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If you hear a nursery rhyme called Snippity Snap, you need to read this as a matter of life and death.
I’m here because I believe he witnessed an Event. An encounter of overwhelming significance, and one which I believe could explain a series of grisly murders -- murders which have gone unsolved, and plagued this sleepy town for close to ten years.
“It’s just a stupid nursery rhyme," Ryan says, bookending his words with a smirk. "Something to keep the kids inside after dark. Militant parental shit, y’know?”
I adjust my tie and clear my throat. It’s my first interview and I don’t want to come across as an amateur. “I’m well aware of its origins. We’re here to discuss the Event.”
He stares at me for a few seconds, a smile playing on the corners of his lips. Eventually he huffs and shakes his head. “You serious, man? I was seeing shit. There isn't a mystery to be solved, I was just stoned as fuck.”
“Marijuana doesn’t typically elicit hallucinations.”
His face falters. The cool demeanor, the dismissive aloofness -- it fades and for a moment I see a twinge of terror, and that’s when I know that I have him. I know that he doesn't believe his own excuse.
“Yeah, well I was drunk too,” he argues. “I wasn’t exactly in my right mind.”
I lean back in the chair and fold my arms, appraising him like my Orientation taught me to do. If you want to make people talk, I recall my instructor lecturing, then be silent. So I am. I'm as quiet as death. Moments pass, and finally he breaks the silence.
“What is it you do again?” he asks, changing the subject.
Good. I have him. “I work at a compound known as the Facility. My job is to investigate Events that my superiors deem noteworthy.” I do my best to keep my voice level -- professional, but the job is so new that I can hardly contain my excitement. “Your Event has been selected.”
“Facility?” he says. “No offense, but that sounds ridiculous. How do I know you’re not some asshole playing me for a fool?”
I reach into my jacket and retrieve my badge. “I can show you my identification again--”
He waves a hand. “Already seen it. How come I’ve never heard about this Facility on the news?”
I pocket the badge. “It’s a recent enterprise. We believe that entering the public eye could lead to increased tensions, and potential panic.”
“Sounds like X Files shit.” He narrows his eyes at me. “What makes my Event noteworthy?”
“You made a post on your social media three days ago. It showcased a figure that I believe I recognize.”
He leans back, picks up his styrofoam coffee cup and takes a sip. I notice one of his fingers wrapped in gauze. “Yeah. The shadow sorta looked like a demon or something.” There's a pause. A silence stretches between us. “You in league with demons?” He laughs, tries to play it cool, but the question is genuine.
“No,” I say. “Demons aren’t within my purview. I study urban legends.”
A smile plays on his lips, as if he’s waiting for me to laugh at a joke I made, but I don’t. It wasn’t a joke. I reach for my clipboard and click my pen. “Alright, Ryan. I’d like you to start from the beginning. The night you took the photo on your Instagram, what events led to that moment?”
He sighs and runs a hand through his tangle of hair. “It’s a bit of a long story.”
“Don’t worry,” I assure him. “I have plenty of time.”
He doesn’t speak. Instead, his eyes dart around the garage. They move from the window in the back, to the door along the wall leading into the house, and then to the windows on the garage door proper. He’s looking for faces. Cameras, maybe.
He thinks this might be an elaborate prank. Perhaps one his older brother orchestrated to make him look foolish. It’s a response that my Orientation warned me about and prepared me for. “I’ve seen unexplainable things too, Ryan.”
He glances up, and the playful aloofness is gone from his eyes. It’s been replaced with desperation. He’s hoping against hope that this isn’t a joke, because he needs to talk about what he saw, because he knows he’s experienced something unexplainable. He’s probably terrified that he’s going insane.
“You have?” he says quietly.
“Several times. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.” I place my pen down on the clipboard, taking a breath and letting the veneer of professionalism fall away. According to my Orientation, people are more likely to open up if you do first.
“The truth is, Ryan, there’s plenty in this world we don’t have answers for, but only a handful of us are ever visited by such phenomena. Some call it paranormal. I call it misunderstood.” I give him a smile, and it’s genuine. “Please, tell me about the photo. Tell me about the events that lead up to it.”
He studies me for several moments, as if determining whether or not I’m lying to get him to talk. To make a fool of himself. “How does this work?” he says at length. He lowers his coffee cup to his lap. “Do I just like, start talking or whatever? Or should I go slow so you can write?”
“Go as fast as you’d like.” I click the pen in my hand and beam him a smile. “I’m a quick writer.”
“Alright,” he mutters.
“It was three days ago,” Ryan says. “Shannon Gilmor was having a house party. A kegger. Her dad took off on a business trip and he’s fuckin’ loaded so there’s plenty of room in the house. I mean, the thing’s like three stories tall.”
“How many people were there?”
He rubs his shoulder, and I spot the gauzed finger again. It’s a good sign. “I don’t know, maybe fifty?” he says. “Sixty? I wasn’t really counting.”
I make a note on my clipboard that reads Witnesses? “Go on.”
“So we’re all drinking, fucking around and getting stoned. Some people are playing beer pong upstairs and I’m down in the living room hanging with this chick from my English class, Becca. We’re getting kinda… you know, hot and heavy or whatever, and she starts messing with me.”
“Messing with you?”
“Just like, talking shit about spirits and ghosts.” He gives a small laugh and shakes his head. “She says she’s attuned to them or something. It’s ridiculous.”
I check the box labeled Skeptic on my clipboard.
“So anyway, I start teasing her for being a bit loony. Just playfully, y’know? Nothing harsh.” He swallows, and I catch sight of his hands, still holding his cup in his lap. They’re trembling, and his gauzed index finger is out of place. It’s folded inward, out of sight against the cup. “She bets me that she could show me a ghost.”
“A ghost,” I say, tapping my pen against the clipboard. Snippity Snap, according to legend, is no ghost. “You’re positive that’s the terminology she used?”
He scratches his head, his eyes glassy, like he’s remembering a distant memory. Eventually, he nods. “Yes. She called it a ghost.”
I check another box on the clipboard, disappointed. Divergent. “What happened next?”
“She says there’s this old legend about something called Snippity Snap, which I mean, duh. The entire town knows that stupid nursery rhyme.” He takes a breath, it’s deep and when he speaks again his voice cracks. “She tells me that it’s real.”
I circle the box labeled Influenced. It’s not uncommon for people who believe they’ve encountered an urban legend to have actually just been heavily influenced by external sources. If somebody tells you something is real with enough vindication, humans have a tendency to believe it. If only a little. “Had she encountered Snippity Snap before?”
He shakes his head. “I don’t know. Maybe? She was fucking weird.”
I decide to withhold judgement. In this job, weird is relative. “What did she do next?”
He shifts in the chair. “Some kinda ritual. She took us both into the basement. At first I was into it, because I thought she was taking us somewhere private to -- well, you know -- but once we started going down the steps I got a real uneasy feeling.”
“Like she wasn’t right in the head. She closed the door behind us and we walked down the creaky steps in the dark. I tried turning on the lights but she snapped at me. ‘Don’t!’”
I smile in spite of myself. Darkness is a key component of the Snippity Snap summoning ritual. So far so good. “You didn’t use your phone for light?”
“No -- I mean I tried to, but she wouldn’t even let me do that.”
The Becca girl appears familiar with the ritual. The greater the darkness, the higher the likelihood of a successful summoning. “At this point, how far were you from the rest of the party? Ballpark.”
He scratches his cheek. “A floor at least. Most people were on the top level, in Shannon’s game’s room. It’s got a nice big window with a sick view of the city. The music was pretty loud and we couldn’t hear it so…”
“That’s a fine description.” I circle the word Isolated on my clipboard. “Continue.”
“So we start walking down those steps, and Becca’s gripping my wrist real hard. Like painfully. I try and shrug her off but she gets aggressive. Starts calling me a pussy. ‘What, scared all of a sudden?’ she says. I tell her I’m not, but I came here to party not fuck around in a basement.
“Then she gets sweet again. She says we can both fuck around all we want once she proves to me that this thing is real, and I’m drunk enough that I agree. I mean, there’s an implication there, right?”
“You said she had you participate in some kind of ritual. Can you describe that for me please?” Truthfully, I know the ritual full-well. I’ve even done it myself on several occasions, though all of them proved unsuccessful. It requires an incantation, a pair of scissors, and a human finger.
“The ritual?” he says. His face pales, and he pulls his right hand back into his sleeve. “Sure. She um -- she takes us to a sink in the basement, and then she pulls a pair of scissors from her purse.” He pauses, shaking his head with a look of disbelief. “I mean, who carries that in their purse? That should have been a red flag right there.”
“It’s certainly unusual,” I say. If she was carrying the scissors with her, then it implies a premeditated intent to carry out the ritual. She went to the party looking for a victim. “What did she do with the scissors?”
Ryan takes a deep breath. His hands grip the inside of his sweater sleeves. “She cut my finger. Snip.” He says the word quietly, distantly. “As she did it, she said a sort of chant.”
“The first line of that old nursery rhyme. Snippity Snap, you’ll come back. ”
“May I see your finger?” I ask.
He stares at me, and for a moment I think he might refuse, but then he slides his hand out of his sleeve, and there it is.
His index finger.
It’s covered in gauze, and he slowly unravels it. When he does, I see stitching across maybe ten or fifteen different cuts. The entire thing’s been slashed by the scissors. His eyes only look at it for a moment, before quickly wrapping it up again. “She was nuts.”
I record the details on my clipboard. Multiple lacerations. Significant loss of blood. Mental unease. “If you thought she was nuts, why would you let her do that?”
He opens his mouth as if to speak, but exhales instead. He shakes his head. Words hang on the edge of his mouth -- I can see them there, trying to break free -- but for one reason or another, he doesn’t say them.
“When she cut you,” I press. “Did something happen?”
“What do you mean?” he says, but his voice betrays him. It’s sharp. High-pitched. There’s nervousness in his tone.
“I mean that you’re fairly large for your age and appear to be in decent shape. If you wanted to break free of this girl and her ritual, it shouldn’t have been much of an issue.” I gesture to him with my hand. “And yet you sit before me, with so many cuts on your finger that it’s hard to tell where one stitching ends and another begins. Such a phenomena leads me to believe that something happened. Something kept you there, and in pain.”
His eyes take on an accusatory glare. “No offense, but are you fucking with me?”
I raise an eyebrow.
“I mean, this shit about the Facility, and investigating urban legends and recognizing the shadow in my picture. Is all of that legit?”
I reach into my jacket pocket and pull out my badge again. I toss it to him and it lands on his lap. He reaches for it with a shaking hand.
“My details are on that badge. My photo, my job title, and my employee number. It’s legit.”
He swallows, looks from the badge, to my face and back to the badge. He’s comparing and contrasting. He’s making sure I am who I say I am. It’s a good sign. It means he’s ready to talk, but he needs assurance beforehand. He needs to know he isn’t being played for a fool.
“What’s your employee number?” he asks.
“A9342R32.” It’s the first thing we’re quizzed on upon being hired. It’s critical we remember it.
He hands the badge back, takes a long sip of his coffee, and closes his eyes. He appears stressed. Exhausted. It’s only now that I notice the heavy bags beneath his eyes, and I idly wonder if he’s gotten any sleep these past few nights.
“Just to warn you,” he says. “This next part is gonna sound insane.”
“If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”
He gives a small, uncomfortable laugh. His bravado is beginning to fall away, and I’m starting to see the real Ryan Halflow beneath. A teenage boy, scared and scarred.
“She did it three times,” he says. “She cut me with the scissors, and then she said that line. ‘Snippity Snap, you’ll come back. When nothing happened, I pulled my hand away and told her I was finished. She told me I couldn’t be. Not yet. She said it’d only take two more cuts, and then Snippity Snap would appear. She promised, and she pulled me down into a kiss and I sort of forgot about the pain and… and how fucked all of it was.”
I write his account down as he speaks. It’s important that I get every detail. The kiss isn’t a part of the ritual, but it’s a part of the coercion. Whoever this Becca girl is, she’s familiar enough with the legend to know exactly what it requires to be summoned. Perhaps she’d been visited by it too.
“She cuts me again,” Ryan says, and his expression falls and his lips quiver. “Blood isn’t dripping off of me anymore, it’s flowing. Like a faucet set to low. It’s just the two of us in the basement, and I know that for a fact because there weren’t any lights on when we got there, and there’s no bedrooms. It’s just an open cellar. Nobody just hangs out in the fucking dark.”
He shakes his head, and again his hand disappears into his sleeve, gripping at the inside anxiously. “But I get this sense that we’re not alone. Like something’s watching us.” He’s choking the words out now, his body trembling against the torrent of emotions he’s likely feeling. “Snippity Snap, you’ll come back, she says again with the scissors, except now her voice is different.”
“It’s lost its sense of flirtiness. There’s no teasing anymore. It’s raw, and serious, and when she cuts me it’s deeper than before, like almost to the bone.” He takes a shuddering breath, and his hand curls inside his sleeve. “So I pull away. I’m starting to think with a clear head again and I realize nothing’s worth this kind of torture. I tell her she’s fucking nuts and turn to leave, but she grabs my hand and cuts the finger again. ‘Snippity Snap, you’ll come back!’”
He takes a moment, his teeth gnaw on his bottom lip. His eyes are detached, lost in the memory. “I… I’m not proud of it, but I flung my arm back. Hit her in the face, and she fell down. I didn’t care though, I mean the bitch was crazy, right? Cutting me after I told her I was finished, what the fuck was that?”
“An understandable reaction.” I place my pencil down and center my clipboard on my lap. “Before you continue, Ryan, I want to impress upon you the importance of absolute honesty. I need to know the process of events exactly as they played out. It could save lives.”
“Uh, sure.” He nods. “Of course.”
“What happened after you knocked her down?”
“Yeah. Screamed that I was a pussy and a coward. She screamed I was such a scared little bitch and that she hoped Snippity Snap would cut my head off.”
I write it all down. The aggressiveness with which Becca wished to instigate the ritual was alarming to say the least, but not unheard of. Such entities can have profound effects on those who follow them. “That still doesn’t explain the rest of the cuts.”
Ryan swallows, pushing the words out. “She grabbed my wrist again, but this time I was ready. I turned around and I was going to… I was going to fucking clock her, man. I wasn’t putting up with it anymore and then…” His voice dies on his lips.
“And then what?”
“And then I saw her.” He shakes his head. “I saw it.”
My pen pauses on the clipboard, my eagerness getting the best of me. “You saw Snippity Snap?” Ryan isn’t a small individual, but in that moment he looks like a terrified boy.
“It was big, twisted looking, like the thing had crawled straight out of hell. It had these giant scissors for arms, starting at its elbows, and its face was wrinkled flesh, with no eyes and just these dark, sunken sockets.” He swallows. “Its mouth was sewn shut with its own skin, and in between the threads of flesh were...”
“Eyes,” I mutter, a smile forming on my lips.
“Yeah. A hundred of them, milky white, and just… swimming around. It was the sound of the scissors though. Those two gigantic blades opening and closing. Snip. Snap. Snip. Snap.”
He takes a sip of coffee, then puts the cup back down with a shiver. He brings a hand around the back of his neck, rubbing it. “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. I knew if I got out of this and told somebody, they’d call me insane. So I did the stupid thing everybody hates about my generation--”
“You took a photo.”
“It was impulsive and stupid but I needed to know that I wasn’t imagining it. That it was real. So I snapped the picture and made a run for it, but Becca grabbed me by the ankle. I hit the ground hard.” His hand stops rubbing his neck, and his eyes glisten with newborn tears. “The next thing I know the scissor sounds stop. No snipping. No snapping. Just silence, and then Becca starts laughing.”
“Laughing?” I frown, hoping I didn’t come all this way for a practical joke.
“Yeah. She’s laughing. Howling. I don’t get it, but when I kick my leg free, I feel it. The scissor blades are against my neck. That fucking creature is standing over me, getting ready to cut my head clean off. ”
This is it. I lean forward. To have a real case so quickly is almost unheard of within the Facility. It takes most of our new hires months to come across something real. Some agents have worked there for nearly a year without success. Yet here I am, having achieved it within my first week. “Did you give it an offering?” I ask, excitement lacing my words.
He gives me an uncomfortable look. The two of us gaze at each other, and I realize I’m losing my cool. I’m letting pieces of me leak through that shouldn’t be. I straighten up, flatten my expression and adopt a more serious tone. “By ‘offering’ I mean, did you allow yourself to be cut again?”
He nods, slowly. “Yeah. Becca grabbed my finger and started cutting with the scissors. Snippity. Snap. Snippity. Snap. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything so I just stayed there, on my hand and knees with this fucking monster standing above me, and Becca mutilating my finger.”
He chokes back a sob. “I remember feeling light-headed from the blood loss, and right when my finger started feeling numb to the pain, Becca stops. I don’t know if she did it because she’d had enough, or because I was crying, or... ”
“Or because I pissed myself.”
“I see.” I don’t notate the last part on my clipboard. “Then it was over?”
“I guess.” He exhales, as though letting go of some great weight that’s been holding him down. “Once she stopped cutting, I realized the creature was gone, and before she could do anything else fucked I booked it up the stairs and got my dad to drive me home.”
“You didn’t report it to the authorities?”
“Report what? That some girl half my size held me down with a monster in a basement and cut up my finger?” He snorts, wiping tears from his eyes. “No, I didn’t report shit to the authorities. I just want to forget about it, pretend it never happened.”
“Why did you post that photo then?” I look down at my notes. "Particularly with the hashtag #SnippitySnap?"
He shrugs, his eyes looking out the window. “I don’t know. I guess I just hoped that maybe somebody would tell me I wasn’t insane. That maybe they’d seen it too.”
I sigh, reaching across and placing a hand on Ryan’s arm. I give it a squeeze. “You’re not insane. You did the right thing taking that photograph, and you did the right thing talking to me about the Event. Thank you.”
“Yeah,” he says, sniffling. “No problem. Is that um, everything then? Are we done?”
“In a moment. I’d like to take another look at that photo, if you don’t mind. The uncompressed version on your phone.”
He nods. “Yeah, s-sure. One second.” He pulls out his phone and navigates to the photograph, then passes the device to me.
I study the image. It’s similar to what I viewed on his social media, but given the low lighting and shakiness of the photograph, the compression algorithm wreaked havoc on it. This original version is much cleaner. For instance, whereas his Instagram showed only a shadow with a faint outline, this one provides additional details.
The shadow is still there, but it’s clearer. On the creature’s scissor arms, I see the faint sheen of light against metal. There's a reflection in the steel, a face, though it doesn't look like Ryan's -- probably a consequence of the dim lighting. I move my eyes over the photo, analyzing the creature and note that within its sewed mouth are a hundred small white dots. Dots which I know to be eyes.
It’s humanoid, mostly, but distinct in important ways. It’s form is taller, for one. It's bow-legged and slouched, with a sort of zigzag to its posture, like a person suffering from severe scoliosis. I make a note on my clipboard regarding its appearance, and then resume my study of the photo.
In the bottom corner of the picture I see a human face. A girl. It’s Becca, no doubt, on the ground after Ryan had knocked her down, looking wild-eyed with a gleeful smile across her face.
“Thank you,” I say, passing the phone back to him. I make a final notation on my clipboard labeled Survivor. “If it’s alright with you, Ryan, I’d like to know Becca’s last name.”
“Her last name?”
“Yes.” I click my pen and place it into my chest pocket. “I think her and I need to have a discussion.”
And despite his repeated calls for unity, Biden rejects my offer to support him in the general election. That really shocked me. What was even more shocking was how Biden pushed and poked me, and then took hold of my jacket with both hands as he lectured me.
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