Late Fall in Ohio - A Horror Story
Matt Malitis and I had never traveled so far down the train tracks as we did that weekend day in the late fall of 1983.
What we found down there hardly seems believable in hindsight. You know those things that happen to you in life that are so completely remarkable that you hardly believe they really happened? When you tell the story to other people, as the words come out of your mouth you’re thinking: “This person doesn’t believe me, and I’m not even sure I believe me”. As time goes by you believe it less and less as the memory fades and becomes distorted. This was one of those instances. I’m writing it down now because I still know it really happened, and somehow it seems important to document while I still truly believe it.
We lived in Worthington Heights, a middle class suburb of Columbus Ohio. As everybody knows, fall is the best season in the mid-west. Colors from the leaves and the sky swirl together brilliantly and the air is cold and vibrant. Smoky scents fill the nostrils and the sounds of football emanate from folks TVs and radios. 10 million pounds of bratwurst are cooked every hour (just a slight embellishment - really). Before long the winter chill will set in, rendering ‘being outside’ practically unbearable, so fall is the time to soak it all in while you can.
Well Matt and I were soaking it in that day. We had spent the morning going door to door and soliciting our raking services. $5 for a small yard and $10 for a big one. We were doing pretty well for a couple of 12 year old entrepreneurs, having nestled away at least $30 bucks apiece.
It was a glorious sunny and hazy saturday. We had my small red am/fm radio with us, and we were listening intensely to the Ohio State Buckyeye game. I forget who they were playing. I was a huge fan of the crimson and grey at the time, but I remember that Matt was a Michigan fan, so he always rooted against them. Being a Michigan fan living in Ohio, he’s lucky he moved out of the state while he was still a kid (I heard he moved to the west coast a few years later - where football is not as ‘life or death’).
Matt was not my best friend at Colonial Heights Middle School, but he and I hung out together quite often as he lived very close to me. He was a short skinny guy with a big reddish blond mop of hair that almost looked afro-esque. He was always up for an adventure, this was another reason we hung out. I wasn’t that crazy about my step-dad, so I spent as much time outside as possible.
Around 1:00 pm or so we had decided that we had hauled in enough dough to call it a day and go blow our money somewhere. We stopped by my house on Glendover Lane to ditch our rakes and fill my Mom in on our plans for the rest of the day (well, part of our plans anyway). She offered to cook us up some tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches but we had plans for egg rolls at the China Palace on Main Street and then crispy sugar bread at Al’s arcade down the street.
At about 2:30pm we exited the arcade with stomachs full from the greasy rolls and sugar coated sweet bread and the theme song from Ms. Pac Man stuck in our heads. We still had about $10 bucks each and a couple of hours before it got dark. My curfew that time of year was 5:30. Matt’s folks didn’t care when he got home.
So, after a brief deliberation on the street corner of Main and 63rd we decided to go check out a new recreation center we’d heard about way out on the west side of town. We could take a direct route by way of the train tracks past the forest by Naples Park (our parents had no idea we walked the tracks, I know my mom would have tanned my hide with the wooden spoon if she had ever found out). It was further than we’d ever traveled down the tracks but the magnetic lure of shooting pool and playing dodge ball at the recreation center was powerful. We figured it was about a mile walk each way once we got to the tracks. Easily do-able. So, we headed that way.
As we cruised along the train tracks towards our destination we played a game out of jumping from plank to plank, seeing who could skip more planks with every leap. I think our record was 4. The Buckeye game was early in the 4th quarter and they were up by a couple of touchdowns and looking good. The sound of Ohio State’s impressive marching band blurted ‘Hang On Sloopy’ out of my tinny sounding radio as I whistled along and swung it back and forth. jumping from plank to plank, laughing with Matt every time one of us tripped. There was something so compelling and taboo about ‘walking the tracks’. It was forbidden and adventurous. You never knew what would happen.
After about 15 minutes we were further than we had ever been down the tracks, as we didn’t recognize the neighborhood (it was obviously a more poverty stricken part of town judging by the neglected, small houses and overgrown lawns).
We talked about which girls at school we thought were cute, and which ones we thought had the potential of letting a guy get to a certain base. We both concurred that Emily Vaughn would probably let a fella go all the way what with the way she dressed and the looks she gave us guys - my mom used to say it was a wonder that her parents let her go to school like that - she was only a few of years older than us after all (she had been held back a grade I think). Emily was the most-gossipped about girl at school. So quiet and mysterious but obviously such an attention seeker at the same time. She was undoubtedly the most popular mental image we used for most of our 6th grade masturbation fantasies.
We argued about whether the Wolverines or the Buckeyes were better (the Buckeyes beat em’ later in the season; but it ended up being insignificant to us given the ramifications of the event that was about to unfold). We also argued about whether Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, or Culture Club were more bad-ass (guaranteed that is one argument that nobody is having anymore). The 80’s were a truly hideous decade with respect to music (with a few exceptions).
After about 20 minutes we tired of plank jumping and decided to start picking up large rocks and throwing them at trees or signs as targets. Each time one of us struck our intended target we earned one point, which represented one baseball card to be obtained from the other at a later date. After about five minutes I was up three points (or three cards) on Matt, when he said, “Look, a possum!”
It was bizarre for this early in the day, but sure enough an extremely large and grotesque Possum had emerged in front of us. It literally may have been the biggest rodent I’ve ever seen - even now as a 37 year old man. It was almost the size of Matt’s golden retriever ‘Red’. Possums just don’t grow that big. They just don’t.
Matt had a tennis ball sized rock in his hands at the time. He cocked it back in an over-emphasized pitching motion and hurled it towards the rodent, which was a good 30 feet away and staring right at us. It had emerged from the brambles on our right hand side and had immediately frozen when it sensed our presence.
The rock caught the possum square in the middle of it’s head. It reeled back and screeched with a high pitched wail, violently shaking its mutilated head back and forth as blood spurted from what looked like its nose. Matt and I stood stone stunned, neither of us thinking that Matt would be on point with his throw (he was incredibly uncoordinated and was usually the last guy picked for dodge ball or basketball games during P.E. at school).
“What the heck did you do, man?” I said.
“Oh shit, I have no idea? I wasn’t even really aiming for it, shit!” Matt was pale with disgust. His face was twisted into a demented looking frown.
The thing was near the brambles now, having blindly backed up, trying to back away from it’s smashed face. Still screeching in that horrific high pitched wail of agony. Blood seemed to be spraying out of the center of its face. It was truly a disturbing spectacle to behold.
“Put it out of it’s misery, man, c’mon!” I exclaimed.
“No way Jeff! You!”
“You did it, you finish it, Matt!” I was getting pissed off, and the sound of the animal screaming was becoming unbearable.
Matt slowly crept towards the possum and knelt down to pick up a few larger rocks. He was trying to throw them at the animal but Matt had begun to shake with revulsion, I could see him holding back dry gags as he limply chucked rocks towards the creature.
“Motherfuckin homo!” I said. “Just get back!”
I grabbed some rocks and stepped towards the thing. A rancid odor was emanating from it, almost skunk-like but somehow even more putrid. The amazing stream of blood was still spraying out of its face. The amount that was coming out seemed impossible. Awe struck, I got to within about 5 feet, drew my arm back and hurled a rock at its head. It missed to the left by an inch or so. I threw another, this one again catching the creature square on the noggin. It screamed louder and, incredibly, even more blood spurted from a hole in its face. It was almost spurting all the way over to where I was standing. I gazed over the area around me then grabbed a football sized rock from the ground with both hands and heaved it towards the possum with all my might. Mercifully, I connected with the head again and heard a crunching noise as its skull collapsed under the weight of the rock.
The screeching stopped and the creature lay motionless. Matt was breathing heavily, almost sobbing behind me.
“Is it dead?”
“What do you think, poser?” I said. “That thing is a-goners’ thank god. Holy fuckin crap that was insane.”
“No shit!” Matt agreed. “That was the freakiest shit I’ve ever fuckin’ seen in my life.”
“I didn’t know possums could get that big.” I said.
We stared at the lifeless form on the ground in front of us. What looked like gallons of blood surrounded the corpse of the possum. It’s head was a flattened bloody mess beneath the rock. A grayish substance was oozing out of there as well. We both shook our heads in disbelief.
I was still staring at it when I said, “Let’s get going.”
The rest of the walk there was in silence, aside from a few more ‘can you believe that really happened’ comments. We made it to the recreation center after another 10 minutes or so. Our time there was spoiled by the fresh memory of the possum incident. We played the games and chased the girls and had the snacks but we were both emotionally throttled by our encounter with the over-sized animal.
At about 4:30 I suggested we take off for home to make sure I made it back by curfew. Matt begrudgingly agreed and we headed out of the rec center and back towards the train tracks that would lead us home.
The late afternoon weather had taken a turn for the worse. It had become remarkably dreary and a thick fog was setting in. The smoky fall smell was stronger than ever and a serious chill had taken over the air. I could see what looked like a full moon behind a translucent cloud of fog directly above us. The fading sun was nowhere to be seen.
“We better hustle back”. I said.
“Yeah no fuckin’ around this time”. Matt said with a serious look on his face. He was one to talk.
I turned my radio on to cheer up our mood. An old episode of “The Shadow” was being broadcast. We listened to it in silence. It made for quite an eerie atmosphere.
We started to approach the area where the dead possum would lie. I could tell because I recognized a creepy looking old whitish grey house on the opposite side of the train tracks by where the incident had happened. It looked like a smaller version of the house from Amityville Horror but much more run-down. We were both mutely dreading having to pass by the dead animal again and be reminded of our atrocity.
The house was only a few yards away to the right so I knew the possum would be on the left now. I glanced over (I was somehow compelled to). I knew Matt was looking too. The possum was gone, but the blood remained.
“What the..?” I stammered.
“Who knows.” Matt said. “Maybe some back country folks smelled dinner and came to collect their main course.”
I considered this. It was possible I suppose, but I didn’t think people really did things like that. I thought it was only folklore. I looked around again at the surrounding neighborhood and thought that if there was some place where folks would cook dead possum, this might be it. A shudder moved through my spine down into my knees as I thought more about it. Then, I noticed that there was a trail of blood that seemed to lead over towards the creepy old house on the other side of the train tracks.
Matt seemed to have noticed at the same time, as he pointed at it and exclaimed, “Whoa, look at that, it looks like it leads over to that house!”
We both turned our heads towards the house that was only about 100 feet away from the tracks. There was a brown bumpy lawn and some neglected shrubs and then what I saw next to the house made me jump back, startled. I nearly tripped on the track behind me. Emily Vaughn, the quiet and kind-of-slutty girl from school stood on the lawn in front of the house holding a tall boys hand. Emily had no expression but the boy had a huge grin on his face that reminded me of The Joker from the Batman cartoons.
Emily had dull blue eyes and dingy and mussed up blond hair. She was dressed in a white, torn blouse and white leather mini skirt that was way too short for a 15 year old girl. She was barefoot. The guy she was with appeared to be 16 or 17 and had dark hair and features, wore a black t-shirt, black jeans, and dingy old white sneakers. His freakish grin was frozen on his acne ridden face.
“H-Hi Emily.” I managed to say. “I didn’t know you lived out this way”.
I wasn’t sure if she even knew who I was. Also our school was very small, she had never acknowledged my presence. As I said though, she kept mostly to herself.
She remained expressionless and didn’t say anything in response. Matt was stone faced as well and his mouth was slightly open, staring at the strange couple.
Things were already starting to feel surreal. “So, what’s going on?” I tried to smile and appear friendly to the two.
Emily spoke first. Flatly. “This is my brother Bob.”
“Hey Bob.” Matt and I said in unison with the same mock cheeriness.
Bob spoke. “You guys wanna’ check out something fucking cool as hell?” He maintained the joker-like grin, barely moving his lips as he spoke.
A very strange feeling was creeping over me. It was frightening but exhilarating at the same time. I had a sensation that we were about to experience something we had never experienced in our young lives. Curiosity got the best of me instantly but I remained suspicious.
Matt whispered to me, “Let’s jet the hell out of here Jeff, those two look like about as much fun as spending the day in the Principal’s office.” He attempted a lighthearted chuckle but I could tell his voice was shaking.
“What is it?” I said, and looked at Bob.
Emily, who finally came to life, smiled and switched her hips. She looked at Matt and me and said, “You guys ever see a pornographic video cassette?” It was strange and totally caught us off guard.
Bob said, “We were about to start one as a matter of fact, how about you two come on in. If you’re not pussies that is.”
We were mortified and thrilled at the same time. Matt said, “What about your folks? Are they out for the night?”
I glanced over to the side of the house and noticed an old Ford Pickup in the driveway.
“Our folks are here, probably passed out upstairs. They don’t give no fuck no-how.” Bob shrugged.
The concept of this and the scenario was baffling to me, but of little concern compared to my adolescent desire to witness sexual intercourse for the first time. I knew it was the wrong thing to do but I felt a stirring in my pants and I knew we had to go in. I looked over at Matt and he had the same eager expression on his face as I did. We climbed down the embankment by the train tracks and walked between the bramble to the house.
We approached Bob and Emily and I said, “Isn’t it kinda weird, you guys watching a porno movie together, what with bein’ brother and sister and all?” My heart was pounding with nervous excitement and I could feel a sheen of sweat forming all over my body. It gave me a chill in the early evening air.
Matt started laughing maniacly. “We’s all just people, man. And who doesn’t enjoy watching people bein’ with people you know?”
This twisted reasoning was enough to lure us.
Emily broke her hand free of Bob’s and ran up the porch towards their front door, giggling. “Come on boys!” She shouted to us.
“Don’t have to tell me twice.” Bob said, and followed her.
Matt and I glanced at each other and slowly walked up the stairs towards the Vaughn’s open front door. If there had been more blood rushing towards our brains and not down there in our shorts, we might have used a bit more discretion. We had forgotten about the possum for the time being.
We walked through the door, which opened up into a smoky and filthy living room. Old plates of food and stained clothes lay strewn about without regard. The combination of horrendous and curiously pleasant smells took over my senses. Emily was down on the floor inserting a video cassette into the large video cassette machine under a large color television set. I was impressed that a family that seemed to live in a poverty stricken neighborhood was on the forefront of technology.
I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was about to watch people having sex. I had seen Playboys and Penthouses and the occasional Hustler, but live sex itself? The adrenaline rush was intense and any guilt was repressed as I found a spot on an end table by the couch. Matt sat on the end table on the opposite side of the couch (which required the movement of a bowl full of moldy ravioli which he placed on the coffee table). Emily turned on the TV then sat next to Bob on the couch between us.
Bob reached into an ashtray that was spilling over with ashes and butts. He pulled out what looked like half of a roll-your-own cigarette and lit it.
“Your parents know you smoke cigs?” Matt said, astonished.
The movie was starting. There were several people talking in a bar or restaurant on the TV and cheesy disco music blared through the speaker. The ladies in the bar had very big boobs, I could tell even with their clothes on. My eyes were glued to the images on the screen.
Bob laughed again, this time through one side of his mouth as he inhaled smoke through the other side. “As long as we don’t steal it from them, they could give a leaping fuck. But, this ain’t a cigarette, it’s grass.”
“Why the hell would you want to smoke gra….” Matt started.
“It’s marijuana, dumb-ass.” I spoke as if I was familiar with the substance, when in reality I had never been around any. I was vaguely disturbed but more interested in the action on the screen.
A bartender in the movie was kissing one of his patrons over the bar. He moved to her side of the bar and began to caress her butt under her skirt. I was instantly hard and throbbing. The lady pulled her skirt up to reveal that she was not wearing any underwear. She bent over a little and put her hands on her bar-stool then turned her head around to look at the bartender. She had an evil smile on her face similar to the one Bob was wearing. The bartender let his pants fall down and he pulled out what I thought must be a fake penis, it was so giant. He seemed to whip it at her naked bottom, slapping it with his snake-like organ. I couldn’t breathe. It was the most exhilarating thing I had ever witnessed. When he penetrated her from behind it was too much for my sensitive organ. I immediately came in my shorts without so much as even touching myself.
Bob seemed to notice somehow, “You like this huh, kid?” He looked at me and chuckled heartily.
“Fuck ya, man, who wouldn’t?” I tried to sound cool. My interest in the movie had waned a bit after I had blew my wad. I was embarrassed and hoped to god it wasn’t obvious. I looked over at Bob and noticed that he had his hand on Emily’s upper thigh. He was rubbing it back and forth a little. She did not even seem to notice, her blank eyes looking at the TV. The sight gave me a chill.
It must have weirded Matt out as well, as he was also looking at them when he inquired, “So are you too like real brother and sister or just step or whatever?”
A huge rat scurried across the floor, stopping for a quick snack (a solitary Cheeto) along the way. I shuddered.
“Na, we’re real bro and sis, why?” Bob said as he looked at Matt and continued to rub his sister’s thigh.
“No reason.” Matt said innocently.
Bob laughed. “You two need to take a chill pill man. So uptight.” He then turned toward me and held out his arm towards me, offering me his joint.
“No way. Thanks though.” I stated. “My mom would kill me.”
Then it all hit me. Mom. Curfew. Getting dark outside.
“Shit, Matt, what time is it? We gotta get our asses in gear and get home!”
I could tell Matt was still riveted by the movie, as this barely registered. He muttered, “It’s cool, if we’re a little late, it’s not the end of the world.”
I supposed he was right, the worst that would happen to me would likely be a week of being grounded to my room. And with these fresh images of the movie in my mind that might be exactly where I’d want to spend the next week anyway. I looked back at the screen and saw that the lady was on her knees. She was naked now. She had taken the man’s large unit in her mouth and she was slurping on it like it was a popsicle; seemingly trying to get it as deep into her mouth as she could. It looked physically impossible. I felt myself stirring again and forgot about curfew.
“How about you, you a chicken shit too?” Bob tried to hand the joint to Matt.
Matt looked at me briefly then said, “Na, I’m cool with that. Here, hand it over.”
I couldn’t believe it. I always thought I was the bigger risk taker. Matt took the joint into his hand and took a little puff. He instantly started hacking and wheezing. It looked extremely painful. I had to laugh.
“Looks like fun, Matt!” I joked.
He coughed for another minute or so then said. “Holy shit, that’s some good stuff.” He then sat to the side of Bob on the couch and leaned back into a much more relaxed position. It looked like his eyes were only half open. He had a big boner sticking up in his pants but he didn’t seem to care about concealing it.
I smirked. “Like you would know the difference between good stuff and bad stuff Matt.”
“Actually he’s right, this is really quality shit.” Said Bob. He looked at me again. “Sure you don’t want a little hit?”
I looked at Matt. He looked so content, sitting there giggling with his goofy smile on his face and his pecker sticking up (’pitching a tent’ as we used to say).
“Hand it over.” I said to Bob. I smiled and felt myself giving in.
“Hell yeah, that’s my man!” Bob said, approvingly. He handed me the joint and I took a drag, inhaling a small amount into my lungs. I coughed violently. It was a suffocating feeling that I thought would never end. Bob and Matt were laughing hysterically at me. Emily sat stone faced. I noticed that her skirt was hiked up high enough that we could see her red underwear. I wasn’t sure if she noticed.
By the time I stopped hacking I felt an incredibly euphoric feeling wash over me. It was as if I were on a cloud where nothing could touch me. Just me and the cloud, floating along carelessly. I sat with a dumb grin on my face for a minute, watching the lady suck the bartender on TV. Another man approached the kneeling lady from behind and started licking her. My hard-on was back with a vengance.
“You guys want to watch us fool around?” Emily said. She had a vague smile on her face but was watching the TV with the same glazed over look in her eyes.
As fast as my heart was beating before, it tripled its cadence.
“What do you mean?” Matt questioned.
Bob laughed. “Just like they’re doing on TV, ‘cept this will be live and first hand!”
Matt looked at me with wide eyes. My mind was spinning and reeling. I couldn’t think straight. Bob now had his hand far up Emily’s thigh, brushing against her frilly underwear. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster that was about to take its big descent.
“Well, do whatever you want, we’re not gonna stop you.” Matt said with a voice that kind of trembled. I was stunned at what he said but I didn’t contradict him.
“Not here, dummies.” Bob said. “Our parents are passed out upstairs but they would wake up and come down. They’re cool and all but they don’t go for that shit anymore since Amy was born.”
“Amy?” I asked.
Emily turned her head towards me without moving her body. “Amy is our daughter. She just turned one month old.”
“Your.. your daughter? That you two had together? Holy fucking … holy!” Matt said.
“But, what about at school?” I stammered. “You never looked pregnant? Shouldn’t you have been.. huge?” My knees felt like jello and my mind raced with this new revalation.
“I didn’t really show, that’s why I kept going to school. Remember that month I wasn’t around though? That was the last month before I had her.” Emily said, matter of fact-ly.
“But you guys are brother and sister, that’s fucking wacky!” Matt was standing now, erection currently at bay.
Bob’s smile disappeared for the first time since we’d met him. “Don’t judge us, asshole, you know you want to watch us get it on so just admit it.”
Matt didn’t say anything to that. He just sat down on the end table where he had originally planted himself and stared at the TV.
“Where… where is the baby?” I tried to sound normal and conversational.
“Sleeping.” Emily said. “So lets go now, while we have the chance. She’ll be napping for another hour or so.”
Emily and Bob, holding hands again, rose from the dingy green couch at the same time and proceeded into a room past the living room. It looked like a kitchen. Matt and I rose. For some reason, probably our sick curiousity, we followed them.
As filthy as the living room was, the kitchen was twice as bad. Rotten food was everywhere. Flys buzzed, roaches scuttled about and maggots swam through spoiled food. The smell made me gag. Matt and I looked at each other and shook our heads at the same time as if to say ‘what in the hell are we doing here.’
Emily opened a door in the kitchen that led to a descending staircase. She flipped on a light on her left and she and Bob made their way down the creaky stairs. I looked out a cracked window. It was starting to get kind of dark out.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I whispered to Matt. “We could probably make it home by curfew if we leave now and run home.” I had trouble talking, my mouth was sticky and I couldn’t form any saliva.
“Just for a minute, Jeff. I’ve gotta see if these two are for real.” Matt said, snickering.
As dumb as that logic was I followed Matt into the basement. Bob and Emily were almost to the bottom of the stairs. It looked and smelled beyond dank down there. Dim light shone from a solitary bulb in the middle of the large cold room which opened up in front of us and I couldn’t make out much at first. Then, I spotted what looked like a mattress on the right side of the room and what looked like a crib in the far left corner. The walls and the floor were bare concrete. Wet, with mildew everywhere. Fear began to settle into my bones and nerve endings. I looked at Matt with wide eyes and motioned my head towards the top of the stairs, suggesting that we bolt now before we got deeper into whatever we were getting into. He was starting to nod in approval when we heard the sound from the crib.
It sounded like some sort of guttoral sob, but not the normal tone you would hear from an infant. It was low pitched, almost like a growl. My heebie jeebies were kicked to the next level.
Bob and Emily paid no attention to the noises eminating from the rickety old crib in the corner. They were entwined on the mattress and writhing around, fondling each other feverishly. I was sickened with myself for being there.
The growling noise morphed into a horrible stuttering cry, still with a much deeper tone that that of a baby. It was steady now. Constant. Matt and I were frozen in our spots at the bottom of the stairs. I was reminded of the possum incident from earlier.
“I….I ..think your .. baby is awake”. Matt forced the words out. His voice was barely audible.
Neither of them paused in their lusty pursuit. Bob was now dry humping Emily from behind; fondling her small breasts through her shirt. Emily turned around to look at Bob, and broke into that same evil, wide smile that Bob and the lady on TV had worn earlier.
“Seriously.” I directed my eyes at Bob. “You guys better go see what she wants. She sounds pretty upset.”
Bob turned his head towards me. Smiling that same fucking smile that I was growing increasinly tired of. “We’ll deal with that when we deal with it, Amy’s fine. You guys want to come feel Emily’s titties?” He had one hand inside her blouse.
The crying got even louder, and there were intermittant snarls and gurgles mixed in. They sounded like they should have come from an animal. I shuddered with fear at the noises. That sound could not be coming from an ordinary baby.
Matt whispered to me. “Let’s go home.”
“Actually I think we’re gonna get out of here guys. Thanks though, I appreciate you…. you guys lettin’ us watch that movie and share your stuff with us but…”
The sound came from the top of the staircase. It was the sound of the basement door slamming shut, followed by a clicking noise and heavy footsteps walking away. Matt ran up the stairs and turned the knob. The door did not open. Someone had locked us down there.
Matt let out a cry of deperation. “Hey.. Hey let us out of here!” He pleaded. “I’ve gotta get home!”
Bob was laughing. “Shit, good luck with that. That was our Pops. He gets pissed off when Amy wakes him up so he likes to shut us in down here and lock the door as punishment for what we done.”
Matt was pounding on the door with his fists. “LET US THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” He repeated several times. After a minute or so he relinquished and came back down to where I was standing. Tears were streaming down his face.
“How long does he usually keep you down here?” I asked, trying to remain calm. It was difficult with that damn baby gurgling and snarling in her crib. “We seriously gotta get home.” Panic was setting in.
“He’ll let us out at supper time.” Bob said. “Have a drink and relax, guys. Enjoy the show.” He reached across the dingy old mattress and grabbed something off the ground, which he threw at Matt.
Amazingly, Matt caught the object. It was a mostly full plastic bottle full of cheap vodka. Matt threw it back towards the mattress. It bounced off the corner of the mattress and onto the concrete floor. Bob stood up and grabbed the bottle, moving towards us. Emily stood up and mercifully walked towards the crib.
“Dude, I said have a drink.” Bob said to Matt. The smile was gone.
Matt’s Dad hit the bottle pretty hard. As a matter of a fact he was a full blown drunk who had been known to verbally abuse both Matt and his mother. I knew Matt had no intention of ever starting with the stuff. Hearing his stories made me want to stay away as well.
I stepped towards Matt and said, “Listen, Bob, we don’t really want any, so you can just..”
I didn’t see his arm coming towards me. His closed fist caught me in the ear and I fell backwards. The last image I remember as I was falling towards the ground was a blurry vision of Emily pulling the baby out of the crib. Something was wrong with the baby’s face, it appeared. Then, my head connected with the bare concrete and everything went black.
I awoke sitting on a chair in a different room in the basement. My hands and feet were tied to the chair with duct tape. The otherwise empty room I was in was off to the side of the big room I had been in before, and I had a view of the area where Matt and I had been standing, near the bottom of the staircase (that’s all I could see from my angle). I had the worst headache of my life. I tried to speak before I noticed that my mouth was gagged and taped shut. Matt was not in front of me. I grunted loudly. I wondered what time it was. The claustraphobia from being bound and gagged was suffocating.
I heard a coughing noise from somewhere in the room in front of me and a voice that sounded like Matt’s say, “Nnno.. pplllease no mmore.”
“Yeah, drink that shit, fuck-nugget!” It was Bob. It seemed he was somehow forcing Matt to drink the vodka. I grunted again, as loud as I could. I’m not sure why.
“Drink it or you hafta’ look at it her again, and this time for more than a couple seconds!” Bob said with glee. I could hear Emily giggling too. “Or maybe we’ll even make you lick her face!” He added.
The other noise I heard was the snarling, growling sound of the baby. Amy was her name. She was not screaming anymore but this was just as disturbing, if not more. I tried to recollect what she had looked like as I had fallen to the ground before, when I had glanced at her face. Something had been wrong with it. Out of proportion somehow.
“Here, wanna hold her?” Bob asked. He sounded proud of himself.
“Nnooo! Get her away” Matt protested.
I heard gurgling and coughing coming from Matt. He must have been drinking the liquor.
“Keep it down, man, keep it down!” Bob again, chuckling demonically. I wondered just exactly what in the name of god was going on in there. I kept trying to grunt and get someone’s attention, beginning to rock back and forth in my chair to make noise. Finally, it worked.
“You wake up in there, tough guy?” Bob shouted. I stopped moving and grunting. I heard footsteps coming across the room towards me and then Bob’s frame filled my vision. “You’ve been missing out on all the fun in here, buddy. Glad you’re finally back with us.”
He walked behind me and grabbed the back of the chair, then twisted it around 180 degrees and started dragging me towards the room with the others in it. I didn’t make any moves to protest.
We entered the other room and he turned my chair towards the mattress. Matt was lying down on it on his back and Emily was kneeling next to him with the bottle of Vodka. It was nearly empty. She cocked her head and winked at me.
Matt looked horrible. His eyes were barely open and his nose was bleeding. His complexion had taken on a greenish hue and it looked like he had a bump on his head. I grunted in disapproval. He slowly turned his head towards me and I was relieved because it looked like he perked up a bit.
“He’s feeling good now, boss.” Bob said, next to me. “He even got to meet Amy.” There was currently no sound coming from the crib, gratefully.
I was vibrating with anger and made it known.
“Oh, you’ve got something to say, huh buddy? Ok, you’ve had a good time-out I guess.” Bob said. “Just don’t piss me off and yell too loudly or you’ll be eatin’ cloth again right quick.”
I nodded. Bob removed the duct tape from my mouth then pulled the rag out. I let out a breath of relief and said, panting, “What.. the fuck ..are … you guys doing … to us? Please just let us go?”
“I told ya’. Dad’ll let us out ’round supper time. Should be comin’ up soon.” Bob reassured me.
“But, we have to get home to our own families and have our own suppers, ya’ know?” I tried to reason with Bob. I should have known better.
“Aint make no diff’rence, shit for nuts. Nothin’ I can do to get you outta’ here, or get any of us outta’ here in the meantime.”
Emily was giggling for some reason.
“Well why’d ya have to make Matt drink that crap?” I asked.
“Just havin’ some fun.” Bob said. “And you’re next.” He smiled.
I wondered what he was referring to, as it looked like just a tiny amount of fluid remained in the bottle Emily was holding.
“Let’s just get it over with.” I conceded, thinking that I could stomach the small amount of liquor without any major problems.
“No special sauce for you, captain.” Bob said. He pulled a small plastic bag out from the side of the mattress. It looked like it had a can of pop in it and another small object or two.
“Don’t.. ddon’t make himm..” Matt lifted his head and tried to speak up again but his voice trailed off and his head dropped back down quickly. They had done quite a number on him. Emily grabbed his jaw and forced his mouth open and poured the last of the vodka into his mouth. Matt swallowed reluctantly. It looked like he started to gag a little.
“Puke it up you eat your puke, fucker!” Bob shreiked. Then he walked next to me, set the plastic bag on the ground and pulled out the pop can, which was slightly misshapen and flattened on the side. He put a whitish substance on the flat part of the can and moved it towards my face.
“Want to smoke some real crazy shit, homeboy?” Bob’s eyes were crazy.
“No thanks. Whatever that is I don’t want any. I won’t smoke it.”
“Oh, you’ll smoke it. Emily? Why don’t we introduce our friend Jeff here to our lovely daughter. She’s such a goddamn precious little fucking thing, after-all.” He howled with glee.
Emily stood up and walked to the crib without moving her arms. She then reached in and pulled Amy out. I started to freak out and turned my head to the side. Bob slapped the back of my head. Hard. I turned my head back towards Emily and Amy, who were walking towards me. Amy was screeching and making the snarling noises again.
Her head was much, much larger than the rest of her body. She had oily hair that hung down across her head in greasy strands. The limbs were spindly and short, with random amounts of toes and fingers (it looked like one hand had three fingers while the other had the remining seven, while she only had a few toes per tiny foot). The limbs were also jointed backwards like those of an animal, which looked quite disarming. Her skin was beet red and peeling everywhere.
What haunts me is the face. Her eyes were sunken deep into her skull so far that you could barely tell she had any. It looked like two small, dark caverns where eyes should be. She had no visible nose. The mouth was the worst. It was so giant that it encompassed over half of her face and it was wide open at the moment. Tiny, beady, fang like teeth had impossibly already taken shape and a long snake-like tounge lashed in and out of her mouth. She could not have been human.
“Awwww!” Emily said. “I think she likes you!”
“Looks like she could use a kiss, Jeffrey!” Bob said. “How about puckering up and givin’ her a little lovin’?”
“Alright, alright, please put her back.” I gave in. Emily winked at me and turned around to return Amy to her crib.
“Ready for this?” Bob held up the makeshift pipe. “I think you’re gonna like it. But, good luck stopping at just one!” He moved the can towards my mouth, took a lighter from his pocket and lit the substance on top. I drew some of the tangy, foul smoke into my mouth but didn’t inhale. I only held it there momentarily and blew it out; leaving a coppery taste in my mouth that was the worst I had ever experienced.
“Nice try, jackass.” Bob was hip to my scheme. “When you puff your cheeks out like that it means you’re keeping the smoke in your mouth. I would hate for you to miss out on this, you’re really gonna’ love it!”
He pulled more of the crumbly white substance out of the plastic bag on the ground and put in on the can, again returning it to my mouth and lighting it.
This time, I took a much smaller drag off the can.
“More, fuck-sucker!” Bob demanded.
I drew more smoke into my mouth and inhaled it into my lungs. It was much smoother than a cigarette or even the joint we had smoked on earlier.
I instantly sat at attention. It was incredible and horrifying, like the biggest adrenaline rush I’d ever experienced times a thousand. A freight train of excitement rushed to my brain and I felt like I could burst out of the duct tape if I wanted to. Incredibly, for the moment I didn’t care about our current state of peril. I was only trapped in the moment and stunned by the sensations I was feeling.
Then, bam. The sensation was gone and it felt like a sledgehammer of guilt and pain hammered down on me. I felt worse than I had at any point that day. The pain from my headache returned ten fold, along with a severely depressed feeling from coming back to reality and remembering where I was.
“Isn’t that a roller coaster?” Bob asked.
“Yeah.” I said, sullen and feeling like shit for what I had just done. “Think we can go pretty soon?”
Just after I spoke the words I heard a click-clacking noise from the top of the stairs and I saw the door open slightly.
“Supper time!!” A loud booming man’s voice came down from the kitchen. I smelled putrid burning meat coming from up there. My mom must be wondering where I was. She was cooking spaghetti and garlic bread right about now. I longed to get out of the cellar and away from the house.
“I… don’t think we can stay for dinner.” My head felt numb. Matt groaned in agreement from over on the mattress.
Emily said, “Oh but you must! Daddy is such a great cook!”
I didn’t think we had much of a choice.
“We’ve got company for dinner”, Daddy!” Emily shouted up the stairs. “We’ll be right up!”
“How many, darlin’?” The voice boomed down.
“2 fellers!” Emily replied. “And they’re real hungry!”
Bob took a pocketknife out of his jeans and began to cut my hands and feet free. Emily walked back to the crib to retrieve the grotesque baby-thing.
“How ’bout you help your friend there up the stairs and I’ll follow ya’ up.” Bob instructed me.
I walked over to Matt and helped him up. He put an arm around my shoulders and allowed himself to be assisted up the stairs. Bob followed closely behind with his pocketknife still in his hand.
I was intensely frightened at the prospect of meeting the parents of these monstrous siblings. The drugs had dulled my senses considerably though. Maybe this was a good thing.
“We’ll get out of here soon.” I whispered to Matt. “If not Mom will have the cops out looking for us before long.”
I wasn’t sure about either of my claims. I had no idea what was waiting for us in that kitchen, and Mom thought we were spending the afternoon at Al’s arcade, clear on the other side of town. Still, I had to say something to lift Matt’s spirits. He still looked half comatose from the vodka that was forced down his gullet, not to mention the weed from earlier.
We stepped into the kitchen. The putrid smell was overpowering now, the kitchen was smoky with it. My stomach tried to turn over with revulsion.
A tall and fat man stood facing a counter with his back to us. He wore only a shirt, underwear, and socks. All were badly stained and yellow with sweat and who knows what else. He had Bob’s dark hair but wore it long and unkempt. His hairy butt-crack was unfortunately visible.
He raised one hand up. It had a butcher’s meat cleaver in it. He brought it down onto something that lay on the counter. I heard a ‘whack’ as the sharp tool came down on it’s intended target. I couldn’t see what it was around his large body. He kept doing this as we froze at the entrance to the room. I felt the end of Bob’s knive barely touch my back and encouraging us on. We walked a little further into the room.
I looked over to the left. There was a mid-sized dining room table across the room, all made up with dirty placemats and plastic silverware and paper plates. There was even an old rickety high-chair set up for Amy. It looked like it was made in about 1940.
A lady sat at one end of the table. She was maybe 40 years old and completely naked, but she did not look good. She was severly emeciated with greyish colored skin and yellow eyes. Bruises covered most of her frail body. Her lips were drawn tight and looked purple. She had the same greasy, oily hair of her granddaughter. It was parted in the middle and came down in gnarly strands close to the middle of her torso. She stared straight forward, not even looking at us or her family. It looked like she had been crying.
“That’s Mamma.” Bob said.
I could hear Emily and Amy coming up the stairs now. Amy was growling and snarling. Such a precious little thing, indeed. I was sweating with panic.
“Have a seat there, guys.” Bob motioned to two spots at the table. His father’s giant slab of a back was still facing us over at the counter and we had not yet seen his face.
I tried to plead my case with the mother. “Maam. Nice to meet you. I’m sure you folks have a real nice dinner planned and all and we appreciate you lettin’ us join you, but if it’s all the same we’re already late and our mom’s are probably out looking for us.” I raised my voice a little for the last part.
The naked skeleton of a lady turned her head towards me and smiled. She had no teeth.
“You won’t be leaving here.” was all she said. Those were the only words I ever heard her speak.
“SIT!!” It was Bob’s father speaking. We sat.
Bob sat to the right of Matt, me to his left. The high-chair was to my left. Emily put the baby-thing in it and sat next to her on the other side. I turned slightly to look at it and sure enough, it was staring right at me with those beady, sunken eyes and oversized mouth. The thin snake-like tounge was lashing out towards me. I turned towards Matt. He was hugging himself and shaking.
There was nothing on the table but our plates, placemats, and silverare. I looked over at the counter. The man picked up the tray in front of him and turned towards us. My bowels clenched when I saw the giant possum from earlier cooked and cut up on the huge tray.
It was cut up into several smaller sections and had been cooked with it’s fur on and everything else. I was sure it was the same possum because the batterred head lay on one side of the plate, cut off from the rest of the body. Internal organs spilled out everywhere amongst the blackened flesh. I heard Matt heave and then throw up. Amy squealed with delight.
The Dad was a freakish looking man himself with his bulbous nose and drooling mouth. He had oozing blisters and scabs all over his face. Some of the pus from a large open sore was dripping onto the tray in his hands. His red eyes bulged out at me.
“Looks great Poppa!” Emily said.
“Hungry, son?” He looked at me and asked. “Someone was kind enough to leave this fresh piece of meat up by the tracks for us.”
The blade of the meat cleaver was jammed into a mid-section of the dead animal’s torso.
“Not really. Thanks.” I spoke.
“Well, you’ll eat anyway.” The man set the vile tray down in the middle of the table. Blood was pouring off the sides and across the table, onto our placemats and dripping into our laps. Emily was funneling some of the blood into a plastic bowl from Amy’s placemat. She began to spoon feed it to Amy. Vomit lay in a puddle all over Matt’s place at the table. It didn’t seem to bother anyone besides the two of us.
‘Poppa’ had gone back to the counter for something. Emily and Bob appeared to be playing footsie under the table and she leaned in to whisper something to him. Amy was shaking her arms about and making those crazy snarling noises. ‘Mamma’ stared straight ahead, at the tray of burnt possum. She seemed oblivious to anything. Matt was quietly sobbing.
I looked into the adjacent living room and I could see the front door. I whispered to Matt, “Let’s make a run for it.”
He shook his head. I could see a tear rolling down his face.
“They… they’ll kill us..” He said.
“We’ve gotta try.. now or never.” I whispered urgently.
Matt looked mortified as he said, “Ok…. now?”
I nodded, then stood and grabbed the meat cleaver off of he table, raised it and said, “We’re leaving, so everyone just stay where you are and don’t try to stop us!” I was trembling with fear but tried to speak with conviction.
Matt was standing as well, he looked at me, I nodded again, then made a bolt for the door. Matt was right behind me.
We ran out of the house, across the porch, and down the stairs. Incredibly, nobody was following us, but I could hear laughing and snarling from inside. We made our way across the brambles, up the gravelly slope to the train tracks, and took a right on the tracks to head back to Worthington Heights. The cleaver swung back and forth in my hands as I ran.
Matt and I ran full steam, faster than we ever had before. Neither one of us said a word, we just ran.
“Oh, my god.. NOOO!” Matt shreiked. He had stopped dead in his tracks and was pointing to the right side of the tracks. Emily’s house had re-appeared, even though we should have been at least a half-mile from it by now. I looked to the left. Sure enough, the bloody area where the possum had been was there, as well as the bloody track leading to the house.
“What.. in… the fuck?” I asked. I felt like we were in our own personal Twilight Zone episode.
The family emerged from the front door. They assembled on the front porch. Emily was holding Amy. They were all pointing at us and laughing, even the baby-thing. ‘Poppa’ was holding the meat cleaver. I looked in my hand. it was gone.
“Keep running.” I said, and took off down the tracks again, Matt closely behind me.
We ran for another five minutes or so, then saw the same house again up ahead.
The same scene unfolded, but this time ‘Poppa’ was running towards us with the cleaver. We passed the house and he was almost to the bottom of the embankment which led up to the tracks.
“Run out on us ya?” He shouted. “Come on back and join us, now, won’tcha? We cooked it all up for ya!! We cooked it all up real good now!”
Poppa Vaughn was just about at the top of the embankment, about 10 feet away from us, when we passed by him on the tracks. He raised his hand up. The cleaver gleamed in the early evening moonlight.
“Leave us the fuck alone!” Matt shrieked desperately. He was lagging behind a bit.
“Hurry, Matt, he’s right on you!” I warned him. I was still looking backwards when I tripped on a railroad track.
I went down hard, but was fortunate enough to break most of my fall with my hands. Still, my kneecaps andchest took a good whacking. Matt caught up and grabbed the back of my sweatshirt, helping to pull me up. Poppa was closing in on us. Matt began to try and drag me as I struggled to my feet. It was too late, he was only a few feet away and starting to swing the cleaver down on my mid-section. I closed my eyes tight and let out a sob as I awaited the inveitable death-blow. After a second, when I didn’t feel anything, I opened my eyes. Poppa Vaughn wasn’t there.
“Where the hell is he?” I looked at Matt with huge eyes.
Matt’s mouth was hanging open. He was frozen still.
“His… He.. It…” Matt stammered. He slowly raised his arm and pointed to where Poppa had stood. “His.. His knife went right through you.. and.. then he.. then he was gone..”
I looked down. There was no blood on me and I didn’t feel any pain anywhere.
“There’s no blood?” I told Matt.
“I think he was .. a ghost or something.. he just dissappeared into thin air..” Matt’s voice trembled.
We both turned our heads at the same time. The house was there, but we didn’t see anyone there and the front door was closed. I looked up into an upstairs window. Naked Mrs. Vaughn stood there inside the window, but her skin appeared to be charred and blackened over her entire body. She was waving at us. Emily walked up next to her, also waving at us. She was half-charred, not quite as bad as her mom but still badly burnt. She bore the evil ‘ear to ear’ grin we had seen before. Suddenly, an arm came up from behind her. It looked like it held a large knife. The blade came down on the back of her head and blood spurted all over the window.
“Run! Just Run” I said, and stood up, pushing Matt along. He was still frozen.
Finally, he turned away from the house and started down the tracks. We ran towards home, silently. This time, the house did not re-appear, and we recognized our neighborhood approaching.
After Matt and I had parted ways on Alder Street, I ran home and burst through the front door. My Mother and Step-father were waiting for me in the living room. My Mom came running over towards me. I glanced at the clock on the wall. It was just after 8:00.
“Where on earth have you been Jeff??!? We were worried sick about you?” My Mom smothered me. My Step-dad calmly sipped a brandy and coffee cocktail on the couch.
“Mom, you gotta call the cops! You gotta call them now! A crazy family trapped us in their house and the Dad tried to kill me! And.. And there was this freaky baby.. and.. then I saw the Dad .. he might have been a ghost.. he killed Emily Vaughn from school!” The words spilled out of my mouth in a rush. My heart was pounding.
“Emily Vaughn from school?” My Mom took a step back and put a hand over her mouth.
“Yeah, you know her!” I said.
“Honey, we heard on the news today that the Vaughn’s house burned down last night.. we were going to tell you this evening. The whole family was in there .. and they all.. well.. it was tragic. Three children. It’s just a shame. And.. the worst part is..” My Mom paused and looked over at Rick, my step-dad. He shrugged, then spoke.
“They think the father killed the family and then burned the house down.” He said. “Chopped em up and then set the house on fire with himself in it. Guess he wanted himself to burn for his sins.”
“Rick!” My Mom shouted. “Not so graphic!”
“He must have heard about it anyway.” Rick had raised his voice. ”Otherwise he wouldn’t have made up this cockamamie story.”
“So.” Rick directed his attention back to me. “Why don’t you tell us why you were really late?”
I was confused. I mumbled out something about losing track of time at the rec center and then retreated towards my room.
“Grounded to your room for one week, young man!” My Mom shouted after me. I didn’t reply.
I called Matt on the phone from my room. He had gone through the same thing with his mom. He said his dad was passed out but would probably have some things to say to him when we was conscious.
“Did we imagine it all, do ya’ think?” Matt questioned.
“Well I know we didn’t imagine it.. but maybe.. maybe it wasn’t real.” I said.
We didn’t have much else to say about it just then.
Later that night, after a quiet dinner at the dining room table. I sat on the bed in my room trying to read a Hardy Boys mystery. I couldn’t focus at all on the story after the day I had just experienced. I drifted to sleep while trying to decide what had been real that day and what hadn’t. Sleep was peppered with strange dreams about the Vaughn family.
I woke to a soft knocking on my window. I sat up quickly and looked outside. Emily Vaughn was standing there. Half of her head was mutilated beyond recognition and her skin was completely blackened. She held her burnt baby in her arms. Amy opened her giant mouth. It was bright red inside. She ran the tip of her long tongue across my window pane.
Emily stopped knocking and smiled. She grinned, and then spoke, loud enough for me to hear, “Want to come over for breakfast?”
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Jeff Mount.
Published on e-Stories.org on 01/14/2009.