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 my own stories which will appear in their entirety.
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 per 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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