I received the following letter via paper mail. I don’t know the sender, who identifies herself merely as “An Old Woman”. I’m giving the message special attention for reasons I can’t discuss in detail. Suffice it to say the envelope was marked with certain runes that very few people outside of the society would know and understand.
Dear Mr. Mahoney,
I’m an old woman now. At least 94. My exact age is unknown because my birth parents abandoned me in infancy, and because I have no trustworthy memories of my childhood. I believe much of what I remember about pre-adolescence is imaginary. I have no memory of willfully imagining it all—only a deep-seated instinct that most of it is lies.
This morning my granddaughter, who is seven, asked me where I was born. This is what I told her.
I was found inside a hive hanging from a tree branch: a newborn baby covered in live bees. A hunter heard me crying inside the hive and broke it open with his rifle. I fell seven feet without sustaining an injury. The hunter suffered dozens of stings picking me up and carried me home to his wife.
When he told her the story, he realized how ludicrous his own account sounded and thought he must have imagined it all. Maybe the stings had somehow caused him to hallucinate and misremember. Yet there I was, wailing on the kitchen table with bees still wriggling out of my ears and nostrils.
His wife believed the story and thought I must be evil.
She boiled water in a pot, intending to cleanse me, but her husband’s throat kept swelling from the stings and he died, right there in the kitchen. The wife blamed me for his death, and after confirming he was gone and keening over his body, she lunged for the boiling water.
Her lunge was awkward. She stumbled to her knees next to the stove, cried, “Oh!” from the pain, and—instinctively grabbing the pot handle to steady herself—managed to dump most of the boiling water directly down her open throat. She choked and thrashed on the floor for a while, and then she was dead, too.
I was found a day later, by a visiting neighbor, still on the table but no longer crying. No one ever pieced together exactly what had happened to the hunter and his wife. My origin remained a mystery. I was placed with adoptive parents and ran away from home at the age of eleven.
After finishing this story, my granddaughter asked me who else had been in the farmhouse that day. I told her no one. The couple had lived alone, miles from the nearest town. She asked me how I—only a baby at the time—knew any of what had happened.
“I remember it,” I said. “Every word. Every gesture. Which is impossible, of course, for an ordinary baby. But it’s the one thing about my early youth I know I didn’t imagine.”
“Maybe the wife was right,” my granddaughter said. “Maybe you were evil.”
I smiled when she said it. She’s a bright little girl. I wonder if she remembers how her mother found *her*.
An Old Woman
A six-year-old boy, neglected by his mother, walked out the side door of his farmhouse and tried to resurrect a squirrel he’d seen crushed by a Subaru on Rural Rte. 21 in _________. (I’m withholding the boy’s name and location because he’s a minor.)
The squirrel had darted directly under the car’s front right tire, as if nature itself had forced its suicide. It flailed for a while, its upper half attempting to crawl away from its pancaked lower half.
The boy had the foresight to put on his father’s leather work gloves before he left the house, entered the road, and attempted to reshape the squirrel into its whole, living self.
The boy was too focused on the squirrel to notice a Ford Fiesta approaching from the north. According to a witness—a neighbor named Linda Ray—the Fiesta driver “smelled like my ex from ten feet away”. By which she meant he smelled powerfully of beer.
The driver, perhaps aware of his intoxication and driving with exaggerated care, saw the boy and gently braked. He turned on his emergency lights, left the car, and encouraged the boy out of the road.
Linda Ray appeared from her house on the opposite side of the road. She had seen the boy enter the road but had been slow in coming to help due to “bad hips”. She spoke briefly to the drunk Fiesta driver before leading the boy home to his mother. The driver left the scene.
According to Ray, the reconstituted squirrel bounded off, good as new and leaving behind only a trace of blood and fur. The boy’s mother was furious her son had left the house. She has declined to speak with me about the incident.
Naturally one would assume the squirrel hadn’t actually been injured, but Linda Ray referred me to several other locals with similar stories about the boy. A cat. A corn snake. A skunk. The boy has a growing reputation for reanimating dead animals. I spoke with the town pastor, who knew the stories well and seemed both awed and fearful of the child’s ability.
I hope to question the boy directly but expect his mother to put up serious resistance.
— report filed by Hank Ridley
Hey, it’s Claire. So last night I drank half a bottle of Citadel gin, painted my toenails black, and broke out the Ouija board.
I made a real scene of it, lighting candles and listening to Bathory on my phone. I drew that vile symbol on the floor (not the *really* vile one I learned from that maniac I dated last June; I mean the lesser vile symbol) and sat in the middle with the board.
I don’t remember what I asked to make contact but a malevolent entity showed up fast and laid it on thick. He said his name was James, and that he was all alone and “scared of the red sound”, and then he got slippery with answers and started twisting the questions back toward me.
Was I hiding any pain? I told him yes. Was there a special pain I’d never shared with anyone before? Yes, I said. Would I trust him with the secret and allow him to help? I hesitated and let myself tear up before pausing the music on my phone and telling him my story.
I shared a long, detailed incident from my second failed marriage. About discovering that my husband had been having an affair. About the baby he’d secretly fathered with his lover. And then—and this was hard to say—about breaking into his lover’s house at night, and standing over the baby’s crib, and really, really considering…
Of course I made the whole thing up. “James” was obviously a newb and not too bright, and I let him relish my sham vulnerability for a while. He asked me to let him into my heart, “to soothe and warm the injury inside” me. (His actual words, spelled out with the planchette, I sh__ you not.)
I laughed and couldn’t stop. He was furious and started tossing lightweight objects around the room. A lit candle hit me in the chin, and the wax splattered on my tee, and it only made me laugh harder. Eventually he quit his tantrum and disappeared to sulk wherever he came from. I spent the rest of the night watching porn and feeling weirdly depressed, but that was probably just the gin.
I know you’ve told me not to play around with Ouija like this, but I’ve got to get my occult kicks where I find them. I kind of regret maybe teaching “James” a new degree of savvy he’ll use against others. I should probably feel guiltier than I do.
— report filed by Claire Maple
A mixtape of cold love, end times, and light through ice. For you, dear strangers.
Previous mixtape here:
Fifteen-year-old Jarred Crew was injured in Barre, VT when a snow angel, or at least the snow delineating its form, violently held him to the ground for twenty minutes.
Crew and two friends, Julia Peters and Mary Walsh, were walking together through a neighborhood park at 8PM Saturday night when they came upon a man-sized snow angel with no surrounding footprints. The angel was missing a wing and, at the urging of his friends, Crew reclined in the form and spread his arms to finish the design.
The snowy outline contracted around his body, compressing his legs and torso and immobilizing his head.
“We though he was fucking around,” Julia Peters said, “until he started freaking out, telling us to pull him up and yelling that it hurt.”
Peters and Walsh were unable to pry him out of the angel’s grip. Nearby snow filled the space around Crew’s arms and then, according to Walsh, “the wings lifted off the ground and like squeezed down around him”.
Crew began to scream—he suffered three cracked ribs and significant abdominal contusions—and Walsh ran for help. Peters said, “This halo of snow covered his face and he couldn’t talk or breathe. I had to take my mittens off and claw it away with my fingernails.”
Crew sustained scratches, including one to his cornea, from Peters’ effort to help. By the time Walsh returned with her father and older brother, Crew had escaped and walked with Peters’ assistance to a nearby road. He was treated at the E.R. and released later that night.
No one investigated the scene of the incident until the following morning, by which time the snow angel had vanished under blowing snow. Authorities are said to doubt the veracity of the teens’ account.
Author note: Given this event’s proximity to Montpelier, VT, I can’t help but wonder if Harold Jens, still missing after his apparent dissolution in fog, somehow entered the local water cycle and was clinging to Crew in an effort to regain his original corporeal form. Either way, I’m en route to VT to investigate further.
— Report filed by Hank Ridley