Asshole of the Year: D.S. White at Longshot Island
Step 1 of being an asshole short story publisher: steal an author’s website idea.
2: Delete all of his stories
3: Block on Twitter
4: Run website into the ground
5: reprint editions author was originally in with him removed.
Avoid Longshot Island and editor DS White.
Help spread the word via Twitter here: https://twitter.com/sjohnclaussen/status/1084778850784022528?s=19
There's no better way to celebrate a birthday than to finish my final read through of my novel!
DISCLOSURE: the wine might've played a part as well.
The Whitfield Oil Accident
WARNING: The following is a video transcript pertaining to the Whitfield Oil Accident. It contains explicit descriptions that some might find disturbing.
JUNE 28TH, 1993
DEVIN HOWE’S FUNERAL
(Laughter among the mourners)
UKNOWN MALE, OFF CAMERA: …Sorry about that story, Preach, but by God if it
wasn’t just the craziest night Dev and I ever—
JONNY COLLINS: Alright, everybody…you know, don’t freak out. Remain calm.
DOM FIELDS: Jon, what’re you—Jesus H. Christ, is that a gun?
(Panic among the mourners)
JONNY COLLINS: I just fuckin’ said to calm down! Just…just chill, alright? Don’t worry about the gun. I brought so I can speak my mind, that’s all. You assholes wouldn’t have let me without it.
DOM FIELDS: For fuck’s sake, what’re you on about? Just settle down, no need to—
(Gun firing, screaming from the mourners)
JONNY COLLINS: Dammit Dom, sit down! I don’t want to use it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t, you hear me? you all see this, don’t you? They’re already tryin’ to stop me! I swear to Christ, Dom, next time I’ll aim lower. And don’t think I don’t see you back there, Larry, slinkin’ around and shit. You can sit your old ass down, too. I just need to…just need to be heard, that’s all.
LARRY WHITTLE: (Incomprehensible)
JONNY COLLINS: Yeah, that’s right. Now shut up before I put a bullet in your ass. Alright then, everyone good? Good. You all know me, know I ain’t crazy or some shit. All us oilers stick together. Weddings, birthdays with the kiddos…funerals. I know each and every one of you. I’m not gonna hurt anyone, just as long as you let me tell the truth. That’s all I want. My dad taught me right. The truth may not be convenient, but—
DOM FIELDS: Hells bells, get on with it, then! You’re waving that gun around tellin’ your autobiography, just get to it!
JONNY COLLINS: Alright then, I will. You’ve all been lied to. Whitfield Oil, ran by Dom and cowerin’ Larry back there, they’re full of shit. Devin didn’t die in no accident. I was there, saw it all. Could hardly believe it myself. Imagine that, not able to believe your own eyes.
(Jonny reaches into his denim jacket and pulls out a worn, leather-bound journal.)
JONNY COLLINS: And I knew if I couldn’t believe what I’d seen, you all wouldn’t believe what I’m about to say. So I brought Devin’s journal. I’m gonna read it for you all. Fuckin’ crazy, all of it, but I believe it. You all knew Devin, same as me. Hell, he was the best man at half your weddings. He didn’t go around spinnin’ tales. Alright, then. Let me tell you why this casket is closed.
DEVIN HOWE’S JOURNAL
READ ALOUD BY JONNY COLLINS
FIRST ENTRY: APRIL 23RD, 1993
JONNY COLLINS: ’Few of the widows out there will remember that date. Sorry to make you relive it, but it has to be said. Still, some might want to cover their ears here soon.
JOURNAL: I’ve never kept a journal before, not really anyway. I had a Garfield one in the 4th grade. Bought it at the Scholastic book fair in the school’s library. Cheapest thing they had, but you had to buy something. Never touched it.
But after what happened today, I had to write this shit down. Maybe if I get it down on paper I’ll get it out of my head.
Whittles promoted me to foreman last week. Shit, why couldn’t he have waited a little longer? The old bastard ignored me for fifteen years, why now? Anyway, I was in charge at the rig tonight. All the men were tired. So was I. Twenty-seven hours in, by then. Three days on, five days off. Hard to think about getting a normal gig now, though. Five days on the job, shit. After tonight, maybe I should consider it.
The boys were fucking with me about my new gig, just shit and giggles, but I’m a pretty chill manager. It was two in the morning, most of the work was done, so I let them all relax, just sitting around shooting the shit, waiting for the next tanker to get there.
The tankers aren’t Whitfield. They’re outsourced from one of the hundreds of vulture contractors that sprang up when North Dakota oil hit the news. Bastards had the rigs shedding company men left and right. Sure, the contractors might be expensive, but they take all the liability if shit goes down. Whitfield kept the good ol’ boys around, the ones who know their shit, but everyone else was gone.
LARRY WHITTERS: This is ridiculous.
JONNY COLLINS: What the fuck do you know? Last time you were out at the Rig was to cut the ribbon.
DOM FIELDS: Watch it, bub.
JONNY COLLINS: Just keep your trap shut and listen.
JOURNAL: It was around 3 A.M. when I saw the headlights from the tanker coming down the gravel. I told the boys to start gearing up, but they were taking their time. What was I supposed to do, cattle prod them? Shit, maybe. Anyway, after awhile I noticed that this fucking tanker was coming in hot. That son of a bitch must’ve been doing sixty, jostling all over the place.
The men and I didn’t think much of it. Probably just some young shit out from California, pissed that he hadn’t made his fortune like all the news had promised. People thought North Dakota oil was the new gold rush. Not for us company men, and sure as shit not for the contractors. These guys always treat the backroads like they’re in the Daytona 500.
After a while, though, the guy wasn’t slowing down, and he was barreling straight at the rig, so I rushed over to the guard’s station (unmanned, of course) to cuss him out over the loudspeaker. But I was too late. The bastard broke through the guard rails and crashed right into the rig.
JONNY COLLINS: Again, those sensitive folk might want to cover their ears.
JOURNAL: The explosion blew me right through the window, rolling twenty yards or more in the gravel. When I came to, I realized that my beard was singed and my eyebrows were gone. The air was sweltering. At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was sweat or blood that covered my body. Turns out, it was a bit of both. The rig was hard to look at. That bitch was brighter than the sun. When my eyes finally adjusted, I saw that all my men were burning alive.
It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen or hope to see again. All my senses were overloaded. The rumble of the smoldering remains of the rig, the screams of the men, my own heartbeat, it all seemed to transport me to some other world, where I felt completely foreign and useless.
The men looked like some wicked demons, freshly escaped from hell. They were running mindlessly through the night. I couldn’t tell them apart. Their skin was black from the oil and the burning. Their entire bodies were covered in licking, sticky flames. Their faces bubbled and popped, hardened and cracked. All I could think was, why aren’t these fuckers dying? That sounds mean, but it would’ve been a blessing. I don’t know how long they kept at it, running and rolling and dying, but it felt like half the night.
Sooner or later the fire department showed up, but the men were long since dead, and they weren’t equipped to put out the rig. Just had to let it burn out, they said, keeping the flames controlled. The suits from Whitfield showed up eventually, whispering to each other as we all stood at the accidental funeral pyre of my men. Those guys didn’t ask me one goddamned question, can you imagine that? The only survivor, and they avoided me like the plague. Don’t you think they’d want to know what happened? Or maybe they already knew.
JONNY COLLINS: Look at that. We’re only through one entry and already everyone is staring at you two like you’d killed their grandma. It’s like they forgot who was holdin’ the gun.
DOM FIELDS: It was a tragedy. We all lost friends that day, Jon. We felt it, same as you. Making us all relive it is pointless.
JONNY COLLINS: Oh, it’s not pointless. What, you think I’d hold up Devin’s funeral just to reminisce? There’s more.
LARRY WHITTLES: I’ve had it. I’m not listening to—
JONNY COLLINS: You’ll do what I fuckin’ tell you to, you hear me? Now sit down and listen to the man you killed!
SECOND ENTRY: APRIL 24TH, 1993
JOURNAL: The suits came by my trailer around five this morning. I was awake, anyway. They brought a doctor with them, looking like he’d been dragged out of bed. He checked me out, treated me for some minor burns and cuts. The doc asked if I’d had any suicidal thoughts. Who the fuck hasn’t, working the fields? Told him no, of course. Not losing my pension just to get shipped off to some padded room.
The suits wouldn’t even look at me. I want to tell them exactly what I told the doctor: nothing. I’m not gonna talk. I know that something’s up. I’m not an idiot. But I’m not gonna talk.
Why should I? Look, I loved those boys, and some of them were just that, boys, but what’s the point in stirring the pot? I’ve got bills to pay. Dead is dead, why should I lose my job over it?
Maybe I’m an asshole. I don’t know. I really should just forget it ever happened, go about my life. I don’t know.
THIRD ENTRY: APRIL 27TH, 1993
JOURNAL: Damn my curiosity. It’s always gotten me in trouble, why should now be any different? For the life of me, I can’t leave this alone. I try to forget about the fire and my men’s skins blistering and—oh, God. I can’t forget, and I suppose I won’t. So I might as well try to figure out what happened and do some good on this earth, right?
I’m still off the clock. Assumed they’d either fire me or reassign me somewhere else, but the next morning there was a note on my trailer saying to not report, to take a few days. So that’s what I did. I walked around my trailer, trying to get these thoughts out of my head in anyway possible. Drinking, weed, porn. Hell, I even tried reading a book. Nothing worked.
This morning Larry and Dom called me in. They told me about the funeral arrangements for the boys, that everything was being covered by Whitfield, and that they were gonna take care of any medical costs I had. Also, they’re giving me a nice little pay raise. They must feel guilty, I suppose. Fine by me.
LARRY WHITTLES: You see? We felt terrible—
UNKNOWN FEMALE, OFF CAMERA: Will you shut the fuck up and let him finish?
JOURNAL: I couldn’t help but notice a pamphlet on Larry’s desk. Call me nosy, I don’t care, but that pamphlet has me thinking. It was from National Commercial Insurance. Well. I guess I don’t have a choice, then. Better start digging.
DOM FIELDS: Everyone’s got insurance. What, we were supposed to take a loss? How were we supposed to pay for the funeral costs, huh, Deb? How about you, Kara, could you cover Donny’s funeral, or his debt? We paid it all! Is that a crime? Stop pointing that gun at me, dammit!
JONNY COLLINS: Oh, this? This isn’t a gun. It’s a magnet, and it’s attracted to bullshit.
DOM FIELDS: You little—
JONNY COLLINS: Hush, now.
FOURTH ENTRY: MAY 12TH, 1993
JOURNAL: It’s been awhile, I know. I told you I was bad at this shit. Besides, I’ve been busy. It hurts me to say this, but I turned down the raise. Surprising, I know. I could’ve used it. Hell, I deserved it. But I asked for two months off instead. I needed time to get my shit together, I said. Larry was more than happy to agree. Cheaper in the long run. Really, I just needed the time to bury Dom and him.
I’ve done some digging. Do you know how much Whitfield made, just from losing that one rig? Twenty-five million dollars. Here they’re playing sentimental (even got a puff piece in the paper), and they’re rolling in that kind of dough. And I thought my raise was good. Shit.
Also, I found out who was driving the tanker that night: Jake Barta! Jake-fucking-Barta. He’s old oil, been bouncing around the companies for years. I worked with him for four years while he was with Whitfield. He made decent money with the contractors, I found out from his widow. There’s not a chance in hell he’d risk all that by getting drunk behind the wheel or taking a snooze. The man’s a beast. Or was, anyway. I saw him run 72 hours once, I swear to God, so don’t sell me that shit. Barta, man. He was good people.
It’s not much, I know. I’m not a lawyer or anything. I’ve only been on the naughty side of the court room, but I know this isn’t enough. I’ve still got plenty of time, though. But man, does that raise look good right about now.
Also, I saw something today. Just out of the corner of my eye. It looked just like one of my boys, all burnt and shit. Just like my dreams. Maybe I’m going crazy. Makes sense, why shouldn’t I?
DOM FIELDS: He wasn’t well, toward the end. We all know that. I’m sorry to say this here, but the man committed suicide, what do you expect?
(Whispering among the mourners)
JONNY COLLINS: I would’ve thought the same, if I hadn’t been there. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s the truth. And I’ve—look, I know what this sounds like. But it’s all true, and you’re all gonna listen to the rest.
DOM FIELDS: You can’t keep us here forever.
JONNY COLLINS: This pistol disagrees.
LARRY WHITTLES: For fuck’s sake, if you think we killed the man then call the cops, but you can’t keep us here! It’s illegal!
JONNY COLLINS: Illegal? Larry, you think I give a shit about that, now? You think I didn’t know this was against the law? Like I give a shit. I’ll be dead soon, same as you.
(The mourners begin to panic)
JONNY COLLINS: Calm down! I’m not gonna shoot you. I don’t need to. They’ll be comin’ for you soon.
DOM FIELDS: What’re you on about?
JONNY COLLINS: I’ll let Dev tell you.
FIFTH ENTRY: JUNE 1ST, 1993
JOURNAL: I have these damn dreams every night. At first it was annoying, or maybe a little spooky. But now, oh my god, I think I’m losing it. Maybe I should talk to that doctor again, say I’m gonna, I don’t know, shoot myself or light myself on fire, die just like my boys did—
LARRY WHITTLES: You see, he admitted it right there!
JONNY COLLINS: I don’t have the best aim in the world, Larry, but I’ll try to shoot that tongue out your mouth if you keep usin’ it.
JOURNAL: …screaming my throat out as my skin crackles like fat on a steak. God, I could throw up right now, if I could eat first. I see them every night. My eyes open, like I’m waking up, but then all my muscles are frozen. I can’t move an inch, except for my darting eyes. Hell, I can’t even breathe. I’ve looked into it. Doctors call it sleep paralysis, but they can’t explain what comes next.
Smoke starts rising around my bed. It smells just like that night had: burning hair and flesh and oil. I try to tell myself it isn’t real, that I’m dreaming, but They don’t seem to care what I think. They come anyway. The corpses of my men melt out of my walls, covered in brilliant flames. They’re hardly more than blackened skeletons, only tiny bits of flesh clinging to their faces, curling and sizzling greasily. They stumble toward my bed, their joints clicking in and out of place, and reach out for me with their blistering fingers, oil pouring from their mouths and covering me in black lava, and soon my world is dark, my mouth filling with the foul stuff. Then I wake up.
It’s gotten to the point where I’ll do anything to stay awake. But we all have to sleep eventually, and they’re always waiting for me. I wish I could tell them that I’m trying my hardest to find out what’s happened, but my mouth just can’t move.
I found out that Whitfield paid Jake’s wife way more than any of the other widows. $40,000. Jesus, ain’t that the shit. That’s enough to pay off all his debts, I’m sure. Jake was a family man, always had been, but he had a hell of a monkey on his back. He was down at the casino every weekend. He couldn’t beat that addiction. Maybe Larry and Dom knew that. Maybe they told him how he could pay off his debts in one fell swoop, and still be able to leave plenty for his family. Maybe.
JONNY COLLINS: So why did Jake’s wife get it so good, huh? Why not any of our guys?
LARRY WHITTLES: Jake was just as much a member of the Whitfield family as anyone else. If you combined his years as a company man with all the time he’d contracted for us, he’d been with us longer than any of them.
UNKNOWN FEMALE, OFF CAMERA: I got bills to pay too, Larry. I got kids to raise.
LARRY WHITTLES: We compensated all of you far more than what was required.
JONNY COLLINS: We’re almost done.
SIXTH ENTRY: JUNE 15TH, 1993
JOURNAL: So much for time off. Dom came over today and told me they needed me out in the field. My guess is he’d heard I’ve been nosing around. They reinstated my raise and placed me as foreman at the Jennison rig, much bigger than my last.
Just because I’m working again doesn’t mean I’m not still digging. One of the workers over here, Jonny Collins, told me some shit. He says that he spoke with Larry and Dom at the Christmas party about offshore rigging, how there’s more oil in the sea than under all this turf. I looked up how much a rig like that costs. Two-hundred million, and that’s on the cheap side. Sure enough, Whitfield has already started building off of Maine. I wonder where they got the money to get that idea off the ground? All the men know that Whitfield’s rigs have been drying up. Larry and Dom are in debt. It’s all adding up now.
I’ll go to…I don’t know, whoever handles this shit soon. I just hope these dreams quit. They’ve started talking to me. I don’t know how. Their jaws are all broken and charred, but I can still hear their voices. I can’t tell you what they’re saying, because I don’t know. It’s all mumbled and raw. But the feeling comes across, deep in my mind. They want blood, and who could blame them? Fuck, man. I’m on break right now at the rig, and I can still hear them. This isn’t a dream, anymore, I can tell you that.
JONNY COLLINS: That’s right. I told you two about those offshore platforms. When I first read the journal, and the party came back to my mind, I shrugged it off. I was sure you’d heard about those before, and you probably had. But I guess what I said made something click in your mind, because I must be guilty of something. I see them too, now, ever since Dev’s death. They’re always there, out of the—sit down, Dom, I swear to Christ—out of the corner of my eyes. They’re here right now, watching.
LARRY WHITTLES: Fuckin’ lunatic.
DOM FIELDS: Jon, you need help. You’ve been through a lot. We can help you.
JONNY COLLINS: No one can help me. Now, I’m gonna read the last entry, here, and you’re all gonna listen. Then I’ll let you go. I swear it, I won’t harm anyone here if they let me finish.
FINAL ENTRY: JUNE 21ST, 1993
JOURNAL: I’m guilty. I could have saved them, if I’d been tougher on the boys, had been quicker to raise the alarm. But I wasn’t, and I failed. Those men died, in part, because of me. I was lazy and stupid and guilty.
I hope They’re reading this. They don’t have eyes, not anymore, but they’re looking over my shoulder right now. I’m sorry about what happened. I have the truth, written down right here. Let me be your voice, even though I was one of the men who took it away from you. Let me speak for you and set things straight. Please…I see your thoughts. Please don’t do this.
JONNY COLLINS: I worked the rig with Dev that night. I can tell you all, right here, right in front of Dev’s coffin, that it wasn’t suicide. I was standing on the outer railing, smoking a cig, and I saw Dev down there, staring out at the hills. He wasn’t moving or nothin’. He was hardly more than an ant from where I was, but he was frozen like a deer in headlights. And then he burst into flame.
DOM FIELDS: He was working the controls!
JONNY COLLINS: I’d never seen a flame burn so bright. I ran down and out to him with the extinguisher, wasn’t even wondering what the hell had happened at the time. I was too late. By the time I got out there, he was smolderin’ dead. I know now, though, that it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d been right next to him with a hose. They’d chosen
him to burn. And now they’ve chosen me.
(Jonny places the gun to his head.)
LARRY WHITTERS: Jonny, there are children here, please think about—
JONNY COLLINS: I know that. I’m sorry, everyone, but they’re comin’ for me now. God…they look just like he described ‘em. It might be selfish, but I’m not burnin’ like that.
UNKNOWN FEMALE, OFF CAMERA: Don’t!
JONNY COLLINS: Listen here, you fuckin’ matches; I’ll be comin’ for you if you don’t take those two fuckers next!
(Gun firing, mourners screaming. Smoke seems to rise from Jonny’s corpse before the camera cuts out.)
While I cannot with a good conscience support with any amount of evidence what Jonny Collins or Devin Howes had personally experienced, I can confirm that the homes of both Larry Whitters and Dom Fields burned down on July 27th, 1993. Both they and their families perished. As I’ve compiled these records, I’ve noticed strange dreams similar to what Devin Howes described, so I’ve asked the publisher to place a warning at the beginning of this article. The Whitfield Oil Accident is still regarded as such; an accident.
The Forgotten Boy
(I wrote this for my mother. She’s hosting a Halloween party in her attic, and asked if I’d write a scary story for it. I thought you all might enjoy it as well.)
It matters not, whether you close or bar this attic door.
The Forgotten Child follows, forever more.
I regret to inform you that it is far too late for you to escape your fate. If you would have simply heard of the Dean house, but had chosen wisely not to visit, you would’ve been perfectly safe. If you would’ve driven by first, felt a chill run down your spine as you looked up at the fogged attic windows and decided to promptly step on the gas, you could have survived. I believe it’s safe to assume that even if you had decided to enter Dean house, walk up that shiny staircase and had placed your hand on the cold bronze doorknob of the attic door, but at the last moment had come to your wits and ran away, you still might’ve went on to live a happy life, forgetting the ordeal all together.
If you’ve found this letter, though, I regret to inform you that you are not one of the lucky souls I mentioned previously. No, you have entered the attic, have scaled those old, creaking stairs. Perhaps at this very moment you’re still standing up there, reading or listening to someone read my words in the dimly lit room. Your heart might be beating faster, like a war drum warning of impending doom. You might have already noticed the room closing in around you, as if it were exhaling and inhaling, taking deep breaths that you yourself are finding hard to do.
Don’t bother trying to run. It’s too late anyway, as it was for me. Try to relax as I tell you the true story of a poor little boy who had once called this attic home.
And again, I can’t stress enough that you take a moment to try and calm down; he’s drawn to those that show fear.
In the mid-1920’s, Frederick and Mary Smith moved into the Dean House. They were in love, as much as any newlyweds could be. Soon after moving to Dean House, they had their first and only child. The baby boy was severely deformed. His eyes were skewed and unfocused, limbs uneven. His face seemed to cave in on itself like a rotting pumpkin.
As the child grew older, its deformities never improved; in fact they got worse. Mary took care of the boy, even pretended to love him, but deep down she despised the poor child, blaming him for her difficult labor. Now unable to conceive, she’d never be able to do what she truly wanted; replace him.
His father, Frederick, made no attempts to hide his disgust. He’d beat the boy regularly, locked him in the attic, the same one you find yourself now.
Take a look around you. Study your surroundings. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now the many corners of the room, all the little nooks and crannies shrouded in darkness. These little spots were where the boy would hide.
On nights when Frederick drank too much, which was almost every night, he’d stomp up the attic stairs, a flickering candle in one hand and his belt in the other. The boy clung to the shadows, moving like a mouse from one place to the other. His father would always find him, eventually, and beat him harder for having attempted to hide.
This was the boy’s early childhood. His mother’s stale and piercing love, like a drying rose, and his father’s belt. I’m sure the boy had a difficult time deciding which he liked least.
The Roaring 1920’s fizzled out, and the Great Depression of the 1930’s replaced it. The entire country was depleted, and the Smith household was no different. In 1933, Frederick was let go from his job at the local bank. As the Smith’s situation became more dire, Mary’s daily visits to the boy, which is when she’d bring him food, became few and far between. Even his father’s nightly visits began to cease.
One night, the boy heard the rusty clank of a skeleton key locking the attic door.
His parents never opened the door again. Unable to afford to feed him, they allowed the poor child to starve to death.
Frederick and Mary’s story is relatively unknown after this. Frederick obtained a position in finance in Chicago, and Mary was more than happy to leave the Dean House. The last entry in what survived of her diary, dated March 5th, 1938, stated, “I’ve heard him in the walls. At night he whispers to me. ‘I’m hungry,’ he says. I just want to forget. Thank the Lord that Frederick is taking me from this dreadful house. I just want to forget.”
The rest of the diary has been burned, charred beyond recognition.
The parents may have forgotten about the boy, but unfortunately, dear
Visitor, the boy will be impossible for you to forget.
I’m writing this letter on October 14th, 1987. I plan to visit the attic, one last time, to leave a copy for you, to inform you what I’ve discovered. Unfortunately, I haven’t discovered a way to break the curse.
I originally entered the attic precisely twenty years ago, on October 14th, 1967, with a few teenage friends. I was the only one to have seen the Forgotten Boy that night, tucked away in one of those shadowed, dusty corners, with that dreaded lopsided grin of his. My friends weren’t nearly as scared as I had been, so perhaps that’s why he chose to reveal himself to me, but they’d all see him eventually.
My friends have all passed away. The doctors ruled in all three of their cases that the cause of death was natural…but, if you ask me, healthy 30 year old men don’t die of heart attacks. It was the fear. The boy came for them, and now he’s not as lonely.
Again, I can’t save you. But I can tell you what to expect.
At first, you might spot him in your peripheral, a flash of gray in some dark corner of your house, or in your closet, or under you bed. A trick of the mind, you might say; a mirage. But then you’ll hear him, scuttling around your room at night in the dark, just out of eye sight. I’m just hearing things, you’ll say to yourself. This is good. Keep the fear at bay. I’ve said the same a thousand times.
If you’re particularly strong-willed, perhaps after experiencing all of this you still don’t believe in the curse, but what happens next cannot be denied. Some night, maybe tomorrow, maybe years from now, you’ll hear the Forgotten Boy’s bony footsteps, and then he will come into the faint moonlight pouring through your bedroom window. His eyes will be glassy and fogged, his body ravaged by starvation, his ribs and joints protruding through his thin, dead skin. He’ll be sporting that wicked grin on that misshapen gourd of a head, just like he always does.
You’ll close your eyes, as you should. Tell yourself it isn’t real, that he isn’t real. This is important, because as your fear increases, the boy will walk closer, one step at a time. If you allow your fear to become unbearable, he’ll walk up to your bed, and you’ll feel his hot, moldy breath on your neck before he whispers in his little, raspy voice, “I’m hungry.”
If you open your eyes, the Forgotten Child will have you.
I have run long enough. Tonight, when he comes, I will open my eyes, will embrace my fate. I wish you luck in breaking this curse.
Best of Luck,
Signed, an Unfortunate Soul, same as you.
P.S. If you don’t find the words of a stranger convincing enough, look around the attic. You’ll find black hand and footprints, perhaps left behind by the Forgotten Boy.
AUTHORS BEWARE: Avoid Longshot Island!
I worked with Longshot Island (@longshotpress) as a regular contributor and, occasionally, an editor.
I thought I'd developed a good relationship with D.S. White (@thelandofwords), although I recently began to become concerned that he was simply a collector, and that he'd begun to develop our friendship for his own goals.
Recently, I asked Daniel his thoughts on a website idea I'd thought of. He liked it. So much so that he stole it. thestorybus.com. I have proof of this, if anyone was wondering.
He had no interest in being partners, no interest in me being involved except, of course, to the extent that he could steal my ideas.
When I confronted him about this, he deleted all of my published stories with Longshot.
I'm posting this so other authors and writers, poets and creatives in general can avoid Longshot's thievery. There's so many people trying to take from us all. We have to look out for each other.
Spread the word. Don't submit to Longshot Island.
These Eternal Chains
I can’t really remember at what point in the whole creation process everything fell apart. What I can remember, though, are the stars as I fell from heaven. It was surprisingly calming, falling through all of that emptiness, surrounded by glittering diamonds.
“Don’t look at them,” One of the other demons had told me as we fell.
“Why?” I’d asked.
“That’s the angels, watching us fall.”
I’m not sure if that was true, but I kept my eyes shut afterwards.
And so there I was, floating downward from heaven, and here I remain. I’m not sure how long it’s been, since we were casted out and sent to wherever we’re heading. Hell of a lot longer than I’d thought it’d take, that’s for sure.
I wish I would’ve just stayed neutral. I was a lesser angel, nothing special. No one paid me any mind. I could’ve just turned a blind eye and went on my merry way, whistling as I strolled down the cobbled, golden streets of heaven.
But the war grew worse and worse, and I had to decide, had to pick a side. Obviously, I’d picked the wrong one.
I remember being told stories as a young angel. They were always very clear; there’s a good side, and there’s a bad side. The bad guys are bad and the good are good. There was no grey area in those stories. You knew which side was righteous and which was wicked from the get go. But that’s not how real life works.
Lucifer had some good points. God did too. Neither were more wrong than the other, or more right. Sometimes, people just fight for no point at all. That’s what happened, I think. The entire universe was a few days old and needed a good conflict to drive the story forward.
And so, I joined Lucifer. There wasn’t any specific reason why I joined him, but I thought I might as well try to get my name in the history books, and there’s a romance inherent in rebellion. My job was to polish the armor; again, I wasn’t renowned for anything, least of all being a warrior.
The rebellion had seemed like it was going well, but one side had to lose, and so we lost. We were casted out of heaven, and have been falling ever sense. Really, I don’t blame God for doing that. What else was He going to do with us? He couldn’t just pardon us and let us go.
Anyway, suddenly we weren’t angels anymore; we were demons. I wonder why our name changed. Nothing else did. I look the same now as I did then. I guess there had to be some difference between the winners and the losers, and “demon” does have a better ring to it than loser.
I wonder sometimes how long I’ve been falling. Its been centuries since I’ve opened my eyes. Have the others already landed? Did I miss wherever we were heading? I could look, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen the dark. Besides, it wouldn’t make a difference. Regardless if I’m alone or not, I know I’m still falling.
Sometimes I wonder if God would take me back. I wasn’t really involved in the rebellion. I’d joined in the final weeks, and never even saw a battle. I never killed anyone, so why not? Could I pray to Him, the Creator, and ask for His forgiveness?
“God, I’m sorry.”
There, I said it. It’s not the first time I’ve tried. I used to beg every day, pleading to be brought back. I never got a response, and I didn’t want to keep pestering Him. I’m sure He has more important things to worry about.
To this day I’ve heard nothing. That’s okay, I get it. I picked the wrong side, even if I didn’t really participate. But I’m not evil. Some of Lucifer’s boys were, but most of us were just normal angels, forced to pick a side in a conflict that we didn’t really understand. God had some bad eggs on His side too, you know.
I was never a big fan of Michael. I remember he and Lucifer were close. They were the rock stars of heaven, after all. I always thought he was an ass, if I’m being blunt. He walked around the pearly gates with a pompous look on his face, like he owned the place.
I was surprised that he wasn’t the one to rebel. He always acted like everyone owed him something, just for gracing us with his presence. Lucifer, on the other hand, always seemed quieter, grateful for what he had.
To this day, I don’t know what caused the war. I remember seeing Lucifer headed toward God’s throne, a smile on his face, as always. But when he came back, something had changed. He was angry. I swear I’d never seen Lucifer angry.
He flew up to a few angels, said something quietly to them, and then the war started. In a minute, everything had changed.
I’ve had a lot of time to think it over, and I truly believe it was all planned. It’s said that God knows everything that is and will be. That’s what we’re told, anyway. So, if God truly knows all, how could He not have predicted Lucifer would rebel? He could’ve struck him down in an instant, and then there wouldn’t have been a war, and I’d still be up there with my brothers and sisters.
No, it just doesn’t add up. Like I mentioned before, I heard many stories when I was younger, and one unfortunate theme ran through all of them: there has to be conflict. Without it, the plot doesn’t move forward. We don’t get to the happy ending. The hero can’t save the day if there’s nothing to save it from.
Heaven was at peace, and peace doesn’t make for a very interesting tale.
And so, and again, this is just my theory, I believe God called Lucifer and told him, “Hey, I’m going to need you to rebel.” Probably not in that exact phrasing, but something like that.
It’s almost peaceful, if I’m being honest, to know there was some point to it all. We weren’t told anything, us lesser angels. They told us to pick a side. When we asked why, they looked at us curiously, Lucifer and Michael, and said, “Because we’re at war,” as if it were the simplest thing.
I struggled for so long, in the early days of the Fall, trying to figure out what caused the war. Why did it have to happen, and why did we have to lose? And then I realized; it happened because it had to. It was all just a story, and every great tale has a knight and a dragon.
I had thought to myself, “Why would God betray us? Doesn’t He love us?” I remember hating the humans, and how they received special treatment.
But you have to look at it all through the lens of a novelist, or an artist, or any creative thinker. It was just another puzzle piece that needed to be filled. Without it, the puzzle would be incomplete, and we can’t have that.
And so I accepted my fate, and took on the badge of demon. This is who I am now, because this is what the story demanded.
I just wish I could stop falling.
I completely understand why I was casted out. I know that it had to happen. Even if I’m not evil, or at least no more evil than any other run of the mill angel, I get that someone had to be the loser, the bad guy. The dragon had to be slayed, I get it. But why am I still falling?
I can’t remember what anything looks like, except, of course, the darkness itself. I just want to get to wherever I’m going. I don’t care where I’m heading. Earth? Fine, I’ll make it work. Hell? Okay, I accept that. Just get it over with.
Unless, of course, this is our punishment. What if this fall is Hell? Am I to continue on like this forever, until the end of time? Must I never reach my destination? It doesn’t matter where I’m going, it couldn’t be much worse than this.
Maybe I should just open my eyes. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I could see where I’m at. I could look for my comrades, my fellow demons. I could ask them if they’d seen anything, any clue as to where we were heading, and how much longer it would be.
But then I’d have to face Him. I don’t believe that the stars are the victorious angels, staring down at us in eternal judgment as I was told so long ago. That was just a fable, the rambling of a poetic demon who was trying to come to terms with what had happened.
I was there when the stars were created. I know what they’re made of, what they consist of. Those aren’t the eyes of angels, at least no angel I’ve ever met. How do I know for sure? Because I am an angel. I know what I’m made of, what I consist of. Our eyes? They’re just eyes, nothing special about them, certainly not bright enough to light up the night sky.
But I know whose eyes they could be. I know someone who’s powerful enough for such fantasies to be plausible, and He certainly isn’t an angel. I’ve never seen Him, not once. Angels like me, we weren’t chosen; we were just created. To exist, and that’s all. No real purpose.
So how could I say that those stars, that I’d seen so long ago, couldn’t belong to Him? There were millions of them, how could I know that two of them weren’t looking down at me, curiously studying the angel He’d created but could not name.
That’s why I can’t open my eyes. If I met His gaze, what would I do? What would I say?
I feel cheated. I could say that, but what difference would that make? Thousands of angels were casted out that day, many of them much more powerful than me, and I’m sure most of us felt cheated, only pawns in this galactic game. My suffering is no different than theirs, so I can’t say that.
Why. That’s what I could ask Him. Why? What purpose did it all serve? How did the plot move forward? My fall from grace, His grace, why did it need to take place? I’m nothing special. I’m not malicious in anyway. I was just an angel, His creation, pulled between two opposing forces. Lucifer, I can understand why he fell. He’s the antagonist in this story. But me? I’m merely a footnote, a number, a statistic. One less fallen wouldn’t have made any difference. So, I could ask him that.
I won’t beg for forgiveness because I know there’s none to give. I won’t curse him for sending me away because, in the long run, it’s my fault for choosing the losing side. I’ll simply ask Him why it had to be me that fell in His story.
Okay, I’ve decided. It’s time. I’ve been shrouded in darkness long enough, and it’s time to search for some answers. I’ll open my eyes, and search for His.
Wait; something’s different. I’m not falling anymore! I don’t feel the wind against my cheek, the gravitational pull yanking me from the heavens. In fact, I don’t feel anything.
Odd. I’ve opened my eyes, and yet all I see is darkness. My fellow demons are nowhere to be seen. My limbs, I can’t move them. My breath, it’s ceased. Have I arrived at my destination? If so, where is it? Where am I?
I think I’m beginning to understand. I’ve faded. This story, it’s moved on without me. Lucifer and God will battle it out, each with their mighty army of angelic beings, but my part in this tale has ended. Where does an angel go when it’s no longer needed? Where does a demon go?
I lost consciousness. I’m not sure for how long. Was I asleep? Although it only feels like moments ago, I know that time has passed. I feel…older. Not physically, because we don’t age, but emotionally. Not like someone who’s aged too much, but rather who’s experienced too much.
I see something now; a light in the distance. I’m heading toward it. It’s growing brighter and brighter as I move at unfathomable speeds. What is it? I can’t tell. It’s blinding, I can barely see. I hear a trumpet, the music vibrating my very soul.
I’m on my knees now, in front of the light. I can’t look up without going blind. I want to close my eyes, but I can’t, I won’t. Not again.
I remember now. I know what’s going on. This is Judgement day. The story’s at an end, and I’ve been called in front of Him. I can feel Him staring down at me, wondering who I am. Doesn’t He recognize His creation? I don’t blame Him. I know what His hands have made. I know what He’s breathed life into.
I hear a whisper. Although I can’t understand what was said, my heart knows. I’ve been judged unworthy.
I want to beg, plead for mercy. I didn’t mean to betray Him, I didn’t know. It’s not my fault. But I know it wouldn’t change anything. I made that choice, long ago. I have to tell Him something before I go. I have to get one point across.
I look up at the light, my eyes watering from the pain.
“I’m not evil,” I say, shaking my head as the tears roll down my cheeks.
The whispers begin to grow louder, coming closer and closer, surrounding me, echoing within my soul. At first I couldn’t understand, but the whispers begin to bind together, forming into one coherent sentence:
I begin to fall, just as I did before. Millions of stars surround me as I descend away from His majesty, twinkling far in the distance. These eternal chains dig into my wrists as they pull me down. I should be sad, I know, but I’m not. Why? Because I know where I’m going.
And this time, I won’t close my eyes.
Wait For Me
In the Darkness I wait,
Where I’d expect you to be.
But then I see you
On top a mountain.
Waiting for me.
I am no poet. The whole business eludes me. But I was inspired to write this about my girlfriend. She’s going through a lot, the amount of which would crush me. But she’s so strong, and I’m very proud of her.
The four men and one woman stood in a circle, humming slightly out of tune. They stared down at the chalk drawn circle and the line drawn down its middle that was just a little off from being perfectly centered. Their robes were crafted from the finest, itchiest wool that bitcoin could buy.
The Leader scratched his chin beard and stood back from the circle. “Brothers and sister,” He said with a grin. “Let us begin. I’m sure you noticed that we have someone new amongst our ranks tonight. He—“
“I didn’t notice,” The woman said as she swooped her multi-colored hair away from her heavily made up face.
“Nor did I,” The nasally man spoke out.
The Leader cleared his throat. “Yes, well—“
“I’d noticed, but didn’t bother to mention it,” The man with the chewing tobacco said.
“Enough,” The Leader said sternly, but then winked at them with a little smirk. “Anyway, let us begin. Sister, what was your accomplishment this week?”
She approached the circle, her heels screeching along the cement. “Any time I received a mass work email, I replied all. Everyone at my company received all of my acknowledgements. It was glorious!”
“Indeed!” The Leader said. “Glorious indeed. Thank you. Who’s next?”
“I’ll go,” Chewing tobacco said. “There I was, waitin’ in traffic. I was turnin’ left, and we finally got that sweet green arrow. I could see the cars behind me revvin’ with anticipation. But I waited. Seconds passed, but still I wait. And as the light turned yellow, and the horns, they were bellowin’, I stomped on the gas and turned just as it was goin’ red! Man, were they angry!”
“As always, you shine, brother,” The Leader said.
“It was a slow week for me,” Nasal said with a sigh. “But I did view all of my facebook messages, so they knew I’d seen them, and then I didn’t reply.”
“Every little bit counts, brother,” The Leader said. He turned his attention to the new face, who was texting under the hood of his robe. “And now for our newcomer. Brother, what did you accomplish this week?”
“Huh?” Newcomer said. He looked up and noticed that all eyes were on him. He laughed anxiously, putting his phone away. “Uh…yeah, I forgot to do that.”
Silence. The Leader looked at the others, and then cleared his throat. “You were told that, in order to join, you’d have to—“
“Yeah,” Newcomer shrugged. “I forgot. Sorry.”
“But…” The Leader looked to the others.
The woman shook her head. “You can’t just…”
Chewing tobacco spat. “That’s so…”
A hush in the room, and then the Leader smiled.
“That’s so annoying. Brothers and Sister, welcome our newcomer to The Society of the Annoying.”
So, according to Prose, if I win the R rated short story contest, I'll be a billionaire? Move over, J.K. Rowling!