A sequel to Fifty Shades of Darkness
The “shortest horror story ever written” is usually attributed to Fredric Brown:"The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door."
Pierard went up to the attic to search for some cold weather clothes. If he was going to embark on a polar expedition to the plumber, he would have to prepare himself first.
Where to start? He frowned as he looked about the cluttered corners of the attic. Pierard wished he had brought along some extra help, but then they’d probably make a mess or simply tell him he was crazy for trying to travel in such weather.
I never thought it would be this messy. Pierard wandered over to an old-fashioned, pedal-powered sewing machine that had several wicker sewing baskets stacked on top. A long time ago, someone had used it to make clothes. He wondered whom exactly. He also wondered how much trouble it went into hauling it up here. It was a really heavy, bulky thing consisting mostly of cast-iron.
Pierard lifted off the lid of one sewing basket and examined the contents with interest. Numerous glass eyes on long silver pins stared blankly back at him. He opened some more baskets. There were scissors shaped like storks, a bunch of small-carved monsters, old bird nests full of glass-eyed insect buttons.
“Weird,” said Pierard, turning away. “I wonder if those once belonged to a loony dressmaker.”
He went to one of the trunks and tugged open the heavy lid. The first thing that caught his eye was a medium size book of dark tropical wood. He took it from the trunk and opened it. Inside he found a shriveled monkey mummy, which some person had cleverly fastened to the tail of a large perch, making a most unpleasant-looking mermaid. On the underside of the monkey-fish was a paper sticker, which read Souvenir of Bombay 1910. Ruffling his feathers in disgust, Pierard set it aside.
Next he found a cricket bat, a small leather-bound book by Par Voltaire, a pith helmet, a moth-eaten snakeskin (probably that of a python or an anaconda), a gold watch chain without a watch, and a dusty pair of half-moon spectacles. Finally the trunk was empty of everything except the bottom layer of dust and long-dead insects.
Pierard, knowing a little bit about hidden panels and pockets, searched the inside of the lid. He didn’t find anything though.
Pierard sighed. It was too bad he didn’t find a pair of snowshoes, or better yet, a heap of hidden wealth.
Oh well, he thought, not every chest is full of pirate gold. Maybe something might turn up if I look a bit harder.
Without putting everything back in the first trunk, Pierard went to the next trunk. The first thing he saw were clothes, but they weren't the kind that were suitable to wear in cold weather. They were thin silk and lace, hardly enough to dust a fiddle.
Pierard dredged up one such costume. If the dress wasn’t a bright chartreuse I could cut it up for handkerchiefs, he thought, shaking his head in disgust.
Dumping the dress to one side, he continued rummaging through the clothes pile. He found some men’s garments, but they were all very old fashioned and long out-of-style.
“Dress-up, dress-up,” muttered Pierard to himself, “nothing but dress-up.”
He wondered if he had found some of his great Aunt Abigail’s stuff. She was his grandmother’s youngest sister, and wherever she went, she always wore kid gloves and jewelry. She had been a famous actress long before his time.
After some more searching, Pierard finally hauled out some interesting things: a dozen handcrafted walking sticks, a fancy tobacco pipe; and large photo album with a dark-red velvet cover. Its pages were filled with ancestral pictures of parrots, some of them with labels identifying them. Most of them seemed to have followed nautical occupations; one had served on a warship in the battle of Bamborgoo, which had happened at the turn of the previous century. Another had worked for a sail maker, and one had worked in a store selling supplies to sailors.
Pierard’s eyes lit up with excitement as he turned page after page. It seemed he wasn’t the only one with the urge to adventure on water. Soon he forgot all about preparing for his winter walk to the plumber. The plumbing could take care of itself for all he cared.
As he reached the middle of the album, the pictures became color and more new. Pierard recognized several people, including his mother, father, and twin brother, Perry.
There were pictures of him and Perry when they were small, pink, prehistoric-looking babies, when they were just getting their pinfeathers, and when they were starting school.
There were even pictures of the family on vacation. Several of them were taken in Greever, an old ghost town near the windswept beach of Garmirin Split.
Pierard had thought the town was great, and would have done his own exploring if given the chance. Perry , being an absolute wuss, absolutely hated the place claimed he saw “things”—shadows cast by no one, wisps of fog with glowing red eyes, and staring faces glimpsed in the woodwork. He also spoke of a lurking presence and an impending sense of doom. Pierard continued leafing through the remaining pages. When he got to the end, he saw a yellowish envelope taped to the back of the album. Excited, Pierard opened it, half-expecting some money or some rare stamps. What he pulled out instead was a small memo pad with blank pages.
Pierard sighed heavily. Why did it have to be a memo pad, and such an ordinary-looking one too? It looked very similar to the one that hung from a peg in his kitchen.
He was about to slip it back in the envelope when something caught his eye. What had once a moment ago just empty pages were now filled with scrawled handwriting.
Pierard blinked several times and shook his head. Then he pinched himself, but he wasn’t dreaming. Pierard rubbed his chin as he pondered the strange event.
Odd, he thought. Could this really be the magical notebook? If it is, then I wonder if there’s directions to a hidden treasure or a secret library of arcane languages and outlawed spells?
As he stared longer at the note pad, the more curious he became. Scaly toes twitching anxiously, he began to read. As he read the words, the more baffled he became.
(1) She ran towards the milling horde, waving her arms and yelling, “Shoo, go home, all of you!”
The zombies seemed unimpressed.
(2) Finally when the opening was wide enough to accommodate their chubbiness, the hands slowly squeezed through and lightly dropped to the dusty stone floor. The sky outside the window lightened as the moon reappeared behind the ragged edges of the cloud, flooding the interior with soft silvery rays, revealing nothing above the hands, just ragged, torn, dripping stumps.
(3) Catacomb Tour Guide:
"Does anyone have any questions?"
Five year old tourist:
"How did they get all those moving red lights down here?"
(4) “Don’t be a wuss”-- Norbert gazed back over his shoulder at his portly cousin--”they’re just dumb swans; they won’t hurt you.”
“These would,” Dobkins insisted, “they’re big, smart and dangerous, and I got chased by an acid-spitting one when I was just six.”
(5) His dreams are so haunted by that disgusting bloated fan whale face that to sleep at night James had to take two Ambien. Even with these heavy-duty meds, there were still nights where he would wake up screaming and drenched in sweat, that pink, pig-like face fading slowly like smoke from his glazed retinas.
(6) Hands frozen in midair, she watched the mirror intently. A woman had come in from the door behind her, exactly like herself in every physical detail, except that the chest did not rise and fall with breathing and no voice issued from the pallid lips.
(7) When Anne-Marie appeared holding two tall glasses of lemonade and said, “What’s that?” Her son Patrick just shrugged while his friend Brian carried on staring at the wet pale thing in the flowerbed, poking it with a stick of bamboo he’d stole from Don Jones’s garden only an hour ago, when everything had been so normal and ordinary.
(8) Ignoring Oliver’s warning about touching anything, Stan opened the first book he picked up, an old yellowed volume titled Angry Faeries and Angsty Goblins. He barely scanned the first two lines when the page literally jumped out at him.
(9) “Snake...big snake!” Cindy yelled, gesturing wildly to indicate immense length.
“Calm down,” Tyler told her, “it was probably just a harmless gopher snake... nothing at all to worry about.”
(10) There were certain doors here in the depths of the House that should never have been open in the first place.
And what came out from behind those doors was much more frightening than even Death himself.
(11) The frantic inquires caught in her throat when she found that she was unable to take hold of her sister’s arm. Her grasping hand seemed to pass directly through flesh and bone; she felt nothing but numbing cold.
(12) Iridescent colors writhed and intermixed as the nebulous tentacle hovered above the seance table and then slowly moved behind Mrs. Laithwaite. The medium clutched at her shoulders and cried, “Oh, Christ, not again!”
(13) A chill ran through the Swiss mountain guide as he made his way back to the spot where he had last seen Eddie. He found nothing but a climbing pick and a smear of blood leading to a long jagged crevasse that wasn’t there before.
(14) She bent to pick up the tall brass candlestick, wondering what would have dislodged it from its perch on the chest of drawers. Suddenly she saw what it protruding from the wall, a slender milk-white hand and forearm.
(15) The house was ice-cold. As soon as the shades had come and gone, she’d turn up the thermostat in the hall.
(16) One day while walking along the shadowy corridors of the manor house, Harriet saw a heavy wooden door creak open and a huge black poodle crept slowly through it. She wouldn’t have thought it was unusual had it not been for its four extra legs and the many pairs of ember red eyes running up its narrow head.
(17) March 13: I saw many strange things in my dream, but one picture kept recurring: a monstrous gray mastiff staring at me from the snowy field outside my window and beside him was a sneering blonde lad in a newsie outfit.
(18) They were chanting last night in a grove of trees a few hundred yards from my cottage. I could see their burning red eyes as I stood near my bay window.
(19) This intense studying is starting to affect my nerves as well as my imagination. I kept thinking that there was someone standing behind my left shoulder, plucking at my sleeve, yet whenever I went to turn around there was no one there.
(20) They’re all gathering on my front lawn. I sure hope my barricades hold.
(21) Curiously, Eliza tapped on the ceiling with a broom handle, and then dropped it with a start when her taps were returned.
(22) Years later, few people remembered the details of the Ohmnville incident, although local gossips sometimes pointed to the little attic window above the third floor guest room and repeated the old tale that the mewling bestial thing was imprisoned within the small attic space. But there was no way of knowing really for sure, because of the numerous alterations to the upper floors and the attic room had been sealed off, its oval door boarded and plastered shut and incorporated into the wall.
(23) Herb didn’t mind the nightly shadows in his bedroom...until they started stepping off the walls and moving his toys around.
(24) When the workmen removed the red--flecked baseboard, they discovered the jumbled cache of school supplies--pencils, notebooks and crumbled sheets of paper. On one of the small sheets there could be discerned an untidily scrawled message--I hate my life right now.
(25) Glassy-eyed with boredom, Derek stared out of the classroom window at the green lawn and playground equipment. That was when he noticed the gray-haired scientist guy on one of the swings, his narrow, livid face nearly split in half by a wide grin like a Cheshire cat, his pale eyes glittering manically behind multi-lensed spectacles.
(26) Ever since he moved into the three-story rental house on Mildridge Ave., Craig was never alone. Each night, he heard heavy footsteps in the upstairs hallway or shuffling on the stairs, or caught a glimpse of a long waistcoat flickering around behind a door, or watched as dark shadows massed themselves in the corners near the foot of the bed.
(27) “Ah man! We’re having Brussels sprouts again!”
(28) “Okay. Where’d the hell did that house centipede go?”
(29) Every weekend, Lorraine opened up the guesthouse to a horde of relatives and house guests--both living and dead. They didn’t scrimp on the food.
(30) The cabin was suffocatingly dark; the fire was out and the cast iron saucepans and fire irons were stuffed into the chimney and the cold hearth while metal awls and knitting needles were jammed in the three small windows and even in the small port hole that served as the cat door. The cat itself huddled under the sleeping pallet, ears flattened, his hackles bristling, and growling deep in his throat.
(31) As I followed a narrow cliff side trail, a bad smell suddenly came up from the canyon next to it. Wondering, I clambered down the steep slope and following a stream, found a small hidden clearing scattered with bleached and rancid brown bones, some of them human.
(32) I was awakened by the sound of scratching outside my bedroom door. I find that worrisome because I don’t have a cat or a dog.
(33) In the gorge of Owen Creek we passed under a massive anchor chain embedded deep into the rock face, and we were told about a small cave up a ways where a multitude of ghostly hand prints would suddenly appear every blue hour.
(34) I always hated lawn gnomes. But mostly I hated people who were always asking me to explain why I hated the damn things and the look on their faces when I tiredly explained to them that these so-called "lawn ornaments" were actually alive and were constantly after my blood.
(35) “Watch this,” said Yukiko. Holding the steel key between his bony thumb and forefinger, the tall albino popped it into his mouth like it was a French fry and then with a sly wink, he started to chew.
(36) After a couple hours of peeling off layer upon layer of thick, yellow wallpaper, Paul was forced to give up entirely on the industrial-strength steamer and resort to brute force and a medium-width putty knife.
As the last broad sheet fell away like thick parchment hide, he staggered back from what it eventually revealed: a long mummified corpse shoved into a cavity cut into the lath and dry wall.
(37) Whatever it was that was prowling around outside the Elk Lodge must have heard them because the heavy oak door reverberated under a volley of heavy sledgehammer-like blows. As the molding around the door splintered and cracks formed in the drywall, the pounding suddenly stopped and then the club members heard a loud snuffling noise at the bottom crack of the door.
(38) “Hhhmmm... interesting,” said Tris, flipping through the yellowed pages. “Always wondered how they got the brain out...Whaa?....Aruughhh!”
(39) She slammed the cover down and stuffed the book back into the shelf, for it was at that moment a hand, that was just parchment skin and bone, came groping out of the illustration.
"Well," Tris managed, shuddering at the lingering vision that left an acrid taste in her mouth.
(40) Panting heavily, the pudgy weeb girl blundered through the tall spiny grass, turning back only once before stumbling and running again, frightened and desperate to keep out of swipe range of those raptor-like claws.
(41) Mr. Sims went down to the supply bunker to search for an extra protective suit and mask. Man, this blows, he thought ruefully, the last time I went out for a replacement, it was for a water purifier... then my idiot friends locked me out.
(42) She stared into the pool; the deep turquoise water looked cool and inviting.
The sound of heavy sloshing stopped her thoughts of contemplation and she froze in place as a huge sinuous mass slid snake-like round a passing crow before quickly submerging.
(43) The three fourth-graders crinkled their noses, trying not to retch, wondering what would make the room smell like burnt hair and days-old carrion.
(44) It was Sunday, and there shouldn't have been a letter in the mailbox, but there was. Arty abruptly stepped back, a cold sheen of sweat on his brow.
(45) The massive ornate door swung slowly open, revealing a brightly lit hallway. For a moment, Ben looked down the looking passage that lay before him, and then stepping confidently over the threshold, he was immediately engulfed by the slender, pointed tentacles masquerading as shag carpeting.
(46) A few years ago I had one fall off my basement ceiling onto my neck where it stung me really bad. For some reason I have a creepy feeling that there’s a much larger one lurking in the crawlspace behind my closet and it’s also responsible for the dwindling rodent population...not sure which side I'm rooting for though.
(47) “My grandma’s got a wandering spirit,” I explained while keeping a straight face. “Sometimes it hangs around at the nearby park or in the tavern down the street, but like a cat, it always comes back whenever it hears the dinner bell.”
(48) At last we came to the campground at the end of the Coast Road where we spent the night in a little vacation cabin surrounded by oaks and sycamores. We didn’t get much sleep though for our dog lay near the bedroom door and snarled all night long, terrified of the noises of heavy rustling and the rank odor of decay.
(49) When the hard rain began to fall, Dylan pulled his leather hat down to protect his face and neck. That was when he found himself knee-deep in yelping ember-eyed hounds.
“This is cowflubdubbery crazy!” Pierard squawked. “Nothing here but a bunch of a bunch of half-baked story ideas left to rot!”
And just then, his eyes landed on the final line of barely legible handwriting.
(50) The first thing that caught his eye upon opening the trunk was a medium size book of dark tropical wood and opening it, found inside a shriveled monkey mummy, which some person had cleverly fastened to the tail of a large perch, making a most unpleasant-looking mermaid. As he scrutinized the paper sticker on its underside, which read Souvenir of Bombay 1910, the monkey-fish turned its head with a dry crick, its shriveled lips curling back, revealing its needle-sharp teeth.
Feathers rising up on his neck and head, Pierard gaped at the final word. “What the...? How did...? But that just happened... except for the part where the ugly ole thing came to life.”
Just then he heard a creak not unlike that of the slow cracking of dried leather or dead twigs. Turning slowly around, he was met with a pair of burning blood-red eyes.
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