Monday, January 6, 2014


    The leaves crunch underneath our feet as we step off the trail to walk  towards the abandoned factory. I feel bad. I can’t look him directly in the eyes when he speaks to me. My heart is racing but I know I have to go through with it. It’s the only way.
    Brian was an adventurer. He was constantly talking Doug and I into crazy shenanigans. I had met Brian a year earlier at a university sponsored freshmen mixer. Doug lived down the hall in the dorms my freshmen year. We became buddies that year with Brian as the ringleader arranging pranks like throwing frogs over the shower curtains in the girl‘s dorm as they showered, trashing the bottom floor bathroom of the library with fire extinguishers, and of course poorly planned nature trips like rock climbing expeditions without the proper gear. If something made your heart beat fast Brian wanted to do it. Once our freshman year Brian jumped on the handlebars of my bike as I was riding back to the dorms after class and directed me to the biggest hill on campus. And this was a steep hill. The type that would blow your hair back while whizzing your bike thirty plus miles per hour. Well he convinced me to go down the hill as he sat on the handlebars. My hands were so clammy afterwards. I had barely not wrecked thanks to the uneven weight distribution. Totally reckless, but Brian had howled with laughter the whole time. The kid was crazy.
    During the summer after our freshman year Brian, Doug, and I kept in contact through e-mail. Brian concocted a plan to live off campus which would allow us to throw amazing parties without having to worry about getting busted by campus security. We found a house in a neighborhood about a mile away from the school. It took some convincing but my parents finally conceded to me living off campus and my dad lent me the money for the deposit on the promise we wouldn’t trash the house and he would get his money back at the end of the school year.
    The house was in a nice neighborhood. And I always felt a tinge of regret about throwing raging parties late into the night because a few families lived around us. Right across the street was a family and they came to hate us. They were always calling the cops because we’d line the street with cars and their yard would get trashed with beer cans. And occasionally some drunk would urinate on the side of their house. They had a kid named Stephen who was always riding a tricycle or jumping rope out in the driveway. He was an alright kid. Not obnoxious at all. Stephen absolutely adored Brian. And Brian would fist pound Stephen every time he saw him. But Stephen’s mom would always storm over to our house the day after a party and let loose a tirade about how we were keeping Stephen up all night and we had no respect. Eventually it got so bad that we were in threat of being evicted. I remembered the promise I had made to my dad about getting the deposit money back and convinced Brian to stop throwing huge parties. Brian sulked about this but eventually found another way to get the parties he wanted. 

      We’re close now. He won’t stop asking questions. I can feel the knot in my stomach wrenching harder as I furtively look around checking to make sure we haven’t been followed. But I’m mostly looking to make sure I don’t see any shadows moving between the trees.

    Brian had been on one of his solo jogs one day when he found it right off the trail that connected to our neighborhood. The city had built this incredibly long trail and it connected the neighborhoods, college, and the old sections of town. The trail was surrounded by woods but there were old abandoned factories being slowly overtaken by rust and foliage along the trail too. Brian had run into our house yelling and screaming “I know what were going to do! It’s going to be incredible!”. Brian unleashed his plan to Doug and I. He had found an old abandoned factory that was completely gutted on the inside. The factory was sealed off but he had found an entrance in the back. The chain link fence was missing a section and you could slide right through. The factory was a good ways off the main trail and completely isolated. “No cops!” Brian said. I didn’t quite understand. Then he explained how we were going to move our parties into the factory. Doug and I laughed at him. No college kids were going to a party in an abandoned factory in the woods. Especially no girls. But Brian had plans.
    The first party we threw in the factory was small but word spread. And with a lot of promotion by Brian the factory parties soon exploded to around fifty plus people a weekend. They even began to rival the frat parties. It was incredible. One night Brian snuck off with a girl during the party to hook up. They found a spot in the very back and made a small discovery. Behind the weeds growing up on the back of the factory was a small basement door that was locked. After Brian found the small door he wouldn’t let it go. The adventurer in him had to know what was behind it. We would be sitting around watching football or playing video games and he would bring it up over and over again. Eventually he wore me and Doug down. We started wondering what was behind it. So about a week later during one of our factory parties we took a pair of bolt cutters with us.
    Around midnight Brian, Doug, and I snuck out of the party and went to the back of the factory. Doug was pretty drunk laughing like crazy as he clumsily tried to cut the lock off the door. But he managed to get it off. After he got it off we all sort of looked at each other like who’s going in. I instantly held up my hands and went “No way!”. Brian and Doug argued for a second then Brain snatched the flashlight and went in followed by Doug. They remerged a couple seconds later covered in red clay spitting dust out of their mouths. Doug was dancing around yelling “I’ve got spider webs on me! I’ve got spider webs on me!” while Brian laughed hysterically. I asked them what was down there. Brian said it was just a small dirt crawlspace. “Nothing interesting?” I asked. “No” he said “all it was, was dirt and spider webs.“ We left and went back to the party. 

    Close now. I hold the spot in the chain link fence open for him and he slips through. It’s cold and I’m glad I brought my gloves. But it’s getting dark quickly. I hadn’t counted on this. I can see the winter sun setting. I have to be fast.     

    Two days later Doug got sick. Then Brian did. They spent the whole day throwing up. Finally I had to take them to the hospital after a little bit of blood started showing up when they dry heaved. When we got to the hospital Doug couldn’t find his wallet with his insurance card in it. I left them at the hospital and went back to recover Doug’s wallet. Halfway to the house I got a call from Doug and he said he thought he dropped it in the crawlspace at the factory. I said I wasn’t going back to the factory alone and I especially wasn’t going into the crawlspace. He begged me and said his parents would kill him so I relented and said I’d go get it for him. Besides like he said on the phone he’d do the same for me.
    I went back to the factory alone through the woods. Something didn’t feel right. Doug had sounded panicked on the phone. I guess he was really sick. I was really worried about him and Brian. I went through the chain link fence and made it around to the back of the factory where the small basement door was. I suddenly felt a jolt of fear when I thought about climbing into the small crawlspace. The factory looked spooky now that I was alone at it. But I pulled myself together and chuckled a little at the thought of being scared out in broad daylight. I hitched up my pants opened the door and crawled in. Even though it was light outside it was very dark inside the crawlspace. I could feel the damp dirt on my knees . I clicked on my phone so I could see better. The space only went back a few feet. A crawled all the way to the end of it shining my phone’s light on the ground. The wallet wasn’t here. The only thing besides red clay was some lines drawn in black or something on the dirt wall at the end of the crawlspace.. Kind of like an equal sign with lines through it. Almost like a symbol. I got back to my car and my phone rang. It was Doug and he sounded like he was sobbing or something. He asked me if I went into the crawlspace to find his wallet. I told him it wasn’t there. He paused and I could hear him sobbing a little on the other end. Then he whispered “Brian’s dead”.  
       I raced back to the hospital. The nurses tried to stop me from going into Doug’s room but I pushed through. Doug was lying on the bed pale white hooked up to IV’s barely breathing. I rushed over to him. I asked him how he got so sick so fast. He looked at me and said “Don’t let him touch you. I let him touch me before I showed someone else.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“The man in the shadows… he whispered to me in my sleep. He told me I had to show the sign to someone else in 24 hours or he would come for me. I waited too long. I told Brian and he said he had the same dream and said it was probably a side effect of how much we drank the night before. The next day I got out of the shower and saw something through the fogged bathroom window. That night I woke up and it felt like someone was holding a piece of ice to my forehead. I thought it was Brian playing a prank because I saw a shadow run out of the room. I always had my wallet here. I‘m sorry… I thought there was still a chance. You have to show someone else or he‘ll come for you.”
Doug started choking and the nurses rushed in. I waited outside for a hour but he eventually passed away.
    I drove back to our empty house. My mind was racing . Doug must’ve been delusional from being sick and hopped up on painkillers. What he had said didn’t make any sense. But I was still scared. I went to bed still in shock unable to cry even though I had just lost my two best friends. In the middle of the night I woke up covered in sweat and heard a long deep whisper in the dark “Show another in 24 hours and I will release you from your sentence for the crime your eyes have committed by looking upon my soul.” Then I saw the shadows next to my closet shift and then pass through my closed window. I knew what I had to do.

    My heart is racing. I point to the small door. He looks at me quizzically. Then I say “It’s okay Stephen your mom told me to take you here first then we’d go get you some ice cream. Just crawl inside.”  

~The Red Ghoul

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