Tag Archives: horror

Warning

In a small town like Cromwell, it stood to reason that the Bronson Family Funeral Home would see nothing but slow weeks. And that was usually that case. Unless there was a service, Thad Bronson, III was generally in his chair at home plodding his way through the newspaper and capping off his first scotch of the evening by 6:30.

This past week however, proved something of an anomaly. Poor Tyler Montgomery came in after a tragic swimming accident at the quarry. There was the John Doe, found dead on Route 32 and if that weren’t enough, one of the town matriarchs, Maggie Crisp passed away in her sleep last night.

Creature of habit, Thad liked everything in its place, and with three in the cooler, he got to his routine a bit later than he anticipated. Deep in the heart of Fall, it was already dark outside by the time he put the last of the tools away and finished wiping everything down. When he gave the room his last inspection before heading out, he nodded silently to himself in satisfaction.

The Bronson Family Funeral Home had been a staple of the Cromwell community for well over 75 years. It was a fairly simple but effective operation that the people in town seemed to appreciate. Much like Pastor Kirt or Doc Matts, the folks who made their stay in Cromwell were destined to come to the Bronson’s place sooner of later.

Thad took over the family business just over a year ago after his father died. He liked the business overall. It was calming, quiet work that served a purpose. There was a simple level of gratification that came with it, a sense of peace.

Thad washed his hands one last time and wiped the sink out. Slipping his watch over his wrist, he noticed it was much later than he anticipated almost 11:30. He grabbed his jacket from the hook near the stairs and headed up. He was three steps closer to home when he heard the small crash behind him. He stopped, turned and listened. A small frown crossed his face as he stepped back down into the workroom.

A small pile of glass that used to be a beaker lay on the floor. “Hm,” Thad thought with a grunt. He secured the broom and dustpan and cleaned the mess quickly, but effectively to ensure no wayward shards got away. He took a good look around the room, even closer than before to make double sure everything was in its place.

Once more, he headed to the steps, but drew to a stop the moment he heard it…a small, single knock.

Thad turned to face the room again. He squinted as he traced the space from end to end. Sometimes kids like to mess with funeral homes, mostly because they were scared of them. Dares and double dares often led to small and mostly harmless pranks.

Silence.

Thad turned slowly toward the steps as if he was waiting for something to happen. The moment his foot touched the first step, another knock came. He spun around.

“Who’s there?”

He set his posture and decided on one more look, when another knock came and another. They were soft at first, but as the volume grew so did the intensity. Thad’s heart was pounding heavy in is chest. For a moment, he thought of his father who died of a heart attack. The sound of the pounding began to fill the room. It was coming from the cooler.

Thad stepped closer, almost as if hypnotized. The sound of the pounding grew and the cooler door, a good solid and heavy door, appeared to shake and rattle on its hinges. He placed his and on the door to confirm the vibrations. With his heart pounding in his ears, Thad reached for the handle. Taking a deep breath, he pulled that handle and yanked at the door forcing the light inside to click on.

He staggered backwards. Three gurneys sat in a line. All was well, accept for Maggie Crisp who sat upright before him, her drape had slid into her lap.

Thad gulped heavy breaths to try and keep pace with his racing heart. He stared at the woman, his face contorting with disbelief as her head slowly turned to meet his gaze, but with closed eyes. The stiff, deceased muscle made the movement slow and strained. Maggie lifted her hand, again slow and with substantial effort. She began to point at him.

Thad stepped backward. His chest heaved as he gulped in the cold air. His heart beat like a bass drum in his head.

Maggie’s mouth a jaw split open and worked itself a couple of times as if it had just been released from a vice.

Thad had backed himself up against the cooled wall and while he had nowhere to go his feet continued to push.

A long, soft, guttural whisper gushed from the deceased woman’s mouth, “Four Days.” It was then that Maggie Crisp truly expired. Whatever work she was intended to do was done. The corpse collapsed backwards with enough speed and force to knock it to the floor.

It was then that Thad Bronson, III began to scream.

Voices

The post accident recovery seemed to go smoothly. Sure, it took time. But with time, Cliff was able to regain all of his cognitive abilities, his blurred vision cleared, pretty much as the doctors said it would, and even the limp was going away.

In fact, because the ordeal cost him a few pounds and gained him some much need sleep over the past few months, Cliff could admit that he might feel better now than he had before the crash.

The only exception was the music.

His speech was fine. His hearing was fine. All was well in his world now until he listened to music. Not all music, mind you. Orchestral, or anything instrumental was fine. But when it came to lyrics, there was some disconnect, some quasi-organic algorithmic bio flaw in this thinking that prevented him from hearing or understanding all the words as they were intended. He forgot how the doctors described it, and it really didn’t matter because they didn’t have a name for it anyway.

Sometimes it was every other word. Sometimes it was every third, fourth or fifth word. There didn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to it and despite more testing, the doctors were stumped. They said it might be a frequency thing. It might be altered brain waves or patterns. But no matter the condition or cause, they agreed that as long as he wasn’t suffering any ill effects from the phenomenon, he was still considered fully recovered.

Cliff was not as convinced, for while the doctors said he was fine and that the condition might very well pass with time like his limp, music was changing for him.

If the condition were regular or something that could be easily recreated, it might be easier to write off, but it wasn’t. The music now held different messages for Cliff. It spoke to him in different ways.

Where others might hear songs of love and adoration, the glories of summer or the wonders of the moon, he received…different messages…darker ones. Strands of broken lyrics reached out to him from everywhere.

The average person probably doesn’t realize how much music they might encounter in a day, in even a short stroll. Cliff was well aware…now. Songs weren’t just songs anymore. They were messages, like voices, but from where and why? More importantly, how could he make them stop?

Photo Bomb

Biggs passed the photograph back to Chance, “I’m sorry. For the tenth time, I don’t see him, and you’re starting to freak me out.”

Chance snatched the photo from Biggs and held it in front of his face peering at it, into it, as much as he dare, for to him is was clear as day.  The trip out to Billing’s Pass was one of the best days ever. In the photo, as he remembered taking it, were his three best friends in the world, Biggs, Toad and Captain Don.

The three stood by the sign that labeled the site of the falling water as Ellinger Falls. Captain Don was holding out his hands to the sign channeling Vanna White. For the first dozen times he looked at it, the image seemed fairly normal and mostly like he remembered it, but after that, a face, no – the likeness of a whole person began to appear as if it were some time delayed photo bomb coming to life.

It was a man whose face was pale with dark eyes, or at least there were dark circles under his eyes. He was taller than the three of them, and yet he looked hunched over as if he was standing on a rock or something behind them and was forced to bend in to avoid having his head cut off by the frame. The grinning face was wedged between Toad and Captain Don while hands had formed on their shoulders as if he was just one of the gang, one big happy family.

“You have to see it,” Chance urged holding out the image to Biggs again. “He’s right there!”

“Sorry man,” Biggs said waving away the image. “I see what I see, or don’t see.” He got up and moved into the kitchen.

Chance looked at the image again, but again…it changed. As he looked at it, watched it, the image began to shift in his hands. It wasn’t the gradual sort of, hey I don’t remember that being there before kind of change. This time there was real movement.

The hands on the boy’s shoulders grew longer. The fingers seemed to wither into what looked like claws and the grip seemed to increase with the finger tips drawing into points like claws that began to dig into the boy’s flesh. A small trickle of blood dripped from Captain Don’s shoulder as he stood there smiling with his hands reaching out to the sign. Ellinger Falls. Captain Don didn’t seem to notice or care.

The skin on the face drew taught to render a bonier appearance and the simple, sly grin grew wider and wider until it sat disproportionately and nearly all-consuming on the face. The lips pulled back incapable of maintaining their hold over the emerging fence of teeth behind them. The teeth were jagged and broken in spots, yet also pointed and sharp as if they were filed into dangerously sharp points.

Chance watched silently as the strange image of the man began to sway as if he were held back from him, trapped in place by the images of the boys before him, his friends. It pulled and weaved looking for a means of escape. Finding none, he stopped to find Chance’s gaze and held it. The clawed fingertips dug deeper into the soft shoulders they perched upon.

Chance’s arms quivered with a cool ripple of bumps as the hair stood on end.

If it were even possible, the thing’s grin grew wider. The rows of dangerous teeth opened, yet remained loosely connected by thin quivering strands of saliva and what looked like what might be blood.

As the dark eyes held his gaze, Chance was helpless to look away. Behind him, as the mouth of the thing in the image moved, a soft, gravel-filled whisper rose up from what sounded like just behind him. A hot light ‘breath’ brushed against his ear that carried with it the stench of garbage and rot.

“You’re mine!”