“Fungal Leprosy”, by William J. Maitland, Jr.

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It’s always the things you don’t see that get you. That’s what my boss used to tell me. Of course, he was simply referring to that spot of dirt beneath the floor that we neglected to mop up earlier that day. Prophetic-sounding hogwash in the face of absolute normalcy. You get used to this, as a minimum wage worker. A manager acting like he’s the next great philosopher or herald.

He has no idea, however, what fresh hell he brought into my life.

I’d taken up the job several months prior, so I could afford textbooks for the coming semester. Of course, this wouldn’t do shit for the larger end of the bill I would one day need to foot. I’d just wipe down some tables, cart away some dishes, and that’d be it. Menial work for a bi-weekly pay. It put money in my hands, that’s all that mattered. Until, of course, it started to happen.

It was slow at first. Subtle. My middle finger, just below the cuticle, became very itchy and irritated. It persisted for a good week or so, even on the days I didn’t attend work. The skin grew flaky, inflamed, and necrotic. At first, I thought little of it. A simple infection from working with bleach, that’s all. A pair of gloves, from here on out, would need to be employed. A simple fix to a simple problem.

The gloves proved… ineffective. The infection not only worsened to the point of skin tearing and wounds opening, but began to spread to the other fingers on my right hand. It would itch and burn, like claws sinking into my flesh out of thin air. Searing hot claws.

I expressed my growing discomfort with the manager. He made mention that the local health codes mandated that all of these rags be cleaned with bleach, that which I believed to be the source of my rampant inflammation. Subtly, however, we agreed that I would no longer need to use bleach-soaked rags for my cleaning work. Hot water, very hot water, would suit the rags just fine. I was surprised to find him so cooperative. I was even more surprised when the  infection still persisted, even after complete separation. Even worse, my flesh would feel as if on fire when working with the vegetables. Part of my responsibility, after all, was chopping up lettuce for the salad bar. For some reason, the would-be pleasant feeling of wet leaves more closely resembled a brush with a hot iron. I fought the urge to scream as much as I could, gritting my teeth whenever I washed my hands.

That week, I quit. It wasn’t a burning of bridges at all. In fact, the old man was surprisingly on board with the notion of me terminating my employment there. Perhaps it was the first look at my decaying fingers that persuaded him. Perhaps it was that I was so loyal and unquestioning in the face of ailment that he didn’t want me to end up getting killed over it. Shame it was too late for that.

At home, I tried every potential remedy under the goddamn sun. Ointments, creams, hot soaks and compresses. Bandages, disinfectant, anti-fungals, and even bloodletting from the wounded area. Nothing worked. It all just worsened in a haze that seems to blur between days. By that week’s end, my hand was completely covered in this godawful infection. By the second week, it covered most of my arm. Third week, it started crawling steadily upward and downward, reaching my neck. I didn’t stop fighting it for a single day. I fought alone, but I fought valiantly. Fruitless, all of it. But it had to be better than sitting there and letting it overtake me. I began to lose sleep amidst the discomfort, and what sleep did befall me would last for entire days at a time. At this point, I wasn’t sure if my eyes were sunken in because of this intense sleep deprivation, or because the necrosis had fully surrounded my eye sockets and everything in my face was beginning to rot.

My entire head was itching. Itching something fierce. I couldn’t help it. I scratched and I scratched and I scratched for a good long while. All of that medical shit I had been trying for the last month or so could rot in Hell, now. Scratching it was the only thing that felt good. Tension began to leave my skin like steam from a burst lobster. In my mind’s eye, my head exploded with the rushing colors of a psychedelic hocus pocus. As my fit ended, I collapsed onto the cold floor where it initiated. In that whole ordeal, I’d completely forgotten that I was in the bathroom.

I woke up, peeling myself off of the tile. I lost hours on that floor, and I wasn’t sure how many it had been. The thing that greeted me in the mirror was nightmare made flesh. My face was completely cracked and torn, deep with ridges of dried blood. My nose and upper lip had been torn off, baring the teeth within. Mushrooms sprouted out of the deep fault lines in my flesh in isolated, errant fashion. Most bizarre of the mutations, though, was my scalp. Where once a human head of hair was, there now sprouted a porous and putrid fungal spore. My mouth fell agape, confirming indeed that this monstrosity was my very own body. Feebly, I raised my hands into view. Repugnant masses of sores, both of them. I tested the physical integrity of the fingers on my left hand. The tip of my middle finger broke off. Light as paper. Ink-black smoke plumed out of the hole in my finger. I could not look away. I screamed, and screamed, and screamed, backing away from that which I could not escape. This was me. I was not human anymore. This had to be some mad hallucination. But clearly, inflicting a wound on myself didn’t snap me out of it.

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Finally, resigned to my sudden ravages of metamorphosis, I took a seat beneath a tree in my backyard. I had no choice. Six chambers, fully loaded. I knew it had to be quick and it had to be now, before I resembled things that be not man or nature. I begged the soil to take me back and cleanse me of this filth. I fired a single shot, and my vision clouded with the putrescent black smoke as consciousness failed me. The infection, I hoped, died with me.

 

 

Thanks for reading!

This fan-story and the accompanying art were both submitted to us by the clever William J. Maitland, Jr.

For more like it, click here; if you’d like to submit your own, click here to read our guidelines; to check out the stories we’ve written ourselves, click here to check out our show.

“The End”, by Eric Porter

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The blade of the ax slid along the log, shaving fine chips of wood as Hanna worked silently. It wasn’t an ideal tool–there were no ideal tools any more, just what you could find–but it was sufficient for the job she needed to do.

She packed the wood shavings into an old detergent bucket and carried it to the stream to soak, then dragged it to the cave. Holding fast to the guide rope, she worked her way to the end of their farm by feel, trying her best to ignore the pungent smell that permeated everything.

She had believed that she would get used to it eventually. You would have to when mushrooms were the only crop that would grow anymore, but she didn’t. She still hated mushrooms and the smell made her sick; only the will to survive kept her at work. After all she had to survive. She was one of the lucky ones. At least she told herself that.

She had been out camping when the world ended. When the bombs fell, she hadn’t been in any of the cities whose smoke now blackened the sky and left the world cold. She had even survived with a few others while most died of starvation before they could harvest their first crop.

Now she was alone. It had been days since her friends had left her to go down the mountain looking for new tools and other survivors, if they existed, days since she heard another human voice. She almost didn’t realize it when she heard one again. She gave a start looking up from her work amending the mushroom beds with the moist wood shavings.

“Hanna!” Rowan’s voice called from outside, “Hanna! Are you there?”

Blindly she felt her way back through the cave. “Yes, I’m coming!” she called, unfamiliar with the sounds she made.

“There you are,” Rosa exclaimed as Hanna reemerged into the gray light.

“I’m relieved you’re back,” Hanna breathed. “Did you find anything, anyone?”

“No one again,” Rowan Responded. “I doubt anything can survive in the radiation long. Cullen found some working solar panels though. We think we will be able to rig some lights into the cave.” Rowan finished holding up some LED light strands.

Hanna nodded, then seized Rowan’s arm. “Burns,” she hissed, “I told you the radiation is too dangerous even for short trips!”

“Whoa! Calm down,” Cullen said coming up from behind Rowan. “That’s a chemical burn,” he said in calming tones.

“We tried to salvage some batteries to hook up to the solar panels, but they were corroded and leaked on my arm,” Rowan said.

“We only stayed in the perimeter of town, and only for a few hours at that,” Rosa added. “I don’t think we came close enough to the epicenter for too much exposure.”

Hanna grimaced. Despite their precautions, thinking about the ruined cities on the far side of the mountain made her anxious.

The others went to work on setting up the solar panels while Hanna kept the fire. It wasn’t late in the day but since The End, summer never came. She was warming her hands when Rosa approached from behind.

“Have you seen Cullen?” she asked, and Hanna flinched, unaware Rosa had been there.

“The last I saw him he was stringing lights into the cave,” Hanna answered.

“Can you come with me? I think Rowan’s burns are getting worse.” The concern was evident in Rosa’s voice as she offered her hand.

“Where is he?” worry filled her as she took Rosa’s hand.

“I left him on the hillside where he was trying to mount a panel.”

“He washed himself after the batteries leaked right?”

“As soon as we got to a stream.”

“It must still be on his clothes then.” Hanna frowned.

Rowan stood up from his work to greet them as Hanna and Rosa came up the hill.

“Hey,” he said, “I think we’re done here.”

“Rowan!” Hanna yelled, out of breath, “Oh my god!”

That the burns were worse was an understatement. What had been an isolated blister on his arm had spread to cover the whole thing, and tendrils of scar tissue appeared to be creeping up his neck.

“Come on Rowan,” Rosa said, “lets get you to the stream so we can wash your burns.”

“My burn?” Rowan asked, “It feels fine.”

“Look at it!” Hanna wailed.

His eyes widened as the tendrils spread up his face, and Rosa helped him down the hillside and brought him to the stream. Stripping off his clothes revealed the extent the burn had spread. His entire torso crawled with lesions.

Stepping into the water Rowan shivered and then screamed. His flesh writhed and he fell to his knees.

“Rowan!” Hanna shrieked, as dark fuzz sprouted from his hands, mouth, and eyes.

Nodules appeared across his back, and the screaming abated as he began to choke. Rosa rushed to the bank and pulled him out of the water, his face twisted by the swelling growths and terror.

A familiar pungent smell rose on the air as the bulges erupted into fruiting mushrooms. Rowan fell and a terrible silence filled the clearing, broken as Rosa started screaming. Mycelium sprouted from Rowan’s arm where she held him, binding her hand there.

“Help! Oh my god Hanna help! It burns!” Rosa sobbed, collapsing with rowan on the bank.

Hanna fell back, afraid to touch them now, as Rowan’s body became an unrecognizable mass propagating mushrooms.

Rosa wriggled, inching toward her as the fungus spread, stopping only when the mycelium rooted her to the ground.

“Please, please,” Rosa gasped again before falling still.

An interminable amount of time passed while Hanna trembled, unable to stand as she watched her friends decay. A faint moaning finally reached her conscious mind. She had no idea how long she had heard it without being aware.

The sound came from the cave. Cullen was still in there. Standing, she shivered as she tried to reassure herself that the farm didn’t kill her friends, that Rowan had picked up some mutant spores in the valley. She wanted to believe that.

The whimpering continued as Hanna stood transfixed by the cave’s gaping maw. “Cullen!” she called finally.

“Han… Hanna,” Cullen’s voice trembled, “I tripped over something and twisted my leg.” he said between whimpers. “I need your help to get out.”

She looked as far as she could into the cave, the faint glow of the light string was too dim to see much by, but not too far in she could see a cluster of them rising and falling with Cullen’s breath. She swallowed her unease and found the guide rope. There shouldn’t be anything to trip over; they had worked meticulously to clear the cave of debris to allow them to work without light. Still Hanna stepped carefully.

It wasn’t long before she found Cullen reposed against the cave wall, lit by the jumble of dimly-glowing lights.

“Thanks for coming,” he said weakly. “I was worried I would have to spend the night in here before anyone came to look for me.”

Hanna pursed her lips, “Let me look at your leg, we need to know how badly you’re hurt.”

Cullen nodded and lifted up his pant leg. Hanna knelt and ran her hand along his calf. It was swollen, but not broken, thankfully. She felt the ground where he had fallen to find what he had tripped over, but the dusty floor didn’t give anything away. Then next to her knee she found it, the broken cap of a mushroom. Her hand drew back, and she pulled a cluster of lights together to look at Cullen’s leg, and let out a sigh of relief not to find any burns or lesions. The bundle of lights fell to the ground and she drew back as her eyes focused where they fell.

“Hanna? Is it bad?” he asked trying to hide the distress her reaction caused.

White threads of mycelium lined the sole of his shoe, and she stepped back.

“Hanna!” panic crept into his voice, “Don’t leave me Hanna!” he wept.

She turned and ran out of the cave, leaving Cullen’s cries behind her. Out in the clearing she breathed deeply. The smell of rotting choked her. She regarded the cave and listened as Cullen’s screams grew then silenced.

She ran, ran until it burned. How far was it until she was safe? She didn’t know, but surviving was all that mattered. She was the lucky one right?

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading!

This fan-story was submitted to us by the clever Eric Porter

For more like it, click here; if you’d like to submit your own, click here to read our guidelines; to check out the stories we’ve written ourselves, click here to check out our show.

We are One Year Old!

17270358_10212187992871950_2079505387_n.pngAs of today, Tale Foundry is one year old!
 
On behalf of everyone at the Foundry, we thank you for a year worth of wonderful creative thinking and writing. We are privileged to have such supportive fans and enjoyed seeing the many minds we inspired this year.
We invite you to share your stories with us by posting them on Tumblr with the “keep making stuff up” tag, or by submitting them here: https://goo.gl/ynaE9V. The same goes for any alternative art for stories you may have been inspired to create or any general fan art. We want to see what we have inspired you to do!
Thank you.

We’re One Year Old Tomorrow!

Tomorrow marks one full year since we posted our first episode! We believe that this is a major cause for celebration and we want you to join in.

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We invite you to share your stories with us by posting them on Tumblr with the “keep making stuff up” tag, or by submitting them here: https://goo.gl/ynaE9V. The same goes for any alternative art for stories you may have been inspired to create or any general fan art. We want to see what we have inspired you to do!

At the bottom are the links to all of our series. We’ve had a great time letting our creative juices flow with you this past year and we can’t wait to see how well the upcoming year goes!

Thank you, everyone.

Chloe, Happy Human Helper

Celtic Folklore

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-YplUq8htcQh9-RZJn4CJ4X

Game of Thrones

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-YagUCJ6fIFQUOZT_46vqLC

Weird Fiction

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-aBqWzHwiUiKvaczsW6riLt

American Mythology

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-Y4LDaObCud7smW86aKy1lX

Pokémon

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-YHtheCuzlwNinJ4_G-jiod

Creepy Pasta

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-YjkHXRlo5HhZSEuJytO2vC

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-apySLXczOQxjuqM3nwfe92

Westworld

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-ao21hH5cn63Jy8FgK-dayr

Make Something Up — Harry Potter Month

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Time to MAKE SOMETHING UUUUP~

This month’s story prompt. If you’ve been following our Harry Potter posts and you’ve got a story brewing in your head, now’s your time. Write it up and send it our way!

Read the post for details on what we’ll be looking for. For submission details, visit: TheTaleFoundry.Wordpress.com/contact

“The Meat Lady,” by Vangluss

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I had a neighbor once. She was never quite right. Often, on random days of any given month, she duct-taped raw meat to her front door. Nobody, including me, bothered her about that. Live and let live, I guessed. Until she did the same to me.

She never left anything I would consider prime cuts. It was always some kind of offal. Kidneys. Livers. Brains. Guess I wasn’t good enough for prime rib.

We kept an unspoken peace. She duct-taped meat. I threw it away before the other neighbors started asking uncomfortable questions. This surreal daily routine continued for months. Then the October incident happened.

I remembered the day as clearly as I remembered the smell. I struggled to push my door open, and saw the Meat Lady’s masterpiece. A pig’s head, pink, raw, and chopped to gory bits decorated my door.

After taking it down with copious amounts of panicked pulling, I absolutely lost it. I stormed over to her house, and banged on the door. Thank God it was near Halloween. Nobody was the wiser.

She wore a black sweater with a long black skirt. She was a frail little thing with hair like dying Spanish moss. Her pitiful appearance didn’t stop my rage. I said a lot of things. Especially regretful things. By the time my ranting was done, several of the other neighbors enjoyed my freak-out. The lady silently cried. In my heart of hearts, I knew I fucked up, but didn’t care.

In between soft sobs, she hitched up her skirt. Ragged lines and patches of dense, scarred skin riddled her legs and thighs. She murmured, “I was only trying to help.” repeatedly until someone called the police and I backed off, terrified. The cops took her away. She ended up in a psych ward. Those hollow corpse eyes haunted me for a long time.

To my bitter delight, the meat deliveries stopped only to be replaced with another disturbing phenomenon. I kept waking up with random, jagged cuts somewhere random on my body. Last Friday morning, it was my stomach. This Tuesday morning, it was on my right thigh. Some are deeper than others are. Some bleed more than others do. They all stung like hell. Still, this was a lot more manageable than that lady.

Some real demons were eating her up.

 

 

Thanks for reading!

This fan-story was submitted to us by the clever Vangluss(https://vangluss.wordpress.com/)

For more like it, click here; if you’d like to submit your own, click here to read our guidelines; to check out the stories we’ve written ourselves, click here to check out our show.

“You…,” fan story by Simone Normani

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You don’t remember, do you?

About the window, the bathroom, the things… You don’t remember.

Did you forget already? You must have. Maybe you’ve tucked the memory away. I couldn’t blame you.

You do not recall the shadow stretching from behind you. You saw it for just a second, a glimpse in the flickering light of an old lamp. Trust me, you did see it. It was not that long ago, you definitely thought you saw it… and then of course you dismissed it as late night paranoia, it is something that happens after all – walking the street at night, going back after an evening out, and feeling like you should watch your back, feeling like you’re being followed, like you may get mugged, or worse, within the next few minutes. But then we all dismiss it, it is just our irrational part taking the wheel, when the mind is tired, isn’t it? And so you did. You even dismissed the memory afterwards, so little a threat it proved to be.

Do you remember now?

Don’t sweat it; I will help you remember.

You got back home that night and immediately any trace of fear disappeared as you shut the door behind you. You put the thought aside and enjoyed the rest of the time that accompanied you to a good night’s sleep. Even the day after went decently well, it was a day like any other. You probably don’t remember much of it anyway, so mundane it has been.

It was in an hour of darkness, when you looked away from your screen, that you saw it. Saw the shape behind the glass. Still just a moving glimpse of a dark figure. Do you recall it scaring you? No? Of course not. You forgot that too, after you saw that it was clearly just one of those trees or bushes, or whatever they are, in the chilly wind out of your window. Light does those tricks. You look at a lamppost behind the leaves during a windy night, and you see the light moving, and dancing – but you know it isn’t moving. It’s just the leaves trembling in front of it, frantically, like a writer’s or pianist’s fingers, that give your diurnal eyes and brain the illusion. Much in the same way, you thought of the shape. And much in the same way, you shrugged it off. You were tired, after all. You went to sleep not too much later.

It was not unusual, like that time you went to the bathroom in the morning, and couldn’t find your toothbrush. Then of course you found it, and chuckled at your clumsiness and forgetfulness. You really didn’t recall that you’d carelessly placed it on the sink, rather than back in the glass, where it belongs. Or when you woke up having a bad dream, convinced of weird skulking noises in the other room, and cautiously went to check, finding nothing – again, of course.

And the worst was possibly the time you heard – no, felt someone… or something breathing on your neck in the darkness of your room, with your headphones on, and you suddenly started, twisting in your chair with a gasp to see… nothing. Just that empty, friendly and terrifying darkness.

Maybe you should take more care of yourself, you probably thought? That you needed more rest? You certainly looked like you did.

But then…

Then, when you finally came home one day, ready for a good night’s rest, and took your nice hot shower, and came out wrapping yourself in your towels and whatnot… then you saw it. You glanced at the mirror, looked at the glass, cloudy with steam, and saw the words. You did not write those words. You would remember doing it, wouldn’t you?

The steam was quickly dissipating, and the words faded with it, only a small hint of them appearing when you tried bringing them out again by clouding the surface your frantic breath, a confused mess of fingertip traces in a finger-written maze on the not-so-clean bathroom mirror.

You might just have imagined that. You probably did, in all honesty. You really must get a good deal of sleep. Only, this time you weren’t sure that you could as easily… nor that you’d want to. But sleep you did, in the end. Because after all, this is all those little things are: paranoias. Pesky little thoughts that settle in the back of your head and uncomfortably nibble at your brain like a cat: not hard enough to hurt, but hard enough to not let you forget they are there. But that is all. Thoughts. Produced by your own mind to trick itself in some twisted mechanics of human nature.

And sooner or later, all the small doubts, the little fears, the petty insecurities… they may cumulate, but in the end, they all leave the stage, and you are left with your reason ruling over them and keeping them tucked away, where they cannot hurt you. You sweep them under the rug to protect yourself; and so you did, hiding those doubts where they could do no harm. You realised it was all you. You thought you saw a shadow behind you. You thought there was a dark shape out of your window. You thought you had placed the toothbrush back in the glass, or left the pen on the table, or given back that old disc your friend lent you and you forgot about for who knows how long, and you thought you heard and felt the breath of an unwanted visitor on your nape, shrouded in the darkness and safety of your own room. You thought you didn’t write with your fingers on your mirror, but maybe you did. Maybe it wasn’t even actually there and you were just stressed out of your mind and imagined it. You even thought there was someone in your house one night, when all you did was having a nightmare. It was always all you. You might remember now, it being all your own mind’s twisted creation. Isn’t it fascinating? How one can create their own fears out of nothing, even create their own memories!

Which, come to think of it, is quite funny, because you should have questioned one particular thing right from the beginning –

How do I know all of this?

Thanks for reading! 

This story was submitted to us by one of our fans. For more like it, click here; to submit your own, click here to read our guidelines; to check out the stories we’ve written ourselves, click here to check out our show