My First Horror Story: Ten Years
If you haven’t read yesterday’s post yet, take a quick read for an introduction to this one:
Done? Great. Let’s continue.
Is horror much different from post-apocalyptic or science fiction? When I set out to write this one—yesterday—I wanted to make it an homage to the king of horror. Not King, but the king, H.P. Lovecraft.
I hope you enjoy.
We dared each other to spend a night at the old Barnavois place. We were only 17 at the time, and we were invincible.
Or so we thought.
I went first. I spent the first hour exploring around with my flashlight, opening creaking doors, peeking into closets, poking through old boxes and drawers. The kitchen had a few old pieces of cutlery and dishes—and a lot of dust.
I got bored and dropped the remaining dished on the floor, delighting in the sound. On the mantle in the living room was a mirror which I was surprised wasn’t already broken.
I walked away from the glimmering shards scattered in the fireplace.
As night fell, I rolled out my sleeping bag on the floor near the entrance for no other reason but to thwart any attempt to frighten me. As I drifted into a slumber, I thought that I could hear footsteps coming from upstairs.
I called out, “I hear you! If you climbed up there, you’re not fooling me!” and I sat up against the wall to listen. The footsteps continued, but this time, they sounded like they were on the staircase.
I wasn’t going to fall for this and lose the bet. I pulled my legs tight against my chest and wrapped my arms around them. The footsteps became foot stomps. Closer and closer they seemed to come. I felt cooler than I ever had before and began to shiver uncontrollably. I closed my eyes tight, yet I could still see everything in the dim glow of the moon shining through the window in the door. I could sense a finger running across my cheek.
I had enough.
He laughed at me the next day and vowed that he wasn’t going to chicken out. I was all set to do the same thing he had done to me, but before I got to the house, it was already ablaze.
The police report was that he must have set fire to the place and run away. The only thing left in the rubble was a staircase board with three words carved into it: Ten years left.
* * *
I had forgotten all about the incident until yesterday when, while lying in bed, the news feed on my phone ran an account of the unsolved disappearance on the anniversary of the incident.
Ten years ago.
Ten years ago…
My eyes close, then I open them up, and only a few hours have passed. I am half off the other side of the bed. I wake up in a cold, clammy sweat, and I need a shower. It feels strange to shower in the middle of the night. Stranger still, I could swear I see a shadow moving across the curtain.
I lie awake for an hour. Then another. Screw it. I get up and make coffee and sit to watch whatever is on TV. Which is nothing. Literally. Cable must be out. Same with the router because none of my devices work.
I must have fallen back asleep, as I wake up to the television blaring the morning weather. I already showered, so I get ready for work.
On the bus as usual, but no one is sitting next to me. Fine by me, I think. You people can stand if you want.
I’m restless all day. At work, as I type, different words appear on the screen, and I have to backspace a lot. I feel that there is someone watching me. It’s like I’m on display. Stop it! I yell out loud. A co-worker walks quickly by my office.
I’m not getting much done, so I call it a day and decide to head home. My Uber driver pulls up, looks at me, and speeds away.
The bus ride home feels different. There are no seats, so I am forced to stand, and people keep bumping and pushing into me.
At home, I make something to eat, but it tastes off. There’s a knock on my door, but no one is there. I hear the TV in the living room, which I didn’t turn on. I go in to turn it off—and it already is.
The light upstairs flickers, and a cold wind hits me. I’ve felt that cold before.
Ten years ago.
I’m scared. My chest tightens. I fight for breath. I need to get some fresh air, so I put on my shoes and head out for a quick walk before the sun goes down. I have a few hours, or so I thought.
As I descend the front steps, something doesn’t feel right. It’s dark. It shouldn’t be, but it is. I’ll make this a shorter walk, I say to myself and head down the street. There are no cars—or people. There should be.
My footsteps sound louder than they should, so I suddenly change my stride, and for a brief moment I can hear them offset from mine before becoming one again. As I walk faster, I hear the footsteps keep pace.
I turn to go back, but in front of me is the burned remains of…that house. I feel pressure on my forearm as if someone is holding me—or guiding me.
I hear whispers, but I can’t make out any words except for the last one: Next
I tell myself that the word before kind of sounds like for/lore/more/nor/whore… any word other than the one that makes the most sense.
Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.
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