No Reason

📅 Published on August 17, 2022

“No Reason”

Written by Ashley Fontainne
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 5.50/10. From 2 votes.
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The rank aroma of something rotted, like maggot-infested roadkill underneath the blistering summer sun, slams into his nostrils. No, it smells like the spoiled packages of hamburger he discovered in the refrigerator after his mother’s death. Stifling the gag reflex, he waves his arms to dissipate the odor before leaning over to lift the windowpane for fresh air. It is stuck from years of numerous coats of paint and neglect. Bending down, he turns on the small fan, pissed when nothing happens. Maybe a rat crawled inside the walls and died? Did the unwanted visitor chew through the wires, too?

“Siri, remind me to call an exterminator in the morning.”

No response. He tries again and gets the same result before realizing the phone is dead and plugs it into the closest outlet. “Time for an upgrade. Battery life is pathetic on these older models. Good thing I’ve got plenty of cash to spend on things now. Thanks, Mother, for emptying your bank account and stashing all the money inside the house. Makes things simpler, and nothing to report to the IRS.”

Glancing at his watch, he blinks twice, irked it has stopped working. He looks back over at the laptop. Confusion swirls inside his overtired brain. How did seven hours vanish without his awareness of the passing of time? A growling stomach reminds him he hasn’t eaten since breakfast. Did he miss the food delivery driver while immersed in writing?

“Siri, check status of order from Instacart.”

Again, dead silence. The screen remains black despite being plugged in. Why is it not charging? The overhead lights are on, and the rumble of the heating system filters through the thin walls, so there’s power.

Mental and physical exhaustion, coupled with hunger, bears down on his body, blocking the creative section of the mind and obliterating any chances of conjuring cohesive thoughts, much less a readable sentence. The exorbitant price paid for the high oxygen permeability contacts designed specifically for people with dry eyes and astigmatism was a waste of money because they are stuck to a set of sore, gritty corneas while he stared for hours without blinking at the monitor while non-existent people spewed out their experiences and thoughts through his fingers.

Eager to move to another room and away from the rank stench, he snatches up the laptop and energy drink on the desk, entering the living room. He sips the last dribbles of the tepid liquid while situating himself on the couch, scanning the document on the screen titled Death Arrives on Black Wings by George Rayburn and scowls. “Garbage. Absolute drivel. Boring rhetoric composed of dated plotlines and regurgitated tropes. None of this is frightening on any level. A complete waste of my time and energy. I thought rattling around inside this freaking dump would help me unleash a genuine piece of horror. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Damn.”

The doorbell chimes, giving him pause before hitting the delete button. After minimizing the screen, he rises, the dilapidated wood floors creaking underneath his heavy footsteps while walking through the small, intertwining rooms until arriving at the front door. Dust and dirt flitter in his wake, but he does not care. Beams of moonlight filter through the windows, casting shimmering rays across the panes and shabby curtains. For a split second, it looks like wraiths swaying in a macabre dance dressed in dingy white. When alive, his mother’s housekeeping skills were abysmal, and he inherited Patrice Nanette Rayburn’s aversion to cleaning. Besides, it would be a waste of time to clean and declutter since he plans on selling the shithole once it serves the purpose of inspiring the horror novel. He cannot wait to get out of Little Rock and back to Pensacola.

He opens the door, flicks on the light, and scans the ramshackle porch, searching for the delivery box of food. A crow squawks to his left—no, not a crow, a raven—a huge black thing with hints of blue, long skinny legs, and thick talons, perched on the railing. He waves his arms, and the creature flaps its wings, disappearing into the shadowy night.

George jumps when noticing a slender, elderly man to his right, standing inches away with a strange, vapid look on his wrinkled face, a grocery bag clasped in his hands. “Shit! I didn’t see you! Are you the delivery man?”

“Good evening, Mr. Rayburn. Pardon me for startling you, and no, I’m not. I’m your neighbor.”

George looks past the geezer and out toward the street. “Did you see a package in the driveway? I’m expecting a grocery delivery.”

“No packages, I’m afraid. This old neighborhood is in a bad part of town, and porch pirates are in full swing this year. Your mother had deliveries stolen all the time. Damn economy. If it’s any consolation, I brought beer and snacks.”

Staring at the man, who is at least two inches taller than his own six-foot-two frame, George sighs. He considers feigning a headache, yet the lure of free booze and something to fill his hungry belly overrides the irritation stemming from the impromptu visit. “What kind of beer? If it’s a bland domestic, you’ve wasted a trip.”

Cackling laughter, full of thick phlegm, assails his ears when the man steps inside. He has a weird, halting gait as he carefully picks his steps, missing the spots that creak. “Tonight’s a special occasion, so I sprung for dark IPA, toasted pita chips, and walnuts.”

George grimaces. Old dude stink—a disgusting combination of mothballs and personal body odor—wafts behind him as he makes his way toward the stuffy, sparsely decorated living room. Furrowing his brow at the audacity he just waltzed inside, uninvited, he tamps down his rising temper. “What are we celebrating?”

“Your newfound windfall and life trajectory, remember?”

“Actually, I don’t. We’ve never met.”

“Understandable. A grieving mind takes time to reset itself, so it is no wonder you don’t recall our interaction at the funeral. Name’s Chester Griffin. You said to come by anytime and we’d swap stories about Ms. Patrice, God rest her soul. You know, crack some cold ones while you pick my brain about recollections of her time as my neighbor, and your decision to stay on for a short time while writing a book.”

George searches his memories for conversing with the man but draws a blank. A weird sensation flutters throughout his chest—he remembers thinking those things inside his head at the funeral while playing the part of dutiful, mourning son—but not speaking them out loud. He ignores the sensation, attributing the confusion to hunger and lack of sleep. Dark, heavy beer, pita chips, and walnuts are his favorite. “I’m not one to turn down free beer, especially an IPA, so why not? Maybe I’ll have better luck writing when slightly buzzed and my grumbling guts are full. I was just reviewing what I’ve written so far, and it is awful.”

Chester groans while easing down onto the faded, floral print couch. His knees crackle and pop, and the sounds make George’s skin crawl. Dust flutters in his wake, yet he appears oblivious. “I like my beer in a frozen mug. Do you have one?”

“A mug, yes. Frozen, no. The fridge is on its last legs, and the freezer quit working last week.”

“I’ll set out the snacks if you would be so kind as to fetch the mug. I find it uncouth to drink beer straight from the bottle.”

Stifling the urge to roll his eyes, George nods once before heading to the kitchen, returning in seconds with a semi-clean mug. “Here you go, sir.”

“Please, call me Chester.”

“Only if you call me George.” Hiding the disgust from his expression as Chester’s gnarled, dirty fingers latch around the glass, he steps over and picks up the laptop, closes it, and sets it on the small end table before reaching for a bottle. “Oh, nice. This brand’s the best.”

Chester fills the mug to the rim and the weird, vapid look returns before he takes a sip. “I agree. Ms. Patrice mentioned it was her favorite as well. She certainly would have enjoyed sharing one with you before the cancer ate her insides away.”

Taken aback by the rude comment, George bites his lip, holding in a snarky comeback. Before the evening turns sour, he grabs a handful of walnuts and tosses them into his mouth, immediately spitting them out.

“Oh, my. I’m sorry. I swore Ms. Patrice told me walnuts were your favorite. Perhaps I misunderstood. Near the end of her time on this plane of existence, she had trouble speaking coherent sentences because of the multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, to remove the tumors in her esophagus, mouth, and tongue.”

George’s anger peaks. He doesn’t need to be reminded his mother died a slow, agonizing death from esophageal carcinoma, or the fact he did not come to visit her during her last three months alive. “Walnuts are my favorite, but something’s wrong with these. They taste like moldy, old dirt.”

“Really?” Chester leans forward, scoops up several in his claw-like fingers, tosses them into his mouth, frowns, yet swallows them. “Oh, yes, I see what you mean. Such a shame and waste. I’ll return them to the grocer and request a refund. I am so embarrassed.”

To remove the rancid taste, George twists off the cap and downs half the bottle. The glorious brew does its job, washing the last vestiges of curdled, perhaps rotted, walnuts from his mouth.

Chester’s watery brown eyes watch his every move before cutting over to the laptop. The vapid look vanishes, replaced by a curious gleam and a tinge of superiority. “I saw the medical van earlier this week, removing all her hospice equipment from the living area. Did you donate her clothes and sundry items as well?”

Nosy bastard. “Yes. The company took her clothing and toiletries, promising they would go to someone in need of such things.”

“How thoughtful of you.” Chester picks at the pita chips, crunching loudly on two. “Have you decided what to do with the house? It needs extensive cosmetic repair, but it has good bones. Of course, it also sits smack dab in the middle of an area people are fleeing from rather than moving to, so getting a decent price may prove problematic. At least there is no mortgage, so whatever you sell it for will be pure profit. I accompanied Ms. Patrice to the clerk’s office several months ago when she recorded the beneficiary deed. Smart woman. Saved you from having to endure the probate process.”

Aha! Lightbulb alert—this is the real reason he came to visit. “You want to buy it, don’t you? Cheap, since you know it’s not mortgaged.”

“I can assure you, I have zero interest in spending funds I do not have on something I do not need, so no. Just making pleasant conversation, that’s all.”

“For your children or grandchildren, then?” George presses.

“Nice enough thought, but I never married nor sired offspring. I believe we’ve established I am not interested in the residence, so let’s move on. Tell me why you believe the horror story is lackluster.”

“I never mentioned it was a horror story.” George’s eyebrows furrow. “Were you spying on me earlier?”

“No, it was simply an educated guess. You don’t appear the type who writes action or romance or science fiction or westerns. Horror suits you.”

Taking another long pull from the bottle until swallowing the last droplets, George remains quiet, contemplating whether that was a backhanded compliment or an indirect jab at his manhood. He concludes it was a mixture of both. He grabs another beer.

“Perhaps I can help you create something truly scary? I have been a fan of the genre for as long as I can remember.”

George takes several hefty gulps, savoring the heavy malt that deliciously combines toasted caramel with hints of coffee and chocolate. The annoyance at the old man’s intrusive visit and comments wanes. Maybe bouncing ideas off another person would be helpful. “I think the biggest hurdle I’m facing is crafting something unique. You know, a fresh take on fright?”

“I see how that can be quite a conundrum. Over the past centuries, what triggers horror, revulsion, and terror in the human psyche has certainly changed, especially with the creation of visual media. The days of writers exploring taboo societal issues or natural phenomenon to evoke fear through beautifully penned, yet spine-tingling literary fiction, are gone. Now, what passes as literature and so-called entertainment offerings comprise of thrown together boring tropes full of nothing but blood, gore, and outright snuff porn, profiting off the immense pain and torture of humans. Each new work tries to outdo the previous drivel by kicking up the disgust meter, but what gets lost in each new iteration is the art of telling a story. There is, however, a glimmer of hope about the new direction of the genre.”

“What’s that?”

“There is no reason for the gratuitous bloodshed and violence—no theme or plotline. No reason is the plotline.”

“Interesting perspectives. H. P. Lovecraft said the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown, but I believe the problem is twofold: mankind understands things previously unknown, and we have been desensitized to violence thrust upon us through various mediums and, therefore, fear is irrelevant.”

“Perhaps that is true on some levels, but historians are fond of saying genuine horror must contain a sense of evil able to be truly menacing, life-destroying, and antithetical to happiness. You are correct—with the advancement of knowledge, mankind understands the allegorical themes presented in the classic tales, but that does not negate the fact the world is still full of terrifying occurrences not fully comprehendible or controllable. Death, war, disease, poverty, natural disasters, cruel fate, maniacal dictators in control of weaponry capable of eradicating humanity, come to mind.”

Entranced by the old man’s insight, George tests a pita chip, realizes it is fine, downs a mouthful, swallows, and smiles. “Very interesting. Boring tropes—that’s one of my hurdles. All my research about crafting a story produced the same advice: write what you know, and apparently, I know nothing about horror other than what I’ve been subjected to over the years, so I’m just regurgitating the works of others, which makes me a hack.”

“Allow me to guess which boring trope you fell prey to?”


“Let’s see. The comatose soul wakes up only to discover they are trapped inside an apocalyptic disaster. A creepy child with uncanny, otherworldly abilities whom everyone fears. The mutant human or humanoid driven by kill-lust, impervious to weapons. Evil dolls capable of talking or tainted amulets or cursed trinkets. The possessive significant other who stalks without ceasing, destroying the thing he or she loved just so another cannot have them. A misunderstood scientist trying to explain the unexplainable to the masses, who refused to listen or heed his warnings and die from their lack of belief. Hmm, no, I do not believe those were your chosen portal to extract a tale. You either opted for a soul-damning haunting from the spirits of the recently departed or went with the nerd and promiscuous or weird girl who either dies from their lack of brain power or during sexual activity or uses their skills to survive whatever horror lurks in the dark woods.”

Stunned by the old man’s words and how on target they are, George chuckles. “Option two is the one. The handsome, yet slightly quirky, virgin gamer nerd finally gets the hot, promiscuous girl out on a date and they find themselves on the run from a serial killer.”

“Ah, yes, you are correct: that plotline has been done ad nauseum.” Chester removes a cigar and lighter from his shirt pocket. “Do you mind?”

“Do you?” George nods toward a pack of Marlboro Reds on the table.

“Not at all. Sometimes, ingesting nicotine gets the creative juices flowing. Look at us—still partaking in the same habit that ended Ms. Patrice’s life. It appears we are both believers in the adage—it won’t happen to me.”

“Guess so.”

Both men light up, each enjoying their respective vices in silence.

“Considering your athletic physique, I am surprised a strong male overpowering you and disrupting amorous intentions in the woods before taking your life, and the life of your lover, frightens you. I was leaning toward a good, old fashioned ghost story.”

George opens another beer while laughing, slightly surprised he is enjoying the conversation. “Write what you know, remember? Like all other imaginary monsters, I do not believe in ghosts, nor have I encountered one, so I have nothing to draw from. The serial killer in the woods is plausible and was the first thing that came to mind. I’m a gamer but I’ve never had any trouble with finding women to bed, so the fiction part is the nerdy male virgin finally going on a date.”

“Yet you are still coming up short in the creativity department. Perhaps you need to focus on what scares you?”

George rises and tosses two logs into the dirty, soot-filled fireplace before grabbing an old newspaper from the enormous pile left by his hoarder mother. He flicks the lighter and watches the yellow and orange flames lick across the dry wood. “That’s the other hurdle I cannot seem to jump. Nothing scares me.”

Chester lets out an incredulous gasp. “Come now, George. If you want to be an artist, you must confront painful truths about yourself before expecting others to find your creative endeavors believable no matter the genre, but particularly horror. Fear is deeply interwoven into the human psyche; necessary for survival of all species; a primitive, ingrained response meant to defend against danger. Are you not afraid of what lies beyond, if anything at all? Will we cease to exist once inside the dark grave as the Earth reclaims our flesh? Is death truly the end? If the Law of Conservation of Mass is correct, and matter can be neither created nor destroyed, only capable of changing form, will we be aware of the change, and exactly what will we change into? Is there a life-force inside us—a soul if you will—that continues outside of the mortal body? Those questions were your sweet mother’s greatest fears—facing the unknown—alone. No one is impervious to fear.”

“Sorry to disappoint you.”

“You appeared frightened when you noticed me standing on the porch.”

“Jump scares don’t count—they are instinctual actions by the body when surprised. In entertainment mediums, they are used to engage the audience and elicit a heightened sense of connection to the victim before they die. Nothing more, nothing less. I’m not impervious to fear. As you mentioned earlier, fear is an inborn genetic trait, and all life possesses a form of it, but I am unimpressed by it. I already know monsters, aliens, ghosts, goblins, witches, vampires, werewolves, all other fictional ilk do not exist and are not lurking in the shadows, waiting to shred me to pieces and feast upon my organs while I scream in agony. I am fully aware the world isn’t a safe place and death is inevitable, so why fear circumstances out of my control? Nothing I partake of or abstain from, eat, ingest, how fast I drive, how many vitamins or magic youth elixirs I gobble down, will gain me one extra minute when my allotted time ends, whether from the ravages of time on the flesh, by the hand of another, disease, car accident, natural disaster, or hell, even by suicide. Benjamin Franklin said death and taxes are the only certainties in life, and I agree with him, so my motto is simple: Live my best life by sucking every drop of tantalizing juice from the tree of life until it runs dry.”

“Nice speech and interesting theories, but I do not believe you.”

George finds the response humorous for some weird reason. “Why?”

Chester’s features harden, making his skin appear like marble. “If you fear nothing, why did you allow your mother to suffer alone without being here by her side when she needed the comfort of her only child the most? That was a rhetorical question. Ms. Patrice provided the answer—you feared the emotions watching her die would evoke and being confronted with your own mortality. You were too scared to see the monster cancer, the surgeries, and the treatment, turned her into.”

George bursts out laughing. “Wow—if that’s what she told you, she was way off base.”

The flames in the fireplace dwindle and disappear as frigid, rank air pumps out of the vents. The shabby curtains flutter in response. George curses under his breath—he’ll have to shell out some of his inheritance to replace the busted heater before listing the property and contact an exterminator. Obviously, whatever vermin died isn’t inside the walls—it’s trapped in the ductwork.

Chester clears his throat. “So, what was your reason for leaving Ms. Patrice to grapple alone with the ravages of cancer and her impending death?”

Rising to his feet, noticing he is a bit unsteady; George grabs another beer. “No reason. I just didn’t.”

“That is a bald-faced lie.”

The shift in tone and demeanor cause George to glance over at the old man. He looks paler, thinner, and more fragile than when he sat down, maybe because of the sudden temperature drop. “Why do you care whether I had a reason or not? Wait…did you two have something going on besides being just neighbors? Is this your weird way of trying to make me feel bad for letting the cold-hearted woman who never wanted a child or all the responsibilities motherhood entails, die alone? Is that what this little visit is all about?”

“We did not have an intimate relationship. I do, however, know the intimate details of her life, including her personal struggles, but no, I am not here to shame you.”

After downing the entire bottle, George locks gazes with the annoying geezer. “Then why are you here?”

“I already told you: to discuss your newfound windfall and life trajectory, which is what we are doing. Currently, I’m offering my expansive knowledge to assist you in crafting a truly horrifying tale.”

“No, that was just a ruse to segue over to shaming me. I’m impervious to that emotion, thanks to a woman who never showed me affection, never offered an encouraging word, wasn’t concerned about providing food on the table, a birthday card, Christmas present, or cared about anyone except herself and the countless men she brought home. I lied earlier—I did have a reason for staying away: I fucking hated her and wanted her to suffer—alone—just like she did to me when I was little. Had I shown up, I wouldn’t have been able to stop laughing at her expense. The only reason I’m here now is to take possession of the money and house, which I consider a small down payment of what she owed me for all the pain and suffering she inflicted on me. Thanks for the beer and chips. The walnuts—not so much. Time to call it a night, Chester.”

A car horn blares outside, followed in seconds by the chime of the doorbell. Chester doesn’t appear to notice—he’s too focused on staring at George, face devoid of any discernable emotion.

“Ah! There’s the Instacart delivery, and your cue to exit without this evening getting any weirder.”

George bumped into the wall, twice, on his way to the front door. Several beers downed in quick succession on an empty stomach messed with his equilibrium. He opens the door and snatches the two bags off the porch.

Turning left, he heads toward the kitchen and calls over his shoulder, “Lock the door behind you.”

No response.

Salivating like a Pavlov dog at the contents, he sets the bags on the counter, grabs the bread and sandwich meat, rolls it up, and shoves half into his mouth. His throat and tongue feel thick, and his stomach does a weird flip-flop a millisecond before burning pain radiates from his neck, shooting daggers straight into his brain. The intensity makes his entire body tremble and knees buckle while choking. Spitting it out, he gapes at the hunk of partially chewed food on the floor.

Several gray maggots wriggle and squirm in between the chunks of bread and meat. The disgusting sight makes him projectile vomit all over the stained linoleum.

Shaking and unsteady on his feet, he makes his way to the living room since he hasn’t heard a sound, which means Chester is still in the house. The last thing he needs is for the old bastard to see him weak or ill, which he would probably enjoy. “I wasn’t kidding when I said the night’s over. Time to go.”

His voice sounds odd—gravelly—as though speaking with a mouth full of rocks.

Rounding the corner into the room, he stops short. “What the fuck?

Chester stands next to hearth but he’s no longer wearing the outfit he had on before, and his head is inches away from the ceiling. A long, ebony robe made from what looks like feathers covers his entire body, and a weird glow surrounds his face, making the exposed skin appear translucent. The edges of the robe flutter like wings, drawing George’s attention.

The old man’s feet aren’t touching the ground.

Fury burns through George’s brain. “What kind of hallucinogen did you give me? It was in the walnuts, wasn’t it? I knew they tasted weird. Wait, you ate them, too, so that means you put something in the ductwork. Is that why it smelled so bad earlier? I bet that’s it! And you were spying on me and that’s how you knew what I was writing. When I come off this trip, I’m going to tear you apart, you lowlife, scum-sucking piece-of-shit! You did have a thing with Patrice, didn’t you? Is that the reason you came here tonight? You wanted to make me pay for not being here for her? Did she ask you to torment me after her death?”

Without making a sound, Chester glides over, eyes no longer watery brown. Now, they are vibrant, glowing sable. “If you desire a reason, I’m here to usher in your reckoning since the tantalizing juice from your tree of life is dry.”

The second the words reach George’s ears; his body is shoved forward until inches away from the large mirror above the fireplace. The horrendous stench from before envelopes his entire being. In the reflection is his mother’s destroyed face staring at him from black, lifeless eyes. Her once thick, honey-colored hair is matted; skin mottled and sunken in the spots where the tumors were removed.

The mouth opens, and her tongue and teeth are missing from inside the putrid hole. “I have the answers, now, my son. We do not cease to exist once inside the dark grave as the Earth reclaims our flesh. Death is only the beginning. Matter can be neither created nor destroyed, only capable of changing form, and I am aware of the excruciating change. There is a life-force inside us that continues outside of the mortal body and pays for our mistakes in one plane of existence while trapped in another—forever.”

The image shifts and now it is his face staring back, yet the damage remains. He is almost unrecognizable. The pain from earlier when in the kitchen reignites, sending sharp, deep pangs throughout his body. He tries to move away from the foulness but is frozen in place.

Suddenly, Chester is behind him, enveloping his body in the confines of the feathery robe. Tears pour down George’s cheeks while recalling the title of his story – Death Arrives on Black Wings.

Oh, shit. He isn’t mom’s neighbor. He isn’t human. I’m not hallucinating, nor have I been drugged. This is really happening!

Foul, hot breath grazes his ear as Chester whispers, “Did I succeed in creating something truly scary?”

George nods through his tears, mentally willing himself to fight off whatever drug courses through his veins.

“Good. Time to take you to the next level: petrified.”

With a loud whoosh of the robe, George is wracked with debilitating pain, sorrow, grief, remorse, and fear as he watches his body collapse onto the floor, dead before the head smashes onto the edge of the fireplace. Loud, phlegmy cackles surround him as he is transported on black wings to what he truly does fear—what awaits him on the next plane of existence.

Rating: 5.50/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Ashley Fontainne
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Ashley Fontainne

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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