The little girl stared in horror at the apparition that loomed in the darkness just inches away from her face. The only parts visible were what looked like lips and a vague outline of a head that appeared to be floating. Thinking back, the six-year-old girl wished she had not made a deal with what she now thought might be an evil spirit from the underworld. Had she known the outcome of what she was seeing, she would have surely said, “No!”
But now it was too late. She sat there in frozen horror nervously twirling her light brown hair around her right index finger mulling over the Lord’s Prayer in her mind. She had memorized it a week before for her Sunday school class in order to receive an extra gold star on her chart that the teacher kept tacked to a felt board on the classroom wall alongside her classmates. The Kingdom could not come soon enough. As the eyeless face spoke, the words formed unpleasant images in her mind crowding out the prayer. Its voice was low and graveled.
“This is a true story about two brothers, one eight years of age named Billy and the other six years of age, just like you, named, Peter.
“It was twelve o’clock and the streets were empty of Trick-or-Treaters. They had returned to their homes—a safe haven from the shadows that swallow stray and lost little children on Halloween night. That is, except for the two brothers. As though it knew their intent, the Spirit of Halloween allowed them to wander the streets unharmed.
“Standing on a front lawn covered with patches of overgrown weeds and dry dead vines, the brothers stared at an old abandoned two-story house well known for its occupancy of ghosts. The two windows with cracked glass that set on either side of the front door looked as though they were weeping. The long porch that ran along the front of the house twisted downward at the far right and left appearing like a frown.
“Earlier in the evening, the older brother had suggested a coin toss to see which of them would have to venture inside. The older boy won the toss leaving the younger to enter the dilapidated, two-story home. As the younger brother placed his foot upon the first wooden step, it slowly creaked as though the house was moaning in pain. The boy froze then nearly jumped out of his skin at the touch of his older brother pushing him forward. ‘Don’t do that! I can go by myself,’ the young boy said irritatingly.
“Watching for loose boards, the boy carefully walked across the porch reaching the dry, paint-chipped door. He slowly pushed it open with his small right hand. The hinges popped spraying a fine mist of rust from the pins that held it in place. As he peered inside, he noticed that a suffocating darkness filled the old house.
“‘I…I’m going to need a flashlight,’ he told his older brother.
“‘Sorry, that wasn’t part of the deal. You should have said something before the toss. Now get going. I’ll be right here.’”
By this time, the little girl’s eyes had grown large, bulging out of their sockets and her heart had thumped up to her throat. How much more uneasiness could she take? Did she really want to know what evil lurks inside the house? However, she had become frozen, locked in by the fear of what was to befall the young boy. The floating lips in the darkness continued.
“As the boy slowly moved forward, his body grew tense in anticipation of a ghost or ghastly creature spawned from the dark abyss reaching up to take him to their world of gloom. He was almost wishing it to happen just to end the torture of his anxiety. He could feel the cold, damp darkness caressing his skin like scales of a snake. He could hear soft scampering noises across the floor moving in one direction then another. They now seemed to be moving in his direction. Aside from the open door, the only light that broke the darkness came from a small fissure in the roof, a mere thin shaft that landed on a carving of a gargoyle head resting above a broad doorway to the right. Its eyes seemed to follow his every move. The boy’s breathing became more laborious.
“The door slammed behind him causing him to scream. He cried out to his older brother several times but there was no answer. Should he run back in the direction of the door and feel his way out of the house? No, his brother would tell their friends what a chicken he was. He would never be able to live that down. If he took another step forward would he fall through the warped floorboards and tumble down, down, down to where all the deformed creatures and ghosts dwell? As he contemplated what to do next, something crawled on his left tennis shoe and stopped. ‘It’s only a mouse,’ he whispered to himself. Before he could kick it off, it squeezed, pulling down hard on his foot until he went crashing through the floorboards. It seemed as though he fell quite a way, but the fall was short and, oddly, he landed square on his feet. Now standing in complete darkness, the little boy began to whimper as he pulled at the cobwebs that had combed his face in the fall.”
Beyond the darkness, high above, a voice spoke just above a whisper, “What are you doing down there?” Deadly silence filled the surrounding darkness. Again, it spoke, but a bit louder, “What are you doing down there?” The little girl began to quiver as the voice spoke once more but with more force. For the voice was not coming from the floating face before her but actually from above them both. “I said, WHAT ARE YOU DOING DOWN THERE?”
Unable to bear anymore of the story, the little girl threw off the blanket that covered her and her grandfather’s heads. Looking up she saw her grandmother standing over them. “Young lady, I asked what are you doing down there?”
“Grandma, me, and Papaw were just seeing who could tell the scariest ghost stories,” replied the young girl with a nervous voice and eyes full of fright.
Grandma shook her head. “And just look at you, Gwinn, shaking and scared half out of your mind!” Papaw turned off the flashlight that he held under his chin.
Gwinn looked over at her Papaw who was smiling. “Can we go watch Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue now?”
“Sure, sweetheart. Let me put the flashlight and blanket away and I’ll be right there.”
Gwinn jumped up and skipped to the living room flipping on every light switch as she went.
“Shame, shame, Papaw!” Grandma said, shaking her head in disappointment.
“What?” Papaw said smiling, as he started toward the kitchen. “I believe I won.”
Bruce Rowe was born and raised in Shreveport La. where he gained an affinity for wildlife. His curiosity of how life would be in the forest if animals behaved as humans prompted him to write, The Chrysalis and the Creatures of the Highlands. He has had short stories published at Spillwords.com, Dastaanworld and Cafelit. ‘The Rider’, his first short story, was nominated Publication of the Month at Spillwords in October 2018. As well, ‘Grandfather’s Clock’ was a featured piece at Spillwords. ‘The Lonely Traveler’ received a special mention at Cafelit. He has been nominated twice as Author of the month at Spillwords. His poem, 'Twiggy Thin', is published in Clarendon House Publication’s, Poetica. His story, 'Hair of the Dog', is published in Zombie Works Publication, Monsterthology 2. He presently lives in Oceanside California where he spends his time writing, body surfing and playing guitar.