's 2013 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Beatrice Urvogel

When they came we suspected little. They said nothing, they barely even moved. It was a cold autumn day when they came, dressed in their black suits, gloves, and snow pants. They never said it or made any notion, but there was a silent agreement between us and them that they intended to blend in and we both knew it didn't work. They didn't mind. They carried briefcases and wore hats that seemed to always be covering their faces, regardless of the angle viewed from. Us townsfolk lived in harmony with them for a good while. Then things began to stray from what we had so nonchalantly embraced as mundane.

The first incident was when a couple from out of town drew attention to Them. They didn't like being acknowledged. They certainly didn't like being talked to. One morning every car in town was missing. Or rather, they were all taken apart, down to the very last bolt and plate, pieces stacked neatly in piles in the town square. A single message written in barely legible writing was tacked to the door of town hall. It read:


We all knew that things would only be downhill from there on. We live in a small town out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing of interest. We get so few visitors it never crossed our minds to have a plan for when one comes in. Then again, we can't really warn anybody. Acknowledging Their presence is a dire mistake.

The second incident came without any noticeable provocation. The water disappeared. All water in the area was now replaced with an acrid yellow fluid, whose smell was somewhere between sulfur and ceaseless unease. We all knew it was Their doing, and They knew that we knew. We still had no idea just what Their primary objective was, but to snoop any further than a casual glance would be to encroach on Their good will. You could see them all walking about town, taking measurements, filling notebook after notebook with quickly scribbled notes. Observed the weather and clouds, took census of how many rats lived in everybody's homes.

However, their behaviors changed entirely AFTER the second incident. No more measurements, no more counting, nothing. They just got out of their black cars (where we presumed they slept) at 5 o'clock sharp, like any other day, but then what followed was entirely different. They all circled around the car parts (We attempted to reclaim them once. The tumors haven't receded since) and did a silent dance of sorts. It was no fluid motion, but rather a very jagged and unnatural convulsion to the casual eye. This carried on for about three weeks before the unthinkable happened. They spoke.

The third incident was just how and what they spoke. You wouldn't believe a single thing they said if you hadn't lived with them for years like we did. Their speech was little more than hushed whispers at first. Small voices in the back of your head murmuring all kinds of horrible thoughts. After a while, when we had learned to tune them out They, as if by sensing our newfound immunity, began speaking more loudly. The thing is, they never stopped getting louder. Louder and louder, until none of us could even think. Migraine after migraine if we didn't comply, some of the townsfolk followed their conversations and acted out what they said, possibly mistaking the shouting for their own thoughts. The two were very difficult to tell apart at that point.

Soon we began to fight amongst ourselves. We also began to do ludicrous things, like jump off roofs, touch the car parts, and attempt to open our bodies to remove organs. The fourth incident was one of these odd actions. A neighbor of mine, his name lost to the endless screaming, actually touched the tainted yellow liquid that had replaced all water. His bones never did stop popping and snapping, now that I think about it. We thought nothing of it, too preoccupied with our new thoughts. Our assigned thoughts. That we were disgusting. We were out of shape. We were wrong in every way. That They had never seen as terrible a failure as us. And we believed it, after all, it's all we thought about.