The Problem with 'Being a Writer'So You Want To Be A Writer? That’s Mistake #1The Problem with 'Being a Writer' by illuminara
By Ryan Holiday
There are two types of writers, Schopenhauer once observed, those who write because they have something they have to say and those who write for the sake of writing. If you’re young and you think you want to be a writer, chances are you are already in the second camp. And all the advice you’ll get from other people about writing only compounds this terrible impulse.
Write all the time, they’ll tell you. Write for your college newspaper. Get an MFA. Go to writer’s groups. Send query letters to agents. What do they never say? Go do interesting things. I was lucky enough to actually get this advice. Combine this with the fact that I was too self-conscious to tell people that I wanted to be a writer, I became one in secret.
How to Develop Story ConflictHow to Develop Story Conflict by illuminara
Conflict is the central element of any story. It’s what keeps us on the edge of our seats and turning page after page until 3:00am. Or, as Wikipedia puts it, narrative conflict is “an inherent incompatibility between the objectives of two or more characters or forces. Conflict creates tension and interest in a story by adding doubt as to the outcome.”
So how do you create this all-important conflict in your stories? Well, it all starts in the development process. There are three basic steps to developing conflict, and they follow a specific logical progression because, ultimately, developing a good story is an exercise in logic. So let’s jump right in.
Step 1) Scope
The first step is drawing the boundaries your story’s scope. That might seem like a weird place to start, but scope will determine nearly every other aspect of your story.
The key here is to determine what within the world of your story is out of balance.
A Day to Remember: Chapter 3 The weather was treacherous when Madeline and Jayde returned to the car after their rather interesting breakfast. Rain poured from the sky like God had Earth-sized buckets of water and was dumping them as a joke. The sun that Madeline watched rise that morning was no longer visible and dark gray clouds flooded the sky. It was only 9 AM, and already the day looked gloomy. The future, Madeline thought, seemed very dim.
Water splashed heavily against the windshield of Madeline’s Volvo and it took the wipers going at full speed to even give her a shot at seeing the road in front of her. A traffic light flashed red, indicating there was a power outage. As Madeline stopped, the Nissan next to her blew the light and was nearly slammed by a semi-truck.
It’s pure luck Madeline thought. That could have been anyone.
The Smell of Ashes: Three Days of the Camel part 2((Saturday; January 4th, 2013; 11:29AM))
Huh. So wouldn't you believe it, I got up earlier then usual; about half an hour before the damn alarm clock wakes my ass up like a schizophrenic woman looking around a store frantically for a kid she never even had; holy shit that was a weird mental image! Where do I even think of these things? Where was I? Oh right, I forgot somebody's just jizzing over the thought of hearing about my day. Back to the journal I suppose. The day started with the same mundane routine as before; getting out of bed, throwing on some boxers and walking into my "glorious" kitchen to brew some coffee.
Oh jesus, I just reminded myself of this one time where I actually just said fuck it and free balled all the way to my kitchen. Anyway, it's about 6:00PM on the dot and I had just got back from some community service shit, just about ready to collapse and call it a night. I strip down to bare naked nothing and fall face first onto this rock I c
Slave to the Shadows Volume I: Epilogue
Peace of Mind
Here we watch as Gyone Irensho and General Gore lay defeated at the hands of Mystic, a being with inhuman and sadistic power, much stronger then his shadow counterparts. Both fought valiantly against the hordes, absolutely wiping out the soldiers.. but it seems as fate has other plans for these two. Gyone now lays in an unconscious state, lost in his imagination. From there the tale continues.
"Get away from me, you bastard!" shouted Mia as she ran from Gyone's chase.
He was gaining on her ever so slowly.
"Please, Mia. Let's talk this over!" shouted Gyone in a breathy voice. "I'm sorry I lied to you, let's just.. please, Mia!"
"And why should I believe you, the so-called "Silent Death?" shouted Mia as she sprinted away from him. "You're a murderer. A goddamn murderer, Gyone!"
Gyone increased his run to a sprint to rival Mia's speed, rapidly gaining on her.
"It's not like that, I made sure my contracts were only scumbags like.."
He was interrupted.
"Like my b
Hand-Made Devils chapter 1Chapter 1
The alarm clock rang disturbing the blissful silence in the darkened room. Natalie's black hair covered her tired face as she rose from her bed. She opened her shades to view the sun as it began to set causing the shadows in the room to flicker. She was used to living the nocturnal life. She had spent most of her career working in the dead of night. She walked out of her well-furnished bedroom and into the bright bathroom. She took a hot shower enjoying the warmth it gave her as it would be a long and dangerous twelve hours before she would feel warmth again. She let it soak into her until her alarm stopped ringing signaling to her that she only had half an hour to make it to the armory.
She stepped out of the shower and looked herself in the mirror carefully. She was 5'9 her body was lean with muscle with scattered scars from battles and she had an air of self-confidence and resolve that made her tempting for any man. She had her hair cut to her chin and while most of it was
“Did you guys hear?” Jazlan, the ever-busybody classmate, turned around to face his friends again, just as soon as Ms Phua, the Add Maths teacher, left their classroom.
“No, whatever ridiculous story you’ve heard this time, Jaz, it’s probably fake;” Jerry sighed, rolling his eyes. “Or we’ve probably heard all about it,”
“Man,” Jaz exclaimed, “this is something new, I swear. Apparently there’s this rumor going on that this guy kidnaps students of our age, and then he kills them, you know? They call him The Smiler or some shit like that.”
“Are you sure that’s not just some lame ghost story you read off the Internet again, Jaz?” Azlina asked, leaning closer towards Jazlan. “No offense, but you get excited even reading the lamest horror stories, so…”
“No, no, you guys,” Jazlan said, his body shaking in excitement, “I read about it on Facebook last night,”
They groaned out loud, realizing that once again, Jazlan has read yet another barely-believable Internet horror story and he’s going to bore them to death with it.
“Oh, come on,” Jazlan exclaimed, “I swear this one is true.”
“I don’t know, Jaz.” Cassie said, adjusting her glasses, “If your story’s true, how come I didn’t see it in the newspapers today?”
“I don’t know,” Jazlan said, “but it’ll probably in the news tonight,”
“Alright, whatever, Jaz the horror expert,” Azlina said sarcastically, “lay it on us.”
“Okay, okay, guys.” Jazlan began, leaning forward at the table. “So basically, right, the Smiler’s like this supposed killer that goes around, kidnapping school students and then he kills them. I mean, that’s pretty common shit, right? But the thing is, he then carves a smile on his victims’ faces, you know?”
Jerry snorted, “What’s next, did the guy write “Why So Serious?” on a piece of paper and left it at the scene of the crime?”
Jazlan quickly shook his head. “No, man, nothing like that. No one has any idea about this guy or why he’s going around killing students. I don’t have my phone with me, but you guys can check it out at home. I swear, the crime scene pictures are gruesome as hell,”
“Whatever," Azlina said, “I really don’t have time for your nonsense stories, Jaz. I mean, you have to remember that we have exams a month from now."
Jerry groaned out loud. “Oh god, do you have to remind us about that?”
“Sorry,” Azlina grinned.
Later that evening, Azlina walked out towards the living room, and watched the news with her parents as usual. It was almost like a ritual for them, the whole family getting together to watch the news, with her parents asking her the usual questions on how her day was, how was school, and so on, while she would try and tiptoe her way around their answers, hoping that she didn’t accidentally upset them.
Just as she was about to answer their query regarding the upcoming exams, the next news item caught her eye. She quickly focused on the news item, ignoring her parents’ questions. Her eyes grew wider as she listened to the newscaster started announcing about a serial killer active in the Klang Valley, attacking youths around the ages of fourteen to sixteen.
It then cut to a police officer explaining that so far, three youths, a fourteen year old Malay youth in Shah Alam, a fifteen year old Indian girl in Klang, and a sixteen year old Chinese boy in Subang are confirmed as the killer’s latest victims. The killer’s signature, the news report continued, was that the killer then carved a smile on his victims’ faces, and the police requests that the public do not spread rumors and pictures of the deceased online.
Well, fat chance of that happening, Azlina thought to herself.
“Astagfirullah,” her father muttered, “what is wrong with people these days?”
“I don’t know, dear,” his wife said, shaking her head. “Did you see that, Ina? Lots of crazies these days, you should take extra caution when you go out,”
“Yes, ma,” she mumbled, her head spinning. God damn, she thought to herself, Jaz is right for once. What’s going to happen next?
“Did you guys see the news last night?” Jaz asked, just as soon as they sat down at their respective desks. The whole school was abuzz with the story, and earlier, during the school assembly, the teachers assured the students to not panic, and to take extra precautions, such as going home in groups and to avoid going out unless necessary.
“Yeah, we did,” Jerry sighed. “You’re right for once, but this is some scary stuff going on here, bro. How long will it take before this guy strikes our town, man?”
“Uh…” Jazlan thought out loud, before shaking his head. “Okay, I have no idea myself. For all we know he could be in our town tonight,”
“Oh, that’s great, Jaz,” Cassie said. “That’s really assuring, you know that? My parents are freaking out about this whole thing and you think he might be in our town right now.”
“Sorry,” Jaz replied sheepishly.
“So what do we do now?” Azlina asked.
“I don’t know,” Jaz admitted, “but I guess maybe as long as we don’t go out at night and go out in groups I guess we’ll be fine. I mean, that’s what I do most of the time.”
“That’s because you’re a nerd, Jaz.” Jerry snorted. “You’re a nerd that spends his free time reading horror stuff on the internet and jerking off.”
Jazlan was about to retort, but Mr Azhar, their class teacher, strolled into class, cutting him short. They then got up, greeted the teacher and sat back down.
“Okay, so you might have a point,” Jazlan whispered, while they opened their Malay Lit handbooks, “But the best thing we ought to do right now is to be careful until he’s gone. I’m sure he’ll be gone in a week,”
“Let’s hope so,” Azlina said, twirling her pen between her fingers.
Just after recess, Kenneth quickly climbed the school fences, choosing a spot covered by a large tree to do so, and ran as fast as possible, avoiding nosy adults and patrolling police officers until he reached his favorite hiding spot.
Taking out a pack of cigarettes from his backpack, he rested by a tree and started smoking.
“Serial killer, my ass.” he said to himself. “Go on, I’d like to see him try and get me. I’m way to smart and quick to be killed,”
Just as he took another drag on his cigarette, he heard the bushes rustle. Who could it be? He thought to himself, and hurriedly gathered his belongings back into his backpack, before a man in his late twenties appeared.
“Uh, sorry,” he said, “I thought I saw some cigarette smoke, and I was wondering if I could, you know, bum one off you?”
Kenneth quickly relaxed and sat back down. “Uh, sure,” he said, taking out the pack from his backpack and handed the stranger one. “I haven’t seen you around here?”
“Oh, I’m new,” the man said. “I just moved here a few days ago. Still trying to get a feel of the place.”
Kenneth looked at the man suspiciously, who despite his unshaven appearance, seems to be a friendly enough person. It wasn’t long before they began chatting, and Kenneth gathered that the man was previously from Klang, (“Hated that place. Too noisy.”) and occasionally travels to Shah Alam and Subang for his job, before his job transferred him to Petaling Jaya.
“So how come you’re not working today?” Kenneth asked curiously.
“Oh, I work nights,” he explained, taking another drag of the cigarette, before exhaling smoke and throwing it away. “Anyway, I was wondering…” he said, leaning forward towards Kenneth.
“Whoa, dude,” Kenneth replied, “I’m not gay, bro.”
The older man laughed. “Shit, no, man. I’m not into that kind of stuff myself. I was just wondering if you know where I can score, since I’m new here.”
Kenneth grinned. “Shit, say no more, man. I know the guy,”
The older man grinned back. “Shit, that's great.”
The duo drove towards another one of Kenneth's favorite hideouts, having bought the marijuana from his drug dealer earlier that day. Kenneth thought it was a bit odd that the man insisted on staying in the car while he did his purchase, but he assumed that he didn't want to be seen with a schoolkid or getting caught in a middle of a drug deal.
"It should be right about here," Kenneth said, pointing to an isolated spot at a park, covered by large trees and bushes. Kenneth walked in front, guiding the way. "There's a clearing here that's large enough for three or five people, and so far, no one ever busted me when I hide out here,"
"Oh, really?" the older man said, a slight smile creeping up his thin, flesh coloured lips, "that sounds like a good spot,"
"Shit, it is. I swear I can live there if I want to." Kenneth said, pushing aside a few bushes to reveal the hiding spot. "And here we are."
The older man took a look at the clearing, the worn out patches of grass and discarded cigarette butts and beer cans strewn around the area attesting its popularity as a hide out spot.
Kenneth quickly sat down on the ground and took out the bag of weed and rolling papers. "So, who's first?"
"Um, how about you?" the older man said, "I just want to see how good it works before I try it out,"
Kenneth rolled the marijuana into a joint and lit it up. "Shit, man, your loss." He then started taking a few hits before he passed it on to the older man, who took a few drags himself, before passing it back to him again.
It didn't take long before Kenneth began to feel dizzy and disoriented. "Shit, man," Kenneth said, laughing, "I don't know you at all, but man, you must be one hell of an awesome dude, man."
The older man then laughed and said, "And you're a worthless drug-using piece of shit."
"Huh?" Kenneth slurred, "what the fuck, man?'
"Are you deaf?" the man sneered, "I said, you're a worthless piece of a shit,"
Kenneth got up unsteadily, his knees shaking. "Hey, man, come on now, I'm not a..."
But before he could finish his sentence, he felt something cold and sharp in his gut, and he felt his world turning black. "You're a worthless piece of shit," the man whispered into his ear, "but don't worry. I'm going to save you. I've saved three people so far, and you'll thank me, oh yes you will. You'll be smiling forever,"
The man than removed his blade and threw Kenneth to the ground. Kenneth got on his knees, mustering his strength to get away from this man who had tricked him, but the man quickly kicked him in the face, sending him sprawling back to the ground.
"Stop struggling already," he hissed, "stop struggling and I'll take you to your freedom,"
"I don't want your freedom," Kenneth moaned, putting his hands on his wound, trying to stop himself from bleeding.
"Well that's too bad," the man said, brandishing his blood-soaked knife. "I'm taking you there anyway." He then lunged on Kenneth, driving the blade into him several times, before he felt Kenneth's body going limp.
He threw the now lifeless body on to the ground, panting and laughing with excitement. He watched as the blood started seeping into the ground, and thought how beautiful it looked, the sins of yet another aimless youth escaping his body, purifying his body while fertilizing the soil underneath him.
He then walked up towards the lifeless body, and smiled. "See? It's not so bad," he said, tracing his knife on the mouth, before he started cutting into the flesh.
"You're going out with a smile now, aren't you?" He whispered underneath his breath, "Oh yes you are, I can see how happy you are."
"Has anyone seen Kenneth lately?" Mr Azhar asked the class before he began his lesson. "He hasn't been seen in a few days now."
"I don't know, sir," Ariff said. "He's always skipping school, sir."
"I know," Mr Azhar grunted, "but we've called his parents and they told us he hasn't come home for the past few days,"
"Shit," Jazlan whispered, "Do you guys think the killer got him?"
"What was that?" Mr Azhar spoke up, looking at Jazlan. "Care to share your opinion with the rest of the class?"
"Uh, no sir," Jazlan mumbled, "Sorry, sir."
"Moving on," he said, "I would like to remind everyone that we have three more weeks to go before our exams..." and he was greeted by a collective groan by his students, "so I'm going to give you extra homework to help you prepare for it,"
"At this rate," Jerry muttered, "I'd rather be murdered by The Smiler than having to deal with more homework,"
Just as Mr Azhar was about to open his essay book, a school prefect knocked on the door. "Excuse me," the prefect said, "But the Headmistress requests all students to gather at the assembly hall for an important announcement,"
Everyone in the classroom got up and went to the assembly hall, and lined up according to their classes. The teachers sat on the podium, looking solemn. Azlina knew, at that time, that something is wrong.
The headmistress walked up the rostrum, looked over the students, adjusted her glasses and began speaking, "Dear students, I am sad to announce that one of our students, Kenneth Leung, was murdered a few days ago by..." she removed her glasses, tears welling in her eyes, "by the same madman that had terrorized and mercilessly slaughtered three other students in other towns. It is a sad occasion for us, as he was a gentle soul..."
"Kenneth was a fucking asshole, but now he's a god damned angel." Jazlan muttered underneath his breath.
"Shit, tell me about it," Jerry muttered in agreement.
Sweat poured down Azlina's brow, however. Her mind racing, she realized what it meant. The killer's in their town now, and no one knows when he will strike again. Who's next? she pondered, It could be someone she knows, hell, she could be next. Ever since her cousin Zach disappeared, her family and relatives has been keeping a watchful eye out for her and her cousins, restricting their movements to only the daytime and making a point to know about their friends and their whereabouts, and for once, she was actually thankful of their ever-prying eyes.
The newspapers went wild the following day, with headlines such as "Mad Killer Strikes Again", "Youth murdered by serial killer," "When will this madness stop?", and with most of the pages are dedicated with statements from the police, opinions from professionals, who, depending on their point of view, believed that the killer might have came from a dysfunctional background, that the killer was proof that society needs more religious guidance, or proof that society needs stricter laws, and so on and so on.
The killer chuckled to himself as he read the articles. "Man, these guys are ridiculous. Give them a disaster and they all come up with their pet ideas on how to make things better," he said to himself. He then looked at his watch, downed his coffee, and retrieved the folder he placed on the next seat. He still has half an hour to go before his job interview, but he liked being early and prepared for anything. He went through the contents of his folder again, making sure every thing is in order.
Satisfied, he got up, and paid for his breakfast at the counter. He unconsciously tucked his shirt into his trousers again, before he started walking to where the interview was being held. Once he reached the location, he took a flight of stairs, and reached the reception desk. Once he had his name taken down, he patiently waited for his turn, and after fifteen minutes of waiting, the receptionist informed him that he can now enter the interview room.
He entered the room, and came face-to-face with an older Chinese man with a receding hairline and a double chin. The interviewer waited until he sat down, and shifted his glasses, before requesting for his resume. He gave it to him, and read through it before saying, "So...Mr Adam, you're applying for a job as a tuition teacher for secondary school students, is that right?"
Adam flashed a friendly smile and said, "Yes, Mr Leong. I have plenty of experience working with secondary school students, it won't be a problem at all. Trust me, I know how to handle them."
It all began with a blog post. Faizal Amir was just checking out another supernatural-themed blog based in Petaling Jaya, and its popularity shot up when it managed to provide footage of a creature called The Rotting Man, and is now the go-to blog for those interested in the supernatural.
One of the blog’s posts, titled “Haunted Bridges, proven and alleged” caught his interest as he was browsing the blog. He opened it, and read through the list, which consists some of the bridges that he knew about, such as the Penang Bridge, a bridge in Port Dickson, one in Johor…and saw one of the entries was a bridge in his own town.
Surprised and curious of the bridge’s inclusion in the list, he decided to pay special attention to the entry, and read that, according to reports, as soon as the bridge was completed in 1985, a woman jumped off the bridge, and soon after, people have reported seeing an apparition at the bridge, and were plagued by nightmares and hallucinations, to the point that they were either driven to madness or suicide, and it is said that it still continues to this day.
He reclined on his chair and pondered about the bridge. He’s lived in this town all his life, how come he had never heard about it? Maybe, just maybe, this will be his first foray into paranormal investigation, like in those TV shows he used to watch.
Something like this would be perfect for a total beginner like him, and before long he could move on to bigger cases, and move from an office drone to a paranormal investigator, and maybe he could team up with whoever runs this blog, and they could become the foremost authorities when it comes to supernatural stuff.
He took note of the bridge’s location, and went to bed.
Later, the next day, returning home from work, he stopped by his friend’s burger stall, and told him about the blog entry.
“Shit, bro,” his friend said as he spread margarine on a burger bun before slapping it on the grill, “you’re seriously telling me you’ve never heard about the bridge? That shit’s common knowledge in this town, man.”
Faizal cracked open his can of Coke and took a sip before he continued, “That’s what I’m telling you, dude. How come I didn’t know about it?”
His friend gave a low chuckle while flipping a beef patty. “Beats me, bro. I mean, you’re the one who’s into all this paranormal stuff, not me.” He then stopped, his hand in mid-air, still holding the burger flipper. “Wait, I know why. It’s because you’re such an antisocial jerk that you don’t even know what’s going on in your own town.”
“Ah, fuck you, Daus,” he replied, “I’m not that out-of-touch,”
“Eh, memang betul apa,” Firdaus replied, still chuckling. The grin remained on his face even while he handed the plate over to Faizal’s table and sat down next to him. “For real though, bro,” he said, taking off his cap and running his hand through his hair, now dyed light brown, “it’s common knowledge that the bridge messed folks up pretty good for like what, thirty years now?”
“Around that, yeah,”
“Yeah. Anyway, I guess no one just likes to talk about it. I mean, they think that shit's contagious, you know? Besides, everyone had chalked up the hallucination part to just being spooked out by the bridge, you know, like the fact they heard how scary the bridge was, and then they got so worked up they thought the same thing themselves, I don't know, really.”
Faizal placed his burger back on his plate. “Yeah, maybe. I guess I should keep that in mind.”
Daus looked at him grimly and said, “Yeah, you should. Really, though…” but his train of thought was interrupted when he saw a large woman with a child on tow approaching his stall and looked at him.
“Kejap, kak,” he called out, put his cap back on and looked back at Faizal. “Shit, I gotta go back to work. You know, being a businessman and all. I’ll talk to you sometime, man.”
“Cool,” Faizal said, swallowing the remains of his burger and washed it down with his Coke, left the money underneath the plate and went home. It’s a Friday evening, a time when office drones like him can take it easy while small-time businesses like Daus’ will be busier.
As he walked up towards his flat, he started thinking about the bridge again. It’s a Saturday tomorrow; he could just go and have a look around the bridge. It’s not that far, he could take the bus and be there within fifteen minutes, thirty on foot, have a look around, take some pictures and tell the guy running the blog about it.
He woke up the next morning, the humid heat clinging all over him, his body slick with sweat, but he hardly paid any attention towards it, as he was more focused on the bridge itself. As he showered, however, he felt a slight sense of unease churning in his stomach. Dismissing the feeling of dread, he got dressed, drank a cup of cold coffee, and within half an hour, boarded the bus that passes by the bridge.
He sat at the back of the bus, and put his earphones on. He then looked outside the window, hardly paying attention to the other people in the bus, wondering what Daus just said to him last evening and he realized that with what he’s doing at that precise moment, sitting at the back of the bus while listening to Alkaline Trio and ignoring other people does give the impression that he’s an anti-social freak.
“Fuck,” he chuckled to himself, and seeing the bus approaching his stop, he turned off his mp3 player, plucked the earphones out of his ears, and pressed the bell. Once the bus pulled up at the stop, he got out, and looked at the bridge, and started walking towards it.
As he approached the bridge, his heart started beating rapidly, out of anxiety and excitement, but he soon reached the beginning of the bridge and looked at his surroundings.
His initial impression of the bridge was that it looked like any other ordinary bridge; Pedestrians walking by the sidewalk, vehicles driving by, both hardly paying any attention towards each other, and almost looked dreary with its grey concrete pillars and torn up bills and posters plastered by the walls. He then leaned forward at the railing, the paint chipping beneath his fingers as he gripped it, and peered down at the large, flowing brown river below him.
Nothing out of the ordinary here, he thought to himself. So how come it induced nightmares and hallucinations to some people?
Taking out his phone, he took some pictures of the bridge, the river below him, and pictures of the vehicles and people passing by him. Just as he was about to place his phone back into his pocket, he heard the distinctive sound of someone clearing their throat behind him.
He turned around, and saw a short, middle-aged Indian woman looking at him.
"I’m sorry," the woman said. "I couldn't help but noticing you taking pictures of the bridge,"
"Oh," Faizal said, "I just thought it looked interesting,"
The older woman gave him a wary look. "Yes, I guess...interesting would be one way to describe this bridge,"
"I guess you can say that,"
The woman lifted a tired eyebrow at his comment and said, "Interesting? This is a very bad bridge, boy. "
"Sorry," he shrugged, and scratching his hair, he asked, "So, uh, auntie, how much do you know about this bridge?"
"All I know is that some girl killed herself a long long time ago, and people started getting nightmares and seeing things. This is a bad bridge." she replied.
"Uh, I see,"
"Damned shame. They should so something about it," she added.
Faizal stood there, unable to reply. Instead, he just looked at the river, listening to the vehicles passing by them. “Yeah, I guess,” he said.
“A damned shame,” she said, and slowly walked away.
Faizal looked at the older woman until she disappeared from view. He stood there uneasily, before he started to walk back himself. As soon as he reached the end of the bridge, he looked around the roadside stalls and cafes, and thought he could use a drink after all the excitement.
He sat down at one of the stalls and ordered a coffee. The owner then delivered it to him, gingerly placing it on his table. He looked at steam escaping the clear glass mug for a moment, blew at it several times, before sipping on it slowly.
While drinking his coffee, he started wondering about the bridge. What's causing all the nightmares? What exactly did they see that it made them paranoid? Who was the girl who committed suicide in 1985, starting off the unfortunate chain of events?
“…the bridge just now?” a voice interrupted him.
“Huh?” Faizal jumped up, his train of thought broken.
He saw it was the stall owner himself looking at him, his eyes shining behind his glasses.
“I said,” the man repeated, “I just saw you taking pictures at the bridge just now. Are you working on something?”
“Huh?” Faizal looked at the man for a moment, processing what he had said, and once he realized what he meant, quickly shook his head. “Oh, no, no. Nothing like that. I was just curious about the bridge, that’s all.”
“I see,” the man said, and went back to manning his stall.
Damn, Faizal thought to himself, why’s everyone so interested about what I just did? Unnerved by the attention, he stuck two one ringgit notes underneath the coffee mug, went to the bus station, and took a bus home. Later that evening, as he pondered about what happened earlier, he decided to pay Daus another visit.
To his surprise, as he reached Daus’ stall, Daus was sitting at a table with a Chinese guy around their age, wearing a mechanic’s outfit. As he approached them, Daus noticed him and said, “Shit, man, look who showed up.”
As Faizal reached the table, Daus took a look at him and said, “Shit, don’t tell me, you probably went to the bridge, huh? Anyway, remember this guy? Andy Lim, we used to play football together at school, though you’re the guy that hangs out by the sides anyway.”
Faizal grinned at the both of them and went, “Yeah, yeah. I know him. You’re working with your dad now?”
“Yeah,” Andy said, “Business is okay, I guess. As long as there’s a something running on an engine I won’t be out of work.”
“Anyway,” Daus said, looking at Faizal, “you want anything, man?”
“Nah, I’m good,” Faizal replied, “just wanted to hang out.”
“Ah, so my statement about you being anti-social finally made you want to go out more, eh?” Daus grinned.
“Eh, more or less,” Faizal shrugged as he sat down. “And yeah, I went to the bridge this morning,”
“Thought so,” Daus said.
“Wait, what bridge are you guys talking about here?” Andy asked.
“You know, the bridge,” Daus said.
Andy looked confused for a moment, trying to figure out what he meant before he finally realized what he meant.
“Oh, that bridge.” Andy said, “Man, that bridge’s bad news,”
“How come?” Faizal asked.
“If you ask my pa,” he said, “He thinks that bridge is haunted, especially at night. He said the girl's spirit's still lingers, and if you upset her, she'll curse you until you die,"
“Does he have any idea why that shit started, though?” Faizal asked.
“Man, he’s an auto-shop owner, not a paranormal investigator.” Andy replied. “I really have no idea, and I bet he doesn’t know much himself. People come in, sometimes just for a battery change, sometimes they have transmission problems, so when I or someone else fixes it, they go and have a chat with him and talk whatever the hell’s on their mind. Business, real estate, football, politics, family, lingering spirits haunting the bridge, that kind of stuff.”
“Right,” Faizal said, “so how do these guys know about these stories?”
“Word of mouth, mostly.” Andy replied. “The same old I-know-this-guy type of conversations. From what I gathered, it’s definitely a bad idea to use the bridge past midnight,”
“I don’t know, maybe because that bridge happens to be haunted and ghosts come out after midnight?” Andy replied sarcastically, before he looked at the two of them and continued, “Well, for real, though. That shit actually happened.”
“So what happened?” Faizal asked curiously.
“Well, there was this Indian guy, he came in with a broken light and a missing bumper. Pretty routine stuff, since a lot of people drive like idiots. Only this time, before we could ask, he started telling us how it happened,”
“From what I could gather,” Andy explained, “he just returned home after having a few drinks with his work friends at some pub out of town, and when he started crossing the bridge, it was around twelve-fifteen or so,”
“So when he was driving,” he continued, “he saw this lady just standing there by the side of the bridge, right? Like she was just standing there,”
“Man, that sounds cliché as fuck,” Daus interjected.
“Yeah, I know, right?” Andy agreed, “And that guy, even with all the booze inside him, somehow knew picking her up was a bad idea, so he just drove on, and when he almost reached the middle of the bridge, he saw the lady standing by the side of the bridge, so he started freaking out a bit,”
“So he pressed the gas and drove faster, but just as he reached the middle of the bridge, the same woman stood there, blocking the way. He slammed on the brakes and when he faced the road again, the girl wasn't there,”
“He was kind of confused about what just happened for a moment, but then he heard a knock at the passenger seat window. Something tells him he should’ve just pressed the gas pedal and got the fuck out of there, but he was frozen with fright, and then, he heard a knocking sound by the passenger window.”
“What does she look like?” Faizal asked.
“From what the guy told me, he didn't get a good look of her face, since it was covered with her own hair like in that movie..." Andy started snapping his fingers, "Come on, what's the name of that movie? Oh yeah, The Ring."
“And then, he saw that she was all wet. But what’s really scary though, was the when she started speaking. She basically started crying and he could see her move what was left of her mouth and started moaning, ‘Why didn’t you stop? Didn’t you love me? Why did you forget about me?’ When he heard that, he just lost it, hit the gas pedal and accidentally knocked on the road barrier, and just drove the fuck back home, and hid in his room until morning,”
Faizal stared at Andy for a moment, before he started blinking again. “Wow,” Faizal said, “That’s quite a story,”
“I don’t know how much of it was true,” Andy replied, “that guy probably had too much to drink. I still think you should stay away from that bridge after midnight, though.”
“Alright, I’ll keep that in mind,” Faizal said. “I’ll be seeing you guys around,”
“Yeah, see you. Hey, don’t even think about going to that bridge, alright?” Daus said.
“Yeah, whatever,” Faizal replied.
Faizal went back to his flat and sat in front of his computer. He quickly recollected his thoughts, and attempted to write down as much as he can remember, uploaded the pictures from his phone onto the computer, and then added his post onto the blog. Within half an hour after he had posted it, he received a message from the blog owner himself.
So you’ve been to the bridge there? Thanks for your submission, I’ll be sure to credit you as well. One thing though, if you’re willing to that is, could you get some nighttime pictures or footage of the bridge in question? That’ll mean a lot. Thanks.
Faizal stared at his monitor, his fingers still idling on his mouse as he pondered the request. With the story and warning still fresh in his mind, he was just about to deny that request, but a small gnawing feeling grew in his stomach, a feeling that maybe the story was just made up, something that goes with the bridge in question.
Besides, for all we know the guy was simply drunk and made the whole story up so he doesn’t look like an idiot when people asked him why his car all was busted up. He quickly typed his reply:
Sure, I’ll get around to it. I’ll go to the bridge next Friday and take some pictures. Is that okay?
The reply came back immediately:
Well, that settles, it, then. My first foray in the paranormal scene, Faizal thought to himself, closed the tab, and just surfed the internet for a while before he went to bed. As he slowly began to drift into unconsciousness, he felt that the surroundings around him are changing. He felt a strong gust of wind blowing into his room, cooling the warm air inside his room. He then smelled a strong, fishy smell, like he was at the bridge, earlier this afternoon...and when he opened his eyes, his jaw dropped slightly.
He was standing on the bridge itself, still clad in a pair of old track pants and an old t-shirt.
“This is just a dream, I’ll wake up,” Faizal told himself,and pinched his left arm.
“What?” he exclaimed, sweat beading down his forehead. “That’s impossible. How did I get here?”
He fumbled his hands into his pockets, trying to find his phone and wallet in either pockets, but came up empty. He shuddered, realizing for the first time how truly vulnerable he was in this situation.
His reason told him that he should turn back, walk away from the bridge and try to find a way back home, but something made him stand there. It wasn't like his feet were glued to the pavement or a supernatural entity blocking his way, he simply lacked the will the move, and furthermore, he felt a growing desire to simply stay there and explore his surroundings.
He slowly walked up the bridge, sweat pouring down his forehead and back, despite the cool, strong wind. He reached the middle of the bridge and stood there, unsure of what to do next.
The bridge was deserted, which attested to the late hour. Wasn’t there something about how you’re not supposed to be at the bridge at midnight? He thought to himself. Oh shit. What’s the time now? What am I gonna do?
As he pondered his next move, he felt pangs of terror rising up his stomach, and saw a figure standing by the opposite side of where he was standing.
Despite his curiosity, his instinct to simply turn around and run overwhelmed it, and he quickly turned around, and started running back to the end of the bridge. As he ran, however, he started to hear a wet, slopping sound following him from behind.
Oh fuck. Oh fuck, Faizal thought to himself. He started running even faster, his lungs and feet burning as his speed increased, but as he did so, he started hearing the same wet,slopping sounds following him behind.
Faizal ran even faster now, trying his best to get away from that infernal splashing sound pursuing him, the sound barely picking up its pace, but it sounded like it was directly behind him, even as he kept running faster and faster.
Just as he was about to reach the end of the bridge, he heard a chuckling sound coming from behind him, and he tripped on his feet, and fell flat on the ground. He quickly pulled himself up, wincing in pain as he realized that the impact had scratched the skin off his palms, and limped as fast as possible, before he heard a voice behind him, wailing, "Where are you going? Don't you want to be with me?"
Faizal woke up screaming, his bed sheets and clothes soaked with sweat.
"That was a dream. Fuck, that felt real," he said to himself, and wiped his face with his palms, but reeled back as he felt a stinging sensation as his hands touched his face. He turned the light on, and saw his bloody palms, with scratched-out skin still hanging on from his palms.
"What...how?" Faizal said to himself, before he rushed to the bathroom and started washing his hands. He winced at the stinging sensation of water running through the wound, but he steadied his hands, watching the blood slowly drift away with the pipe water.
How'd I get my hands injured like that? Faizal wondered, since he knew that his injuries could only caused by a rocky surface, something like a...tarred road.
"No, that's impossible," Faizal said out loud. "That's just ridiculous. That's some cheap horror story stuff right there,"
Faizal went back to his room, and noticing the blood-and-sweat stained bedsheets, removed them from his bed, and after stripping down to his boxers, lied down on the bare mattress. He tried closing his eyes, but unable to sleep, he looked at his computer perched on his desk, got up, turned it on, and went online.
His first course of action is to look for any news sources regarding the bridge itself,but to his dismay, he found that most of them are the same old blog posts, full of speculations about the nature of the bridge, some said it was cursed, some said it was built on 'hotspot', not-too-flattering assumptions regarding the nature of the people who ended their lives there, and blogs full of people who assumed that Comic Sans was an acceptable font.
After going through his six or seventh blog, he stumbled upon a blog post that came with a scanned newspaper article regarding the first suicide. It was dated May 19, 1985, which meant that within two weeks, it'll be the thirtieth anniversary of the bridge's haunting.
That's kinda sad, he thought to himself.
He read through the article. It read, that a twenty-five year old female, race unknown, had jumped off the recently-built bridge a few days ago, and by the time they had found the body, the decomposition had already begun, making it difficult for them to determine her identity. Police have determined that the act was committed before midnight, and she had died from drowning. No motive was given, and police were unable to find any identification on the individual herself.
Oh, okay, Faizal thought to himself, reading through the article again, before noticing the reporter's name, James Muniandy. If he's still alive, he'll probably be in his mid fifties or sixties by now, he guessed, but it's worth a shot, maybe he knows more than his initial report.
He quickly searched the man's name online, and quickly found out that he's retired and lives in the same town.
That's a plus.
The following morning, he took a bus towards a housing area just outside of town, got out, and started looking around the housing area, trying to find the former reporter's address. It didn't take long for him to find it, and he saw a middle-aged Indian woman sweeping the verandah, and called out for her.
"Auntie!" he called out.
The woman then stopped sweeping for a moment, turned to face him, and to their mutual surprise, realized they've met each other at the bridge just the other day.
"Why are you here?" she demanded, looking angrily at him.
"I...uh, wanted to see your husband?" Faizal asked.
"No, you cannot see him," she shook her head aggressively.
"Please, just let me see him for a moment," Faizal pleaded.
"No," the lady replied, holding her ground.
Just as Faizal was about to turn around and leave, the front door opened, an Indian man in his sixties stood at the door, clutching a newspaper in one hand, adjusting his glasses with his other hand.
"What's going on here?" he demanded.
His wife then rapidly spoke to him in Tamil, looking and gesturing at Faizal occasionally.
The husband then looked at both of them, spoke to his wife in Tamil again, and gestured to Faizal to enter.
"Come in, young man." the old man said, removing his glasses, his tired eyes looking straight at Faizal, "Come in."
The Rotting Man
It began one Friday evening when Zach Ariff, Jamal and Alaina Lee and Ahmad Seth, school friends bought together by a mutual interest in ghost stories and urban legends, meet up at Seth’s house for their weekly session of swapping scary stories. Most of their stories have the usual themes of serial killers hiding inside people's cars, haunted houses or school games where you have to chant some stupid verse or stories about a people hanging out by the graveyard and get terrorized by restless spirits and so on.
"You guys heard about The Rotting Man?" Seth asked.
“No," Zach said. "What's that?"
"Ooh, dude," he grinned conspiratorially, like he’s letting the group on a secret bigger than the formula for Coca-Cola. "You see," he began, "the Rotting Man is a creature said to be living in the outskirts of the PJ Industrial Area."
Alaina sighed, and wiped her oval face with a delicate pale hand and said in a deadpan voice, “But that place's still full of electronics factories, and there are plenty of houses and shops there. So there's no way that it could go unnoticed."
"Dude, let me finish," Seth insisted, sitting upright on his desk chair, "the thing is, this is the really old parts of the industrial area, you know, the spot where there's all these abandoned factories and no one goes there, except for the guys who cuts the grass and stuff?"
"Yeah," Zach agreed quickly, remembering the area. It used to be the main industrial spot, until the factories closed down in the eighties, and left to rot ever since its owners locked the doors for the very last time.
With the exception of a few factories, most of them are left unguarded, making it a ripe spot for graffiti artists, homeless people, drug users and the like. It's only natural someone started making up ghost stories about the place.
"So anyway," Seth continued while readjusting his glasses and brushing his dark hair, "I heard this from one of the guys that works there. From what he told me, one night, there's this graffiti artist, who broke into one of the factories. So, when he started spray-painting, he started to smell this weird rotting smell, okay?"
"Go on." Zach said, his resting his lean figure on the only empty spot on the bedroom wall, which was mostly covered in posters of horror movies and a bookshelf filled mostly with horror novels.
"So this guy continued working, thinking that it could be rotten meat someone dumped there at the factory," he continued, "but then he started hearing this song like 'Oh what have we here, here's a delicious morsel, tastes well raw, even better cooked,' so he started freaking out. And then, he took out his torchlight, and he saw it, The Rotting Man."
"What's he like?" Zach asked, leaning forward and looking directly at Seth, twirling his curly long hair in curiosity.
"Well, he has a body of a human being, but that he has no skin and his flesh is rotting all over, that’s all I really know."
"But somehow this...Rotting Man managed to be strong and agile?" Zach asked, raising a curved eyebrow in skepticism.
"Hey, that's what I heard," he shrugged. "Anyway, when he attacked the guy, he actually bit the guy's neck, but somehow he managed to push him away, gave him a few blows with his torchlight and broke it, and escaped, before he ran into the guy that told me the story."
"So what happened to the artist after that?" Alaina asked.
"Shit, I don’t know,” Seth said, gesturing with his hand as if he was waving it off.
"So...it might be real, then?" Zach asked, leaning forward, not particularly convinced, but curious, nonetheless.
"Yeah, it might be," he grinned, and then said, "Come on, let's check it out."
"What?" Jamal said nervously, his eyes darting around the room, worry written all over his light brown skin. "You mean right now?"
Seth rolled his eyes and said, "No, not right now, bro. Later, tonight. Then we can see if it's for real or not."
"Are you sure it's a good idea?" Alaina asked suspiciously, drumming her long fingers on her bare knees.
"Of course it is," he said excitedly, his brown irises clearly shining behind his glasses, “I mean, we're exploring to see if a local rumor is true or not, how awesome is that? Shit, man. For all we know, we might even get interviewed in Mastika, maybe a guest spot in Seekers. That’ll be pretty cool, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Alaina said, rolling her eyes. “Being on TV is pretty cool but it won’t happen, Seth.”
As soon as darkness descended upon the town, the group drove out to the industrial complex, trying not to draw attention to themselves from the industrial workers and guards populating the area.
As they drove deeper inside, the surrounding area became even more desolated and dilapidated, with empty, gutted out buildings, graffiti-covered walls, sporadic lighting barely lighting up the cracked streets and untended plants becoming even more commonplace as they progressed.
They then stopped the car next to an abandoned soda factory, and got out.
"This is it," Seth said.
"Are you sure this is the factory?" Zach asked, looking around the area as he felt there were at least a dozen factories in the area that fit the story's description.
"I think it's this one," Seth said excitedly as he turned on his torch light, which provided them with a degree of badly needed light as the lampposts on the streets are working, with no lights coming from the factory itself. When Seth shone the light at the pitch black factory complex, it barely penetrated the darkness in the area, adding on to everyone’s apprehension.
"Come on," Alaina smiled and placed her hand on Zach’s shoulder, looking up at him. "It's not that bad."
"Yeah," he mumbled, sweat beading on his forehead, "I'm sure nothing bad will happen."
"Come on," Seth urged the group. "If I'm not mistaken..." he said, rattling the rusty gates that acted as a barrier between the outside world and the unknown dangers of the factory, and forced it open. "It's this way," he said, as he stepped into the abandoned factory complex, leading the group into a certain doom.
"Let's stay close," Alaina said, without the slightest trace of worry in her voice or on her face, as she stepped into the factory compound herself. Zach soon followed them, his hands clammy with worry and anticipation as he followed the duo, before the last one, Jamal caught up with them and closed the gate.
"Why'd you close the gate?" Zach asked curiously.
"If I leave it open, the guards might realize someone might be here," Jamal huffed, the brief period of exertion already exhausted his chubby figure.
Zach rolled his eyes. "Yeah bro, like no one would notice the empty car parked just in front of the factory, obviously."
"Yeah, can't do much about that," he agreed, wiping his sweat-soaked face.
"You guys coming or what?" Seth called out, clearly anxious to look around and verify the rumor. Alaina waited by his side, her hands on her hips, looking as calm as ever.
Zach and Jamal then jogged up towards them.
"Alright dude, now what?" Jamal asked, wheezing even more.
"Now," he said, "we look for The Rotting Man."
Oh, joy, Zach thought to himself. Why did I ever agree to this? Sure, it beats staying at home, but now I really wished I stayed.
"So...what's your plan?" Jamal asked, straightening his hefty frame.
"Well," Seth looked around, and said, "It is a big place. Do you think we should split up? We could cover more ground that way. Besides, that thing’s probably not that harmful for all we know, right? "
"Nah-uh," Zach said quickly.” No way, dude. Haven't you seen those horror movies where if the main characters split up every single one of them will get chased down by some monster until only one remains?”
"And that would be me, obviously." Alaina said cheerily. "The lone girl always survives."
"Oh, come on," Zach groaned out loud. "Look, let's just stick together. Who knows what might happen. We probably won't run into The Rotting Man, if he's even real, but at a place like this we might meet someone up to no good. At least when we're in a group, the numbers will work to our advantage."
"Fair enough," Seth nodded, before flashing his torch light around the area. "From what I know..." he mumbled out loud, "the artist would most likely be doing his work at the main building, so let's start there."
"Hellooo?" Seth called out as the group entered the factory building.
"Oh, good job, Seth," Zach groaned. "Alert that thing that we're around, will you? Just brilliant, bro.”
"Whatever, man," he said dismissively as he walked into the factory, flashing his torch light around. "I want him to know we mean business."
Zach rolled his eyes. "You mean you mean business, Seth. I never agreed to this."
"Hey, come on now," Alaina said. "There's no need to fight, guys."
"She's right," Jamal agreed, trying not to look to anxious himself. "The sooner we stop arguing, the sooner we can get this over with, the sooner we can go home"
"Fine. Let's go..." Seth began, looking around the barren factory floor, seeing that most of the machinery that previously occupied it was obviously removed by its previous owner, the stairwell leading to the office complex upstairs, and the open yard, which, judging by the tarmac and overgrowth, is where the bottles would be arranged before shipped away. He looked around and took another look at the stairwell. "That way," he said.
As they made their way up the staircase, Seth paused for a moment. "Did you guys hear something?" he asked.
"What, you're chickening out already, Seth?" Zach sneered.
"Shut up, man," he replied, turning back, glaring directly at Zach. "All you ever do is complain and make fun of me. If you don't want to follow, you can just leave."
"Eh, dah lah, korang," Jamal groaned. "Let's get upstairs, we might find something interesting. I mean, we probably won't find The Rotten Man or whatever he is, but there might be some cool stuff left over, you know."
"He's The Rotting Man!" Seth said, upset that the rest of the group is not taking it as seriously as he does. "Come on, we're wasting time already. He might be hiding up there, that's where I heard the noise."
"Dude," Alaina spoke up, "if you heard that noise up there, maybe it's better if we stay away from it. If you still want to go upstairs, though, I guess we can wait for a bit before we go up there?"
"Good idea," Seth agreed. "Let's wait for a couple of minutes and then we'll go upstairs."
The group stood at the stairwell for a few minutes in total darkness, the light from their torch lights illuminating the floor. There was hardly any sound, save for the shuffling sound of their shoes as they waited anxiously, unable to start up a conversation in that tense, still air blanketing the environment. Zach turned his torch light on and off repeatedly, Alaina kept hers still, Seth kept on shining it upstairs, clearly anxious to go up, while Jamal tried to amuse himself by making shadows with his hands.
After waiting for a few more moments, Seth looked at the rest of the group and said, “I think we can go now,” As they slowly went up the cracked staircase, kicking rubble and empty bottles out of their way as footsteps echoed throughout the empty factory, and reached the second floor.
"Well, here we are," Zach said, looking around the office rooms, its rotting doors ajar, as if the last person who left the premises simply left them open for the last time before leaving for good.
They then walked down the hallway, peering into the musty, vacant offices with broken light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, the floors littered with used needles and spoons and discarded whiskey bottles. Save for their flashlights, the office floor was covered in complete darkness.
Some of the offices have an old desk or chair in the room, and one of them had a filing cabinet in them, all in various states of decay and rust. The group went through the cabinet to find anything of interest, but the damp, rotting drawers were barren, except for a few moldy pieces of paper and broken cheap pens lying in small puddles of stagnant water inside them.
"Well, he's definitely not here," Seth concluded after they’ve finished searching through the whole floor. "Let's try elsewhere."
"Man, the sooner we finish, the better," Alaina said.
"Yep, that's what she said," Zach grinned.
Alaina punched his shoulder in response. "You jerk."
"Come on, let's go downstairs," Seth said, as he turned to face another set of stairs leading downstairs.
Jamal walked down the corridor, having separated himself from the group earlier, and trying to find a signal on his phone. He’s desperately trying to call his mother, just wanting to let her know that he’ll be fine, he’s not up to anything dangerous, when he heard a growling sound right behind him. He broke into a cold sweat, his stomach churning in terror as he wondered what to do next.
As he turned around, the first thing he saw was a bony figure, with rotten flesh hanging off its skeletal frame leaping at him. Frozen in horror, he saw the creature’s brown, cracked teeth pouncing at him.
The fear and surprise he felt when he first saw the creature was swiftly replaced by utter, blinding pain, on his neck. He gasped in shock, immobilized by the pain and blood loss. Mustering the strength needed, he tried to throw the creature away from him, to no avail, as the creature's inhumanly strong grip makes it impossible for him to overpower it.
His vision blurry from the initial attack, he tried to gain the strength he needed to push it away for the last time, but too his horror, he felt the creature's bony fingers penetrating his eye sockets, and began to pull on his eyeballs viciously, which made the pain even worse. The pain from the attack became unbearable, and crippled with pain and fear, his world turned black.
"Ooh, eyeballs, eyeballs, little piggy dead, yes, I take piggy's eyes, yummy yummy yummy," the Rotting Man cackled, as it shoved the eyeballs into its own mouth and began eating it, and took another look at Jamal's lifeless, blind body, and skittered away, humming, "three more piggies for my tummy, three more piggies and I'll be full, yes, yes, yes."
“Well, that was a false start,” Alaina said, as they reached downstairs. One moment later, Zach took a look behind them, and noticed something amiss.
“Uh, guys” Zach said as he did a double take. “I just realized Jamal’s not with us.”
“Shit,” Seth said, his lips curled in clear distaste, “I knew that mother’s boy going to be a nuisance.”
Alaina took out her phone, and looked at it. “Well, there’s no signal,” she said, as she placed her phone back in her pocket. “I guess we have to go back and find him now.”
But as soon as they stepped on the first steps on the stairwell, Alaina stopped on her tracks. "Kejap, guys," she whispered, her hand blocking them from proceeding. "Hear that?"
"Heheheheheheheheheheheheh," a faint cackling voice came from upstairs, followed by a faint skittering noise, and we stood there, numb with shock and surprise, until the noise faded out.
"Oh my god," Zach whispered. "He's real."
"Did you guys hear that?" Seth spoke up, his face clearly excited by the turn of events. "I knew it! I knew the Rotting Man's real! Guys, this is so cool!"
"Eh, bodoh la kau!" Alaina exclaimed. "If he's real, that means Jamal's in danger."
They quickly ran up the stairs, their footsteps echoed in the factory’s emptiness. Their lights flashed wildly in the night; highlighting the cracks in the steps, the mold gathering in the ceiling, , the rusty steel supports, the decaying doors, and the dust they kicked away in their mad scramble for their friend. They breathed rapidly, the feeling of air brushing against their lungs as they ran, praying that maybe, just maybe, they could reach to him in time.
After running around and calling out for Jamal’s name, they turned around a corner, and stopped.
Jamal's mutilated body lied on the bathroom floor, his neck almost chewed into half, the huge, gaping wound caked with dried blood, with bits and pieces of torn skin, flesh and arteries lying all around the floor.
It was the eye sockets that struck them the most, though.
The moment they flashed their flashlights at his body, the first thing they saw with the light was his bloodied face. His eyes were no longer there, with only empty bloody sockets in its place, staring back at them accusingly, blaming them for bringing him along towards his death, and warning that either one of them could be next.
Zach stated to feel light-headed and queasy. He stumbled to a corner, leaned over, and vomited loudly.
"Dude, you okay?" Alaina asked, concerned.
“Yeah,” Zach said weakly. “Just…what the fuck happened, man?”
All of a sudden, Seth burst into a fit of hysterical laughter. “Shit, don’t you guys see it? The Rotting Man’s real, man!" he continued, waving his hands at Jamal's lifeless body, "And he just...just...ate up Jamal's eyes. He's definitely real, you guys. He actually eats body parts like in the story! Do you have any idea how cool this is?"
"My god," Alaina said. "You've lost the plot, bro."
"Ooh no no no," Seth smiled as he got up and waved his chubby finger at them. "Korang tak faham, bai. The Rotting Man is real, you guys, and I'm going to prove it to the world. I'll get the evidence to show everyone he's real, and you guys are going to help me,"
"No way, dude," Zach stood up. "We're out of here. Look what it did to Jamal, man."
“Oh, come on,” Seth said, “What happened with Jamal’s a tragedy, but look at it this way. If we gather the evidence and prove to everyone that it’s real, maybe we can…like you know, avenge his death or something?”
“You idiot,” Alaina said. “you can’t just leave him here like that! What about the police? What about his mom?”
“What about them?” Seth asked.
Zach stood back up, looking at Seth with surprise. “What about them? Dude, don’t you get it? The police will ask what we were doing here, why we didn’t call them sooner, and then we have to deal with his mom, man. Shit, she hasn’t been too good ever since his dad died, and now he’s dead too.”
Zach tried to continue, his voice cracking, and no words came out. He leaned against a wall and covered his face. “Oh man, this is bad. This is really bad. We should get out of here,”
Seth rubbed his face with his hands and looked at the both of them. “Alright,” he said, “here’s what we’ll do. Let’s go and find that thing first, and we’ll make it pay for what it did to Jamal here, once we did that, we’ll come up with an alibi about…I don’t know, some junkie attacking him when he’s not looking or something. “
“That’s a pretty stupid idea,” Zach mumbled, “but I can’t think of anything better.”
“But I still think we should get out of here, fast.” Alaina argued.
“Oh,” Seth said, glaring at Alaina, “do you have any better ideas?”
“I say we get out of here, now.” Alaina replied, “Call the police and tell them the story you just said earlier, but if we go to them right now, they’re less likely to think we killed Jamal. I mean, just think, guys. We visited an abandoned factory in the middle of the night, and Jamal shows up dead, and instead of going to them immediately, we simply decide to look around some more? Anyone would think something weird’s going on here.”
“She’s got a point there,” Zach nodded. “Maybe we should leave now.”
“No, no, you guys,” Seth stood up between them. “We should investigate further. We’re not doing this for ourselves; we’re doing this for Jamal. That creature simply got lucky when it attacked Jamal. We’ve got numbers on our side, plus, if we stay alert, we might be able to stay one step ahead of that creature. Once we get the proof, hell, if we kill that creature, we’ll be able to avenge Jamal’s death and show everyone that thing’s real.”
“Fuck this,” Alaina exclaimed, and turned around. “I’m getting out of here. Come on, Zach,”
Zach didn’t even respond to her request, standing at the same spot, looking down at the floor.
Alaina grabbed his elbow and started shaking it. “Come on bro, let’s go. We should get out of here now.”
Zach pulled his arm away and looked at her. “I don’t know, man. I’m starting to have second thoughts here.”
Alaina looked at him in dismay and looked at Zach, her mouth open in disbelief. “Seriously, Zach? It’s not safe here, man. Let’s go, come on.”
Zach and Seth simply remained standing, looking at her blankly.
“Look,” Seth began, “I know you want to get out right now, but it’s dangerous out there, especially if you go out there by yourself. That creature’s still out there, and god knows what’ll happen if it finds you wandering around by yourself. Let’s stick together, find that thing, and get out of here. What’d you say?”
Alaina rubbed her eyes and blinked for a moment before saying, “Alright, Seth. Let’s go with your plan for now. If anything goes wrong, though, we’re out of here.”
Seth smiled weakly and held up both his hands up. “Alright, I get it.”
“So where should we go now?” Zach asked as he straightened himself up again.
“I don’t know,” Seth admitted, “but I don’t think it’s on this floor anymore.” He looked around for a moment before he looked out of the window and noticed the back of the factory. “We could try there. It’s out in the open, so there’s no way it’ll take us by surprise,”
Zach ran his hand through his curly hair. “Shit, at this rate, anyplace is a good place to start,”
The three of them went downstairs, past the production floor, and went outdoors. They paused for a moment as they looked around the area, with weeds growing between the cracks in the parking lot, the empty crates and broken bottles strewn all over the place, trying to find their bearings in the pitch-dark environment.
As they looked around, Alaina stooped over and picked up a piece of wood, while Zach picked up a large rock next to him.
Seth picked up a still-intact bottle and grasped it in his hand. “Right,” he said, “Let’s try the store room over there.”
Alaina was about to protest, but Seth brushed her off and entered the store room.
Zach and Alaina waited for Seth outside the store room, anxious to leave the area as soon as possible. Just as Alaina was about to approach the door to check up on Seth, a gust of wind blew the store room door, and closed it. As if on cue, they heard Seth quickly approaching the door and rattling on the doorknob.
“What the fuck, guys?” Seth demanded, banging on the door. “Why’d you lock me in?”
“It wasn’t our fault, man,” Zach replied, “it just closed by itself. Try opening it from the inside,”
“Dude, I can’t.” Seth exclaimed.
As they fumbled with the doorknob, Alaina heard a galloping sound approaching them from behind. Dreading the worst, she turned around and saw a humanoid figure with rotting flesh clinging on to its bones rapidly approaching them, its mouth twisted in a grotesque smile.
“Oh shit, shit,” Zach stammered, his knees shaking in fear, “What do we do now?”
“Don’t leave me behind, you guys,” Seth demanded, “hold him off!”
Before they could react, the creature leaped towards Zach, and in a moment of courage, he ran forward and threw himself on the monster, tackling it to the ground. With his rock in one hand, he quickly bashed the rock down on the creature’s head, smashing it against its skull, dust and rotten flesh flying everywhere.
Injured from the attack, it swiftly turned its head towards Zach and glared directly at him through its empty eye sockets. Zach stopped for a moment, and shocked from what he had saw, quickly scooted back before getting up on his knees immediately.
He quickly charged again, trying to hit the monster with the rock again, but the creature quickly gripped Zach’s throat with his skeletal hand, chunks of rotting flesh sliding against his throat, the overpowering stench of rotten flesh filling his nostrils.
As Zach struggled to break free from its grasp, Alaina attacked the monster from behind, hitting it with the plank in her hands. The creature cringed for a moment, threw Zach against the wall, before twisting its head to meet Alaina’s horrified face, her jaw frozen in terror as the creature smiled at her.
The impact from hitting the wall head-on quickly knocked Zach off. With Zach unconscious, it turned its attention towards Alaina. Panicked by the turn of events, she started to run away, but seeing Zach lying on the ground, and worrying for his safety, she decided to stand her ground, holding the plank with her shaking hands, anticipating the creature’s attack.
It rushed towards her, and when it got close to her, she immediately swung the plank towards the creature, but it deftly ran sideways, before it jumped on her, grabbing her throat with its right hand, and Alaina soon felt its fingers digging into it, and felt her heart beating rapidly in her chest as it slowly pulled her throat out of her neck, and the more it pulled it out of her neck, the more she gagged and gasped for breath before the creature then ripped out her throat in one single, swift move.
It then tossed her body aside like a doll, blood still sputtering out of the gaping wound, and walked away from the spot, while slurping and crunching on her throat.
“Mmm. Tough. Chewy. Chewy,” it said, walking away from the scene.
Zach soon drifted back to consciousness, his vision blurry and his head throbbing badly from the earlier impact. As his vision started to clear up, he began to get a hold of his bearings, and looked around. He soon saw that he was indoors, lying by the production floor.
He stood up, his knees shaking as he tried to straightened himself up, his head pounding as he did so, before falling back down again. He sighed, unsure what to do next. Just as he was about to stand up again, a figure emerged from a corner, and smiled sadly at him.
“Alaina’s gone, man,” Seth said, as he approached him.
“Gone?” Zach asked, “But…how?”
“The Rotting Man got her. You got knocked out when you tried to attack him, and she tried to save you, but that thing killed her instead,” Seth sighed, as he took off his glasses and wiped them before putting them on again.
“Fuck,” Zach said. “It should’ve been me,”
“Don’t start beating yourself,” Seth said. “There’s nothing you can do about it,”
“Wait, how’d you get out of the store room?”
“The door popped open after the Rotting Man disappeared,” Seth explained. “I kept on slamming on it until the lock broke.”
“Oh,” Zach said, “that’s weird.”
“Yeah, I got lucky,” Seth shrugged. “Come on,” he pulled Zach up, “we’ve got to go and find that monster.”
“What?” Zach exclaimed, “Why?”
“Come on, man,” Seth replied, “Don’t you want to get back at after what it did to Jamal and Alaina?”
“No, man,” Zach replied, and started to walk away. “I’ve had enough of this. I want to go home.”
“Oh, that’s easy for you to say. Go home and cry in bed, right? You could help me and avenge them, man,” Seth retorted.
“Please, man, just let me go,” Zach pleaded.
Seth grabbed Zach’s shoulders and shook him. “Come on, man,” he said, “we can’t give up now. We’ve come this close to revealing The Rotting Man. Once we’ve shown them the proof that it exists, they’ll help us find that monster and avenge their deaths.”
“Dude, that’s a really bad idea, “Zach protested, “I mean, if we show it to them, they’ll probably say we faked the whole thing and we killed them, man. I think we should leave,”
Seth sighed, and let his hands drop by his sides. “Alright, point taken. But we’re not going anywhere.”
“What?” Zach blinked, staring at Seth in disbelief.
“We’re still going to look for the Rotting Man.” Seth said, a smile creeping on his lips.
Zach shook his head. “No way, bro. I’m not going to do it.”
Seth chuckled underneath his breath. “Shit, man. I didn’t ask you if you want to do it. You’re doing it because I’m telling you to.”
“W-what?” Zach stammered, his jaw slightly ajar in disbelief.
“What do you mean, ‘What ?’ ” Seth chuckled, a smile creeping up his face. “Man, you really are dumb, aren’t you?”
“I want to go, Seth,” Zach said, trying to get away from Seth.
Seth stepped up in front of Zach, and said, “And I’m not letting you go anywhere. I’m not about to let that creature go away without proof that it exists.”
“No, I don’t want to,” Zach snarled, his hands curling into fists. “I’ve had enough.”
“Ooh-ho,” Seth laughed. “Look who’s finally got his balls back. Too bad my plan involves me leaving here alive, not you guys.”
“What’re you talking about, Seth?”
“Oh, come on,” Seth said, “Are you really that slow? I planned this whole thing along, man. I brought you guys here so that you could lure it out, and I knew Jamal would sneak off to call his mom, so that way, it’ll call the Rotting Man’s attention towards himself, thus, showing you guys that he’s real.”
He then made a circular motion with his left hand, something he would normally do when he wants to make a point, and said, “The part about Alaina dying earlier, though, was totally unplanned.”
He smiled, “So… I guess I should be sorry about that, I guess?”
“Wait…so that store room, you locked yourself in while we were attacked by the Rotting Man?”
“Yeah,” Seth said. “I just pretended I couldn’t open the door, and I pleaded you guys to stay not just for my own safety, but also, so I can get some evidence that it’s real.”
“Why are you doing this, Seth?” Zach asked, his eyes wide with disbelief. “Why? I thought we’re friends,”
“Yeah, kinda.” Seth shrugged his shoulders. “But the thing is, I’ve always wanted to try and break in the paranormal scene, you know that, right? Well, this is it, man. My big break. I just have to prove to everyone it’s real and it’ll be my breakthrough.”
“So where do we come into this?” Zach replied numbly, his mouth dry.
“Oh, I didn’t tell you the whole story, didn’t I? The thing was, the artist wasn’t alone, man.” Seth grinned. “The thing was, the rumor that there was a man-eating monster in this factory been going on for quite a while, actually.”
He looked at Zach and added, “So one day, I convinced this guy I met tagging up somewhere around Subang, and told him about his place, like how no one comes here and there’s no guards, so it’s a perfect spot for him.”
“So I gave him this address, and we came here with another friend of his. What happened was, we then split up, and that creature got to his friend first. Luckily, we managed to get away from that thing in time. Another thing though, when we were getting out of here, we actually stumbled into the dead body, and realized how lucky we were.”
“So…” Zach stared at Seth, “We’re nothing more but bait, then?”
Seth lifted his hands up in the air, and exclaimed, “He finally gets it! Boys and girls, we’ve made a breakthrough! And yeah, when I heard of that, I realized the best thing to do was to get as many people between me and the creature, so that way, it’ll get to them first, while I’ll be able to make a clean getaway as he feasts on you guys.”
Seth then took out his phone and started fiddling with it. “Oh yeah, wait till you see this, man.” He then started playing a video file, “It might be a bit shaky, but I’m pretty sure you can make it out, right?”
Zach stood silently as he watched the video. Despite the slight darkness and shakiness of the video, he was able to see the figures in the video, especially the Rotting Man and how he had seen him face to face. He then heard the sounds made the creature as it advanced towards them, the clear tension when he and Alaina were trying to fight off the creature, the sight of him getting knocked out, before seeing Alaina getting choked and the sound of her throat ripped out and her dying gasps, brought him towards the edge.
“That’s it, Seth,” he growled, “I’ve had enough of this.”
“Oh, do you?” Seth smiled. “Too bad I’m not letting you go anywhere.”
Zach stepped up to Seth, and delivered a blow to his gut.
Seth coughed and gasped for breath, before looking back up at Zach. “That’s the best you’ve got?”
“Oh, I’m just getting started,” Zach responded, before charging towards Seth. Seth quickly picked up a piece of rubble on the ground and threw it at Zach, but missed. Seth then ran across the production floor, using the remaining machinery for cover, while Zach trailed behind him.
Seth then bolted upstairs, heading towards the office floor again, and went into hiding while Zach lurked around the hallway, looking out for Seth.
“Seth!” he called out, “Come out, you coward!”
Zach looked into the offices, but he couldn’t find Seth no matter how hard he tried. “Fuck it,” Zach said, giving up, “I might as well get out of here.”
Zach then walked towards at the end of the corridor towards a staircase. Just as he was about to start descending down the steps, he felt a powerful blow on the back of his head.
Blinded by pain, he fell down the staircase and stopped at the landing. His vision blurry with pain, he looked back at the top of the staircase, and saw Seth’s chubby figure standing there, holding a piece of wood, and looked smugly at him.
“Sorry, man.” Seth said, “Like I said, I intend to get out of this alive.”
“Fuck you,” Zach muttered, “Fuck you, man.”
Just as Seth was about to reply, he stopped for a moment, looked around, and frowned. “Well, I guess I better go now. He’s getting close,” he said.
Before Zach could reply, Seth quickly ran away, leaving Zach to fend for himself.
“Damn it,” Zach muttered to himself, trying to get up again, before slipping down to the floor. He stayed there, sweat pouring down his head, his stomach churning in terror as he saw the Rotting Man slowly ascending up the stairs and smiled, its yellowed, rotten, jagged teeth visible in the darkness, its stench choking his nostrils.
"Don't you dare come any closer," Zach warned the shambling figure lurching towards him.
"Why not?" it hissed as it shambled closer towards Zach. "I'm still hungry. I want meat. Nice, juicy meat, yes."
Zach slowly stood back up, his knees wobbling in pain, unsure of what to do. The only possible way is to go upstairs, but that doesn’t offer him much in terms of escape. The offices on the floor don’t even have a flimsy door to buy him a few extra seconds to run away from the abhorrent creature shambling towards him.
Despite his incredibly bleak prospects, Zach stood back up, deciding that he wanted to live after all. “Don’t come any closer,” he warned the creature walking towards him, slime dripping out of his mouth, before he ran upstairs again, his head pounding in pain as he ran upstairs, but the Rotting Man quickly lunged towards him, tearing off a chunk of flesh from his leg.
“Aagh! Oh god!” Zach shouted, and kicked the Rotting Man’s face. The monster then grabbed his bloody leg again, blood seeping down from his jeans towards its bony, skeletal hands, before throwing him down the staircase.
Zach’s body hit the landing again, completely immobilized by the injuries he sustained from the impact. He lied on the floor, his nose bleeding as he saw the Rotting Man moving down the staircase, the creature lurched slowly towards him with a gleeful smile.
The creature growled as it approached Zach, its jagged teeth visible in the darkness as it shambled towards him. Even as Zach tried to crawl away from it, his injuries made it impossible for him to do so.
"Aw, don't run away," it said, "meat's tastier when it stays in one place."
All he could do right now, is to close his eyes and pray. As he uttered, "Oh god, help me..." the monster leaped towards him, digging its hands into his chest. Zach felt blinding pain overtook him as he felt something being pulled out of his chest. He shrieked in pain, his voice getting slower and slower as he felt the darkness clouding his vision.
Seth stumbled out of the factory, opening the factory gates slowly, and reached the car. With the keys he took from Jamal, he entered the car and started the engine. The moment he pressed his foot on the gas pedal, he heard a scream coming from within the factory, and drove away.
"Better you than me, guys," he smiled, looking at his own reflection in the rear view mirror, while driving off into the darkness. "Better you than me."
One evening, a group of youths decided to explore an abandoned factory in the outskirts of Petaling Jaya. Little did they know that there’s a traitor in the midst, willing to sacrifice them to the bloodthirsty creature to meet their own personal goals.