By Gary Cecil
Max Jensen and his wife, Megan, pulled into the driveway of their new home.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Megan asked.
“It sure is.”
He rubbed her stomach slowly.
“I cannot wait for Kevin to enjoy it, too.”
“You mean Katie, right?”
They laughed together.
One week earlier, they signed the papers for the house. It was a white, two-story, wooden Victorian Gothic Revival, from the 1850’s. They stole it for an easy two hundred thousand, compliments of the Ohio housing market plummet.
As they went inside, Megan went straight to the couch and plopped down on it. Her bare feet were hanging over the side.
“This is the life. I seriously do not want to go back to work next week. Can’t I just lie here all day?”
“Well, you could, but I don’t think we would be in this house for long. My job alone can’t afford this mortgage. Hell, I could hardly afford a one-bedroom apartment. But then again, you do look mighty sexy on that couch.”
He walked to the end of the couch and kissed her feet.
“It has been the longest day, babe. I’m going to grab a shower and call it a night. Meet me in the bedroom?”
“Oh God, don’t call me that. My mother used to call me that all the time when I was younger.”
She shrugged her shoulders and curled her lip.
“I’ll be quick, I promise.”
As he walked away, she winked at him.
When he got out of the shower, she was lying down on the bed. All of her clothes were on the floor, and with her right index finger she made a come here gesture.
Max obliged, and they made love. He held her close, falling asleep shortly afterwards.
Megan awoke from her sleep and poked Max on the shoulder.
“Hey, wake up.”
He groaned for a moment.
“I heard something. Over there.”
She pointed toward the bathroom.
It took him a few seconds to see her hand.
“What did you hear?”
“I don’t know, just check it out.”
He got out of bed and crept to the bathroom. Then he flipped the light switch up, blinding him temporarily.
“Well, there you have it. I don’t see anything.”
“I’m sorry; it sounded like it was scurrying across the floor. I smelled something too.”
“Yeah, it was old and rotten, like curdled milk.”
“I don’t smell any of that now.”
He walked back over to the bed and sat down next to her.
“Whatever it is, it’s gone now.”
He leaned in and kissed her forehead.
“I love you.”
“I love you, t—” She felt something crawl alongside her leg. “Get it off!” She jumped out of the sheets and pushed him back against the wall with her.
“Something touched me. It was on my leg!”
A moment later, a giant rat scampered out of the covers and onto her pillow.
Max pointed his finger and laughed.
“It’s just a rat.”
She continued to cry.
“It’s not funny!”
“It’s a little funny.”
“Do something about that thing!”
Max grabbed a white shirt from the drawer. The rat was still on the pillow, as he inched toward it quietly.
When he reached out with the shirt, the rat sped off and was once again, out of sight.
“Damn! I almost had him!”
“I’m not sleeping on that bed.”
“It will be fine. There can’t be many more of them things walking around.”
“All right, but if I feel anything, I don’t care if it’s your big toe, I’m sleeping on the couch.”
Max tossed the soiled pillow onto the ground and replaced it with a fresh one. Then he turned out the bathroom light, and they went to bed for the second time that night.
They slept in until eleven o’ clock the next morning. The goal for the day was to start painting the living room.
“I don’t want to get out of bed,” she said.
“Me either, but we’ve got to start painting. We both go back to work next week, and if we don’t start now, we’ll never finish. Plus, the baby-safe acrylic paint we spent hours researching for, would be wasted.”
She rubbed her eyes and dangled her feet off the bed. Before her toes touched the wood floor, she felt a slimy and squishy mass spread between them.
“Max! The rat! It’s dead!”
She hopped on her right foot to the bathroom, her left foot covered with the insides of the now, deceased rat.
“Did you do that?”
“No, it was like that before I stepped on it.”
The rat lay dead on the floor, with its stomach ripped open. An iron-like stink filled the air.
“What could do that to this thing?”
She ran her foot under the water and began scrubbing.
“I don’t know. I hope there aren’t any snakes in this house, too.”
Max disposed of the rat carcass, and they made their way downstairs for breakfast.
The rest of the day went well. They finished painting the living room in a beautiful light jasmine shade and even made some progress on the kitchen.
“I’m proud of you, baby,” he said. “You did a great job today.”
“Awe, thank you, Max!”
With her left hand behind her back, she reached in for a kiss. When their lips met, she put her hand out to the side and slid the paintbrush down the spine of his shirt.
“What are you going to do about it?”
He took off his shirt revealing his light skin and muscled body.
“Look, a rat!” He pointed behind her.
She turned around quickly. When she did, he grabbed a wet brush. As she turned back to him, he painted her left cheek.
“Oh my, God, It’s nine o’ clock.”
“Time flies when you’re … painting houses?”
“Nice try, Max, leave the rhyming to the poets. I need to shower before this paint dries.”
“Can I come, too?”
“Yes, but no fun stuff, mister. You can wash my hair and massage my back though.”
Megan bent over to start the water. Her back split in perfect symmetry, and her caramel skin looked silky and impurity free.
God, she’s beautiful.
He put shampoo in her hair and gently worked his hands through her long brown locks.
“This feels great, baby, don’t stop.”
The lights flickered and then shut off altogether.
“The power must’ve gone out,” he said.
“It’s not even raining.”
The water ran for a bit more then came to a halt. They were freezing, and it was pitch-black inside the bathroom.
He carefully placed his foot on the rug and got out of the shower.
“Wait, not yet. Look at this.”
He pulled the shower curtain to the side. A light peered through the wall like a ray of sunshine through a partly cloudy sky. The hole was just large enough for a small rat to fit through.
“I never noticed that before,” he said.
“It wasn’t there when we walked through the house with the realtor.”
She hunched over and put both of her hands on the wall.
“I’ll take a peek.”
Her right eye looked inside the hole. “I see clothes and boxes. This is the closet down the hall.”
“That’s so strange for a hole to be there. I’m really starting to wonder if we have a rodent problem.”
She focused her stare. “I think I saw something.”
“I don’t kn—”
She fell backward, almost pulling the shower curtain with her. Max caught her just before she completed the fall.
“Baby, what … what is it?”
She broke free of his arms. “It touched my eye.”
“I saw tiny teeth. They were black and chipped. Then a red … tongue, it had to be a tongue, licked my eye!”
Max ran to his bed and felt underneath for his baseball bat. He then put on shorts and grabbed his phone.
“Stay in the room and lock the door. If I don’t come back, or you hear me scream, call the cops.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m just checking the closet.”
He opened the master bedroom door and tiptoed down the hallway with his aluminum baseball bat gripped in his right hand, and his phone in his left.
He pushed the closet door open with the business end of the baseball bat. The spoiled milk smell was back in the air.
I wouldn’t answer if I was you.
He slashed the bat in front of him, as if he were clearing brush with a machete.
“Baby, you there?”
“Yes, did you find anything?”
“There’s nothing in here. I see the hole. It looks like some perverted, peephole kind of deal.”
“How would you know about that, Max?”
“I’m just saying, it looks off, that’s all. I’m going to check the breaker box to see if one of the switches got tripped. I’ll have to go downstairs in the basement. Remember what I said; call the cops if you don’t hear from me or if I scream.”
“Be careful, Max.”
With his phone lighting the path a few feet in front of him, he found the wooden banister and walked down the stairs slowly.
Is the basement to the left or right of the kitchen?
Once in the living room he remembered the basement would be to the left of the kitchen, just past the laundry room. He opened the basement door and flipped the light switch above his head.
The power is out, stupid.
The stairs leading into the basement were extremely aged and creaked with every step. Dust and cobwebs covered the entire room. They had only seen the basement once before, and with the lights on it was halfway presentable. They didn’t care for the basement anyway and only planned on using it for storage.
He bumped his right knee into the pointed edge of a broken-down desk. “Damn it!” Shining the light of the phone onto his knee revealed no injury.
Where is that damn box?
He shone the light around the room and saw the gray breaker box in the back right corner. When he reached the box, he noticed a door he hadn’t remembered seeing from the house tour. It was a large double-door, and an old filing cabinet was sitting askew in front of it. At the center of the doors, a termite-ridden block of wood rested against one of the protruding metal door handles.
What is behind there? No, what was kept from getting out of there? I gotta get back to Megan.
Ignoring the door for now, he opened the breaker box and saw the electrical switches flipped to the off position. He snapped them back to the on position, and the room filled with light.
Max sprinted up the shoddy stairs trying to make it to Megan’s screams. Just before he got to the master bedroom door, the sour and pungent milk stench filled his nostrils once more.
The door flung open from his kick and directly in front of him was a small human-like figure. It smelled rotten, its clothes worn and ripped. Its skin was filthy, and most of its hair was gone, replaced with leaking, pustule sores. Megan stood on the opposite side of the bed screaming.
He didn’t hesitate.
His phone dropped to the ground and with both hands wrapped around the handle of the bat, he took a vicious cut to the back of the thing’s cranium. A horrifying thump followed. It fell forward onto the bed and gradually sloped off onto the floor leaving a trail of dark, red blood and brain matter behind on the sheets.
“Is it dead?” Megan asked.
Max walked to the body and turned it over. The blow had sunk in its head, and its eyes bulged out of their sockets. The barrel of the bat gleamed in red and slimy gook. He started to place the bat on the ground when, the body twitched.
He slammed two more towering blows into its face.
“It is now.”
The head came undone, and he looked at Megan.
“Call the cops.”
They stood in the front yard when the cops and ambulance arrived.
“It’s upstairs. Take the first door on the left.”
“Can you show us?” the officer asked.
Max held Megan close to his chest. “No, we’re not going back inside tonight.”
A group of patrolmen and a forensic unit went inside. A detective stayed behind to talk to Max and Megan.
“Like I said, we were in the shower and the power went out. I checked the breaker and heard her scream. When I got to the bedroom, I saw it. It was the nastiest thing I’d ever seen. It scared me, so I hurt it. I hurt it until it stopped moving. I had no other choice, but to do what I did.”
“I understand. I’m going to need a formal statement from you two. If my guys give me the go ahead, I can let you rest tonight.”
An officer came outside to give the paramedics and coroner the all clear. They walked inside pushing a stretcher.
“Excuse me, folks,” the detective said while walking to the side of the porch.
“Sanchez, come here.”
“How’s it looking?”
“It’s bad. The forensics guys said the body looked over a hundred years old. They have to take it to the labs of course. The head was split in two, real nasty-like. There was a ball bat right next to the body covered in shit. I’m assuming that’s the weapon. What did they say?” His eyes glanced toward Max and Megan.
The detective gave him the replay of what Max and Megan told him. The story checked out, and they were free to leave for tonight, but they had to come to the police station tomorrow morning for the official statement.
The stretcher rolled out of the house with a new addition to it. A lumpy black bag lay on top.
“I got us a room at the Holiday Inn, Megan. Let’s get out of here.”
She squeezed him tighter.
Three days had passed, before police officially cleared them from the case. The sheriff’s department released an article in the local paper about their self defense in the now dubbed home invasion.
They pulled into the driveway of the home with the incident still beating close to their hearts.
“It’s over now, Megan. Let’s get our stuff in boxes and get to your parent’s house. I’m sorry this happened. I wanted it to work out.”
“You’re right. It’s okay. We’re safe, and I love you, that’s all that matters, baby.”
She gave him a kiss.
“I love you, too.”
As they walked inside the house together, it looked different. A strange, dark place.
“I want to show you something, Megan. It’s in the basement. The night when I went down there, I saw a door.”
“Yeah, it was actually two doors, let me show you.”
“I don’t want to go down there.”
“It’s going to be fine. That old thing is dead now. I think the previous owners kept it behind those doors.”
“Fine, but let’s make this fast.”
Max opened the basement door and turned on the light. “Just down here, and be careful the steps are old.”
They walked down the steps, and Max pointed to the double doors.
It was just how he remembered it on that night. He pushed the old block of wood to the floor and moved the cabinet out of the way. When he opened the door, it let out a loud, high-pitched screech.
Megan hesitated, and Max put out his hand.
“Come on, baby.”
It was dark inside, with no noticeable light switches around. Two wooden tables with straps on each corner were in the middle of the room. To the right of them, another table, with knives, scalpels, ointments, and medications on top.
“What the hell happened here?”
“I don’t know, Max, and honestly, I would like to leave now.”
“Okay, give me a second.”
Max wandered to the far left corner of the room, to a wooden desk with a picture on top of it.
“Babe, come check this out.”
He shined the light from his phone onto the picture. It revealed a handsome man and beautiful wife, with two small children.
“This must be them.”
He pulled the picture out of the frame and observed the back.
In blue ink, it stated: Howard, Betty, and our most precious creations, Luke and Peter – 1937.
The old familiar smell of expired milk lingered in the air, and the door slammed shut behind them.
Gary Cecil is an aspiring author who spends his free time writing horror-themed stories with the support of his loving girlfriend, Sarah, and dog, Millie. He is currently working on his first novel. Gary has worked as a 911 Call-Taker, and has held other various jobs. His greatest memory taking 911 calls was when a man, on a backcountry road at one in the morning, called 911 and said, “The baby came out.” It was a heart-wrenching experience, which ended in a man becoming a father, and Gary becoming a seasoned 911 Call-Taker.