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Death Will Follow
by Marissa Anne Huth

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I, Stephanie Carlson, have a secret so shameful that it alarms me to even whisper it. I fear that the shadow lurking behind me will hear it and shout it out to the world. I have kept this secret for ten years, and have sworn to never tell a living soul. Every time I think about it, my head slowly begins to spin and I feel faint. I am now sitting on an old, rickety street bench, writing out my secret. I need to write out this jumbled-up confession because if I hold it in much longer, I fear I will certainly go crazy.

Slowly, the night draws on, just as many nights have during these last few weeks. My time is short; I know because I have felt a dark and evil presence follow me in the shadows. It lurks, like a cat prowling for its prey, ready to pounce when it is least expected. I glance around, paranoid by the sound of footsteps and the crunching of fallen leaves on the sidewalk. My breath clings in the cold, crisp air of November, and I watch it slowly drift up towards the stars. I shiver as the wind dances across my bare, rosy cheeks. I desperately struggle to remember what made me run and hide in the first place. Maybe I should start from the beginning.

I was one of the world's most renowned authors of the Twenty-First Century. Mostly, I wrote horror novels, the ones that make people cringe, children and adults alike. My stories were terrifying; they made the word "nightmare" sound like a fairy tale. At the time, ten years ago, I was working on another masterpiece, so I thought. It was a tale of monsters and demons so frightening that I was almost afraid to finish writing it. If I could describe these horrible creatures now, I would, but there is no way to describe the way they looked. I believed that this novel had real potential, that it would be one of the best I had ever written. I sat down at my desk to begin writing, and as I brainstormed, I felt a draft come from an open window. I heard the creek of the door as it slowly swayed in the wind. Slowly, I wrote down those words, the ones that still haunt me today. What was I thinking? Maybe I was trying to eliminate those demons that live inside me, the ones that live inside everyone. As I wrote, I felt that something was wrong, that someone was watching my every move. I felt a presence in the room that day, the same one that is with me at this moment. If only it would step out from the shadows and reveal itself. Maybe then I would be able to get a decent night of sleep. For these past ten years, I have slept with one eye open, worried that whatever was after me would murder me in my sleep.

Back then, I was a pitiful sight to see. As the days drew on, my lack of sleep wore me down. I had dark, sagging bags under my dulled eyes, and my skin became pale, almost chalk white; there was no reason for glowing cheeks or laughter in my eyes anymore. I had nothing left in my life, except a painful fear of death. Everywhere I went, I began to imagine people staring at me, carefully watching my every move. I convinced myself that the movement in the trees and bushes was that of something or someone following me. Soon I began hearing whispering, voices calling to me as I wandered along. As I took each step, I would turn my head from side to side, though I never turned back; I was afraid of turning to see a grotesque figure stalking behind me.

One day, I was reading the paper and came across an unusual article about the massacre of helpless, innocent civilians. Apparently, this had been happening all over the city, mostly at night in secluded areas. These people were brutally murdered; their bodies had been ripped apart and tossed around as if they were only rag dolls. They had random cuts and scrapes along their bodies, blood gushing everywhere. Their heads were bashed in and their brains seeped out. When their bodies were discovered, there was no possible way to identify them. Their faces were distorted and covered in blood; their bones were crushed and their bodies were oddly strewn about. I could picture the way they must have looked when they were found. I felt somewhat responsible, but I really had no reason to be at the time. I had nothing to do with their deaths, so I thought.

This wasn't the only time I read of such a bloodbath, what a terrible fate for these people. Each time, the death list lengthened and the stories became more gruesome. Whatever was killing didn't have any remorse for those they killed. There were odd reports of large teeth marks, and multiple occurrences of slashes and cuts made by what appeared to be extremely sharp fingernails. I suddenly realized that all of this sounded a little too familiar. Was it in something I'd read when I was younger? It was nothing of the sort; it was, however, very similar to the workings of my new novel. I had written about the massacre of these people well, maybe not these people, but innocent people all the same. Was I really the one who made this possible? Did I let these demons out to walk the streets and do as they please? I was worried that they would hunt me down, even if I was the one who created them.

The days drew by slowly, and I grew nervous. I was unsure of everything at this point. I began seeing dark figures, possibly figments of my imagination, but I highly doubt it. I saw their distorted figures in my dreams. In them, I was in my house sharing my story with some of my friends. As I was reading my story aloud, we heard something stir, and I knew someone was in the room with us. I glanced around and I couldn't believe my eyes; the characters from my story were alive and walking. One by one, these menacing creatures killed my friends. I was ashamed and believed that it was my fault, but there was nothing I could do; none of my friends actually survived. I myself barely managed to survive by darting to the door as quickly as possible, never looking back. It was a gruesome ending for them, but it was too late to do anything but run. My dream was unusual, but I believed that it was the truth.

As I write this, I hear a stir coming from the shadows, and I know something is out there looking for me. It is coming closer now; I sense their presence strongly. I believe that they have caught up with me, and they are here to take what they should have taken many years ago, the one who got away, the only one who knows of their existence. I may have created them, but they have minds of their own; I can't control them.

"Is somebody there?" I shout, not sure if I will hear an answer to my ridiculous question.

At first I hear only silence, but slowly I hear a growl as they come closer. I close my ears to shut out their deafening cries. I must not be afraid; I must face my fears. I can see them now, their sharp teeth and claws, their menacing smiles, their gnarled hands. I watch their distorted figures lurch forward oh, how they mock me. I see the twisted features of their faces, their eerie grins and gaping eyes. How could I have created these dreadful creatures? Any minute they could get me, and when they do, they will rip me to shreds, just as they did to those innocent people. Soon I will be dead, what a way to go. Is there something beyond death? There surely will be nothing beyond this moment in my life, only suffering and guilt. Why do they wait so long? What are they trying to do, drive me insane? If that is the case, it is certainly working. They come closer and closer, but slower with each passing minute. I see a crazy gleam in their eyes, and I no longer fear them.

"Come and take me," I yell to them, "I'm not afraid of you!"

They glare at me as I yell, and reach for me with their mangled hands. I try to yell for help, but all that comes out is a wheezing sound. My hands shake uncontrollably as I try to write; I must stop trembling and finish before it is too late.

I can see my own death now. I feel their clammy hands on my skin as they try to grasp at me. The feel of their claws puncturing my flesh is torturous, and as they yank my hair a shrieking sound escapes my lips. I wonder what is to become of....

From the New York Times, November 13 2000:

Local Author Found Dead

The remains of local author Stephanie Carlson were found this morning by a local resident who was jogging this morning at around 8:30. Her body had multiple cuts and bruises, though coroners have concluded that she died from strangulation. Police were unable to identify the body at first, but found an unusual note that helped identify the body. In this letter, Stephanie Carlson claims to be responsible for the murders of numerous people. As of yet, there are no suspects, but police are questioning relatives and friends of Stephanie.

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