Thank you for being a newsletter subscriber! 🙂 This story was inspired by a strange house in my own neighborhood. It had been empty for some time and then one night we noticed a line of trashcans out front, but no people… My writer brain took it from there! LOL
Hope you enjoy the Halloween tale!
1530 Archibald Street – By Lisa Kessler
October. The night encroached on the sunshine, stealing time from the day. A chill crept through the air as shadows lengthened. Dried husks of leaves dropped to the ground, and summer silently faded away.
The wind moaned through thinning trees, naked branches scratched against window panes. Homework beckoned the children indoors, leaving the streets eerily silent while the nocturnal creatures ventured further out from their hiding places.
Burt lived at 1521 Archibald Street. An average street in an average town. His home consisted of two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a tiny detached garage. He lived alone since his wife became his ex-wife, but he was comfortable. Just he, and his dog, Champ.
It started off like a typical Wednesday night. American Idol was back for a new season, and Burt parked himself on his worn sofa with Champ curled up at the other end.
During the commercial break, he glanced over at his companion with a sigh. “Hey buddy, want to help me take out the trash?”
Champ lifted his mostly gray face, then groaned and placed his head back onto his paws. His heavy lids closed as if he’d never been interrupted from his nap.
“Fine.” Burt grumbled and got up. “Must be nice to live a dog’s life.”
He pulled on a hooded sweatshirt and hustled out to the side of the garage to grab his trash can. Some things never changed. Every Wednesday night he pulled the trash can to the curb and every Thursday he brought the empty can back to the side of the garage.
Taking out the trash was one of the few things that remained constant after Tami left him.
The wheels of the trash can clamored up the cracked cement of his driveway, silencing the crickets and coyote howls. With the full moon lighting his path, he avoided tripping over the uneven concrete and settled the can at the edge of his driveway. Burt started to turn back toward his house, but something caught his eye.
A single trash can sat outside the crooked gate of the old Granger place.
The hair rose on the back of Burt’s neck.
1530 Archibald Street was empty. Forgotten.
Or so he thought.
While Burt stood contemplating, he had no idea he was being watched, lusted after, yearned for.
Foreboding twisted his gut, but he convinced himself to move forward. He told himself it was just kids messing around. Halloween was tomorrow night. Maybe some teens were starting the spook party early? As he got closer to the weather-beaten house a breeze tickled the back of his neck sending a chill down the length of his spine.
Burt stopped, staring at the abandoned house, never realizing the house was staring right back at him.
The Granger place had been abandoned for years. Over time stories were whispered about curses and evil spirits. Tales were spun of murders, missing persons, missing pets, and of course ghosts and ancient burial grounds, but Burt didn’t believe the rumors. He figured the Granger place was a victim of foreclosure and a soft real estate market, not curses.
The house liked that about Burt.
When he reached the lone trash can, he spun around. He couldn’t see anything, but he felt it. In the distance, he could hear Champ’s muffled barking. The commercials were probably over. He should get back home.
The trash can toppled over.
The house waited.
Burt frowned and bent to lift the can when he noticed a copy of the local newspaper on top. It wasn’t the sight of the paper that caught his eye. It was the date. November 1st 1950. The picture showed a pristine new home with a manicured lawn surrounding a fountain with a headline that read “Welcome Home.”
1530 Archibald hadn’t looked like that picture in years.
Dropping the paper back into the can, Burt glanced up at the house. The arched windows on either side of the door gave the illusion of eyes. The peeling paint showed the Granger place’s age, and the fountain was long dry, the top tier chipped and broken.
Without realizing it, Burt stepped closer to the dilapidated gate. Rust had eaten through the top hinge, so the one-time-barrier now hung listless at a precarious angle. But it wasn’t the gate that made Burt forget about his Wednesday night date with American Idol.
It was the yard on the other side.
The landscaping was dead, brown and crispy, and yet, perfectly manicured. Not a single stray leaf littered the expanse of crunchy lawn. In the moonlight, he couldn’t be sure, but it almost looked as though the yard was raked.
A loud thud followed by the scraping sound of a broom caught his attention.
“Is someone there?” Burt gave out a half-hearted call.
The house creaked in answer as a gust of wind moaned through the trees.
He gripped the gate, lifting and pulling. The rusted hinge squealed in protest drowning out Champ’s panicked howling and barking. Burt told himself he had to be sure some kids weren’t jumping off the roof in the backyard. All he needed was to be awakened by fire trucks and ambulances in the middle of the night.
The house sat hungry. Waiting.
Dead brittle grass crunched under his worn tennis shoes as he called out again. “Is anybody there?”
Burt started to feel foolish, when he heard another metallic clatter that stopped him in his tracks. His brow furrowed. “If you don’t come out, I’m callin’ the police. This is private property.”
The house was well-aware of that fact.
A man rounded the far corner of the house with a rake and shovel and a wide-brimmed straw hat, as if the moonlight might burn his skin.
“Hey there. You got permission to be on this property?”
Burt could see the man’s hat nodding in the affirmative, but he didn’t answer, just went to work, raking non-existent leaves and digging out water-wells around the dead hedge as if it might see water again sometime soon.
“This yard awful dry, don’t you think?” Burt called out.
The house needed more than water, but it kept quiet as its minion worked the immaculate dead landscaping.
Burt frowned, wanting to go home, but instead found himself inexplicably moving closer to the yard worker. “Did you hear me?”
Now that he stood only a couple of feet away from the man, he noticed the yard worker wore dusty old black and white wing-tipped shoes, and his pants were actually slacks riddled with moth-holes.
What kind of man did yard work at night, in a dead yard, wearing their grandfather’s clothes out of the attic? Burt wondered.
He frowned and asked again, “Did you hear me?”
The hat bobbed up and down.
“So why don’t you answer me?”
The hat tilted back as the yard worker finally made eye contact.
But he had no eyes.
Burt screamed as the eyeless minion leapt forward, closing the distance between them. Burt found himself wrapped in an inescapable vise-like embrace until his rib snapped, pain stealing his voice.
The hinges squeaked as the front door opened to a chasm of darkness.
Burt struggled, digging his heels into the dry ground, but the minion lugged him closer, tugging him up the first step of the porch.
“Let me go! I won’t tell anyone about you, just leave me be.”
The minion opened his mouth to answer, moaning and grunting in an effort to construct words. Burt suddenly realized his eyes weren’t the only thing missing.
“Dear god,” he gasped.
His captor had no tongue.
Burt closed his eyes and slammed his head back into the disfigured yard worker. Stars erupted at the edge of his vision, but the eyeless man loosened his grip long enough for Burt to scramble free. Clutching his injured side, he stumbled toward the stairs, but before he could step down, the stairs vanished from sight. Burt hit the ground, his ankle turning at a strange angle until he felt something pop.
In spite of the pain, he rolled onto his belly, desperate to crawl to safety.
He never saw the eyeless man raising his shovel.
The hollow crack of the shovel left Burt motionless in front of the house. Quickly the minion brought the prey to his master and the house closed its door behind them.
Deep within the walls the house fed. And plotted.
Outside, the fountain in front of 1530 Archibald Street burst to life.
Tomorrow, Halloween would bring teenagers looking for a thrill.
And the house would be ready.
Ready and waiting.
The End… Or is it?
This story and 24 more can be found in my FORGOTTEN TREASURES anthology… 😀