Author Topic: Or Else  (Read 9507 times)

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on: 02:32:51 AM 01/05/13
When I moved in, there was an odd panel on the wall.

Measuring about four inches by four inches, the panel didn't match the rest of the grungy, yellowing wall surface surrounding it. It had a circle at the center, then various angles and curves radiating outward from there. The design was created in a pale blue and foam green, and I got the impression it had been darker before... that over the course of time it had faded.

I'd only moved to that tiny apartment in the city because I'd gotten a few jobs in the local film industry and living close by was a major leg-up on other candidates for work.

I wish now that I had looked the place over a bit more before moving in, but really I figured I'd only be there for a month at most. Then I'd have enough work to pay for a "real" apartment.

It's not that I expected to live in luxury, just that I never intended to live in filth like this.

It wasn't just the panel, either. The place stank like ancient sweat and unspeakable body odor. The appliances were shit, and so were the utilities. Lights would randomly go out, even if they were brand new, and one even exploded in a hail of sparks the second I flicked the switch on.

Both the kitchen and bathroom drains would clog consistantly. Early on I fished out a wad of old, half-degraded toilet paper.

From the kitchen sink, I mean.

The first few nights, I stayed out as late as I could. Danced, partied, spent all the money I'd intended to live on until I got that "big break". Anything to avoid going back to that awful, depressing hovel.

When I did return, I'd be too drunk to care where I was. That I made sure of.

I'd fall into bed, or on the floor, or into the ficus I brought in to lighten the oppressive mood of the place. The ficus was the recipient of much dishonor during these druken nights, so I can only assume the poor, bedraggled thing had grown accustomed to it.

So, I was drunk. That's pretty much why I didn't think anything of it the first time I heard the noise.



I think I popped an eye open, mutted a profanity, and pulled the banket (the rug?) over myself.

The next morning that bastard called "The Sun" woke me by staring through broken window blinds. As I groaned, complained, and begged the daylight to extinguish itself... I barely even noticed what had changed.

It wasn't until I was stumbling toward the kitchen, head throbbing, that I saw the small intruder.

A note.

It was a slip of paper, rolled up into a tube shape and fixed across the middle with a single red rubber band.

Figuring this to be my own doing... some half-remembered "note to self" hastily scribbled out before my brief coma... I ignored it and went about my usual routine.

Home-made hangover "cure" that did nothing, span of time spent sitting quietly with eyes closed, vows to God himself that I would never so much as touch a bottle of cough syrup again... and so on.

As I unfurled the note, I could immediately see it was not my handwriting.

It was legible.


I'd seen a lot of movies. Read a lot of scripts. Hell, I'd been IN movies.

This wasn't one of them, so I didn't laugh. I didn't ball it up and throw it away. I didn't roll my eyes and deliver some self-referential dipshit monologue about how this was obviously a joke.


Right beneath the clearly written, plain-looking text...


No, my mind didn't jump to the idea it was a joke. I was just afraid. Someone had obviously gotten into the room while I was sleeping and, instead of taking anything or just killing me, they decided to something much more disturbing.

They left a demented command.

I placed the note on the floor where it had been and backed away, carefully surveying everything around me. Luckily, there was nowhere to hide in my sparse living space.

"Hello?" I called out, just in case. Because psycho killers always gladly answer you, right?

I poked my head out the front door, slowly, and peered into the dank, moldering hallway. Nobody there. Nothing out of sorts.

I sat at the dining room table, a plastic patio table really, and studied the paper again. The words "OR ELSE" were scratched out in red ink, while the rest appeared to be jotted out with a standard pen.

I was halfway through reading the words over again when the lights went out. As I looked up, and before I could let out a curse, the lights rose once more.

It wasn't unusual.


When I started reading again, again the lights went out. Then on. Then off. On. Off. On. Off. The bulb over my head exploded, sending a shower of sparks and glass down on my head and onto the page.

For a moment, I thought the glass had cut me. There was crimson spreading on the note... but it was seeping out from the cryptic threat written thereupon. "OR ELSE" was quickly smearing itself across the page, releasing the copper odor of human blood.

I dropped the paper and bolted for the door.

I rattled the doorknob, twisted and turned it, threw myself against the door's hard surface, but it wouldn't budge.

"It's nothing," I reasoned with myself in that deathly quiet moment, the lights above me quickly dimming and brigthening of their own accord once more, "It's nothing, just a cut..."

I took a kitchen knife and drew it across the flesh of my palm, pinkie to thumb, now releasing my own very real blood to roll in rivlets along my wrist and forearm.

It was a superficial wound, to be sure. I wasn't THAT committed to the act.

The flickering stopped immediately, as soon as the knife's cold tip reached the base of my thumb. At the moment, the injury simply itched... but within seconds I knew that would change.

I grabbed a bag of frozen peas in the hand and gripped it tightly as I once again walked to the front door.

I flung it open with ease. No problem.

The phone rang.

For a moment, I stood in the doorway and looked back to the telephone. I knew in that moment that one of these choices was the proper one... leaving and being free of whatever had just occurred... or answering the phone and averting some other disaster that was awaiting me.

Thinking quickly, and with a touch of genius if I might claim so, I moved the ficus into position so as to prop open the front door.

I answered the phone.


It rang. I mean, I could hear it ringing as if I'd placed a call myself.

"McMillard & Associates." The woman at the other end chirped.

It was my talent agency.

"H-Hey..." I stammered, "Sorry, I dialed the wrong number."

"Excuse me?"

"I dialed wrong, sorry about that."

"Well why not?"

Her response didn't match what I was saying.

She continued.

"Well this isn't very much notice... We don't have enough time now to... Excuse me, but I don't like your tone... Okay, that's fine. I'll let Mr. McMillard know how you feel. Goodbye!"

She slammed the phone down. She was pissed, and I hadn't even said anything. It sounded like she was having a conversation with herself.

I hung up the phone and lifted it again, dialing the agency back.

"We're sorry, you call cannot be completed as dialed. Please hang up the phone and try again."

The automated voice was no different than the one I'd heard a hundred times before... until it added something...

"Or else."

The line went dead.

Upon hearing this, no less cheery and professional than the rest of the message, I immediately slammed the reciever down and let go as if it was about to catch fire.

I felt my hands, my face, going numb. I felt cold, and I knew it wasn't the room... it was me. I had been adequately terrorized and now stood erect only by the grace of muscle memory.

I stared at the phone until I heard a familiar noise.



I whirled around, expecting to catch sight of some home-invading madman ready to finally end my confusion with a hatchet to the brain. Instead, there upon the floor, right where its brother had been, was a plain-looking note. Rolled up and fixed with a red rubber band.

"I understand," I said... only half-understanding, "If I don't play your stupid game, you'll screw me over."

I stormed over to the note and stopped just short of it.

"Well, maybe I don't care what you do."

Nothing out of the ordinary happened in response to my defiance.

"That's right. Don't say anything, don't show your face. Whatever."


I was free to go. I could walk right out the front door and out into the streets. I could go to the Talent Agency and make up some bullshit excuse, like my friend had called them pretending to be me and...

I was free to go if I chose to, and that's what scared me most of all.



This one, I crumbled into a ball and threw away... but only because the open door was a few steps away. I quickly moved to the door and, without incident, stepped into the hallway.

My phone rang again.

I laughed at first, because this seemed like a pathetic repeat of a failed tactic.

Then I thought it over. Three rings. Four rings. Who was going to pick up? The agency? Five rings. Six rings. What if the next call was to my girlfriend? Seven rings. What if whoever... whatever this was... called the Police and, somehow, turned me in for something?

I rushed back to the phone, just to hear what I'd have to undo later on.



"What do you mean?"

No, she couldn't hear me. My mother.

"Honey, what are you saying... are you crying?... What do you MEAN?!... No, please... there's so much to live for, please just wait... NO!!..."

I listened in like a silent voyeur as my mom tried to talk me out of killing myself.

The air conditioner was loose. It was easy enough to force it out, especially with the momentum I'd gained by running straight for it as soon as I'd dropped the phone.

It landed on the sidewalk with a tremendous clatter, breaking into pieces and sending bits of stone flying. Pedestrians below were spared a gruesome fate merely by the fact they'd not been standing directly beneath it.

I only looked out long enough to see that I hadn't killed anyone, then I was back at the phone almost immediately.

"Hello? Mom?"

"Where did you go? Please, don't do anything crazy..."

"Can you hear me?"

"Yes! Yes, I heard you! PLEASE!!"

She was in tears, but at least I... the REAL me... was talking with her this time.

"Mom, it's okay..." I couldn't think of anything else to say, "I... I have a part... where I play a guy who kills himself... I just wanted to see if I could convince you."


A final, sickening groan... a sound of disgust and anguish you never want to hear from anyone you love... and she hung up on me.

I probably could have thought of a better lie, but not under these circumstances. There was going to be some serious collateral damage, but I don't know if I could have patched things up if she'd heard me go through with it. If she'd heard a gunshot or slicing flesh or however I was about to do myself in.

That would've been completely inexplicable... and unforgivable.

This time, I caught it when it happened.



The panel. The one that didn't belong. The circle at its center slid to the side, revealed a small, dark opening, and quickly snapped shut... but only after another tube-shaped note had been passed through.

I tried to catch it before it closed, but I missed by a mile. I couldn't work the thing open with my fingernails or any sort of utensils. It was like the panel was one smooth, uninterrupted surface with nothing hidden behind.

"How long is this going to go on?" I shouted directly at the offending square, "What's the point?"

I sat by the panel, holding the very same knife that I'd drawn my blood with, and I unrolled the latest communication.



I laughed. It was the sort of laugh you don't expect, like a sudden cough. Retrieve a "human being". Unbelievable. The first two actions, while disconcerting, had been simple enough. This, however, sounded quite a lot like kidnapping.

I turned to the panel again, and again I spoke directly into it.

"No way."

I got up, placed the knife on the table by the front door, and left. The phone rang, and I ignored it. Call the agency, call my mother, call the President himself - it was nothing I couldn't explain away SOMEhow. Even if they didn't believe me, I'd still be better off taking my chances.

It was only when I got into the hallway that I realized my mistake.

The panel. The wall. Someone feeding in notes... but who?

I backtracked, passed my own proped open door, continued to ignore the pleading rings of the phone, and proceeded to the appartment next to mine. The one that shared my wall, and was home to whomever have been messing with me.


"Who is it?" a woman's voice from within.

I wondered, in that moment, how she'd been able to imitate my voice... enough to convince my own mother. No... there had to be someone else in there. A man, probably the one who rigged my lights and patched into the phone.


"Who IS it?" she insisted.

"Your new neighbor," I called back, figuring there was no use in hiding it, "I know what you've been doing."

The door opened just a tad... the chain lock caught it. A young woman, blonde, petite, peeked out at me. No doubt she was doing her best to keep me from seeing whoever else shared the apartment and what he was doing.

"What?" she pretended to be confused.

"The panel," I smiled, "I know what you're doing with the panel, and the phones, and the lights... and I'm pretty sure the Police are going to want to know, too."

A pause. Was she trying to figure out what I meant, or trying to think of a lie?

"You're insane."

She slammed the door in my face.

I stared at the peep hole. I knew she was watching me... watching me, watching her. The phone continued to ring... and ring... and ring... and ring...

I threw my shoulder against the door, sending the chain's links flying like beads from a snatched necklace. The girl had been behind the door as I'd presumed, and so she too toppled to the ground.

She sprawled out on the floor, on her back, before quickly rolling over and crawling toward her own telephone like a cockroach fearing the light.

"Uh-uh," I scolded as I grabbed her by the waist, "Nice try."

She fought at first, but soon saw there was no use.

"What do you want? Please, take anything... just don't..."

"Relax. I just want to know who's passing the notes through. If it's not you, then tell me who it is. Which room is he in? I'm only going to talk to him."

"There's nobody here!"

I checked. Dragging her with me, turning her arm so any wrong move would cause her pain, I looked in every room.

"So it's you, then," I smirked, "Okay, now tell me how you did eveything."

"I don't know what you're talking about!!"

"Right. Why is the phone still ringing?"


"My phone. Stop ringing it, that's enough."

"I'm not calling you, my phone's right over there!"

"You have something... a cell phone or..."

"Don't touch me!!! NO."

I talked to her about the panel... went over it again and again... but all she did was claim to have nothing to do with it.

I escorted her through the hall, to the panel in question. I kicked the ficus over, spilling it across the floor, and slammed the door behind us. She wouldn't be getting away that easily.

"THERE," I pointed, "See? Now you can't deny it."

She stared at the thing for a few moments, then turned to me, fear in her eyes. Fear at being punished now that she was caught, no doubt.



Both of us turned back to the panel in disbelief. There, at my feet, was another note... exactly the same as before...

"How are you doing this?!" I shouted in her tear-streaked face as I shook her violently, "HOW??"

I threw her to the floor and picked up the note. I pulled the rubber band so roughly that it snapped, lashing my hand. Unrolling the note with fury, I had to turn it a few times before finding which end was up.

While I was distracted, the girl made for the door. Sobbing, screaming, she tried to open it but could not. As I understood it, nobody could open it, now.

The room started to heat up. Quickly, the temperature rose until sweat drenched us both and the walls began to blister. The phone was still ringing, and silently I wondered how many people had been called. What I had threatened, what I had confessed to...

Hotter, hotter, hotter the room grew. I had no doubt that soon we would both be dead. Unless...

"What's going on?" she demanded, positive that I was completely mad, "What the fuck are you looking at?!"

There, on the page, were two diagrams.

The first diagram showed the outline of an average woman.


The second diagram showed a similar outline, but with the limbs rearranged... misplaced... cut off at different lengths and reattached facing in odd directions. Helpful arrows guided each numbered limb to its new location.


« Last Edit: 07:37:19 PM 01/05/13 by chwolf »
If I should live until I wake, I pray the web my death to fake.


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on: 09:49:46 PM 06/14/15
I loved this more than anything. The sequel makes you take a completely different side to take on the situation. But still, what does this all mean?
Why must everything be like it is?
Why can it not be different?
Why is it not how I want it?
Now... It is.


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on: 08:07:04 PM 03/03/16
Apparently, this stars the same kid from child three: