To access the stories, the links are embedded in the photos. Just click and you will be transported to some of the best writing you will ever encounter. The exception to this rule is that my own stories will appear in their entirety.
Also, while all of our stories are free, all of these fine authors have other fabulous works available for purchase. Links can be found down below in the right hand colun or by clicking the author’s name in each entry.
The Elevator – by Joe Shaw
In our last story in the Fondue Writer’s Club Halloween series, Joe Shaw really makes us contemplate our lives – think modern halloween meets A Christmas Carol with a twist. You are already in the elevator so go ahead and push a button below to find out what I am talking about…
Thanks for joining us on this wild Halloween ride.
If you have the time, please check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph Courtemanche, Jamie D. Greening, Kathy Kexel, Derek Alan Elkins, Rob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. If you like what you see, why not pick up a few copies of their books? It covers the cost of everything, and lets us know people are reading what we write.
If you’d like what you see, you might also check out our first collection of short stories, The Covid Quarantine Catina, written during the first months of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s available in Kindle, Paperback, and Audio formats.
We will be back in a few weeks to bring you some Thanksgiving stories. Until then, always tell the truth, try to avoid elevators, and do your best not to break anything.
The Making of a god- by Derek Elkins
Taking you back to that dreaded group project in high school, Derek tells a tale that makes you grateful you never have to do another group project again for fear of what might happen. Find out how this group project took a chilling turn by clicking on group below.
Children of the Wild Ones
by Rob Cely
I may have just done the dumbest thing a person could do. I mean the worst decision a person could possibly make. A monumentally bad decision. A look–back-on-it-for-the-rest-of-your-life-in-agonizing-regret, bad decision. I’m serious. It’s that bad. Then again, I may have just saved my soul. It’s impossible to tell right now. In fact, I may never know. Life sucks like that sometimes. Or maybe that is one of the hidden blessings, that we may never know how bad our decisions are. Sometimes it’s easy to tell when we avoided a bad decision. Like that start up you missed investing in that turned out to be a scam. Or that sure bet on the undefeated Patriots playing the Super Bowl against a Giants team they had beat earlier that year – and then lost. Or that day you took the elevator instead of the stairs, only to find when you get to the ground floor that the cable broke and everyone inside died. Those are the obvious ones, when we know we’ve avoided bad decisions. But there are so many that we will never know about. The job you thought about taking but didn’t. The girl who sat next to you in economics class that you never talked to. Almost taking that hike across Europe but pulling out at the last minute. Were those good or bad decisions? You’ll never know. I’ll never know. That could be a blessing in life. But it could also torture us for as long as we live. This is one of those instances. I probably made the right decision, but damn it I’ll never know. I could have given up everything. The only grace is that I’m told when I wake up tomorrow I won’t remember any of it. None. Zilch. The whole night will pass from my memory as if it never happened. If nothing else, that will keep me from agonizing over this choice for the remainder of my days. If it’s a bad decision, I will never know it. It all started when I ran into Miles again. We were friends in high school, and partied a little bit together in college. We were never real close friends, just kind of ran in the same circles. But he was one of those people that always kept showing up in my life. After college when I was selling cell phone plans he shows up at the vitamin shop next door. He was always that kind of guy, real health conscious and trying to improve his cardiovascular health and have a raging libido into his sixties and all that good stuff. We hung out a little bit more then, watched the games together and hit the clubs pretty hard some nights. Like I said, never real close friends, just always running into each other, and sometimes with each other. When I landed my job with the hospital – billing and administration, not medicine – I left Miles behind and never thought I would see him again. I had a career and soon after a wife and kids followed. I was done with my Miles phase of life. That is, until today. You have to understand something first. I am going through a weird phase in life right now. Maybe it’s not so weird. In fact, it could be completely normal. But this is my first time alive so I have no basis of comparison. And it feels really weird to me right now because things are changing fast and I don’t necessarily like it. I am hurdling towards forty years old and it seems like life is starting to pass me by. I’ve never said it out loud, but that’s exactly what it feels like. I used to feel a part of things, that I was right there with the movers and the shakers. It felt like I had everything in front of me. I had a seat on the bus of life and was pretty well liked there. Then, something happened. I’m not sure what or if I can really explain it. It all happened so fast. Or if it happened slow I didn’t notice it creep up on me. One minute I was young and sexy and right there in the mix of everything. The next thing I know I’m thirty-eight with two kids and everything is passing me by. At some point I was kicked off the bus and nobody even told me. I’m not fooling myself. I was never the best looking guy. But I could cut a smile and work a little flirtation with the cute girl behind the counter and get a little bit back in return. Now, if I smile at the girl serving my latte all I get is an eye roll. Heaven forbid there is another girl back there too and they give each other that look. I know what you’re thinking, but don’t get mad at me. Nobody ever tells you when you become a creepy old man. It’s not like when it’s time to register for the draft, or when you have to renew your car tags. They give you a letter for that. But when you go from a fun and cute young guy to a creepy old guy – not a word. We’re left to figure that out all on our own. That’s when I found Miles again. I was sitting at a café, sipping on a latte, a little embarrassed that I even drink those things. I had a well paying but monotonous job, a house in the suburbs that looked like every other house in the neighborhood, a wife who was increasingly distant, a three year old son and a newborn daughter. I was hurdling through the oblivion of economic prosperity. The only thing I had to look forward to was a mid-life crisis that may or may not involve a loveless affair with a young gold digger with daddy issues, followed by a retirement that lured me deeper into senility. Worst of all, I could feel it happening. The cruelty of age compounded by the cruelty of witnessing it happen. It was like the kind if nightmare when you are outside your body watching yourself get chased by monsters. But somehow you can feel every bite and tear of their claws. You know it’s all happening to you and at the same time you’re as helpless as if it’s happening to someone else. That may not make any sense to you at all, but that’s how it is. Or at least how it was. I felt that way only this morning and I’m not sure I still feel that way. How is it that a mind can change so quickly? Well, a lot can happen in a day. That’s where I was when I saw Miles again, sipping my latte, feeling sorry myself while the girl who serves me coffee laughed with her friends at my pathetic attempts at being charming. Pitiful, I know. But hey, it’s all I got. I recognized Miles immediately. He was sitting by the window seat, looking at a women’s fashion magazine of all things. His hair was longer than it had been, almost to his shoulders. He was thin as he always had been, almost lanky. That same hunch of the shoulders that had been his characteristic look was still there. Funny enough, so was the scruff of beard that he always sported on his chin, no more than what you would think a high school kid could grow. I didn’t say anything at first. I was too amused at his inability to grow a beard late in life to say anything. But there was no mistaking, it was Miles. He wore an old, faded green coat and baggy jeans, like he borrowed the clothes from an older brother. I kind of felt sorry for him. He looked every bit like a guy who got stuck in Loserville. Hell, he looked like he had just been elected their mayor. After I watched him get his coffee, my opinion of him suddenly changed. He sauntered up to the counter and leaned on it. I couldn’t see his face but I could tell by his body language that he must have worn some sort of leer. Talk about creepy old man. This guy was embracing it. But get what happens next. He’s ordering his coffee, and the girl asks if he wants cream and sugar in it. Miles (and I am imagining a silly grin on his face), says, “Nah, Baby. You’re sweet enough for both of us.” At this point I was embarrassed for him. I was embarrassed on behalf of all men who have yet to realize that they are too old to flirt with young girls. I was embarrassed for all those who had not realized they had crept into the creepy zone without realizing it. I was embarrassed for men my age who hadn’t yet learned that the only women they could casually converse with were those who had at least two children or one divorce. Or both. I mean, if these girls mocked my innocent banter they would literally roast this guy alive. But then something both unbelievable and unfair happened. She laughed. That’s right, the girl laughed. The girl who was probably still in college and looked down at any guy that lodged himself in suburban purgatory, who was at least ten levels outside the league of someone like Miles; this girl who was in the flower of her beauty, laughed at that stupid, and mildly inappropriate joke, offered up by a guy whose loser status had nothing but appreciated since college. And it wasn’t just a sympathy laugh. Or a laugh you get from a waitress who doesn’t want to hurt her chances of a good tip, so she goes along with your idiocy. It was a real laugh. She even threw back her head and covered her mouth. And even more unbelievably, she leaned in close to him on the counter looked him right in the eye, a smile still breaking across her face as it suffused with red and shook her head at him. I heard Miles make a clicking noise, raise his coffee cup and turn from the counter. It was at that moment that our eyes met. There was no avoiding it. I saw him and he saw me. “Miles,” I said with all the enthusiasm I could muster. He came over and gave me a firm handshake with his boney hands and sat himself down at my table. We gave each other the once over. It was still the same old Miles. “How’s it going, man?” he asked me. I went into the well-rehearsed spiel of my life, told over a thousand times, and interesting to no one. It was as I was regaling him with the dullness of my life that I realized something that had not yet registered with me. I had seen it, but not yet understood it. Nor do I think I understand it now. Miles looked the same. I mean, the absolute same. Nothing had changed about him, in that he hadn’t aged a single day. Not a wrinkle on his face, not a wisp of grey hair, not even the first signs of that gut we tend to get as domestication sets in. I had mentioned something about Miles’ scrag of a beard. And that hadn’t changed either. It was like he was stuck somewhere in his early twenties, and life had no more effect on him than it does one of those guys who pays to have his corpse but on ice. He simply hadn’t changed. “You look the same as you always have,” I marveled. He smiled and shrugged. “Probably the lack of responsibilities I have.” “You still at the vitamin shop?” I asked. “No, quit that long ago,” he said. “I’m between jobs right now. You know, just looking around, trying to find something that fits me.” I was about to comment on his lack of employment when I was struck again by his apparent lack of change. “Seriously, man,” I said. “You haven’t changed a bit. I mean, not at all. How is that even possible?” He smiled at me and looked into his cup. I could tell he was debating with himself, whether or not to tell me something. I was hoping he would, because whatever his secret was I wanted to know it. “You like your life?” he asked me. It was my turn to shrug. “It’s alright. I got no complaints. Well, maybe I do. But it’s life, right? What choice do we have?” He got serious all of a sudden and leaned forward. “What if you do have a choice?” he asked me. I didn’t know what to say to that. What can you say? My silence allowed him to press his question further. “Do you remember back in college?” he asked. “Or just after that was even better. We would do a little work and then party at night and almost every weekend. We were always meeting people and going places. We were never tired or aggravated or worn out. It was always fun. You remember that?” A big smile broke out over my face. I didn’t have to say anything. Hell yes, I remembered. Who could forget? Life was great then. The world was wide open to me. I was a victor who plundered all the treasures of life. Today, I am just an old carton of milk that you are too afraid to drink because it’s so close to the expiration date. “Of course you remember,” he said for me. “Let me ask you this: If you had the chance to live that way forever, would you do it?” I was too confused to answer so he pressed on. “Seriously, though. Think about it. I’m not talking about the life men like you normally pursue: money, stability and good retirement and all that crap. You wouldn’t have any of that. Instead, you would be young and strong and would get to party with people just like you almost every night. The good times would never end.” “You can’t be serious,” I said, finally finding my tongue. “Why not?” he answered back. “Who needs the grind? Why not live to the fullest while you have the chance?” “Because it always catches up to you,” I said. “I know plenty of guys who have decided to live the free life. Some are in jail. Most of them look twenty years older than I do. They’re on the fast track to dying broke and alone in some run-down trailer out in Gaston. That’s the way life is.” Miles leaned back and looked me over. “Do I look old to you?” he asked. I shook my head, unable to answer him. I had to admit, he looked good. He looked young. He looked every bit like he always had. Maybe he resembled Vanilla Ice too much for my taste, but he definitely hadn’t aged. And he certainly didn’t seem to carry the same baggage I did. “You are in luck today,” he said. He leaned in again and looked around, like he was about to tell me a secret. “I can’t make this offer to you every day,” he said. “It only happens a few times a year, but today is Halloween. Like I said, you’re in luck. I can give you that life we used to have, and you can have it forever. Think about it, man. Life will never get dull. You will never get old. Everyone else around you will get tired and age away, and you… Well, you and me and the rest of us will keep living the dream.” “The rest of us?” I asked. “Who are the rest of us?” “Children of the Wild One,” he answered with arms spread wide. A devilish grin had broken across his face. “It’s life the way it should be,” he explained. “Beautiful women, I mean, all the hot girls you could ever dream of. Don’t really worry about jobs or careers. You can keep one if you want, but it’s not really important. Come to this party with me tonight. See the kind of fun I have been having for the last ten years, and then decide for yourself. You can stay young and powerful forever. No becoming some old man or some dottering fool who pisses himself every morning after breakfast. The world can still be yours, man.” I know what you’re thinking. There was no way it could be true. And I was sure Miles was putting me on. But looking at him, hadn’t aged a day since twenty-five, I could see that he believed it. And what’s the worst that could happen, I thought. I go to a wild Halloween party. Not the most terrible way to spend the night. We rode in almost silence for about an hour and a half. Correction, I was silent. I insisted on driving, which may have been the smartest thing I did. Miles sat beside me and kept talking about old times, stories I had all but forgotten. Some I couldn’t remember even after he told me. I can’t be sure I was actually present for all of those, but who knows? All I could think about during the drive was how pissed my wife was at me. And it was going to last a while. Our son had just turned three and this would be his first Halloween that he could actually go to the doors and say “Trick or Treat.” I would be missing an important milestone, she said. There was no excuse for missing this important moment in my son’s life. Honestly, I couldn’t see what was so important about watching my boy scuttle around in an elephant costume and fill his bucket with candy. He probably wouldn’t even remember it. It’s not like I was missing graduation. But my wife insisted that it was important, that I would miss out. So that meant she would be mad at me for quite some time. This despite the fact that to her it was only another opportunity to post pictures of her life on Facebook and Instagram, and to fool all her friends into thinking our life was better than it actually was. That was all that really mattered. We drove for what felt like forever. The sun was setting fast, and it had become completely dark by the time Miles instructed me to turn off the main road and onto a series of smaller lanes that soon had me all but lost. We finally pulled into a long drive, and after turning a bend in the road, I saw the Manor for the first time. That was what everyone called it, The Manor. It wasn’t as imposing as you might think, at least not in size. What it lacked in stature it made up for with mood. It didn’t look big, but it felt big. And as I learned later that night, it was a lot more vast than it looked. The Manor peaked out from a dense covering of forest, sitting on about three acres of cleared land. A stone wall crumbled around the house, overgrown with ivy and age. The iron gates stood open, but almost looked too rusted to move at all. They looked like a mouth that was stuck open, an undead thing that was always hungry. The house behind the walls was grey stone. It looked neo gothic, or something like that. Towers stood in several places, and a veranda with a rusted metal rail ran over the front and sides of the top floor. I would have guessed it was maybe three stories. And it looked abandoned. My car was the only one that pulled into the courtyard beside a fountain full of dead leaves. The windows were dark, most covered with torn curtains. A full moon rose behind one of the towers, and for a minute it looked like something moved in the darkness beyond. I was starting to believe Miles was just pulling my leg. I was surprised when the door was opened for us. I don’t know by who, and before I could look behind the open door Miles pulled me along through a musty foyer and into an even mustier hallway. Still looking abandoned, we walked through a series of rooms and halls covered in dust. Furniture was draped in white sheets. All the rooms were dark. A few electric candles glowed on the walls and at various points, but their weak light was hardly enough by which to see. We finally came to a set of double doors that looked as old and weary as the rest of the house. Miles turned to me before opening them up. “This is the first day of the rest of your life,” he said with a real serious look on his face. He held that for a beat then burst out laughing. “I’m just messing with you, man,” he said. “C’mon, let’s party.” As he threw open the doors the sounds of people and laughter came spilling into the dark and musty hallway. We walked in and I felt like I was stepping back in time. Not too far back, mind you, just a little ways back. It looked like something from prohibition. Low, orange light came from the electric candles on the wall and some Tiffany chandeliers that swung high above our heads. The people were dressed in all sorts of fashions, but the decor of the room reminded me of something you would see in a speakeasy. The couches and chair were dark leather. Small, round tables were spread throughout. An elaborate bar took up one side of the room, with wooden pillars bulging from either side of an array of bottle. On closer inspection, though, none of these bottles had any labels at all, but that was something I would notice later. What I noticed then was that everyone was having a great time. Everyone was drinking out of coups, sipping some translucent liquid, and all they all appeared to be drinking the same thing. I was just about to ask Miles what it was when a young girl with a tray appeared at my elbow. “Time to drink, my man,” Miles said, grabbing two glasses. I hardly noticed when he pressed one of them into my hand. The girl who had served them to us was young and very attractive, but she only wore a white sash tied around her waist. I was floored, I mean completely floored. It was like we walked into some Adams Family version of the Playboy mansion. I started to say something but Miles pulled me aside and towards the far side of the room. No one else seemed to notice the half naked girls serving drinks, so I figured it was best to just keep my mouth shut. Besides, Miles seemed to be pretty insistent. “Before anything else,” he said. “I have to show you something.” He took me to the wall that stood beside the bar. It was made of a faded, red brick, like it had been there for ages. But what really made it unique was the old, wooden door that lay set inside. It was big for a door. Probably eight feet tall, arched on the top and nearly wide enough for two people to walk through at a time. There was no handle or knob on the door, nor any hinges that I could see. The surface was worn and faded, but all over it were carvings of vines and leaves intertwining and curling together. If I stared at it for a while, it almost looked like they were moving. In the center of the door there was another carving. A laughing face looked out from the wood, its eyes covered by a mask of foliage. It reminded me of the Green Man figures you see at pagan festivals. But this was somehow different. I can’t explain it really. It was laughing, but sinister at the same time. There was a secret there, one that you wanted to know but were scared to know at the same time. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who felt that. It seemed like the party formed a bubble of empty space around the door, like everyone was too timid to go near it. It was nothing conscious or anything, just what they were doing. “What’s this?” I asked, intrigued but not at the same time. Miles clapped me on the shoulder. “That’s the Wild One,” he said. It was the only explanation he would offer. Pretty soon I got caught up in it all. I got to admit, the people were a lot of fun. It was like old times come to life again. We talked and drank and laughed. There was music playing that we would dance to at odd times. No one said anything, but we all knew when. The right song would come on and we got up and danced together. The drinks that they served were something unique too. The young, barely dressed girls would come around with their trays, always ready with full glasses. It tasted like a sweet wine, like nectar or something. I can’t say what it was exactly. But it was good and went down smooth and then right to the head. I felt drunk pretty quick but not the kind you get with beer or wine. It was a mellow sort of high, one that lowered all my inhibitions, gave me that surge of pleasantness you expect, but I didn’t feel dull or lightheaded. I would call it a drunkless high, but that doesn’t make sense either. There were all kinds of people gathered there, no one group or class, if you want to call it that. I can’t remember how many different people I talked to. Like I said, they were from all walks of life. There were CEO’s, lawyers, politicians, a doctor I recognized from the hospital who promised me this would be the best night of my life, even one of the ladies from the local news station. Mixed in with these I met waitresses, teachers, data entry clerks, at least four housewives, a truck driver and a roofer. Here they were, all mingled together, no distinction between them, mingling and having a great time. And did I mention the women? You wouldn’t believe it. They were all young and they were beautiful, and get this, they talked to me. They laughed at my jokes and danced with me. A few of them even sat close to me and pressed their legs against mine and touched my arm as we talked. Don’t get the wrong idea or anything, I didn’t do anything that would be construed as unfaithful. I guess that depends on your definition. But for mine, which requires doing “the deed”, I was not unfaithful. I was just enjoying the company and feeling for a little while like those old times when all of life was still in front of you. When tomorrow didn’t matter because you had all the time in the world. I forgot for a little while the incessant creep of mortality that had begun to tickle my bones. I was young again and life was my celebration. Just as I was caught up in the ecstasy of the evening, something changed. There was a perceptible shift in the air, a mood that took over everyone at once. Conversations stopped, the music fell silent. I swear even the lights dimmed. It was a cue everyone there was well acquainted with. As one, they all put down their drinks and walked over to the door. Still following some unspoken cue, they got down on their knees and began a chant. I couldn’t make out the words, but it was something slow and rhythmic. It had a religious feel to it, like a litany. The people swayed back and forth as the words echoed through them, bouncing off the walls of the chamber. “It’s time to make your decision, man,” Miles said, the only one beside me not kneeling before the door. “What’s happening?” I asked in a whisper. “The door is opening, the Wild One comes.” “What happens then?” I asked, almost afraid to hear the answer. As if the door heard, it began to creak open. A wind blew through the room as the chanting increased in volume, the intensity swelling. People began to disrobe, peeling off their clothes as they sung until they all stood naked before the door. The door creaked open more. The wind increased, the chanting grew louder. Arms were raised in the air, shouts of pagan hallelujah flew out through lips opened wide, heads thrown back in ecstasy. “What happens then?” I asked again, my fear beginning to grow now. “We go behind the door and we give our sacrifice to the Wild One,” Miles said. “Don’t look so scared, it’s wonderful. We go behind that door and gather at his altar. And there we embrace each other and lift up to him the sweetest sacrifice of all – pleasure. That’s right man, we give in to our pleasure and we give our lives to the Wild One. He gives us life and youth forever. And all we have to give him is pleasure. We embrace each other then he embraces us with his gifts. We are his, and he gives to us. It’s what we always wanted.” Now I’m not going to lie you and say I wasn’t tempted. Maybe you are reading this and shaking your head at me saying, what a poor, fool sinner he is. But you are only fooling yourself. You would be tempted to. Even if you have other ambitions, to be young and enjoy the pleasures of life forever – that’s a hard deal to turn down. “It’s your choice!” Miles said. He had to shout because the door had crept open more and the wind picked up and the chanting had grown louder, almost screams. “If you leave here then you will wake up and forget everything that happened here tonight!” Miles promised. “What you were drinking tonight will take care of that. But you will never get this chance again! Make your choice!” Miles began to undress and join in the howling chants of the people. I watched, stunned in indecision. The crowd began to dance and now they screamed out their chant. The door opened wide and a rush of wind blew through the room. Tables were flung over, glasses crashed to the floor. Someone cried out in pleasure or pain and ran through the door. I strained though the wind and looked, peering into the open door, through the crash of bodies that ran in. And if I live a thousand years and never see what I saw there again, I will die a happy man. I don’t even want to write it down. It chilled my blood until every corner of my body had grown cold. All I can tell you is that it was all of my greatest fears come to life. I’ve never been a very religious person. Not that I don’t believe in God, I do. I even go to Church every once in a while. I’ve just never thought that much about religion. And when I do think about religion, I don’t think much of it at all. Whenever I sit through Church and listen to the preacher say, “God wants you to do this, God wants you to do that.” All I can think is, “How exactly do you know all this?” Listen to me now and listen to me good when I tell you this. What I saw behind that door made me want to go back to Church. I thought of it immediately. Maybe it sounds strange, but I did. The door flew open and I watched those people in wild and naked abandon run through, and all I could think was, “I wish I was in Church right now.” For whatever dark thing lay behind that door, it would never show up at Church. Miles laughed and ran with the others, ran towards the hungry and greedy thing that stared right back at me from the open doorway. I ran too. I ran the other way. As fast as my feet could carry me I ran out of the room, through the house, and threw myself into my car. My hands shook all the way home. I was as glad as I could be to get away. But a funny thing happened on the drive back. I started to think again. Maybe I made the wrong choice. Maybe what I saw back there was just strange and different, and I was longing for something familiar and safe. I know that probably isn’t the truth, but the mind can be its own worst enemy sometimes. And by the time I pulled into my cookie cutter house and reflected on my cookie cutter life, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime. Was this something I would regret for the rest of my life? If Miles was right I would forget all about it, never even know it happened. Well, I have something for that too. First thing when I got home I started to write all of this down so I can know, I can think as the years go by, did I make the right choice? I wonder if I will believe it all when I wake up. Maybe not. Maybe this will find itself in the trash tomorrow morning. But I feel some part of me will remember, enough to know what could have been. Then again, since I’ve been writing this, I’ve realized something. If I were to never grow old, that would mean watching my kids age while I stay the same age. My son, only three years old, with his wide and curious eyes; I would watch him become an old man while I remained the age I am. My daughter, still an infant, would become a grandmother and great-grandmother while I watched from the perch of my eternal thirties. I’m not a sentimental guy, but the very thought of that happening, of staying young while my kids grow old, is enough to make me cry. Maybe I’ve had it all wrong. I thought life was passing me by. It could be I’m just passing through life. We all have to pass through. Nobody can stay. The only way to miss out on life is if everything stayed the same. Getting old and obsolete, and becoming that creepy old guy who should just keep his mouth shut around young girls – that’s just part of the bargain. That makes a lot more sense. The only way life will pass you by is if you refuse to pass through it. It’s all a package deal, my friend, and we can only trust that he who made it good also made that part good as well. We’ll see what I believe tomorrow. Tonight, I will kiss my sleeping children and pray I never see them old. I will sleep close to my wife and enjoy her warmth near me even if the only heat she has for me right now is the heat of anger. That too will pass. For now, I can console myself with the thought that I have had an experience very few people have ever had. I can’t call my life boring or mundane anymore. Then again, maybe everyone gets this choice. Maybe everyone has had a night like this, but refusing to dance with the Wild One, they don’t remember. It’s hard to think that many have had this choice, seeing how many people grow old around us. Then again, it’s a very comforting thought to know that so many people have chosen life.
The Hallowe’en That Wasn’t – by Kathy Kexel
Kathy’s tale for today kept me on my toes. I kept trying to predict what was about to happen, being that it is a Halloween story and I thought I knew where it should go. In the end, however, it went somewhere delightfully different than I expected. Click on the bonfire to enter the story and be delighted as well.
Under the Infernal Sky – A Halloween Tale by Paul J. Bennett
A day late posting this one, but please don’t let that deter you from taking a break from whatever you are doing to read the selection from Paul Bennett! Paul has a way with words and he never ceases to move his reader. Click on the stack of books below and let his words fall upon you.
The Patch by Jamie D. Greening
Here is smore free fiction for you. Let me know if you were as surprised by the ending as I was! Jamie Greening left my mouth watering for this fall, campfire favorite… click on it to satisfy craving with a story instead.
It All Started With An Email by Joseph Courtemanche
Today’s post is the beginning of the Fondue Writer’s Club 2021 Halloween journey where the members each take a turn with a new frightening story every other weekday. These stories are to help you pass the time and are totally free. We each have our own style and we hope you enjoy a little fright in your day as we count down to Halloween. Kicking us off is Joe Courtemanche with a great tale that reminds us to always think before you send. Click on Stephen King for today’s story.
Mindy’s Coming Home Again by Joe Shaw
The last fabulously frightening free fiction story in our #Hallweenshorts series is here! It. Is. A. Doozie. Thank you so much for joining us for this new series and please join us again for our Thanksgiving edition coming soon. Click on the twins to enter their creepy world. A great finale to a great run!
The Tragedy of Fortunatus and Felix by Jamie D. Greening
Halloween is almost here which means our #Halloweenshorts are almost done. Don’t miss out on this wonderful narrative poem from Jamie- it is frighteningly delicious. Click on the tear to read.
The House on 159 Cedar Hill by Robert Cely
Leland Unger felt the night call him out. He stepped from his house, into the shadows of his overgrown yard and joined the crowds of parents and children that walked up and down Cedar Hill. They were dressed in the assorted and motley wear of Halloween.
A toddler struggled in a watermelon costume as his hand dug around the pumpkin bucket for candy. An older sister followed, decked out in the glitter and spangles of a princess. Behind them, a mother trailed absently scrolling through her phone. None of them looked up or paid any attention to Leland. At least not yet.
Leland strolled through the neighborhood as the night grew darker. With the late hours waning, the younger children finished their rounds of the neighborhood, replaced by the older kids. Ninjas and superheroes gave way to zombies and werewolves. The clothes on the girls got smaller the older they got, especially on the too-old-to-trick-or-treat set. More than one face was painted in pale white with trickles of blood spilling from the corners of the mouth.
In the crowd of parents and children out for trick-or-treating, Leland looked out of place. His grey slacks, white, collared shirt and leather shoes were obviously not part of a costume. If you looked closely you could see stains on the white shirt and frayed edges on his collar. His hair was slicked and combed in a manner out of style for at least forty years. But most of all, Leland had no children with him.
In earlier generations this would have caused alarm by the parents. But as most of them were too busy scrolling through pages on their phones, they hardly noticed their own children, much less the single, adult male that walked among them. It made it so much easier for Leland to find what he was looking for.
As he walked the street, most of the children gave him a wide berth, or walked to the other side of the road altogether. They felt, as children instinctively do, that something was not right with Leland. His wide-eyed stare, his intense gaze, the hunted look about him—more than this was an aura of predatory danger that emanated from Leland. Something deep in the mind told the kids to stay away, and they obeyed.
These, of course, wouldn’t be the ones that Leland searched for. The night had called him out. And it never called for no reason. It would be a special child that he was searching for.
As the night grew later Leland continued to search. It wasn’t until after nine o’clock, with the neighborhood beginning to empty, that he found him.
The boy stood alone in a cul-de-sac. He was dressed in the camouflage fatigues of a soldier, complete with dog tags and a tear in the side with fake blood splattered around it—a wounded soldier. A pillow case bulging with candy hung neglected at his side. He stared at the houses as they began to turn off their lights. A forlorn and lost look crossed his features. He sighed and looked into his bag, as if for answers, and then down the street.
Leland could tell this is the child he had come for. It made perfect sense. The night had given the boy to him.
“Are you lost?” Leland asked as he approached the boy.
The boy shook his head, hardly paying any attention to Leland. He shouldered the bag of candy and began to shuffle off down the street.
“Hey, I saw you back there,” Leland called to him. “And it looked like something was wrong.”
The boy stopped and turned to face Leland. His face wore a mixture of sadness and resignation, like one who had accepted his fate. He shrugged his shoulders and made as if he were going to keep walking.
“Maybe I can help?” Leland suggested.
The boy stopped again and turned to face the older man. “It’s nothing,” he said. “It’s just…”
“You don’t want to go home just yet,” Leland finished for him.
His instincts paid off. The boy nodded glumly. This time, he didn’t turn around to leave.
“Things not going so great at home,” Leland continued to guess. “Lot of fighting.”
The boy nodded again. “Real bad today,” he said. “Dad was screaming, like really screaming. Then he grabbed his keys and left. He’s probably back now and…”
“And?” Leland prompted.
“He’s always meaner when he comes back,” the boy finished.
“Ah yes,” Leland said in understanding. “I’ve seen that myself. The old temper-in-a-bottle. Happens to a lot of good men.”
“You know what would be good,” Leland suggested. “Is if you could just hang out somewhere for a while until your parents got all their fighting done and went to bed. Then, you could sneak into your own bed and not have to listen to all the shouting. Sound good?”
The boy nodded. “But I don’t have anywhere to go,” he said.
“Come to my place,” Leland proposed. “It’s just up the road here. I’m all by myself. You can hang out until the coast is clear and go right back home.”
“I don’t know,” the boy said. He looked behind him, at the road he was supposed to be walking down. “I probably should be getting home.”
“My name is Leland by the way,” Leland said, hoping not to lose him. His operation was at a critical point. If he could get past this then he knew he would succeed. He could do what he came here for and the night would leave him alone for a while.
“I’m your neighbor,” he tried to say in a reassuring way. “What’s your name?”
The boy thought for a moment then said, “Terrence Oldman.”
“Terrence,” Leland repeated.
“My friends call me Terry.”
“Terry then. Nice to meet you neighbor”
Leland and Terry stood ten feet away. They both looked at the other in silence. Leland waited in anticipation while Terry deliberated with indecision. A cold wind blew down the street and the boy shivered.
“Tell you what,” Leland said. “I’ve got some hot chocolate back at the house. You can have a hot mug it will warm you right up. By the time you’re done, it will be ready to head back home. What do you say?”
Terry thought for a moment. He turned and looked down the street again. That impression of resigned defeat came over him again. Then he turned back to Leland and shrugged his shoulders.
“I guess,” he said.
Leland tried not to show how happy he was. It would be a short walk, then the house on Cedar Hill. Then the night would be satisfied.
The man and boy walked through the neighborhood in silence. They turned onto Cedar Hill, them strolled up the incline. At the peak of the hill Leland stopped outside a delapidated fence. It had been white once, but now the paint had flaked and peeled away. Most of the boards sagged or had fallen into the overgrown lawn.
Terry stopped with a touch of alarm. The look of the house—weary and sagging, lost in the shade of two sprawling oaks and grass taller than him—made him pause. It didn’t seem right, this man and this house. What lay before him was dark and terrifying, something out of a ghost story.
Leland saw that he was about to lose the boy. Whatever he dreaded at home was not as great as the fright of this unknown house. He would have to draw him in.
“Terrence,” Leland said in a deeper voice. It was soothing and calm, and just hearing his name made the fear less.
“Terrence. Terrence. Did you know when you give someone your name you give them a certain measure of power? Did you know that, Terrence? Names have power. I think you do know that, Terrence. Deep down you feel it. Don’t you, Terrence?”
The sound of his name in the man’s voice was hypnotic. He heard it, repeated again and again. Each time the man said his name he felt drawn deeper into himself. A pleasant calm came over the boy. He felt relaxed and at peace. There was nothing to be afraid of here.
Terry felt a hand on his back and he allowed himself to be guided towards the house. He hardly paid any attention to the shadows that covered him. Only distantly did he notice the dirty walls of the house and the worn hardwood floors. All he knew was the calm and relaxation that he felt in every corner of his body.
True to his word, Leland made a cup of hot chocolate. Terry sipped at the warm and sweet froth, then tipped the cup further for the hot milk beneath. The drink warmed him as it went down and he felt his peace turn to exhaustion. With every sip he felt more tired, felt a heaviness seep into his bones. All the while, Leland talked to him, pacing around the kitchen floor, saying his name in that peculiar and hypnotic cadence.
“There is a lot of evil in the world, Terrence. A lot. Have you experienced this, Terrence? I know you have. I can tell by the weariness in your face. It is too much for a boy your age. No, Terrence, you have seen more than boys your age. You have seen the wickedness of man laid bare. You have felt the curse in your house. Do you know what curse I’m talking about Terrence? It’s the curse of sin. Yes, Terrence, sin. It seeps into every corner of our world, into every home and every house. You can’t see it for the new paint or the manicured lawn or the smiling, happy couples. But it’s there, Terrence, it’s always there. You know because you’ve seen it, when no else has. When everyone says what great people your folks are, you know. You’ve heard that, Terrence, you’ve heard people say what a great family you have, how lucky you are to be their child. But you know better, Terrence, you know. You’ve peaked beneath the mask and seen what lies beneath. You know the evil that lurks behind the red doors, and beneath the khakis and polos, and beneath the pilates and carpools and supper clubs. You’ve seen it carrying Gucci and sipping Starbucks and behind the wheel of the Audis and BMWs. You’ve even seen it go to Church and pray and laugh at potluck dinners and wear pious faces at Bible study and nod in understanding at the pastor’s sermon. You are like me, Terrence. You have known, and you have seen.”
With each word Terry felt exhaustion draw more and more at his weary bones. He looked into the bottom of his cup, at the pool of dark chocolate that remained and listened to what Leland told him. And the last thought he had before drifting off to sleep was to wonder how this man knew so much about his own thoughts.
At dawn the next morning two police cruisers sat outside the Oldman residence. Sheriff Todd Brigham took his hat off and looked inside, picking at the edges. A few minutes later, one of his deputies, Derrick Collins, came and stood beside him.
“You okay Chief?” Collins asked.
The chief sighed and put his hat back on. “Yeah, yeah. Just never get used to this.”
“I hear you,” Collins echoed.
The deputy waited a moment then looked down at his notepad. “So, any idea how long the boy’s been missing?” he finally asked.
The Chief shrugged. “Who knows? Halloween night, out trick-or-treating. Your guess is as good as mine. Could have happened any time during the night.”
“Do you think he’s still alive?” the deputy asked.
“Collins,” the Chief said emphatically. “We have to work from that assumption, don’t we?”
The deputy nodded, taking strength from his boss’s conviction. “I’ll put the word out. Neighbor says he was dressed like a soldier, but a wounded one. I can get some pictures from inside.”
“What makes a man do something like this?” Chief Brigham asked aloud. “I mean to be unhappy, sure, I get that. Even get mad enough to kill someone. But to want to take out your whole family in the mix—that just makes no damn sense.”
“It’s a messed up world,” Collins echoed.
“It sure is. But it doesn’t matter how many times I see this, it always depresses the Hell out of me. Why would a man get so messed up that he comes in and shoots his wife, then himself? Probably killed the kid, too. I figure we’ll find his body a week or two from now. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s…it’s just evil, Collins.”
The deputy didn’t hear most of what the Chief was saying to him. His eyes were glued to the road ahead, to a single figure that was emerging from the early morning fog. A boy, dressed in camouflage and carrying a pillow case bulging with candy walked towards them.
“I’ll be damned, Chief,” Collins said, not believing what he saw.
Chief Todd Brigham had been on the force a long time. There were a lot of cases that burned in his memory. But one he knew he would never forget, and one that gave him hope when the depravity of the world got him down, was the time he saw Terrence Oldman walk back to his house.
By some lucky twist of fate that Chief Brigham would never understand, Terrence had stayed out until morning the very night his father decided to kill his own family and then himself. By that same stroke of fate he had survived. Whenever Brigham thought that the world just might get consumed by its own evil, he remembered Terrence. And he also remembered that nothing short of divine intervention could have saved the boy. That day convinced Chief Brigham that though the world was a rotten place, there had to be some kind of force of good looking out for things. Terrence Oldman was walking proof of that. And that was the damned truth.
The boy rolled out this incredible story of a strange man that had taken him to his house. His name was Leland, as the boy told it. And this man gave him hot chocolate and hypnotized him to sleep. He woke up in the house alone that very morning and decided to make his way home. He could even point the house out to the police.
Chief Brigham and his deputy, Collins drove up to the place Terrence had described. As they pulled up to 159 Cedar Hill, Collins reached out to stop the chief from getting out of the car.
“This can’t be the place,” he said.
“Well, the boy said it was,” the Chief pointed out. “I know it’s run down, but it’s exactly how he described it.”
“Yeah I know, but…” Collins started. He found he couldn’t finish.
“What is it?”
“I grew up here,” Collins said. “And this house was empty then. I mean, it’s been empty a long time.”
“So?” the Chief asked. “Somebody’s been squatting or something.”
“No, it’s not that. It’s that…I don’t know. This house has a reputation.”
The Chief looked over at his deputy, not believing what he heard. “Are you saying this house is haunted?” he asked.
Collins blushed and looked away sheepishly. “You know how it is Chief. Just kids talking. But after what that Oldman kid said, it makes you think.”
“That it does,” the Chief said, nodding his agreement. He looked over the house, windows busted out and the soffit sagging. More than one pit dented the roof.
“So what do they say about the house?” the Chief asked. “What’s the story here?”
“According to the legend that got passed around, this family lived here,” Collins began. “It was a typical happy family: Mom, Dad, two kids. Or at least it just looked happy. Turns out the wife had more than one extra man on the side. They say the husband knew about it all along and didn’t say anything on account of the kids. Well, one day the wife leaves and takes the kids, goes to live with a boyfriend. For over a year he doesn’t hear anything at all about his kids until the cops show up one day. Mom and her boyfriend took off, left the kids behind in a basement, locked down there without any way to fend for themselves. Cops found the bodies downstairs, starved to death. When the husband found out about it he stopped eating, stopped sleeping, stopped everything. They say he just sat down and died. Died of a broken heart.”
Chief Brigham looked the house up and down as he listened to the story. Like most ghost stories, it was tragic and more than a little heartbreaking. He could almost see the man now, slumped on a chair, just letting life slip away from him.
“So what’s the ghost side of it?” the Chief asked. “Who does he haunt? Unfaithful wives?”
“Not really,” Collins said. “Word among the boys was that you could see him walking through his house on a moonless night, you know, looking for his kids. At least that’s what the boys said.”
Collins emphasized the word “boys” in a peculiar way.
“Did other people say something different?” the Chief asked.
Collins chuckled a bit and shook his head. “Strange thing is the parents actually had a different take on it. None of them ever claimed that he walked the house, looking for his kids or anything. What they said was that there were a few times when a strange man showed up and helped kids when they were in trouble. Especially in trouble with their parents.”
“Help like how?” the Chief asked, eyeing the house more intently now.
“There was one boy they said, Riley something, lived down on Forest Glen, was being beaten by his Dad. So this guy appears in the window, staring at the man. Freaked the guy out real bad. But he’s drunk and mad and decides to follow the guy outside. By now the man’s walking down the street and the drunk Dad pursues him all the way…well, all the way here. The man disappears inside the house. The Dad gets so freaked out he leaves his wife and son, probably the best for them.”
“Mmhmm,” the Chief muttered. “Anything else?”
“Another time, this girl, she’s like twelve or something, she’s been invited into an older man’s house. You know, the neighborhood creep, but back before everyone was wise to this sort of thing. He told the girl the wanted her to watch his dogs while he was on vacation and told her to come over one night to give her the rundown on what to do. Well, on her way she sees this other guy standing in front of the house she’s supposed to go in. The guy tells her that her parents need to see her right away. When she asks who he is, he says that he’s her neighbor, that he lives at 159 Cedar Hill. So she runs home, finds out her parents are fine, and they drive here and find the house abandoned. Then they drive to the other man’s house, the one who asked her to watch the dogs, to see if he saw anything. Well, they get in the house and discover he doesn’t even have a dog.”
“Is that a fact?” the Chief asked, sounding openly skeptical.
Collins shook his head. “You wanted to know what they said. I’m just telling you what they said.”
The Chief gestured to the abandoned house. “Do you think that’s what happened here? Do you think our ghost with the broken heart saved another kid?”
“I don’t know.” Collins shrugged. “I just know I don’t want to go in that house. We’re not gonna find anything anyway.”
They did go in the house. But Collins was right. They found nothing but a run down house that had been uninhabitable for years. Spray paint decorated the walls in a mixture of misspelled profanity and satanic symbols. Broken glass and rat droppings covered the floor. It looked all in all that no one had stepped inside for many years.
They were about to cut the inspection short when something caught the Chief’s eye. He stepped over a hole in the floor and into what must have been a kitchen at one point. A sink rusted under the back window and a stove had been upturned on the floor. The refrigerator door stood open, rusted inside and out.
The Chief hardly noticed any of those things. He made his way to a rotting kitchen table that had only one chair that still stood upright. In front of the chair was a cup, a mug, that did not hold the faintest trace of dust upon it. Sliding on a glove the Chief lifted the mug and looked inside, already knowing what he would see. A ring of chocolate pooled at the bottom.
“I’ll be damned,” Collins said behind him, peering over his shoulder.
The Chief put the cup down and slid off his glove. He looked over at his deputy and shook his head.
“I expect you’ll leave this part out of the report,” he suggested.
“That’s a 10-4 Chief,” Collins agreed. “I don’t even want to try and explain this.”
“Not sure I do either,” the Chief agreed.
The two policemen stepped out of the abandoned house and into the morning light. It would lay empty and unused for many more years. Legends would grow around it like the weeds that choked the house from view.
It never showed up on any official report, but the word spread around the police station. And years later, after the Chief had retired, rookie cops were still brought to the site of that house, and it became an unofficial part of every cops training. You have to hear, they would say, about the incredible story of the house on 159 Cedar Hill. Scouts honor it’s all true. Don’t believe me, go to Delaney’s Pub on Friday night and you can find old Chief Brigham sitting in the corner drinking scotch and soda. He won’t say much at first, but if you buy him a few drinks he’ll tell you the story. I swear, you’ll never be the same.
Want to read more? Scroll down to read the stories you missed, peruse my blog, or visit the author sites by clicking on their names in the right hand column. Thanks for reading!
The Visitation by Paul Bennett
The count down to Halloween continues. Today’s story from Paul Bennett has all of the feels. Seriously, my wife was crying. The Visitation is a moving story that draws you in and leaves a mark. Click on the ghost if you dare…
Little Ambassadors by Joseph Courtemanche
The third story counting down to Halloween may be short but it is a whopper! Meteor clouds, Covid-19, and Charlie Brown? Read on to find out how those things go together to make the perfect story to lighten your day.
1313 by Kathy Kexel
Day two as we count down to Halloween is brought to you by Kathy Kexel. This story starts out innocently enough but takes a sudden, creepy turn. Visit the old lady below to read the short story, you can trust her, I swear…
Rest in Peace by Derek Elkins
Our first frightening story of this new series is from Derek Elkins and it is the perfect start. Take a seat and let us take you on a journey to Halloween….
Our formerly quarantined authors decided to fire up the ol’ free-short-story-inator once again, and spit out some free fiction for you for the holidays.
This set is one story every week day leading up to Halloween. We hope you enjoy! #Halloweenshorts
For more from these amazing authors, visit:
- Buy our Covid Quarantine Book!
- Derek Elkins
- Robert Cely
- Joseph Courtemanche
- Jamie Greening
- Joe Shaw
- Paul J Bennett
- Kathy Kexel
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