I decided today I was going to follow through on a threat, I mean a promise, I made to my fiancé about posting some of his short stories on my blog. It’s a bit different from what I normally post, but I wanted to get him some exposure. I have been attempting to convince him to continue writing. He is always coming up with fantastic book ideas, but are outside of my knowledge or comfort zone to write them. I hope you enjoy this little short story, based on true events that happened in the mid to late 1990’s.
One late October evening, some high school friends and I are sitting around in our friend’s loft, drinking, talking about what we want to do for Halloween. We are discussing haunted houses, parties and other ideas, the usual stuff. Some promising ideas. Then, my best friend—the wild man “Alpha” of our group who always pushed our limits of manhood– becomes suddenly pensive, a small smirk slowly working itself across his face, and he looks to us, engaging each of us in eye contact before proceeding, and says:
“Hey, how about this? On Halloween, at Midnight, let’s drive out to Morningstar Road and check out the barn where that guy got murdered. We can bring candles and have a séance…”.
My blood slowly ran cold…
A few details are needed here for you to truly appreciate his statement. First, THIS is not a story. This is Real Life, as accurately as I can remember it, with no embellishment. Secondly, this was a small Midwestern town, where nothing like murder ever happens. Third, this was an unusual, and very gruesome, murder. A man from out-of-state was found just outside of town in an old abandoned barn, ritualistically murdered. The body was found bound and gagged, decapitated and, according to the newspaper, “brutally violated”. Found around the scene were half-melted candles, blood stains, and footprints. Various arcane and satanic symbols were found painted on the ground and walls. It was rumored that there were additional grisly details the detectives needed to omit, as it was still being investigated. Finally, Halloween would be the 1-year anniversary, to the day, of when the actual murder was estimated to have taken place.
May the victim of this crime rest in peace forever…
…the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. As we all experience in these situations, my brain blazed ahead, while the world seemed to slow. I had an unsettling feeling of wrongness and foreboding, which I would now characterize as “gut instinct”. Some piece of my still-forming adult judgment was telling me this is just bravado bullshit, fuck it, do not do this. A thousand thoughts– the murderers might decide to show up at the same time with another victim– the police might be staking the place out on that same suspicion and arrest us, etc. I assess the overall situation, and my developing ego demands satisfaction. I decide that I’m falling behind in our “ranking” within our pack. I cannot afford to appear weak now. I make a snap decision. Skip to real-time, the body and face under firm control. My mouth opens, and words pour forth:
“That’s an awesome idea! Let’s bring candles, and a camera, too.” I’m committed now. Oh, god. For good measure, I add, “Maybe there will even be blood or rope or something still there…” If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. I finally realize this, and so my mouth shuts.
The other guys are still quiet, probably doing their own calculating. My best friend, the alpha, seems taken aback. He did not expect anyone, myself especially, to take his baiting so readily. His head bobs, smile widening, and yells, “YEAAAH AHAHHA!!!” , and claps me on the back of my shoulder. One of the other guys declines, saying it’s a “stupid way to spend Halloween night”. Pssht, pussy. The other guys accept, and I suspect at least one more will not show up. Becoming aware of myself once again, I quickly gulp down the remainder of a large glass of Rum and Coke, steeling my nerve and trying to appear enthusiastic at the commitment ahead.
Three days later, on Halloween, two of the other guys manage to ditch, citing plans with a cousin or being grounded. It’s down to me (the smart kid/class clown), my best friend “Alpha”, and two other guys—an antisocial skater-punk, and a stereotypical, long-haired, brooding and goofy bass player. Somehow, we end up deciding to go during the late afternoon instead of at midnight, so that we can go to a party later (and perhaps unspokenly, so that we can bolt before it’s dark).
In the late afternoon, we pack up our supplies and pile into my car, an ’83 Grand Prix, and head toward Morningstar Road. I roll down my window, the chill air feeling great in contrast to the heater, and my cigarette calming me. I take it all in. The freshly cut soybean rows coruscate on either side of the road, hypnotic, and the sun flashes between the cloud-patched late afternoon sky. We approach the turn for Morningstar road, a twisty, seldom traveled chip-and-sealed road, more gravel than pavement, interspersed with field and woods. Curve to the left, then right, then we are plunged into shaded woods. I slow the car to a crawl, not wanting to miss the unfamiliar turn. After a few moments, on our right, about three hundred feet off the road behind a thick cover of trees, I spot our destination, a dilapidated old barn half-choked with brambles and bushes.
I turn the car slowly down the old dirt drive, the knee-high weeds making a HSSH-HSSH-HSSH noise under my bumper. I hoped to not hit any unseen obstacles. Halfway to the barn, the weeds abated, widening into a clearing. I decide to park on a flat spot left of the drive about 150 feet away. The remainder of the drive was brown dust and gravel, leading to a neglected clearing surrounding the barn. The barn was of average size, very old, not a patch of paint remained on its exterior. Small, sickly, half-dead trees and bushes surrounded the barn on all sides, to a height of slightly less than the eaves of its roof. A large, rusted farming implement sat in the tall grass just left of the barn. On the far right, a small side door faced the drive, its door hanging halfway broken, entrance occluded by a bush, darkness beyond.
As I parked the car, I was thinking to myself: Almost one year ago, in this very location, some sick fuck took some poor son of a bitch down this driveway, probably dragged them or marched them at gunpoint, into this barn, and did unspeakably horrible things to them. Bled them, terrified them. Likely tortured the shit out of them. And then murdered them. This stunt we’re pulling isn’t brave. It isn’t cool. This is foolish. Disrespectful. Wrong.
Alpha and I exchanged glances, best friends, each knowing our role, and silently communicated our need to finish this now-obligation, our solidarity, our doubts, our fears all shared. We are doing this.
We opened the car doors. He grabbed the olive drab army surplus bag of supplies. We let the other two climb out of the back seat. We all stand there for a moment, apparently each taking in the scene.
“Creepy old piece of shit…”, says Skater.
“Big fucking deal, a barn”, says Goof, as he lights one of his crap-smelling menthols. No instincts. Not a brain in his fucking head, I muse to myself.
“Yeah, let’s not start freaking out, this’ll be a cool fucking story at school.”, says Alpha.
The sun was a dull orange, now low in the sky, partially obscured by heavy clouds and tree cover. Long shadows played across the surface of the barn and the surrounding woods. As a group, we stride toward our goal.
We approach the barn, four abreast. Alpha has a flashlight ready in hand. I am squeezing my car keys into my fist, pain calming me. I wish I’d brought my machete or a combat knife. We get closer. A hundred feet. Fifty feet. Ten. The barn is leaning slightly. I can see into the interior. There appears to be a wooden door lying in the dirt inside the barn. Some unidentifiable junk, maybe a saw or a broken board. Nearby there are some very old steel beer cans littering the ground, more rust than paint, a couple of discarded pull tabs. Footprints. Long shadows, nearly twilight now. The barn is—
I feel something. My heart nearly stops—
A flurry of activity, I am not aware of what’s going on, can’t speak, I don’t know—
I’m ten feet away. Alpha and Goof are in further in front of me, near the doorway. Alpha backs up FAST. Goof says something low and questioning.
>Jump forward in time>—
Alpha grabs me, HARD, yells something in my face, facial expression indescribable, scruffs my coat, whips me around. Goof runs past us like he’s insane. I return to the world. Cold adrenaline hits me, but I don’t move. Someone is screaming AT ME. I can’t understand anything. What?—
I turn back around, look up, still in a stupor, eyes drawn to the barn’s roof. As my eyes scan up, something slides DOWN. A…moving shadow. It slides off the roof, down the side of the barn as though falling. It loudly rustles the bushes, as though a large object had fallen off the roof—SwishswishTHUMP! I still have no idea what I am seeing. I’m paralyzed, or my attention is completely rapt, no idea how to describe it. Fear slowly registers now, much too slowly. A shadow rises, semi-translucent, eight feet tall, hunched, impossibly long-limbed, bipedal. Glowing, dark red pinpoint eyes. It slowly lopes along the side of the barn, no noise now, no rustling. Heading down the side of the barn, left to right, towards the doorway, towards me…
Another hard jerk, someone yells and I am running, screaming, back toward the car. Skater is jerking on the passenger door, Goof is saying something to me. I pat my pockets—
I recall a “jingle” during my run. Goddamn.
“Droppedthekeys! HEREHELPMELOOKwhere–!!”, I yell. A few precious seconds, ten feet back, silver gleaming in the dirt.
Grabbed the keys. Unlock the door, reach over and unlock the other. Start the car. Tear out of there like a police chase, car bouncing crazily. The tire hits a log or something, but I ignore it and keep going. Tires squealing, huge plume of dust in my rearview, tearing down the road, fast. Count of ten, normalcy returning, becoming aware of a cold sweat making my shirt stick to my back. Panic. Heart hammering out of my chest, pounding in my neck. I’m laughing hysterically. Someone is babbling fuck NO fuck no fucking way NO WAY. Make eye contact with Alpha. His face matching my own. Fear and disbelief.
Skater and Goof leave. I don’t sleep that night, no party, no haunted houses. Alpha and I talk all night. We recount the experience, our stories nearly identical. From his perspective, as we approached the barn, I stopped in my tracks. He assumed I was lighting a cigarette or otherwise stalling, but chose not to shame me. He continues on closer, then backs up after hearing a low, menacing growl, thinking it was an animal. I heard nothing. As he backed away, the same strange feeling that I had also hit him. When he grabbed my collar and yelled at me, I was insensate, dumbfounded, in some sort of trance.
He saw the shadow, watched it hit the bushes, then ran nearly halfway back to the car, until he noticed I was still standing there. He made himself come back for me. As he reached me, he claimed it was not on the barn as I perceived, but in the grass, coming towards me. He saw the SHADOW. The EYES…
Note from the Writer:
Since then, I have felt that same “feeling” perhaps five times in my life. When I have gotten that feeling in any situation, I cease what I am doing and leave immediately. I prefer to think that some things defy explanation, and to leave it at that. I’m not sure we’re capable of understanding everything in this world.
As I said, this is not fiction. The above is my memory of what actually happened. Doubt me if you will, but it is part of my reality, and I am considered by most accounts to be a very rational, logical person. Some of the details online concerning the actual murder are wrong. They’re not consistent between sources. For details of the actual murder story, search keywords, “William Anthony Ault”(RIP), “Jimmie Lee Penick” “murder”. I’m pretty jaded, but it is absolutely gruesome. I would NOT read this late at night. And don’t bother looking for the barn, it’s been destroyed. But Morningstar Road will always be an undeniable connection to something I cannot explain by rational means…the supernatural.