“THE HARVARD WORMHOLE EXPERIMENT” and More Scary Horror Fiction! #WeirdDarkness #ThrillerThursday
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IN THIS EPISODE: It’s Thriller Thursday! This week – “The Artist” by C.J. Henderson *** “The Harvard Wormhole Experiment” by Nathaniel Lewis *** “The Itch” by Weirdo family member Mark Towse
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“The Artist” by C.J. Henderson: http://bit.ly/2EIdZFQ
“The Harvard Wormhole Experiment” by Nathaniel Lewis: http://bit.ly/2EEl1vp
“The Itch” by Weirdo family member Mark Towse – submitted at https://WeirdDarkness.com
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“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46
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DISCLAIMER: Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.
Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode of Weird Darkness… it’s Thriller Thursday, and I’m sharing three incredible stories of fiction. I have “The Harvard Wormhole Experiment” by Nathaniel Lewis, plus, Weirdo family member Mark Towse sent in a story titled “The Itch”.
But we begin with the creepypasta, “The Artist” by C.J. Henderson…
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, enter contests, to connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: THE ARTIST=====
There’s this painting my wife loves, called “Death and Life”, by Klimt. I don’t know what she finds so fascinating about it. I made all the right noises when she showed me her beloved framed print when we were first dating, “oohing” and “ahhing” and making up some bullshit about warm and cold color schemes and the specific choice of angles and line. She was an artist, our first few dates involved long walks through museums, starting in Picasso’s blue period and ending in heavy petting and blue balls.
I took an art history course as an elective when I was finishing up my doctorate, I remembered enough of the lingo to charm my fantastically gorgeous future wife and lure her back to my stupidly filthy apartment. We’re talking me as the foul bachelor frog, sitting on a lily pad made of empty take out containers surrounded by pond of enough unwashed clothes to keep a laundromat in business for a cool six months.
I remember scrambling to find two of any sort of cup-like container for the bottle of wine we had brought back while she was in the bathroom. I rinsed out a couple of coffee mugs and ran into the bedroom to try to clean up the condom wrappers that had been sitting on my bedside table since 2003. On the bed, neatly laid out against the rest of the chaos, were my wife’s dress, bra and panties. She came out of the bathroom completely nude aside from a pair of high heels, took the wine from me and took a swig straight from the bottle. I fell totally, completely and irrevocably in love.
I have no head for artistic things – I work in finance, I get creative with numbers, not paint – but I fucking love her stuff. She’s made a name for herself over the past few years, critics call her the American Damien Hirst. One of her first exhibits was composed of a dozen oil paintings of rotting pastries, surrounding an actual cake filled with thousands of dead ladybugs being fed to a mummified tarantula dressed up as Little Miss Muffet. I have no idea what it meant but it was sick, successful and catered by Balthazar so I ate about 20 croissants. They did not have bugs in them. I checked.
She was amazing. She had the body of a Laker girl and the face of a Modigliani model, and still does. She’s charming, charismatic, deep – the kind of person people flock to, want to be around constantly. She fucked like she had something to prove, she had a twisted sense of humor. As soon as I hooked a job with enough figures to keep a girl like her satisfied the way she should be, I proposed, bought her a historical brownstone in the city with a garden full of roses and hardwood mahogany floors. And for the first few years, she seemed happy. We were the kind of couple you see in New York Magazine and scoff at because they’re just too damned lucky.
But we had a rough spot, like all married couples do. She was still the superficially the same woman I fell in love with – looked amazing, people always asked me when she was going to host the next dinner party, she still had an amazing eye for art. I knew, though – I knew she was miserable. I could see it – the misery – in the corners of her eyes and the curve of her mouth.
It happened gradually. First it was the shower curtain. She bought three or four from a small boutique downtown, brought them home so we could choose one out together. We decided on one, pale blue, made of material that was impractical and way too expensive for a drapery in a bathroom but we had the money and it made her happy so why the hell not. A few days later, I was shaving and realized she still hadn’t put the curtain up. It wasn’t until about a month after that I caught a glimpse of it hanging up in her studio, cut to shreds and dyed till it was almost unrecognizable.
I chose to ignore it because I had learned it’s usually not the best course of action to call an artist out on their creative license, unless you want to start an all-out war with no discernible end.
A year after that, though, I had no choice. She had been so on edge it was like she was standing on a razor. She usually had a show every 3, 4 months or so, and if anything she had too many ideas, the galleries always asked her to trim down her collections. When the year passed without so much as a single finished painting, I started to worry, both about her well-being and our bank account. We were extravagant spenders, and each of her shows would bring in a cool $20,000 that paid for a few months of European beaches and ski trips in Aspen.
The final straw, though, is when she burned down the roses. It turned out she had finished dozens of projects over the year, she had hated all of it and had either destroyed or painted over everything. While I was at the office, she flew off the handle, doused about 16 canvases in lighter fluid, and set the yard on fire. When I got the call from the fire department, I rushed home to find her sitting in the back of the ambulance, covered in ashes, blonde hair singed at the ends. She was smoking a cigarette. I looked over the burnt flowers, the skeletons of her paintings, the ruined limbs of broken sculptures, and asked her what happened and why. She took a drag of the cigarette and said, “It was mine to burn.”
She took big, fancy pictures of the inferno. A family of bunnies suffocated in the smoke, she had them stuffed and mounted in size order on a baking soda volcano like the kind you see in middle school science fairs. She gathered up a few of the charred bits and pieces, wired it together, and made some warped, pained-looking kind of phoenix thing weighing in at 400 pounds and easily over eight feet high. She called the whole thing “From the Ashes”, and the reviews in the Times called it “…incendiary. Her first foray into becoming a true artist.” Someone bought the phoenix. I pity the person who wakes up every day and looks at that strange thing, suspended in constant agony.
We were both drunk, at a random, expensive, vaguely Dante’s Inferno-themed bar in San Francisco when I finally got a chance to ask her what was bothering her. We had been making dark jokes all night about the beautiful irony of her show and our current locale. At first she vehemently denied anything was wrong, angrily pointing out that we had made four times as much off of her last show as anything before it, that it had more than covered the damages, that it had paid for the vacation we were on. I stayed silent. She tossed her newly cropped hair, and looked like she was going to open up for a second. I saw her soft blue eyes fill with tears, then she took a shot of whiskey from a glass that had a bull’s head and smirked.
“Well, for starters,” she slurred, nonchalantly dangling the glass from the bull’s nose ring. “I’m fairly certain I’m pregnant.”
She let the glass drop from her finger and it shattered on the floor as she slid out of her seat and stumbled to the exit. I sat there for awhile and drank more, feeling furious, confused, and miserable. I remembered her face when she showed me that Klimt painting. I remembered how she wore glasses back then, and how she pushed them up the bridge of her nose when she smiled as I talked about the fucking warm and the fucking cold colors and the fucking angles and lines.
We converted her studio into a nursery. Rather, I did, while she stayed in San Francisco and did God-knows-what with her artist friends. I had a landscaper come in and replant the roses. I worked a lot of overtime, drank myself to sleep while I skimmed through parenting books. She came back when she was almost full term; I came home from work one night to find sonogram pictures posted all over the fridge of two healthy-looking twins, big baby girls. I walked into our bedroom and saw her dead asleep on top of the covers, belly swollen, smelling faintly like pot and paint thinner. She had a rainbow of dried paint on her fingertips. I loosened my tie and walked to the nursery.
She had been busy.
The canary yellow I had chosen was covered in a layer of translucent blue, and she had covered one wall in Klimt-esque patterns and curlicues. The creamy plush carpet was covered in paint splatters – she had worked furiously to finish. She had cut a swathe from one of the new rose bushes and made a giant bouquet, shoving them so tightly in the vase that some had escaped and made their way from their perch on the changing table to the floor. She had scattered them in the bassinet, on the windowsill. It was chaotic and beautiful. The next few years were peaceful, for the most part. We bonded over raising the girls. Despite my wife’s less than careful prenatal preparation, they were wickedly smart and beautiful. They both looked like her, with long, curly blonde ringlets and blue eyes. Sometimes, when I put them to bed, I wondered if any of my DNA was in them at all. They were like miniature versions of her.
My wife agreed to see a psychiatrist for a little bit. She took some medication for awhile, Xanax, some mood stabilizers. Eventually she and her doctor decided her crisis had been hormonal and temporary. We started having dinner parties again, soothed the gossip that had infected our social circles.
She stopped painting and took up teaching at a university. She seemed content again, even happier than she was before. Every once in a while I would catch a look in her eyes like repressed artillery fire, like she was ready to explode at any second, but it never lasted for longer than a few seconds before they went back to the soft cornflower blue I knew so well. And who doesn’t get a little agitated every once in a while?
I rose through the ranks at work. I loved the feeling of power that came with promotions. I loved my girls. And by God, I loved her. My crazy, disgusting, beautiful, hateful and loving, extraordinary wife.
Then came today.
Today, I came home from work early.
Today, my wife took the day off to be a chaperone on a class trip to the MET. They were after her for months because of her expertise in the art world, they wanted the children to experience the culture in the most sophisticated way possible. I thought it was ridiculous, they were one to three-year-olds in a private daycare; they saw more beauty in Cheerios than in Monet’s water lilies. But they wore my wife down, and she was given a gaggle of toddlers and wide-eyed teachers to tour around the museum.
I came home for lunch because I had forgotten my iPad that had notes on it for a presentation I was giving that night. I walked through the rose garden and noticed a tiny piece of sculpture left over from the Ashes exhibit from so long ago. It was half of a tiny bird – it had the kind of exquisite detail that my wife used to be so famous for. I was pretty sure it was an actual bird that she had cast in clay. I thought I could see a small piece of feather in one of the cracks. I idly wondered why I hadn’t noticed it before.
I went inside and poured myself a glass of orange juice. The fridge had pictures that my daughters’ drew – happy, crooked stick figures that looked nothing like the beautiful horrors their mother used to churn out. I was happy about that. I hoped they would fall in love with numbers like I did.
It was absolutely silent, and I sipped the sweet citrus and enjoyed the nothingness. Then I thought I caught a vague scent of fresh paint in the air.
Curious, I walked into the living room. And there was my wife, sitting on the leather couch with a bottle of wine, looking like an angel of death.
She was covered head to toe in blue-gray body paint, with a special concentration underneath her eyes. She was wearing a revealing patchwork blue dress, covered in crosses of various shapes and sizes. Not a dress, I realized, but the shredded shower curtain from so many years ago. I could see most of her still-perfect breasts, the curve of her waist. The bottle of wine was elongated and painted a strange shade of orange. The smell of paint was stronger in here, an overwhelming smell of lighter fluid, and something else I couldn’t place. She had shaven her head.
I stared at her for awhile – minutes? An hour maybe? Eventually she took a swig of wine from the bottle, swirling it around in her mouth. I noticed paint, deep blues and even deeper reds, around her fingers. I sat down in the arm chair across from her, unable to think of what exactly I wanted to ask her.
Maybe because I knew.
Maybe because I didn’t want to know.
I noticed a camera on the table between us, I went to pick it up and she rested her gray hand on mine before I could, softly, gently, with all the familiarity of years of marriage. She opened her mouth to speak, soft pink lips made pallid by the paint.
“They were mine.”
And I’ve been sitting here, knowing what’s behind the door to my daughters’ room, with the Klimt wall we never repainted. Knowing why my phone keeps ringing with calls from the school, from the NYPD. Knowing why I couldn’t find my sleeping pills last night. Knowing what that smell is. Seeing in my peripheral the red pooling and staining the carpet from underneath the door, the pile of clothes neatly folded next to my wife on the couch. I can picture that thick wire she used to fit all of her subjects where she wanted them, what a perfect, detailed recreation it must be.
Because she’s so perfect.
I see the phoenix in my mind’s eye.
I hope, when she flicks that cigarette she’s about to light, we both burn.
Keep listening, when we return I have the story “The Harvard Wormhole Experiment” by Nathaniel Lewis!
STORY: HARVARD WORMHOLE=====
They gave me a million bucks to keep my trap shut, and I did, for fifteen years. But last night I was making the rounds, and I saw the professor again.
I had a heart attack three years back, and I tell you, when I saw him standing there in front of room 204, I felt another one coming on. He turned and smiled and it was like he hadn’t aged a day in fifteen years. “Hey there, chief,” he said, and that was it. I dropped my clipboard on the ground and high-tailed it out of there, never looking back.
What I’m about to tell you is liable to make me sound crazier than a three-horned goat. But I promise you, there’s crazier things out there.
The cops don’t believe me. The official story is that the professor and those students died 15 years ago. Room 204 just up and exploded, they said. Damndest thing. And there’s some truth there. That room did explode. But it wasn’t an accident. We knew exactly what we were doing. Or we thought we did.
* * * * * *
They call me an “assistant supervisor of maintenance,” but really I’m a janitor and always have been. (You might wonder why I’m still at it after getting that million bucks. That dough is for Junior, so he doesn’t have to go through the same shit that I did.)
The night this happened, I was assigned to the Astrophysics Center, a bit northwest of the main Harvard campus. Until that night, this was always my favorite beat. I mean, God help you if you wound up at one of the biology labs. Those goddamn dead, cut open animals all over the place used to give me nightmares. And really, thinking back, I’d take those nightmares of mutilated and scattered organs any night over the stuff that has haunted me ever since.
Anyway, I was there mopping the hallway on the second floor of the lab building when the door to room 204 opened up and this guy popped his head out. “Hey, you.”
I looked around, to make sure he was talking to me. “Yes? Can I help you sir?” I thought he was going to bitch about the room being a mess or something.
“How’d you like to make a thousand bucks, chief? An hour’s work at most. Easy money. Does that sound good to you?”
It sure did. Things were tight at home, as they always were. A thousand would knock off some of those long overdue bills. But I was also on a tight schedule. They didn’t give you much breathing room. Don’t want you standing around thinking about it all, I guess. “That sounds great, sir,” I said, “but I got to stick to my beat.”
The man laughed. “We’re about to make history, chief,” he said, “and you’re worried about emptying the bathroom trash? Come on, don’t sweat it, you won’t get in trouble. I promise. I’m a professor here. I’ll vouch for you.”
The guy did look like a professor, with carefully combed gray hair and big old glasses on his face. I shrugged, leaned my mop against the wall and said, “Sure. What do I have to do?”
“That’s fantastic! Come on in, chief! Come on in!”
I followed him into the room. One look, and I should have just turned around then and there and told him to keep his damn money. But I didn’t.
As soon as I stepped in, I felt the little hairs all over my body stand up. I don’t mean I was scared. I mean like there was an electrical charge in that room, and I had a guess about where it was coming from. There in the center of the room, on a round table, was a large glass globe, crackling with electricity. Like what you see if you go into a kid’s science museum. Like they somehow created a lightning storm in a glass ball. This one was sort of vibrating around on its stand and buzzing. And the lightning inside was black. I could feel the electricity coming from it, from across the room.
There were four kids there – students, I guessed – sitting in a row of chairs along one wall. More than sitting, they were strapped into those chairs, with metal things over their heads like those big bowl things you see at a hair salon. They all had their eyes closed.
“Uh…” I said. “What’s going on here? Those kids okay?”
“They’re quite fine,” said the professor. “As to what is going on, as I said, we are about to make history. We are going to open the first wormhole.”
“Wormhole?” I said. “Like in the movies?”
The professor laughed. “I suppose so, chief,” he said. “Now listen. We had a last minute cancellation, but that’s okay because it’s an easy job. We’re going to be kicking things off here shortly, and once they are properly kicked off, the wormhole will open. I will enter. If I am not back in thirty minutes, you are to pull that lever there, and this will close the wormhole.”
I looked to where he was pointing, at a big red lever attached to a giant, whirring machine that was hooked up to the metal bowls over the student’s heads. “But uh, won’t you be trapped on the other side of the wormhole?” I asked. Not that I had the slightest idea about what the hell was going on.
“Just so, chief,” said the professor. “We’ve got this down to two possibilities. One, the wormhole opens up to what we’re calling ‘the second Universe.’ The best way that I can explain this possibility is that there is a different reality that exists on the other side of this one… the other side of an invisible wall. The wormhole will provide a door in that wall.”
“And the other possibility?”
“That the wormhole will open to a place that man was not meant to go. Thirty minutes will give me enough time to get in, and out, if the first possibility is true.”
“And if it’s the second?”
“Then you’ll close the hole with that lever, and my students will destroy my work.”
This was all way above my pay grade, and my head was spinning. Why only two possibilities? How the hell did they come up with those two? And if this real, why the hell would the professor take a coin-toss chance of getting stuck in the “place that man was not meant to go”? I mean, those were just starter questions, among the swarm that was buzzing around my head.
“I see that you have some reservations,” said the professor. “I assure you that your only job is to pull that lever after thirty minutes. That’s it, chief. We’ll take care of the rest. And anything that happens isn’t on you. The documentation is quite in order.” He tapped a folder that was sitting on the circular table. “And here, I’ll write you a check now, before we proceed.”
As he wrote out the check, I wondered if it would still be valid if he got swallowed up by the wormhole. I actually had that thought, as crazy as it sounds. It was still all so weird and abstract to me at that point.
“Here,” he said, handing over the check. “Let’s do it, chief. As soon as I enter that hole, give me exactly thirty minutes. On the dot. That’s all you have to do.”
I took the check, mumbled a “thanks,” and watched as he walked over to the machine. He pulled the lever. There was a loud crackling sound, and I watched in unease as one by one, the students’ eyes shot open. There were no pupils there, like their eyes were rolled back in their sockets.
“Hey now,” I said, taking a step towards the machine.
“They are quite fine,” said the professor. “I assure you.”
Their jaws started to move like they were grinding their teeth.
The professor took a jar of neon blue liquid from a shelf on the wall. He unscrewed the lid and poured the stuff over the electric globe on the round table. The thing started going crazy, and then the globe shattered completely, bits of glass flying through the air as shoots of black lightning zapped out into the room. I ducked down.
I had had enough by then, and was ready to get the hell out of there. Then it happened. A fucking black hole appeared in the middle of the room, sucking in the bolts of electricity. It grew larger and larger, until it took up half the room. All I could hear was this rushing sound, like the world’s largest vacuum cleaner running at full throttle.
“Remember, chief!” shouted the professor, with a wild look on his face. “Thirty minutes exactly!” Then he stepped into the thing and was gone.
* * * * * *
At first my mind was a mess, staring at that whooshing back hole, that seemed hungry to suck everything in. I looked at the kids hooked up to the machine, their eyes rolled back – white holes, I guess they looked like – their jaws grinding away like crazy. It was too much to make sense of.
I looked down at my watch. 15 minutes and 31 seconds had gone by since the professor got swallowed up by the worm hole. My heart was pounding and I kept pacing back and forth, back and forth, trying to work out what the hell was going on. Then I started to zero in on it. I was getting pranked.
Not a prank like we used to do as kids, setting dogshit on somebody’s front steps and all that idiocy. I mean a prank like the sophisticated college folk do, where they tell you something’s going on but the whole point is to just observe your reaction. A psychological experiment. Probably cameras in here watching me right now. See what I do.
12 minutes to go.
I saw a trickle of blood come down from one of the kids’ nose. I leaned down to look at him closely. He was shaking a little bit, all over. If I throw that lever, this will all probably stop.
Maybe that was the test. I had to decide between trapping the professor in the black hole and saving the kids hooked up to the machines. None of it was real of course, but they didn’t know that I knew that.
But then, screaming in the back of my mind was that voice: what if it is real?
10 minutes to go.
The professor had promised me that the kids were alright. Another one started bleeding from the nose.
If it wasn’t real, it was a hell of a trick. Where did the professor go, if not through that black hole? I thought about touching it, but whenever I got close, I was filled with total terror. It sure seemed real. Like it really took you some place far, far away from here.
I walked over to the table and picked up the folder that was there. Just like the professor had said, the first page was instructions to shut down the machine and destroy it if he didn’t return within 30 minutes. I flipped that page over, and the next one had a photograph of one of the students. I read what it said. It was a consent form. “I, Jackson Stewart, acknowledge the possibility of my imminent death if I participate in this experiment. I am prepared to give my life to science.” I flipped that page, and there were three more just like it.
Now, I’m no lawyer, but there was no way in hell that this experiment was legal, if it was real, even with those consent forms. So it probably wasn’t real.
And if it was? Then the professor lied to me. He had said that the kids were fine. This folder was telling me something else.
2 minutes to go.
I took a deep breath and paced the room, watching each second tick by. My mind was telling me that none of it was real, but my gut was screaming in horror. I just looked at my watch. It would be over soon enough, one way or the other.
I walked over to the machine and put my hand on the lever. Goddammit, why is he cutting it so close? I watched the seconds tick by, and I didn’t know if I could do it. I didn’t know if I could risk trapping the professor wherever the hell he had gone off to.
5 seconds. My hand was shaking. 4 seconds. Sweat was pouring down my face, dripping into my eyes. 3 seconds. One of the students started to moan. The one that I saw was named Jackson in the folder. 2 seconds. Oh God oh God oh God. 1 second. Jackson started to shake. 0 seconds. Shit.
I tensed my muscles to pull the lever. One look at Jackson and I knew I had to pull it. He was violently jerking around now.
I snapped my neck around to see the professor’s head sticking out of the black hole.
Then his shoulders were through. I turned back to Jackson. Blood was pouring out of his eyes.
“I’m almost through!”
A second kid started to shake.
“One more second!”
I looked to see that the professor was through. He was back in the room. “Do it!” he shouted.
Two things happened after that, at the exact same time. I heard a wet popping sound, and I watched as the wormhole disappeared, as though it was never there. But I had never pulled the lever.
I slowly turned to look at Jackson. His head was gone. Judging by the bits of brain and splatters of blood on the bowl thing above his neck, his head had just exploded.
The whirring of the machine gradually died down, and then it was silent. The three kids who were still alive stopped shaking, and closed their eyes.
“A tragedy,” said the professor, pointing at Jackson, with the exploded head. “But not for nothing. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it! Chief, I’ve seen it!”
I hunched over and puked. It was weird, but my first thought was: what a mess I’ll have to clean up later. I don’t know. I guess my mind had sort of shut down and I was going on autopilot. I was the janitor. I cleaned up messes. That was all I knew.
Then it hit me, the reality of what had happened. “You sonofabitch!” I yelled. “You told me those kids would be okay!”
The professor put this sickening smug grin on his face. “He would have been, chief, had you pulled the lever at the 30 minute mark as instructed.”
“You told me to wait!”
“Yes you fucker! I’m calling the police!” I had a walkie clipped to my belt. It wouldn’t get me the police, but it would get campus security. I reached for it and had it in my hand when I heard a groan behind me. I turned to see that it was one of the kids. They were waking up.
I went over to unstrap them from the chairs. The first kid’s eyes blinked open, and when she saw the professor, she started screaming.
“It’s okay,” I said, “shh, it’s okay, it’s all over.”
She kept screaming, then the second kid woke up. He looked right at me with wide, terrified eyes. “Get us out of here!” he shouted.
“I’m working on it, kid,” I said, fumbling at the straps. They were on tight.
The third kid woke up. “It’s here,” she said. “It made it through.”
“Everything’s okay now,” I said. “Your friend didn’t make it, I’m afraid, but it’s over. I’ll make sure the professor pays for what he did to you and your friends.”
The first kid was still screaming at the top of her lungs.
“Get us out of here!” shouted the second kid again.
The third kid looked me dead in the eyes and, in a totally calm voice, said, “That’s not the professor.”
“What? Of course it is,” I said. What I saw when I turned to look at the professor will haunt me forever.
The professor’s mouth was twisting around at odd angles, like something was moving the lower half of his jaw randomly, or like he was trying to get a hair out of his mouth that kept jumping around. The veins on his neck bulged, then sunk back down, then bulged again, so that they were thick as ropes. His wrists were rotating in ways they weren’t supposed to rotate, as his arms flailed around wildly.
I had the first kid, the screaming one, free. She jumped out of the chair and ran to the door. But her legs were wobbly, and she tripped over herself in the middle of the room. I went to work on the second kid, whipping my head around every second to look at the professor. It looked like there was something crawling around under his skin. Something big.
“Get us out of here!” the second kid shouted yet again. The first kid was still on the ground, screaming. I worked away furiously on the straps.
“If you believe in God,” said the third kid, with an eerie calm, “then pray.”
I took a glance at the professor, and that’s when the first bone burst out of his chest, through his suit. I call it a bone, but it was pure black, and dripping with green slime.
“As for me,” said the third kid. “I do not believe that there is a God. Not after what I have seen.”
The second kid was free and made a run for it. I scooted over to the third kid, but watched as the professor reached out an arm and grabbed the second kid by the top of his head. The professor gave one quick twist and let go. I heard a terrible snap and the kid slumped to the ground, dead.
Three more black bones came out of the professor’s chest, dripping. He laughed and bent down to the first kid, who was still screaming, as bones began to poke out of his back, like a fucking Stegosaurus from Hell.
“What is that thing?!” I asked, as I fumbled at the straps of the last kid.
“It does not belong here,” said the kid.
“No shit,” I said, getting one strap free. “But what is it?”
“It comes from a terrible place. A place where there is nothing save pain. Endless pain, incomprehensible to our minds.”
“Great,” I muttered, as I noticed with a sinking heart that the screams from the girl behind me had stopped. Then I heard a wet crunch. I couldn’t help it. I looked to see the professor tearing into that poor girl’s throat with long black fangs, dripping in green slime.
I turned back to the kid, almost done with the straps. Just a few more seconds. “What’s your name, anyway, kid?”
“Claire,” I said, my mind trying to stay focused. “When I get you out of these straps, I want you to pick up this chair and throw it at that thing, okay? I’ll do the same thing, okay? Then we make a run for it. Do you understand? Can you do that?”
“I understand,” said Claire. “I do hope it works.”
I did hope it would work, too. “We have to make it work, Claire,” I said, yanking off the last strap. “Come on.”
We stood up together and I reached over to pick up a chair. I hurled it at the professor with all of my strength, and it shattered against his boned back. I heard a terrible shriek then, and watched as Claire’s chair followed behind.
I grabbed Claire’s arm with one hand and reached for my pocketknife with the other. The only way out of that room meant passing by the professor. We started running as I pulled the knife out and flicked it up. The professor stood, still shrieking, as the green slime mixed with the red blood from the kid’s throat and dripped down his chin.
I took a wild stab at the professor’s neck, and connected. I kept running with Claire, leaving the knife stuck in the professor’s neck, and made it to the door. I had my hand around the knob when I felt Claire pulling away from me. I looked back, helpless, as I saw the professor reach long black claws into her gut. I threw the door open and left her there.
Good God, I left her there.
* * * * * *
I made it outside the lab building somehow. I don’t remember how. My mind just sort of shut down as I ran like hell I guess. I did have the presence to go around and lock all of the doors from the outside. Then I got on the radio to campus security.
“You guys need to get the police over to the Astrophysics Center fucking ASAP. There was a fucking massacre in there.”
The front door started to rattle, and I heard the godawful shriek again.
“Repeat,” said a voice over the walkie.
“Look,” I said. “Call up Lawrence Summers, right now.” That was the president of Harvard at the time, and I had seen his signature on the papers in that folder with all of the consent forms. “Tell him that the wormhole experiment has gone way the fuck South.”
The rattling at the door stopped. I only prayed that that thing didn’t figure out it could just break a window and crawl out that way.
“This is the janitor, right?” said a different voice on the other end of the walkie. “Is this a joke? The ‘wormhole experiment’? Have you been drinking?”
“Call Lawrence Summers. If you don’t, I promise you that you’ll never be able to live with yourself. Do it now.”
There was a horrible pause. I heard the professor trying the side door now, shrieking once again.
* * * * * *
A fleet of black SUVs pulled up two minutes later. A team of heavily armed men jumped out and ran past me, breaking though windows and jumping inside. I heard a stream of gunfire. And screams. So many screams, and the professor’s horrible shrieks. After a while, it was quiet, and a second team of men jumped through the broken windows. I didn’t hear any more gunfire.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and whipped around. A man was standing there. I don’t remember a single thing about what he looked like. But I remember our conversation.
“Tell me what happened,” he said.
I told him the full story, the same one that I’ve told you.
“We are prepared to give you a lot of money to sign a NDA.”
“Non-disclosure agreement. It means that you can never tell anybody about what happened here tonight.”
“A million dollars.”
“And a promotion.”
The man paused. “You mean… you still want to work… work here… after tonight?”
“Somebody’s gotta clean up the shit,” I said.
“Fine, of course.”
“And one more thing.”
“And what’s that?” asked the man.
“I want to know that this will never happen again. I want you to blow all of that shit up, and burn all of the notes.”
“And I want to watch.”
“Of course,” said the man.
* * * * * *
And so I thought it was over. But it’s not. Last night, I saw the professor again. He looked me right in the eyes, flashed that smug grin, and said: “Hey there, chief.” That’s when I ran the hell out of there.
The police don’t believe me. I’ve sent a dozen e-mails to Lawrence Summers’ assistants. I’ve called every number that I’ve found listed for him. I haven’t heard anything back. I don’t know who else to turn to.
I’m afraid the professor is going to open the wormhole again. And I’m afraid this time, he might bring his friends back with him.
One more story is still to come on Weird Darkness! Keep listening for “The Itch” by Weirdo family member Mark Towse, up next!
STORY: THE ITCH=====
Joe sighs loudly and turns onto his back after kicking the freshly washed duvet from the bed. He studies his fingernails for blood and skin, but the only blood he finds is dry from where he bit the nails down yesterday. The fresh cool new territory of the bottom sheet provides temporary relief for his back, but the unreachable prickling is soon making its presence known again. He digs his fingers into his chest to gouge at the latest and most intensive itch, but he can’t fool the brain—they are like stumps—no sharpness at all.
He convinces himself there are thousands of tiny bugs crawling over his skin and he can’t bear it anymore and starts roughly scratching at his back again. It’s worse than yesterday, much worse. Images of them laying eggs and defecating on his skin fill his head and he’s sure they must be breeding. For the second night in a row, he is still awake past midnight, and he is on the verge of tears. His head begins to itch, that has never happened before. They are spreading fast. The fingers of his right hand provide momentary relief on his scalp, but he feels as though he is chasing the bugs around and they are constantly moving just out of reach. His back is getting worse, and the fingers of his left hand are doing nothing to stem the itch that seems to be burrowing further into his flesh.
At work yesterday he had wanted to say something, but how do you begin to talk about a skin infection with work colleagues. Besides, it was year-end, people had called in sick, and everyone else looked stressed and too exhausted to care.
Later that evening he had phoned his parents—his dad suggested it might be dermatitis, but right now it seems much more serious than a simple skin allergy. The soonest the doctor could see him was next week; they were apparently short staffed and incredibly busy.
He feels as though his skin is alive—a hypersensitive composition of raw nerve endings that are randomly making their presence known. The back of his neck is next, and he moves his right hand to chase that one down, but it quickly moves just out of reach again. He moves his left hand from his back and across to his right thigh as a new patch of skin cries for attention. There is yet another outbreak near his ankle and then the latest and worst of all, on the bottom of his foot. He begins hitting it with a closed fist, but it does nothing. There are new patches of torment everywhere, and Joe begins to punch himself on the back of his neck, scalp, spine, and legs.
He assumes the bed is teeming with the microscopic bugs, so he jumps out and in a frenzied state starts brushing himself down.
There is some relief to escape the sheets that must be by now a writhing landscape of infestation, but he can still feel them on him, and worse—in him. Next are his boxers and T-shirt and he throws them into the bin next to his bed.
The remote control on the floor catches his eye, and he quickly grabs it, shakes it and then switches on the TV. The noise provides a brief slice of normality to proceedings but doesn’t detract from the escalating intensity of his itchy skin that is demanding his complete attention. Words fill the room, but most of them cannot be heard above the thoughts in his head that are screaming at him to scratch some more. He hears something about the third day as he slides open the window and enjoys the hit of the cool breeze as it caresses his body, but the relief is temporary as he starts to claw at his skin once again. The sound of sirens can be heard from all directions, and from his tenth-storey room, he notices the blur of lights against the backdrop of darkness.
He can hear the whir and chopping noise of the helicopters, and above the sirens, he thinks he can hear people screaming and was that gunfire?
For just past the midnight hour, the night is abnormally explosive.
Every square inch of his body then sings out in a chorus of irritation. He rushes towards the bathroom and catches the words “Emergency Broadcast” as they scroll across the bottom of the TV screen, but takes no heed and quickly steps into the shower and turns the tap. The immediate hit of cold water catches him off guard, but he welcomes the brief override of the maddening itch. He scrubs at his skin relentlessly with the sponge, but he can’t get deep enough.
The itch manifests in his eyes next, and he digs the balls of his hands firmly into his sockets, and they squelch like marshy ground as he rubs frantically. He fumbles at the shower door and steps out of the water, watching himself in the bathroom mirror as he rakes at his chest and back. His skin is red and flared, and his eyes are bloodshot and puffy and underlined by huge dark circles. In frustration, he screams and punches the mirror, and it fractures sending shards to the floor. The sensation is unbearable now and getting worse. He picks up a piece of glass, and there is immediate relief as he runs the sharpness across his chest and back. But it’s not enough, and he can feel the inward retreat of the alien bodies inside him.
There is a scream for help down the hallway, but Joe has other things on his mind, and he pushes the sharp edge of the glass into his chest. The skin concedes and a small lake of fresh crimson forms. He follows the itch around with the blade and buries it deeper. His reflection makes him feel sick, so he returns to his bedroom and starts working on his wrist. They are definitely in there, he can feel them. As the blade digs further in there is an explosion of pain as he brushes against the nerves and he lets out his own piercing scream. His body seems to vibrate with agony, and it is seconds before it stabilises to a dull but painful throb. They move again, and he stabs himself in the leg multiple times and then in the centre of his left hand. The TV is droning on about a terrorist attack and something about the third day, but he needs to get out of the apartment into the cold night air. His skin is on fire.
He swings the door open and catches sight of a naked lady slumped against the far wall—multiple gashes and fresh glistening blood decorate her body. One of her eyes is leaking, and some implement remains buried in its corner.
There is a smeared line of blood across the elevator button, and he presses it multiple times with his good hand and leaves his own bloody trace. A scream emerges from one of the rooms behind him followed by a loud crashing noise against the door. He hears footsteps and then another thunderous smash as though someone is throwing themselves against it, or someone else.
Finally, the lift arrives and the doors open to reveal two more motionless and naked bodies—one half of a pen emerges from one of their necks.
As he steps in, the glass in the elevator reveals the full extent of the damage he has done to his body. Still, the intrusion marches on, and it feels now as though something is gently gnawing at his spine.
The elevator door opens to a cacophony of screams and gunfire. There are naked and half-naked bodies everywhere strewn across the floor, each of them torn, bloody and lifeless.
Near the reception desk, he sees two men mercilessly beating each other, but they are pleading to be hit. Their naked bodies are covered in red patches and their faces swollen and bloody.
Joe makes a run for it. He has no plan as he plants the glass into his right thigh but feels that if he can make it outside, there may be a chance of salvation. He sprints to the foyer door and thrusts it open and gives himself to the coldness of the night in the hope it will somehow cleanse him.
As he stands there naked with the shard of glass still sunk into his thigh, there is a scream from an approaching soldier for him to get down on the floor. The mask is he is wearing cuts a sinister figure amid the surreal events of a normally sedate street corner. But Joe doesn’t get down to the floor. Instead, he breaks down in tears and screams at the top of his lungs for the soldier to shoot him. More gunfire punctures the air, and he closes his eyes, but the impact doesn’t come. The soldier with the gun is still aiming at his head.
David looks down the scope of the gun. The order was to shoot on sight. He wasn’t trained to shoot innocent civilians; they should be going after the terrorists, not cleaning up their mess.
Their brief was so limited, just that there were people going insane—killing themselves and each other. The scientists have no breakthrough yet.
The man is begging to be shot, but he can’t bring himself to pull the trigger. He wondered what his father would do or what his family would say if they knew he was aiming his weapon at the unarmed man. He immediately releases his right hand from the gun to attend to a sudden itch and slakes his fingers across the back of his neck. As he does, he watches the man retrieve the glass from his leg and plunge it into his eye. He doesn’t stop there and continues to stab himself multiple times on all parts of his body. The screams are unbearable. David places his hand back and steadies the gun and fires off a shot that is a direct hit between his eyes. He watches as the man falls to the ground still clutching the glass.
There is an immediate and intense itch on David’s cheek, but he can’t get to it because of the gas-mask. The night continues around him, but his part in it is over as he sits down in the middle of the road amid the chaos and begins to cry. The itch is driving him crazy now, but he still dare not remove his mask in case of infection. He couldn’t bear to go like the man he had just shot.
Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find all of my social media, listen to free audiobooks I’ve narrated, visit the store for Weird Darkness t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, phone cases, and more merchandise, sign up for monthly contests, find other podcasts that I host, and find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Stories on Thriller Thursday episodes are works of fiction, and links to the stories or the authors can be found in the show notes.
“The Artist” by C.J. Henderson
“The Harvard Wormhole Experiment” by Nathaniel Lewis
“The Itch” by Weirdo family member Mark Towse
WeirdDarkness® – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, Weird Darkness.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… Jonah 2:6 = “To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit.”
And a final thought… “You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.