Evelyn, is a single mother of three. Linda was 16; Douglas was 15, and Samantha was five. Each year, she takes them apple picking at the Orchard near Mansfield. This year, she wanted to go the extra mile.
“For an entire weekend?” Linda groaned.
“You mean, like spend the night?!” Sam exclaimed before leaping in to her mother’s arms. “Oh boy!”
“But what about Adam?” Linda asked
Douglas rolled his eyes. “I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to be rid of you for a few days.” he replied. Linda elbowed him in the rib cage before he could get away. Douglas moaned. He may be the star athlete at Jackie Robinson High, but he was not fast enough for her. He will always be her little brother and that gives her an advantage.
“Don’t tease your sister,” Evelyn cautioned her son. “And Honey, I think your relationship with Adam can survive one weekend apart, and besides, the separation just might do you some good.” She smiled reassuring her while putting little Sammy down. She patted her daughter on the side before planting a loud wet kiss on her cheek. “We leave in an hour. Pack light.”
Linda scoffed. “It’s just that tomorrow is Halloween and Adam and I are going to the costume party at JRob's tomorrow night, remember?”
Evelyn sighed; she had completely forgotten. “That’s right.” She scratched her head. “Alright then, maybe just for the night. I’ll call your Aunt Lucy and tell her of the change in plans.” She picked up her cell phone and began dialing. “In that case, pack your costume and I’ll drop you off straight from there. Yeah, Luce It’s me.” she began on the phone and disappeared into the next room.
“What are you going as?” Douglas asked Linda taking a bite off an apple.
“Oh, MJ and Ola” Linda replied, smiling.
“Werewolf Mike or Zombie Mike?” Douglas asked.
“Nice!” Douglas said, nodding his approval. “Wait, werewolf Mike was with innocent Ola.” Linda folded her arms across her chest with a stoic expression on her face. She knew her brother well enough to know, there was some sarcastic remake eager to emerged. “So, if Adam is going as zombie Mike,” Douglas went on. "Who are you going as – slutty Olinda?” he smirked.
She swiftly grabbed the apple from his grasp before he could take another bite. “I’ll give you a three second head start before I shove this up your nostrils,” she warned. Douglas had been in many bouts with his sister and knew when to make a run for it. His skills as his high-school third baseman proved useful, indeed. He dashed right out of the doorway when the apple flew past his shoulder; missed him by a few inches - denting the wall.
“This is coming out of your allowance.” Evelyn said, wagging her finger at them both when she saw the damage.
The four crammed the old Dodge Durango with all they needed for their sleepover. It shouldn’t have been much. But with two teenagers and one five-year-old it felt like a two-week vacation than an overnight stay at Auntie Lucy’s. Evelyn gave the gas the usual three pumps before turning the key in the ignition. Just the boost “Old reliable” needed after its long nap. Linda rolled her eyes. Why doesn’t her mother just buy a new car? She’ll never understand. The car was passed down to her by Lucy just after she had Linda and before that it belonged to their uncle Bobby before he passed away. It’s a miracle it runs at all.
It was after all the eve of Halloween and the ride to Auntie Lucy is just over two hours. To pass the time, Douglas decided to tell them a story. His favorite was about the old man with his pet snake who once lived in the same apartment as the one they live in. He lived alone with his eighteen-foot python. He called the snake Charlie. Charlie was once the size of a mere worm. It wouldn’t scare a mouse. Before long, mice grew frightened for fear of being eaten. He eventually got too big to feast on mice and began preying on larger animals. The bigger he got, the bigger his meals. Charlie’s appetite was growing to new heights and the old man was growing desperate.
Children from the neighborhood began to disappear. Parents began to grow wary. The police had no leads. No one suspected the old man. He was a frail looking man, short, skinny with gray hair. However, his toothless smile made him seem so sweet and trusting. One day, he went for a stroll, hunting his next victim. Famished, Charlie was beginning to grow irritated as he often did when he hadn’t fed in months. One afternoon, the old man’s ten-year-old great nephew stopped by unexpectedly. He knew his uncle kept a spare key under the mat and in the house he went.
When the man returned with no luck, he noticed the huge lump in Charlie’s belly. Relieved he didn’t have to lure anyone to Charlie; he laughed, wiped the sweat from his brow, sat on his comfy old chair, and put his feet up on the coffee table for his worries were over. As he sat content, something caught his eye – a red baseball cap. He knew that cap. He gave his great nephew, Rusty, one just like it for his birthday. He hasn’t seen Rusty in months. How could it have gotten here? Suddenly, the spare key sparkle from the coffee table. The old man knew then, what or who was inside Charlie. Completely horrified, the old man took a chain saw and killed Charlie, haunted with guilt, he later killed himself.
“Douglas, you are so silly with your giant snake stories!” Sammy exclaimed. He knew she was afraid of snakes. He was just being mean. Douglas laughed.
“Ghost stories, Doug?!,” Evelyn scolded. If she weren’t driving, she would have smacked him on the head.
Douglas Laughed. “It’s Halloween. What kind of stories do you tell on Halloween – fairy-tales?” He challenged. His mother reached from behind her and attempted to smack his leg, which he successfully dodged. The harder she reached the more the car wobbled. Then suddenly, they felt one strong earth-shattering shudder and heard one loud hacking cough from the engine and then a poof before a cloud of smoke emerged from the hood. And just like that, it died – leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere. The four sat in the car staring at each other.
“What was that?” Linda asked.
“I don’t think we’re outta gas,” Douglas half joked.
Evelyn sighed as she watched the tow truck drive away with her car. “So much for good ‘Old Reliable’” she heard Douglas say. She stood there for a moment contemplating on what to do next when lightening flickered across the sky accompanied by the deafening roar of thunder; she let out a heavy sigh. Evelyn looked up at the murky skies and shook her head; there was but one choice.
They walked to an old Victorian house they spotted a half a mile back. When they arrived, there was a sign by the fence that read: Russell Piver’s Bed and Breakfast. “More like the Bate’s Motel,” Linda commented.
“Or the Shining Hotel” Douglas challenged.
“You kids watch too many horror movies.” Evelyn realized. The four stood staring at the house. It was a beautiful house, really, a light blue shade with white trims and bay windows. The signs of autumn were evident all around them: cool air, falling leaves, slight brownish grass and the pumpkins festively carved and laid out by the fence. The grounds could use a landscaper and a fresh coat of paint, but nothing too eerie.
“It could be worse.” Evelyn chimed in.
“You mean like the house in the Thriller video?” Sammy added. Suddenly the image of Zombie Mike and his horde of the living dead breaking through glass and knocking down walls and doors to get in seemed like a real possibility. The four exchanged glances.
Linda gulped. “Did you try calling Auntie Luce again?” Evelyn and Douglas both looked down at their phones. No bars.
“Service is still down.” Evelyn replied.
“Maybe they have wi-fi,” Linda added optimistically.
“Yeah. Maybe.” Evelyn replied forcing a smile. She felt the drop of rain upon her cheek. Before long, it began to pour. “Let’s go inside,” she told the children. When they arrived, a frail looking man, short, thin and with white hair, greeted them. He seemed somewhat familiar. Sammy gasps when he smiled. He was toothless.
“Good evening, Madame,” he said. “Welcome to Piver House. I am your host, John.” He spoke with a soft hoarse voice and was quite polite. He noticed the little one would not stop staring at him. Little children always seem fascinated by his appearance, it seems. Perhaps, it was the snow-white hair, or was it his smile; he could never tell. “My, has it begun to rain already?” he asked observing the wet clothes. “Better get you all dried up then,” he chortled. Linda smiled. He led them down a short hallway.
“Where are you taking us?” Evelyn asked.
“To your room, of course.” John replied.
“But we haven’t checked in yet.”
“With the children all wet from the rain, the formalities can wait.” John replied. “Best we get them dried first, don’t you think?”
Evelyn swallowed. “Of course.” she said.
As they made their way past the common room, Evelyn couldn’t help notice the the decor. Although tastefully kept, the dated decor did give the home a mid-century ambiance. Evelyn couldn’t decide if it was intentional or simply luck. John took them to an elevator that look like an old wooden phone-booth behind a gate. Since the house was only two stories, they stopped at the second level. There were Edwardian and Victorian style photographs on the wall. The portrait of a little boy in what could have been a baker boy’s cap caught Sammy’s attention; she stared at his picture for a moment. There was a curious familiarity about him. The slight yellowish undertone of the photograph made it difficult to tell the color of his cap. Just then, she felt a sudden chill in the air and heard hissing sound. Sammy looked around to see if perhaps someone else was there, or maybe a mouse. She saw no one; she saw nothing. Nevertheless, like the portraits, the house was quite old. The doors creaked each time you opened them. The entire house felt like something out of a very old black and white movie – the creepy old black and white movie. The family followed the old man who led them to their room.
They were quite pleased with two queen size beds, siting area with the large flat screen television mounted on the wall, and what could have been a pullout sofa. Douglas immediately headed straight for the TV and flew from behind sofa and grabbed the remote.
“Child,.” Linda muttered under her breathe slightly disappointed he beat her to it.
“The washroom is to the left, vending machine is in the common and meals are served in the dining room. When you are settled, do come down and I’ll check you in.” he said.
“Yes, thank you,” Evelyn replied. “Look after Sammy, while I go downstairs” I
“I sleep next to you, mommy,” Sammy said squeezing her mother’s hand.
“Of course,” Evelyn replied. She bent down and kissed her baby on the forehead “I’ll be back. I’ll just be right downstairs signing some papers, and to get us some food.”
“And call Auntie Lucy,” Linda reminded her.
“Right, call Auntie Lucy.” Evelyn said. Douglas was already tuned to his favorite sports channel and completely oblivious to the conversation. Food, sports, television and girls were his only interest and occasionally, his mother. Evelyn shook her head. “Douglas, you will look after your sisters, wont you?”
“Mom,” Douglas said, leaping from the sofa and taking his little sister into his arms and flung her up in the air. Sammy laughed when her caught her and gave her a big kiss on the cheek, “I’ll always protect my little sister. That’s what big bros are for. It’s what we do. But Godzil-linda here is a big girl, she can look after herself.” Douglas and Sammy both laughed, even Evelyn couldn’t hide her chuckle.
“Dork.” Linda said rolling her eyes. “Let’s get you out those wet clothes and into a bath,” she told Sammy but not before smacking her annoying little brother upside his head.
“What lovely children you have,” John said when they reached the front desk.
Evelyn scoffed. “Thank you, when they’re not killing each other. Maybe”
John laughed. “That’s when it usually matters most. Now, let’s see. We are running a two for one special tonight.”
“Yes, one person and her guest stays free.” Although they were completely alone he lowered his voice. “I will only charge you and the child. Children under twelve rates are lower.”
“You’d do that?” Evelyn asked.
“What is her name? Sammy is it?
“Of course. And you are Evelyn Dyer”
“How did you know that?” she asked surprise.
John chuckled. “It says so on the credit card you handed me, Madame.”
Evelyn looked away and laughed lightly. “Of course it does.”
“Now I will need you to sign here, here and here.” John said. Evelyn signed and initialed everything and anything he pointed to without looking at anything over. He didn’t bother explaining anything as she had stayed in hotels and motels before, this was standard in all of them.
“It always seems as though I’m signing my life away,” she said.
“Indeed,” he smirked.
Douglas’ story lingered in poor Sammy’s memory. She couldn’t wait for her mother to return. Linda was pressuring her to bathe but Sammy was afraid to go alone. “Will you go with me?” she begged.
Linda rolled her eyes mainly because she blamed Douglas. Yet, she understood her sister’s fears and nodded. Into the bathroom they went. As she bathed Sammy, she felt something tighten around Sam’s waist. “Do you feel that?” she asked.
Sammy nodded in terror. “But I don’t see anything.” She said. Terrified, Sammy snuggled into Linda’s arm. But the pressure from the invisible object began to tighten around her. The girls screamed.
The remote fell from Douglas’ hands when heard the shrieking sound coming from the bathroom. His heart raced, he quickly jumped to his feet and dashed for the bathroom. The door was locked. “Linda, what’s going on in there?” he shouted. The girls screamed even louder and the more he struggled to open the door. “Linda?!” He shouted.
“Douglas! Help!” They screamed!
“Sam! Linda!” He shouted back. He banged on the door, pushed as hard as he could. Then suddenly the screaming stopped. Panicked, Douglas kicked the door open, ambled to the bathtub, and carefully pulled back the shower curtain to find a giant snake with two figures in its belly…
“Sammy!” Douglas and Linda said, shaking her. “Sammy, wake up!”
“Sammy,” Douglas, said gently taping her cheek to wake her up. “Sammy, you’re dreaming. It’s ok. You’re dreaming.” He said.
Sammy woke up abruptly, screaming, shaking and sweating. “Mommy, It’s gonna eat me!” She screamed.
“What is?” Douglas asked.
“The snake, the giant snake,” She replied breathing heavily.
“No, Sammy, there are no snakes. You were dreaming.” He said.
“But it was real,” she said. ”Just like in your story. It was real. The old man downstairs and the little boy in the picture, they’re real and they’re here.”
Linda rolled her eyes and smacked Douglas on the head. “Mom is so gonna kill you,” she muttered softly. “And I’m so gonna watch.”
Douglas hugged his little sister. “Sam, my story is made up. I promise I made the whole thing up. They are not here and no one is going to hurt you. I won't let them.” However, the two small wounds he spotted on her shoulder worried him. He inconspicuously pointed them to Linda. It looked like a snake bite.
While the child slept, the other two searched the entire room for snakes. There weren’t any. “We need mom!” Douglas said. “Douglas, what did she mean the boy and the old man from your story were here?” Linda ask.
“I don’t know.” He whispered.
“I thought I heard screaming,” Evelyn said when she opened the door. The kids filled her in on what was happening. She listened intently. Evelyn nodded her head. She walked to the sleeping child and woke her. “Rusty,” She said.
“Rusty?” Linda asked “Who are you?
“I’m sorry to say” the old man who now seemed much younger suddenly appeared before them, “Little Sammy is not what she was any more,” A young boy has now emerged from where Sammy was sleeping. “Welcome back, Rusty!” he told the boy.
“Father!” the boy said hugging the man.
“Who are you and what have you done with my sister?” Douglas asked.
“Oh but Douglas, I think you know” As the man spoke, a giant snake appeared.
“Sammy?” Douglas asked. Sammy slithered towards her siblings. In spite of her size, they were not afraid.
“And our mother? Linda ask.
“You will find her in my place. You and your sister are free to go. However, Evelyn and Sammy belong to this house now. The only way they can ever be free, is on the eve of Halloween before midnight when another parent signs a contract binding their child to the House on Russell Viper Dr. as your mother has unwittingly done with little Samantha.
”You tricked them!” Douglas said.
“So I did. It was the only way I could ever free my boy, don’t you see? As you will someday learn.”
“Viper? But this is Piver Dr.” Linda said
“Piver?” the old man smirked. “So it is.”