Shadows from SalemMorbid tales by Ryan Beauchamp
Inside the Walls
There was no telling what was going on inside of the crawlspace. Danny had heard a lot of noises coming from within the space for days now, but hadn’t felt the need to say anything, thinking about the endless torment his older brother Fernie would inflict upon him for being such a fucking pussy. He could hear the words coming out of his brother’s mouth as he stared at the blue wall adjacent from his bed. At this point, the bangs and shuffles had become voices. Danny couldn’t decipher what they were saying, but he could definitely tell that there was someone or some…thing in there talking.
The Thompson’s house was situated in a close knit neighborhood, theirs being the only home on top of a hill. The legend—which Danny learned from the kids at school-was that the previous owner was a serial killer and buried so many bodies in his basement that eventually they ground rose up and lifted to house above all of the others. On rainy days, they said, you can see body parts sticking out from the dirt. One girl even claimed to have seen her grandfather’s head peeking out from the side yard while riding her bike home after the big storm they had last year.
When Danny found this out, he went home that day and began trying to dig up the basement floor with his father’s pick axe. Swinging the pick axe wildly, his father screamed for him to stop.
“What are you doing? You’re going to ruin the floor!” He yelled.
“I’m trying to get rid of all the bodies underneath the house.”
“What? Who told you that?” His father sounded more confused than anything else at this point.
“The kids at school. Kelly even said she saw her grandfather’s face in the dirt when it rains.” Danny let the pick axe slam into the floor, unable to hold its weight any longer.
Greg just laughed. “That’s nonsense. There are no bodies buried underneath the house, Danny.”
“So then why is our house the only one on a hill?” Danny asked.
“I don’t know, buddy. But I can promise you it isn’t because of bodies. There’s nothing but a whole lot of dirt under this house.”
“Who lived here before us?” He didn’t want to drop the subject just yet.
“I never met her, but she is a nice little old lady named Merrill. She moved into a retirement home so that she could have people help her get better, so we actually got the house really cheap.”
Not having a response, Danny just nodded and scurried up the stairs, eager to get to his room and write in his journal. He wrote in his little green notebook every day, advice from one of his new teachers when he expressed his fear about living in a new city.
The teacher, Mr. Brown, gave him a “special green notebook” and that he and Danny could even talk about if there was something bad going on. He like Mr. Brown. The only other people who bothered to talk to him since he moved to Witchita were the kids who teased him about sleeping on bodies and that if he wasn’t careful, the ghost of Old Miss Gretchen would pull him out of his bed and eat his eyeballs right out of his sockets. This conversation warranted an extra page in his journal and an hour long chat with Mr. Brown.
His dad had been too busy with his new job since the move to be able to see that Danny was miserable. His brother teased him and beat him up on a daily basis, the kids at school all laughed at him and wouldn’t let him into their network of friends, and the teachers all laughed at him when he told them that he was lonely and couldn’t make friends. Danny would sit in his room after school every day, staring into his fish tank and wishing that his mom wouldn’t have left. So pained was he for their old home that he even walked the opposite way down the street instead of going to school, hoping to be able to walk home before his dad could find him. Not realizing he was more than a hundred miles away from his mother, Danny was picked up by the local police sheriff as he walked down I-135.
His father had never hit him so hard.
Danny had never cried harder.
He’d never seen his father cry.
Not knowing how to handle seeing tears on his father’s face, Danny wiped his nose on the sleeve of his shirt and went up to his room. The next day, when he went downstairs to get breakfast, his father was already at the table, a pile of eggs and a banana on his plate. He looked up and gave a half-hearted smile when Danny entered the kitchen.
“Morning, buddy.” His father said wearily.
“Hi, dad.” Danny mumbled.
Danny moved over to the cabinet to fetch his Fruit Loops.
Danny turned around. “For what?”
Greg sighed. “For last night. I’m sorry I hit you. It’s been a hard time on all of us and I should never have taken it out on you, I owe you an apology.”
“It’s okay.” Danny was only 9 years old, but had already developed a stock response to mask his emotions.
The morning went on as normal. Fernie came down, grabbed an apple and sped out of the door without a single word to Greg or Danny. Even when Danny pressed him to find out why he was never home, Fernie would always punch him in the chest and tell him to mind his own business, so he quickly came to terms with knowing his brother was as good as a ghost to him.
“I have to leave, Danny,” his father yelled from upstairs. Danny could his quickening pace as he continued talking to himself out loud. “There’s been an emergency, but I think I’ll be home for dinner. Listen to your brother while I’m gone.”
“But-“ before Danny could even tell his dad that Fernie had already left, the front door slammed shut and his father was already speeding out of the driveway.
Not used to the silence of being home alone, Danny decided to pull out one of his Swamp Thing comic books and sit on the carpeted living room floor and read in the sunlight. A few minutes into the uncomfortable silence of the house, he heard a door at the top of the stairs close.
His heart sank into his stomach. Refusing to look away from his comic book, Danny hoped that if he didn’t acknowledge the sound, it would go away. Glass shattered and a loud thud came from what he sensed as his bedroom. April and Mikey Danny said in his head.
Taking the stairs two at a time, he got to his bedroom door in a matter of seconds. He came to an abrupt stop at the door and slowly crept the last few feet, placing the side of his head against the warm pine.
Pulling his head away from the door, he felt a cold breeze against his feet. It was coming from the crack left between the door and the floor; from inside his bedroom. He slowly pushed the door open and saw that the room was empty.
Danny thought of every lie he could to tell his father so that he didn’t have to sleep in his room. He made it until Thursday, but by then his father had grown tired of the couch being occupied and refused to listen, only demand that Danny sleep in his room, where his bed is.
That night, Danny was hesitant to enter his room again. His father had already proven that it was safe when he spent two hours cleaning up the broken fish tank, making sure every shard of glass was taken out of the rug. Despite the illusion of safety, Danny could feel the old woman’s eyes watching him and he nervously shuffled to his bed and immediately draped himself with the blankets. He wasn’t in there five minutes when the scratching in the walls started.
He let out an audible whimper. The sound originated across the room and only grew louder as it traveled towards the entrance to his room. Danny could hear his father coming up the stairs, the footsteps falling closer and closer to his door.
Greg opened the door, he saw his son sitting upright in his bed, completely covered by the blankets. As he started to laugh, he felt a sharp pain in his hand as it was resting on the doorknob. He tried to rip it away, but it was like his hand was attached to the handle. An itchy feeling crawled up his arm and stopped once it passed through his shoulders. His body went rigid. Greg stood upright without blinking, without breathing, his sight and thoughts turning to blackness.
The father’s head jerked abruptly towards Danny.
He could smell the fear radiating from his son. It was like the scent of a fresh bakery spreading through the spring air. His nose gulped in as much of the wonderful scent as it could handle. A loud exhale accompanying it.
Danny could see that his dad’s eyes were yellow. He watched as a jagged smile carved its way across his father’s jawline.
Greg started walking towards the bed, but his legs felt like they had never been used before. He forced them forward, one after the other as much as could. Soon, he discovered it was easier to use his whole body to move, swaying it back and forth with his legs.
He stopped moving.
Danny poked his head out from under the blanket and met his father’s eyes. They were a disgusting shade of yellow. It looked like a rotten banana peel to him. He was shaking so hard that tears began rolling down his cheek without effort, like apples falling from a tree. Watching his motionless father, Danny started to reach for his father’s hand, but before he was able to grab it, Greg collapsed. Danny looked at the floor, but there was only the small pile of clothing that his father had been wearing.
Hearing a sickly, moist dragging sound by the end of his bed, Danny slowly turned his head and saw a hand shoot up over the edge of his mattress. It landed flat against his bedspread, then another hand stretched onto his bed and he watched through blurry eyes as his father—who looked like he was now covered in blood—heaved himself onto the bed with Danny, pinning the young boy’s legs down with his knees.
Danny tried to squirm free, but his dad’s legs were significantly stronger than his and barely registered the resistance of his tiny body. He tried to scream, but no noise came out. His mouth hung open, waiting for something to happen. Creeping towards the top of the bed, his father reached out and put his hand into Danny’s mouth, balling it into a fist. A scream finally came out, but it was too muffled to be a cry for help even if anyone could hear it.
Pushing his arm into his son’s throat, Greg kept forcing his hand deeper and deeper into the little boy’s guts until he could tickle his stomach form this inside. When his shoulder was no longer visible, the father began stuffing his other arm into the mouth. Danny felt the jolts of pain all over his body now, like his jaw was going to snap off right before his intestines burst through his shirt. When he gazed downward, he looked on as his dad shoved his slick face into the ever widening jaw.
Kicking his feet so that he could be vertical, Greg was upside down and began slithering further into Danny’s esophagus. He kicked and kicked and kicked until the only thing left to see were his two feet swishing in the air trying to dig into the mouth. With one big swallow, the feet disappeared and Danny could feel the bile in his guts boiling. He grasped his stomach and began crying out in pain, but before the first tear left his eye, the pain was gone.
He stretched out and looked at his abdomen. There was no sign a full grown man was inside of there. Danny swung his legs over the side of the bed and began to run out of his room, hoping to escape and get to the neighbor’s house. As he approached the stairwell, his body went rigid. He froze, but kept trying to force his body forward. He tried to slam his foot down and find purchase on the hardwood floors and continue his path out of the front door.
His vision started curling and going back and forth form grey to black. When Danny’s vision stabilized, his foot lowered and his body uncontrollably turned to the right. Trying to walk down the hall, he felt more like a shuffling zombie. His legs were acting like they were a newborn’s and his feet barely left the ground as his body lurched forward, against his will. Cloudiness started to overtake his sight again. Danny groggily watched, as if from an outside perspective, as he went into his father’s room, opened the closet and knelt down beside the small black safe hidden below the clothes hanging there.
His hand ripped the door off the hinges and grabbed the black .38 caliber that Greg had kept for protection since they moved. Wanting to drop the gun badly, he tried to violently shake his arm, but only felt the pins and needles sensation of a limb suffering from temporary blood loss.
Danny walked over to the mirror, meeting his own gaze. He started bawling when he looked in the mirror, a warm feeling drizzling down his right pant leg. His skin was almost grey, even blue in some spots near his ears. The eyes staring back at him were as yellow as the piss running down his leg. Worst of all were his teeth. He prided himself over his father and brother for having the whitest teeth of the family, but now they were rotting, hued with a mild green color, like he was eaten a pile of seaweed. Looking down, he saw the gun through his tear filled eyelids.
His body went rigid again, his vision starting to blur. He suddenly stopped crying and was unable to move or breathe again. Shakily, his right arm was raising itself towards his skull. He tried to scream again, but was quickly silenced as the gun was jammed into his mouth with an overwhelming BOOM which echoed through every inch of his cranium.
Limply, his body fell into a pile onto the floor, his arms and legs bending in ways no human limbs should. As he laid there, staring at the ceiling, he felt no pain. He only thought about the last time he saw his mother as she stormed out of the front door of their old house, slamming the door behind her without so much as a “goodbye.”
The ceiling started convulsing. Underneath the paint, something was moving, extending the wall downward until it was a few feet away from his face. A sickly, gross smelling hole opened near the bottom of the extension. It curved into a smile and quickly after, two black holes formed and a pair of eyes came into being. The face was exactly the same as he remembered it form that night in the window.
She came back to claim her prize. The smile faded and her mouth started opening until it was all Danny could see of her face. It quickly closed in around him and enveloped him in the abyss.