The Baggedy Man

📅 Published on February 25, 2021

“The Baggedy Man”

Written by N.M. Brown
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: 9.86/10. From 7 votes.
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My Aunt Mel was one of the strongest women I ever knew.  She stepped in to raise my little brother Keith and me after we lost our mother to ovarian cancer.   Not many other people would have done the same, especially having to step in to raise children that were so young.  I was only seven when our mother Rona died; Keith had just turned three.  I don’t remember much about our father other than that our mother had left him shortly after Keith turned one.  Mel was barely out of her twenty-fifth year herself when it all happened.

I’d been walking this Earth for forty years since that day, with Melody being the only parental figure I ever knew.  The only memories I had of my mother were short and fleeting, always fuzzy around the edges and hard to fully grasp.  I remember that she had a beautiful smile, and her hair always smelled like green apples.  My heart always held a soft spot for my Keith; he has no memories of her whatsoever.  He only knows what she looks like through photos and a few low-quality home movies, one of which he wasn’t even present in due to the fact that he hadn’t been born yet.  In his mind, Aunt Mel was our only mother…and would always be his mom.

Anyway, I’m getting off track.  The reason I’m sharing this bit of information is that I had just gotten the unfortunate news that our aunt wasn’t doing so good.  Keith and I hadn’t talked for months at that point, but we came together and both agreed to take a trip to see her.  We wanted to spend her last days with her so she wouldn’t be alone – as alone as one could be in a fully staffed hospice, that is. The point is, we wanted her to be with family when the end came.

We stayed in the part of her house that wasn’t being used…hadn’t been used in ages, actually.  Our aunt stopped being able to live on her own some time ago.  Thinking back on it, my stomach got sick to come to terms with the fact that my brother and I had given up on her so easily.  We didn’t have large families to care for, and it’s not like either one of our jobs was groundbreaking or world-saving.  We should have done more, tried anything to make her comfortable and able to live in her own home for as long as medically possible.  We didn’t, though.

The house and land were paid for.  Keith and I are her only living relatives, so we used the hide-a-key and let ourselves in.  I was surprised that it was still there, buried under layers of windblown dirt and dust underneath the sun-faded welcome mat.

“Albert!  How is the electricity still on in this place?” Keith asked with an awkward smirk.  “Aunt M hasn’t lived here in, what, three years?  Maybe four?”

“I honestly have no idea.  Maybe the bill is withdrawn on its own from her bank, one of those autopay deals,” I replied.  Our conversation was soon interrupted by the groaning sound of the hinges on the front door, screaming in agony from months of inactivity.  The smell of lingonberry and vanilla overwhelmed us as we stepped inside, taking me back to when I was a small boy.  It’s funny how certain scents are assigned to things.  I’d never be able to smell that scent without automatically thinking of my favorite aunt and the house we grew up in.

It was obvious that Keith could feel it too by his body language and the expression on his face.  He seemed to shake off the sadness, a quizzical expression replacing the one from moments before. “How long are you here for?”

“Until she goes,” I replied with a wince.  “It means a lot to me to spend her final days with family.  Especially after all she’s done for us.  Did you have any problems taking off work?”

“That, my dear brother, would imply that I have a job to take off for, which I do not.  I’m here as long as you are.  We’re in this together.  Sorry, it’s been so long.  It’s just…you know…I’ve be-”

“Been wrapped up in your own problems,” I finished for him.  “I know…I know. It’s fine; you’re here now.  Besides…we both let her down, didn’t we?”

We unpacked and cleaned up a little before getting ready to leave to see Aunt Melody.  The care center she was placed in wasn’t very far from her house, but we selfishly got lunch beforehand anyway.  That seemed to be a pattern with us.  Upon the realization of this, I felt so guilty for stalling that I could barely finish my food.

“Come on.”  Keith stood up.  “We shouldn’t put this off any longer.”  Once we were in the car, all conversation went silent.  I could barely stand the tension, so I brought up something, if not the only thing, that I knew we were both thinking.

“Hey…it’s been a while since I’ve seen her.  I’m dreading seeing what she’ll be like – how she’ll sound, what she’ll look like.  What if she doesn’t even remember us?  Do you think it’s bad?” I asked, not tearing my gaze away from the passenger window.

Keith grimaced slightly before coming up with a reply.  “Well, it’s not gonna be good, I can tell ya that.  As much as I hate to say it, we need to be prepared for anything.  Mentally, I mean.”

But nothing could possibly prepare us for the state we found her in.

My aunt had always been one of the most beautiful women in our town.  Keith’s friends all used to go crazy over her through his teenage years.  She had lush, gorgeous blond hair with the prettiest glittering, green eyes.  She exuded charm and grace while maintaining a ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude.  And it was easy for her.  After all that she’d lost, she still made it look easy to be the warmest-hearted person in any room.  People fed off that, were almost addicted to it.

Her hospital room seemed so cold and empty.  It loomed over her suffocatingly small frame, her pale skin the only hint of color among the stark white of the walls, curtains and sheets.  I can remember learning about the meaning of a rose’s color during a summer job when I was in high school.  There’s a common misconception that red roses are for love.  While this isn’t necessarily untrue, the pink rose is meant for love.  With red representing passion, yellow representing friendship, admiration or apology, and the white rose…the white rose resembled the grace and sadness of death.  That’s what her room reminded me of, a sick pit representing the entrance into death.

The woman we saw laying before us now was a heart-breaking, empty shell of a person.  Her skin was so thin and veiny, like a tissue paper road map. Deep, eggplant-colored bruises consumed her left arm and chest, skin injuries that her body didn’t have the strength to heal anymore, not like it used to.

Long, silver hair hung limp and ragged over her bony shoulders.  Her chest seemed to fight every breath it tried to take.  Her wheezing quickened as she attempted to get Keith and I’s attention, tapping her fingernails on the bed railing until one of us grabbed her hand to assure her that we were there.  Her family had arrived, and she wasn’t alone anymore.

“We’re here, Aunt M,” I cajoled with a warm smile as I sat at the foot of her hospital bed.

“Kids…I need to talk to you.  Please, come and listen.  There’s something you need to know.”  Her voice was so frail, barely above a whisper’s breath.

“Need to know what, Aunt Mel?  What’s the matter?  You should just rest.  Whatever it is doesn’t matter now,” Keith assured her as he stood at her right side. His large hand held her frail one delicately, and I could tell there were tears in his eyes.

“No.  I need to say this.  Your mother…she never wanted me to tell you.”

“Tell us what?” Keith and I asked in unison.  “Whatever it was, I’m sure it’s okay.  We love you.  She’s so proud of you for raising us,” a soothing voice that I don’t quite recognize says through my lips.

“My cabinet…go look in my cabinet there.”  I looked around the room, and there was no cabinet.  The only thing in here besides her medical equipment is an empty television stand with a small drawer attached for a remote that isn’t there.  Figuring this is what she meant, I opened the drawer and saw an audio CD.  The words ‘Albert and Keith’ were written across it in black marker.

“Take that back home and play it.  But…you must be together,” Aunt Mel rasped.  Her voice had always carried the hum of angels, but now was ravaged by the unsuccessful treatment given to kill the cancer.

She was in and out of consciousness for the rest of our visit.  After a couple of hours of switching hand-holding at her bedside, we left for the night, promising the nurse we’d be back in the morning.  There was an unspoken anxiety shared between us during the ride home.

“Alright, Albert, I know there’s a stereo around here somewhere.”

“Are you sure you wanna just dive right into this?  From what it sounded like, this could be about Mom.  I dunno if I’m ready for all that.  First Aunt M’s dying, now this?” I snapped.  “Sorry, this is all just a lot right now.”

Sure enough, Aunt Mel had a CD player in her bedroom.  With how excited my brother was, I was heavily surprised he didn’t ask us to play it in the car on the way home.  I guess it was understandable.  He was a lot younger when she died and didn’t know anything of Mom other than stories he’d been told.  I sat on the edge of her bed and lit a cigarette.

Keith’s eyes bulged as he stared at me incredulously. “Al, are you serious? We just got done visiting a woman we love who is dying from cancer…and you’re just gonna light the hell up?”

“What?!?  She didn’t have lung cancer, Keith!  Don’t give me a hard time; I need this, okay?!  You’re lucky I didn’t bring the other smokable to prepare for this.”

His eyebrows shot up in surprise.  “Now, that is something I wouldn’t have minded.”

We turned the stereo on and placed the CD in the slot.  Static greets us almost immediately.

“Hey, kids.  Your mother was my sister, and I loved her very much.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her.  She always wanted to protect you.  She didn’t want you to grow up in fear.  If you’re hearing this now, it most likely means that I’m gone.  Or at least, the parts that made me…well, me, are.  Hopefully if it’s a life support situation, you went ahead and pulled that plug.

Aunt Mel let out one of the most youthful laughs I’d heard from her in years before continuing.

“You know I don’t wanna go out like that.  Anyway…when you both were little, your mother was renting a small two-bedroom house.  This was back when you all lived way across the country, near the Pacific coast.  It wasn’t anything special, but it had a garage big enough for her to park her car in when she worked late.  You two had to share a room, your mother had her own room, and everyone shared a bathroom.  Albert, you remember that place, don’t you?  There was that little fence that you’d always kick when you’d get mad.  You’d do it every single time you got called in from playing outside.  I kept telling her one day you were gonna break your damned foot.  That’d teach ya, huh?  Keith, baby, you were probably much too young to have any memories there. A lot of your baby pictures were taken there but, well…I’ll tell you more about that in a minute.

“Anyway, as I was saying, you didn’t live there for very long; maybe eight months to a year at most.  Things were fine when you first moved in.  Your father had just left you all.  It was your mom’s first time ever living on her own.  Add being a single parent to the mix and it was chaos on her.  But I tell ya what, she did the best she could.  She loved you kids with all she had.”

Tears formed in my eyes despite myself.  Why couldn’t our aunt have ever told us this when we needed to hear it?  Why wait until now?

“About two months into the lease, I started getting these phone calls from her.  She’d call in the early hours of the morning in hysterics thinking that your father was breaking into your house when she wasn’t home.  Things didn’t end on good terms with your parents, as much as I hate to say.  Rona was very afraid of him; almost paranoid.

“Then, a couple of months after that, things started getting moved around.  Her keys wouldn’t be where she left them.  Your toys would disappear from your room and reappear in hers.  I tried to tell her she was just distracted.  She worked very hard to give you a good life without a father.  It was easily understandable for her to misplace things absentmindedly.

“But eventually, things started to go missing altogether.  Albert, you poor thing, you used to get in so much trouble for stealing food and snacks out of the kitchen.  Every time you were asked about it, you would cry inconsolably, swearing it wasn’t you.  She was wrong.  I know she felt bad for that at the end.

“I remember finally agreeing to stay with you for a while to see things for myself.  Your mom needed help, and honestly, I missed my sister.  I would have taken any opportunity to spend more time in her life.

“We were catching up at the kitchen table, looking through old photo albums.  The more that we looked through, the more we realized that most of the pictures of you both were missing…especially yours, Keith.  You gotta remember, this was back before everyone kept all their pictures on their phones.  Pictures were printed out at photo labs, brought home and saved.  There were no backups.  Once those pictures were gone…they were gone.

“We called the cops and made reports, but your father had alibis.  He had an accountable life, interacted with a lot of people at his steady job, not to mention lived three states over at this point.  There wasn’t really much they could do with no evidence and even less proof.

“Everything changed when Rona took an unexpected sick day from work.  The schedule hadn’t changed since they moved in.  Rona always had weekends off and worked weekdays from 6:00 am to 3:00 pm, even holidays.  Nobody was supposed to be there.

“Due to her being sick, she still took you kids to daycare.  You both were dropped off like normal so she could go back home and rest.  Sleep it off kinda.  Keith, you’re like that too when you’re sick.  You turn into a big koala.  You’d sleep sixteen hours straight if I letcha.  Jesus, I keep getting off track.  There’s just so much I wanna say, so much that I haven’t been able to say…until now.

“When your mother arrived home, she walked in on the person in the kitchen.  He was eating fruit they had bought at the market the day before; a pomegranate.  No one can say what happened for sure in that kitchen, but I can tell you what it looked like from what the officers had found.

Keith reached out a trembling hand and stopped the tape.  “I need to take a leak and get a drink.”

“Do you want me to leave it off?  I understand if you do, I can listen to the rest in private if you’d like.”

He looked at me and paused momentarily before shaking his head, his face aged with the seriousness of the recent events.  “Naw, I think I’ll be alright.”

We reconvened minutes later, recharged and mentally armed for whatever it was we were about to hear.  Her voice clicked through the static after a few moments of silence, as if she was waiting for us to return.  “She was attacked with the kitchen knife that he was using to cut the fruit in half.  Her body was mutilated so savagely that at first, I was convinced it was your dad.  Even after all his alibis and current location.  Who else could have done something that brutal to someone?  Rona had no enemies.

“The truth of the matter was much worse than I imagined.  Investigators caught the man, a transient, a few miles away shortly after the crime.  And honestly, he wasn’t hard to miss.  The man had been morbidly obese earlier in life and must have shed the weight too rapidly for the ruined elasticity of his skin to keep up with.  Folds of skin slumped lazily atop other folds, until eventually they formed an entire person- even all the way up to his face.  You could hardly tell what color the poor bastard’s eyes were.

“They said he refused a lawyer upon interrogation and just confessed to everything outright; I guess thinking maybe it would lead to absolution from the death penalty.  That was fine by me, if I’m honest. I could kill him ten dozen times every day, and I’d still go to bed at night without a sister.”

The track interrupted as she broke into a fit of hacking coughs.  I took the same opportunity to press pause on the stereo that my brother had.  “Keith…what exactly do you remember from our time living in that house?”

His face scrunched into a look of consternation, much like it did he was a young boy.  “Well, not a lot really.  I’m sorry.”

I held my hands up gently in assurance.  “No, it’s okay.  Something hit me just now, and I’m hoping it doesn’t mean anything.”  The skin of my face felt like sandpaper against my fingers as I rubbed the bridge of my nose and forehead.  “When you were super little, I’m talking like three or four years old if that, you would talk about someone you called the Baggedy Man.  Everyone assumed it was an imaginary friend.  Hell, I had one myself when I was that age, so naturally Mom didn’t think much of it.  Except whoever this was wasn’t your friend.  You never said if it was a person or a monster, but whatever it was, you were scared to death of it.  You cried for nearly a week because he said he stole your favorite stuffed animal.  Mom won it at a church carnival when she was pregnant with you.  You named it Wolfegard or somthing.  Remember?”

The skin of his forehead grew thick with wrinkles as he struggled to collect a memory formed before his life-lasting memories were mature enough to take hold.  “I- I remember the wolf, but… the Baggedy Man, you said?  Turn it back on; maybe I’ll remember more.”

I resumed play, this time the audio picking up exactly where it had left off previously.  “Rona had stopped for gas one night real late on her way home after covering for someone who had called out.  The man had climbed in the back of her car and covered himself up with clothes to hide.  You know how messy your mom always kept her car, Albert.  If you remember, that is.  They made it all the way home, and she never knew he was back there.

“He waited until everyone went to sleep that night, crawled out of the car, and entered the house.  Your house had a crawl space just underneath the back room for storage and whatnot.  Rona never went down there because she didn’t have anything to store and didn’t like small spaces.  It was a wonder he fit under there, judging by what they had told me.  Every time I thought about it, it reminded me of an octopus.  They can compress their entire body to be able to squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter.  Maybe it was a nickel…now I can’t be sure.

“The most horrifying thing about it all was what investigators found in that crawl space.  He had pictures…dozens of them.  They were all over the walls and ceiling, mainly of Keith.  He had gotten himself a blanket and pillow out of the trash when she threw away your old ones.  There were scattered food wrappers and empty water bottles everywhere also.

“After I fought your father and gained guardianship of you both, police officers told me that there was evidence to suggest he had been living under there for more than four months, right under Rona’s nose.  You all were living with a murderer the whole time and didn’t even know.  He ended up getting thirty-five years to life due to a mental illness technicality.  That stuff was all new back then; unprecedented. 

“Now I hope you can understand why I didn’t tell you.  Even at the ages you are now, all grown up, it’s still something that I don’t think you would ever feel better about knowing about this man, this…Terry Hayes.  It’s been tough on me throughout the years to keep things from you.  I love you both so very much.  Please…forgive me and know that we love you.  And that, I finally get to see my sister.”

The recording stopped just as the phone rang.  Aunt Melody had just passed away in her sleep.  I had been so wrapped up in mentally exploring the contents of the CD that I couldn’t even remember my last words to her.  After all of our efforts, she had, in fact, died alone, without someone to hold her hand.

My effort to suppress my tears completely betrayed me at this point.  Even though I was sitting next to the only living member of my remaining family, I felt so hopeless and alone.  My heart ached for my mother, for us, and, most of all, for Aunt Mel.  Our whole lives, we thought she was keeping information from us to be selfish.  All she wanted out of life was to protect us.   I actually accused her of destroying our family pictures as an angsty teenager.  My high school project required a photographic family tree, and I didn’t have any adult pictures for it.  When I asked Aunt Mel about it and she couldn’t help, I flipped out on her.

I looked over to my brother.  His face was as white as a sheet.  His massive hands trembled.  He chewed on his lower lip, something he used to do as a child when he was afraid of unsure of what to do.

“Albert…”  He turned to me, tears in his eyes.  “I’m freaking out.  I need help.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked him.  “I’m just as freaked out as you are here!  She was my mom too.”

“No!  You don’t understand,” he yelled, eyes bulging wide with fear.  “A guy just moved in next door to me; he was an older guy, maybe like sixty-five or seventy.  He introduced himself to me when he first moved in.  There were surgical scars on his arms, neck and legs.  I got a bad feeling about him from the second I laid eyes on him.  Al…he said his name was Terry Hayes!”

I offered to let Keith stay with me for a while for the sake of not being alone, if nothing else, a temporary solution that would quickly find itself cemented into permanence.  He was in no certain hurry to get back home, but it couldn’t be avoided forever.  He needed to gather up some clothes, pack a bag with belongings with important papers, clean out the fridge of contents spoiled from days of neglect, stuff like that.

The stain-splotched box sitting on the front porch was spotted the second we pulled into his driveway.  It looked weathered and worn, the stains that had leaked through to the outside resembling smeared molasses.  The smell assaulted us the second we opened our doors, making my stomach wrench instantly.

Keith was on the phone with the police before I had even approached the porch stairs.  I seemed to take them one at a time in slow motion, as if each of my senses was begging me to slow down, screaming at me not to open it.  I raised the hem of my collar over my nose in vain; nothing in Heaven of Hell was going to be able to keep the smell away.  But I refused to listen.  Even as Keith moved the phone away from his mouth and shouted at me to stay away from it, I refused to listen.

Splatters of what looked like old blood and meat peppered the underside flaps, smearing as they lifted away in order to introduce the inside contents to the outside world.  A guttural scream sprang from my throat as I beheld the mess before me.

Inside the box, lying on straw, was the rotted form of an animal.  It looked like the worst case of taxidermy I had ever seen in my life, not that I was an expert.  Thick ropes of black cord joined rotted, bare skin together at each and every seam.  Black buttons were fastened over where its eyes should have…would have been.  I shouldn’t have done it; I knew I shouldn’t have done it.  But nonetheless, I picked it up, rolling it over disgustedly in my hands.   Upon closer inspection, I noticed tiny tufts of stuffing leaking from underneath the arms of the…thing.

I pulled the pocketknife out of my side pocket, carefully peeling the rotted flesh away from what laid beneath. The plush fur beneath was stained with the same color of rot that overtook the edges of the seams.  But in between the mar and gore, specks of a faded, baby blue peeked out.  I let it falls from my hands, cringing at the sickening squelch it made as it hit the wooden slats beneath my feet.  I recognized it; although it had been decades, I recognized it.

Terry had taken the folds of skin that were removed and covered Keith’s old stuffed wolf with them, as a message of foreboding that, hopefully, neither of us would ever figure out.

Rating: 9.86/10. From 7 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by N.M. Brown
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: N.M. Brown

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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