A Short Horror Story
He stood, rain streaming down his face like sorrow-fuelled tears, hair in thick saturated clumps, and body trembling like a palm tree in a violent storm.
“Dew we hav tu gow in ther?” Dan's younger brother asked, his pronunciation indicative of his age.
“I think so Jack,” Dan worried, anxiety stirring in his bowels.
They both stood side by side in the heavy downpour, freezing, both fearing the same thing. That they would have to go inside the manor, the one that was supposedly haunted by an old lady.
“I'm scayered,” Jack moaned, lip shaking.
“I am too, but you want your skateboard back don't you?” Dan asked. He nodded his head gingerly.
“Dad will be real mad if we go back without it. He spent a lot of money on that and you have only had it a week, we need to get it back,” Dan advised, frantically searching for another way around this nightmare, but feared there was none.
“'an wee buy a new wun?” he asked, not quite at the age to understand the value of money just yet.
“Neither one of us have enough cash to do that Jack, it's okay, I'll take care of you, I promise,” Dan squeezed Jack's hand as they stared at the wooden building.
The street was drenched, glossed in salt water, moonlight bouncing off almost every surface. A row of large houses with pristine lawns, and white picket fences, except the house the two young boys were stood in front of, that was ready to fall apart. Dan and Jack, both decked out in rain-ravaged jeans and jackets, were currently illuminated by the street light, but very soon would have to leave its circle of yellow safety, and tread into the uncertainty of the darkness.
“Come on, let's get this over with,” Dan said, taking a step in his chunky skater trainers.
Jack reluctantly followed, like a dog being dragged by its liege. Their footwear slapped on the pavement, spattering in puddles as they approached the rusty iron gate. Dan curled his fingers around the corroded shaft, easing it forward, as it creaked into the night with a banshee-like howling. Jack whimpered at the gate's raucous, pulling back harder on Dan's arm, leaning against it.
“It's okay Jack,” Dan turned to face his little brother, “It's only the gate making loud noises.”
He peered at the gate, and then back at Dan, and started walking again. Both of them followed the gravelled path up to the front door, passing overgrown grass on either side of them. Their torn denim jeans dragged on the golden grains as they neared the steps ascending to the door. Each wooden beam strained under their weight, having clearly been ravaged by termites. Dan worried that the manor may collapse with them in it, it didn't take a genius to determine it was on its last legs, ready to fall to a splintery death. Why didn't we just play in our own street? Why did we have to play further? Dan hated himself for being incapable of telling his little brother no. But he assumed it was a side effect of their mother having been killed recently, and not wanting to deny his sibling anything that would make him happy. Dan was only sixteen, but even he understood things that perhaps he shouldn't.
They reached the top, both a bag of nerves, only Dan concealed it better, with a clenched jaw and stiff face. As Dan twisted the ice cold doorknob and nudged it open, Jack moaned again.
He turned to his little brother and bent down, “Jack, listen, we need to be brave now, okay? This is just a scary looking house, ghosts aren't real. So can you be a brave little soldier for me?” Dan asked, smiling.
He briefly considered saying, 'Be brave for mummy', but even Dan knew that was likely to detonate an explosion of tears. Jack lowered his head slightly, but his eyes looked up at Dan, “I gewes,” he mumbled, unsettled. At that instant Jack was so cute and innocent, it killed Dan to have to drag his brother into the house with him. But outside in the dark, in this weather, with potential weirdos and kidnappers, there was no way Dan was not taking him along.
Dan stood straight, looking ahead at the open door, and the dark abyss beyond it. A heaviness weighed down on his chest, crushing his windpipe, and making him wheeze slightly. Against all his better judgement, he moved through the threshold with his younger companion. Moonlight shone through the broken glass of windows, and creeped through ones that had wooden planks nailed across them. They hesitantly walked on, scanning everywhere for the skateboard's location. It could be near the front window it shattered through, but if it landed on the wheels, Dan knew how far it was capable of travelling, but prayed it had bumped into something, halting its journey. Their eyes flicked from the ripped sofas to the peeling wallpaper, dusty light fixtures, and faded rugs. That was when Dan was blessed with an idea to speed things up, and get them out of there sooner.
“Wot ar yu doen?” Jack asked as Dan let his hand go, fumbling in his jacket pocket, retrieving his phone.
“The video on this phone is amazing, we will see better with the night vision light,” Dan exclaimed, eyes glued to the screen, fingers dotting and swiping, until a bright beam glowed from the front of it.
This harsh lighting exposed the filth that layered every surface, the dust, grit, and cobwebs nestled into every corner.
“Ewwww,” Jack protested, eyes darting and shoulders hunched in disgust.
Dan coughed as he stepped into a living room, noticing a rotten smell, like sweat, faeces and expired milk, mixed together in an old blender. Ignoring the burning of his nostrils, he shone the beam to the front window, jagged edges still clung onto the frame, wind whistling past them. A shard of glass crunched underfoot as he tread closer.
“Be careful where you stand Jack, watch the glass,” Dan protectively advised, as he trailed his camera down to the floor at the fragments scattered around his feet. Dan followed the pieces, shrinking in size, and becoming scarce, hoping the green wheeled board would be close. In his hunt he saw Jack looking towards the living room wall, transfixed on one spot, his eyes were wide in terror and mouth agape, as if he had seen a ghost.
“Jack?” Dan whispered, goosebumps crawling down his arms.
“Jack what's wrong?” Dan asked, remaining quiet, but more insistent this time.
Jack's arm rose, and he pointed towards a fireplace. It had a cracked mirror above it, and a collection of silver candle holders on the mantel, but nothing obscenely scary was there. Dan was confused. “Jack, what is it?” he asked, tiptoeing to him slowly, crouching at his side.
Dan whipped forwards and his eyes fearfully darted around the room, heart racing, looking for this lady. But there was still nothing, to Dan's enormous relief.
“Jack, there is nothing there,” he replied, eyes still rolling around, searching, unable to fully settle.
When his peripheral vision detected movement from his phone's screen. He looked at the live video recording to see an old woman dressed as a clown looking into the camera, grinning.
Dan froze in horror, stuck on the screen, that picked up something the human eye couldn't detect. Her grey scraggly hair with spots of paint, pruned face, overdrawn red lips, black circled eyes, and a set of- Fangs!
Dan's face went numb, and Jack continued to stand, equally as paralysed. The woman's mouth was crammed with sharp fangs, and a lizard-like tongue hissing behind them. This snapped Dan out of his fright-induced coma, as he grabbed Jack's hand and ran for the front door. They scurried like rats down a sewer, but as they got to the door, it slammed shut. Jack instantly begin to sob, Dan also felt the need to express his anxiety by wailing. But being the protective older brother he had to keep Jack safe, as he had promised. On his mother's death bed she had told Dan to always look after his younger brother, keep him from harm. Her words rang in his mind like a soothing lullaby, giving him strength to carry Jack away from the door and ascend the staircase behind them. Jack's cries echoed in Dan's ears as he bounced up each step, worried the lady may grab his foot, or magically appear in front of them. Black and white photos hung on the wall quaking as he travelled to the first floor. Dan turned down a corridor, kicked open a door at the end, and took his brother inside.
He lowered Jack to the ground and closed the door, being sure to lock it. The light on his phone still glowed, and he used it to scan the room. A children's room, similar to theirs, but one that hadn't been used in decades. Lint atop everything, except a blue quilt crumpled on a single bed near a bedside table, and chest of drawers. Dirty, broken toys lay on the floor below it, crayons piled into a corner underneath drawings that were pinned to the wall.
“Iz shee guna geyt uws?” Jack hushed, standing near the bed.
“Not if we stay quiet,” Dan responded, examining the rest of their current confinement, racking his brain for a way out. When the memory of the skateboard careening through the glass, spidering cracks along it before breaking the translucent pane, erupted in his head. In because of the window, we need to go out the window! Dan waded through the mesh of toys and books, reaching the window. The glass was covered in tiny hand prints which sent chills crawling down his spine, a thick build up of muck clouding visibility of the street out front. But as he tapped the window with his finger, he knew it would break easily, he just needed something heavy enough. Dan turned, looking around, more focused this time, when he saw a wooden chair under a desk in the corner. He sprang to it and grabbed the chair but it wouldn't lift, it was deceptively heavy. Panting and pulling it wouldn't budge, it was as if it was nailed to the floor, almost losing grip of his phone which cast light over his foot.
Pale, wrinkled, blood-
That's not my foot!
Jack screamed, breaking Dan's bewilderment, “Sheez sat on thur chare!”
She's sat on the chair.
Disorientation flooded in Dan's skull, questions bashed the walls and scraped the marrow. How did she get in? How is she holding the chair down? Why can't I see her with my bare eyes and Jack can? But none of these thoughts would change the fact that this insidious ghostly entity was in the room with him and his brother. These enigmas soon flung from his mind when the phone was grabbed from Dan's hand and floated in mid-air, aggressively shining light into his eyes. Squinting, he managed to flounder for the chair, lift it, and thrash it into the window at his side. As Dan predicted, the window fractured instantly and the chair was sucked outside, as a gust of cold air dashed inside.
“Jack, climb out the window, watch the glass!” Dan yelled, still creasing his face at the blinding light. A second later a tiny body brushed past Dan crunching through smashed window remnants, followed by a whooshing sound. Dan turned away from the hovering light and looked to the vacant area around the window, Jack must have jumped out. Leaving his phone in her grasp, Dan followed his brother, but didn't climb through the window, he jumped. Launching through the air, tumbling on a small roof, then was yanked down to the ground by gravity, his fall being cushioned by the doughy, moist grass. Before allowing himself time to absorb anything, or recover from the fall, he shouted in the fleeting rain, “Jack.”
A rustling came from behind him, he flipped to see Jack's head popping out through the grass, like a floating football. “RUN!” Dan shouted.
Scared beyond comprehension, they both sprinted through the untrimmed garden, burst through the gate, and raced down the oily looking road, rain dimpling the puddles. Their feet splashed in wet patches, soaking their socks, dirtying their jeans, but they didn't care, they only cared about getting out of that house, and away from the old lady. After some heavy running, and breathless panting, Jack was the first to get to the white picket fence of their home. He hunched over it and recovered from the hectic scampering.
“Shheee woz scaree,” Jack fretted through deep breaths.
“Yes she was, let's never go back there, and don't worry, I'll save my pocket money and get you a new skateboard,” Dan patted his brother's back, which was soaked, his jacket dotted in mud and grass stains.
“You two, inside and to bed, it's late,” their dad shouted from the front door.
They both jumped, and had been unaware of his presence until now.
“Okay dad,” Dan said, nudging Jack in first, using his cute face to distract dad from scorning them.
Jack went first, then Dan, as they each brushed their teeth, took a shower, and went to bed. Both lay in their single beds opposite one another in their space themed bedroom, when Jack saw something glimmering. It wasn't the glow-in-the-dark spaceships stuck to the walls, or the huge moon clock on the cabinet near the window, and it wasn't the various lights from electrical appliances such as games consoles, TVs, and DVD players. It was something else.
“Dayn,” Jack whispered.
Dan grumbled from under the covers like a caveman, “What?”
“Thee skaytebored iz heirr,” his voice high pitched.
Dan jerked from his slumber and looked between their beds, where the stars sparkled through the window, lighting the area. Among the smelly clothes, and stinky shoes, was the skateboard.
Both of them yelped when the wheels snapped off, as if an enormous weight had been applied to it.
“Yes?” Dan had a feeling what Jack was going to say, but prayed he was wrong.
“Thee scayree ladee iz stud on it.”
Then a bright light came on, from a phone, hovering in mid-air. She had followed them home.