Yes, that is right, we’ve reached the triple digits people! One hundred short stories are now posted on the blog!
In honour of the 100th short story my novel Asylum will be free on Smashwords for the next week so if you’re interested in checking it out you can download it in any format you desire here. I’ve also set up a new Facebook page so you can be notified when I update if you’re not a subscriber, all you have to do is click like!
In other news Whispers in the Shadows Vol IV and V will be released in the next few days! Though it may not be until the 20th or so due to exams, I will try to have them both up as soon as possible.
It’s strange that when I first started this blog I wondered how I would ever reach 100, but here it is! It’s quite odd to think about because it seems like so little, 3 a week, but the short stories add up quickly. Hopefully I’ll be going long enough to reach 1000. Then I’ll do the lazy thing and add a framing device to link them all together a la 1001 Arabian Nights. It will be a Saw* like situation where the person needs to tell a story to prolong their life and if they can’t come up with one fast enough they lose a body part. Pretty good motivator right?
Because it is the 100th short story, it’s a little longer than the others, I hope you enjoy it!
*Yeah, I’ve never seen Saw or any of it’s seqeuls so just kinda going by ads, though I’m pretty sure the person dies if they don’t chose to lose a body part or do something painful.
Anyway, on with the show!
I live in a haunted house. Not one of those crappy little “oh the chairs slightly move and people see ghosts” haunted houses, but a proper one. I am the first person to live here longer than three months. Most people leave screaming, if they leave at all. More than a few previous tenants have disappeared. I was slightly hesitant of moving in, but it was cheap and I was poor. I didn’t know all of this in the beginning of course, it was only after the house’s true nature was revealed to me that I looked into it.
It didn’t take long for the haunting to manifest itself. The first night I had horrific nightmares, I was tired and irritable the next day, but I assumed it was merely my suppressed fears coming out in my dreams. Moving into a new house is an exhausting and slightly frightening prospect. I was nervous being in such a large place by myself, what with the pipes banging and the floorboards creaking. So of course the nightmares were chalked up to the mundane. I soon found out I was wrong. There seems to be some kind of problem with the rooms. They are not static, moving around of their own free will, you might walk into the kitchen from the sitting room and going through the same door again find yourself in the library. The first few times it happened I tried to dismiss it as everyone does telling myself that I just wasn’t used to the layout of the house yet, that I was confused, being absent minded, I took the wrong door, every and any excuse that could be thought of was used.
Now such excuses seem so feeble, but at the time they were a way for me to keep my sanity, though the house made sure to slowly chip away at it. At night you can hear howls and cackling echoing throughout the house, in the beginning I didn’t know who or what was making the noise, if it was the house, or previous tenants or demons, but I wish I didn’t know. even though I know I’m safe, it is still unnerving. Even after all this time it can be hard to sleep. I know the house tries to be considerate in that regard, keeping the worst away from my room but sometimes you just can’t block it out. It can be maddening, but occasionally there are nights of silence, but these are far worse, just wondering what is being so quiet and why, if something is standing outside the door, just waiting for me to wander for a glass of water. Sometimes, when it gets too much I stay in a hotel, the house understands, though it doesn’t like it. The house does not like me to be away for too long, it worries for me, like a lonely housewife. Though it’s actions towards me were benign that was not the case in the beginning, nor do I hold illusions that it will always treat me this way.
My first encounter was possibly the worst. I was trying to sleep, it was the third night. The room was too warm, I don’t know why, but I couldn’t get comfortable, despite tossing and turning nothing worked., every position became uncomfortable, my appendages going numb, the pillow becoming hard. The heat became stifling until finally, I couldn’t take it, it wasn’t just the duvet, the entire room was too warm, I couldn’t stand it, the oppressive, sticky heat. Throwing off the duvet, I stepped onto the floor which was surprisingly cold, the shock forced me awake, shattering any drowsiness I possessed. Looking back I suppose it was a way for the house to assure me that I was awake and not dreaming.
I went to the window, intent on opening it. The distance to the window was short, but it seemed to take me ten minutes to get there, time seemed slowed, each movement taking forever, each step taking me imperceptibly closer.
Finally reaching the window I went to open it, only to see that it was firmly nailed shut, twisted and broken ends of the nails stuck out of the wood. Something outside began to breathe on the window, great plumes of breath spreading outwards, fogging it up. Nothing could have gotten up that high, I was on the second floor and there was nothing to stand on outside the window, there could be nothing out there but air.
I began to back away from what ever was on the other side of the window, but every time I stepped back, the window moved closer. The entire room seemed to be getting smaller. There was a loud crack as the wood on the wardrobe fractured and broke, sending splinters and shards of wood around the room. The bed and lockers screeched as they were pushed along the floor, the metal footing leaving deep gouges in the floor.
The bed was metal and least likely to break and not knowing what to do, I ran to it, splinters and wood digging into the soles of my feet. The faster I moved, the faster the room shrunk. I huddled on the bed, trying to figure out a way to brace the ceilings, to stop the walls coming closer, already the wardrobe was destroyed, there was no doubt in my mind that the metal of the bed would be crushed too. Having nothing to lose I called out to the house,“stop, stop this now. You will not frighten me.” The walls seemed to slow, then stopped. The house seemed unsure of its plan of action. “You will not be able to frighten me from this place.” The walls began to retract until the room was back to its original size. I would never have believed it myself, if not for the shattered wardrobes and scratches on the floor.
Eventually I fell asleep, but it was light and uneasy, I don‘t know why I didn‘t flee that first night, the house wanted me to leave and it was willing to kill me, Something must have stopped me but what I do not know.
The next morning, when I was having breakfast, I began to pour milk into my cereal, only to see it wasn’t milk, but blood. The smell of it filled the room, thick and coppery. The carton began to warm in my hands. Revolted, I dropped it, it landed on its side, blood spraying from the top. I sat in shock looking at the growing pool, the flow was steady and showed no signs of slowing.
Carefully, I reached down and picked up the carton, not wanting to get any of the blood on me. Not knowing what to do I left the milk carton in the sink. There was still a thick pool of blood to deal with. I searched for something, anything to clean it up. Soon finding a rag and, unable to find anything better I got on my hands and knees and started to mop up the blood. Though it was still warm it had begun to congeal, thick lumps started to form, adding to the gore. When I had finished my hands were covered in blood, red and sticky. I turned on the tap, wanting to clean them as quickly as possible. A black sludge came out of the faucet, thick and gelatinous. Its stench was overpowering, I could feel it sticking to my skin, entering my pores. Once again I told the house I wasn’t leaving and after a few moments the pipes seemed to clear and water came out. Though I washed my hands in the water, I was weary of drinking tap water in the house. I washed my hands two or three times, scrubbing at the nails until I was sure that no trace of blood remained on my hands, which were red and angry looking by the time I finished, I patted them dry gingerly with a towel. The house seemed to be testing me then, or at least, so I thought, hoping that once it saw I wasn’t leaving it would eventually cease its attacks.
The worst was the final event. I had come home late after working, the lights weren’t turning on, but there was still enough light to see by, filtered from outside through the thin lace covering the windows. Each room I entered, no matter the door or direction, seemed to lead me deeper into the house, each room filled with an impossible, dull light that seemed to radiate from the walls, allowing me an unobstructed view of the contents of each room. I wandered through the house for what seemed like hours, every room I entered revealed some new horror. In the distance I could hear horrific screams of the damned, people crying out to be released from the pain.
Though I had not encountered anything living yet, I suspected it would happen sooner rather than later. The rooms I traversed were similar to the rooms of the house I knew, but with subtle and terrifying differences. Paintings filled with torture and rivers of blood, stools made of what seemed to be human flesh. Tables filled with rotting food, writhing with maggots. I tried to move away from the voices if I could, but the house began to channel me towards them, like a cow going through the slaughter chute. Finally I entered a room and the door behind me disappeared, with only one option left, I moved towards the door on the other side of the room. This room seemed to be normal, there were no horrors in here, it seemed safe, yet I did not trust it, there was an expectant feeling in the air, as though something was just waiting for me to rest. I stood at the only door for a few seconds, trying to decide what to do, I grasped the doorknob and turned it slowly, the screams were louder here and as I eased the door open, they became louder. Behind me I heard something moving towards me, a heavy, skittering noise, I glanced backwards to see something long and pulsating, thousands of legs propelled it forward, it’s gaping maw surrounded by pincers, thick globs of mucous dripped from its mouth, it was gaining speed and, seeing no choice, I stepped through the door way and slammed the door behind me. I could hear it scratching at the wood, whimpering. I turned to face the new horrors the house was presenting me, the shrieking drawing my attention.
There was a woman, chained to the walls, screaming. I think she might have been naked but there was no real way to tell. She was covered, from her neck down, with thick black beetles and ants. They appeared to be biting her. Occasionally one would fall from her crowded body, showing a large, red mark, which seeped blood momentarily before the beetle was replaced with another, each one crawling over one another to bite at her exposed flesh. I moved toward her, hoping I could help, when I noticed the floor was sticky, each footstep was accompanied by a loud squelch, my feet sticking with every step. I looked at the floor, it was coated in a thick, black substance, it took me a moment to realise I was walking through her blood, I shuddered in revulsion. She opened her eyes, only now aware of my presence, she was crying, “please. Just kill me. Please” as she spoke a beetle crawled from her neck, waiting till her mouth opened, as she began to plead again, the beetle shot into her mouth, its large body wriggling for purchase before going deeper and disappearing completely. Something fell from the ceiling, landing in my hair, its claws scraping at my scalp, scuttling forward, toward my forehead. With a cry I ripped it from my head, it was one of the beetles, lumps of my skin hung from its claws, some still had strands of hair attached. Another fell on my shoulder, ripping it away from myself, I ran towards the only available door. Leaving her. I don’t know what I could have done to help, I only know I never tried. As the door closed I could hear her choking, I think she was still trying to call out to me.
The rest of the night passed slowly, each room worse than the last. I was living in a charnel house, filled with suffering and agony. Sustaining the house and its vicious urges.
The house wanted me to see what it was capable of, what it enjoyed, for me to understand what it could do to me should it choose, to prove how I was at its mercy. I saw thousands of rooms and hundreds of people, each one I abandoned to save myself.
When morning came I was a gibbering wreck, barely able to continue. The final room was the least grotesque, but ultimately more terrifying than any other. The room was empty and plain. The walls pure white. There was no furniture. I stood in that room for perhaps an hour, waiting for something new, some new horror that I could not even begin to comprehend. But there was nothing. Tired, and still in shock from what I had seen, I sat against the wall in the corner, huddled over, trying not to scream or cry. I knew if I started, my psyche would shatter, I would spend the rest of my life screaming or laughing. When I finally calmed somewhat, I moved away from the wall to try and find some way to leave the room. Where I had leaned against the wall was covered in blood and a strange brown ichor that came from the beetles when they were crushed. There was nothing, no door, no windows, no seams in the walls, they ran together smoothly. I banged, shouted, screamed for what felt like hours. My nails had been torn and bloodied as I futilely scratched at the walls, trying to find some kind of purchase, something to tear through so I could make my escape.
Giving up I collapsed against the wall, unable to continue, despite what I had seen I was both hungry and thirsty and starting to think that perhaps, this was my punishment, that I would be trapped in this empty room with nothing, forever.
I saw something move from the corner of my eye and, as I watched, the blood and grime that had stained the walls began to move, gathering together, before spelling out one simple word. Hello.
I looked around tentatively, making sure I was still alone and I was, at least, physically.
I can let you out.
“What do you want?”
“What do you mean? Do you want me dead? Are you going to let me out of here? Ever?”
“What do you want me to do?”
Nothing. At first.
“Stop being cryptic”
That wasn’t my intention.
“Well you are. What do you want me to do?”
Bring me others.
You know why.
“What if I refuse?”
You’ll be left here, in this room. Forever.
“I’d die in a few days”
I would provide food and water. It would be up to you to refuse it.
“What if i try to run?”
You won’t be able to.
I am not static, I can move freely if I desire. It’s how I find people.
“Then why do you need me?”
Convenience. We will both get something out of it.
“What will i get?”
To live. Money. Power over life and death.
“Do I have to decide now?”
Soon. I will let you think about it. But, once you make your decision, it cannot be changed.
It left me for an hour, I considered very carefully what I could do. Really, how could I refuse. I saw what the house was capable of, I knew what it could do, what if it got bored of watching me in this empty room? Which of its creatures would it set on me? I couldn’t agree to have that done to me. Even if I was left alone in the room, how long would I be left here? With nothing but blank walls to keep me company. Finally, it returned.
“I’m too tired.”
spikes came out of the ground and wall, digging into me, quickly, I stood.
Good. Do not disobey me again or it will be worse. Have you decided?
“Yes. I will do what you say.”
I felt thin streams of blood begin to roll down my body, the wounds the spikes had inflicted were bleeding freely. A door appeared in the wall, cautiously, I walked toward it. I opened it, fearful of what I might see. It was the kitchen.
It was bright and warm, a large meal was on the table, cautiously, I took a small morsel of ham and chewed it. It was so succulent, warm and soft, perfectly tender. I tried some mashed potatoes, they were so light and creamy, perfectly smooth. Sitting down I began to help myself to the magnificent feast before me. Everything was perfect, the meats were so tender they barely required chewing, their juices flooding my mouth with each bite. the vegetables had just the right firmness to them, making them crisp and refreshing. I poured myself a glass of water from the jug. The water was clear and cold, I sipped some and found it so refreshing, it was sweet and quickly slaked my thirst.
There seemed to be a never ending supply of everything, no matter how much I took it did not appear to diminish. Never in my life have I eaten such a satisfying meal, everything was perfect. When I had finished, the foods began to change, becoming a vast array of desserts. Though full, I couldn’t help but try a few. The pie was so flaky, its crust buttery and warm, it’s filling, apple and cinnamon, just the perfect sweetness, though barely able to eat more, I finished a slice and though fearing I might throw up I found it hard to stop. Everything was so amazing, I had to try it all, as I reached for the tiramisu it began to fade, disappearing completely before I could reach it. Before long the table was empty, the bowls and cutlery sparkling in the morning light. I do not know how long I was eating, but it could have been over an hour. I stood, reluctant to leave the table should more food appear. I was uncomfortably full, my stomach felt gorged and distended. Slowly, I moved into the sitting room, intent on letting my meal digest and trying to forget what I had seen the previous night. As I remembered some of the horrors I felt the food in my stomach begin to turn sour, with all my energy I pushed the thought away, saving my self from vomiting.
I fell asleep on the couch, the food making me drowsy and, when I finally woke, I went upstairs to have a shower, after the fluids were washed from my body I managed to convince myself that it was all a dream, after all, I was overworked and tired, it was just my exhausted body having nightmares. There was no real evidence of my gruelling night, the small cuts here and there were explained away.
I had almost forgotten about my agreement with the house, managing to convince myself that it was all purely a bad dream, there had been nothing new since that night, the house was content to leave me alone. the wounds had healed and with them gone so too was my doubt that it was a dream.
Though I convinced myself that they were purely dreams, that didn’t explain why the memories of the dream made me nauseas, nor why I continued to have nightmares about it. Food still appeared periodically on the table, breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I was doing well deluding myself, explaining it away that I had merely forgotten that I had prepared the food, choosing the ignore that it would take me hours to prepare each meal and how everything far surpassed my meagre cooking skills. I was listening to the radio, enjoying the sun that had heated the kitchen when finally, the house spoke to me. “Robert. Its time.” “What do you want me to do?” “Find someone and bring them to me.” “I wont have to…kill them or anything?” “No. Bring them here and I will take care of the rest.” the radio hissed slightly, then returned to an advert for toothpaste. There was no denying what happened to me previously. I knew that, should I try to convince myself it was in my head, the house would do something to assure me it was not, and I did not think the house would be a kind or forgiving teacher
Immediately I knew who I would get. It might sound cold hearted, or cruel, but really, it was easiest, I was new to all this, how was I supposed to lure a stranger back here? In time of course these were skills I would need to develop, but now I had no idea how to even approach a random stranger in the street.
My ex girlfriend lived about half an hour away, I would invite her over to see the house, it was a simple plan and easy to implement. Though we still get on well, we don’t see each other that often, our break up was amicable, both deciding it was best. She had started dating someone else recently and though I had not met the guy, I had no animosity towards him, she may or may not bring him, if he came, I would not feel bad for what the house did to him. He would be easier to get rid of than her, after all, I had no connection with him. Perhaps, seeing them together would make it easier.
The phone call was short, we talked through email during the work day, but it was nice to actually hear her voice, I told her about the house, how everything was getting on and, finally, after she exclaimed she would have to see it, I was able to invite her over. Despite it being short notice she agreed to come over that night and she would bring her boyfriend.
They arrived promptly and I was surprised, when we were going out, we were always late as she struggled to get ready, though perhaps it was partly my fault, I was never that forceful about leaving. The house had changed itself again, it was warm, bright, inviting. The entire house smelled of cooking food, though I had not lifted a finger. When they entered, we hugged, shook hands and exchanged banal pleasantries until we went into the kitchen. The tour would be held after dinner, I do not know why I wanted to wait so long, perhaps it was guilt. The longer I could put it off the longer I had to change my mind.
The table was once more filled with food, each dish looked exquisite. “Robert, I didn’t know you were so into cooking.” “I only recently got into it, it’s quite relaxing.” Samantha smiled, “if it’s anything like your previous attempts we’ll be leaving in ambulances.” She was right to be worried, I was never a great cook, but in this case I knew the food would be spectacular. As they ate, both complimented me repeatedly on the food, and I gracefully accepted the compliments, though a few times I thought I could feel the house bristle. Perhaps it was slightly envious of the compliments I was receiving. I had become lax in complimenting the house, at every meal I exclaimed over how great everything was, even if it wasn’t directed at the house, it couldn’t hurt to shower it in compliments, though the last few meals I hadn’t bothered saying anything at all.
At the end of the meal, they sat back, obviously stuffed, there was a sense of expectancy in the air, the house was getting excited for its meal. I could feel it, just waiting. “So when are you going to show us the rest of the house?” “Well, why don’t you two get a head start and I’ll join you in a moment, I’ll just clear away some dishes and join you.” “Are you sure?” “Yeah, go ahead. It’s a big house, you probably won’t get too far before I catch up.” Neither of them really wanted to go themselves, and I could understand their reluctance, still, I didn’t want to be around them when the house did what ever it was going to do. The food was beginning to fade from the plates, leaving them pristine when I head their shrieks. They only lasted for a moment before there was silence again. The lights seemed to grow brighter momentarily before dimming back to their usual level. The house felt emptier now that they were gone. Still, it was done now.
After a few moments, I had a horrible thought. They were gone, someone would notice eventually and report them missing. They came here, Samantha probably told someone, she was a gossipy bitch sometimes. What if the police came here, looking for them? What the hell could I say? Jakes car was still sitting in my driveway. Christ. I’d have to get rid of it. Fuck. He probably had his keys with him. Somewhere in the house a door slammed. I could hear something in the hallway, shuffling along. I eased the kitchen door open slightly and peered out, dreading what I might see. Samantha pushed the door open, brushing passed me, then, turning, she wrapped her arms around me, grinding against my body slightly. “Thank god Jake’s gone. I’ve wanted to do this for so long” she grinned up at me, then licked her lips before pressing them to mine, her tongue pushing passed my lips. Her tongue was dry and papery, the taste old and dusty. I pushed her off me, spitting, trying to get the taste out of my mouth. She smirked, “what’s the matter lover?” She winked, “you’re not her.” “Really. How’d you guess?” She stopped smiling and looked a little disappointed. I shook my head, “what are you doing?” “Well, we have to lead the police away from here don’t we? I don’t want you getting arrested.” the shuffling noise returned. “the two of us will go drive around for a bit, pass some cameras I know about then abandon the car somewhere obvious. Then we’ll get back here and I can enjoy them fully.” She turned back to the corridor, “oh I wouldn’t follow if I were you, there was a slight problem with Jake, from a distance you wouldn’t really notice, but this close it’s not exactly pretty.” A door nearby opened and I looked away, I didn’t want to see what had happened to him. I jumped as a hand clapped onto my shoulder, “Thanks for the food buddy, it was awesome” it sounded like Jake, but the voice was thick, the thing started to laugh but after a few seconds began to choke and cough, thick globs of maggots splattered on the floor, they writhed in the mucus. I shuddered and stepped away from them both, not looked at either. I was feeling nauseas, my stomach rolling, my food threatening to come back up. I heard the door slam and an engine revving, they were both gone and I was alone. The house felt empty, strangely so, until I realised that the house, or whatever is controlling it, must have left too.
Maybe I should have run then, but I couldn’t, I was trapped. It was later on that night, while I was in bed that I heard the door open and slam. I heard her voice again “Honey, we’re home” screaming in the darkness. I pulled the covers tighter around myself as they moved through the house, after a while I could no longer hear their movements, at one point there was a brief, scream, low and barely audible before something cut it off.
Over the course of the next few days I found excuses to leave the house as much as possible, I couldn’t stand to be in that place, not after what I had done. It was during this period that I started doing research. I don’t know what happened in the house to make it so evil. I don’t even know if the area was always like that and the house was just built on tainted land. There were plenty of stories of disappearances of people in the area, but the house was abandoned for long stretches of time, who knew how many homeless had wandered into it’s gaping maw, unknowingly making themselves prey. I think people had tried to destroy it in the past, but the house was always rebuilt, or the damage was minimal. I wondered if maybe it could repair itself, it really wouldn’t surprise me that much, it could do almost everything else. I knew there was no escape, I was trapped and it was at this time that I followed the orders blindly, finding ways to justify what I was doing. I became better at luring people and the house started to have a say. Recommending people I should bring to it. I don’t know how the house knew of them, but it always told me they were bad people and I always chose to believe that.
It was sporadic enough so as not to raise suspicion, in the first year there was the most, fifteen people, but it seemed to calm the house down, reassure it that there would be a steady food supply. After that it worked out at about one person every two or three months. During the brief peaceful periods I would continue on with my life. Going to work, meeting up with friends. The money built up slowly in my account, after all, what did I need to spend money on? The house provided food, my utility bills were almost non existent, I think the house used the people I brought to power everything. At first, I had many nightmares, I would wake screaming in the night, sometimes I would be alone, other times there would be something in the room with me, something ancient and decrepit. I think it may have been a physical manifestation of the house, perhaps it was showing me its true form so I didn’t try to leave, maybe it wanted to be closer to me. I do not know, nor do I want to know.
The nightmares eventually stopped and I became less of a person. I became a predator, marking and following prey. I made sure they couldn’t be traced back to me, it was always strangers and I tried to make selections random when I had a choice. The homeless were good if I was stuck, the house didn’t enjoy them as much but they were better than nothing. This pattern may have continued for years, until I died but I started to worry. You might think it was paranoia, and maybe it was. I am sad to say that I didn’t try to stop it or do anything until I thought I was in danger. I knew the house needed me to find food for it, but I began to worry. After all, I was disposable, the house was permanent, ancient and everlasting. I was a blip in time compared to it and the house would easily find someone else to do it’s bidding, it had survived before me and would do so long after I was gone. I did the only thing I could, research and lots of it. Ways to destroy the house, an idea that was so forbidden, so unlikely that I was doomed before I began. It get’s inside your head, it knows everything.
I read books, hundreds of them, all detailing haunting, when they began, when they finally ended, I look up arcane rituals for cleansing areas, I looked up shaman and priests everyone and anyone I thought would be able to help. The house didn’t say anything during this time, though it was quieter than usual. Sometimes we had discussions and I would try to find its origins, but the house was clever. Giving me just enough information to stay and hope but vague enough so that it would never have any real use. It had told me different ways it was created, at first I wondered if it was lying or perhaps it was getting senile, but then, can such a creature lose it’s mind? Then a more terrifying though struck. What if it was true? What if it never lied and each story of it’s birth was fact. It could be the same place in a million different worlds, a billion different times. The thought left me crippled. How could I fight something that could never be defeated? I realised then it knew my intentions all along and it was playing games with me, that was all, just games for its own twisted amusement.
I left the house three days ago and moved into a hotel room. It hasn’t found me yet, but I know it is only a matter of time. It’s indestructible. It’s eternal. I considered going to confession but I know nothing will cleanse my soul of the things I committed in it’s name. I am its servant and it is my god. I live in fear and will do so until the day it finds me and drags me, screaming, back to that place. Even now I see things from the corner of my eye, moving paintings, shifting patterns. It chases me in my dreams. I will never be free. Not even in death.