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Horror

This story contains sensitive content

TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains mentions of the following:

  • Physical violence, gore, and abuse
  • Suicide or self-harm
  • Mental health

“Well, this is clearly haunted.”

“Mikail!” Katlynn reached around her husband’s back to lightly whack her son on the back of his head. “Knock that off.”

“Momma,” Kalli called from where she stood next to the van, her tiny arms wrapped tightly around Lucky’s neck. The poor golden retriever was dying to run around and explore, yet stood dutifully still to allow the six-year-old to cling to her for support. “Is it really haunted?”

“No, Kalli,” Robert said, walking over to open the trunk of the van. “Your brother was just making a joke. Isn’t that right, Mikail?”

“Sure, not like this whole move hasn’t been one big joke,” Mikail responded. He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his oversized jeans and hunched his back, looking for all the world like a prisoner accepting his fate on death row.

“How long are you going to continue to mope, Mikey? We’ve gone over this. Moving to the country is a fresh start. Think of it as a chance to make new friends!” Mikail grumbled as he kicked at a stray dandelion growing in the middle of the dirt path. “What was that?” Katlynn asked.

“I said to stop calling me Mikey. I’m sixteen now. You don’t have to call me baby names.”

She smiled and ruffled his messy brown hair, which was in dire need of a haircut. Pretty soon, she would have to stand on the tips of her toes to reach the top of his head. “Sixteen or sixty, you’ll always be my Mikey.”

“Mikey!” Kalli shouted as she finally released Lucky. Free at last, the dog bounded off to explore her new surroundings. “Let’s explore!” She pulled her brother’s hand from his pocket and dragged him forward. For all his grumbling, Katlynn saw him smile as he followed his little sister.

“Well, what do you think?” Robert asked as he came up beside her. He had two duffel bags draped over his shoulders and an over-packed cardboard box in his arms. “Doesn’t look quite like the pictures, but it’s too late now.”

Katlynn hummed in agreement, taking one of the duffels from him. He kissed her forehead in thanks before trudging up the path toward their new home.

The mansion stood proudly against the backdrop of the surrounding forest, its imposing Victorian architecture looming over the landscape like a silent sentinel of a bygone era. Built in the late 1800s, its weathered facade bore the marks of time, with ivy crawling up its walls and intricate wrought-iron gates guarding the entrance. Tall, arched windows peered out from beneath gabled roofs, hinting at the grandeur that once filled its halls.

Goosebumps inched across Katlynn’s arms as she took in the sight. Mikail may have been on to something earlier. Just as she could easily see this ancient mansion being restored to its former beauty and repurposed into the bed and breakfast of her dreams, she could imagine the building being the focal point of some horror story.

Giddy excitement nearly overwhelmed her as she grabbed the keys from the van. It was time to unpack!

~*~

“Well, this sucks.”

“Mikail!" Katlynn scolded. "If I have to tell you one more time to knock it off with the melodrama…” He sighed and shuffled back out the double doors to grab another box. She took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then released it, trying not to cough as the dusty air filled her lungs. Feeling marginally better, she resumed organizing the tower of boxes into piles, indicating which room they belonged in.

The sound of glass shattering echoed from an open doorway to her left, which led to the kitchens. A second later, she heard a quiet “Oops.” She shared a glance with Robert, who stood on a ladder, replacing the entryway lightbulbs.

“Kalli,” she called. “What are you doing in there?”

“Lucky dropped a box.”

Katlynn rubbed her temples and took another deep breath. Mikail shuffled through the front doors carrying a small shoebox. He unceremoniously dropped it at the exact moment that a lightbulb fell and shattered.

“Oops.”

“Okay!” Katlynn shouted, clapping her hands together. “Kalli, come in here please.” A moment later, she skipped through the kitchen doors, Lucky not a step behind. “How about we take a break and play a game?”

“Yay, a game!” Kalli cheered as Mikail groaned.

“What about hide-and-seek?” Robert suggested as he swept up the broken bulb. “This way, we can have fun exploring our new home.”

“Kalli will just get lost,” Mikail deadpanned.

“No, I won’t!”

“Good point, Mikey,” Katlynn said. “In that case, why don’t you two stay together for this first game? And since the game was Dad’s idea, he can be the first seeker.”

After laying down a few rules, Robert covered his eyes and began counting while the rest went to hide. Though Katlynn went in the opposite direction from Mikail and Kalli, he could hear her daughter’s excited chatter echoing through the halls.

Inside, the mansion was a maze of forgotten grandeur and faded elegance. The entrance hall boasted a sweeping staircase, its once grand banister now worn smooth and chipped from use. Tattered tapestries adorned the walls, depicting scenes from a forgotten era, while dust-covered chandeliers hung overhead, casting eerie shadows across the marble floors.

As Katlynn explored, she felt that each room held its own story. From the opulent ballroom, which she would repurpose into an event hall, to the dusty library lined with shelves of forgotten tomes. The mansion’s history seemed to whisper to her from every corner, a haunting reminder of the secrets it must hold within its walls.

A distant bark reminded her that she was supposed to be finding a good hiding spot. She slipped into a large linen closet that was thankfully free of cobwebs or rodents. Settling into the corner, she allowed her body to relax and her thoughts to roam.

Katlynn sighed heavily and allowed her shoulders to sag, her head resting against the wall. She was so tired. She wished she could take a nap, just for a few minutes, and then get back to unpacking, figuring out utilities, getting the kids enrolled in school, and all the other joys that come with being an adult. But for now, she would close her eyes for a few minutes…

~*~

Faint scratching jolted Katlynn awake. She hadn’t meant to doze off. She felt like she had slept for hours, though judging by the light leaking through the crack under the door, it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes. The sound of scratching came again, accompanied by the tell-tale squeak of a mouse. Biting back a squeak of her own, Katlynn jumped up and out of the closet. After ensuring she hadn’t been nibbled on, she took a deep breath and leaned against the wall, the last of her panic-induced adrenaline fading.

She first noticed that the light she had seen through the door was not from the nearby window, as she had initially thought, but from the lit sconces lining the hallway. That was odd. She hadn’t remembered turning them on. Perhaps Robert had made his way past here while looking for her and turned on the lights as he went. Thankfully, besides a few broken and burnt-out bulbs, most of the lights in the mansion were in working order.

She approached the large four-paneled window at the end of the hall and tried to peer through. The darkness of night on the other side was so oppressive that all she could see was her reflection.

Figuring she had waited long enough to be found, she turned and headed back toward the entry hall. The entry hall was just as she had left it, a tower of boxes in the center with smaller organized piles spread throughout the space. There was no sign of Robert, Mikail, Kalli, or Lucky. Maybe they were still looking for her.

Just as Katlynn began to call for them, she heard Lucky barking. It echoed faintly from the second floor, but she would recognize that sound anywhere. Anxiety raced through her as she registered the tone of Lucky’s bark, which she used when protecting Kalli from other dogs who approached too quickly, and she felt threatened.

Katlynn raced through the labyrinthine halls, following the barks and snarls. Unlike before, the lights on this side of the mansion were not turned on, and every door was shut. Just as she thought she was close, she heard a high-pitched yelp, followed by silence. Racing around a bend in the hallway, she paused, panting. A single door stood open a few rooms down, cold white light spilling through the doorway and into the hallway.

“Lucky?” She called, her voice trembling from uncertainty and exertion. As her panting subsided, she heard the sound of running water. Gathering her courage, she peered around the doorframe. Inside was an opulent bathroom. Every surface was made of marble, including the sink and massive tub overflowing with water. Cursing, Katlynn rushed in to turn off the faucets, ignoring the water soaking through her flats.

Once the sink and tub faucets were off, she noticed the water wasn’t draining even though the tub drain was popped open. Steeling herself, she reached into the cold water, unscrewed the drain cap, and felt inside for whatever was clogging the pipe. She shivered and gagged as her fingers brushed something soft. She pinched as much as she could and pulled free a large tuft of golden brown hair. The water began to drain slowly, so she reached back in, pulled a few more clumps from the drain, and then repeated the process on the sink. She paused as she approached the toilet to flush the hairy clumps, noticing her reflection in the massive gold-rimmed mirror.

Her arms, from elbow to fingertip, were drenched in a startling red. Smears of crimson covered her shirt and jeans as if she had been splashed with paint. She blinked rapidly, but her reflection didn’t change. Perplexed, she looked down at herself.

Katlynn screamed. Red covered the floor, puddled in the corners, and stained the marble tub and sink. She backpedaled, dropping the wet pile of hair, which landed with a sickening splat on the tile. A clinking sound caught her attention, and she glanced back at the pile. Partially buried within the hair was a small silver pendant shaped like a bone with a single word engraved across the surface. Lucky.

“Momma?”

Katlynn yelped and spun to face the door leading to the hallway. Kalli stood just past the threshold, her face stark with horror as she took in the blood-stained bathroom. Her knees wobbled with relief. She reached toward her, ready to lift and take her away from the gruesome scene.

“Momma, what did you do to Lucky?” The shaking in her voice nearly broke Katlynn’s heart, and she stopped just inches from touching the girl, as her hands were still stained red. Kalli’s feet were already stained from the puddle she stood in, and the sight made her nauseous.

“Kalli, honey, where is your daddy? Have you seen Mikail?”

“What did you do to Lucky!?” Kalli screamed, her little hands balling into fists. Tears streamed down her eyes, but she wasn’t looking at Katlynn. She turned, intending to grab a towel or shower curtain not stained in blood to wrap around Kalli. Instead, she stared at a mangled lump of golden brown hair stained with red.

“No…” She breathed out. Kalli broke out into sobbing hysterics before darting back into the hallway. Katlynn shouted for her to come back as she raced after her. Having lost sight of her, she followed the path of little red footprints until they eventually faded at the top of the entry hall grand staircase.

“Kalli!”

“Mom?” She whirled at the sound of Mikail’s shaky voice. He stood at the bottom of the stairs. Even from where she stood, she could see that he was trembling.

“Mikey! Where is your sister? Why weren’t you with her?”

“What have you done…” His whispered words carried in the open space. Katlynn realized then that he wasn’t looking at her but at the ground; at the small body lying in a heap.

Mikail crouched beside the body of his little sister, hesitantly resting a hand on her shoulder and trying to roll her over. Her legs and one arm rested at odd angles, clearly broken. As he shifted her, her head turned at an awkward angle.

“You pushed her,” Milkail said, his voice rising to a shout. He finally looked up at her, tears streaming down his face, pure rage painted across his features.

“No,” Katlynn whispered. “No, I didn’t.”

“How could you!?” His accusations echoed behind her as she turned and sprinted back down the hallway. Why was this happening? What was happening?

She stumbled through the halls in a daze, desperately trying to understand how her life had turned so quickly. Somehow, she ended up in the massive kitchen. She didn’t know how she ended up here, as she could have sworn she was just on the second floor.

The sound of crackling made her glance down at her foot. Shattered glass and the upper half of a wine bottle littered the floor. She bent and picked it up by the neck. Was this what Kalli had dropped earlier?

Something dark caught her attention, which was in stark contrast to the white marble and stainless steel kitchen. A shoe lay on the ground, half exposed from around the kitchen island’s corner. Numb, Katlynn slowly approached the island.

Time stood still as she stared at Mikail’s body lying face down. Red liquid puddled beneath his head, crawling across the floor to settle in the cracks between marble tiles. It was impossible to tell if the liquid matted in his hair and leaking from the garish gash across the back of her son’s head was blood or from the broken bottle of wine.

“Honey?” Katlynn didn’t react, not even bothering to acknowledge Robert’s presence. “Sweetheart,” His voice shook, and what part of her heart remained intact shattered. “Please, drop the bottle.”

Ah, the broken bottle. And her son lay at her feet, the back of his head cracked and bleeding onto the kitchen floor. This all had to be some sick joke, and she was struck with the desire to laugh and scream.

She wanted to tell him that it wasn’t her fault, that she didn’t understand what was happening. But when she finally lifted her gaze from Mikail’s body to settle on her husband, the horror she found directed at her kept her mouth shut. What did it matter? There was nothing she could say that would convince him she was innocent. Not that she could blame him, as she’d react in the same way were their roles reversed.

Something in the way she looked at him must have broken the last of Robert’s resolve. Hands up in surrender, he slowly backed out of the kitchen as though he feared a quick retreat would trigger her to attack. Just before he disappeared from her line of sight, she saw him pull his cell phone from his pocket, no doubt to call the police.

Katlynn couldn’t bring herself to care. Whatever was happening here, she had to be the cause somehow. Maybe it was for the best that she was locked away. It wasn’t as if she could return to living a normal life after this, anyway. Not that she’d want to if given the chance.

A wet sound, like raw chicken impacting a cutting board, came from the entryway, quickly followed by a loud thump. Katlynn watched the doorway, torn between her desire to make sure Robert was alright and remaining where she was, numb.

“Robert?” She called, weak at first, before clearing her voice and calling again. Step by shaky step, she left the kitchen and emerged into the entrance hall. She had felt her heart break before, but now her very soul crumbled to nothing as she took in Robert’s prone form on the ground, a large axe embedded in his back. They didn’t even own an axe.

Her hand relaxed, the broken bottle slipping from her grip and shattering against the tile. The sound bounced off the walls and marble floor, like an echo of madness doomed to repeat for eternity.

~*~

“Another one? You’ve gotta be kidding me. They need to just tear this damn thing down.”

Officer Johnson hummed nonchalantly, watching Abney, his younger partner, wrap a thick chain through the gate’s iron bars and secure it with a thick padlock. The mansion sat just on the other side, standing sentinel over its forested domain.

“What happened here, by the way? It’s always a family of four with a dog who buys this freaky place only to abandon it without notice.”

“There was a murder a few hundred years ago or so. Apparently, the wife went nuts and killed the entire family before offed herself.”

“Damn…” Abney shivered, backing away from the ancient structure as though it would strike the moment he turned his back. “How did she do it?”

“She drowned the dog, pushed her youngest kid down the stairs, bashed in the oldest kid’s head with a bottle, and stuck an axe in the husband’s back. Then she hung herself.” Abney’s eyes went wide with fear. “Ah, don’t worry about it. It’s just an old story someone probably made up to keep kids from trying to sneak in. Let’s get back to the station. Kick-off is at six, and I want to make sure I get a good spot at the bar.”

As Abney nodded and headed for the patrol car, Johnson stuck a large “For Sale” sign in the ground.

April 17, 2024 05:50

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2 comments

Kim Meyers
16:07 Apr 23, 2024

Gory, sickening and grisly. All the makings of a good horror story. Good work!

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Trudy Jas
01:38 Apr 23, 2024

This a gruesome story. Having said that, it kept me breathlessly following it till the end, Well done.

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