“Beginning around the first snowfall in early November, people began to find snowmen in their yards, with no idea of who exactly had made them. At the same time, everyone began to find keys in their mailboxes, in sealed, unmarked envelopes. Some of these keys came smeared with blood, which were later proved to be that from a lamb while others came attached with travel tags in various foreign languages.”
Hailey Ueland considered what she just wrote, and then stared out of her bedroom window. In the early morning stillness, a smooth sweep of newly fallen snow covered the ground, disturbed only by the hummocks of hidden bushes and the skeletal shapes of trees.
Suddenly, from behind her, there came a muffled thump—rather like the sound of a small bag of potatoes falling. She glanced behind her. A mammoth Maine Coon cat plodded on thick paws from its perch on the rocking chair at the end of the room. It sniffed disdainfully at a small black and white kitten browsing at a food bowl before shoving it aside.
“Rumpole!” Hailey exclaimed, getting up. “Don’t be rude!”
Scooping up the squeaking kitten and taking down a box of Purina Kitten Chow from the shelf, she shook the contents of the box into another bowl on the desk.
“Go ahead, Boots,” said Hailey before returning to her diary.
“I didn’t used to believe in ghosts and demons. In the continuation of a restless spirit that persists long after death. Now I know better. Not everybody goes gently into that Good Night, especially when they’re burning for revenge for an unnatural death… or just filled up to the brim with pure malice and envy for the living.
“Even innocuous objects, like what I described, can signal the impending approach of a horde of restless hostile spirits.
“Even seemingly ordinary objects such as keys and snowmen.
“I remember it happening like this…”
The aroma of baked potatoes and fried catfish lingered in the heated kitchen of the rather ornate farmhouse near Brereton, North Dakota.
Fifteen-year-old Hailey Ueland stood at the sink, her gold-flecked hazel eyes focused on the TV rather than on the dishes she was supposed to be finishing.
She had the TV tuned to Animal Planet and was watching the latest episode of Bad Dog! This featured various animals behaving badly and still getting unconditional love from their doting owners.
Outside, the wind whipped through the surrounding trees. The bare branches rattled and shook, sending showers of fresh snow over the previous powdery layer covering the ground.
Down below, she could hear her parents clattering around in the basement as they cleared away the remaining clutter left behind by her great-aunt Ramona as well as previous generations of Uelands.
Great-Aunt Ramona was known to be an eccentric, a cigar-smoking, outspoken woman who amassed a vast treasure trove of souvenirs in her years as a photojournalist working for National Geographic.
Even though Ramona was a hoarder and borderline cat lady, she certainly wasn’t crazy to the point of bizarre public behavior. In this Northwestern corner of North Dakota, where catfish fishing and baseball reigned supreme, there were plenty of other candidates that fit crazy train category.
Unfortunately, as Hailey would soon come to find upon moving to Brereton, a few of these mental cases lived down the street from her and rode the same school bus.
Sometimes, like something out of a horror movie, they just appear out of nowhere… when you least expect it.
Hailey let her thoughts drift away from her as she lazily scrubbed and scraped. Now they were showing a hilarious video of what could possibly be the world’s laziest bulldog.
“Wow!” she murmured. “What a cute, lovable fat ass.”
The kitchen light flickered suddenly, then began to wane from a bright yellow to a dull amber glow.
“What?” Hailey peered up at the dimming lights. “That’s odd…” Her voice trailed off.
Guttural barking jolted her from her daze. Chase the Shiloh Shepherd burst into the kitchen, his hackles bristling straight up.
“Chase, relax, it’s just a brown-out,” Hailey muttered, peeling off her dish gloves. She winced as another volley of hysterical barking clashed against her eardrums. By now, the shepherd had skidded in front of the kitchen door and was growling low in his throat.
Probably just those damn coyotes again, Hailey thought as she walked toward the door… only to jump back in shock when Chase suddenly lunged at it, clawing furiously at the screen.
“Chase, get down!” Hailey commanded, grabbing hold of his collar, but he persisted on clinging to the screen, strings of saliva now coating the netted wire and his gray fur.
Finally she shoved the dog aside, and taking the deep breath, threw open the screen and pulled back the curtain.
The backyard was empty. No footprints—human or animal—marred the several inches of snow on the ground. There were just starless winter skies and bare, ice-encrusted trees of the silent North Dakota woods.
“Seems like a false alarm, Chase,” Hailey remarked as she slammed the screen back in place. She peered worriedly at the dog huddled against her legs, still growling. “If you keep this ruckus up, Mom and Dad are going to send you to sleep in the laundry room.”
She frowned as she regarded the fluorescent bulbs still dimming and turning bright again.
“That’s majorly-bizarro,” she muttered. “It shouldn’t even be doing that since Dad had all the electrical stuff replaced.”
Five minutes later, it happened. The lights suddenly flickered out, the TV signal cut out to static, the refrigerator fell silent.
Chase whined, then turned tail and fled, leaving Hailey standing there in the darkness feeling and rather annoyed. Perhaps Dad had inadvertently triggered a short circuit by plugging in one those electronic pinball machines downstairs. Yep, she thought, that must be it.
Staring at the TV, Hailey frowned in puzzlement. Then walked forward and switched through some more channels. Nothing but static on every one.
She shook her head in bafflement. There was no typical roaring buzz of white noise and she was suddenly getting this weird tingly feeling, like what you feel in the air right before a storm or even a tornado. In the heavy, ominous silence, she listened for the babble of excited voices from below followed by the pounding of feet on the basement stairs as her parents rushed up to investigate. Instead she heard the usual tidying up sounds mixed with muted conversation.
“Hhmmm, lights still on where they are,” she muttered. “Weird!”
She noticed the blizzard of black and white dots moving oddly. Not randomly like what you expect static to behave, but organizing themselves into recognizable words:
THEY WALK. COME THEY WILL.
DON’T LET THEM IN NOR
GIVE THEM BREAD.
THEY WILL MEAN YOU ILL
AND LEAVE YOU DEAD.
“Huh?” Hailey gaped in confusion. “What is this? Some late Halloween joke? If it is, then I’m not falling for it!”
She jumped back when the words dissolved in a roar of white noise. A wave of cold swept over Hailey, causing goose pimples to break out over her bare skin. It was coming from the TV.
“Ooh!” she exclaimed, her eyes growing wide as the white noise faded and the dancing specks reconstituted themselves into a moving pictures. Time around seemed to pause completely.
Though the frost-etched opening that was once the TV screen, Hailey found herself staring onto a perfectly white lawn surrounding a big grayish-white house.
“Oh, no!” Hailey suddenly gasped. “That’s my house!”
Then she noticed the ornate trim and stained glass windows, and heaved a big sigh of relief. “Oh, wait, that's the Dupree residence.”
Chelsea Dupree, like Hailey, was another recent transplant to North Dakota. Unlike Hailey, who came from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Chelsea came from Curtisville, California. Unlike, Hailey, however, she was an irresponsible, thieving slob with a creepy obsession with various anime and game characters. In fact, her weeaboo tendencies were one of the main reasons why her folks sent her away to her aunt’s place in Brereton. Naturally, her anime obsession and stomach-wrenching bad hygiene didn’t make her very popular at school nor another neighborhood. What friends she did have were basically social lepers—jerks, pathological liars, thieves, delusional with enormous egos, desperate for attention.
Hailey narrowed her eyes at the scene and, despite the cold, leaned in for a closer look. A band of static crossed the scene with a sharp crackle, and the scene changed again, showing a small guest house in back. According to rumors, Chelsea’s aunt finally got fed up with her constant whining and misbehaving, had banished her to the backyard. There was even talk of family counseling and medications.
Hailey doubted any kind of intervention, short of exile to a desert island, was going to fix Chelsea’s behavior. Once a person started hitting puberty, it was hard to change an idiot mindset.
Several long minutes passed. Hailey sighed, tired of all the waiting and shivering. She was on the verge of turning the TV off and calling it a night when the picture changed again, not with a static wave, but with a sudden shift in scenery.
Once an empty suburban backyard, now it was completely carpeted with snowmen of various shapes and sizes. Some of them dressed in various historical costumes and a few had grisly wounds caused by embedded knives and cleavers.
Chelsea now stood on the porch, looking like something akin to a human-sized Little Bo Peep doll who had just escaped from anime comic book store. With a puzzled expression on her pudgy baby face, she looked around as she scratched her curly blonde head and then plucked out a large flake of dandruff.
“Ugh!” Hailey screwed up her face in disgust. “That’s so gross!”
Then the scene suddenly shifted again, and now Chelsea was plastered against the front door. Her face had gone ashen gray. Her mouth opened and closed like that of a gasping fish. Her eyes were glazed, straight ahead.
A spine tingling chill rippled down Hailey’s back when she saw what the girl was staring at.
Where the snowmen once stood were now tall angular, rail-thin figures in dressed in dark Victorian attire, kind of what one would expect Jack the Ripper to look like. The ones in back turned slowly around to regard Hailey. She couldn’t see any discernible features on account of the cowl-like veil drawn tightly around their faces, no visible eyes even, but she could feel them staring thoughtfully in at her.
Meanwhile, Chelsea was wrestling with the door. She yanked on the knob. She banged then slammed against it, finally kicking it with her foot. But the door was firmly closed as tightly as if it had been nailed shut. Chelsea frantically looked over her shoulder as the figures crowded slowly around the porch, raising their arms, the long sleeves of their garments falling back to reveal their long, thin hands with razor-tipped fingers.
Hailey trembled, unable to move her legs, and watched in horror as the girl tried frantically to beat back the creatures.
Finally she couldn’t take it anymore. “Run, Chelsea!” Hailey screamed as loud as she could. “Quit messing with those things and get your weeb butt out of there! Run, Chelsea, run away!!!”
But it was already too late. The things had closed their circle tightly around the terrified girl, their long bony fingers reaching out, clutching, pulling, tugging and tearing.
With a plink, the scene vanished. The lights came back on while the refrigerator started up its familiar steady hum.
“Hailey?” Her mother’s worried voice echoed up from the basement stairs. “Hailey, honey, what’s going on? Is something wrong?”
Hailey stared glassy-eyed at the now flickering TV screen. FOX was featuring a special Thanksgiving-themed episode of BOB’s BURGERS complete with a stampede of turkeys (similar to the running of the bulls event in Pamplona). Down the hall, the grandfather clock in the living room solemnly tolled seven o'clock. Time seemed to have resumed its normal activity.
What should I tell them? Hailey ran her fingers through her hair in frustration. What should I tell them? That I just saw Chelsea Dupree get devoured by shadow demons? She sighed and shook her head. “Probably won’t believe me, probably just say I’m watching too much Sci-Fi Channel and YouTube, but I’m going to have to try to tell them anyway since I don’t want to end up like Chelsea.”
Stumbling to the basement door, she threw it open. The first words she was about to blurt out were—“Mom! Dad! Chelsea Dupree’s dead! She got killed and eaten by Satanists! I saw all happen on the TV!” Instead, much to her dismay and horror, entirely different words came spilling out. Even though she tried in vain to clamp them down, they burst out of her hoarse throat in a dry, croaking gasp—“I’m okay! I was just watching a scary movie and I freaked out and broke another plate!”
Mom groaned and Dad said, “Not again!”
Written by Mmpratt99 deviantart