Dead is Dead

📅 Published on October 14, 2023

“Dead is Dead”

Written by Dale Thompson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 21 minutes

Rating: 8.00/10. From 3 votes.
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Winning an all-expenses paid trip without any catches is quite rare from my experience.  There is something unfamiliar with awards, triumphs, and real success for most adults.  Take winning the lottery, for instance; how much money does a person sink into that abyss of no return just to win a free couple of lines in the next draw?  When you add it up, gambling and gambling addicts are just trying to break even.  In my experience, and I am no expert, I have found it nearly impossible.  But as fate would have it, profiting or balancing the account when it came to sweepstakes, contests, or raffles hardly produced a stroke of fortune.

Another example might be the old “office pool,” where everyone puts some money in during something like the NCAA Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament and then by chance, only one person in the office wins or loses according to who, in the end, is crowned the champs of the college basketball season.  “Sweet Sixteen,” now there is a phrase as un-PC in our current climate and things you can say and do.  But you get my point, right?

Well, now, there is always the exception, and the exclusion, of course, is that somebody always wins. What is the slogan?  “If you do not play, you cannot win,” or “Got to be in it to win it.”

Mark Sweeney was literally ‘over the moon.’  Life had been a crapshoot for him.  He had never won a single thing in his entire life.  The main cause of never winning is he never gambled.  He would not even bet on a sure thing, yet this one time, he filled out a sweepstakes form online to win an all-exclusive paid trip to a marvelous holiday resort, and he had won.  Most certainly the ‘luck of the draw,’ as they say.

He could not be more thrilled, plus he had plenty of accumulated annual leave time built up from work that he could take.  The company he worked for had already sent out a notice to all employees to take their annual leave before Christmas if at all possible.  They did not want the leave to build from weeks to months.

Mark put in for his holidays at work, which were immediately approved, and he told no one what his plans were.  He simply said, “I am going away for a couple of weeks.  I will see you when I see you.”

The trip to this holiday destination began with a flight on a 757 jet directly into the Vail/Eagle Airport, where a car rental was waiting for him in his name.  Mark thought, ‘This is too good to be true.”  He had not won the Megabucks Lottery, but he had won, and this was going to be, more than likely, a once-in-a-lifetime vacation.  He paid a little extra and upgraded the vehicle to a sportier model.  He was informed that it should not take more than 30 minutes to make the drive from the airport to Beaver Creek.  All he needed to do was head east on I-70.  All loaded up and situated in his rental, off he drove.  He rolled down the window to breathe that fresh mountain air of Colorado.  It was clean, refreshing, and he sucked it in like therapy.

His flight had gotten in late, and the sun was sinking like a ship.  Not bothered by the lack of sunlight, Mark decided to jump off the interstate, and he ended up on Highway 6, which was a bit closer to Eagle River.  He was glad this trip was happening before snow season.  He was not experienced with winter driving.  The sports car Mark had rented was quite zippy, and he was having a great time flinging himself around curves and sharp corners.  Of course, he should have known better, but he was not considering the risk of throwing the dice, and his driving was becoming foolhardy at best. He loved the feel of this car, the way it stayed glued to the road.  He was now driving as if the traffic laws did not apply to him and never considered once that there might be a State Police or Sheriff’s Deputy just waiting for some reckless nitwit, barrelling through injudiciously with acute hubristic instincts.

Mark was really laying into this unfamiliar, sinuous stretch of road.  The tires were howling as he flew into the sharpest bend yet.  Mark realized the instant he was in the tightest twist of the road that the traction beneath him was not holding.  Matter of fact, it gave way at an unreasonable speed.  The car, with Mark strapped tightly in it, did a tumble, a rollover, flipping more than three times.  The squawking tires sang no more, but Mark was filling the car with his own screams.  There was severe momentum where metal and plastic were folded and bent, and Mark was captured helplessly in the twilight of the moment.  Like a ragdoll being tossed down a flight of stairs, Mark’s arms flailed in a twisted and perverted show of animation.  As he was contorted in unnatural ways, completely at the mercy of Newton’s Laws of Motion (Force = Newtons = lbs = tons), he told himself, “This is going to hurt.”

The car ceased its violent tumble and miraculously landed right side up.  The car was munted, absolutely demolished.  Mark heard a hissing sound coming from steam pouring from the radiator, and the horn seemed to be stuck in muffled klaxon mode as if something was covering it.

Mark unfastened his seat belt and crawled from the window of the demolished metal.  He did a once over, palpating his body, searching for anything broken, but as fate would have it, he was in one piece and surprisingly not hurt at all.  He picked up one of the door mirrors that had broken in the crash and examined his face.  There was not a scratch or even an abrasion to be found.  He immediately thanked God for coming through this unscathed.  “Hallelujah!” he shouted out loud.  “What a stroke of luck,” he thought as he searched for his cell phone.

This was just great; not lucky enough.  He could not see his phone anywhere.  Smashing the rental car was going to raise his automobile insurance rates, and now his cell phone was missing.  After a disappointing search, he decided since he was losing daylight, he would grab a bag of essentials and head back up onto the road, hoping to hitch a ride from a passerby, and he could return in the morning daylight to locate his phone.

His bag was fairly heavy, and he found himself struggling along the road without a single car in sight. He watched carefully for a sign of a pair of headlights heading his way.  He did not care from which direction they came, he just wanted off the road.  He had walked a good way and was about to take a seat on his luggage when, up ahead in the distance, he saw a light.

“Saved!” he vocalized, just realizing how scratchy his throat was.  He was now desperate for something to drink.  This tickling sensation in the back of his throat caused him a slight cough, but he proceeded on being drawn to the light.

The house appeared to have a single window lit up, which was evidence of a possible resident being home.  As he drew nearer to the house, he took note of how shabby, dilapidated and rundown the place presented itself.  A cold chill raced over him as if winter had breathed upon him.  He knew before night plunged completely into darkness that he needed shelter, and regardless of the miserable state of the house, he had to take a chance, one more time to tempt fate.  He hoped the turn of events, meaning the car accident and him surviving it without a scratch, was not his last miracle of the night.

Mark stepped up onto the wooden porch.  The flooring felt soft, rotted, spongy.  He rapped a few solid bangs on the door with his knuckles and waited in anticipation of being greeted.  He heard the stirring of someone inside responding.  The door soon cracked open with a squeak.  A young boy answered the door.  He was in his pajamas.  Mark guessed his age at about 11 or 12 years old.  Mark had expected an adult, but the boy would do.  “Good evening, young fella, my name is Mark Sweeny, and I have been in an automobile accident.  Would you happen to have a telephone I might use to call for a taxi?” Mark asked.

The homely boy with the red, tousled hair stood dumbly, eyes fixed queerly upon Mark’s face.

“Ain’t got no phone, mister.”

The boy obviously had learning disabilities, Mark assumed, and he asked further, “Is your mother or father home that I might speak to one of them in possibly giving me a ride to Beaver Creek?”

The boy looked stiff, sadly lethargic.  His nailbeds were grimy and black, as if he had just recently clawed his way out from a grave.  He answered with “Ain’t got no mother or father, but I had a maw and a paw, and they are both dead.”

This troubled Mark deeply.  For whatever reason, his stomach churned like a maelstrom and cramped as if he had suddenly been punched in the gut.  Being submerged in this uncomfortable position, with Mark knowing that the boy could not possibly live here alone, asked, “Is there anyone else here that might help me?  Do you happen to know of any adult who has a car and can drive?” Mark glanced around at the driveway not realizing until now there was no car in the drive.

He swore under his breath, trying to mentally fight off the stomach cramps.

“My sister.  I live here with my sister, but she is not here right now,” the boy said drearily.

Mark introduced himself a second time.  “I am Mark.  What is your name?” “I am called Buck.”  Again, this apathetic child was either missing a few marbles in the social category or he was on some really good opioids.

“Hey Buck, how about you let me go to the toilet?  If you would be so kind, I really am not comfortable with going out there in the woods,” Mark said.

“Sure thing.  You might not want to be outside tonight anyhow.  Inclement weather is moving in, the weatherman said.”  Buck opened the door back further, and the unoiled, rusty hinges sang with a note of rapid oscillation similar to that of a minuet.  Inside the house with the door closed behind him, Mark found himself in some kind of throwback to early civilization.  The room was amazingly spacious, which amplified the clumping of Mark’s boots, resounding with reverberations echoing from floor to ceiling.

“Nice acoustics.”  Mark took note of the taxidermy which he had a degree of aversion to.  Mark was an animal lover, and this did not sit right with him, though he was grateful for the hospitality.  The other peculiar thing was there was no electricity that he could discern.  The room was lit with a few candles, which were burning bright and guttering down, plus one lamp, which Buck had retrieved from a ceiling hook and now was using as the guide down a hallway where the toilet was found. Mark was over the moon to be out of the harsh elements.  Buck handed him the lantern without a word and left Mark to conduct his business.

As he stood over the toilet attempting to relieve himself, he realized he no longer needed to go.  He noticed a fair bit of dust and cobwebs, as if this toilet area was seldom, if ever, used or cleaned once in a while.  He was glad he had minimal light.  If the house was in such ruin in the dark, he could only imagine what illumination would reveal.  He gave up on the attempt to empty his bladder; as a matter of fact, his stomach came around as well, and he proceeded back into the main room where Buck was dutifully standing.

“You would not happen to have a phone, would you?” Mark queried again.

“Got no use for a phone.  Ain’t nobody to call.”

Mark thought it inexplicable that a house would have no way of communicating but to each his own.

“So, Buck, is there a power shortage, or have you guys had your electricity turned off?” Mark inquired.

“Ain’t had no ‘electric’ in a good month of Sundays.  One day, we had it; next day, nothing.  We get by, though.  One day, you’re living, and the next day, you die.  Mah and Paw both died,” Buck somberly said.

“I do not mean to pry, but how did they die?” Mark’s curiosity of this backwoods scenario had risen to the surface.  Before Buck answered, there was a meowing of a cat, and Mark looked down in the dim light to the shadowy floor and felt the brush of a cat against his ankle.

“Oh, you have a cat,” Mark stated the obvious, surprised.

“It’s Edith’s cat,” Buck informed him.

“Does it have a name?” Mark reached down and stroked its soft fur as it purred, still circling his ankle.

“Yes sir, that is Familiars,” Buck answered.

What an odd name, Mark thought.  But then, on the other hand, the day had morphed into a peculiarity that caused him an uneasiness.  There was something not right, a languor in the air he could not describe.

“I don’t know when Edith, my sister, is going to return.  You ought to stay here tonight.  You won’t want to be out there at night.  It ain’t safe,” Buck suggested.

“Are you saying that only you and your sister live here?”  Mark could not understand this unless Buck’s sister was quite a bit older than him.  His car wreck was now pushed far into the back of his mind.  He wanted to know more about how these siblings were living.

“Well, we dwell here; it is home for us.”  Buck’s eyes were still as vacant as when he first opened the door.  Mark could not get a read on this kid.

Mark thought about asking the boy for something to eat or to drink, but strangely, his thirst and hunger were not anything he believed he needed to satisfy right away.

“My bedroom is down the hallway across from Edith’s room.  I would let you sleep in Maw and Paw’s room, but Edith said we needed not to disturb it and to keep it as it is.  I can offer you our couch,” Buck proffered.

“Sure, thank you.  The couch is fine.  I will be gone early in the morning.  I will find a ride then. Maybe Edith will be home by then, and she can give me a lift?” Mark communicated.

“Oh, Edith don’t drive,” Buck said as he haggard awkwardly down the hallway to his bedroom, where he entered and closed the door without another word.

Mark was truly perplexed.  “What a weird little fella,” he thought.  Mark did not bother to get undressed; he had carried with him a sheet for a bed.  The thoughts of laying on sheets hundreds of people had slept on gave him the Heebie-jeebies.  He stretched out the clean white sheet across the couch and laid down, hoping sleep and morning would come quickly.  His eyelids were tired because of the hours spent wide awake, but the slumber left him as he wrestled with so many uncertainties in his mind, unable to resolve the perturbations that distracted his rest.  His mind was very much active, and he spent a good while in rumination with intractable thoughts.  The ascendancy of how the rich had it all and the poor had nothing caused him to remain awake for some time.  He thought he was just about to doze off when he heard something that startled him into a posture of fright.  He listened intently to identify what it was he had heard.

There it was again, like something scooting or sliding, shuffling toward the back of the house.  He thought better than to wake Buck, who he assumed was surely asleep by now.  He decided to investigate this anomaly.  After all, Buck was a child in this house, and some lunatic might be trying to break in and take advantage.

Mark grabbed the lantern and made haste getting to the kitchen, where he found the back door open.  Was it possible someone had already entered the house?  He cautiously went to the door and stretched the light out in front of him to see more clearly into the dark.  There were impressions in the grass from the door as if something heavy had been dragged away.  The grass obviously and recently had been mashed down by something of impressive weight.  Mark saw nothing within the light’s limitations and made the determination it would be foolish to venture out on such a chilly night.  Buck was not wrong.  Inclement weather had moved in.  It felt like snow, but there was enough moisture in the air that possibly rain might be on its way.

Mark returned to the sofa, where his mind’s overactive thoughts refused him sleep.  It then dawned on him he should check on Buck, for what if someone had entered the house?  He hurried down the hallway to Buck’s bedroom and found the door closed.  He staved off any trepidation by reminding himself that Buck was just a boy and was too vulnerable not to peek in to see how he was doing.

There was a light beneath the door he could see.  The radiance was a red-tinted glow, which troubled Mark slightly.  “Red?”  He thought about desisting but knew the right thing to do was to open the door just a crack; it was not his intention to maliciously spy or disturb his sleep, or even invade his privacy.  It was important to make sure Buck was in no danger.  Mark clutched the door knob in his hand and, with some effort, twisted it and gently pushed on the door laying his shoulder against it.

Deathly cold air forced its way out, accosting Mark’s face.  His eyes instantly teared as the frigid temperature of Buck’s room escaped.  What Mark saw was an unexplainable mockery of all that was holy.  The unhallowed scene was far worse to Mark’s senses than the rush of cold air was.  In the ensuing few seconds, Mark’s idea of good and evil took on new definitions.  Atrociously dripping from the ceiling were pools of blood that clung upside down and rained over the bed where Buck was lying.  He was partially sitting up with his head tilted slightly toward the nasty serum massacre over him.

Mark shuddered, unable to mentally process this debauchery of mad bloodlust and sheer sadism. Mark could see arms reaching down from these unnatural ponds of crimson.  Buck sat up, his eyes gleaming as the blood drizzled, covering him.  He squinted to see, and as blandishment, he spoke directly to Mark.  “Now that you see, do you believe?”

Mark stood halfway between the door and the frame with one foot still in the hallway.  Fearful of his life, he refused to answer this demon child and backed out of the abysmal room.  He closed the door, but furtive whispers had followed.  From inside the room, Buck laughed a demonic guffawing and deliberate cackle of horrid vocal accents with such intentional intensity the disdain of his denunciation caused Mark to put his feet in motion.  His only concern was to escape this hellish charnel house and its eldritch wickedness.

Quickly gathering his belongings while keeping an eye on the hallway, he was convinced he was not being followed.  Instead of using the front door, he was drawn to the back door for a reason he could not explain.  In this conscious decision, he felt detached from his own body, although he remained self-aware.  Mark raced to the backdoor, which led into a wooded area.  He could not convince himself to head back to the road.  He had an urging inside to conceal himself and to hide out of sight. He hoped this gamble would pay off.

As he stepped through the door into the outside, he heard Buck’s voice scream out maniacally, “The dead have gone before us!  The dead have gone before us!”

Although Mark noticed the same imprint of drag marks in the nearly frozen grass, he recognized the need to distance himself from this living nightmare.  Into the woods he disappeared, with a lantern in his hand full of oil to guide the way.  The darkness was indescribable.  The light barely pierced through the dark, inky eeriness.  As he eked through the wooded area, the trees became more sparse as he walked until he emerged upon a road.

He did not recognize his surroundings whatsoever.  Being lost was the least of his worries after the gruesome sight he had beheld in the house.  There was no explanation.  He was thankful to have made it out of there alive.  He decided to walk east on the edge of the road and prayed to God someone would come by and collect him from this hostile, windy environment.

As it began to lightly sleet, Mark, keeping to the road in full forward motion, observed a light in the distance.  It was a house, but it was far too dark to make out what sort of structure it actually was. As he moved closer, he recognized the place.  It was Buck’s house.

This was hilariously ironic, he thought.  Had he gone in a full circle?    How in the name of all things righteous and holy could this be?  Maybe it was just another ramshackle house that had a similar appearance; after all, he did not take mental notes of the exterior of Buck’s house.  He had no other choice but to risk it.  The sleet was pelting him like needles, and he was frozen to the core.  He stepped upon the familiar steps, and with hesitation, accompanied by misgivings, he knocked on the door.

A female voice from inside called out.  “Who is there?  Can I help you?” Mark convinced himself this could not be the same house.  For if it were, it would have been Buck who would have answered.

“Sweet Jesus, yes, I am lost and frozen and have been in a terrible accident.  I am not injured, but I need to escape this weather,” Mark pitifully answered.

The door sang as it opened with its strained corroded hinges, creaking a conversant melody of syncopation that pierced Mark’s ear almost painfully.  The demure face of a beautiful young woman greeted him with a wavering smile of welcome, dressed in a long white sleeping gown.  Her crystal blue eyes were unblinking, and she was immune to the cold from the churlish, unforgiving outdoor elements.

“Please won’t you come in?  You must be frozen.”

Mark did not delay; he needed warmth immediately.  He did not find it inside the house, however, for it was identical to Buck’s house.  Lit with candles and lanterns, and as cold as the grave, he realized he had stepped back inside the sinister chamber of horrors.

“I am Edith,” she politely said with a mischievously distinguished smile.

Mark wondered, ‘Should I say anything about Buck?  Does she know that I was in the house earlier and bore witness to her demonic brother in some sort of Satanic ritual?’

He opted not to share his name and hold out to daylight before attempting an escape.  He would die in this unfavorable weather.  Edith seemed genial and pleasant enough, so without invitation, Mark sat on the very sofa he had attempted sleep earlier.

“Can I get you something to eat or drink?” She said pliantly.

“No, thank you, just shelter.  I only need to warm myself,” Mark answered, being somewhat confounded at his own loss of appetite.

He sensed another presence, and his heart thumped three quick succession poundings.  His acute fear was somewhat relieved when he felt the rubbing of the cat against his ankle.

Reassured somewhat, he rubbed the soft fur, and it began to purr.

“This is Familiars.  She is a good cat,” Edith shared.

Mark almost said, “I know,” but remembered he needed to play it cool as if he had never been here before.

“Would you have the time?” Mark had no clue what time of night it was.

“Time?” Edith suddenly appeared incoherent, which raised Mark’s alarm bells.

She did not answer.  Mark decided to stick his neck out and asked, “Do you live here alone?” Her face twisted somewhat uncertain and, in Mark’s view, somewhat conjectural.

As if fragments of memories were being fed into her head by an invisible force, she answered, “I live here with my brother.”  Her tone was deadened as a gloom overtook the room.  At that point, Mark understood they were not alone.  Something unseen had seized the room and influenced Edith, removing the graduations of her mind and causing her to stand statuesque, expressionless, dulled, and fragile.  Mark did not see Buck, but as his imagination ran wild, feeding on the scraps of limited knowledge and the obvious, with great circumspect, he kept his eyes peeled as not to be taken off guard.

Edith spoke much differently now.  Gone was her innocent and vulnerable bashfulness.  What she said next haunted Mark’s soul.

“Death is summonsed easily.”

“Why would you say such a thing?” Mark asked, still clutching his small luggage piece in his hand.

“I was referring to if you had remained outside in the storm,” she answered.

She added, “You can stay here for the night if you wish.  I would strongly advise it.” “May I use your toilet?” Mark needed to make sure Buck was no longer in the house.  For some unknown reason, he did not feel Edith was a threat, but that boy, Buck, might be the devil incarnate.

Holding a candle, Edith led Mark down the hallway past the door where he had encountered Buck, lost in macabre extravagance, and another door further on the opposite side of the hallway was a toilet.

“We have no electricity, as you can see.  The storm is responsible.  But the toilet flushes,” she said, looking steadily into his eyes as if to read his mind.  Her voice was colorless, with no defining character.  Mark broke the gaze and said, “Okay, then.  I will be right out.”

Edith’s intentions were not known, but her methods were efficacious in that she was successful in causing a disconnect in Mark’s thoughts to the point he wondered if any of this was real.  He still had his power of observation, though he had lost faith in himself.  He had little confidence because the idea of this house and its occupants were incomprehensible.  Mark had no need to use the toilet; he merely needed to separate himself from Edith.  He tried to bolster up his courage, for he felt deep down a crisis was imminent, and soon he would be immersed in terror-stricken fright of unsurmountable proportions and volume.  As of this moment, the majority of his ambivalence were the invisible assailants he had invented himself.  He found himself deeply steeped in inexplicable, self-generated, stifling fear.

“Is everything okay in there?” Edith enquired with concern attached to her question.

If only there were a window, he would challenge himself against the frozen night.  He fought back his emotions and blurted out though from an undulation of a wounded cry, “Yes, one minute, one minute, please.”

Mark collected himself, got his nerves together the best he could and stepped out into the hallway.

“Did you flush?” she unexpectedly asked with sententious overtones as if he had been accused of an indictable offense.  Mark hurried back into the bathroom and flushed the toilet obediently.  When he entered the hallway, Edith’s countenance had become an infernal shade of infinite sorrow.

Just when Mark thought he had recovered himself and was able to be more recumbent with this seemingly endless dire situation, Edith just had to go and appear as some malfeasant emanation of unearthly dread.

Mark could not bear much more.  Puerile and absurd, she flippantly asked, “Do you believe in ghosts?”

Offended, Mark responded, “What sort of question is that?” “I do,” she said with a vulgar, frivolous gesture of the hand.

“I believe what I see,” Mark answered.

“Do you believe that nightmares are real?” she asked mawkishly.

“Please, I do not know what you mean!”  Mark was confused, with the fog permeating in his already clouded mind.

“Mark, can you hear me?” Mark heard Buck’s voice, but it was somehow in his own head.

Edith asked, “Are you afraid of monsters?”

Banality and despair drifted through the ether of his soul.  There was a sudden amalgamation, a uniting of something inside of him with something that had seemed distant that was now looming over him.  Mark could not concentrate.  He saw Edith before him in an imbecilic exhibition, twirling and smiling and spinning and laughing.

“Help me with this,” Buck’s voice necessitated in Mark’s head.  Mark heard the trill of many voices gibbering but only saw Edith in some pathetic display of ridiculous improv dance.

Mark found himself dragging something.  He was unaware of how this heavy bag came into his tightened grip.  He pulled with all of his might.  Why was he pulling this bag?  His thoughts were scrambled, and he was astounded with terror.  He was on the grass, dragging a weighted sack toward the wooded area out back.

“Pull harder, pull harder,” Buck said as he backed into the thickets.  It was a titanic mission, but he had managed the mysterious bag, and now he stood over it.  What was it?  What could it be?  What was in the bag?

He glanced around, and this was when he saw an open grave to his right.  He was nearly on the edge of the damnable thing.

Buck’s voice spoke again, “Put the bag in the hole.” Mark refused.  This was outrageous, phenomenally unthinkable.  He did not know what was in the bag.  He frantically began to tear at the ties which bound it closed.  Under the copse of trees, in frigid relentless weather, standing next to a grave, Mark ripped the ties off and prowled into the bag as if he had found treasure.  But what he discovered was no treasure.  He found Maw and Paw, charred, burnt to a crisp.  It was his own Maw and Paw.

Edith was heard laughing and scolding him.  “Look what you did, you freak!  You have killed them! How are we going to live?”

Mark felt the essence of who he was drifting away.  Thoughts raced into his mind, pushing Mark Sweeney out, making him extinct.  Every memory of Mark faded, and Buck’s mind commenced to take hold in great and wonderous detail.

Mark fought back with what little he had remaining.  He sprinted from the grave sight into the woods and ran like the devil until he was standing once again on the porch of the same haunted house.  He did not knock this time.  He barged in maddingly and went straight down the hallway.  He burst through Buck’s door.  The room was empty.  He went to the next room, which was Edith’s bedroom, and in a violent rage, he crashed through, leaving the door off its hinges and splintered.

He was fed up; this deception had gone on long enough.  Uncharacteristically, Mark screamed out an injunction.  “Show yourselves!  Where are you?”

There was no answer.  Mark stormed from the room straight to the last bedroom, which had been said to be the parents’ bedroom.  He froze at the door, knowing this was it.  He had no more options and nothing to lose.  Taking in a deep, stale breath, he exhaled slowly, and without resistance, he swung open the door.

His eyes could not believe this perverse abomination before him.  Buck was standing naked on the bed over his bound parents and was pouring what smelled like gasoline over their bound bodies. The odor of benzene engulfed the room.  The parents were still; Mark assumed he had already murdered them.  Edith stood to the side of the bed with a large lit candle in her hands.  She had a fierce fire in her eyes and ignored Mark altogether.

She cited something aloud: “If only darkness had taken that night away!  May it not appear among the days of the year; may it never be entered in any of the months.  Behold, may that night be barren; may no joyful voice come into it.  May it be cursed by those who curse the day — those prepared to rouse Leviathan.  May its morning stars grow dark; may it wait in vain for daylight; may it not see the breaking of dawn.  For that night did not shut the doors of the womb to hide the sorrow from my eyes.”

Buck turned his blood-soaked body toward Mark and said, “You’re not the one.” Yowling as if he were in great pain, the demented boy leaped from the bed and charged Mark, shoving him with terrific force from the room and slamming the door with a loud lock of the key.  Mark had been pushed to the floor and was now viewing the room under the slight crack at the bottom of the door.  Flames lit with a whoosh sound, and Mark could see the bed had been set ablaze.  Leaping to his feet, he touched the doorknob with his hand.  The heat had already made the knob impossible to grip.  Mark ran again.  This time, not through the kitchen out the back but straight out the front door.

He had witnessed the most unfathomable, experienced the deplorable, the unbelievable.  As he fled the ghastly house and its devilish illusions, the sun was coming up over the horizon.  When the sun lit his face, he never felt more alive.

He continued to run until he heard the sound of a vehicle approaching behind him.  He stopped and waved his arms, hoping the driver would stop and give him a lift.  The heavy oppression he had been afflicted with had lifted, and he was as light as a feather.  The van slowed and then pulled over to the side of the road.  It was an older couple, from what he could see.  It stopped right before reaching him, and he approached with jubilation.  He went to the passenger side, where a couple in their 50s sat smiling at him.

“You need a ride fella?” The man seemed friendly enough.

“Yes, please.  I have been through a horrendous ordeal and have not slept all night,” Mark said thankfully.

“We just live up the road.  You can use our phone up there to get yourself help and be on your way.” The man again seemed gracious enough.

“Slide the side door open and get in.  The door sticks a little, so yank it hard,” the woman advised.

Mark took the handle by his hand and gave the door an aggressive pull.  The door was difficult but sprung open.  Because of the van’s tinted windows, the occupants sitting in the back seat had not been noticed by Mark.  Before his bedazzled eyes sat Buck and Edith, grinning with wide-stretched, unnaturally shaped mouths that were more like slits across their face.

“You kids scoot over and give this man some room,” the mom said, staring straight ahead.

“Do you believe in ghosts now, Mark?” Edith asked.

Buck moved over for Mark and said, “Once you are a ghost, you cannot go back.  Can ya, paw?” The driver never turned around.  He simply replied, “That’s right, son.  Dead is dead.” Mark climbed into the van and slid the door shut.  Familiars leaped onto his lap and purred quietly.

Rating: 8.00/10. From 3 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Dale Thompson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Dale Thompson


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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