This is it! If you want to read and vote for your favorite story written by our very own GIO members, this entry will be the final one. It's a bit long, but that's because of all the people who entered. it's a good problem to have.

The first story of our last entry is a tale from ShadowDragyn that made me genuinely uncomfortable. If you think your nightmares are bad, at least they're not as horrifying as this...


Zach studied the ceiling, still unable to sleep. How many imaginary shapes had he identified in its rough textures? A hundred? Two? His mind was exhausted from the multitude of exercises he had tried in an attempt to get his brain to shut down.  But still he lay awake, seemingly no closer to sleep than he was when he first crawled into bed.

He tilted his head briefly to the right, towards the nightstand. For a moment, his face was illuminated with the blue glow of his alarm clock as he stared impassively at the numbers.  5:02 AM.

My God, he thought, I have to be up in two hours for work.

Zach turned his attention back to the ceiling.  He tried to stare through it, into some imagined nothing beyond.  He narrowed his eyes to slits, making a conscious effort to slow his breathing.  Sleep would come, it had to…

Bright light.  Intensely bright.  Zach could almost feel it even through his closed eyelids.  Slowly it dawned on him that he must have overslept.

He began to open his eyes, but instantly shut them tightly again.  The light was like daggers piercing into his skull.  After a few moments, he tried again, ever so slowly, letting his pupils dilate.  He wondered idly how he could have slept so long and assumed he must have been so tired he'd slept through the alarm.  And had he left the curtains open?  It was never this bright in his room.

Except the light wasn't coming from the window, but almost directly overhead.  As his eyes finally adjusted, he realized there was a large lamp above him with three bulbs in it, and each one of those seemed bright enough to illuminate the entire warehouse he worked at.  Odd, since he has put soft light bulbs in last month in an effort to lower his electric bill.  He also became aware of a noise, a sort of low, industrial hum like the sound of a massive engine beneath the floor.  That certainly wasn't the air conditioner.  What..?

Through his half-aware state, the realization struck him in an instant.  This isn't my room!  His eyes darted back and forth, trying to make sense of what he was seeing.  Where the hell am I?

Suddenly wide awake, Zach tried to look around to assess his surroundings.  Panic descended on him in a heartbeat as he found he could not move his head.  Something held it in place, totally immobilized, as if in a vice.  But Zach could feel nothing against his skin, nor could he make out any kind of restraint in his peripheral vision.  He felt a scream welling up in his chest, panic now having transformed into pure horror.  But his vocal chords seized up, straining against a weird sensation, something…

Something in my throat!

Casting his eyes downward, Zach could make out what appeared to be a large tube, about the size of a garden hose, protruding from his mouth.  It was a light gray in color and appeared to be made out of semi-transparent plastic, but Zach could not see if anything was moving through it.  He did not want to think about what its purpose might be.  The prospect terrified him in ways he had never experienced.

He chose to focus instead on the one other object in the room he could make out, the lamp hovering over his head.  And hovering was the appropriate word, for Zach saw no cable or mount leading away from the silver disc that surrounded the three blazing orbs.  In fact, he could make out no ceilings or walls at all.  The room seemed to go on forever, just a blinding white nothingness in every direction.

Zach's mind raced as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing.  Was he dreaming?  In a hospital?  An insane asylum?  God, Was he dead?

When it first came into view, Zach's mind rebelled.  It's a doctor, he thought, then repeated it in his mind as if to try and convince himself, it's just a doctor.  Only he knew it wasn't.  And as it approached him from his left side, appearing to merely drift into view as if floating in mid-air, he wanted desperately to shut his eyes but was unable to do anything except stare at it's grisly visage, just make it go away, it's not real, I'm at home in my bed having nightmares...Jesus, where are its EYES?!?

The head was bulbous, everything behind the face simply expanded like a balloon, almost twice the size of his own head.  There were triangular holes where Zach imagined its ears should be, and two similarly shaped openings that passed for a nose.  The mouth was thin and lipless, the edges curled up slightly, giving it the appearance of a perpetual, ghastly smile.  Its forehead protruded outward in front, everything above the nostrils slick and perfectly smooth.  Its skin was a mottled reddish-brown and appeared moist, almost slimy.

Zach's heart was pounding like a jackhammer in his chest, and he was hyperventilating through his nose.  The thing standing above him looked across his body at something Zach could not see, then moved its mouth, presumably to speak.  But the sounds it made were nothing like any language Zach had ever heard, resembling instead a series of clicks and gags.  Zach imagined it would sound the same if someone was trying to talk after being punched in the throat.

Another creature came into view from his right, answering in kind.  Then both figures looked down (how the hell can they see me?) at him.  The newcomer extended its arm above Zach's forehead.  It was clad all in white material, not unlike medical scrubs.  Its hand had three long fingers and a thumb, the skin having the same sickly appearance as its face.  Slowly, it lowered the hand towards Zach's face, and Zach's heart managed, impossibly, to beat even faster.  Then the hand pressed against his cheek, and Zach thought it felt much like holding a snake.

Somehow, in spite of the tube stuck in his throat, Zach found a way to scream.

If the creatures heard him, they gave no indication.  The hand lingered for several seconds, then moved away from his face, behind him, where Zach could not see.  When it reappeared, it was holding a strange, metallic instrument the likes of which Zach had never seen.  But one thing he recognized for sure.  At one end of it was a needle.

The other creature, the one not holding the instrument, looked up and spoke again with more clicks, and the noise in the floor suddenly intensified.  Zach, still screaming, felt the tube lodged in his throat lurch in response.  He fell silent and looked down reluctantly, terrified of what he might see but unable to stop himself.  A moment later, he wished he hadn't.  A thick, black substance was flowing into his mouth.  It looked to Zach like axle grease, and the sight of it caused his gag reflex to kick in.  Only there was nowhere for the reaction to manifest, hitching instead in his chest.  And that's when the pain started.

There was no slow buildup.  Blinding pain shot out from his chest and down to his stomach, then extended outward to his limbs.  His eyes slammed shut, closing for the first time since waking up in this nightmare, this hell.  Never before had Zach felt a pain like this, not even after that compound fracture in high school.  Every muscle in his body was tensed, the pain pulsing through him like a fire.  He squeezed his eyes shut and hoped for death, which he felt sure would follow.

But death did not come.  Instead, his left eye was forced open, two of the spindly fingers on that horrible hand peeling back the lids to reveal the needle only inches away from his face.  He tried to scream again, but the thick fluid streaming into his stomach prevented him.

Wake up, Zach, his mind yelled, WAKE UP!!!

All the while, the needle moved closer, relentlessly descending towards his eye, Zach unable to do anything but watch.  And when it punctured his skin, just below the eyeball, Zach felt it even through the pain, pushing inexorably down into his skull, drilling, probing.  And finally, mercifully, his world went black…

Zach screamed into the night, sitting bolt upright in bed, sweat pouring off him in sheets.  He stopped abruptly, letting the familiar sights of his own room wash over him, the memories of his terrible nightmare (it had to be a nightmare, right?) already fading from his mind.  Relief flooded in and, nearly crying, he dropped his head into his hands.  A nervous laugh escaped his lips.  "Jesus," he whispered, and let out a long breath, attempting to get his shattered nerves under control.

The breath of wind sent chills up his spine.

Slowly, hesitantly, Zach looked up and turned his head to the left.  There, flowing gently in the night breeze, the drapes danced mockingly, drawing menacing shadows in the moonlight on the floor.  Zach's mind refused to accept what his eyes saw, but that changed nothing.  Somehow, the window was open.

Beside him, standing its silent vigil on the nightstand, the clock read 5:03 AM.

That was... really f*cked up. Made me think of Alien, which is a mark of quality. Go see it, it's on Netflix. Anyway... Our next story is a really cool period piece from Jack, the Quixotic Gamer. Take ten steps and draw to read on...