Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Genre: Horror


By Daniel Skye

          “Sit down,” Mario Fulci said, inviting his unexpected guests into the lavish parlor that reeked of expensive leather and polished oak. There was a desk that Mario made himself at home behind, and there were four armchairs adorned with red leather.
          Layne and Felix put the chairs to good use, as the trip had exhausted them, and they didn’t want to appear rude or impolite to their host.
Roman Reed forgot his manners at the door and declined Fulci’s invitation to sit. He figured they weren’t going to be there long. His girlfriend, Tanya Morgan, wasn’t as ill-mannered and accepted Fulci’s invitation to make herself at home.
“I can pour you a drink, if you’d like,” Fulci offered.
“No thanks,” Felix Brown waved his hand, declining politely. “I don’t imbibe. I’m a Mormon.”
“Do many Mormon’s believe in the afterlife?” Fulci inquired, squinting one quizzical eye in Brown’s direction.
“No, it’s not very common,” Brown informed him.
“I’m not a Mormon or a Jesus freak,” Layne Foley said. “And I can drink all I please.”
“Excellent,” Fulci said, turning his attention to Foley and Morgan. “What’ll it be?”
“Scotch on the rocks, if you’ve got it,” Foley requested. And his request was soon granted. All Fulci had to do was push a button and one of his many house servants came shuffling over.
“Nothing for me,” Morgan said. “It’s been a long trip and I’m very tired.”
“And for you?” Fulci asked Roman Reed.
“I’m fine,” Reed assured the old man.
“Suit yourself,” Fulci said, telling one of his servants to fetch Layne a scotch on the rocks and to get him a refill of his Jack and coke. “This time, hold the coke,” he told his servant before the man, who looked even older than Fulci, went shuffling off to make Fulci’s wish come true.
He returned moments later with the drinks that Fulci requested, just as Fulci inquired as to how long the group would be staying. “It’s not every day I get to see my niece,” Fulci added. “Oh, I remember when you were just a baby. Look at you, all grown up now. You look just as beautiful as your mother.”
Morgan was the name that Tanya adopted from her foster parents. But for the first three years of her life, she had been Tanya Fiorelli. And Mario Fulci had never even bothered to try and fight the court’s decision that she belonged with another family.
Fulci was the only living guardian that Tanya had, and his questionable past made the court inquire as to whether he was physically and mentally fit to raise a three year old girl on his own.
“Can the pleasantries,” Reed spoke for his girlfriend. “It’s coincidence and bad luck that brought us here. We didn’t come for a family reunion. We came because our axle snapped and Tanya insisted we spend the evening here. But that’s it. We’ll be here for the evening and then we’ll be gone.”
“You could stay till tomorrow or Christmas for all I care,” Fulci said. “I’m a lonely old man, just looking for some company. No need to get snippy.” His sipped his Jack Daniels and eyed Reed carefully.
He was a tall young man with broad shoulders and big, bulky arms that made him look like a superhero under that red parka. His bald head was kept warm by a green wool cap he wore. The baldness was his choice. He admired the way it made him look older and more intimidating to others. He had pondered growing a thick, lumberjack style beard to complete the look, but he decided it wasn’t a good look for him.
“If you wanted company, why did you give Tanya up for adoption when she lost her parents? How come you didn’t fight for her?”
“Roman, that’s enough,” she begged.
“No, I want this piece of shit to know how you felt all those years, alone and isolated, cut off from the last of your family.”
“I did all I could,” Fulci said sincerely. “There was constant interference. People who tried to influence the judge and the court, convince them I was unfit to raise you on my own.”
“And you let them?”
“I was powerless at the time,” Fulci explained. “I had yet to establish my own business and was practically penniless. All the bills and fees had caught up to me and I simply couldn’t afford to fight anymore. It wasn’t feasible. That’s when they took you away from me. They waited until I was at my weakest.”
“But why?” Morgan couldn’t help but ask. “Why did they want to take me away from you so badly?”
“You remember you mentioned over the phone that you and your friends are paranormal researchers; that you specialize in the paranormal and the supernatural? In the occult?”
“Yes,” Morgan said. “We were on our way to the Westlake Inn to film a new documentary on Chloe Bell when our axle broke.”
“Well I myself once dabbled in the occult,” Fulci confessed. “Satanism, black magic, voodoo, ritualistic animal sacrifice.”
“No shit,” Foley uttered, pulling out a cigarette.
“No shit,” Fulci repeated, adding, “You can’t smoke in here.”
Foley tucked the cigarette away and finished his drink. “Can I get you a refill?”
“No, that’s quite alright,” Foley said. “One drink is enough for now.”
“Did you say ritualistic animal sacrifice?” Brown asked.
“Indeed,” Fulci said. “Goats, chickens, you name it. The eighties were a fucked up time. And Satanism equaled paranoia. People didn’t quite understand it, so they jumped the gun, and anyone that was associated was guilty. Like those poor kids you probably read about from Arkansas. Damn shame what happened to them.”
“What exactly were the purposes of these sacrifices?” Brown pressed further for more answers.
“Wealth and prosperity,” Fulci said, gesturing around the room with his hands as if to illustrate his point. “Voodoo is a powerful thing. It can grant many wishes.”
“I’ll bet,” Brown said, unconvinced. He couldn’t tell if Fulci was sincere or if the old man was having a laugh at their expense.
“What is that noise?” Foley asked.
“What noise?” Brown asked his friend.
“That infernal racket,” Foley said. “I can’t tell where it’s coming from. It sounds like buzzing or humming or something.”
Reed grew suspicious momentarily, wondering if Fulci had his servant slip something in Foley’s drink. But then Brown joined in again.
“Oh, yeah,” Brown said. “I hear it now. It sounds like…like someone set a television to a dead channel. I hear nothing but static.”
“That’s what it is!” Foley exclaimed. “Static! Where is it coming from?”
“I don’t hear a thing,” Fulci insisted.
“Neither do I,” Morgan said.
“Yeah, I’m not hearing–” Reed cut himself off as a loud buzzing sound caught his ears. “Wait, I hear it now. It sounds like a hive of agitated bees.”
“Where is it coming from?” Foley said in a tone that practically demanded to know the answer.
“I still don’t hear a thing,” Fulci insisted, pressed a button to summon his elderly servant and request another Jack and coke, hold the coke. “Should I have Michael show you to your rooms now?”
“Why don’t you regale us with more tales about your dabbling in the occult,” Reed suggested, scratching at his ears. He didn’t even realize he was doing it until Tanya nudged him and whispered over to him. And still, he couldn’t tear his fingers away. That buzzing, that static noise, it was growing louder.
And it was maddening.
“I’d rather not,” Fulci sighed with exasperation. “It’s getting late. And you have to call a tow truck in the morning and get a move on. I wouldn’t want to hold you up. I’ll have Michael show you to your separate quarters.”
* * *
          Mario Fulci was as old school as they come and requested that while Roman and Tanya were under his roof, they sleep in separate beds. It didn’t make a difference to Roman. The buzzing consumed him. Stricken with this awful din, Reed snuck out of his room after he thought everyone else had gone to sleep, to pinpoint the source of this ruckus.
It wasn’t coming from any of the rooms on the second floor as far as he could tell. And as he descended the stairs, he couldn’t trace the source to any of the rooms on the first floor either.
He opened the basement door a crack and peeked down at what appeared to be infinite darkness below. Down those stairs that were practically invisible in the dark, he could hear the faint rattle of a boiler.
But the hum of static wasn’t coming from the basement. The sound seemed to be everywhere and nowhere all at once.
Since he had exhausted all other possibilities, the only thing left to search was the attic.
But as he ascended the stairs again in darkness, he heard movement on the second floor. “Who’s there?” he whispered as he reached the top of the stairs.
No response.
“Who is there?” he called, a little louder this time around.
“Just me,” Brown whispered back. “I’m trying to track the source of this noise. It’s interfering with my sleep. I can’t even think straight.”
“I’ve checked the entire house,” Reed told him. “The only spot left to check is the attic.”
“Then that’s where we’re heading,” Brown said, somewhat reluctantly. “Should I grab my camera for this?”
“Not just yet,” Reed said. “But if we see or hear anything that’s strange, we’re recording it. Fuck what Fulci thinks. He doesn’t even have to know.”
* * *
          As soon as they ascended that rickety ladder and made it to the attic, they were wishing they hadn’t. Reed could feel the negative vibes and energies traveling in a hundred different directions.
And through the thick static, he could hear the whispers of a hundred different travelers that had yet to cross over.
Reed, Morgan, Brown, and Foley–they were clairvoyants. They could see and hear what others could not. Like spirits, for instance.
But why hadn’t Tanya heard the static too? She wouldn’t have lied about something like that, and she couldn’t have been the only one besides Fulci to not hear it unless…
“Oh my God,” Reed said, abandoning Brown and rushing down the rickety wooden ladder. He pushed the door to Tanya’s room open and crept up alongside her bed. She wasn’t breathing. Not a snore, not a whimper, not a sound came from her body.
Reed reached under the blanket and confirmed his suspicions. Tanya didn’t have a pulse.
“She’s dead,” Reed told Brown as he entered the room. “Has been for a while.”
“What are you talking about?” Brown asked, bemused.
“I’m talking about that Motel 6 in Ridgewood. The night that I told you Tanya was sick and we needed to be alone. She wasn’t sick. She tried to kill herself. She OD’d on sleeping pills. I made her throw them up, gave her CPR. I thought I had brought her back. But she’s been dead this whole time. Dead and following us around. I think she wanted to lead us here. I think it was her intention.”
“But why here?”
“AHHHHHH!” Foley’s scream echoed from the adjacent room. Reed and Brown dropped everything and went rushing to Foley’s aid.
They found him standing in front of the vanity mirror, straight shaving razor in hand. He had taken the blade to his own head, and sliced off both his ears to silence the din.
Blood stained the mirror, the plush carpets, and the antique dresser that Foley was standing over.
“Christ, Foley, what have you done to yourself?” Brown asked.
“You sure a Mormon is allowed to take the Lord’s name in vain?”
“I think this is the only appropriate situation,” Brown said.
“I can still hear it,” Foley wailed. “I can still hear that fucking static…”
“We need to get him to a hospital,” Brown said.
“You go. Take him. I’m going to find Fulci, and I’m going to get to the bottom of all this.”
* * *
          Reed pushed the long, narrow doors of the master bedroom open and marched right in. But even when he screamed Fulci’s name and kicked the side of his bed, he couldn’t garner a response.
          That’s when Reed got the bright idea to check Fulci’s pulse and his greatest fears were realized. Fulci was dead. He had spent the evening conversing with a dead man.
          Roman Reed should’ve stopped there. But he couldn’t leave well enough alone. He had to be certain. He stormed through the house, checking the pulse of every maid and servant that dwelled within those walls.
          All dead. Every last one of them was without a pulse.
          As he stepped back into the hallway and saw that rickety wooden ladder that led to the attic, it almost seemed to beckon him.
If Roman Reed was going to find the answers, the truth was hidden behind that static. So he ascended the ladder one final time.
The energy he felt was incredible and otherwise indescribable. It was stronger than anything Reed had felt before. And he’d stepped foot in every supposedly haunted place that America had to offer.
Beyond the static, he could hear the voices. And the voices were at their most shrill.
These were the voices of the tortured and the damned. The voices of those condemned to relive their final days over and over again in agony.
“What do you think?” Tanya’s voice cut through the static.
He turned and stood aghast as Tanya and her uncle gathered amongst this sea of the dead that was only visible to the eyes of Reed.
If Brown or Foley had been there, they’d have seen it too. But they were long gone by then. Brown had absconded with one of Fulci’s many vehicles and took off into the night to find Foley a hospital.
“You’ve been so curious about the afterlife,” Fulci said. “Now you have your answers. Join us and live forever.”
“I’m…I’m not ready,” Reed said, his voice quivering. Even a man as big and strong as Reed had his weaknesses and fears. The fear of death was something that had loomed over him his entire existence.
And it was time to let go.
“You are ready,” Tanya encouraged him. “Join us and we can be together again, forever.”
The sea of the dead parted, revealing a lone window in the center of the attic wall. It was dawn and the sun had just started to peek over the horizon. He could see only a light glare through the glass that guided his steps.
The glass shattered upon impact and Reed’s body plunged through the poorly sunlit gap. He fell about thirty feet, but the plunge seemed eternal to Reed. And that’s because it was.
At that moment, Reed was reliving his death over and over again. His sin would be everlasting.
“Mission accomplished,” Fulci cackled.
“Yes,” Tanya nodded. “Another soul collected for our dark lord and savior.”
“I knew you’d come back to me eventually,” Fulci said. “I knew you couldn’t resist the temptations of the dark side.”
“What about the other two?”
“They’ll be back. They always come back.”


          “The house is two stories,” the real estate agent, a hefty woman in her forties, informed the happy young couple who were expecting their first child. “It has an attic, a basement, parlor, and fifteen rooms in total. That includes three bathrooms and one sauna.”
“Wow,” the man said, arm hugging his wife’s shoulder. “The previous owner must’ve been loaded.”
“That he was,” the real estate agent said and laughed.
“Do you hear that?” the wife asked her husband.
“No, what is it?”
“It sounds like…buzzing. Static.”
“I don’t hear a thing,” the husband told her.

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