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Loab Isn't Real

by Oscar Templeton 3 months ago in psychological / monster
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A fictional tale of horror based on an actual AI generated image

I

I should have never looked at her. I should have never looked at her. I should have never looked at her. I should have never looked at her. I should have never looked at her. I should have never looked at her. It’s too late now.

Let me explain.

She started off as a meme. One of the many hundreds I swiped past every day. Funny animals, cute dogs and cats, fail compilations. Using all of these as a distraction to avoid work or anything else productive.

Sometimes I’d scroll through my Instagram when I was about to fall asleep, looking for scary clips or images. There was something inexplicably comforting about it.

Tucked in cozily one cold night I was scrolling through photos as usual.

But one image in the collage stood out to me.

It was a picture of a woman.

An AI generated photo of a woman’s rounded face, to be exact. She had hollows for eyes and her face appeared to be almost completely covered in bruises. Dark brown hair fell down to her shoulders and her whole visage looked zombie-like and off-kilter. I almost thought I was looking at an actual photo of a woman’s corpse that got past the app’s filters.

Jesus.

I read the caption of the photo. Somehow this was generated by a Twitter user via image prompt. The user stated:

“I discovered this woman, who I call Loab, in April. The AI reproduced her more easily than most celebrities. Her presence is persistent, and she haunts every image she touches.”

The mysterious woman’s name, Loab, came from the nearly unintelligible lettering that the AI scrawled above her.

This was generated by AI? Good lord, now I’m going to be scarred for life. But I figured that’s what I got for staying up late and looking at creepy things on social media.

I promptly closed the app and shut my phone off.

But after I closed my eyes, there was the image of the woman again, Loab, haunting my vision. Ack! No! I rubbed my eyes until the bright spots appeared and then faded away. I swore that this would be the last time I’d look at scary things before bed.

In the dark, I felt my muscles relax and my breathing slowed and I let unconsciousness carry me away.

II

Dinnertime with the family. I was in the living room on the sofa looking at my mother and father. They were so pleased to see me back home from college. My bratty younger brother was forced to sit next to me on the couch. He still hadn’t cut his shaggy hair.

“Rebecca, honey. We’re so happy you’re back” my dad smiled. “So happy honey! I’m making your favorite” Mom added.

But I could feel there was something off about them. As if they were trying their best to act in front of a camera. I was about ready to tell them to knock it off when Mom spoke up again.

“How has college been sweetheart? Make any new friends?”

“Some… yeah,” I replied. “Mom, is everything okay?”

“What do you mean sweetie?” Her smile faded just a little.

“Well Jake is being his normal angsty self but you and Dad are acting really strange. What’s going on?”

“Nothing’s wrong, honey. Come on, let’s eat.” She wrapped her arm around mine and guided me into the dining room, with dad at my side. “By the way. We’ve invited a new friend over for dinner!”

I pushed through the door to the dining room and the wind was knocked out of me.

She was sitting at the other end of the table.

Loab.

I tried to back out of the dining room, but my parents grabbed my arms, holding me in place.

“Stay, honey. Don’t be rude to our guest,” my mother whispered in my ear.

Loab stood up from her seat and leaned forward with an odd jerking motion. Then she turned and began walking around the table with a strange, inhuman limp. I heard sickening, twisting and cracking sounds from the bones in her legs as she made her way towards me. All the while, her empty eye sockets never stopped looking in my direction.

“Let me go!” I screamed, trying to pull my arms away from my parents' grasp.

But Jake, from somewhere behind me, grabbed me around the neck, and held me firm. As Loab got closer, my family turned me to face her until her deathly face was mere inches from my own.

I tried closing my eyes, but Jake pulled my eyelids up with such a force that I thought he would rip them off.

Her breath felt stale and putrid on my face, a rancid sour stench like a bag of old onions, it burned my eyes and made me gag.

And then she opened her mouth.

I tried to look away but the deep cavern of her mouth opened so wide that the top of her head almost hit the back of her neck. It kept stretching wider and wider until it encompassed my entire vision.

I screamed and then my family pushed me in.

III

The first thing I noticed when I jolted awake was a deep puddle of sweat that had soaked through my sheets and into my mattress.

I was shaking like a leaf and felt like I had just stepped out of an icy bathtub. I brushed the matted hair out of my eyes and turned my phone back on to read the time.

5:17 a.m.

Such a terrible time to wake up: when you still want to catch some sleep but you’re near enough to the alarm that it’s pointless. I hauled myself out of bed and walked to the shower to wash the sweat and nightmare from me.

At least the bad dream seemed to be fading now.

This early in the morning the computer lab on campus was completely dead. I should come here more often at this hour, I thought. There was no one blaring crappy music or gossiping at full volume.

After finishing my networking homework for the week and reviewing material for an upcoming test, I still had some time before my first class started. Although I pushed the nightmare out of my consciousness, the impact of it still weighed on me. I hadn’t had a dream that vivid and frightening since I was a child.

Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to Google where in the Hell this morbid meme Loab came from.

With a few clicks, I found a piece on CNET about her. After reading further it seemed that she was a product of someone creating an AI image that would reverse the result of what you searched for.

The user asked the AI to recreate an image of a particular celebrity and voila we got nightmare fuel. What I thought was particularly strange is that if the searcher tried a new inquiry, Loab would still appear in the search results. Even when the searcher attempted to stray away from her entirely.

In other words, she became omnipresent. Appearing in the rest of the images the AI generated and wouldn’t go away.

Great, I thought to myself. I had the misfortune of viewing a cursed meme of the creepiest looking woman on Earth.

No wonder I had such a terrible nightmare.

But as I read the article, I noticed more illumination filling my vision in the windowless maze of the lab. My gaze shifted sharply to the right, viewing the rest of the computers down the aisle. They had all turned themselves on and displayed one horrifying image.

It was her, Loab.

Then the monitors flicked off and plunged me in near darkness again. I couldn’t breathe. My hindbrain scrambled over the impulses to either fight or take flight.

Then I heard a noise behind me. A soft typing noise.

I whirled my head around until my startled gaze fell on another student who had apparently snuck in while I studied. “Did you-?” I began.

He took off his headphones inquisitively. Seeing her image on the screens happened so quickly that I began to question if this even really happened.

“Never mind,” I gathered my things and made my way to class.

Mr. Gibson always spoke in a monotone, which made it especially hard to pay attention in his Networking Fundamentals class. Today we were discussing Internet Protocols.

The soft clicking of laptop keys filled the room as my classmates and I jotted down notes intermittently.

“First we’ll go over the OSI model and then TCP/IP layers,” Mr. Gibson began scrawling on the dry erase board.

My computer screen filled with notes as I typed. A dozen other laptop keyboards behind me clicked away in unison. I stopped typing but noticed that my keyboard kept going. Random letters in different variations appeared as the cursor began typing them down itself.

Was I accidentally holding a key? Random software glitch?

Then I saw the words were forming a coherent sentence.

My chest froze again and my throat went dry as I saw the keys themselves typing:

NOw I SeE yOU

The phrase was rapidly typed again and again. With different letters capitalized every time. Some in all caps, some in all lower case, and everything in between. The words appeared faster with the completion of every phrase. Filling multiple pages with frightening speed

No, this wasn’t happening. This was a joke. Someone had remoted into my computer secretly and was typing this as a sick prank.

Then I heard a throaty giggle and looked up.

The girl who sat in front of me turned around slowly.

Her hair was frazzled and ragged, and tears welled in my eyes as I saw her face. It was that same gray skin covered in purplish red bruises and her eyes… dear God, her eyes. Just meaty sockets where her eyeballs should have been.

My body was completely paralyzed as I watched her head slowly turn a complete one hundred and eighty degrees to face me.

She opened her mouth with sickening cracking sounds into an impossibly wide gape and I opened mine to scream.

Flying back out of my chair I tried scrambling away on my hands and feet as I watched her stand up and glare at me. Her body facing the complete opposite direction. I didn’t care that everyone was staring at me now. I had to get away.

I kept screaming and everything went black.

IV

When I came to, I was in a warm hospital bed, with my father at my side.

“Hey pumpkin” His voice was warm as he clasped my hand. “You’re alright. I’m here.”

There was someone in scrubs looking at my chart. I wasn’t ready for my father to remind me what happened, just to relax in his presence.

There were a few moments of peace, until the doctor came in. She explained that I had a severe panic attack and collapsed from exhaustion. It was common among students and likely brought on by school stress. My final exams were coming up, after all, and my mental fortitude couldn’t keep up with the studying and exam cramming anymore. That, coupled with the fact that I wasn’t getting enough sleep was a disastrous combination. My mind had cracked like an egg.

Funny. I told myself that story enough so many times I even started to believe it myself.

But I knew that eventually, she would come back.

My parents convinced me to come back home with them. Some time away from school would improve my mental health, they reasoned. It didn’t take much persuasion after what happened. I went with them easily enough.

I started seeing a counselor and took suggestions on what to do about my mental health. I was given breathing exercises, meditation techniques and advice on what routines I could do to alleviate the mental strain.

One session in particular seemed to be especially helpful. I told my counselor about her. Loab. That her image had haunted me for several days.

It took a lot for me to even admit that and not feel ashamed. But my counselor was so calm and sympathetic. We concluded that this “Loab” image was a manifestation of my stress and school anxiety. I was suffering so badly from it that my fears “came to life” and appeared to be following me everywhere in the guise of Loab. I had felt that there was no escape, but that wasn’t true.

We reviewed my breathing exercises and meditated together.

We chanted,

“Loab isn’t real. I am in control of my thoughts and feelings.”

V

It had been about a month since the incident in the classroom. I was back with my parents and taking more time away from technology and exploring new hiking areas. One day, I borrowed my dad’s truck to drive to Eagle Creek Falls.

Supposedly, at the end of a beautiful path, I’d find a wondrous cascade surrounded by ivy. Judging by the photos it looked like a waterfall straight out of a Tolkien novel. My heart raced at the opportunity to see it with my own eyes.

The narrow road curved up through the mountains and deep into the forest. I rolled my window down to breathe in the fresh mountain breeze and let the wind flow through my hair. I could only go so fast through the winding corridors and I took my time in the majesty.

But the relaxation didn’t stay for long.

As I drove, I spotted a woman up ahead standing in the middle of the road. Her back facing me.

I jammed my foot hard into the brake pedal and the truck skidded to a stop.

I recognized her right away. The terrible memories surged over me like a wet blanket. “Loab isn’t real” I muttered out loud in a desperate attempt to stop from being pulled into this nightmare all over again.

Loab isn’t real. Loab isn’t real. Loab isn’t real.

I said it over and over again, out loud.

She wore a faded red dress this time. Holes and small tears scattered about the fabric and showed her rotting skin and sores beneath.

As I watched, she took one small step backwards in my direction, then another and then she broke out into a full blown backward sprint in my direction. Her legs cracking in impossible angles.

I threw the shifter in reverse as fast as I could and hit the gas. The old truck spun out and caught traction. Then pressing on the brake pedal I pulled hard on the steering wheel and I shoved the shifter back into drive.

Peering into the rearview mirror I caught a glimpse of her body thrown back in her horrifying dash as her hands reached backward for the tailgate.

Slamming down on the gas again, the little truck lurched forward and fishtailed.

Desperately trying to correct the truck's course, I tried pulling the steering wheel but the wheels pointed me directly off the road.

The truck careened off the edge at an odd angle and the front right wheel landed hard on the rock and dirt, catching the corner of the truck and sending it plummeting over itself. Loose change and my backpack flew around the truck’s cabin as I was violently thrown forward. My seatbelt was the only thing stopping me from flying out the window.

My vision blurred and when I came to I tried to focus my eyes out of the completely shattered windshield.

The faint clicking of the engine and the sound of escaping steam filled my ears. As I glanced out the side of the battered truck, I saw gray, rotting fingers curling toward me through the broken window.

Her fingertips seemed endless and looked like thin, weathered vines.

Then her head slowly peeked through the open window, her mouth curved into what looked like a smirk. But just then, a voice sounded in the distance and her face went blank.

“Call 911! Hello! Are you okay!?” I heard an older man’s voice shouting from the road.

Loab’s hollow eyes moved in the direction of the man and then she scurried off into the foliage with terrifying speed, like a startled grouse.

The last thing I heard before I faded off again was the sound of large, shambling footsteps stomping through the foliage towards me, the older man’s voice calling out for a reply and droplets of my blood hitting the ceiling of the truck.

VI

The first sensation that came to me was the pressure of the bandages encasing my throbbing head, making me feel like a Mummy, but I could still see. A sharp pain told me that I had a wide gash on the top of my head.

I foolishly tried to feel where it was and was met with a burning sensation that washed over the top of my head and face.

The corners of my vision were still blurry and my eyes were incredibly sore. I squinted at my surroundings and observed the standard accouterments of my new hospital room.

I sat upright and felt a deep throbbing pain shoot up my back. I groaned softly, trying to keep my voice down.

It certainly wasn’t wise, but I lifted my sore body out of the hospital bed. I felt like an anvil had been placed on my shoulders as I limped over to the open door.

I peered around the corner and saw my parents.

My mother wore a concerned expression on her face and her arms were crossed like they normally were whenever she got upset. My father had his hands on his hips in his “what can I do to fix this?” stance. They were both huddled together with a doctor.

What they probably heard next was the click of my door closing shut. Then they probably heard the frantic beeping of the heart rate monitor as I pulled it off my finger. Then the creaking of my bed as I unclipped the wheel locks and shoved it with what little strength I had left and braced it in front of the door.

I heard their pleading as they banged on the door. Then the flat slapping sounds of their hands against the door's frame. My dad attempted to push the door open but my stubborn, metal hospital bed held it in place. I pitied him, but this was the only way to protect myself.

“Rebecca! Open the door! We love you!” my mom screamed.

“We promise you’re safe! Please open the door!” My dad was yelling now.

I glanced up through the hard glass embedded in the door, noticing their pleading faces. Tears rolled down their flushed, red cheeks.

Further down the hallway, a crooked figure limped towards them.

Piling as much as I could in front of the door, I ran out of energy and collapsed up against the bed. Dull throbbing pain filled every inch of me. I touched the top of my head and realized that I inadvertently opened up my head wound in my effort to barricade the door. Warm blood began soaking my head bandages and dripped down my neck.

There was so much noise now, an alarm outside going off, someone calling for orderlies over an intercom, my parents screaming, the doctor screaming at me too.

All I wanted at that moment was quiet. I needed to concentrate and remember what my counselor told me. Take deep breaths and focus.

I shouldn’t have looked at her.

“Loab isn’t real. I am in control.”

I shouldn’t have looked at her.

“Loab isn’t real.”

It’s too late now.

I chanted as loud as I could above the background noise. “Loab isn’t real. Loab isn’t real. Loab isn’t REAL! Loab ISN’T REAL! LOAB! ISN’T! REAL!!!”

Right?

psychologicalmonster

About the author

Oscar Templeton

Aspiring writer looking to spread my work to new audiences. As an avid reader of multiple genres, I seek to expand on my creative skills and entertain those looking for new and refreshing content.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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  • Winter Justice3 months ago

    This story scared the crap out of me! Thank you :)

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