(Content Warning: Blood, gore, some mild language.)
By the rocking chair next to an old stone fireplace lies a hidden door. It can’t be seen by the naked eye, but it’s there. Some say that an evil demon was sealed away by a long-forgotten spell. Others say that the door is a magical portal that leads you to the one thing your heart desires. All the same, no one knows for sure.
Different families have come and gone over the years, yet the house remained defiantly strong. A credit to the craftsmanship of our forefathers. The homestead was built on Evergreen Hill, overlooking the town of Dodson. Trees as far as the eyes could see blanketed the entire countryside, bringing peace and tranquility.
Although the house was built with love and kindness, slowly, over time, wickedness found its way into every nook and cranny. Homes are not evil, but the people that occupy them are. The last resident was a brutal killer who prowled upon the citizens of Dodson.
The murderer was a dark man named Patrick. With his tall, muscular body, everyone in town was afraid of him. He had an ungodly smell and wore black all the time. Patrick walked with a limp and often looked like a giant monster lurking his way through a soggy swamp. He kept to himself mostly and only came out at night.
Mrs. Jones almost had a heart attack when Patrick gave her a smile at Dan’s Grocery Store. She said his teeth looked like shards of rusty nails poking through a bloody honeycomb. Indeed, most people turned a blind eye to Patrick, which delighted him because it made his job a little easier.
Soon, lifeless bodies were found all over town with their eyes missing. It didn’t take a great detective to discover who the killer was. Rumors tend to spread like raging wildfires in small communities, and the word in Dodson was that Patrick had a taste for eyeballs. Every able person joined together as one and made their way up Evergreen Hill. Their march was a show of dominance. They didn’t want to kill Patrick but scare him away.
Several attempts were made to get Patrick out of the house, but the place was still and quiet. There were no visible signs of light except for the crackling fireplace. At long last, it was decided to break down the front door to confront the monster.
Shock and horror filled their very souls when they saw Patrick slumped in the rocking chair with an eyeball lodged in his throat. Thinking that a funeral would be unjust, the citizens of Dodson drug Patrick’s body outside and roasted his flesh on Evergreen Hill. The smoke from his burning body was seen for miles and was a signal to all that Dodson was finally safe from the grips of terror.
Still… evil lingered. No one wanted to move into that old house, knowing what had transpired. It stood empty for several decades...
Mike and Sue were a young couple in their mid-twenties and had just graduated from college. They had their fair share of troubles in the city, just like everyone else, but they didn’t have that killer instinct. You must be a predator on the prey in the city, and that kind of lifestyle didn’t suit either of them.
They tried, but with Mike working long hours at The Chronicle Newspaper, Sue became lonely and had an affair. This devastated Mike so much that he ended up working more to ignore the problem. They remained a couple despite Sue’s betrayal and went to couples therapy. They discovered the root of the problem and decided to make some changes.
Mike quit The Chronicle and decided to work full-time on being a novelist. His first two books were published without much fanfare, but they did make him enough money to be comfortable. Sue was a web designer and spent countless hours working on her computer. Her pay was horrendous, but she enjoyed her job.
After a while, the city started to weigh them down, and Mike and Sue made a big decision to move. They found a great deal on an old house in Dodson, and it was almost too good to be true. The house was way below market value, and together they drove out to Dodson to have a look.
When Mike and Sue arrived in Dodson, they were greeted by warm smiles and soft waves. Everyone seemed so friendly and polite. The town itself was spotless compared to the city. The young couple immediately felt at home.
Making their way to Evergreen Hill, the house was like a shining pillar of hope and a promise of a better future. It was fair to say that Sue and Mike loved the place.
Pulling into the driveway, they spotted Ben O’Reilly leaning against his red pickup truck. He was wearing a second-hand suit and was sucking on a half-smoked cigar. Ben watched as the young couple stepped out from their Subaru and gave them a nod.
Ben had a way of sizing people up. He could tell that Mike had a snobby way from the way he carried himself. He was wearing brown dress pants, polished leather shoes, and his white shirt had no wrinkles as far as he could tell. On the other hand, Sue looked like a free spirit wearing blue jeans, scuffed up Nikes, and a Rockstar t-shirt. Her soft red hair was drifting in the light breeze, and Ben lifted his lips into a half-smile.
Mike took notice of this and frowned. “You must be, Ben. I believe we talked on the phone.”
Ben shifted his cigar to the other side of his mouth and outreached his hand. “Indeed, I am. The great Ben O’Reilly at your service!”
Mike ignored Ben’s handshake, rolled his eyes, and darted towards the house. Not wanting to leave Ben hanging, Sue slapped her hand in his and shook it as hard as she could.
“Well,” Ben said triumphantly, “that’s quite the grip you got there, miss!” He repositioned his hand and brought Sue’s hand up to his lips, and politely kissed the back of her hand.
Mike took notice and yelled, “Are you going to show us around or what?!”
Sue recoiled at the awkward exchange, and Ben immediately began to show them the house. The house needed a little work, but for the most part, Mike and Sue knew it was exactly what they were looking for. It was also right in their price range.
“So, what do you think?” Ben asked.
“Have you had any offers?” replied Mike.
“Not many people get up this way. The house is yours if you want it.”
Sues looked at Mike, who gave her a wink, and uttered, “We’ll take it!!”
“Good, good,” gushed Ben. “I’ll get the paperwork ready.”
Ben stepped out to grab the papers from his truck, and Sue smacked her lips on Mike. They were ecstatic, to say the least. Their fresh new start was finally happening.
With the paperwork in hand, Mike filled everything out and handed Ben a check for the total asking price. It was a heavy load to hand over that much money at once, and Mike was grateful that he had saved enough for this very purpose.
Ben folded the check and stuck it in his front pocket. “Welcome to Dodson!”
He knew better than to offer his hand again and turned to leave. Just shy of the door, Ben said, “Oh, before I forget, supposedly, there is a secret door by the fireplace, but no one has ever found it. But if you do find it, don’t open it. It’s the one rule here in Dodson. Just remember that, and I think you two will have a splendid time here.”
With his warning delivered, Ben hopped in his truck and sped away. Mike and Sue looked at the fireplace and saw nothing but an old rocking chair. “He must be pulling our leg!” Sue yammered.
“Yeah, I could tell he really won you over!” Mike snapped.
Sue grimaced, “What do you mean?”
“Are you kidding me? I saw the way he was sucking on your hand earlier!”
“Oh, give me a break!” Sue barked. “I thought it was very kind!”
Sue fired back, taking a deep breath, “Look, we came out here for a fresh start. Why can’t we put things behind us and move forward?”
Snapping his eyes shut, Mike nodded his head in agreement. “You’re right as usual. Ever since you had that affair, I get a little pushy when I see someone flirting with you. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize. I just want us to be happy.”
Over the next few weeks, they had their things moved from the city to Evergreen Hill. Everything was coming together nicely. Mike decided to keep the old rocking chair that stood by the fireplace. There was a certain elegance about it, and he thought it was very comfortable to sit in.
Mike remembered what Ben had said about a secret door, and after fumbling around the walls for a bit, he found nothing. The only problem with the house was the lack of internet and cell phone coverage. Sue had to drive into town to do her work because they had wi-fi there, leaving Mike by himself for most of the day.
This suited Mike well because it gave him time to work on his new book. He loved sitting in the rocking chair to write. Fresh ideas came to him constantly. The rocking chair was like a conduit for creativity. Mike became lost in a trance when he sat down to write.
In the back of his mind, Mike wondered what Sue was doing in town. He knew she was working, but the thought of her having the opportunity to be with someone else plagued his thoughts. Everything faded from his mind when he sat down in that rocking chair to write except the story he was creating.
One day, a strange voice blew through his mind. She is cheating on you again…
“Who said that?! Who’s there?!”
Mike searched the entire house, but he was alone. He poured himself some whiskey and returned to his work. Again, the voice came.
Sue is screwing Ben right now… Pluck out her eyes…
“I’m going crazy!” Mike shouted.
No…. you’re not….
Time gave way to madness as Mike poured himself glass after glass. The voice was persistent and continued to torment his thoughts. Mike wanted to go into town to check on Sue, but she had the car. It was a good twenty miles to get into town, and he couldn’t call her because they lived in a dead zone. Mike berated himself at that moment for not getting the landline hooked up. Then the voice rocked him back to reality.
Don’t stand there and drool! Sue’s screwing around on you!!
“Enough!” Mike yelled. His senses were exploding with dread. “Stop it! Just stop it! Sue would never cheat on me again!”
Oh, but she does! Moaning and yelping in the thralls of another man…
Later that evening, Sue arrived home to find Mike passed out in the rocking chair. She didn’t want to disturb him, so she crept upstairs, took a shower, and went to bed. All was quiet in the house when Mike awoke. His throat felt dry, so he reached over for another swig of whiskey and quickly withdrew his hand in shock. Nestled softly in the glass were two eyeballs staring back at him.
Suddenly, Mike heard Sue scream. He ran to the staircase and saw Sue feeling her way along the walls. Her face was a bloody sponge, and her eyes were hollowed out and missing.
Sue mumbled hysterically, “Buh, buh, buh….”
Ah…. You see, even in her torment, she so fiercely cries for him. For buh, buh, Ben.
Mike had no choice but to believe the ugly truth. She did cheat on him. Again. “You stupid witch! How could you do that to me again!?!”
Startled by his wrath, Sue paused to say something, but an unseeable force pushed her down the stairs. Mike could hear her bones crack and snap as she rolled down. She came to a stop at Mike’s feet; her neck was twisted around to her spine. Sue was dead; there was no doubt about it.
With tears streaming, Mike returned to his chair and drank the rest of his whiskey, taking no heed to the eyeballs inside. At this point, he didn’t care about anything anymore.
Do not drown yourself in tears; give praise and open the secret door.
“What secret door? There is no secret door! Now leave me alone!!” Mike shouted.
At that moment, a free-floating spirit appeared in front of Mike. It glowed with a misty blue twilight and took the form of an old man. His features were blurry, and Mike had a hard time looking at him.
The spirit man reached into his pocket and pulled out something…
What’s this, a key for me. No, it’s a key for thee. Open says me.
Mike chuckled and stared at the golden key. “I was warned not to open the door should I find it.”
Ah…. Warned by buh, buh, Ben!!! He had no problem unlocking your woman. Now you can break the rules and unlock the door!
All hope was gone from Mike’s heart when he said, “What good can possibly come from breaking the rules now?”
Break the rules while the others snooze, a good cause it is.
As soon as Mike grabbed the key, a bright shining keyhole appeared above the fireplace. He inserted the key and heard the door unlock.
Open, says a me!!
The fireplace split in half and shifted to the side to reveal a hidden door. The door was white and had a silver handle. Mike reached down and slowly opened it. Inside, there was nothing but blackness and cold shadows. Squinting his eyes, Mike saw a soft flame ignite in the distance. The flame grew to a raging tsunami and exploded onto his skin. Mike’s flesh was scorched from his bones, leaving nothing behind but his skeleton.
The spirit pranced around like a raving lunatic.
I’m laughing with glee, for you see, evil has been unleashed upon thee! The lovely town of Dodson should quickly flee!
With every good intention, evil tends to weave a wicked scheme. The secret door was a gateway to Hell, and now that it’s open, darkness will once again rise in the hearts of man…
Daniel R. Hayes