the kitchen from the position I was in, there seemed to be no indication that my shadow demon was there. I wondered if perhaps my brain had finally come to accept my situation and relax. That is until my TV went dark for roughly half a second as it went to a commercial break between programs.

In that half-second of darkness, my shadow demon was revealed to me, not in the kitchen but instead standing in the corner of my room on the other side of the TV. He was still there when the glow of the screen resumed. He was standing just behind its reach, remaining firmly in the shadows. There was something different about him too. He looked mad. Very mad. And that terrified me.

Had I successfully kept him at bay for a short time while he figured out how to get back in? I don’t know, but whatever the situation, he seemed very displeased by it. I don’t know for sure if the glow of the TV was keeping him at bay, but he seemed like he was held back by it, so he just stared at me and I back at him. Though I can’t be sure, his chest seemed to be rising and falling, as though he were taking deep and heavy breaths, though I heard no sound except for that of PBS advertisements.

I’m not sure how long we stared at each other. I don’t even remember falling asleep. I just remember waking up again around ten in the morning feeling exhausted. I looked at the spot where the shadow demon stood and I realized something I perhaps should’ve realized when I woke up. The corner where he was standing was where my computer desk was. The monitors and desk would’ve been going right through him. He couldn’t possibly have been there.

I shook my head. What a stupid thought. There were so many reasons that didn’t make any sense, first and foremost being that if it was my brain causing hallucinations, then the desk and monitor never would’ve even been a factor. Secondly, if it was an actual demon, who am I to dictate how they do and do not operate. For all I know, the only thing they need is enough darkness. Material may be immaterial to them. The sheer absurdity of it all actually made me laugh for a moment.

Looking at my desk again though, I did get an idea.

That night before I went to bed, I turned on both computer monitors and made sure to set them to never go to sleep. I picked a nice white background with bouncing text for a screen-saver to keep that area bright. And it worked for a few months. I didn’t see my shadow demon except for once when my friend Tom crashed on my couch.

We had stayed up drinking and watching really dumb comedies. We actually fell asleep with all of the lights in the apartment on including the TV and monitors. The reason I know this is because I woke up on the floor half in the kitchen, half in the bed/living room with everything still on. Tom had gotten up to use the bathroom. I was still too out of it to get up off the floor and into my bed, so I closed my eyes and went back to sleep before Tom had finished. It was during this time that he must have turned everything off before going back to sleep on the couch.

I don’t know when I woke up again, but it was totally dark and I was on my back looking up. At first, I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening or where I was, then I recalled waking up earlier with the lights on and realized I was still on the floor. The next thing I realized was that I couldn’t move. My heart began to race as panic set in. In the past, I had generally seen my shadow demon in the kitchen or the corner of my room. Now here I was on my back in total darkness; not knowing where my demon was or what he would do. And then I saw.

Out of the corner of my eye, in front of the couch, I could see a long, black leg right next to my head; mere inches away. I could feel my breath slipping away as my eyes followed the legs path up to the body and eventually the head. It was my shadow demon, just standing over Tom, staring down at him. Watching.

In all my time I had never been so close to him. He’d always stayed at distance. But now here he was, right next to me, fixated on my friend. I panicked, but couldn’t move as he just watched Tom. But then, after a time, he turned his head slightly and looked down, right into my eyes. He’d noticed me and I could almost see his terrible grin as I stared into his dull red eyes. He started to crouch down and I lost consciousness.

When I woke up again, Tom was eating Lucky Charms at the table. I didn’t tell him about what happened, but after that point, I wouldn’t let anyone sleep in my apartment again.

Over the next few years, I would take to increasingly drastic measures to keep from being visited as I slept. It wasn’t long before the computer monitors were no longer cutting it, so I turned on a desk lamp. That was all good for a few weeks and then I’d have to add another light. Then things would be fine for a while again until he found another shadow to hide in. This cycle continued until all of the lights in the apartment were on. I couldn’t sleep in all the light, so I would have to lie on my side and face the wall. I would often stay awake for a couple days at a time eventually falling asleep from exhaustion, but never because I just needed sleep. This was taking such a physical toll on my daily life that I eventually gave in and went back to sleeping with the lights out.

He would come every single night and so my remaining strategy was to lie physically against the wall, face in. I could always tell he was there, but thankfully I could not see him, usually. Eventually, I learned to fall back asleep knowing that if I couldn’t see him, he couldn’t hurt me. While I still awoke in terror every single night, things seemed to be getting better until one night when he broke me.

I was lying to the wall like I always did, but I must have shuffled at some point in my sleep as my face pointed downward somewhat when I woke up. There was a small gap between the bed and the wall, maybe an inch or two, so when I opened my eyes, I was peering down that little tiny space. There, looking back up from the space, was the shadow demon. He was under my bed.

I think I must have blacked out because the next thing I remember was waking up cold and very wet. It was raining hard and I had left the window open all night. The sounds of splashing as vehicles drove through puddles were not as comforting as it would’ve been during previous incidents. In the past when I’d wake up, there was always a new step I could learn or trick I could do to keep him just far enough away. Seeing him under my bed let me know that there was no safe place. I broke down after that.

I started going to therapy. I participated in sleep studies. I was even prescribed prescription medications to help me sleep. Nothing worked. The therapy uncovered nothing. The sleep studies showed that while I did enter sleep paralysis, they saw nothing out of the ordinary. The therapy and sleep study not being able to provide any sort of relief, they tried medications. Oh, that was so much worse. Most nights, the medications worked fairly well and allowed me to sleep through the night. The nights where I woke up, however, the shadow demon’s presence was so much more intense. Those nights, I could sometimes feel him put a hand on my shoulder or chest. The worst was when I’d feel him pat my hair with his hand, just letting me know he was there and I couldn’t escape.

The therapy and drugs not helping, I turned to alcohol hoping that I would pass out long enough to wake up in the day time. It got really bad, sometimes drinking an entire 30 pack of cheap beer or a whole fifth of whiskey in a night. It helped for a while. One of the beautiful things about drinking yourself to sleep was that you could easily fall asleep with all the lights on and so I did. It was great for a while. I’d wake up in the night and stumble into the bathroom to take a piss and then go back to sleep on the couch. I had long stopped sleeping in my bed since that time I saw the shadow demon peering up from the space between the bed and the wall. This became a boon to me. I thought, if I got drunk enough, I couldn’t fall into sleep paralysis and if there was no paralysis, there was no demon.

I had done it, I thought. I had found the trick. All that I needed to do was drink myself to sleep and make sure I leave on all the lights in my apartment.

It was good for a while, until one night when I woke up paralyzed on the couch. All the lights were on, so that was a good sign. My eyes looked around the room until they spotted him. I had left the bathroom door open and although the light in the bathroom was on, it couldn’t reach all the way into the bathroom closet which had no door. There he was, peering at me from behind some clothes hanging up in the closet. The closet had a shelf so he was crouched down. I could tell he was grinning, waiting for his time.

So the next night and from then on, I always remembered to close the bathroom door any time I wasn’t in it. Problem solved.

What I hadn’t considered, however, was how bad the constant stream of alcohol was affecting my sleep. I was passing out, yes. Losing consciousness, yes. But what I wasn’t getting was quality sleep. I soon learned that if your body doesn’t get the sleep it needs, then your body will find a way.

I woke up one night to take a piss. I opened the bathroom door and walked in to take a piss. When I finished with my business, I started washing my hands in the sink, then my face. As I wiped my face dry, I could see in the mirror that my kitchen light was out and in its darkness was my shadow demon.

The game had suddenly changed. Never before had I see him from a non-paralyzed state. His chest raised and lowered with heavy breaths. My heart pounded at my chest as I stared at him through the mirror. I was afraid to move, not knowing what to do. Do I keep my eye on him or turn to face him? Though it must have only been moments, it felt like an eternity. Finally, I decided to turn around with a bolt.

He wasn’t there. Thank God.

I breathed a sigh of relief before remembering that the bathroom closet was now behind me and the silent panic set in once more. Slowly, without turning to look, I stepped out of the bathroom and closed the door behind me. I then stared at the kitchen for some time before going to sit down on the couch. I pulled my knees up to my chin and held them close with my arms. I didn’t dare to go turn the kitchen light on; that would mean going through the darkness. I just waited until morning when the sun arose.

I later learned about micro-sleep. If your body doesn’t get the sleep it needs, it will snatch it where it can, in short half-second to thirty-second bursts. Perhaps that’s what happened when I saw him in the mirror. Perhaps, I was asleep. Perhaps I was paralyzed. Maybe it simply wasn’t long enough for me to know it. All this I tried to rationalize, but I couldn’t be sure. What the experience showed me, however, was that I couldn’t continue on the way I had been.

I got a job working overnight security at a mall thinking that maybe if I took a night job, I could sleep during the day when the number of shadows would be more limited. I hadn’t considered that in my current condition that walking all by myself through a big empty building full of shadows might be too much for me. The cameras apparently showed that I was way too nervous and jumpy to be considered reliable should an actual emergency arise. I was let go after a few weeks.

Unable to maintain a job or normal relationships or even help with sleep paralysis, I began looking down alternative paths. Specifically, I turned to ghost hunters and paranormal experts. None of them were able to find a thing and all concluded that it was all simply a figment of my imagination. That is until two people showed up at my door.

At first, I thought they were Mormons with their black pants, white t-shirts, and black neckties. One of them was tall and lanky with a small stack of books under his arm. The other was of more average height and build with glasses. Before they could speak, I almost told them I was not interested when I saw the van behind them. It was white with plain black lettering on the side: Deep Paranormal. I started to open my mouth, but before I could find the correct words, the average one spoke.

“You’ve become quite the anomaly of the ghost hunting world, Sammie,” he said. “I don’t know if we can help you, but I believe we can confirm?”

“Confirm?” I asked, perplexed.

“The shadow demon,” he said. “We can say with great certainty that they exist, but until now, no one has ever been able to get proof. May we come in?”

“Uh, sure,” I replied. “Right this…” They walked past me. “…way.”

They immediately began looking all around my apartment.

“Wow!” the average one exclaimed. “It’s smaller than I would’ve thought. This should be easy.”

“I’m sorry,” I stammered. “How do you know about this?”

“We ghost hunters talk to each other. Well, us smaller ones anyhow. We generally don’t share anything with the television groups. They have a tendency to make us all look like idiots. We have secret forums that only the most trusted can access. It allows us to improve as a community while at the same time protecting the privacy of those we work for.”

“Really?” I asked. “Because you showing up here uninvited doesn’t make me feel like my privacy has been protected.”

“And under normal circumstances, we would never have come or been given your personal information. However, considering your situation and what we have to offer, it was felt that it may be in both of our best interests.”

“And what makes you think you can do what no one else has been able to?”

“Photon detection,” the lanky one finally said.

“Exactly,” the average one explained. “It’s not new technology by any means, but it is something that’s been out of our reach until recently. Your shadow demon will be our first attempt at capturing one on camera with this method. Using an algorithm by Ahmed Kirmani and his colleagues at MIT, we can take a picture of something in near-total darkness. And not just ordinary pictures either. Three-dimensional pictures. These photos will have depth. Theoretically, we should be able to confirm whether this is all in your head or not.”

“Wait,” I began, “if you’ve never caught one of these on camera before, how can you confirm it’s all in my head if you don’t catch one with me?”

“All other possibilities have been ruled out,” the lanky one replied.

“Precisely!” the average one exclaimed. “Though no one has been able to get photographic evidence of a shadow demon before, there is enough anecdotal evidence that they exist, something that no other ghost hunter has been able to find with you. If we can’t find any proof with this method, you might just be crazy.”

I shrugged, not knowing what else to do. “Great,” I surrendered. “What do we do?”

“Just let us set up our equipment and then carry about your night like you normally would. We only ask that you make sure every possible light source is either out or blocked.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “Let’s get to this.”

The next few hours involved the setup of various equipment that I had no idea anything about. It all seemed specially designed for total darkness because there weren’t any little lights on any of the equipment to let you know it was working. They explained to me that they could read all of the instruments from their van, which is where they would be all night.

That night I went to bed around 11:30 after a few beers. When I woke up to the birds chirping at 7:30 the next morning, I realized I had a rare night of complete sleep. I felt fully rested. When the average-sized one knocked on my door, I expected him to tell me that because of my full night of sleep, they didn’t get anything and would need to run the tests for another night. As such, I was a little surprised to seem him looking deeply unsettled when I opened the door.

“Um…..could you please follow me to the van?” he asked. “We have something to show you.”

I grabbed a bathrobe and followed him out to the van parked in my yard. Climbing inside, the lanky one was preparing the footage for me to view. It was clear something bothered him too as he looked up at me briefly, shook his head slightly, and then back down at the screen.

The average one pointed at the monitor which was replaying the events of the night in an infrared night-vision at high speed from different cameras.

“This is you at night. The night-vision cameras are one of the tools others would have used. They detected nothing. None of our other instruments have either. However,” he began, “our photon detection camera……” He turned his attention to the lanky one. “Bring it up.”

The lanky one hesitated a few moments before ALT-TABing over to bring up a different screen. I became instantly paralyzed with fear.

The average one swallowed and then spoke.

“So, no one has ever found any evidence of any kind during times of complete sleep. In the past, it was believed that the Shadow Demons only appeared during the sleep paralysis state and the train of thought was that they caused it. Um…..this case has just upended centuries of belief and study. From this image as well as others we captured, we can presume that they can appear anytime and may always be watching the people they torment.”

I heard is words, but they seemed empty and hollow against what I saw on the screen. On a background that was mostly white, I could make out the shapes of some items in the distance. My desk, my television, etc. Things that were closer to the camera were much clearer. I could see myself lying in bed in black and white detail. It wasn’t the greatest image. My face looked like poorly done gray CGI, but you could make out details like my cheekbones, the depth of my lips, nose, and eyes. You could tell it was definitely me.

However, standing over my bed was a tall black mass that was very clearly defined. Despite looking like a terrible computer-generated image, it was clear that it was my Shadow Demon. You could make out every muscle, horn, and even wiry hair. From another camera, you could see white where his eyes would be and the shape of his teeth. He was real. He was real and he was there when I didn’t even know it. And now I know.

“Are you religious at all?” the average one asked.

“No,” I said vacantly. “Atheist.”

“That’s too bad,” he replied. “Listen. We’re going to continue monitoring you every night. There’s a lot of information we can gather that could potentially change the world as we know it. For now, I highly suggest you look for spiritual guidance. I would recommend Catholicism. I don’t much agree with it myself, but they seem to have the most experience with this sort of thing and are often the most willing to deal with it. I can put you in touch with some priests who deal with this sort of thing if you like, but it’s generally best to start local. It helps to have a connection with a congregation who can support you.”

“Thanks,” I said meekly as I continued to stare at the image on the screen.

Letters from Unsung Heroes: The Train – Mark Ambrose

Evening Frank, or whatever the fuckin’ time it is. I don’t know. We’ve been stuck in this blasted tunnel for what must be at least a few days it seems. I can’t be sure. I only know that I’ve slept twice since I’ve been here. Haven’t showered since before I left. I must look like a real piece of work. My face is scruffy, my hair is getting greasy, and the grime is building up in my hands. Not very respectable looking for someone in our line of work. I’m gonna need a real hot bath and some toiletries when I arrive.

Don’t worry. I still got the stuff. I haven’t allowed it to leave my side since I left. I was worried that someone might try to steal it from me in my sleep, but everyone seems to be pretty honest here. My biggest worry is that some twat will try to burn it. Can you believe it? Some fuckin’ kid comes up to me and asks if he could have my suitcase or anything inside of it to burn. I said, “No, you little fucker! You touch my case and I’ll burn you!” He got all wide eyed and buggered off. I’ve seen him a few times since, but he’s tried not to make eye contact with me and hurried past. Apparently some of the other passengers are cold. Dummys should’ve worn a better coat. You ain’t never seen me beggin’ for nothing. I come prepared.

Anyhow, despite the troubles, most people seem unnaturally calm. Why, just earlier today, I heard a gunshot followed by no screams. When you hear a gunshot on a crowded train, you expect a little screaming, but no. Nothing of the sort. Now, I was in a different car at the time and reacted the only way someone in my position could deem appropriate. By getting calmly getting off the train and nonchalantly making my way all the way passed the final car to take a piss. I don’t want no part of whatever was going on in there. I’ll just keep to myself, thank you very much.

Anyways, I’m taking a piss and I hear this rustling some cars back, near the one I heard the gunshot from. So I kind of peak around, turning my head back best I can without pissing on myself and I see a big fat butt pointing up from the ground. Well I soon discovered that the big fat butt had a big fat body when it stood up holding something with a slight sparkle in his hand. Well, it must have been something very interesting because fatty waddled off and back on board the train, all the while holding the sparkly item in both his hands, never his eyes looking up from it. I don’t know why that stuck out to me as peculiar. It’s not like it was the most interesting thing to happen on this trip. No, far from it.

Let me tell you, since we have arrived in the tunnel, I have not seen one single employee. It’s like they all just disappeared. Not a fuckin’ clue of them anywhere. Now that I think about it, the calmness of everyone seems that much more fucked up. In fact, the only person who even seemed to panic even remotely was some scrawny fellow who made a run for back where we came. The stupid bastard didn’t even have a light. There could be miles of darkness that way; he’s likely to trip and break his neck or run face first into a wall. We don’t even know if the entrance is still open. For all we know, we could be trapped in here and that fool running off into the darkness is likely to end up dead.

Oh fuck, me. Listen, if this letter reach you before me, know that I’m not letting go of the package. Hold tight and I will arrive.

-Mark Ambrose

Letters from Unsung Heroes: The Train – Sam Davis

Yesterday a young girl left her mother’s side and began walking in circles, chanting ceaselessly. “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” It was quite chilling, really. She attacked a man who tried to help her and then went back to her circle as though nothing had ever happened. Today she collapsed to the floor and died. A gunshot next to my ear went off and put a bullet in her head, apparently just to be sure. The bang was unexpected and left me doubled over, temporarily deaf except for the ringing. Save for some people that entered our car from the front, there was almost no commotion, or at least none that I could tell. I was too busy dealing with my own problems.

Stumbling to the back of the car, I pushed the door open and stepped outside. As soon as my feet touched the ground, I bent over and puked. There seemed to be no-one around me to witnesses my grace, so I slumped down against the cave wall on the dark side of the train and lit a cigarette as I watched the car.

How tragic that so few reacted. Surely they must have heard the gunshot. Perhaps they did hear it and were reacting cautiously, though if they were I certainly didn’t notice it and all I heard was the terrible ringing in my ears.

As I smoked my cigarette trying to comprehend what had just happened, I happened to see something reflect it if the corner of my eye. I don’t know why I initially got up to inspect it, though I suspect my subconscious telling my mind to cease considering what had happened on the car had something to do with it. It was a little copper name badge, one worn by much of the staff of the train. It seemed strange to find this outside the train and stranger still that I don’t think I’ve seen a single staffer since before we entered the tunnel.

I hate to cut my letter short, but the letter carrier shall be departing soon and I should be finding someone to show this badge to. I don’t know who or how they could help, but if I can find someone who could make use of this information, it’d probably be best if he knew before the letter carrier departs.

Sincerely, Sam Davis

Letters from Unsung Heroes: The Train – Bart Mankinson

Dearest Mary,

Should I ever evacuate this journey and return home to you, I fear I shall forever be a bitter shell of the man whom I once was. The journey back from my trip that started out so enjoyable took a degrading turn when we lost motion and light traversing through the Sanderson Tunnel. While most of the passengers seemed to take it with stride, the business man in front of me was all too quick to express his displeasure and has continued to express it for two days. I must say that it has put quite the damper on my mood. If not for his continued mutterings, I may have been able to patiently enjoy myself whilst I wait for the train to return to motion.

He was actually quite pleasant when we took board of our journey, sitting there quietly going over what appeared to be business work. I say this only because of the way in which his papers were strewn about his lap and seat; rest assured that I was not snooping. Anyhow, the train suddenly seemed to lose power and slowed to a stop. After a few moments of silence, I heard him mutter something to the effect of, “Is this really what my ticket has paid for? Does not my money go towards the experience?” His grumbling only grew stronger until someone eventually came through with some old oil lanterns they had found in one of the storage cars. He was apparently placing them at key points on the train to make things easier. That is until the businessman in front of me berated the poor bastard into hanging it by his seat.

“What do you think you’re doing?” He said. “Don’t put that there, I absolutely must have that lamp over here. I have very important work that must be done and it doesn’t stop just because of disaster.” The poor boy tried to explain the necessity of placing the lamp where he was but the man would have none of it. “Don’t you sass me, young man! I am doing far more important work than you can possibly imagine and the rest of you can deal with a little dimness so that I can do what must be done.” The boy tried to reason with the man, but eventually he relented and placed the lantern where the man saw fit. I slipped the poor boy fifty dollars just for having to deal with the wretched man in and among everything else so that he might be able to get some much needed enjoyment when we get out of here.

Full of grumblings and mutterings, the business man attended to his work, almost constantly complaining and cursing under his breath. A short while ago when the Postmaster announced that he was going to attempt to walk his way out and offered to deliver any correspondence free of charge, the man immediately stopped what he was doing, pulled out a large stack of paper and began furiously writing letters and stuffing them into envelopes. So enthralled by his speed and ferocity, I couldn’t resist but to look over his shoulder and glance at what he was sending off.

Oh Mary, I wish I had not. Such an offensive string of obscenities laced with phrases such as fanny bandit and twat coddler. I don’t even know what that could possibly mean and I’m certain that I don’t want to know. Sweet darling, how I long to return to the gentle embrace of your arms and soft demeanor. Please know that I am safe for the time being and that for the most part, my time has been uneventful, though annoying.

Your loving husband,
Bart Mankinson

Letters from Unsung Heroes: The Train – Maxwell Hart

Dear Emily,

I regret to inform you that my arrival has come under delay. Shortly after we entered the tunnel portion of our journey, the locomotive simply gave up the ghost so to speak. I’m not sure what caused the issue; I only know that I was on the scenic car enjoying my pipe tobacco when the lights went out and the locomotive slowed down to a stop. As the people on the car with me hurried inside, I remained patiently behind as to avoid the hustle and bustle of the commotion as well as to finish my smoke. Running inside with the rest of the frightened souls would’ve done me no good and shall have only ruined a good smoke.

When my pipe had burned it’s last, I decided then that I should perhaps make my way back to my seat to make sure my luggage was safe from hooligans who would use such an opportunity for their own misdeeds. As I made my way through the cars, groping the tops of seats so as not to trip on anything, I could hear the quiet breaths and fidgits of frightened passengers. Though it seemed strangely calm, I chalked it up to some instructions that I had perhaps missed by remaining to finish my tobacco. I later learned that no such instructions were given as all the members of the crew seem to have vanished as though raptured away by some unseen force.

Making my way through the dining car, I looked forward to sitting down comfortably and reading the news paper I had purchased before entering the train. I figured I could read peacefully by flashlight while I waited for everything to start again. It was in the dining car that I heard the whimpering of a small child. I took out my torch and found the source of the sound hiding underneath a table. It was a six year old boy named Nathaniel Manx. He was writing a letter to his mother when the power went down. It took quite coaxing to get him to come out. Apparently, his mother had instilled an unnecessary amount of “stranger danger” fear within him. I reason that I must have sat with him in the dining car for a day before he came out because I at one point fell asleep for what must have been six to eight full hours. In fact, he didn’t even accept food from me until after I had awakened because he was hungry enough at that point that his hunger overcame him. Unfortunately, by that point all that I was able to offer were some stale bagels and doughnuts from behind the counter.

Anyhow, he eventually came with me to my seat and I’ve become something of a comfort to him in his time of distress. I’ve learned that we was to visit his aunt and uncle on Sparrow Avenue. I believe that is just a street or two down from your house if I am correct. Their names are Carol and Stephen Hupper. If you could be so kind and let them know of their Nephew’s situation, I would be most grateful. I would take him myself with the postmaster, but I honestly don’t know what we’ll encounter in this tunnel and I don’t want to put the lad in any danger. He’s had enough of a time as it is.

My regards and I hope to see you soon,
-Maxwell Hart

Letters from Unsung Heroes: The Train – Samuel

Hello Danny,

I’m afraid my train has gotten caught in a bit of a spot. You see, there seems to have been some sort of a total power failure and we have not progressed for about two days by my estimate. Quite annoying, I admit, but we’ve managed to make a jolly old time of it. Some of the men have conscripted me into helping out with some of the labor. One of my tasks is to keep small fires going as the tunnel we are trapped in seems to have no source of light. Unfortunately, the fuel I gather has to be from various luggage that the other passengers don’t care about and burnable yet unnecessary equipment and crates from the train as there seems to be nothing to burn whatsoever in this dark tunnel. Thankfully, we haven’t had to burn much as most passengers have seemed quite content to just sit quietly in the dark.

I found a few oil lamps in a car near the front that seemed to be a holding area for emergency supplies. What few I found we’ve hung up in and outside of key points on the train. Strangely, one old woman seems to have brought her own. I can’t fathom why she would bring such a thing on a train ride but it has made things easier for everyone.

Anyhow, my helpfulness has not gone unrecognized. The men who’ve been working the rounds have taken notice and invited me into their circle after the work was done last evening. We played cards and they gave me whiskey and rolled cigarettes. I nearly choked on my first smoke and gagged on my first drink. The men broke out into hysterics over this and though I felt ashamed at first, one of them gave me a firm slap on the back and said in a gruff voice, “We’ll make a man of you yet!” and everyone followed with a “Hear, hear!” I realized then that this was some sort of ritual that they have all been through at some point in their life and they probably didn’t just enjoy these things naturally.

Having developed this comradery, I have now taken my first steps into manhood. This disaster has turned into a sort of self realization for me. All the things I used to enjoy seemed so trivial and these simple pleasures are what really bring true happiness. Oh, I’m sure I’ll still get joy out of my old fancies, but this experience has made me much more grounded and for that I am most grateful.

Anyhow, I hope this letter reaches you. The postmaster is going to make an attempt to leave the tunnel by foot and has offered to deliver any messages we might have to those on the outside to let them know of our predicament.

Your good friend
Samuel

P.S. Should you receive this before I arrive, please send word to my mother to let her know that I am alright. She’s probably worried sick that I didn’t phone to inform her of my arrival.

Letters from Unsung Heroes: The Train – Jacob Edger

A child died today. By my estimate, she was somewhere between ten and thirteen. I don’t know what happened. But it shook me to my core. It was not long after the lights went out and the train stopped. We were sitting there in our seats quietly. It was pitch black and no one spoke a single word as though there was some form of unspoken etiquette about being trapped in the dark with a  bunch of strangers. It had been perhaps hours since everything stopped when it started to happen.

There was a shuffling, and then the sounds of feet walking across the train floor. Then, a soft and gentle voice started to speak.

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

And then the voice spoke it again. And again. And again. And so forth.

We could not see anything, but we could hear the steps and the voice. They would fade slightly and come back repeatedly. Finally, I lit a match and leaned out of my seat to see what was going on and there was the girl of whom I had previously spoke of dying. She was walking in a circle, face looking down to the floor. Some of us tried to speak with her, but she did not respond. She just kept walking in her circle. One man tried to see if he could help. He got down on his knees and put his hands on her shoulders. She flipped out, went into some kind of rage while never moving from her spot. Flailing and screaming hysterically, she bit his thumb and it bled profusely. He lurched back to his seat and she went back to repeating her line and walking in a circle as though nothing had happened at all. That was the last time anyone tried to help her.

She did not stop for sleep, nor drink, nor food, nor bathroom. She just kept going all day, all night, and what I presume to be all the next day. And then she just collapsed. Her body didn’t move. She had no breath. And according the individual who eventually got down to check the body, no pulse either.

“She’s dead,” he said.

Then there was a loud bang and a spray of blood. No one was quite sure where the sound had come from, though it was definitely in our car. When our eyes gazed back to the body, we noticed a whole in its head. That’s when a voice spoke from the shadows.

“And now she won’t be coming back,” it said.

I don’t know who fired that gun, there was only enough light to see the body. About three people, a man and two women, rushed in from another car to see what had happened. They were horrified at the dead body when they saw it. The man started shouting questions, demanding to know what happened. No one answered. They just sat in their seats and fixed their gaze straight ahead like I did.

I never considered myself a Christian man. Now I’m sure of it. There is no God. What I am not sure of, however, is whether or not there is a devil. If there is, however, I have reason to believe he is here with us right now.

To whomever finds this letter,
Jacob Edger

Letters from Unsung Heroes: The Train – Jessica Wildersen

Dear Sarah,

Apologies for my lateness, but the train that was to carry me to West Hampshire seems to have broken as I have been trapped in this tunnel with no power for two days. Don’t worry about me for I am doing very well. To be honest, I’m actually finding this quite liberating. Sure, in the beginning, I was annoyed, but after a time it felt quite freeing. We fall into these repeated gestures in order to uphold the standards of society, but for what? To appease some unspoken form of dignity? Why?

A nice young woman gave me a pair of jeans and a dark green tank top to wear (or at least I think it was dark green, I couldn’t really tell because it was so dark) so I wouldn’t have to sit in my formal dress the whole time. It was very nice of her and she just happened to be my size. I must say, the clothes she gave me are extremely comfortable and honestly, I may want to start reserving formal wear for special occasions rather than everyday. Thankfully my boots, though high in heel, are very comfortable and supportive. Though they look a little silly with jeans and tank top, they are certainly better than going around barefoot.

I know what you must be thinking. “Barefoot!? On a train?” Well, the change in attire did want to make me take my boots off and kick my feet up, but instead, I’ve been constantly bustling around, helping out with the hard work. Now don’t scoff at me, but I think I rather enjoy getting my hands dirty. I’ve been helping out where I can and being of use to people. I figure if that nice young woman can help me out, than I can help out too. I helped collect useless junk from the various cars to use as fuel to make a fire. It’s amazing how much old useless junk is left hidden away in the compartments of the trains and the non-passenger cars. All in all, we found quite enough that we should be able to make a few more days worth of fires if we have too.

Speaking of fire, some of the men set up a table near the fire outside the train and started a card game called poker. I must say, it was quite fun and they were kind enough to let me have one of their cigars and some whiskey. I must say that I did not handle them well. It was really awful and I cannot figure out why men smoke and drink such things, but they seemed to get quite a kick out of me attempting it. That’s when I noticed the girl who’d given me the clothes earlier. She was standing in the shadows smoking a cigar and had seen the whole thing. She laughed and then gave me something of a nod of approval as if to say that it’s okay. I laughed and looked away somewhat embarrassed. I’d like to be friends with this woman, but when I looked back up, she was walking into the darkness. I only ever see her for very brief moments, but when I do, she always seems to be helping someone.

I’m afraid I must let you go, Sarah. The postman is coming around to collect the letters. He’s going to get help and has offered to take any messages we have with him. Hopefully we’ll be out of here soon, though I am grateful for the experience. It has taught me much.

Your friend,
Jessica Wildersen

Letters from Unsung Heroes: The Train – Fieldcrest R. W. Wallace the Sixth

To whom it may concern

My name is Fieldcrest R. W. Wallace the Sixth. I am writing to inform you of the dissatisfaction I have over your locomotive as my choice of travel. The experience I have had has been most displeasing and I shall not be using your company again, nor shall I recommend your services to my colleagues. The troubles I have had on your railway have been most disappointing and I can think of no such way in which you can make satisfactory reparations. Allow me to explain to you why I am so dissatisfied.

I had a business arrangement in Albany. Being so close to West Hampshire, I decided it would be in my best interest to take a locomotive from Bethany and renting a motor car when I arrived to maximize my relaxation time before I had to get down to work. I procured numerous periodicals to determine which would company would simply be the best for my leisure. Not only did yours get the highest ratings, but it was especially detailed on how remarkable the food was. It explicitly noted how astounding your cheeseburgers were. With such high marks, I immediately wired for a ticket to what I expected to be the highlight of my journey.

I must say, when I first boarded the locomotive, my  experience was quite delightful. A charming member of the staff assisted me to my seat and helped me to stow my luggage. After which, I made my way to the dining car to read the periodicals and enjoy a nice cup of coffee and a simple plain doughnut. The coffee was brewed to perfection and the doughnut felt and tasted as though it were fresh out of the oven. Top notch. Being late in the morning but not yet lunchtime, I had the car mostly to myself save for one other passenger and a child who delightfully ran through the car with glee. It warms my heart to see children be children. With the right sense of adventure, they could grow up to be great businessmen like myself.

Some time passed, though I cannot say how long as I was caught up in such relaxful delight, and the lights went out and the train slowed to a stop inside one of the tunnels carved out of a mountain. I waited for what must have been perhaps thirty minutes when I decided to spark a match so that I might check the time. Why, it was past lunch! Not only had the locomotive not resumed course, but no one had come around to make my cheeseburger. Hours and hours I waited, and yet still no cheeseburger. Outrageous. By this time, I needed to relieve myself but could not find my way to the bathroom. I ended up doing what the ruffians do and stepped off of the locomotive to do my business. While mildly liberating, it was most undignified and embarrassing. Thankfully, it was exceedingly dark that no one could see me. Why, I couldn’t even see my own male part and am simply grateful that I did not urinate on my shoes.

It is now the second day and my neck is sore from sleeping in a train seat. I have missed my business arrangement and have not yet had my bath. I am very displeased. Why has your company done nothing about this great injustice? Surely you must have known something was up when your locomotive did not arrive in Bethany as scheduled. I have no doubt that it is the bureaucratic paperwork that is causing the delay. No doubt many forms have to be signed in triplicate to get anything done. Perhaps if you cared more about a strong work ethic than paper, we’d have been out of this mess shortly after it started.

I’m not demanding that you make this right. It is of my current opinion that there is nothing you can do to make this satisfactory. I expect a full refund when this whole ordeal is sorted out and I shall not be recommending your services to any of my colleagues ever.

Dissatisfied with your service,
Fieldcrest R. W. Wallace the Sixth

PS. I still have not consumed one of these much raved about cheeseburgers. What are you going to do about that?

Letters from Unsung Heroes: The Train – Bruce Thomas

Dear Sam

I hope this letter reaches you. I’m trapped aboard a train with many others and I fear for our lives. Considering it’s been two days and no one has shown up to help, I believe someone wants us to die. Allow me to recount the events that have transpired since I began my journey to West Hampshire.

When the train left Bethany roughly two days ago by my estimation, nothing seemed amiss. In fact, I recall enjoying a late coffee and English muffin in the dining car almost immediately after I got on board as I had missed breakfast. I took my time making sure to savor every last bite as I knew it would be the last I would get to eat until lunch time barring some fruit that is kept out for anyone who wants something to snack on. Aside from the one member of the wait staff who was attending to me, I cannot recall another soul in the dining car except for a small child who ran through excitedly and a rather plump mustachioed man reading the newspaper with his coffee. When I was finished, I left some change as a tip and made my wait to my seat in the car behind.

For a train with one hundred and ninety-six people on it (staff included according to the registry I later found) my car seemed surprisingly empty. I chalked it up to the train’s new “Scenic Car” at the rear which I’ve heard is absolutely breathtaking. It was all as well to me. It’d give me some quiet time with my newspaper. However, it was nearly halfway into the tunnel by my estimation that the train lost power and came to a stop. It’s wasn’t a sudden stop or even the train slowing down at the hand of the conductor. It just lost power and slowed down until it came to a full stop.

I waited quite some time before I eventually arose from my see. Though I could see nothing, I could hear people frightenedly returning from the Scenic Car, groping their way back to their seats. A few of them used lighters or matches. Some of the more prepared ones had a small hand flashlight that they used. There was a lot of talk and worry, though no one had gone into panic mode yet. As time passed, people gradually grew more and more annoyed and began bickering, though nothing led to any violence, not in my car at least. Eventually, when night came, or at least what we assume was night by checking a pocket watch, we all went down for a very uneasy sleep.

When we awoke, everyone was groggy and grumpy, though no one really had anything to say. Most people got up and stepped off the train where the air wasn’t so stuffy. In fact, there was a gentle coolness outside. Though we couldn’t see anything except by the few matches and cigarette glows, it was really refreshing. Holding up my lighter to the walls, I could see that this train tunnel wasn’t much of a tunnel. Instead of being something expertly built, it was literally just a hole carved through a mountain just big enough to get a train through with some tracks laid down. No smooth walls or ground to be found whatsoever. How anyone ever considered this tunnel finished was beyond me, but it’s been used for well over a hundred and fifty years, so who am I to judge. Still, one would think it would’ve at least been modernized for safety reasons.

As the day went on, or at least I think it was day, I slowly made my way towards the front of the train. The people in forward cars seems strangely relaxed to their situation. Trying to make the best of it I suppose. Better than terror and panic, that’s for sure. The front three cars of the train are for authorized personnel only, so I was pleasantly surprised when the first door to the restricted part of the train was unlocked.

 There were twenty-eight narrow beds built into the walls in this car which meant that this was the crew’s sleeping quarters during those really long journeys. The beds didn’t have any blankets or pillows or anything. They just had backpacks and personal belongings which leads me to believe that this car hasn’t been used for sleeping in quite a long time. Instead, it was just being used as a place for the crew to stow their stuff. I rummaged through a few of the backpacks. Found some snacks, a couple of flashlights, first aid kit, and some random junk. The flashlights would be handy as it meant I wouldn’t have to use my lighter to see all the time.

 The next car was clearly a break area. There was a small refrigeration unit, a table with some cards, some lockers, etc. Not much else. The next door led to the engine of the train, but it was locked. I cursed under my breath and went back to the sleeping quarters and began rummaging through everything for a key, but couldn’t find anything. Cursing again, I made my way back to the passenger car. A young girl was waiting outside by the door. She smiled at me as she chewed a piece of gum. Asked me if I had found anything. I handed her a candy bar and showed her a few flashlights. She had a sly way of telling through my disappointment that I wasn’t finished looking, but couldn’t get any further. I’m not really sure what it was, though she knew there was something else upfront that I couldn’t get to but wanted to. So she asked what’s stopping me. When I told her a locked door, she pulled a couple of bobby pins from behind her ears. They weren’t holding her hair in place which lead me to believe she had skills that were less than reputable. Still, I was glad she had them.

After going back in, she began to work at picking the lock of the door to the engine right away. She asked me not to point the flashlight at it as it would only distract her. Upon inquiring where she learned to do this sort of thing, she just smiled at me and winked without ever slowing down. I asked her for her name. She told me Nina and that was it. And almost immediately, the door opened.

We stepped inside and pointed the flashlight to see a body slouched awkwardly over the controls. It was the engineer. He was dead. It looked like the side of his head had been slammed into the side of the wall with enough force to kill him. Inspecting the trauma, his head was actually quite soft at the point of impact and I could feel little pieces of bone sliding around underneath his skin. Strangely, there was no blood, broken flesh or bruising. It was as though the bone on one side of his skull just suddenly shattered inside of his head and killed him. I honestly don’t know what could kill a man in such a way and quite frankly, I don’t know if I want to find out.

As I returned to the front with Nina, I decided to keep quiet about what I saw. No telling how the others would react to such news. The Postman will be taking my letter to you. I feel it my duty to attempt to maintain the safety of the other passengers here despite what little good it’ll probably end up doing. Should you receive this, send help.

Regards

Bruce Thomas