Tag Archives: online horror

You’d Better Learn


“You’d Better Learn”

by Thadd Presley


“This isn’t how it has to be,” John told the man who held the bolt cutters. “I’m tryin’ my best t’ hold everythin’ together.” He looked toward his wife. “And just look!!” Sobbing, he slowly lifted his hand and pointed. “Look at what I come home to.”

Blood was dripping from his hand and running in streams down his forearm. When he focused on the blood, he felt a wave of dizziness flow from his head to his mid-section. “She’s here sucking up the profits while I’m out working.”

“So, that’s where your money’s goin’. Big Daddy wanted me to find out what’s going on with you.”
The black man, held the mouth of the bolt cutters out, waiting for another finger. John’s ring finger was next in line. He focused his attention on the woman huddled in the corner crying. “That true? You stealin’ Big Daddy’s dope?” He patiently waited for a response. “Hey, you hear me. Look here! You smokin’ up your man’s money and making him late on his payments?”

She started to say something, but her voice failed.

“Tell me somethin’, John, seriously,” the the black man asked, “what you gonna do? You want me to take another of your fingers or do I take one of hers? Big Daddy wants two fingers.”

“Just tell him to give me more time. I’ll have his money.”

“I’m telling you. Time’s up. He’s using you to send a message to everyone else. He wants you to know that he’s finished with you.”

These words meant more to John than losing his pinky finger. He couldn’t survive without Big Daddy’s help. “Come on, man. Just take the other finger, but don’t cut me off.”

When the executioner cut the ring finger from the hand, the bone popped loudly as it broke. John screamed and his wife joined him. Lying on the blood covered ground was John’s two fingers. The newest one twitched, as if trying to crawl away. John’s wedding ring was still on the finger.

“My job’s done here, John. Be sure to have the money by Friday. I don’t want to…”

John looked up quickly, his voice barely a squeak. “You mean, I still have to pay?”

The black man sighed. “Don’t tell me you haven’t learned your lesson. You owe Big Daddy. Now, don’t you think it’s in your best interest to pay him?”

“But my fingers? God!”

“God?” The black man asked.

John lowered his head.

“I’ll not have you takin’ my Lord’s name in vain.”

“But, I really have to pay Big Daddy all the money?”

“If you don’t, I’ll have to shoot your wife in the face.” He looked over at her. “She’s the problem anyway, right?”

John stared at the floor, not wanting to look at his fingers. But, for some reason he couldn’t take his eyes off of them. Is this really happening, he thought.

“Am I really…”

The executioner slapped John in the face. “Yes, you really are. Now, wake up.”

John didn’t know what the man had said, but he answered, “Yeah, right.” A shutter went through his body. “You’re right.”

“Now, get him to a hospital.” He told the wife.

“What do I say to them?” John whispered.

“Tell them you got your fingers cut off because you owe for drugs.”

“Really?” John was light headed. The world was growing black around the edges.

“Woman!” The the executioner said, standing up. “Get your man to the hospital.”

She looked up, eyes yellow and dull. “What do I tell them?”

“Tell them you brought him to the hospital because if you didn’t a big black man said he was going to kill you.”

Her eyes flickered, showing the smallest recognition of life. “Really?” She asked.

“Yeah, really.”

Slowly she stood up and started toward her husband. He wasn’t looking at the ground anymore. He was limp. His head flopped back, eyes glaring at the ceiling. “Do you think he’s dead?”

“He will be very soon.”

Grief came over her, but then the executioner also saw relief. “I’m going to miss him so much,” she said. “He was my high school love.”

The moment was lost when the executioner spoke. “Big Daddy wants his money. He doesn’t care who pays it. Don’t let your husband’s sacrifice be for nothing. I’ll be back on Friday.”

“What! Wait! I can’t—”

“You’ve almost a week. You can.”

“I’ll don’t know how to come up with twenty thousand—”

“Well, you’d better learn.”

She sat in silence as the big man walked out of the small apartment.

Jack’s Apartment (part 6)

Jack’s Apartment

(part 6)

by Thadd Presley

Jack was chanting again. Adam tried to turn away from him, to roll onto his stomach, but with the pain stopped him. Then, from the bottom of his vision, he saw something move.

Looking into the room behind Jack, Adam saw a woman coming towards him. She has come back, he thought. My God.

Then he saw that it was not one but two women. The skeletons were no longer dead.

The form of the red-haired girl was not fully formed. Her eyes were only black holes, and her hands were stretched out before her. Yellow strings wiggled around her wrist and connected to white tendons right before his eyes. This is a dream, he thought. I’m dying and this is only a fever dream caused by fear.

Help us, Adam, they said in unison. He was going into shock. He knew death would be soon.

He suddenly realized, with fear clutching his heart, that Jack had told him the truth. The demon had given him a way of bringing back the dead. With great agony, he found strength and sat up from under Jack’s hands. Jack still had pieces of intestines wrapped in his fingers, and they pulled out more as Adam scooted away from the skeletons.

Once again, the strange voice started to speak through Jack’s lips. Adam saw his chance and reached for the cross he’d worn around his neck since his twenty-first birthday.

The woman laughed and reluctantly took a step back.

As they retreated, the little girl’s body grew together more and more. Flesh was connecting on her shoulders and arms. The other woman, much older than the girl, was completely formed. She put her hands to her breasts and smiled. Jack looked up at Adam and smiled as well. Through Jack’s smile, the demon’s voice did not falter, but kept Jack’s lips speaking words he could not understand. Then, the older woman stopped moving back and spoke in a strange language.

As if the words opened his eyes, Adam saw the book. My God, he thought, they were not victims at all. They were chained here in an attempt to stop them from returning. He saw the man then, reading the book, trying to learn the ancient words in an attempt to keep the two women from coming back from the dead. The only way to kill them was to embalm them and take out their organs in a certain way. The entire process was ancient and involved a long forgotten spell that had been created by people tens of thousands of years older than the Egyptians.

“I command you,” he said, surprised at the strength in his voice.

Jack looked up and seemed to be himself for the first time since Adam came to.

The mother spoke then. “And who are you?” This brought doubt shooting through Adam’s mind. He didn’t know who he was.

“Yes. You know what you are,” she said and laughed.

Adam felt a bolt of electricity shoot through his body, coupled with a memory… the memory of the worst thing he’d ever done. It caused him to question himself, to doubt himself.

“Let them help me, Adam,” Jack croaked. “They’re angels sent to give Caroline back. Please help them.”

“No, Jack, they’re sent by the Devil. They tricked you and you et them free from hell.”

The demon’s voice spoke through Jack again; powerful words that he would never remember.

“We are free, Jack.” It was the little red-haired girl who spoke. “Now, we can give you the gift.” She came forward, and her flesh was almost complete. Only her face was left decrepit, showing red muscle and gray, white bone. Her voice was thundering, nothing like the voice which should come from a little girl. “Come to us, Jack, and be with us always.”

Adam heard a siren in the distance, and the words from Jack came faster. It was now two voices speaking.

“We’ll never die, Adam. Come be with us.”

“Never!” he screamed as his friend’s lips spoke in an old forgotten language.

“We see your soul, Adam. You know he has power greater than you can imagine. He knows what you did.”

The memory of his worst sin came to him, and he tried to fight it, but he saw it and couldn’t turn away.

He thought about trying to get the book, but there was no way he could get up or approach the room, not with his insides hanging out and now with these women blocking the way. But he had to. Somehow, he knew he had to get to that book. He pulled his intestines up into his hands. Jack did not try to stop him. His hands were over his head, chanting.

Adam started to scoot himself toward the room.

Suddenly, as if they could read his thoughts and see his fear, the red-haired girl flew toward him. Her feet did not touch the floor.

The sirens were closer, now, both the police and ambulance. It was empowering to know help was on the way. Adam reached out with his free hand and pushed the little girl. Surprisingly, she floated easily out of his way.

She smiled a gorgeous, crooked-toothed smile that melted his heart. He’d never had children of his own, but if he would have, he would have wanted one just like her. He felt love for her and wished he could save her.

A laugh came from the child’s throat then, causing him to cover his ears. It was the loudest sound he’d ever heard and he wondered if others could her it. He would have sworn that people all over the city had heard it. The mother was right behind her, completely whole and naked. “We can help you too, Adam. The salvation you seek is with us. You only have to ask.”

“You don’t know what I seek.”

“But you do.” The woman screamed.

Adam knew he didn’t have time for her games. He was dying.

Everything seemed too far away. Jack’s voice had once been loud and clear, but now it was fading. He knew he had to get to the book.

He quickly turned his head from the two unholy things. Now that they were both fully formed and naked, he saw that they were the most beautiful women he’d ever seen. He couldn’t continue to look at them. He knew it was a sin to feel these feelings. He tried to think of his wife, but her face would no come to him.

Jack’s bible was lying on the floor in front of the couch. It had fallen off the coffee table during the struggle. He reached out to get it, but the mother was on him as if she could read his mind. “You cannot defeat us. We are beyond your time, beyond your knowledge, beyond all things you understand.”

The red-haired girl was faster that Adam. But, as she moved around him, he managed to reach out and grab her foot. Where his fingers touched, smoke rose and left a blackened hand print on her skin.

Trying to hold his intestines in one hand, he got off the floor and turned toward the mother. He held his hand up and her skin started to smoke. Never before had he felt such power, but he knew it was not his power. He pushed her backward with an invisible hand. Just the thought of touching her was enough to drive her back. Two black hand prints appeared on her chest. He didn’t put his hands down until she was against the wall.

Her leg still showing Adam’s blackened, charred hand print, the little girl screamed and flew towards him. He turned to meet her attack, but she circled around him and disappeared into the room.

Adam spoke verses from the bible and from the room came terrible screams of agony. He repeated verses that he knew held power.

The women, stricken by the words, screamed louder and louder still. Then, with their voices echoing off the walls of the dusty room, they fell to the floor. The older woman’s body was writhing around in a puddle of puss, like red soup. Her body had quickly liquified. Smoke rose from both of them. On the floor behind him, Jack started laughing.

This would be Adam’s only chance. Soon the authorities would be there. He walked forward carefully and grabbed Jack around the throat. Tiny flames hopped alive on Jack’s skin where Adam touched him. The odor poured up and over his face. It was almost more than he could bear, but he gripped tighter just the same.

Smoke began to fill the room. It was pouring from the two women as well and the come quickly filled with the vile, disgusting stench of burning flesh. Already, they had become the skeletons they had been ten minutes before, but Adam could not stop. He held his hands tight around Jack’s throat until the man stopped struggling.

He had a responsibility, both to his friend and the world. His friend, who’d become host to a demon, could not be allowed to live. So, without a glance back, he took the quilt from the floor and tossed it over the heater. Black smoke began to fill the room.

Adam breathed the smoke deep into his lungs. In coughing gasps, he felt his strength leave him.

Jack’s Apartment (part 4)

Jack’s Apartment

(part 4)

by Thadd Presley

Jack’s mind screamed for him to leave, to run away — this was an evil place –and never return, but he couldn’t look away. The red shock of hair, which hung from the skull in clumps, was too hideous to be anything but real.

“My God, Adam, is that a little girl?” Jack’s voice was only a whisper. “I mean, she can’t be real?”

“No, she can’t be.” He took a small breath, and silence filled the apartment while both men stood silently looking at the skeleton. “But, she is.”

Adam was praying, but also trying not to comprehend that things like this happened all over the world. He didn’t want to know the evils that men wrought.

Jack stood beside him looking at the shackled child in disbelief. His mind halted at the implications, but he was once an evil man himself and knew too well the terrible things the minds of men brought into existence. Men kill innocent people every day. I am a murder myself, he thought.

As Adam prayed, trying to forget the image before him, Jack saw more and more of the room’s contents: a long, black stain ran down the wall behind the skeleton and another black stain was under the small writing desk. The wooden chair, was covered in the same blackness stain, broken to pieces under the desk.

The girl’s screams came to Jack, suddenly. He could hear a woman crying behind the screams. He could see what happened in that room. He was forced to watch.

The black stain, which covered a large portion of the wall, was blood that had dripped from the girl’s shackled wrists. Just a flash of the terrible events showed him enough for an eternity: the girl hanging in the shackles, crying softly, pulling at her own wrists. He saw the blood breaking through the skin, running down her white arms. Her wild eyes darting around, watching, her fear of being trapped… of being unable to escape before she was to die.

The bruises running up her arm had been put there by the woman who now wept for the little girl. The woman was much older than his friend Adam. She had beat the girl earlier with a broomstick and burned her with a hot poker, first sticking the poker to the girl’s legs, which began to blister immediately. Then the broomstick was used on rest of her. The girl screamed and cried as she was beat.

The words flashed in his mind. Help Me!

He knew the little girl’s fate better than he knew his own father’s face. Someone had tortured this girl, long and hard, until the girl found it necessary to saw her wrists on the very shackles that imprisoned her. He closed his eyes to the pain she felt. He didn’t want to see anymore. But, the pain and loneliness of the girl pushed in on his mind.

She was beaten severely before being put into the shackles and hung on the wall to starve to death and hang for eternity, but she ended the misery of hunger by finishing the job herself.

As he pushed the scene out of his head, his eyes fell upon an open book on the desk. From what he could see, it was hand written and in a terrible state of decay. The book interested Jack very much. He had to have to look.

“Do you think anyone knows,” Jack asked, starting into the room.

“No, please. Don’t go in there.” Adam backed away from the room.

“Don’t leave me,” Jack pleaded and grabbed the old man’s wrist. “I think there’s…I see –”

“We have to call the police, somebody.”

“But, there’s something else? If I can just get closer –”

“Jack, please don’t.”

“I have to. You don’t understand. They called me. It was this girl that called out to me. I know it sounds crazy, but it was her. She knew my name.”

Fear filled Adam. He didn’t believe in ghosts, and he certainly didn’t want to hang around while was happening. To even know this had happened ,long ago was to much to face. To know that there was someone in the world that did this sort of thing… and something that called to people and knocked on their walls at night. He tried to force it away, but he couldn’t deny what was right in front of him. This was too real.

Adam grasped his left arm.

Adam’s fall brought his head down on the electric heater and a red stain started to bloom on the carpet.

Jack quickly knelt beside his friend so he could check his heart, but before he could: We need you, Jack. Now.

Jack’s head jerked up, afraid he might actually see the skeleton moving. But his eyes adjusted to the gray figure he’d seen on the floor and realized another skeleton lay there. He could only see the legs sticking out from under the bed. He believed, for no obvious reason, that this was the remains of a woman. ‘We need you, now’ was enough to convince him. He got up so he could see better. Her dress had disintegrated over the years, and her bones had partially turned to dust. But, the two voices had been women, and these were they. He was sure of that.

But, this woman had been stuffed under the bed when she died.

How do you know that? He asked himself these questions knowing that there was no answer. He’d never heard about any of this. How did he know that the skeleton under the bed was even a woman.

It didn’t matter. He just knew. He’d seen it. She was the woman who used the poker to burn the little girl. It washer who beat the girl with the broomstick and put shackles on her wrists.

Again, a vision flooded his mind. This woman, who’d been killed and stuffed under the bed, spoken with a man who sat at the desk writing in the old book. He saw them together, speaking softly to each other so the girl couldn’t hear them.

* * * * *

“It’ll only be one more night,” the man said. He wore a tall hat and sat at the desk. The woman stood beside him. “Tomorrow will be the full moon. We can send her back through the gate.”

* * * * *

Suddenly, Adam’s phone rang again and caused Jack to jump. He looked down and saw the blood flower still growing under Adam’s head. He bent down to search for the ringing phone and tripped over Adam’s foot. He fell hard against the wall. Pain shot from his shoulder into his neck. It caught him off guard, and he found himself on the floor beside Adam.

Seeing the thick pool of blood and smelling the metallic odor, made him realize that it was much more serious than he’d first thought. Adam wasn’t just injured on the outside, the man’s eyes told him he might’ve had a heart attack. He knew he had to do something to help him. The fact of two ancient homicides, less than fifteen feet away, meant nothing to him. The only thing that mattered was Adam.

Moving as quickly as he dared, he felt through Adam’s pockets for the phone. Finally he found it inside the pocket of Adam’s jacket, but not before it had stopped ringing. He forced his eyes to focus on the screen and pressed the buttons to show the received calls. Pushing the ‘send’ button on the first listing, the phone automatically dialed. It was Adam’s wife.

“Where are you…” she started without saying hello. “Lydia, it’s Jack.”

“Where’s Adam?”

Fucking Bitch, he thought, shut up a minute and listen. And she was a fucking bitch. He’d known her for a year now, and his opinion of her never improved. She was a nag, a pessimist, and she always needed control over everything. She never gave Adam credit for what he had achieved, neither with the ministry, nor his work with the rehab center. She constantly put others down to make herself look good. Jack realized the way she was as soon as he had met her properly.

“Please, Lydia shut up.”

He heard her gasp and took the moment to keep talking. “I got a big problem here.”

“Where is Adam? Put him on the phone.”

“Did you hear me? I have a problem and I need you too…” The phone clicked in his ear.
Perfect, he thought. Just perfect. What a bitch. He looked at Adam. “You’re gonna make it pal. Just hold in there. You’ll make it just fine.” But the blood on the floor tried to tell him different.

The phone rang in his hand and he jumped. He knew it was Lydia. He answered, “Adam is hurt Lydia. I need you to listen.” She was silent. Good, he thought. “I’m calling the ambulance, but I need you here. Do you know where my apartment is?”

She was silent. “Do you….”

“Not really.”

“Come downtown. It’s right across the tracks at the Wartzburg building…”

“But…” Then she started to cry.

“Are you coming?”

The phone clicked in his ear. He lowered his hand and just looked at the phone. He didn’t call 911 right away. He couldn’t. What would he say? He didn’t know how to begin. He wanted to make sure Adam was awake when they got there, so he could explain the situation himself.

When Adam fell, the sharp corner of the heater punched into his skull. The bone was cracked open, but at least his brains weren’t o

zing out. Jack couldn’t leave him to bleed to death, so he pulled the quilt off the couch and put it under his head. Then, he pulled it tight and redoubled it, tying a bow with the corners to hold it in place. Tucking more of the blanket under the bow, he tightened it to be more of a tourniquet. He thought about using his belt to tighten it further, but didn’t think it would work unless he put it around his neck.

A cold draft forced his mind back to the dusty room and the decayed skeletons. He turned to close the hallway door and stop the draft, but it wasn’t open. The cold was coming from the room.

Help us, Jack.

Jack felt himself go a bit light headed, but he tried to stand up anyway. It was a maneuver he couldn’t manage without leaning against the wall. The cold was bitter and overwhelming. He felt it seep into him, chilling his bones, draining him of his thoughts and energy.

He slowly moved toward the room, admiring his handy work on the broken door frame. I’ll have to fix that, he thought and found it funny. The light-headed feeling had returned, or had never passed, and he found himself leaning on the wall again for support. His thoughts were on the woman and child. He thought of Caroline.

What state was her body in, he wondered. Probably rotting with worms eating away at her.

Suddenly, he was filled with an urge to enter the room, to get close to the girl. It was a feeling he found absurd, but, none the less, could not fight. The room and the girl were the most important things in his life now. He had to help her anyway he could.

The phone rang again. He knew it was Lydia, but didn’t see the point of answering it. She was either on her way or not, simple as that. He couldn’t make the situation any more clear to her. He’d forgotten to call 911 and wanted to, although, now he didn’t think he could. He had so much he had to do. They need me, he thought. They need my help.

He found strength in wanting to help them; enough to walk out into the hallway. He took the hammer out of his tool bag.

Moving slowly, walked across the threshold back into his room. Upon entering, the cold blasted through him again. In his mind’s eye, he saw the girl screaming and the woman crying. He wanted to help them. But he didn’t know how.

He did know that they would tell him.

It was so cold in the room that Jack shivered violently, and his teeth chattered.

* * * * *

A vivid scene embraced him. He found it impossible not to see the brutality of it all, and he knew he would never unsee it. It filled his aching mind. The man with the tall hat was beating the girl. She was chained to the wall, crying for him to stop. He was a brute of a man. He put his hands around the girl’s throat and choked her until her face turned blue. Then he laughed at her when she came to.

Then the scene changed and the man was dressed in a blood drenched smock, leaning over the red-haired child. She was tied down to a wooden table with leather straps. Jack watched as she screamed and kicked. The table rocked with her strength, and the man held a knife to her stomach, chanting in a language Jack couldn’t recognize. His voice rose in wild octaves, words he had never heard filled the room. It sent chills through him.
The man took the large blade and pulled it smoothly across her abdomen. It was a quick, deep cut that gaped open; his hand moved with the precise skill of a surgeon, but this man was no doctor.

The skin pulled apart on its own, and he reached into the incision, lifting out a gray deformed child. Blood dripped from the man’ s hands as he continued to pull. She screamed, and Jack tried to block the image.

Help us, Jack. We need you.

More and more the man pulled, until finally the large hands and feet of the child were free from her. A thick organ came into view, plopping to the floor. It was her placenta. The blood ran black, spilling from the table onto the floor along with some of her intestines. Strings of black and green hung from the child’s large head. As the man tugged, the girl kicked her legs and flexed her arms. She never stopped twisting on the table. His hands were back inside of her now, groping around. He had placed the baby on the table beside her.

Then, he smiled and the girl stopped moving. “It is working,” he told someone. Jack couldn’t see who else was in the room. “The gate is opening. Soon we will have the gate open and have our daughter back.” He withdrew his hands from the girl’s abdomen and shook them off, splattering the table with tiny clots of red and black. “A life for a life,” he told the unseen listener. “This girl for our girl.”

Jack could stand no more. This had to stop seeing this. He searched his mind for a way to save her; he realized he’d just seen an abortion. But the child was not human.

Then, as if answering the questions forming in his mind, the girl looked toward Jack. “We need you,” she said and passed out.
The man in the blood covered smock shouted. “Soon Tabitha will return. Our daughter will be with us again.”

Jack’s Apartment (part 3)

Jack’s Apartment

(part 3)

by Thadd Presley

He woke sitting up on his couch. The quilt had fallen in the floor and was laying too close to the heater. He could see steam rising from it. Sunshine streamed in through the windows, brightening his living room.
Then the knock came again. The same three booming knocks. He looked at the red, digital numbers of the clock blinking 12:47 PM

“Damn, the electricity must have gone out,” he said to no one. Then, to the knocking, he yelled, “hold on.”

“Jack,” someone called. It was a familiar voice. “You in there?”

“I said hold on. Just a second.”

Two sleepy steps brought him close enough to the only window for him to see the red pinto on the curb. It was Adam come to visit him. He opened the door.

“Mornin’ Adam.”

“Boy you’re a light sleeper,” Adam joked.

“Lucky I slept at all.”

“Sorry to hear it,” Adam sympathized. “I hope you feel up to coming to the food drive?”

“I had the craziest dream,” Jack began without being asked about the dream. “Something I hadn’t felt in a longtime.”

Adam saw the unsettled look in his eyes. “You have to give it time, Jack. It’s been a long time since you lived alone. It will get easier. Perhaps, it’s the temptation manifesting itself…”

“No, it’s not that.”

“Have you had urges…”

“Yeah, I guess, but that’s not it.” Frustration was already showing in his voice and Adam heard it easily.

“Well, tell me about it on the way to the church. We have a food bank to stock. I’ve got some coffee in the car. Maybe I can help you figure out something that will help you readjust to your new surroundings.”

“Do you believe dreams have a meaning,” Jack asked, turning from the door, allowing his friend to enter. Then, without letting him answer, “I mean, I know what it’s about. I remember it perfectly, but you think it might mean something in the real world?”

“Maybe, probably, maybe not. What was it about?”

“You’ll think I’m crazy.”

“You are crazy.” Adam said smiling. “Or, maybe you should be.” He put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Look, you probably just slept wrong.” He pointed to the couch as if it was proof.

“It’s not the couch, Adam. I’ve slept on way worse at the church and at the clinic.”

“Well, we’ll pick up my daughter’s old bed after the food drive just in case. I don’t want you sleeping on that old thing anymore. Who knows where it’s been. And then, tonight, we’ll have a few beers and talk about your new life. It’ll make a world of difference to talk about it and work out a few details of the coming week.”

“No, no, my stuff’s s’posed to be here today. Matter of fact, I should stay in and wait on the movers. Plus, I want to look around and see the best way to get started on the renovations.” But that wasn’t the only reason he wanted to stay. The dream was still fresh in his mind. He could hear the girl’s voice so clearly. He had to get that key, had to help her.

“Well, you going to tell me about the dream or not,” Adam asked, looking around the room. “It’s probably got something to do with this place.”

“That’s it exactly. It is this place. Maybe it’s the whole building.” He closed his eyes, trying to close out the locked door right in front of him, trying not to see his dream.

“Well, it’ll pass as you get used to it. Now, when do the movers get here?”
“Noon-ish,” Jack answered. “I just have the few things from the storage unit. No reason to pay forty bucks a month while I have all this room. I’ll wait on them and let them in.”

“Yeah, I suppose you should. Tell you what. I’ll give you a call tonight.”

“Just give me a few minutes before you leave. I want to tell you about the dream.” He was starting to feel uncomfortable again, claustrophobic. “I need to tell someone.”

“Wow, this is really got a-hold of you, huh?” Sweat was visible on Jack’s face, and Adam realized then that his friend was actually shaking. “Start from the beginning.”

Jack closed the door against the cold hallway. “You see that door?” He asked while Adam sat down on the couch.

“I do..”

“Well, I can’t open it. It’s locked tight, and I haven’t got a key.”
“Dorry does. She’ll bring it in a few days, I’m sure.”


“The land lady, Dorry, she’s got all the keys.”

“Oh.” He paused, then started again. “I just don’t know what’s in there and…”

What about the dream, Jack?”

Jack held up his hand. “Hold on. This is gonna sound crazy enough as is, we can’t just rush into it.” He sat on the couch and noticed for the first time that it smelled bad, like old cheese and mold. The whole place stank, but he pushed that out of his mind and cleared his throat. “It all started because I thought I heard someone call my name. At first I just put it out of my mind, you see, but it happened a few times.

“Finally, after getting a bit spooked, I just listened, and I heard it again. That’s when I realized it came from that room.”

“You just scared yourself,” Adam assured him. “It happens all the time. It’s even happened to me a time or two. Once, when I was in college, I was to the point of sleep. You know that place where you’re in between. Like your still awake but unable to move?”

Jack nodded.

“Well, I thought the devil was in the room. I actually thought there were demons in the room. I felt them all around me.” He started to laugh. “I prayed and prayed, but nothing worked. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t move. It was one of the worst things that’s ever happened to me. Later in life, I learned that it’s called sleep paralysis, a common happening.”

“But the voice called out to me while I was awake, asking me to help them. ‘We need you,’ the little girl said.”

“But you were dreaming?”

“No, not then. I wasn’t asleep.” He started to rise from the couch. “I was awake. Fully awake and walking to the bathroom.”

Adam touched Jack’s arm and kept him from standing up. Goosebumps covered his skin. “It’s called sleep paralysis. Don’t work yourself up.”

“No, it wasn’t that. I could move. I sat straight up and looked around. Believe me, I know when I’m awake Adam.”

“Okay, then you were dozing and you…”

“Dammit, Adam. It’s more than that. It’s that room.”

The hard words were not what surprised Adam, even though he was twenty years Jack’s senior. After all, he didn’t expect the man to call him sir or pop. It was the fierce nature of the words that startled him. Jack had never spoken to him that way. “Well, maybe the answer is simple,” Adam said, thinking the room wasn’t the problem at all. “Let’s just pick the lock and solve the mystery. See what’s on the other side.”

Oddly, the simple solution of picking the lock hadn’t occurred to Jack, and he suddenly wanted to kiss the old man. “By Jove, you’re a genius.”

Adam winced at the word. He didn’t like people to use God’s name unless in prayer or bible reading.

Jove was, after all, a shortened version of God’s name.

“Sorry. It slipped,” he said, already off the couch and heading for the door. “Got a knife?”

“I have a credit card. Maybe we can slide it between the jam and get it that way. At least, I think we can.” The two men looked at each other, and Adam smiled. “I wasn’t always a man of God, my boy.” They laughed, and for Jack it felt good to laugh.

After the terrible night and feeling of loneliness the night before, happiness and laughter seemed very far from him.

As they tried to force the credit card between the door and the frame, Adam’s phone rang. He didn’t answer it. Another few minutes passed and they still hadn’t opened the door.

“Do you have a knife of any kind or a screw driver,” Adam asked.

“Yes, in my tool bag. Hold on,” Jack said and disappeared through the apartment door and into the hallway.

In the hall, Jack felt the cold, January chill on his legs, even though he was still inside the building. The night before suddenly came back to him. He smelled the steam from the quilt, the urgent need to use the bathroom, the face he saw in the mirror that looked so afraid, and the words: We need you, Jack.

It was too much.

He returned with a small, black, leather case and closed the door to the hallway. He didn’t want anyone to come up and see him breaking into the locked door. After all, didn’t she say that there could be treasure up here.

Adam reached out for the black case. “Getting cold again,” he said. “I’ll bet there’s a line a mile long at the church waiting for a hot meal.” He was looking at Jack, as if to say: this can wait. People are starving, you know? But, to Jack, this was the most important thing at the moment. Let them starve; let them freeze; just get that damn door open, he thought. “And there will be more snow tonight. We’ll probably be opening the auditorium to the homeless by sundown. We need all the people we can get.”

“Hope so,” Jack said matter-of-factly. “I love snow.”

“You got the gas on?”

“No, I’ll probably freeze, but won’t it be beautiful in the morning.”

“You should come down after your storage arrives and stay at the church. They’d be happy to see you again. They need you…”

“Don’t say that,” Jack snapped.

Adam looked at him. No, he leered at him, trying to see what was behind his eyes. Adam suddenly wondered if the man had been on drugs again.

“Just, don’t,” he told him. “That’s what the little girl was saying last night and kept saying it. Then, they called me by name.”

“I really wish you would come with me when we get finished here.” He didn’t want to leave him alone.

“You could just leave a note for the movers.”

“I might, Adam. Really, I might. And please,” he said, taking the old man by the arm. “I’m not crazy. I’ve never been afraid of anything in my life. Not before this.”

“We’ll get to the bottom of it, don’t worry.” He held up a flat head screwdriver. “If we can’t force it, we’ll take it off the hinges.”

Both men pried on the door. Adam went first trying to jimmy the lock, and then Jack tried to force off the hinges, but neither worked.

Adam turned to get the pack. “This door probably hasn’t been opened for twenty or thirty…” But his words were cut short when Jack kicked the door. “Hold on…” he said, but Jack kicked it again, and the frame cracked. “Now you’ve done it.”

“I can build it back,” Jack said, and Adam knew he could. He knew Jack was a great carpenter.

“Okay, finish her off, but do it with finesse.”

Another kick sent the door smashing open. Dust flew up and filled the air. The room beyond was like an Egyptian tomb, dust covered everything and the musty air took his breath away. For a moment, the room was nothing but a swirling mass of gray dust. Faint objects could be seen strewn everywhere, covered with an inch of dust.

Inside the room was an ancient iron-framed bed. A molded, rotting mattress had fallen through the frame and was decaying on the floor; beside the bed, a roll-top desk leaned to the left. It was covered with papers. Beside the desk were figures drawn on the wall.

What the two men saw next, which they saw together, was too frightening to comprehend.

On the wall, hanging with it’s wrists bound, was a skeleton.

“That can’t be real,” Adam croaked. He was gasping for air, whether it was the dust or the sight of a skeleton. “People liked to collect things like that in the old days. Oddities they called them.” Then, as he realized all the dust in the room was most likely the skin and rotted remains of the body, he covered his mouth.
The odor in the room was sickening and overwhelming. They could both taste the foulness of the place… taste the deadness in the air.

Jack’s Apartment (part 2)

Jack’s Apartment

(part 2)

by Thadd Presley

During the meeting with the landlord, she told him that the fourth floor had been used as storage area for years. She talked a bit about her father passing away and leaving the building to her. “My brother got the money, and the yacht, and the hotel. All I got was this run-down place.”

“But, why was the fourth floor empty?”

“He had plans for it, I guess. He was always a dreamer. Fact is, he won the building in a high-stakes poker match during one of the worst years of his life. He lost everything and bet everything he had on a single card.

“As you can see, he won.”

Jack smiled. He liked to hear stories of people making good on a million to one odds.

“Too bad, my mother told him. Looks like you lost more than you’ll ever know with that place.”

Jack wanted to ask about her brother, but she didn’t give him a chance.

“My father was into gambling and drinking. That is… until he met Adam. My dad didn’t go to church much, until the end, but Adam helped him to find God and so much changed after that.”

Jack thought it was a lot of information to be telling a stranger, but then again, they had someone in common. Through Adam, they were far from strangers.

“There could be rats or bats or anything up there,” she told him. “I haven’t cleaned the place or even been up there in over a year.” She looked out over the river that passed in front of the restaurant where they had lunch. “When you get your room finished, we’ll see what we can throw away, but you might find treasures up there.” She smiled. “I think the last tenant of the fourth floor was in his early seventies. He was a bit of a pack rat. He kept everything and I’m sure you will run into it.”

“Treasures would be great,” he remembered saying, assuring her he wouldn’t steal anything; he was afraid if he stole from her or lied to her, drugs and death were sure follow. He wondered what Adam had told her about his situation. “I don’t need anything fancy, mind you, just a quiet place where I can get used to being on my own again.”

She smiled at that and explained again that room wouldn’t be suitable for human occupation until he gave it a bit of love and care.

He liked that she used the word “love.” It gave him a warm feeling of acceptance, a thing he hadn’t felt in a long time.

*     *     *     *     *

We need you, Jack , the voice snapped again, sending a frosty bolt of lightening down his back, calling him back to the present. It seemed to come from all around. Goosebumps sprang out on his arms. The urge to pee suddenly returned, and he quickly turned from the sink, which continued to run nothing but cold water, and faced the toilet.

Once finished, he washed his hands and made his way to the kitchen, only looking into the living room to check the heater. Once in the kitchen, he knew he couldn’t stay and that he was going to call Adam. But, not quite yet. First he made a sandwich from the leftover macaroni and carried it to the warmth of the couch where sat down.

He used his foot to pull his small electric heater toward him and watched the locked door like it was going to crash open any minute. Listening for the voice, trying to steel himself against it if it happened again. He thought if he sat and waited, he would know exactly where it came from, but even before he finished his sandwich, he started to doze.

His dreams began immediately.

*     *    *     *     *

He stood in the stairwell that led up to the fourth floor. Looking down over the metal rail, he mentally counted the flights he’d passed. Was he on the right floor? Each landing looked the same. But, the door which opened on the fourth floor was painted green, where all the other floors had white doors. But, there was no door at this landing. He hadn’t seen a green door on any of the landings all the way up. He was lost, but that was impossible because there was only one set of stairs. He looked up, surprised to see that the stairs climbed higher and higher.

There wasn’t but four floors in this building.

Panic struck him then. Where was he? The wrong building? His eyes filled with hot tears. The feeling of loneliness suddenly encased him and pushed closer and closer, farther and farther into his mind. He was overwhelmed; he needed to find the door to his floor or the door to the street. If he was found in the wrong building, someone would think he was trespassing. The cops would be called and his probation violated.

His mind screamed the fact that he was alone in the world. He’d killed the only woman who’d ever loved him. Being alone had never bothered him before; it was the way he wanted it. But now the desire for someone to care for him, to love him; it overwhelmed his mind and flood his blood with fear. He would do anything to have someone love him, anything for a companion to sit through the evenings with him and read.

The climb up the flights was not a particularly bad one; he enjoyed walking, and this was a source of some much-needed exercise and another good habit he could take up. He assured himself that the next landing would be his. But, the stairs went up and up. They seemed to be never ending.

Before having to stop and catch his breath, he climbed twenty flights and never passed a single door.
He turned and began to start down when he saw the door. But, it wasn’t green, nor was it in the right place. It was one flight below him. He knew it wasn’t there before, but none of that mattered now. As long as it lead to a floor and to someone who would direct him in the right direction.

As he walked down the steps, dread began building up inside of him. By the time he stood in front of the door, he was afraid to open it. He couldn’t just stand there. He had to go through the door. He built up his courage and just as his hand touched the knob, it became the locked door in his apartment.

We are waiting, Jack. We need you.

To turn around and start back down seemed impossible. It would only begin his journey all over again, and he knew he couldn’t leave and abandon anyone, not again, especially if someone needed his help. Meaning if he could help them, he would.

“Who’s there,” he called and listened as his voice echoed off the concrete walls of the stairwell.

His hand was still on the doorknob.

We need you, Jack.

He jerked his hand away from the cold brass.

A moment passed, and he knocked on the door, then banged on it. “Hello,” he yelled and then listened as his voice echoed again and again in the endless stairwell. “Who are you? Where are you?”

Help us.

“I will, just….”

Just what, he thought? How could he help anyone when he was the one lost?

Everything in him wanted to help, whether it was the homeless at the food ministry or orphaned children in another country. It was in his nature; at least, it was a part of his new nature.
He put his ear to the door, listening for movement. He was suddenly aware of the silence. The terrible feeling of loneliness returned. He wanted to help them. Whoever they were. He felt, he needed their companionship as much as they needed him. After all, wasn’t he trapped as well? He pressed his ear to the door harder and listened with all his might.

Boom, Boom, Boom

The door rattled with thundering knocks which caused him to jerk his head away. His foot came to the edge of the steps, and he rocked on the edge for a moment; for a millionth of a second he floated there, not knowing if he was going to go over or keep his balance.     Then, as gravity would have it, he tilted too far and started to fall….
The slow, tumbling fall into forever brought him back to the real world with a jolt.

Jack’s Apartment (Part 1)

Jack’s Apartment

by Thadd Presley

Jack’s first day in the apartment was a new lease on life. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do first. But it was an answer to his prayers, and, yes, Jack was now a praying man. God wasn’t always on constant call when it came to Jack’s old life. However, since he began his life after drugs, he was in constant communication with the man upstairs. But, this was more than Jack could have asked for. He never knew gigs like this existed. The idea of “cup runneth over” truly had a meaning now, and Jack felt like a human being for the first time in years.

But, Jack was logical. He knew that it wasn’t all God. Jack owed a special thanks to Adam, the man he met while in the county rehab.

Adam was a preacher of sorts, who spent time with addicts and gave them hope. But Adam was much more than a counselor to Jack. Adam was a guiding light and a mentor. He helped Jack and gave him a chance to work at the church and prove himself as a carpenter, which had been instrumental in getting the job at the apartment complex.

He thanked Adam as he sat alone for the first time in a long time, with his dinner on his lap, and thanked God for his apartment, which was on the fourth floor of the Wartzburg Building. It was only a small, cheap, four-room cracker box, but he lifted his head toward the roof, as if he could see into heaven, and asked God to come into his home. It was a quick prayer, just something to bless his food and to invite good spirits to his new place. But he knew it was important, because he didn’t want to forget about all the good things that had been happening to him lately, nor did he want to forget what drugs had done to him.

Before he left the rehab center, he thought that he’d be happy out in the real world, away from the clinic and all the church meetings, away from all the drug addicts and the whiners. But, he wasn’t. Over time, he’d come to like working for the church and he liked the few friends he’d made while living at the halfway house. He liked that his life was on a new path, but he was more afraid everyday. Afraid that he’ d mess everything up now that temptation was at every turn.

What he felt then was suffocation. Anytime he thought about running into old friends or what he was going to do if he started wanting a hit, a panic quickly closed in on him and crushed his goodness. His ideas of a good life and of the spirit who he’d prayed for began to wilt as if something didn’t want him to have a good, new life.

He just felt so alone.

The apartment he picked out on the fourth floor had a small table in the main living room, where he sat with his macaroni. On his left was a doorway to the only bedroom, which was really small, and beside that, a door opened onto the bathroom. There was a fourth room, but it was locked and so far had been inaccessible. He had keys to all the rooms on the fourth floor since part of his rent was going to be repair work, but none of the keys opened this door. The lock was older, probably left over from a century before, and because it was his first day in the apartment, he didn’t want to be a pain to the landlady, especially if it meant she would have to drive all the way back into the city and open it herself. She would be back in a few days to inspect the work he’ d be doing and make sure he was as good a carpenter as Adam said. He could wait and ask her about the room then.

For a moment, with food paused in mid flight to his mouth, he thought about when he’d met her. She was younger than he’d imagined when Adam told him about her, and she was beautiful. She asked him questions about his past and where he used to work. She reminded him that the floor had not been used for thirty years, so he would have to wear a mask when he worked.

“Who knows what all is considered toxic these days. The paint is lead based, I know that for sure; the tile has asbestos in it, as does the insulation and ceiling tiles, and probably there would be more than that. Do you understand that you have to wear the mask? It is very important.”

“Yes,” he answered.

“Legally, no one can live on the fourth floor yet, but since Adam has been so good to us in the past, I’ve decided to make an exception. What we need to do is get your room up to code and as close to livable as fast as we can, both for your health and in case of any problems we might have with the inspectors.”

“I understand. I’ll start in the apartment and work my way into other areas.”

Then came the question he knew was loaded. This was where she would decide everything. “So how long do you think it will take to do the entire job. I mean, the floors, the doors, the trim and painting, we have to replace the ceiling and there will be more, lots more, when we get into it deeper?”

She smiled when he said, “four months should get us to a good point. After that we will know exactly where we stand.”

“I’ll know where we stand in one week, Mr. Solsbury. I want to start renting that floor as soon as possible.”

“Yes, ma’am. Four months is just my guess right now.”

They talked while they signed the last documents, which explained that he would not owe rent for the months he worked, but rules came with the room. No drinking or parties were allowed and no one could live with him. No one can be on the fourth floor, except Adam of course. And, by signing and shaking her thin hand, he became the sole tenant of the fourth floor. He felt like Donald Trump that day. He had an entire floor to himself.

He thought of all this while he ate in silence. With no television or radio, the feeling of loneliness had a tendency grew out of hand, and he found himself thinking of Caroline. He’d never felt so alone in his life, not even when his mother died. Since after high school, he always lived on his own and loved the solitude he had when he wanted or needed it. But since Caroline’s overdose, he’d found a real need for companionship and love. He hated himself for getting her hooked on pain killers and showing her how to shoot up. Her death was his fault; there was no doubt of that. It was as if he killed her the day he met her.

An hour later, having eaten what he could of the cold pasta, he was laying on the old couch, which looked as if it had been here through the thirty years of abandonment, half asleep thinking of Caroline and what his life would be like if she hadn’t died, whether or not he would have gone to rehab. It was her death that brought the police and the reality of drug use to his life. The more he thought about Caroline and what he did to her, the more he thought about whether death did for him. She never got a second chance like he did; she never got to learn a lesson. All she got was death, and he gave it to her in a needle.

He dozed and dozed…then he dreamed.


A high pitched, hollow voice filled the room. It seemed to shake his entire being. He opened his eyes, completely sitting up, and felt for his phone. He’d set it on vibrate days ago and hadn’t changed it. He looked around the room, knowing he’d heard something.

No… someone, he told himself. It was a voice. He listened harder, trying to hear his neighbors below. He listened for footsteps in the hallway. Maybe it was someone in the stairwell and their voice had traveled. His eyes stopped on the locked door. He looked away, but somehow he could keep them from going back. The door was actually pulling his eyes to it. He felt panic beginning to set up in his muscles and chest. It would become hard to breathe, but he had to stay calm.

“Dude, calm down,” he said aloud. “It was a dream.”

He shivered. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so rattled. The sound of his voice calmed his nerves a bit, but he knew sleep wouldn’t return. He could only sit there and look at the door.

After a long while of sitting in the red gloom of the heater’s glow listening to the silence, he knew a trip to the bathroom was in order before sleep would return. He wasn’t old by any means, but the drugs had done their worst to his system. He knew he wouldn’t make it the entire night without a pit stop.

It took another five minutes and mighty strong convincing from his bladder to get him to leave the warmth of the heater. The gas on the fourth floor was turned off, so the only warm room in the apartment was the living room, and only in the vicinity of the heater.

He tested the floor with his bare feet and found it absolutely freezing. But it had to be done; there was no stopping nature. In the old days he would have used a bottle and tossed it in the morning, but he didn’t have a bottle, nor did he feel like living that way. After giving up everything in his pursuit to live a new life, such things now seemed out of character and would lead him right back to the past. He felt that a new life demanded new actions.

He crossed the room, only thinking of his urinary duties, when he heard the high-pitched, quick voice again, like the snap of a rubber band.


Hearing the voice again and being awake when he heard it shook him to his bones. A bit of pee squirted down his leg and he had to squeeze everything together so he didn’t piss himself completely.

He walked faster and felt the burning urgency.

That voice was not his imagination, he nervously realized. “You heard that with your own ears,” he told himself in a whisper, “and it called your name.”

He turned and looked at the locked door.

Fear tried to grip him, but he fought it. He no longer felt alone, but he couldn’t let whatever it was scare him out of his apartment. What would Adam think if he called and said he couldn’t stay in the apartment because he was scared? He smiled in spite of himself, thinking how easy it was to frighten yourself. How many times did he do it as a child? Every night? Whether it was something under the bed or in the closet, something always seemed to be out to get him. And as he got older, the monsters just got scarier and more dangerous. A simple dream or a spooky moment had a way of sending the blackest fear upon him. It was worse now, since Caroline.

Help us, Jack.

This time he jumped hard enough for his feet to leave the floor. It was louder, closer, and there was absolutely no denying that the voice came from behind the locked door.

With a flick of his hand, the light in the bathroom broke the darkness, and he saw himself in the mirror. He didn’t like the look in his eyes and looked away. He turned on the water. It was as cold as he knew it would be.

As he waited to see if the water would get warm, he tried to push the idea of ghosts away. But, there was no mistaking that he’d heard the voice. It called to him three times.

The fear forced its way into his mind.

He let the water run and listened as it gurgled down the pipes. If it started to run red, he warned himself that it would only be rust. Not blood. That only happened in movies. Old pipes sometimes have rust in them.
The urgency of getting to the bathroom was gone, replaced with fright.

The Circus Came To Town

When I was a child, I did something terrible by not speaking up when I should have. I saw something so frightening, I was too afraid to report it. I couldn’t even tell my parents about it. It has haunted me throughout my entire life and I have been seeing her face more and more lately.

Now as an adult, I live everyday with my cowardice, knowing that I allowed the unspeakable to continue. I can never take it back, I will never live it down, but I must try to get it out of my head somehow.


The Circus Came to Town

by Thadd Presley

Damp, dark,
a clank, a spark
a white light,
so bright
my eyes
shut tight.

It was years before,
when I was only a boy
a circus came to town
with elephants and joy

A tent
so large
all the people in town
could come right in
and look at the clowns.

In my delight, I got lost
For my family I looked
and down a dark hallway,
I saw a little girl was took.

A thick curtain fell down,
and covered the way.
I didn’t see anything
But I heard the man say.

“Come one, come all,
Gather around ya’ll.
See the beautiful Chinese
and the Japanese dolls”

But this girl I then saw
was so skinny, so thin,
with long, blond hair
she was locked up tight
a chain under her chin.

She was scarred and so young.
She spoke up quickly,
she whispered:
“Get out of here! RUN!!!”

Her eyes were so wide,
from the shock of my sight
she shook in her cage,
and her necklace of chains

“RUN!!” She cried,
“they’ll be back again!”
Afraid for my life,
Finally I did.

I stand here now
Before the world
To tell of that place,
those chains,
and that girl.