Archive for the horror Category

The Wee Handymen

Posted in horror, short stories on August 9, 2009 by tomupton33

 

 

Benny had shared the cottage with them for two years now, yet he had never seen their faces. At first he believed they were all in his mind. His heart medicine did that sometimes– made him see and hear things that weren’t there. But then things in the cottage changed, and that was when he knew they were real.

He called them the wee handymen, because they fixed things. He would waken in the morning to discover the broken latch on the back door had been repaired. Or the front picture window that had been cracked in a hail storm would suddenly be new. Or a loose stair leading down into the basement would be tight and freshly painted.

The cottage had been in poor shape when they first arrived. Benny had lived alone for years by now; his wife had died, and his children had long moved on and seemed to have forgotten him. He managed to care for the cottage the best he could– pretty well, if you’d asked him– but then old age, to which he always believed himself immune, crept up on him. After that, both he and the cottage started a slow painful decline. Things fall apart, he’d tell himself, and things wear out– in people and houses alike. Whenever he went through his photo albums–which was more often, the older he got– he would pause at pictures of the cottage when looked newly built, and he experienced the same wistful feeling he had when he saw his likenesses of himself when he was fresh out of high school. And if he’d see a shingle lying in the yard after a heavy storm he thought repairing the roof every bit as unlikely as the doctors repairing his heart.

After they had come, though, everything changed– not just with the cottage. His hope rose to see the cottage again as it once was, and started to believe there might be hope for him, too. What they were doing was sort of a miracle. He’d never bought paint, and there was none around the house, yet the rooms had been painted one by one, drab shades green and tan replaced by bright yellows and soft, soothing blues the color of a cloudless spring afternoon. The outside of the cottage had been re-stucco-ed and painted white. The original woodwork had been stripped, stained, and varnished. New carpets had appeared one morning. So from where had all the material come? It was not all in his mind. He had even asked the mailman to come in one day to confirm that the worn old linoleum in his front hall had been replaced by shiny Italian marble tiles. It had to be a kind of magic they worked, and if they worked it on a house, couldn’t they work it on him?

Each day, when he wakened, he’d said good morning to them, certain that they were always near. He’d shuffle through the cottage in his ancient slippers, searching for any new work that might have been completed during the night. If he found something– that the kitchen cabinets had been replaced, say, or that there was a new medicine cabinet in the bathroom– he praised the workmanship, saying encouraging things, like, “It’s a fine job you boys did last night. Keep up the good work.” If he couldn’t find anything– which wasn’t often– he’d walk about the house fretting, saying, “Boys, boys, don’t tell me you left me now. A day’s work of a day’s pay, you know. You keep this up and I’ll have to lay you off.”

One day Berny looked around the house and saw that no more needed to be done. That was the moment he feared the most– when they had no more to do. Would they leave him then, leave him all alone? The thought was unbearable, he had grown so used to knowing they were around. Even if they never did show themselves or talk to him, it was comforting to know that when he spoke someone might be listening.

He went to the kitchen to make himself a breakfast of scrambled eggs and dry toast. When he sat at the table he had a sudden stabbing pain in his left side. He had had them before, sure, but this was the worst. It would get no better, either; the doctors had warned him his heart was simply wearing out– it was only a matter of time.

He endured the pain until it passed, and then finished his meal.

“Boys, I’ve been wishing there was something you could do for me,” he said, and then listened. He heard nothing, though, not the slightest whisper of footsteps he sometimes heard when he woke in the middle of the night. “Now, boys, I know you can do miracles. I’ve seen what you’ve done with this house. It hasn’t looked so good since Martha– rest her soul– and I first moved in. I’m sure you can do something for this old heart of mine.” He waited, but there no response– not a sound. “Well, I know you can hear me. I’ll just let the matter rest with you. If you see fit to help me, fine– if not, I’ll bear no ill wishes on you.”

Nothing happened after that. Each morning he awoke, he felt the same tire heart beating in his chest. He would sigh heavily, and then put on his robe and slippers and set about his daily routine. Every inch of the cottage looked beautiful and new, but that hardly seemed to matter because he was still old and dying.

“You went and abandoned me, boys, haven’t you?” he would say now, sure that he was alone. “Everybody leaves, I suppose. First the kids grow up and move away, and then Martha… Somebody always gets left behind. That’s natural– like things wearing out and falling apart. Well, I guess, I have the comfort of knowing that once I’m gone, somebody else will get a beautiful house. Whoever it may be, I hope they have kids, kids with good memories.”

About a week later, while retrieving the mail out front, he noticed that the garden had been planted with flowers and that the old plastic garden borders had been replaced by new brick ones. He was again filled with joy and hope. Of course, he thought, how could I have been so stupid. They’ve finished on the house, sure, but still there is the yard. He shambled down the stairs and around the house. He hardly every went outside, except to get the mail and throw out the trash, and he was amazed at the improvements that had been made. The cracked and chipping walkways had been replaced or repaired. All the gardens had been tilled and planted, including the large vegetable garden in the back yard, where he and Martha always grew tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, and radishes. His eyes began to well at the sight of the green breaking through the soil and the little white markers that named which vegetable was going where– just the way Martha and I used to do it, he realized. He saw, too, that the grass was cut and all the edgings done perfectly. The many trees around the house, which shades the cottage well, had all been trimmed. Everything was green and budding under the bright spring sun.

“Boys, boys, you’ve outdone yourselves,” he said, walking about and looking at everything in wonder. If any of his neighbors had heard him, they would surely have thought him crazy– wandering around the yard in his bathrobe and slippers, and talking to somebody who wasn’t there.

He reached the back of the yard, where, in the shade of an ancient oak tree, four beams rose about four feet from the ground. The beams were set in new concrete, and he walked around them, scratching his head.

“Now, what have you got going on here?” he wondered, for he couldn’t imagine what they had in mind. They had never before built anything new– just repaired what had been there. The beams were not spaced far enough for it to be a garage, and besides, berny didn’t own a car– he gave up driving years ago. Maybe a tool shed, but that didn’t make any sense either, since he had to tools to store. “Well, whatever it is,” he said, “you just go on building. You’ve done a damned fine job of sinking the posts.” And he headed back to the cottage to make breakfast.

That night he slept fitfully. At two in the morning he rose to go to the bathroom for the third time, wondering whether his kidneys were starting to go out now. He stopped in the kitchen and paused to look out the window at the dark back yard. He was still puzzling over what they were building out there, and finally he could not resist his curiosity. He went through the back door, and out into the night. The air outside was chilly, and the sky was clear and a-shimmer with stars. The full moon cast an eerie light on everything. As he near the old oak tree, he could see more work had been done. The four posts now held up a rectangular platform that was about eight feet by six feet. What the heck is that supposed to be? he wondered. Maybe a deck?– a deck for me to sit on under the shade of the tree? It seem plausible, although it would be an awfully strange place to build a deck. Certainly a deck seemed more appropriate built onto the back of the house, with a new sliding glass door opening onto the kitchen.

“Well, I suppose you have something in mind,” he murmured as he walked away. “I do hope you’re still considering my request,” he added in a grumble. “One day I’ll not be waking up to find all the fine work you’re doing.” He stopped briefly to see if there would be some response, but there was none, and he went back to bed.

The following morning, he discovered that stairs had been added to the construction. Although he delighted in the craftsmanship of the wooden steps, he was no more enlightened as to what the little fellows were erecting. In ways it did indeed look like a deck, but it was entirely in the wrong place, and also a bit too high. When he climbed onto the deck, he found that one of the thick limbs of the tree was situated directly overhead; if he were to sit on a lawn chair on the deck, he would surely hit his head on the limb every time he stood.

“Nonsense,” she snarled in frustration. “You boys are disappointing me now. You give me a new heart and I’ll show you how to build a deck. Why, look here, it’s why too high, and besides that, it looks like you pieced in the deck itself. Why would you do a thing like that? They should all be long solid boards, the same as you used on the back porch. You just make me young again, and I’ll show you how it‘s done,” he swore, and waited for a reply that never came.

That night he rolled back and forth in bed as he slept, until finally he went to far and fell to the floor, hitting his head on the nightstand leg. He used the edge of the bed to push himself up to his feet, swearing in the darkness. He felt the wetness on his forehead, and knew he was bleeding, and so he swore some more. He swore at being old, at losing his wife, at children who never visited or even called. He swore at being alone. He swore about many things, but mostly he swore at the wee handymen, who, he was convinced, could fix his heart but instead were building some silly thing in the yard.

When he flipped the light switched, he discovered the power was out– and that caused a new spate of curses. He felt his way into the living room, and tripped over something in the dark. He started to fall, his body tensing as he anticipate hitting the floor hard. But then something caught him. It was, in fact, a bunch of somethings: hands, little hands, grabbed him and pushed him back up to his feet. They are real, raced through his mind, as the tiny hands helped him stand.

“Thank you, boys,” he said, when he was again balanced. “I might have hurt myself there– maybe pretty bad.” He turned about to see if he could catch a glimpse of them, but it was too dark.

The little hands, which had remained on him, now began to push. They pushed him forward inexplicably.

“Hey, hey, watch it,” Benny complained. “What do you think you’re doing.”

But he felt the hands, on the backs of his legs and buttocks, shove harder, driving him slowly into the kitchen and toward the back door.

“Hey, cut it out,” Benny cried. “I’m not dressed to go outside. I’ll catch my death, you know?”

But the hands pushed so hard he went crashing through the back door. He was free for a moment, just long enough to trip and tumble down the back stairs and out onto the newly laid patio. The wind was knocked out of him and he could barely breathe.

“What are you doing?” he asked weakly, when he could finally speak at all. He struggled to his feet, and stood there wobbly waiting for an answer that never came. “I don’t get you now. You fix my house for me– fix it like new– and now this…. What?– do you mean to kick me out and kept the place for yourselves? Was that the plan from the start? Well, you can’t do that; I own this house.” He waited for an answer, but there was only the sounds of crickets. “Or did I ask too much of you?” he considered.

The back door opened a bit, but, squinting hard, he could see nothing.

“Was that it?” he asked. “It was too much to expect you to fix my heart? Is it a crime for the dying to wish to live?”

As if in answer, he felt the little hands on him again, grabbing, pushing, stronger than he could imagine. They pushed him toward the back of the yard, and soon his feet were off the ground, and he was being carried as he wailed in protest. All he could see was the black sky filled with stars, and then, as they approached the old oak tree, he saw against the full moon, the shadow of a noose hanging from the limb that hung over what he’d thought was a deck.

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Protected by F.A.T.

Posted in horror, short stories with tags , on May 12, 2009 by tomupton33

 

 

He was certain the garage was safe. There were no security guards, no cameras on any of the levels, and the guy stationed in the booth at the exit left at ten at night. After that the place was all his. Over the past three years, he had taken out six cars– one of them a Lexus– and never had a hitch.

Still he never took things for granted. He always made sure to shave and to comb his hair and he wore dark blue clothes that looked like a uniform. If anyone saw him in the garage he would appear to be some sort of attendant. He doubted he would run across anyone, not at two in the morning, but it was best not to take a chance.

Once inside the structure, he moved quickly to the staircase, which he took down to the underground levels. He emerged on the orange level, the lowest level. That was where he had always found the best cars, as though people believed their expensive vehicles were safer the further underground they parked them. People were stupid; if they really wanted to protect their cars, they would cough up some extra money each month to park them in a garage with some security. It was another instance of you get what you pay for, and the customer often comes out on the short end of that deal. Somebody would tonight– that was for sure.

He walked down the aisles. Even with the lighting dimmed for the night, the pickings looked good. He immediately spotted a late model Cadillac and a Volvo, both of which looked interesting. It really didn’t matter what he snatched tonight. It was open game. Benny, the guy who swapped the hot cars for an envelope full of green, had told him he would take anything– just so long as it was good. Most of the time Benny had special orders, which were a bummer; you’d sometimes have to go to three, four places looking for a certain make and model.

His footfalls echoed against the gray concrete walls. No matter how hard he tried to step lightly, he couldn’t be quieter. That didn’t bother him, though, because he was sure nobody was around to hear him. What troubled him more, really, was the sound of water dripping and echoing. It had not rained in days, he was certain the structure had no plumbing, and there were no puddles anywhere on the ground. So what was it with the dripping? It was one of those inconsistencies his mind tended to latch onto, distracting him from the business at hand.

His mind cleared, though, when he spotted a target too good to be true. It was a Lexus, newly waxed, gleaming even under the reduced lights. It looked identical to the car he’d snagged last year, and he grew giddy with the thought that maybe it was the same owner, probably some guy who had started out life as a spoiled brat whose parents had fawned over him and bought him whatever he’d wanted– so unlike his own parents, a drunken mother and an absent father who hadn’t had two nickels to rub together three days after they’d got their paychecks.

He approached the car, as though stalking it, expecting one of those annoying talking proximity alarms to start spouting that he was getting too near the vehicle. There was no warning from an electronic voice, though, and he walked round the car coolly appraising it. He ran his hand over the shiny rear bumper, trying to recall how much Benny had coughed up for a Lexus last year. Was it three thousand or thirty-five hundred? Whatever the case, tonight would be a big payday.

When he saw the license plates–IB ONE– he couldn’t helping laughing out loud; it was the same owner, the same stupid owner who lost a car last year because he was too cheap to pay a few extra bucks a month to park in a more secure garage. Some people never learned. He was sure he’d find the owner had the same cheap alarm system; last year, it had taken he all of five seconds to disable the alarm.

As he started toward the driver door, ready to do business, a black and white sticker in the corner of the rear window caught his eye. At first he thought it might be sticker from some organization– the VFW, the AMA, or the Shriners– but when he got a close enough look at the sticker to read it, he let out short loud laugh, loud enough to echo through the level. The sticker read:

 

 

Protected

By

F.A.T.

(Feral anti-theft troll)

 

 

 

 

 

 

He reached into his pocket, and pulled out the electronic pick. It looked like a little gun. Out of its front extended three wires that you inserted into the lock. He pulled the trigger, the wires raked the tumblers, and in a few seconds he heard the lock snap open. It never failed– no matter what the manufacturers said about their locks being pickproof.

Before he swung opened the door, he readied himself. The alarm– no matter how cheap– would sound, and sound loudly in the hush of the garage. He would find the right wire under the dashboard, and snip it as quickly as possible. The siren might sound for only a few seconds, and anyone nearby– if there were anyone– would think it was somebody taking too long to disarm their alarm.

He yanked the door open, and jumped inside. It took him a full second to realize no alarm was sounding. He straightened up behind the steering wheel. Confused yet cautious, he shut himself in the car. No alarm at all? That was almost unbelievable. He discovered there was no GPS to worry about, either; the car couldn’t even be remotely tracked. Finally he spotted the ignition key: still in the ignition. He began to giggle at his good luck. He settled back in the seat, adjusted it to his height, and relaxed, breathing in the aroma of leather seats and eying the real wood– cherry wood, wasn’t it?– dashboard. But then he began to wonder. Can somebody be this stupid?– especially after losing a car just last year. It didn’t seem possible. It was all too easy, but then, after all the tough breaks he’d had in life, maybe he deserved easy now and then.

He found the nylon CD wallet on the passenger seat. When he checked the CDs, he learned that the owner listened to some hopelessly corny stuff: Percy Faith, The Highwaymen, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The only good CD in the wallet was Ozzy Osbourne– obviously a Christmas present the guy hadn’t had the heart to return.

He slipped Ozzy into the player to check out the stereo, which was expensive and excellent. He paused to relish the moment; he could take his time now, just drive out as if he actually owned the car, and an easy deal like this wouldn’t fall into his lap for a long time– maybe never again.

After listening to Ozzy sing awhile, just as he began to feel truly blissful, he thought he heard a noise, a faint click or clack, coming from outside the car. His body instantly stiffened, sensing someone might be near. He lowered the volume on the stereo. He peered warily out the side window, and eyed the rows of varying vehicles to see whether maybe somebody had come to retrieve their car. He spotted no one and relaxed back into the seat. Maybe it was just that crazy, inexplicable dripping sound, he thought, but still listened sharply.

When he glanced in the rearview mirror, he saw that the trunk had popped open.

“What the hell,” he said. He scanned the dashboard. There was a trunk release somewhere, he was sure, but he was pretty certain he hadn’t triggered it.

He climbed out and went to the back of the car. The trunk yawned at him. It was empty– no lug wrench, no jumper cables– nothing. A vaguely musty odor mingled with the new-car smell. He shut the trunk, and it snapped securely locked. He lingered a moment to see whether the truck would pop open again. Maybe there was some kind of short circuit. That was the last thing he needed; if while driving down to Benny’s, the trunk should pop open while passing a cop… Well, that was just the kind of weird thing that landed even smart people in prison.

Just as he was about go back into the car, he heard something. It was a faint shuffling sound. It sounded nearby but he couldn’t be certain. He walked to the back of the car, again, and round to the passenger side. He didn’t see anything, and figured it must have been some kind of animal. Maybe a cat or a sewer rat, which could grow quite large.

When he walked back round to the driver side, he stopped dead in his tracks. The door was now shut. He was positive he’d left the door open. Or had he? No, he must have shut it– he was the only one around.

He got back into the car, now determined to leave. The joy of the moment was gone, placed by a vague uneasiness.

When he reached forward to turn the ignition key, he felt a sudden searing pain in his shoulder. He cried out in surprise as much as agony. He shoved open the door and tumbled out on the cold concrete. He got to his feet, clutching at his shoulder, and stumbled a couple spaces over, where he fell to the ground between two other vehicles. His puzzled mind raced. What the hell was that? His hand came off his shoulder bloody. The material of his shirt was ripped, and he could see the three deep gouges in his flesh. White foam was bubbling out of the wound, as though it had been doused with acid. He pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket, and tried to wipe away the foam, which only made the wound burn more.

The car stereo suddenly stopped, Ozzie cut off while singing “I’m Going home.” All he could hear now was the enigmatic dripping and the racing of his heart. This couldn’t possibly be happening, but it was, and the entire world seemed to be taking on an otherworldly slant. All he knew for sure was that he had to get out of here, and get out fast. He dug into his pants pocket, and pulled out a switchblade. He knew better than to carry such a thing while working, but now, as he snapped the knife open, it lent him some degree of security, of certainty– the familiar metallic clack as the blade flicked out and the way even the dim lights above glared off the its mirror-like surface.

He crawled behind the two cars that sheltered him, and peeked round back toward the Lexus. Whatever had hurt him was not in sight. He started to figure it had to be a dog– sure, a dog that had been sleeping in the back seat. But then another part of his brain pointed out that dogs can’t shut doors and turn off car stereos.

Half stooping, half-walking, he headed toward the exit. He hadn’t taken a few steps before he again heard that curious shuffling sound; it didn’t sound like a dog moving, either, unless that dog was obese and dragging its hind legs. The sound stopped, then, and all he could hear was water dripping. He turned slowly around, taking in the entire level, but saw nothing. Just as he was about to continue toward the exit, something rushed past him. He blinked his eyes. It had moved by so fast it looked like a brown and green blur that dodged between two cars in front of him.

It’s trying to block me off, he thought, not sure what he had seen but holding the switchblade a little higher at his side. If the thing– whatever it was–got in his way, he would kill it– that was for sure.

But the thing didn’t give him a chance. Brown and green flashed by him again, this time very close, and pain bloomed in his hand. When he looked down he saw that two of his index and middle fingers were gone and blood was gushing from the two stumps. The fingers lay on the ground next to the shattered switchblade. His screams echoed through the level as he dropped to his knees, holding his ruined hand before him. He wrapped the handkerchief around his hand, and it took only a couple seconds for red to start showing through the white cloth. He reached down and picked up his two severed fingers and slipped them into his shirt pocket. They could sew them back on, sure, when he got to the emergency room– if he got there.

He stood slowly and took in the level again. Nobody was around. He started to run toward the stairs, as well as he could run hugging his hand to his chest. Whatever was after him was fast, very fast, but as he neared the exit he was sure he would make it out. Then, over the heavy clomping on his shoes on the floor, he heard a whisper of movement come up from behind him, and he screamed and fell hard to the floor as something took a chunk of flesh from his leg. He sat there looking at the large hole in his pants, just above the side of his knee. The wound was down to the bone and quickly filled with white foam. The pain was so intense, his eyes began to blear and he thought he was about to pass out. Sounds were coming from his mouth, now, squeaky, whimpering sounds. Then, in the agony of his pain and confusion, a thought occurred to him, a thought that made him so giddy he started to chuckle, and then laugh hysterically. It’s just like Benny would do with a car– chop it down until it was all gone.

When he looked up, he saw a tiny figure wearing a brown hat and a green suit. Its face was vaguely human, but looked deformed; the brown eyes were too large and had a single line of coarse dark hair over them, the nose was a bulb of flesh, and the teeth that were showing were black and pointed and made a hideous grin.

The creature moved so fast it appeared to vanish. It felt as though bumped up against him, and the next thing it knew blood was gushing from his neck. He gagged as hot liquid ran down into his throat. When he grabbed at his neck, he felt that part of it was missing. All his strength drained from him, then, and he fell back flat against the floor. The florescent light on the ceiling grew steadily dimmer, and the last things that he heard were the dripping of water and the sound of a trunk being slammed shut somewhere far away.

 

 

 

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