(A Portland Maine series)
(October 30th) Portland Maine.
The screen had taken its toll on Tracy’s eyes. She had spent all night typing her segment on the drought. The small city of Portland had been a madhouse lately. The stress from it all has its residents on edge. Everyone except for Tracy. Her newfound local stardom has her hungry for more.
Her latest piece on the double homicide out on route 40 had skyrocketed not only her own success as a reporter, but also the ratings of the local news team. All eyes were on her as she dug for more. Some envied her, while others despised her. This was the price she had to pay for achieving so much over the past five years.
Hugo Long’s interview had Tracy wondering why so many strange things were happening in her humble city. There was more going on than she knew. She felt it in her gut. Unfortunately all she could find to cover was Portland’s drought. It had been over a month since any sign of rain showed its face. Local farmers were starting to feel nature’s wrath as the soil thickened, and became rough.
Tracy frowns as she sits up in her desk staring at her laptop. This was boring. She reached in her desk, and pulled a crime scene photograph of Michael tanner. He was one of the victims of the wreckage. Chills shot down her spine as she gazed at his face. He wasn’t just another dead body. His mangled body told a story. It was a story that was still a mystery to the local police, and to her as well.
She may never find out who killed them, Or why Odayguh was carved into his skin, but she knew it wasn’t random. She had suspected Hugo. But without proof, even mentioning his name would spoil her rising success. This was something she couldn’t have right now.
Suddenly her office door opened, and her boss swiftly walked in. Her overweight a*****e of a boss, he was sloppy, and Tracy was pretty sure he was sexist. He closed the door behind him. His face reeked of desperation as he looked at her.
“Tell me you’re done with the drought piece, and you’re ready to report it,” he said with a frustrated tone.
“No Arnold I’m not. It’s not like there’s much to report. It’s a dry spell. What do you want me to do, stand in a hot farm, and point at the sun to my viewers?” she said.
“Not exactly. Finish up the notes, and get ready to take a ride with Tony out to the Harrison farm. I need you to cover the new owners. The damn place sold. Can you believe it?”
“Wait what?! So you come in here, and ask your star reporter to cover someone moving into the Harrison farm? Why would anyone care about that?”
“Because that farm has a dark past. It hasn’t sold in over 50 years. If anything you can get rise in the ratings by explaining the…”
“By telling a stupid ghost story you mean!” Tracy interrupted.
“Look. I know it’s been dry lately. But think of this as a suspense piece. A doctor bought the farm. It’s a young woman and her son. This could be a good thing. It’s better than the drought story isn’t it? Just get your a*s there. Don’t b***h about this Tracy.”
With that he shut the door. Tracy rubbed her eyes, and spun her desk chair around to face the window. She crossed her arms, and bit her lip. This was ridiculous. Was she really going to subject herself to farmhouse Ghost stories now?
She looked outside towards the people all living out their daily lives. The sun cast down a fury of heat onto the asphalt below creating heat waves.
“Great!” she barked. “I’m going to ruin my makeup in this heat”.
She grabbed a set of index cards, and made her way out the office. This was going to be a long day.
(New Hampshire – coastline dockhouse)
Oct 30th: 2 A.M.
His face hit the ground hard with a sickening crack, instantly painting the white concrete in thick red lines like a mad painter attacking his canvas. The old dock worker leaned up, his eyes burning with a mixture of tears and blood, and made an attempt to plead with his attacker. It was too late. The damage had been done. The high intensity contact with the unforgiving ground would swell his brain in a matter of hours to the point of hemorrhage. He was in too much pain to speak.
His attacker, Lucas, towered over him. His eyes casted down at him with a vicious rage. He was lost to the madness within him. He had a deep insatiable desire to kill. He grabbed the old man by his throat, and held him close to his face. He needed to feel his final moments escape from his lips.
To Lucas, this was a special moment. The final moments of a man’s life exposes them to the world, if for just a few moments, and Lucas was there to watch it happen. Some beg. Some cry. Some do a mixture of both. He was curious as to who this man really was when facing death. The man had said nothing. He simply stared at Lucas. His eyes were fading in and out of consciousness.
Lucas grew bored, and slipped six inches of sharpened German steel into his gut, and twisted the blade ninety degrees. With the blade facing down he split the man down to his groin, and then dropped what remained of him to the ground to spill onto the concrete.
He reached into his jacket pocket, and removed a set of keys with a tag that read, “Jamison”. This must have been the name of his boat. His time in this state had come to an end. He had to move on, and what better way than to take to the ocean.
Lucas removed his ski cap from his face, and took the cool salt water air into his lungs. He could hear the water knocking against the docks. There was an unmistakable calm in the night that soothed him. Maybe it was the darkness. It reminded him of his youth spent in his dad’s basement.
He never saw himself a killer. The media had though. The world depicted him as serial murderer. They described his crimes as gruesome with a complete lack of respect for human life. He disagreed. To him, he was releasing his victims from the cruel world he had come to know.
His routine had become redundant. Constantly on the move, and choosing his prey was time-consuming. This time though he grew impatient, and took a life out of necessity to escape this place. He had to leave. Lucas was always careful. He had to be. He made sure to never leave behind any real trace of evidence that would lead the police to him.
If was caught, then the fun would stop. He couldn’t have that. He always made sure to wear gloves, and a mask to not leave behind any prints or hair. He wore generic shoes a size to small to deter any real shoe prints. He killed with his left hand even though he was right-handed.
Lastly, he never killed more than two victims a state. This way a real geographical profile would be harder to determine. He did however, leave behind a sign. It was his MO. A small clue to let the professionals know it was him. After all he wanted recognition for his artwork.
Lucas would always gut his victims, and then paint a smiley face in blood somewhere around the body. It was his way of showing the world he was in control. Lucas learned down next to the man, and left his mark. He then made his way to his boat.
With no real destination in mind he turned the ignition on, untied the rope from the dock, and headed north up the coast towards Maine. Wherever he ended up was always half the fun. He couldn’t wait to see his next victim. Lucas smiled wide as the salty air whipped across his face, and disappeared into the black ocean in front of him.
Harrison Farm (Portland Maine)
October 30th, 11AM
The hot sun left Sarah’s forehead a misty mess as she opened the car door to stretch her legs. The drive was long but well worth it. She stretched her arms as she took in the fresh air. The blue hot sky above her shined down upon her new home. It was beautiful. This was a fresh new start, and she was excited to share it with the most important person in her life.
Her sulking son Danny sat in the back seat with his headphones in ignoring the fact their drive was done. This was the last place he wanted to be. Sarah knew this change would come with consequences, and she had weighed her options. Their life in des Moines Iowa had become to hectic for Sarah. She had sheltered her eight year old son from the madness of his father, and it was getting harder the older he got.
Sarah was driven to give Danny the life she never had. She had made a good life in Iowa with a respectable career as a forensic pathologist. She was the youngest in her family to achieve such success at the age of only 28. She had everything going for her except a healthy love life. Danny’s father Jason was her worst mistake. She was young, careless, and stupid.
She had met him at a traffic stop. He had pulled her over for speeding. At the cost of losing a perfect record she had flashed him her breasts to avoid any trouble, and to avoid a scolding father. He was handsome. She liked his rugged features. This wasn’t something she often did. A part of her though wanted him to see her. It was the thrill of the high of being exposed that led her to her childish act. It’s one she now regrets.
Jason had talked her Into going out with him. She agreed. He was nice, mysterious, and had a wit about him she was attracted to. She had no idea he had demons. Jason, like his father before him, often found his peace of mind at the bottom of a bottle. Some nights his demons crept upon him, and in a fury of alcohol induced violence he took it out on her.
At first she didn’t blame him. His job often weighed heavily on his consciousness. He had taken the life of a child on accident. He had mistakenly took a toy gun as a threat, and acted out of sheer impulse. It made the news. All eyes were casted at him. The media tuned it into a s**t storm. Why did you use lethal force? Child murderer! A*****e! Drunk!
These were the names that were thrown at him, and in return he threw his fists at Sarah who did nothing more than try to show him he wasn’t at fault. She had spent many nights in the bathroom with a blood soaked rag downing ibuprofen. She had enough. Danny was present the last time he put his hands on her. He shed tears for his mother. She knew that it was time to move on. Jason would have to drown in his sorrows alone.
So she made the necessary transfer submissions, and had picked Portland for two reasons. The pay was great, and it was by the Casco Bay. It was beautiful, and seemed a promisingly bright future for her and her son. The farmhouse was a steal. It was a four bedroom ranch with three acres of land set off about 30 miles west of route 40, and close to the Interstate. The location was right outside the city limits, and only a twenty-minute drive into Portland.
It was just enough isolation to find peace, and just enough distance to enjoy what the city had to offer. She was happy. However, her son was not. Though he understood why his mother had moved them away from home, he was against moving away from his friends.
Sarah overlooked the farm. She knew it was old. Despite the weathered shingles, and slight dry rot, it was in good shape. The soil, once rich in nutrients, bore corn and fruit. It now served a barren patch of land that blew up dust in the wind. The wheat field that stretched the front of the house was still in good shape however.
Local Portland workers harvested the wheat for commerce each year, and kept up with the house, for it served a historic site to the city. So there it lay, waiting for a resident to once again bring life to its grounds. Dead center of the wheat field Sarah noticed something mounted up sluggishly on a wooden cross. It was slightly blowing in the soft breeze. She squinted her eyes, and noticed it was a scarecrow. It must have been from the old owners.
She walked to the rear of the car, and lifted up the hatchback to start the dreaded unpacking process. The moving truck was due to arrive that evening, and Sarah was anxious to get it done. Danny was still sulking in the back seat as she removed boxes.
“Hey you!” she called out. Danny didn’t budge. She let out a sigh, and opened his door. He looked up at her and removed his headphones.
“Hey. We’re here,” Sarah said happily.
“Yeah, great,” he replied unenthusiastically
“Danny… I know this is a big change… But look around you. It’s beautiful out here. Just please give it a chance will you? I’m really trying here. I could use your support right now.”
He ignored her, and got out of the car to stretch. He looked around unimpressed with his new home. It was a stupid thing. Why on earth would his mom buy a farm? She knew nothing about farming. She wasn’t a farmer. He sure as hell had no interest in it. He wanted to go home.
He surveyed the field around the house. His eyes stopped at the cross in the field.
“Cool huh?” Sarah replied, looking at him.
“What’s that?” he asked pointing to the figure blowing in the wind.
“Scarecrow I think. Like the ones we made for your art class that one time.”
“It’s creepy,” he said.
Danny put his headphones in his pocket, and made his way towards the figure in the center of the field. He crossed the wheat field, and as he grew closer to the figure a nasty smell whipped past his face for a brief moment. He cringed, and continued to the figure.
As he approached he noticed it was in fact a makeshift scarecrow. It was poorly hung, secured by two ropes that formed an X across its chest. It’s head was made from a dirty old burlap sack with two holes cut out for the eyes. The cross was titled slightly to the left, forcing the scarecrows head to tilt left with its face pointing towards the ground.
It’s body was made from an old black and red flannel sweater. It was buttoned up, its arms lazily sagged over the arms of the cross at the elbows. The sweater ended at a pair of thick grey farming gloves used for hands. The dirty washed out jeans hung from its lifeless body. It ended at an old pair of untied black steel toed boots that swayed with the wind.
It was indeed creepy. It looked very old. From a distance it could pass as a human. It was stuffed well giving it a life-like figure. Danny got goosebumps watching its head bobbing left with each passing breeze.
“Mom it looks real!” Danny yelled back at his mother who was already moving boxes to the front porch. An old rusted pitchfork was stabbed into the dirt beside it. Danny knew it was best to leave it be. He heard his mother talk about rusted things, and how sick you can get by them.
“Danny be careful!” his mom yelled back to him.
He waved to her to signal he heard her, and turned his focus back to the scarecrow. Something was hanging from its neck. It looked like an old necklace. He gently slid it over its head to examine it closer. It was a locket of some sort. The old gold ones he had seen in movies before. His fingers were to sweaty to pry it open so he placed it in his pocket instead.
As he made his way back towards the car he saw an older woman wobbling up the path to the farm using a cane. She smiled and waved to them as she approached.
“Look Danny, the neighbors are already greeting us. See? I told you this is a great place,” Sarah said cheerfully.
“We have neighbors?” he replied.
“Hello!” The elder woman happily yelled out. She was fatigued from the walk up the path.
“I thought I saw someone drive up here. Forgive me, my eyes aren’t what they used to be. I’m Julia, I live just down the road there. Are you the new owners?”
“Yes we are. Hi. I’m Sarah, and this is Danny. It’s very nice to meet you,” Sarah said shaking the old woman’s frail soft hands.
Danny shyly stepped behind his mother, and peeked his head out cautiously. He wasn’t one to take to strangers. Especially old ones with nasty yellow teeth. They reminded him of corn.
“Oh my! Look at you! Aren’t you a sight for tired old eyes!” she said laughing.
“Danny where are your manners?” Sarah said.
“Oh it’s quite alright. I’d be afraid of an old hag too just stumbling upon me. I don’t look like much now, but mind you son, boys like you would chase me all over these farmlands,” she giggled softly.
“So you’re from here?” Sarah asked.
“Oh yes dear! Born and raised. Yes. These old bones have had their share of labor I assure you.”
“How wonderful. Danny maybe she could show us some fun things to do,” Sarah cheerfully said. Danny didn’t speak, instead he gave the old woman a shy weak smile.
“Yes… Yes… If these lands could speak… They would tell tales. This was once a flourishing place. The old Harrison farm was quite a place indeed. I’m just happy to see someone willing to bring life back into the old place,” Julia said tapping her cane into the dirt.
“You knew the Harrison family well?”
“I did yes. I was good friends with Thomas. He was old man Harrison’s boy. They were a hard-working bunch they were. God-fearing family the Harrisons. Yes.”
“It’s a shame what happened… With the boy and all,” Julia croaked. There was a sadness to her voice.
“I’m sorry?” Sarah asked confused.
“Oh dear… You don’t know? Well I’ve said too much already then. You don’t need to hear a bunch of sad old news from me.”
“What happened?” Sarah asked, ignoring Julia’s passiveness.
“Young Thomas… He came upon a bout of unfortunate luck. He fell ill one winter, and old man Harrison became stricken with grief when he passed. Yes. They weren’t quite the same after that… Became a shut in, and let the farm go to waste.”
“What about the scarecrow?” Danny squeaked, pointing towards the field.
Julia casted her eyes to the field. “Yeah… I’m not sure about that. I don’t remember Harrison making scarecrows. The state has been using the fields wheat since the family passed away, my guess is they put that God awful thing there to scare away any animals.”
“Should we be worried about animals?” Sarah asked
“Oh no dear! No vermin besides the usual bugs, and maybe foxes wander around. It’s uncommon. You needn’t worry. Well… I just wanted to say hello, and I do hope you’ll pay a visit sometime. It tends to get awfully dark round here come night fall. Yes. I better get while I can. Rains due to come, and let me say it’s about time. The drought has overstayed it’s welcome.”
Sarah looked to the sky, and saw not a single dark cloud above.
“Did you say rain?” she asked
“Oh yes. It will rain. Always does the evening my joints start acting up, and my knee’s are hurting something fierce. Never get old Sarah. Never grow old. You take care now. It was very nice to meet you. Bye Danny,” Julia waved
Danny flashed a quick wave and scrunched his forehead. The sun was beating down hard, and the air was starting to get thick. He was ready to go inside.
“The pleasure was all mine. Thanks for stopping by Julia,” Sarah said.
Julia made her way back down the path to the road, and Sarah handed Danny a box. “Here”, and then made her way towards the house. Danny followed at her heels all while grunting. The front door opened up wide, and the stale air from inside hit Danny’s nose like a punch to the face.
“It’s a beautiful home. We got it cheap because it’s so far out from the city. We were lucky. I know it’s a little old but we will make this place amazing in no time,” Sarah said.
Danny dropped the box to the floor, and wiped dust from the baseboard. “Yeah… Sure…”
“Why don’t you explore a bit? I’ll bring in the rest of the boxes. It’ll be fun. You can pick which room you want. Once we get the stuff here this afternoon we’ll start unpacking completely. This is going to be a good thing Danny… I know it.”
The house was old. The floorboards creaked as he took slow steps across the foyer, and into the main living room. Cherry oak floors extended to the wide wooden staircase that led to an upstairs hallway. The living room was rather bare with double paned windows that looked out into the wheat field.
Danny could tell the house was once beautiful. Dust had lightly showered the curtains, and walls. A large stone fireplace rested in the west corner of the living room. To the right of the stairs was the hallway that extended into the kitchen, laundry room, and basement.
Danny decided to find his room upstairs while his mom got settled. Over the next half hour Danny left no stone unturned as he explored uncharted territory. The rooms were simple. He had chosen the room across the master bedroom. He wanted to be close to his mom.
He missed his dad. He understood why they left, but he couldn’t help wondering what he was doing, and if he’d ever call. He hadn’t yet. His dad wasn’t the same since the accident.
Danny pulled the blinds up, and exposed the back yard. He noticed a tree in the far left side of the land with an old tire swing. In the middle he noticed a stone well. An old wooden frail frame rested over it with a rope. Danny guessed it was once used to draw water. Maybe he would explore it later.
He made his way downstairs, and the front door was open. A draft was blowing leaves inside the foyer. His mom had managed to stack a bunch of boxes inside the doorway rather quickly. She had bursting energy since she arrived. He tried to act happy, at least for her sake. It was hard though. This was the last place he wanted to be.
He walked down the hallway, and past the kitchen to another set of stairs. This seemed a bit different from the rest of the house. It Almost looked like it was newer than the rest of the house. The stairs were cleaner, and the wood wasn’t the same color.
Another strange thing Danny had noticed was the door. It looked thicker, and made of steel with three inch reinforced steel door hinges. It resembled a tornado shelter door except Maine didn’t have tornadoes. Right?
He slowly approached the door and grabbed onto the handle, he was surprised to not find it locked. It opened slowly, letting out a long creaking noise that echoed down into the darkness. This must be the basement he thought. A stale musty smell was strong. It smelled familiar, like his old schools locker room. It was damp unlike the rest of the house.
Danny felt around for a light switch. His hands glided against the moist stone, and he pulled back empty-handed. He decided he would need a flash light. He retreated to the stack of boxes his mother had placed in the foyer, and removed the top two boxes. He opened the one labeled, “misc” and started digging through until he found his black LED flashlight his father had given to him.
He returned to the Erie basement door, and clicked on the light to reveal yet another set of stairs. These stairs were wooden, they looked flimsy, and sharply curved to the right. Danny’s heart started beating faster. He hated basements, but he had to know what was down there.
His imagination started running wild as he thought of monsters lurking in the shadows. He shrugged away such thoughts and made his way down. As he stepped the stairs bowed under his weight. He could tell they were old. The flashlight shined against the gray and brown stone revealing tiny beads of water.
As he rounded the stairs he noticed they stopped three more steps down onto cement. What was this? He waved the beam around the dark room and screamed at what popped in his vision. Before him stood a large dog. His lips were peeled back exposing his sharp off white fangs. His eyes were fixed right at Danny. He looked rabid. His fur was dirty.
Danny turned to run, and smacked into the stone. A sharp pain shot through his face as he hit the ground below him. He grabbed his nose, and felt hot liquid dripping down his lip. He fumbled for a moment, disoriented, searching for his flashlight. It had rolled away.
Any second now the rabid dog would make a hearty meal of him if he didn’t escape. He quickly jumped to his feet ready to run when suddenly a sharp blinding light flashed the room to life. Danny stood there momentarily confused.
“Danny?!” his mother yelled from the stairs.
“Mom run! There’s a dog down here!” he yelled running towards the stairs.
Sarah met him at the bottom, and he went crashing into her stomach. He pushed with all his might to get her to go, but she resisted.
“Danny. Danny. Stop. It’s not a dog. Look. Turn around,” she said.
He turned his head, and was alarmed at what lay before him. The room was full of animals. Dogs, cats, a giant bear, foxes, and a few bobcats.
“What is this?” he asked alarmed.
“It… It looks like a taxidermy room,” she replied
“It’s where someone stuffs, and preserves animals as trophies. Usually hunters collect the animals they kill like this.”
“Why would anyone want that in their house?!”
“The question is why a farmer would have all this stuff down here. It’s OK Danny they’re dead see?”
Sarah walked over to the so-called vicious dog Danny was running from moments ago and poked it’s fur. Danny dropped his shoulders, and relaxed a bit. His nose was still throbbing though. The bleeding had stopped.
“Baby you’re bleeding, are you OK?” Sarah asked concerned.
“I’m fine. Can we leave please? I don’t like it down here,” he asked.
“Yeah… Why don’t we make some sandwiches, and take a break? We can finish this up later.”
Danny nodded in approval at his mother, and they made their way up the stairs. She reached up on the opposite wall Danny had touched and turned the lights off, and then shut the door behind them.
Over the next hour Sarah had brought in the last of the boxes, and then made lunch for the both of them. She had placed an old handmade blanket down on the floor for them to eat on. As they ate Sarah had spoken of all the things she wanted them to do in their new home.
For a moment Danny had forgotten how miserable he was as he chomped down his food. The sun had fallen behind some clouds casting a dark hue to the atmosphere. The air-cooled some. It was a nice change from the terrible heat. Sarah had wiped her mouth, and peeked out the window to see thick dark clouds rolling in fast.
“Huh… The old lady was right after all. It’s going to rain,” she said
“But mom what about the moving truck?”
“I guess they’re going to have to move our stuff in the rain. I hope they bring tarps. I’d hate for our tables to get wet. Those were expensive,” she scowled
Sarah sat back down to finish her sandwich when there was a sudden loud knock on the door. She got up and made her way to the front door expecting the moving truck. Instead a small blonde headed woman with a rather large man stood there looking at her curiously.
“Hi. I hope we’re not intruding. My name’s Tracy. This here is Tony. We work with station 5 local news. May we have just a moment of your time?”
“Umm… Sure… What’s this about?” Sarah asked puzzled.
“I was hoping to film a small segment on the farm with the new owners. Are you who I should be talking with?” Tracy said.
“I am yes. My name is Sarah, and my son is Danny. We just got here not long ago. We’re actually expecting a moving truck. You didn’t happen to see one did you?”
“Well come in. We just finished eating. You’ll have to excuse the mess. I hope you don’t mind sitting on boxes. It’s all we have until the truck arrives,” Sarah said.
“Oh not at all. I understand how moving can be,” Tracy happily said, as her and Tony slowly made their way inside behind Sarah.
Danny peeked up from the blanket at the strangers with a look of concern on his face. Tony was a scary looking man. His rough features, and unkept beard reminded him of bikers. Tony flashed a warm smile at Danny, and Danny felt his heart sink in his chest.
“So where did you guys come from?” Tracy asked
“Iowa,” Sarah replied, sliding some boxes into the living room to accommodate the new guests.
“Oh wow! That’s a cruise,” Tracy said alarmed.
“Yes. But I’m happy to be here. Portland seems like a nice place. It’s quite a change. I’ve always wanted to live near the ocean,” Sarah replied.
“Yeah it’s a small place but we have plenty of excitement that’s for sure. You definitely picked a good time to come. Had it been a month ago, you may have left,” Tracy laughed.
“Oh… Why’s that?”
Tony quickly jabbed Tracy in her ribs to shut her up. She ignored him.
“Well my profession sees an awful lot of drama. Nothing happens here I don’t know about. It’s a peaceful place for the most part, but when stuff does happen it’s pretty bad.”
“Well unfortunately you can’t keep all crime away. Even from the best of cities,” Sarah said
“True. Yes. This though, was something I’ll never forget. There was a double homicide out on route 40…”
“Danny, would you get our guests something to drink please?” Sarah interrupted.
Danny frowned, clearly interested in what Tracy was saying. He slowly got up and made his way into the kitchen, and out of ear shot.
“Oh… I’m Sorry… I’m not used to being around children. Excuse me,” Tracy apologized.
“it’s OK. Danny has been through a lot. I just don’t want him being any more stressed than he already is. This move wasn’t easy for him.”
“I imagine not. I am curious though, why here if you don’t mind me asking?” Tracy asked.
“We wanted to get away. I have always wanted to be by the ocean. Plus the farmhouse was a good deal, and the place seemed more what Danny and I need right now,” Sarah said.
“Yeah. We’ll that brings me to why we are here. We wanted to shoot a segment about you and Danny. We just want a brief story about who you are, and what plans you may have with the farm. Residents are intrigued about its new owners. This is a small place after all, and you know how small cities can be. This would be a perfect introduction.” Tracy says with a smile on her face.
“Mom we have no cups! What box are they in!?” Danny yells from the kitchen.
“By the sink! Grab some glasses, and bring that bottle of wine off the counter!” Sarah yelled back to him.
“I’m sure you have questions as to why. The Harrison farm hasn’t sold since the owners passed. It was a tragedy to say the least. I believe this interview would give hope to those that remember the Harrison family.” Tracy said.
“Well… That would explain why it was cheap I guess. I didn’t really think anything of it. What happened to them? Julia, our neighbor, met us when we pulled up. She said something about Harrison’s son getting sick,” Sarah said.
Tracy frowned, “Yes. That’s the partial story.”
Danny returned with the glasses and wine. He handed them out, and then gave the wine bottle to his mother. He went to sit back down when Sarah stopped him.
“Danny, would you mind putting your boxes in the bedroom? I’d rather you not hear this,” she said.
He frowned, and then slowly complied. He knew the conversation was something bad. To avoid an argument he bit his tongue and bitterly walked off towards the foyer. Sarah opened the wine, and poured three glasses. Tony politely declined. Sarah decided she would have his share as well. She didn’t like where this was heading.
“What happened?” she cautiously asked.
“Well… That’s the thing. Nobody knows the truth. There is only speculation. Imaginations tend to run wild in small cities. Thomas was Harrison’s only son. When he fell sick he was devastated. Story has it he became obsessed with him getting better. When things took a turn for the worst he took up hunting, and taxidermy as a hobby to ease his mind.”
“Well that explains the basement. Danny and I found a bunch of stuffed animals down there. Why though would they leave it there, and not clean it out with the rest of the house?” Sarah asked.
“I’m not sure. Nobody said anything about stuffed animals in the basement,” Tracy said puzzled.
“Yeah. There are a dozen of them at least down there. It scared Danny half to death.”
“Well that’s the thing. Once Thomas fell past the point of return Harrison sort of gave up. He stayed in the basement tending to his hobbies almost all the time. His wife complained about it all the time. Everyone knew. Toward the end Harrison was a different person. He went into town weekly, and bought an unusual large amount of raw meat.”
“Raw meat?” Sarah asked
“Yes. Hundreds of dollars worth. It was just odd behavior. He was pale, and dirty. He hardly spoke. The farm went to hell. Then one night… Mrs Harrison called the local sheriff, and told him he wouldn’t come out the basement. She said he wouldn’t answer her, and she smelled something terrible.”
“Odd,” Sarah softly spoke.
“That’s not the worst of it. She told the sheriff that Thomas went missing. He wasn’t in his bed, and she couldn’t get Harrison out the basement to inform him.”
“That’s where the story ends with the Harrison family. The sheriff showed up about an hour or so later, and they were gone.”
“Wait… Gone? I don’t understand,” Sarah said Confused.
“Yes. Gone. Just like that. All their stuff was still there. The lights were on. There was food on the table. It was like they disappeared off the face of the earth. They went into the basement, and found nothing. The beds were made… All their clothes were still there… Truck in front of the house… It was unlike anything they’d seen.”
“Did they find out anything at all?”
“They interviewed everyone that knew them. Nobody knew anything. The Harrison’s, and their two children were never heard from again. It’s Portland’s biggest mystery,” Tracy said.
“Why didn’t Julia mention this? She said she knew Thomas well,” Sarah said
“I’m sure she didn’t want to scare you. I figured you should know. Sorry. I mean, it’s a case of disappearance, not a gruesome murder or something if that helps. Harrison probably forced them to leave suddenly. That’s everyone’s best guess,” Tracy said.
“I’m glad you were honest with me. Please don’t mention this to Danny. It’s the last thing he needs.”
“No I won’t. I’m sorry to spook you. Let’s get to something more positive yes? This is why we’re here. I’m glad you moved here. We all are. This is going to be a good thing for the community,” Tracy cheerfully spoke, lightly laughing.
“Yeah sure. I think I’ll ditch the glass now, and drink from the wine bottle,” Sarah said
They all starting laughing, and stood up. Danny, who was sitting at the top of the stairs stood up. He had listened in. Pretending oblivious to the situation, he made his way down the stairs.
“Danny we would love to have you in the interview as well. Is that OK?” Tracy asked, looking at them both.
“Sure,” he said.
“Perfect! Tony has the equipment in the news van. He’ll go grab what we need. I have my notes right here. Do you mind if I freshen up in the bathroom?” Tracy asked.
“No go right ahead,” Sarah said pointing her towards the downstairs restroom.
Tony made his way outside to the van. The clouds had become thick in the short time they were there. As he approached he felt small rain droplets hit his arms. He looked up at the unforgiving sky that was now promising rain. “There goes the drought segment” he thought to himself, and chuckled. Tracy would be relieved.
He opened the side door, and started to gather his usual equipment when a loud squawking startled him. He stood up fast, and hit his head on the door frame. Grabbing at the throbbing sensation on his head, he turned to face the sound. A flock of crows had shot out from the wheat field.
He met the gaze of the scarecrow hanging on the wooden cross. He shivered as he fixed his stare. It was facing in his direction, and it almost looked like it was watching him. There was something about the way it was hanging. It looked as if it was hunched forward slightly, like it was trying to move but stopped.
“I hate scarecrows,” he said to himself as he continued gathering his equipment. As he turned to leave, he reached to the center cup holder to grab his water bottle when he noticed the wire to the vans CB was disconnected.
“What the hell,” he said, holding the wire up closer. The frayed tips were jagged, and stripped. He didn’t remember it being broken. The trucks check off made no mention of a faulty CB. Tony hasn’t noticed as he rarely checks the trucks off. The team hardly used them anyway. He would make a note later.
Loud thunder cracked across the sky. He picked up his pace as he made his way back to the farmhouse to avoid getting wet. He made it just in time. The sky opened up mere moments after he stepped inside. It was now pouring out. Out of breath, he closed the door behind him.
“it’s coming down!” he yelled to them as he made his way back into the living room.
Sarah walked over to the window with Tracy right behind her. She peered out Into the grey wet air. Rain was falling in thin long drops onto the earth below, already forming small puddles at the base of the house. Wind was blowing the field’s wheat left in strong gusts. The scarecrow was blowing, and rocking alongside with it. It looked like it was dancing in the rain.
Tony wobbled over after them and peered out as well. He noticed the scarecrow facing the house. He looked over to the right side of the field, and saw the van slightly rocking. He had remembered the scarecrow facing him at the van. Clearly it was facing the house now. Had the wind blown the cross that hard?
“Wow. Where did this come from?” Tracy asked surprised.
“Damn CB is busted,” Tony said.
“Well use your cell, let Arnold know there may be a delay getting back. Sarah I’m sorry to impose, but would you mind if we waited out the storm some once the interview is over?” Tracy asked.
“No not at all,” Sarah said.
Above the house, the rain was beating down hard, and soft, in rhythmic patterns with the wind. A flash of lightning lit up the sky, and the lights in the house flickered.
“OK let’s hurry. Tony go ahead and shoot the angle in front of the window here. Show the rain in the background. Sarah if you’d stand here, and have Danny beside you, that would be perfect. Normally we’d go over this before hand but we should probably hurry. I’ll keep it simple. All you need to do is be yourself,” Tracy said.
Tony set the camera on his shoulders, and took a squat trying to level the shot. He peered through the lens, and centered it at the window so Tracy was on the left, and Sarah with Danny was on the right. He couldn’t help notice the scarecrow dead center in the distance blowing.
“OK we roll in 3… 2… 1…”
“We’re here at the Harrison farm. I’m standing beside Sarah, and her son Danny. Sarah is the proud new owner of the historic farm house we all know. This is the first time the farm has been bought since the Harrison family vacated the residence, and are happy to see new life out here on the lands.”
As Tracy reported Tony struggled to keep the shot center. He kept getting distracted by the blowing scarecrow in the distance. Something felt off. It seemed closer. He took his eye from the lens to make sure it wasn’t his camera. It wasn’t. Tony’s heart skipped a beat as he noticed it looked like it was 20 yards closer.
He peered back through the lens, and kept the shot straight, and steady as she spoke. Suddenly, without warning the scarecrows arm flung off the cross, and the rope started flapping with the wind before blowing away entirely. It then fell off the cross, and rolled forward onto the dirt below. It must have been the wind.
He held his breath. He wanted to stop, but didn’t in fear Tracy would yell at him again. She hated rookie camera work mistakes. She was strict. Suddenly the scarecrow stood up straight in the rain, the burlap sack blowing hard to the left but still remaining intact on its head. It cocked its head, and reached out towards them with both arms straight, as if it were trying to grab them from where it stood.
“OH S**T!” Tony screamed, and stumbled backwards, almost dropping the camera entirely.
“CUT!” Tracy yelled out frustrated. “What the hell Tony!?”
“THE GODDAMN SCARECROW!” was all he could say, pointing to the window. His face grew cold. All the blood rushed from his face as chills shot up and down his arms.
All three of them simultaneously turned towards the window to see an empty cross blowing hard with the wind. The scarecrow was nowhere to be found. It was gone.
“Oh my god! You’ve got to be kidding me?!” Tracy yelled.
“The g******n thing stood up!” Tony yelled. He dropped the camera, and went running to the window pushing past them.
“It’s the wind Tony! Do you hear yourself right now!?” Tracy said embarrassed.
“No… No… No… That thing stood up! I watched it stand up. Here! I filmed it watch for yourself!” he said.
He ran back to the camera, and started shuffling through the feed playback. Tracy shook her head, and looked at Sarah, and Danny, who stood there dumbfounded.
“You’re being an idiot. Stop embarrassing me. I’m sorry guys, Tony gets spooked easily,” Tracy said
Sarah just shook her head, not knowing what to say as Tony cursed himself scrolling through the feed.
“Here look!” he said, turning the side panel screen toward them. He hit play. The video displayed the interview. Tracy was on the left, Danny and Sarah on the right. Directly in the center was a cross rocking in the wind… But no scarecrow.
“This isn’t right. It was there in the beginning! I swear! I watched the damn thing blow off of the cross, and then stand up!” he barked.
“It blew off the cross Tony. You’re just spooked. You see if for yourself. It’s right there! Now stop! Can we please just finish the interview?” Tracy asked
Tony shot his eyes back and forth between the three of them for a few moments, and then dropped his shoulders defeated. “Yeah… Fine.”
“Thank you. OK back in positions. We’ll do the same segment over. Tony same shot. I like the way the storm looked in the background. It was a bit ominous, but the cross is good symbolism for hope,” Tracy said.
Tony once again held the camera into position, and hoisted it up on his shoulders.
“Rolling in 3… 2… 1…”
The lights flickered, sending a static pop into the air. The lights cut off moments later, leaving them in a semi dark house. Tony sighed, and lowered the camera.
“Great!” Tracy barked. She shot Tony the evil eye, and frowned.
Sarah walked over to one of boxes, and pulled out a flashlight. Danny frowned remembering his was lost in the basement.
“What a wonderful time to move in huh Danny?” Sarah asked laughing. Danny shrugged his shoulders.
“Well… What now?” Sarah asked Tracy.
“We can ditch the interview I guess. We can always reschedule. Thanks again for letting us stay. Hopefully this storm dies down. To think… I spent all that time prepping for a drought story,” she said looking at Tony who scoffed.
“Not a problem at all. We can use all the friends we can get. We don’t know anyone here yet so… Feel free to stay as long as you need,” Sarah said.
Over the next thirty minutes Sarah shared stories with her new friends about life in Iowa, her career, and embarrassing stories of Danny. Tony stood up to stretch his legs when they heard a hard knock at the door.
“That better be the movers,” Sarah said.
She walked over to the door, and cracked it open. Standing outside, was a soaking wet young male with short brown hair. He was panting like he was out of breath. Water was dripping from his short bangs. He had sharp pale blue eyes, and olive skin. He was handsome with well-defined features. Sarah could immediately tell he took care of himself. His black muscle shirt clung to his body showing off his muscles underneath.
He looked up, and flashed a hopeless embarrassed smile. “Hey… I’m so sorry… My car ran out of gas down the road. I’m so glad you’re home. I was starting to think I was f****d. This rain came out of nowhere. Please tell me you have some gas to spare or a phone? Mine has no signal,” he softly said
“Oh!” Sarah said alarmed by his presence. She started to blush. He was the first person since Jason who captured her undivided attention. He was perfect.
“Yeah… I’m sorry am I interrupting something?” he asked apologetically looking back at the van.
“No. Not at all. Please come in. Get out of the rain. I’ll get you a towel. We just moved in today, I have to find one. Come in. You can use my phone,” Sarah said.
“Oh man… Thank you! You have no idea how much I owe you. This has been a crazy day. I promise I’ll be out your hair as soon as I call my sister,” he said thankfully.
She opened the door, and he stepped in. A small puddle formed at his boots. “Sorry,” he said.
“You’re soaked! How far did you have to walk?” Sarah asked.
“I don’t know… Maybe a few miles I think.”
“I’m so sorry. Here hold on. I’ll find you a towel.”
Sarah walked into the living room, and ruffled through boxes. Tracy leaned forward, and eyed the soaked young stranger. He looked up, and waved to her. He looked embarrassed.
“Here,” she said, and handed him a towel. He wiped his face, and body the best he could. He wiped the puddle he made, and flung the towel over his shoulder.
“Would you like to join us? We were drinking wine, and waiting out the storm,” Sarah asked smiling
“Yeah sure. Wine… actually sounds great right about now after the day I’ve had,” he said.
They made their way into the living room. Sarah dragged another box over to accommodate their new friend.
“We were actually trying to shoot an interview until the power went out. Hi I’m Tracy laws. I report for news five,” she said sticking out her hand.
He shook her hand. His grip was firm, yet soft. “Nice to meet you,” he said.
“I’m Sarah, and this is Danny,” Sarah said putting her hand on Danny’s shoulder. Danny sunk back behind his mother, and smiled at him shyly.
“I’m Tony,” Tony said not getting up from the box. The stranger sat down on the box across from Tracy. “Thanks again. You have no idea how much I appreciate this,” he said.
“I’ll go grab my phone,” Sarah said
“How about that wine?” he asked.
“Sure,” Sarah handed him a glass, and filled it up. He immediately chugged the glass.
Sarah walked down the hall toward the kitchen where she had her phone plugged in. The stranger helped himself to another glass of wine while he waited. Tracy stared at him. She had a funny feeling in her gut something was off.
“So what did you say your name was?” Tracy asked.
“I didn’t. I’m Lucas,” he said.
“Where ya headed Lucas?”
“I was actually on my way to see my sister. I’m not from here. My car ran out of gas. The f*****g gauge must be broken, and I just broke down on the road. Then it started pouring,” he said.
“So you just decided to walk in the rain a few miles in an unfamiliar place hoping to find help? Why not just call your sister?” she asked.
“What’s with all the questions detective? Give the man a break,” Tony chimed in laughing.
“No it’s okay. I get it. I’d be suspicious too,” Lucas said laughing. He poured himself a third glass, and chugged it.
“My phones dead. Honestly storms freak me out. I couldn’t just sit there. I figured somebody could help. I was lucky to have found you guys. There’s nobody for miles out here,” Lucas said.
“Yeah… Lucky…” Tracy said suspicious.
“Well I’m tired of seeing all this wine. How about a real man’s drink, huh Lucas?” Tony said, holding up a silver flask of bourbon.
“Don’t mind if I do partner!” Lucas says laughing.
Tony handed him the flask, and he took several long gulps before handing it back to Tony.
“Woah! Easy there cowboy. This is some strong stuff,” he said laughing.
“Sure.. Sure… If you’re a p***y,” Lucas replied with a smile.
Tony squinted his eyes, clearly uncomfortable with his remark, and took a swig of the flask. He put it back in his pocket. He was no longer feeling very charitable with his new pal Lucas. Sarah came back in with her phone in her hand.
“Here. It’s got about twenty percent left. The storm knocked out the power before it could charge,” Sarah said.
“Perfect thanks. I’ll give her a ring.”
Lucas stood up, and made his way back to the foyer while dialing. Tracy leaned in, and whispered to Sarah, “I don’t know about this guy. He’s a little rude. I’m not so sure I buy his story,” she said softly.
“What do you mean? He’s very polite.” she said confused.
“I don’t think I like him Sarah. We don’t know him,” Tracy said.
“He’s a drunk…” Tony said crossing his arms, “only a drunk can chug that stuff,” he said looking at Tracy.
Danny looked at his mom, “He called Tony a bad word when you were away.”
“OK… OK… He won’t stay,” Sarah said confused.
Lucas made his way back into the living room, and sat down next to the now uncomfortable group. He held the phone In his hand, and tapped it in his palm gently.
“So Danny… How old you buddy?” he asked.
Danny looked at his mom, and then back at Lucas. He felt uneasy. “I’m nine,” he said softly.
“Nine? Wow! You look older. You kissed a girl yet?”
“So what’s the word with your sister?” Tracy interrupted.
“She didn’t answer. I’ll call back in a few minutes. She can be… A little… Slow sometimes,” he said.
“Yeah siblings can be annoying sometimes,” Sarah said giggling lightly trying to break the awkwardness in the group.
Lucas just fixed his stare at Tracy. He cocked a half grin, and then turned his head towards Sarah with a serious face. “Well she can be a real b***h,” he said in a flat low tone.
“Yeah… It’s time to call again Lucas. We’re wrapping up here anyway,” Tracy said.
“Yeah… OK… You’re right,” he said smiling. “You know how it is to keep mother’s waiting,” he stood up with the phone in his hand getting ready to dial.
“You mean your sister,” Sarah said confused.
“What?” he asked
“You said you know how it is to keep your mother waiting…. You mean your sister,” she said.
“Did I say mothers? Opps”
“OK yeah. It’s time to go now Lucas,” Sarah said holding out her hand for her phone.
“What?! Go?! But why? We were just starting to get to know each other. You were being a very good host Sarah. Don’t f**k it up now,” he laughed.
“OK buddy. You need to go! Now!” Tony said standing up.
Without warning Lucas lands a punch to the side of Tony’s face, sending him over the box he was sitting on, and onto the floor. He crashed hard, rolling onto his side in pain.
“Danny run!” Sarah screamed. Danny took off towards the stairs, but was stopped in his path. Lucas grabbed him by his arm, and pushed him back into his mother so hard she almost fell over.
“Oh no.. You guys aren’t going anywhere,” he said pulling out a large silver hunting knife. “Don’t you know to never open the door for strangers? Tisk… Tisk…” he said, waving the knife in front of his face.
“Yeah… That’ll cost you. That’ll cost you dearly,” he said with a sadistic evil grin on his face. He stood between them, and the foyer leading to the front door.
“I don’t understand. What do you want from us? We didn’t do anything to you,” Sarah said holding Danny against her body tightly.
“Sarah… Back up slowly. Put distance between you,” Tracy said, trying to remain calm. Tracy leaned down to help Tony who was slowly getting back on his feet. He had a massive red lump on his cheek.
“what do I want? That’s a good question,” he said eyeing Sarah up and down.
“I don’t see a man, or a ring on that finger. I’ll tell you what. You take off your clothes right here,” he said pointing the tip of the blade to the floor.
“You take off your clothes, and lay down right here, and I’ll think of not killing your p***y of a son. How about that? What do ya say kid? Wanna see how a real man f**k?” he started laughing madly.
“You sick b*****d!” Sarah yelled.
Just then Tony grabbed Lucas from behind, and Tracy lunged forward with the wine glass she was holding, and cracked it across his forehead. Shards of glass exploded in all directions as Lucas let out a sharp scream holding his arm to his face.
He kicked Tracy back so hard she fell to the ground with a loud thud. Tony attempted to rear bear hug Lucas but was unable to. Lucas was unmatched in strength as he pushed back hard slamming Tony into the wall. Somehow Tony still managed to hold his grip.
“Go! Get out of here! Now!” Tony screamed. Both Lucas, and Tony stood in front of the foyer in a struggle for control.
“No Tony! I’m not leaving you!” Tracy yelled, and once again lunged forward to help her friend. As she neared, Lucas had wiggled in Tony’s grip to where he was now facing him. He had one arm in his neck, and the knife in the other. Tracy went for the knife.
Lucas swiped fast, and caught Tracy across her cheek, and returned to Tony. She bounced backwards, and grabbed at the cut on her face. Sarah eyes the front door. They couldn’t get out that way. Their only chance was the back door.
“You guys go! I’m not leaving Tony!” Tracy yelled.
Lucas managed to escape his grip, and once again threw a punch to the side of Tony’s head. He connected with a loud pop as his head kicked to the right hitting the wall. Tony stumbled and fell forward with an agonizing yell, and hit the floor.
Lucas turned his eyes toward the women, who were shaking in fright. His eyes glazed over. A blood thirsty grin grew slowly as he blocked their escape.
“Go ahead! Run! It’s better when you run!” he growled at them.
Tracy reached over, and grabbed the wine bottle and then threw it at him as hard as she could. It missed by a foot hitting the wall, and shattering onto the floor below. Lucas lunged in her direction but was stopped short when Tony grabbed his ankle.
He quickly shook free and kicked his face so hard and explosion of red mist sprayed up, and against the wall. Sarah grabbed Danny’s hand, and all three took off towards the back door. Sarah quickly grabbed the knob, and her heart sank into her chest. It was dead bolted. The keys were in the foyer.
Lucas slowly made his way down the hall towards them dragging the knife against the wall slowly taunting them.
“What are you going to do now?” he said laughing.
Sarah’s eyes darted around desperately looking for an escape from the madman closing in on them.
“Wait!” she said looking at Tracy. “The basement door has a latch on the inside!”
“Then go now!” Tracy yelled.
They darted towards the steps so fast they almost fell over as they decented down, holding on to the railing to brace themselves. Lucas was right at their heels.
Sarah shoved the door open hard, and pushed Danny through first, and ran in right behind him. Tracy was at the rear with Lucas so close she could feel him. She turned around, closed her fist, and took a swing. She connected with his left eye, jolting him backwards long enough to slam the basement door closed.
She reached up, and slid the latch closed just in time. The door shook hard as Lucas pounded away like a lunatic from the outside.
“It’ll hold! It’s steel!” Sarah yelled.
“You think this will stop me!? You think I won’t get through?! I’m going to kill each of you one by one! You’re trapped down there! You don’t win! I win! I always f*****g win!” he yelled.
After a few minutes the banging stopped, and the house grew quiet. There was no sign of Lucas. Sarah reached up and clicked the light on. The electrical hum of fluorescent lights lit up the room around them. They stood, frightened at the base of the basement steps staring out into the room.
“Tony!” Tracy yelled.
“There’s nothing we can do right now. He would have killed us Tracy. Even Tony couldn’t stop him. He’s to strong,” Sarah said.
“Well we can’t just stay down here. We’re sitting ducks! What are we going to do now?!”
“I don’t know… Let me think of something,” Sarah said. “Wait! My phone! That a*****e has my phone!”
“Mine is in my purse… Which is in the van,” Tracy said defeated. “We have CB… But apparently it’s broken. I bet that psycho did it. He probably planned this whole thing!
“Mom… I’m scared… I don’t like it down here,” Danny said weakly.
“I know Danny. I know. Are you OK? Are you hurt?”
“No… I’m just scared. Who was that guy?”
“I don’t know. But we have to be brave.”
Tracy scanned the room. There large metal shelves lined the center of the basement. On them contained boxes, and different stuffed animals. They were lined up in a way that reminded her of toy soldiers. They looked posed. A long wooden workbench was set against the east wall, and to the left of it a tall bookshelf that contained a random assortment of books. On the bench lay a bundle of old tools.
Tracy walked over, and picked up an axe, and then shot Sarah a smirk. She took a few practice swings, and tied her hair back. “That a*****e’s not killing us,” she said.
“It looks like they never cleaned out the basement,” Tracy said.
“That’s what I was telling you. We haven’t gone through any of this stuff yet. Maybe we can find something else down here besides weapons,” Sarah said.
“Worst case scenario… I axe my way out,” Tracy said.
Danny walked alongside the shelves while Sarah and Tracy discussed plans. He rubbed his hands over a stuffed bobcat. It’s fur was dusty, and its face was frozen in a growl. It gave him the creeps. He saw random Mason jars filled with black liquid. He didn’t dare touch it.
He peeked into a few boxes, and found old magazines, nothing useful. He found his flashlight on the ground, and put it back into his pocket. He dug through another box, and found an old rusty pocket knife. He place it into his other pocket, and kept moving.
On the bottom rack of the third shelf, Sarah picked up a packet of old papers. Written on it were stitching instructions, and how to preserve flesh.
“Harrison really loved taxidermy didn’t he?” she said.
“Yeah looks like it,” Tracy replied.
“He spent almost all his time down here,” she continued.
Danny eyed the bookshelf. They all looked very old. Dust had made its home on most of them. There were books on crops, taxes, plant anatomy, stitching, human anatomy, and old cook books.
A loud thumping sound, and thrashing could be heard from upstairs. It was a sign Lucas was still there doing who knows what. Sarah could only imagine him going through their things.
“Hey wait…. How do we have power? If the rest of the house is out how is the basement lit?” Sarah asked.
“Must be connected to a back up line. Maybe a generator? I don’t know,” Tracy said.
Sarah placed her hands on the west wall to the left of the bookshelf, and edged her fingers across like she was searching for something. She gently pressed her ears against it, and her eyes grew wide.
“I thought I heard something. Tracy come here, listen. Something is buzzing,” Sarah said.
Tracy walked over next to Sarah, and pressed her ear against the stone. Her eyes lit up as well. She licked her dry lips, and knocked on the stone.
“It sounds like power is being drawn from here somewhere. Look for something.”
“Like what?” Sarah asked confused.
“I don’t know. A handle, button, anything,” Tracy replied.
Both women searched vigorously, tracing their hands along the creases of the damp stones, and turned up nothing. Suddenly, a loud hissing sound barked into the atmosphere as the stone wall started shaking, and then gave way. In front of the two baffled women lay a concrete opening into darkness.
“Um… Mom…” Danny said, still holding onto a book he had pulled out from the shelf.
“Of course! The cliche hidden book lever. We should have started there. Great job Danny!” Tracy said. Danny smiled at her.
Danny cautiously walked up to the hidden walkway, and shined the flashlight in. It was a stone-walled path wide enough for two people. The ground was loose damp soil that extended into the unknown. A soft stale stench escaped into the basement. Who knows how long it’s been since it was opened.
“What the hell is this?” Sarah asked.
“It looks like we’re about to find out,” Tracy answered.
“I’m not going in there. Who knows where it leads, and what can be in there. No way in hell!” Sarah yelled.
“Would you rather deal with psycho?” Tracy asked.
Sarah took a deep breath, and squinted her eyes, attempting to see into the darkness. “Fine,” she said.
She grabbed Danny’s hand, and let Tracy take the front. Tracy shined the Flashlight at the path in front of them as they slowly departed forward into the unknown. The musky humid air hit them as they slowly shuffled forward.
“This looks like an old transport tunnel,” Tracy said, shining the beam of light along the roof at the weathered wooden beams.
She noticed cables lined the walls on both sides. She assumed at one point there was lighting along the walls. Not even fixtures remained anymore.
“During World War two soldiers used to use these for supply runs. I’m not sure that’s what this is, but it’s my best guess,” she said, trying to mask the fear in her voice.
“Mom… I’m getting wet,” Danny barked, wiping water from his forehead.
“Me too Danny. Just keep your head down. We’ll be out soon,” Sarah said.
Water droplets slowly leaked from the soil above onto their heads as they continued their way forward. Within minutes, their clothes became damp and heavy. Tracy gripped the axe Tighter as she pushed the group forward.
Finally after what felt like hours, the path turned to the right, and started to narrow inward. The path become tight, and uncomfortable. They could hear the buzzing sound even louder now. Something was near them.
“It’s getting louder. Just up ahead, keep moving,” Tracy ordered.
The flashlight beam caught the front of what looked like an old steel door. It’s hinges were rusted. A small latch was pushed up, and the door was ajar. A red flashing light was seen escaping the cracks.
Tracy used the axe, and slowly pushed the door open. It creaked as it gave way. Shining the flashlight in, she found the source of the light. A glass emergency light lay blinking at the opposite end of the room.
The room was large, and oval. It looked similar to a military bunker with reinforced steel walls. The floor was also steel, and oddly clean. It was as if someone wanted this room sterile. In the center lay an old projector, with a slightly off white, and slightly torn projection screen on the far right wall.
Steel counters lined the room, and on them were various maps, books, charts, and beakers. It appeared to be a work station of some sort. A rather large chalk board was above the left wall counters. Various formulas were present, although faded.
Tracy scanned the chalkboard. It was mostly foreign to her, although she did recognize one thing. She saw the letters “ATP” multiple times. If she wasn’t mistaken this looked like energy metabolism within the human body. She wasn’t sure. She slept her way through college. The only thing she ever had a passion for was journalism.
But why would this be here? Tracy immediately felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Something was definitely wrong here. This felt like some dirty secret, one that wasn’t meant to be found.
“What the hell is this?” Sarah asked, eyeing the room slowly.
“I have no idea,” Tracy slowly answered.
“This doesn’t look like something a farmer would be a part of. This looks like some villains layer. This was just sitting here underneath the farm this whole time, and nobody knew?” Sarah asked.
“I have a strong feeling Harrison knew. I mean, this would explain why he was always in his basement right? He wasn’t actually in his basement, the b*****d was here… Doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing,” Tracy said.
To the right of the projection screen lay a wooden door. It was the source of the electrical sound. The door was out-of-place, it stood out from the rest of the room. Danny slowly made his way to it, and reached for the handle.
“Hey look!” Tracy said, pointing to the projector. A dirty projector reel was loaded into it, and inscribed on the metal encasing was a label that read, “Thomas ex 21- final”
Danny stopped, and quickly made his way back to his mother.
“It says Thomas,” Tracy said.
“Does it even work? It looks old,” Sarah asked.
“I don’t know.”
Tracy traced the projector with her hand looking for a power switch. She felt a small flip switch at the rear, and pulled it up. Suddenly the machine buzzed, and clicked to life, and immediately shot an image on the screen.
The display was black and white. Two men in a white lab coat, were standing in a small room with what looked like large cylinder tubes filled with a liquid substance on the wall behind them. In the center of the room was a chair, and a young man was strapped down with restraints. His head was to his chest, it looked as if he had fainted. It was horrific to see.
“Testing… Testing,” one of the men spoke to the camera. The audio was distorted but still manageable to make out.
“OK let’s begin. Hello this is Doctor James Wells, it is currently three AM in the morning… Umm… October fifth, nineteen fifty seven. Behind me is Mr Charles Harrison. This is subject 21, and you are currently seeing the final stages of PAX-7.”
“As you can see the organic cellular regeneration process has been proven successful, with a ninety seven percent restoration rate. The first 20 have failed. Pax-7 is officially complete, the metabolic rate of PAX-7 has increased threefold with the addition of a synthetic catalyst compound. This compound has attached to the hosts DNA, and undergone Gene manipulation therapy at an alarming rate.”
“The hosts epidermis was preserved to prevent organic decay… However the hosts organs, bone structure, circulatory system, and especially the brain, remain highly active. The hosts muscular system has increased mass at an alarming rate. Latest blood tests show no signs of illness.”
“Subject Thomas Harrison who was confirmed dead from multi system cancer, was preserved for testing… And… Well… Has been reanimated. Contact with subject thus far has failed. It seems the subject’s brain has somehow reverted to some sort of primal functioning similar to a canine with rabies.”
“Hey! Look! Wells… I think he knows who I am! Look!” Charles yells excited.
“Charles get away from it!”
“No look… He’s smiling at me!”
“That’s not Tommy! Tommy is dead Charles, back away from it.”
“No it’s him! Look… Hold on… He’s… He’s trying to speak!”
“Damn it Charles, listen to me! Tommy is dead. That thing…”
Suddenly the picture cuts out, and the screen goes white before the tape flaps from the real in a circular motion until Tracy clicks the projector off. Sarah was still staring at the screen in utter shock. Tracy licks her dry lips, and holds the axe closer to her chest.
“We need to get the f**k out of here… Now…” Tracy slowly said, looking at Sarah. They meet eyes with the same question in mind, what happened to Tommy?
“We can’t go back the way we came… Come on,” Tracy said, heading to the only other door in the room.
She pushed the wooden door open, and immediately realized they were now in the room they had just seen in the video. A foul smell hit Tracy’s nostrils, and her eyes started to water.
“Oh!” she turned her head in disgust. Sarah let out a shriek as she grabbed Danny’s face, and turned it away from the horror that faced them.
In the center of the room, and hanging from meat hooks from the neck, were three corpses. They were severely decayed. They were swinging gently as they hung from the ceiling. One had a dirty lab coat, and the other was to decayed to make out anything. The third was in a dress, with the mandible missing.
“Oh my god! Danny don’t look!” Sarah yelled out.
“Stay behind me!” Tracy yelled out, slowly moving forward. Sarah was right at her heels pulling Danny, who was trying to get a look at the bodies. In the center was the chair. It was old, and tainted with thick hardened blood. The chair was rested on a large circular metal grate, and under was a large drain.
“What were they doing to him?” Tracy asked eying the room.
In the far right wall were the long glass cylinder tubes. They were empty now. She could only imagine what Pax-7 was. This was unbelievable. She had yet stumbled upon another story. The reporter in her was thrilled, but at the same time she wanted nothing more than to leave this hell.
To the left of the cylinders was a large storage room. The door was ripped off its hinges. Inside contained old white Styrofoam packages. Hundreds of them were thrown about in an unorganized manner.
“Look,” Tracy said pointing to the storage room. “what do those look like to you?” she asked.
“I don’t want to know,” Sarah said.
“Those are meat packaging. Those bastards were feeding it,” she said.
“Can we please leave?!” Sarah yelled.
“Yeah… Sorry… Come on. There’s another door over here. It has to be the way out,” Tracy said.
As they picked up their pace towards the metal door on the North wall, a sudden shattering sound barked out from the projection room. Something had fallen over.
“What was that?!” Sarah asked, and turned around toward the door sharply. Slow heavy footsteps sluggishly thumped around, and grew louder with each step. A soft deep moan barked into the atmosphere.
All three of them jumped at the sound. Sarah shot Tracy a look of utter horror, and opened her mouth to speak. Suddenly the door burst open so hard it cracked the wooden frame.
In the doorway stood the familiar scarecrow both Sarah, and Danny had seen in the field. It slumped over onto the door frame, and curled it’s gloved hand around the frame to gain balance. It’s burlap sack moved in and out, as it took deep breaths. It’s unnatural dark eyes were looking right at Danny, and it moaned deep and long like an injured rabid animal.
“Run!” Tracy screamed.
“Mommy!” Danny cried out.
“Go… Go… Go” Sarah yelled, almost pushing Tracy over getting to the metal door in front of them. They pumped their legs hard as they almost fell through the door, and slammed it behind them.
“I don’t see a lock!” Sarah yelled out.
“F**k it just go!” Tracy barked.
In front of them lay an old metal staircase that spiraled around lower into darkness. The thick mildew air was suffocating as they drew in every breath making their way down. Tracy’s flashlight was shaking intensely from fright.
They hit the bottom hard, and we’re standing in front of three different tunnels. An old faded plaque with directions was crookedly hanging on the wall.
“Left tunnel to processing. Center tunnel to exit. Right tunnel imaging, and laboratory,” it read.
“Here! Come on!” Tracy yelled pointing straight.
The loud banging from the top of the staircase reminded them that whatever that was, it was close behind them.
Not knowing where they were, they sprinted down the dark center tunnel. The ground was soaked, and thick mud kicked up from their shoes as they ran. The tunnel narrowed the further they ran, and eventually became so narrow it forced them in a single file line as they dredged their way through. The walls were softened, and thin strands of roots jetted out, hitting Tracy in the face as she pushed forward.
A long gurgling gutteral moan echoed out in the thick darkness behind them. It grew closer to them as they were forced to take slower strides in the narrow tunnel. After what felt like hours, Tracy’s flashlight spotted the end. A wooden ladder was secured to the wall, and made its way up.
As they neared, Tracy silently prayed it was a ladder to the surface. She grabbed it, and shined the light up. Relief washed over her as it looked like a round hole, and a wooden beam across it. Above the wooden beam looked like small white lights. Was that the sky?
“Let’s go. We have to climb fast. Whatever you do, don’t stop,” she ordered.
She made her way up, the unforgiving ladder creaked and wobbled as she climbed. Sarah pushed Danny forward, and then she grabbed the ladder as he made his way up. As she climbed her chest nearly caved in when she felt a rough gloved hand grab her ankle.
“AHH!” she screamed out, almost falling backwards onto the scarecrow, who was holding onto her tightly. Sarah attempted to kick free, but was unsuccessful. She strained to keep her hands on the ladder as it pulled.
“Let go!” she cried out.
Panic washed over her as she felt her fingers slipping. She was getting to tired to hold on. She couldn’t break free from its death grip.
“Mom! Here!” Danny yelled, lowering down an open pocketknife.
Sarah quickly grabbed it, and stabbed down as hard as she could into its hand. It yelled out in pain, and finally let go of her ankle. She pushed up as hard as she could to gain distance from the abomination below. Her whole body ached as she climbed.
Finally the familiar smell of fresh air hit her face. The air became less thick as she neared the top. They had reached the surface.
“It’s a well!” Tracy yelled as she pulled herself out, and onto the surface. Danny was next, and finally Sarah rolled over the cobblestone, and onto the wet ground. She took in deep breaths of fresh air. Her lungs never hurt so bad.
The rain had stopped. The house was still dark, and both Sarah’s car and the van remained where they left it. Sarah stood up, and rested her hands on her knees to catch her breath.
“Are you OK?” Tracy asked.
“Yeah… I think so,” Sarah muttered.
“We can’t stop. We have to keep moving,” Tracy barked.
Tracy eyed the van. The tires were flat. “S**t,” she yelled out, “do you have keys to your car?” she asked.
Sarah let out a chuckle, “Yeah…. In the house.”
They both eyed the house, and then looked back at each other. A loud moan escaped the well as a gloved hand curled around the cobblestone.
“Come on! Get inside!” Tracy yelled
“but what about Lucas?!” Sarah panicked
“Take your pick!” she screamed. “I pick Lucas!”
All three took off towards the house as the muscular monster got to his feet. It’s gait was sloppy, and he walked with a limp. They burst through the front door and slammed it closed. Sarah immediately locked it.
Tracy handed the flashlight to Sarah, and held the axe close. It was dark. The living room was a complete mess. Boxes were thrown around, its contents thrown about the floor.
“Lucas!” Tracy bravely yelled out.
There was no reply. Sarah ran to the window, and peered out. The scarecrow was nowhere to be seen.
“The back door!” Sarah screamed.
She took of towards the rear of the house, and stopped immediately at the sight of Fred’s mangled body on the kitchen floor. Sarah gasped, and held her hands to her mouth. Tony had been killed.
“Tony!” Tracy screamed.
“Mom?” Danny yelled out, pointing to the basement door. It was ripped open. It looked as if something peeled it back like a sardine can from the center.
“Do… Do you think it got Lucas?” Sarah asked.
“I f*****g hope so!” she yelled.
“We have to get the keys. That’s all that matters right now. Think Sarah. Where are the keys?”
“Um… I don’t know. They could be anywhere. Lucas threw all our stuff around.”
“Okay… You two check the living room. I got the kitchen. Be fast, and thorough. Yell if you need me,” Tracy said.
Sarah nodded her head, and made her way into the living room with Danny right behind her. Tracy squinted her eyes. She placed the axe on the counter. The only light she had was the moon as she ruffled her way around the counters, and table. She lightly brushed her arms around feeling around trying to make out each thing she touched.
She reached out and heard a jingle to her left. It sounded like keys. As she turned something softly grazed her ear.
“Ahh!” she yelled out in a panic.
“Looking for these?” Lucas whispered in her ear.
“Sarah! Danny! Run!” Tracy yelled out. She felt a sudden sharp pain, followed by an explosion of blood, as Lucas punched her in the face. She hit the kitchen tile, and rolled in a puddle of cold thickened blood.
Lucas grabbed her hair, and drug her across the floor. “Come on b***h,” he angrily said. Tracy tried to kick, but had no traction on the blood soaked floor. She only made streaks as she struggled trying to break free. Spurts of warm blood gushed down the sides of her face as she struggled to breathe. She started gagging.
He dragged her into the living room. Both Danny and Sarah were frozen in fear. He let her go, and stood up knife in hand. He flashed a sadistic grin at Sarah.
“Danny don’t speak,” Sarah whispered, and cut the flashlight off. They were surrounded by darkness.
“You think that will save you?!” he yelled out.
Sarah took Danny’s hand, and crouched low. Taking small steps, she and Danny crept toward the front door.
“I’ll kill you! Do you hear me?! I’ll kill the boy first. Then once I’m done with him, I’ll have you begging to die!” he yelled out in the darkness.
Lucas toppled over boxes, almost falling trying to make his way across the living room. Sarah and Danny picked up their pace. They almost made it to the door when an electric hum popped in the atmosphere, and the lights flickered back on.
Lucas erupted in laughter as Sarah and Danny stood up. He quickly circled the opposite side of the room, and blocked their exit.
“Well” he growled, “this must be my lucky day.”
Suddenly the front door burst open, sending glass and wooden shards in all directions. Lucas spun around just in time to be impaled through the stomach by a rusted pitchfork.
He let out a scream as he was viciously hoisted into the air, and held, suspended above the scarecrow. Lucas flailed his arms outwards grabbing at anything that could help him.
The scarecrow shook the pitchfork up and down viciously causing it to go deeper inside Lucas’s stomach. Finally he slumped forward, and was still. His body was hurled backwards violently, and made a sickening thud as he unnaturally hit the wall.
Sarah pulled Danny back. With nowhere to go, she pushed him into the corner, and stood in front of him with her hands out. The scarecrow lowered his blood soaked pitchfork, and slowly made his way towards them.
“Go away! Go away you freak!” Sarah screamed.
As he approached, he stood tall, towering over them. He cocked his head to one side, studying Sarah’s facial expressions. Danny desperately fumbled in his pocket, and pulled out the locket he had found on his neck.
It glistened against the light, and caught the scarecrows attention. He reached forward slowly.
“Here. t.. take it,” Danny whimpered.
He took it from Danny’s hand, and held it close to his eyes. He let out a soft moan. He attempted to unlatch it, but failed, and let out an angry cry.
“Here… Let me…” Danny nervously said, and reached his hand out.
He took the locket, and unlatched it. Inside were two small black and white pictures of a young man and woman. It was faded, and weathered.
“Is that you?” Danny asked?
The scarecrow moaned. His eyes grew saddened, and then angry again. He angrily reached out to grab him but was once again distracted by Danny.
“Wait!… Who.. Who’s that?” he said pointing at the female in the picture. Once again his eyes grew sad.
“Why… That would be me son,” an old frail voice rang out from the broken doorway.
In stepped the old woman. She shuffled past the debris with her cane, and slowly limped past Lucas’s corpse. She made her way towards the scarecrow whose eyes were fixed on Danny and Sarah.
“That’s enough now Thomas. That’s enough,” Julia said, and put her soft weak looking hand on its shoulder.
“Yes I was beautiful once. Yes. Time you see is an enemy to vanity,” she nodded at them. Her back was hunched over as she leaned onto the cane.
“Oh Thomas…. What has your daddy done to you boy?” she sadly spoke. She placed her hands on the burlap sack. It reached up, and grabbed her hands, and leaned into them.
“I was waiting for him to wake up you see. It has been way to long. I wasn’t sure at first he ever would again. Thomas seems to wake when he wishes. He has dealt with all the pests that bother our lands.”
“When Harrison died, the city left his basement alone. He was a dear old friend to the mayor. I assumed they left his passions with whomever owned the farm, but it never sold, and we were left alone.”
“When I heard a young woman, and her child had bought it I assumed Thomas would deal with you two as well. Yes. It was your unruly guest who messed everything up,” she said pointing to Lucas
She reached up, and removed the burlap sack from its head. Thomas’s face was severely disfigured. His tan waxy preserved flesh was crudely stretched back, and stapled to the skull in a sloppy manner. His right eye protruded half an inch from its socket. His mouth was sewed shut.
Sarah gasped, and turned Danny away from the horror.
“Yes I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Thomas was once a very handsome man indeed. Of all the harlots, and women about, he chose me. I’ve loved him dearly since. He was a strong sensitive boy, and I was to be married to another. Thomas killed that man so we could be together. Had we known the ramifications of such act we’d have run away instead, but mind you, we love our farm.”
“The man I was to marry was a spoiled upper class aristocrat type from a family of doctors. When word got out of his death they suspected my Tommy. They couldn’t prove it. No. My soon to be brother-in-law convinced Harrison Tommy had fallen ill. He was slowly poisoning him.”
“They said he had cancer. That was a lie. I knew It then as I know now. Before he died they told Harrison of an experimental drug the Germans had abandoned research on. They used their influences, and power to build what you saw down below us.”
“The Germans abandoned their research for a reason you see. They knew it was unnatural. But did they care?! No! Look at my poor Thomas now. So… Harrison preserved him, and they turned him into what he is today.”
She reached into her pocket, and removed a small vial of bright blue liquid. She unscrewed it, and drank from it. Within moments her posture had changed. She stood up tall, and tossed her cane to the ground.
“But… But he died.” Sarah weakly said.
“Oh no dear… There is no such thing as death,” she said.
“The police will be here sometime tomorrow morning I’m sure. They’ll go digging. Our secrets will be uncovered. I knew it wouldn’t stay buried forever. Our time here is finished. We all move on. I guess it’s time we do as well.”
“Samuel was his name… The son of that b*****d who did this to my Tommy. Yes.”
Tracy stumbled out of the kitchen holding the axe as a crutch, her eye’s shocked at the old woman’s story. She struggled to stand, and fell back onto the axe.
“If you wish to live dear… You’ll leave now. All of you. You’ll leave this place, and you’ll never return here. You are to never speak a word of this again. If you decide to… You’ll pay dearly.”
“I’m awfully tired of all this bloodshed. Yes. Come Thomas it’s time to go,” she said.
Thomas put his burlap sack back on and followed the old woman out. They were gone. Tracy wobbled over to Sarah with the keys in her hand.
“Let’s get the f**k out of here,” she said.
“Where will we go?” Sarah asked.
“The police,” Tracy said.
“What happens when they find out about the stuff we found?”
“We tell them the truth. We were just as surprised.”
Sarah nods, and grabs the keys. She reached down and hugged Danny. “You were so brave. Are you OK?” she asked.
“I’m fine. Can we go please?”
Sarah grabbed the keys, and they made their way out the door. As they got into the car, and took off towards the city they sat in silence. Nobody dared to speak a word of the horror they witnessed that night. Tracy thought of Tony, and started to tear up. Her tears suddenly turned into laughter.
“What?” Sarah asked.
“The biggest story in the world fell into my lap, and I can’t even tell it,” she softly spoke.
October 31st (fifty miles south of Portland Maine)
Sam finished up his toast. He was late. He had a Presentation at the local hospital about a break through in research on strokes. He adjusted his tie in the mirror. He took a quick slip of his mug of coffee, kissed his wife, and stepped out.
He was in such a rush he almost dropped his briefcase when he saw it. His blood ran cold. Where in the hell did this ugly thing come from? He looked back at the front door to see if anyone else had taken notice yet.
He crossed his arms, and cocked his head to the side to get a better look. Hanging there sluggishly on a wooden cross, and slightly blowing in the soft morning breeze, stood the ugliest scarecrow Samuel had ever seen.