It really is the most creative time of year for me, in regard to fiction writing. Each year I have fashioned a series of gothic and contemporary horror tales from my fevered imagination, thanks to my addiction to horror films and fiction. This year was no different, but rather than a collection, I have been crafting a rather long, short story that will finish around the 20,000 word mark, if it ever finishes. To pay homage to the wonderful creative spurt I now find myself in, I have included a short story from 2016’s anthology; Death Comes Calling, in this post for your perusal.
Death Comes Calling
It was a dark and stormy night; well not really, it was more of a light rain. Light but constant. The rain didn’t bother Thomas Barlow, his work was indoors, he didn’t much care for the rain but it didn’t stop work on his afternoon project. If anything he quite liked the sound of the rain on the roof – it served as an accompaniment. Of course, he couldn’t actually see it pattering against the windows because there were no windows in the basement. Seeing out wasn’t a requirement and no windows meant no prying eyes.
A single 100-watt bulb hung without a shade in the centre of the room, he used a flexible lamp for close-up work. With the door closed and locked he had complete peace and quiet – his little afternoon project lay upon the metal table in front of him, motionless and ready for his attention. He rolled up his sleeves and reached for the scalpel.
The woman on the table, his latest acquisition, lay like a mannequin. Her face was now drained of the animation that had once drawn the boys like bees to honey. The sparkle was gone from the eyes that stared up at the bright yellow bulb. This wasn’t the last sight they had seen, no, as the last light faded in those blue eyes it was the forest they fixed on – the shades of light and dark amongst the leaves.
He liked to bring them there; the forest was his special place. Who didn’t love a nice romantic walk in the woods in autumn? This one; Marian, had sought him out, so in a way she got what was coming to her. It was easy to get her to trust him, his handsome good looks and jovial manner along with the lean toned physique never failed. It was a shame because he could have fallen for Marian, she was clever and funny. But he never allowed personal feelings to get in the way of his hobby.
It hadn’t taken much to lure her to the spot, the promise of a little lovemaking on a blanket.
“But Tommy, someone will see us,” she giggled, a hand already unbuttoning her blouse.
“No, no one will see or hear us, my love,” he pushed her down onto the blanket. “Now come on let’s get you out of these annoying clothes”.
And it was true, nobody heard her screams before the chloroform did its work and then it was only a matter of getting her to the car in order for the real fun to begin. He smiled at himself as he began his work, looking around for a smaller tool, one less cumbersome. He had the perfect one for the job but where was the bloody thing? Looking about in irritation it came to him, it was in the dishwasher. Typical. He took off his gloves. He crossed the room and flicked off the light before closing the door.
He sprinted up the steps to the first floor. The kitchen was across the hall and Thomas admired his reflection in the large ornate mirror in passing. In the kitchen, he grimaced at the dirty cup and saucer left on the work surface. This morning he hadn’t had time to complete his clean up and it irritated him. Thinking of breakfast made him hungry – he looked at his watch and realised it was hours since he had last eaten. Perhaps a quick sandwich? He was sure Marian wouldn’t mind.
He washed his hands at the sink before preparing his snack. Just as he pulled his chair into the table the doorbell rang, the cheerful tone echoing in the silence of the house. Thomas frowned. Who could be calling at this hour? He was glad the blinds in the kitchen were closed. Whoever it was must have the wrong house.
He decided to ignore the bell but just as he took a mouthful of his sandwich it sounded again. Well really! Thomas flung the sandwich down. Storming out into the hall he nearly tripped across the oriental rug.
He could see the rain lashing against the glass panel in the front door – a shadow blocked out the light from the lamp. Someone very tall stood outside his door.
The bell rang a third time. Pulling back the chain Thomas cranked the front door half-open, he peered out into the rain. The dark shape moved to close the gap.
“I’m sorry, I think you must have the wrong house,” he said moving to close the door but there was suddenly a very large black boot blocking the way; it looked to Thomas to be a size eleven at the very least.
“Mr Barlow?” The stranger’s voice was unusual, perhaps German along with something else, something more foreign and alien.
“Yes, what do you want?” He tried to see the face of the strange individual who towered over the door.
“I want to come in, for a start,” the voice was strangely persuasive, and Thomas found himself inviting the stranger indoors and making him a cup of tea before he even realised what he was doing which was of course completely out of character. No one, not even his short-lived girlfriends had ever seen the inside of his house (except post-mortem).
His night caller was well dressed in a full-length Barbour trench coat that reached down to his polished boots. Beneath the coat, he wore an immaculately cut three-piece suit in charcoal black – the colour matched his eyes. A white shirt with a starched collar and grey silk tie gave his appearance a funereal look.
He let the man sip his tea, in the good china cup taken from his mother’s special set on the top shelf of the dresser. It had seemed the right thing to do. He waited for a good five minutes until his curiosity got the better of his manners.
“Do I know you sir?” he asked politely.
“You do not but I know you, Thomas. You were born in this very house nearly thirty-five years ago. Your mother died in the next room from a stroke while you watched. As the last living member of the family, you inherited everything, oh yes, and you murder for sport.”
Thomas jumped up from the table – he grabbed the knife that lay beside the fruit cake but only got half way around the table before the silver handle got so hot that it fell from his hand. He stared at it in shock. His companion now stood directly in front of him, an amiable smile across his aristocratic features.
“Now, really Thomas, is that any way to treat a guest? Come now, take your seat, we will have our conversation.”
Thomas fell back into his seat with his mouth open; he stared at the gentleman with open fear.
“I am here for you Thomas.” The gentleman pointed across the table with his long bony finger.
“But why, why are you here? “ His voice trembled.
“Because it is your time,” and then Thomas knew why the man was familiar, he remembered the day his mother died, he had noticed the tall man standing across the road from their house, the trench coat had drawn his attention and his unnatural height. The stranger hadn’t aged a day in over fifteen years; the same jet-black hair fell to his narrow shoulders.
“But… but I’m not ready,” he squeaked.
“It does appear that I am somewhat early,” the Reaper cleaned a long nail with the tip of the knife Thomas had brandished earlier. Thomas sat back in his chair, his relief palpable.
“Do you mean that you won’t be taking me now? When then? 10 years? 30?” He asked hopefully.
“Oh, I don’t think so Thomas.” the Reaper smiled showing off his beautifully even white teeth. He glanced behind Thomas.
The young man turned his head and then paled when he heard the sound of footsteps come up from the basement. A soft light tread that was punctuated with a giggle.
He put a hand across his mouth and trembled in horror as the handle began to slowly turn and then click open.
He scrambled to leave his seat but some power held him fixed there.
Thomas screamed as the blonde-haired wraith slipped into the room. He whipped his head around to the Reaper, imploring him with his eyes. The Reaper stood up gracefully, buttoned his trench coat and patted down his hair.
“Thanks for the tea,” he said politely and walked past the trembling man.
“Please don’t leave me.” Thomas whimpered, “don’t leave me with her.” He grabbed the edge of the trench coat as the tall man passed. The reaper leant down to Thomas and looked him in the eye. “I won’t be long,” he said and turned to the creature who giggled at the doorway, blood running from the jagged incision on her chest.
She laughed. “Oh, I’d say half an hour should do it.”. Thomas screamed as she advanced towards him. He fainted as she placed a cold strong hand on his shoulder and said in her gurgling voice “Now where is that scalpel?” She headed towards the dishwasher.
If you liked this story, why not try the others in this little collection of dark tales, after all it’s only 99c on Amazon.