We’re all counting down the days ‘til we can welcome you back in the fog this fall for Halloween Horror Nights. Until then, we’re giving you a few of our original horror stories from the past to read at home. First up, I’m taking you to Carey, OH in the 1980s with the horde of nasty, animalistic, and viscous vampires from the Hive.
Boom. Boom. Boom. This was the sound bouncing around in the now thrumming head of Kenneth Ignacio Alvarez. He didn’t open up his eyes for fear of what he would see. No. It wasn’t fear but anger. Kenneth was never afraid, but anger was an old familiar friend. He grew up angry and why not? Some would say he had a troubled youth, but the truth was he was never allowed a childhood. He grew up in Carey, Ohio, on Mockingbird Lane, where he was the man of the house and had no time for games. It was later, in the war, that he found time to use his anger as a tool. An anger that was forged in poverty and sharpened in battle. It kept him alive and, years later, alone.
Boom. Boom. Boom. The beating of his heart echoed in his head and he felt slightly ill. He cracked open one eye and peered around cautiously. Large silhouettes gave the blurry room some depth, but even though unclear, Kenneth could tell something was not right. Something was very wrong about the world around him. His eyes shot open, but the world came into view much slower.
He was upside down. He felt bound or tied up near his ankles. The largest of the surrounding silhouettes came into view as he turned his head. Another body hung next to him stiff and still. He didn’t scream because he had seen horrible things similar to this in his past. He was also not afraid. He was just shocked by the unexpected way Miss Snow looked. Drained. The pallor of her skin matched her moniker, except for her torn neck and blood-covered head. Her once blonde hair, half-hung and half-stuck, matted to portions of her dangling scalp. Her face was frozen in an anguished expression.
The expression on her face brought back a memory. A clue to why he found himself in this situation. Miss Snow had the same expression on her face when Kenneth, or Mr. Alvarez as she called him, swung open his door with alarming speed.
“What do you want?” he had yelled.
No one ever knocked on his door. His was the door of the mean old man in town. Carey had many secrets, but he was no secret to the children and adults of the little township. He was the crazy old man in the scary old house. One of three houses that rested, uneasily, on Mockingbird Lane. The rest had been bulldozed years ago. The largest was owned by the Harker family. It took up the better part of one end of the lonely street. Miss Snow, the real estate agent, and Mr. Alvarez, the veteran, owned the two smaller houses on the other end. All three were over a century old and were hanging on by a nail.
Miss Snow did not blink when the door was flung open.
“Ernie is gone!” Her eyes stayed open in that disturbing way, almost hypnotizing him. She gulped but didn’t blink, “Do you know where he is?”
He knew where the young man was. Kenneth knew where everyone and everything was on his street. It was his hobby — no, his job — to keep track of the comings and goings on Mockingbird Lane. He was a scout by nature, a small tunnel tracker by trade, and his old eyes never failed him.
Boom. Boom. Boom. The hollow thrum rattled his head again, except this time it was more faint. He licked his lips and felt the cracked dryness. He lost the staring contest with the death gaze of Miss Snow. Did her eye lids just twitch? No, she was dead. She had to be, with that amount of blood on her.
The sun was beginning to set and the old, yellowed, newspaper-covered windows began to glow orange. Although inverted, the room was now coming into view for Kenneth. The large shapes in the corners revealed their details. Shoes? Yes, that was a pile of shoes in one corner and clothes in another. He raised his head to look down and saw a little black wagon. No. It was a red wagon, like the one he had as a child, just covered in dried blood. He knew what that looked like, too. He tightened his old gnarled, knuckled hands and tried to lift his body. He was too stiff. Boom. Boom. Boom. He fell back and would have chuckled at his misfortune, if his throat wasn’t so dry. His body swayed with his effort and he bumped into the corpse of Miss Snow. Her eyes now looked accusing.
“Why accuse me?” he thought, ”I helped.”
He did help, didn’t he?
Yes. She was at the door, banging and in a state, because her son was nowhere to be found. Why didn’t he slam the door in her face? He wanted to. He wanted to cover those too-wide eyes.
Yes, it was her son that gave him pause. Mr. Alvarez had yelled at the teenager to get off his lawn many times, warned him to mind his own business, but the young man didn’t. No, he mowed the old man’s lawn even when he was threatened. Suspicious and knowing the boy would come pounding on his door, asking for money, Kenneth had steeled himself for the confrontation. He even placed his baseball bat next to the door frame for quick access. All he was greeted with was a friendly wave from the front yard. He never had to pick up that bat.
The baseball bat…he did pick it up.
He picked it up and guided Miss Snow over to the house on the corner. The house that the Harker family had apparently abandoned in the middle of the night, a few months ago. The same house he had seen Ernie enter last night. He wanted to help the foolish young man and this was the kind of thing that Sgt. Alvarez, the “Tunnel Rat,” was best at — traversing dark, scary places to save his buddies. At least he was decades ago.
The sound of actual rats brought him back to the present. He heard scratching underneath the floor and he strained to look around the quickly darkening room. The orange light from the windows began to turn a blood red and his energy began to rise…possibly from fear. He strained his body up. His rarely-used core muscles strained as he grabbed his pant legs. His arms ached as he pulled himself up but his strength grew as his confidence rose. He pulled, twisted, and wrestled his legs until his shoes fell off and the poorly tied rope slid up his socks and off his feet. He fell to the floor. As his body slammed down hard he heard a loud scattering underneath the loose, wooden floor. The sounds stopped for a brief moment and then he heard multiple thuds, as if someone were dumping mounds of garbage onto a dirt floor.
“This place has a basement?” he moaned softly.
The last of the setting sun’s newspaper-muted beams fought through one final window behind him. His small shadow lay across an old fireplace, filled with discarded and rotting toys. His eyes darted to his left, as a long and tall shadow swam into his periphery. It traced along the wall, approaching his smaller shadow like a predatory eel hunting amongst the coral. Kenneth quickly looked around for something to defend himself and found his misplaced baseball bat next to the blood-soaked wagon. He deliberately stood with an unwavering strength, hoisted the bat, and turned toward the shadow maker. Nothing. The only visible thing in the room was a pile of clothing, under a fallen ceiling beam.
“Greetings,” said a powerful voice, thick with an Eastern European accent. “Welcome to my house, Mr. Alvarez. I am Nicodeamus Felling. You are here to make a trade, no?”
“Give me Ernie!” he said as he turned toward the now-larger shadow. Kenneth raised his bat. It slowly drifted back to his side as the shadow came into form. His throat seemed impossibly dry now. He licked his lips but no moisture formed. The moonlight shined on the tall Nosferatu. Everything about the old vampire was long — his nose, ears, fingers, nails, and his two jagged, protruding, rat-like teeth. He smiled a long cruel smile that curled up the side of his ancient, white face. He produced papers and a pen from his long jacket.
“What is this?” asked Kenneth.
“This is the trade. You sign over your house to me. I release Ernie to you.”
Kenneth gasped at the heading of the paperwork. It read: Last Will and Testament. “You can try, but I won’t go out without a fight.”
Nicodeamus made a clicking sound with his oversized mouth, like a patient mother trying to teach her young. “No, it will be by your free will. Your house to me and Ernie is yours. Miss Snow has already signed as a witness. Once you sign we can all go on with our…lives.” He chuckled deep in his gangling throat as his eyes turned to Miss Snow.
Underneath the dilapidated floor boards the scurrying began again, but now it was rising from the basement and scuttling up from the inside of the first floor walls. A massive burrowing sound filled the room. Arms shot out of a large pile of guano next to Kenneth’s legs. He swung the bat at the…bat? Yes, it looked like a small human but with bat-like features forming its face. Its pasty, blanched skin contrasted its dark guano-covered pajamas.
“A swing and a miss for Mr. Alvarez,” he thought. He felt a bit cocky now that the situation was worsening. He felt stronger and more alive than he had in decades. His anger braced his mind as the wallpaper peeled back, ceiling pieces fell, and over a dozen more Nosferatu appeared in different shapes and sizes. All malformed with bat and rat-like features and all licking their dry lips. Their attention shifted to Nicodeamus as he hissed. Then all of their gazes twisted toward the doorway as a scared Ernie shuffled in, prodded by a larger Nosferatu with odd henna-toned skin.
“This must be the muscle,” Kenneth thought as he tightened his grip on the baseball bat.
Boom. Boom. Boom. Kenneth now heard the thrumming in his head again. It was faster and stronger.
Nicodeamus thrust the papers forward and his gaze narrowed. “Sign!” he commanded, then shifted to a soothing “please.”
Kenneth Ignacio Alvarez turned his gaze from the papers to Ernie and back again. He dropped his baseball bat, took a knee, and grabbed the pen. He quickly signed the papers and they disappeared into the long coat of Nicodeamus. Kenneth jumped up and stood astonished as Ernie was shoved toward him.
“I am good to my word Mr. Alvarez. He is yours, my child,” the ancient Nosferatu stated.
Kenneth heard none of this. All he heard was the loud Boom, Boom, Boom in his head. But now he knew the source. It was Ernie’s fearful heartbeat. Now he knew that the fading booming earlier belonged to Miss Snow as she passed. It was never his heartbeat because his heart did not beat anymore. He was different.
He was not afraid. He was not angry. He was thirsty…and hungry.
Nicodeamus nodded as he watched Kenneth grasp his new reality. Ernie, still in shock, turned his gaze from his mother’s hanging corpse to speak, but the words cut off when he saw Mr. Alvarez. “Are we going home Mr. Al—”
“We are home,” Kenneth gasped with a momentary hesitation.
He stood, smiled for the first time in over half a century, and pounced on Ernie. He tore into Ernie’s flesh. The screams were drowned out by the chittering and clapping from his new family. The newest member of the Hive burrowed into the walls like a tunnel rat, dragging a screaming Ernie with him. What was left of Kenneth Ignacio Alvarez evaporated with his last thought…
“Thank you, Master.”
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