I want to post my story but I don’t know if it could be considered “horror” by /r/nosleep mods & community. Also, any reviews are more than welcome!
“Will there be anything else, sir?” the butler inquired as he slid a glass tumbler across the desk and set down a tall ice pail with a bottle of liquor.
“No, that’ll be all. Thank you,” the old man replied as his fingertips combed down his black unkempt beard.
“Very well then,” James retorted as he turned away. His tall, lanky frame began pacing towards the solid oak door near the left corner of the room. As he approached, however, the butler stopped with his hand hovering just around the brass knob. James dropped his head and bit his lip for a moment, fixated on the loose ends of the fur rug below him. He clasped his hands together and cleared his throat.
“Sir,” he began as he turned back towards his master. “I’ve been here quite a long time and I’ve never worried about…. job security.” James sighed as his soft brown eyes finally rose to meet his. His long crooked nose cast a shadow on the far side of his paled face. James croaked as he noticed his master staring through him. He knew his master did not enjoy these sorts of conversations.
“What I mean is, these…. incidents,” James continued, “won’t affect our personal relationship and I hope it does not affect our professional one either,”
His master shook his head as if waking from a trance. “I’ve already seen to it, that, if the worst should happen, you’ll be taken care of,” the tan, bearded man assured him. “It’s the least I could do after all…” Master’s voice trailed off as he noticed the condensation dripping down the length of the bottle. A Russian import he personally requested. And not a cheap one either.
“Thank you, sir. I wish the same good fortune for you,” James replied warmly.
The butler smiled briefly before nodding and retracing his steps. The dim light glimmered off the old man’s pressed ivory shirt and black suit pants. The heavy soles of his freshly polished shoes scraped the hardwood as he made his way back towards the corner of the room. The massive rug, a variety of mammals stitched together, couldn’t dampen the loud creaks following each shift in movement. The old man reached for his glass just as the oak door shut with a heavy thud and the brass lock clicked in place. He noticed how it shined radiantly across his desk. The warm glow from the incandescent lights behind him were in perfect position.
“A moment of reflection,” he laughed to himself. “Or was it refraction?”
The old man squinted his deep brown eyes upon his newly acquired piece of glassware. He tried to recall his teachings long ago when he was just a boy… before his grade school had been boarded up and closed down indefinitely. A time of peace, when he could focus all his attention on learning the intricacies of the natural world through science. He fantasized about being young again with high aspirations for himself. He envisioned he would become a world-famous engineer and inventor of all sorts of useful devices. The engineer he became, however, had little to do with mathematical formulas. Rather, he came to understand the nature of men and mankind, or so he often thought.
The old man set his forest green cap on a button protruding from his desk with the short black bill sliding downward. He then grabbed his prized liquor from its icy chamber. The tall cylinder of brushed steel sweat beads onto the towel below, likely because it hadn’t enjoyed finer company.
“Aged 2 years,” he thought, “…surely much has happened during that time that turned out worse than this.” The man poured his vodka slowly into the stocky tumbler, taking care not to spill. His muscles trembled under the weight of the bottle. Suddenly, his thumb slipped and the bottle collapsed down onto the desk. He muttered something abruptly as the costly alcohol flooded the old hardwood desk and onto the floor below. He first thought to call James but realized he still had cloth napkins in his drawer from all the meals at his desk years ago. The old man always dined alone. He preferred it that way… no one to spoil his meal with idle chatter. He fished out a handful of napkins and unfolded them onto the table. His efforts were largely wasted as nearly half the bottle had emptied on the floor below. Master sighed and itched his beard, partly to dry his hands. Alcohol seeped into his pores and stung his nostrils.
His eyes returned to the sky blue journal sitting on the corner of his desk. Panic set in. The book appeared wet and discolored. Master held his breath. He seized the book and flipped open the cover. The man sighed when he saw only the outermost edge of the pages were wet. The hand writing inside was still legible, safe from his carelessness. He had finally opened the journal, the man realized as his fingers slipped along the cardboard cover. Master set the book down on top of the napkins before him as he righted the bottle and returned it to the ice. The dark bearded man then emptied the glass into his mouth. He swallowed hard with a quick gulp. The man never grew accustomed to the taste of rye vodka, even after all his years of sharing the gesture during formal occasions.
He held the drink in his left while his weaker right hand and forearm pressed down the cover and first page of the journal. He began to read…
“June 1, 2013
Today is my first of many at the Covington Missionary Camp and I could not be more excited! It’s been a long wait since I got the OK from the U.S. government back in January and there were times I thought I’d never make the trip with all that’s been going on in this geopolitical nightmare. Anyway, I’m here! It’s real! This place is so beautiful -it’s nothing short of amazing. Much more to look at than the flat, endless fields of corn in Nebraska. My dear friend Helen asked me to keep a journal of my experiences so that I could share them with her when I return back to the States. I suppose an endless album of Facebook pictures aren’t enough for some people lol. Regardless, this journal is for you, Helen, and I’ll keep you updated as much as I can!
I arrived at camp at approximately 3:30 pm local time after a long trip from the airport in the capital city. It’s so lovely here Helen, you wouldn’t believe it! The weather is warm, there’s no office buildings or skyscrapers or anything of the sort. Local law enforcement was all throughout the town, however. Apparently, a fight broke out between two neighborhoods and my guide, Samuel, was notified before our arrival so we took a different route. “It’s much hotter this time of year,” he warned. “We think it makes our people’s blood boil”, he joked. Samuel told me about his village’s history and seemed very grateful that I was sent to help. I assured him I was looking forward to the opportunity and would do my best.
We stopped at the end of a busy street lined with houses built with a wide variety of materials, some brick, others stone or lumber. None of them looked particularly well kept. Samuel introduced me to my host family, the Garcia’s. There were just four of them, a mother and her three boys. Their father had gone to find work in the capital city, along with several other villagers. I was shown where I would stay in the family’s main room and began unpacking my things from Samuel’s truck. The dirt floor had been packed down so tightly that my sneakers were still spotless after the tour. Damaged and makeshift furniture was found in every room, except the boys’ bedroom where only a few blankets and padding could be found. I realized quickly that these conditions were going to take some time to get used to. Fortunately for me, the Garcia’s were not far from the main well at the edge of town. Not long after introductions, Samuel left to run some errands. I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering about the neighborhood, taking in all that I could about this new culture and its people. The eldest of the three sons, Sebastian, accommodated me. He did not say much, but insisted that he walk with me. He looked to be in his early twenties and a foot taller than the other two. Sebastian said it’s not safe for women to wander the village alone. I welcomed his proposal. We visited the bustling marketplace in the middle of town, a seemingly ancient cathedral, and the medical clinic where I would begin working tomorrow morning. The medical clinic may have been the most modernized building in town, thanks to recent government funding. The staff, who was from all over the world, particularly Russia and Eastern Europe, was very welcoming and showed me around. Sebastian said he would be happy to walk with me each morning to work. We returned home as the sun was beginning to set. Sebastian’s mother, Camila, had prepared dinner for us. Camila explained that shipments of food were sent to her home every two weeks, and the latest delivery came just two days ago. It was mostly processed American style food that I was used to. We shared a large can of baked beans, corn, and potato chips. Camila also prepared fresh tortillas for us. I told the family we enjoyed similar food back home during barbecues, but left out all the other entrees so they wouldn’t think I was boasting. After dinner we played a card game I had never heard of, but it was so much fun! The boys were joking and laughing, even quiet Sebastian. After a quarrel between the younger two boys, Matias and Alejandro, their mother instructed them to go to bed. I’ll have to teach you Helen when I come back! Camila showed me to the main room where I would be sleeping the next several weeks. She reminded me to extinguish the candle in middle of the room when I’m ready to sleep and not hesitate if I needed anything from her throughout the night. I laid out the small lavender blanket you gave me years ago and folded a couple shirts into a pillow cushion. Not much of a bed, but it’ll work for now. It’s so peaceful sitting here alone after a long day of travelling. You can hear the breeze whistling through the cracks in the roof. The moon is bright enough to illuminate the whole neighborhood from my window. I’d say my trip has gotten off to a great start. Goodnight!
The bearded man swirled the vodka in his hand before taking a long sip. An automobile engine roared in the distance. It seemed James was leaving for the night. The old man checked his watch… Half-past eight. “A little early for James to be leaving,” he pondered. “Maybe he’s getting too old for night time like myself.” James was twelve years his elder, but one could’ve thought the opposite was true. James never grew out his facial hair for fear it would be “improper” to do so. He fixated on the portrait on the wall ahead of him. A middle-aged man stood tall in the dark velvety backdrop, staring intently off into the distance. His left arm gripped the sword by his side. Twists of dark brown hair fell down his face and behind his ears. His deep brown eyes looked almost entirely dilated in the dim, yellowy light. A desk covered in books and other writings set behind him, no doubt a tribute to the man’s intellect and governance. The bearded man stared at the gold framed painting of his idol. He often asked himself how this hero would react in certain situations, and he would strive to act accordingly. The man had no answer this time. He doubted that the fine-looking hero, who lived so long ago, could have imagined a predicament such as the one staring him in the face. Puzzled and anxious, he refilled his glass and continued.
June 3, 2013
I’m so sorry I forgot to write yesterday! We have been incredibly busy trying to run the clinic with so few staff. I suppose they needed me more than I thought! Who knew there could be so many hospitalizations in such a small place! We had a number of people carted in with wounds from a car accident, and many more who claimed to be sick with vague illnesses and symptoms. It’s like a whole ‘nother world outside of biomedicine to these people lol. I’m telling you, Helen, this is nothing like a typical doctor’s office back home. We’re constantly running around, short on supplies, and rushed through appointments with (at best) poor communication strategies. I’m one of the few who don’t need an interpreter and I still struggle making diagnoses…. Maybe I’m not as qualified as I thought. The sanitary conditions are also anything but. It’s challenging, for sure, but I still find myself enjoying the little things, like the smiles on kids’ faces as I wave to them on my walk to work with Sebastian. The natives admit this life is difficult for them, but they just don’t know how good we Americans have it. I feel guilty at times, Helen. It’s been crazy hot here. So hot, the locals are wondering if their crops will hold up. I’ve been avoiding checking the temperature so I don’t dwell on it. There’s plenty of water here that was shipped in from the capital, but my colleagues have instructed that it’s specifically for the locals who visit the clinic, not for staff. I’ve been sneaking drinks here and there during my breaks, otherwise I don’t know how I’d make it. It’s frustrating, really. We’re already sharing food and everything else shipped from the capital, save medical supplies. Bureaucracies be damned lol. I just finished my walk home from work and it’s nearing dark already. Camila prepared dinner so I’m going to join them at the table. Can’t wait to finally eat something since noon!
The old man leaned back in his desk chair, kicking the legs gently off the floor and stretched his arms. He stared at the navy ceiling above him. Deep cracks were beginning to form in the plaster. His eyes traced the white lines as they split like lightning on an evening sky. The man’s heels retreated to the ground once again. His dark, heavy boots had surely seen less welcoming territory in their time. The master’s lips whispered as he reread the previous passage. He didn’t want to continue. This was too much, he thought, and entirely unnecessary. Curiosity won him over.
June 5th, 2013
It seems I’ve been making a habit of forgetting to keep you in the loop. I forgot to journal yesterday, but there wasn’t too much to be noted… Except there was this ceremony, or happening, rather. One of the government officials from the capital city visited the village. I was working throughout so I only heard about it second-hand. Natives said the man was a representative for them at the capital city where he and other government officials resided. Perez, I think his name was… and maybe Javier was his first name? There was a parade of guards accompanying him down the streets before stopping in front of the main cathedral. The people gathered outside, some cheered while many others heckled the politician. After a brief service inside the chapel, the representative stood outside to give a speech and listen to concerns. Many of the patients I saw today said the man had terrible things to say about the people turning to violence as of late and pleaded for them to find peace amongst themselves. But the crowd grew angry with him and demanded he do more to help them survive the dry season. It was so terrible, Helen, seeing all these people upset with a man who begged for peace and understanding. He had to leave early as several protesters threw rocks and other small items at him. What kind of people behave in such a way? Apparently, there have been a number of stabbings and assaults in the past month and he came to express his concern. I consider myself a public servant to these people and I pray they do not treat me similarly. In other news, things are going well. Maybe I’m getting acclimated to the hectic atmosphere here. The other staff are complaining about being overworked with more patients recently, but many are noncompliant with both our staff and the police. It’s frightening at times. We don’t have a psychiatric unit in the clinic so some with poor mental health are turned away. Last night I helped Camila prepare dinner for the boys. I showed her how we prepare cornbread, sort of, using ingredients from the government commodities that we’re given for the next week or so. It didn’t rise well but the flavor was present lol. I’ve only been out a week, Helen, and I’m beginning to miss you and the rest of the bunch so much. Promise me, we’ll get cheeseburgers as soon as I get back? I have another early morning at the clinic ahead of me tomorrow before the temperature rises so I will try to write again soon!
June 6th, 2013
You wouldn’t believe what happened today if I told you in person so I’ll write it down for you now. I nearly died today, Helen. This man came into the clinic with a knife… I don’t know why. I think he was trying to kill one of our patients who was resting in one of our makeshift cots. I didn’t see him enter the clinic but I saw him approach the cot the poor man was resting in and pull a knife from his waist band. He and the man were arguing over something…. I wasn’t close enough to interpret what they were saying. He held the knife above his head for a second but fortunately I had moved towards him in time to grab his wrist. He spun around immediately and tackled me to the ground. He was much stronger than me and punched me with his free hand before another staff member was able to detain him. The police came shortly after to take him away. I was so scared, Helen. My face hurts but I’ll be okay… it was the look on his face after he beat me. He was so angry but he seemed confused for that moment. Like he wasn’t sure where he was or why. Thankfully, Nicholas was there to grab the knife from him. It was so awful. This was definitely NOT in the job description. I poured some cool water on a rag and held it under my eye where his fist met. It’s really bruised. I sat in the break room for a while rehydrating until our supervisor –if there was one in the clinic—decided it would be best if I went home for the rest of the afternoon. She also snapped at me for drinking some of the water designated for patients, as if I hadn’t had enough drama already today. Many of the children I passed before that morning were now looking on at me, some whispering and others laughing. For some reason I feel guilty about all this, like it was my fault that man nearly lost his life today. Maybe if I had seen that man enter the clinic, I could’ve helped… I don’t know. Camila opened a small tin can of peaches for me. She’s so good to me and her family. Why can’t others be more like her. Her sons offered to show me the drinking well today and other places at the edge of town, and I’m glad. I’m looking forward to escaping this village, even for a couple of hours.
The pea gravel entrenched in the old man’s driveway began to crunch and crackle. Master looked up and listened. “James?” he asked. The man checked the large copper clock hung straight across from his desk and above the mantle. Its black arrows indicated 9:04 PM. “Perhaps, he had forgotten something,” the old man reasoned. “It’s too late for visitors,” he hoped. The crackling grew louder as the vehicle approached his manor. The old man yawned, his breath lifted the journal pages just as gusts of wind lifted the wilting leaves of the many vines covering the exterior of his home. “Thank god he’s back,” the man pondered. “I’m almost out,” he realized as he tilted the bottle again over his cup. He watched the clear liquor effortlessly blunt the corners of the ice cubes as they submerged.
June 9th, 2013
I’ve been so stressed lately that I had forgotten to write. I don’t feel like myself…. It’s strange & miserable. I find myself alone often and I could really use someone like you here right now to talk. To make matters worse, it’s become exceedingly dangerous living in this city now. I’m scared, Helen. The rest of the nursing staff assures me that we will be taken care of and I have nothing to fear, but I don’t know. It just makes me so angry and upset being here with these primitive people. Earlier today I lashed out at a patient who instigated a brawl with several patients. I was so mad I wanted to hit him, but I…. just couldn’t. The young man seemed so confused and scared, Helen. I like to think I intimidated him, but I think he was anxious about something else. The more peaceful villagers are being affected too. Just over the past 3 days I’ve attended a handful of suicide attempts, most did not make it. One of those was a girl just 13 years old. Her mother was screaming when she saw all the bandages and blood that and had to be detained by police. I’ve been walking home with Sebastian because I don’t feel safe anymore, Helen. I see more and more people on the streets each day shouting and fighting and starving and crying. Just today I took one of the half-empty gallons of water at the clinic that was reserved for the patients and several men were begging for a drink. When I get to the Garcia’s I watch them from the window. I frequently remind myself: only a week until I’m out of here and can see you again.
The winds howled against the stone masonry outside the manor. Lengths of the twisted vine sprung from the house as the wind whipped them like a flag at full mast. Master expected James to enter his room at any second. It had been a minute since his car stopped. Perhaps he was tending to the yard, surely my garden would be damaged by morning. The man emptied the small blocks of ice that remained in his stout glass into his mouth and chewed. He loudly grinded the ice shrapnel between his teeth like a bear treading through snow. “Where is he?” the man asked aloud. His voice reverberated around the dark and quiet chamber. The brave, honorable man in the painting gazed onward, undisturbed by his owner’s emerging concerns.
June 11th, 2013
The government official I mentioned the other day, Perez, has declared a state of emergency for the village. We heard it on the radio in the break room this morning. There was a massive riot last night in the center of town. Apparently, the biweekly shipment of government commodities was apprehended by some unknown vigilantes and was nowhere to be found. The starving villagers accused eachother of stealing and fights broke out. Gunshots woke me up in the middle of the night and I knew it was very bad, Helen. At least two dozen people were killed in the riot, and many more were injured. Men, women, and children. Sebastian did not come home last night and Camila was crying inconsolably. She worried her son died but was too scared to leave her home and find out. At the clinic we’ve ran out of gauze, painkillers, and other trauma supplies. There’s simply too many people to keep up anymore. These people need help and all I can do is hold their hand as they die in front of me. My supervisor told me that I would be leaving tomorrow now that the village is in a state of emergency, which seems backwards to me. We need to be given more staff and supplies, not have them taken away. Yet, I’m relieved. My mental health has been suffering too much. I’ve been seeing more and more self-harm victims and I think it’s taking a toll on me because I’ve been getting those thoughts too. They’ve been more persistent in the back of mind but I try to save face in front of my colleagues and patients. I’ve had issues before, but not like this. It’s like I no longer fear pain or dying. It’s almost comforting. My temper is shorter now too. Just an hour ago I learned a patient had wounds from her husband and I needed to be separated from him. I sat in the break room and cried. This isn’t me, this isn’t how this trip was supposed to go. I don’t want to leave this village when it’s so obviously in peril, but I have to. They’ll be picking me up tomorrow afternoon and I’ll have to say goodbye to the Garcias. I hope Sebastian is ok.
Something terrible has happened and I don’t know how much time I have left. I’m so scared and angry. But I’m trying to keep calm. I first want you to know that I love you Helen. You’re my dearest friend and I don’t know if I’ll be seeing you again. I was on my way home from the clinic yesterday when I was approached by two older men. Sebastian was still missing so I was all alone. I tried so hard to fight back but they took me Helen. I don’t know where I am, but I know I am not safe. They knocked me unconscious I think… I don’t remember much of the struggle. They have locked me in a basement, I can see light coming through the floor boards above. They told me that if I scream again they will kill me. I don’t know how long I’ve been here but I’m assuming it’s night time with all the candles lit in the room above. One of the men is upstairs, while the other left not too long ago. There was another woman down here when I first woke up, but now she’s gone. She was American too, but younger than me and looked like she hadn’t eaten in over a week. She clung to me at first and was clearly delirious. She kept asking for “Maria”, a woman I assume to be her mother or sister, over and over… We sat together for several hours until the trapdoor opened and one of the men came down. She screamed as they took her and beat her fists into his back. I didn’t think she had any strength left but she was so brave. I’m all alone now… All I have with me is my pack and a little water left in a bottle I grabbed from the clinic. I feel like I’m going crazy… all my thoughts since I was told to leave the village have been so violent and awful. I feel so angry and confused. I’ve been praying since I was locked up here… the old prayers we used to recite during bible studies. I don’t think He’s hearing me and… maybe it’s better that way. The taller man is back now and something is going on upstairs. They’re shouting about poison or a water supply or something. I can’t quite hear so I’ll write more later.
The old man pressed his lips together as the lump in his throat grew. “What have I done?” he pleaded to the man in the painting. He flipped the cover over the last entry in the journal and put his face in his wrinkled hands. After a few moments, the man gathered himself and stood up from the desk, journal in hand. He walked over to the wardrobe on the right side of the chamber and opened its wide polished doors. Shirts, pants, and coats, enough for at least a dozen outfits swayed as the door flung open. The man pushed apart the laundry in the right corner of the wardrobe and revealed several pairs of shoes lying on top of a cardboard box. Master pitched the shoes aside carefully and grabbed the box. He carried it to his desk and sat back down.
The man wiped his face. He lifted the panels of the light brown container set before him. Inside, a handful of newspaper clippings lay on top of a binder of classified documents and a grey 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, fully loaded. He reached inside for the newspapers and sorted through them once more. The first featured a story about a new drug that claimed to make rodents more aggressive and willing to take risks. Another paper boasted the drug’s effectiveness at “targeting and deactivating certain areas of the subject’s brain such as the emotional processing in the amygdalae and inducing neurosis.” The following paper featured the headline “Rep. Perez, Others Charged with Bribery, Bioterrorism Against Own People”. He gazed imploringly at the picture of him next to the alarming text, taken soon after he was elected. The paper described the collusion between himself and a Russian pharmaceutical company and plans to dissolve an experimental drug in the water supply shipped to villagers during the dry season. The alleged purpose was to further the lucrative research project after it was denied by review boards for human trials.
The last piece of newspaper was the hardest to read. It was a report of the estimated casualties in his village, his people. “The village has been in complete chaos. The food and water shortage led to the villagers raiding everywhere for supplies, especially the new government buildings. The national army was called in to ease tensions, however, two hundred fifteen deaths have been confirmed from the riots and other violent acts during the month of June alone. One of them, a medical volunteer from the United States, was found in Rep. Perez’s home.” “God, why did she have to drink it too?” he asked as he set the papers on her light blue journal. “It was only supposed to be for the worst patients…” The binder was full of documents related to the case, receipts, memos, patient forms, letters from other officials and the drug company in question. He couldn’t bring himself to open it. Suddenly, he heard a loud crash coming from the room next door. It was the front door. Somebody had broken in.
“JAVIER PEREZ!”, an American voice boomed, “COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP!”
The man panicked. He knew this day would come but he was not prepared. He looked at the handgun and realized it was time. Quickly, the man gathered the journal and papers and threw them in the cardboard box. He reached in for the pistol and set it aside. He then poured the last of the vodka on top of the papers, soaking the documents below. He dropped the bottle to his side and pulled open the center drawer of his desk. The man dug in his desk as he heard his belongings trashed and more doors broken down.
“JAVIER PEREZ”, the voice repeated, “COME OUT UNARMED AND WE WILL NOT HARM YOU!”
Perez did not believe he would be spared. He knew what he had done and the horrifying consequences were his. Perez shoved the drawer shut as he couldn’t find the matchbox he otherwise saved for cigars. He opened the right drawer, but no luck. Perez realized he couldn’t light the box on fire so he would be caught along with the most incriminating evidence against him. Perez gripped the handgun and calmly accepted his fate.
The voice clamored again, much closer this time, “MR. PEREZ, SURRENDER AND YOU WILL NOT BE HARMED!”
He looked up at the man in the painting and closed his eyes. Police pounded on the chamber door. Perez placed his finger on the trigger and paused. A brief silence overcame the manor. Suddenly, the door burst open and policemen clad in all black filled the room. Only a single shot was fired. The old man hunched forward in his chair with his face laying on the brown box. He was bleeding all over the table. The policemen approached to see why he was unresponsive. They stopped upon seeing the wound on the side of his head and the spent brass cartridge on the floor below. The officers cleared a path for the medic team, but they knew it was too late.
“What do you think, Sebastian?” one of the younger officers inquired. “It’s him…. It’s done,” the detective replied after inspecting the body. He peered into the box and recognized the sky blue journal, turned away from the growing pool of blood. Sebastian removed a cloth from his pocket and picked up the journal. “Detective Garcia! This is a crime scene!” a senior officer barked. Sebastian dropped it on the Perez’s desk and opened the cover carefully with the cloth. He recognized the handwriting –it was Sophia’s. He remembered how he would steal her journal when she left it at his home to see if she had written about him. The detective set the bloody cloth down and twisted open his canteen. His eyes shifted towards the illustrious oil painting of a soldier across the room. Sebastian emptied the rest of the water into his mouth and swallowed. “Dry season…” the detective quipped as he shook the empty canteen towards his partner.