|I. Overwhelming evidence
notwithstanding, thin and bespectacled Luke Matthews didn't believe in ghosts, werewolves,
warlocks, witches, or demons. "To Hell with the Devil" had become a favorite
expression of this tall,|
stooping intellectual, voiced particularly around fellow graduate students, who admired
Luke for his abandonment of belief.
To Luke, sitting now in his
parent's living room, puffing on his pipe, watching the red glow of the setting sun, and
studying the spire of the old Parker House through the leafless trees in the front yard,
Hell was a fabrication of the Church and, therefore, a delusion. The views of this thin
bespectacled man were reinforced by Neitzche, Marx, and Derrida, whom he claimed in
seminar after seminar as his most significant influences. A doctoral student in English,
studying at a major California university, Luke was finishing a dissertation applying
deconstructive principles to Bronte's Wuthering Heights. His parents, now away at a church
revival this evening, were proud of him. Sitting on the faded green couch he had slept on
as a child, Luke put his pipe to his mouth and reflected: during his college years, he had
seen the superstitions of his ancestors uprooted like weeds, each tossed onto the pile of
cultural discards that Luke kept in the back of his mind, just in case some day he might
need a bit of trivia to impress colleagues and students gathered around him to learn
about his most recent publication.
Evening shadows darkening, Luke
wondered how he was going to use this weekend. He was glad his parents were gone, because
that gave him the freedom he needed. Between semesters and burnt-out from too many books,
and seminars, Luke wanted a boost, a thrill. He needed to do something different, he told
himself, something that he would remember when he was working on his dissertation in his
small attic room just off the campus. In fact, he was tempted to visit the old
Parker House, the rickety brick and wooden two story Victorian affair located on the
corner of Seventh and Taylor, just a block away. Superstitions aside, the place had a
Luke had vivid recollections of the place. Even in the light of day during
his childhood and adolescence, the old Victorian house had always seemed dark; looking at
the place was like gazing through darkly transparent film. For another, throughout his
youth, as he had made a point of walking past the deserted place to the local convenience
store or to the home of one of his friends, Luke had occasionally heard awful sounds
coming from the Parker house, particularly at night. When he was twelve, walking past the
place around midnight in late November, he had heard scream after scream, something his
father attributed to demonic spirit. Once, when he was sixteen and walking back to his
house from his girlfriend's on the darkest night of the year, Luke had seen a light
flickering through a corner second story window and a shadow bouncing onto the
shade. If Luke were making these stories up, his parents knew, at least the boy's
delusions had a solid foundation.
That foundation was his
grandfather. During the first eighteen years of his life, Luke had heard stories about the
Parker place from his grandfather, a crazy old coot who had lived with the boy and his
parents from the time Luke was five and had made it evident, to his dying day, that he
despised everyone in the family save Luke.
Routinely, Grandfather Matthews would
drag Luke into the family room after a winter meal of steak and mashed potatoes, sit the
boy on his lap five feet from the fire, and fill his grandson's head full of Parker house
stories. Sometimes, as Luke listened to the old man in the darkly carpeted and paneled
room, he could swear that his grandfather was trying to scare him to death.
"Take the murder and dismemberment of Cassie Russell over thirty years ago,"
Luke had told his friends a week before, as over beer at a topless tavern near the
university he had tried to explain his warped childhood. "That was one of Grandpa's
favorites, one that the old man added a bit more blood to each time he had told it. Cassie
was high school student who made extra cash delivering pizzas and made the mistake of
knocking on the door of the Parker house on Halloween in 1965. Odd thing was," Luke
had remembered with a shiver, "no one had lived in that old house
since the early '50's. Poor little girl. Anyhow, according to Grandpa, that was the last
anyone ever saw Cassie alive; a month later, some teenagers found her body, or the
remains of it, scattered and decomposing over the basement floor in the old house. 'Stench
was unbelievable, Grandson,' the old man growled at me, tobacco stains on his shirt,
beard, and teeth. 'An' blood everywhere: on the walls, on the carpet, on the TV, on
the dining room table. Even more curious, little Luke: Cassie's eyeballs was gone.' No one
ever explained what the boys were doing in the house, which had not been lived in for
years. 'Cassie was sure as hell a cute little thing,' Grandpa would conclude, smacking his
lips and looking wistfully into the distance."
When his friends (all doctoral
candidates) refused to believe this, but waited for more in breathless anticipation, Luke
had lit his pipe and hit them with another Grandpa Matthews story. "Okay. So listen
to this. Five years after the discovery of Cassie Russell, the dead and disemboweled
bodies of two of these teenagers-a boy and a girl-were found hanging by their necks from a
rafter in the attic of the old Parker house. The murderer had tied black nylon chord five
times around the neck of each victim. An autopsy report showed the boy and the girl had
been disemboweled before the time of their deaths. 'Eyes of the boy and girl was missin',
just like Cassie,' the old man told me. 'Maybe the mice ate 'em, the eyes, that is,
heheheh,' the old man had chuckled. Jesus, what a mean old bastard.
"Then Grandpa would
carry me over to the family room window and point with a crooked and trembling finger in
the direction of the Parker house, just visible in evening light through the trees. 'House
got some evil in it, boy.' the old man had wheezed, always struggling for air. 'People
stupid enough to try to tear the thing down generally died.' The mean old man, actually
smiling at me, always followed this up with accountings of some of the 'accidents': the
body of city councilman Ed Jeffries, his heart cut out and stuffed into his mouth, had
been found on the bloodied kitchen floor; the mangled eye-less body of Susan Thompson,
former Miss Idaho contestant, had been discovered dangling upside down from a ceiling fan
in the master bedroom on the second floor."
course, Luke thought to himself as he sat in his parents' family room in Boise, his
friends had thought he was making the stories up. No self-respecting Ph. D., one of Luke's
friends had remarked, would ever take those stories seriously; doing so was equivalent to
believing in the devil, a character now regarded in intellectual circles as nothing more
than a harmful fiction, capable of nonetheless inspiring incredibly dark deeds.
Now a young man on the verge
of getting his Ph. D. in English, Luke actually missed the old man (who had died of
congestive heart failure four years ago) and wondered as he sat puffing his pipe and
gazing out the window, waiting for the darkness, how any sane individual could possibly
believe the old man's stories let alone the explanation the community accepted: that the
house was haunted. Indeed, to prove to himself that there was no basis for any
superstitions regarding the old house, Luke had called a former girl friend last night and
asked her to spend part of the next evening with him in the old mansion. "Consider it
a cheap thrill," he had commented, smugly. "Sure, Luke," Misty had quickly
responded, "I like cheap thrills," and Luke remembered then that in high school
Misty had been one of those promiscuous beauties that would do anything for a thrill,
which had included (on the night of Luke's graduation) taking on Luke and thirteen of his
buddies in the back seat of her car.
IV. Luke met Misty in front of
the store on seventh and Main, six blocks from the old mansion. A gorgeous brunette with a
figure that would give the Pope an erection, Misty wore a blue Boise State sweater, blue
jeans, and boots. Luke had worn his frayed green tweed jacket, leather patches on the
elbows, faded jeans, and red tennis shoes. From there, full moon overhead, they walked
hand-in-hand into the center of town, where they dined at Angel Fong's, an over-priced
Chinese restaurant situated in the basement of one of the city's banks.
Misty sat across the table
from Luke in the darkened dining room and sighed as she remembered the old Parker place.
"Me and my friends usually stayed the hell away from that place, let me tell you,
except for once, " Misty droned on, dipping bread in her soup. "Once, Shelly and
me threw rocks at the house when we seen someone inside. Shelly's rock went through one of
the front windows. That was pretty fuckin' funny. Kind of a cheap thrill, I guess."
Glancing around the room to
make sure no one had heard the Misty, Luke remembered the story. It had been on a night
after a local high school football game that Misty and Shelly, drunken sluts, had decided
to drive by the old Parker place in North Boise and spend an hour or two just throwing
rocks at the house. The broken window had become legendary in the Boise high schools,
Shelly a local hero, when suddenly, one day after Halloween night
Shelly's nude body had been found in the foothills just overlooking Boise, her beautiful
body impaled on a sharp post, her eyes ripped out of their sockets.
Misty, taking a noisy sip from her wine glass and looking at Luke, "sometimes, late
at night, I get this creepy feeling, like something watching me, like, Jesus, these
fuckin' eyes that I know come from that old house. Then I think about Shelly, about how
they found her. No eyes and shit. Jesus, sometimes I sit up in bed and cry I get so
scared, and Jesus that's when Mom comes in to tell me that it's all right and to shut the
hell up. 'You shut the hell up, Misty Jean!!' she'd yell. 'Me an' your old man's tyrin' to
Studying Misty, who at
twenty-four was more beautiful and more stupid than he had remembered, Luke slowly chewed
his raw steak, savoring the juices. Between bites, he asked her if she still wanted to go
to the Parker mansion. "Just a cheap thrill," Luke said.
"Oh, hell yes. Hell,
hell, hell, yes, I do!" exclaimed Misty, loud enough for the elderly couple at the
next table to overhear and stare at the loud young woman. "I don't believe that shit.
No one believes that shit." She drained her wine glass and gesture to Luke that
she wanted a refill. Then, turning to the old couple, Misty asked, "You folks still
believe that shit?"
V. Later that night, they entered the
house easily enough, climbing a tree and jumping onto the roof, breaking a window, and
getting in through what must have been a guest bedroom. Luke had brought a flashlight,
he flipped on as soon as he and Misty were inside.
The dark pine dresser and wall
shelves, Luke noticed, flashing his beam around the room, were immaculate, an unusual
touch for an abandoned place. He saw no dust anywhere. Too, the frame, Victorian-styled
bed looked freshly
made. The only unusual item was the smell: The air was saturated by a thickly metallic
odor that made Luke think of blood. Hanging from the ceiling was a chandelier, and when
Luke tried the light switch the room lit up in a reddish glow, like a bonfire.
Misty, almost breathless, "Jesus, what a place. Jesus."
"Sure is some
place," responded Nick, still surprised by the cleanliness.
"Wanna go on?"
asked Misty, anxiously.
Immediately, as he nodded,
Luke saw a mental image of a corpse dangling bloodily from a full moon and sensed that
something was terribly wrong with the house. Sworn, however, to resist impulses predicated
on superstitions, Luke looked at the girl. "Fuck, yeah," he said, feeling a
slight tremble in his voice, "let's see this place."
And so Misty and Luke
explored the mansion, turning on the chandelier lights in the long hall way outside the
bedroom, then creeping down the hallway and entering the rooms upstairs one by one. They
found the huge master bedroom, saw the ceiling fan and a dressing table stacked with very
old photos of people that Luke assumed has once lived in the place. The people in the
photos looked cold and sullen.
Next, they crept downstairs
into the darkness, flicked on the light switch at the bottom, and walked into the largest
and most grandiose living room either one of them had ever seen, filled with padded
nineteenth century high-backed chairs, three couches with wooden and bending backs, a
grandfather clock that, oddly, was still ticking and keeping the correct time. From there,
they walked to the dining room, which was more of a hall, and looked at the long oaken
table ringed with old wooden chairs, all of which looked brand new to Luke.
When they walked through the
kitchen in the back of the house and noticed an open door seemingly inviting the intruders
down into the cellar darkness, Misty stopped in her tracks.
matter?" asked Luke, who had grown bolder and bolder the longer they stayed in the
"Ain't goin' down there,
boy friend," said Misty, pointing to the open door.
"Why?" asked Luke.
"Can't be a thing down there." As he said the word, Luke felt chilled, sensed
something huge and dark passing inches from him, saw in his mind's eye two red eyes
blazing directly at him. His heart jumping
into his throat, Luke reminded himself that what he had seen was superstition.
"Shit, babe," Luke responded, shaken but imitating a
cockiness which his fellow grad students had come to admire, "then I'll go
myself." Luke started towards the door, sensing still that he was moving into danger.
"Luke, Luke, shit,
honey, please," whined Misty.
"Please don't go into
that fucking dark hole. I get a bad feeling about this, Luke. Somethin' not right here.
Shit. Like those eyes I told you about I dream about."
Instead of seeing in Misty's
fear evidence confirming his own suspicions, Luke pushed onward. He had to go down the
dark stairs now. Besides, he needed the rush.
"I'll be back in a
minute," Luke said, approaching the entrance. "Anyway, to Hell with the
"That's a cute thing to
say, Luke, but what the hell about me?" Misty whimpered, and Luke wondered if she
were attempting to make him feel sorry for her or if she were frightened. He decided this
was an emotional ploy on her part.
"You'll be all right,
sugar pie," he assured her. "And it won't be totally dark. The moon is full
tonight and even without the flashlight," and here he turned his light off, "you
can see just about everything."
Luke was right. In the light
of the moon, everything in the old kitchen was visible: the linoleum floor, the old
refrigerator in the corner, the shelves, the huge sink, everything.
"Ok, Luke. Fuck it. OK,
" Misty said, resigned. "But hurry back."
Giving Misty a kiss on the
cheek, Luke turned the flashlight on and bounded down the stairs, wondering what he would
find when he reached the bottom.
It was when Luke stepped onto
the cold concrete of the cellar floor that he knew that he had made a fatal error. The
revelation hit like and shovel against the side of the head. Panicked, he flashed the
light across the walls of the cellar just as the door at the top of the stairs slammed
He waited, breathless, heard the blood pounding
in his brain. Then, he heard footsteps lumbering over the floor above him in the direction
of Misty, heard Misty scream. Luke made out unmistakable sounds of a struggle, rapid
footsteps indicating Misty was running to escape, heavier footsteps of her pursuer. Then,
he heard her shout for him, heard her scream again and again, was reminded of the sounds
of a huge animal caught in a trap. As if awakened from a dark dream, he rushed up the
stairs, three steps at a time, and threw himself against the cellar door. The door, made
of hard, thick wood, did not budge, so he threw himself against the door again and again,
frantic, as Misty's screams suddenly stopped. Wondering if his girl were dead, Luke
bounded back down the stairs, searched the cellar frantically with his flashlight, passing
the beam over walls and floor again and again, nearly giving up hope when he saw something
glittering in the darkness in the back of the cellar. Luke ran towards the object, light
revealing that he had found a huge ax whose wooden handle seemed as fresh as it would have
been had Luke purchased the tool that very day.
Luke rushed back up the
stairs, flashlight in one hand and ax in another and, two steps before the door, lay down
his light so that the beam shone on the door, raised his ax and swung. At the first
chance, the blade struck in the wood, but Luke easily pulled the weapon free. Luke swung
again, and again, and again, finally piercing through the wooden door. With several more
swings, Luke created a rectangular opening through which, as he dropped his ax, he could
reach the door handle and unlock and open the door.
The door opened, and feeling himself exhausted, Luke called out,
"Misty!! Misty! Where are you? Where are you? Say something!"
He listened and behind the
silence he heard something, a rhythmic panting which grew louder and louder, like two
great beasts fucking each other. Terrified, Luke dropped his ax and walked in the
direction of the sound, walked up the stairs, down the hall, and finally into a room right
next to the one through which he and Misty had first gained entrance to the mansion.
Nearly crazed by terror, Luke pointed the flashlight in front of him, thought he saw
something large in the middle of the very small dark room, listened for Misty, and then
shining the light directly in front of him again realized what it was that he was looking
at. He had found Misty.
VI. In the
brilliant moonlight, he could see her arms and legs were bound by rope and tied to steel
rings protruding from each of the four walls. Misty was suspended horizontally in the dark
space, three feet or so off the floor, her nude body in a spread-eagle position. The rope
that bound her arms and legs had been pulled so tight that Misty could not move. Her face
was turned away from him. The figure looked grotesque, seeming to float in the air.
Breaking into a cold sweat,
paralyzed, heart thumping wildly, Luke felt himself go numb, wondered what he was doing in
this room on this night. For several minutes, unmoving, he stood and tried not to look
towards the face, certain the eyes had been removed, sure that he was going to get sick or
pass out. Then, he heard a voice he did not recognize rasp, "Hey, can you believe
this shit?", and knew the girl had turned her head towards him. Glancing up and down
her body, avoiding her eyes, he saw that her wrists and ankles bore red burn marks from
where the rope had rubbed against the flesh, could actually feel the girl's pain as she
weakly struggled to get loose. Then, with morbid fascination, he watched the blood
trickling down her left arm from the rope and in the direction of her bare breast and
wondered what he should do about it. Misty's breasts and flat stomach bore scratches that
suggested a struggle.
Mesmerized, stupidly almost, Luke
stared at the body dangling spread-eagle in front of him, had trouble acknowledging that
bound before him was a girl he had known since grade school. Feeling immersed in something
so dark and dreadful that it was almost palpable, he gazed now at the golden rings
piercing her nipples and pussy, wondered when Misty had decided to go in for piercing,
actually felt himself slightly aroused.
Summoning courage, he slowly
looked up, towards her face, noticed that Misty's cheek and forehead bore deep cuts,
realized she was bleeding slightly from the nose and mouth, and then forced himself to
look at her eyes.
With a tremendous sigh of relief, he realized that Misty still had her sight but he could
read only emptiness there, as if something had scooped out her soul.
He looked at the girl, felt
delirious, actually thought of running his hand over her breasts, lightly touching her
crotch when he heard her whisper, mockingly, "Hey, little man, hey, little man; he's
here. He's here. He's here. And you are fuckin' dead, dead, dead." This couldn't be
Misty, he told himself, struggling to stay rational. This wasn't her voice. She sounded
"What?" Luke asked,
stunned. "What are you saying?" It occurred to him that this girl, grotesquely
suspended, felt no pain.
"I said," the girl
growled, guttural, her voice coming from deep within her, "he's here, you stupid
miserable mother fucker. Somewhere in the house, shit pot. And, you baby boy blue, Mr.
To-Hell-With-the-Devil, he's gonna eat you alive." At this, Misty smacked her lips;
she actually seemed to enjoy this moment.
Luke stepped back, looked at
the body before him, glanced at the room around him, felt the room beginning to spin, and
desperately struggled to focus on the task at hand.
"Who's here?" Luke
asked, terror sweeping through him, weakening him. "Who, who, who are you talking
"Who do you think, shit
head?," she said slowly, laughing, looking at Luke through glazed animal eyes.
"Whatever it was had a huge, huge dick, much larger than your own, and it fucked
me-throbbed deeply and deliciously inside me--and I loved it."
Nick paused, fascinated yet
"Hey, little man, "
she asked, smiling, beginning to pant heavily, "you can fuck me now. You can fuck me
to death. I'm in position. Put that little pecker inside me. It'll be a real cheap
Dazed, he looked at her, her
mouth open, her face bloodied, then said, "What the hell is going on here? What is
this? What the hell has happened to you?" Even as he spoke, he wondered why he had
asked, felt a mixture of fear and pleasure, knew that something was watching him, zeroing
in on him.
Slowly, almost unable to move, he turned, looked into the darkness,
illuminated by the moonlight, searched for whatever it was that had locked him in the
basement and raped this girl. While he could see no one, he sensed darkness passing
through the house, a cold dark breeze looking for him, felt the eyes of evil boring into
him, knew that whatever it was had the power to take to the pit of Hell.
Panicked, wanting to run, he
knew he had to free Misty. It was imperative that he do so. So he turned back to her,
reached into his pocket, took out his Swiss army knife, opened it, and put the blade of to
the straps binding her legs. Frantically as he worked and she giggled, regardless of the
pressure he put on his knife, he could not cut the rope.
"Jesus Christ," Luke whispered, falling to his knees, knowing
the situation was hopeless. "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus."
"He won't help you now,
little man," said Misty, slowly turning her face towards him and staring maliciously.
"Go ahead, little man: fuck the daylights outa me. You'll like it. I certainly will.
C'mon. Gimme that thrill you promised me."
The rustling behind him, like
the wind in the tree outside his parents' house, made his heart stop, the hairs lining the
back of his neck bristle, turned his nose, ears, arms and legs ice-cube cold. He shivered,
hoped this night would soon be over, felt something brush his shoulder, knew something
large and dark and scaly was passing behind him, put his head down and took a deep breath,
then stood up, turned and walked through the door into the hallway.
VII. It happened so fast that
Luke didn't have time to react: a sharp hook arcing perfectly toward him and cutting into
and through his stomach; the sensation of being lifted off the ground; the searing,
darkening pain; the sound of someone screaming like a beast; the sudden nausea as the
sharp thing ripped into his stomach; the stench of his own blood; finally, the sensation
that he was gliding out of his own body, leaving his own bloodied and mutilated form, on
the verge of beginning something new and indescribably horrible.
Suspended in the hallway at a point
near the ceiling, he looked below, saw his own body limp and bleeding, pierced by an
enormous hook; the hook in turn was connected to a chain that dangled from the ceiling. He
wondered if somehow he had come under Divine Judgment for believing the wrong things, knew
he had been given over to a darkness so vast that it stretched forever beyond his
imagination, knew for the first time that evil was a tangible mass.
Floating, he studied his
corpse, swinging on the chain, blood dripping onto the carpet, felt incredibly light, felt
no pain, thought of Misty in the next room, somehow willed himself into the room where he
looked down on the nude body, realized that Misty had died seconds before and then looked
into the blazing red eyes of an enormous dark mass hovering before him, thought for an
instant of his grandfather, then felt himself gripped by a force whose strength he had
never known, saw the massive dark wings of this thing. He felt himself moving at light
speed down an endless
dark corridor, heard the screams of millions who had suffered the same condemnation in
previous centuries, saw the glow of the Lake of Fire at the end of the dark corridor,
sensed Misty was waiting for him, and knew he would travel this corridor for eternity.