Post series: The Last House

Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 4

  1. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 1
  2. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 2
  3. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 3
  4. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 4

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

The Last House. Part 4

Despite his fears, the water seemed calm. Maybe she wasn’t moving anymore. Max tried to tell himself that it was just their imaginations. That their fear was making them go crazy. Maybe this is all just a dream, and I’ll wake up. No more trick or treating for me. Now way.  The sadistic grin on the old man’s face, and the cruel gleam in his eyes, said otherwise.

A hand reached up from the water. Its bloated skin shifted as the fingers gripped the rim of the tub. Small streams of water dripped down from her spongy hand. Water dyed red with the blood of her first victim.

The children tried to scream, but no sound came from their dropped jaws. They stood there with eyes peeled back like golf balls, screaming into a vacuum.

Another hand reached up through the red stained water as that hideous metal box breached the surface. The woman’s body, motivated by some black magic or twisted science, slithered down the side of the tub with an inhuman fluidity. She balanced on all fours, her water logged skin hung down from her ancient skeleton. She reached forward with one hand as she began crawling towards them.

It was like someone had let the air back into the room all at once. It echoed with a piercing shriek magnified by the number of terrified children screaming in unison like they were part of some gruesome parody of a choir. Still, they could not move.

She reached out with one hand, and grabbed a little girl by her bare leg. The wet skin clung to her leg no matter how much she wiggled or squirmed. With one powerful tug, the girl’s leg was pulled from under her, and she was whipped backwards to the floor. Her candy fell to the ground like a hailstorm as she screamed.

The collective paralysis broke. Max and the rest of the kids turned back towards the door and scrambled towards it. They bottlenecked at the doorway. Fear was taking hold as they pushed and shoved and clawed their way through it like a stampede.

Screaming and crying, the children ran out of the house and back onto their safe neighborhood street. They were surprised to find none of their parents waiting for them. Max looked back towards the house, and saw the door suddenly slam shut. The Jack O’lanterns that had once lit up every room went out at once, as though someone had blown out all of their candles in a single breath. He looked at Ben and saw the lifeless expression on his friend’s face. Ben dropped his candy, and started shuffling in the direction of his home. Soon, the other kids did the same. Each dropped their candy, and started lifelessly walking away from that spot. Max too dropped his candy and started towards his home. He untied the vampire cape from his neck, and the gentle October breeze carry it away. He spat out his glow-in-the-dark fangs and just wanted to go home.

When he reached home, his parents were immediately concerned. He had no candy, his costume was gone, and he barely said a word to them. He put up no fight when he was told to take a bath. He did not argue when he was told to go to bed; he usually argued that he should be able to stay up watching monster movies until at least ten on a day like Halloween. He simply did what he was told before hugging his parents and going to bed. He walked into his bedroom, and made his way over to his cherry red racecar bed. He did not want to be alone that night, and debated on leaving the light on. He knew he would be told to turn it off, and decided not to have an argument about it after what he had been through.

He turned off the light, and lay down on his bed under his cartoon character decorated sheets. As soon as he closed his eyes, he heard the creaking of his bedroom door, the shuffling of feet in the carpet, and the gentle pattering of water droplets hitting the soft floor. Max’s hyperventilated as he shut his eyelids tighter. Max heard voice of Tommy whisper, “Wake up, Maxy. You shouldn’t have left me there. But it’s okay, I brought her here to meet you too.”

Max’s eyes opened wide. As he looked towards his doorway, he saw the silhouetted shape of that metallic box on the headless woman’s body as she leaned in closer. As he tried to scream, he heard cackling coming from the smaller, child-sized silhouette.

“Trick or treat,” laughed Tommy.

Christopher Hall

Christopher Hall is an author at the beginning of his career. His background is primarily in history, and historic writing. He attended Wesley College for his undergraduate work, and Washington College to complete his MA in history. He currently works for the Delaware State Museums creating history and historical-fiction programs. He lives in Dover Delaware.

Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 3

  1. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 1
  2. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 2
  3. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 3
  4. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 4

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

The Last House. Part 3

He ran to the doorway, and blurted out, “Oh wow!” Soon all the other kids wanted to know what he saw, and ran up to the door after him. They looked inside, and were overwhelmed by the sight before them.

A kindly old man, who had put on makeup that made him look like a zombie stood in the doorway. There was a smile on his face as he stepped back, and allowed the kids to step inside.

“Happy Halloween, children” he said with an odd intonation. No child in the room remembered ever seeing this man before, but at least he seemed friendly. Whatever suspicion they had vanished when they saw the massive tub of candy in the middle of the room. The old man must have cleared out at least an entire candy aisle just to stock as much as he had.

He stepped closer to the tub, which was almost twice as long as he was tall, and smiled again. “Now then,” he began with a soft spoken, but still strange, intonation, “I want you all to make a nice orderly line here. You’ll each get to take as much candy as you can in, oh, five seconds.”

As much candy as we can take? Ben and Tommy looked at Max. They both had giant grins on their faces. As disappointing as their night had gone, this was definitely making up for it.

“Come on now, make a line.”

The children squished together, and made a long line from the tub to the front door. The pushiest kids, doomed to futures of being high school bullies, made sure they were in the front, while the smaller children were pushed back. Max, Tommy, and Ben were all stuck in the back of the line. The three of them hoped the candy would not be gone by the time they got up there as it had with the good houses.

Beginning with the first child, and lasting through to the kids just before Max and his group of friends, each child was given exactly five seconds to dig through the candy and pile into their carrying bag or container. The line moved quickly, and no child seemed to be disappointed. Not yet anyway.

“There’s plenty for everyone, and there’s a special surprise for the last few kids,” the old man said in that same strange way.

The child in front of max approached the tub, and bent down to start his frantic candy grabbing spree. “Ah. Ah. Not yet, sonny,” the old man said as he pointed his finger up. “Not till I say when.” He looked at his pocket watch, and said, “Go.”

Max watched as the kind in front of him dug through the candy stash. It reminded him of watching a nature show on TV. He was like some carnivorous beast tearing his way through a carcass to get all the good bits before the vultures could settle in. Come on. Come on. The children’s intensity was so great that Max worried he would surely take the last of the candy. At least there’s still that surprise if it’s all gone.

“And time,” the old man said looking at his watch again.

Max saw the look on the child’s face, a look full of unadulterated excitement. Max was ready for his turn, especially after seeing another layer of candy waiting for him.

“It’s your turn, young man. Go on. Step right up.”

Max took a few steps forward, and was now standing directly in front of the candy. As he looked at the pile of confections, he noticed something unusual. The packages seemed to be moving like gentle waves trapped in the tub. The waves were making him uncomfortable, but he thought of it like being in the back seat of a car going down a bumpy road.

“Everything okay,” the old man asked with a puzzled look on his face.

Max looked over and slowly nodded his head. The old man pointed his finger in the air as he looked at his watch. “On your marks. Get set,” he started. The last part felt like an eternity to Max, who was almost too excited to contain himself. “Go,” the old man finally shouted.

Max dove in and began scooping as much chocolate, sweet and sour confections, and lollipops as he could into his hands, dragging them closer to his bag. Before that first shovel full reached his pillowcase, Max tensed up. He suddenly discovered why the candy seemed to be floating. He put the candy in his bag and then moved two more big handfuls off the waving surface. He discovered this to be the bottom layer, and saw something strange underneath. There was a small metal box, about seven or eight inches across, suspended in the water under the candy. The box was lined with what Max interpreted to be hot glue gun cartridges. They were just like the ones his mom used.

He didn’t even bother to put the candy in his bag before he started pulling the rest of it away from that same spot.

“Time,” shouted the old man, but Max took no notice. He frantically dragged package after package of candy away, feverishly digging to learn more about that box. “Your time is up, son. Give someone else a turn.” Max kept digging, and water began to splash up from the tub. Max let out small, nervous panting sounds. The other kids took notice, and grew uncomfortable. The old man darted up to him, and pulled him away. “I said, your time is up.”

The old man pulled right as Max had another good handful of candy in his hands. That handful was just enough to uncover a horrifying sight. The box Max saw was bolted onto the neck of a woman. Her headless body was floating in the tub.

Max let out a blood curdling shriek as he wriggled himself out of the old man’s arms. He ran back up to the tub to look at the corpse floating there. He could see jagged pieces of her skin and muscle folded over her disease riddled neck where the box had been attached.

He kept screaming as his hands gripped the edge of the tub. Other kids soon ran up and shrieked when they saw where they had grabbed their candy.

“Ta-da,” the Old Man yelled as he held his arm out towards the tub. “She always loved Halloween, and I knew she’d love spending it with you all.”

The screams continued, and were now so loud the neighbors must have heard them. Ben vomited as soon as he saw the body, but Tommy leaned in even closer. “What’s wrong with you guys? It’s just a dummy. Bunch a’ wussies.” Tommy reached in to the water, and was ready to show how fake the body was.

Once his hand breached the undulating surface, the woman’s sore covered hand reached up, and grabbed his. He screamed and struggled to break free. Max watched in silent horror as Tommy pleaded for his help.

“Looks like she’s found her favorite kid.”

The traumatized children stepped back as the headless woman slowly sat up from the water, and turned her upper torso to face Tommy. It reached out with its other arm, and grabbed his shoulder.

Tommy looked over at his fellow children for a brief moment. He looked terrified. He looked desperate. He looked like he knew what was coming next. He said nothing as the woman dug her fingers into his arms and pulled him back down in the water with her. The water burst up from the tub as they dived back in. Water shifted and bubbled for what felt like ages. Finally, there came the muffled sound of something cracking under the water. The jerking waves stopped. The last bubble popped, echoing in the silent room. The water seemed still again.

Max and Ben turned, and started running for the door. The old man cackled as he looked down in the water, and then looked at the fleeing children. “Where you going? Don’t you want to say hello?”

There was a loud splash, as if something made one swift movement through the water. All at once, the children froze like statues trapped in the grip of immeasurable fear. Max’s head turned back to the basin. His movement was stiff, as though someone’s hand had pushed it against his weak resistance. As he looked back, he grew more uncomfortable. She’s still moving.

Christopher Hall

Christopher Hall is an author at the beginning of his career. His background is primarily in history, and historic writing. He attended Wesley College for his undergraduate work, and Washington College to complete his MA in history. He currently works for the Delaware State Museums creating history and historical-fiction programs. He lives in Dover Delaware.

Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 2

  1. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 1
  2. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 2
  3. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 3
  4. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 4

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

The Last House. Part 2

Max’s face glowed red as the morning sun. He saw the looks on his friends’ faces as they tried to stifle their laughter. He said nothing as he turned around and held out his arms. His mother wrapped her arms around her son, and gripped him tightly. Come on mom, they’re laughing at me. “All right, honey, that’s enough of that. He’s got that candy lust,” his father said as he walked out and pulled his wife off their son. “Have a good time, and be back by seven. Got it?”

Max quickly nodded his head. “Good man,” his father said with another wink. Max saw the small tears pooling in his mother’s eyes. I’m a man now, mommy. She tearfully waved at him as she and her husband walked inside, and closed the door behind him.

“Ready to go, momma’s boy,” Tommy teased.

“Shut up,” Max replied. The three boys walked onto the sidewalk, and began their quest for candy.

They were only one hour into their festivities, yet Max already made a killing. His pillowcase, which he chose to bring instead of the traditional plastic pumpkin bucket, was a third of the way full, and getting heavier. So far, all of the houses on their street was handing out candy in larger piles than the boys had ever seen. If it kept up like this, they’d soon have enough to open their own candy store.

They passed by one of those homes infamous for doling out fruit, and saw a small contingent of outraged children hurling eggs at the front door. “We want candy,” they chanted repeatedly.  Max never liked the idea of punishing people on Halloween; it seemed too mean spirited. He knew he was raised too well to do that, but often wondered if he would become one of those jaded teenagers who turned this innocent holiday into some a dark day of hellraising. He promised himself he wouldn’t.

“I think we’re almost out of houses,” Ben said as he looked at the crayon map in his hand. He looked back over his shoulder at their starting point, and followed their progression on the wrinkled piece of paper in his hand. They were about three-fourths of the way through their quest. They still had a few houses left, apart from the ones giving out fruit or the ones that simply did not participate. “The good houses are coming up though,” he smiled, placing the paper back into his pocket. The good houses, as Ben referred to them, were the ones that gave out  the full-sized pieces of candy, and they were only one house away from the that confectionary paradise. Ben sprinted passed another of those fruit-bearing mockeries, and came up to the front door of one of the good houses. Max and Tommy stepped up to him, and looked with excitement and anticipation. This was the moment they waited for.

Tommy was the first to step up, pushing passed his friends to be the first to the door. Max and Ben quickly followed after him. Tommy rang the doorbell, and held out his back with almost arrogant anticipation. The door opened, and all three boys screamed out, “Trick or Treat!”

The elderly woman standing in the door had a sad look on her face. She held out an empty clear glass bowl and shook her head. “I’m sorry, kiddo. Looks like the others beat you to it. I’m all out of candy,” she said while closing the door.

All out of candy? So much for that damn map. Max was disappointed to say the least. Ben assured both boys that his plan was fool-proof, but the other kids in town knew to get there first.

“Sorry guys,” Ben apologized. Neither Max nor Tommy wanted to hear it.  They turned around from the house, and walked back to the main sidewalk. Surely, Ben must have worried this was a major trial in their friendship. Max kicked a rock out of his way and decided in that moment to pout in response to his disappointment.

“This is such crap,” Tommy shouted while tying the end of his pillowcase.

“I didn’t think anyone else would know to go there first,” Ben tried to make his case, but Tommy would not hear it. He took his wrapped up pillowcase and whapped Ben on the shoulder as they made their way to the next good house, only to find another group of kids hearing similarly disappointing news. This next house had also run out of candy. The night was quickly becoming a disaster.

As the boys reached the end of the street, it sunk in that their trick-or-treating festivities were over. They had passed every house in just over an hour, and had no were else to go. Max, who had looked forward to his first solo trick-or-treating experience was sorely let down. At least if his parents were with him, he could go over to the next street and collect whatever candy remained in some of those houses. He looked at the corner of the road. It was the corner of Cambridge and Chapel where that supposedly abandoned house sat. The house did not look abandoned tonight. Every window was brightly lit with the glow of Jack O’lanterns. Although Max remembered passing by the house when he darted home from school, he did not remember seeing any decorations anywhere around the property. The front door opened, and Max heard the sounds of bubbling liquids, boiling water, and the clings and clanks from a Halloween sound effect album.

As he looked at the house, Max tapped his hand against Ben’s shoulder. Ben looked at him, and sharply asked, “What?”

Max pointed at the house, and replied, “Look. I thought you said nobody lived there.”

The other two boys turned to look at the house on the corner. They were equally shocked by now highly decorated house. “Holy shit,” Tommy blurted out, and the other two boys looked at him in surprise. Tommy’s mom and dad really do let him watch whatever he wants. He somewhat understood why his parents did not like him spending too much time with Tommy. “They’re having a party. Come on, let’s check it out!”

Tommy ran forward a few steps, but stopped when he realized Max and Ben were not moving. “Come on, what’re you scared of? You guys a bunch a’ chickens or something’”

Ben and Max looked at each other. They did not liked being called out as cowards, but neither of them really felt any need to step any further to that house. After all, kids said it was haunted. “I don’t know, Tommy,” Max started, “I’m not supposed to go this far on my own.”

Tommy sighed, and then pleaded with Ben, “But you’re gonna come, right? Come on, think of all the candy they have in there!”

The thought of candy was alluring to both of the boys who now felt cheated by this side of the neighborhood. Ben looked at Max and shrugged, “I mean, there might be some good candy there. Maybe we can just take a little peek.”

Max struggled about what to do. As Ben walked closer to the house, Max looked back down the street. His house was now a tiny structure on the horizon behind him. I can still see my house, so they can still see me.

“Do it for the candy, Max. For the candy,” Tommy argued.

Max still did not like the idea of going, but he turned back around, and followed his friends to the presumably haunted house on the street corner. As they walked, more kids joined them. What’s that story my dad told me? The one where all the kids end up going missing? Max was recalling a story his father read to him when he was a few years younger. He had nightmares all night about being lured away from his bed, but could no longer remember what the story was called, or how it ended. All he recalled was how much trouble his dad found himself when his mother heard about his nightmares. Zombielike, the children all continued towards a house none of them had ever stepped foot in.

The group stopped like a regimented group of soldiers that just heard the command to halt. They all looked around at each other while a few started daring others to be the first to step inside.

“You do it.”

“No, you do it.”

“This was your idea!” The truth is, no one had the idea to venture closer to that house. They all just felt pulled towards it. As the children debated, Tommy stepped forward and declared he wasn’t afraid.

Christopher Hall

Christopher Hall is an author at the beginning of his career. His background is primarily in history, and historic writing. He attended Wesley College for his undergraduate work, and Washington College to complete his MA in history. He currently works for the Delaware State Museums creating history and historical-fiction programs. He lives in Dover Delaware.

Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 1

  1. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 1
  2. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 2
  3. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 3
  4. Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 4

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

The Last House. Part 1

Max Thompson was excited, more excited than he’d ever been in his nine years of life. Today was Halloween, and his parents decided he was old enough to go trick-or-treating with his small group of friends without their supervision. Truth be told, his mother was worried sick about him wandering freely, but his father assured her that he would not leave their specific block of the neighborhood. Max always remembered how his father winked at him right after he calmed her down.

Time dragged on that fateful October 31st. Max sat in class watching each minute pass on the clock. One minute closer to collecting a horde of candy, and yet still several minutes away from the chiming bell that told every excited child that they were free. The moment came. The bell rang out like a call to freedom, and the kids zoomed out of the room leaving a shocked, but amused, teacher.

Max lived close enough to the school that he did not need to worry about taking a bus. This was a race. He had to get home fast. He had to get his costume on as quickly as possible. He had to be one the first kids to start collecting candy or he’d be left in the dust by the rest of the town. He stretched his little legs as far as he could, trying to run faster than his nine year old body would allow. His excitement could not be contained, and he was determined to overcome any obstacle in his way.

The front door of Max’s house swung open as the excited child bolted inside. His mother must have noticed the still opened door, as she shouted, “Close the door, Max.”

Max stopped running; there was a disgruntled look on his face. But I’m so close. He froze up, hoping to avoid any further detection.

“Did you hear me, Mister? I know you’re excited, but that’s no excuse to act like you were raised by wolves.”

He glanced back and replied, “Not wolves, mommy. Werewolves.” He let out a wolf-life howl that, thanks to his prepubescent vocal chords, sounded more akin to a Chihuahua than a threatening wolf.

His mom let out a laugh as she walked into the entrance hall, and looked at him. “Well, werewolves are people part of the time, so they have to close the door too. Right?”

Max sighed, “Yeah.” His mother won this argument, but when that tends to be the case when a fourth grade kid tries to contend with the will of their parents. He turned around and walked back over to the door, slowly closing it.

“Thank you. Now then, can I have a hug before you get ready,” she asked with her arms open and a smile on her face.

Mom, this is the most important day of my life. Why are you doing this to me? He walked up and gave her a hug, all while rolling his eyes and making faces behind her back.

“Thank you, now go run along,” she said, watching her child fly through the hallway and up the stairs to his bedroom. She let an amused sigh when she heard the bedroom door slam shut.

Max the Vampire stepped out of his house around five-thirty with a smile on his face, and an adrenaline filled lust for adventure. A cool breeze blew by on that October night in his sleepy Camden neighborhood. He scanned the horizon, carefully searching for his friends, whose costumes he did not yet know.  His mother was nervously watching out the window, fearing her son would be kidnapped, killed, or abducted by aliens. No ridiculous notion was off the table as far as she was concerned. Max tried not to look back, knowing his mother’s face would make him feel guilty for not wanting her there with him.

As he looked out for his group up friends, he saw his dad’s station wagon pulling into the driveway. He winced as his dad’s engine belts whined and squealed. “You all set kiddo,” his father asked as he got out of the car.

“Yeah, just waiting for Ben and Tommy to get here,” he said barely passing a glance in his father’s direction. He had to keep a close lookout for his posse of trick-or-treaters.

“Hey, I thought vampires had to avoid sunlight,” his dad said walking from the car to the front door.

“I’m a special vampire, daddy,” he proudly stated.

“Oh, is that right? What about garlic? Can you have garlic?”

“Garlic’s gross,” he said, squishing his face to show his absolute revulsion.

“It is, huh? Well, do you like pizza? Spaghetti?”

“Duh,” he replied, still scanning the horizon.

His dad made a face. He knew his son was excited for his first solo adventure, but didn’t appreciate the child’s tone. Rather than scolding his son, he decided it would be better to embarrass him instead. He leaned in and whispered, “Those have garlic in them, champ.”

Max let out a small gasp, as though the world had come crashing down on his head. Both parents had schooled the self-proclaimed monster expert. His father laughed as he stepped back. “How’s your mom handling this,” he asked.

“Oh, you know. She’s crapping her pants in there,” Max replied.

“Hey,” Max’s father scolded, “I told you not to use that language.” Tommy and Ben introduced Max into the exciting world of profanity, or at least what passed for profanity in the fourth grade, and while he generally avoided using it at home, he slipped up every now and then.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized.

“That’s better. And don’t worry about your mom, I’ll take care of her,” he said with the same wink he gave him the last time his father defended him from the worries of his mother.

“That’s why you’re the best, daddy!”

“You’re damn right,” he said, opening the door.

“Hey,” Max felt victimized.

“What? You get to say those things when you get to be a hundred and fifty years old like me,” Max’s father laughed.

Good thing vampires live forever. Max finally saw his friends walking up. Ben, the shortest of the three boys was dressed as a generic super hero complete with a yellow shield adorned with two letters: S and B. Tommy was dressed as a slasher villain. Although Max deeply loved his parents, he wished they were a little more open minded to the world of pop culture. Tommy’s parents let him watch pretty much anything he wanted. Max’s parents still wouldn’t let him watch PG-13 movies.

“’Sup butthead,” Super Ben said as he and Tommy walked up.

“Looks who’s talking crap face,” replied Max, feeling rebellious after using that word again.

“It’s about time your parents didn’t come with us,” Tommy joked with a smug tone.

Ben pulled a crudely drawn crayon map from his pocket. Max saw the houses with their unique labels: candy, fruit, nothing. “This is the map we used last year. These are the candy houses,” he said pointing to a row on his map. “These two give out full sized candy bars, so we gotta go there.”

Max and Tommy nodded with excitement. “These jerks give out fruit. Mostly stupid raisins. We’ll avoid them, or we’ll get hit by the eggs.” In this neighborhood, giving out fruit was equal to committing war crimes, and the children would not let these adults live it down. Max and his friends committed themselves to remaining civil on this most sacred of holidays, but others in the town were not so forgiving. There would be satisfaction, one way or another.

“What about that house,” Max said as he pointed to a house on the corner. “You didn’t put anything on that house.” Max knew the house well. It sat right on the corner of Cambridge Road and Chapel Drive. It was a rundown house, and he never saw anyone walk in or out of it when he went through the neighborhood. Half the town’s kids said it was haunted, but don’t they always say that?

“Nobody lives there. Becky said she knocked on the door all night last year, and no one even came out. We don’t go there,” Tommy stated. That explanation was good enough for Max, who was ready to move on from planning, and go straight into acquiring his candy.

As the children wrapped up their planning session, Max’s mother walked out of the house, and looked down at him. She asked, “Can I get another hug before you go?”

He didn’t think anything could get worse after this.

Christopher Hall

Christopher Hall is an author at the beginning of his career. His background is primarily in history, and historic writing. He attended Wesley College for his undergraduate work, and Washington College to complete his MA in history. He currently works for the Delaware State Museums creating history and historical-fiction programs. He lives in Dover Delaware.