To get in the spirit of Halloween, I present to you this horror/detective story.
This story is purely unedited. I haven’t gone back to look at it since it initially entered into my mind and made it onto the page. I thought it would be an interesting look into a rough first draft, which is something that most people do not get to see.
Without further ado, here is the story. Enjoy!
“Bwa ha ha ha!” A booming voice eerily filled the room as John walked down the hallway, nonchalantly pushing fake cobwebs and black plastic curtains out of his way. He made a sharp left, pushed back a hanging skeleton, and turned a black painted door knob to reveal a brightly lit, white hallway. He stepped in, turned right and made his way to a small office, where his boss Bill sat, staring at a computer screen that read “61 Days till Halloween!” John quietly sneaked behind him.
“Which means only one more day until we open!” John said, sending Bill jumping out of his seat.
“Jesus, John! Ya tryin’ to give me a heart attack?” Bill swung around to face John.
“Sorry, Bill! But, what better way to kick off our annual haunted house, eh?”
“Yes, sirree! It is that time of the year again! Wanna help me go through the attraction and make sure everything is up to par?”
“Of course! Just like every year. Go on ahead and I’ll catch up with you,” John said.
John watched Bill head out of the office, down the hall and disappeared through the black painted door and into the haunted house. John sat down at the desk, tapped on the keyboard and brought up a file. “Just a few more touch ups to this poster, and then I can print some out and get the word out,” John thought to himself. Just as John grabbed the mouse, the power went out in the office.
“Damn! Must be Bill making sure the effects are still getting power. Let me go find him.” John fumbled his way out of the desk in the dark, banged his knee, cursed, and then made his way down the hallway, arms groping at the blackness.
“Bill, where are you?” John’s voice echoed through the dark, eerily silent haunted house. He noticed sunlight at the end of a long corridor. “Emergency exit door is open,” he mumbled to himself. Using the light as a guide, he began to make his way down the corridor. Fake cobwebs hit John in the face every few feet, causing him to claw at his face and spit out the stringy cotton. The sinister faces of mad scientists, devils, and the likenesses of Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger watched John in an eerie silence as he passed by. Finally, he reached the emergency exit door.
“Bill? You out here?” John looked around, shielding his eyes from the bright sun. He made his way around the corner of the building, wiping cotton cobwebs from his faded jeans and Friday the 13th t-shirt. He looked at the power box on the wall, which was left hanging open.
“Bill? I’m going to turn the power back on! Stand clear of any open wires!”
John switched the power back on, took a last look around, and then walked back to the emergency exit. The haunted house was alive with moving figures, eerie sounds and flashing lights. Bill was standing in the doorway.
“Ya thought I was murdered or somethin’ right?” Bill asked, with a fiendish smile on his broad face.
“Oh, please. This is way too cliché. Come on, cutting the power and then you’re nowhere to be found?”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. You jus’ watch too many horror movies, my friend,” Bill said.
“Come on, let’s do the inspection. The inspector from the city will be here in about an hour to give us the OK to open up.”
John and Bill walked back into the haunted house, John shutting the exit door behind him.
* * *
“Well, you guys pass the inspection. Looks great this year!” Inspector Reemer, a mousey looking man with a tweed suit, bad comb over and thick glasses stood in front of Bill & John in their office.
“Awesome! We hope you’ll bring your family again this year,” John said.
“Oh, of course we will. But not more than once, because I just get so darned scared in these things!”
“Well, that’s the point, right?” Bill said.
“Best of luck to you guys this year. Uh, do you mind walking me out, John? It’s kind of creepy in there,” Reemer said.
John and Reemer made their way out into the haunted house.
“Just to the right, and down through the attraction to the main entrance and exit,” John said.
“Right. I get so turned around. Ahh!” Reemer jumped, caught his foot on a piece of wood, and fell backward to the floor as an animatronic ghost flew past him.
John helped him up and the two continued walking toward the exit.
“Certain death awaits all!” An eerie voice sounded over the speaker system.
“Ooh. Creepy! I don’t remember that from last year,” Reemer said.
“Yeah, neither do I. Probably Bill goofin’ off.” John said, and ushered Reemer to the exit.
“Well, best of luck, again! See you soon!” Reemer said as he squinted until his eyes adjusted to the sun, and then headed back to his car.
“Thanks!” John waved as Reemer left. “Might as well scope out the parking lot and make sure it’s good to go.”
John walked around what was left of the their parking lot. He looked up and to the left of the lot they owned, where a new mega mall was being built.
“I can’t believe the Smiths sold their grocery store for this monstrosity to go up. Looks like we’re the last of the small businesses around here, and they’re taking up more space than I’d like. We’re going to have lots of parking problems this year,” John said to himself.
He shook his head and inspected the front of the building. All of the twinkling lights were functioning, along with the neon ‘Haunted House’ sign. John looked up at the roof of the building and noticed that the Grim Reaper animatronic was missing.
“Man, someone stole the Grim Reaper again! This whole town is falling apart.”
John walked back into the haunted house and began to make his way to the office. He spotted Bill running towards him.
“John! Are you the one making those death threats?”
“Make no mistake, John and Bill, you will both die! Huuaahhh!” The eerie voice boomed over the speakers.
“So that line about certain death wasn’t something you recorded, earlier?” John asked.
“Nope,” Bill said.
“There couldn’t be someone in our office. I don’t know of any other way to get to our PA system,” John said.
“I’ll go check da office anyway,” Bill said and lumbered down the hallway.
“Right. I’ll check the roof. Someone stole the Reaper again. Maybe they’re still hiding up there.”
John walked back to the main entrance of the haunted house, exited the building and went to the right side of the old brick building. He tested the rusty ladder on the side of the building, and then began to climb. Once on top, he gave a quick look around. The roof seemed intact, save for the broken restraints for the Grim Reaper, and the rusted shut hatch that lead into the attic crawlspace. As usual, there were empty beer cans and cigarette butts littered around. This was a popular hangout in the summer for the local kids. Or, at least it was before the mega mall went up next door. Just as he was about to head back down, John saw a bright reflection on the ground next to the broken restraints. Picking it up, he noticed it was a Rawlings High class ring.
“Hmm. Class of 2010. At least that narrows down who stole the Reaper,” John said to himself.
He put the rung in his pocket and then headed back down the ladder. Bill was waiting for him at the entrance to the haunted house.
“You see anything up there?” Bill asked.
“Found a Rawlings High ring. Might be a good lead on who took the Reaper.”
“A ring? I didn’t see anyone in the office. The PA mic was turned off and didn’t look like it was tampered with.”
“Hmm. All right. Let’s go check the equipment room.”
John and Bill made their way back into the haunted house. The eerie sounds, animatronics, and flashing lights performed for no one, as John and Bill sternly marched through the corridor. They passed the entrance to the office, and continued on to a small hatch that lead to a basement. John and Bill descended down into the dimly lit basement. Rows of electrical equipment sat on the floor of the basement, spinning, whirring and blinking in an endless fury. A 60 watt light bulb burned quietly in the back corner of the basement, and the lights form the machines danced around the room. John and Bill made their way to the audio machines. Large reels of audio film spooled around.
“Let’s shut it down so we can inspect the audio,” John said.
“Aye, aye, cap’n,” Bill smirked and pulled a big lever on the near wall of the basement.
The blinking lights dimmed out, and above the muffled cackles and creaks of animatronics slowly sputtered to silence. John grabbed the audio reel, slid it off of the machine, and inspected it.
“Check this out, Bill. The tape in this reel is brand new. Someone’s been in here.”
“Son of a bitch. Where da hell did they get audio tape in this day and age?”
A loud scream came from up above.
John and Bill ran out of the basement and made their way to the main corridor.
“Damn. Forgot to grab a flashlight. Lemme go back to the office and grab one,” Bill said.
“OK. I’m going to walk around and see if I can see anything,” John said, and began scanning the corridor.
He slowly moved forward, trying to get his eyes to adjust to the darkness. He felt something sticky and slippery underneath his feet. Just as the realization came to him that it was blood, John was face to face with a silent, staring severed head.
Want more? This novella is now available on Amazon.com under the title The Haunted House of John Price.