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I'd never been too fond of anyone at my local school. They were all a little too rude and boring for me. You see, I grew up in a small area with not many people interested in art like I am, so I had to venture off from home and found myself attending a pretty rural Art College. It's sorta like a normal University except it's full of big-headed people. Now the only reason why I'm here is because I've always wanted to be an Illustrator. A children's book designer of sorts. I'd always taken keen interest in children's media and classic books such as the Arthur series. So when I was sent to live at this college, I was taken back when I realised a lot of the other students here were all "Fine Artists," you know the kind. The ones who like to splatter paint onto a canvas and claim it's art. I'm not really big on that sorta thing, but I didn't question it.
I settled into the new place pretty quickly, I was sharing a dorm with a few other students. There was myself, a graphics designer named Josh, a film/animator called Lilly and then there was one more guy called Daniel. Daniel was one of those "fine artists" I just described to you. His room was decorated with photographs of distorted women and he always had weird music playing too. It was sorta like trippy 60s music. He also liked to smoke so his room always smelt like an old ash tray. It was pretty gross, but he was a nice enough guy and we all got along well enough. We soon became a tightly-packed group of friends.
It was the start of a new term for us all, and we'd all came back from home after spending the summer there. We all unpacked our things and started talking about what we had done over the summer.
"I went hiking with my stepdad. We went on one of those summer camps," replied Josh.
"I spent most of my time with my girlfriend, we watched films and went to watch some plays too," Lilly said. She spent a lot of time whining about missing her sporty girlfriend, but we were glad they got some time together. I hadn't really done much worth mentioning. I did the usual stuff, I went out to parties and went on trips with my family. Nothing really that special. I was just about to pipe up and speak when I got interrupted.
"I spent my time at the dentist," we heard Daniel say. "My Father is a Doctor of sorts, so he let me come with him sometimes and explore the hospital. My favourite place to visit was the dentistry, I got to touch and feel teeth. It was cool." We all stared at him a bit confused. Were you even allowed to have random strangers go into hospital rooms? Let alone play with the equipment? We didn't really care. We knew Daniel was that sort of guy anyway. He was known for getting into trouble for "the sake of his art." That was always his excuse.
We all spent our first couple of days getting to grips with our assignments. We all found out what we had to do. Naturally I had to study some illustrators and just mimic their styles, Josh spent some money on a new Mac to do some more design tests, and Lilly had to start playing about with claymation. It was a pretty nice vibe when we'd all be at our dorms talking and giving ideas. Well, at least it was nice until Daniel would start insulting us. He'd never been the same since he came back from the summer break. He seemed more cold and distant. We assumed something must have happened to him over the break, so we decided not to press him on it. He never told us anything about his projects, in fact he never even told us what the subject was. It was pretty normal for Daniel to be reserved, but never this much. At nights he'd just make himself some dinner and then shut himself in his room, crank up the music and not be seen until the next morning. The rest of us would go out places, like going bowling or down to a local gig. Daniel used to happily tag along but, not anymore.
One night myself and Josh had gone out for long night. Lilly didn't come with us, she said she wanted to see if Daniel was okay since he hadn't been talking to us for a few days now. We could see her point and complied. She had spent the evening knocking on his door and trying to get him to speak with her. Just before we left we saw his door open and Lilly step inside before it was locked again. Brushing it off we head out. We'd gone to see a movie and then go out for a few innocent drinks. It was fun, but we didn't get home till around 2:00am. When we got back, Josh just said goodnight and went straight to bed. I hadn't gone to bed yet, I was pretty damn hungry. Drinking always made me hungry, so I raided our fridge and found some cold pizza from the night before. I was going to go back into my room when I realised something I didn't notice before. Daniel wasn't in his room, and Lilly wasn't in hers.
Due to Daniel's strange new behaviour of locking himself in his room until early hours; and Lilly never went anywhere without texting us, this was pretty weird. I went over to his door and gave it a knock, and sure enough the door just opened right up. It wasn't locked or anything. I just assumed he and her had gone out with some of his poncy art friends, but it wasn't like Daniel to leave his door open like this. I've always been a nosy son of a bitch, so I stepped inside to see if there were any signs that he had gone somewhere. His keys were gone, his jacket was gone too but he'd left his wallet on his desk. The other thing that was odd was that he'd left his laptop on his bed, and it was still on. The screen was still lighten up. Curiosity got to the best of me. Perhaps this could be my chance to find out about this art project he'd been hiding. I mean, Daniel was a "fine artist" so it could have been anything. I noticed that he had a USB plugged in, and two files on the screen. One was called: "Dentist Photos" and the other file was a singular image named: "teeth.jpg". I clicked on the "Dentist Photos" file and there was just pictures of people's teeth and plastic models of teeth. It was nothing interesting. I clicked back off the file and decided to check out "teeth.jpg".
The image would be forever burned into my brain. It startled me so bad that I slammed the laptop shut, shaking as I sat back. I wasn't sure if I wanted to lift the screen again, but I knew I had to or Daniel would know someone touched his laptop. I lifted the screen again, staring at the image for a brief moment before clicking away from it nervously. I then made a decision. I needed to show this to Josh and Lilly in the morning. This was seriously messed up. I mean I knew that Daniel was an artistic kinda guy but this was just insane. I quickly bolted it back to my own room; and scoured for my USB drive. I eventually found it and darted back to Daniel's laptop where I copied the image onto my USB. I stared at the image for a little while longer. I was trying to dismiss the image as a mere photo manipulation but, there was just something so wrong about it. Perhaps it was the black soulless eyes, or the fact that whoever or whatever this creature was, was pulling up its mouth in such as weird and disturbing way. It almost looked forced. Like whoever this creature was, was forced to pose in this way. I shook it off as a mere thought and fixed up the laptop so it didn't look tampered with before I went back to my own room. Soon enough I heard our front door open, then the sound of footsteps, then Daniel's door locking. Daniel was back home...but there were no signs of Lilly.
The next morning I waited until Daniel had gone out for one of his lectures, and since it was a Friday Josh and I had the morning off. I decided now would be a good time to show Josh the image. I asked him if he wanted to see what Daniel had been hiding from us, and he confusedly but also eagerly said yes. I brought my laptop into the living room and loaded up my USB, and opened the image for us both to see. Josh's expression fell into shock before he spluttered.
"W...What the fuck is that thing?!" I could tell just by his reaction that both of us were thinking the same thing. This couldn't have been an art project image. There is no way that this would pass as Fine Art piece, would it? I mean sure art can be creepy at times but, I can't imagine his teachers would appreciate such a creepy and disgusting image.
"I know that Daniel can be a creepy son of a bitch but..that isn't right. We've got to show Lilly thi-" We both cut off one another. We paused briefly before looking at one another with confusion. Where was Lilly? I realized that she hadn't come back with Daniel last night and neither of us had seen her that morning. When I explained to Josh what I did last night, he began to worry. Lilly was never the kind to just sneak off and not tell anyone. I picked up my phone and began to ring her mobile. For a while there was silence. Then, just from Lilly's room we heard a faint buzzing sound. Josh got up and walked into Lilly's room rather quickly (he'd never been one to go into girl's rooms) and came back out holding Lilly's phone in his hand with a worried look on his face. Lilly was gone, and we had no way to get a hold of her.
"M..Maybe she has just gone to a lecture and forgot her phone.." I stuttered. Josh shook his head, chewing on his lip out of nerves.
"No, Lilly doesn't have lectures on a Friday, remember? She'd normally at least say hello to us and take her phone! We know she lives on that thing, she never stops texting her girlfriend." He was right. Lilly's life revolved around her phone, so we knew there would be no way she'd leave it. Suddenly her phone lit up. Someone was calling her. We both looked at the phone then back at one another, before Josh passed the phone to me. I brought it up to my ear before speaking. "Hello?"
On the other end of the line, I realised it was her girlfriend that was calling. I recognized her husky voice. "Ah! Lilly there you are. Thank God you're okay...you didn't text me at all last night or this morning...I thought something was wrong!"
I cringed a little bit, realising I had to break it to her that I wasn't Lilly. As I spoke, I heard her girlfriend began to get upset. She breathing quite heavily and I could hear the sniffling sound someone makes when they cry. I felt so bad for her, but perhaps she could be my chance to find out anything I could about Lilly.
"W...Where is Lilly? She hasn't spoken to me since last night. I thought she was just playing a joke on me but now I don't know." I looked at Josh with a confused stare as he began to pace around a little bit. I put the phone on loud speaker and asked her: "Why do you think Lilly was playing a joke on you? Did she say anything odd?"
"Yes," her girlfriend replied. "She went me one message at around 1:30am."
I looked at Josh baffled before I asked again. "What did the message say?"
I looked at Josh with wide and worried eyes. Lilly would never pull a prank like that on anyone, let alone her own girlfriend. She always told us how worried she'd be about her girlfriend getting paranoid, so we knew she wouldn't send a message like that unless she had a reason. I continued to speak with her girlfriend but I was getting nowhere, so I reassured her that we know where Lilly was and she'd be calling her back tonight. Her girlfriend seemed suspicious but just agreed and put the phone down. Myself and Josh paced back and forth, we had no idea what this could mean. Why would Lilly send a message like that?
We continued to think for a while, and decided until we knew where Lilly was we were going to skip our lectures. We spent a long time thinking over things and began to write down the connections we could make. Afterwards, Josh read out the list to me so I could think them over.
"First, Lilly goes into Daniel's room at around 10:00pm. She is locked in his room. Then, we return home at 2:00am. During that time at around 1:30am we find out that Lilly text her girlfriend with a message saying "Help me." You discover that neither Lilly or Daniel are home yet. Daniel's door is unlocked and his laptop is still left on. You find the image and then leave. You then returned to your room and heard Daniel come home but not Lilly. Lilly is still not back home yet but Daniel is...what the hell could this all mean?" I thought over it for a while, and then came to a conclusion. I didn't want to make this connection but is the only connection I could salvage. "Daniel did something to Lilly. We have to confront Daniel tonight if Lilly doesn't come home between now and tonight, okay?" Josh looked shocked, but he agreed. Daniel would be our only chance of finding out what happened to Lilly.
Later that night, there were still no signs of Lilly. We knew that her girlfriend would be calling soon so we decided to turn the phone off. We didn't want to try and reassure her with false information. We waited until around 6:00pm before Daniel finally came home. He looked rather startled to see us both standing there in the living room and he lightly placed his art folder and satchel down against the sofa, as we both stood up. Josh spoke to him, and I could tell he was trying to keep his composure.
"Daniel, we'd like to have a talk..it's about Lilly." Daniel's eyes seemed to widen ever so slightly, but nothing I thought was worth thinking over. He tilted his head at us, looking confused as he asked us, "Why? Is...something wrong?" I shook my head. I didn't want him to think we were accusing him of anything. We would never get any answers out of him if we straight up accused him like that. Daniel seemed to look a little on edge, looking away from us as he itched his wrist under his baggy grey jumper. He pushed his rather dark black bangs out of his face as he spoke. "Then what's wrong? Is she okay? I mean I know she left her phone here last night so I suppose there wouldn't be any way to get a hold of her..." We didn't say anything. We weren't too sure on what to say to him. How were we suppose to ask him if he did anything to Lilly without him taking offense?
I then realised something. It taken me a moment to realise it before I spoke.
"...You just said she left her phone here last night, right? How the hell did you know that?"
I could see Josh's eyes light up. He just realised the same thing I did. How on earth did Daniel know she'd left her phone behind unless they went somewhere? We already acknowledged the fact that Lilly never leaves her phone anywhere, so how on earth did he know she had left it behind?
Daniel didn't answer us. He was silent for a while before he pushed passed us and walked into his room. Slamming the door shut. We walked over to his door, banging on it harshly before he shouted. "Leave me alone! I have course work to do! I'm sure Lilly will show up tonight just..stop being so paranoid!"
We just didn't know what to do. Daniel clearly knew way more than he lead on, but there was no way we were going to get that out of him. We walked back into the living room and slumped back down. I ran a hand through my hair. What the hell was going on? I then realised that Daniel had left his bags on the sofa. He must have been too flustered to pick them up when he stormed into his room. I peered around to Daniel's door, hearing no sound of him leaving his room yet. I knew soon enough he would be coming out to get his bags.
In a moment of madness I picked up the satchel and emptied its contents onto the coffee table. I could see Josh's eyes widen before he whispered to me frantically. "W-What the hell are you doing? What if he sees you?!" I didn't care. I needed to know anything I could about Lilly. She was a room mate, but also a best friend. I couldn't just leave this to solve itself. I pushed through documents and came across what looked like a ticket. I crumpled it up and pushed it in my pocket, then I found a zip-up document bag. I pushed it into Josh's hands and told him to go hide it. He complied and went and hid it in his room. I then quickly put all the other stuff back into Daniel's bag and rested it up right like it looked before. I then got up and walked into Josh's room.
I watched Daniel go back to the living room and pick up his bags, before he walked back into his room again. Josh grabbed the zip-up file from under his pillow as we both sat down on his bed. We didn't say anything. We just read the front cover of the file.
It sent chills up my spine. I knew that whatever was inside would have a connection to the image I found on the computer..but what we saw was nothing we expected.
It was a series of photographs. The first photo was a picture of what looked like an abandoned room of sorts. The walls were covered in old floral wallpaper and the floor was just damp wood. It looked like it hadn't been used in years. Then, the next photos were just pictures of tools and plastic tools. We then noticed that the tools were linked to dentistry. You know, like needles and drills. It was pretty creepy, but it was the next photos that made us both drain of colour.
It was just photos of Lilly smiling.
We flipped through every single photo of Lilly, and in each one she had her big toothy smile. Such a sweet smile, one of her most distinct features was her large front tooth. Just her left one. We always found it cute..but now it was no laughing matter. We noticed on the back of the photographs there were labels, and each tooth on each photo was marked. There we notes on the photos that said things like "remove" or "replace". It knocked Josh sick, and I was more terrified now than ever. We knew that we couldn't confront Daniel about these photos, it would get us nowhere. We just sat in silence for a long time, staring at the photos with disbelief. I then remembered the ticket I had found and stuffed in my pocket. I reached into my pocket with a shaky hand and pulled it out, bringing to my vision. It read:
Group Ticket: 2
Location: Station Road
Time|Date 28/09/2011 - 11:34pm
We both looked at each other with firm gazes. That was just yesterday evening. We knew exactly what we had to do now. We had to find where Lilly was. We never saw Daniel for the rest of the evening, and Josh had become incredibly paranoid. He asked if he could sleep in my room tonight, although I thought it was a bit awkward I didn't mind. I mean he was scared real bad, so I didn't want to leave him alone like that. When Josh was sleeping, I printed off the disturbing image for referencing then I had spent most of the night planning for the next day. I had already emailed our lectures letting them know we weren't going to show up because we "felt sick" and I checked how far away Station Road was. To my surprise it was only an hours drive away. So I figured we could take Josh's car up to Station Road and figure out the location where Daniel and Lilly have been from there.
The whole time I kept staring at the teeth.jpg image. A horrible thought crept into my mind. I didn't want to think about it but it could have been a possibility. Was the person in the picture Lilly? Every time I thought about it I'd shake it off, telling myself I was just paranoid..but it would all add up. The timing, the photographs...it would all make sense. I didn't want to believe it, and I certainly wasn't going to until we found Lilly.
The next morning myself and Josh got up at around 6:00am. We wanted to be out of the dorm before Daniel woke up, and we made sure to lock our own doors. We also decided to take Lilly's phone with us. We didn't want to leave anything behind that would indicate that we were suspicious. We left the dorm and got into Josh's car. I had brought a long a small bag full of different things such as the photographs, a flash light, a camera and a note-pad with a pen. We loaded ourselves into the car and made our way towards Station Road. We were able to pin-point it with my mobile GPS.
When we got there, we found that we were in a rather abandoned looking area of town. The place was practically deserted. All we could see were tall crumbling buildings and little empty houses. We taken out the photo of the room, and began to walk up to each little house. We pressed our faces to the glass to see if we could make out the floral wallpaper like the room in the photograph. We spent a good few hours doing this. Nothing. We were getting pretty angry at this point. We just wanted to get Lilly back. Josh got so angry that he walked up to one of the house walls, kicking it harshly as he shouted from the top of his lungs. "Daniel you sick bastard!"
Just as he kicked the wall one last time, we noticed the wall began to tear. Like paper. Josh looked down at his foot and realised he had tore what looked like a piece of painted paper away from the stone wall. He then began to rip away the remaining pieces of paper only to reveal what looked like an outdoor basement. The doors were rustic and scratched, but we noticed that the metallic handle was clean..as if it had been tampered with. Josh looked over his shoulder to me, and I gave him a nod. I quickly took a photo of the layout of this basement-like thing. Josh then walked down to the doors and gave them a push, and to both of our surprise the doors were simply blocked by a plank of wood; which Josh was able to push away with ease. We then pushed opened the doors slowly and cautiously. Who knows what could be kept in here? It was obviously hidden for some reason.
If only we knew what was was coming, perhaps it would have saved us both from throwing up.
As we stepped inside, we were met with a rancid odour. Neither of us knew what the smell was, but we know it made us both feel instantly sick. Josh gagged and coughed; covering his face with his shirt. I swallowed back vomit as I continued to walk. I pulled out my flashlight and shined it inside the pitch-black stone room. I continued to walk, and we heard nothing. As we walked further into the room the smell only thickened. It was getting so bad that Josh threw up behind me. He quickly composed himself and stumbled back upright before we continued. As I looked around the room; my eyes met with something on the floor that made me heart race and the flash light drop from my grasp.
It was Lilly's knitted sweater. It was the sweater she always wore when we went out for pizza or to go bowling, it was the same grey sweater with the same little torn threads on her sleeves where she would chew on it. I could see Josh from the corner of my eye; his eyes just as wide as mine as all the last of colour drained from his face. I picked up the sweater slowly, holding it up in front of me when I noticed there was a large and thick blood stain soaking all the way through the jumper. It started thick from the collar and became thinner as it went down the sweater.
I was now the one to throw up; I collapsed onto my knees..puking heavily. I didn't know what to do. I didn't even know what to think. I soon maintained myself and stood up again, holding the flashlight as I put the sweater in my bag. Through blurred, teary eyes I pressed on. I found nothing from where I was standing and I heard a small light switch flicker on from behind me as red light filled the corner of the room...and then I heard him.
Josh screamed louder than anything I had ever heard before. My stomach was in knots as I shined my light to where he was standing. He was standing over a large black table. I watched him just stand there in complete terror, as if he was frozen. I could only imagine what he was looking at, and I truly wished I left it to my imagination.
I walked over to his side, there I laid my eyes on the sight before me.
It was Lilly. She was strapped down onto a table, wearing nothing but her jeans. Her body was covered in thick layers of tape; keeping her strapped down. One of her arms dangled down to one of her sides; but the other arm was nowhere to be seen. In replacement was just a taped up stub with stains of blood under it. I could hardly breath, my stomach was now so knotted and my breathing so tight all I could do was stare. I looked up at Lilly's face. Her head had been forced back, and we could see that her innocent blue eyes had been violently gouged out; and in replacement was thick black wax that filled up the empty eye sockets. Her nose had been contorted and broken, snapped in many places...but the worst part of it all was her mouth.
Her jaw had been forced open, and we could see her mouth had also been filled with the same black wax. Her teeth had been ripped out and misplaced in all different directions. I then noticed how her mouth had been stretched upright, her cheek tearing to reveal more teeth that had been pulled from her mouth. It gave her a contorted, horrible smile. Her face was covered in streams of her own dried up blood. I stared at the hand that was holding the mouth open. It was her own. Her own hand had been stitched to the ripped cheek. The flesh was torn and falling apart under her nails. Her nails were cracked and chipped; with staples and little threads holding the hand in place. The red fluorescent light created horrific shadows and highlighted every grotesque feature that now was on Lilly's face.
I silently and numbly pulled out the picture of "teeth.jpg" and stared at it, then back to the real thing. They were identical. Josh brought a shaky hand over Lilly's cheek; before he collapsed by the side of the table. I could hear him sobbing horrendously by her side, before he passed out beside me. I too felt like I was on the brink of collapsing, but something caught my attention.
I could feel the presence of someone else coming into the room..but I already knew who it was... and I knew now there was nothing we could do about it. I heard the doors slam shut, and the plank of wood being placed over the door. I heard the sound of footsteps. I heard them inch closer and closer, until I could feel their presence behind me. I knew he was there, and I knew that there was no way out. I heard their voice speak very faintly behind me.
"I'm sorry you had to find out this way..but it's okay. It's all for the sake of art."
...But that wasn't what made me collapse. I knew well enough from here that my fate was sealed but, after he finished speaking I heard one more tiny sound that made my heart both ache, and my tears only stream further down my numb cheeks; before my vision faded away from me and my hands slip away from the table.
I could hear Lilly choking.