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The house on Red Apple Road was a bad place. It was an oversized farmhouse crouched sullenly on a slight rise, overlooking thorn-tangled fields long left to run wild. The house's peeling paint may have once been white, or grey, but sun and time had long leached the true colors away, leaving the walls a jaundiced, sickly yellow. A single diseased elm leaned drunkenly in the shaggy yard, a rusted chain swing hanging from its single limb. The house's windows were all intact, and winked in the sunlight like they knew a secret.

The rent was cheap. Bad luck and worse circumstance saw me driving a beaten-down Corolla to a nowhere town, for a stay I hoped was only temporary. The house's owner, Burcell Lowry, bought the place for a steal at a bank auction. The prior owners had stopped paying the mortgage several years before, and had skipped town shortly afterwards. Lowry was a distant relative, and a call from my uncle prompted Lowry to offer the house for only a couple hundred a month.

I began hearing stories about the house soon after I moved in my few possessions. Lowry had a hard time keeping renters, which explained the cheap rent. Most of his tenants stayed less than six months, and one family only stayed for a single night before fleeing the state entirely, leaving behind their deposit and their dog.

I laughed most of these stories off as small town folk trying to haze a newcomer. I had experienced nothing in the house so far, asides from weak water pressure and a lack of functional air-conditioning, which Lowry had remedied with a new window-mount unit. I became more interested when I heard Jim's story.

Jim was a manager at the Waffle House in town. He was a drunk, but he maintained through his drunkenness with an iron will and genial good humor that made my night shifts as a short order cook bearable, almost fun. "My nephew died in the front yard," Jim said, drinking from his coffee mug on a slow Monday night—really Tuesday morning. "Cops said he weren't wearing a seat belt. Car ran off the road, hit the ditch, and threw him out the front window. They said he was dead before he hit the ground." Jim drank deeply. "Thing is, Paul wasn't the only one who died in that house's front yard. If you're from around here, and you know where you are and where you're going, you know to be careful driving on Red Apple Road. And you don't use your brights when you go 'round the curve."

Red Apple Road curved to the left around the house, and there was a deep ditch between the road and the house. According to Jim, the house's windows faced directly opposite oncoming traffic, and would reflect the bright light of a car's high-beams into the driver's eyes. Every few years, some glare-blinded driver would misjudge the turn and slam into the ditch. By Jim's count, that curve had claimed over thirty lives.

"Thirty people? Come on, Jim, you're pulling my leg. Wouldn't the state put up a guard rail or something?" I asked.

"State's broke. County's worse off. It ain't a 'priority', as they say. So folks just slow down. It gets to be habit, I guess. Until one night, maybe they's drank some, maybe it's raining, maybe they's just not thinking on where they are, then BAM."

Jim wiped some smudges from the cash register.

"Surely Mr. Lowry would fix the windows, cover them up or something?"

"People have tried," Jim said. "Shrubs don't grow in that yard. A family that lived there in the eighties tried putting up black tar paper over the windows, right after a real bad accident. Didn't last a week. That tar paper came down, and the family moved away."

"Wow. No wonder the rent's so cheap," I said.

Jim laughed. "You don't know the half of it. Ask around town." He said no more afterwards, and commanded me to degrease some vent hoods, which I did willingly, lost in thought about my new home.

When I got back to the house, it was full dawn, the sun shining over the horizon, and morning dew sparkled in the fields. The house on Red Apple Road crouched sullenly in the morning mists, seeming to be resentful of the cheerful light. The bare, scrappy yard and the steep-sided embankment had new meaning, as did the scrapes on the asphalt of the road near the house.

I was slightly spooked from Jim's story, so I did a quick walk through the house. Most of the rooms were bare, save for the living room, which was piled with boxes. My bedroom had a mattress on the floor and a few open boxes of clothing. I had installed heavy black-out curtains as soon as I was hired for my night-shift job, so the room was very dark. After a quick shower, I fell asleep almost instantly.

Only pieces of the dream came back to me, but it involved grasping fingers, and a terrible screaming sound, and flying feathers. I woke with a start, sitting bolt upright in bed, sweat-drenched sheets twisted around me. I was disoriented at first, blinking into bright sunlight. I looked around, and realized that my blackout curtains were gone. I checked my watch. Noon. I had been asleep for only four hours, before the dream. I got out of bed, and walked to one of the windows, thinking the curtains had simply come loose from the wall and fallen to the floor. They had not; there was no sign of them anywhere in the room. I checked the bedroom door, and found it the way I had left it: locked.

I unlocked the bedroom door and walked out into the rest of the house. The front and back doors were both dead-bolted from the inside, and in the kitchen, every cabinet door and every drawer stood open, and their contents were strewn across the floor. By this point, I was pissed. I called my landlord. "Mr. Lowry, I don't appreciate practical jokes. If this is the way you make up for cheap rent, fine, but don't mess with my sleep."

"... I ... I don't know what you're talking about, son," said Lowry.

"I'm talking about how you or one of your friends took the curtains off my windows while I was asleep, and messed up my kitchen!" I yelled.

At first, Declan hadn’t panicked, figuring that it was some kind of physical. But then the needles came, and so did the psychosomatics. Whatever had been released into his body caused severe nausea, muscle seizure, and burning eyes. Declan always tried to scream, but he was always stifled by the “doctors” trying to keep him from drowning in his own vomit.

Declan lost count of the days somewhere around eleven, and after that, he noticed his eye sight beginning to fail. When he closed them to keep them from burning, he saw bright colors and flashes floating around behind his eyelids, his nerve cells over stimulated from the introduction of whatever substances he’d been subjected to. Finally, all Declan could see were the vague outlines of the fluorescents above him turned on while he was being experimented on.

Finally, and seemingly months later, Declan awoke and was not strapped to a table. He couldn’t see, but he could move around and soon learned that he was in a prison cell. He could hear other guards and prisoners speaking in some form of bad Russian, mostly talking about battlefronts and “bloody Americans”. At least he wasn’t belted to a cold steel plate.

After several unsuccessful inquiries, he finally found a sentry that could tell him his sentence and location.

Three years later, Declan walked into the freedom of Moscow, with nothing but the clothes he wore, a few rubles, and a pair of sunglasses.


June 9th, 1973-February 8th, 1974: A suburb of Phoenix Arizona


Maria watched yet again as the man from down the street walked down the sidewalk with his pole. She didn’t understand why a grown up would walk around hitting things with a stick; adults just didn’t do things like that. But this wasn’t why Maria watched each day as he walked past her window at dusk.

Just as they had for six weeks before, the street lights above the man went out as he passed them, flickering back to life a few seconds later. Maria was only six, but she understood that it wasn’t normal. In fact, it frightened her. But curiosity kept bringing her back to the window pane that summer.

Mentioning the man to her mother had turned out to be a waste of time for Maria. She worked two jobs to make ends meet for Maria and her twin brother, Israel, and dismissed Maria’s jabbering as a juvenile obsession with an imaginary friend. However, Israel listened with interest, and he began joining her each evening at the windowsill.

A laser consists of a gain medium, a mechanism to energize it, and something to provide optical feedback.[7] The gain medium is a material with properties that allow it to amplify light by way of stimulated emission. Light of a specific wavelength that passes through the gain medium is amplified (increases in power).

For the gain medium to amplify light, it needs to be supplied with energy in a process called pumping. The energy is typically supplied as an electric current or as light at a different wavelength. Pump light may be provided by a flash lamp or by another laser.

The most common type of laser uses feedback from an optical cavity—a pair of mirrors on either end of the gain medium. Light bounces back and forth between the mirrors, passing through the gain medium and being amplified each time. Typically one of the two mirrors, theoutput coupler, is partially transparent. Some of the light escapes through this mirror. Depending on the design of the cavity (whether the mirrors are flat or curved), the light coming out of the laser may spread out or form a narrow beam. In analogy to electronic oscillators, this device is sometimes called a laser oscillator.

Most practical lasers contain additional elements that affect properties of the emitted light, such as the polarization, wavelength, and shape of the beam.

dwarf galaxy is a small galaxy composed of up to several billion stars, a small number compared to our own Milky Way's 200–400 billion stars. The Large Magellanic Cloud, which closely orbits the Milky Way and contains over 30 billion stars, is sometimes classified as a dwarf galaxy; others consider it a full-fledged galaxy. Dwarf galaxies' formation and activity are thought to be heavily influenced by interactions with larger galaxies. Astronomers identify numerous types of dwarf galaxies, based on their shape and composition.

There are many dwarf galaxies in the Local Group; these small galaxies frequently orbit larger galaxies, such as the Milky Way, theAndromeda Galaxy and the Triangulum Galaxy. A 2007 paper[5] has suggested that many dwarf galaxies were created by galactic tides during the early evolutions of the Milky Way and Andromeda. Tidal dwarf galaxies are produced when galaxies collide and their gravitational masses interact. Streams of galactic material are pulled away from the parent galaxies and the halos of dark matter that surround them.[6]

More than 20 known dwarf galaxies orbit the Milky Way, and recent observations[7] have also led astronomers to believe the largestglobular cluster in the Milky Way, Omega Centauri, is in fact the core of a dwarf galaxy with a black hole at its centre, which was at some time absorbed by the Milky Way.

pistol is a type of handgun. Some handgun experts and dictionaries make a technical distinction that views pistols as a subset of handguns; others use the terms interchangeably. Sometimes in usage, the term "pistol" refers to a handgun having one chamber integral with the barrel,[1][2] making pistols distinct from the other main type of handgun, the revolver, which has a revolving cylinder containing multiple chambers.[3][4] But UK/Commonwealth usage does not always make this distinction, particularly when the terms are used by the military. For example, the official designation of the Webley Mk VI revolver was "Pistol, Revolver, Webley, No. 1 Mk VI".[5] In contrast to Merriam-Webster[3][4] the Oxford English Dictionary (a descriptivedictionary) describes 'pistol' as a small firearm to be used in one hand[6] and the usage of "revolver" as being a type of handgun[7] and gives its original form as "revolving pistol"

Following the Battle of Hakusukinoe against Tang China and Silla in 663 AD that led to a Japanese retreat from Korean affairs, Japan underwent widespread reform. One of the most important was that of the Taika Reform, issued by Prince Naka no Ōe (Emperor Tenji) in 646 AD. This edict allowed the Japanese aristocracy to adopt the Tang dynasty political structure, bureaucracy, culture, religion, and philosophy.[3] As part of the Taihō Code, of 702 AD, and the later Yōrō Code,[4] the population was required to report regularly for census, a precursor for national conscription. With an understanding of how the population was distributed, Emperor Mommu introduced a law whereby 1 in 3–4 adult males was drafted into the national military. These soldiers were required to supply their own weapons, and in return were exempted from duties and taxes.[3] This was one of the first attempts by the Imperial government to form an organized army modeled after the Chinese system. It was called "Gundan-Sei" (軍団制) by later historians and is believed to have been short-lived.[citation needed]

The Taihō Code classified most of the Imperial bureaucrats into 12 ranks, each divided into two sub-ranks, 1st rank being the highest adviser to the Emperor. Those of 6th rank and below were referred to as "samurai" and dealt with day-to-day affairs. Although these "samurai" were civilian public servants, the name is believed to have derived from this term. Military men, however, would not be referred to as "samurai" for many more centuries.

The Sengoku jidai ("warring-states period") was marked by the loosening of samurai culture with people born into other social strata sometimes making names for themselves as warriors and thus becoming de facto samurai. In this turbulent period, bushido ethics became important factors in controlling and maintaining public order.

Japanese war tactics and technologies improved rapidly in the 15th and 16th century. Use of large numbers of infantry called ashigaru("light-foot", due to their light armor), formed of humble warriors or ordinary people with nagayari (a long lance) or (naginata), was introduced and combined with cavalry in maneuvers. The number of people mobilized in warfare ranged from thousands to hundreds of thousands.

The arquebus, a matchlock gun, was introduced by the Portuguese via a Chinese pirate ship in 1543 and the Japanese succeeded in assimilating it within a decade. Groups of mercenaries with mass-produced arquebuses began playing a critical role. By the end of the Sengoku Period, several hundred thousand firearms existed in Japan and massive armies numbering over 100,000 clashed in battles.

The English word elf is from the Old English word most often attested as ælf (whose plural would have been *ælfe). Although this word took a variety of forms in different Old English dialects, these converged on the form elf during theMiddle English period.[5] During the Old English period, separate forms were used for female elves (such as ælfen, putatively from common Germanic *ɑlβ(i)innjō), but during the Middle English period the word elf came routinely to include female beings.[6]

The main medieval Germanic cognates of elf are Old Norsealfr, plural alfar, and Old High German alp, plural alpîelpî(alongside the feminine elbe).[7] These words must come fromCommon Germanic, the ancestor-language of English, German, and the Scandinavian languages: the Common Germanic forms must have been *ɑlβi-z and ɑlβɑ-z.[8]

Germanic *ɑlβi-z~*ɑlβɑ-z is generally agreed to be cognate with the Latin albus ('(matt) white'), Old Irish ailbhín (‘flock’); Albanian elb (‘barley’); and Germanic words for ‘swan’ such as Modern Icelandic álpt. These all come from an Indo-European base *albh-, and seem to be connected by whiteness. The Germanic word presumably originally meant 'white person', perhaps as a euphemism. Jakob Grimm thought that whiteness implied positive moral connotations, and, noting Snorri Sturluson's ljósálfar, suggested that elves were divinities of light. This is not necessarily the case, however. For example, Alaric Hall, noting that the cognates suggest matt white, has instead tentatively suggested that later evidence associating both elves and whiteness with feminine beauty may indicate that it was this beauty that gave elves their name.[9] A completely different etymology, making elf cognate with the Rbhus, semi-divine craftsmen in Indian mythology, was also suggested by Kuhn, in 1855.[10][11] While still sometimes repeated, however, this idea is not widely accepted.[12]

The Marshalsea (1373–1842) was a notorious prison in Southwark, Surrey (now London), just south of the River Thames. It housed a variety of prisoners over the centuries, including men accused of crimes at sea and political figures charged withsedition, but it became known, in particular, for its incarceration of the poorest of London's debtors.[1] Over half the population of England's prisons in the 18th century were in jail because of debt.[2]

Run privately for profit, as were all English prisons until the 19th century, the Marshalsea looked like an Oxbridge college and functioned as an extortion racket.[3] Debtors in the 18th century who could afford the prison fees had access to a bar, shop and restaurant, and retained the crucial privilege of being allowed out during the day, which gave them a chance to earn money for their creditors. Everyone else was crammed into one of nine small rooms with dozens of others, possibly for years for the most modest of debts, which increased as unpaid prison fees accumulated.[4] The poorest faced starvation and, if they crossed the jailers, torture with skullcaps and thumbscrews. A parliamentary committee reported in 1729 that 300 inmates had starved to death within a three-month period, and that eight to ten were dying every 24 hours in the warmer weather.[5]

The prison became known around the world in the 19th century through the writing of the English novelist Charles Dickens, whose father was sent there in 1824, when Dickens was 12, for a debt to a baker. Forced as a result to leave school to work in a factory, Dickens based several of his characters on his experience, most notably Amy Dorrit, whose father is in the Marshalsea for debts so complex no one can fathom how to get him out.[6]

Much of the prison was demolished in the 1870s, though parts of it were used as shops and rooms into the 20th century. A local library now stands on the site. All that is left of the Marshalsea is the long brick wall that marked its southern boundary, the existence of what Dickens called "the crowding ghosts of many miserable years" recalled only by a plaque from the local council. "[I]t is gone now," he wrote, "and the world is none the worse without it."[7]

The Primary School staff wants school to be a positive, successful, safe, and rewarding experience for each child. We believe this is best accomplished through a commitment to effective instructional practice; engaging, relevant learning opportunities; and a collaborative partnership with families and community stakeholders.

The word has been recorded in the English language since 1634, via Turkish harem, from Arabic ḥaram "forbidden because sacred/important", originally implying "women's quarters", literally "something forbidden or kept safe", from the root of ḥarama "to be forbidden; to exclude". The triliteral Ḥ-R-M is common to Arabic words denoting forbidden. The word is a cognate of Hebrew ḥerem, rendered in Greek as anathema when it applies to excommunication pronounced by the Jewish Sanhedrin court; all these words mean that an object is "sacred" or "accursed".

Female seclusion in Islam is emphasized to the extent that any unlawful breaking into that privacy is ḥarām "forbidden". A Muslim harem does not necessarily consist solely of women with whom the head of the household has sexual relations, but also their young offspring, other female relatives, etc. The Arabic word حرمة ḥurmah, plural حريم ḥarīm, was traditionally a term for a woman of the speaker's family, regardless of status. It may either be a palatial complex, as in Romantic tales, in which case it includes staff (women and eunuchs), or simply their quarters, in the Ottoman tradition separated from the men's selamlık.[citation needed] The zenana was a comparable institution.[citation needed]

Much of the plot of The Janissary Tree – a 2006 historical crime novel by Jason Goodwin, set in Istanbul in 1836 [16] – takes place in the sultan's harem, with the main protagonist being the eunuch detective Yashim. The book in many ways subverts previous stereotypes and rooted conventions. For example, in one scene the sultan groans inwardly when a new concubine is brought to his bed, since he does not feel sexual at all and would much rather send her away and curl up with a book. He does not, however, have that option; were he to reject the concubine, "she would spend the whole night crying bitterly, by the morning the whole palace will hear that the Sultan has become impotent, by noon all Istanbul will know it, and within a week the rumour will reach the entire empire.

The word cutlass developed from a 17th-century English variation of coutelas, a 16th-century French word for a machete-like blade (the modern French for "knife", in general, is "couteau"; the word was often spelled "cuttoe" in 17th and 18th century English). The French word is itself a corruption of the Italian coltellaccio, or "large knife", a short, broad-bladed sabre popular in Italy during the 16th century[1] The word comes from coltello, "knife", derived ultimately from Latin cultellus meaning "small knife."[2]

In the English-speaking Caribbean, the term "cutlass" is used as a word for machete.[3][4]

Droids are robotic machines, as found in Star Wars films, books and television series. Mostly created for Star Wars by Special Effects workerJohn Stears, the term is a clipped form of android,[1] a word originally reserved for robots designed to look and act like a human. The word droid is a registered trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd.[2][3][4] Droids are robots, often possessing artificial intelligence.

The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a tropical freshwater fish belonging to the minnow family (Cyprinidae) of the order Cypriniformes.[1]Native to the Himalayan region, it is a popular aquarium fish, frequently sold under the trade name zebra danio.[2] The zebrafish is also an important and widely-used vertebrate model organism in scientific research, and was the first vertebrate to be cloned.[3] It is particularly notable for its regenerative abilities,[4] and has been modified by researchers to produce several transgenic strains.

The zebrafish is named for the five uniform, pigmented, horizontal, blue stripes on the side of the body, which are reminiscent of a zebra's stripes, and which extend to the end of the caudal fin. Its shape is fusiform and laterally compressed, with its mouth directed upwards. The male is torpedo-shaped, with gold stripes between the blue stripes; the female has a larger, whitish belly and silver stripes instead of gold. Adult females exhibit a small genital papilla in front of the anal fin origin. The zebrafish can grow to 6.4 cm (2.5 in) in length, although it seldom grows larger than 4 cm (1.6 in) in captivity. Its lifespan in captivity is around two to three years, although in ideal conditions, this may be extended to over five years.[ Zebrafish are hardy fish and considered good for beginner aquarists. Their enduring popularity can be attributed to their playful disposition,[15] as well as their rapid breeding, aesthetics, cheap price and broad availability. They also do well in schools or shoals of six or more, and interact well with other fish species in the aquarium. However, they are susceptible to Oodinium or velvet disease, microsporidia (Pseudoloma neurophilia), and Mycobacterium species. Given the opportunity, adults eat hatchlings, which may be protected by separating the two groups with a net, breeding box or separate tank.

The Zebra Danio was also used to make genetically modified fish and were the first species to be sold as GloFish (fluorescent colored fish).

Pluto (minor-planet designation: 134340 Pluto) is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, a ring of bodies beyond Neptune. It was the first Kuiper belt object to be discovered. It is the largest and second-most-massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the ninth-largest and tenth-most-massive known object directly orbiting the Sun. It is the largest known trans-Neptunian object by volume but is less massive than Eris, a dwarf planet in the scattered disc. Like other Kuiper belt objects, Pluto is primarily made of ice and rock[13] and is relatively small—about one-sixth the mass of the Moon and one-third its volume. It has a moderatelyeccentric and inclined orbit during which it ranges from 30 to 49 astronomical units or AU (4.4–7.3 billion km) from the Sun. This means that Pluto periodically comes closer to the Sun than Neptune, but a stable orbital resonance with Neptune prevents them from colliding. In 2014, Pluto was 32.6 AU from the Sun. Light from the Sun takes about 5.5 hours to reach Pluto at its average distance (39.4 AU).[14]

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, and was originally considered the ninth planet from the Sun. After 1992, its status as a planet fell into question following the discovery of several objects of similar size in the Kuiper belt. In 2005, Eris, which is 27% more massive than Pluto, was discovered, which led the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to define the term "planet"formally for the first time the following year.[15] This definition excluded Pluto and reclassified it as a member of the new "dwarf planet" category (and specifically as a plutoid).[16]

Pluto has five known moons: Charon (the largest, with a diameter just over half that of Pluto), Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra.[17]Pluto and Charon are sometimes considered a binary system because the barycenter of their orbits does not lie within either body.[18] The IAU has not formalized a definition for binary dwarf planets, and Charon is officially classified as a moon of Pluto.[19]

On 14 July 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft became the first spacecraft to fly by Pluto.[20][21][22] During its brief flyby, New Horizons made detailed measurements and observations of Pluto and its moons.

Pluto has a thin atmosphere consisting of nitrogen (N2), methane (CH4), and carbon monoxide (CO), which are in equilibrium with their ices on Pluto's surface.[119][120] The surface pressure ranges from 0.65 to 2.4 Pa (6.5 to 24 μbar),[121] roughly one million to 100,000 times less than Earth's atmospheric pressure. Pluto's elliptical orbit is predicted to have a major effect on its atmosphere: as Pluto moves away from the Sun, its atmosphere should gradually freeze out. When Pluto is closer to the Sun, the temperature of Pluto's solid surface increases, causing the ices to sublimate. Just like sweat cools the body as it evaporates from the skin, this sublimation cools the surface of Pluto.[122] The atmosphere is about 300 kilometers high.[123]

The presence of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in Pluto's atmosphere creates a temperature inversion, with average temperatures 36 K warmer 10 km above the surface.[124] The lower atmosphere contains a higher concentration of methane than its upper atmosphere.[124]

Even though Pluto is receding from the Sun, in 2002, the atmospheric pressure (0.3 Pa) was higher than in 1988, because in 1987, the north pole of Pluto came out of the shadow for the first time in 120 years, causing extra nitrogen to start sublimating from the polar region. It will take decades for this nitrogen to condense out of the atmosphere as it freezes onto Pluto's now continuously dark south pole..

Pluto has five known natural satellites: Charon, first identified in 1978 by astronomer James Christy; Nix and Hydra, both discovered in 2005;[127] Kerberos, discovered in 2011;[128] and Styx, discovered in 2012.[129] The satellites' orbits are circular (eccentricity < 0.006) and coplanar with Pluto's equator (inclination < 1°),[130][131] and therefore tilted approximately 120° relative to Pluto's orbit. The Plutonian system is highly compact: the five known satellites orbit within the inner 3% of the region where prograde orbits would be stable.[132] Closest to Pluto orbits Charon, which is large enough to be in hydrostatic equilibrium and for the system's barycenter to be outside Pluto. Beyond Charon orbit Pluto's smaller circumbinary moons, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra, respectively.

The orbital periods of all of Pluto's moons are linked in a system of orbital resonances and near resonances.[131][133] When precession is accounted for, the orbital periods of Styx, Nix, and Hydra are in an exact 18:22:33 ratio.[131] There is also a 3:4:5:6 sequence of approximate ratios between the periods of Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra with that of Charon, which becomes closer to exact going outward.[

Walmond Krainbery, a young keeper of a now decrepit lighthouse on the coast of Dilsark, met his untimely fate through unfortunate circumstances, albeit strange ones. A heavy mist had rolled in on the craggy shores, and the sea was practically invisible under its shroud. As on every other night (nights akin to this one especially so), Walmond ascended the multi-story staircase to the beacon and ignited its light, shining pillars of light down into the treacherous waters. This was a job for which Walmond was highly qualified and experienced, over only a decade. Thirty years of age at the time of his death, and with much knowledge regarding safety standards, it is surprising and somehow eerie that his death came to him by way of tumbling from the top of the flight of stairs and not stopping until reaching the ground floor. His pummeled remains would have been unidentifiable if not for the fact that he was the only person who had recently inhabited the lighthouse.

The word recently is an accurate modifier in this scenario, for the lighthouse is very old. Constructed in the late nineteenth century, the Dilsark lighthouse was originally surrounded by a clutch of smaller houses inhabited by simple but peaceful townsfolk. Not only this, but the town (at first called Dill's Arch, so called because of a seaside arch carved into the coastal crag; the name comes from the mad founder of the town, Dillon Harrington) was formerly a moderately popular center of commerce, producing reasonable but not exceptional amounts of seafood. Dillon Harrington, a hideous man with a low brow and soft nose, and dull eyes which were almost red, commissioned the construction of the lighthouse at the highest peak of Dill's Arch. This, of course, was highly reasonable: Ships returning to port would indubitably need a beacon to guide them safely through dangerous waters. What was not expected was the unnecessary construction of a deep concrete neck extending from the lighthouse's base under the ground and leading to a circular chamber.

In time, citizens of Dill's Arch began to disappear without a trace. At the same time, the remaining inhabitants became increasingly uneasy at Dillon Harrington's wild vagaries. Oftentimes he could be sighted creeping as if in a daze from street to street at midday; at dusk he retreated to his lighthouse and screamed from a high window in a voice that was only vaguely reminiscent of human vocal patterns. Despite his unpredictability, Dillon Harringon maintained his humanity by frequently engaging in polite conversation with passersby while aimlessly lurking. Notably, those to whom he spoke tended to vanish in the following days.

A mob of terrified citizens (those who hadn't vacated the town, that is) eventually surrounded the Dill's Arch lighthouse and demanded entry, only to be verbally assaulted and threatened by the undeniably lunatic Harrington within the heavy walls of the lighthouse. In time, the townsfolk managed to tear away the front door and ploughed inside, discovering that Harrington was nowhere to be found. However, a particularly keen citizen noticed a crooked floor panel — sure enough, upon peeling it away, the mob uncovered an immensely deep secret passage leading into interminable depths of darkness. A brave few descended the creaky wooden ladder, returning minutes later as impossibly disturbed beings. They never spoke of what they found in that damnable chamber, but it is known that they returned with cold blood staining up to their shins.

In modern times, Dilsark is a dead town with a dead lighthouse. Ships no longer sail into port, and all visits are rare and only with one purpose: To witness the so-called phantom light. Years after Walmond Krainbery's death, the lighthouse has fallen into a state of disrepair, and currently has no keeper to speak of. However, that has apparently not kept the beacon from igniting every now and then with no evident cause. It shines as it always used to, with vast pillars of light falling onto the ravenous sea, but only shines periodically throughout the night. When infrequently it shines, it shines periodically between on and off, and then dulls completely for another randomly given amount of time. Logic dictates that this should be impossible, not only because there is no keeper, but also because electricity has been disconnected from the dead town for five years.

“Shit, what time is it?”

I mumbled to myself as I looked around the pitch-black room. Everything was silent. The only thing I could hear were the sound of dogs barking in the distance.

“Must be a power outage.” I thought to myself.

I reached into my pockets searching for my phone in order to find out what time it was. There was nothing but pocket lint in it. I leaned over and felt the floor next to the couch. All I could feel was the black coat of my dog, Trey who was sleeping next to the couch. Finally, I stretched out my arm to reach the coffee table in front of the couch; but there was still no sign of the phone at all. I sighed.

“I must have left it in my room.”

I spent the next several seconds contemplating whether or not I should get up from this reasonably comfortable couch and search for the phone in my room, which was undoubtedly as hot as brick oven right now. Of course, I immediately rejected that idea.

“Jerome would have raised hell outside my house to get my attention if he did in fact come over.”

I assured my self as I fell back asleep once more. -

All of a sudden, a loud and quick screeching filled my ears and reawakened me. I could barely open my eyes, let alone move any of my arms and legs. I could tell the power was still out as the living room was still pitch black. I looked at the door leading into the even darker dining room. I swore I could see movement in the dining room. I shrugged it off as my eyes playing tricks on me, but the jittery movement seemed too real, too alive to merely be an illusion. Fear overwhelmed me as a small shape moved out of the dining room.

“It, it must be, Trey!”

I tried to rationally explain the shape creeping slowly out of the dining room. I looked down at the floor, to confirm my theory, but there was my black lab still sleeping next to the couch in the same location.

I felt as though I could leap outside of my body from the fear that shot through me at that moment. There was somebody in the house. If I got up now, I might have enough time to get the pistol in the closet my Dad bought after a series of robberies in our neighborhood last summer. I tried with all might to move a single muscle in my arms and legs, but I could not move at all. I looked back at the dining room. The shape had grown to about six or seven feet high and now resembled more of a human being than a vague fog. I wanted to leap from this couch and run, but I couldn’t. I felt as if I were trapped in a tiny corner of my mind, unable to control any aspect of anything. I felt completely powerless as I looked at my useless limbs that stayed motionless despite my attempts to move them. I went against my instincts and looked back the giant shape. Now I could see there were many others following behind it, they were much smaller than the giant shape, but they were so great in number that they appeared to have become one. The fog of beings began cover the walls and ceiling and submerged the already dark room into a non-pierce able void of darkness.

I felt completely helpless before the beings slowly approaching me. I stared at Trey, who I felt was my only possible salvation. He was still asleep in the same position as before. Unaware of what was happening around him. I wanted to call out to him, but I knew it was no use trying. I closed my eyes as the shapes moved closer to Trey and I. I attempted to persevere, as I thought if I remained mentally strong, I could somehow defeat that void.

"I will not lose."

I repeated to myself in my head.

"I will not lose."

I kept on repeating it over and over.

"I will not lose."

Trey started barking wildly and I felt him jump on the end of the couch.

"I will not lose."

Murphy, my boss and the mastermind behind the project, emptied the tip jar into the register every evening. From my vantage point working as cashier, I could observe just how pathetically minuscule the daily profits were compared to the waterpark’s. People just refused to pay when not supervised.

Even from the start, I had never been on board with the idea. When he first suggested it, I had voiced concern that people wouldn’t respect the rules. Murphy responded that “if we treat the customers like children, they’ll behave like children, but if we treat them like adults, they’ll behave justly.” I suppose that’s a nice sentimentality, but it entirely failed to account for teenagers.

In addition for consistently checking out movies without paying, local high-school kids would also take it upon themselves to relieve our stock of children movies and adult films. Then they’d swap the tapes and return them to the shelves. I heard hear-say that they called it the pornography game.

After a long series of customer complaints, Murphy bestowed me the honorary title of video rental quality assurance manager. As such, I got to check that every tape contained the right movie. Despite being hired as a cashier at a waterpark, I now found myself digging through old videotapes for a living.

It didn’t take long for the teenagers to adjust their game accordingly. They began writing over the tapes themselves instead of just swapping the cases, so I would have to physically watch every movie to guarantee that nothing had been altered. Because they would sometimes just change out the audio or tamper with the final scenes of the films, I constantly had to view the entirety of the movies with sound to insure their quality.

I tried persuading Murphy to drop the project, as he was losing money with me working the rental full-time, but he would hear none of it. It seemed utterly absurd that I couldn’t just run the place like any other rental store or stop the teenagers as they checked out their movies, but Murphy remained adamant in his resolve and seemed to think that such a thing would go against the spirit of the project. The DIY rental was his idea and we’d all be damned if it didn’t work just fine. Surely the project could function if Murphy would ditch either the porn or the children’s movies, but still he refused, informing me that those were the only two kinds of films ever rented.

And thus my days went by, watching old children’s shows and dated pornography. Of both genres, I memorized every movie in our catalog. I knew every line before it was spoken, every character before they appeared, and every fuck before it was given.

I would sit in the back of the rental area, scornfully watching every teenager check out their products. My lips moved sub-consciously along with the dialogue.

I began to work late into the evenings, growing embarrassed when customers, whom I often knew, observed me watching pornography for a living. My hours drifted later and later into the night, until I would arrive after the waterpark itself closed, just to watch the videos. I kept tabs on when each video was checked out and returned, so I only had to watch the newly returned.

Generally, that was about four movies a night.

My schedule flipped to accommodate working a night-shift. I slept during the days, just to show up in time for work. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered ditching work entirely and pretending to have watched the videos, but Murphy religiously watched the security tapes and would know if I slacked off even one night.

Murphy had meant for me to throw away the tapes once I had found they'd been altered, but so much effort had been placed into editing them, I would honestly feel guilty if I didn't watch them to completion. I wondered how the teenagers possessed such patience to keep editing the damn videos. When I was that age, I could never have worked so hard at something with such little payoff.

The teenagers gradually revealed themselves to be adept opponents, splicing more and more obscure moments of the films together. I burst out laughing every time a woman would moan in orgasm, only for her voice to morph jarringly into Woody the Woodpecker’s laugh. One particularly twisted editor altered an entireSpongeBob episode to include swinging yellow-colored penises every few minutes.

Some of the edits were just strange. One guy kept bleaching out the porn-stars’ faces on the films, so that the movie would show these eerie white blobs in place of their heads. Another time, I found a copy of “the Lion King” where a distorted female voice would constantly screech the word “rape” throughout.

I wanted to meet the people editing the tapes; they seemed like such a curious bunch.

At least six months ticked by that I had spent playing that end of the pornography game, six months of meticulous searching and fixing what I could. I had developed quite the coffee addiction while sitting alone in the small office we called video rental. My dim single bulb light cast its lonely beams out into the darkened building as the bleached-out humans lurched on my television screen.

Sometimes I would swear I could hear noises coming from outside, and I would scurry into the main office to watch the security feeds. The grounds were always still, just an empty waterpark.

I honestly can’t say why I got so jumpy all the time; there was no money in the registers to steal or anything. There’s really no reason at all anybody else would ever break into the place.

Still, my mind couldn’t lose the notion that something watched me.

The paranoid feeling came stronger than ever when I arrived particularly late one Tuesday night. It must have been around two in the morning once my car pulled into the parking lot. I frowned to myself when my headlights shone on rows after rows of cars.

Why were people still around at this hour?

Nervously, I drove my car at a crawling pace to the nearest parking spot. I eventually convinced myself that Murphy must have rented out the lot or something, and I stepped gingerly out of my car and into the cold night air. I couldn’t help but glance into the car windows to confirm that they were empty.

Timidly, I walked by the numerous rows of cars. With clouds blocking out any moonlight, I felt my way to the entrance. Light leaked out from below the door crack. My muscles tightened when I slowly opened the door.

Bright interior lights stung my eyes. They took a moment to adjust, in time showing me the empty inside of the building.

There was nobody there, but everything had been left out as though people had left in a hurry. Food and drinks sat on the table, the registers were opened with exposed money, and a soft buzz of television static flickered through the stale air.

I called out sheepishly to see if anybody was still around.

Silence.

With the hairs on the back of my neck standing fully erect, I went to the back room to check the security feeds. Each nook and corner taunted my nerve; every shadow insulted my weakened bravery. To my surprise, I couldn’t find any tapes once I entered the security room, just a cooling mug of coffee, some old magazines, and a knocked over ash tray.

The ceiling fan spun slowly overhead as I paced back to the rental area. Indoor lights blocked out any visibility from the windows, concealing the outside with my reflection. I looked at my mirror image with distrust, sensing that something watched me from the other side of the glass.

Turning away from the entrance, I scanned quickly over the movies, constantly looking back over my shoulder. Wind whistles through the door left hanging ajar from when I had entered.

Quickly, I found that only a single tape had been moved in the rental stock: the Jungle Book. I grabbed the VHS, planning to get the hell out of there and watch the video at home, but the tape slid non-cooperatively out of the packaging and landed with a sharp crack on the floor. A moment hung over while I stared at the naked tape in confusion.

It was the security tape from just before closing.

Somewhat shaking, I pressed the tape into the VCR and watched the static filled television screen cut to video feed. I saw a grainy, black and white, overhead view of the large pool. The place seemed pretty crowded, with kids splashing around happily in the water. Parents chatted and lounged around the edge of the pool, and I could just barely make out a lifeguard station.

I glanced behind me towards the door and windows. After some hesitation, I turned back to the television.

The time stamp on the corner of the screen set the time to be around five-thirty as everybody went about their business around the pool. I watched the tape with uneasy curiosity until the time hit six p.m.

At precisely six o'clock, everybody froze. The children stopped playing, the parents stopped talking, and the lifeguards stopped watching. Everybody’s face shot up towards the sky. They stood in shock, as though unable to comprehend what they were seeing. Then at practically the same time, they all lost their shit, running and screaming in every direction. They fought chaotically to get out of the water like a pack of drowning rats. The children clawed and bit at each other in a feral frenzy to escape from the pool. It’s impossible to describe the sheer terror in their eyes as they fled from the water. Neither the lifeguard nor the parents tried to help the kids in any way; they just screamed and sprinted off, out of frame.

Before even a minute had passed, the shot was of an empty pool.

At five after six, the video cut to static.

After I left shop and reported the incident to Murphy, we promptly contacted the authorities. A few men in suits spoke to me privately, and after I told them everything I saw, they essentially banned me from ever asking about or visiting the waterpark again.

When we got in the ER, she was carted away. Even though I was eventually allowed to go back with her, it still pains me I missed her actually giving birth. They held me up due to suspicion that I was some asshole criminal they had seen on the news earlier. I fought to get past the guards but they were all over me. When I eventually did get cleared, it was too late. When I explained what had happened to her, she was upset that I wasn’t there for her, but was glad I was there now. I promised myself that day that I wouldn’t let either of them out of my sight or in harms way. I couldn’t even give that much to them.

Everyone had clocked out early one night, leaving me to do most of the work. The coffee machine became a good friend that night, as I was stuck finishing their portion of the typing as well as cleaning up the place. When I finally did get all the work done, I immediately got in my car and started on my way home. It killed me that I had to do so, but it was always this nagging feeling I got when I wasn’t home that something would happen to them. I’d call multiple times throughout that night, checking to make sure they were ok and to let her know that I was working late. She had fallen asleep about an hour after my last call and didn’t pick up any others.

It wasn’t even that I hated the most about the whole thing. It was such a simple action that I did that ruined my chances of stopping… that thing. It was late and I hadn’t had any dinner so naturally, I was going to hit somewhere up. The only places open at that hour were fast food restaurants and gas stations. All the high class or at least halfway decent places closed long ago. I went through the drive through at a little fast food joint and picked up a few things; a couple burgers and fries. All in all, a simple, quick mind you, pit stop. I didn’t want to eat there in the parking lot. I just wanted to get home, kick back with my half assed meal, and relax to some late night movie. In hindsight, it was an ignorant move. Those few minutes meant the lives of both of them.

<END FILE>

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