Writing a good horror story is really hard.
But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m not sure I can check it off the bucket list, either. Not just yet. But I gave it my best shot, and I’ve got to give another big shout out to penmonkey extraordinaire Chuck Wendig for the inspiration. I wrote this piece for his weekly Flash Fiction challenge; I didn’t end up submitting it, however –– mostly because I went over the 1,000 word limit (pretty much doubled it) and I missed the deadline by an hour (damn you, time zones… Daaamn you!). But that’s not going to stop me from putting it out there to add to my growing collection.
Last week’s challenge was to write a story containing four random items from a list of ten total; we got to choose which items we wanted to use.
My four random items:
1. a rocking chair
2. a road sign
3. a child’s toy
4. a policeman’s badge
And here’s my story! Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.
The House on Hollow Hill
“Riley County 911, what’s your emergency?”
“It’s my granddaughter. She’s… She’s been hit by a car.”
“Okay ma’am. I see you’re calling from two-two-three Hollow Hill Road. Is that correct?”
“Oh god… There’s so much blood… it’s – everywhere.”
“Ma’am, I need you to stay calm for me. Is there anyone else there with you?”
“No. My husband is – he’s gone. Oh god… She’s not breathing!”
“Ma’am, just hold on. I’m sending an ambulance to your location now. There’s a patrol car nearby – the officer will be there in a few minutes. Just sit tight. Help is on the way.”
“Okay… Okay. Please, my grandbaby’s not breathing. Please… hurry.”
• • •
Sergeant Norton lit a cigarette and hit the “record” button on the tape recorder in the middle of the table. Before I even said a word, he looked at me like I was an idiot. Like he thought everything I was about to say was a filthy lie. He opened his mouth slightly, letting a fat swirly ring fly out from between his lips before he blew a thick white cloud of smoke in my face. The smell of it choked my lungs; I wanted to gag, but I didn’t want to be that asshole.
“Okay, let’s go over this again,” he said, holding up the pack of smokes, offering me the chance to share in a slow and miserable death by suffocation. Perhaps I should’ve taken it, under the circumstances. Instead, I declined.
“Alright,” I said, leaning back in my chair, “where should I start?”
“Why don’t you just start at the beginning. You were the officer on duty that afternoon, yes?”
“That’s right,” I said.
“So, you got the call from dispatch at 2:33PM, and you arrived on the scene at–” he lifted a paper from the top of the folder on the table to check my previous statement. Apparently the first one didn’t stick. “2:39PM. And what did you find when you pulled up to the house?”
I cleared my throat and closed my eyes for a moment. I’d revisited that old house again and again in my dreams every night since; but the idea of taking myself back there during my waking life – of stepping through the tall switchgrass and up the decaying stairs of that place, forcing myself to witness the unspeakable madness one more time – made me rather uncomfortable. I took a deep breath, trying to quell my twitching muscles, that growing urge to jump up from the hard metal chair and run, escape from that tiny white room, run out the front door of the station and into the street, and keep on running… But I couldn’t, and I knew it. Running was even more impossible than what had happened in that house.
I opened my eyes slowly, cautiously. It was too late. I was already there.
“I found…” I took another deep breath in. “Nothing,” and out.
“Nothing?” Evidently, Sarge didn’t follow. I went on.
“The street was completely empty, except for a ‘Dead End’ sign bent over in the grass by the side of the road. There was no sign of a vehicle, no blood, no little girl’s body… nothing.”
“Go on,” he said, filling the room with a billowy fog of cancer. I licked my lips and continued.
“I walked back over to my cruiser to radio in, thinking maybe it had been another prank call. Just some kids trying to fuck with us, ya know? But then, behind me – I heard a door slam. Sounded like it came from the house. I decided to go check it out. The grass was so grown up I could barely see the sidewalk. No car in the drive way, I thought, surely this place must be abandoned. Shit, I almost fell through the front steps when I tried to walk up – they’d dry rotted. It looked like no one had been there… in years. There was nothing on the front porch but an old wooden rocking chair, the wind made it rock back and forth. Place gave me the fucking creeps.”
“Alright, so you heard a door slam, wanted to investigate, got scared by an empty chair…” he was eating this shit up, loving every minute of it. He kept a pretty decent poker face, but I could tell. Honestly, I was surprised he hadn’t just come right out laughing in my face. That was the typical response to hearing something crazy. He dragged the other chair from the corner over to the table and took a seat across from me. “What happened next?”
“I pulled my flashlight, tried looking through the windows. It was pointless. The ones on the front of the house were so nasty, I couldn’t see anything. The rest were boarded up.” I licked my lips again, trying to clear the awful taste from my tongue. It felt like I was holding a cat prisoner in my mouth. “I walked up to the front door, tapped on it with my light. Called out to see if anyone was home, but no one answered. The place looked deserted, but still… I couldn’t help feeling like I needed to go in there, check things out, see for myself. I did what I thought any good cop would do.”
The tape player made a hissing noise and clicked off. Sergeant Norton opened it up, flipped the tape over, and pressed record again.
“The door was already cracked open, so I went in. The air inside was musty, thick. And it– smelled. I couldn’t get over the smell. It was awful… like a goddamn compost heap in the middle of August. I had to put my hand over my mouth to keep myself from gagging.”
The Sergeant was fidgeting in his chair, probably thinking about what he would have for lunch. “What did you find when you went through the house?”
“Nothing, at first. I checked every room. Furniture was all there – table and chairs, clothes on the floor in the front bedroom. Dishes in the sink. It was all covered in dust, like it had been sitting for ages. I was just about to leave. I wanted to get the hell out of there. Something didn’t feel right. It felt – evil. And then…”
I shook my head and shuddered. My forehead was covered in a heavy flop sweat, and I could feel the shirt sticking to my back and stomach. The room felt like it was getting hotter by the second, but that didn’t stop the icy chill creeping up my spine, raising the little hairs on the back of my neck.
“Then I heard something. Sounded like… like a kid laughing. I spun around and drew my weapon, tripped over a toy – one of those old china dolls. Damn thing’s head caved in when I stepped on it. I heard the laugh again, it sounded closer this time, like it was coming from the same room. I flashed my light along the walls, the ceiling. Nothing. No kid. Just me and the broken china doll. That’s when I ducked down to look under the bed.”
I leaned forward, the cold steel handcuff chain rattling against the metal table as I placed my elbows firmly on top. I stared straight through the Sergeant’s lazy, doubting eyes, through the reflective glass behind him, into the eyes of the federal marshals I knew were watching from the other side.
“And that’s when I saw it.”
“That’s when you saw – the creature.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“In your previous report you said, and I quote, ‘I thought I saw a creature that was not from this world.’ Do you remember saying that?”
“Of course I do, but I–”
“So you just – shot it?”
“Yeah. I shot it. The thing came at me… what the fuck was I supposed to do?!”
“Oh I don’t know, I think the guide book says we’re supposed to look first, then shoot. Maybe I’m getting it turned around again… Let’s see.” He waved a finger in the air, acting like he was going over the rules of engagement in his head. “Nope. Pretty sure that’s it.”
“I didn’t know what else to do. I just – reacted. I would never have fired the shot if I’d known–”
“Ahh, but that’s why we’re here, officer – excuse me. Mister Mason. Because you shot a child in the line of duty.”
I sat back in my chair, defeated. There was nothing else I could say that would make them believe me. Hell, I didn’t even believe me. How could I have seen something that doesn’t exist? How could I have killed that poor kid? But it wasn’t a kid. At least, I didn’t think… Was I losing my mind? So many questions ran through my head. I couldn’t understand any of it. The phony 911 call, the kids playing in that old abandoned house. It was all just a game to them, a stupid trick. And now my life was over. Just like the little girl.
“I think we’re done here. We’ll be speaking with you again very soon, Mr. Mason. Until then, I think you should take a long hard look at yourself, and think about changing your plea. Seems pretty cut and dry, if you ask me.”
“Please… you have to help me,” I said. I would’ve done anything to keep them from putting me back in a cell. “I can’t go back there. I didn’t know… please. I would never hurt a child, not on purpose!”
“I believe you, Mr. Mason. I do,” he said, standing up from the chair. “But that doesn’t change the facts. The law doesn’t take too kindly to cops that kill children. There’s really not much I or anyone else can do for you… Not if you don’t want to help yourself, Mr. Mason.”
My head slumped forward until my chin rested on my chest. There was nothing more to say. I was a killer; and I was going to spend the rest of my life wondering how I’d let this happen. I stood up slowly and stepped around the side of the table, toward the door. And that’s when I saw it. My way out.
The Sergeant’s holster should’ve been empty. He should’ve left his gun outside in the hall, but I guess he forgot. I knew it would be my only chance – my only escape. As he knocked on the door to have the guards open it up, I moved over beside him, eyes locked on the gun. I guess he didn’t see it coming, because a moment later I was standing in the corner on the other side of the room, Glock 22 pressed against my right temple.
I thought of the prison cell waiting for me at the end of the hall. I thought of the men on the other side of the glass. I thought of the little dead girl, and that awful house on Hollow Hill. But it’s funny – the last thing that went through my mind wasn’t my family, who I would never see again. It wasn’t the vivid memory of being stripped of my badge, my title, my dignity. It wasn’t the headline that I knew would be all over the news in the morning. It was the doll… that stupid fucking china doll, head caved in from my shoe. I don’t know why, but as Sergeant Norton lunged forward to take the gun, all I could think of was that little broken china doll, and I couldn’t help but smile.
And then, I pulled the trigger.