Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 1

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.

Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis is a member of the HWA and writes dark speculative prose and poetry which has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Flame Tree Press' A Dying Planet and Nosetouch Press' Fiends in the Furrows. She is the author of gothic novella, Bottled, from Silver Shamrock Publishing and the novelette, Asylum of Shadows from Demain Publishing. Her first novel, The Way of the Mother, is due out in October, via Silver Shamrock. She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.

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