Author: Rhonnie Fordham
Moments later, a silence surrounded the Christy house to the point where not even the distant sounds of nocturnal animals and wildlife could be heard. Just a lingering silence provided the soundtrack for the home’s latest massacre.
In the garden, the long-handled spade still stuck straight out of the ground as if it were a tombstone.
The garden shed door was wide open. Inside, Tony paced about while Bridget looked through the shelves. She kept thinking back to Amy’s guidance. There had to be a reason for why she wanted them in there, Bridget thought.
Clutching his wound, the uneasy Tony gazed all around the room. Various tools scattered across the floor. The window was busted. Several tables were turned over. Amanda’s descent to madness really did start right here.
He looked over at the pegboard. Most of the tools were missing. The most vicious ones at least. “What the Hell happened?” he asked aloud.
Focused, Bridget leaned down toward the bottom row on a shelf. “It’s a long story,” she replied dryly.
Tony touched the spot where the long-handled spade once hung. Judging by its location as a pegboard centerpiece, the unusual yet brutal weapon must’ve been Amanda’s favorite. “I bet…” Tony said.
Bridget pushed aside several large bags of seeds. Amy’s voice, her words motivated Bridget. Something was here. She wouldn’t lie to me, Bridget thought.
Creeped out, Tony backed away from the pegboard. “Fucking crazy,” he muttered.
Too busy searching to pay Tony any attention, Bridget scoured the shelf, knocking all the bags over in one final desperate swoop.
The bags hit the ground and burst open upon impact. Seeds spilled out all over the floor like scattered marbles.
Bridget felt all along the empty bottom row. Nothing was on the damn shelf. “Fuck,” she said to herself. This was a wild goose chase courtesy of a ghost.
“Looking for something,” Tony said in his typical humorous tone.
Turning, Bridget saw him holding a key. He had picked it up from one of the busted bags. A needle in a seed stack. Of course Amanda would put it there, Bridget realized. That or bury the damn thing in the garden.
Tony flashed her a confident smile. “Is this it?”
Relieved, Bridget grinned and snatched it out of his hand. “Let’s hope so,” she commented.
Together, Tony and Bridget approached the front gate. All the while, Bridget clung to the key for dear life. It was their one-way ticket out of the Christy house.
“Let’s hope it works,” she said to Tony.
“Shit, it better,” he responded. He kept a hand over his bloodied shirt, right over the stab wound.
“We’ll get outta this,” Bridget reassured him.
As they got closer to the gate, Bridget looked over and saw Tony wince in pain. Fresh blood was seeping through his clenched hand. She reached toward him, concerned. “Do you want me to help?” Bridget asked.
Tony held his other hand out toward her. “No, I’m fine,” he said.
Bridget let it go. She recognized Tony’s tough-guy facade coming through and decided to respect it.
The two stopped at the gate. Eager, Bridget grabbed the padlock and stuck the key in.
Tony stole a look back at the house. Lights were still on inside of it. Like the house was still wanting to lure any helpless soul it could. “What are we gonna tell them?” he asked Bridget.
Moving quickly, Bridget unlocked the padlock. The key was a perfect fit. Relieved to see the key work, she faced Tony. “What do you mean?”
He looked right at her. “Our little ghost story.” Tony staggered over toward her, his nervousness making Bridget’s concern return with acceleration. “Think about it, Bridget, the bodies are everywhere. They’re probably gonna blame us for this shit!”
Bridget faked a scoff. She thought it’d make Tony get over his fear, but it didn’t work. She wasn’t fooling anyone, not even herself. “No, they won’t!” Bridget said. “The house is haunted-”
In a firm grip, Tony snatched her shoulder. This wasn’t Tony when he was scared of the dark, this was Tony being plagued by a realistic fear. “I’m being serious! You think they believe people like us in situations like this?”
Bridget pushed him back. They had too much going on to worry about real-world issues. That could wait to figure this shit out later, Bridget thought. Once they were away from this Goddamn house. “Tony, stop it!” she demanded.
Intense, Bridget pointed at his chest. “Look, you’re injured, you got stabbed!” She motioned toward the house. “And there are cameras everywhere! The cars are fucked-up!”
Tony gazed over at all the defunct vehicles. Bridget had a point.
“They’ll have to look through all that before they can blame us,” Bridget continued. “We’ll be fine. We’ll worry about this shit later, but for now, let’s just go.”
She turned and pulled the chain out from around the gate. It rattled rapidly as it whirled all the way back, unraveling faster than a yo-yo rolling aong the floor.
“You really think they’ll believe us?” Tony asked in a voice more befitting a child on Halloween night than a muscular bodyguard. “I can’t stop worry about it.”
“Well, even if they don’t” Bridget began. She flashed him a smile as she pulled out the entire chain. “We’ll be getting some free publicity at least.” She hurled the chain to the ground, letting it hit the concrete driveway with a triumphant smash.
“I guess we’ll have some believers,” Tony deadpanned. Still uncertain, he noticed a Kevin Riley sign standing only a few feet away, right on the edge of the pristine lawn. Kevin’s flashy grin on it was now almost mocking Tony considering all that the group had witnessed earlier.
Bridget pushed the gate open. She was surprised at the long creak it howled as it swung open. Like it was a leftover from a Gothic castle. Bridget always thought the fence was new if not refurbished.
Standing there, the excited Bridget looked out onto the welcoming paved road that was just up ahead. “Alright, let’s go,” she said, eager to escape the creaky fence and the murderous house.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Tony said. His voice was familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. It sounded harsher. Raspier. Arrogant in a demented way. The voice was back, and Bridget knew it.
Horrified, Bridget whirled around. “Oh God…” she said in fear.
Like a police line-up of the dead, the Christy house’s many other residents all stood before Bridget. Steven and Mallory Christy. Their twins Shelly and Alice. Kevin and Linda. And the house’s latest victim: Tony. Blood drenched his entire shirt and scattered across his pants. His stab wound looked bigger and nastier.
“Oh God…” Bridget said, horrified. “Tony… No…” Soft tears slid down her face. She now realized he was never getting better all along… Tony was dying.
“We can’t ever leave, Bridget,” Tony said in his eerie voice.
Bridget looked toward the group. All of them had smiles plastered on their faces. Each manic smile looked like they were painted on.
“No…” Bridget said.
She saw where these spirits were all grisly corpses, but they weren’t decomposing or rotting. They kept most of their skin and clothes intact. Just their fatal wounds were there. They looked like fresh corpses. Like the house had robbed them from the morgue.
Alice and Shelley even still wore their church dresses, their resemblance still quite uncanny after all these years. They were just like the Baker family spirits Bridget saw earlier. But unlike those apparitions, this motley crew was here to stay. They were here for Bridget.
“Stay with us, Bridget,” Linda said. Her voice too had undergone this unsettling transfiguration. Equal parts calm Linda and persuasive Artis. Linda hoisted up Amanda’s bloodied garden shears. Brain bits stuck to their ultra-sharp tips. “We want you to stay.”
Terrified, Bridget saw that they all held weapons. Not just the garden tools, but Steven’s handyman utensils as well. Alice with the wrench, Shelley with the hacksaw. Tony even clutched the long-handled spade.
“I can’t,” Bridget pleaded. She backed away toward the gate. “I can’t stay here. I have to leave.”
All the while, the ghosts of the Christy house just stood there. Their collective, eerie confidence unnerved Bridget.
“I can’t stay here! I’m not like you!” Bridget said through the panic and tears.
“We’ll handle that,” Linda commented with a chuckle. She opened the shears in a vicious taunt, making sure the blades captivated Bridget’s terrified eyes.
“No! I didn’t do anything to you!” Bridget yelled. Full of rage, she wiped away her tears. “I didn’t do shit to you, Goddammit!”
Displaying their pack mentality, the group descended upon Bridget with slow menace, their smiles and weapons unwavering. Some of them even laughed. But their voices were all the same… their vocal cords twisted with an infusion of the one and only Dr. Artis Carpenter.
“I’m not trying to hurt you!” Bridget screamed at the approaching corpses. “I didn’t do anything!”
“But you came here,” a cold yet familiar voice announced behind Bridget.
Startled, Bridget turned around.
Standing right behind her was Artis himself. The rope burns were still encircling around his neck. His chest dissected. His white coat painted with blood. He pointed a long knife toward Bridget. “It’s time to cleanse the demons from this house.”
Using all her might, Bridget ran straight toward the gate opening. Toward the street. Toward her escape.
Artis stood still. His confidence never threatened.
Right before Bridget could reach the safety of the street, the gates swung shut.
“No!” Bridget screamed as she grabbed the iron poles.
Moving on its own, the chain shot up and wrapped around the gate tight, swirling around the padlock as well.
All the horrified Bridget could do was watch the padlock snap shut. She could hear Artis’s wicked laughter echo behind her. The slow footsteps of the group were closing in on her.
“No,” Bridget said to herself. She reached for the padlock key.
It shot off into the air, faster than the closing gate.
Bridget watched they key hit Artis’s open palm in stride. She looked over at the smiling ghosts. They were now just a few feet away. The Christy house’s eternal residents wanted another one.
“You shouldn’t have come,” Artis stated.
Bridget confronted him in anger. “I didn’t do any of this, asshole!” she yelled. “I was only trying to help!”
“And help you did,” Dr. Carpenter replied. He ran his bloody fingers against her nervous face. “You helped me.” He put a finger to her temple in a patronizing manner. “All because of that gift.”
Artis leaned in closer, his smile wider and more cryptic than any of the ones on the other ghosts. “Your power brought me back.”
“No,” Bridget said in terror. “That’s not what I did. That’s not what I was trying to do.”
But there was no response from the Doctor Of Death. No sympathy from him. Just his unwavering and cryptic smile. A smile that dashed the hopes of Bridget, much like the eerie smile that Amanda gave her children before she mutilated them. There was no arguing with madness.
Defeated, Bridget turned and looked on at the group. Their process to bring her to the other side was about to begin.
Bridget took a step back and crushed something beneath her feet. Uneasy, she looked down and saw what she had stepped on. Her unlit cigarette from the previous day. I guess it’s never too late, Bridget thought. She scooped up the cig and stuck it in her lips. Her one solace in this dire situation. At least the Christy house had left her cigarette unscathed, Bridget told herself.
The terrifying group swarmed onto Bridget, drowning her in a sea of reanimated cadavers.
Bridget screamed as the group overpowered her to the ground. The weapons stuck into her flesh over and over, each hit making her one step closer to them: a fellow slaughtered corpse.
Standing by the gate, an amused Artis watched the attack. He gazed over at the house. The lights inside cut off seemingly at the command of his piercing green eyes. It was getting near closing time.
Bridget’s screams faded away into the silence of death. Her blood piled up on the pavement. A multitude of bloodied footprints scattered throughout the red puddles, the footprints varying in size from child to adult.
One more horrific stab sent blood splattering all over the Kevin Riley sign. All over Kevin’s shit-eating grin.
The blood crawled down the sign, splotching out Kevin’s hone number and web site with thick redness. The Christy home was officially off the market.