Halo of Flies
written by: Charles R. Bucklin
My mind is crumbling and I am terrified.
Damn me for being so stupid. I should have never followed my friend into that infernal house. But, God help me I did. And now I have a head full of vengeful ghosts. Ghosts I wish I could claw out of my skull with gore-crusted fingers if I could. But, I can’t – and I am afraid my sanity will soon be overwhelmed – giving way to madness. A mania that can only be satisfied with one thing – and it ain’t Halloween candy.
Lemme start at the beginning…
My own personal Hell began one boring Fall day in Sunnyvale.
Frost’s day warnings had been on the local news lately. The leaves had turned the color of dried blood and had fallen. School had started and the Fall semester at Farmstead High School was already beginning to feel stale. Midterms were looming and I was already hopelessly lost in my Trigonometry class.
“I betcha that house is haunted,” said my friend, Todd as we walked to school.
He pointed to the house with the For Sale sign on its lawn.
“There are no such things as haunted houses or ghosts… you have been watching too many horror movies on Netflix.”
“Oh yeah? Then how come shows like Haunted America are so popular on cable TV right now?”
“Pfft… Haunted America? Gimme a break. A bunch of nerds filming a bunch of dusty houses where nothing happens.”
“Whadya mean? They find a lot of creepy stuff in some of those houses!”
“Oooo…like the haunted kitchen faucet? Or the mysterious creaky door hinge? Seriously Dude? They claim some place is haunted – yet they never find any ghosts… just a bunch of bad plumbing.”
I cracked up at my own wit.
“Ha! You’re hilarious. Okay, smart guy… then tell me why that house hasn’t been sold for over three years?”
I glanced uneasily over at the unassuming suburban home with its neatly manicured lawn and cheerfully painted facade.
“Probably because nobody wants to buy a house where the last owner committed suicide.”
“Exactly Dude. The police said the last guy who lived in that place killed his entire family before hanging himself from the oak tree in the backyard.”
“Yeah… but, that doesn’t mean the house is haunted.”
“I hear the man left a note sayin’ the house made him do it.”
“I didn’t hear anything about a note… how’d you hear about that?”
“I read it online.”
“Todd! I don’t believe you fell for some wack jobs attempt to frighten people with some made-up urban legend online.”
“Hey man… I think it’s true. Why else would a guy off himself and his family out of the blue with no apparent reason? Even the police were unable to come up with a motive.”
“I don’t know… maybe he lost his job or caught his wife cheating… there could be any number of reasons we don’t know about that could cause a guy to go Friday the 13th on his family.”
“I still think the house made him do it,” said my friend stubbornly.
“Seriously? That house?! Look at it. You couldn’t find a more boring ‘normal’ lookin’ place,” I said, waving my hand dismissively at the suburban home.
“Looks can be deceiving… you want to check it out before school… maybe take a peek inside?”
“How about after school?”
“Forget it, Nancy Drew… C’mon let’s go – we are gonna be late for the first period.”
Well, I am sure you can guess what happened next. Some people just can’t take ‘No’ for an answer.
As Halloween approached Todd began to get more and more insistent that we go and investigate the house on Birch Lane. I blew him off. I wasn’t interested in investigating a house – no matter how notorious its history was. Besides the possibility of getting busted for breaking and entering – the place didn’t interest me. It screamed normalcy with its sunny yellow painted walls, the well-manicured lawn, and neatly planted flower beds of hydrangeas. There was nothing about the house that was evil or odd. It was just a house that no one visited. Except for a woman Realtor who’d show up occasionally to cut the grass and go inside for what I assumed for house cleaning.
Sipping my six shots of espresso Latte at Starbucks I was practically bowled over by a blonde middle-aged woman exiting Starbucks.
“I’m so sorry! I just didn’t see you,” she said, handing me a handful of napkins to wipe the spilled coffee off my school leather jacket.
“That’s okay,” I said recognizing her as the Realtor I had seen previously on Birch Lane.
“Do you want me to buy you another Starbucks?”
“No. No worries. Hey, have you had any luck selling that house?”
“What house?” she asked giving me an ultrabright neon smile.
“The yellow one on Birch?”
Her Stepfordwife’s smile faded in an instant.
“Oh, no… I’m afraid that listing hasn’t sold yet.”
“I’m surprised it hasn’t – cause it’s a nice lookin’ house.”
“Yes, it is… It’s a shame really… as I think it would make a nice young couple a good starter home.”
“Why hasn’t it sold do you think?”
“You seem awfully young to be interested in Real Estate.”
“I guess I’m just curious,” I said shrugging my shoulders.
“Well… as you know the house had a terrible tragedy occur there… and in a small town that’s a strike against it.”
“And for some odd reason all the people who have seen it… don’t like it.”
“Listen, I shouldn’t be saying this… since I’m trying to sell it…but, to be honest, I don’t like that house either.”
“Why? Because of its reputation?”
“No… no… no… it’s something else… I can’t put my finger on it. It’s like the house is off or something. Maybe it’s bad Fung Shui… I don’t know. But for some weird reason, I don’t like going in there.”
“My friend, Todd thinks it’s haunted.”
“Ha! Ha! Ha! Maybe.. but, I inherited the listing, so I’m stuck selling it. Look, I have to pick up my daughter from preschool… Sure you don’t want another coffee?”
“I’m good. Thank you, Mam.”
“You seem like a nice boy. Come and see me when you’re old enough and ready to buy a house.”
Halloween arrived and with it, the Town streets were infested with the latest pop culture monsters and superheroes. Candlelit jack-o’-lanterns gave every house porch a festive glow. I had opted to just stay inside my room, play some video games and let my folks answer the door. I figured my parents would get a kick out of seeing the kids in costumes when they dropped by our house trick o’ treating.
My cell phone rang a couple of times but, I wasn’t in the mood to answer it. I was trying to make it to the next level of my Valkyrie video game.
By the fifth call, I finally picked up the phone as it was a live phone chat from my friend Todd.
“Dude, I finally got inside the house over on Birch. Do you want to join me? ” asked his grinning image on my phone screen.
“No, Todd. How’d you get in?”
“The sliding glass door in the back of the house was unlocked. Your adventure awaits you, Dude.”
“No, count me out. I’m really not interested. Besides, I got school tomorrow and it’s gettin’ late.”
“C’mon man…it’s Halloween. it’ll be cool!”
“No, go ahead without me. I’m staying in.”
“Okay, I figured you’d poop out on me… so stay on the line while I take you on a tour of the house. Can you see what I’m seeing here? I’m in the hallway…going into the first room” he said pointing his phone around a darkened corridor.
“Okay, check this out.”
Todd pointed his phone into the first room revealing a modern living room that had a couch, a couple of comfortable chairs, and a flat-screen TV.
“Oooo… the haunted living room. Looks pretty normal to me, Dude.”
“Yeah, nothing here. Damn this house is cold.”
“Yeah? What’d did you expect? The house has been shut up like forever.”
“You’re probably right but, this whole place is freezing and it feels kinda creepy.”
“Well, maybe you ought to call it quits. Look why don’t you get outa of there before you get busted for trespassing.”
“Hell no… I wanna check the rest of the place out.”
“I really don’t think that’s …”
“I’m gonna go into the master bedroom where I read the guy killed his wife.”
The phone camera trailed back down a hallway. I could hear Todd’s heavy footsteps clomping down on the hardwood floor.”
“This must be it. The bedroom where the man killed his wife with a meat cleaver.”
“See anything, Colonel Mustard?”
“Naw… all I can see is a bed… and… hey? Shit! What the Hell is that?!”
Todd illuminated a bedroom corner with his phone. I could make out a tall black shadow.
“Oh my God!” he shouted.
“Todd! What is it?! What do you see?”
“Ha! It’s just a standing lamp. Scared you didn’t I, huh?”
“Screw you, asshole. Okay, if your little spook tour is over… why dontcha come by my folks? We can play a game of Valkyrie… I’m on the third level already.”
“Just a couple more rooms to check out. Stay with me, Dude.”
The phone camera swept out of the bedroom and proceeded back down the hallway. Todd’s long shadow seemed to eerily elongate and float before him as he backtracked through the house.
He stopped in front of a doorway and swept his phone across another bedroom. The light from his phone revealed another bedroom with two twin beds.
“This is the kids’ room. After butchering his wife with a meat cleaver, the killer came here to finish off his children. He cut both their throats before hanging himself outside.”
“See anything?” I asked.
“Naw… just a couple of beds and some furniture. Wait… a second… I thought I saw something in the corner.”
A pale face was illuminated by the camera light. A small boy sat huddled in the corner of the bedroom.
The child’s face bore a vacant expression. His skin was bone white with kohl blackened eyes. His mouth was slack and open.
“Jesus kid… you scared me. Come here… I won’t hurt you.”
I saw the boy’s image enlarge as Todd walked toward him. The child’s face contorted from vacancy to malevolent rage as his image lunged towards the camera. I heard Todd shriek with fear as his phone pinwheeled out of his hand and into darkness. I could hear the sounds of a struggle, furniture being kicked over and screaming before the line went dead.
Frantically I tried calling Todd’s number back several times. But, no one answered, and all my calls went to voicemail.
I probably broke the World’s Record for running a quarter-mile in record time. I was out of breath and drenched in sweat by the time I made it to the house on Birch Lane. Armed with a large flashlight, I made my way to the back of the unassuming building.
The house was ominously dark and quiet. There were no street sounds. Even the crickets had taken a holiday.
Sure enough, the sliding glass door was open. I tried calling Todd again on my phone.
The sound of an unanswered cell phone ringing in the house gave me a creepy feeling of despair. His phone was somewhere in the house, and I had to find it. And hopefully, find Todd in the process.
I clicked the flashlight on and pointed the illuminating beam into the doorway.
“Todd! Todd! It’s me… are you Okay?”
The echo of my voice bounced back at me.
“Areyouokay… okay… okay… okay.”
I walked slowly through the open door, shining my flashlight about the first room.
“Goddamnit Todd! If this is some kind of joke… I’m gonna kick your ass.”
“Gonnakickyourass…ass… ass… ass.”
“Todd? You’d better not be fuckin’ around,” I said trying to get my bearings in the first room.
“…fuckinaround… fuckinaround… fuckinaround.”
The temperature in the house felt frighteningly cold. And sweat on my body had cooled to the point where I began to shiver uncontrollably causing the flashlight to shake in my hand.
I couldn’t see much as I made my way past a dining room set and the adjoining kitchen. Even the streetlights were unable to illuminate the inky darkness inside the house.
Creeping down a hallway, I entered the first bedroom which looked normal enough except for the weird spotted patterns on the walls above the headboard of the neatly made bed. Walking towards the bed I examined the wall. The stains were the color of dried blood and patterned like a morbid Jackson Pollock painting. I touched the stains. They still felt wet to the touch and my fingers came back bloody. Disgusted I wiped my hand on my jeans, backed up, and bumped into a wall. A wall that wasn’t there before.
“Where’s the freakin’ door?” I muttered feeling trapped.
Turning around the small room I searched for the vanished doorway only to find a new exit on the opposite side of the room. Going through the newly appeared doorway I glanced back at the bedroom wall and noted the bloodstains were now gone. At this point, I was completely turned around as I found myself in a section of the house that should not have existed.
Instead of one straight hallway, there were multiple passageways. – all going in different directions. It felt like I was trapped in a never-ending maze. I opted for the first hallway on my right and immediately slammed into a wall after walking a few steps. I retraced my steps and took the first left-hand corridor.
At the end of the hallway, I could see what appeared to be a light at the end. The hallway seemed to bend to the left and as I made my way to the end of it, I encountered another wall with a very small window. The window was fifteen feet or more above my head so there was no way to look out of it or escape.
Turning around I raced back up the way I came. However, the corridor seemed to bend in a different direction, and I found myself in a large area that resembled a cavern.
The temperature in the room was freezing and my breaths came out in misty clouds. With chattering teeth, I looked around the cavern hoping to see another exit.
As I made my way through the cavern, I kept stepping into viscous pools of water that soaked my sneakers. Eerily there was no noise except the scrape of my footsteps and the intermittent sound of water dripping.
Abruptly I arrived at a large pool of water that had white forms floating in it. I shined my flashlight across the pond only to discover those were bodies of people floating in it. Their bloated bodies were bone white, their eyes sightless and they were covered in sores oozing with corruption.
Playing my flashlight beam over this horrific sight I felt something grab my leg and begin to pull me inexorably towards the pool. A bone-white hand from one of the corpses was clamped around my ankle. I could feel the icy grip through my jeans as I struggled to free myself.
I couldn’t break free. And I found myself being dragged closer to the corpse and into the water. The face of my captor grinned up hideously at me revealing a large set of canine teeth smiling in triumph.
I raised my flashlight and smashed it down several times hard upon the cruel face until I felt the hand loosen and let me go.
I ran wildly away from the pool, stumbling and sobbing with fear – as the hellish wails of the undead followed me out the cavern. I saw a passageway ahead of me and quickly fled down it.
During my progression, the passageway shrank to a smaller size. So I had to get on my hands and knees and crawl my way through it. I emerged into a cellar that smelled like rotten meat and candle wax.
The entire room was filled with human heads arranged on wooden shelves like ghoulish jack-o’-lanterns.
A black burning candle had been thrust into the top of each head and in front of each head was a plate of hard candy crawling with flies. By each plate was a childishly inscribed card that said: ‘Trick O’ Treat Candy, help yourself.’
Their horrible faces were covered in dripping wax. Facial expressions were frozen in terror as if they had born witness to some unspeakable horror.
I backed out of the room and fled down the nearest corridor. Desperate to get out of this fiendish place I ran blindly taking corridors at random.
Each room I entered presented me with fresh new horror. And with each investigation, I began to feel whatever evil lurked in these rooms was catching a ride in my consciousness like passengers boarding a train.
Like I said I ran, and after a while, I avoided going into rooms to search for Todd. I just ran for what seemed to be miles.
Much to my relief, I eventually found myself back in the house kitchen. And there lying on a butcher block table was a large bloody knife illuminated by another burning candle.
Another card was placed by the knife with the badly a crawled words ‘USE ME!‘ on it.
I grabbed the knife, shoved it under my belt, and made my way out of the house into the night.
I was immediately disoriented, as I emerged from the house, by the glaring street lights and the sounds of happy Halloween revelers. I had difficulty keeping my head upright. It felt heavy. I could barely see a few feet past my sneakers.
Worse, there was this awful low buzzing of insects inside my skull making it hard to concentrate and maintain my equilibrium. I tried walking around the backyard in circles, taking deep breaths through my nose to get my shit together.
Eventually, I sat down on a concrete step to clear my head. Periodically I would wave my hand as if shooing flies away from my head and body.
Trouble was there were no flies.
I glanced at my watch to check the time. The glowing dial revealed that I had been in the house for less than ten minutes.
It’s just not freakin possible, I thought.
I rubbed my face in exhaustion, lost in my own confusion when a blow to my left shoulder knocked me off the step and onto the ground.
Looking up I saw Todd standing over me, laughing his ass off.
“Ha! Ha! Ha! Surprise!”
“You’re alive?” I said getting up.
“Of course, I am. Hey, did you like the footage I sent you? My kid brother helped me film it in our house.”
“I don’t understand… what’d ya mean your house?”
“It was a prank, Dude. I figured the only way to get you inside this creepy place was to fake it. Ya know… pretend I was in trouble and shit.”
“You mean you weren’t in there the whole time?” I said pointing to the open screen door.
Todd laughed. And the low buzzing of insects started up in my head again.
“Fuck, no. Like I said my brother and I filmed the call at my house. We just turned out all the lights downstairs and he played the zombie. Pretty cool, huh?”
The buzzing in my ear became louder and angrier.
“….man, you should have seen your face when you came outside… Ha! Ha! Ha! You looked scared shitless!”
“So this was your idea of a joke?” I said gripping the knife handle with bone white knuckles.
“Psych, Dude. Happy Halloween!”
“Yes,” I said approaching him.
A little while later, I added another head to my collection in the cellar.
He had struggled of course, so it wasn’t my best work.
But, with a few nails and duct tape, I soon had Todd’s head positioned the way I wanted to with my other trophies.
Call me sentimental, but I gave him the best spot on the shelf.
Charles R. Bucklin
Latest posts by Charles R. Bucklin (see all)
- Liver n’ Onions - March 10, 2023
- Halo of Flies - October 23, 2022
- A Gaijin in Tokyo!! - August 10, 2022