Leaves don’t grow on the trees in this town. Birds won’t nest in them, either. I can’t remember the last time I saw a squirrel, let alone heard one chittering in the branches overhead. Everything’s just dead or dying around here. Been that way since that shaky fellow started showing up.
I think it was 1966 when I realized he might really exist. I guess that means I was around ten or eleven. Hard to trust the memory of a kid that age, I know. Still, all these years later, it’s as clear as anything. Clear as the screen I’m typing this on. And I just cleaned my glasses.
I was coming back from a sleepover at Davy Egan’s place. Kids were allowed to walk around town by themselves back then. We weren’t afraid of getting kidnapped or fondled or anything like that, although it probably happened a lot. Not to me, though. Not to anyone I know. But that doesn’t mean much in the scope of where I’m going with this.
To get from Davy’s place to mine, I liked to cut through the Wilhelm Country Club golf course. Saved me from having to go around. The groundskeepers would chew you out if they caught you walking on the greens, but they wouldn’t chase you if you ran.
I’d always been a good runner.
It was an early morning in late July. Davy had kicked me out before dawn because he had something to do that morning. I didn’t mind. We hadn’t gotten any sleep that night, so I wasn’t groggy.
It was raining a little. That meant groundskeepers wouldn’t be out and about. That’s what I told myself, at least. Made sense to my eleven-year-old mind.
Turned out I was right. I was all alone out there.
Continue reading “That Shaky Fellow”
(Horror stories about parties.)
“I don’t like him,” Jeri whispered. “He’s weird.”
I looked at the guy sitting alone on the couch in the corner. Lanky. Pale. Brooding. He seemed out of place. I wondered if he was someone’s date who’d gone forgotten.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover, Jer,” I replied. “Haven’t you seen that credit card ad?”
She rolled her eyes. “Fine. But I don’t want to be around when he starts shooting up the place.”
“Jesus!” I hissed. “What’s wrong with you?”
“This is a party, Kay. People are supposed to be having fun, not being miserable.” Continue reading “The Worst Party In Ten Thousand Years”
(Horror stories about the dead.)
I was seventeen when I broke into the neighbor’s garage. I’d locked myself out of our house and it was pouring rain. My parents wouldn’t be home for hours. The neighbor, Louis Schaffer, had passed away two weeks before. It was a tough blow; he was a good friend of our family and used to babysit me when I was a toddler when my parents were working nights.
If it didn’t seem like a tornado might come through at any minute, I would’ve just sucked it up and walked the few miles back to school. The weather was worsening, though, and as hail started to fall, I knew I had to get inside.
Both the main garage door and the side door were locked tight. I ran around to the back. There was a window. The glass was blacked out. While I initially found that strange, my inquisitiveness dissipated as hail the size of ping-pong balls pelted my head.
I took a rock from his garden, felt a pang of preemptive guilt, then smashed out the bottom two panes. Being careful not to destroy any more than I had to, I pulled the wood out from between the open panes, checked for any remaining glass, and squeezed myself through the hole. Continue reading “I should have never broken into my dead neighbor’s garage.”
(Horror stories about Alexa.)
Two nights ago, I was home alone when Alexa laughed. I’d read about the software issue the devices had been having all over the world, so it wasn’t that big a shock. Thank God for that, too, because I would’ve jumped out of my skin otherwise. Still, I was unsettled. It’s creepy to hear laughter when you think you’re alone.
“Alexa, shut up,” I instructed. The blue ring on top flashed, and the laughing stopped.
I went back to my book.
Twenty minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Alexa’s blue ring illuminate – as if she’d received a command. I studied her for a few seconds and shrugged it off. Continue reading “My Amazon Alexa does more than just laugh.”
(A scary story about children.)
I’m a teacher’s aide in a first-grade class outside Tacoma, WA. I brought the kids out for recess on Friday afternoon. It had just rained; the old blacktop was covered in puddles. The kids loved it. They jumped from puddle to puddle, splashing around in their cheery yellow galoshes and rain slickers.
Two minutes in, Lily Yamagata tripped over Sophia David’s backpack and skinned her knee. She was crying. I headed over to comfort her. I picked her up and brushed off the sand and grit. There was a hole in her tights and a little blood seeping from underneath. Nothing bad. Nothing she wouldn’t forget about in five minutes.
“You’re okay, Lily!” I announced, smiling. “Don’t worry, the nurse will get you a nice band-aid. What’s your favorite one?”
Lily sniffled. “Steven Universe.”
“Perfect,” I replied. “Hey Sophia, why don’t you hold Lily’s hand and bring her to the nurse, okay?” Continue reading “Mr. Puddles”
(A scary story about neighbors.)
After her husband left, all she did was cry. Cry, cry cry. Noon: cry. 10:00pm: cry. 3:00am: cry. Her pitiful bleating would pour through the thin wall between our apartments and drive me out of my mind.
I couldn’t sleep. My work suffered. I stared, eyes wide with restless hatred, at the ceiling in my uncomfortable bed as night after night was stolen from me.
Pounding on the wall did nothing but cause her to cry harder. Calls to the obese building superintendent brought castigation; not to my neighbor, but to me.
“How dare you be so heartless,” the super chided. In the rare cases she wasn’t speaking around a mouthful of food, it still sounded as if she were. “Her husband abandoned her!”
“I can’t sleep. I can’t even think!” I protested.
The thing on the other end of the line huffed. “Get some earplugs,” she suggested, and hung up.
This went on for months. Like any man in my situation, I reached the end of my rope. And, in a way, so did my neighbor.
Continue reading “A Pathetic Wretch”
I was nineteen when he visited for the first time. It was very late and the bedroom was pitch black.
“Miles,” he whispered. “Miles. Can you hear me?”
My eyes were wide but only darkness met them. I couldn’t see who was talking.
“Yes,” I whispered back.
“A few more years,” he cooed into my left ear. “Just wait another few years and you’ll learn who I am.”
I reached out, trying to touch the producer of the voice. My hands grabbed the air. I turned over and groped for the bedside lamp and flipped the switch. Pale light poured into the bedroom. I was alone.
I didn’t realize at the time that that would be a constant. A theme.
It’s now been eighteen years since I was visited that night. I’ve spent it by myself.
I wish I could call those years happy and productive. They were, in fact, the opposite. I am depressed. Unemployable. “Mentally ill,” is the official term that lets me collect money for doing nothing but sit at home all day.
Well, not quite nothing.
I daydream. I fantasize about the man who spoke to me that night. I picture him swooping in and knocking on my door, bringing riches and surprises that would heal my ruined psyche. He’d be my guardian angel; a heavenly respite from my day-to-day misery.
For nearly two decades, those dreams went unrealized.
Until last night. Continue reading “A Most Welcome Visitor”