Ghost stories from hell, p.30

Ghost Stories from Hell, page 30


Ghost Stories from Hell

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  I fell asleep, he realized. Groggy, Connor rubbed at his eyes, and when he put his hands down, he looked around, wondering what had made the sound. Finally, his gaze fell on the window that overlooked the cemetery, and his throat tightened with fear.

  He threw off the sheet, climbed out of bed and stumbled to the window.

  In the morning dew that had gathered on the outside of the glass, a message had been written.

  Welcome home, Connor, the message read. Where have you been?

  Chapter 8: Mrs. Lavoie’s House, August 3rd, 2016

  Exhaustion and the residual effects of the pills had won out over fear, and Connor fell asleep a few hours after the discovery of the message. He woke again at dusk, as was his habit. The shower, he was pleased to find, still worked, and his own toiletries from the facility were put to good use.

  Unfortunately, his own fresh scent did little to mask the atrocious smell of the first floor. It took him several minutes to force the makeshift door at the bottom of the stairs, and when he did, he found only Rex.

  The dog lifted his head, looked at Connor for a moment, and then dropped his chin back onto his paws. He watched Connor from the dubious comfort of the filthy couch, but his tail wagged.

  “Where is he, Rex?” Connor asked.

  Not surprisingly, the dog didn’t answer.

  Connor walked over to him, scratched Rex between the ears, and then went into the kitchen. Trash littered the counters and the floor. Bags of it were piled against the wall where the table had once been. Most of the trash consisted of wrappers for fast food chains and paper plates. A few were empty cans of vegetable soup, a generic store brand, but it gave Connor hope that there might be edible food in the house.

  A thorough search of the kitchen resulted in disappointment. All he found was an old tea sampler, recently expired, but Connor was hungry. The tea, he rationalized, might hold him over until he could find a place to eat.

  He found the teapot where his mother had left it, rinsed it and filled it, then set the vessel on the stove. For a moment, he feared there wouldn’t be any gas, but there was, and soon he had the water warming up. He looked around the kitchen, frowned, and pulled out a black trash bag.

  Connor tried not to think about the garbage as he started to clean up the room.

  If I’m going to live here for a while, he told himself, then it’s going to be clean.

  By the time the tea water reached a boil, he had filled two trash bags and cleaned off three feet of counter space. Connor put the tea bag in to steep and carried the trash out to the driveway.

  In for a penny, in for a pound, he thought with a sigh and carried the rest of the bags out of the kitchen. Rex joined him, watching, snapping up several field mice that tried to scurry away. Connor reined in his disgust, and when he finished with the trash, he found a bar of soap in the bathroom. He scrubbed his hands and forearms in hot water, shook as much of the water off them as he could, and went for his tea.

  With Rex following him, Connor walked out onto the porch. He brushed leaves and cobwebs off a faded plastic chair and sat down. The dog stretched out at his feet, and Connor enjoyed the warmth of the tea. From where he was, he could see Mrs. Lavoie’s house. Someone had put a fresh coat of paint on the old, Georgian style building, and a well-kept garden could be glimpsed as well.

  Everything, in fact, seemed to be in order with her house and yard. The windows shined in the last light of the day, and the driveway had recently been paved. Each bush along the front strip was trimmed, the green leaves in perfect order. The garage, attached by a small breezeway, had a new roof, and through a window, Connor caught sight of a vehicle.

  He wondered who might have moved into her home when he saw an Asian man step out of Mrs. Lavoie’s side door. The stranger looked to be in his seventies, but he moved with a straight back and sure steps. His hair was silver and clipped short all the way around. The man’s skin was almost golden in the twilight, and his long, thin beard fell to his chest. There were no unkempt hairs in the beard, and it was silver like those atop his head. He wore a white shirt buttoned to the neck, and the sleeves were buttoned around his thin wrists. The man’s pants were black, as were his shoes.

  Connor watched as the man came to a stop in the center of the driveway, withdrew what looked like a rosary from his pocket, and looped it about his wrist. Then the stranger looked up, caught sight of Connor, and took a half step back in surprise.

  Feeling badly about being caught staring, Connor raised a hand and waved a cautious hello.

  His neighbor did the same, smiled, and turned away.

  Connor watched him as he went into the street and moved to walk along the wrought iron fence of Pine Grove Cemetery.

  When he finished his tea and stood up, Connor saw that the man had reached the first entrance to the graveyard and gone in. With a shudder, Connor hurried into the house, Rex close at his heels.

  Nights were better than days, but only by a little.

  Connor slammed the door and wondered, for a moment, where his father had slipped away to.

  Chapter 9: In the Basement, August 3rd, 2016

  After he had cleaned the kitchen, and his father still hadn’t come home, Connor decided to look in the basement to see if his old man stored anything worthwhile there. It only took a few minutes for him to realize his father avoided not only the second floor but the basement as well. Like the side door, the basement door was hemmed in by iron. When he had managed to open it, a wave of dust had rushed up at him, and Connor spent fifteen minutes in the bathroom, spitting and blowing his nose.

  Finally, with the loyal Rex beside him, Connor descended into the basement. Each riser squealed as he went down, and when he reached the cement floor, he looked at the mess before him. Broken chairs and old furniture was piled on one side, his and his mother’s belongings on the other. A space was cleared around the water heater and furnace, and another around the corner where the water, gas, and electrical lines came in.

  Webs filled the windows and giant, thin-legged spiders hung in them. The air smelled of dust and mildew.

  A scurrying sound came from the corners, and a low growl rose from Rex’s throat. Connor glanced down at him and saw that the dog’s hackles were raised, the ears flat against his head.

  “Upstairs,” Connor said in a low voice. “Let’s go upstairs.”

  “Send the dog away,” a woman said in a whisper, and Connor bit back a scream.

  “Send it away,” a male said from a corner on the left. “They’re ever so wretched to us. Send it away.”

  “You need to do as we say,” the woman said, and it was then that Connor recognized her.

  “Mrs. Lavoie?” He choked on her name.

  The scurrying came closer.

  “Of course it’s me,” she said, and he could hear the familiar tones of warmth and affection.

  But beneath them was a darker current, that of hunger and longing.

  “Just send the dog away, Connor,” Mrs. Lavoie repeated. “We’ve wondered where you’ve been.”

  Connor didn’t reply. Instead, he took a cautious step back and felt something brush his calf.

  He screamed before he could stop himself.

  Rex snarled and spun around, jaws snapping.

  A man cursed, and a chair fell over as a dark shape raced back into the shadows.

  “Send it away!” Mrs. Lavoie screamed.

  Connor spun around and sprinted up the stairs. Before he reached the top, the door started to close, and he threw himself against it, pain exploding in his shoulder. Behind him, Rex scrambled up the stairs, claws clicking on the old wood. Connor tumbled into the kitchen and Rex came up, spinning to the left and attacking something resembling a rabbit.

  The strange animal let out a high-pitched, human-like squeal and fled into the basement.

  Connor scrambled to his feet, lurched to the basement door, and slammed it shut. His hands shook and fumbled with the lock, Rex scratching at the bottom of the door and

  With a shudder, Connor secured the lock and fell back against the wall, slowly sliding down, coming to a rest. Rex scratched the door for another minute and then backed away. The dog finally settled down beside Connor, staring at the basement.

  A thick silence filled the air; Rex’s panting was the only sound.

  Then, a thin, wavering whisper came through the crack between the threshold and the door.

  “We’ve missed you, Connor,” Mrs. Lavoie said. “We all have. Especially your mother.”

  Chapter 10: News from Beyond the Grave, August 4th, 2016

  “That’s my dog.”

  The sound of his father’s voice ripped Connor out of sleep faster than any alarm clock could have.

  Sitting up, Connor saw the man standing just outside the doorway. Rex lay across the foot of the bed, asleep. Connor’s heartbeat resumed its normal pace as he stared at his father.

  “Seems like he’s his own dog,” Connor answered after a moment. “What’s going on?”

  “You’ve got mail. Downstairs.” His father looked around the room. “Why’d you tack towels over the windows?”

  Connor almost told him about the message on the glass and the voices he had heard in the basement. Instead of the whole truth, he gave his father a taste of it.

  “I sleep during the day,” Connor answered. “That’s about it. Towels block out the sun.”

  “Hmph.” His father turned to walk away.

  “Where were you yesterday?” Connor asked, the question coming out sharp enough to cause his father to wince.

  “Business.” The man didn’t look back at Connor. “Had things to do.”

  In the years he had spent in the facility, Connor had learned how to tell when someone lied.

  His father was lying.

  He didn’t press him on the issue. Instead, Connor asked, “Where’s my mail?”

  “In the kitchen you cleaned,” his father answered. The disdain in the man’s voice was thick. Without another word, he left, his feet heavy on the stairs.

  Connor reached out, gave Rex a pat and got out of bed. He dressed quickly and hurried down the stairs, the dog following him. When they reached the first floor, Connor closed and secured the door. His father dropped into a battered easy chair, took a bottle of wine off the floor, and unscrewed the cap. He drank and ignored Connor and Rex as they entered the kitchen.

  On the counter, between the sink and the stove, was a large, padded yellow envelope. It was clearly marked to Connor, and within it was a letter from an attorney, a checkbook, cash in the amount of one thousand dollars, and a debit card.

  The letter was short and to the point.

  Dear Mr. Mann,

  It is with sincere and heartfelt sadness that I greet you, for it means that your uncle has passed away. He was, as I am certain you have surmised, a man of some wealth. After your mother’s horrific death, and the sudden passing of your genteel neighbor, your uncle felt it would be best for you to be institutionalized.

  However, with his recent passing, the funding for your care at the facility has evaporated, for lack of a better word. He was able to establish a trust fund for you, but in all honesty, it is sufficient only for you to live upon, but not enough to keep you in the facility in which you grew up.

  You will, I trust, reach out to me should you encounter any difficulties in this sudden and radical return to society. I have been assured that you have the wherewithal to survive this.

  Please feel free to contact me at any time.


  Robert L. Barkis, Esq.

  Connor set the letter down and picked up the money. He had handled cash before, but only a little at a time, and that was more to familiarize him with money as a real item than as an abstract idea. The facility had prepared him for an eventual, gradual return to the world he had shunned as a child. Connor knew the basics of cellphones, computers, and even public transportation. He had been taught how to cook, clean, and earned a high school diploma.

  And he had been given every assurance that ghosts did not exist.

  Some days, he even believed them.

  Connor sighed, folded the money, and stuffed it into his front pocket. He put the debit card in a back pocket and walked into the den. Earlier, he had seen a collar and leash. They were draped over the coffee table.

  “Come on, Rex,” Connor said, patting his leg as he had seen people in movies do. Either his father had done the same, or the dog had watched the same movies, for Rex trotted to him.

  “What are you doing?” His father’s tone was sharp.

  “Taking the dog for a walk,” Connor said, his stomach rumbling.

  “The hell you are,” the man snapped, pushing himself up and out of his chair.

  Connor straightened up and glared at his father.

  The man’s face paled, and he dropped back down, looking at the floor.

  “My dog,” his father mumbled.

  “He’s his own dog,” Connor corrected, “nobody else’s.”

  He looped the end of the leash around his wrist and followed Rex out of the house. The dog took the lead, going down the steps, onto the broken asphalt of the driveway crossing the street to the cemetery fence. Fear rumbled in Connor’s stomach, but he forced himself to deal with it.

  Connor had the dog, and Rex would protect him.

  The Shepherd put his nose to the ground, tail wagging lazily from left to right. They moved up to the far side of the cemetery, the sun setting to their left. For a short time, the headstones were backlit, and Connor tried not to look at the graves.

  The sounds of civilization faded away as they moved further along the street, towards a dead end and old trees. A faint sound reached Connor’s ears, and at first, he thought he had imagined it. Then he saw Rex twitch. The dog’s snout lifted, and the nostrils flared.

  Connor wanted to turn around, but he felt compelled to follow the dog’s lead, and the German Shepherd continued.

  The sound became more distinct, identifiable.

  Those are footsteps, Connor realized.

  And they were coming from inside the cemetery. In the growing darkness, someone kept pace with him on the other side of the iron fence, and they were drawing near.

  Rex came to a stop and sat down.

  Connor caught himself, narrowly missing the dog’s tail.

  “He remembers.”

  Connor gasped at the sound of the voice. Rich, pure, and feminine. He turned his head and stared into the darkness.

  “Hello, Connor,” a feminine voice said, her words thick with sorrow. “You’ve grown up, my little boy.”

  “Mom?” Connor whispered, fear spreading through him. I’m going crazy.

  “Yes,” she said. “It’s me. You know, dogs don’t like us, and the feeling’s mutual.”

  “What?” Connor asked, confused.

  “The dog,” she continued. “We don’t like them. None of us do.”

  “I don’t understand,” Connor whispered. “Is this even real? I take a lot of medicine. Maybe it’s not real.”

  “No,” his mother said, her voice growing hard, “this is real. I want to be able to tell you what’s going on, but I’m not even sure. Memory is tricky.”

  “What do you mean?” he asked. “I don’t understand.”

  “They’re coming for you,” she said. “You have to be careful. They want you with us.”

  “Who?” Connor asked in a hushed tone.

  “The hungry ones,” his mother answered. “It’s because you’re special.”

  “How am I special?” Connor asked her. “What do you even mean by that?”

  “If they eat you, if any of us do,” she whispered. “We’ll be full. And we’re all so hungry, Connor.”

  Rex leaped up, straining at the leash and barking furiously.

  Connor twisted around, his eyes jerking from left to right. He saw small, animal shapes darting through the shadows.

  “A bite,” his mother whispered behind him,
that’s all I want, Connor. A bite. Doesn’t your mother deserve a taste?”

  A cold hand raked across his neck, and Connor pulled away. He hurried into the street, stepping into the harsh light of a streetlamp. Around the edges of the light, where it faded into darkness, twenty or thirty dull, green eyes glowed. Some were small, and others were large. All stared at him. Dark, rough paws reached in, but Rex snarled and snapped at them, driving the half-seen creatures back.

  Then came the sound of clicking. A faint, delicate noise that silenced Connor’s mother. One by one, the sets of eyes blinked out of existence.

  Rex’s growls faded, and he sat down again. His tail thumped on the pavement, and a moment later, a man appeared.

  It was the old man who lived in Mrs. Lavoie’s house. He held a small length of iron in his hand, and he smiled at Connor.

  “Hello,” the man said, giving a short bow to Rex and then a shorter one to Connor. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced. My name is Hu Bayi, and you would be Connor Mann.”

  “Yes,” Connor said, nodding and asking. “How did you know?”

  Mr. Bayi smiled. “Your mother’s told me quite a bit about you.”

  Chapter 11: Hu and Connor, August 4th, 2016

  It had been over thirty years since Connor entered what had once been Mrs. Lavoie’s house.

  Not surprisingly, a great deal had changed.

  New appliances stood in the places where the old refrigerator and range top had been. Tiled floor covered the old wood, and a chandelier had replaced the light fixture. Where small houseplants had once lined the sill of the kitchen window, there was only a small statue of a dog. It looked as though it was made of metal, the hair and the face bearing the intricate carvings Connor had always associated with China and the Far East. The house no longer smelled of the pork pies Mrs. Lavoie had been fond of making, but was instead filled with the lingering scent of fragrant spices.

  Connor, and Hu, as the older man preferred to be called, sat at a small dining table. Rex was asleep at Connor’s feet. The refrigerator hummed and a clock on the wall ticked away the time at a steady, comforting pace.

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