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The Grandson Place
I remember I had as morbid a streak as any boy my age, was as fascinated as all boys are by the mystery and lurid glamour of death. But that night, if I’d trusted to instinct, I would have driven straight home, plopped myself on the sofa, and spent the next couple of hours watching old horror movies on TV with my curiosity in check.
Instead, I was chasing the taillights of Ralph’s Ford Mustang as it tore through the veil of darkness that hung like folded wings over the old country road that cut through the bristled forest toward the Grandson Manor.
“This is really stupid,” I said aloud, my speedometer creeping past eighty and the car bouncing across the smallest of hills as though it wanted to take flight.
Ralph began to slow as the north leg of Polk Drive dead-ended in a wide turnaround in front of the Grandson property. He pulled to the side of the road and stopped. I parked directly behind him and looked around as our headlights fanned out across the huge mansion and the weed-choked grounds. Then he killed his engine and turned off his lights. I did the same, as the night quickly flowed back in to claim its territory, and pooled around us in a heavy blackness.
Ralph kicked his door open and jumped from the car. “Ha, I beat you again!” he said.
I opened my car door, stepped out, and pocketed my key. “Whatever,” I said, “how was I supposed to pass you on a one-lane highway?”
“As if that piece of crap you’re driving ever could,” he teased. “Besides, you ain’t got the balls to pass me.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever…so what are we doing out here anyway?”
Ralph smiled. “Did you bring the camera?”
I reached into my car and snagged the camera off the seat. “Yeah, but you haven’t told me why.”
“Do you believe in ghosts, Todd?”
I laughed. “Ghosts? You brought me all the way out here for ghosts?”
“So, you’re saying you do believe in them?”
I glance at the house. It looked haunted. “Sorry, but I don’t believe in any of that crap?”
“Too bad, because that’s why we’re here.”
“Are you crazy? People have been talking about this place for years. It’s just a bunch of stupid rumors they spread to keep kids like us out of here.”
“Is it? You know the story, right?”
“Yeah, everyone knows the story.”
“Twenty years ago, on Halloween, a nutcase broke in here and chopped the whole family to bits—all six of them!”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Then he took their heads and placed them out on the porch like a bunch of jack-o-lanterns.”
“That’s right, and they never caught him. Never. By the time the cops got here, the dude was long gone,” Ralph said. “But there was a survivor.”
“A survivor? How do you know that?”
“I read it in an old newspaper at the library. The Grandson’s had a live-in maid. When she saw the guy coming down the stairs with a bloody ax, she ran out the backdoor and went screaming into the woods.”
“Truth. She said he had a long scar that ran from his forehead to his chin. That’s the only description they ever got of the guy.”
“But why did he kill them? There had to be a reason.”
“I dunno. Maybe he was just jealous and wanted their fancy house for himself.”
“That couldn’t have been it. You gotta be totally bonkers to kill a bunch of kids.”
“Yeah. But think of it! Blood on the walls, soaked and clotted in the bedclothes, slick puddles of blood on the floor, blood on the stairs, and blood splashed all over the furniture…. And those six heads propped up on the front porch!”
A chill wiggled through me. All of the sudden, the night seemed darker than it had been when we first arrived.
The house was a huge, rambling wreck, with that fancy gingerbread around the eaves and windows and railings. But storms had weathered the paint and ripped shingles from the roof. Where shutters still survived, they hung at a slant, by a single mounting. The front-porch steps sagged, and there were gaps in the railing. Half the windows were haphazardly boarded shut, but the others were without protection and shattered. The moonlight revealed shards of glass like transparent teeth biting at the empty blackness where stones had been pitched through. In spite of its shabby condition, the Grandson place did not have the air of a ruin; in fact, it didn’t appear empty at all, as did many once-noble but now decrepit buildings; somehow it seemed vital, alive. If a house could be said to have a human attitude, an emotional aspect, then this house was angry, very angry—furious, in fact.
Some place, huh?” Ralph said.
“Let’s go inside.”
“But we don’t even have a flashlight.”
“Well, let’s at least go up on the porch and look in the window.”
Together, we climbed the sagging steps and walked onto the porch. I had the feeling something was watching me from the depths of the house—something less than human. Don’t be childish, I thought. There’s nothing in there. This isn’t one of your horror movies. This is real life.
I tried to stand my ground, but the possibility that I was being observed became a certainty, at least in my own mind. I knew that if I stayed there much longer, I would surely be seized by a creature with huge claws and dragged into the dark house, there to be gnawed upon at the beast’s leisure.
“They say that some nights there are strange lights in the house, and that you can hear the dead children screaming in terror and crying for help,” Ralph said.
“They hear the dead kids?”
“Yeah, moaning and carrying on something fierce.”
I suddenly realized I had my back to one of the broken windows. I shifted away from it.
Ralph spoke in a whisper. “Some even say they’ve seen spirits that glow in the dark, crazy things, like headless children that come out on the porch and run back and forth as if they’re being chased by someone…or something.”
Ralph went to the shattered window and peered inside.
“What do you see?” I asked.
“Come and look.”
I moved beside him and stared inside. I saw a broom in the corner, and smelled a stale, extremely unpleasant odor.
“It’s the living room,” Ralph said.
“I can’t see anything but an old broom.”
“This is where he killed the kids.”
“I don’t see anything.”
“Keep staring. Your eyes will adjust.”
From the corner of the room something moved.
“What was that?”
There was a soft rustling, a sudden clatter, and the sound of something rushing toward the window.
I leaped back. Stumbled over my own two feet, and fell with a crash. Ralph burst out laughing as he stood with his back to the window.
“Jesus, there’s something in there!” I yelled.
“I told you,” he said smugly.
Just then someone reached through the window and grabbed him around the waist. He squealed like a little girl as he was roughly pulled inside. Then I heard a short scuffle on the hardwood floor and a couple of short screams. Then a…whoooosh-chunk, whoooosh-chunk of an ax burying its head into soft flesh.
I scrambled to my feet, too scared to scream, and backed down the porch steps, my eyes still glued to that window.
There was a soft groan, a brief rattle, and a barely audible creak, as a shadow filled the window and a tall man bent down and looked out at me. His hair was silver, his face thin and wrinkled with a long scar that ran from his forehead to his chin.
He stood up again, and his long leg stepped through the window. In one hand he carried an ax.
“Shit!” I ran for the car, fumbling for my key. I heard the porch steps creak, but didn’t bother to turn around. He was coming.
My fingers danced over the key in my pocket even as my other hand swung the car door open. As I jumped inside, I pulled the key from my pocket and dropped it on the ground.
I looked up and saw him. The man was old and had a slight gimp, the bloodied ax dangled from his fingertips. He moved toward the car and lifted the ax over his head. Snagging the key from the ground, I slammed the door shut just as he brought the ax down. The windshield exploded.
“Oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit!” I rammed the key into the ignition and cranked it. The car hesitated, and then started with a grumble.
I saw the sick glare in his eyes as he reached for my door. Then I threw it into reverse, even as my door swung open and I wet myself. I stomped on the gas pedal.
But somehow he hung on, and I dragged him across the driveway like a broken doll. Then my front wheel must have caught his leg, because I felt the car rock as I ran over something.
Nearly running off the road, I spun the car around, and then took off in a cloud of smoking tires and burnt rubber. When I looked back in the rearview mirror, he was gone.
I told the police everything. I remember crying and blubbering like a baby as we drove back out to the Grandson place in a squad car. I couldn’t believe what had happened. Ralph and I had been friends since Grammar school. Now he was dead.
When we got to the Grandson place, I was still too scared to get out of the car. All the cops went inside to search the house and left me alone.
There was a rustling in the undergrowth, and turning my head I saw the scar-faced man staring at me from the bushes. He was smiling, and then gave me a little wink as he chucked something through the window. It was smaller than a basketball and bounced once on the seat and then landed in my lap in a bloody heap. It was Ralph’s head, his eyes turned up, mouth hanging slack as if in mid-scream.
I heard screaming, but it took a while before I realized it was me.
"The Granson Place" (word count:1740)