The Graveyard at the Edge of the Mist

📅 Published on October 17, 2021

“The Graveyard at the Edge of the Mist”

Written by Darkly_Gathers
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 17 minutes

Rating: 9.33/10. From 3 votes.
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“Hey, what’s the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery?”

“What?”

Togs looks at me, irritated.  “You heard me, pal.  What’s the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery?”

I grimace.  “I don’t know, Togs.  What is the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery?”  He grunts with frustration and jerks his arm; the chain that binds our wrists is pulled tight, and I am dragged over against my will.

“It’s not a fucking joke, Rufus,”  Togs says to me.  “It’s not a set-up.  I’m askin’  you, genuinely, if you happen to know!”

“Well, I don’t,”  I reply, jerking my arm back with a rattle of the chain, “I don’t know what the difference is between a graveyard and a cemetery.  So why don’t you just go on and tell me.”.

He chews his tongue; then he spits onto the wet grass.  “You ain’t no fun,”  he mutters.  “A graveyard is a burial ground connected to a church.  A cemetery ain’t connected to nothing.  It stands by itself.”

“I wish I was a cemetery right now,”  I mutter.

He shoves me.  “I heard that, Rufus.  Rude bastard.  I didn’t ask to be chained to you any more than you asked to be chained to me.”  He wipes the rainwater off his free hand and onto his prison jumpsuit, then pushes his fingers through his hair.  “But if this IS a graveyard, then we’ll find the church, and the priest will have to help us.  We can appeal to his sense of justice and goodwill”.

“Priest?  Do protestant churches have priests?  He’ll be a minister, surely?”

“Priest, minister, whatever.  Point is, he’ll be sworn to secrecy, he can help us get away, and hey, maybe absolve us of our sins in the process.”

It’s so difficult to see the world around us.  The mist is thick, more fog-like really, and it stretches far and unforgivingly in all directions, obscuring the hills we’re certain must lie beyond.  We’ve been trekking through the grim, moonlit gray of the countryside moors for most of the night, and we’re tired, and cold, and hungry.

The rain is thin and quiet as it falls, but it’s been drizzling steadily for hours now, and I know that both Togs and I could use a little reprieve.  Even if the minister’s not home, resting in an actual building would be nice.

Hell, even under a tree.  But we haven’t seen either for miles and miles and miles, and I have no idea where we are.  There’s no sign that we’ve even made any progress since setting out against the myriad of tumbled gravestones that now lie all around us and the faint, watchful shadows of the hills in the distance.

“I told you, Togs,”  I say to him, “I don’t have any sins to be absolved.  I’m an innocent fella, as you well know.”

He waves his free hand at me.  “Yeah, yeah, as you keep saying.  If you’re gonna keep insistin’  you’re innocent…well, I don’t have the energy to discuss it with you anymore.”

“Nothing to discuss, my man,” I reply.  “I’m owed this escape.  My freedom was taken away from me without my consent.  Idiot jury and an idiot judge.  Nothing more to be said.”

“Hmm,”  Togs says, then falls quiet.

We walk for a time in silence.

The gravestones stretch on, with no church in sight.

“…How big is this place?”  I muse.

“I ain’t never seen any graveyard as big as this,”  Togs replies.

“Graveyard or cemetery?”  I ask him.

“Neither.”

And the gravestones just keep going.  The distance between them grows wider, and they become rougher.  Less clearly defined.  The names inscribed upon the stone become illegible.  The cracks deepen.  Their ages are implied in the creeping crawl of the moss.  And the shapes, the shapes of these markers of lives gone by.

As we pass them, their forms become more and more obscure.  Some of the gravestones are triangular.  Or carved with intricate lightning-like lines.  Some gravestones are no more than piles of gray rubble, wet and dark beneath the rain.

Some of them reflect the moonlight like metal, and others appear to swallow the light altogether.

“The fuck kind of place is this, Togs?”  I murmur anxiously.  My body has reacted to something I can’t yet put my finger on, and my gut tells me something is wrong.

“Rufus, Rufus, check out that one.”  Togs raises his hand to point, and my arm is raised beneath via the chain.

I don’t believe what I see at first, but there’s no mistake.

Togs points to a tombstone that hovers above the grass.  Round, like a sphere.  The rain flows all around it and converges at the bottom, where it trickles down like a little waterfall.

“Holy…”

We adjust our course and walk over to it, examining the thing from all sides.  Togs even pushes on the thing, but the stone doesn’t budge.  It is fixed impossibly in place.  And this curiosity, this bizarre anomaly.  It has set my alarm bells a-ring.  This isn’t right.

I don’t think we should be here at all.

And I voice this concern to Togs.

“Yeah,”  he mutters back, tapping his thumb against his broken nose in thought.  “This is freaky, Rufus.  I don’t like it.  I don’t like it one bit.  What do you reckon, pal?  What should we do?”

“I think we should just keep going, but, you know – faster.  I can’t see any church, and this place is massive.  It could be a war memorial or something, I’m thinking.  We could spend hours looking around and not find anything at all.  And there’s nothing for us back the way we came.  No, we should keep moving ahead.  Maybe we’ll find something, maybe not.  But we’ll be moving forwards.  Tonight will be the hardest night, Togs.  It’ll only get easier from here.”

He seems to think it over.

I wait for a response patiently.  Not that I have much choice, however, given our predicament.

The chain jingles softly.

A lone bluebird appears from beyond the mist and settles on the zenith of the wet sphere.  We look at it.  And it looks back.  At me, then at Togs.

Curious time for a bird to be out and about.

Togs gently moves his hand closer to the bird and slowly sticks out one of his fingers.  After a beat, the bluebird hops onto his finger to Togs’ delight, cocking its head.

“Rufus!  Look!” he beams, glancing up at me.

“I’m looking right at you, man.  I see it, I see it.”

The bluebird perches for a moment longer.  Then it opens its beak and whistles a long, low, single note.  It raises its wings and flies up and away into the fog.  And as suddenly as it appeared, the bird was gone.

The rain patters softly all around.

“A’ight,”  says Togs quietly.  “Let’s keep moving.”

* * * * * *

The burial grounds stretch on.  The tombstones do not return to their regularity, nor do we come across any hint that they might soon be coming to an end.

I was lucky enough, as a kid, to visit France with my folks.  They took me to the American World War Two Cemetery in Normandy.  The scale of the place…the death.  It made an impact on me, that’s for sure.

But this place is bigger by far.  It must be.  We walk, and we walk, but still, the graves keep coming.

Togs keeps twitching and shooting looks over his shoulder.  I don’t blame him, but he’s making me feel worse.  I’m already on edge, but he’s sharpening it.

Many of the gravestones fail to connect to the ground now.  Various shapes.  Spheres, cones, rectangles.  One strikes up towards the sky like a dark obelisk.  One sits half-buried in an anomalous patch of wild grass, marble carved to the shape of a coffin.  Another looks like an angel — man-sized, with four outstretched wings and a blindfold over its eyes.

The rain leaks down its face.

And we approach the crest of a hill.

“This is good,”  I whisper.  “We’ll get a vantage point over what lies ahead, fog permitting.”  And it does, to an extent.  We come to a stop at the hill’s summit and look out over the plain, wet, grassy fields below.  They drop into a wide valley before rising again towards another hill, one taller still, at the opposite side.  This site is quickly lost to the silver-gray of the moonlit mist.

And it is filled, absolutely filled, with twisted graves.  The spaces between them are wide, but they are everywhere.

“Lord have mercy…”  Togs whispers in a voice heavy with fear, then he drops to his knees, dragging me down to a stop as he does so, clasping his hands together in prayer and muttering to himself under his breath.

I push him lightly.  “What the hell are you doing, Togs?  Are you going to tell me you’ve found God now?  Little late for that, don’t you think?  Given all you’ve done?”

“Haven’t you read the Bible, Rufus?”  Togs replies, his eyes still closed.  “Ain’t never too late for repentance.  You’d be smart to do the same, and all.”

“I told you,” I hiss, “I’VE got nothing to repent!  I’m innocent, always have been!”  Togs does not reply.  He only continues his prayer.  And there’s nothing I can do but wait.  So I sit next to him and try to imagine my future life.  A life in which I am free.  I’ll have to escape the country, that’s for sure.  I might head to the islands.  Wait until I’ve been long-forgotten and the State decides its funds are better directed elsewhere.  I imagine myself in a little wooden boat, the sun warm on my skin as I paddle leisurely across a sparkling stream to my new village.  Maybe I’ll help run it.  Or I could keep the people safe from outsiders.  Maybe I could learn to fish.

I shiver and wrap my free arm around my sodden chest.  Icy water drips from the end of my nose.  The air around me is thin and breezeless, but goosebumps ripple up my arms regardless.

A rumble reverberates through the ground.

I disregard it at first as a falsehood, an imagining of my mind, but the rumble comes again.

Heavy.

“Togs…”  I mutter through clenched teeth.  “Prayer time’s over, pal.  We gotta keep moving.”

The rumbling grows more prominent.  I can hear it as well as feel it now, too—low, long thuds, echoing through the valley beyond.

“Togs!”

The man opens his eyes.

“We gotta go, man!  Come on, get up!”

But Togs only stares ahead, wide-eyed, and I turn to follow his gaze.

And with the rumbles, a creature appears through the mist.

I think it’s a creature, at least.  It looks like one, though it moves more like a machine.

And it is colossal.

A giant shadowy silhouette in the fog takes slow step after step through the valley before us.

And whilst the valley is deep, the being nonetheless stands just above our eye-line, even after we’ve scrambled to our feet.

But we can’t look away.

It pushes gradually into view.  The being holds the form of an enormous, dark stone horse.  Its eyes are spirals carved into the rock, and its feet end in curved and stony blades, slowly rising and falling one after the other as it moves through the valley.

The churned-up, muddy holes in the grass these scythe-like hooves leave behind quickly regrow at such a speed that we can see the grass re-claiming the wounds in real-time.

Neither of us moves.

Neither of us can.

We just watch as the great horse steps closer and closer.

Pushing aside the mist, walking carefully between the multitude of graves… …And it passes.  Silently turning its enormous, stone head to look at us as it does so.

We stare into those spiral eyes, and the spirals stare back.  But the being does not slow.  After a moment of what could surely be none other than a mild interest, at best, it turns again to look in the way of the direction it is heading.  On it goes, and we watch, feeling the rumbles in the ground grow fainter and fainter as it disappears once again into the fog.

The rain falls.

And light flashes on the opposite side of the valley.  Near the top of the long and high hill.  Brief, but definite.  A flash of orange-yellow light.

Like moths, we are drawn to it.

Light.

Warmth.  Fire.  Safety.  Help.

“Could be THEM,”  Togs murmurs, still in a daze.  “Maybe they’ve caught up.  Found us.”

“Togs,”  I reply, “even we haven’t ‘found’  us.  What chance do they have?”  “True,”  he says.  And we stand in silence for a moment longer – watching.

The light flickers again.

“What the hell was that thing, Rufus?”  Togs asks quietly, turning to face me.

I shake my head.  “Who the fuck can say?  All I know for sure is that I feel like we’ve stumbled into something we were never meant to.  I don’t think we belong here, man.”

“No,” he agrees.  “And did you… did you feel it?  When it looked at us?  Do you feel that wave of- of COLD?  Of regret?”

I nod.  “Dread,”  I mutter, and Togs nods again.

“Yeah…dread.  That’s it – dread.  But THAT-”  he points to the flickering light.  “That ain’t dread.  That’s our way out, Rufus.  Our way into a better life.”

And I do believe that Togs is right.  But-

“But we’ll have to go through the valley,”  I say.  “We’ll have to make it quick.  I don’t want that thing to come back.  Whatever it is… I can’t be dealing with it coming back.”

“A’ight.”  Togs nods and grimaces.  I clapped my hands together, and Togs’ arm jerked over.

“Let’s do this,”  I say.  And after a quick but deep breath, before I have time to psyche myself out, I begin to half-run, half-skid down the west slope of the hill and into the valley.  Togs is dragged along with me but soon finds his balance.  Down we go, slipping and skidding.

We tumble into a heap at the bottom.  Togs actually kept his footing at first, but I fell to the grass, and my comrade was dragged down with me.  He clambers to his feet and helps me up, and we take in our surroundings, nothing but grass, and graves, and mist.

The valley seems wider from down here.

Quickly but cautiously, we begin to hasten past the gravestones towards the opposite hill.  They twist and bulge out at strange angles.  Some are simple crosses, and some are far more complex.  But the names on these ones are all quite clear, and I am forced to a halt about halfway across as Togs has chosen to stop to read one.

“Togs!”  I hiss, jerking his arm back via the chain.  “Let’s fucking GO, man, I don’t wanna stick around here!”

“It’s her, Rufus, look,”  Togs whispers, his voice raw.

I take a step closer beside him and look down at the grave.

It is in the shape of a star, like one a child would draw, and connected to the ground.  The name is one that we both recognize, of course.

“What the hell’s she doing here, Rufus?  How is this possible?”

“I don’t- I don’t know, man; look, let’s just keep going, yeah?  The light is-”

Togs swivels at once and grabs me by the collar.  He stares into my face as my hand is jerked up at an awkward angle with the chain.  “WHAT THE HELL’S SHE DOING HERE?  WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS PLACE, RUFUS?”

“Jesus!  I don’t know, man.  I don’t know!  Fucking – let me go!”  I push him away with a rattle of the chain, and Togs runs his free hand through his hair.  Then he looks at it.  His fingers shake.

“I wasn’t jokin’ earlier, Rufus,”  he says quietly.  “About the absolving.  About the repentance.  Will I ever be free?  Truly free, I mean?  Or is this my curse?  To live like this…forever?”

The ground rumbles.

“Questions for tomorrow, my man,”  I reply, my pulse quickening.  I tug on the chain.  “Time to go.  Now, man.  Fucking now!”

I first set off into a run, dragging Togs behind me, but he quickly falls into step.  The rumbles grow heavier, and we reach the base of the slope.  It’s steeper this time, but the light still flickers overhead, a little beacon through the mist.

We scramble up side by side, dragging out clumps of mud and grass as we clumsily and desperately ascend.  I see the shadow of the beast at the edge of my peripheral vision, and it spurs me up faster still.

“Togs, come ON!”  I jerk my arm up violently.  The bastard is too SLOW!  But the light is close, now.  And we realize that it is not one but many.  Dozens of fireflies flicker as they loop through the air above a stone archway embedded in the hillside.  A faint, silvery curtain hangs from the stone and obscures the way ahead.  I shoot a glance over my shoulder.

The colossal stone horse stands silently.

Waiting.

Watching.

Its presence is overbearing.  Looking into those spiral eyes I feel great pressure weighing down upon me.  I do not know what this monster wants.  But I can’t stand it.

Togs has overtaken me.  He feels the same way about the horse and about the arch, I can tell.  Dread lurks behind, and hope lies beyond.

Escape.

And so, without a second thought, he barrels through, pushing aside the curtain and clambering into the mist ahead.  My arm is jerked up behind him, and I scramble after in quick pursuit-

-But I cannot pass.  My knuckles crack painfully against the curtain as if it were made of rock as I crash into the side with a cry.  Togs has vanished from sight completely, and the chain’s metal bites painfully into my wrist as he tries to continue.

“Togs!” I shout.  “TOGS!  Stop, fucking stop!  I can’t get through!”  The side of my face and my shoulder are frozen against the cold stone.  I swear, muttering and slamming my fist against the solid curtain.

“TOGS!”

I jerk my arm back as hard as I can, leveraging my feet against the base of the arch, and Togs is dragged out against his will.  The momentum is enough to see us slipping back down the hill, rain-soaked and feverish.

The horse stands silently, watching.  It is not far away and towers over us.

“What the fuck, Rufus?”  Togs starts angrily as we crash, bruised, back to the base.  “Why did you-”

“It won’t let me pass!  Didn’t you hear me?  I can’t get through the fucking curtain!”  I throw my arms around expressively, and Togs grunts with frustration as his arm is thrown around too.  He shoves me.

“What do you mean it ain’t lettin’ you pass?  You just go through the curtain-”

“I can’t!”  I shout at him, then quieter:

“I can’t.”

And we stand there for a second, staring at each other at the base of the hill — the drizzle patters down all around against the grass and the wet stone of the curious graves.

The enormous horse of the graveyard watches on.

Togs licks his teeth.  His eyes dart up to the arch, up to the curtain that promises salvation.  An escape from the world-between us two unlucky souls have somehow stumbled into.

He means to leave me behind, I realize, with a strike of sudden fury.

This bastard…after everything I’ve done for him – after I stood up for him when no one else would…he’s going to leave me behind!

But he can’t, can he?  Because of the chain.

Togs’ expression changes.  He lets out a noise of rage, half-grunt, half-snarl.  And he pushes his feet into the ground and yanks back his arm as hard as he can.  I stumble and trip over his outstretched foot but ultimately keep my balance and shove him into the hillside.

He shoves me back.

And I slam my forehead into his own.

“ASSHOLE!” he screams, reeling back in agony.

“FUCK YOU!” I shout into his face, and his brow contorts with rage.  He pulls back his fist, the one connected to the chain, and my hand is drawn to his neck.  I bring the other up too and rush forwards, roaring with my drive for survival as I shove him to the grass by the graves, strangling the man as hard as I can.

Why him?  Why is it that he can pass, but I cannot?

His eyes bulge in surprise.  He chokes and splutters, grabbing and smacking my hands with his own, scratching; then he bares his teeth and reaches up, shoving his thumbs into my eyes.  One misses and strikes the edge of the socket with a painful thud, but the other plunges deep into my eye.  I reel back in pain, screaming:

“Go on then, bastard!  Kill me!  Kill me if you can!  Enjoy dragging around my fucking corpse, you dumb prick!  Kill me like you killed that little girl!”

Despair passes like a shadow across his face.  “IT WAS AN ACCIDENT, RUFUS!”  he shouts, his voice cracked and hoarse as he forces the words through his bruised windpipe; “YOU KNOW IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!”

His fist connects with my cheek, and I feel a tooth loosen in the side of my mouth with a sharp burst of pain.  My wrist is smacked across my lip as we stumble and stagger through the valley of graves.

He expects me to go down, but I do not.  I brace against him and punch into his stomach.  The air is forced from his lungs as I grab my comrade’s collar and shove him up against the nearest gravestone.  Tall, cracked and moss-covered, it rises like a twisted flower of stone.

“Then why did you drive away, Togs?  Why did you keep driving?  Drunk off your fucking ass…imagine if you’d hit someone else!  Do you even remember?  Maybe you DID!”

He thrashes and brings a fist up into my chin.  He tries to push me away, smacking the sides of his hands into my ears.  I keep shouting into his face:

“You don’t deserve to be FREE!  Do you think I even wanted to escape with YOU?  You’re a fucking menace, Togs, you dumb fuck!  You’re EVIL!  You’ll never get salvation!”

He screams and slams his head into mine, over and over, until I start to feel dizzy.  I release him and clutch my temples, grunting as I am slammed down hard onto the side of a low gravestone.

“I admitted what was I did was wrong, Rufus!  Always!  But you’re a fucking LIAR!  You ain’t never been an innocent man and you’ll burn for what you did!  You can’t even admit it to yourself!” he spits.  “You’re WEAK!”

“WEAK!?”  I choke out, fighting his hands away from my neck.  “You ran down your own ex’s daughter because you couldn’t handle a breakup like a grown man!  And I’M weak!?  YOU’RE the one who’s weak, you fucking child killer!”

The fight goes on.

The horse seems to watch with cold curiosity.

And eventually, Togs has the chain wrapped around my neck.  He pulls it tight with a foot against my shoulder.

“Togs!” I gasp out, scrabbling my hand around and trying to pull the chain away from his grip.

White light flashes at the edge of my vision.

“TOGS!”

I slam my hand against the grass, retching and convulsing.

“Please!”

And just as I think I am about to pass out, he releases his grip, and I fall face-first into the mud where I lie and gasp.  Spluttering and rolling onto my side, filling my lungs with the thin, wet air of the graveyard.

I do not move to strike Togs back.  Nor does he move against me.

We spend a few minutes recuperating.  Breathing.  Blinking.  Wiping the blood from our brows.

And when I finally turn to face him, he is looking up into the eyes of the great horse.  It stands completely still, and at this moment, it might as well be nothing more than a colossal statue.

“I’m sorry, Togs,” I say to him, my voice a wreck.

“Me too,” he replies.

“I don’t know why the curtain doesn’t let me pass.  Maybe it says something about my character over yours.  I don’t know.  And I’m sorry about what I said to you.  I- I didn’t mean it.”

“You were right though, Rufus,” Togs replies, wiping his eyes and running his fingers through his hair.  “I am what you said, a child-killer.  And I don’t-”  his voice breaks.

“-I don’t deserve salvation.”

I press my free hand against my jaw, and it throbs painfully.  “I…look, come on, Togs, you said it yourself.  It’s in the Bible, right?  Never too late to be redeemed.”

“I don’t know if I ever really believed all that, pal,”  says Togs, sadly.  He finally turns to look at me, taking his eyes away from the spirals of the horse.  “Do me a favor?  Come with me to the horse?”

He lifts his arm, and the chain rattles softly.  Droplets sprinkle down to the grass in the moonlight.

I stare at him in alarm.  “You wanna go closer to that thing?  But, Togs…”  I don’t know what to say.  I don’t understand his thought process.  “No, we need to keep moving.  Find a way to get me past the curtain..  Or…or find another way-”

“I don’t want to go through the curtain anymore, Rufus.  I’m done.  I’m just done.”  He looks behind him at the grave in the shape of a shooting star — the one carved like a child’s drawing.

“Togs.” My voice is quiet.  “Buddy.  Come on, man, please…”

“Just come with me to the horse, Rufus.  You still feel the same way about it, don’t you?  The dread?  I get that, and I’m sorry…but I don’t.  I see now.  Come on, pal.  Walk with me.”

And, after a moment of silence, I rise to my feet, grunting through the pain.  And the chain clinks as we walk to the nearest of the horse’s legs.

My pulse rises, and I try to keep from looking directly at it, but Togs strides forwards, unafraid.

“Thanks for helpin’ me out, Rufus,”  he says to me, the rain washing the blood down the side of his face.  “I hope you get the freedom you deserve one day.  I really, genuinely do.”

And he puts a hand on the horse’s enormous, scythe-like stone leg.

I watch as Togs evaporates as a cloud of dust into the air.  With nothing more than a soft sigh, his essence leaves his body, and his flesh dissolves at once like steam.  Only his bones are left behind, and they collapse into a pile at the base of the horse’s leg.

I stare in disbelief as the loose end of the chain drops through the air before bumping against my leg.  The bones clatter to join their fellows.

“Togs…?”  I whisper.

And the horse moves.

It raises its leg, slowly, and then the other.  It turns in a wide circle and mechanically strides away into the fog.  Fading into shadow, then disappearing altogether in the silver-gray.

* * * * * *

I made it out of the valley eventually, reader.

The death of Togs hit me harder than I would have expected, especially given not fifteen minutes earlier, I had felt prepared to kill the man myself.

Not that I think I would have done it, however.

There is enough blood on my hands.

But it took me a long time.  To get out, I mean.

The sun never rose.  The rain never let up.  And despite my best efforts, I could not pass the curtain.  I just couldn’t do it.  I searched the valley for hour after hour.  I drank the water that condensed on the grass.  I climbed the hills and hunted for a sign of escape for days, but I was always led back to the valley.

It was not until I had buried Togs’ bones that I could pass through the archway in the side of the hill.  Beneath the flickering fireflies.  I remember turning around one last time, watching as a gravestone grew out of the spot in which I had buried him.  It carved and formed itself into the shape of a little bird, about to take flight from its perch upon the branch of a small stone tree.

And so I left the valley.  I escaped.  I fled the country as I said I would.  I made it to the islands…and I’ve been here for months now, keeping as low a profile as I can…but there’s one thing that remains from my past life.

The chain.

The damned chain.

Empty at one shackle, of course, but still tightly affixed around my wrist on the other.  I cannot get it off, and I cannot get it unlocked, nor can I cut through it, no matter what I do or try.

And sometimes, I swear, especially at night…it is almost like I can feel someone tugging at the other end…

Rating: 9.33/10. From 3 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Darkly_Gathers
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Darkly_Gathers


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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After the Kool-Aid is Gone
Crisp Flash Fiction

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Creepypasta eater
Creepypasta eater
22 days ago

A little more backstory, for context, would be appreciated. But overall, great story. Very different from other pastas

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