The Mysterious Bishop

My Dear Strangers,

I believe the spirit-board entity is male. This is only a feeling, possibly imagined in the vacuum of proof, as thoughts tend to bubble in a mind full of silence.

haunted house storiesHe is strongly single-minded, more like a force or philosophical design than a human personality. He is, in this regard, the opposite of June, with whom I share an almost purely emotional relationship.

Both types of relationship are challenging to me. With June, I have the warm, mystic bloom of deep connection but—because she cannot communicate her thoughts—I am vulnerable to fears about her motives and desires.

Why does she come? Why does she go? Is my belief in our affinity another baseless thought, rising in the silence to alleviate my loneliness?

With the spirit-board entity, I lack any flicker of personal connection, and yet I finally understand his stubborn motivation.

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The Ouija Riddle

My Dear Strangers,

I own a remarkably old spirit board of varnished maple, with wood-burned letters and a planchette made of thinly sliced bone. Popularly known as “Ouija” boards since their commercialization by the Kennard Novelty Company, these artifacts are crude but sometimes effective means of otherworldly communication.

haunted house storiesYesterday I used my board in an attempt to converse more easily with June, the ghost who shares my bedroom, but her ethereal fingers were unable to influence the planchette.

Disappointed but willing to try again, I left the board on my nightstand and went about my day. When I returned to the room at dusk, the planchette moved without my touching it at all.

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The Tree Growing Out of My Wall Has Blossomed

haunted house storiesThe tree growing out of my wall has quadrupled in size.

This morning I entered the room and, before my eyes adjusted to the half-light, was speared in the belly by a leafy branch that extended sideways from the horizontal trunk.

Roots grip the wall like a twelve-fingered claw. Down-growing limbs support the tree’s weight like kickstands; without them, the damp brick wall would certainly collapse…

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A Lesson in Amateur Witchcraft

haunted house storiesThis morning a pale young man rang the tritone doorbell of my brownstone. I was underslept and unshaved, and the stubble of my anger beard—which has persisted since the night of the violent crones—made me answer the door more irritably than I intended.

“What is it?” I asked the visitor on my stoop.

He was of high-school age, afflicted with cystic acne and skeletally thin. He introduced himself and asked if I was Mr. Rook of the Equinox Society. I nodded and scratched my stubble, impatient with his manners, but my annoyance dissolved when I noticed his alluring bosom.

“Come in,” I said, suspecting at once the reason for his visit…

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The Violent Old Women

033“Last night at 3:27 A.M., I was drawn to my bedroom window by sounds I couldn’t identify.

I wiped the foggy glass to look outside and two old women were fighting in the road. The night was charcoaly dark. Only the women’s shapes were visible until they scuffled near a streetlight’s upside-down cone.

Both were diminutive and thin, with long gray hair that swayed like Spanish moss. They wore ankle-length dresses—one black, the other calico—and necklaces, which appeared to be made of clamshells or glass, that swung and clinked together, threatening to tangle.”

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Dream of the Gnawing Mice

creepy stories“My dream began, as usual, in the infinite field of winter rye. The air was balmy, the sky was gray, and the rye was a rippling, luxurious green. A vernal day—a hopeful day of promissory smoothness.

Confident that I would find the cat and return the creature to its proper hunting grounds, I knelt to begin my descent to the forest, only to find the fragrant, loamy mud had turned to brick.

I scraped my palms and knuckles, ineffectually digging. Three of my fingernails tore away. The hard-baked ground absorbed my dripping blood until the wounds ran dry and there was nothing left to drip.”

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My Words Became Colorful Tongues of Fire

creepy stories“My larynx was a combustion chamber, lighting exhalations from the billows of my lungs. My epiglottis fluttered from the updraft heat.

The flames didn’t burn my esophagus or tongue, and once I had grown accustomed to the pilot-light sensation in my voice box, I experimented with various words and sounds, marveling at the colors that erupted from my mouth.

The sound was like a blowtorch ejaculating feelings. I have always been a synesthete, associating words with colors, but literally producing the effect gave me a surge of otherworldly vigor.”

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Lost in the Inverted Forest

My Dear Strangers,

The young girl’s indescribable cat remains lost. Despite my ordeals with the three-winged pigeon, the box in my stomach, and the dread cloud, I have continued to seek the creature each night in my subconscious, exploring the inverted forest where the cat was last seen.

Notwithstanding the suffocating dig at the start of each dream, I have grown to love the forest’s evergreen fragrance and outlandish beauty.

030The upside-down pines are driven into the ground like spikes, while their great and twisted roots soak moisture from the air. The sky is rolling fog, thick enough for worms. Birds are in the mud, out of sight and darkly chirping.

Twice I have heard a distant mew, as indescribable as the cat itself. It is a fell and fearful sound of mesmerizing power. One would expect such a noise from something massive, like a god, or from something small but awesome, like a split plutonium atom.

I have tracked the cat’s prints in the impressionable fog. I have tunneled into the mud, following the panicked shrieks of underground birds. I have smelled the cat’s excreta, about which even the word “indescribable” is wholly insufficient.

I sense, with anxious hope, that I am closer every night.

But urgency is growing. Two readers have contacted me regarding the cat, which prior to its vanishing had apparently prowled the readers’ nightmares and dreams. They had not been aware of the cat until its disappearance into the inverted forest, at which time their dreamworlds were overrun with vermin.

The cat, it seems, hunted a species of figmental mouse that feeds upon the dreamers’ brightest, sweetest thoughts. At first the notion struck me as creepily adorable, but further research revealed that the joy-nibbling mice—called nachtkauers in the scant references I’ve found—steadily devour the afflicted dreamer’s psyche.

Tales of insomnia, insanity, and suicide abound. I fear the mice will breed unchecked.

The cat must be found.

Look Beyond
William Rook



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The Other William

029My Dear Strangers,

A new door appeared in my house. It is located in the unoccupied bedroom on the second floor, and I have confirmed—by studying photos from my realtor—that the door did not exist when I purchased my brownstone in January.

The room’s wall is plastered brick, the doorframe is painted white, and the door itself is roughhewn wood of an unknown species. The wood smells of quality incense, the way a temple door would smell after decades of worship.

Using the black iron ring pull, I opened the door toward me and jumped backward at the sight of my own reflection.

My reflection jumped, too, but not with mirrored symmetry.

I stared at myself, my self stared back, and then the two of us seemed to realize there were two of us indeed. There was no mirror and no reflection. The doorway divided identical rooms that each contained me.

Was he another William or was I another William? Judging by his fascinated squint—an expression I knew well—the other William appeared to be puzzling over the same perspectival conundrum.

Had I summoned him by opening the door, or had he summoned me by opening a door in his own identical brownstone? Twice we started to talk at precisely the same moment, then stopped to listen when we realized the other was preparing to speak.

I intuitively knew we couldn’t cross the threshold; he would stay there and I would stay here. The other William seemed to understand this, too, and made no attempt to enter my room.

Since neither of us was prepared for the metaphysical implications of our encounter, we eventually stepped forward—warily maintaining eye contact—and simultaneously closed our respective doors.

Wonderstruck and troubled, I returned to my bedroom to discuss my experience with June, the ghost who inhabits my bedroom. She was nowhere to be found. I wrote, “I need you,” on my perpetually foggy window and hoped she’d seek me out as soon as she returned.

Then I took a mug of coffee to my study and read about doppelgängers, feeling more and less alone than I have felt in many weeks.

Look Beyond,
William Rook]