JOSH; MINES; 21:19
FOURTEEN HOURS SINCE INCIDENT

No contact? Check. No supplies? Check. No food? Check. Cold? Check. Dark? Check. Monsters? Check check the flipping flippity check check. The perfect ingredients for a horror film, huh?

What? You think I'm missing some other elements to my perfectly cooked-up motion picture? That what I'm describing is lacking the perfect setting for a physiologically-simulating feature?

Oh please. Give me some credit. I'm not an amateur. The only reason you think that way is because I'm not really telling you anything—anything important—anything that matters. You have no idea what else I have with me.

Besides, I don't really know you all that well yet, and you'll just think I'm crazy. Ha! You probably already do, don't you? I wouldn't be surprised.

But more importantly, I don't think you're ready for it. Damn, bro, I don't even think that I will ever be ready for it, you know? And I've experienced it plenty of times already, and everything's all right here with me.

Jesus, what a night, am I right? To the knight? 'Cause it's bright with a light that is white up a height with a kite on the site?

Oh oops, shit, sorry, man. I did it again. That's been happening to me a lot more often now. Just my brain being all messed-up and stuff, y'know?

Or not... Who the hell knows what's reality and not anymore anyways? Certainly not me! Ha! You should hear what the—er, never mind.

Back to the topic. Where were we? Oh yeah, my woes and self-pity.

So what else do you want to know? Oh no, wait a minute, you probably think I'm lying or making things up right now. I mean, I did say I didn't know the difference between reality and imaginary anymore, and it doesn't help that I'm a son of a Hollywood horror film mogul.

Well, you gotta trust me on this.

Wow, I'm a hypocrite, huh? Yeah, well, you're just gonna have to deal with it. You have no choice but to trust me. I mean, you're the one intruding in on my thoughts anyway. I think we could agree that I have the right to keep some things to myself, thanks.

So to answer: I am somewhere deep in the mines in Blackwood Pines with lots of vines which then declines assembly lines radical signs. Fuck. Shit. Sorry. My brain's shit. God.

Where was I? Oh, the mines. Well, it's the same mines the parents used to warn us about when we were younger. Don't go deep into the woods, kids. The mines are too dangerous and we don't want you to get hurt. And now I'm in the heart of it all.

In the past hours, I got well-acquainted with how dangerous this place can really be. And I'm not just talking about the monsters outside, or the lack of safety from the excavation, or the fragility of the environment.

No, it's what I'm left with—the only thing I have now: Nothing. I have nothing.

And I can't have nothing or no one. I'm not an alchemist, you know? I don't believe that something can only come from something. Sometimes, when you're left with nothing, something happens—something forms.

And here, in The Lair (as I have now come to call it), I find those things to be something to be fearful of.

I guess you want to know, huh?

Alright. Alright, fine. You win. I'll tell you. To be honest, even my psychiatrist had been telling me to talk more about it—that talking about it could actually help me more than it would destroy me. So you better not betray me in the end. I'll trust you so I'll tell you. I'll tell you. I'll trust you.

You see, Death has a way to taunt me.

I'm not talking about the idea of death. No, I'm talking about that bastard controlling the establishment of immortal punishment. That bastard is toying with me.

And no, this isn't some supernatural bullshit.

My current predicament may be a horror show waiting to be filmed, but it isn't that kind of horror show. What's out there, shrieking last night—those monsters, are horrible and ugly and scary as shit... but what's in here with me?

I see dead people.

Ha! Sixth Sense reference. Another horror film. Everything points back down to a horror film. My entire life points back down to a horror film. Damn, my whole freaking life is a horror film.

The monster last night was an animal, you know? A smelly human-like animal that is probably a human corpse brought to life by the moon or something. It's not—It can't be Han—God, I don't know. But it doesn't compare to the monsters here with—

"Josh..."

No.

No no no no no no no. They're waking up. They're waking up. You woke them up. You betrayed me. I knew it. You made me more vulnerable to them. I shouldn't have trusted you. You fed them and made them even stronger. I never should have told you anything.

"Stop talking to them, Josh."

They're leaving from the corners of The Lair. They're leaving from my peripheral vision and into the focus of my sight, and now they're walking towards me. You did this. You did this!

"No, no, get away."

"Josh?"

"No no no no no! Get away from me! Don't step any closer!"

Why did I sit down by the face of the cliff? Now, it's easier to trap me. No, no, I can't have another episode.

They're standing over me again, and god, I'm such a wuss. Here I am curled down at the corner of a cold rocky surface of a mountain like a typical brain-addled victim of a horror movie.

Because this is a horror movie.

My sisters can never be as rotten and ugly as these apparitions in front of me. No. That's why I know all of this is not real. My sisters are beautiful. These ones are terrifying.

"You can't be friends with anyone again."

My hands fly up to my ears before I could stop them. "Shut up!" I tell them for the nth time.

"You'll just cause more damage than anything."

"Shut. Up!"

I lash my arms out so something could happen. I never learn, though, do I? They just take a step back, already knowing what I'm gonna do before I do. Of course, they're in my head—my subconscious.

They're still staring at me, as if they're starving wolves coming across a deer—staring at me like that monster with Hannah's tattoo, before I yelled Hannah's name and spared my life last night. Like all of them, I know what they want, too.

"You can't hurt us, Josh."

"You're not doing this to me again!"

They're trying to manipulate me again. They're trying to control me again—planting thoughts in my head.

"You don't need anyone else. With us, you'll be okay. You'll be okay, Josh. You don't want to be hurt anymore, do you?"

"NO!"

They're trying to turn me into their puppet again—yell out their orders until I comply. They can't. I don't want this. I don't want this. I don't want this.

"Josh, are you okay?"

Manipulative. They're all so manipulative.

"Josh—"

"Just leave me alone!"

They're just in my head. They're not real. They're not here. They're not in front of me. They're not with me. They're all dead. They are DEAD. They're dead. They're dead. They're dead.

"Why do you keep pushing us away? You don't even want to be alone."

Why can't they just go back to the corners again? Why can't they just go back to lingering somewhere in the corners of my eyes? Why do they have to come out of the shadows? Why do they want to taunt me?

"All alone."

I need my space. I don't want to deal with this right now.

"Isolation. Your deepest fear."

Why? Why are they back here again? Why so soon after last night?

"STOP PUSHING US AWAY! YOU are the one hurting people, Josh. This is all on YOU! It's always about YOU!"

This is all your fault! You're the one who brought them back here! You made them want to come back! You did this! You brought them back!

"So now you'll always be alone. No one but us is here for you, Josh."

There's only one thing left to do.

"Leave—"

Whack

"—me—"

Whack

"—alone."

Whack
Whack
Whack

I fall on my knees after standing up to hit my head on the rocky face of the cliff—the same cliff which I'm starting to feel was the place where my sisters died. They probably fell to their deaths because I couldn't lift a goddamn finger to help anyone.

God, my head hurts. Is... Is that blood? Or sweat? I don't know. Do I even have some fluid on my fingertips that came from my head, or am I just seeing and feeling things again? Probably. Well, that sucks, but that doesn't matter now.

They're gone.

I close my eyes to revel in the momentary silence. Doing this drowns them out. This trick is so much more painful here than the many times I did it on the desk in my bedroom in California—for obvious reasons.

They leave me alone whenever I hit my own head like that. Well, not completely, but they back off. I probably scare the hell out of them. Even the dead people in my head wouldn't want to deal with a crazy guy like me.

"Josh, you're scaring me."

Shit.

I nearly had whiplash from how quick I turned around at the voice behind me. I definitely have pain on my back now from throwing myself back to the face of the cliff behind me.

I can't breathe. How do you breathe? Just inhale and exhale, right? But why is it so hard to do? I'm like a YouTube video that buffered halfway due to half-ass WiFi.

Because how... I mean, why... I c-can't believe this. It's...

It's Jess.

"Josh?"

How could she still be here?

"Josh, please."

Why didn't she go back to the corner she was curled up in like the rest of them?

"Josh—"

"WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME? HUH?!" I finally shout at her, making her step back in fear at my raised voice. "WHAT DO YOU WANT?"

Like the others, she has been away from me, curled up on the other side of The Lair, avoiding me after I managed to save myself from their first attack. She's been quiet all day—so different from the others.

So different from the real Jessica.

And she's as scared of me as I am scared of her. Unlike the others, she's not critical or mean. She's genuinely scared of me. I can see it in her wide panicked eyes—the eyes of a prey looking at a predator. She's looking at me like that right now.

I killed Jess and now she has come back to haunt me.

Sorry, I mean 'it'. It has come back to haunt me. It, not she. It is not human. No, it is just a pigment of my imagination—here to hold on to my guilt. Its lingering presence is here to drive me insane.

If it tortures me with guilt, why don't I just stop feeling guilty over killing her?

Walking away from where I stood still, I slowly walk over to it, and it walks backwards in fear. I let my hand linger on the cliff behind me—too dizzy but I don't let that stop me.

This is the first time I've come to really look at the new addition to the whirlpool of people I've killed.

The others are already decaying, burnt, and sinister. They can peel their faces off. They're completely covered in fresh pig's blood. Their bones are visible. Their muscles eaten. They're not human. They're corpses—all ugly and terrifying.

Fake-Jess, on the other hand, is so... alive—dried blood, wounded, beaten down, and broken. That's how Fake-Hannah and Fake-Beth started out, too.

The first time they appeared, they looked exactly how they did on the day before they disappeared—mischievous and clean and alive... but just as timid as Fake-Jess. Fake-Hannah would cry on her bed back home, and Fake-Beth would comfort her.

Slowly, they started decaying, but the change was much more drastic when the term "missing" turned into "dead" whenever people kept talking about my sisters when they thought I wasn't listening.

Hannah and Beth—my little sisters—both of whom I killed.

Same with Jess now, too. I killed her, didn't I? Mike said that, didn't he? That I'm a goddamned murderer? I just didn't remember it? God, that's messed-up. I'm messed-up.

I probably killed Mike, too. He was down here with me, right? Then he just disappeared in the water? Did I drown him? Choke him to death underwater?

Was Mike even with me last night?

"Josh?"

Is this what she looked like when I killed her?

Look at it, staring at me in fear—like I'm an animal. No, I'm worse than that. I mean, look at it. It's backing away from me. It's sickening—seeing all the cuts and bruises. I move forward even when it hits its back on the other side of The Lair, moving its head away from mine as I looked at it in the eye.

I'm so... angry.

I mean, look at how much damage I've done. What have I done? It's so scared of me. It's so hurt. The implication of my actions... What did I do to the real Jessica to make her look like this?!

"Josh, please don't hurt me," Fake-Jess begs.

No.

No, I refuse. This is not what I do. I don't kill people. No, this is all bullshit. I couldn't have done this to Jessica. I couldn't do that. I don't do that.

I back away from Fake-Jess.

She's not real. She's just here to make me go crazy with guilt—to mess with my head the same way I messed with the others'. She's here as my punishment for something I don't regret.

I couldn't have killed her. I couldn't. That's not me. They just want me to think that way. They just want to see me suffer. This is my punishment for going through with my game, and then for not doing it the way I planned it.

But I'm not a killer. I'm a healer.

I bring people together, right? A healer, yes. Yes, I'm a healer. I'm a healer. I'm a healer. Just a bringer. No more fever. Not a killer. Not a killer. Just a killer. I'm a killer. I'm a killer. I'm a killer.

"No! Stop it!" I yell, clutching at my messed-up head.

It's planting thoughts in my head again. My brain is a madhouse, and you triggered its alarms. I can't keep up with any of this.

It's too loud—too loud—TOO LOUD!

My legs can't handle my weight anymore and shit, my knees took the fall on that one. Sorry, knees, I'll make it up to you in the future.

"Killer..."

"Stop saying that, okay?" Okay. Okay. Okay. We're okay. We're okay. We heal people. I heal people. "Yes, I do! Gotta give me some patients, and I'll give 'em all a good ol' kiss good night! Ha... Ha ha... Y-yeah, yeah... Make 'em all brand new for just a few too-dah-loo-WHOO-HOO-HOO!"

"Josh, what's wrong? Please—"

NOOOOOOOOOO

"What?!"

NO NO NO NO NO HOW DID SHE DO THAT?!

"Josh, what the fuck are you talking about?!"

THEY DON'T DO THAT BUT HOW DID SHE DO THAT?!

"What the hell do you mean?!"

HOW COULD SHE TOUCH ME?!

"Josh, I'm alive! Shit, Josh, I'm alive! Stop that!"

THIS IS IT! I'M OFFICIALLY GOING INSANE!

"You didn't kill me, Josh! Jesus, stop saying that!"

HOW HOW HOW HOW HOW

"Fucking shit, Josh! Stop clawing yourself! Fuck!"

My head and face hurts. I pull myself away from the ground since I am apparently hitting my own head on it, and look up at scared but concerned gray eyes.

How is she here? How could she have touched me first? Logic. Shit, I need my wits back together.

How do you breathe again? I always forget how to breathe. Inhale. Exhale. In and out. God, I can't do it.

"Josh, listen to me. You did not kill me. Jesus, is this why you've been ignoring me all day?"

I blink because that's all I can do. I can't move. I'm stuck. I just can't stop look at her—it—her. Shit, I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. My eyes are unfocused and stuck, and my body is just responding to it. I'm locked in this position.

"Josh... Josh, I..."

It drops to its knees in front of me, and the movement forces me out of my catatonic state.

I don't think it did that so it could be close to me.

It's in pain.

The others—they're never in pain—not like this. They don't try to hide it. They taunt me with their pain. In fact, the others aren't here with me, too. It's the only one here with me.

She is the only one here with me.

Holy shit.

Jessica.

She's real.

She's alive.

I didn't kill her.