📅 Published on October 31, 2021


Written by Heath Pfaff
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
Please wait...

“The first reported incident was an alleged homicide in which a man killed five people in the master bedroom, dissected them in a meticulous fashion and vanished with the lungs, vocal chords, and epiglottis of all five of the five victims.  The killer, a man named James Jones, was originally apprehended at the site, but escaped during his arrest and has not been seen since.”  William Sunderland was reading from the file as we approached the site of the latest anomaly.  We’d all read the manuscript on our own, but this final part of the mission briefing was a tradition at this point.

He continued.  “The second incident happened three years later.  A family, the Ventelli’s – from out of town – bought the O’Keen residence from the bank that had taken custody after the passing of the original owner and his wife.  Due to the secluded area and the nature of small-town gossip, the property had sat empty and unmonitored over those interim years so we have very few incident reports from that time frame, nothing more substantial than reports of lights in windows.”

William cleared his throat.  “Seven months after moving into the house the new residents made a call to the local police saying that they’d heard someone in their home while they were sleeping.  The police came out to investigate but couldn’t find any evidence of things being amiss.  They decided the noise was raccoons on the roof, filed the report, and forgot about it, but over the course of the next three weeks the Ventelli family would make ten more reports covering everything from strange noises, to sightings of figures moving about inside the house at night.”

“Not sure what to make of things, but suspecting that the Ventelli family was looking to try and cash in on the history of the property, the police agreed to send out a cruiser to watch over the house at night for a while, not expecting anything to come of it.”  The first night of monitoring was silent.  The officer on duty saw nothing, and the Ventelli’s didn’t report anything amiss.  The second night was a different matter.

“At around 1 AM on the second night of surveillance, the officer keeping watch on the house saw someone moving through the rooms of the first floor of the house.  As part of the surveillance process, the Ventelli’s were not to go anywhere without switching on lights so that they could be seen from outside, and to differentiate them from any hostile third parties.  The officer figured that someone had forgotten the rules, or was just trying to get him worked up, but he still called in the sighting and then went to investigate.

“While on his way to the house, he saw another person moving in a window on the first floor of the house.  He called this in and reported ‘He’s got a spear, or a pole.’  The officer was asked if he wanted backup, and he responded that he did, and that was the last communication from the officer.

“When backup arrived – in the form of two state troopers and another local officer – they searched the outside looking for their man, but couldn’t find him.  The door at the front of the house was open so they proceeded inside and scanned the house room by room.  They didn’t find anyone.  They never found anyone.  Later that night two forensic specialists went missing in the house, and that was when we were told about the incidents on the property.  The higher-ups at Gatehouse decided that this sounded like it might be in our jurisdiction, so they bought the house and the land around it.  It has been three months since acquisition, and we’ll be the first agents on scene.  Any questions?”

“It’s not verified to be anomalous yet, then?  We could be dealing with a serial killer, or some natural phenomenon,” Rick asked, his glasses hanging off the tip of his nose as was normal for him.  I didn’t know how he could see anything like that.  They weren’t reading glasses.  The man was very nearsighted.  Despite finding his lack of proper spectacle etiquette annoying, Rick was actually easy to like.  He was a little strange at times, but a nice guy.

“No, it is not, but the details of the disappearances are enough like other reported anomalies that we have rated this site as hot, which is why we’ve come with gear,” William answered, nodding at the black hard cases of supplies we’d brought along with us.  “We want to set up our test instruments inside the house, and then head out to a safe distance and observe.  We’re assuming this anomaly will work like the others we’ve found and will stay confined to the space inside the house.”

It was a strange thing about anomalies, but they tended to find borders and keep to them. I’d personally been to a cave with an anomaly, a couple of other houses, and one field that was surrounded by an old barbed wire fence, and that was only a few of my jobs.  In each case, the anomalous activity seemed to randomly select some otherwise inconspicuous boundary and hold to it.  That was just one of a million things we didn’t understand about these events.

“Other than the reports of shadows is there any indication of physical manifestations inside the property?”  Chip was one of our armed recon escorts.  He was smart, fast, and great with a rifle.  I’d been on three missions with him so far, and he’d always been on top of any threats that cropped up.

“We’re not sure what happened to the five people who were slaughtered in the first incident, but we know from reports that the man who was deemed responsible claimed to have nothing to do with the deaths.  You know as well as I do that the things that come out of anomalies are never nice.  I think it’s safe to assume that these things can physically manifest.”  His grim expression was mirrored in the face of all of us.  The things we saw in the line of duty could never be forgotten.  “It’s better to assume the worst in these kinds of situations,” he added darkly .

“The file said we’re doing cleanup if the site is active.  Are we expecting this to be a simple Research and Raise operation?”  Laurie sounded calm and focused.  We’d worked five missions together, more than anyone else on the team, and she was the steadiest person I knew.  She had a Ph.D. in Particle Physics, another in Anthropology with a specialization in occult histories, and a third in Chemistry with a specialization in non-terrestrial elements.    She also held Master’s degrees in Astrobiology and Data Analytics.  To top it off, she was ex-military and could knock a flea off the ass of a dog with the custom 9mm she carried on her hip.  “You know what I think about those.”

William seemed to expect this question because he had his reply all planned out.  “Trust me, your reports have been handed to the appropriate parties, but the consensus is that the history of successful anomaly closures outweighs the risk of theoretical complications.  So we’ll be gathering as much data as we safely can, and then burning everything down.”  The van dropped over a steep hill and I felt an unpleasant lurching in my stomach that stuck with me even after the vehicle had settled again.  Great, one more reason to feel terrible, I thought to myself.

I wasn’t sure where I stood on the closure issue.  So far studying and then destroying the sites had shut down all of the anomalies we’d encountered with the exception of the sinkhole at Site 73 and the cabin at Site 8.

Site 73 refused to be closed.  No matter what was placed over the opening of the sinkhole, the material degraded and collapsed within a few hours.  Additionally, those responsible for attempting to block the sinkhole often became violently and sometimes fatally sick.

The cabin at Site 8 rebuilt itself.  We tried knocking it down with bulldozers, blowing it up with c4, burning it to the ground, dropping explosives on it, removing the building in its entirety from the property, and encasing the whole thing in molten aluminum.  The cabin always returned unharmed, and there was never any witness to how it happened; people left to observe fell asleep, cameras crackled out, drones fell out of the sky.  An entire group of a hundred armed men marched out of the woods in a trance and couldn’t remember why.

In the cases of these unbreakable anomalies, we simply bought up the land and set up a perimeter.  It was the most you could do.

“Any other questions?”  William looked at each of us.  We hadn’t heard from Shauna or Clay, but the file really didn’t leave a lot of room for questions.  Shauna was our second armed recon.  I hadn’t been on a mission with her before, but I knew she was experienced.  Clay was the “newest” member of the current team, but even he’d been out to four sites.  I was glad to be running with experienced people.  Everyone had to get their feet wet somehow, but I didn’t like having to drag legless torsos out of the water because the water turned out to be corrosive acid.  I only wished that was an exaggeration.  People who messed up sometimes came home in sandwich baggies.

I’d once asked the man who was training me, “Why do these things do this to us?”

He’d just offered a gruff laugh and said, “Why do the stars shine?  It’s just what they do.  These things hate, Ed.  It’s just what they do.”  At the time I’d had it in my head to tell him that the stars shined because they had at some point – billions of years ago – been in the throes of nuclear fusion and now that light was reaching us, but I kept my mouth shut instead.  I’m glad I did.  The years since have given me some clarity on the matter, and frankly my snide thought – while accurate – completely missed the point.

We couldn’t understand what the things from the anomalies wanted.  It’s impossible to fathom the thoughts of things that exist in spaces that go between the fabric of one reality and another.  You just need to know that part of their existence is an animosity towards humanity that knows no bounds.  There was no pleading with them, no making sense of their actions or the ways of their world.  The only thing we could do was try and understand how to keep them away from us.

The most frightening aspect of these phenomena was the connections.  It didn’t happen all the time, but occasionally we would discover strands of continuity between the different sites; repeated symbols, sightings of similar figures, direct references to other sites.  It was troubling, to say the least.  It implied some type of organization in the madness, and that was a horror that kept me up some nights.

The van pulled to a stop.

“I want monitoring and command setup inside the hour.”  William was up already, opening the back of the van and giving us our first look at the house.  I looked up at the place, and for just a moment I thought I saw something up on the roof looking back down at me, but then I squinted and saw that it was just some kind of antenna.  It was bent, and there was something hanging from it, but it was difficult to see from where I was.

“Get our sat link up and connected.  We’re going to try and run live updates on this one,” William ordered.

I winced but kept it to myself.  The satellite uplink system was garbage.  We were piggy-backing on old high-altitude systems that were already stressed with other business.  Even with a solid connection to the satellite, which was iffy, keeping a consistent uplink speed was nearly impossible.

Still, this was my job, so I’d do what I could.  The equipment was in black cases, and as soon as the floor panels were down I got to unpacking and setting things up immediately.  Some of the others were starting to assemble the tent over the top of us.  Once command was up, I ran the dish outside and began trying to get a fix on our satellite.  I used a compass to get the coordinates and waited for the connection to come up.  It didn’t.

I tried a few more times, and then – with a frustrated sigh – moved on to my next task.

“I’m ready to go in,” I told William, collecting the boxes of equipment I needed for surveillance.  I hated this part of the job.  Entering anomalous sites was always dangerous.  It had been years since we’d proven that these locations drew energy from living beings within their sphere of influence.  Not only did it slowly sap those who entered, but it began working on you immediately, distorting your thoughts and reasoning. We still hadn’t determined if this was some kind of targeted attack, or if it was just a natural effect that anomalies had on human minds and bodies.  I was inclined to believe it was intentional.  Once you’d felt the sinister touch of these otherworldly manifestations, it became increasingly difficult not to sense a dark intent.

Either way, certain drugs could be used to ease the effect on your mind.  They were addictive, and not great for your health, so we generally reserved them for more dangerous situations.

Shauna and Chip followed me as I moved towards the door of the home.  The steps up onto the small front stoop were shallow, but I took them slow anyway.  Going into a place that was being twisted by an anomaly often felt unpleasant.  Sometimes your stomach would lurch, or you’d feel a wave of depression and worry, but I didn’t get that as I moved closer to the door, at least no more than I already felt it, and that was likely just jitters.  As I stepped towards the door it swung open on its own, far too fast to have been drawn by the wind, and the door was supposed to be locked.

“Fucking great,” Chip sighed.  “I love it when they start messing with you right away.”

I reached out and opened the screen door, sliding the lock on the hinge into place so it would stay open.  The main door was wide open now.  I switched on the flashlight attached to my vest and spilled the glow of warmed LED light across the entryway.  The door opened into a hall with stairs along one side, and rooms to either side.  Looking back through the house I could see the kitchen at the far end.  The place was still furnished, left exactly as it had been on the last day it had held people.  Apparently, no one had wanted to come back for the furniture.  Smart folks.

I stepped inside, expecting to feel something crossing the threshold into anomaly space, but there was nothing.  I frowned, surprised by such a lackluster entrance from a place that had opened its own door for me.  It was almost worse to have things inside the home so quiet after that little bit of theatrics with the door.  Either way, it didn’t matter.  The equipment needed to set up, and that was my job.

I began to place the first sensor suite in the hall.  All of the equipment I needed to get in place at each location was in a case no larger than a toaster.  There were remote modules that I would deploy as well, but those were about the size of a wallet and went up easily.  The main units took a little more work, and some consideration of placement since I wanted to make sure none of the enclosed instruments would be in a place where there was interference.

The hall was easy.  One main unit, two remotes.  I moved to the next room.  A layer of dust had settled over everything, but otherwise, things looked normal.  This could have been anyone’s house but for the smell of long-term vacancy and… something else.  Something sweet and cloying.  I knew the smell.  It was associated with anomalies.

My two armed escorts were scanning nearby doors and making sure nothing was hiding behind the furniture, and I went about setting up the next group of modules.  I was constantly aware that something could happen at any moment, but I finished all of the downstairs with not so much as a wayward creak of floorboards.

“I hope this place turns out to be just another regular spooky house.  I’m not up for a repeat of my last job.”  Shauna spoke quietly as we moved up the stairs.  I put another portable module that would synch up with the hall sensor on the wall.

“You thinking of retiring?” Chip asked her.

“Every single job, I swear,” she answered, and we all laughed a little.  This job was a nightmare in an almost literal sense, but there was also something that drew you back to the work.  Once you knew the darkness was full of monsters, it could be really difficult to turn your back on it anymore.  You couldn’t switch the knowledge off.

“Oh shit, it’s him.“  Shauna’s voice made me turn her way.  She was looking at a painting hanging to one side of the landing.  It looked like something that had been bought at the estate sale of a castle in Germany.  It was a portrait of a pale man with an awful smile on his face.  He was showing just a little of his teeth, but they seemed to be sharp between his lips, and those thin, gray lips were too wide on his face.  It looked like if he opened his mouth as wide as he could it would tip the top of his head all the way back to his neck, like he had the hinged jaws of a snake.  The eyes were black from pupil to sclera.

His outfit was all dark tones, and of formal cut, like the finery a medieval King might have worn.  The background of the picture was covered in details that I couldn’t make out, but they looked meticulous, penned in lines so tiny I could barely differentiate them.

I reached up and thumbed my radio.  “Command, we have a confirmed sighting of the Uncanny Man.  There is a painting to the left of the stairs on the second floor with a depiction of him.  Is this on any of the inventories?”

“One moment,” a voice responded. Rick, I thought

I made sure my bodycam was pointed at the picture, but I found myself not wanting to look into those black eyes anymore.  The Uncanny Man was a repeating anomalous entity.  He wasn’t always at the site of an anomaly, but he appeared enough that we’d been taught to look out for him.  He was usually seen at more dangerous locations.

“No, there are no paintings in the house.  We have video confirmation of your sighting from your body cams.  Proceed carefully.  I’m moving the site status to hot-active.  Start level two precautions.  Finish up quickly.”  William’s reply was exactly what I’d suspected.  All of us opened a small tin case in one of the many pockets of our vests and pulled out a prepped syringe.  I removed the cap on mine, pressed the needle until a tiny bit of liquid came out.  I uncovered the port on my chest and injected the Methylphenidate as the others did the same.

The sharpened focus came on quickly, as well as that unnatural sense of clarity that made every color a little brighter, and every edge a little harder.  The other two switched their weapons from single fire to burst fire and released their safeties.  We were now hyper-alert, and extra dangerous, yet that meant almost nothing if things went really wrong.  We began to move from room to room, setting up the equipment.  The other two were on high alert, and that allowed me to really focus my attention on what I was doing.  In fact, with the drugs running through my system I was almost hyper-fixated on the sensors as I put them up, which is probably why I noticed something strange.

“The temperature is getting colder as we get nearer to the master bedroom,” I said the words out loud.  It was strange that Command hadn’t bothered to tell us when they got the readings.

“How much colder?” Chip asked.

“Twelve degrees from the first room on the left side to this room here.”  This was the third room.  It did feel a bit cooler on my face now that I thought about it.  The suits we wore helped regulate body temperatures, but they didn’t cover our faces or our hands.

“The first case took place in that room, didn’t it?”  Shauna dipped her gun in the direction we were headed.

I nodded my reply as we headed out of the room we were working in and made our way towards the master bedroom.  Shauna went in first, called that the room was clear, and then Chip and I followed her.  The room was empty.  There wasn’t so much as a single nightstand in place.  I deployed my equipment quickly, finding the cool air in the room to be unsettling.  I switched on the main unit once it was ready, waited for the lights to say we were all connected, and then got up.

“Okay, let’s…”  I stopped mid-sentence.  Chip was standing by the door, looking down the hall.  Shauna wasn’t in the room.  “Where’s Shauna?” I asked, expecting Chip to tell me she went ahead to clear our way, but Chip turned back to the room and I saw him start in surprise as he realized the room was empty but for the two of us and the equipment.

“She’s… she should be right here.  I just looked away from her.  I turned to look out the door, but she was standing right there, by the wall.”  He gestured to one side of the room, next to a closet door.

“Shauna?” I called towards the closet.  There was no reply, but I hadn’t anticipated there would be one.  I felt a terrible chill go up my spine, and it had nothing to do with the temperature in the room.

Chip walked over to the door slowly, keeping his gun trained on it.  He reached out, taking the handle firmly in his grip; looked at me, then looked back at the door.  He threw it open and brought his weapon up, barrel pointed inside.  It was empty.  On the back wall of the closet, someone had painted a large spiral with a diamond-shaped head at the outer edge of its winding path.  It looked like a snake, or a flatworm.  I’d seen the symbol before, but no one was sure what it meant.

The radio beeped.  “Shauna is gone.”  William’s voice had a strained timbre to it.

Chip responded quickly.  “We’ve lost visual on Shauna.  She has been vanished.”

There was a short pause and when William came back on.  “Copy.  Return to Command.”

“Copy.”  Chip replied, and then we were rushing for the exit.  Chip was in front, scanning the area with eyes that were hyper-alert.  I was not far behind him.  I kept looking over my shoulder, expecting to see either Shauna or whatever had taken her away.  There was nothing.  We crossed the threshold of the door, leaving it open in case Shauna did come after us.  I unstopped the screen door and let that fall closed at our back, feeling like I needed to at least put something between us and the house.

Once outside we turned our attention to the van and the command tent, and that was when things became even worse.  The tent was destroyed, but the bodies of our friends were skewered on the heavy corner posts, as though something huge had picked them up and slammed them face-first onto the stakes.  The sight of it made every part of me recoil in horror.  I felt sick.

How had this happened?  Anomalies didn’t spread outside of their confines.  I’d been on enough missions to know when I should be safe, and I should have been safe out on that front lawn, but clearly I wasn’t.

“What the hell is going on?”  Chip’s voice sounded as strained as I felt.

“You can’t leave it!  Once it knows you exist, it will never let you go.”  The voice from behind us had me spinning on my heels.  There was a man standing just inside the door.  It took me a moment to figure out who he was because I’d only ever seen him in pictures, and the pictures I’d seen had been of a very different version of this man.  The one before me was covered in scars, as though his whole body had been dragged over a field of razor blades.  The skin of his back had been cut into strips and then stretched and hung on bits of iron rods that were twisted into his neck and shoulders, spreading them open like flesh wings that rose just above his head.

“Mr. Jones, why don’t you come out here and we’ll get in the van and we can take you to a hospital, get you some help.”  How I managed to sound calm was a miracle.

James laughed and started backing back into the house.  “No, they’ve had enough of me for now.  It’s your turn.  I’m sorry.  You shouldn’t have come here.”

Chip was already at the van with the Sat phone.  I could see the dead signal light on the side of the device, but Chip was clearly planning on leaving a repeating message.  “Gatehouse, this is Site 147, we have multiple team members down and are starting evac.  Repeat, multiple team members down.  Evac in process.”

I turned and started to head for the driver’s side of the van.  We needed to leave immediately.  The mission was a wash.  If the anomaly had spread beyond the house, then there was no telling where the actual border was.  I was most of the way around the van when a man in black finery stepped out from behind the vehicle and I drew up short.

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no!”  His voice was smooth and deep.  “You can’t just leave without meeting your host.”  The Uncanny Man’s eyes were so dark that I felt like I was falling into them as I met his gaze, as though everything was falling into them, and it hurt.  I had never known that fear could hit a person so hard.  My entire body felt numb with it.  I thought I might drop dead.

I almost wanted to.

I heard the sound of a burst of automatic fire from behind me.  It startled me back to clarity for a moment and I looked that way, expecting to see Chip taking up aim on the horror in front of me, but instead I turned to see Chip crumpling to the ground with most of his head missing.

“The weak ones are no fun.”  That smooth voice crept into my ears again, and I turned back.  It was closer now, smiling with a grin that was terrible and wide.  There were so many teeth.  It was hungry.  So hungry.  “You aren’t weak, are you?  Let’s go meet the King.  The wurm is famished.”

It reached out for me and reality splintered with my mind.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
Please wait...

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Heath Pfaff
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Heath Pfaff

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

More Stories from Author Heath Pfaff:

The Voice
Average Rating:

The Voice

Ravager's Last Stand
Average Rating:

Ravager’s Last Stand

The Unsettled Sea
Average Rating:

The Unsettled Sea

Welcome Home
Average Rating:

Welcome Home

Related Stories:

No posts found.

You Might Also Enjoy:

The Duke’s Head
Average Rating:

The Duke’s Head

The Man Who Ate Ghosts
Average Rating:

The Man Who Ate Ghosts

I Knocked on Death’s Door
Average Rating:

I Knocked on Death’s Door

Red Earth
Average Rating:

Red Earth

Recommended Reading:

The Age of Reckoning: Volume 1 (The World of Naeisus)
How To Exit Your Body: and Other Strange Tales
Monstronomicon: 100 Horror Stories from 70 Authors
The Mountain and The City: The Complete Series

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Skip to content