Authors: Thacher Cleveland
Tags: #horror, #demon, #serial killer, #supernatural, #teenagers, #high school, #new jersey
By Thacher E. Cleveland
Copyright 2011 by Thacher E.
Second Smashwords Edition
This book would not have been possible
without the support of my friends and family, who are too numerous
to list here. I would like to give a special thanks to Jennifer
Bennett, Dina Lawrence, Megan Lewis and Meghan White, who were
tremendously supportive. Cover artwork by Zane Reichert, design by
Thacher E. Cleveland. This, like most everything else I do, is for
my daughter Alexandra.
Smashwords Edition, License
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of this author.
Darren sat on the edge of
his bed and he could feel the house across the street, staring back
at him through the darkness.
He was 10, and things like a
house weren’t supposed to scare him, but that house was different.
It was the oldest house in the neighborhood, and no one, at least
none of the kids he knew, ever saw the man that lived there. The
closest he had ever come was a couple of months ago when he was
getting ready for bed and noticed a man in a black overcoat and hat
pass through the this mass of hedges in the front. All he could see
from his window was the peak of the roof and the two second story
windows, shuttered tight like black eyes. Everything else was
blocked from view by the hedges and twin oak trees that twisted in
front of everything like wooden sentinels. The entire scene made
for a house that no one in the neighborhood talked about, looked
at, and certainly did not go near.
Darren and the rest of his
friends from Briarcliff Avenue had been playing stickball in the
street all summer in a subway series against the kids from Munson
Drive. The Briarcliff kids were the Brooklyn Dodgers and the
Munsies were the Yankees. Ralphie DiMartino, the Munsies answer to
Yogi Berra, hit a beautiful pop fly that arched back towards
Darren, who was playing left field. Darren raced along the street
to catch it, but out of the corner of his eye he saw he had passed
the outfield boundary and was coming upon that house’s sinister
wall of brown-green foliage. His foot caught the curb and he
sprawled out on the lane of grass between the street and the
Flat on his stomach, he
watched as the ball hit the sidewalk, bounced, and then rolled
under the hedge and out of sight.
There were hoots and hollers
from behind him, and he glanced over his shoulder to see Ralphie
rounding second base already. Only Kenny Mitchell turned to yell at
Darren. “Get the ball! Hurry!”
Darren scrambled to his
feet, all fear vanishing at the prospect of Ralphie the Fink
gloating all summer about his miraculous home run. Darren dashed
through the thin gap in the branches and into the yard. The ball
had rolled through the hedges and was visible in the dense, unmowed
lawn. Darren raced over, scooped it up and hurled it over the hedge
with a grunt. “Comin’ at ya!” he yelled, praying to God that they
caught it and tagged Kenny out.
Once the ball left his hand,
he realized that he was standing in the Forbidden Zone. The grass
was at least ankle deep and tinged with brown from the heat and it
didn’t look like anyone had set foot in it at all this summer. He
was standing on what passed for the walk, right between the twin
guardian oaks that loomed over him. He saw a couple of other balls
laying in the yard that other kids obviously hadn’t bothered to go
in after, but he had just waltzed in without a second
He turned and there it
The house was smaller than
he’d imagined; it had dirty white paint and each of its dozen
windows were shuttered tight just like the two he could see from
his bedroom. The green trim had faded and cracked into a cancerous
black. Even the door had faded that way, except for a small patch
of dark green high in the center, where the door-knocker should
have been. A screen porch snaked around the left side of the house,
although most of the screen was shredded to bits. The only thing
sitting on the porch was a rusted patio chair, tipped over like a
Everything was still. Darren
realized he had been holding his breath for so long that his
heartbeat was pounding at his temples. He let it out as slowly as
he could, careful not to make a sound. He was drawing in his next
breath just as slowly when he saw it, lying on the front porch,
just past the top step.
It was a brown shoe, just a
little smaller than his.
He took a step forward,
making sure his eyes weren’t fooling him. It was a girl’s shoe, and
the only thing in the entire yard that was new and not rotten,
faded or broken.
He shuffled his feet,
desperately trying to get them to work, when something else got his
Down at the corner of the
house, almost hidden by the tall grass, was a small basement
window. In the corner of that window was a tiny white
It was a cloudy blue eye
narrowing at him under a thick blonde eyebrow.
That was all Darren’s feet
needed to start running.
He raced between the hedges,
coming out to find the entire game had stopped and everyone staring
at him. He couldn’t tell if they were so slack-jawed over the fact
that he had been in that yard or that he had made it
Ralphie broke the silence.
“What. . .the. . .frick?”
“I was gettin’ your hit,
pansy,” Darren said.
Some of the other kids let
out low whistles, others just shook their heads. “Balls,” DiMartino
said, tipping his cap. “Big frickin’ balls.”
That night at dinner, things
were quiet. At first he thought his parents had been fighting, but
then he realized that they were glancing over at him every few
seconds. Had someone ratted him out? Did they know where he had
been? There had been something in the air for weeks, it seemed.
They were always asking him where he was, where he had been, if he
had seen anything strange. He hadn’t thought anything of it before,
but now he knew.
They were afraid.
“Darren,” his father began,
and Darren felt his rear-end clench at the thought of how many
swats they would give him for trespassing.
“Have you seen Suzie Morris
“Doesn’t she go to your
school?” his mother piped in, tapping at her plate with the tip of
“Yeah, she’s a grade behind
“Have you seen her?” his
father asked again.
“No, I haven’t.
“Well…” his father started,
but then gazed across the table. His mother stopped tapping her
fork. “She was supposed to spend the weekend with her aunt on Maple
Street while her folks were out of town. She didn’t make it, and no
one noticed until yesterday. Her aunt thought the parents had taken
her with them, but her folks had sent Suzie to walk to Maple Street
herself. So you’re sure you haven’t seen her?”
“I’m sure.” Darren replied,
putting his silverware down.
They sat in silence for a
few minutes, and then Darren pushed his plate forward. “I’m not
hungry. Can I be excused?”
His parents looked at each
other, and then his Mother nodded. “Sure thing. Do you want to
watch Sullivan? Rosemary Clooney is going to be on.”
Darren made a face and shook
his head, carrying his plate into the kitchen. “I’m gonna go
He stayed up there, door
closed, watching the house across the street for the rest of the
night. He could hear his parents arguing over Rosemary Clooney’s
warbling. His Mom blamed his Dad for upsetting him and his Dad
saying this was serious and that they needed to know. Later, his
Mother poked her head in and told him it was time for bed so he
went through the motions of getting ready and saying
Instead of sleeping, Darren
just sat in bed watching the house across the street as dusk turned
into night. After a few hours, the streetlight out front clicked on
and began its night-long hum. His eyelids began to droop, and he
realized that trying to maintain a vigil through the night was
With a giant yawn, he got
out of bed and went over to the window. It was hot and muggy, like
most New Jersey summers, but there was no way he was going sleep
with the window open tonight. He shut it as quietly as he could,
not wanting his parents to hear and wonder what he was still doing
Just as he turned to head
back into bed, the streetlight flickered. He turned, pressing up
against the glass, scanning the entire street. For a second there
was something dark moving out of the circle of light and heading
towards the driveway. He stood there for at least five minutes,
mashing his face against the glass, trying to see down into the
driveway. There was nothing but darkness.
It was stupid, he realized.
If there was anything out there, Mom and Dad would have seen or
heard it. Darren turned and crawled back into bed, but once there,
he found that sleep had left him. He tossed and turned, and after a
couple of minutes he realized he’d been humming that stupid
Rosemary Clooney song from the show.
Irritated, he kicked the
sheet off and rolled over, still trying to get
“Come on-a my house, my
house-a come on . . .”
Darren snapped up in bed,
eyes scouring the room. The voice had been faint, but he had
definitely heard the deep rumble of a voice that wasn’t his
father’s. He couldn’t see a thing, the lamp from the outside not
even making a dent into the oppressive darkness of his room. Not
even the light from the hallway was coming under his bedroom
He trained to listen but the
only noise was the faint whisper of the curtains as they brushed
together in the breeze. His eyes passed over them at first, but
then darted back.
The window was
He should have screamed
then, he realized, but his eyes still darted from side to side,
trying to make out anything in the darkness.
“Come on-a my house, my
house, I’m gonna give you ca-andy . . .”
It was so faint that he
almost thought he was imagining, but he knew that even in his
darkest dreams he wouldn’t have been able to imagine the rumbling,
cracked voice that was whispering to him in the dark.
He drew in a breath to
scream, knowing that getting his parents attention was his only
chance. Before he could even make a sound, the darkness on the far
side of the room exploded towards him. There was a rustle of fabric
and then a gloved hand clamped down on his throat.
“Shhhhh,” the harsh whisper
came from all around him.
“You wanted to see, didn’t
you? You came and you wanted to see, isn’t that right?”
Darren tried to shake his
head but the grip on his throat was too tight. His chest burned
with the trapped air in his lungs and he could barely make out the
face in front of him.
“Don’t you lie to me, boy!”
The face was wrapped in a black scarf with a black, wide-brimmed
hat pulled down as far as it could go. Between them, he could make
out the blue eyes that had stared at him from the basement window.
“You want to see Him? I can make you see.”
Darren’s chest thought his
swollen lungs were going to crush his heart. Before that could
happen there was a flash of silver that slammed into his
Around the blue eyes
everything fell into a haze.
He felt himself being
effortlessly hauled over the man’s shoulder, and the last he heard
before the darkness completely overtook him was his whispered