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The Old House in the Country – Ryan Reid

 

 

Jacob Hauser was on his way home after a twenty mile bike ride when he noticed dark clouds building on the horizon. It was a hot, humid July afternoon. Jacob enjoyed summer weather, but he had never cared for humidity. I’m going to get soaked, Jacob thought as he pedaled along the country road.

Bike riding was one of Jacob’s favorite hobbies. He had been working as a middle school science teacher for a year and didn’t have as much free time as he used to for exercise. During college he had put great emphasis on working out. Those days had been more carefree.

The dark clouds continued to spread across the sky as Jacob heard a distant rumble of thunder. Jacob couldn’t recall seeing any houses along the stretch of the road he was on; he was out in the middle of nowhere. Jacob pedaled as fast as he could, but he knew he would never make it home before the rain began; there were still about nine miles to go. Jacob was wearing a gray T-shirt and khaki shorts, so he wasn’t dressed for a storm.

A flash of lightning cut across the sky as it darkened. Jacob had been terrified of thunderstorms when he was a child. He remembered being unable to fall asleep at night as lightning lit up his bedroom and thunder shook his house. Thunderstorms had always seemed like the perfect backdrop for monsters to come crawling out from the closet and under the bed. As an adult, Jacob was no longer scared of thunderstorms, though they still created a sense of anxiety in him.

The wind began to pick up and shake the leaves of nearby trees as Jacob smelled the ozone scent of rain. I need to find some kind of shelter soon, Jacob thought.

The wind tore at Jacob’s face as he continued to pedal. His leg muscles were aching from the long bike ride. The first drops of rain began to fall when Jacob saw it: an old, dilapidated house. He remembered passing the house on his bike rides in the past. He had never thought much about the house, until now. The house was two stories and had rotting clapboard siding. The siding had once been painted white, but years of neglect had resulted in an ugly gray. Most of the windows were boarded up. The house’s weed-choked yard surrounded it like a moat. The building looked like it had been abandoned for a decade or longer.

Jacob hopped off his bike and ran with it to the front door of the house. He just made it onto the crumbling front porch when the rain began to pour down. The front door was boarded up, but there was a broken window next to it. A board covered the upper part of the window, but there was enough room to get in. Jacob leaned his bike against a wall and climbed through the window into the house.

Looking around, Jacob noticed he was in a foyer. There was a staircase leading up to the second floor against the right wall. The white plaster walls were cracked and peeling. Fragments of plaster covered the floor. The air smelled musty and stale. Jacob peered outside through the window he had come in through. The rain and thunderstorm showed no signs of stopping. Well, I might as well take a look around, Jacob thought as he watched the rainfall. I don’t think I’m going anywhere for the time being.

Jacob wandered through an open doorway into a kitchen. The room’s furnishings were simple: a wood table, several chairs, cabinets, a stove, a sink, and an old refrigerator. Some of the cabinet doors had fallen off. Pieces of broken ceramic plates littered the floor. The table was covered with mouse droppings. Jacob spotted a foot-long snake skin on the ground next to the table. That’s lovely, Jacob thought as he kicked at the snake skin with his right foot.

Jacob opened a door leading into what seemed to be a cellar. There weren’t any windows in the room, and the only light came from the open doorway. Jacob could hear the sounds of animals skittering around below, probably mice. Jacob could see the top of a staircase descending into the darkness, but he didn’t feel like going down there. Jacob shut the cellar door and returned to the foyer.   

Jacob climbed the staircase to the second floor. Every step he took on the stairs created a loud creak that shattered the dead silence of the house. Jacob thought it was odd how there weren’t any signs of recent human habitation of the house. He figured he would’ve come across empty food wrappers or beer cans left behind by a vagrant using the building as a shelter.

Jacob reached the top of the staircase and entered a room to his right. The room was devoid of furniture. There were two windows in one wall. Dim light from outside filtered in through the spaces between the boards covering the windows. Jacob could hear the rain pounding on the roof of the house. Jacob walked over to one of the windows and looked outside. The wind continued to whip the nearby trees, and rain pounded down. Jacob saw a flash of lightning. That’s when Jacob heard something strange. It sounded like people whispering. The noise seemed to be coming from behind a door in the room.  

Jacob went to the door and put his ear next to it, trying to hear what was being said. It definitely sounded like two or three people whispering. Jacob couldn’t tell what they were saying. Jacob put a hand on the doorknob and turned it. He flung the door open and looked in. As soon as Jacob had opened the door, the whispering had stopped. The room was a closet. There was nothing inside it. A horrible odor that smelled like a dead animal emanated from the closet. Jacob wasn’t sure what was creating the stench, but it was awful. That’s weird, Jacob thought as he shut the closet door.

Jacob left the room and walked to the top of the staircase. He heard a strange, raspy breathing sound coming from behind him. Jacob turned around to look behind him. There was nobody there, and the breathing had stopped. Jacob turned around and put his hand on the staircase banister. As Jacob was about to step onto the top stair, something shoved him from behind. Jacob grabbed for the banister as he began to fall. He was angled towards the right and barely managed to catch hold of the banister before he would’ve fallen down the staircase. “What the hell was that?” Jacob shouted as he gripped the banister.

I could’ve gotten killed, Jacob thought as he stared at the bottom of the staircase. I need to get out of here.

Jacob ran down the stairs and headed for the window he had come in through. The strange whispering started again. It seemed like it was surrounding Jacob. He couldn’t see any people; the sound seemed to come from thin air. Jacob began to climb through the window when his shirt snagged on a nail sticking out of a board. Come on, Jacob thought as he struggled to free his shirt from the nail.

The whispering was coming from right behind Jacob. He didn’t have much time left. With one final struggle, the nail tore through Jacob’s shirt, and he was free. Jacob grabbed his bike and ran for the country road. It was still raining, but the thunderstorm had ended. Jacob was soaked in seconds from the deluge. As soon as he reached the asphalt, Jacob jumped on his bike and began pedaling as fast as he could. Jacob had a feeling he was going to set a new record on his ride home.

 

The End

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Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes horror short stories and horror flash fiction. The online magazine publishes dark and gritty content from professional horror writers, Bram Stoker award nominated horror authors, along with talented newcomers of the horror writing craft. Deadman’s Tome features chilling, terrifying horror shorts ranging from ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, monster horror, and even horror erotica. Deadman’s Tome is one of the best online horror zines to publish horror short stories, horror flash fiction, and dark flash fiction. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the horror authors.

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The Stalker – Elliot Richard Dorfman

beverage-mug-000000Enhance your coffee today  

Howard Thomas was a Social Studies high school teacher who lived in Manhattan with his wife Susan and their 15- year- old twins Brian and Arnold.  When Howard got his certification to become a principal, he started looking for a position in Upstate New York. In that area, the family could enjoy plenty of space and fresh air after living in a crowded, polluted city.                    

Always giving an excellent impression at interviews, Howard was hired as the high school principal at Winfield, a town in the Mohawk Valley near the Adirondack Mountains, starting the next school season in the fall.  

A local real-estate agent was hired and quickly found the family an old yellow painted Cedar wood Italianate farmhouse with a stream at the eastern section of a two-acre property. True, the house was built in 1890, but its condition was good and the place maintained a certain charm.

The family settled in Winfield about a month before the school term began. Susan suggested they purchase a portable above ground swimming pool for the boys, but Howard decided first to get a decent tractor first to mow the grounds and keep it from becoming an overgrown field of tall grass, weeds, and wildflowers.

Having lived in Manhattan, Brian and Arnold’s new friends admired them for their trendy way of doing things. The twins liked this admiration and quickly adjusted to their new surroundings.  As for their parents, it took a bit longer, although Howard personally enjoyed the prestigious role of being a high school principal.

The first time Howard experienced something strange happening was five months after moving to Winfield.  Unable to sleep one evening, he lay restlessly tossing and turning in the dark for hours until finally deciding to get dressed and take a stroll in the back of the house.

Most of the trees were bare by now, and the full moon cast an eerie blue light on the grounds.  Nearing the stream, Howard saw a figure staring at him from the other side. The man had long blond hair that framed a pale young face. When he called out to him, the stranger disappeared.  Thinking that perhaps his imagination was playing tricks and no one was really there, Howard returned home.  Once getting into bed, he was able to fall asleep until the morning.

  ***   

Busy at his new job and adjusting to his new life, Howard soon forgot the incident. However, one snowy winter night when he was at the desk in the den, he saw the same man staring at him from the window.  Getting up, he ran outside, but no one was there

What does this fellow want? he wondered, becoming more angry than fearful.

For the next few days, Howard searched the entire neighborhood to see if the man might just be some nosy neighbor without any success.  Yet, from that time on, he began to constantly see this stranger looking into the first-floor windows in his house or somewhere on the grounds. Oddly enough, none of the other family saw him.

Eventually able to get a bit closer to this figure when outside, Howard guessed him to be in his early twenties. Tall, thin, and dressed in something reminiscent of what men wore in the late nineteenth century, he attempted to speak to this strange person, but all the young man did was respond with an unnerving smile, turn, and walk away.

Naming this weirdo “The Stalker,” Howard became determined to stop him snooping around the premises. The following afternoon he went to the local police precinct and filled out a report on this prowler and asked for their assistance to apprehend him. He was assured they would get right on the case if he would be willing to press charges when the person was caught. Of course, Howard agreed to do this.

For the next few months, the Stalker stopped appearing again, and Howard thought the problem was over. During the Easter weekend, Susan and the twins went to visit her folks in Connecticut.  Since Howard had one of his bad migraine headaches, he stayed at home.

The first evening alone, it rained. There was a short in one of the lamps when he tried switching it on and the house when dark. Unplugging the wire, Howard went down to the cellar to turn on the breakers.  Reaching the box, he suddenly felt a cold hand touching his shoulder. Startled, he stepped back and tripped over something and fell to the floor. Standing over him was the stalker, only this time he glowed in a purplish haze that began fading when he started to speak in a steady deep voice.

“At last, we are able to communicate. This is going to be a glorious night for me!”

Frightened and starting to panic, Howard tried to rise from the floor, but was unable to do so.

  “You’ll get up when I am ready to allow you, the specter shouted, frowning with anger.

“My gracious, am I under his control?” Howard thought nervously.

The specter bent down and looked him with large light- blue eyes that seem to pierce into Howard’s soul.

“If you are thinking that I have you under my control, you are absolutely correct.”

“But why choose me?” the frightened man asked.

“You will find that out when I get my wish. In the meantime, if you promise to cooperate and don’t try escaping, we can go upstairs where it will be more comfortable while I tell you my story.”

Howard nodded. The cellar was so damp and dingy.


Upstairs, the phantom looked around and rubbed his hands gleefully

“My house has held up well.”

 “What do you mean your house?  This place is mine; lock, stock, and barrel,” Howard replied indignantly.  “In any case, just who are you anyway?”

“Better you should ask who I once was,” replied the phantom.  “My name is Cort Van Tassel.  I designed and built this house for myself back in 1890. I was quite a successful young architect then and had everything to live for; youth, wealth, and recently engaged to one of the most beautiful women in this state. Unfortunately, in my time, we did not have the advancement in medicine as you have now. A flu epidemic suddenly struck the town of Winfield shortly after I moved into this house and I was one of the first persons to succumb from the sickness.  After my death, the estate could not bear to keep this house and sold it.

My restless soul could find no peace and kept wandering this vicinity, wishing to try and find a way of living again.  It seemed so unfair to be so unjustly cut off from the prime of life.  Especially since I had always tried doing good deeds by helping aid the poor and other unfortunates  who passed my way. I never missed a church service, praying for peace on earth to which I now have come to a conclusion is an uncaring and unjust god.  Then one midnight, not too long ago, a hooded figure known as the supreme master of the underworld appeared before me.  He promised to help me if I would be loyal to him and find a soul that would become his once I decided to take over that person’s physical body.”

 Howard was aghast. “Why would you make a pact with such evil that spreads unmitigated suffering throughout the universe?”


Cort moved closer to Howard and clasped his shoulders. “Because I will get what I most want!”

“Just what has this to do with you haunting me?” the doomed man asked, in denial of his fate.

The phantom began to lose patience and become annoyed.

“Is your mind so slow as not to understand?   After carefully observing those now living, you sir, are the person I want to take over.  Now, brace yourself, for in a few moments my soul will enter your body and yours will become the property of the master.”

Howard only had time to give one blood-curdling scream as the transformation between the body and their souls took place.

When Susan and the twins came home a couple of days later, they did not notice at first how Howard was glancing at them with such an evil expression.  Working for the master as a living entity on earth had begun.


Epilogue

The town of Winfield had always been a pleasant place to live in, but then during the following spring a series of terrible accidents began to occur. The first took the lives of Howard’s wife and sons when his family went rowing on a lake near their home and the boat’s capsized.  Howard valiantly tried saving the others, but failing, just about managed to swim back to safety.   Despite his grief, people admired how he put even more effort into his job than before.  A year later, while accompanying the most outstanding students in his high school on a bus trip to the city, the vehicle lost control and veered into oncoming traffic, exploding as it crashed into a number of vehicles. Many souls were lost, but luck was with Howard again, and he was the only one there to survive the tragedy.

Continuing to remain focused on his job, Howard gained many influential friends in the county, and was asked if he would run as state senator.

“Ah, yes, I would like to do that. I can be so much more effective when serving in that capacity,” he said enthusiastically, an unholy glare coming from his eyes.

THE END                                   

 

 

Writing Prompt: I’m curious what other writers would do with this story. Has a build up for something sinister right before the epilogue. Send me what you come up with. Send to jessecdedman@gmail.com

 

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The Accident on Mitchell Street by Jacob M Lambert

Heels scuffing the hardwood of the foyer, the couple dashed through the open door and out into the frosty October wind, the pungent scent of their deodorized bodies lingering behind them—lilies, aftershave, and musk all rolled into a single funk.

And Ellie Masterson, who’d seen this happen at least twice a day, simply pressed the clipboard to her chest, sighed, and let her almond brown hair drape over her face. She then left the kitchen (which was the farthest she’d made it with potential clients) and approached the front door, waiting on the next group.

“You’ve got about ten minutes, and then I’m—”

Before she could finish the sentence, two men—one wearing a fuzzy green sweater and the other a long trench coat—strolled up the sidewalk, holding hands. Ellie forced her best smile, one she hoped made her look more welcoming and less like a sixty-year-old, impatient ghoul. But with the dark eyeliner and rouge lipstick on her pale face (in addition to the knee-length substitute teacher dress adorned in bright flowers), she doubted the most sanguine display would make much difference.

There was the house, too.
And as if it knew her thoughts, the floor trembled beneath her feet, drawers flew open upstairs, chandelier lights flickered above—everything that drove the previous potentials from the kitchen and back to Watertown, or wherever they had come.    

Again, Ellie sighed.

“Excuse me, are you Ms. Masterson?”

The man in the trench coat extended his hand. He was handsome, she thought, with his tanned, pop-marked face and auburn goatee. A white scar stretched from his right cheek to his chin—but that only made the flesh of Ellie’s neck flush even more: she thought scars were sexy.

“I’m sorry. Yes—I’m Ms. Masterson, but please, call me Ellie.”

Smiling, the man said, “We called about the house. I’m Blake and this is my—”
“Tim,” the man in the green sweater interrupted. He casted an awkward, wide-eyed glance at Blake, then let his gaze fall back on Ellie. “We were hoping the house hadn’t sold yet. It hasn’t—has it?”

Momentarily feeling out of place, as if she were swaying drunk in a room full of addicts, Ellie dipped her chin and tightened her lips. “Actually no: we haven’t sold it yet.”

“Great,” Blake said, his smile widening. “Can we have a look?”

Ellie nodded and, stepping to the right, ushered the two into the foyer. She then—as always—remained silent, letting them formulate their own opinion before she interrupted. It was something she’d learned the hard way: too jovial, too insistent, too micromanaging was for the mannequins on QVC, not underpaid realtors. And while she watched Blake climb the stairs, where he stopped, pointing at something near the top, a familiar sound reverberated in her ears: the staccato thumping of her own heart.

“What was that?” Tim said, stopping midway between the hardwood and the stairs.

Here we go again, she thought, and for the third time (at least since the couple arrived) sighed. “I didn’t hear anything?”
“I never said I heard something,” Tim replied. “Is there someone here?”
Ellie walked toward them. In her peripheral, a rounded ceramic plate with child’s feet stamped in red paint swayed on the imitation wood paneling. Finally, she stopped a few feet shy of the bannister. “There is an extra aspect of the house I didn’t mention in the online advertisement. But I usually wait until—”

“You’re not going to tell me what I think you are, right?” Blake descended the steps backward, while keeping his eyes on Ellie. The flush came again, and she could smell the sweat fuming from her chest—a sickly scent that stood out over the dust, cologne, and mixtures of various undefinable stenches creeping through the house.

Pursing her lips, Ellie nodded.

“Wonderful!” Tim shouted, the disgust in his voice striking Ellie like an invisible cannon ball to the stomach. “I knew there was something off about this place. The outside looks like a Victorian mansion—and the inside…it’s beautiful. But eighty-thousand: too unbelievable.”
“It’s hardly noticeable. I promise. Just—”  

“Are you serious right now, lady? C’mon, Blake,” he said, interrupting her. But as he reached for his husband’s hand, the opposite happened.

“Who is it?”

Ellie met Blake’s gaze, but she quickly looked away as she spoke. “A man—I don’t know his name.”

As he opened his mouth to reply, ahead, on the wall next to Ellie, the plaster (the only place without the unpleasant paneling) started cracking, large chunks crumbling to the floor. Tim’s eyes widened, but he remained stationary, right hand clutching the bannister. However, Blake, moving past him, approached the area between stairs and wall—where a narrow hallway led to the kitchen. Through all this, Ellie continued pursing her lips, chin tilted, as if waiting for a disciplining blow. Her heart paced rapidly in her chest, and had she not grown use to the sensation, she would have feared the worst: heart attack, stroke, etc. etc. etc.

But that didn’t happen. It never did.
“Are you sure it’s only a man?”
“Why?”

Bushy brows drawn into a single arch, Blake shook his head. “Because, I don’t think a grown man would write this.”
On the wall, carved in jagged, mismatched letters, was a single question: IS MY BIKE GOING TO BE OKAY.

***

As Tim’s legs thawed, so did his mouth. “I can’t believe you knew about this and still tried selling us this house. I swear you’ll lose you license over this, lady. I swear.” 

“Still think it’s a man?” Blake said. “Cause I don’t think so.”

“Are you listening to me?”

Hearing him absolutely fine, Blake reached out and traced the coarse texture of the scrawling, then lowered his head—his bottom lip trembling.

“When I was a kid, my grandfather died in a motorcycle accident, a few days before I turned eleven.”

“I’m…sorry,” Ellie said, raising her head, but only a little.

“It’s okay, really—that was a long time ago. But he loved his bike, you know?” Blake paused and wiped a single tear from his left cheek, before it could dampen his mustache. “For a long time, I wondered if he was still there. My parent’s said he was in heaven: their usual poor attempt at commiserations when someone passed. But I didn’t believe it, cause sometimes, when I was alone, I could smell the Talcum powder. He would always use too much, and the scent would follow him: a medicated, menthol odor. You know what I mean?”
Ellie understood perfectly, but for her it wasn’t a smell—it was a sound: laughing.

“I’m not smelling anything right now, though,” Blake said, “but the bike, the way this is written on the wall: a child wrote this.”

From behind, now standing on the bottom step, Tim rubbed his eyes and shook his head. “Will you come off it already, Blake? This whole thing’s a scam, don’t you see that? She probably read a few of your books and looked you up online. It’s not that difficult, with all of the sites out there offering pennies for background—”

“Tim, go outside. Smoke a cigarette or something. I’m sure you’re having a nic fit anyway, so just go.” Blake’s voice, especially on the emphasis of Tim’s name, made Ellie’s large frame shudder. She hadn’t expected the sudden severity in the man’s tone, but she was glad for it: Tim’s slender neck craned forward, and he released an exasperated breath. Then his previously smooth features wrinkled into a scowl as he descended the step, sauntered to the front door, and slammed it—rattling the blinds over the frosted window in its center.  

Closing his eyes and shaking his head, Blake frowned. “I’m sorry about that. Been married only a week and I’m already kicking myself. But he’s a good man, Ellie. Just doesn’t have an imagination, that’s all.”

“No, it’s alright,” she replied. “I should have mentioned this in the description.”

“Well, it’s not exactly something you broadcast. But the message on the wall: I think a child wrote this—not an adult. What do you think?”
Ellie shrugged.

“Look, give me a few days to talk to Tim, and I’ll give you a call with our decision, okay? I think that whoever wrote this,” he said, again pointing to the words, “might just need the same thing I did: someone to guide them forward.”
Blake smiled and nodded to Ellie before retracing his earlier steps to the front door. For a moment, she stood there—between the wall and stairs—then wiped the tears away from her own cheeks as she ventured into the foyer, where the round, ceramic plate rested against the imitation paneling. There she stopped, facing it, her eyes drawn to the four-inch-long red footprints adorning the front.

“I think I might have found a home for you—both of you,” she said, smiled, and started rounding the corner. But the sound of someone digging into plaster, like rats chewing their way through a cardboard box, halted her progress.
The thumping in her chest returned. But this time a wave of unreality seized her vision, making everything appear sharper, louder, and more urgent. Turning on slick joints, Ellie returned to the wall, where she then took a deep breath before lifting her eyes to the letters. IS MY BIKE GOING TO BE OKAY remained etched there in deep, crooked groves. But there was also something else, directly below it:
MOMMY.

“I told you before, a dozen times: I’m not your mother.”

In that instant, the plaster started falling again, and letter after letter appeared, each digging deeper and deeper into the wall.

“Please, you have to stop,” she said, dropping the clipboard and placing her hands to her temples, where she then squeezed, as if the pressure alone would halt the irrational fear that her head might tumble to the floor.
More pieces of the wall crumbled as the response appeared. And if there was any equivocation to the message, the startling crash of the ceramic plate shattering on the hardwood floor extinguished it. Underneath the previous MOMMY was this:
YOU COULD BE. MY DADDY LIKES IT HERE. IT’S NICE

“No, we’ve been through this,” she said, letting her eyes wander over to the ceramic shards—noticing the way each piece somehow broke into a perfect bladed shape. “I won’t. I am Not. Your. Mother.”

As Ellie backed away, now almost tripping over her feet, one final message formed on the wall, but this one went deeper: into the wooden support beams, scrawled almost irritably.
THEN LEAVE ME ALONE. GET OUT. GET OUT. GET OUT.

***

  Blake’s hands shot into the air, palms facing the gunmetal sky, as if holding an imaginary globe. “You don’t have to be such an ass, Tim.”

“Did you not see how she acted? Could barely look me in the eyes.”

“She was afraid you’d judge her—like you’re doing now.”

Silence fell between them. The October air numbing his semi-bearded cheeks (where the hair was already growing back from the morning shave), Blake leaned against the hood of their black 08’ Honda Civic. “Look, can we agree to disagree? I’m tired of arguing.”
“Yeah, I guess. It’s just—”

Across the road, both men heard the front door of the house swing open and slam against the inside wall. Moments after that—they saw Ellie, hands over her ears, dash down the front steps, through the yard, and continue toward the road.

“What’s she doing?”

He didn’t reply, just simply watched the woman keep running until she disappeared around the corner and out of sight.
Finally, Blake repeated the question, but again, Tim didn’t answer. “I thought we were okay now? Say something.”
“We’re fine. We’re fine. But look at that. Have you ever seen anything like that?”
Even from where he stood, Blake could see the distinct shape of a boy standing in the open doorway and the undulating effect his presence had on the house: it was like an invisible finger pressing the center of an object made of partially liquefied gelatin. Everything bounced and rippled outward. And when Tim squeezed his shoulder, Blake, before breaking his stare, caught the sight of a much taller man shadow the boy’s tinier frame.
Then it was gone.
“Did you see that?”
Tim nodded. “Let’s follow the lady’s example, Blake. Unless you’re still thinking about buying the house? And you’re not, right?”
He took a step away from the car, further into the street.
“C’mon, Blake? Blake?”

THE END