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After Matthew sees a mysterious light in the sky, very strange things start to happen around town.
Matthew was a good kid who always did his homework. Sometimes he stayed up late to finish it. On one such night, he was doing his homework when something got his attention from outside the window.
He went to take a closer look and saw a streaking red light flash across the sky and go down in the woods just north of the town where Matthew lived.
It was an amazing sight to see, but it happened so fast he wasn’t sure if he imagined it. He didn’t give it another thought. He went back to finishing his homework and then went to bed.
The next day after school, again he was doing his homework when he received a phone call. It was Matthew’s father. His voice sounded strange.
“Matthew,” he said. “You've been very bad. You need to behave yourself or you're going to be in big trouble.”
“But dad,” answered Matthew. “What are you talking about? I'm doing my homework right now.”
His father replied. “Matthew, you've been very, very bad.”
“What did I do wrong?” said Matthew.
“Matthew,” his father’s voice hardened. “You're going to be in big trouble.”
Matthew didn't know what to say, but he heard a noise outside. He glanced out the window to see his mother walking in.
When he put the phone back to his ear, the line was dead. It was a weird experience.
Later that day, Matthew told his mother about the call and asked where his dad was. She told him his father was out of town on a business trip.
“Whoever it was on the phone, I’m sure it wasn’t your father,” said his mom.
“But it sounded just like him, Mom,” said Matthew.
“That's a strange phone call,” she replied. “Are you sure it wasn’t a prank call?”
“It was his voice,” said Matthew. “Trust me, I know my own dad’s voice.”
“Well, he didn’t say anything about it to me,” said his mother.
“Do you think I've been bad, Mom?” asked Matthew.
Matthew's mother smiled. “Just the opposite, Matthew. You've been great. Your grades are good and we’re very happy with how you've been doing lately.”
“It’s just so bizarre, Mom.” Matthew said. She shrugged and they didn’t say another word about it.
The next day in school Matthew was walking down the hallway between classes when he saw his father at the far end of the hall. He waded through the crowds of students to get to him.
He watched his father enter the principal's office which had glass windows so you could see into it. From outside the office, Matthew saw his father speaking to the school principal. He waved at his dad to get his attention.
But his father just looked directly at him and didn't say a word. He gave no sign he even recognized Matthew.
Matthew was worried, but then the bell rang and he had to run to his next class.
Once again, that night when he got home, Matthew told his mother all about what happened at school.
“Matthew, are you sure you’re feeling alright?” she asked him.
“Mom, there's absolutely nothing wrong with me,” said Matthew. “I'm just telling you what I saw.”
“Well, I can tell you right now, that was definitely not your father at school today,” Matthew's mother said. “It must have been someone else who looks like him.”
“But Mom—” Matthew started to say.
“It’s just not possible because your dad is out of town,” she said in a tone that meant she was done talking about it.
Matthew didn't want to argue, and he didn't want to upset his mother. So he dropped the issue. But he knew for a fact it was his father he saw at school.
How does a boy not recognize his own father?
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The next morning in school, Matthew’s teacher told him the principal wanted to see him. Matthew went to the principal's office, where the principal sat him down. Then he stared at Matthew with a hard look.
“You have been very, very bad,” said the principal. “And you’re in big trouble.”
“What?” Matthew said. “What did I do?”
The principal picked up a sheet of paper and read off a list of terrible things that Matthew had done. He spoke in a low voice without emotion.
“You stole from the locker next to yours. You punched Billy Chansky in the face. You cheated on your math test. You called Dave Wilson names in front of the other students.”
Matthew interrupted the reading. “These are all lies. None of this is true.”
“You’ve been very bad,” the principal said again. “And you’re in big trouble.”
“I didn't do any of these things,” exclaimed Matthew. “I don’t know who is telling you this stuff, but it’s simply untrue.”
The principal sat and stared at him, and his eyes looked darker.
“It’s ok, Matthew, you don't have to lie,” he said. “Your father was here, and he told me everything. He said you two have already talked about it.”
Matthew’s jaw dropped. “What? That’s ridiculous!”
“Calm down, son,” the principal said. “Your father said you already admitted to being very bad. In fact, Matthew, it is only out of respect for your father that we're not going to expel you from school. But you will be suspended for 10 days.”
Matthew attempted to argue but the principal held up his hand. “The decision has already been made. Now call your parents and have them pick you up.”
Matthew didn't know what to say. It was astonishing. He was a straight-A student with no problems whatsoever. He never hit any of his classmates, stole from anyone, or cheated on a test.
It was all a complete lie.
But what did his father have to do with it? Why was his father speaking to the principal and telling him terrible things that weren’t true?
Matthew called his mother but no one answered. Then he tried his father's phone but his father didn't pick up.
After a minute, the principal came back into the room and said, “Matthew, your dad's here to pick you up.”
“But I didn’t even speak with him,” said Matthew.
“He's outside waiting for you,” the principal said flatly.
Matthew walked to the front of the school and, sure enough, his father was there in the family station wagon. Matthew got in the car and said, “Dad, what's going on?”
His father didn't say a word. He just drove the car away. He drove for some time while both of them sat in silence.
Finally, Matthew said, “Dad, please talk to me. What is going on here?”
“Keep your mouth shut,” his father replied.
“Dad, I don’t understand,” said Matthew.
“I said keep your mouth shut,” his father said, this time with an edge.
Matthew was quiet. He had never heard his dad speak like that before.
A minute later, they drove past Matthew’s house. Now Matthew was getting scared.
“Where are we going, Dad?” he asked.
But his father didn't answer.
“Dad, you're really creeping me out. We just passed home.” Matthew was pleading with him. “Where are you taking me?”
Then his father said, “I warned you, Matthew. You’ve been very bad and now you’re in big trouble.”
They kept driving for a while. Every time Matthew tried to say something, his father ignored him.
The whole situation was getting scarier. Matthew didn’t know what to do. His father had a weird look on his face as he drove the car further and further away from home.
Eventually they had been driving for two hours, and it was starting to get dark outside. Matthew was extremely worried. He loved his father and couldn’t dream of him doing something like this. It was too hard to believe.
Finally, he decided he had to get out of the car.
“Dad, I have to go to the bathroom,” he said. “Pull over.”
“No,” his father said.
A few minutes went by. Then Matthew said, “Dad, I'm not kidding. If you don't pull over now, I'm going to have an accident in the car.”
His father stopped the car, got out, and walked around to open the door for Matthew. He walked right next to him as Matthew found a nearby bush.
Matthew turned to his father and said, “Dad, a little privacy please?”
Finally his dad stopped staring at Matthew and turned around to face the other direction.
Matthew pretended to do his business, then suddenly turned and sprinted directly into the woods.
Matthew didn't know where he was going. He only knew that he needed to get away. And fast.
There was something deep inside of him telling him to run away from his father.
So he ran as fast as he could deeper into the woods.
After he’d run for a while, he thought he had gotten away. But then he heard his father's voice through the trees. It was the strangest way he'd ever heard his father speak.
“MATTHEW. Come back, Matthew. You have been very, very bad. Turn around now and come back.”
His father’s voice ended in a kind of growl, almost like there was a second voice inside of him.
It was terrifying. But Matthew didn't stop to think about it. He just kept running until he saw lights up ahead.
Finally he came into a clearing and saw a house. He ran straight up to the house and knocked on the door.
A little old lady answered. Breathing heavily from the run, Matthew asked her if he could come in. She let him inside, and he told her someone was chasing him and he needed to use the phone.
The lady walked him to her phone, and Matthew called his mother.
His mother answered. She sounded very worried, “Matthew, where are you? What is going on?”
“Mom, I’m really scared. I need you to come get me,” Matthew said.
“What, where? I don't understand. The school didn't know where you were. I can't find your father. What the heck is going on?”
“Mom, please calm down,” Matthew said. “I’m in some trouble and you gotta come get me fast.”
“Where are you?” she asked.
“I'm in the middle of nowhere,” Matthew replied. “Dad brought me here. Something's wrong with him.”
Matthew tried his best to explain where he was. But he didn’t really know. He turned around to ask the lady for her address.
His father was standing there. Just looking at him.
Matthew froze. His father’s eyes were dark.
Then his father reached over and yanked the phone from Matthew’s hand. The old lady was nowhere to be seen.
They both stood there silently for a few seconds, looking at each other.
Matthew noticed the headlights of the family station wagon waiting outside. He made a run for it.
His father had left the vehicle running. Matthew ran past his father, straight out the door, and jumped in the car. He was not old enough to drive but he had watched his parents do it plenty of times.
He slammed his foot on the gas pedal and took off out of there as fast as he could go. He drove all the way back to the highway and somehow found his way home.
When Matthew arrived at the house, he got out and told his mom everything.
His mother didn't understand. She was terrified, worried, and nervous.
He could tell she'd been crying.
But Matthew calmed her. “Mom, I don’t understand any of this, either. But we need to get help.”
They called the police. And the man who answered the phone told them to come to the police station immediately.
Matthew and his mother drove to the police station, but they realized that something strange was going on. The police station was totally empty except for one officer at the front desk.
They told him the situation and asked to file a missing person's report.
But the police officer just stared at them. He didn’t say a word for a long moment. His eyes were dark and distant like Matthew’s father’s.
Finally, he asked them, “Have you been very bad?”
“What are you talking about?” Matthew’s mother said. “We need help, officer.”
He replied, “You’re both in big trouble.”
They were stunned, and didn’t know what to say.
Suddenly, right in front of their eyes, the police officer started to shake, and his face started to twitch. His skin began to bubble and vibrate, like there was something beneath it. His color began to change and become black, and his eyes turned to dark holes. The police officer was rapidly shifting into something…not human.
Matthew and his mother both gasped in shock, but instincts took over. Without saying a word, they turned around and ran. They got out of the police station and jumped back in the car. His mother peeled out of the parking lot with the tires screeching.
As they drove through the center of town, they noticed another strange thing.
The entire town was empty. All the lights were off, there was no one in the streets, and there were no cars on the road.
There was nothing going on, no movement or sign of life anywhere.
The entire city had just emptied out.
They had no idea how to explain any of it. Then Matthew remembered the streak of light he had seen a couple of nights earlier.
He told his mom about it. She thought about it for a while as she drove them in circles around the city.
“Matthew, what do you think it was?” she asked.
“I don’t know, Mom,” he said. “But a lot of people are acting very strangely and I’m really scared.”
“It’s ok, honey,” she said in a calming voice. “We’re going to be fine. We just need to find someplace safe to rest and figure out what to do next.”
They drove a little ways outside the city to a big state park, where they could park at a campsite and get some rest. They slept in the car. Or, at least, they tried to sleep.
The next morning the sun came up and it was looking like it would be a beautiful day.
“I don't know what's going on, but I think we have to go back to town,” Matthew said to his mother. “We gotta get to the bottom of this and find Dad.”
“You're right, Matthew,” she said. “Something very weird is happening in our town, but there’s no use trying to hide from it.”
They got in the car and drove back into town. They immediately noticed there was no activity, no sign of anyone. All the businesses were closed up, the houses had no activity, and there was no one on the street. It was like a ghost town.
The car was running low on gas. So they parked downtown in a public parking lot. The two of them got out and walked around to see if they could find anyone.
When they got to Main Street, they couldn’t believe their eyes.
There was a single file line of people walking up the street to the north. The line was so long, they couldn’t see where it started or ended. There must have been a thousand people walking in line.
None of the people were talking. They weren’t doing anything. Just slowly walking step by step by step toward some unknown point in the distance.
Matthew and his mother looked closer and recognized people they knew. It was all the people in their town. Matthew saw classmates, teachers, neighbors, and friends.
It was everyone in town, all together, just ambling forward, straight to the north with their heads down, in a single file line.
No one said a word.
In the past 24 hours, Matthew had seen some weird stuff. But this was the creepiest sight he’d ever seen. It got creepier.
They spotted Matthew’s father walking with the crowd.
Matthew wanted to say something to him. But his mother put her hand over his mouth. “No,” she said. “Let's not call attention to ourselves. Something is wrong here.”
The two of them took cover behind a park bench and waited for a while. They watched the people walk by for a long time. Finally, the last person walked by at the end of the line. Matthew’s mother suggested they follow them to find out where they were going.
Without getting too close, they followed the massive line all the way out of town toward the north end of the city.
They eventually came to a wooded area, and one-by-one the line of people walked straight into the trees, until everyone disappeared into the darkness. Then the street was empty.
Matthew and his mother stood there waiting to see if anything else would happen. But nothing did for a long time.
The street was quiet. There were no sounds, no birds chirping. All was still.
Then they saw the shape of a man come out of the woods. His figure was dark, like he was wearing a long black coat.
As he stepped out into the sunlight, they realized it wasn't a man at all.
It was something else.
Its body moved like flowing water. The length of its arms and legs was different from a normal person. Its face was like something they'd never seen.
It had deep coal-colored eyes and misshapen facial features that did not look human.
The figure swayed when it moved, like a jellyfish in air. It looked this way and that, and then suddenly it's cold black eyes locked on Matthew and it stared at him for a long moment.
The creature’s eyes stayed on him, until Matthew realized it wasn't looking at him at all.
It was looking behind him. Right at his mother.
Matthew turned around slowly. “Mom!” he cried. “We gotta go right now.”
But his mother didn't say anything. She just stared back at the creature. Then she looked at Matthew with no joy and said, “Matthew, you've been very bad.”
“No, mom, no, no, no,” he cried. “Come on, we gotta go.”
“Matthew, you're in big trouble,” she said in a strange voice.
His mother grabbed him by the wrist and started pulling him as she walked towards the creature.
Matthew resisted. He fought and screamed and pulled back at her.
“Stop it, Mom, stop!” he shouted at her.
Then his mother’s body started shifting. Her eyes went dark and her skin started bubbling and moving. She began to shake violently. And her color began to change.
Petrified, Matthew managed to rip his arm away from her. He sprinted as fast as he could down the street in the other direction. He found an alleyway and ran out of sight.
He had no idea what to do, but he hid for a long time.
When he finally had the courage to come out, he quietly walked back to the street to see if anyone was there. But the street was empty again. There was no sign of his mother or the dark creature.
Then the ground started to shake beneath him.
He looked toward the forest and saw the trees were swaying. Everything was shaking, and Matthew thought it was an earthquake.
There was a rumbling sound that got louder and louder.
It became a roar.
A flash of light exploded from inside the forest, and an enormous black shape emerged above the trees. Matthew suddenly stood beneath a growing shadow.
It was a giant ship of some sort, just hovering in the air. It must have been the size of a football field.
Matthew stared up at it until he realized the sides of the craft were some kind of clear glass. He could see right through the surface of it.
Then he saw the faces of everyone he knew. He saw his teacher, the principal, his friends Dave and Billy. He recognized his mother and father. They seemed to be looking directly at him.
In the blink of an eye, the ship launched into space like a rocket. It moved faster than anything on earth can move, and disappeared.
Matthew was left there all alone, standing and looking up, trying to understand what had happened.
Then he heard a voice from behind him. “Matthew, you’ve been very, very bad.”
He turned around, and there was the dark creature standing in front of him. Its black eyes stared out of its hideous, oily face. The creature began to open its mouth, exposing thousands of razor sharp teeth and a slimy tongue. Matthew felt something grab his shoulder hard. He closed his eyes in terror and that was all he remembered.
When Matthew regained consciousness, his father was sitting in front of him, next to his bed. He was gently shaking Matthew’s shoulder.
“Come on, buddy, wake up,” his father said. “You’re gonna be late for school.”
His father smiled. Sun peeked through his bedroom window. Matthew knew that everything was going to be alright.
He got up and gave his father the biggest hug he’d ever given him.
Then his father’s smile disappeared and his eyes went dark.
“Matthew,” he said. “You’ve been very bad.”
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