- Note: This is a sequel to Starving Dogs
It had been years since I had last kept in touch with Stephen, and I wish now that it had stayed that way.
Stephen and I first met in Primary School. Even at nine years old each, we were often teased and bullied because we weren't like the other children. We had no interest in sport and listened to rock and metal music. We played musical instruments and video games, not football or hockey. We were shy around people and all we really had were each other. We were seen as outcasts at such an early age.
Yet, this didn't bother us. To this day, it still doesn't really. Yeah ok, sometimes I detested the teasing and ridiculing, but I had a happy childhood. My parents treated me well and I was never sick. The strange fact about me is I have never broken a bone. Nor have I had a serious illness. Never even had the flu. I've had the odd head cold and stomach bug, but nothing too serious.
My sister was two years older than me (two years and a month to be exact). She dressed and acted what most people would have described as "a tomboy". She always looked out for me, stood up for me; hell, even beat people up for me. As I got older I got better at standing up for myself. What I lacked in body strength I made up for in intelligence (not to sound cocky or anything).
People who would insult I would just either ignore or tell them what I thought of them. I used big words that nobody could really comprehend at the age of 14. They would just splurt out something unoriginal and stupid like "yeah, well, you're gay" and what not. Brilliant!
As I got older, I began to get accepted again. Stephen was always accepted by people in Secondary (High) School, but for me it seemed to take a while. Around the age of 16 if I re-call. I guess people just mature.
However, it was around this time that Stephen started acting strangely.
It was nothing too major. Hell, back then I didn't even see it as a problem. He started growing a huge interest in Psychology. The study of the human brain of course. He would often go and played tricks and mind games on people, asking people questions and "testing" them. I remember one day I was queuing at the vending machine for my daily Mars bar (Yummy) and he came over and asked me "Would you be willing to skip to the front of the queue right now if you knew there was only one Mars bar left?
My answer instantly was "No, of course not". People in my school often did skip the queue, but I never really did. I guess I’m just not that type of person. It didn't really bug me. His reply is what got to me though. "Ah but you see, your subconscious is telling you that the people in front of you are younger than you. They're inferior to you. You could easily knock them all out of your way and they will be helpless to stop you. However, society sees this act as uncivilized, cruel, unsophisticated if you wish."
This response had startled me a little, but I brushed it off. (Probably should've told someone looking back). The time for College came around and, surprise surprise, Stephen did a course in Psychology. I wanted to go to the same university as him to do studies in Human Resource Management, but I didn't get the requirements so I ended up going to another college instead. We often kept in touch every weekend. He was still the same ol' Ste (nickname), a great laugh, a nice guy, big heart. Very sincere and brutally honest at times, but that was what I loved about him.
His love of Psychology continued to grow and grow and grow. Often he would openly talk about the experiments of Freud, Adler and other famous Psychologists.
Sometimes he would talk about their experiments when we were with our group of friends. Some of them were disturbing, such as "The Prison Experiment". Others were brutal, like an experiment carried out after a Jewish boy’s penis had been accidentally burned off in a circumcision, where they tried to convince him from an early age that he, was in fact, a she. The result? All family members, including "her" had turned to some sort of substance abuse and/or killed themselves. Damn.
Anyway, we were still the best of friends into our twenties. He met the girl of his dreams and dated her for seven months before popping the question. Her name was Emily. Bit soon I thought, but I was happy for him. He treated her like an absolute princess. He was her knight in shining armour. They adored each other. I was a proud best man, passionately delivered a speech (around six minutes if I remember correctly). The ceremony was beautiful.
I regret to say that after that I didn't see him much. I only got to communicate every few weeks or so, which turned into months, which then turned into years. It had been six years since I last heard from him. Often I had forgotten about him. My job as a Health & Safety Manager had gotten in the way. I was often busy during weekdays. I shared a small flat with three of my work mates, Paul, Rita and Alexandria. Very city-centre like apartment. A large window in the sitting room gave way to a great view of the city. All the skyscrapers unintentionally decorated the place. Strange modern art portraits on the walls. It was simple but nice. Had everything you needed. We went out to nightclubs and pubs most weekends and we were all good buddies. I hadn't seen my High School friends for years.
One weekend in a particularly cold March, Rita, Paul and Alexandria had went for a week away to Greece (Staying with Alex's mother) so I had the whole weekend and flat to myself. I decided I would get in touch with my old buddy Stephen. I still had his cell phone number (and his wife’s one for that matter) so I called both numbers. Neither answered. In fact, both went straight to voice mail. I decided to chat him on Facebook. He wasn't online so I sent him an e-mail. Upon doing so I scrolled through his page and it was then that I realised that the last post he had up was over four years ago. Wow! He must've just gone off it. I never really shook off the Facebook fad. Even now I find myself on it everyday and putting up stupid statuses.
With a whole weekend free, I decided I would drive out to his house and catch up. There is no way that he had moved house. He definitely would have told me if he had. He always informed me of almost everything big in his life. I was the only guy he told that he was going to marry Emily. They had now been together nine years if my memory serves me correctly. I hoped by driving out that I wasn't intruding in or anything. After all the two of them and myself got on very well. So it was decided. With that I packed my bags, well bag (nothing to lose really, in case he asked me to stay the night) and hopped into my Volkswagen and hit the open road. I still remembered the route to his house, and it was only a 40 minute drive from my apartment (an hour if there was traffic, but I highly doubted there would be at noon on a Saturday).
The drive had taken a little longer than expected. The area which he lived was still affected by a few inches of snow. The salt trucks must not highly regard this community. A pity as it was a wonderful neighbourhood. Wealthy 1950-esque housing. Very classy looking. Quite large. Wysteria lane almost. Trees lined the paths on the route. The snow just brought out the best of it.
As I arrived to his house it instantly stood out from the rest but not for a good reason. His house was dark, the colour had badly faded, the grass was long and messy, looked like nobody had been there for years. The same car from six years ago when I last saw him was still in the driveway however. Shiny Audi A4. Time had done it no favours though. Weeds rather than flowers decorated the lawns. After analysing the garden only then had I realised the windows were all boarded up. I had missed my chance. Why didn't he tell me he was gone? Why had he left his car here? I had to find out. Luckily enough for me his neighbour was doing the gardening. I approached him. Tall skinny man in his sixties. Wore a flowery hat and plain white shirt. Smiling. Looked friendly.
"Excuse me but could you tell me where exactly Stephen is now?" I enquired. "Oh I don't think he's been there for a while now," he replied. "Strange thing is nobody saw anybody leave. The whole family just seem to disappear. People behind the house say they only ever saw Stephen in the top floor room, and one day, he just, disappeared." "That's... st-strange," I stuttered. I was getting anxious now. He answered "Yep, anytime anyone called over, nobody answered. Things used to be different. I remembered they used to be great neighbours, and then one day things just... changed." He looked at the ground in confusion as he said and then wandered inside. I had to know what was going on.
I took a closer inspection of the house. I got an eerie feeling from it. Like it was watching me. Sounds ridiculous but that’s the truth. I noticed however that the garage door was open. I could see a door leading inside of the house. I looked around to see if there was anyone watching me. Nobody. I hesitantly walked towards the garage. About halfway up the drive I noticed security cameras following my every move. He was always a secure person, but this looked like a nice neighbourhood to me. So what was up here?
The garage was pretty normal to me. Regular enough. A shelf of tools. Old junk you never threw away lying around. Dusty old cardboard boxes and what not. I placed my hand on the doorknob that gave me entry to this house. Twisted. No luck. Damn! I searched around the garage in hope of finding a key. I looked through old paint cans, in drawers and on shelves. Nothing. After standing there for a while thinking I had reached a dead end I got an idea. As I mentioned earlier, I was never a man of strength or brute force. However now was the time I needed it most. I took a few steps and ran full force into the brown, dirty door. Ouch, my shoulder. Repeated my actions. Same result. Finally, I took a few more steps back and jumped straight into it. The door flung open with me still going full speed through it. I was not expecting a narrow hallway to greet my head. Again, ouch.
As I stood up from the door which was now diagonally standing from its bottom frame to the hallway ceiling, I slipped awkwardly through one of the gaps I had created. I studied the house that I was now in. It was definitely not how I remembered it. He had completely let his home go. The floorboards were rotting, dust and cobwebs everywhere, broken frames and pictures scattered across the floor, appliances covered in dirt and grime, but the first I noticed was the smell. Disgusting I must say. Have you ever been unfortunate enough to smell a wet dog? Well this house reeked of it. What the hell was going on?
Upon further inspection the rest of the house was pretty much the same and I decided to explore the upstairs. Still as I remembered it, it was like déjà vu with a hint of nightmare and a sprinkle of dread. The house itself gave me a horrible gut wrenching feeling. Upstairs was no different from downstairs either. Dirty ceiling, ripped and filthy carpet (downstairs was wooden floor, upstairs was carpet) holes in the wall. Out of the blue a rat jumped out from one of them. Made me jump out of my skin. Was not expecting that. That woke me up more. Made me alert. And that's when I noticed that room. There can be no description for what I was about to encounter. It was far worse than my worst expectations.
At first I noticed a glowing light. Then I noticed that it was a LED screen. I walked over ever so slowly. The curtains were closed and the room was dark apart from that screen. Approaching I noticed more items. A chair. A desk. A filing cabinet. This must of been the room the old man was talking about. Standing right at the door I noticed the top of a head. Someone was sitting on it. Tears streamed down my face uncontrollably. "St-ste-stephen," I whimpered. I was trembling like an earthquake at this stage. No response. "Ste- Ste-STEPHEN!" I suddenly roared with a distraught flare. Again, no response. I had no choice. I closed my eyes. Reached out in front of me. Grabbed it. Swung it around slowly. Every second feeling like a minute of mental torture. I could not bring myself to see what had happened. But I had to. I couldn't just run away from it all. That's what Stephen always told me. Stand up to your fears. Well I was afraid right now. Absolutely terrified. Confused. Alone. Part of me wanted to run, but I couldn't. I opened my eyes.
Pale wide white eyes instantly stared back at me. I groaned loudly to the shocking scene I was witnessing. Giant rotting wounds with maggots crawling in and out were on his throat and head. Only looking at them I could feel them crawling all over me. Rusty old pistol still frozen in one of his dangling hands. The small frown on his face just killed me. I collapsed to the floor instantly and buried my face within my palms. Sobbing frantically. I was in another world. I began to doubt reality. This couldn't be real. I was just imagining things. But my imagination is not this powerful. This is too insidious to be one of my nightmares. I slowly began to stand back up. I didn't even look at him. I just couldn't. I just tip-toed past him. Every muscle in the upper half of my body was completely stuck. Then out of nowhere I grabbed the chair, ran with it, rolling it along the hallway and violently thrashed it down the stairs. "FUCK YOU STEPHEN. YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO DO THIS. WHY THE FUCK DID YOU THIS YOU SON OF A BITCH. YOU DESTROYED SO MANY MEMORIES OF MINE!”
I paused for a second. My own outburst had frightened me. Staring at the laid out body at the end of the stairs with an office chair on it. I walked quickly into the room to examine it. I had to know what was going on whether I liked it or not. I studied the LED screen. CCTV footage? I stepped forward for a closer look and what I saw was too much to handle. A plain room with no objects in it whatsoever. Plain white room apart from a giant blood stain on a section of the wall and pools of blood in places. Three bodies laid there motionless. Two children side by side and a woman’s body near the wall underneath the blood. Shaking, I slowly stepped back. Vomit. Out of nowhere I just vomited out of pure disgust and shock. "What was going on?" I just kept asking myself. How could there be four dead people in a house without somebody noticing?
I took another look around the room. The desk was covered in old pens and papers. Scrawled out notes. Dirty mugs with coffee rings in them and on them. I opened the curtains for a better view of the room. A framed picture of Freud lay on the far wall. Everything here was dusty, cobwebs on the corner of the window. A cabinet stood beside the desk. The top cabinet labelled "Expt: starving dogs" was highlighted. The other two were labelled "Notes" and "Accessories". The top drawer was locked. No way I was going to force this one open. Especially after everything I had just been through. I looked around the desk and its drawers for a key. I looked for about two minutes. Top left drawer. Bingo! A small silver key. A clicking and rolling sound meant I was greeted with a few tapes and a folder. The folder just labelled "Starving dogs" and the tapes labelled "Day 1" "Day 9" "Day 42" "Day 104" "Day 235" and finally "Day 401". After I grabbed all the tapes and the folder and ran out of there. Again I had just leaped over his body and ran for the door to the garage.
As I was running I suddenly stalled. There was one last room on the bottom floor I hadn't explored. My feeling of dread overwhelmed my body once. A steel door with a code connected the white room to, what I presumed was, the dining room. Of course I couldn't explore it, but what worried me a lot was that I was curious to see it up front. I had a morbid sense of curiosity right now. I didn't like what this whole situation was doing to me. Realisation of this made me run. I squeezed through the gap of the doorframe in the garage and door and ran for my car. The weather was now cloudy and dull. Looked like it was going to snow soon. The man acknowledged me as I ran out from the drive way but he wasn't exactly a priority right now. I stacked the folder and tapes in the front seat and drove as fast as I could. I went to my mother and father's house. There was no way I was sleeping at home. Not what after I had been through.
The next few days were tough. I explained to my parents everything that had happened and they were really good about it. Mom cuddled me, gave me support, did everything she could to support me. Dad as well. They have always been good parents. I could've sat around for days doing nothing but I knew I had responsibilities to take care of. I waved goodbye to mom and dad and hit the road back home. I knew Alex, Paul and Rita would be back by now. It had been days since the nightmare I had encountered. I called in sick to work for the whole week.
Paul had a VHS I could borrow. Conveniently enough he had one in the apartment. He was into all his retro movies, a lot of which his dad had passed onto him. He frequently watched them here with us, but we never really got into them. He always persuaded us that they were brilliant. God loves a trier I guess. That night I returned I decided to face up to it and play the tapes. I had wondered why Stephen kept these particular ones. These ones must of contained important data for his studies. Beforehand I flicked through the folder. Eventually I read it all in about an hour and a half. There was a lot of detail to cover but these were the basics. I couldn't believe how much Stephen had changed. I knew he always loved his psychology but I was not prepared for what was in store now.
There have been a lot of fucked up psychology experiments in the past. (I should know, he used to tell me about them all the time.) Basically the "Starving Dogs" experiment was this: he locked his family up for what was planned to be three years. The woman in the room was his wife Emily and the two children were his, one boy one girl named Sandra and Michael, aged five and three at the start of the experiment. This was the first I knew of children. He didn't tell them he was going to do it, which apparently was the whole "fun of it". How would humans react to a sudden change in lifestyle from luxury to basic survival? For everyday of the experiment he fed them bread and water. That's it. They had no entertainment at all. No items. Not even a toilet. A plain white room, bread and water. That's it. He did this for what was about two and a half years before he killed himself. Sick bastard. I couldn't believe the monster my former best friend had turned into. It was unbelievable. This was only the beginning though. The tapes were far worse.
"Day 1" consisted of children scared. No idea what was happening. Huddled up to Emily for support. The mother screaming and screaming. Curse words, inaudible words at times. Her volatile reaction was scaring me a lot. Only natural I guess. This continued on for a while until the tape cut out. Static contrasted against the dark room I was standing. I followed up with "Day 9". This time Emily was begging for her release. Crying out to be freed. On her knees and absolutely desperate. The children seemed somehow unaffected. The five year old child, Sandra, sat solemnly in the corner. Sad look on her face. Michael seemed unaffected however. He crawled around like a normal child a looked at the camera with a puzzled look on his face often. Too young to realise what malicious act was unfolding was my guess.
Things started to get disturbing at "Day 42". Emily was sitting in the corner. Rocking back and forth. Hair all in a mess, clothes torn up. Mumbling absolute gibberish, half of which I could not make out. She sung "happy birthday" over and over for a while and then talked about a dog named "blanket" who she claimed was right in front of her. After that she quietened down and started rubbing thin air repeatedly. The children on the other hand were fighting rough. Kicking, screaming and biting each other. They had an almost evil look in their eyes. And that was it. For the whole tape they kicked the shit out of each other. They were beginning to lose it. "Day 104" was played after the previous clip ended. In this clip, Emily kept shouting about "worshipping the hollow-eyed man" and kept screaming at the children. Faeces was scattered all over the floor. Disgusting. She often cursed at them, spat at them, and threatened them. Often these threats were extremely violent and involved disembowelment, satanic sacrifices and for one threat she told Michael that she would rip the skin off his face and wear it as a mask. The children reacted to these by hissing and growling at her, thumping on her leg with clenched fists. The children often ran into walls only to get back up and do it repeatedly. These clips just got worse and worse however.
"Day 235" was played next. This one started out again as Emily rocking back and forth like in day 42, mumbling gibberish. Her condition was really withering, as were the children’s. The children were just lying there too. Not fighting, not interacting at all. Just lying there. Suddenly, Emily stopped and stood up. This caught my attention. She stood there for about two minutes before slowly walking towards the children. Viciously, she picked Michael by the legs and threw him full force against the wall. Sandra got up instantly and ran, but of course the inevitable happened and Emily did exactly the same thing to her. The same wall. Both children just lay there. Dead or unconscious was unknown. I stood up in shock. This act had come from nowhere. I found myself whispering "No no no no no no" to the television. She slowly approached one of the children, kneeled down and started biting him, ripping his tender flesh with her teeth. I vomited once more. A mother eating her own child would be enough for anyone. I re-called the footage back in the house. Both children lay there with chunks taken out of them all over. I turned it off almost straight after that thought. I couldn't bare it anymore. One last tape. I had to watch. I had to know what happened.
It took me a while to put it in as I kept stalling but I found the strength to continue watching. The tape began with Emily just staring at one of the walls. She was scraping something in with her nails. I took a closer look. She was writing absolute gibberish again. Apart from the odd random word like "mouse" "boy" and "buzzing" I couldn't make out any of the rest, but the walls were just covered in writing. Letters and numbers. You could barely make them out but you could see them. She suddenly stopped. She got up and stared at the camera for what was a nerve wrecking three or four minutes. Her dark, sleep deprived eyes. Dark purple bags underneath them. Pale white face with strings of greasy, unkept hair streaking across her cheeks. A ghastly image of a once beautiful woman. Still gives me nightmares to this day. My eyes were fixed to the screen. She uttered quietly "I hope you do the same as me". She started walking backwards, staring at the camera with those wide dark eyes as she did so. This went on for a minute, but it felt like a lifetime. An eternity of damnation. She turned and faced the wall, looking directly at the blood spatter of where she had thrown her two children.
Then it started.
She banged her head as hard as she could, while repeatedly shouting "It’s not natural for a human to self-harm" over and over and over again. Banging and banging and banging, again and again and again. Each hit harder and faster than the last. "IT'S NOT NATURAL FOR A HUMAN TO SELF-HARM" getting louder at each whack. It got to a point where it was just constant screaming and banging of the head. I slowly got up and walked backwards while staring at the television. I wanted to leave but I couldn't take my eyes off of this. It got to a point when there was a pool of blood surrounding her dizzy body. Blood loss was slowing her down. Each whack getting weaker and her speech becoming mumbled. Eventually she collapsed to the floor with the pool of blood expanding from her head. A haunting silence. My breathing heavier than a boulder. The white silent screen was just there. Too much morbidity in a scene had overwhelmed me. I shut my eyes.
The sound of a gunshot ringing inside my own head. Stephen's bloodied body flashing as a night terror in my eyes. My own imagination now torturing me.
I instantly collapsed to the floor and sobbed into my palms. Alexandria heard me and came to my support. It took me an hour to calm down. What had caused him this? Why? So many questions that will go unanswered for me. There could have been other experiments, but he had to go with this. I couldn't deal with this now, I needed rest. I hadn't slept well the previous week and this wasn't doing me any good. I could sit around and ponder all I want, but for now, I needed rest.
That night I had a nightmare. I was sitting in an office chair surrounded by total darkness. All I could hear were the painful cries and screams of a grown woman. A pistol lay in my left hand. I pulled it up to my throat. I gripped it tightly. Without question I pulled the trigger. In my dream I stared at total darkness for minutes. I woke up in a cold sweat, dehydrated. I looked around. Back to reality. I was completely paralyzed by fear.
I could still feel the maggots crawling all over me.
Written by CrashingCymbal
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