Cereal Killer II

•April 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Dave’s fingers started to sweat. Did she see him? Did that evil little girl see him? His position was very uncomfortable at the moment.

He was hanging from a steep cliff at Chichibonga Preserve Park. Miles below were the sharp, pointy rocks that were his doom. After Samantha Ganchee had pushed him, David had only just managed to grab hold of a narrow ledge.  Unfortunately, he was too heavy to pull himself up, so he could only hang there. He was also too afraid to look down. Dave Polonchisatto’s fingers started to slip. One by one they unfurled from the ledge. Inch by inch he felt himself lower, until –

He fell. But – much to his own surprise – Dave’s feet hit ground, and he lived. He had only fallen two feet only, luckily, yet another ledge. This ledge was the opening of a cave.

It was dark. Water dripped form stalactites. The air was foul and dense. Tired and bruised, Dave crawled along the pitch-black passage not knowing where it would lead him. That’s when, all of a sudden, something came at Dave from the darkness. He first heard the growl then felt a large, hot body attacking him. He also felt the very flesh ripped off of him and his left hand bitten off.

For some reason, though, the beast suddenly took off. It had sounded as if it had been hit by something. Dave heard a thump and the sound of splintering bone followed by a long whine. Then Dave felt himself being lifted off the ground.

“Oh my gosh! I’m dying!” were the last words uttered by Dave Polonchisatto before he passed out in the arms of another creature entirely, though this one would help him for the better.

* * *

Dave’s eyes fluttered open. He was lying on something very soft: animal fur. “W-where am I?” he asked himself. An answer made him jump.

“You in cave now. You drink soup. Here.”

“Wh-who said that?”
“Is me. You call me Holga now. Come. Eat.”

Dave finally managed to take in what he was looking at. In front of him was the hairiest beast he had ever seen. Apparently she was a woman. She had nothing on but wolf-skin and, of course, her own hair.

“Some call me Yak Lady. You eat soup now.” Holga held out the bowl of soup to him. He could see small animal parts floating in it.

“Mmm! It looks delicious! Got any cat?”

Holga let out a low laugh. It sounded good to Dave. “You better already, see?”

* * *

“Sam! What happened to you?” asked Sam’s friend, Marley Fennel.

Sam’s face was scratched and she was visibly bruised. “You don’t want to know,” she replied, “but this is what happened…” and she told her story.

“Whoa,” said Marley, “that’s terrible!”

“I know, right? So what should I do?” Sam asked.

“Well, he’s gone now right? So everything should be cool. Just try and forget about it, well, if you can,” Marley suggested.

“Yah…I guess you’re right.”

But were they right? Below them in the park, at this very moment, Dave Polonchisatto was slowly growing stronger.

* * *

“This cave really a tunnel, you know? It lead all way to central park in big city. I used to go there, but people scream and run ‘way; now I just stay here. You find your way home by following it,” explained the Yak Lady, Holga, to Polonchisatto.

“Thank you. But… well, I don’t know if I want to leave you, Holga.”

“You too kind. But you must least do something ‘bout hand. It very damaged,” she replied.

“Yes, I suppose you’re right, but I tell you: I will be back!”

Cradling the stump of the limb in his arms, he slowly made his way through the underground tunnel. He had ate enough meat and blood to feel strong again, but always was there a pain where he had no more hand. He missed it terribly, but he had an idea of what could replace it.

Holga had been right. The passage finally sloped upwards where it led to a hollowed-out tree. Dave swung open the door leading out of the trunk and stepped into the central park of his town. He knew what he had to do: find a hook-dealer. They were very popular in the alley behind his home.

Soon he was in that very alley approaching someone with a long black coat. “I’m … er … ‘on the market,’ if you will,” Dave said to the unshaven man. The man flung open his coat and on the inside was practically every type of hook imaginable. Polonchisatto studied each one closely before deciding on a particularly sharp, curved one. “This will be perfect,” he said, slipping the man some cash.

“Been nice workin’ with ya, boss,” said the guy before continuing his pacing in the alley. Then the man stopped and turned around. He casually threw a business card at Dave and kept walking.

Dave stooped to pick up the card. It had the number of an unlicensed surgeon on it, which he went home and called immediately. Before long, not only was he restored to perfect health, but he also had a hook attached in place of his left hand. Dave laughed to himself as he crawled into bed that night. His students, or at least a few of them, would have a great surprise tomorrow when he came striding through the doors of the classroom.

* * *

“Who do you think the substitute teacher will be today?” asked Marley Fennel at the beginning of English class.  A teacher had not yet arrived.

“I hope it’s Mr. Sanderson!” said Marina Mershteyn.  “he’s my favourite.”

“I don’t care who it is; I’m just glad Mr. Polonchisatto is out of the picture,” said Samantha.

“You must have been really brave to fight him all by yourself!” Olive Quake said to Sam. “Were you scared?”

“Uh, y-no not at all.” Replied Sam. “You just have to be really tough and you can handle almost anyth-aaaaahhhh!” Sam clasped a hand over her mouth, for who but Mr. Polonchisatto had just walked through the door.

“Good morning, class. Will you please take out your novel study books? Rich Yen, do you still have jet lag or what? Will you please wake up and stay with the class. In fact, you know what? You have detention today, Rich. I have a surprise for you.”

Later that day in detention, Richard gulped as Mr. Polonchisatto handed him a blindfold and told him to put it on. “Now you may feel a slight bit of pain for a moment,” said Dave calmly.

He pulled his hooked hand from within his coat, plunged it into Rich’s mouth, and ripped out his tongue! Rich lay on the ground after that, bleeding to death. The red blood ran into the red carpet and was undetectable. The smell was the same as ever in Mr. Polonchisatto’s office.

* * *

“Marley, have you seen Rich Yen lately?” asked Coral Reef. “He didn’t show up for our date last night!” She was practically in tears.

“Sorry, Coral, I haven’t seen him since – oh my gosh! – English class! You don’t think…?”

Coral cried even louder. “Oh, I didn’t mean. It’ll be okay,” Marley tried to comfort as she walked down the hall towards the girls’ room with Coral. “You know, I’m pretty sure Harley Mavis was interested in you.” This only made Coral cry louder.

Soon, English class arrived once again. “Kay, you’re looking swell today,” Mr. Polonchisatto said to Kay Swelltuck. “But unfortunately, you failed the last test the class took.  On the other hand, you could stay after class to retake it as an open=book one,” offered Dave.

Being the silly, naïve girl that she was, Kay accepted immediately. That is why she was so unprepared when Dave killed her in the after class special.

Dave Polonchisatto was baking some “Kid-y-Os” in the staff room when Miss Parkiss walked in.  there was no one else in the room.

“Can I have some of your ‘cereal,’ Mr. P?” she cooed. “It’s delicious.”

“Of course you can, but there’s something I should tell you first: I’ve been sharing my delicious snacks with another.”


“I know. We met in an unprecedented way.  Her name is Holga, and she was the one who nursed me back to health after the ‘little terror’ tried to kill me,” Dave explained.

“I see, but why couldn’t you have told me this sooner? Why did you keep letting me believe you still liked me?”

“What’s to say I don’t? I still ‘visit’ you during class time, don’t I? Exactly. We don’t have to stop. I just thought I’d let you know about Holga.”

“Oh, okay, I guess,” said Miss Parkiss looking a little crestfallen.

“Glad that’s settled then. See you tomorrow at three past two.” With that, Mr. Polonchisatto started home to his new brute.

“Honey, I’m home!” he called as he walked through the cave door.”

“Nice see you today,” replied Holga. “I make something special for you while you at school.”

“What is it?”

“Special potion. It might protect you from ‘little terror,’ or other hurt.”

“Sweet, I’ll take it now.” Dave drank the potion the Yak Lady gave to him and felt a surge of power go through him . He would be able to kill plenty of children the next day.

The next day came, and indeed, it was a good day for Dave Polonchisatto. He was able to fill three cereal boxes with Marina Mershteyn, Harley Mavis, and Olive Quake. He was on a roll, but would it soon stop? Some thought not.

* * *

“Eat slower, Miss Parkiss; we want that to last,” said Dave.

“But it’s just so good, Dave,” she replied. “I have something special for you today.  It’s for being so honest with me.”

“Swell,” he answered.

“I want you to shut your eyes.”

“No problem,” he replied.

Miss Parkiss held a glass of poison to his lips, and Mr. Polonchisatto drank it without two thoughts. He collapsed on the floor immediately. It was easy for Miss Parkiss to shove the body into a cupboard since they were in his office anyway.  “That’ll show you, you yak-loving *@$%@&#!” she yelled at the cupboard before running off to finish teaching her class at seven past two.

Mr. Polonchisatto wouldn’t be bothering students or be making his “Kid-y-Os” or kissing the Yak Lady ever again – would he?


It Crawled Out of the Toilet

•April 1, 2013 • Leave a Comment

It was a hot summery day.  Josh was outside playing Frisbee with his dog in the park. He did this every Saturday.  Sometimes his friends would join him – but sometimes he was forced to bring his little sister.

These were the most awful of times.  No one likes going out in public with his younger siblings.  All Josh’s little sister, Janice, liked to do was play with her dollies – or, even worse, dress up his dog, Max.

One day, Josh came home from the park yelling at his sister.  “How could you embarrass me like that?” he screamed.  Tears were pouring from Janice’s eyes.

“It was an accident,” she said.  Her favourite thing (and I’m sure a lot of other little kids’ favourite thing) to say: “It was an accident” – even when it was clearly not.

“Josh, what’s all this yelling about?” asked his mother angrily.

“Janice brought all her stupid dolls and stuffed toys to the park in a wagon and was having a tea party.  All of a sudden she calls over to me, as loud as she can, ‘You forgot Mister Snuggles at home, Josh! Don’t you want him to play with you?’ Mom,” Josh whined, “all my friends were there, and it was really embarrassing! Errr! I could kill that little brat!”

“Josh! Go to your room! Do not ever say that about your sister!  You’re going to regret it one day.” His mother was very angry with him now.

*  *  *

Deep underground, the mole-people were hard at work.  They were creating a monster with which to take over the world.

“To complete this monster, we will need a human brain!” the leader of the mole-people said.  His tame was Tojoe.

“Why can’t we use a mole-person’s brain?” a mole-person asked.

“Because everyone down here, except for me, is too stupid!” ToJoe answered.

“I see,” said the stupid mole-person.  But really, he didn’t.

That night, they were going to attack the human world.

*  *  *

Josh sat in his room bouncing a ball against the wall.  “Stupid little sisters,” he thought, “not good for anything.”

“Time for bed, Josh,” his mom called up from downstairs.  He even had to eat dinner in his room, and now he had to go to bed at the same time as his little sister.

Janice was tucked in nice and cozy as her mother read her the story about the fairy and the unicorn for the second time that day.  Josh could hear it through the walls of his room, and it only made him angrier.

He disagreed with his mom: if he didn’t have Janice as a little sister, he wouldn’t miss her at all.  He probably wouldn’t miss he is parents either.  How dare they ground him when his sister was the one at fault.

*  *  *

The mole-people used the sewers and the pipes to reach the human world they didn’t like fresh air, and they especially didn’t like the sun. it burned their eyes and skin and made them itchy.

Two greenish hands pulled at the side of the pipes.  Two furry hands were placed on the toilet seat.  A brown body was pulled up through the hole in the base of the bowl.  The beast coughed at the clean air.

It was pleased when its own stench started to fill the room.  It sniffed the air. It caught the scent of the perfect brain: sneaky and manipulative.  The creature slid across the floor leaving a mucus-y trail.  It tread across the hall.

Once in the desired bedroom, it crawled over to the bed. It peered over the side and muffled a scream with a slimy hand. It dragged its victim back the way it had come. Proud of its fine work, the mole-person returned to its home.

*  *  *

Josh woke up with the same attitude he had felt the night before. He stomped downstairs where he was surprised not to see his sister. She was usually always up before him, bouncing around and being noisy.

Josh walked back upstairs to check Janice’s room.  There was no one there, only a slimy trail that led to the bathroom.  “Eww,” he said to himself. Then he started to worry. Where could his sister have gone?

“Mom! Dad! I don’t’ know where Janice is,” Josh woke his parents.

“What are you talking about?” his dad asked sleepily.

“She wasn’t downstairs, and she wasn’t in her room.  When I looked in there, there was a path of slime that led to the toilet.  It was really weird..and it smelt bad,” Josh explained.

His parents got out of bed. Thinking he was just playing, they followed him. When they saw the slime they could tell it was unearthly, and Josh had not made it up.  His parents looked all around the house, grasping for any sign of their beloved daughter.

*  *  *

Tojoe was watching this in his magic sewer ball.  He watched as Janice’s parents went to the police. The police had rejected them. An officer said to come back after Janice had been missing for a full thirty-six hours.

Tojoe laughed.  The police couldn’t do anything about the precious daughter now.  But even so, he would be better off kidnapping the whole family than having them spread news of the weird disappearance and arousing suspicions.

Janice’s head had been cut open and her brain removed. Before it was entered into the monster’s head, it first had to pass some tests.  Suddenly, Tojoe had an even better idea.  Four brains were better than one.  He would combine the whole family’s knowledge and insert it into his creation.

*  *  *

That night, Josh was told to go sleepover at his friend’s house.  His grounding was officially over, and his parents didn’t want him home in case the something decided to strike again.

This time three beasts crawled out of the toilet, expecting the boy to be there too.  On finding only the parents, the mole-people captured them and brought them underground.

*  *  *

The parents’ brains were quickly combine with their daughter’s.  Tojoe found the boy wandering around his empty house through his magic sewer ball.  He laughed evilly.  He, himself, would personally get the boy tonight.

Tojoe put what brains he had collected so far into the monster and got ready for the expedition above ground.

*  *  *

Josh sat waiting in the bathroom.  He would not fall asleep.  The anger for his lost family kept him wide-awake. He sat tapping his heavy baseball bat in his hand.

At around one in the morning, he heard a rustling in the pipes.  He let his hand drift to his side where the reassuring kitchen knives sat.  he took a big gulp and stood up.  He hid himself in the shower, but as the mole-person climbed out jumped out and swung as hard as he could.

The mole-person flew to the other side of the room. Josh repeatedly threw the knives at him, until they had pierced each of Tojoe’s limbs.  The creature twitched and turned.  Josh came up and stabbed him where his heart should have been.  The creature stoped moving.

Then, without any warning, the mole-person exploded, and slime flew onto the walls, slathering Josh in a sticky mucus.


Josh knew he wouldn’t be able to get his family back, and instead, of wanting to sound crazy and explain the story, he moved in with his friend silently.

The mole-people’s brilliant leader being destroyed, the “Project Takeover” could not be completed.  The stupid mole-people allowed cobwebs to cover the partially formed monster and buried it in with their trash.


They wouldn’t be bothering anyone again, or would they?

The Corn Maze

•March 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

“Oh my gosh! Jackie Johnson is walking down the Loser Hallway! Do you think she’s recruiting?”

“I hope so! Oh, here she comes!”

“Hi Jackie!” the two girls said simultaneously as they fixed their hair and smiled.

“Ew! Get away, Freaks!”


“Oh well, maybe next time.”
“Bet she was just taking a shortcut…”

“Yah, she is so smart!”

Jackie Johnson was the most popular girl in school.  She had two best friends, Britney and Katarina.  Also, Jackie had the hottest jock in school as her boyfriend, (also the most stupid).

Britney laughed.  “You sure shoed those nerds, Jackie!”

“You sure did!” Katarina reiterated.

“You are so right,” Jackie said.  “Hey, Josh!”

“Hey, Babe!”

“Are you coming to my Halloween party?” Jackie asked her boyfriend.

“Duh, of course,” he replied.

“Great! We’re meeting at my house and then going out.  It will be super fun,” Jackie winked.

“Sweet.  See you there.”

“Au revoir!”

“Oh! You guys are such a cute couple,” Britney sighed.

“Yeah, you’re so perfect for each other!” Katarina added.

“I know,” Jackie said, as she twisted her hair around her finger. “You guys can invite your boyfriends too, then we’ll all take a limo from my house!”

“Great idea,” Britney and Katarina said together.  “See you tonight, Jackie!”

So Britney and Katarina went to invite their boyfriends, Ryan and Bill (some other dumb jocks).

That night, the six teens all met at Jackie’s house.  Jackie was dressed all in black with a top that had sparkly orange bats on one shoulder and on her pant cuffs.  She snuggled up to Josh. “You’re going to protect me tonight, aren’t you?” She batted her eyelashes.

“Of course. I’m the toughest guy in school!”

“Oh you’re sooooo sweet.”

“You’re going to protect us too, right?” Brit asked suggestively to Ryan and Bill.

“Duh,” answered Ryan.

They all got into the limo. “Francois, drive us to the Haunted Fair, okay?”

“Yes, Miss.”

“Guys, this will be so cool!” Jackie exclaimed. “If ound this place that was all, like, Halloween-y.  unfortunately, there will be children, but that’s okay since we’re going to go in, like, the Corn Maze.  I heard not many people go in there.  It’s, like, a more expensive attraction, and since I have so much money, I’ve ordered a ticket for each of us to go through it.  It’s like two acres or something and supposedly it’s easy to get lost in there,” she giggled. “But I’m sure we will be able to do it no problem.”

“You always know the best stuff to do, Jackie!” Britney praised.

“Yeah, always,” said Katarina.

“That’s my girl!” Josh sucked up, hoping for something action.

The fair was almost a whole hour away from Jackie’s house, but they arrived after what seemed like a short period of time.  After all, they were playing an online six-player PS3 game in the car.

They stepped out of the limo.  Jackie picked up the six tickets then made her way back to the group.  They looked around in awe of all the decorations.  The place was elaborately donned in spooky fashion.  There were lineups for everything: the haunted house, the hayride, the petting zoo, the candy store, the hot apple cider booth, and much more.  The place was filled with carved pumpkins, scarecrows, and witches.  All the employees were dressed up, and some of them pretended to be statues and jumped out at passersby.  Everyone was filled with the joy of Halloween.  Every child was smiling happily and trying to squirm away from their mothers cleaning their faces with napkins spit-dampened thumbs.

One kid came up to Jackie.  “Hewwo,” he said, not pronouncing his Ls.

“Ew! What is that thing? Ew! Sticky hands!” screeched Jackie.

“Back off little dude.” Josh said protectively  the small child ran away to seek shelter from his mother.

The group then made their way toward the maze: surprisingly the only activity without a line.  “Excellent! No waiting,” Jackie grinned.

Without pause, she handed her ticket to the ticket-taker and started to walk in.

“Wait, Miss.  I must warn you. If you go in, you may—“

“Like, whatever! I don’t really care what you’re going to tell me!”  Jackie said rudely and waited for the others who walked by the old man and snickered.

The maze was huge.  They walked around together for a while.  There were so many turns, twists, and dead ends.  It seemed like they had gone through half the maze already – though they hadn’t.  after about fifteen minutes Jackie had another one of her “brilliant” ideas.

“Let’s split up guys. I’ll go with Josh, Britney can go with Bill, and Katarina goes with Ryan!”

“Good idea,” said Josh nudging her in the side.

All at once, Britney and Katarina squealed, “Very good!”

The girls giggled quietly and split up at a tri-section.

Jackie walked hand in hand with Josh. They took a right, then a left, then a left, then a right. They walked uphill then downhill in between the corn stalks.  “Let’s take a break, Baby,” Josh suggested.

“No! We have to finish this maze before the others! I must be the BEST!”

“O-okay…if you insist…” Josh trailed off dismayed.

They continued, running this time.  Jackie got a little ahead and hid in a bend.  As Josh came nearer looking for her she jumped out at him.

Aaaahhhhhh! O-Oh..hehehe…it’s just you,” said Josh shakily; he was beginning to let the setting finally freak him out.  they had been walking for almost forty-five minutes.

“I scared you good,” Jackie laughed. “Man, this place is humongous!  Do you wanna take a break now?” she asked.

“Oh yeah,” Josh replied pulling her a little ways into the corn with him.

Meanwhile, Britney and Bill were also having trouble finding an exit.

“Do you think there even is an exit, Brit? Do you think, maybe, they’re just trying to play with our minds?” Bill squinted as one of the lights from a tower shone in his eye.  There were about six towers scattered around.  Each had a watchperson on them, making sure no one was horsing around.

“O-of course there’s an exit, silly!” Britney stated. “But after all that running, I need a rest.”

“Me too,” said Bill placing his jacket on the ground, close to the corn, so they could both sit down.

Katarina and Bryan were having the same problem, maybe even worse for Katarina.

“Like, oh my gosh! Look at my shoes! They’re all muddy! Ew, gross!”

“It’s okay, Babe,” said Ryan, “you can get them cleaned, like pro, later. Right now we should just concentrate on getting out of this freaky place.  It’s getting kind of creepy!”

“I’m getting scared!” Katarina stated, creeping closer to Ryan.

“Don’t’ worry, I’ll protect the both of us from whatever lurks in the dark.” Of course, Ryan was just joking, because there could be nothing hiding in a simple maze for children. Right?

A bat flew overhead.  Katarina screamed as it flew close to her head – a loud, piercing scream that echoed through the forest of corn.  “I heard bats can get stuck in your hair,” she laughed nervously, and Ryan hugged her.

In another part of the maze: “What was that?” Jackie worried.

“I d-dunno, Jack,” stammered Josh in his nervousness.

“I told you not to call me that!” Jackie glared.  “But that noise…it sounded like a girl screaming! What if there’s something more going on here than just corn?”

“There is, Babe, “me and you makin’ out,” Josh replied smiling.

“Okay, it’s time for you to get off of me.  We need to find a way out of here,” Jackie said Calmly but with a note of fear in her voice.

“It’s just a bat, it’s just a bat, it’s just a bat…” Katarina muttered to herself.  “There is nothing wrong with bats…they’re normal animals…they’re just like all the other birds…”

“I told you not to worry, Hun; we’ll be out of here in no time. Especially with my super good direction skills, man.  You know I spent like one year in scouts, eh?” Ryan bragged.

“The-that’s good…I guess…”

“Your hair looks really great tonight, Brit.”

“Thanks, Bill. You’re looking pretty fine yourself.”

Their rest was taking a little longer than planned.

“Oh! The moon is so beautiful tonight! Don’t you think full moons are beautiful, Bill?”

Bill turned to gaze up at the sky. When he turned back to gaze at Britney’s lips once more, she was gone.

*             *             *

Bill stood up as fast as he could.  He turned on his heels and ran, leaving his jacket behind. Which way to go? he wondered. there were so many twists and turns: some paths appeared to go someplace, others just in circles. He tripped, fell, and rolled down the hill a little, got up and ran again.  He needed to find his friends and wouldn’t stop until he did.

“Enough of a break.  Let’s go, Josh!” Jackie pleaded as he pulled he arm.  “Let go of me!  I need to get out of this maze NOW!”

“Fine then. Why don’t you go without me?”

“No! I mean…look…just come with, okay? I need to get out, and I need you! So can we just go?”

A noise pierced the silence – a growl, or snarl – a noise form some unearthly beast it seemed.

“O-okay. I’m ready now,” said Josh. They started to run together.  Hand-in-hand they ran not wanting to slow for anything.

“Bats are the most disgusting birds I know of!” said Katarina, starting off on the issue again.

“Uhh…” Ryan started to correct her, but then decided against it. “I think we should maybe start running.  This place is really freaking me out.  Like,  A LOT!”

“I agree, but these shoes aren’t very good for running,” Katarina said.

“Oh well, I’ll run slow for you, Babe.”

Ryan started to jog, and at first Katarina kept up with him; however, slowly he grew farther away from her.

“Wait up!” she called.

He turned a bend.  Katarina followed after him.  Al of a sudden something, maybe a grotesque hand, reached out and grabbed Ryan’s leg.  He screamed.  Katarina screamed and skidded to a halt.  Ryan had been pulled to the ground and within a second had disappeared into the corn.

Katarina screamed again, and she turned onto a path leading in the opposite direction kicking off her shoes as she went.  “I’m gonna die!” she screamed dramatically.

Bill heard the screams.  He sped up his pace. He tried to go away from the sound, but it came form everywhere at once. He started not caring about direction after awhile. All that mattered was to keep running. He had to keep running, keep running, keep running…

“M-more s-screams! Do you think Katarina and Britney are alright?” Jackie asked nervously. For once she actually felt real feeling towards the girls.  She cared.

“I h-have no idea! I am totally scared out of my f-freakin’ mind!” Josh started freaking out.

“B-but, you’re still here to p-protect me r-right?” Jackie implored.

“U-uh…of course!” he replied unsurely.

They ran.

Katarina was running faster than she had ever run in her life. She was panting heavily and having trouble breathing before long, but that didn’t slow her speed. It fact, it made her run with more force, when all of a sudden—

Bill was running as if he had the football and need the touchdown in the next few seconds to win the game. This made it all the more frightening and painful when he ran headlong into something dark. It was also running with long strides; it look like it had some sort of wings. He screamed, and heard another scream as he smashed into it—

“Ow! My head!” Bill moaned.

Aaaaahhhh! Get off of me you-you, thing! Katarina cried.

“Kat? Is that you?”

“Who’s talking? How do you know my name?”

“Kat! It’s me, Bill!”

“Bill? Oh, Bill!” Katarina started crying as she found his shoulder! “I-I saw—saw…saw…”

“It’s okay.  Well, it’s not…but we’ll be okay. I’ll help you get out of here.  Come on, it’s not safe to stop.”

Jackie and Josh were still running when Josh tripped over an unseen root and fell over. Jackie ran a few paces before stopping. “Josh!” she turned around and said.

“Keep going! I’ll catch—”

His voice was cut off when some creature from the corn jumped out and started tearing at him.

“Oh my-AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” Jackie let the most piercing, loudest and most horrible scream escape her lips.

The beast stopped the scratching, covered what could have been ears, and dashed back into the stalks.  Jackie stood paralysed with fear staring at Josh’s body.  It didn’t move. Then: a twitch! Then: nothing… a bloody mound to decay upon the ground.

Jackie started to move. She was crying. Her body jerked at any sound.  At every sound she spun around.  At every sound Jackie moved faster.

Right now, it didn’t matter how much money Jackie had.  It dint’ matter how great she looked or how fabulous her clothes were.  Right now, being the most popular girl at school didn’t matter.  Even being the most popular person in the world couldn’t save her now.

“Bill! O-o-o-oh Bill!” Katarina snivelled.  She was running tearfully as she clutched his arm.  “W-w-w-what’s gonna happen to us? What?” she yelled at him and stopped running.  He slowed too.

“It may be okay yet,” he persuaded.

“No! No it won’t be okay! Don’t you get it? We’re going to DIE! Why can’t you see that?” Katarina’s eyes changed a little. Something funny was happening.  Her voice steadied.  “Why can’t you see that? Why can’t you see you’re going to die, Bill?”

“Kat! Katarina! What’s the matter with you?” he screamed at her.

She walked toward him, arms outstretched. She now spoke calmly. “You’re going to have to die, Bill. Everyone does.  Now do you see? Do you? Everyone dies, Bill.”

Bill quickly picked a corncob up from the ground. He could see that Katarina was not herself. He could see the murderous glare in her eyes. He knew he had to get away.

He chucked the corncob as hard as he could at Katarina’s head. She stumbled and fell. Bill didn’t wait for her to get up but just turned and ran.

Jackie ran. She glanced up at menacing watchtower. They weren’t there to help anyone. They were there to mock. They were mocking her failure and how she couldn’t get out. that’s when she came to a more open part. There was more light here. Maybe there was still hope…

Bill didn’t expect to ever make it out. he knew he was doomed and that was probably why Katarina’s words, still going around in his mind, started to make sense. “Everyone has to die.” Yes! How true it was.  Why not him? Why not now? He was in one of the darkest places. He lay down on the ground.

All of a sudden he let out a cry!  He felt an immeasurable amount of pain in his back. Someone, or something had stabbed him in the back: with a knife. It was twisted, then run up and down until there were several marking that almost looked like a map. In fact, the corn maze itself had been carved right onto Bill’s back before he had died.  Blood now ran over it.

Jackie saw it! She saw the opening.  She was there! She was going to make it! That’s when the beast dropped into the open space that was the gateway out.  “Oh no,” she cried – but not in fear—with savageness. She was not giving up when she had come so far. This beast would not take her without a fight.

She ran right up to the hairy thing and kicked it as hard as she could (in her high heeled pumps). It yelped and flew a few feet. Then Jackie’s mind clouded over. It was filled with the images of her friends’ bloody, dead bodies. The lifeless forms. She almost started to cry, but not before she let out the same piercing scream she had before. The beast was once again overpowered by the noise and was forced to step away.

When Jackie saw this method working, she kept shrieking. The beast fled from the light back to the unknown. Jackie stepped out of the maze and once again heard the noise of people and saw light and overjoyed faces.

*             *             *

Jackie Johnson was never the same again. Yes she returned to school. Yes she died of natural causes many years later. But always – always she lived in fear.

She was no longer popular. People were afraid of her. She did weird things and kept to herself. There was no more normality about her. On the plus side, she wasn’t mean. On the downside (for her anyway): she never spoke a word ever again.

No one knew what happened to her friends. Some say Jackie killed them. Others said they just left Jackie and that shocked her into voiceless-ness. But Jackie never spoke the truth, and no one ever knew what happened in

the Corn Maze.

And no one ever would,

Would they?

The Pocket

•March 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Once there was a girl named Emily.  She had two best friends.  One was her next-door neighbour Tessa, and the other was Jo-Anne, the girl who lived in her pocket.

When everyone saw Emily talking to her pocket, they all thought she was crazy.  But Tessa didn’t go to her school, and Emily didn’t talk to Jo-Anne around Tessa, so she never knew.  Sure, she heard the rumours, but she didn’t believe them.

Joanne lived off crumbs from Emily’s food and drops of water. There were other things in Emily’s pocket too. One of those items was a tiny, match-box-sized blanket.  Another thing was a box of candy, and the last thing was hand sanitizer.

Now Jo-Anne loved living in Emily’s pocket and spending some much time with her – except for sometimes.  Those times that she hated were when Emily spent time with Tessa.

Tessa didn’t know about her, and Joanne hated how she was ignored during that period of time.  She thought that she should be the centre of attention all the time.

One day at school, a girl walked up to Emily and said, “Emily, what’s in your pocket?”

Emily replied, “That’s none of your business; it’s none of your concern! You’re not at school to ask me questions; you’re here to learn!”

The girl didn’t like this one bit.  So she went up to ta teacher and said, “Emily has something bad in her pocket; I just know it!”

So the teacher came up to Emily and asked, “What’s in your pocket, Miss Emily?”

Emily replied, “That’s none of your business, you’re acting like a leech. You’re not here to ask ME questions; you’re here to teach!”

The teacher didn’t really care and didn’t’ pursue the matter any longer, but the girl hated Emily even more.  Meanwhile, Jo-Anne heard everything that was going on and got very angry.  She didn’t like that no one knew she existed.

Jo-Anne’s pockets also contained three items: a tiny water bottle, a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer, and a bottle of poison.  Emily didn’t even know about any of these items.  This particular afternoon, Emily decided to put some poison on Emily’s candy.

Now, Emily loved her candy and ate it right away.  Of course, she got poisoned, but not enough to die.  She was sick until she had thrown up all she could, including a kidney.

Emily always kept her candy in her other pocket from then on.  Since she had lived, Jo-Anne was disappointed.  Next she dumped the rest of the poison in the hand sanitizer.

Emily survived, but both of her hands fell off.  Luckily, Emily was very good with her feet.  She was also very good with her temper.

She pinned Jo-Anne to her bulletin board and threw darts at her until, finally, Emily pinned her in the heart.  She left her there over night.

Jo-Anne would never bother anyone again.  Although no one could be sure, because she was gone in the morning.

The Monkey Paw

•February 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The monkey paw possessed a great deal of power.  None the likes of anything any regular magic object could hold.  And the worst part of the power: it was EVIL.  Once a weak person came near it, there was no way for him to resist it, and he had to have it.  And so the monkey claw was hidden away in a reputable Indian family.  It was passed down from generation to generation until it came to rest in the hands of an Indian merchant with a strong will.  Until one day…

* * *

“Hurry up, Tim!” shouted Tim’s friend, Phil, as they hurried to the market.  “My mom gave me a list of all the stuff she wants us to buy for her. Plus, I heard there was a ton of other cool stuff here.” Phil hardly ever came to the market, and it was much more of an exciting experience for him than for Tim, who came every week.  But there was something different about the market this weekend that would change his life forever.

“Your mom’s crazy,” said Tim reading the list.  “ ‘Spinach, celery, fresh salmon…’; this stuff is all gross!”

“I know, but it’s just cool to be at this place.”

Tim heaved a sigh and trudged after his friend impatiently.  Why did he have to come along on this shopping expedition?  “Have you found everything you need yet?” he asked.

“Yup!  Just one more thing on the list,” replied Phil.

They walked toward the celery stand, but as they did, Tim noticed the difference.  An extra kiosk had been added at the end of the aisle.  It was odd and exotic, but Tim was drawn to it.  “Hurry up, Phil.  I wanna check out the stuff over here.” Tim walked over to the stand, Phil at his heels.

“Cool,” said Phil. He picked up some of the interesting items.  There were painted rocks, weird masks, and odd signs painted on canvas.  Then a man walked out from a curtained tent.

“There are some more things in here, if you wish to take a look,” cooed the man in a wheezy voice.  The two boys followed him.

Tim started snooping around immediately upon entering.  He was very soon attracted to a small, long box on a shelf.  It was as if whatever was inside the box was calling to him. “What’s in there?” he asked.

“Don’t open that!” warned the old man, but it was too late.  Tim had opened the box and demanded buying its single content.

“I’ve heard of these,” Tim said to Phil.  “They’re so corny!  They’re supposed to grant you three wishes or something.  I just have to have one,” he laughed sarcastically.

The old man sighed, “I will sell it to you, but you must be warned.  This definitely does not grant you wishes but will only bring horrible darkness upon you and your household.”

Tim walked away laughing, holding his new possession closely.  The monkey’s paw was sort of shrivelled and gross looking, but the boys didn’t mind.  It was their new toy.  Tim started to think of what he would wish for, easily forgetting the old man’s words.  “I wish I could fly,” he laughed.  “What do you wish for Phil?”

“I wish for a sports car,” Phil joined in the laughter.  But they wouldn’t be laughing for long. Phil and Tim departed at the corner, and they both went home, Tim putting his treasure under his bed while he slept.

That night, a monkey with a missing arm visited his dreams.  The armless monkey was dripping blood from the open wound on his right shoulder.  He said to Tim, “I will grant you all the riches you want if only you agree to suffer through three trails.  A little suffering will gain you a lot.  The instructions for doing this are simple.  You will wake up at five in the morning.  Upon your wakening, walk to the canal in your pyjamas with a piece of paper saying yes or no.  spin around three times and drop the paper into the canal.  Return home and drink a glass of milk, and do not throw up.  Then your riches will soon be granted.

The monkey disappeared leaving a puddle of blood on the ground where he was standing.  Tim woke up sweating bullets.  “That was weird,” he thought to himself.  He stepped out of bed into something wet.  He looked down horrified.  In his room was a pool of blood.  He quickly cleaned it up, then looked at the clock: 5:07 a.m.  He laughed to himself, then wrote yes on a piece of paper and ran to the canal.  Tim spun around three times and dropped the paper into the canal and went home.

He didn’t’ want to drink a glass of milk, because he was lactose intolerant and was worried of the consequents.  He drank the milk reproachfully and immediately felt like hurling. He swallowed it back, disgusted, and went back to lie down.  It was already 6:15 a.m.

A little later, his mom rushed into his room crying.  She started sobbing even more violently as she tried to explain to him what had happened, then she just passed out – so he thought.  Her heart had stopped beating, just as his dad’s had, and his brother’s and his sister’s.  he walked around the quiet house.  It was awful to see them; it looked as if their hearts had just exploded inside of them.  There was red “stuff” running from their ears.

When he went to school and explained to the teacher why he was late and how he needed help, he got sent to the principal’s office. Tim knocked on the door and crept in when there was no answer. The principal sprang out from behind the desk and tried to kill Tim.

The principal pulled a knife from the desk drawer and pounced at Tim.  Luckily, only the corner of Tim’s ear was nicked as he jumped through the open window leaving a trail of red behind him.  He ran for his life.  Soon after, Tim discovered that all of his friends had been killed after the principal couldn’t find him.  “That’s two… how bad can three be?” Tim thought to himself.

Oh, but the third misfortune was the worst yet.  Tim’s whole appearance changed.  He became old, repulsive, hideous.  He grew a hump, long nails, crooked teeth.  There were crumbs in the greyish, twisted beard that had appeared.  People ran in all directions when they saw Tim.  People threw sharp objects at him. they hated him.  worst of all, when Phil saw Tim, he jumped into the canal and drowned.

Sure, Tim had his money, mansion, and almost anything he wanted – but nobody liked him; people tried to kill him.  This lasted until one night, he had another dream. In that dream he killed himself.  He work up breathing heavily, but when he looked around he was back in his own bed.

Everything had been a dream.  Sure, now he was late for school, but it had been a dream.  There was no one happier than him – until he looked down at his right arm, which wasn’t there.

There was a large amount of blood spilling from the abscess onto the ground.  With his left hand, Tim grabbed the monkey arm and ran.  He didn’t stop running until he reached the canal.  He attempted to throw the arm in, but he, instead, fell in himself.  He couldn’t swim, never mind with just one arm.  In half an hour, all that remained was a body floating face down in the canal, following the stream wherever it led to.

The monkey paw was in the canal with the boy.  But it was it still going to cause someone trouble?  Was it still going to kill?

Mistakes III

•February 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Now that Rupert had gotten a taste of killing, and revenge, he liked it.  His messed up face turned even more distorted as he smiled evilly.  He knew exactly what he would do.

He was going to kill off everyone that was ever mean to him. One person was Sarah, a popular girl.  He put poison in her milk.  Next was Judy.  He locked her in a closet until she starved.  Then he backstabbed Louis – literally.

He kept on killing and killing until there was but four students and one teacher left at his old school.  Two girls with glasses and braces, and two boys the same, and the guidance teacher who always wondered where sweet little Rupert had went to.

Of course no one knew who had been killing all the people off, for he was invisible! The school was filled with blood and horrid stench.  The four students left and never returned as did the teacher.

As Rupert wondered the old halls began to “un-fade.” He became visible again, but this wasn’t good news. Soon the school began to fill with the ghosts – ghosts of the students he had slaughtered.

Rupert started to get scared.  He had never seen ghosts before.  And the worst part was that he had killed them. Now they knew, and now they could see him.

He ran down the halls but they quickly caught him.  They pushed his head under the pool of blood that flooded the school.  The ghosts held him under until blood came out of his ears. Rupert drowned there.

No one came to or left that school ever again.


* * *

                You see, Rupert’s face was a mistake, him killing people was a mistake.  How many mistakes will it take to get you?

Mistakes II

•January 31, 2013 • 1 Comment

Rupert had been invisible for a month now, but he was bored of taking people’s things and scaring kids.  He needed something that would make him feel better.  He needed revenge.

So one night, he snuck into the house of a jock called Bill.  He was one of the people who had made fun of Rupert.  Rupert cut off Bill’s left arm and sewed the skin together so he wouldn’t bleed to death.

* * *

                The next day Bill came to school and said, “Coach, I have a slight disability, but I can still throw the ball.”

The coach said, “You can still play.”

This isn’t what Rupert wanted, so he came back the next night and chopped off Bill’s other arm and sewed the skin together.

* * *

                The next day Bill came to school and said, “Coach, I have a slight disability, but I can still charge people.”

The coach said, “You can still play.”

This isn’t what Rupert wanted so he came back the next night and chopped off one of Bill’s legs.

Bill came to school the next day and said, “Coach, I have a slight disability, but I can still cheer on my team.” (He was in a wheelchair now).

The coach said, “Okay, you can still come along.”

This isn’t what Rupert wanted so the next night, he came back and slit Bill’s jugular.  Bill died.  Rupert got his first taste of killing – and liked it.


•January 24, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Once there was a boy named Rupert.  I’m sure he would have lots of friends, if he didn’t have a lump on his nose.  And I’m sure he would be pretty good looking – it his eyes weren’t so far apart.  And I’m also sure that he would probably be good at kissing – if his mouth was in the middle of his face and not way up the side, as it was.  What a mistake.

* * *

Poor Rupert.  You see, he had a little bit of a …er … ‘deformity.’ But he had got along pretty well without any friends.  The only thing he loved was a three legged blind dog.  And I’m sorry to say, that if the dog wasn’t blind, he probably would have a chosen a different friend for himself than Rupert.

Rupert and his buddy went almost everywhere together.  But one day, Rupert wasn’t with the dog; he was stuck sick inside while the dog roamed free outdoors.  So the dog was by himself and wandered onto the road, being blind as he was.  Unfortunately, Rupert’s buddy didn’t last long and died. (SPLAT.)

Rupert was finally alone in the world and now had absolutely no one!  He felt worthless.  And the more worthless he felt, he wanted to fade.  So he did.  He faded and faded and faded until he was invisible.  No one missed him, no one cared.  He had disappeared forever.

…Or so they thought.

The Sandman Cometh

•January 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment

EN 291 at WLU, or Literary Theory as it’s most commonly known, was one of my least favourite courses in four and half years of higher education.  Partly it was the three hour lecture, part of it was the 1300 paged text book, and another part was the professor.  But I have to say one of the creepiest things that I ever endured in that course was this short film.  I present to you The Sandman, 1992. You can’t un-see this.

(PS, this was in Literary theory to demonstrate the Oedipal complex… I think)

The Cereal Killer

•January 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Dave was unhappy with his job. Every day he would come to school to teach. Every day his students would raise their hands and ask the same stupid questions. They never retained the information they were taught, or did they just didn’t pay attention.

“Mr. Polonchisatto! Mr. Polonchisatto! I have a question! A question!” said one of the most annoying children in the class: Lola Fancy-pants.

“Yes, Miss Fancy,” Dave winced, “what is it?”

“It’s Fancy-pants, and: when do you use ‘two’, ‘to’ and ‘too’? I just don’t understand! I’ve tried so hard, but it’s just not sinking in!”

“Okay, I guess we can do one more lesson on homonyms and when to use which ones,” Dave said.

“Everyone get out a paper and pen. We’ll started with ‘to’, ‘two’ and ‘too’ then work our way down to (T-O) ‘their’, ‘they’re’ and ‘there’.”

The class groaned. Another perk of the job: listen to the children moan when they had to write anything down. It was their own faults that they had to.  If they would just understand the first time around!

After far too long, the day ended and Dave Polonchisatto went home with his job following close behind. He had to mark some horrendous tests that practically everyone would fail.  He walked in the door of his home, throwing his keys on the table. He slumped onto the couch and flicked on the television to watch the news.

“Hey, Boo!” Dave called to his cat as it leapt onto a nearby armchair. The cat began to then knead the chair with its sharp claws. “That’s it, you bad kitty!” Dave yelled before throwing the clicker at the cat.  The cat screeched loudly and fell onto the floor. Unfortunately, it did not land on its feet.

After eating his TV-dinner, Polonchisatto began working on marking the tests. Zero percent, zero percent, one percent, (oh yay!) fifteen percent, (oh no…) negative one percent… and so on. No one could seem to get a passing grade.

Then there came a knock on the door. Who could that be on a school night,” muttered Dave.

“Hello…oh…what do you want?”

There at the door stood Lola Fancy-pants.

“I was wondering if you could answer a couple questions.  Could I come in?”

“I guess so.” Dave looked reproachfully at the lost cause at his door. “Come on…”

They sat at his dining room table as she pulled out a notebook filled with useless questions. “Well, first of all, I missed the part when you were explain about when to use pair, pare, and pear…” Lola started with the basics, but soon they were at even more complex situations. “Now, when should I use questions marks? Okay…what about exclamation points? Okay…”

After spending half an hour with the dumb girl, Dave needed a drink.  “I need to go down to the cellar for some…um…cereal.  Yah…that’s it.  I’ll be right back.”

Dave walked down the steep, dark stairs to the basement. The cool, dank air refreshed his spirits as he descended into teh cellar.  He went and poured himself a glass of rich, strong liquor.  Luckily he could hold it well.  Then he leaned against the cool wall before returning up to the annoying pupil.

It was then he remembered he told her he was coming down for some cereal. He went to where he kept it, incidentally, beside where he kept the axes and hatchets. What if? No…that wouldn’t be right..but…maybe? They looked so tempting. The light from a window was shining on them as though the heavens were pointing them out.

Carrying the cereal in one hand and the axe in the other, he walked slowly back up the stairs.  He opened the door to the kitchen, and as quietly as possible came up behind Lola.  WHACK! One strong swing of the axe was all it took to separate the head from the body.

He did it before he could think that it was wrong. He did it before he thought of what he would do with the body. But when he did it, he knew it felt great. “Mwa ha, ha!” Dave Polonchisatto laughed as the axe came down. Poor Lola didn’t even have the chance to scream.

Dave put the body parts in the blender (along with the dead cat) and then added flour.  He cut the dough into fun shapes and baked it in the oven.  He emptied out the cereal box and put the newly formed “cereal” into it. Now he had a tasty treat to much on, and one less student to worry about.

 * * *

The next day, Dave came to school. The first thing he did in his class was hand back the tests. No one whined, though; they knew to expect a bad mark. Then Samantha Ganchee raised her hand. “Where is Lola Fancy-pants today?”

Mr. Polonchisatto cleared his throat. “How would I know?” he snapped at Sam.

“She just asked a question!” Allyssy Ronkle came to her defense   “Well no more questions!” shouted Mr. Polonchisatto. “And you have detention, Miss Ronkle!”

After class, Allyssy followed Dave to his office. Along the way, she saw him eating cereal.  The real label on the box was crossed off and new one taped over.  “Kid-y-Os” it read.  That’s weird, she thought.

Allyssy hated Mr. Polonchisatto’s office. It always smelled of cats and blood. The lights were dim, and the air was stale. It was silent except for the sound of Dave going through the drawers of his desk.

That was Allyssy’s last thought right before a knife was thrown into her heart. Allyssy collapsed on the chair and soon her body was chopped up, mixed with flour, and baked into Kid-y-Os – the new favourite snack of Dave Polonchisatto.

The next day was quieter than usual. Lola had still not returned and now Allyssy was missing too.  Mr Polonchisatto needed a reason to have some kids in detention though. He looked around the classroom. Cory Crockett was sitting straight up in his chair.  He was doing his work and not saying a word.  But he just looked so delicious.  Then Dave saw it: Cory was chewing gum!

“Detention, Cory!” Mr. Polonchisatto called from across the room.

“B-but, Sir! What did I do wrong?” Cory stammered nervously.

“I can hear you chewing that gum from over here! Now spit it out and come to my office immediately after class!”

Dave was sitting in his chair fiddling with some wire when Cory arrived. I want you to plug this in,” he said. Dave handed a rubber-less electrical cord to Cory.  Cory shrugged and went to put the frayed wire into the socket as he was told. That’s when an electrical wave of power surged through the wire and fried him, turning him lifeless and cold. More cereal!

The serial killings went on with the disappearance of Justina Kinoto and Donny Cauldron.  Mr. Polonchisatto was unstoppable, and all the more his bloodlust grew for the children in his class, stupidly waiting for their turn to go.  In the news, all the disappearances were blamed on abductions and what not. No one suspected a brilliant English teacher of such a horrendous act: no one, but one.

The class was going on a field trip for the day to an adventure park. There were cliffs and caves to explore, and more outdoor activities. Samantha Ganchee was with the friends she had that remained when Mr. Polonchisatto came up behind her. Her friends saw him and scattered, but it was too late for Sam. By the time she turned around he was right beside her.

Sam let out a little shriek and then laughed. “Oh! You surprised me,” she brushed it off.  Next, her face and voice turned serious. “Don’t think I don’t know you’re behind the disappearances.  You are, aren’t you? You always walk around with Miss Parkiss. I know what you’re up to, and you’re not going to get away with it!”

“What are you going to do then? Tell your mommy? No one will believe you, little fool!  Besides, how are you going to get out of this situation? No one can save you now, and don’t even think about screaming!”

It was true.  Samantha appeared trapped. Then, out of the corner of her eyes, she spotted some pebbles by the cliff she was kneeling at.  In a flash, she scooped up a handful and whipped them into Dave’s face.

“Ow! You’re just making this worse for yourself, you know!” he growled at her.

“Oh yah?” she teased. She tried to kick him, but he grabbed her foot and twisted it so she fell to the ground. Then he pulled a sharpened stick form behind his back and began stabbing at her.  Before the stick hit the ground each time, Sam had rolled out of its way and was on back on her feet.

Sam tried to run, but the beast grabbed her wrist. She shrieked, “Get away from me!” He didn’t let go. Sam threw all of her weight to the ground and grabbed a nearby branch. She whipped the face of her assaulter, and he loosened his grip enough for her to escape his clutches.

She pushed the man off the side of the cliff before he could re-attack. She looked over the side and saw nothing. No body hanging from the edge, no body on the rocks. He won’t be bothering us again, she thought. And he wouldn’t be, would he? And would anyone find out what he did? Would they believe Sam?

Fatally, what Sam didn’t see were the beige toned fingers hanging from a curved ledge.