13 Tales of Terror: Vacant

The room was empty, except for a spider skittering across the floor. It didn’t make it very far.

“Damn bugs,” McDermott growled, scraping his boot across the floor boards. He looked around the room, nodded once, then walked to the far end of it and opened the closet. Empty. The boys had done a thorough job.

The old house had been on the market for a while. Richard McDermott knew its history well, including the murders. Three separate families had been killed in this house in less than a decade.

The Richardsons were strangled in their beds. Husband, wife, two kids. Three years later, the Browns moved in. Young couple, planning to build their lives there. Young wife was found in the kitchen, decapitated. Husband disemboweled in the tub. Then came the Dukes. Big family. Died in ways so gruesome that nobody even talked about them anymore. Just tried to scrub them from memory.

Everyone said the house was haunted, or more likely, possessed by the Devil. McDermott didn’t pay much attention to any of it.

There were no ghosts or demons to worry about in this place.

There was only the thing in the basement. McDermott had no idea what it really was, where it had come from or how long it had been in the house. He just knew he didn’t want it to get out. So he kept it fed, as often as he could. Everyone knew about the three families. Nobody knew about the others, the ones McDermott brought in himself.

It had been hungry for the past few months. But that was about to change. A new family was moving in next week.

McDermott walked out of the house and locked the door behind him.

Just one more week.

Blood Red

Don’t go into the forest at night.

That’s what the townspeople say.

It seems like common sense, or folksy wisdom, but there’s more to it than that. Nobody will say anything further.

Find a man in a tavern and buy him enough beer, and he’ll start to talk. He’ll tell you about the town and its secrets, of the mayor’s affair with the baker’s daughter and how nobody makes eye contact with Farmer Hill anymore, not after the rumors spread about the sounds that come out of his barn.

Buy him a few more beers and he’ll tell you about the girl. His eyes, though glazed with drunken pleasure, will show a flicker of fear. His voice, loud and jovial, will drop to a trembling whisper. He will beckon you closer and tell you about the red-hooded girl of the forest. Or at least, what appears to be a girl.

It’s believed that she is a spirit of some sort. She is definitely not of this world, and even her human guise is not without its flaws. Her eyes are too big, some say, and her teeth are too large. On nights when the moon is a pale shimmering disc in the sky, she is seen roaming the forests surrounded by wolves. They do not harm her and she does not mind them. They move as one.

He looks around, even though nobody is paying the old drunk any attention, then locks his glassy eyes on you. And if, he says, if you disregard the townsfolk’s warning, if you find yourself wandering through the trees in the darkness and you come face to face with the red-hooded apparition, tell her you’re going to grandma’s house.

She may let you live.

He runs a finger across the twisted scar running from his throat down to his chest and takes another swig from his beer mug. He will tell you no more.

As you leave the tavern, having paid for the old man’s booze, there is a sound of howling. The pale yellow moon shines down upon you, full and bright. Wolves. You turn away, but another sound follows the howls, a sound made by no man or beast of this earth. It is the sound of lost souls or vengeful demons or horrors yet unknown, wandering the land cloaked in a red hood.

20 Tales of Terror – Day 20: All Hallows’ Eve

  
The party was in full swing.

Victor surveyed all of his guests from the balcony, his dark eyes piercing through the skull mask on his face.

Down below, in the grand ballroom, the dead danced with the living. There were aristocrats in elaborate costumes: ladies in long embroidered gowns and lords in sharply cut suits. A trio of witches had shed their filthy robes and wore dresses of finely spun spider silk, complementing their ashen complexions. Undead soldiers were in full uniform, their jackets pressed and boots shined, looking pristine in spite of the bloodstains.

In one dimly lit corner, a werewolf fussed with his tie, unable to fix it with his padded paws. Drool dripped from his jaws as he cast his yellow eyes on the crowd; Victor made special note of him. A couple danced sensually on the dance floor, then exchanged partners and immediately plunged their fangs into their throats. Victor scoffed; vampires existed only to satisfy their basest instincts.

Half-humanoid creatures lurched and loped around the room while spirits floated through the air. Gargoyles perched around the perimeter of the balcony murmured to each other in gravelly voices, occasionally swooping down to grab a guest and carry them to their shrieking end.

A smile spread across Victor’s face, mirroring the rictus on his mask. All was going well.

Soon it would be time to perform the ritual. Soon it would be time to awaken the Ancient Ones and usher in a new age of darkness.

Victor patted the ceremonial pumpkin resting in his hands, which smiled malevolently at the ghoulish panorama spread before him.

It was going to be a Halloween to remember.

20 Tales of Terror – Day 18: Looking Glass

  
Demons.

They’re everywhere.

I see them, hiding in their human shells. They may fool the world. But they don’t fool me.

They walk around among us, pretending to be normal and human and good. But secretly, they’re wretched creatures, robbing the world of its goodness as they spread death and decay.

I’ve always seen them, since I was a boy. I knew it was a gift, but not everyone saw it that way. When I was 8, I tried to ‘cleanse’ my aunt with fire, hoping it would reveal her true form. She wound up in the hospital, and I was sent away to a juvenile home for a few years. It taught me to be more discreet.

Throughout high school, I endured the misery of being labeled a ‘freak’. It was a ploy by the demons to cut me off from society. It worked, of course, and I didn’t make any friends. Not even with the other ‘weird’ kids.

I couldn’t sit idle for long, though. After graduation, I went to college and promptly dropped out to pursue a different path in life. I was going to be a demon hunter. If I was the only one that saw them, then that meant I was the only one that could stop them.

I had to start small. Root out the demons in my every day life, in my neighborhood. I had to send a message to the others. That I was onto them. It would make me a target, of course, but that was my burden to bear.

I spent many months working out my plan, gathering and fashioning the weapons that would help me dispatch the creatures. When everything was ready, I made my move.

There were plenty of demons to choose from. My old high school tormentors, or perhaps my neighbors, who willingly annoyed me in a bid to drive me over the edge. The less interaction I had with normal people, the more power the demons would have over me. It didn’t help that childhood had turned me into a shut-in, incapable of speaking to anyone except to try and tell them the truth, a truth they never believed.

I decided to track down my old bullies. With careful research, I discovered where they were spreading their evil in the present. I memorized their schedules and their routines, looking for the points where they were isolated. Armed with this knowledge, I struck. Over weeks, I went to different parts of the country, rooting out the old demons of my childhood, and killed them. Destroying their human bodies rendered them powerless in this world, and it was easy to squash them before they escaped.

As expected, the news of my deeds spread. It took them less time than I had thought to catch on to me. Guess I got sloppy. The authorities came down on me hard, branded me some sort of serial killer and locked me away.

The trial was a sham, as many of the witnesses and experts were demons themselves. Of course they incriminated me and used their dark influence to sway the jury, convincing them that I was insane. I’m surprised they didn’t indict me as a cold-blooded murderer and push for capital punishment. Then again, maybe it’s not so surprising. They want me to suffer. They want me to doubt my sanity, my purpose. They want me to watch them win.

Even at the asylum, I’m a laughing stock among the guards. ‘Demon Boy’, they’ve nicknamed me. Hilarious. I know what’s coming, though. The demons won’t bother to hide any longer. They know I’m on to them and that I’m powerless. They’ll show their real faces now. I shake my head at the guards pityingly. The fools. They laugh and walk away, leaving me alone. I lay down on the cot in my cell, silence and darkness my only companions. As I close my eyes, the screaming starts.

One of the guards smashes into the plexiglass door of the cell, splattering blood all over it. A gaunt, skeletal creature walks up behind him, impaling him on its claws and tearing him in half. It looks at me, eyes burning with flame, and smiles. The end has begun.

20 Tales of Terror – Day 11: Plague


Joanna kept running, even though she could feel her lungs burning. The sheriff’s office was within sight. She stopped just in front of the door as a creature bounded in front of her, screeching in an unnatural pitch. She wasted no time in snuffing the light out of its soulless eyes.

With a quick pump, Sheriff Joanna Wheeler ejected the spent shells from the shotgun and barged into her office. It was empty, except for the blond man, who was still in the holding cell. She pointed her gun through the bars of the cell, breathing hard.

“What the hell’s going on here? What are those things?”

The bedraggled prisoner shook his head sadly. “I toldja you should have let me go.”

“I’m gonna need a better explanation,” Joanna growled.

The blond man looked her square in the eye. His eyes were very blue, the irises standing out against the bloody veins that surrounded them.

“Shoulda let me go, Sheriff,” he repeated.

Perhaps she should have. When Deputy Earl Mason had brought the stranger in for driving drunk, Joanna had expected it to be a fairly routine case. They’d let him sober up in the cell while they tried to find someone to get him. But he didn’t have any ID and was too incoherent to give them a name. He had screamed about how they had to release him and babbled on about monsters before passing out. They didn’t give him a second thought. Until sundown.

Joanna had received a call about some sort of disturbance at the Wilburs’ farmhouse. She knew something was wrong the moment she pulled into the driveway. There was pin drop silence. She walked toward the house, taking her pistol out of his holster. There was some sort of sound coming from the barn just adjacent to the main house. Joanna slowly walked toward it, noticing the door was ajar. She pushed the door open and almost threw up.

All of the animals were dead. Their mutilated pieces lay scattered around the barn, the floor thick with blood. The Wilburs lay near the entrance. Most of the meat had been stripped off May Wilbur’s body, and Henry was in the process of being disemboweled by some sort of troll-like creature. It whipped its head around to look at Joanna, licking its bloodied gums. She emptied an entire round of ammunition into it and ran. As she was getting into her car, she saw more of those same creatures on the roof of the farmhouse. They leapt off and ran towards the town.

Joanna drove after them, hoping she could prevent them from hurting anyone. But she was wrong. Within minutes, there were hundreds of them, attacking anyone in sight. They overwhelmed the squad car and Joanna barely managed to escape, taking her shotgun and a couple of boxes of shells with her. She had come running to the office to collect some more ammunition, and hopefully some answers.

She kept her gun trained on the blond man, contemplating whether to just shoot him and get it over with, when a thought struck her: where was Earl? She heard a screech behind her and turned around just in time to blow the head off the creature trying to attack her. There was blood pooling under the door of the evidence room. Inside, Joanna found what was left of Earl. This time she did throw up.

Composing herself as best she could, Joanna unlocked the cell door and dragged the blond man out.

“Alright, you’re free. Now what?”

He shook his head again. “It’s too late.”

“The hell it is.” She grabbed him by the collar and led him out of the station. The blond man’s car was parked outside, apparently untouched. As they walked toward it, she realized the whole town was silent and completely dark, except for a few flickering street lights. She caught sight of a tall figure under one of the lights by the station. He was dressed in a preacher’s outfit with a wide brimmed hat covering most of his pallid face, leaving only a grinning mouth exposed.

“Good evening, Sheriff,” the creature said in a low twang. “He’s right, you know. It is too late.”

Joanna stepped in front of the blond man and raised her shotgun.

“Is it now? Well, why don’t you step into the light, stranger, and maybe we can talk about that.”

The figure grinned wider, jagged teeth glinting. Its eyes remained hidden.

“I appreciate the offer, Sheriff, but I’m much more comfortable here.”

“What the hell are you?”

It responded with a soft laugh that snaked its way up her spine.

“You may consider me a harbinger. This town is on its last legs, Sheriff. It’s beyond saving now.”

Joanna tried to keep her hands steady. “Why? Why here?”

The figured looked thoughtful. “Well, to be honest, Sheriff, we just wanted him.” It pointed a long finger at the blond man.

“But then your friend came along and took him in. We thought we might wait for his release before continuing our pursuit but, well, we got hungry.”

The figure’s grin widened into a ghastly rictus. Joanna cursed loudly and fired a shot as the street light flicked off. When it came on again, there was nobody there. She snapped her head around to look at the blond man.

“Get in the car.”

“Don’t you see? There’s no point! They’re everywhere!”

“Get. In the goddamned. Car.”

“It’s too late…”

The blond man lunged at Joanna and managed to wrap his fingers around her throat. Reflexively, she pulled the trigger and the back of his head exploded in a shower of blood, flesh and bone. Bloody spittle flew out of his mouth, staining her jacket and her cheek.

“Dammit!”

She stared at the blond man’s corpse and then looked around. She could hear humming. It was a low rumble, like several car engines idling at once. It was coming from every direction, pounding itself into her skull, sapping the energy from her body.

Things were about to get much worse.

Joanna slid into the driver’s seat of the car, taking slow, deep breaths. She laid the shotgun across her lap and started up the engine. The street lights started coming back on, casting deep shadows across the street. She could see that the creatures were perched on the rooftops and crowded along the sidewalk, watching her with unblinking eyes. They were humming in unison. The ground vibrated beneath her. She put the car into gear and drove off, with the creatures still watching.

Joanna said a small prayer under her breath. She was going to drive as far as she could go before the car broke down or was attacked. After that, all she could do was take out as many of the bastards as possible before they ripped her apart.

20 Tales of Terror – Day 8: Taking Root

  
The flower smelled as beautiful as it looked. William couldn’t resist taking a whiff. It was the worst mistake of his life.

Things started out small. Sneezing, a runny nose, minor headaches. William thought it might be allergies, or some issue that could be taken care of with a few pills and some gulps of water. That didn’t help.

William knew something was very wrong when he tried to clean his ear and pulled out a fistful of dead leaves. He knew things were very wrong when he sneezed and a vine shot out of his nostril.

By the time William caught onto what was happening, leaves and branches were sprouting from every opening on his body. He saw a flower blossom on one of the vines. It smelled as beautiful as it looked.

Perhaps someone would pass by and stop to take a whiff.

Story A Day Challenge – Day 23: Don’t Go Up To The Attic

Jessica loved visiting her grandma’s house. It was a big house, on the outskirts of a small town, with large yard and an orchard in the back. Jessica’s grandma lived alone, though there was a gardener who dropped by every week to tend her flowers.

Jessica’s grandma was quite an active woman for her age, and was rarely in the house at all. Often, she took Jessica with her, to the market or to meet friends at the coffee shop or to the enormous park that seemed to take up half the town. But there were times when she went out alone, leaving Jessica in the care of Ellie, a helpful but often absent-minded teenager who lived nearby and whose parents had known Jessica’s grandma for many years. Before she left, Jessica’s grandma always made sure to mention one thing: Jessica had no restrictions on her, and had full run of the house. Except the attic. Jessica was never to go up to the attic.

She had often wondered about that. There was a small set of stairs in the passageway that led up to the attic. Jessica would sometimes stand at the bottom of those stairs, looking up and wondering what secrets lay in there. But she never dared go up. She had, on some nights, heard the stairs creak, followed by the creaking of the attic door. Strange noises came from in there. Whispers, but they didn’t sound like hushed human voices. They sounded…strange. She had asked her grandma about them once. The question went unanswered, but there was a look in her grandma’s eyes, a look that made Jessica shiver whenever she thought of it. She never asked about the attic again.

It was just another summer’s day at grandma’s house. Jessica ran up the stairs to the first floor landing and headed for her room. It was too nice a day to stay cooped up inside. Ellie was going to take her out to the pool, so she went to grab her bathing suit. She passed by the stairs that led up to the attic, and stopped. She heard voices. The same inhuman voices that she’d heard on some nights. She had never heard them during the day before.

Curious, she put one foot on the stairs, but promptly stepped back when she heard it creak. She looked around nervously. Ellie was down in the living room, talking on the phone to a young man she liked. She referred to him as her boyfriend, but could never say the word without her cheeks turning bright red. She would likely be on the phone for a while. Maybe Jessica could just take a quick peek in the attic. Who would know?

After another moment’s hesitation, she made up her mind. Just one peek. She climbed up the stairs, which creaked loudly. The voices from beyond the attic door got louder, sounding excited. What was in there? Jessica’s legs were shaking. Did she really want to know? The voices were really loud now, and definitely not human. She was having second thoughts. This was a bad idea. She turned to go down and the voices stopped. Jessica stood there for a moment, surrounded by complete silence. No, she could hear a voice again. It was Ellie, still on the phone. Curiosity overtook caution and Jessica placed a hand on the door to the attic. She could feel it pulsing gently, to the rhythm of her own heartbeat. Jessica took a deep breath and pushed the door open. Eyes looked back at her from the darkness. So many eyes. Jessica opened her mouth to scream but the sound never came out.

Before she knew it, she was just another pair of eyes in the attic. She didn’t know how much time had passed, but she could hear voices outside. It was Ellie, calling out for her. Surrounded by darkness, Jessica felt hungry. She could feel her hunger intensify as the voice got nearer and she waited for the stairs outside to creak.