THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN: DAY 13 - BLACK BOOK

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BLACK BOOK

THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN
DAY THIRTEEN

demon: a supernatural and often malevolent being prevalent in religion, occultism, literature, fiction, mythology and folklore. In Ancient Near Eastern religions as well as in the Abrahamic traditions, including ancient and medieval Christian demonology, a demon is considered a harmful spiritual entity which may cause demonic possession, calling for an exorcism. In Western occultism and Renaissance magic, which grew out of an amalgamation of Greco-Roman magic, Jewish Aggadah and Christian demonology, a demon is believed to be a spiritual entity that may be conjured and controlled.


It is a small black book with small black writing, ink dragged first in a tight and careful hand, then turned progressively looser and messier with each turn of the page. The names inside are long and near-illegible, but I have seen them before - I have heard them in the unearthly voices broken through split lips.

The small black book came from a small black room. I am told that the room did not used to be black, but that it turned a different color on That Night. That is how people refer to exorcisms. That Night. That Day. There are no dates tied to these phrases. People know what you mean. On That Night something evil threw itself against the wall and bled into the folds of our reality. On That Day strange tongues rang off the high ceilings, screaming strange names at the sky and spitting curses at the holy water poured over a writhing body.

I have traveled thousands of miles, by plane and train and boat, to get this small black book. It comes from a priest I have never met who speaks a language I can only speak in fractured stammers. But it has to help.

It has to.

There is something inside of me. Something that twists my tongue in languages long dead and whispers things inside my head. It lives inside my skull and I can always hear it scratching there. Even when it stops its murmuring I can feel its claws against my bones; because this something wants out. It is fighting and my body is getting weaker and weaker. The small black book was inside a church I could not step inside, because the something burned me from the inside when I tried. Its heat still simmered beneath my skin each time I looked at the spiraling towers with their perfect little crosses shadowed by the sun - a punishment for wishing.

The something inside me pulls at the threads of my eyes when I try to read the small black book, and sings in my ears when I have it read to me. But I can’t stop trying. I whisper prayers that make it angry, let it scream itself to exhaustion, just so I can keep going.

It leaves me exhausted, too. Some days all I can do is sleep.

When I sleep, I dream terrible dreams of goat eyes and snakes, hordes of flies, blood spilling from black storm clouds and runes whose meanings are lost when, at last, I wake.

I am at war with this thing inside me. I don’t know how to win.

But I have the priest’s black book and a Bible blessed  by Cardinals. I have Crucifixes that I right again and again, for the thing inside me gets out to flip them while I sleep. I have holy water and I have will. I think I still have will. It is smaller than it used to be; a little flicker in my belly that I must cling to, or else let slip away. It cannot slip away. The thing inside me tries to cut and shrink and shrivel it, but I cannot let it slip away.


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THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN: DAY 12 - THE OTHER ME

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THE OTHER ME

THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN
DAY TWELVE

dr. jekyl & mr. hyde: Dr. Henry Jekyll and his alternative personality, Mr. Edward Hyde, is a fictional character in Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He is the title character, but the main protagonist is Gabriel John Utterson; Jekyll feels he is battling between the good and bad within himself, thus leading to the struggle with his alter ego, Hyde. He spends his life trying to repress evil urges that are not fitting for a man of his stature. He develops a serum in an attempt to mask this hidden evil. However, in doing so, Jekyll transforms into Hyde, a hideous creature without compassion or remorse.


There is a picture in the morning paper that I think might be me. It sits above the fold, blurred with motion in the center of its focus, but I think it looks like me. Not the me that awoke stiff-boned and yawning from the folds of fresh white sheets, not the me that poured hot coffee and sat on the front porch waiting for the paperboy in his rickety bike with the squeaky wheels to fling a bundle onto the drive. If it were that me I would not be on my porch because I would be in a cell because I would have been recognized by the corner store clerk who sold me cigarettes last night or by the pubescent boy that flung the morning news behind the back tires of  my Buick.

The other me is still at large. A wanted man.

The charge is murder. Actually, the charges - as in, multiple counts, as in, multiple murders,  as in, more than one person was killed. I found a spot of red on my gray shirt collar and I think the charges are for me. Not the me sitting at the breakfast nook over half a leftover buttered croissant, but the other me. The wanted me.

I’ve never talked to the other me. I don’t how to ask him what he’s done. But I don’t have to, because I can read about it, because the morning paper is urging citizens to look out for the other me.

The other me is taller. The other me is broader. The other me has a deeper voice and stronger hands and calluses on all his fingers. The other me likes the dark. The other me is short tempered. He lingers at the edges of my consciousness and waits for little grievances to pile up, and when he has to wait too long, he tips the scales himself.

The other me knows that I hate him. I do not need to speak to him to know that he knows this. We understand these things about each other because we live on opposite hemispheres of the same brain and sometimes our wires get crossed. Sometimes he taps into me, or I tap into him, but I have more to hide from him - because I can read about him in the morning paper, but there are no headlines about me.

We can hear each other sometimes, too. I linger at the edge of his mind  when he rages and sometimes I catch glimpses of his thoughts. Because I do this, I know that he can, too. And I have talked a great deal lately about how I wish to extract him.

He does not want this. He wants to live.

I cannot blame him. I want to live too. This is why I want to erase him.

Not erase, I suppose. Erasure is permanent, and he exists in print. I will never truly get rid of him., and perhaps this is exactly what he wanted. Perhaps this is why he swells and breaks my bones and tears my skin. Perhaps it’s why he storms into the straights and lets people see him.

Because if he exists to them, he will always exist. And if he always exists, I can never escape.


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THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN: DAY 11 - LIBBY

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LIBBY

THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN
DAY ELEVEN

haunted doll: a handmade or manufactured doll or stuffed animal that is reported to be cursed or possessed in some way. The earliest report of a haunted doll goes back to Ancient Egyptwhere the enemies of Ramesses III attempted to use wax images of his likeness to bring about his death. The dolls used in this ritual were said to be living and would curse anyone who bore their resemblance. The ancient Egyptian poppet, effigy and voodoo dolls are often said to be cursed because of their long history of being used to place curses on other people and their association with the occult.


Olivia does not scare easy.

She pushes the planchette during her sister’s Oujia seances (Is there someone in this room with us? YES. Can you tell us your name? NO. Is there something you want to say to us? G-E-T O-U-T N-O-W.), she lets her friends huddle in nervous giggles behind her as she takes the first step inside the “Scariest Haunted House on the East Coast!”, and she doesn’t check behind the shower curtain or peek into the closet to check for serial killers after slasher movie marathons.

Olivia allocates her fear toward things she considers real: taxes are real, and so are car accidents; plane crashes are rare, but no less real for it; bears exist and their pure, brute power and probable anger management issues are more than enough reason to stay out of the woods. Olivia thinks that she should, perhaps, be afraid of abandoned buildings, but finds herself fascinated, instead.

“This place gives me the creeps,” Tim says.

“It’s four walls and a roof,” Olivia rationalizes.

“And asbestos,” Kelly quips.

They are armed with cameras and slowly-thinning determination. It’s Olivia who kicks at the first door. It groans under the force, but does not budge. Dust falls from its frame. Olivia tries again and gets the rusted lock to rattle. The dust coats her Chucks in a thick, gray layer.

“See?” Kelly says. “Asbestos.”

“Let me try,” Tim says. Olivia steps aside and lets him take a hard swing at the door with the baseball bat he’d dragged with them - for protection, he’d explained, and Olivia had decided this was sound. Ghosts aren’t real, but who knows who might actually be hunkering down in those halls. He gets the rust the flake and fall, unlocking the latch and making the door creak eerily inwards. He jumps backwards.

“Four walls and a roof,” Olivia reminds him. “And maybe some homeless dudes.”

She pushes the door wider and steps inside. Her footfalls echo in the hollow, empty foyer. There’s a large, round reception desk a few feet ahead of her. There is flaked paint and crumbled pieces of plaster piled in the corners of the room, and the cracked fluorescent lights are so caked in dust they probably couldn’t illuminate much of anything even if they did work.

Olivia raises her camera and snaps a picture. The photograph that plays back makes the whole room look even more bleak, and the power of such an artistic playground inspires a smile.

“Come on,” she says. “This place is sick.”

“Probably literally,” Kelly says, but she steps inside anyway. “Holy shit.”

Tim is the last to step inside, and he keeps the door wide open behind him.

“Let’s go,” Olivia says, and together they press forward into the dark.


It is tradition, on these urban expeditions, for everyone to take a suvionier - a token of proof that they’d gone somewhere they were not supposed to go and saw things that they were not supposed to see. Tim takes little things, bits of broken wire and buttons left floors, anything small enough to stuff in a shoebox shoved in the far corner of his closet. Kelly went for florals - dried up weeds and dead leaves and little bouquets of wildflowers that she pressed inside her biology textbooks.

Olivia, true to form, is the most bold. She keeps a crate in the back of her parent’s shed, hidden behind the ride-on mower and a large assortment of rakes, behind the boxes her mother packed up for the yard sale that they never had. There she had books from the library of an old orphanage and an unopened package of surgical masks from the county hospital that closed down when they were just kids; she took full staff manuals with the covers missing and cracked coffee pots from retired break-rooms, state issued blankets that were no longer fit to be issued. She takes things that once mattered, things with names on them - full folders of files that once meant something, and now doesn’t. She likes to go for the weird things: the single shoes left in empty halls, the jackets forgotten on dusty coat racks.

This time, though, she finds the strangest treasure of all.

“Don’t take that,” Kelly says.

“Why not?” Olivia asks.

“It’s creepy is what it is,” Tim says.

“That thing’s possessed for sure,” says Kelly.

The thing in question is a doll. A simple doll made of felt, with black button eyes and a smile made of squiggled switches that were probably endearing before some spiders made their webs across it. It wears a dress that looks like it used to be a tablecloth; homemade, Olivia thinks, and that makes her want it more.

“You guys are nuts,” she says, sweeping her sleeve across the doll’s face to clean off the dust and cobwebs. “I think it’s cool. Kind of cute, once you clean it up.”

“You have a weird definition of cute,” says Kelly, but Olivia is not listening. She’s turning the doll over in her hands, inspecting it. It’s well made, she finds, the stitching hardly frayed except for at the hem of the little blue dress. On one of the doll’s feet the name Libby is written in black ink.

“Look at that,” Olivia says, pointing to the ink. “She’s even got a name.”

“That just makes it worse,” Kelly says. The doll goes into Olivia’s bag anyway.

When she arrives home, she bypasses her parents’ shed and instead goes straight inside. She cleans the doll up with some washcloths from the bathroom cabinet and and sets it on a high shelf in her bedroom. No one seems to notice it, no one but her sister, who swears it changes positions throughout the day.

“You can stop moving it,” Olivia tells her, “you’re not going to scare me.”

“Are you kidding?” says Natalie. “I’m not touching that thing!”

“Sure,” Olivia says. “So it just jumped on my bed of its own accord?”

“It was on your bed?!”

“Very funny, Nat.”

“Liv, I swear,” says Natalie. “You brought home a goddamn demon.”

Olivia dismiss this with a quip about Natalie’s Oujia board, a quip that does not go over well because apparently when Natalie is really scared of something she doesn’t want to try to talk to it with the stupid spirit board. Too bad. Olivia would have liked to mess with her - make the planchette spell out things like I’m here, and Right behind you, and Yes, I am a demon.

Little Libby the Doll continues to move around Olivia’s room. Once, it even ends up in the living room, just perched on the couch like it was gearing up for Sunday football.

Natalie stars to have nightmares, too. She tells Olivia about them. She talks about finding the doll at the foot of her bed with a knife gleaming in its little felt hand. She talks about blood dripping from the doll’s button eyes and sometimes woke up with terrible headaches, swearing that they were all the doll’s fault.

“The joke’s getting old, Nat,” Olivia tells her sister one night when she found Libby sitting on the front porch when she’d come home from school. “Give it up.”

“It’s not a joke, Liv,” Natalie swears. “Get rid of that fucking thing.”

Olivia just rolls her eyes and sets Libby back on her shelf.

Kelly doesn’t go into Olivia’s room anymore. Eventually, she stops coming over all together, instead inviting Olivia and Tim to her basement rec room for movie nights and to plan their next expeditions into their next condemned building. One night, over popcorn and bottles of cola, Olivia tells Kelly and Tim about Natalie’s obsession with Libby.

“It’s not scary,” Olivia says. “I don’t get why she keeps at it.”

“Do you ever think that maybe she’s telling the truth?” Tim asks.

“Natalie? No,” Olivia says firmly. “She’s just stuck on this gag.”

“If you say so,” says Kelly. “But I still think that doll’s bad news.”

Olivia stands firm in her belief that Libby is just a doll and nothing more. She swears allegiance to rationality when Natalie’s headaches grow into migraines so severe their mother rushes her to the hospital. She swears this when her mother starts to get nauseous whenever she steps in Olivia’s room, and when the family dog stops crossing her narrow threshold. She swears it even when her father wakes up in the middle of the night pacing the ground floor with her mother’s cooking knife in his hand, nearly stabbing Olivia when she tried to wake him up. (It was my mistake, Olivia reasons, because you’re not supposed to wake a sleepwalker, and that’s all that was happening.)

The hardest thing to rationalize is when Natalie tries to burn the doll in the firepit when her friends are roasting marshmallows, only to have the doll show up on Olivia’s shelf with a thin film of ash on its little felt hands.

She thinks Natalie is lying about using Libby as kindling, that her little friends are all in on it and backing her little sister up when they swear up and down that they watched the thing go up in flames so high Olivia’s father came out of the kitchen to dump water over the pit.

The nightmares come and go - for Natalie, and their mother, and their sleepwalking father, and eventually even to Olivia. The dreams are different for Olivia, though. Different than the way Natalie and their mother describe them - Olivia does not dream of blood and knives. She just hears a soft voice whispering in a language she doesn’t understand.

Kelly tries to get her to get rid of the doll.

“We’re going back anyway,” Kelly says. “You can dump it there.”

“It’s a doll,” Olivia says.

“But-”

“But nothing,” Olivia swears. “It’s just a doll.”

Even when she’s drawn to the knives her father drags from the kitchen each night. Even when the takes one for herself instead of waking him. Even when she brings it into her little sister’s bedroom. Even when the police put it, red slicked, into a plastic bag and slap cuffs over Olivia’s slender wrists.

It’s just a doll.

Just a doll.


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THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN: DAY 10 - THE EYES

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THE EYES

THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN
DAY TEN

zombie: a fictional undead being created through the reanimation of a human corpse. Zombies are most commonly found in horror and fantasy genre works. The term comes from Haitian folklore, where a zombie is a dead body reanimated through various methods, most commonly magic. Modern depictions of the reanimation of the dead do not necessarily involve magic but often invoke science fictional methods such as carriers, radiation, mental diseases, vectors, pathogens, scientific accidents, etc.


Don’t look them in the eyes.

The eyes are where they start being human, and when they start being human, you go soft. The way you keep from being afraid is not to look them in eye. This is what my mother taught me. She was born before they came. She remembered a world full of tomorrows, but she didn’t talk about it much. She was not the kind of mother who told you sit up straight and eat all your vegetables. She was not the kind of mother who flashed the porchlight three times to call you in for dinner. Those were the kinds of things they did in that world ripe with tomorrows and next weeks and next years. They went to grocery stores then, and I know my mother went to those grocery stores when she lived in that great big yesterday because she knew all the names of all the hollowed out concrete husks we sometimes camped in when I was a child. Stop & Shops were different from Shop Rites were different from Whole Foods, and Fresh Market, and King Kullen - they were different to my mother because she knew what they were before. I only knew them by their shelf sizes, because sometimes, when I was small enough, I would sleep on them in a bundle of threadbare blankets and my mother’s clothes. They were mostly the same, but my mother knew their names.

My mother could not be the kind of mother who stood in line at the deli counter or stuffed fruit into thin plastic bags. She was, instead, the kind of mother who dug through the weeds outside the broken of shell of what used to be a Waldbaum’s and showed me what plants were safe to eat. She was the kind of mother who threw food scraps up in trees and wrapped thin wire like a fence around our house each night. She was the kind of mother who traded fresh grown tomatoes and cucumbers and sweet peppers with neighbors so that we could share their apples and their lemons and their almonds and tea leaves. She was the kind of mother who ate berries right off the wild bush, and she was the kind of mother who taught me not to look them in the eye.

“Are they people?” I asked her sometimes, and she would get this really somber look on her face - like she see the whole world and all its problems and she was overwhelmed by all the ways she absolutely could not fix it - and then she would sigh.

“They were,” she said. “Once.”

But the eyes, she told me, stay human.

My mother would never talk about that world she grew up in, the one where all the postcard pictures of bright, rolling landscapes and smiling faces came from. She would talk about The Beginning. She would talk about the day she knew she would never get her world back.

She would talk about the eyes.

My mother taught me all about their teeth, too. That was the first thing she ever taught me. You don’t go near them, and if they get near you, you don’t let their teeth get close. Their teeth is were the sickness lives. That’s how my mother explained it. They sink their ugly teeth into your skin and swallow pieces of you down into their bellies. If they don’t finish you off then you get the sickness, too. My mother taught it was better if they finished you off.

“They suffer,” she said. “Before they’re them.”

Before they’re them, they’re still people, and bitten people come down with fevers so high they scream out in the night. Their whole bodies hurt because the sickness eats them from the outside out.

“They eat you,” my mother said, “it’s from the outside, in.”

She thought that this was better, because you’d probably pass out and not feel it when you died. If they left you, then you felt it, every single second of it, before you become one of them.

I’d seen bitten people before. My mother took me with her when she went to help a neighbor. They said that their son was sick. My mother was a nurse in the world of tomorrows, so people were always calling her when someone took sick. They said that is was a fever. They said maybe it was the flu. They forgot to mention that their son had fallen into the creek and that one of them was swimming there. It grabbed him, and it bit him, and my mother took one look at him and got pinch-faced mad. She dragged the parents into another room to talk to them - she said talk, like, “Shelley, I’m going in there to talk to Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So, you sit tight and I’ll be right back” - but I heard her voice getting louder.

“They’re mad at me,” the sick kid said. His voice was really weak and he wheezed as he sucked in air. His eyes were rimmed watery and he was shaking all over, like he was cold, only there was sweat slicking up his forehead and pouring all over his skin, so much sweat it was like the sun had laser-eyes on him.

“I don’t think at you,” I said.

“Can you get me some water?” the sick kid asked. Our neighbors lived in a tiny one-floor ranch, and there was a jug of water in the kitchen right outside his room. I went to get him some, and was handing him a plastic cup when my mother came back in. The sick kid had forgotten about the water. He was shaking really hard then, so hard the bed shook, too, and his mother starting crying. Her cries sounded more like screams.

“Shelley, get out,” my mother said, and she shoved me so hard out the door I spilled the water glass. The door shut behind me before anybody noticed. I heard muffled crying on the other side, and more screaming that could have been crying, and my mother’s voice still half-mad and sharp-edged.

It was a long time before she came back. On the walk home, she told me about the eyes.

I’ve learned how to kill them. My mother was the kind of mother who taught me how to kill. We had shotguns and rifles and revolvers, we had a crossbow that we used for hunting, we had thick knives and penknives and everything in between. You had to know how to kill in this world. The world that was born in was broken and dying, and if you didn’t know how to kill the things that broke it, they’d take you down, too.

My mother is gone now. Not becomes of the things, but because her time ran out. Or rather, her heart did. It seized up right in her chest when she was gardening - an unspectacular end for what I’d always considered the most spectacular life. It didn’t fit her, and on the rare occasions I have to tell her story, I leave out the way it ended.

I don’t ever lookthem in eye, just like my mother said.

Not until I have to.

Not until I’m trapped inside an old hunting shack surrounded by dead things. They are pounding their gray fists against the walls, the door, the windows. The building is low and I can their faces through the mossy, grimy glass. Their mouths open and close like guppies. I am safely away from their teeth. Their eyes, though, I cannot avoid.

A gnarled hand breaks the window and the glass shatters at my feet. They all swarm like bees at the sound, and they fight each other to take the first peek inside. One round head wins. It pops through the opening, not caring as the broken glass slits its skin. No blood comes out of the cuts.

The eyes find me.

I have no choice but to look back, to see them for the first time in my twenty-five years.

They are blue and glassy and clouded with edge. The eyes don’t move inside their sockets, even as the jaw works up and down the teeth gnash against each other. They are still. They may as well be marbles stuck inside a skull.

My mother was the wisest woman I’ve ever known, but she was wrong about one thing. She was wrong about those eyes. They’re not human. They haven’t made me soft. The longer I look at them, the more I know that they are anything but human, and I am anything but soft.

Those are monster eyes. The kinds you see in the woods at night when your parents swear it’s just the light playing tricks. I grab my knife and charge - charge at the broken glass and those broken eyes - and I jam the blade right through one, if only to stop it from staring at me - to stop it from making me look.


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THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN: DAY 9 - MONSTER

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MONSTER

THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN
DAY NINE

Frankenstein’s monster: often erroneously referred to as "Frankenstein”, is a fictional character who first appeared in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Shelley's title thus compares the monster's creator, Victor Frankenstein, to the mythological character Prometheus, who fashioned humans out of clay and gave them fire. In Shelley's Gothic story, Victor Frankenstein builds the creature in his laboratory through an ambiguous method consisting of chemistry and alchemy. Shelley describes the monster as 8-foot-tall (2.4 m), hideously ugly, but sensitive and emotional.


He calls me many things, but Fable most of all.

I am told that is my name, but that I used to have others. There is a name for every piece of me. A name for the heart, a name for arms, a name for the legs and the throat and the head, a name for the lungs - aided by mechanics that creak and sometimes need repairs with wrenches and pliers and tanks full of gas called oxygen that The Great He says make me real.

I think I am real without the machines, but He does not agree. He tells me that I need Him to stay alive. He tells me that I would not exist without Him. I cannot disagree; I do not remember a life before him. The brain, with its other-name, does not hold memories before the bare lightbulb in the basement and the silver bed He laid me on, still lays me on each night. He covers my mouth with masks that pump oxygen into my half-robotic lungs and forces my chest to heave up and down and up and down with more force than I could produce on my own. It’s fascinating to watch, until He tapes my eyelids shut because, He says, they to rest. I need to rest. He says that He must close my eyes for me, because He could not make my nerves and reflexes work the way they’re supposed to. He must help me rest, He says. He does this because He loves me, He says. But I don’t know if He means it.

He attaches sticky circles to my chest and sometimes they shock me with great big jolts that make skin tingle. He says that’s for the heart - it sometimes stops, because it thinks it’s dead, but he knows it wants to be alive.

“Where did it come from?” I ask, but he does not answer.

He does not like to answer questions. When I ask them, he shakes his head and turns away to the picture on his desk. It is nestled in a gold-plated frame. The picture is of a boy, and the boy has His eyes and His nose. The mouth looks similar, but the boy is smiling, and He never does.

I think He wants to love me, but he does not know how.

I think He wants me to be someone else, but I do not know how.

I do not know why He made me. I know it has something to do with the boy in the gold-plated picture frame. I know this because when I look in the mirror, I think I look like the boy. We have the same kind of shaggy dark hair and the some color eyes - mine look more gray, but I think that when they had their other-name they looked more like the boy’s.

The boy’s name was Seth. I know this because it is the name He whispers when He has put me to sleep for the night. I can hear Him on the nights that He forgets to plug my ears - for quiet, He says, is important for rest. I hear Him pick up the picture frame and tell Seth how much He loves him. How much He misses him. How hard He’s trying to keep him alive.

He calls me Fable, and when I found his library and his battered college dictionaries, I found out what that means. A Fable is a story. A Fable is not real. It is make-believe, sometimes called a folktale and sometimes called a myth, sometimes written to teach a lesson to children in storytime circles so that they might leave that circle better people who make better choices and live better lives.

I do not think that I am make-believe, and I do not think I was made to teach lessons.

But still, He calls me Fable. He calls me Fable, and He calls me Son, and there are tears in His eyes when He sometimes slips and calls me Seth. And the longer we live together, the more nights He tucks me onto that metal bed and covers my nose and mouth and glues those little circles to my chest and tables my eyelids shut, He kisses my forehead and then He kisses the picture and when He turns out the lights I hear Him start to call me Monster.

I look up this word, too. Another name that I am not sure suits me, but I have learned that it does not do to argue - not with Him. He calls me Monster, and if my eyes could still cry I think I might shed tears. He stops kissing my forehead. He stops calling me Son.

He even stops calling me Fable.

He has given me all the names I have, including all the other-names my body is made of. He has given me my names and my life and I don’t know why, but when He starts calling me Monster I think He is taking it all away. He stops letting me rest. My lungs revert; they seek their other-name and give up mine. They do not want to be Monster. My heart, too, starts to slow.

“I’ll die,” I tell Him, “if you do not help.”

“Monster,” He tells me, “you were never meant to live.”

“But I want to,” I tell Him. I tell Him over and over.

“Monster,” He tells me, “you were never meant to want.”

“Why, then?” I ask Him. “Why am I here?”

“Monster,” He tells me, “you will not be much longer.”


THIS STORY HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO YOU BY MY PATREON FAMILY:

MELISSA JENNINGS
STEPHEN CLEATH
TAMMY L. BREITWEISER
JASMINE MARIE

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THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN: DAY 8 - IT STARTS WITH A BANG

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IT STARTS WITH A BANG

THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN
DAY EIGHT

poltergeist: German for "noisy ghost" or "noisy spirit"; in ghostlore, a type of ghost or spirit that is responsible for physical disturbances, such as loud noises and objects being moved or destroyed. They are purportedly capable of pinching, biting, hitting, and tripping people. Most accounts of poltergeists describe the movement or levitation of objects such as furniture and cutlery, or noises such as knocking on doors.


It starts with a bang.

“Literally,” Christina swears. “Just bang bang bang, over and over again. It’s, like, three o’clock in the morning and all of a sudden the whole house is shaking with this crazy banging. Sadie started losing her shit. But she wasn’t barking. She wasn’t defensive, you know? She was scared. Whining and pacing with her tail between her legs. She bolted straight down the stairs and started pawing at the front door. She wanted out. Like, bad. I tried to lead her to the back door, but she wouldn’t go. Wouldn’t even walk through the living room. It’s like there was some kind of force field holding her back. That sounds stupid, but it’s true. She would take two steps forward, four back, and just go back to the front door and scratch at it. So I go into the kitchen, and that’s when I see it. The cabinet door just open, close, open, close - all on its own.”

She waves her hand back and forth to demonstration.

“And it’s slamming,” Christina continues. “Slamming hard every time it closes. Bang bang bang. Over and over and over again. So I walk up to it, and it starts to go even faster - bang bang bang bang. And I can still hear Sadie crying at the door. And I stand there for a while, like...I mean I was scared, you know? Of course I was scared. But I can’t just stand there and do nothing, right? So I wait until the cupboard closes again and I slam my hands on it. One last big bang. And I can feel it, like, shaking under my hands. Just shaking, but only for a second. It stops. I take my hands away and it stays closed. It gets really quiet.”

“So that was it?”

“No,” Christina says. “I thought it was, but then - out of nowhere - it starts again. Bang bang. Real slow. And this time there’s another noise, like something clattering. Like, um.” She takes her silverware up off its folded napkin and clangs the fork and knife together. “Like that. Sadie’s going nuts again, barking a little bit this time, and I can still hear her scratching at the front door. I turn around and bang bang, my drawers are just opening and closing and opening and closing, all on their own. Everything inside is getting all shaken around and thrown together, and when I move closer, just like with cabinet, it starts to happen faster. Bang bang bang.”

“What do you do?”

“Same thing,” Christina says. “Basically. I go over and grab the handles and I slam the drawers shut. But I can only do one, maybe two at a time? So it turns into this crazy, fucked up game of whack-a-mole.”

“That game’s fucked up as is.”

“What I mean is that I’m the mallet and the moles are possessed kitchen drawers.”

“Possessed.”

“What else would you call it?” Christina asks.

“I don’t know. Keep going.”

“Fine. So, I’m playing whack-a-drawer, or whatever. Everytime I get one closed, another one pops open. It’s like they’re mocking me or something. Until it just stops. Out of nowhere. I take my hands off the handles and all the drawers stay put. Sadie quiets down. Everything just...stops. I go back upstairs, go back to bed. And that was it.”

“Woah,” Jenna whistles.

“Yeah,” Christina agrees.

“That’s one crazy dream.”

“Yeah,” Christina says again. “But it’s weird. It didn’t feel like a dream. It felt...real.”

“Nightmares usually do,” Jenna says, always rationalizing. “And you’ve been having some wild ones lately, last night’s not excluded. Maybe you should talk to someone? I mean, this could all have to do with-”

“-Michael,” Christina finishes.

“Well,” says Jenna, fumbling. She recovers with a sigh. “Yeah.”

“I know I’ve been weird since-” Christina knows how the statements ends, but she can’t bring herself to finish it.  Saying it makes it real. Saying it means it happened, means that there’s no turning back, and though Christina knows that this is her reality, it’s a reality she’s not yet willing to face. She shakes her head. “I know I’ve been weird,” she says.

“Not weird,” Jenna insists. “Grieving.”

“Right.” Christina says. “Yeah.”

“I can help you look,” Jenna says. “For a therapist, I mean. Make a few calls.”

“Thanks,” Christina says. “I just feel like everything’s falling apart. Like, I’m just unraveling or something. Like I’m a ball of yarn and some kid found Grandma’s knitting kit, and now they’re pulling me apart strand by strand.”

“I know,” Jenna says. “I miss him, too. I know it’s not the same.”

“If you can find someone that specializes in dreams that don’t feel like dreams-”

“-They’ll skyrocket to the top of the list. In the meantime, if you’re up for some company

“That’d be great,” Christina says. “Thanks.”

“White or red?” Jenna asks, then, “Forget it. I’ll surprise you.”


The surprise is Pinot Grigio in a bottle far too big for two people, but Jenna and Christina make a valiant effort. By midnight they’ve left little more than one glass worth. Christina offers it to Jenna, who raises her half-emptied glass and says, “All yours.”

“I’m good, too,” Christina says, pointing to her own empty glass on the coffee table. She goes into the kitchen to grab a bottle stopper - black rubber with a silver dog perched on top - to plug the bottle. When she returns, Jenna has risen from the couch as well, and is standing by the front door sipping at her wine.

“You okay?” Christina asks.

“What are these marks?” Jenna asks. Christina moves closer and looks where Jenna’s points, finding shallow grooves carved into the wood of her front door. Her brows knit together and she leans forward, reaching out to touch the cuts. Her collie, Sadie, trots up to her and nudges Christina’s hand with her nose.

“Must be Sadie,” Christina says, patting the dog on the head. “Can’t think of anything else.”


It starts with a bang.

“Literally,” Jenna whispers. “From there.”

She points toward the kitchen. Sadie has taken up residence by the front door, turning in desperate circles and jumping up on the wood. Christina listens carefully; Jenna holds her breath. Bang bang bang. “Shit,” Christina says.

“Should we…?”

“I’ll go,” Christina says. Jenna rises with her, though, and follows her cautiously into the kitchen. Bang bang bang. The cupboard door opens wide and slams shut, over and over again. Bang bang bang. Of its own accord, the door swings on its hinges. Bang bang bang.

And then it stops, the last bang ringing in their ears. Sadie sits on the welcome mat, still whining. In the dining room, a chair slams hard against the floor. Christina and Jenna swivel around in time to see it rattle to the ground, then the legs scrape against hardwood as it floats up to right itself.

“Holy shit,” Jenna says. “Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.”

Sadie jumps onto her four feet and walks backwards until she bumps into the wall, barking all the way. The chair levitates centimeters off the ground, then slams down with a thud so hard it shakes the whole house.

“Chris,” Jenna says. “I don’t think you’re having nightmares.”

“No,” Christina says. “I’m pretty sure I’m not.”


THIS STORY HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO YOU BY MY PATREON FAMILY:

MELISSA JENNINGS
STEPHEN CLEATH
TAMMY L. BREITWEISER
JASMINE MARIE

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THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN: DAY 7 - THE DAUGHTER

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THE DAUGHTER

THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN
DAY SEVEN

witch: a woman thought to have magic powers, especially evil ones, popularly depicted as wearing a black cloak and pointed hat and flying on a broomstick; Witchcraft or witchery broadly means the practice of and belief in magical skills and abilities exercised by solitary practitioners and groups.


I am a witch of Salem.

Regardless of trials, regardless evidence and arguments, regardless of testimonies, regardless of proof. I have been accused - therefore, I am. Because I will die without regard for the judge’s ruling, in the same way that my mother and my neighbor and Giles Corey under his rocks. I will die to prove innocence and I will die if I admit guilt. Silence cannot save me, nor will it condemn me. My fate was sealed the moment fingers began pointing and whispers stirring, so I have sealed my lips to match.

“You must tell them,” says my father, weepy under candlelight.

Mother tied two days ago. She became a warning; one of many, swinging from the hanging tree. Father choked on sobs every time a breeze whistled through our windows. He could not erase the picture of her body thrown by the wind, and at night he begged God to save her soul.

I cut her down.

This is why I am witch.

I cut her down to bury, to spare her a mass grave far from hallowed ground. I buried her in our yard, and an old man saw. He went to his neighbor’s house to share the news - news that trickled from doorstep to doorstep, until it rounded on the judge’s desk. The Bell girl, it said. The Bell girl stole her mother’s body and used it for a spell - a curse - to damn us all. The Bell girl, it said.

The Bell girl is a witch.

Perhaps I am, I think at first. Perhaps, I think, I should tell them yes.

It won’t change anything. This, I know. It won’t change the trial and the girls collapsing and writhing and pointing. It would stop the men from grabbing their heads and claiming I am inside their brains, whispering in tongues and luring them toward the dark.

And it would kill my father, wouldn’t it? For me to confirm his worst fears. He already lost Mother. I cannot stop him from losing me. He begs for miracles, pleads with me, “You must tell them. Tell them the truth. You must tell them.”

I haven’t a truth to tell. The truth does not exist in Salem.

You are witch, or you are dead, or you are both.

“I cannot tell them,” is all I say, and let Father riddle out a meaning even I’m not sure of.

I am a witch of Salem no matter what I say. I am a witch of Salem no matter what the judge decides. No one is proven innocent until they are dead. I will drown, or be hanged, or perhaps even buried alive under stones, because Salem fears its daughters - and so it stamps them out.

My name is Theodosia Bell, and I am a witch of Salem.


THIS STORY HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO YOU BY MY PATREON FAMILY:

MELISSA JENNINGS
STEPHEN CLEATH
TAMMY L. BREITWEISER
JASMINE MARIE

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THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN: DAY 6 - BLOODLETTING

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BLOODLETTING

THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN
DAY SIX

werewolf: in European folklore, a man who turns into a wolf at night and devours animals, people, or corpses but returns to human form by day. Some werewolves change shape at will; others, in whom the condition is hereditary or acquired by having been bitten by a werewolf, change shape involuntarily, under the influence of a full moon. If he is wounded in wolf form, the wounds will show in his human form and may lead to his detection.


Crash.

The shatter of broken glass and the spill of something through the space leaves behind. That same something skids across the floor and bang! crash! knocks into what could be a bookcase or could be a coffee table or could, perhaps, be both. There is a groan amidst the falling and the thudding and the breaking sounds that float up the empty stairwell.

These are the sounds that shock Elizabeth from sleep.

She bolts upright in her bed. In the dark, an unsettling silence swells in the cabin. It rings against the walls, broken only by the scuffling of feet against a wooden floor. And then, a voice -

“Liz?”

Elizabeth swings her legs over the side of the bed.

“Lizzie?”

She stands, grabbing a cardigan off the post of the bed.

“Liz?”

“Emmy?”

Elizabeth wraps the cardigan around herself and pads into the hall. One hand pressed to the wall guides her into the yawning expanse of the living room. At first all seems normal, save for the shards of glass sparkling across the floor. Then the shadows begin to pull together to form more solid shapes: an end table, knocked slightly out of place; a quilt on the floor, fallen off an arm chair; the couch, overstuffed and layered with afghans; the figure on the couch, which stands when it sees Elizabeth shuffle into the room.

“Emmy?” Elizabeth says. “What the hell?”

“I’m sorry,” Emmy says. She stands somewhat stooped, one arm cradled against her chest like a broken wing. In the silver moonlight spilling in from the broken window Elizabeth can see sweat gleaming on her forehead. Her hair is wild and tufts of pine needles shake free when she moves. “I didn’t know where else to go. I-I’ll fix the window, I just- I didn’t know what to do.”

“Slow down,” Elizabeth says. “Don’t worry about the window.”

Elizabeth looks outside, through the jagged opening in the living room window, but there is nothing but dark woods and a chorus of crickets. Somewhere high in the trees a branch shakes and an owl flutters into the sky.

“What’s going on?” Elizabeth asks. “Are you hurt?”

“It’s-” starts Emmy, and then she says, “I’m-” and stops again.

“Let me see.” Elizabeth holds out her hand. Emmy looks at it, bright eyes glistening in the dark. She worries at her bottom lip, sighs heavily, then reluctantly unfolds her arm. It is all Elizabeth can do not to cringe when she sees it - Emmy’s sleeve torn off and her skin folded open, cuts so deep Elizabeth thinks she can see bone under all the pulled threads of the muscles and blood, some thick and crusted, the rest bright red and pouring out in gushes. “Shit,” Elizabeth says. She reaches for Emmy’s arm, gingerly lights her fingers around the open tears of skin. “Shit.”

“I know,” says Emmy.

“How did this happen?” Elizabeth asks.

“I-”

“How long ago?”

“It-”

“Let’s get this cleaned up.”

“Okay.”


Emmy stays with Elizabeth. At first it is just for the night, but one night quickly turns into two and then three and then a week of nights all strung together and tied off with cups of coffee and kettles full of tea and big, chalky pills of maybe-expired antibiotics that Elizabeth gives Emmy in a weak attempt to ward off infections in her split-open skin.

Everyday, Elizabeth putters downhill to the campsite in a bulky, outdated four-wheeler that wheezes on the gas but gets the job done. There she checks in guests, cleans up after they leave, chops firewood and cleans ash from used pits.

Emmy, to earn her keep, putters around the cabin in her absence. She tidies their shared spaces and washes mugs and dishes left from the night before. A few times she’s started the backyard grill and cooked them both dinner. Elizabeth tells her not to, but Emmy insists. Her arm has healed quickly, anyway, and she doesn’t want to crash without doing her part.

A month passes in this fashion. Elizabeth leaves in the morning, Emmy cares for the cabin, and the two share dinner and mugs of coffee and tea and, a few times, after Elizabeth had gotten a thank-you gift of cocoa powder from a family of campers, hot chocolate doused with vodka Elizabeth had forgotten she’d stashed away last season. The moon wanes, and waxes again.

“Are you alright?” Elizabeth asks when Emmy hisses suddenly one morning. She nearly drops her breakfast plate on her way to the sink, and when she slides it on the counter she grabs at her injured arm.

The cuts have sewn themselves into thick scars, an angry red despite Elizabeth’s best efforts to clean and dress and keep them from infection. Emmy forces a laugh.

“I forget it’s there sometimes,” she says. If Elizabeth knows it’s an excuse, she doesn’t let on. She simply scoops up Emmy’s plate and dumps it with her own into the sink.

“Take it easy today, okay?” she says. “I’ll try to get back early.”

“Sure,” Emmy says.

“Emmy,” Elizabeth says seriously.

“Take it easy,” Emmy says, looking Elizabeth square in the eye. “I got it, Liz. Go.”

Elizabeth lingers, but eventually concedes by grabbing her quad keys and heading out the door.

And for her part, in Elizabeth’s absence, Emmy did take it easy. She spent more time on the couch than she had since that first night, when she’d crash-landed through Elizabeth’s window and tumbled and stumbled into her quiet living room. The window was still boarded up, repairs on hold until Elizabeth’s handyman (who was a handywoman, Emmy learned, named Paula, who was on vacation visiting her grandchildren somewhere even colder than the hills of the Catskills.

She had finally had enough of sitting around when the sun went down, however. Emmy perched herself on a step stool perched on top of a kitchen chair so that, should Elizabeth come home early as promised, she could say that she was technically sitting and therefore technically still taking it easy even as she washed the morning dishes and last night’s vodka-rimmed coffee mugs. It is a perfectly sound solution, Emmy thinks, that works perfectly well until the moon starts to raise its weary head.

That’s when the pain comes back.

It crawls beneath Emmy’s skin, first just by her scars, and then all through to prick pins-and-needles from the insides of her fingertips. Her wounds split back open, a slow tear at first, but then the skin peels back and Emmy drops the mug she’s washing -

She screams - collapses to the floor, the step stool teetering to fall after her.


The moon, silver and round, is high when Elizabeth returns home. The cabin is quiet.

She takes this as a good sign at first, thinking that Emmy had heeded her advice after all. Elizabeth takes the front steps two at a time and lets herself inside the tiny wooden shack. It is dark inside, too. “Emmy?” Elizabeth calls, but there’s no answer. “Em?”

Elizabeth sheds her coat and drapes it over the arm of the couch. The cushions, she finds, are indented but empty - used, but now vacant. There is ragged breathing coming from the next room. Her heart quickens and worry and fear fight for dominance in her tightening throat.

“Emmy?”

She finds a shadow in the kitchen, curled up on the floor, and she turns on the light -

But Emmy isn’t there. Or she is, but not the way Elizabeth had left her, because instead of the slight and slender Emily Coster who had taken up residence in Elizabeth’s home and spent her days sweeping and scrubbing and doing dishes, there was something larger heaped on the tiles of Elizabeth’s kitchen floor. Large, and furry.

One pointed ear swivels when Elizabeth takes a step. When a gasp catches in her throat, a great big paw claws at the floor.

The creature launches itself upright and turns on Elizabeth. She scrambles backwards, struggles to stay upright. There’s no blood anywhere on it, she finds. Nothing around the mouth or on the snarling teeth. Not yet.

Elizabeth whirls around and races through the main room of the house. The animal, the wolf she thinks, barrels after her on all fours. She can hear its claws cutting jagged grooves in the floor. It grabs for her, and she clips her chin on an end table when it drags her backwards. Elizabeth tastes blood. She kicks and kicks with all her might until her heel catches the wolf’s snout and it lets her go.

Elizabeth scrambles to her feet, then yelps. Her ankle is sliced to ribbons.

Grinding her teeth against the pain, Elizabeth forces herself to her feet. She grabs the bookshelf squatting next to the door and throws it down, spilling paperbacks and old flashlights and the glass bowl filled with spare change across the threshold. This buys her time to get outside. She heaves herself onto her ATV, reaches for her keys -

Her keys. Her keys are in her jacket pocket. She left her jacket in the house.

The wolf is climbing over the mess Elizabeth made to distract it. It’s on the front porch. It’s shaking off its snout, perhaps sore from where she had kicked it, but she knows she hasn’t bought herself nearly enough time. She can’t get back inside - not that way.

Elizabeth hurls herself over the side of the quad. She lands hard, but swallows the pain. She steels herself with one deep breath and then she bolts.

She races to the back of the cabin, out in the yard where her barbecue sits with a pile of coals beside it and her fire pit waits with last night’s ashes still huddled inside. She pushes at the coals as she passes them - another obstacle - and carries on past her clothesline, a sheet billowing in the slight evening breeze. She can see it in her mind, flashing on the backs of her eyelids with every tear-filled blink: her axe, waiting by a pile of waiting logs, ready to work.

The wolf howls behind her, and in the distance, another answers its call.

“Fuck,” Elizabeth swears. She doesn’t dare turn around. She can hear the wolf getting closer, its paws pounding against the beaten Earth, and she can feel its teeth snapping at her when the axe, perched on a tree stump, comes into view.

Elizabeth somersaults on the ground and crouches behind the stump. The wolf is huffing and snarling, but it slows as it comes into the small clearing. It paws at the ground, kicking up puffs of dust. Saliva drips from its mouth and onto the ground.

A shaky hand reaches for the handle of the axe. The wolf’s shoulders hunch - ready to pounce.

Elizabeth yanks - once, twice, and as the wolf launches itself toward her she finally pulls the axe free. She thrusts it out in front of her and catches the wolf across the mouth. It yowls and howls in pain, and somewhere in the woods another howls in solidarity. With the wolf dazed, Elizabeth gathers her strength.

She raises the axe over her head.

Pause - beat - a howl in the night.

And with a yell, she plunges the blade into the animal’s spine.

It howls the most agonizing sound Elizabeth has ever heard, a sound that squeezes her heart so hard all the tears she’s tried to swallow come pouring down her face. The animal twitches when she pulls the axe free and its blood spells it a great waterfall down both sides of its back.

“Fuck,” she says. “Oh, fuck.”

And as the wolf lays dying at her feet, that companion howl rises up. It’s searching, Elizabeth realizes, for its sister. Her arms shaking, Elizabeth tightens her grip on the axe. She feels sick to her stomach. She feels afraid.

“I’m sorry,” she says, though she doesn’t know what she’s apologizing for - not yet.

She spares the dying wolf one last glance and the tears seem to surge even harder, hard enough to blur her vision. She shakes her head and shakes a spray of slick, fresh blood off her blade.

“I’m sorry,” she says again, and then she runs - runs as fast as her legs will carry her, runs even though she doesn’t quite know where she’s running to.

And in her absence, the second wolf comes. It finds its dead companion - the mate it wished for, the mate it tried to have but could not find and could not keep. It howls one long, deep, mournful sound and the sound carries down the campgrounds for bleary eyed children and their bleary eyed children to poke their bleary heads out of their tents and cabins and RVs to puzzle over.

In the morning, the wolf is gone. Its mate is, too.

In her place is Emily Coster, scars on her arm and blood on her back.


THIS STORY HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO YOU BY MY PATREON FAMILY:

MELISSA JENNINGS
STEPHEN CLEATH
TAMMY L. BREITWEISER
JASMINE MARIE

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