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Party Clowns
By Anderson Pope

I keep the television muted while Jen puts on her makeup in the bathroom down the hall. “Can you believe these clowns?” I shout, so I’m sure she can hear me. Jen doesn’t reply, but I didn’t expect her to. “This election is a circus,” I add, hoping she might join the conversation. But she hasn’t been talking much since the third candidate pulled out of the race. She had so much belief in the prospect of real, positive change, right up until the day we drove down Prince and saw his campaign office in the Bottleworks had closed its doors. Since then she’d closed her own doors, in a way, to everyone. He withdrew and then she withdrew, from her friends, from her family, and from me. Anger and fear crept in where happiness and laughter once resided. I haven’t seen that breathtaking smile of hers in months, and I miss it. How did it get to this point? We’re choosing between a lecherous toupee and a hacksaw-groomed Pinocchio.
I’m about to say something else but I stop myself; I don’t like the way my voice bounces back at me from the corners of our living room when I know it’s the only reply I’m going to get. I shift my position on the sofa and glance out our front window but night has fallen, so I stand to close the blinds. As I reach for the cord I see two bone-white eyeballs peering in at me between the slats. I stumble away backwards into the coffee table and end up sitting on it, and when I look back to the window the eyes are gone.
Did I really see that? I wonder, getting to my feet. I step up cautiously and look out again, to the left and the right as far as the window will allow, but see only dark front yard. I’ve been so on edge lately, with Jen so distant… maybe it was just my imagination.
“Are you about ready?” I ask, shaking my head as I make my way toward the hall. I’m still getting no response from the bathroom and I have the eerie sense Jen’s not even in there any more, but as I enter the dining room I hear the medicine cabinet door close. This is ridiculous, I’m jumping at shadows, I think, as I stop at the table and glance out our back window. There, in the center of our backyard, illuminated by the floodlight, is a grotesque cartoon of a person. It’s wearing a filthy striped jumpsuit, with shocks of yellow-green hair exploding out from under a crumpled top hat. Its blood-red scar of a smile is painted on, and the emotionless expression underneath doesn’t imply malice so much as utter indifference, and possibly sleep deprivation. One of its wrists is twisting back and forth mindlessly, and whatever it’s holding glints in the light.
Cold panic cuts through me like an icy wind as my thoughts turn to the stories coming in from all over the country. It’s an epidemic; every day you hear about more weirdo clowns trying to lure children into the woods. Some kids even reported being attacked right here in town, at the East Athens Community Center.
There’s a window to the bathroom on the back of the house, and I know the clown can see Jen, too. I fumble with my phone and turn to yell a warning down the hall but end up gasping instead. A second clown stands there in the shadowy hallway, just outside the bathroom door, evaluating me with its black-smudged eyes. I raise a trembling hand and try to say something, but the words catch in my very dry throat.
“Do you like my makeup?” it asks, in a vaguely familiar voice.
“What…” I start, but don’t know how to finish. In the corner of one eye, I see the clown in back walking dutifully toward the house. To my other side something’s scraping against the front door. I turn toward the noise and see the TV screen is split. On the right, one smirking candidate’s hair billows on a breeze like poorly spun cotton candy. On the left, the other candidate’s face cracks open in a maniacal grin.
“I’ve joined a new party,” the clown says. It’s good to see Jen smiling, even through the nightmarish mask of makeup. She always had such a killer smile.

The Girl Who Disappeared
By Sadie Pratt (grade 5)

I am going to tell you about the time I found the ghost girl. I have trouble telling this story, for it brings me terror every time I speak it. I have called upon you to read it. Come, let me tell you.

Once there was a young girl. She was quite strange. I would watch her come and go, stealing through the alleyways, a mere shadow. She lived in a cardboard box in the corner of an empty lot in Athens, stealing food from trash bins. I never got a look at her face for a long time, But when I did, I saw that she had white, milky eyes and a pale face surrounded by hair as white as snow. When she took off her shawl, I saw what looked like blood splattered on her pale blue dress… right where her heart was.
After seeing this, I wanted to help her. I tried to approach her, but she fled from me on bare feet. I followed her earnestly, having to sprint to keep up with her. The girl, who I had decided to call Mirage, rounded the corner of a shabby looking building. I followed her, sweating from the effort of running in high heels, rounded the corner (which led to a dead end surrounded by barbed wire fencing), and stopped. She was gone. I looked in all the corners, but she was nowhere to be seen. Well, I thought, She can’t be far away, and I turned around, walking away solemnly.
One day, a few months after Mirage had disappeared, I saw her, scampering away from a man, who was chasing her past the Athens Stadium, yelling angrily,
“COME BACK HERE! HOW DARE YOU PLAY A TRICK ON ME!? I’M AN IMPORTANT BUSINESSMAN!” I was scared for her, so I ran up to the man and yelled,
“Please, sir! That’s my… daughter!” The man, and Mirage, stopped in their tracks. The man stepped up to me and said annoyedly, “Your… daughter,” He shot Mirage a look of obvious disgust.
“Your daughter thought it would be funny to… to…”
“To what, sir?” I said firmly.
“Mirage, that was very wrong. Why would you run away from me like that? Even worse, drop a flower on this gent’s head! Come here!” When I gave her a quite stern look, she understood, and walked to me, allowing me to take her hand. It felt strangely cold, like it had been in a freezer. As we started walking, the man called out,
“AND GET HER SOME NEW CLOTHES, TOO!!” I took her home with me, and fixed her a bed. I asked her to let me see her wound, but she shook her head again and went to sit in a corner, barely noticeable.
Something was definitely strange about this girl. She picked at her dinner, and barely ate any of it. When I turned off the light at night, she would let out a sort of squeak, and turn it on, so I would leave it like that all night. She never stayed in the house during the day, but tried to escape, so I had to place a bracelet on her that would shock her if she got past the sidewalk. Also, she never talked! One night, when I was reading in the parlor, she padded by silently, and walked out into the yard. I watched out of the window, and saw her position herself in the middle of the yard, and then simply… disappear.
And I never saw her again.

The Green Glowing Light Abduction
By Anonymous

My story began on a day in summertime when I would go to an undisclosed section of wood in Athens, the names and the locations will be changed to protect the innocent.
My normal routine was to walk down a 5-mile trail deep into the wood to build a treehouse during summer school breaks. But on this day, things were very different. I used to look at the sun and shadows to tell what time it was. All of the sudden, I woke up at the beginning spot of the trail where I normally started my walk and realized that I had missing time of about four hours. Where I should’ve been deep into the woods but I found myself back in the beginning of the trail and had no idea where I had been for four hours.
At that time, there were no books or TV shows talking about ‘missing time’. It wasn’t until years later when I watched a TV show about missing time on Discovery Channel that It made me realize I was involved in a missing time mysterious case.
Then, I have another mysterious incident two years later at my parents’ house in Athens that I believe it is connected to my missing time incident in the woods. What happened next defies logic…
It was approximately 3 a.m. I was sleeping in my bed with the bedroom door shut as usual. All of the sudden, I woke up to someone or something walking up and down the hallway connected to my bedroom door. Normally, it would be one of my parents getting up walking down the hall to the kitchen. But on this occasion, whoever or whatever it was, kept walking back and forth on the old creaky wooden floor for about 30 minutes nonstop.
It was as if the person would walk all the way down to the end of the hall and then turned around and walk all the way back to the front of my bedroom door and stopped as though they or it wanted to come in but never wouldn’t open the door.
Then, there was a green glowing lime light that appeared at the bottom of the bedroom door and faded away as the person or thing walked up and down the hall. As I noticed the green glowing light, I realized no one in my parents’ house had a green glowing light device of any kind.
My heart started racing, my body shaking and sweating with fear. I had a butcher’s knife on top of my art table. So, I jumped out of my bed real fast, and grabbed my butcher’s knife and jumped back in the bed and hid under the bed covers peeping out staring at the bottom of the door crack watching for the green glowing lime lights to brighten and deemed.
Then I noticed the walking stopped midway in the hallway, and green glowing lights moved into the hallway bathroom lighting up the bushes outside lime green. And the green light bounced back into my bathroom in my bedroom which was connected to the hallway bathroom. And then, 30 minutes later, the walking stopped and the light disappeared and the house went quiet. I didn’t leave my bedroom to check what it was because I was so scared and I fell asleep in my bed with the butcher’s knife in my hand.
The next incident happened six years later and connects to the past two previous incidents, I believe. I was a college student in Athens living in an apartment on the third floor sitting on the deck taking a coffee break all by myself. All of the sudden, a huge spot light from the sky about thousands feet up beamed down on me on the deck. There was no airplane engine noise or no helicopter noise. And the beam of light stayed on me for about three minutes and like a camera flash went out at night and disappeared without a sound.

The Haunted Hammock
By Emma (grade 5)

It started out as a really hot summer. For the first day in a long time it started to cool off. Dad and I live in the east, where we’re surrounded by trees. I decided to go to my reading place in my backyard deep in the woods. There is a picnic table where I read or write, a hammock where I read or take naps, and there’s a fire pit where me and my dad make fires. When I went to read at the picnic table, I sat down and noticed the hammock was swinging. I thought it was the wind, but it stopped and swung faster. There was no wind.
I got a little spooked and ran back down the hill to my house. I laughed to myself and thought it was the wind, so I decided not to speak about it. During the night, I kept thinking about what I thought I saw, so I went to my dad’s room and woke him up. He was wondering why I was up so late. I told him what I thought I had seen. Dad said it was my imagination or the wind. I decided to go back up there, but also take my dog with me.
The next day, me and my dog Thor went up the hill deep in the woods in my backyard. When we got up there, Thor started barking. I was trying to see what he was barking at. I did not see anything. I looked at the hammock to see if it was moving. When I looked at the hammock it was moving very slowly. I got really spooked, so we ran back down the hill.
Later that day, I was playing in my backyard when I heard a little girl singing. She was singing “LaLaLaLa” slowly. I wondered where it was coming from, and looked all around but I could not see a little girl. Then I decided to go up the hill to see if the hammock was moving. When I got up halfway, the little girl’s singing got louder and louder. I called Thor so I would not be afraid, and when we got up the hill I looked at the hammock, but it was not swinging. I looked up from the hammock and saw a little girl. Although it was not a real girl, it was a ghost girl.
She was facing the trees and she was holding something. I could not see what she was holding, so I got a little closer. When I took my first step, Thor started barking, then the little girl turned slowly. And while she was turning, she was singing the song again. When she looked at me, her eyes were the color of blood. As soon as she took a step forward Thor started barking again.
I got scared, and I was trying to run down the hill to tell my dad. When I turned she was already there. I was backing up with terror. Then out of nowhere she started screaming, and when she stopped I fell on a twig and she started walking towards me. I stood up and I was looking for Thor. When I found him he was lying dead on the ground. Then I started sobbing loudly. She was walking towards me again and by the time she was at the spot where Thor was, I was already in the woods. I was running and running, then I saw a hole in the ground and I climbed into it.
I saw her pass by. I stayed as quiet as I could. I peeked my head out to see if she was gone. I got out and looked, but I saw no sign of her. When I turned, she was there. I screamed in terror. And she just said, “Bye-bye” before she stabbed me with a knife.
As I was laying there dying on the ground, I heard a voice. It was scratchy. I looked with my last sight and it was her, the ghost girl, and she was saying something, but I could not tell what, and then I was dead. All of a sudden, I woke up on the picnic table and I was relieved that it was a dream. As I started walking back down the hill, I saw a knife covered with blood.

The Night of the Living Bulldogs
By Katherine Queen (grade 5)

“Hello class,” said Ms. Patty in her cheery voice. She’s my least favorite teacher. Then I got passed a note from Josif! He’s been my best friend since kindergarten. He is a strict rule follower. But a note? This wasn’t like him whatsoever. I opened it and It stated, “Meet me on the playground during study hall.”
When I met him, he pulled me under the slide, and started to tell me something. I couldn’t understand what he was saying. “Whoa, whoa, back up. What?”
“Promise you won’t tell anyone?” Josif asked.
“Okay,” I replied.
“Yesterday night I was walking my dog on Lumpkin Street, and I saw the bulldog at the bank move!”
“No you didn’t.”
“Yes, I did.”
He and I were doing this for a while.
“Fine! You saw it move,” I finally admitted.
“I think it has something to do with the fact that tonight’s Halloween.”
When we got back inside no one was there. I went to my class, and saw everyone huddled in a corner of the classroom. Then the bulldog from Hodgson’s jumped out at me! I ducked out of the way, as he went flying into the wall and smashed! Bits of him were all on the floor. A cloud of dust rose up and the bulldog’s face appeared out of the dust. It slowly vanished and all that was left was a red jewel.
I picked it up and studied it. I put it in my pocket and ran over to the corner and helped my classmates who were still cowering in the corner. After that fiasco everybody went home.
Josif came over after school and we talked about what we thought had happened. We decided we should go out and investigate. We put on our Halloween costumes and left. After all, we weren’t going to let them go to waste.
When we got to Five Points to go trick-or-treating, we looked around for the bulldogs. They were nowhere to be found. I pulled the red crystal out of my pocket to examine it once more. But when I picked it up, it started to glow. I dropped it on the ground and it broke in two. I bent down to pick it up, and saw that blood was dripping out. I jumped back and then the bulldog’s face appeared once more. It disappeared slowly just like the last one, but the only difference was that it sealed up again. I picked it up and put it in my pocket.
“We need to go,” I said to Josif. “Josif? Josif? Where are you?” I turned around and saw Josif being dragged away by the bulldog from the bank! I ran to him, but he was nowhere to be found. I looked everywhere, but he was still not there. What do I do now? I thought to myself. Where would the bulldog take him? The coliseum! I have to save him!
When I got to the coliseum, I saw that it was boarded up. How will I get in now? I know! The other doors!
I don’t know what I was expecting when I turned the corner but what I did see was horrifying. Everybody from my school was tied up and in cages! I ran to free them but they said it was no use. “No!” I yelled. I continued to run over to them. I pulled the bobby pin out of my hair and undid their chains. They all fell to the floor.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Marie did it,” one girl said.
“Who is Marie?” I asked, full of curiosity. Then I heard footsteps coming. I leapt to the side before I was seen.
“Who’s there?” Marie said in a booming voice. No reply.  “Who’s there?” she says this time in a sterner tone. Finally she yelled, “Who’s there!?”
She started to walk away. Then I saw something glistening out of the corner of my eye. I turned and Zoe was pointing a mirror at me. She tossed me her water bottle.
“What?” I mouthed to her.
“Dump it on her head.”
She mouthed back. I gave her the thumbs up. I turned and ran up behind her. I dumped it on her head and she started to melt on the floor!
We all ran home and told our parents about what happened. But of course, they didn’t believe us and they never will. But every night to this very day Marie comes back for revenge!

The Fiddling Fool
By Daniel Schmidt

In antebellum Athens, GA, some characters were better known than others. One such person, recognized and admired by all, was Belle. Belle lived near town, along the Oconee River. She was distractingly beautiful, with radiant golden hair, so fair and unique as to be immediately recognizable and distinct from any other. Her beauty was accompanied by superb talent for playing the fiddle, leading to an unlikely friendship with another one of Athens’ better known characters, Phineas. Everyone knew Phineas, but not by his name. He was known simply as “The Fiddling Fool.” He was a simpleton, a grown man whose mind never developed past infancy. He wondered town, looking down at the ground with a vacant, slack-jawed, aimless stare. He never looked anyone in the eyes and never spoke. He lingered behind the rest of society with the sole exception of his ability to play the fiddle. Belle was unparalleled in her talent except for him. She was the only person in town with any real connection to him. She would often seek him out, and the beautiful Belle and the slack-jawed simpleton would quickly liven any location with their extraordinary duets. Other than his fiddle, Belle was his only friend.
One lesser-known character was Belle’s older sister, Molly. Molly lacked Belle’s beauty, talent and kind heart. She was plain and heavy set, but her ugliest trait was her perpetual jealousy of her younger sister.  
Belle was also fond of a strapping local lad, Fredrick, the son of a wealthy landowner and most coveted bachelor in Athens. It was a surprise to no one when the handsome couple became betrothed.  
When Molly heard the news, she was finally driven mad by her jealousy. She accompanied her sister on a walk along the river banks near their home. Once they were sufficiently secluded, Molly pushed Belle into the river. Unable to swim, Belle drowned as she was swept away by the river’s swift current. Molly ran into town, reporting Belle slipped on wet rocks and fell. A party assembled to search, but Belle’s body was never found.
As summer yielded to an exceptionally cold autumn, Molly’s jealousy gave way to guilt and fear that were every bit as maddening. She started to hear music every night, waking at the witching hour to the sound of a fiddle playing softly, the music seemingly drowning her.
One particularly cold and still autumn night, Molly awoke abruptly, hearing the music that haunted her every night. The fiddling, however, seemed much closer. Instead of drifting around her, it was directly in front of her. She reluctantly opened her eyes to see the Fiddling Fool. More troubling than his presence was his piercing eye contact. He locked her eyes with his, not blinking, as if staring directly into her soul. In a feeble attempt to escape his unyielding gaze, she dropped her eyes. Her view fell on his fiddle. There was something different. The fiddle pegs were white. She studied them further and was struck with the dismaying observation that they were made of human finger bones. Her blood ran completely cold when she looked at his fiddle bow. The hairs on the bow were the most brilliant, beautiful gold. Her mind raced for an explanation outside the reality that she was looking at her dead sister’s hair, sawing gently on the strings of the Fiddling Fool’s only remaining friend. Petrified with horror, Molly lay still in bed, listening to the most lonesome, melancholy tune the Fiddling Fool relentlessly played.
At daybreak Molly was nowhere to be found. Her concerned family members went straight to their nearest neighbor. He had in fact seen her that morning, right before sunrise. He saw her walking toward the river, calmly whistling the most lonesome, melancholy tune he had ever heard. Molly was never found.
To this day people can still walk along the stretch of river where Belle and Molly were last seen alive. Just outside downtown, the greenway offers trails along the river. If you take this walk alone, you might find yourself in a silent moment, escaping the city sounds. If you stop and focus, you might hear the distant sound of two fiddles, playing an enchanting duet of the most lonesome, melancholy song you have ever heard. Some who have had such a moment on an especially cold, still autumn night have reported also hearing a third performer join in, whistling along with the two fiddles.

Best Friends
By K.E. Schmidt

“Please, mommy, pleeeeease?? It’s really the only house I want to see. I have to go there!” Melissa sighed as she glanced down at her 6-year-old daughter. Amber claimed she had spent all the trick-or-treat time she wanted in their own Cobbham neighborhood and that she was ready to visit the Adams house. The Adamses lived far out Lexington Road on the outskirts of Athens. They were notorious for their bitter lack of welcome towards children, especially around Halloween. Gerald and Ruby did not answer the ring of a doorbell. The porch lights were not lit. The only sign of life was the glow of the television seeping through closed blinds.
Melissa was reluctant to drive all the way out there for no reason, but had a hard time refusing Amber’s pleading eyes. She had been acting rather peculiar this Halloween, convinced there was a “Batman” carrying soda cans that followed them around. She was so nervous that she hadn’t even done much in the neighborhood, and Melissa figured they may as well get their money’s worth on the Snoopy costume she wore. It was an odd choice, and Melissa worried that the furry outfit might be stifling on this unseasonably warm October night. Amber had insisted: She had to be Snoopy because Chloe was going dressed as Woodstock.
Chloe was Amber’s best friend. Chloe also happened to be invisible. Melissa normally did not care much for the realm of the imaginary, but it had been a rough year, and she felt Amber could use the company, even if the source did not exist. Amber had always been a bit of a loner, often saying or doing things oddly. After her father’s death, she retreated even further into herself, and into Chloe. Talking with her seemed to soothe Amber, so Melissa indulged. Now Amber was pleading to visit the Adams, because “Chloe wanted to go.” So mother and daughter hopped into the old Honda and carefully navigated the route across town.
When they arrived at the manor house, Amber continued to absentmindedly murmur to Chloe while they exited the car and began to ascend the long winding driveway. Melissa shivered slightly, perplexed at how the temperature seemed so much cooler out here. As expected, not a light was on as they edged up to the door. Amber appeared slightly nervous, but was determined as she pressed her finger against the doorbell. A long chime echoed through the house, followed by silence.
They had nearly given up when there was a slight click of the lock. The door cracked open just an inch or two. Gerald’s hooked nose, bushy eyebrows, and balding dome appeared. He scowled down at them and Melissa thought he might shut the door in their faces. But a surprised and melancholy expression clouded his countenance at the sight of Amber’s costume. The girl suddenly cried out, “Mr. Gerald please, don’t be sad… Chloe says it’s okay. And she still loves her Woodstock costume.” Shocked and embarrassed, Melissa started to apologize when the door suddenly widened and the old man beckoned them in.
Mrs. Adams turned off “Wheel of Fortune” when they entered the room, perturbed and perplexed at how her husband had interrupted the evening and admitted strangers. “Ruby…” Gerald began. He turned to Melissa and, drawing a shaky breath, spoke: “Forty years ago, we lived on Cobb Street with our only daughter. She was beautiful; the light of our lives. We used to love the neighborhood and holidays. We took her trick-or-treating every year… until… when she was 6, she begged to go with her friends next door. It was a safe enough neighborhood, we thought…”
Gerald’s voice broke. Ruby picked up the tale:
“The driver was dressed as Batman. He was so drunk he thought his car was the “Batmobile”—hopped the curb and didn’t even see our little girl until he felt a bump. The darn fool got let out of jail early for good behavior. Went out again and finally got himself killed. Deserved it. Our daughter didn’t. We can’t forgive ourselves. If only we were there… so we had to move away, to get away. Just couldn’t take it. Why…?”
Melissa sat in puzzled contemplation. Tragic, yes, but how did it concern her and Amber? Then the old man once more spoke: “Please let me explain… the last outfit our daughter wore was a bright Woodstock costume, with a huge Snoopy doll by her side. Her name was Chloe.”

Scary Game
By Bo Stephens (grade 5)

One Saturday night in Athens, Georgia Bo was taking his friends Crawford, Brad, Robert and William to a Georgia football game. They were watching Georgia play Tennessee. It was 9:30 and the game had 20 seconds left. The score was Georgia 27 and Tennessee 24. Tennessee had the ball. It was 4th and 10 on the 20-yard line. Bo and his friends were so nervous that Georgia might lose. The stadium went so loud that you could barely hear the announcer. The quarterback said, “Down, set, hike” and the players took off running like the wind. The quarterback stepped back, looked for an open wide receiver and released the ball. It was in the air; the crowd kept on screaming, He caught it and the Tennessee crowd went crazy. There were 10 seconds left in the game.
Bo and his friends still had some hope that Georgia could win. Tennessee kicked the ball to the Georgia 35-yard line, and returned it to the 50-yard line. Jacob Eason, the Georgia quarterback, was about to hike it when the wind started howling like a wolf howls at a moon and the hedges started rocking. All of a sudden the whole stadium went dark. You could hear screams from all over the stadium. Then suddenly the announcer screamed, “Get out…!” Everyone panicked and then someone else in a creepy voice said, “Don’t leave.” More people panicked and screamed.
Bo and his friends left the box and went in the hallway where there was a light in a box. All of the sudden, a little clown walked out of the box. The clown was giggling in a creepy clown voice. William almost screamed, but Robert stopped him. The clown was red and yellow with a big red nose. The clown walked into the elevator. Once the clown was gone, Bo and his friends ran into the box the clown came out of. Bo’s jaw dropped to the ground. The president of the University of Georgia, who had been honored at halftime on the field, was lying on the ground! They ran over to him and Bo reached to check and see if his heart was beating. His heart was beating very slow. They did not know what to do. He looked around the room and saw a safety pack, so he grabbed it. He did not find anything that would help the President, but he did find five flashlights.
Crawford said, “Let’s go to the control box and look on the security cameras and also try to turn on the lights.” So they walked a long way but found the control box. They all looked at the security cameras and located the box that the President was in. The cameras showed the clown sneaking up behind the President and knocking him out with one of the lamps. Brad found the switch for the lights, and turned them on. When the lights came on, everyone went crazy because all the players were gone!
They looked at all the security cameras. All the players were below the stadium. They rewinded the cameras and saw that all the players had been lured into the locker rooms by the clown, fell in a trap into the basement of the stadium. Bo and his friends went down to the basement of the stadium, which took a while, but they found it.
The clown and two tigers were surrounding the players. Bo, Brad, Robert and William hid while Crawford tried to get to the clown. The clown was behind a fence so Crawford jumped onto the clown. The clown screamed and shouted. Crawford made the tigers lay off. Then the coaches asked the doctors  to help the President. The President ended up being OK, and the clown went to jail. The clown ended up being the Tennessee coach!
Bo and his friends ended up getting field passes, and Georgia ended up winning with a Hail Mary. Bo and his friends ended up becoming heroes and lived happily ever after.

By Anonymous

Anxiety rose in my chest as I knocked on the door of the small Eastside duplex. A thin woman with green eyes and silky silver hair swept into a messy bun answered, looking me up and down thoughtfully.  
“Dr. Kay?” She nodded. “Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.” I offered my health insurance card as we walked into her living room, but she waved it away.  
I took a seat on a grey denim couch, well made, but worn. The lack of windows made the room dim, and the faint smell of something herbal, sage, maybe, lingered in the air.  
I tucked one leg underneath me as I explained the reason for my visit. “My roommate said you could help me,” I said, adjusting my straight pencil skirt over my curvy thighs. “I want—need, actually, to get into Delta Iota Phi. Honestly, it’s going really badly. Bid day is next week, and there’s only one more event before they make their decision.”
The prior events had been a series of mean girl stares and phony, toothy smiles. My raven black ringlets did not stay straightened, but curled up around my face in the stifling Athens humidity. Answering “Neil Degrasse Tyson” to the question of who your celebrity boyfriend would be was met with a mirthless chortle. And a poorly timed pun playing on the similar sound of “bidet” and “bid day” wasn’t helping either. Though my GPA was stellar and my letters of recommendation were on point, I hadn’t managed to make a single connection in the sorority of my mother, three aunts, and grandmother.  
Dr. Kay’s eyes never left me as she took a pull of her tea. After what seemed like a very long time, she said, “I can help you. But only if you’re willing to pay.”  
“Absolutely! I brought cash, just like my roommate said to.” She shrugged slightly and left the room. When she returned, she gave me a small, indigo blue bottle with an eyedropper in the cap and handwritten instructions. “Thank you for your payment,” she said.
I took the first two drops in my car before I even left her house.  
I felt the change almost immediately. Somehow my flatiron started working better. Even in 100 percent humidity, my hair stayed straight, bouncy and buoyant. I suddenly found it easier to turn down fries and feta at The Grill, or a big slice of layer cake from the Grit, and my clothes started to fit looser. “Cosmos” with Neil became less interesting, replaced by “The Bachelor.” And when a crude pun crossed my mind, I was able to restrain myself from blurting it out in front of would-be sisters.
Months later, I smiled to myself as I placed sheets on my new twin bed in DIP’s Milledge Avenue mansion.  
“Cute bedding!” My roommate Maddie giggled as she pulled out her comforter.  
“Oh my God! I can’t believe we have exactly the same pattern!”
“Yeah, Michelle has it, too. Great minds, huh?”
I checked out her belongings. Michael Kors boots, iPad pro and more Lilly Pulitzer dresses than I had ever seen outside of a store. With her thick blonde hair and long legs, the colorful sheath dresses would look especially striking.
“Hey, who’s this cute little gal?” I asked. In a framed picture on her dresser, a chubby kindergartener with dark brown hair shared an ice cream cone with a dog.
“That’s me.”
“You were a brunette when you were a kid?”
“Yeah. Weirdly, my hair actually got lighter as I got older.”
“Crazy! I didn’t recognize you. You were a little chunk!”
“Yeah, that changed in college, too.”
In the slightly ajar sock drawer, nestled between Lululemon sports bras, I saw the little indigo blue bottle.
Suddenly the room felt small. “I’m going to step out for some air,” I said. I grabbed a sweatshirt and my old sneakers as I rushed out the door.
Slowly, I made my way to Five Points and turned left toward south campus, for once not checking my phone for updates. I meandered until I found the little Japanese style garden and plopped onto a bench. Months of easy interaction with my mother. Months of instant friendships with the girls in DIP. Months of well-received flirtation with guys in red polo shirts with spiky hair.  That baby picture, though.
I reached into my bag, pulled out my blue bottle, and let two drops fall on my tongue.

By Philip Weinrich

Why is the lamp off again? Sally wondered. She came down the stairs and turned it back on, and the warm glow pushed the shadows aside. At first, she thought there might be a short in the wires, but it always lit up when she turned it on. A few months ago, she would have chalked it up to her sister Janet, who lived with her. Since the car accident, however, she was the only one left in the house. It was happening more frequently now, and a vague feeling of dread began to invade her thoughts. What if it’s a…? She shook her head at her silliness and headed back upstairs.
In the wake of the accident, she had retreated to the comfort and solitude of the library upstairs. When they were younger, Sally preferred to hang around the house and read unless Janet goaded her into coming along on one of her “adventures,” like swimming in the fountain on North Campus or racing down Milledge past the Botanical Gardens. They may have been twins, but they were worlds apart. Janet had always been the “life of the party,” and with her gone, Sally no longer wanted to be seen by anyone.
Days would go by without anything to disturb her peace and quiet. She had no one to talk to, so she buried her grief in the pages of her books. Childhood friends came to her as she read, comforting her in a way that people could not. It was better than therapy.
Sally was deep into her well-worn copy of Wuthering Heights when she heard a noise that made her stop mid-sentence. A door creaked downstairs. She had told herself it was just the house settling often enough to know that it wasn’t true. This time, the sound was followed by footsteps slowly shuffling along the floor. She wasn’t sure if what she heard the other times had been footsteps; now, there was no doubt. Something was in the house!
There had been so much loss in her life; Sally couldn’t bear the thought of being forced out of her home as well. Equally terrifying was the anxiety of facing the unknown on a daily basis. One thing was certain: She did not want to keep living being controlled by her fear. She owed Janet that much. If she was ever going to get past this, Sally knew she was going to have to confront whatever was downstairs.
She moved to the door and looked out into the hallway. The lamp was still on, its light illuminating the stairway wall. Quietly, she crept down the hall. She was just about to peer over the railing when the light went off. She quickly drew back into the library, straining her ears to see if the footsteps followed her up the stairs. The shuffling continued, but didn’t get any closer.
Why is this happening now? Sally wondered. She had lived there all her life and nothing strange like this had ever happened. Suddenly, she had a revelation: What if it’s Janet trying to contact me? The possibility of reconnecting with her sister almost made her miss the creaking of the door. When it shut, she was afraid she might have lost her chance. She flew out of the room and raced downstairs.

A cold shiver went down Janet’s back as she locked the front door and limped back to her new car. Every time she came to get the mail, the lamp was on again, and every time she turned it off. She had never believed in ghosts, but she was the only person who had a key to the house and lamps don’t turn on by themselves. She had decided to sell the house because it only contained painful memories for her, but now this? One of the agents at Upchurch Realty was a friend, but how could she tell her “The house has lots of amenities, it’s in Five Points, oh and by the way, I think it’s haunted”?
Her leg still hurt from the accident, and she was a little nervous about driving, but Janet was determined to get on with her life. She turned the key in the ignition and backed down the driveway, stealing nervous glances at the house as she pulled away. Looking down from the rear view mirror as she turned up the Bulldog, she didn’t see a lamp turning on, illuminating the front window of her childhood home.

By Eddie Whitlock

She left me one finger, the pinkie finger on my left hand, and that is what I type with. She ate the others, fried them and ate them while I watched. I can still picture the cast-iron skillet with nine battered and browning fingers curling as they cooked. I was gagged but not blindfolded. I should have looked away, but I could not.
She struggled to eat the first one, my right thumb. By the time she ate the ninth—the left thumb—she was chewing flesh, pulling the bone from her mouth and examining it like a chicken wing and chewing it again.
I thought she was going to keep eating me, piece by piece, but she stopped after the fingers. Her tightening of the straps that held me to the chair made them tourniquets, I realize now. I wouldn’t bleed to death, but I would bleed and I would hurt.
Mary had once asked me what I would do if my ex came to our door. “I would let her in,” I had said because I could not imagine her actually showing up at our door. When she did show up, I let her in because she had a gun.
She forced Mary to tie me to the chair and then she took Mary into the garage. I could hear the trunk being slammed shut a moment later. I knew she was taking Mary away. I had all night to think about that, tied to the chair.  
And now I type. One pinkie finger strikes one key at a time.  
Writing this much has taken 10 minutes, which is far faster than I was three years ago when I first tried. The missing fingers still hurt: phantom pain. In my dreams I type with 10 fingers, text appearing on screen and shooting out through a printer all the while. And then I look down at the keyboard and see that one pinkie.
She left me there, tied to the chair in the kitchen. She drove away in my car—the new BMW—and called the police an hour later when she was parked in front of the Barnes & Noble Booksellers, where they found her the next morning.
Her letter arrived the next day, though I didn’t see it for a while. I had been released from the hospital by the time I read it. It wasn’t a threatening letter at all. It was all about our lives together. I didn’t even remember a couple of the things. She was disturbed and I had disturbed her further and now I type with one finger.
They never found Mary’s body and the letter didn’t mention the new woman in my life at all.  
When the police found the BMW the next day, my ex was sitting inside. A bottle of sleeping pills were in her left hand. In her right was the bestseller All Is Forgiven, the book published under my name that she had written.
I gave the car to my nephew. I’ll never drive again and I certainly would never drive that car.  
I bled and I hurt, but I did not die. Not yet, not completely.
I think she left me the one finger so I could type.  
I’m sure she did.

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