Posts Tagged ‘short stories’


Note: This short horror story is unrelated to Don’t Feed The Dark.

~~~

It was a beautiful, crisp Sunday evening; going on Monday in about twenty minutes. I felt like the last man alive as I approached the ATM just outside of Hartman’s grocery store on the corner of Parker and Maple Avenue.

I’ve always been appalled by my lack of self-control. A sudden, overpowering urge for ice cream can always get me half-dressed and out the door searching for something open on a Sunday night. Yeah right, ice cream, that’s what I was getting. Who was I kidding. Certainly not my wife. No one drives to the ATM at midnight to get cash for ice cream, especially on a Sunday. Who uses cash anymore, anyway? Unless, you’re looking to hide all debit card traces highlighting shady purchases from unsuspecting wives at home, of course. Besides, there was nothing open except a couple bars, a gas station with a mini mart, and the adult movie store. Sounds almost respectable, doesn’t it? Adult movie store. I know, I’m pathetic, but the sex at home’s not what it used to be. Let’s move on, shall we.

The empty parking lot was an asphalt desert, dimly lit by three street lamps and low security lighting coming from Hartman’s store front windows. I walked over to the ATM, the light over the display flickering on and off and fighting to stay alive with a defiant buzzing sound. The cash machine was brighter than anything else around and left me feeling slightly ridiculous standing there in my boxers. I also felt very vulnerable and exposed, sensing something unfamiliar in the night. Strange thoughts run through the head when surrounded by silence and shadows.

I put my card in the machine and began to type my numerical code on the panel as some strange hindsight was urging me to make my withdrawal quickly and hurry back to my car.

Mind tricks, so I thought at first when I heard a strange sound coming from the opposite side of my vehicle and out of view. I already looked back once, feeling the fool for doing so and letting the silence get to me. There was no reason to feel afraid. This night was anything but threatening. I’ve been to this ATM hundreds of times on many nights just like this one. (Now that admission was truly pathetic).

Of course, it’s thoughts like these that lead one to complacency and that’s how “it” happens.

You can’t imagine what it feels like until you become the victim. I didn’t know which was more alarming: the feel of the gun barrel pressed into my lower back, or the low monotone voice that spoke too calmly in my right ear.

“Give me the money,” the voice demanded, pressing the gun barrel further into my back. I could swear there was absolutely no emotion in that voice.

I’ve heard amazing boasts from people claiming to have been mugged. They all make it sound somehow brave in how they handled the situation, regardless of losing their wallets. As if the exaggerations in the telling helped them save face. Others have claimed they turned the tables on their would-be assailants, and either scared them off or simply got away. I realize now that every one of them were full of shit. I was scared out of my mind. No bravado, no heroics. I froze.

“Give me the money,” the cold voice repeated. Perhaps he was more familiar with the routine than I and expected my sluggish response. He was incredibly patient with me, the amateur victim.

I then found my line, “I’ll give you anything you want, just don’t shoot me, okay?” I immediately expected to hear a gun shot, or perhaps the butt end of the gun striking the back of my head. I became aware of a sudden dampness in my boxers. That’s right, I pissed myself. That’s what being a “victim” really means. No heroics here, unless needing a diaper was considered brave in another part of the universe. I felt faint with fear and then the voice brought me back.

“Give me the money, now.”

I found myself staring blankly at the ATM screen. I still hadn’t made my withdrawal selection. This mugger knew what he was doing. He couldn’t have timed this any better. All I needed to do was type in whatever amount he wanted. Dear God, how much did he want?

“Anything you say, Buddy… just tell me how much?” I managed to get out. (Did I really just call him, Buddy?)

The pause in his response was worse than anything I have ever gone through my entire life. It seemed like an eternity before the mugger finally answered me. “Give me twenty-four dollars and ninety-five cents,” he answered, and said no more.

“Say again?” I almost made a foolish mistake right then, turning to look at the mugger, but caught myself in time. I’d seen enough movies to know that if I didn’t see his face, my chances of being released would improve. He would know that I couldn’t identify him. Good God, I couldn’t believe I was actually relying on fucking late night crime flicks to get me out of this situation.

“Twenty-four dollars and ninety-five cents,” the mugger repeated with emphasis. For the first time I could hear a slight agitation in his voice.

I was puzzled by his peculiar request, but thankful that I wasn’t dead yet, so I overlooked it. “Sure thing, I’ll just pull out forty dollars and you can have it all, no problem… more if you want… whatever you want.” I was a blubbering idiot now. What next, tears?

“NO!” he barked.

I nearly threw up.

The mugger shoved the gun barrel into my back more sharply than before. I heard him making strange noises with his breathing. He sounded like a man on the verge of snapping. I then knew anything could go wrong.

However, as fast as the mugger’s temper flared, he returned just as quickly to that emotionless, cold voice and reclaimed himself.

“Let me make this crystal clear,” the mugger began. “I did not tell you to give me forty dollars. If I wanted forty dollars I would have said, ‘forty dollars’. I told you what I want now give me what I asked for. Do you understand me yet?”

For the first time, I didn’t think there would be a way out of this. This man was obviously fucking crazy.

“Do you understand yet?” the mugger repeated, the agitation in his voice returning much quicker this time.

“Yes, I understand… twenty-four dollars and ninety-five cents… anything you want.” I was frantic now. Before realizing what I was doing, I began typing in that exact amount on the number pad. A message soon appeared telling me that I could not withdrawal that amount. It had to be in multiples of twenty! What the fuck was I going to do now? He almost shot me at forty dollars, how was I going to get away with pulling out a twenty!

Your wallet! Check your wallet! The thought came and I prayed that there was still some bills left in there.

I looked in my wallet and saw five one dollar bills. I might make it out of this one after all.

I withdrew a twenty, combined it with the five singles, and held it up in my trembling hands without looking back. “Here you go… take it… please, just take it and I’m sorry for the mix up.”

I felt a gloved hand reach into mine and take the bills.

Suddenly, I was on the ground, my face hitting the asphalt hard. The mugger had a hand around the back of my neck, and one knee inflicting pain in the small of my back. I could feel him shaking with anger as he spoke. “YOU FUCKING LIE! YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND!”

I didn’t know what else to do, I closed my eyes and began to weep. That’s right, I cried. But pathetic is still better than dead. Somehow I got out, “What did I do wrong? Is it not enough? Do you want-”

“WHAT DID I SAY?” he interrupted.

I was bordering complete shutdown. I just didn’t understand his language and no one ever taught me how to speak ‘Crazy’.

I felt the gun barrel at the back of my head as he demanded, “WHAT DID I TELL YOU TO GIVE ME? TELL ME RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW! NOW! NOW!”

I waited for the sound that would end this nightmare, but it just would not come. I blurted out, “Twenty-four dollars and ninety-five cents!”

And just like that, the mugger eased up. He removed the gun from my head and I could feel him lifting the pressure off my neck and back. Again, with the calm voice of a true killer, he said, “Very good. Now one more time, will you give me what I want? Do you understand yet?”

I had a revelation from the land of insanity. For whatever reason, this man wanted exactly twenty-four dollars and ninety-five cents. Not forty, not twenty-five. I could have given him a million dollars and he still would have shot me.

I whispered, “Yes, I understand now.”

“Good,” the mugger said, and just like that I was back on my feet and standing once more before the hellish ATM. I could see my ghastly reflection in that little blue square and a masked individual looming behind me. I looked terrible and wished I could hide within that square until this psycho was long gone.

The mugger even had the courtesy of reaching around and placing my failed monetary offering back on the flat portion of the cash machine. I immediately placed the bills back in my wallet, feeling absurd for doing so. What was I supposed to say? Thank you?

I opted to remain silent, understanding very clearly that I only had one chance left; two strikes against me and there wouldn’t be a third. My remaining hope now rested on the small change compartment in my vehicle. If I was one penny shy of ninety-five fucking cents, I was a dead man.

“Sir,” I said, “I’ll need to go to my vehicle to get the exact change you want. Is that alright?”

There was a pause as the mugger considered my request. He then replied, “Yes, that’s acceptable.” Soon he had me walking back toward my car, the gun still pressed against my back.

As we approached my little, tan Corolla, I watched it transform into something foreign in my mind. My car was now a coffin with wheels. I had to shake these grim thoughts and try to become a survivor. Somehow.

The mugger was no fool. He led me very deliberately to the passenger side of my car, not allowing me easy access to simply get in and drive away. Even if he didn’t, my hands were shaking too much to ever get the key in the ignition.

I opened the door and went to the center compartment between the seats and began to count the change… fifty-five cents… sixty… seventy… (now would be a horrible time to fail math) eighty… ninety… ninety-five cents.

There was a God after all!

Once again, without looking back, never looking back, I combined my new, crisp twenty dollar bill from the cash machine with four singles from my wallet and added in the change. I reached behind and submitted my offering to the mugger. “Here you go, twenty-four dollars and ninety-five cents, exactly what you wanted.”

Again, a gloved hand reached for mine, the hand of death or the hand of chance, I did not know yet.

I was still half-in, half-out of my Corolla when I heard that cold voice say, “Thank you.” Nothing
more. I no longer felt the barrel of that gun at my back.

Several minutes passed and the mugger said nothing. I was actually starting to believe that if I turned around, he would simply be gone.

Was that it? Did I pass the fucking test?

I achieved enough boldness to back out of the car and stand up. My legs felt like Jell-O beneath me.

Do I dare look behind?

Glancing across the top of my car and into the asphalt lot, a stray cat started in my direction. Something about that cat seemed to help my fear drift. Perhaps this small creature represented the return of something, anything, resembling my former normal life. As odd as this was, I took comfort in that cat as it came closer.

When it stopped in the middle of the lot, the cat began cleaning itself, then stopped as it noticed me for the first time.

“I’ll never do it again, I promise. No more porn, no more bad living, no more fucking ATM’s.” My confession to the cat continued, understanding that it wasn’t the cat I was speaking to at all.

Several more minutes of silence followed and I took a deep breath. Watching that cat, I asked it in a whisper as if it were a prophet from God, “Is it over then?”

In response, the prophetic cat looked beyond me and hissed.

I felt something heavy strike the back of my head and my world went black.

~~~

Several days later, the officer who discovered the abandoned tan Toyota Corolla in an unpopulated wooded area, would remember the blood in the trunk more than anything else. He would have nightmares about that trunk, wondering how so much blood could come from a single human body.

There was no body found, of course. Just a bloody trunk with some odds and ends typical of what one may expect to find in a trunk, along with a receipt from Wal-Mart for a large shovel, a painter’s tarp, some rope, and a gas can all purchased two days prior for exactly twenty-four dollars and ninety-five cents.

~~~

“ATM” Copyright © 2010 Scott Scherr. All rights reserved.

If you’re new to my blog and want to read something a bit longer, feel free to check out my ongoing serial novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, and tell me what you think: DFTD Chapter 1-1: Demon Night

~~~


Note: This short horror story is unrelated to Don’t Feed The Dark.

~~~

Good old Sunday afternoon. There was nothing like kicking back with the boy and watching football in the fall. Especially when we had the place to ourselves. My wife, Susan, went to visit her mother in Akron.

We had all our required equipment at the ready: Popcorn, chips and salsa; chicken wings and pizza to be delivered shortly. We’d been conserving our voices all week for this one game and now we were ready to cheer our team on or heckle if need be (the Browns were notorious for screwing up a good football game). Either way, it would be a good time for us.

Brandon walked over to the window again, looked out and frowned.

“What, no pizza?” I asked.

My son considered his next words carefully and answered, “Sorry, Dad, I forgot. Now it’s too late, he’s coming over again.”

In our household there was no mistaking what was meant by “He”. It was our estranged neighbor, Mr. Thompson. “Please tell me you didn’t forget to rake the front yard this morning, tell me anything else but that,” I said sternly to my son.

Brandon’s eyes immediately rolled toward the floor. That was answer enough. “I said I was sorry. I meant to. I just got excited about the game and forgot.”

Before I could scold him further, Mr. Thompson began knocking on our front door.

I gave my son ‘the look’ and said, “We’ll talk about this later. You know I can’t stand talking to this guy.”

“So just don’t answer the door,” Brandon offered, then realized too late the folly in that suggestion. As an afterthought he added, “That guy gives me the creeps.”

My son was right, of course. Under normal circumstances his suggestion would have been sound, but Mr. Thompson was anything but ‘normal’. Last time we were graced by such a visit and tried to ignore the door, he knocked for over twenty minutes. Now mind you, it wasn’t a frustrated, angry or impatient knock, but a creepy, steady, almost rhythmic knock that suggested he could keep at it all day until we either answered it, or our heads imploded.

I remembered my irritation the last time I answered and how ready I was to chew my persistent neighbor a new asshole. Instead, I was overwhelmed by the man’s unnerving kindness and cheer as would surely be the case now. It’s hard to stay angry at someone who’s smothering you to death with platitudes and neighborly good will without seeming like the overreacting one. Besides, I knew enough about having bad relations with neighbors from previous homes that taught me the importance of maintaining diplomacy with people who lived that close to you. The alternatives were never pleasant.

Before opening the door, I joked with my son as Mr. Thomson continued to knock, “Sounds a little like a ZZ Top song if you listen to it long enough – Like he’s knocking to Velcro Fly all slowed down.”

“Dad,” my teenage son reminded me in typical sarcastic fashion. “You keep forgetting I’m not ancient like you. I have no idea who you’re talking about.” Then changing the subject and looking out the window toward our neighbor’s yard, Brandon smiled and said, “Dad, he got every single one! How does he do that? There’s not a single leaf left in the yard. You know what that means.”

Oh wonderful. This would be about the leaves again. There’s nothing like having a pre-game discussion about raking leaves before kick off. I could hardly wait for the half-time show. “Yeah, it means you should have done what I told you to do in the first place,” I barked. “And ZZ Top is classic rock which means everyone still remembers who they are.”

“Exactly my point, Beethoven,” Brandon laughed. “Classic rock translation: old-as-shit. Didn’t they play a concert after one of the first pyramids was built?”

“Funny man, keep it up,” I laughed. “Watch your mouth or I’ll introduce you to some ancient soap.” I couldn’t stall the inevitable any longer, so I took a deep breath and opened the door, hoping to get him off my porch as quick as possible.

As soon as I opened Pandora’s Box I was immediately assaulted with kindness. “Hello, Tom! Beautiful day today isn’t it? I know you and Brandon are looking forward to the game… should be a great one, too! How is everyone?”

I hated it when he called me by my first name. It somehow brought our relationship too close for comfort. “Hey, Mr. Thompson, yeah looks to be a beauty today, ” I rambled, then quickly got to the point. “Game is getting ready to start soon. What can I do for you?”

Mr. Thompson’s ear-to-ear smile could have been plastered on his face. He was a little man standing just over five feet tall. His unkempt hair was graying in several spots and his clothes always had the look of stains never quite coming out in the wash. He was a man who spent a lot of time in his yard and was always working on some home project. In fact, he had installed several flood lights strategically around his house so that he could work through the night if need be. There was nothing more bizarre than watching Mr. Thompson raking those damn leaves at night. That was how he kept his yard so immaculate and leaf proof. If one could look past the man’s obsession with keeping those leaves off his grass, it might be considered mildly amazing how Thompson managed to win the war of autumn leaves every year and keep his yard free of them. But for me and my son, we found it ludicrous and a waste of time. It was obvious why he was here. He was worried about the leaves… not his, mind you… but ours.

“You always get right to the point, Tom, I admire that,” Thompson responded. “Well, you know I hate to be a bother, but when I saw that Brandon forget to rake the leaves this morning, I just wanted to come by and make sure everything was okay. I am a creature of habit and routine and I got used to timing some of my yard projects around some of yours, namely the leaves–little buggers that they are. Not Brandon of course, but those leaves. No matter how many times you do it, seems those trees keep dropping more. No rest for the weary I suppose.” Thompson laughed. It was an eerie laugh that always sent a chill up my spine. The man was creepy. “I just wanted to know when Brandon was going to rake today so I could schedule my raking in, and knock out those leaves–little buggers that they are.”

“Mr. Thompson,” I started patiently, trying to get a word in. “My son forgot to do it this morning. Teenagers, you know how they can be. Fact is, between the game this afternoon and other plans, Brandon probably won’t get around to it again until tomorrow.”

For a moment, there was a slight crack in the plaster of that man’s smile. It was only there a second, but I saw it, and it made me uncomfortable.

“I see,” Thompson said as he looked toward the border of our leaf infested yard kissing his.

He was obviously troubled by this. I thought to say something funny to make light of the whole leaf issue, but that look that crossed his face made me think twice and I stayed silent.

Then that plaster smile returned as Thompson said, “Well, sometimes it just can’t be helped, I suppose.” He looked back at me and asked in what almost felt like an interrogator demanding an answer from his captive tone, “Will he be back on schedule with the leaves tomorrow then?”

I was beginning to get irritated by the pushy little man. However, I did not desire to start an argument about those silly leaves, and the game was about to start, so I gave Thompson whatever he needed to get him off my porch. I lied and said, “Oh yeah, sure thing. Brandon will be raking them tomorrow. Not to worry.”

That seemed to please the leaf nut as he looked back toward his yard and said, “Very good then. You know, I heard on the weather channel they’re calling for a windy evening. That’s just the kind of weather that gets all those little buggers blowing everywhere. Can’t have that now, can we?” Mr. Thompson laughed again. He had a way of speaking as if he forgot you were there and sounding like he was having a conversation with himself. He was definitely a creepy guy. Thomson finished, “I’ll get out of your hair now, I’m sure the game is waiting. Say hello to Susan for me.”

Thompson departed and I thankfully closed the door and commended myself for not losing my cool.

“What’s with those silly leaves?” Brandon asked, watching from the window.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Some people just have their ways is all. He doesn’t like leaves, like we don’t like the Ravens, now let’s watch some football!”

“Sounds good. I called the pizza guy again, they should be here soon.”

As I walked by the window, I stopped long enough to see Mr. Thompson standing at the edge or our lawns, staring up at the clouds rolling in. Again, the plaster smile was gone.

“Dad, I guess that means I’m raking tomorrow then?”

I looked away for a moment, then returned to the window. Thompson was now staring right at me with a look that could kill a man. Fucking creepy. The wind was increasing as our leaves began to trespass into his yard. Thompson noticed this, looked away, and began to scoop them up and place them in a leaf bag.

I closed the curtains and responded, “Screw those leaves! They can wait and that nut can just deal with a few of our leaves blowing on to his precious lawn.” We laughed the matter off and turned on the game.

~~~

Later that night, my son woke me from a sound sleep at 3:15 in the morning.

“Brandon, what’s the matter?”

“Dad,” Brandon whispered. “That guy’s got all his flood lights on. I can’t sleep cause one’s shining right in my window. I looked outside and all the leaves were gone.”

Rubbing sleep from my eyes and shaking off disorientation, I said, “Okay, just go down and sleep on the couch, I’ll talk to him tomorrow about the light thing. Just get some-”

“No, Dad,” Brandon interrupted. “You’re not hearing me. When I said all the leaves are gone, I meant our leaves are gone, too! That creepy guy has been up all night raking leaves in our yard as well as his. Don’t you find that strange?”

“Is he still out there?” I asked.

Brandon looked scared. He walked over to the bedroom door to grab something I hadn’t noticed before. He came back and laid it at the foot of my bed.

“Where did you find that?” I asked him as we both looked at Mr. Thompson’s rake.

My son hesitated, then whispered, “Dad, I found it in my room!”

~~~

“Mr. Thompson’s Obsession” Copyright © 2012 Scott Scherr. All rights reserved.

If you’re new to my blog and want to read something a bit longer, feel free to check out my ongoing serial novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, and tell me what you think: DFTD Chapter 1-1: Demon Night

~~~


Note: This short horror story is unrelated to Don’t Feed The Dark.

~~~

Nature’s psychopath raised its voice, letting loose another chorus of thunder, promising terror and destruction with each boisterous note, while slashing at the sky with bolts of razor-sharp light.

Jonathan Sanders, age ten, retreated into the cavern of blankets, as the madman roared by.  The murdered moon offered no comfort; its corpse allowing shifting shadows to linger in the unfamiliar darkness consuming his bedroom.  Jonathan was well aware of what to expect–the man in the closet loved to visit him on nights such as these.

Was that a scratching sound at the closet door?

And so the ritual resumed:  “Mom!  Dad!” As if their names were verbal talismans keeping the monster in check, he called out again.  “Mom!  Dad!  Come in here, quick.”

Footsteps from down the hall. Would they make it this time?

Lightning flashed.  The eyes of his Buzz Lightyear action figure shifted his direction; the coat on the chair grew taller, closer; objects scattered on the floor had moved since the last flash; the doorknob on the closet door–turning ever so slightly–was the only time he trusted his eyes.  Imagination was a liar in the dark.  Jonathan knew this as surely as he knew that the man in the closet was real.

The air felt heavy, oppressive.  Shadows congregated around his bed like vultures predicting their next meal, like pedestrians at the scene of a crime that hasn’t happened yet.

Like a dreadful pause before a predator struck, the silence was unnerving and amplified the guttural, inhuman demand that came from the closet:

Johnny come.  Open door.

He couldn’t tell if the man spoke from the closet or was whispering in his head.  Either way, it always sounded close. 

Closer.

The bedroom door swung open.  Light from the hallway chased off the shadows as his father filled the doorway, the annoyance on his face evident.  “What is it, Son?  The storm?”

No answer.

His father’s shoulders sagged.  “Oh, him again.”

Jonathan nodded.  He’d hoped his mother would follow.  Not tonight.  It was the unbeliever’s turn to placate his son’s fears.  And that was always dangerous.

His mother never concerned herself with the man in the closet.  She understood, in a way only mothers do, how to fight monsters, or at least, how to starve them.  She would come and sing songs, tell stories, make him laugh; and like a magician, she somehow made the fear disappear.  And without the fear, the man in the closet could not stay.

His father played with fire, often challenging the man by threatening to open the closet door.  If his father chose that route again, Jonathan would have to talk him out of it.

“Ok, Johnny, let’s settle this once and for all, okay?”

Oh, that didn’t sound good at all.

“Let’s start with the bed.”  His father bent down to examine the one-foot space beneath the bed.

That was silly.  What monster could fit under there?  Maybe a small one, at best, and nothing to be concerned about.

“Nope.  Nothing under here.”

The lights.  Why does he always forget to turn on the lights?

His father walked the perimeter of the small room, yawning while rubbing sleep from his eyes.

I wonder how much he didn’t see on his “sleepy” patrol.

“Okay, all’s clear.  Just one more place to check.”  His father always ended up at the closet last.  This would seem cruel if Jonathan thought it was deliberate.  Dramatic, maybe, but not deliberate.  His father moved toward the door.

“Don’t do it, Dad,” Jonathan warned.

Even with his back turned, his father’s heavy sigh spoke volumes.  “Come on, Johnny.  There’s nothing in there.  Let me show you and-”

“If there’s nothing in there, then that’s great.  But what’s opening that closet going to prove if you’re wrong?”

“What a strange question, Son.  Isn’t the answer obvious?”

“No.”

“If the closet’s empty and you see that it’s empty, then you’ll know there’s nothing to fear.”

“You said ‘if’.”

His father’s impatience was growing.  “I didn’t mean ‘if’.  ‘When’, Son, that’s what I meant.  Your old dad’s just tired.”

Tired of dealing with his chicken son’s irrational fears.

“It’s still an unnecessary risk,” Jonathan said.

“What the heck are you talking about?”

“If the closet’s empty, than we’re fine.  But if it’s not-”

“If it’s not then your old man’s gonna kick some Boogeyman butt!”

Jonathan gasped.  “Don’t say that!  Don’t ever call him that.  It makes him stronger. Makes him more… monster-like.  He’s just the man in the closet.”

“Son, you’re being silly.  I’m gonna show you how silly, right now.”  His father reached for the door knob.

“He’s way bigger than you, Dad.  So don’t open that door!”

“Keep your voice down!  What’s the matter with you?”

Jonathan couldn’t stop.  “You’re the matter with me.  I call you in to help and you want to let the man out.  How does that make any sense?”

“Son, there’s nothing in there.”

“Then leave nothing alone.”

“Don’t get smart.”

“Then stop being stupid.”

“What did you just say to me?”

“Dad, you want to fight the man, but your tactics suck.  He’s big, powerful, scary-as-hell, and you’re wearing striped pajamas.  Who would you bet on?”

His father looked down at himself and laughed.  “Well, your mom thinks I look pretty scary in these.”

Jonathan giggled.  “That’s the way, Dad.  That’s how you make him go.”

His father sighed again.  “Come on, Johnny, enough is enough.”

Nuts, we almost got out of that one.  Think fast.  “You say the closet’s empty.  How do you know?”

“What?”

“Prove it.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do, Son.  Just let me open the door and you’ll have all the proof needed.”

“No, that’s not a good idea.  Proof is what you show to convince me that he’s not there.  Opening the closet just proves that either you or me is right.  And I know I’m right.”

“You’re letting your fears get the best of you.”

“What if I told you there was a burglar in the house?  Would you go chasing after him or call the police?”

“Well, I would call the police, of course.”

“So I tell you there’s something worse than a burglar in the closet and you want to let him out.  How does that make sense?”

“Okay, Johnny, prove to me then, that your man is in the closet.  Have you seen him?”

Johnny paused.  “No.”

“So he hasn’t stormed out of this closet and say… tried to eat you, or anything like that?”

“That’s not funny, Dad.”

“Come on, Son.  I’m just trying to get you to see how silly this all is.”

Jonathan paused again, his face growing pale.  “Death.  He looks like death.”

His father stared at him for a long moment.  “So, you think that Death is behind this door?”

“Yes.”

“How would you know what Death looks like if you haven’t seen it?”

“I don’t.  That’s what he told me.”

“The man in the closet speaks to you?”

“Yes.”

“Johnny, how can you possibly expect me to believe that?”

Jonathan’s eyes lit up.  “I can prove it.”

His father folded his arms.  “Can you now?  Well, please go ahead and tell me.  I’m all ears.”

“He told me about you and Uncle Jim.”

“Okay, explain?”

“He told me that he remembers you; he remembers the game you and Uncle Jim used to play to scare each other when you were both my age.”

Jonathan’s father remained silent.

“He said that you and Uncle Jim would dare each other to go and open the closet door and call his name when you both did something bad.  But neither of you ever opened the door.  You were both too scared.  The man was always disappointed that you didn’t.  He said he would’ve swallowed both of you up if you had because you tortured Mrs. Henderson’s cat and tossed it in a garbage can and lit fireworks-”

“Johnny, you’re beginning to scare me a little.  Who’s been telling you stories.  Your mom?”

“He also said he tried to get you and Uncle Jim years later when you were at some party.  Said that after you got some girl drunk and had sex with her, he was right there with you both.  Waiting in the dark.  Said he took the girl instead.”

“Johnny, that’s enough!” His father was visibly disturbed.  He and his brother Jim had never told anyone that story.  To this day, the whereabouts of the girl, Samantha Jones, are still unknown.  It was believed she left the party drunk, tried to hitch a ride home and someone picked her up.  His brother swore him to secrecy about that night and said the cops would blame them for her disappearance if they knew what they’d done to her while she slept.

“Johnny, I’m very tired,” his father nearly whispered. “I’m going to open this door now and put an end to all this nonsense.”

“Dad, don’t!  I’m not strong enough.  Let’s just go to your room tonight.  I promise I’ll go right to sleep.  After the storm’s over, the man will just leave.  He always does.”

“Son, you’re getting far too old to be afraid of the Boogeyman.”

“Dad!”

“Oh, stop it!” his father shouted.  “I said it:  Boogeyman, Boogeyman, Boogeyman!  So there!”

“You don’t know what you’ve done!  I’m not strong enough anymore, Dad.”

“Strong enough for what?  To look into an empty closet and get over your irrational fears?  Enough talk.”  His father reached for the door knob, surprised at seeing his own hand shaking, and opened the closet door.

“No, Dad!  You don’t understand. It doesn’t want me… I’m not strong enough to protect you anymore!”

Jonathan’s father looked back from the mouth of the open closet, stared into the face of his son, and saw the truth at last.  Johnny’s terror-filled eyes staring beyond him and into the darkness was all the proof he needed to realize his tragic mistake.

Something groaned from behind him.  Johnny’s father turned slowly, returning instantly to his youth, as a presence within the closet reminded him of every bad thing he’d ever done–reminded him instantly that he had been there, watching, waiting, and now finally, the man in the closet welcomed him home.

~~~

Several hours passed before the police finally departed.  There was still no trace of Jonathan’s father who’d apparently fled the house after scaring the daylights out of his son.  Possible abuse was suspected but quickly ruled out upon examination of the boy.

Jonathan hadn’t spoken a word since his mother found him screaming at the foot of his closet door.  The paramedics had to sedate him in route to the hospital.

To make matters worse, another missing persons report flagged red in the police database matching Mr. Sanders’ name.   An hour earlier, prior to Jonathan’s father disappearing, James Sanders, Jonathan’s uncle, had also mysteriously vanished in the dead of night from three states away.

~~~

“Boogeyman”  Copyright © 2012 Scott Scherr.  All rights reserved.

If you’re new to my blog and want to read something a bit longer, feel free to check out my ongoing serial novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, and tell me what you think: DFTD Chapter 1-1: Demon Night

~~~


Note: This short horror story is unrelated to Don’t Feed The Dark.

~~~

The 2002 SL1 Saturn wasn’t pretty, but with just under a hundred thousand miles, a minor crack along the bottom of the windshield, and some minor rust beneath, she was a steal for $1500.  Frank Hamilton could care less about appearances.  With a two hour drive to and from work each day, he needed reliability and a way to save on outrageous gas prices that drained his paychecks.

“Now if I could just trade that bitch in for a junker, I’d be set,” Frank confessed out loud, bemused at the differences between his new-used car and his old, nagging wife, Mary.  Appearances certainly weren’t everything. Fifteen years in a run-down marriage had taught him that much.  Reliability?  Only when it came time for her to remind him again what an asshole he was for choosing a job half-a-state away and with long twelve hour shifts.  Paycheck Drainage?  When Mary was unhappy she spent money. Check that block for sure.

As Frank began his long drive home along Interstate 90, he continued to ponder on the depreciating value of his tired marriage, as well as many other exhausted 2am thoughts.  “Well, at least I have you to depend on, my ancient friend,” he reassured the car.

The Saturn hummed its steady appreciation.

It’s funny what happens when we turn that ignition key and embark with our four-wheeled partners of the road. There’s a sense of unspoken trust between man and machine as both become “one” on those long missions called, The Drive Home.  Sometimes, it is our confessional, as we bear all within the confines of manufactured parts; our mobile sanctuary.  At other times, they become fellow collaborators in our need to temporarily dump emotions through fits of rebellion, performing acts of law-breaking speed with just one foot to the gas pedal, or rolling that window down to yell obscenities to passing drivers we will never see again.  There’s an illusion of power behind that steering wheel, and a taste of momentary freedom before returning to the doldrums of our tired routines.   If you doubt this “oneness” I speak of, consider how many times you’ve driven home, dead-tired, arrived in your driveway, and have had no recollection how you got there.  Is this “automatic” mode, or is it really a kind of “auto-magic”?

Frank fell under the spell of such magic as time slipped into oblivion, his favorite rock station blaring the sounds of Led Zeppelin.  For a moment, he was Robert Plant, singing loudly, boldly and proudly the worst rendition of Black Dog imaginable.  But within the car, both stage and audience, he was a legendary rock god.  Auto-magic!

Thirty minutes later, Frank’s blight on vocal stardom came to a crashing halt as the caffeine betrayed him.  The rocks above his eyes began to fall, his vision slipping in and out of focus.  Frank rolled down his window to let the cool night air stimulate his senses, but the hypnotic blur of yellow dashes on dull, unchanging highway continued to lull him to sleep.  The music only distracted from his concentration as did staring out into the meaningless void of shadowed scenery reserved for daylight use.

Frank looked down at the odometer: 99,989.  His new-used Saturn would become a senior citizen in just eleven short miles.  He tried to keep himself busy by counting down the mileage.  Unfortunately, the demon of fatigue had other plans as Frank fell asleep before the next mile and…

~~~

…jerked his head up violently as the bright afternoon assaulted him through the windshield.  “Shit!” He was almost convinced he’d driven off the planet and into the sun as he quickly lowered his visor and slammed on the breaks.  He nearly lost control of the Saturn before coming to a screeching stop, sliding sideways in the center of a two-lane road surrounded by farmland.

A nearby cow behind an old wooden fence turned to look at the strange man, dismissed him, then continued to chew on the grass.

“I’m dreaming,” he declared to the cow.  Frank looked at the illuminated liar on his dashboard.   It continued to defy all reason:  3:15 pm.

“No way in hell is that right.”  But the sunny afternoon supported the lie.

“Think, Frank, think.  There’s a reasonable explanation for this.”  But no matter how hard he tried, Frank could not remember anything beyond falling asleep at the wheel shortly after his Zeppelin concert last night.

“Someone drove me here after I fell asleep.”  He wanted desperately to believe this, but it didn’t explain how he woke up driving, alone, in his car.  Frank could not commit to the fact that somehow, he’d fallen asleep last night around 2:30 am and managed to continue driving unconscious for nearly twelve hours.

Besides, he was no longer on Interstate 90.  Frank had no idea where here was, or if he was even in the same state.  Nothing looked familiar.

“Okay, think back to last night, Frank.  Retrace your steps.  Maybe you just don’t remember the drive, as strange as that sounds.  Maybe you’re suffering a delusion brought on by sleep deprivation.  Maybe-”

Maybe you’ve gone fucking nuts.

As Frank tried to reclaim a thread of sanity, he happened to notice the windshield.  The crack that ran along the base was gone.  He ran his hand along the glass, his eyes needing confirmation from another sense.  It was definitely gone.  He noticed other irregularities as well.  The car smelled different.

Bleach?

Yes, that’s what it was.  The Saturn reeked of bleach.  Also there was an industrial-sized roll of plastic wrap lying on the passenger side floor. Also, a red and white cooler, not his, rested on the seat beside him and-

“Oh, shit… no way!”

Frank stared in shock at the odometer: 55,682.

That’s not right.  None of this is fucking right.  

“I’ve got to get out of here,” he decided, not willing to consider this madness any longer.

He needed to regain his bearings; find out where he was for starters, then, try to piece together the missing fragments between last night and now.  He started the Saturn and turned the car around, hoping to back track along his route and stir up any memories.

“Just keep driving, Frank, until you find a gas station, restaurant–anywhere with people–and find out where you are.”  It felt good to have a logical course of action even if trapped inside an automotive madhouse.  Frank continued to take sideway glances at the cooler, unwilling to stare at it too long and acknowledge its existence.  But he couldn’t help noticing another detail.  A blood-smeared handle continued to draw his attention.

“Not my fucking car!”  The admission, sounding like a defense, finally made his situation real.  “I’m just going to find somewhere to ditch this thing and get home.”

Get as far away from this car as I can before…

Like a well-timed portent of impending doom, Frank heard the police sirens from behind him.  He checked the speedometer:  70 miles per hour.  Shit!  He immediately slowed down, pulling over into the shoulder lane, hoping the state police cruiser simply needed the right of way.  No such luck, the cruiser pulled in behind him.

“Fuck!” Frank shouted.  “This can’t be happening.  Not now.”

He suddenly wished he were Dorothy and could tap his muddy work boots together and magically return to Kansas, or at the very least, back to last night when he was still just a sane man driving home from a long day of work.

But now, he was here, in this car, and by the looks of things… that wasn’t good.

Frank, there’s fucking blood on the lunchbox!  his mind screamed.

A tall state trooper wearing sunglasses began to approach the car.

“Shit!” Frank reached over with shaking hands and knocked the lunch box off the seat.  The lid fell open as something with blood-matted hair rolled half-way out the top and took a peek at him with dead eyes.

Frank jerked back violently, reaching for the door handle and trying not to vomit.

“Problem, Sir?”  the state trooper asked, looking down through the window at a safe distance.  His hand rested uneasy along the top of his gun holster.

Frank looked desperately at the officer, using his hands to gesture something he hoped was universal sign language for, “I’ve gotta vomit…now!”

The officer seemed to catch the hint as he backed away while moving to the left, allowing Frank to open the car door and unload.

“Better?” the trooper asked.

Frank waved dismissively and tried to smile.  “Thanks,” he managed to say when some of the blood returned to his face.

“Have you been drinking today, Sir?”

The question seemed to come at him from a million miles away.  Frank needed out of that car before he lost it completely.  He began to get out.

“Now, hold it!”  the trooper barked.  “I need you to stay right where you are.”

Frank heard what he believed was the sound of the trooper’s gun being drawn.  He didn’t care.  Nothing was worse than returning to that hellish car.  Frank managed to get half-way out as the trooper helped him to the ground.  Next thing he knew, Frank’s hands were behind his back, the sound of clicking hand cuffs registering before he realized he couldn’t move his arms.

“Now, just stay where you are.  Keep your head facing away from me, you hear?  I’m going to check your vehicle for anything unsafe.  Is there anything you’d like to tell me, before I start?”

“Not my car!” Frank spat through tears.  Overwhelmed, he began to laugh hysterically.  “Watch out for that head in the lunchbox… scared me shitless…”

“What was that?”

Frank continued to laugh.  “The rest of… whoever that is… probably in the damn trunk.  I haven’t checked yet.”

The officer retrieved his portable radio and was calling for assistance.  Frank heard the trunk pop open.

The dispatcher came back over the radio.  Frank made out bits and pieces, “…Warrant for arrest… car matching description… considered armed and dangerous… registered to Scott Warren, wanted for suspected homicide…”

“Well, there you have it, Officer,” Frank said.  “There’s your man!  It’s his fucking car, not mine!  Not mine!”

“Oh, dear Jesus!” the officer said after a squeaky hood was raised.  “What the fuck have you done?”

“What is it?  What’s back there?”  Frank had to know.

The officer was over him in an instant, his knee pressed firmly into his back while he began to search his pockets.  “You have the right to remain silent…” His voice sounded strained.

“What’s back there?” Frank whispered. 

“You know damn well what’s back there,” the officer hissed.  “They’re all cut to shreds.  How the hell could you… looks like you butchered four people… and one’s just a child, a fucking child!”  The knee dug into his back.

“It wasn’t me!”  Frank cried.  “I’m telling you, I did nothing wrong!” 

“Tell it to your executioner, Asshole!”

Frank turned his head to look into the officer’s face.  “It’s not even my car!  It’s his!  My name’s Frank, not Scott!  Just check my damn I.D.”

In the reflection of the state trooper’s sunglasses, Frank caught a glimpse of himself, or rather, a glimpse of Scott Warren.

“No!  No!  No!”

“Shut up, killer!  I’ll break your arm if you don’t stop moving!  Damned if I don’t.”

Frank continued to protest as the sounds of multiple approaching sirens drowned him out…

~~~

…He bolted upright as the Saturn struck a guard rail creating fireworks outside his window.

“Shit!” he yelled, turning sharply to the right.  The Saturn fishtailed as he slowly regained control.  The night air mixed with adrenaline woke him up in a hurry.

“What the hell?” he asked the night.

The night had no response.

The radio was blaring what sounded like the end of a Led Zeppelin concert.  He hated that Rock crap.  He noticed the crack along the windshield.

“When did I do that?”

He checked to see if the lunchbox was alright.  It was gone.

“Not again,” he whispered.

The illuminated odometer caught his attention and made him laugh: 99,989.

He tried to remember how he got here.  Everything was a blur… again.  He took a quick glance at himself in the rearview mirror and gasped. Blue eyes this time?

What he wasn’t surprised about was that he knew where he was going.  He knew who was waiting for him when he got there, too.

“Mary?” he asked the night.  Yes, that felt right.  That would have to be enough for now.  Maybe she would have answers. He honestly didn’t believe she would know anything… none of them ever did. He would enjoy the interrogation regardless.  

He turned off the radio. He was not a man who bothered himself with trivial things.  He was a man of strange purpose and was often dictated by stranger compulsions.  As bizarre as these situations he found himself in, he always dismissed them and focused on each new opportunity. He gently caressed his Saturn’s steering wheel and laughed at an old inside joke shared between man and machine:

You’ve always been the perfect get-a-way vehicle.

“Mary,” he repeated again as he drove automatically toward the Hamilton house.  Scott Warren was smiling like the devil.

~~~

“Previous Owner”  Copyright © 2012, 2017 Scott Scherr.  All rights reserved.

If you’re new to my blog and want to read something a bit longer, feel free to check out my ongoing serial novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, and tell me what you think: DFTD Chapter 1-1: Demon Night

~~~

Note: This short horror story is unrelated to Don’t Feed The Dark.

~~~

We are odd animals, co-existing with one another out of mutual necessity to achieve selfish ends. I know, that’s a pretty shitty outlook. That doesn’t make it any less true. Grocery stores, gas stations, shopping malls, freeways… you name it, we share it. That doesn’t mean we have to like it. And we don’t. We are emotional volcanoes, somewhere between deceptively dormant and one-button-pushed away from blowing up—spewing our long-suppressed monster sides all over our fellow neighbors at any given moment. No one is exempt, we all have that button, that thin line screaming, “This is my space. Stay the hell out.” And that is what we share in common. It’s all those colorful masks we show that differ; in every shape and size, from the self-righteous to the self-destructive, all hiding the simple fact that we are still just… animals.

I push the elevator button again. As expected, the illuminated OPEN DOOR button ignores me.

“Maybe you should try it again,” the fidgety man in the business suit suggests. He’s been wearing out my peripheral vision for the last two hours. That’s when this elevator stopped and became a cage.

“Feel free to give it a go.”

He eagerly steps beside me, far too close for comfort as I smell his nervous sweat, and begins to push all the buttons, as if only needing to find the right combination to cause the elevator to yield to his every command. I back away, grateful that he’s preoccupied.

I can still hear the Sister, whispering to God, her rosary beads clicking away in the amplified, enclosed silence of our new found prison. The numbing elevator music ceased when we got stuck, leaving us nothing to drown out our own heavy and anxious thoughts. I pray briefly with the nun. I pray for the music to come back on.

“With all due respect, Sister, but would you please stop praying. I think God’s got the message.” He’s a big man, with a big temper, his tense muscles bulging from beneath his gray coveralls. You can see it in his eyes. He looks like someone who was born pissed at the world, and rightfully so. I’m concerned that there won’t be enough room in this box to contain that temper for too long. He’s been trying to get the roof emergency hatch open with no success.

“Perhaps God’s stuck in another elevator,” the blind woman with the big mouth says with a smirk. She stands there, arms folded behind her back, prim and proper, looking like a mean, old school teacher waiting for a student to devour. She tries to be funny, but her contemptuous tone overshadows her dry humor. Out of all of us, she appears to be enjoying herself a little too much at our expense.

The pregnant teenage girl, dressed in goth-black, turns up the volume on her ipod, obviously not interested in what any of us have to say. She hasn’t said a word since the elevator stopped. She’s been coping in her own way, I suppose; lost in cyberspace, texting with the deadbeat boyfriend that’s knocked her up–that would be my guess. She’s as oblivious as the God-talker in the opposite corner.

It’s not getting out of the elevator that troubles me–no, the hospital staff has already informed us that they’re working to correct the issue–it’s having to wait in such a God-awful uncomfortable way, with all these strangers, that’s making it unbearable.

“This is bullshit!” Businessman has decided to nominate himself our resident complainer. He starts pacing (again). “I’m already late for my appointment. Who’s going to compensate me for my loss of time? Not the hospital, I can tell you that. They’re the biggest crooks around, next to the credit card companies.”

He appears to be addressing me. I shrug my shoulders.

“Relax, sweetie, they’re probably all bent out of shape wondering where Mr. I’m-So-Darn-Important is. Can’t even think about starting the meeting without you.” Blind woman is going to get us in trouble. A mute would’ve been more preferable.

“Oh, just put a lid on it, all right.” Businessman’s losing his cool. “Just because you’re blind doesn’t mean you can act all bitchy. People like you always act like the world owes you something- ”

“’People like me’! Watch it, buddy. You don’t know anything about me.”

And here it comes. Mount St. Fucking Helens.

“Well, it’s true. You stand there with that shit-eating grin, making fun of me because you’ve got nothing better to do–Don’t think that I’m going to tolerate it just because of your handicap-sticker attitude!”

“What did you just say to me? How dare you!”

The nun finally stops praying. The loud voices must be disrupting her God hotline.

Even the teen turns down her music, opting for the new source of entertainment. Maybe if she went into labor—she looks ready to pop any minute—everyone would have something new to do other than turn on each other.

The rules of acceptable social behavior no longer apply in here; appearances and deceptive speaking all fall away like a poor make-up job in the rain.

“Could we please just calm down.” I try to defuse the situation. “We’re all a little stressed out, but let’s try to stay civil, okay? We’ll be out of here shortly and then we can all go about our business.”

Blind woman and Businessman hold their tongues, neither wanting to appear childish, but ready to turn on me in an instant as they both stare at me like confused beasts, discovering reason for the first time.

The teenager laughs abruptly. It’s an uncomfortable, nervous laugh. She covers her mouth, embarrassed, but the damage is already done.

“Finally, the slut has something to add.” Where the hell did that come from? Out of nowhere, the big man, frustrated by the unyielding emergency hatch, is quick to target the girl.

“Hey, there’s no need for that.” My own anger rises up at the derogatory remark. “She’s just scared, is all.”

“Shut your pie-hole, whore. I know when someone’s laughing at me.”

Slut? Whore? I suppose the Sister runs our little brothel.

“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” The nun appears to be talking to someone on the roof as she holds out her hands in a pious manner. She looks like the statue of the Virgin Mary I saw over on Fifth Street. Her tongue is not helping matters.

“Oh, give me a break,” Blind woman snaps.

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men- ”

“That’s enough of that crap. I asked you nicely to stop praying, didn’t I?” The big man doesn’t turn to look at the sister. His hands are like concrete fists. His face is as red as the Devil.

“Great, just great. Miss my appointment, now I’m forced to listen to this church babble. I just can’t win today.” Businessman’s on the move again. He tries to pry open the door with his fingers, looking like a man desperately trying to reach a “fix” on the other side. Cokehead, maybe. He’s definitely jonesing for something.

“…who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing- ”

“Somebody shut that bitch up!” The first intelligible words spew forth from the teen’s mouth.

“Now that’s a great idea,” Blind woman adds.

“My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a gravevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

What on earth is she going on about? Suddenly I’m hungry and thirsty. This is not helping.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from- ”

The sound of the slap is terrifying. I never knew a man so big could move that fast.

The sister holds her cheek in stunned silence.

“Keep going, and you can turn that other cheek my way, too. I’ve had enough of your slippery tongue. Think I don’t know who you’re talking about? You sound just like that cheating whore- ” Big man stops himself, aware that he’s crossed a line and revealed too much. He turns to greet our shocked stares. “I warned her. You all heard me. She just wouldn’t shut up.”

The teenager’s sobbing now.

Businessman, for once, is standing still.

Blind woman is… smirking?

I don’t know what’s happening here. I’m overwhelmed with emotions and it’s all just too fucking much. The frightened eyes of the nun send me over the edge. I approach the big man, make a pathetic fist and punch the stone of his left jaw. Hurts like hell—my hand, that is.

He simply stares at me, like a whipped dog, rubbing his face. I can tell by his eyes that he’s considering murdering me.

The words come out of my mouth like I’m possessed. “Listen, you big fucking prick! I don’t care about you, them, or about your personal issues at home. You don’t have any right taking that out on anyone here. Do you understand me?”

What I say next reminds me of why I’m in this elevator this morning, trying to reach the roof. I feel cold, a stranger within my own hollow shell. More so than usual. The words disturb me, not because of the threat implied, but because I really mean the words. “Touch anyone else in here, and I’ll fucking kill you. Got it!”

For a moment, I’m sure he’s going to snap my neck. Then he turns away, focusing once more on the emergency hatch.

Businessman sighs heavily to my left.

I want to vomit.

The blind devil is still smirking, enjoying every minute of this strange, bordering psychotic, drama. “What a truly interesting day.”

I want to rip her tongue out.

“How so?” I manage not to spit the words.

“Oh, just saying,” she teases. “I don’t get out much. It’s nice to be reminded why. You’re all nothing but a bunch of filthy animals,” Blind woman adds in a matter-of-fact tone.

I can hardly disagree.

“Speak for yourself, you evil bitch,” the teenager says through tears.

Blind woman feigns hurt. “Oh, my dear, did I offend you? Wouldn’t want to do that now. You are tomorrow’s future, after all. Why don’t you just plug back in to your little box and be a good, little mindless drone.”

“Leave her alone, witch. She’s just saying what we’re all thinking,” Businessman adds while playing with the elevator buttons again.

Blind woman laughs. “My, oh, my, suddenly everyone’s concerned about what little old me is saying? Well, I’d rather have you all pissed off than have to deal with your pity. Fuck all of you! It’s you who should be pitied. Don’t need to have eyes to see that.”

I’m starting to believe we’re never getting out of here. Perhaps this is hell.

The big man’s ignoring us. That’s a good thing.

The teen starts sobbing again.

The nun comes out of her corner, giving as wide a berth as possible to the big man, and kneels down beside the teen. She does her best to console her.

“Oh, and here comes Mother Teresa to save the little girl from the mean old witch. Well, you don’t have me fooled, Sister. You’re as much an animal as the rest, and hiding behind your precious Bible verses doesn’t change a fucking thing.”

“Just calm down, please.” I don’t know why I bother.

Sister starts praying again, much more quietly this time.

Blind woman continues spewing her venomous words. “That’s right, you just keep on praying to your God, do whatever you need to do to keep fooling yourself, but I know you. People like you have been looking down their self-righteous noses at me my whole life. Truth is, your “God” never did a thing for you, me, or anyone else. Shit, he can’t even get us out of this damn elevator, Sister.”

The teenager moves away, obvious made uncomfortable by the unwanted concern of the nun.

Sister keeps on praying.

“If I had to make a guess, Sister, I’d say you were molested by your daddy when you were young, probably screwed your head up right good, probably haven’t thought about a real man since.”

“Is that really necessary, witch? Why don’t you just shut the hell up!” Businessman is getting more and more agitated. He probably needs that fix right about now. I’m hoping he’s in a sharing mood.

“No, wait, I’m on to something. Sister, is that it? Were you molested as a child? Did Daddy’s love cross the line and have you seeking out a new daddy instead? Does God love you in ways Daddy never could? Pathetic!”

Sister is no longer praying.

“That’s it, isn’t it? I may be blind but I can still sense things you shit bags can’t. What’s the matter, sweetie, did Daddy take your precious cherry on the altar-”

There’s no time for any of us to object. The nun is up on her feet, a vicious sound (growl?) escapes her throat, as she attacks the blind woman.

We’re all paralyzed by the initial shock of it.

The nun has the blind woman on the ground. She takes out her rosary, wraps it around her neck, and begins choking her with it.

“Do it, fucking witch deserves it!” Businessman shouts.

“Fucking wrath of God, bitch!” the teenager adds, then begins to laugh uncontrollably at the wit and audacity of her own comment.

I’m frozen in place, like an unwilling witness trapped in a fucked-up nightmare circus. Nothing I hear or see seems real. It can’t be.

“Fucking help me!” the big man screams at me. Ironically, it’s the angry one who’s trying to pry the nun off the blind woman.

I can finally move. Together we manage to remove the savage sister. Big man’s holding her down on the opposite side of the elevator with far more effort than should be required. She’s scratching and cursing the big man. I think he’s in shock.

Blind woman’s coughing (and still smirking!), but she seems all right. There’s a dark bruise around her neck. “There’s your fucking Saint! See! See what she did to me?”

I move away from her, move as far away from her evil tongue as possible. Part of me wants to finish the job.

I truly terrify myself.

Just when it seems like all hell’s about to break loose, a calming voice, much like the voice of God, announces over the elevator call box:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re sorry for the inconvenience. Please step away from the door. We’re ready to get you all out of there now.”

As one, we all rise to our feet, collect our bruised and battered selves as best we can, fix our hair, straighten our clothing—reinstall our masks.

The elevator door opens. The rush of fresh air that enters is overwhelming.

A man enters, dressed like a technician, and takes us all in with a concerned look. “Is… Is everything all right in here?”

No one says a word as we rush out of the elevator, leaving six animals behind and rejoining our individual places in this farce called the human race. No one dares a last glance back. No one wants to look into the mirror of each other’s eyes and see their own animal reflected back at them.

Perhaps the elevator incident was a final chance to ponder my earlier decision. Maybe seeing my own monster emerge within that cage will allow me to face it and change. Or maybe it just confirms what I’ve known all along. That we’re nothing but hopeless savages.

I decide to head home and take a shower. Jumping off the hospital roof just doesn’t seem as important at the moment. There’s always tomorrow. Tonight, I just want the illusion of feeling clean.

~~~

“Animals” Copyright © 2012 Scott Scherr. All rights reserved.

If you’re new to my blog and want to read something a bit longer, feel free to check out my ongoing serial novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, and tell me what you think: DFTD Chapter 1-1: Demon Night

~~~

moores-mountain

Note: This short horror story is unrelated to Don’t Feed The Dark. 

~~~

Snowflakes descended peacefully but steadily, caressing tall pines that populated the isolated forest at the top of Moore’s Mountain, before collectively resurfacing the landscape below, conspiring to hide all remaining traces of fall. A minority of naked oaks, sporadically surrounded the rustic cabin; their skeletal branches beginning to freeze, moaning in protest against the wind.

The man paused, his labored breaths turning vaporous in the cold. He released the load he was carrying and inhaled deeply. The cool night air invigorated him. The sight of new snow reminded him of an empty canvas simply waiting for the artist’s inspiration to give it new life. The scent of pines, mixed with sweat on now damp clothes, brought back fond memories of previous Christmas Eves’ spent with the girls at this beautiful hideaway from the rest of the world.

The stocky man, in a faded, green-checkered flannel and dirty jeans, marveled at the silence brought on by the deceptive winter storm; marveled at how calm it made him feel within, despite the raging tempest that consumed him.

He removed his brown and weathered hunting cap, felt the snow tickle his bald head marked with old scars, let the snow melt on his outstretched tongue in child-like bemusement.

The axe near the wood pile brought him back to reality. The man was mesmerized by the sight of its crimson edge, still dripping warm life. He smiled. Christmas Eve was his favorite time of year. More than the fresh air and scenic view, the blood made him come alive, exciting him in ways nothing else could. Christmas Eve was his special time to be… naughty.

Nice was long dead.

The man picked his load back up, grabbing the corpse around the legs, and continued toward the wood line. To pass the time, he whistled old Christmas songs. ‘Let it Snow’ was his favorite. He dragged the corpse toward a small ravine, just past an enormous pine, leaving a long, crimson scar on snow in his wake.

He tossed the body into the ravine. The snow would bury her and the blood trail by dawn, wiping the canvas clean for a new creation, a new kill. After retrieving his axe, the man sat down, sheltered beneath the large pine tree, and admired his artwork. He soon lost track of time… staring into those lovely, dead eyes.

~~~

The Pennsylvania Turnpike wound its way around Moore’s Mountain, connecting with the rest of humanity near a truck stop, which served as the only rest area for the next fifty miles.

Jennifer sat quietly in the booth by the large diner window that overlooked the convoy of trucks that congregated at this run-down crossroads, forgotten by time, primarily frequented by exhausted truckers. The rest stop consisted of one large gas station/mini-mart, a weigh-in station, and a low-class greasy spoon called Mary’s Morsels.

She tried to steady her shaking hands as she watched each new driver arrive and exit well-used cabs converted mobile abodes. Any one of them could be the trucker who abducted her sister.

Nikki and Sonya waited patiently, seated across from her, as Jennifer placed her hands along the sides of her head, running her fingers nervously through rivers of long, brown hair – anything to keep preoccupied. She caught a glimpse of her tired face in the distorted reflection of an aluminum napkin dispenser. She looked old, too old for a promising, young college student of twenty-three. Her eyes were two, dark, sunken pools where all her worst fears lived; all her guilt and pain festered on the surface of those sad, brown eyes. Once, she might have been considered beautiful – but now – that face was just a tired mask used to keep the flood of grief in check.

Memory was poison, but she replayed it again anyway…

…“I’ll be right back,” she’d told her little sister, Megan, when they’d stopped in to get gas. They’d been on their way home from a road trip together. Jennifer had left her in the car, just long enough to dash in and out of the mini-mart. Less than five minutes later, she had returned to an empty car. Megan was gone.

She’d looked around in a panic, calling her sister’s name, until her gaze met the eyes of her sister’s abductor. Those cold eyes. He had smiled as he drove away. Jennifer had tried to pursue, but lost him on a crowded turnpike of outbound tractor trailers…

…That had been yesterday, one night before Christmas Eve.

God, that felt so long ago, Jennifer thought.

“You should tell her,” Sonya suggested to Nikki. Sonya, was a tall, black girl with long legs and a short leather skirt. Her short-cropped, pink hair complimented her pink parka, which barely concealed an equally revealing leather blouse.

“Listen closely, Doll, ‘cause I‘m never repeating this again,” Nikki said begrudgingly, shooting Sonya a nasty look. Nikki was a short, petite Asian girl with jet-black hair tied back into two trendy looking ponytails. She wore a shiny, black trench coat that attracted the light distractively well, and a pair of pointy-rimmed, black sunglasses.

Jennifer finally turned to acknowledge the women.

Nikki said, “You know that man, the one you’re hell-bent on catching here? Well, I met him once, three years back, right around Christmas. I was at this very same truck stop. My car broke down and I needed a ride. Your trucker was nice enough to oblige. Well, he gave me a ride, alright… raped me right in the back of his horrid smelling cab. He tied me up and drugged me so he could do it a few more times later.”

Jennifer was stunned.

Nikki leaned in and whispered, “You know what he did after that? I know you do, I can see it in your face. That’s right, he took me to that cabin in the woods, the one on the mountain. Ring a bell?”

Jennifer had no response.

Nikki continued, “The real bitch of it all is… that was the night I died.”

Jennifer stood up, infuriated. “You think that’s funny? Well, I’m not laughing.”

Sonya said, “Please sit down, Girlfriend. No one’s doing much laughing right now.” She turned to Nikki, “Go on, tell her the rest.”

“That’s right, Doll, I’m dead, in-the-grave, doing my little Casper impersonation for you. Hell, it’s Christmas Eve, so why don’t you just call me the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

Sonya laughed, sarcastically adding, “And you wonder why he killed you first?”

“Funny. Ha. Ha,” Nikki mocked. “Anyway, she’s right, you know. I was that Asshole’s first kill. You see, he was still learning how to be the professional psycho he is today. So when he got me to that cabin of his, there was a whole lot of sloppy killing going on. Hell, he had to stab me seventeen times before I went down. I made one hell of a mess- even gave him something to remember me by. I put a nice little scar down the top of his bald head with my finger nails.”

“I can’t believe this- what you’re saying’s impossible.”

Nikki’s impatience was showing. “Your trucker’s been killing girls every Christmas, Doll, and no one’s ever caught him! He’s not going to come back here, so stop waiting around to save your sister. There’s no saving her now, can’t you see that?”

“Shut up,” Jennifer said. “Just because he… killed you… that doesn’t mean my sister’s dead. There’s still a chance-”

“Still a chance? Are you for real, Doll?!”

Sonya stepped in, “Girlfriend, the point is, your trucker isn’t coming back here tonight. He’s at that cabin where he took my friend here three years ago – where he’s got your sister now.”

Jennifer’s mind refused to accept. She turned to Nikki and reached, “You can take us there. You’ve been there before! It’s not too late because it’s Christmas Eve-”

“Doesn’t work like that, Doll,” Nikki said sadly. “I’m just the Ghost of Christmas Past, remember? I can tell you what was, but as far as the here-and-now is concerned – well, let’s just say, I don’t speak that language anymore.”

“I- I don’t understand,” Jennifer said. “How can you say my sister’s dead already? How could you possibly know that?”

Sonya smiled and said, “We know because just like there’s a “first” victim, there’s also gotta be a “last” victim. And that, Girlfriend, is yours truly.”

“Fucking Ghost of Christmas Future!” Nikki announced.

Sonya ignored her and continued, “Your sister’s dead because three years from now, on Christmas Eve, your trucker is going to find me passed out drunk at this truck stop, all un-lady-like, sprawled out across the restroom floor. I won’t even remember how I got there either. Point is, he snatches me right up in those big, killer hands of his, takes me to that cabin – you know the one – then waits until I wake up. I won’t know if he has had his way with me or not – I won’t have time to think about it – ‘cause fifteen seconds later, my head will depart these fine shoulders of mine. Last thing I’ll remember is that axe of his coming down from the sky, like divine judgment, while he’s whistling some damn Christmas song.”

“Did you say ‘whistling’?” Jennifer asked.

This triggered a nightmarish memory from somewhere deep in Jennifer’s black, subconscious sea. She could picture the cabin now. “I’ve been there before, haven’t I?”

Sonya looked uneasy. “Yes, you know the place, Girlfriend, but it’s not what you think. Best get that thought out of your head right now.”

“Why?”

“Think about it now. If I’m the Ghost of Christmas Future, that means your trucker didn’t get caught, assuming your sister got away. If she did, then how can he still be around to kill me three years from now… at this very same location? He’d either have to be the world’s dumbest psychopath to come back here, or no one’s found out what he’s been doing up on that mountain yet.”

Jennifer fell silent. Finally she said, “No, you’re both wrong – you have to be.”

“You came back here, Doll, because this was where you lost her,” Nikki said. “Your guilt leaves you no where left to go. But it wasn’t your fault.”

As the rest of that horrible memory of Christmas Eve began to invade, Jennifer felt ill. She looked at Sonya and said, “I remember how to get there!”

“No, Girlfriend!” Sonya said. “That’s not the way, and you’re a damn fool for even thinking it! Wait! Where do you think you’re going?

“I’m going to bring my sister home,” Jennifer announced with finality as she exited the diner and headed for the cabin up on Moore’s Mountain.

~~~

The storm was intense. Violent gusts of wind protested Jennifer’s arrival and assaulted her flesh with murderous zeal. The cold ripped at her bare skin as ice crystals began to freeze on her eyelashes.

Jennifer’s sweater was the only article of clothing keeping her warm – keeping her alive – as she moved toward a barely visible, dark blur, that stood against the white backdrop, within a relentless veil of snow.

The cabin looked abandoned – lifeless – as several dark sockets peered out at her in the night. A large rectangular mouth stood open, its tongue swinging and banging violently in the wind, as the cabin watched her every move with extreme hunger. Large snow drifts had begun to bury the western wall of the monster, as fierce wind plummeted that side.

Jennifer moved toward the east side, to escape the worst of it, and tried to restore some feeling in her numb limbs.

What the hell am I doing here? She thought desperately. Her terror made the reality of what she faced overwhelming. Somewhere, in the belly of that dark cabin, waited another monster, who had her sister.

She decided to sneak around back, hoping to find another way inside, undetected. That’s when she noticed a dark, erratic line in the snow as Jennifer moved closer to investigate.

It was barely visible now, but she could clearly make out the remains of a blood trail headed in the direction of a large pine tree just a few yards away.

Oh, God, No! I’m too late.

Jennifer felt her heart sink as she slowly followed the crimson trail toward a ravine. She desperately wanted to run, run far away from what she might find at the end of that trail, but Jennifer also had to know. She had to see Megan’s body.

She wept painfully with the burden of each heavy step, forcing herself forward to the bitter end. As she neared the edge of the ravine, Jennifer steadied herself to face the truth. She started to peer over the edge.

From the large pine tree, the killer emerged with his familiar flannel, ball cap, and a rather large axe in his hand. He moved with surprising speed straight at Jennifer.

Jennifer screamed as she scurried away, losing her balance, and falling backward into deep snow. She tried to move but her limbs would not cooperate, due to the cold.

The killer stopped, hovering over her with his axe raised at shoulder level, a maddening blood lust dominating his contorted face, filled red with untamed rage, and a dark, malevolent fire burned in his eyes. He was actually… smiling.

Jennifer raised her hands in futility, to fend off the axe blade that never fell. That’s when she realized the killer wasn’t looking at her, he was looking past her, toward the ravine.

After a long moment, the maniac finally turned toward the cabin and began whistling, ‘Let it Snow’.

Jennifer finally dared to move – to breathe – only after the killer had turned the corner of the cabin. She had not expected to find him still here.

Maybe Megan’s still alive!

Hope, especially late, could be so cruel.

Jennifer managed to get to her feet. She started toward the cabin, convinced that Megan might still be in there. “I’m coming, Megan!” she promised through frostbitten lips.

“Jenny, stop!” the familiar voice said from behind her. “You can’t go in there.”

“Megan?” Jennifer said while turning. She could hardly believe it. Her little sister stood in the snow, still wearing her thermal, printed pajamas she wore on the trip home. Her face was dirty. Her long, blond curls were a tangled mess. Her clothes looked ripped and blood stained. “My, God, Megan… how did you get out? Are you alright? What did he-”

“Jenny, please don’t go,” Megan pleaded. “You’re not supposed to be here. This is a scary place. A really dark and scary place.”

“Megan, I know, honey, I came back to get you.”

With a sad look, Megan said, “I’ve been looking for you, but I couldn’t find you. Please, can we just go now?”

Jennifer moved toward her as Megan stepped back. “Megan, what’s the matter? Are you hurt?”

Megan was crying. “You still don’t understand. You’re going the wrong way, Jenny. You still don’t remember what happened?” Megan continued to lead her back toward the edge of the ravine.

When Jennifer reached the edge, Megan pointed down at the corpse, and finished, “There’s a reason he couldn’t see you, Jenny.”

Jennifer looked down and saw the naked, mutilated remains of a woman that looked remarkably like herself. She fell to her knees in shock. “My, God. Does this mean-”

“Jenny, we’ve been trying to reach you. Me, Sonya, Nikki…We’ve been trying to get you to come home. But you keep running away.”

“But I have to save you, Megan. It’s all my fault.” Jennifer was falling into deep despair. The overload of seeing her own corpse was too much. She had to get out of here, had to get back to the truck stop and find the killer so she could get her sister back.

“Jenny, stop it! You’re doing it again.”

“Doing what?”

“Running.”

“But, I have to save you from… all this.”

“It’s over, Jenny.”

“But the killer’s still in there with you-”

“Jenny, he killed me yesterday… and he made you watch. Then he killed you.”

“NO!”

“You went violently. Fought to the bitter end. Even after all that blood, you still wouldn’t… let go.”

“That’s not what happened!”

“You ran, Jenny. You ran back to the truck stop. Back to the place he grabbed us both. He brought us here and did horrible things. But you changed what you saw because he made you watch me die and it was too much for you to bear.”

“I couldn’t help you, Megan!” Jennifer broke down, unable to fight back the memory. “I begged for your life- said I would do anything if he’d let you go, but he wouldn’t… stop.”

“I know, Jenny. No one blames you.”

“It’s all my fault! Oh, God, I’m so sorry, Megan!”

“Jenny, it’s time to come home. I miss you. You’ve been at that truck stop for a very long time. That’s where the guilt brought you – where it keeps bringing you back to.”

Jennifer wept.

“Jenny, I forgive you and I love you. Please, come home with me.” The Ghost of Christmas Present reached out her hand. “Let the guilt go, Jenny. This place – the mountain, the storm, the cabin, the man… all of it… is just where you hid all that guilt, and the truth, keeping this memory alive and hidden on what became your dark mountain.

Jennifer looked up at the ghost of her dead sister. “I don’t know how to let go.”

Megan smiled and said, “Just take my hand, and we’ll let go together.

Jennifer reached out with one shaking hand, and let her sister help her up. Then they embraced for a very long time, letting all that pain fall like snow until there was nothing left. Then together, they departed Moore’s mountain as two murdered sisters finally found peace that Christmas morning.

~~~

Four Years Later…

The winter storm was persistent, attempting to keep the man from making it home in time for Christmas Eve.

He knew he never should’ve accepted the contract this close to his ‘special’ time, but the money for hauling one last load across the Pennsylvania mountains was just too good to pass up.

The man could feel the slick road beneath his rig and constantly had to slow down to maintain control. He’d chosen a foolish route directly through the mountains, believing he could get home faster, but the winding roads had become treacherous due to the storm.

He was nearing the most dangerous part of the trip. One long winding bend down the mountain, and then he was home free.

The man began to whistle his favorite Christmas tune and smiled as he thought about the young woman, Cassie, a new waitress at Mary’s Morsels. When he arrived at the truck stop, he would wait for her to end her shift… and take her. No one would miss the part-time waitress. They would all assume she quit. They would all assume any damn thing they wished, but none of them would ever find her up at his cabin on Moore’s Mountain.

“You aren’t ever going to hurt another girl again, Asshole,” the voice said from behind him, in his truck cabin.

The man turned suddenly, startled by what he saw.

Sitting on his bed was a black woman with pink hair, an Asian woman with sunglasses, and a young girl.

The man recognized them immediately. “No! You… you can’t be here! I killed you! I killed all of you!”

From the passenger seat, came the voice of a fourth woman. “We’ve already warned Cassie about you. She never even showed up to work this evening.”

The man gasped and recoiled from the dead woman to his right.

Jennifer smiled with satisfaction and folded her arms. “What’s the matter? Did you really think you could just leave us all up on that fucking mountain? That we’d never come for you… eventually?”

“No! No! You’re… you’re all dead! All dead!” The man shielded his face from the apparition.

“Well of course we’re dead, you crazy fuck,” Nikki said from the back.

“Not too smart for a stone-cold killer, is he?” Sonya joked.

Megan simply laughed and then covered her mouth to contain her giggles.

Jennifer shook her head and looked out the windshield. “You know, you really should keep your eyes on the road… especially with this storm.”

The man looked forward and saw the fast approaching bend. There was no time to avoid the guardrail headed straight for him.

Jennifer smiled wickedly and said, “It’s your turn to be buried on the mountain… you sick sonofabitch.”

The man grabbed the steering wheel and turned it sharply to the right causing the tractor trailer to turn over on its side as it slid on the ice and over the guardrail.

~~~

“Moore’s Mountain” Copyright © 2012, 2016 Scott Scherr. All rights reserved.

If you’re new to my blog and want to read something a bit longer, feel free to check out my ongoing serial novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, and tell me what you think: DFTD Chapter 1-1: Demon Night

~~~

blog-hop-2016-zombie

~~~

I’m excited to announce that I will be participating for my second year in the October Frights Blog Hop, hosted by Clarissa Johal. It starts October 10th and finishes on the 15th. Please click the link above to find out more about this event.

This year I will be posting five creepy short stories (sorry, no zombies) to celebrate the Halloween season. You can read them starting on the 10th over at my DFTD Blogger site: http://dontfeedthedark.blogspot.com/

Here’s the line up:

ATM:
Find out what happens when a man making a late-night run to the cash machine gets an unexpected guest.

Boogeyman:
My spin on the classic closet monster tale.

Animals:
Sometimes the monsters within are much more terrifying than the imagined… especially when you’re trapped with them.

Previous Owner:
Ever fall asleep at the wheel for a few seconds and wake up wondering how you didn’t crash? This story looks at one possibility for those unaccounted seconds.

Moore’s Mountain:
Halloween and Christmas merge in this terrifying tale.

Bonus Story: Mr. Thompson’s Obsession:
Sometimes the latest horror is right next door…

I hope to see you all on October 10th. And don’t forget to visit all the other authors to find out what horrific offerings they have in store.

-Scott

~~~