Julie Dunic

ANNOUNCEMENT: Scary Story Contest Winners

ANNOUNCEMENT: Scary Story Contest Winners

By Woofer McWooferson

John Roisland, CEO of House of Tortured Souls, takes a few moments to announce the winners of our first annual Scary Story Contest.

On behalf of the entire staff, I'd like to congratulate the winners and say thanks to everyone who submitted.

Posted by Alan Smithee in CONTESTS, HALLOWEEN, 0 comments
2016 Scary Story Competition Entries

2016 Scary Story Competition Entries

By Woofer McWooferson

If you're like the folks here at House of Tortured Souls, you're suffering just a hair of post Halloween let down. Well, fear not because House of Tortured Souls has you covered. We've compiled a handy linked list of entries in our 2016 scary story competition.

Take a look at these six tales and let us know what you think. Which ones made you lock the doors? Which ones made you keep the lights on? Which ones kept YOU up at night?

A special thanks to all of our contestants and good luck!

Be sure to keep an eye out for Rich Orth's Halloween collaborations.

2016 Scary Story Contest – Entry #4, Julie Dunic

2016 Scary Story Contest – Entry #4, Julie Dunic

House of Tortured Souls
Presents the
2016 Scary Story

Entry #4: Vessel
Category: Fiction

By Julie Dunic

Julie is an art student from Paramus. She has recently collaborated with Rich Orth, who has written several poems based on her artwork. You can see some of her illustrative, creepy work at www.facebook.com/juliedunicart. However, aside from art, another one of her favorite hobbies is writing, especially horror...

Before I tell you what happened, let me get started by saying that none of this was my fault. Sure, technically it was me that caused all hell to break loose--quite literally, in fact--but there were dozens of people there and it could've been any one of them. But of course, I had to keep my lucky streak that was about the same as a fucking black cat walking under a ladder.

Anyway, here goes... the scientists targeted me because I had nothing to live for, I was depressed, homeless, and, most importantly: no one would go looking for me if I went missing. So when they found me sleeping on my favorite bench on the side of the road, you bet your ass I jumped at the chance of some cash in exchange for me being part of their experiment. They also told me I'd get a place to live and food to eat. Why the fuck not?

Apparently, the experiment was about how souls work. Souls? I told them I didn't believe in any of that spiritual crap. They said that's what they were trying to figure out--the science behind souls. I wondered what the hell that could mean... but it sounded interesting enough.

So they took me to the top secret location of their laboratory. It was in the middle of fucking nowhere and lemme tell you, the place was huge. But I couldn't help notice, it was surrounded by barbed wire. Did they want to protect their secrecy? No... no, like I said, the place was in the middle of nowhere. So I figured, they weren't trying to keep invaders out, they were trying to keep something in.

I asked, before getting out of the car, what exactly they were going to do to me. They answered: "You'll see." I reluctantly got out of the car and the scientists led me to the building. It was night time, so the air stayed dark and quiet. The very sound of my breathing was uncomfortably loud in my ears, with no other noise to block it out.

When we entered the door to the place, we faced a long, stretching hallway with doors on either side. No hallway should be as long as this one, it was unsettling, and there were lights along the ceiling but none of them were on. I was told that bedrooms of test subjects like me were in this hallway. Great. I had finally come to the conclusion that this place was, indeed, creepy as fuck. But at the same time, I had to admit I was grateful just to have wooden floor under the skin of my feet, rather than pavement or grass or cardboard.

Then they let me shower for the first time, God, it was fucking amazing. The tub was fucking brown by the time I was done, I was so dirty. On my way to my bedroom, I noticed another hallway down from the corner of this one. The hallway was the same set up: long with a row of doors on each side, but unlike my hall, every door had a slot in it. I went to bed in my little room that had only a mattress, small dresser filled with clothes, and a light. The thoughts of how bizarre this was would have possessed my head, keeping me awake, but they were silenced by how comfy I was laying on an actual mattress.

They took me and all the other test subjects from my hallway to the cafeteria in the morning. It was a pretty big room and I joined a table with some people. God... real food instead of leftovers I'd dug out of people's trash... I couldn't wait. The people at my table were eager to meet a new person. I asked them if they knew anything about the experiment. All they could tell me was that the scientists had to get us as healthy as possible in preparation. Whenever any of us get healthy enough, that's when we get to leave. I'd have my first health exam that night, and have one every week until it was my turn to leave. That's all the people at my table knew.

Then, I got totally distracted by the fucking breakfast banquet they brought in. We had to be well-fed if we were going to be healthy. Makes sense; if the experiment is about souls, and bodies supposedly hold souls, then yeah, we should have healthy bodies. A plate was brought to everyone and I almost collapsed when I got my French toast, eggs, and bacon, all fresh. Everyone had a slightly different meal for their own health needs and everyone received pills of whatever vitamins they were lacking. After this was explained to me, I asked my new friends if they knew what was kept in the back hallway with the doors with the slots. They said no.

After breakfast, we were taken to the recreation room. Oh... it had television and exercise machines and books and games... we were meant to socialize there. Mental and emotional health are just as important as physical. Though, quite a few people were working with trainers on the machines to improve muscle health. So I got to know my new friends as we shared our life stories of shoplifting, going bankrupt, running away from cops, yknow, the usual stuff.

After a couple hours, we had lunch. The next few weeks had the same pattern: breakfast, rec room, lunch, rec room, dinner, rec room, dessert, bed. But that night, and once a week since, I had a health exam. I was taken to an examination room in a patient gown where I encountered needles, machines, scanners... They tested everything, and I mean everything. Blood, spit, eyes, piss, shit, you name it... I was violated in more ways than one, and cameras were put in places that cameras should not go.

But these invasive exams were only a small price to pay for the luxury of living like this. As weeks passed, I got healthier and healthier. My emaciated limbs increased in mass and my black-bagged eyes grew life. And of course, every once and a while we would gain a new person, and every once and a while, one of my friends would reach maximum health and say good bye. I thought, maybe they get sent to the outside world when they're like this. Maybe their souls were improved? I was definitely happier being there, so maybe my soul was improving?

It was a vague theory, but it got disproved one night when we were eating in the cafeteria. Out of nowhere, I heard someone shout: "Is that Henry?" And I turned and looked to see a man I'd never seen before. Then, I started to hear everyone else go: "Henry?" "It is Henry!" "What's he doing here?" But this "Henry" man didn't look right. He didn't speak, but his arms were out-stretched in an uncomfortable manner, as if he wanted to beg for something. His eyes were wide and terrified, and I could tell, just by looking at him, how tense he was.

"Get back here!" A scientist yelled as he tried to grab Henry's arms. The whole room flinched as inhuman noises and moans spilled out of Henry's mouth. He shouted in protest as the scientist took him away.

"Who the fuck was that?" I asked. The answer I got made me want to vomit all the delicious food I was eating. Apparently 'Henry' had been part of the experiment, and then reached maximum health. He came and left before I got here. Well, except he didn't leave after all.

Of course, the scientists denied that it had been Henry, they claimed he was just some mentally disabled man who somehow wandered into the place. I tried to forget the incident. My friends insisted it was him, though, which meant that whatever happened to him, would happen to us when we got healthy enough. I never knew Henry, so I couldn't be sure if that really was him. I had a feeling it was.

Still, all we could do was eat our food and enjoy ourselves while we waited. It's not like our outside lives were anything to go back to. Finally, after a particularly invasive health exam, I was pronounced healthy enough for my next step. Could I leave this place? Would I end up like Henry? I looked about as paranoid as Henry as I was led into another exam room with even more machines. This room also had a tray with sharp tools on it--tools that looked like they were meant to cut flesh. There was a patient table with buckles on it for me to lay on with a little plastic thing for me to put my head in.

"Lie down here, please," a scientist said. I sat on the table. "Lie down." I took a breath and lied down. He guided my head into the little contraption attached to the table, so my skull was surrounded by plastic, keeping it still. As he buckled me to the table and head gear, he began to explain: "It's time you find out what we're really doing, here. Well, it can be hypothesized that the soul is located in the brain, because the brain contains everything we use to perceive and react to the world. But, we are trying to find out where exactly the soul is in the brain, and if a healthy body can go on living without a soul. We may even discover the secret to immortality."

I glanced to the side and saw other scientists prepping an IV and sanitizing the medical tools. One of them put a cloth over my face and chest, probably to protect me from the blood that was about to spill. Thanks to this, I now had my eyes covered, and could only see an outline of the doctor as he paced back and forth. It wasn't the fact that I was tied to a table that was keeping me still, it was my paralyzing, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping fear.

"Our objective," he continued, "is to remove your soul. To do this, we will remove part of your brain. We've been removing a different part from the brain of each person here, and then monitor them to determine if their soul remains. We're not sure what to expect if the specimen's body does end up a soulless vessel, but we hope to find out." No. NO. No. That man before was Henry. A brain-damaged Henry! "Now, we will give you some anesthetic for your procedure." I didn't even realize I was going under because my mind had already gone blank with shock.

Soon enough, I was opening my eyes again because the procedure had ended. I had a huge line of staples in my head and felt a shitload of pain, as if someone ripped a part of my brain out. OH RIGHT. Then, I saw myself groan. Hold on--shit. I wasn't groaning, I was seeing myself groan. I was looking at myself lying sick in bed. The fuck? I felt a nauseous wrench in my stomach as I floated up above this experiment building. My life-filled body remained inside. The scientists did it, they removed my soul! Those fuckers... But hey, it might be cool to just hang around and watch things as a disembodied spirit for a while. Eventually, I got bored of watching my healing body just lying there, so I wandered to the hallway with the slotted doors.

I poked my 'ghost-head' though each door, and noticed the rooms were exactly the same as ours, except these had video cameras in the corners, recording everything. After seeing these people, I felt lucky about my own situation. These post-operative men and women were... disturbing. Some weren't bad and were still clearly capable of functioning. But others... other talked to themselves, some not even with real words. Some screamed. Some just cried. One had a smile so intense, I thought she was definitely smiling at me, but to her, no one was there. One was blind, one banged his head against the wall. One was still, and crouched on top of his dresser like a fucking bat, with his arms behind his back and his head stretched up a little too far so his Adam's apple bulged out. One had dozens of scars on her, and she had no hands... probably to prevent her from making new scars. Soon, scientists slid plates of food through the slots in the doors.

I took a few days to walk around and saw that some of these people just stayed in their rooms. The scientists helped them to the bathroom (on occasions when they didn't just go on the floor of their rooms). They were only let out to be examined. The more intelligent ones were allowed in the rec room sometimes, and even talked to the scientists. The rest were locked away

Finally, my physical body was well enough to move around and talk. I figured all it'd be able to do would be babble and crawl without me. But, no, it acted just like I do. It had my voice, personality, movements, everything. I guess since what was left of my brain had all my memories in it, my body was able to function just fine without me. The scientists were baffled by how my body acted, and of course I--my body--was their favorite post-operative patient. They talked to me, played games with me... I don't know what was weirder: watching myself go around with my foul mouth and personality, spying on my friends, or seeing the fucked up people like Henry.But could my body really just... go on without me? I noticed one morning, my body acted a bit different. The voice was a bit different and my movements were more fluid. I didn't think much of it. The scientists didn't even notice.

That night, I watched myself get sent to my bedroom to sleep, only I didn't sleep. I watched the same body and face that I've seen in the mirror for thirty seven years, morph slightly. My bones crackled and my neck snapped as my eyes began to go black. Suddenly, my jaw clamped down on my arm, drawing blood. The blood slid down to my hand and I was using it to draw markings on the floor. Terrible wheezing sounds came from my throat.

Finally, scientists charged into the room, having seen all this on the camera in the room. They gaped in shock as my body froze, facing away from them, blocking the now finished drawing. Suddenly, my spine contorted backwards, so my evil face could look at them upside down. A grin snapped onto my thin lips and they could see my chest heaving up and down in this unnatural position.The scientists froze as a horrifying voice crept into their minds. It said: "By removing the soul from this body, you've created a healthy, living vessel for me to inhabit, and now I've called upon my friends so hell can rule the Earth and all of you will be damned."

My body moved aside to reveal strange symbols painted in blood on the blackened floor. Flames exploded from the walls. Cries erupted in the scientists' minds, and they couldn't tell if the sounds were laughing or sobbing. Smoke covered the room, clawing at their throats and veiling the demonic hands rising up from the floor. My body remained crouched, frozen, still looking at them upside down.

"Who are you?" a scientist managed to choke out.

And my body said, out loud this time: "Satan." And all the demons burst up through the floor and the scientists could see only their silhouettes through the smoke as they escaped this building to wreak eternal damnation on humanity.

See, I told you none of this was my fault. It could have been anyone. But I guess I'm lucky when you think about it -- my soul left the Earth before the Devil took his reign and all this crazy shit went down.

Posted by Alan Smithee in CONTESTS, HALLOWEEN, 0 comments
POETRY: Two Poems Inspired by the Art of Julie Dunic

POETRY: Two Poems Inspired by the Art of Julie Dunic

By Rich Orth

This Halloween I am collaborating with several artists to create original poetry/art combinations for the season. To get this started, I will ease us in with two recent collaborations with artist Julie Dunic.

Click to enlarge.

Words: ©Rich Orth / Art: ©Julie Dunic

Words: ©Rich Orth / Art: ©Julie Dunic

I will also be teaming up with Neil Tandy tomorrow night as well as Robert Uller, Jerry Langdon, Levi Lionel Leland, Sharon Maher, Mark Sean Orr, Xtopher Richmond, and Gaz Rees later this month.

Stay tuned to see what develops.

Posted by Alan Smithee in FICTION AND POETRY, 0 comments