The Skin-Collector

📅 Published on August 7, 2020

“The Skin-Collector”

Written by Corban Groshek
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Omega Black
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: 9.89/10. From 9 votes.
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Jessie wondered if she and her brother would have more in common if they had been identical twins.

The differences didn’t surface unless you spent several days watching them. Minus the lack of identical faces, they seemed to have the same bond that every other pair of twins had. They could finish each other’s sentences. They could communicate with a flash of a glance or eye movement. Yet as close as they were as siblings, they were still far apart as individuals.

Alec was a gun nut, as much as he could be without having his own. He read the magazines, knew all the makes and specs by heart, down to the magazine capacities and body mods and all else. That uncle that could talk about cars for three hours and you never understood a word? That’s how Alec was with guns. Yet he was cool-headed and aimed with a steady hand when his dad took him to the firing range.

So where Alec enjoyed blowing things up, Jessie liked blowing things out of proportion. Her parents swore that she would become a journalist as much as she loved sticking her nose in other people’s business. Hey, she may as well get paid for it.

One thing they would be sharing, like it or not, was the “new” car that their dad bought for their 16th birthday. The twins had already shared everything else: their living space, their food, their beds, their secrets. Sharing a car wouldn’t be an issue.

Jessie came unglued when she was led outside with her brother, both of them blindfolded, and then the blindfolds were snapped off to reveal the dull, slightly-rusted Plymouth with powder blue paint, freckled with rust. The brightest part of the car was the sloppy gift ribbon that had been wrapped around it.

Jessie forgot all about supper and couldn’t contain her excitement, begging her parents to let her and Alec take it for a drive right then.

They agreed, on two conditions. One, the more level-headed of the siblings would drive, and they all knew that meant Alec.  Two, they would check in every fifteen minutes. That last condition was more their mother’s than anyone else’s.

There had been a rash of disappearances in the area. It was a prickly frustration to officials because the targets had no rhyme or reason. No consistent age or location. Rich, poor, North, South, East or West… It didn’t matter.

They had found a warm body to pin the crimes on. An unshorn and bug-eyed character that was barely fit to stand trial. He was the type that would take responsibility for the extinction of the dinosaurs if asked. But he pleaded guilty to the kidnappings, spouting wild and incoherent explanations for motives and locations of disposal and so forth, giving law enforcement and forensics a thick and chunky soup of logic to wade through. It was better than nothing. Better than believing the monster was still out there.

The whole thing blew over just before spring, and by the time the twins had a new car to play with, it was the first chill of autumn. But parental instincts run deep and will make good moms and dads jump at shadows long after there’s no longer a threat casting them.

Alec was driving and Jessie had shotgun. She lazed back, her feet up on the dashboard. The joke was on them, really. They thought that they were getting extra freedom and their dad was a really awesome guy. Which he was, but his gift wasn’t completely unselfish. Now they could drive themselves to school. They lived out in the sticks and making it to school on time had meant a rise-and-shine that their parents never got used to. Not anymore.

Better yet, the news that they would be carpooling by themselves was received with nothing but joyful teenage capering.

And so the twins cruised. Jessie couldn’t leave the radio alone. Alec enjoyed himself also, just silently. Before long, Mom was saying that it was time to head in, wherever they were. Alec agreed. He was tired in spite of the fun he was having. And he had to admit it: Jessie was exhausting. No amount of brotherly love would change that fact.

“Alright, let’s go home,” he grunted.

His sister sat bolt upright in her chair with worry lines splayed across her forehead. The universal sign that whining was about to commence.

“Please take the long way home, Alec! Please!”

“I can’t take the long way if I don’t even know where we are.” And he didn’t. They had meandered so much that he had lost his bearings of where they sat on the rural map.

“Just try to wander around a little more on the way home, you know? Like, don’t go in a straight line to get there.”

“This is Obed County. It’s impossible to go in a straight line on these backroads.”


“Okay, okay, I’ll try.”

Alec tried to steer towards anything interesting in the landscape.

He slowed down for one last place. It looked to be an oversized barn. Its abandoned condition made it look like a gravestone. The length of the grass and weeds announced that nobody was taking care of the place.

A gravel path led off to the property and wound around the opposite side of the barn. The barn was close enough to the country road that the twins could read the faded logo of a feed company that flaked off of the barn wall. The broad structure glowered at them as they glided behind the old oaks that shadowed the road.

He and his sister gazed at the ancient building as it began to catch a few of the changing colors of the setting sun.

“Alright, that’s it for our new car’s maiden voyage,” Alec said as he sped up and opened his GPS app.

Jessie continued to stare out the window.

“We never really knew that place was there, did we?” Alec asked, talking to the back of his sister’s head. She was fully turned toward the window. “Can you call Mom and tell her that we’re close?” he asked.

No answer.

Will you call Mom?”

She continued to stare out the window.

He frowned to himself. Sixteen years old and he was still the more mature of the two. She was pouting now that they had to go home. They had been driving around for the better part of an hour. There wasn’t any reason to feel shortchanged.

Then again, he didn’t deal with the restless impulses that his sister did. Something inside of her was always eager to throw off the next restraint and rocket towards the next degree of freedom. From that standpoint, he could understand if she wasn’t happy that they had to head in.

He made the phone call to their mother, who was happy to hear that they were on their way. It had been a long hour for her.

They pulled into the driveway of their two-story ranch house. He killed the motor and looked over at his sister. She was still looking out the window.

“What are you waiting for? Let’s go,” he said. She didn’t move a muscle.

He scratched his head and got out of the car and walked around to open the passenger door for her. He tapped on his phone’s flashlight and shone it in her face. Whatever she was staring at with her wide brown eyes, she didn’t see or hear her brother. That’s when he ran to get their parents.

They wrapped her in a blanket and set her on the couch in front of the TV, where she stared intently but saw nothing.

Then after about fifteen minutes, she started to come around just as their mother was about to call an ambulance. Alec was the first to notice that she was looking around.

“Sis? Sis!”

He grabbed her by her shoulders and gave her a brotherly shake.

“I lost you for a minute there. What happened?”

“I saw Emma.”

* * * * * *

There was only one person that was as close to Jessie as her brother, and it was Emma. She was one of the missing persons. They never found her. Never found any trace of her. One minute she was there and the next minute she wasn’t. She vanished from her bedroom no less. Nobody felt safe after hearing that, knowing that it wasn’t simply a case of wrong place, wrong time. You weren’t even safe in your own home.

Tears carved paths down Jessie’s face, her eyes looking less wild. Her parents sat on the couch on either side of her. Alec stood with his hands in his pockets.

“You say you saw Emma?” her father said.


“Where did you see her?”

“On the wall of the barn.”

They looked at Alec and he shook his head in denial.

“Was she hanging like someone had hurt her?”

“She was climbing. She was sitting on the wall like a frog, or like Spiderman. She looked right at me. I mean, right at me. She wasn’t looking at the car. She was looking at me.”

Her family exchanged concerned looks with each other.

“There were trees growing by the road, sis,” Alec added. “It wasn’t that easy to see the barn. Maybe it was the light and shadow of the leaves.”

“It wasn’t,” she said. “It wasn’t, it wasn’t, it wasn’t.”

Here she placed her face in one hand. The evening closed without any sense of finality. Jessie’s family insisted that her eyes were playing tricks on her and she wouldn’t have it.

The twins got in the car to go to school. Alec could pass as rested. Jessie looked the same as the night before, just without the tears.

Alec watched her as closely as he could. They didn’t have more than two classes together besides the lunch period. He noted that she tried to talk and smile with her friends, but the gloom in her eyes that settled in the night before was still there. It didn’t leave for days. Then weeks.

It remained like a devil perched on her shoulder clear up until the day when their mother came into the bedroom and announced that the usual road to the school was blocked off and that they’d have to find another way into town.

It was when they had left the driveway that Jessie said, “Could we drive by the barn again?” Yes, the barn that hosted Jessie’s hallucination was now referred to as the barn.

“What? Why?”

“The road it’s on goes into town and doesn’t put us far from the school.”

Alec eyed her.

“Is that what I saw you looking at on Google Maps last night?”

“I just want to see it again.”

Alec didn’t. He didn’t get the creeps from the place, but he didn’t like what it was doing to his sister. Like any proper twin brother, when she hurt, he hurt.

But he couldn’t come up with a concrete reason as to why they couldn’t drive by the old place on the way to school.

So they did.

A silence dragged on until they took a parking space at the school.

“Did you see anything?” Alec muttered.

“No,” she said.

The school day came and went, and Jessie asked Alec to drive by the barn on the way home.

She asked him to drive by the barn the next day. To and from school. And he went. He guessed that it was a part of the healing process that nobody knew was unfinished.

They hawked the place every day until their usual road reopened.

One drive home, like any other, Jessie asked him to drive by the barn again. He was starting to lose track of how many times she had asked him to go by the place and the weight of it all sat on him a little heavier each time. But he was a good brother and he obliged.

The great hulk of the old place came up over the bend again, and she asked him to slow down.

The little car crept by the barn. She asked him to stop the car when they were in front of it. He looked at her.

“Are you wanting to check the place out?” he asked.

“No. I just want to listen.”

He looked at all the mirrors, looked around them and hesitated, and then he killed the motor. The stillness of Obed County stole in and instantly lessened the weight of what they were doing. The breeze was a soothing whisper. Redwing blackbirds trilled in the distance.

Jessie wouldn’t look at the barn. She just sat like she was tuning in to her ears more than she was her eyes. And then, as if with much effort or with a stiff neck, she turned to look at the same wall where she thought she saw her friend.

“You’re still broken up over Emma, huh?” The sound of her brother’s voice made her jump. “Sorry about that.”

She nodded.

“She was starting to fade away. And then I suddenly saw her. Literally climbing the wall. It was like something out of a nightmare. It was so cool to see her and it was so scary at once.” She chewed on one knuckle. “I just wanted to see her again, that’s all. If I didn’t see her, what did I see?”

Alec eyed the mirrors. They were still alone on the road.

“I still think I see Lucky. I see him pretty often, actually. That cat made more of an impression on me than I thought.”

The attempt at small talk didn’t get his sister to bite.

There was a low sound like distant thunder that made the twins do a double-take. A sort of low rumble could be felt in the body of the car. There was a half-empty Coke bottle in the drink holder and the dark liquid rippled. Alec looked this way and that looking for the thunderheads. The sky was clear.

It grew louder. It was a purring roar like a panther, only heavier, thicker, and it peaked to a point where there was a shrill cry laid over it like a cry of pain, or a distressed child. The sound made Jessie’s insides twist and excited a terror in her without a nameable cause. Alec’s instincts made him start the car and peel out. Both of them looked into each other’s blanched faces. Alec was shaken but had his wits about him. His sister, though, looked like she had been kicked back into the dark place that she had just crawled out of.

Then came the obvious questions.

“What do you think that was?” she said.

He didn’t answer. She answered for him.

“It sounded like exotic animals.”

He nodded. He could see that her chest was rising and falling faster, then starting to pick up speed like a piston.

“If I saw Emma, and we then just heard animals like large cats…” She looked at him in mounting terror. “What if they’re illegally keeping large vicious animals in that barn and feeding people to them? Oh, God, Alec! What if they’re going to feed Emma to a lion or a tiger?”

Alec’s eyes ticked back and forth as if looking for an exit. But he was in a moving car, so there wasn’t one. Jessie’s eyes were also bouncing around as she connected the dots, one terrifying connection after another, and she began babbling in a sort of panicked squeak, and she was getting louder.

Alec began urging her to calm down. And he discovered that never in the history of telling someone else to calm down, did they ever calm down when told to calm down.

Jessie had become manic and babbled breathlessly all the rest of the way to the school.

“Sis, knock it off!” Alec finally said. And just like that, she was quiet. “Let’s go, okay? I’m sorry. Just… let’s go.”

There didn’t seem to be any further issues until the next day at lunch. She was quiet for the ride up, but when Alec was carrying his lunch tray into the commons, his friend Brad came up to him and said,

“Hey, Alec, you might want to get your sister some downers.”

Alec’s heart rate picked up when he entered the commons. The only voice he could really hear was Jessie’s. It was the same torrential speech that he had heard in the car, and that could only mean one thing.

She was running her mouth full auto to a group of girls leaning in at the same table, and they were getting the whole thing, from the climber on the barn wall to the strange sound that spooked her and her brother.

Some of the girls began laughing scornfully at Jessie and making fun of her. Others were getting angry. How could she disrespect Emma like that? It’s bad enough that the girl vanished. The situation didn’t need to be revived just for being part of an elaborate attention stunt.

Alec just hoped that nobody pieced together that they had been on somebody else’s property.

One of the counselors poked her head into Jessie’s third-hour English. She got her attention and asked her to come into the hallway. “Come see me after school?” she asked. “Just fifteen minutes.”

Jessie touched base with Alec to make time for the meeting. Great. Now everyone thought Jess was going cuckoo. And you know what? Maybe she was.

* * * * * *

The ticking of the clock in the counselor’s tiny office was just a little too loud for Jessie. It sounded like it was leading up to something like a bomb. The two of them just stared at each other for a long moment.

“I hear that you feel that you spotted Emma Warner.”

Jess kept her eyes to the floor.

“Don’t you want to talk about it?”

“Me and my brother got our own car. And we drove a different way to school than normal. We drove by an old barn that we didn’t know was there before. I saw Emma in front of the barn.”

“Did she look hurt?”

“No, not that I could tell.”

“Did you go back?”

“We drove by several times while the road out of town was closed.”

“Did you see her again?”


“Then what happened?”

“I just wanted to see if we could spot her one last time. Even if she wasn’t real, I wanted to see whatever it was that I was seeing as being her. So we drove by again and we heard something. Something terrible. It sounded like a lion’s roar, or a tiger’s. I wasn’t sure. And it sounded like someone was screaming. I started thinking that maybe Emma had been kidnapped and was being kept there, maybe with others and they were being fed to the big animals and…”

Jess was losing her composure. The counselor’s features were both sympathetic and stern. Her eyebrows were cinched, but her gaze was steady.

“I’m not going to judge, Miss Shepherd. But you do realize how this sounds.”

Jessie looked down again.

“I think you might be experiencing some shade of PTSD from your loss of Emma. And I’ll tell you that you’re not alone. You’re not the only student that has brought her up in the last few weeks.”

“So you don’t believe me.”

“Well, if Emma was being held for the purpose of being food for animals, I doubt you would have seen her out in the open. Let alone climbing a wall so freely.”

Jessie hung her head.

“Miss Shepherd, there’s no shame in being overwhelmed. You’re no dummy. But we are fragile creatures. Stress and sadness will do these things to a rational person over time.”

“My brother is waiting for me.”

“Don’t keep him waiting then. Remember, my door is always open.”

* * * * * *

Over the days that followed, Jess was quiet about her experiences at school but at home, especially after Alec was in bed trying to sleep, she was at his bedside, staring at him until he would open his eyes and ask her what was wrong.

“What’s up, sis?”

“They have Emma. I know they do. Someone has her at that barn and is going to feed her to animals if they haven’t already!”

It was merely annoying the first few nights but after the fifth night, Alec had enough and he was all about some sort of plan of action.

“So what do you want to do?” he hissed at her as she stood over his bed with wide and sleepless eyes.

“We need to investigate,” she said.

That was both the answer he expected and the last thing he thought he would hear.

“Really, sis?”

“It would be the biggest local exposé ever. I’ve got the camera. We can find a way to be there long enough to find out what’s going on and turn it all in to the authorities. We’ll be heroes. And we’ll save innocent people that don’t deserve to be eaten, like Emma.”

“Okay. For one thing, we are not storming somebody else’s property with a video camera. Second, even if there really is a collection of big cats in that barn, how are we going to rescue anyone from them? Neither of us is allowed to just lift dad’s guns, right? Picking a fight with panthers calls for bullets.”

“We can’t just sit back and do nothing,” she whisper-whined. “If I’m right, then my friend is in serious trouble, along with who knows who else. The world has decided they’re all dead and they might not be. They might be up against something worse than death and we’re the only ones that have seen any signs of life out of that old place. If they’re in there and they’re in danger, then the clock is ticking!”

Alec slid his jaw to the side in thought.

“We’ll either have to do it on the way to school or on the way back, and we can’t let anyone know what we’re up to. We’ll have to come up with a cover story to explain why we’re either late for school or late coming home.”

And that was the first time Alec had seen something like relief in his sister’s eyes for days.

They decided that they would investigate early in the morning, when people and animals would most likely be asleep.

Alec phoned the school stating that they could be a few minutes late on account of vehicle issues. The school didn’t question it.

They made the bold move of leaving for school twenty minutes early. Nobody at home questioned it. The universe had officially sanctioned this investigation.

It was a dismal morning. A spectral sheet of fog engulfed the landscape in a world of shortsightedness that was revealed a few feet at a time. It scared Jessie. Alec thought that it was perfect from a tactical standpoint.

They found the barn despite the feeling of being lost. And just like that, they turned on to the barn’s gravel path for the first time. They could see the roof hovering over the world above the fog.

The untended grass was even taller up close and it drifted out of the fog like seaweed in murky water. The barn emerged, a shipwreck haunted by birds instead of fish. The path curved around the barn, taking the twins to the opposite side of the building. Here was quite an expanse of gravel hemmed in by a tide of tall grass. Alec was the first one to feel it. The sensation that they weren’t alone. A luminous flickering created an orange ghost in the fog. The twins got out of the car and approached. They found a burning barrel.

“There’s someone here, Jess. We have to leave.”

“We just got here,” she said, and she stepped back from the barrel as soon as she had peered in. Alec came over to look. Among the rubbish in the barrel, blackened with red pulsating embers, were several bones. Large bones. There were fragments of ribs in the mix. The sight of them made Alec uncomfortable. There was a flash and the recorded sound of a camera. Jessie was taking pictures with her phone. She cursed to herself when she realized she hadn’t silenced the sound effect.


“There, the sound’s off now, okay?” she said.

They stalked toward the barn, which cast a shadow through the fog making it seem even darker and gloomier than it actually was. Jess held her phone up with shaking hands, a blinking red light indicating that she was recording. Alec was completely dialed into his tactical senses. He couldn’t see much. But he didn’t see anything that indicated the presence of hostages or zoo exhibits. He was waiting for a hidden camera to give itself away with a blinking red light. But there was nothing. Sounds? There was the crackling of the barrel behind them, a gentle sound. The breeze teased his ears.

A high humming sound appeared. He almost thought it was human until the breeze relented enough that he could hear that it was flies. A few clouds of flies churned hither and yon, and they filled the air with their dissonant song. And then there was another hum, but he felt it before he heard it. It was a vibration in the ground itself that became a subsonic rumble, like distant thunder. It made Jessie freeze in her tracks. The twins looked at each other. The sound swelled again. There was a third sound. Speech. The staccato whispering of a single voice that repeated the same thing over and over again in a harsh whisper.

“It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit.”

The twins neared another congregation of flies, but it seemed that they flocked around something solid and tall. The sun filtered through the fog to give the figure a rusty red color as its skinless muscles flexed and twisted with its furious activity. It was stitching something to its own body. The needle was a shard of bone. Patches of loose skin that had clearly belonged to someone else hung around the creature’s flailing torso and arms as it tried to make it part of its own body, and it just wasn’t working.

“It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit.”

The creature wasn’t human. The ill-gotten skin was. It snapped its head in the direction of the twins and it froze along with them. The gelatinous black eyes had a gloss to them that shifted, telling Alec that it was looking them over.

The twins decided to run. The thing decided to chase.

No sooner had Jess’s door shut than Alec had fumbled the keys into the ignition and put the car in reverse and turned in a half-arc. Just as he threw the car into Drive, the skinless thing threw itself against Jessie’s passenger window. Blood and saliva and other things rained on the glass as the creature began barking. Its sunken black eyes were wide with the universal language of madness. It’s unnaturally low voice rattled the bones of the twins but the same throat overlaid its bellow with a shrill squeal that could rend eardrums. Alec recognized the sound right away as he felt his own jaw rattling.

He peeled out of there, flinging gravel every which way. The creature’s echoing bark becoming speech:

“Fit! Fit! FIT! FIT! FIT!”

* * * * * *

The next day, both of the Shepherd twins looked like ghosts that had seen a ghost. They didn’t have much to say to each other – or anyone else – for several days.

As usual, Alec was the first to shrug off the shock and don a mask of normalcy. Just in time for their mother to ask about what was bothering the two of them. He explained it away as stress over school.

“We could have dreamed it, couldn’t we?” Jessie said as she stood in her brother’s bedroom, gazing out the window. He sat on his bed glued to his phone.


“It was foggy outside, and our senses were heightened.  We were expecting to see something.”


“Come on, Alec. I’ve been having really bad dreams. I want this whole thing to just be a bad dream. Aren’t you being affected by this at all?”

Alec didn’t respond. Then Jessie added, “Did you get any good footage?”

“I got pictures of everything but the… thing.”

Alec held up his phone. He showed her a series of pictures taken from the driver’s seat of the car. Jess was caught in poses that would be comical in any other context. The window was a blur with a face that couldn’t quite be made out, complete with the silhouettes of clawed hands that were also blurred from frenzied movement.

“You actually got it,” she said in a small voice.

“They aren’t good shots.”

“Yeah, but you actually got it, for real,” Jessie touched her face with trembling hands and then took his phone to look at it more closely.

There was something about Jessie’s reaction to the photos that made Alec want to delete them. Seeing the creature had shaken up both of them, but she was already shaken up before.

In the morning, Alec got up before everyone else and he deleted the photos. No big loss. They could have been faked by anyone with a Halloween mask. They didn’t prove the existence of any strange monster or the cause of the disappearance of any lost friends.

Alec walked into the school lunch commons to hear Jessie’s voice once again babbling, but this time it was high with tensions and it was joined by a gaggle of other voices. Nobody was laughing at her this time. They were all mad. One of the girls surrounding Jessie took her phone from her and dashed it to the floor, cracking the screen.

Their parents were called to the school for an “emergency” meeting. Alec stood outside the door to the counselor’s office, leaning against the wall, bouncing his shoulders off of it.

The first to come out were his parents, both wearing expressions of concern. Next came Jessie with flushed cheeks.

“We’ll see you when you get home,” his mom said as she touched his forearm and kept going, leaving Alec alone with Jessie in the hallway.

“You transferred the pictures from my phone, didn’t you?” he said.

The way she looked at the floor said enough.

“It was the closest thing I had to evidence.”

“Yeah? Of what?”

“What we had seen and heard. And maybe of what happened to Emma.”

Alec folded his arms and turned away to roll his eyes. “So, what did they say?”

“That I imagined all of it, and that I need help.”

“Yeah, well, maybe they’re right. Let’s go,” he said.

“You can’t just say that! You were there, too! You saw and heard the same things I did.”

He reached out to take her arm, but she shrank away.

“How do you know that wasn’t Emma’s skin that it was putting on?”

“Jessie! Come on!”

Jessie wouldn’t “come on”. She took off down the school corridor faster than Alec cared to chase. He felt the last layer of his patience eroding, a process that had been in the works for weeks. You know what they say happens when the guy that never snaps finally does.

He stepped outside to cool off. It didn’t take him long, about ten minutes. He began pacing the parking lot and glancing at the school doors on each pass. Jessie was still in there.

He got out his phone to text her.

SmartAlec: Okay Sis. We rly need to get outa here.

Another defiant five minutes passed.

SmartAlec: I know ur mad, but lets go home and get this day behind us, k?

His phone dinged two minutes later.

JessieKisses: It hurts Alec.

SmartAlec: I know it does. Let’s get home. We’ll feel better when we all get home.

JessieKisses: It hurts because it doesn’t fit.

Alec’s forehead wrinkled for half a second before the adrenaline hit him. He called her phone. No answer. He called again.

She answered.

“Jessie? Hello? Can you hear me?”

A low rumbling sound like an amplified purr filled his ear. Then the call dropped. He nearly tore the door off its hinges when he stormed back into the school. One of the teachers spotted him.

“Young man, we’ll be locking the doors soon, and you’ll need to be off the premises. Young man? Young man?”

The teacher faded away as Alec marched past. He held up his phone and continually redialed Jessie’s number.

The teacher followed him from a distance while shouting.

Shut up, shut up, shut up, Alec mouthed to himself. That’s when he heard it. His sister’s music box ringtone. Muffled and distant. One last redial, and he followed the hollow sound to the ladies’ room. There was the sound of a crash just before he burst into the bathroom to find the phone sitting on the grate in the center of the floor. Streaks of blood led away from it and up and across the walls and out a shattered window. Alec tumbled to his knees.

* * * * * *

The looks that the school counselor had given to Jessie were then given to Alec as he rose to validate his sister’s story. Suddenly he was just as adamant as she had been that there was a skin-thieving alien on the loose. Alec had no appetite for drama, so explaining his behavior rationally was impossible.

It hit the news that the kidnapper was still at large and that whoever was rotting in prison must have been the wrong man.

Was this how Jessie felt when she was trying to tell Alec and her parents and her peers and… everyone… that she saw something out there that couldn’t be explained? Alone? Isolated by 100% of the people in her world?

Authorities were looking for Jessie for several weeks. Then they transitioned to just looking for a body. A body that wouldn’t turn up like all the others hadn’t.

The funeral was abysmal without any remains to lay to rest.

Life went on with a limp.

* * * * * *

Alec lay awake in bed. Nothing unusual for him. He had spent every single day since his sister’s disappearance thinking about her. His other half. His wild, untamed counterpart.

He knew she was dead. He just knew. If she were still out there somewhere, he would be able to feel it. The distance he felt inside of himself was a sanity-crushing ache.

A breeze stirred him from the uneasy sleep that had overtaken him. The curtains around his open window billowed and swayed. He liked sleeping with the window open and would do so until it was simply too cold for it.

He was about to slip back under the tide of sleep when a voice drifted inside.


Sleep fled him, replaced by a strange sort of anxiety. The name was on his lips before it was in his thoughts.


He was at the window in an instant. Nobody answered him, and no one confronted him. He threw on some clothes and went outside. It was a full moon, and it was directly overhead with no shadows to cast.

There was still nobody. That is, until he turned to go back inside.

A familiar shape blocked the door. It stepped forward, and the face of his sister was revealed. But it wasn’t her eyes in those dark sockets that were boiling with black madness.

“Alec,” she said with a smooth voice that trailed into a deep purr. “Alec, it hurts.”

She slowly came toward him, allowing him to see that her shape was all wrong. Like the body underneath wasn’t made for the skin.

“It hurts because it doesn’t fit.”

Rating: 9.89/10. From 9 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Corban Groshek
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Omega Black
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Corban Groshek

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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