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I Think I’ll Skip Next Year’s 4th of July Celebration at Brighter Futures
NoSleep Horror Story
I wrote a few episodes for a now completed series on the Nosleep Reddit Community called the Brighter Futures Suicide Hotline (BFSH).
These are horror stories, so if horror isn’t your thing or you don’t want to read fiction that includes suicides, you may want to skip reading the stories about BFSH.
When I found out the Oregon office of the Brighter Futures Suicide Hotline service was hosting a job fair on July 4th, I decided right away to attend. I had some call center experience thanks to a stint with a debt collection agency and I often volunteered at the local community center.
Salem isn’t exactly a big town and job opportunities are far and few between. I’d been unemployed for a few weeks--ever since the sawmill closed down for good. Most folks around here had worked for the mill, and we were all desperate for new jobs.
The parking lot was crowded with cars and the facility itself crammed with people, all hoping to get one of the few available positions.
I knew I wasn’t the most qualified one there, but I was determined to make myself known to the hiring staff. So, when the chief of security, a man named Alan, called out for the first tour of the day, I pushed my way through the throng and presented myself.
“Hi. I’m Amanda Wilson.” I held out my hand, looked him in the eye, and firmly shook his hand. “I’d love to see where my future office is,” I said boldly.
Alan smiled, though his gaze didn’t reflect much sincerity. “That’s the spirit. We like go-getters at Brighter Futures.”
More people joined us and finally Alan held up his hands. “Sorry, folks. I can only take nine of you at a time. I’ll be back in about an hour for the next tour.”
Some people groaned and turned away, heading toward the tables filled with snacks and drinks.
“All right, everyone,” said Alan, waving us forward. “This way, please.” He led us into a nearby office. “Please leave your belongings in here. Purses, wallets, cell phones. I promise they’ll be here when you get back.”
I admit I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of leaving my purse with its cash and credit cards on some random office desk, but everyone else deposited their belongings there, so I did too.
Except my cell phone. It was brand new, and I wasn’t going to leave it. Instead, I tucked into my pants pocket.
Alan shut the door and locked it. “Excellent. Let’s go.”
As Alan ushered us down hallways, pointing out the restrooms, break rooms, and executive offices, I noted all the decorations plastered against walls. Usually 4th of July decor was red, white, and blue and featured American flags.
But the streamers and balloons at BFSH were a deep, dark red. The color of dried blood. It was a little weird, sure. But hell, I didn’t care if they painted the walls neon green and made us wear silly hats--as long as I got a paycheck.
“This is the main training center,” said Alan. His shoes squeaked on the linoleum floor as he walked through the maze of cubicles. “Our motto is answer every call no matter what.”
“Except for today,” chimed in a woman behind me. I looked over my shoulder at an older female dressed in a pantsuit that was probably in-style two decades ago.
Her graying hair was cut short, and she had a no-nonsense vibe about her. I didn’t think she was from Salem. No doubt the BFSH job fair had intrigued people from nearby towns.
“It’s rare that BFSH closes an office, but this particular day is a special one,” said Alan.
“Fourth of July?” asked the guy next to me. I glanced at him. He wore jeans and a plaid shirt with scuffed work boots. I recognized him as a fellow employee of the sawmill, but I didn’t remember his name. “Seems like Christmas,” he continued, “would be more appropriate.”
“Suicides rates are highest at Christmas,” said Mrs. Pantsuit, her tone as sharp and impatient as a college professor’s. “It would be stupid to close a suicide hotline on that day.”
“Folks,” said Alan, “we here at BFSH require friendliness and politeness from our employees.”
He smiled, though his gaze remained distant and cold.
“What my husband means is that we like to keep things lively,” Mrs. Pantsuit said stepping to the front of the crowd and adding, “I’m Regina, everyone.” She patted her husband’s shoulder. “C’mon. We have a surprise for all of you.”
Alan and Regina led us out of the cubicle area, down a narrow hallway to an elaborately carved dark wood door. Alan withdrew a big silver key, which was covered with unusual symbols, and stuck it into the lock.
I tried to get a good look at the carvings, but I couldn’t quite focus on the figures. It was almost as if my eyes didn’t want to see whatever had been etched into the wood.
Regina opened the door, and since I was the one behind her, I could see a set of worn wooden stairs that led into the dimly lit room below.
“What’s down there?” I asked.
“You’ll see,” she said. “This will be the best part of the whole tour.”
We followed both of them down into an austere, concrete block room. Torches lit each corner and cast shadows on the walls. On the floor was a circle painted in the same deep red as the decorations that adorned the building above us.
“May we present our CEO, Mister Samael Michaels,” the chief of security bellowed.
A thin tall man with white hair appeared from amid the gloom wearing a pressed white suit that looked older than any of us. I’m not sure why but it suddenly felt even colder. Goosebumps prickled my arms.
The others in my group murmured in surprise as a second man appeared, this one looking almost identical to the first.
“Ah. It seems that Mr. Carlin has also chosen to join us today,” Regina said, nodding toward him.
Wait. Isaac Carlin? He was the first CEO of BFSH. I’d researched everything I could about BFSH to prepare for today’s interview, and I was sure I’d read that he had offed himself at the age of 77.
If this was BFSH’s first CEO, he still looked like he was in his 70s, which didn’t make a lot of sense given how long ago he’d supposedly died.
Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who felt uncomfortable in the strange space as several people glanced toward the staircase. But Alan stood there as stoic as a statue, arms crossed, emitting a definite air of menace.
A pit opened in my stomach, a sense of foreboding so awful, I almost felt like throwing up. I wished I hadn’t been so eager to be part of the first tour group.
I noticed more movement in the gloom and my gaze narrowed as I tried to figure out what--or who--was messing around.
A pale arm snaked out and grabbed my wrist, yanking me into the darkness. We plastered ourselves against a wall hidden in the deep shadows.
A terrified man clamped his hand over my mouth and slowly shook his head as he put a finger to his lips. The terror in his gaze reflected the growing sense of dread within me, so I stayed quiet.
“Alan?” a voice called from above. “Did you page me?”
“Lyle! Come on down,” said Alan. “Shut the door behind you.”
I heard the heavy thud of the door being closed.
A man in a khaki janitorial uniform joined the security guard. “What’s going on? I thought the higher-ups said no one was supposed to come down here anymore after what happened with....”
Lyle paused as he saw all of us standing there.
The long, harsh whine of air raid sirens cut through the heavy silence. I’d heard the sirens before--Salem tested them on the 1st day of every month, much to the annoyance of the townsfolk. Now, here, on the 4th of July, they were roaring with urgency.
“What’s that?” asked a terrified female voice.
“Air raid sirens?” answered someone else.
Everyone started talking at once, panic rising in their voices as they surged toward the staircase.
“Everyone remain calm,” said Samael. His voice held power. Power enough to make everyone shut up, stop in their tracks, and turn toward him.
Their sudden obedience chilled me to the core.
The man next to me kept his grip on my wrist, as though he was afraid I would try to leave. He didn’t need to worry. Fear had bolted me to the wall.
“This is the safest place in the building,” added Samael. Isaac nodded in agreement. Then I saw two silver-haired women join them. They wore white dresses, similar in color to the men’s suits. I didn’t get it. Were they siblings? And where had they come from? I looked around the basement wondering if there was another hidden entrance.
“The four silver ones,” said Regina breathlessly. She sounded both impressed and scared.
“I told you, honey,” said Alan. “It’s a special day.” Then he pushed Lyle into the circle.
“Hey!” yelled Lyle. He turned and attempted to step back over the line, but he stopped cold. He frowned as he tried again, only to be thwarted by some invisible force. Even as he struggled to escape, everyone else took positions around the circle.
“We need more,” a chorus of inhuman voices echoed from the shadows. “Bring us more!”
I couldn’t look away from Alan. Sweat dripped down the man’s temple.
“We did as you asked,” he said, his voice shaking. He motioned toward his wife, but she didn’t join him. She was as enthralled as everyone else. “You said if we brought you Lyle and some of the job fair applicants, you’d let us go.”
“You will stay. They will all stay.”
Alan screeched as he was jerked forward, as though someone were pulling on invisible tethers attached to his arms and legs.
He joined the others who stood stiffly around the circle.
My heart tried to crawl up my throat as I realized that Alan and Regina had led us all into this nightmare believing they would be free from the danger.
I didn’t feel too sorry for them, though. They’d obviously had no qualms about handing over strangers to … whoever or whatever was now controlling these people.
I wish to God I hadn’t witnessed what happened next.
The four silver-haired individuals raised their hands and at the same time, Lyle levitated from the floor and tilted backward until he floated a few feet in the air. Then the silver ones all stepped into the circle and began to chant. I couldn’t understand the words, but they sounded like Latin.
“Who are you?” I asked in a low voice to my rescuer.
“I’m Amanda Wilson.”
He nodded, but said nothing else, his gaze pinned to the chanting assholes. Their bodies were taking on a silvery hue and then their eyes … oh dear, God, their eyes. Bright, glowing white orbs.
I heard Jason’s harsh intake of breath. “Samael. Tonya. Isaac. Molly.” He shook his head, tears dripping down his cheeks. “They’re dead. All of them. I went to their funerals. I saw them in their coffins.” Jason shuddered. “It’s not possible.”
The four figures lifted their arms. Clasped in their hands now were daggers carved with more symbols. They reminded me of the key Alan had used to unlock the door and lead us down to this unholy place.
As the sirens continued to wail, we watched as they plunged the blades deeply into Lyle’s chest. The worst part was that his mouth opened in an effort to scream, but nothing came out. They stabbed the janitor nineteen times.
As blood gushed from Lyle’s wounds, raining onto the floor, dark, oily clouds issued out of the punctures in Lyle’s chest. The people closest to the surrounding the circle dropped to the floor and began to writhe as blood leaked from their mouths and eyes.
Panic filled me as I saw the undulating bodies rise into the air. Blood coated their clothes, painted the floor, splashed onto the walls.
I felt my stomach roil as I watched the horror unfold. I realized that Jason had saved my life. If he hadn’t pulled me into his hiding spot, I would’ve been one of those floating corpses.
The chanting got louder and louder and the rusty scent of blood filled the room along with the stench of sulfur. Then the room began to shake. Above us, we heard shouts and screams.
“C’mon,” said Jason, feeling his way along the wall. I grabbed onto the back of his shirt, sticking to him like glue. He led me up the stairs and through the door that I’d believed had been locked. Honestly, I was too scared to look behind me and see if the silver crazies had noticed our escape.
The entire building quaked. Ceiling tiles crashed to the floor. Chairs and tables were overturned. Still, we managed to back it back to the lobby.
Chaos and horror reigned.
Black-robed figures herded people down hallways, and I realized those poor souls were more sacrifices for the silver ones.
The front doors were barricaded by bloodied corpses.
Black slime coated the floor and dripped down the walls.
“Oh, my God.” I turned to Jason. “We’re trapped.”
He stared at me, eyes bulging. “Get … get away.”
The man who had rescued me bent over, gurgling, as he vomited black slime. He lifted his head, his eyes animalistic as he growled. “Run!”
For a terrifying moment, I was frozen in place, watching as he metamorphosed into a nightmare creature made of scales and fangs and claws. He screamed as he shed his human skin entirely and transformed fully into something ugly and demonic.
I ran. Behind me, I heard the roar of the creature that had once been Jason Harte and the screams of the people he killed.
I spent the next few minutes trying to find an exit. Black slime blocked nearly every door and window. I found myself back in the training center and discovered one door not gunked up with that awful ooze.
I’m locked inside the supply closet.
The air raid sirens continue to wail.
People are screaming as they’re mauled and killed.
I think the building itself may cave in.
The battery on my phone is nearly drained, but I had to get out this message. Everyone in this forsaken place is already dead or dying. It’s only a matter of time before I do, too.
Please, if anyone is out there, don’t come to this job fair.
Stay away from Brighter Futures.