Ghost stories from hell, p.47

Ghost Stories from Hell, page 47

 

Ghost Stories from Hell
 



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  Mike tumbled to the floor, the thought cut off as he rolled onto his back, looking up at the ceiling. He laughed and stared up at the ceiling. His stomach rumbled and let out a loud belch, and he laughed again.

  Shifting his weight, Mike felt something hard and uncomfortable in his front pocket. Frowning he managed to climb to his feet, leaning against the wall before reaching into the pocket and digging out the offending item.

  A moment later he was holding a Zippo lighter. He looked at it for a moment, trying to remember where he had gotten it, and then he smiled.

  The dead man’s house on Sheridan Street.

  That’s where he had gotten the lighter.

  Holding it in his hand he slowly made his way into the front room, using the furniture as a guide before dropping down heavily into his chair. He turned on the lamp that stood on the side-table and blinked at the light. Once his eyes had adjusted, he took out his box of cigars. From the box, he took a cigar and the snipper, trimming the cigar before closing the box up. Placing the cigar between his lips, he brought the lighter up, flipped open the lid and rolled the flint beneath his thumb.

  A bright flame surged into life on the wick, and Mike lit the cigar. He drew on the cigar until it was smoking steadily. Then he closed the lighter—

  But the lighter didn’t close.

  The lid stayed open, and the flame continued to burn brightly.

  Frowning, Mike tried again.

  Nothing.

  He tried flipping the lid closed once more, and still it didn’t move. The flame didn’t even flicker.

  With his free hand, Mike went to close the lid, and couldn’t move it. Then he couldn’t take his hand off of the lid.

  He couldn’t take either of his hands off of the lighter. As he looked at it, the flame grew larger, bending towards him with every breath he took. Tendrils of smokeless flame reached out towards him, carefully snaking their way through the air.

  Mike tried to shake the lighter out of his hands, but nothing happened. He held it as far away as possible, and still the flames moved closer to him. He spat out the cigar onto the floor, where the small head that had been forming exploded in bright embers onto the rug which Ellen had recently bought to match the furniture.

  For a moment, Mike was worried about what she would say, and then he realized the flames were drawing closer. They were two straight lines mere inches from his nose, and he could feel the heat.

  A terrible heat.

  Mike opened his mouth to call for Ellen, and the flames leaped forward. One of them split again and raced into his nostrils. The other surged into his throat.

  The scream that rose up was devoured by the flame, and Mike fell writhing to the floor as the flames sought out his lungs.

  Chapter 5: Ellen, Mike, and the Zippo

  The sun was easing in around the curtains in the bedroom when Ellen’s alarm went off. Groaning, she reached out, turned the alarm off, and sat up. A glance over to Mike’s side of the bed showed that her boyfriend hadn’t come home last night. Or at least hadn’t made it into the bed.

  As she stretched, she smelled the potent stench of one of his cigars, and she frowned.

  Mike had made it home, obviously drunk. He knew she didn’t want him smoking in the apartment. They had a deck. He could smoke out there to his heart’s content even though he stank every time he was finished.

  Angrily Ellen got out of bed, pulled on her bathrobe, and put her slippers on. She walked down the narrow hallway to the front room and saw Mike’s bare feet before she saw him.

  Great, she thought. He didn’t even manage to get on the couch.

  When she turned the corner completely, she saw a nearly whole cigar on the new rug and burn marks on it as well. Her temper flared, and she went to yell at him when she noticed he was flat on his back. His hands were frozen at his throat, his face a twisted mask of horror, his mouth open.

  There were burns on his lips and nostrils, and he was dead. Obviously, painfully dead. On the floor beside him was a Zippo lighter. One that looked familiar.

  Ellen’s anger was gone. She was dazed, confused. She walked over to the lighter, focusing on it and not on Mike’s death.

  Not focusing on Mike’s death.

  Ellen bent down and picked up the Zippo. The word ‘Iwo’ was engraved on one side of the lighter. She’d seen it before. Yes. Mr. Sherman had showed it to her one day. A memento of his time in the Marine Corps he had said.

  How did it get here? She thought. Did I accidentally bring it home one day?

  I’ll have to take it back, she thought. Still in a daze, she stood up and walked to the phone. She slipped the lighter into her robe’s pocket, picked up the phone, and called 911.

  Chapter 6: Mr. Sherman’s House

  Charles leaned against the side of his car as he waited for the real estate agent to show up. Around him, a pleasant autumn wind shook the brightly colored leaves of the cemetery trees, and he looked at the faded glory of Mr. Sherman’s house.

  When Charles had been a boy the house had still been several shades of blue, painted as only a grand Victorian Lady could be.

  But that had been over thirty years earlier, and New England winters were never kind.

  The sound of a car’s engine turned Charles’ attention to the left. A black BMW turned up the intersection with Ashland Street. The driver parked the car a little bit behind Charles’s and a moment later got out.

  “Charles?” the woman asked, smiling.

  “That’s me,” Charles said, straightening up and walking to her.

  “Mary Beth Holmes,” she said, extending her hand.

  “A pleasure,” Charles said, shaking her hand warmly.

  “You know,” Mary Beth said, “I haven’t officially listed the house yet. My sister says you grew up in the area?”

  “I did,” Charles nodded. “If you were to walk around the right-hand side of the house here there’s a small wooded path. It runs along the edge of the cemetery and then comes out to the dead end of Adams Street. And I grew up on the corner of Adams and Hill.”

  “Wow,” she said, smiling pleasantly. “And you always liked the house?”

  “Loved it,” Charles said. “I even got to go into it once when I was much younger.”

  “Well,” Mary Beth said, reaching into a jacket pocket and pulling out a key, “you probably won’t remember much about the house, but I will say it is in remarkable condition.”

  No, Charles thought. I’ll remember.

  But he merely smiled and fell into step beside her as Mary Beth walked up the broad, brick walkway to the front steps. As they climbed them, the wooden stairs creaked. The porch boards sighed as Charles and the real estate agent crossed.

  “What’s this?” Mary Beth asked, bending down and picking up something near the door. She turned to him and showed him a Zippo lighter. The word ‘Iwo’ was engraved in German gothic script on the brass case.

  Charles frowned. “That’s Mr. Sherman’s.”

  “How do you know?” she asked.

  “He showed me his library when I was here,” he answered softly.

  “Well, we’ll have to put it back, then,” Mary Beth said, turning to unlock the door. “Oh, that reminds me. Mr. Sherman put a curious stipulation in his will stating that when the house was sold, the library had to remain intact. Nothing from it was to leave the house.”

  “I’ve never heard of anything like that before.”

  “I know.” Mary Beth chuckled as she opened the door. “It’s not enforceable once the house is sold, but I am required to mention it prior to any showing. And—”

  She stopped talking and looked down.

  Charles saw a pair of generic duffel bags on the floor to the left of the door. The bags were packed.

  “These weren’t here before,” Mary Beth said, stepping into the house and over to one side.

  Charles followed her in and squatted down beside the bags. He opened first one, and then the other. “These are all things fr
om his library. It looks like someone was trying to steal them.”

  Mary Beth’s lips tightened. “I have to report this to the police.”

  Charles nodded, standing up. “That’s fine.”

  “Do you want to do the showing another time?” she asked apologetically.

  “No need,” Charles smiled. “I already know I want the house.”

  Smiling in relief, Mary Beth said, “That’s great. Let me call the police and then we can work out when the inspector can come.”

  Charles nodded and started to explore the first floor, as he had so many years before. Mary reached for her cell phone and dialed the police.

  Chapter 7: December 7th, 1984

  Charles walked through the snow from Joshua’s house on Hooker Street, but the snow was falling faster than anything Charles had ever seen. He was bundled up in his parka and snow pants, knit cap, scarf, and mittens. His feet were in plastic bags inside of his snow boots.

  But he was cold.

  The temperature was almost too cold to snow. At least that’s what his father had said. But the nor’easter wasn’t supposed to have come until after bedtime.

  That was what the radio news was reporting when Charles’s father had dropped him off at Joshua’s.

  It was three o’clock when Charles had left Joshua’s house—before Joshua’s mother could wake up from her afternoon drunk and realize there was one more child to hit in the house. Besides, Charles needed to be home by three thirty. His mother and brother and sister were supposed to be home by four, and Charles had his chores to do. If he didn’t, he’d get punished, and he wouldn’t be allowed to go over Joshua’s for a while again.

  And he was the only one Joshua hung around with.

  Charles had left Joshua’s in plenty of time to get home. Plenty of time when it wasn’t snowing so hard and so fast. Charles had only reached the edge of the cemetery when his new watch beeped that it was three thirty.

  It had taken him half an hour to walk what usually took him five minutes.

  Charles pushed his way through the gathering snow, a sharp wind creating huge drifts, some of them taller than Charles.

  “Boy!” a voice shouted.

  Charles looked around and saw the front door open on the old house across from the cemetery. Mr. Sherman’s house.

  Mr. Sherman stood in the doorway, waving to him.

  “Boy!” the old man shouted again. “Come inside and call your parents!”

  Charles was about to say ‘no’ when he realized he could barely move his mouth, and he was colder than he had ever been in his life. Mr. Sherman’s house was frightening, almost always dark for all of Charles’s life. But Charles’s mother knew the old man, had gone to school with his daughter, the one who had been killed on Main Street for saying no when a guy had asked her out.

  Even though fear gripped his belly when he looked at the house, Charles turned towards the old man and the open door. Charles walked through the gathering snow, stumbled, and caught himself.

  A moment later, Mr. Sherman was there. He was smaller than Charles’s mother, but he scooped Charles up into his arms and carried him through the snow, up the stairs, and into the house. Mr. Sherman shouldered the door closed and then carried Charles into a living room where a fire burned in a large fireplace.

  Mr. Sherman set Charles down on a braided rug in front of the fire. “Warm up, boy. I’ll put milk on for hot chocolate. Soon as you feel your fingers, you call your parents and tell them you’re here.”

  Charles could only nod, and Mr. Sherman left the room. Shaking, Charles took off his hat and his scarf and his mittens, putting them out on the bricks that lined the fireplace on the floor. His hands were cold, wet and red. Charles rubbed them together and then got to his feet. He looked around and saw an old black phone by a chair. The phone was on a small table, and Charles realized everything looked perfect, like it was a picture in a book.

  Charles looked at the snow dripping off his clothes and onto the rug, and then he carefully took off his jacket, snow pants, and boots. The last things were the plastic bags on his feet.

  No longer in danger of ruining the room, Charles stepped over to the phone, and with tingling fingers, he dialed his house.

  The phone rang twice before it was answered by his mother. “Hello?” she asked, and Charles could hear the worry in her voice.

  “Hi, Mom,” Charles said.

  “Oh, thank God,” his mother sighed. “Where are you? We called Joshua’s house, but he said you’d left a while ago.”

  “I’m at Mr. Sherman’s house,” Charles said. “I got here a minute ago.”

  “Okay,” his mother said. “Okay. Listen, you stay there. As soon as the plows go by, your father will be up there to get you. Could I speak to Mr. Sherman?”

  “Um,” Charles said, turning around in time to see Mr. Sherman entering the room. “Sure. Hold on. Mr. Sherman?”

  “Your mother would like to speak with me, Charles?” Mr. Sherman asked.

  “Yes.”

  “Certainly,” Mr. Sherman said. He held out his hand, and Charles gave him the phone. “Hello, Tina. Yes...yes, that’s fine. I’m making hot chocolate for your son now. I didn’t recognize him at first. Yes...yes, of course. We’ll wait for your husband.”

  Mr. Sherman motioned to Charles, holding the phone out.

  Charles took it. “Hi, Mom.”

  “Hi,” she said. “Everything is all set with Mr. Sherman. We’ll see you soon, okay?”

  “Okay.”

  “I love you,” she said. “And make sure you’re polite, okay?”

  “I will, and I love you too.”

  Charles hung up the phone.

  “The hot chocolate should be ready in a moment,” Mr. Sherman smiled. “Come with me, please.”

  Charles dutifully followed the man out of the living room, through the hallway and into the kitchen. All of the appliances were old. Older than anything Charles had ever seen in person. A copper pot was on a burner, and a large mug was on the counter beside the stove.

  “I do not have any whipped cream, I am afraid,” Mr. Sherman said, turning the flame off under the pot. Using an oven mitt, the man poured warm milk into the mug. He replaced the pot onto the burner, and the oven mitt onto a hook hanging from the upper cabinet. He used a spoon to stir the milk. “Here.”

  Charles took the warm mug in his hands, and saw the rich chocolate color of the milk.

  “Real chocolate milk.” The old man smiled.

  “Thank you very much,” Charles said. He took a sip. The hot chocolate was fantastic. Charles drank it as quickly as politeness would allow. He could feel the warmth settle into his stomach and spread out.

  “Good?” Mr. Sherman asked, smiling.

  “Yes.”

  “Good,” the old man said, gently taking the mug from Charles. Mr. Sherman rinsed it out in the sink and set it down on the counter. “Well, I’m afraid I don’t get very good reception on the television when the storms are here. I don’t suppose you like to read, do you?”

  “I love reading,” Charles said.

  “Excellent! What are you reading at home?”

  “The Count of Monte Cristo,” Charles answered.

  Mr. Sherman smiled broadly. “That is fantastic, young man. I love to read as well. I even have a small library. Would you like to see it?”

  “Yes,” Charles said excitedly. “Do you have a lot of books?”

  “A few,” Mr. Sherman said, winking. “Come. I will show you the library.”

  Charles followed as Mr. Sherman walked out of the kitchen, back into the hallway and started up a large flight of stairs. In a minute, they were on the second floor, and Mr. Sherman was opening the door to his library, turning on the light and stepping aside so Charles could look in.

  Charles blinked.

  He’d never seen so many books outside of the Nashua Public Library before. Not even his school had as many books.

  The walls in Mr. Sherman’s library were almost
completely covered with bookshelves. Books were everywhere. They were neatly arranged, and occasionally there was a sword, or a gun, or something military. In the center of the room was a large table with a writing pad and a pen. Behind the table was a tall leather chair, and there was a lamp with a green glass shade on the table beside the writing pad.

  “Wow,” Charles said softly. He turned and looked at Mr. Sherman. “Have you read all of these books?”

  Mr. Sherman gave him a small smile and shook his head. “No, not yet.”

  “Where did you get all of the war stuff?” Charles asked.

  “It’s called militaria, young Charles,” Mr. Sherman answered him, his smile fading away. “And I have gathered it over my life.”

  “You collect it?”

  “In a manner of speaking,” Mr. Sherman said. “These particular items are not what they seem to be, Charles. They’re all haunted.”

  Charles tore his eyes away from a bugle resting on a stack of books. He looked at Mr. Sherman and tried to see if he was joking.

  The old man wasn’t. Mr. Sherman had a terribly serious look on his face.

  “How are they haunted?” Charles asked.

  “Well,” Mr. Sherman said, frowning for a moment before answering. “Do you see that lighter by the window?”

  Charles looked, saw the old fashioned lighter, and nodded. “Yes.”

  “That lighter came from a man who was a Marine during World War Two. He was a flamethrower operator, and he often used that lighter to light his cigarettes while he was killing the enemy.”

  “How is it haunted?” Charles asked.

  “If you use it to light a cigarette or cigar,” Mr. Sherman said softly, “it will burn the air out of your lungs.”

  Charles felt a chill race down his spine, and he looked at the lighter nervously. Then he looked from the lighter to a sword, asking, “Are they all like that?”

  “Yes,” Mr. Sherman nodded. “Yes. They are all like that.”

  Chapter 8: Jared, November 4th, 2015

  Jared felt down as he cracked open another beer.

 
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