's 2018 Horror Write-off:

A Series of Legal Pads Discovered in my Car Trunk

Submitted by George Parkins (email)

Legal pad 1, Day Eight (give or take):
If you're reading this, I hope you're in sane places. I'm sure as hell not.
I don't know how Amanda and I ended up here, but it's not a normal city. There's no one else here, just the same empty block of flats, over and over, with street on all sides. We hiked for five hours yesterday and nothing changed. I'm not letting her out of my sight, for fear neither of us will ever see a human face again if we get parted. It's not worth the risk
There is consistency here. I dropped a pen on the sidewalk and we walked ten blocks in one directions and ten blocks back. It was still there. We repeated the experiment in all directions. The pen is always right where I left it. I don't know whether to be comforted or terrified that this place follows the normal laws of reality...
Oh, yeah, there's this sky-scraper... thing. It's always towering over us in the same place, about a dozen blocks away, no matter how far we walk. The "sun" rises behind it. (More on that in a minute.) The tower is an almost featureless black monolith, with what looks like a giant window or a lense partway up on the side facing us, and some small projections sticking out from the top.
The sun is fake, and so is the sky. It took me until yesterday to realize it, but the clouds are on a twenty-four hour loop, and if you squint your eyes at the right time of day, you can see the track the sun moves on. At night, the stars are caricatures of the standard constellations, all crammed into the sky at once. I never was much of an stargazer, but it's pretty obvious, because the Big Dipper's in there twice; once as part of Ursa Minor, and once alone, on the other side of the sky. If I knew where to find Polaris, I'm sure it wouldn't be there.
The lights in the flats go on right at sunset, and turn off at daybreak. The flats... They're nicer than I could ever afford, in appearance, at least. There's three different ones unlocked, that we've been able to find. The contents of each one are identical. One drawer has a legal pad and Value Motel Express pen in it, there's a meat cleaver and a spork in another, a small first aid kit in the third. On the kitchen counter is a bottle of vitamins. We haven't tried those yet.
The pantry is full of dry and canned goods, all edible, all slightly metallic in taste. The water in the faucets runs carbonated, with a slightly earthy aftertaste. I actually rather enjoy bathing in it, but I've grown quite tired of drinking it. There's a bottle of mustard in the fridge. It appears normal.
The televisions have one channel: American football, sadly enough. There's six games, and I could give you the "play-by-play" of each one. There are only two commentators, both bleeding dull. The commercials are more varied, but none of them are in English. Some seem to be in Danish, Greek, Portuguese, but nothing either of us can speak.
Our phones get one bar of 3g, but no one answers or responds to texts. There are computers in all three flats, and two of them are unlocked and loaded with basic OS and software from circa 2005. The only sites on the internet are Wikipedia (which is badly out of date) and some no-name flash game site. I have run up an incredibly high score on "Netris."
And that's our situation as it stands. We were both in our dorm rooms on the thirtieth, around midnight, and then we were suddenly right next to each other, in one of the flats, in this Goddamn city. I'm writing this on a legal pad for God-knows-why, sitting in the nicest of the three flats while Amanda takes a shower.
I don't really know what day this is. The first few days ran together in my head, and I only started counting on what must have been either day four or day five, and this must be day eight or nine. Or was it seven or eight? Let's just call it diary day one.
If there's anything else, I'll write.
-- John

Legal Pad 1, Diary Day Three:
I had a dream. I dreamed I was running through jungle, scared out of my mind, with the most horrible pain in the back of my skull. It felt like the back of my head was opening up like some kind of flower, and my brain was exposed in the middle like a stamen, throbbing. I was blinking uncontrollably, and my left arm was numb.
I opened my mouth several times to scream, but the sound of radio static came out, and then no sound at all. I heard some kind of animal behind me, gaining on me.
I woke.
-- John

Legal Pad 1, Diary Day Nine:
Amanda disappeared today. I turned around and she wasn't there, or anywhere in the flat. I nearly screamed my head right off then and there, but I regained my composure and ran outside. I called her name at the top of my lungs. Words cannot describe my relief when I heard her call my name, a few blocks away. I ran to her, and we nearly tackled each other.
After the massive andrenalin of losing each other and the relief of being reunited both wore off, we compared notes. Our conclusion was that we had both been in the same flat one moment, and then we were in two identical flats several blocks apart, just like that.
Amanda says there are logically three theories:
One: We were both in an altered state of consciousness for the length of time it took for one of us to walk to a different flat (or for both of us to walk to different flats.) I don't believe it. If we'd been drugged, there'd be after-effects. There's no such thing as mind-control or body-swapping either. It's a bad theory, the end.
Two: One or both of us was teleported. Amanda almost ruled this one out, but I rather like the theory. I mean, it makes sense... right?
Three: One of us is merely an illusion or a hallucination. Amanda says she's not the illusion, and I say I'm not the illusion, and she says "that's what an illusion would say." I can't believe we've had this conversation so many times now. I'm not an illusion.
-- John
John, you shouldn't get upset. I'm just maintaining a healthy skepticism.
-- Amanda

Legal Pad 2, Diary Day 15:
I woke to see Amanda standing at the foot of my bed staring at me.
I knew she wanted me. I just wish she'd express it like a damn human being or else bottle it up.
-- John
Ugh, that is digusting. You dreamed that or something. There are more interesting things to stare at here. Like sporks or the ground.
-- Amanda

Legal Pad 2, Diary Day 16:
Not only has Amanda been writing mean things in the journal, she's also been using the other computer, the one in flat number two, the one that's password protected. I asked her how she logged on. She turned around and looked at me like she was just about done with me, like killing me would be easy, like I was just an ant to her.
"It's 'password,' all lower case," she told me, after glaring for a moment.
It's not 'password.' It's not. It's not any of the obvious variations, either.
Lying bitch.
-- John
Am not.
-- Amanda
Legal Pad 3, Diary Day 20:
No sun today. It's gone. It's totally gone.
But then again, it's not real, so it's not like we're gonna freeze to death or anything.
Legal Pad 3, Diary Day 24:
The sun is back, but it's pale and flickering like a flourescent light. Whoever our captors are, they're inept. The city can't be infinite. For the first thing, it'd exceed these moron's engineering capacity. For the second, the sky is pretty clearly a dome of some kind. Basic trig says it can't be that wide, if the top of it is so low.
I want to try walking to the edge. Now that Amanda is gone I might. I threatened her about all of her lies, and she ran off.

Legal Pad 3, Diary Day... 29?
There are two Amandas now. They showed back up about an hour apart. I don't know what the hell that means, but I'm looking right at them. When they're both around, they both act like it's totally normal for there to be two of them, like it had always been that way. When only one is around, you can't convince her that there ever was a second one.
They're both real. I imagine every hair is the same. Just as real=just as fake.
-- John

What John says is laughable. As if a woman could have just one body! Next he'll be telling me that a man can have more than one! Progressive nonsense. Dad was right. I shouldn't have gotten mixed up with lefties. It's the conservative straight-and-narrow for me if I ever get out of here.
-- Amanda

That handwriting is so fake, and what does that even mean?
-- Real Amanda

Legal Pad 3, Diary Day 30 or so

So that dream. Hoo boy, that dream where your head opens up like a flower?
Well, I just saw it happen to Amanda. It was worse. The smell, specifically, made it far, far worse, and the fact that you can see the little bits of bone, as if her skull had four little bone zippers with bone teeth. There was her brain, all throbbing, and I could make out where the different cortex-- (cortices?) were. This was no hallucination.
And there was the other Amanda with a spork, drooling blood.
-- John

Amanda no 1 dead. CoD: brain damage from a spork.
Amanda no 2 dead. CoD: doing a perfectly executed high dive from a second story window, spork in hand. Neck broken, body disappeared when I turned around.

Amanda's back. Hell if I know which one. I'm leaving her and walking to the edge.

Legal Pad 4 Diary Day whatever

I've had to send John off for reprocessing. When I locked him in our flat for his own protection, he became obsessed with trying to unzip my skull zippers. How would he like it if I probed his sinusoidal cavities without consent? If he would just ask I'd give him some.
-- Amanda

Legal Pad 4, Diary Day I don't even know man.
The water. There was so much of it. They just kept adding more. I couldn't breath. I couldn't even die. Then they switched it around and used the same hose on the

on the other end. My god, on the other end. The machine whined and whined and whined and

oh my god it whined
and the hooks and the thing with the...
-- J