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The other night, I was reading my oldest daughter a story at bedtime from one of her favorite books of ghost stories, and afterward she asked me, “That story wasn’t true, was it, Daddy?”

“No, of course not.” I told her.

“Because things like ghosts and monsters don’t exist, do they?” she hugged me goodnight.

“No, they’re not real.” I lied and petted her head.

After making sure both girls were tucked in good and tight, I left their room while my wife kissed them each, and stood for a while looking out the living room window to the darkened street below. I could feel my body tensing up instinctively, like it knew something was coming, but nothing ever did. Still, I looked out the window for far too long, remembering the terrible October of my 15th year.

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“Buggy!”

“It’s just an ant.” I remarked calmly as I felt it crunch beneath my shoe.

“Buggy! Buggy!”

I picked my foot up and watched as maimed and dying ant twitched and tried to run away. My son screamed at the sight of it and fled to his bedroom. I couldn’t understand why he was so afraid of insects. Especially ants. He was eight years old for Christ’s sake.

He watched from the doorway to his bedroom, hugging a blanket, as I plucked the dead ant off the floor and took it over to the trash can.

“You do realize that when you go outside, there are literally millions of insects out there with you, right? When you’re playing in the front yard, there’s probably hundreds of ants around you, you just don’t notice.”

“I’m never going outside again!” he declared, slamming the door.

“You’re being ridiculous.” I said through the door.

“I hate buggies!”

“You love caterpillars.”

“They don’t count.”

“Look, just use a shoe or a book or something–”

“I’m not going near them!”

My wife Lisa came up behind me. “What’s going on?”

“Brandon saw an ant.”

“Oh. Brandon, honey, it’s lunch time.”

“I’m not coming out! There are buggies out there!”

“I killed the ant, Brandon.” I said.

“Are there more?” He opened the door and peeked out.

“Not any that I can see.” Lisa said, pushing his door open the rest of the way and holding his hand. “Now, come on and have lunch.”

I didn’t say anything as she lead him away, but I watched him looking all around desperately, sure that he was going to see another ant coming at him. Every spring, our house develops a bit of an ant problem. I don’t know where they get in, but we kill them left and right until Lisa gets fed up and calls an exterminator. They pop up for a couple more days afterward, then eventually disappear for the rest of the year.

It was just the start of ant season. Read More »


It never stops.

I don’t know the rules. There don’t seem to be any. I thought, “Okay, this thing is bound to a painting,” but then the digital photo I took of the painting began to change too. Then my daughter’s toy appeared in the image, and in a panic I barricaded her bedroom closet. I wish I could tell you how it works. All I can tell you is that if you are the one who ends up with it, it’s too late. I’m sorry. Read More »


I got this package in the mail from my dad: brown paper wrapping, large but flat, with the word “FRAGILE” written on it in black ink. When I unwrapped it, it was this big, acrylic painting, framed in some sort of bronze-gilded plaster.

The painting itself was of this long hallway full of doors, kind of like you’d see in a fancy hotel. The walls had edging about halfway up, the upper part was painted sort of an off white while the lower half was a crimson red that blended into the carpeting. Between each door was an up-turned light, as well as on the far wall at the end, where the corridor seemed to connect to another hallway running perpendicular to it, disappearing around a corner. Read More »


My father has always been somewhat eccentric, prone to tall tales of his childhood, keeping collections of old knickknacks and assorted antiquities he’d find at auction, and strict adherence to bizarre house rules. Growing up in his home, the same home he grew up in, that was passed down from generation to generation, took a lot of willpower. He would say it “built a lot of character.” My mom would always say he was a character.

So it came as no surprise to me when a friend in the area called to let me know my dad had caught a case of pneumonia after they’d found him wandering around during the season’s heaviest snowfall in just an old pair of jeans and a wife beater. Since my mother had passed away, his bizarre behavior had grown increasingly erratic.

Some good Samaritans offered to drop in once or twice a day, but I didn’t want them to have to deal with my his idiosyncrasies, so I drove up to the old homestead to nurse him back to health myself. I hadn’t been back to that house since I’d finished school back in 1998. It had always been a point of contention between us, but I just never felt comfortable there.

When I arrived, my father was curled up on the couch in the living room, wrapped in blankets and watching old episodes of The Woodwright Shop on the same TV he’d had for thirty years. I gave him a hug which he mostly ignored in favor of sipping at a cup of tea.

“It’s good to see you, Dad.”

“You know, it shouldn’t take me catching pneumonia to get you to come visit,” he grunted.

“How’d you end up with no shoes in the middle of a snowstorm?”

He stared at the television, trying to ignore me.

“What were you doing out there, Dad?”

“If you’re going to stay, make sure you follow the rules. You remember the rules, don’cha?”

I sighed. “Yes, Sir.”

“So let’s hear them.”

“Don’t touch the thermostat. Don’t leave lights on in rooms you aren’t occupying. Replace any food you take from the fridge.”

“And stay out of the basement.”

The basement.

“Because of the Jack Monster,” I said.

My father nodded and sipped his tea. Read More »

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