Thunder and lighting. Rain jack hammering against the red tin roof unrelentingly. All in all, an excellent night for murder…an excellent night for revenge. Now that he knew what she wanted – now that he was all hers – murder should come easy. Besides, the blood spilt wouldn’t actually be on his hands, if everything went according to plan. She had made it perfectly clear that she wanted the pleasure of killing them, herself. And, as far as he was concerned, she was entitled to that privilege. Her death had earned her the right.
Schuyler Vaughn was a pathetically lonely man. His one brief moment of happiness had come when he had married his childhood sweetheart, Ivy Reynolds. They were extraordinarily compatible and shared a wonderful storybook marriage. However, it was their love for each other that proved to be the undoing of their happiness. While giving birth to their daughter, Ivy died on the operating table. Two days later the baby was dead, too. The shock was so traumatic that Schuyler suffered a nervous breakdown. He was strapped inside a straitjacket on the day his wife and daughter were buried.
Schuyler never quite got over the loss of his wife and daughter. The next ten years of his life were spent in and out of mental institutions. He found it impossible to hold down a decent job for any length of time. For whenever he wasn’t “mellowed” out on antidepressants, he was usually in such a highly agitated state that it was pure hell for anyone who happened to be around him. At times, he would become extremely obnoxious, often exhibiting behavior that bordered on psychosis. Time after time, he was fired form one job after another because of his unseemly conduct.
Running out of places that were willing to risk hiring him, he applied for disability. After several months of hem hawing around he finally received a large back pay along with his first check. It was money he used to move to Bowers Mills, where he hoped to begin a new life – and hopefully a much better one.
At forty-three, Schuyler had decided on trying his hand at writing. He’d always wanted to be an author and now that he was no longer working away from home, he had plenty of time on his hands to give it a try. He certainly had nothing to lose.
He submitted several poems he had written to the Browers Mills Gazette, which sometimes featured “unknowns” as one of their special Sunday features. When he received word that his poems had been accepted, he drove into town, bought a six-pack of beer, then returned home and celebrated the launching of his new career. Although he never received a nickel for his poems, just seeing them in print with his name below the title was gratifying enough for him.
The house that Schuyler had moved into was an attractive whitewashed wood frame with a red tin roof. It was situated about two miles from Bowers Mills, secluded and encroached upon by a dark foreboding forest. Schuyler had loved it on sight. His first thought when he had seen it was: I want to die here. In looking back, he realized that it had been a morbid thought, however, he attributed to the lingering depression he was still struggling with.
He had only been living in the house for about a month when the dreams began. For a short period of time he was unable to recall anything about the dreams – only that he was sure he had dreamt something. Then as time progressed and image took form in his mind. Before long, even his waking hours were haunted by this image.
It was a woman.
She was tall, blond, and exceptionally beautiful, with huge green eyes that sparkled like emeralds and a full sweet mouth that looked as if it had been made for kissing. Her body was voluptuous and seductive. Schuyler had never seen a woman of such astounding beauty in all of his life. And, like a fool, he soon found himself hopelessly in love with her – this woman of his dreams!
With each passing day Schuyler found it more and more difficult to separate the real world form his dream world. Frequently he awakened to find himself drenched in a cold clammy sweat and splattered with semen. At first, he thought he must be regressing to adolescence and once again experiencing those wet dreams, which had been so embarrassing when his mother would go to change the linens. But it occurred to him that here was more to it than just that. She was behind it.
She came to him in his dreams, naked and full of lust. She did things to him that he never dared dreamed of. When she left, he felt drained – yet, he wanted her more than ever. It got to the point where he hated waking up; he wanted to be with her every minute of the day. For with her, he felt young again and as virile as a stallion. He no longer yearned for his dead wife. She had become just another dim memory lost in the recesses of his mind.
One day Schuyler happened to pass in front of a mirror in the hallways. He did a quick double take. He was stunned by what he saw in the mirror. He had grown so thin, so gaunt, he hardly recognized himself anymore. His pale pasty skin stretched tightly across his face, giving him the appearance of a skull with two eyes. His cheekbones jutted out shockingly and there were dark crescents under his eyes.
Rushing into the bathroom, he climbed upon the scales and weighted himself. One hundred and thirty pounds. He couldn’t believe it! When he had moved into his new home he had weight a hefty two hundred plus. Although he stood six-foot-two, he had always been a little on the chucky side. Something must be seriously wrong with him, he thought, panicking. He’d have to go into town to see a doctor about having a complete check-up. He hated like hell to do it, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
But Schuyler never made it to the doctor’s office. Instead, he dropped into a little curiosity shop in Brower’s Mills and picked up something on impulse.
When he got home he placed the package on the kitchen table, sat a pot of coffee on the stove to brew, then stripped off his clothes and stepped into the shower stall.
Partway through his bath he dozed off standing upright with a soapy sponge still in his hand. She was there instantly. She pressed her naked body against his, her mouth seeking his mouth, her long slender fingers kneading his back. Even though he was bone-tired and wanted to resist her, he couldn’t. She was too strong…He was hers now – and she knew it!
When he awakened he was lying face down in the shower stall, sprawled out, the water beating down on his back and buttocks. He felt as if all the life had been sucked out of him. Just raising his head seemed a Herculean task in itself. Somehow, though, he managed to muster up enough strength to drag his tired ass back into the kitchen.
Still naked and dripping water, he plopped down in a chair at a table. He sat there immobile, his eyes fixated on the package. He was huffing and puffing as if he had jogged into town and back. He was in rotten shape.
“Tonight,” he whispered lowly. “Tonight.”
Although he was feeling a bit nervous, he was very excited about the prospect of possibly communicating with this woman of his dreams. All day long he hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that somehow she had guided his steps into the little curiosity shop and had in some way exerted her influence on him so that he purchased the Ouija board when he had no intention of buying one. Well, if that was the case, now was the time for him to find out.
Lightly placing the fingers from both hands on each side of the message indicator, Schuyler said out loud, “Ouija, may I speak to the spirit that inhabits this house?”
For several moments he sat there, his eyes riveted to the board, feeling more and more like an absolute ass as time ticked by. All at once the message indicator began to move. At first its movements were sluggish, and then suddenly it veered off to the left hand corner of the board where it maneuvered itself so that the word YES appeared in the little plastic window.
Schuyler was thrilled. “Tell me, Spirit…what is your name? Please, spell it out for me.”
This time the message indicator glided across the board effortlessly, darting from one letter to another. It was going so fast Schuyler had a difficult time keeping all the letters straight in his head.
Alana Jordan. That name rang a bell! If his memory served him right, old Mr. Gerber – the clerk over at the IGA supermarket – had mentioned something about her being the last person to have lived in the house that he was now living in. Schuyler knew she had once been a top fashion model and had appeared on the covers of such magazines as Vogue and Gloss. Then she was involved in a scandalous divorce with rich playboy. Her settlement had allowed her to go into early retirement form the modeling profession. Since then, she had stayed out of the headlines. That is, until her mysterious disappearance.
According to Gerber, she was quite stunning – but strange. Rumors had it that she dabbled in witchcraft. The old man said she seemed to go out of her way to nurture such gossip. For instance, she never came to town except on Friday evenings. She was always dressed in red from head to toe. A mangy three-legged dog and a huge one-eye cat always accompanied her. On top of this, she wasn’t what you would call the neighborly type. She remained aloof, disinterested, and distant. That was why no one in Bowers Mills was upset when she turned up missing. Good riddance to the bad rubbish was their sentiment exactly. And, like him, most of them assumed she’d finally gotten fed up with the bucolic living and had returned to the Big Apple. The only thing was…she left everything she owned behind. Including the cat and dog.
“For a while folks suspected her old man – her ex – of doin’ her in and dumpin’ her body some where. From what he’d heard, there wasn’t any love lost between them. But they couldn’t make the charges stick, no better than a fly on a horse’s ass. They didn’t have on evidence. Not one clue, “Mr. Gerber related that day. “But you know, son, to this day they don’t know what became of that poor woman. It’s like the ground opened up and swallowed her down. Maybe it was the Devil after all…comin’ to collect his due.”
Returning to the present, there was a slight tremor in his voice when he spoke this time. “Alana…Alana Jordan? What is it that you want from me?”
“Revenge for what?”
So, that’s what happened to her, she’d been murdered! But what was he suppose to do about it? He couldn’t very well go to the authorities and tell them that Alana Jordan, who had been missing for ten years, had spoken to him through a Ouija board. Why, they’d laugh right in his face!
Suddenly the message indicator slid out form under Schuyler’s fingertips and began racing from one letter to the next. Again and again, it spelled the same words over and over.
KILL THEM KILL THEM KILL THEM KILL THEM KILL THEM
By dawn the next morning Schuyler knew everything he needed to know. They reached an understanding. If he would help her in avenging her death, in return, she would release her hold on him and he could resume a normal life.
That day Schuyler spent the entire day in bed just catching up on some of the sleep he’d lost. For the first time in many weeks Alana did not intrude upon his dreams. When he finally awakened, he felt refreshed and more vitally alive than he’d felt in years. Although he realized what he was about to embark on was a risky business – he might wind up dead, himself – he, nevertheless, was ready and willing to take the chance. The way he saw it, he really didn’t have much of a choice. He for sure couldn’t go on with things the way they’d been. Alana was slowly sucking the life out of him. Just like a vampire.
Despite the erosion of time the three men who had tortured Alana had changed very little. Barrel Kalich was just as big and fat as he’d been back in 1960. Hank Willcutt was still as gaunt as a cadaver and just about as pale as one. Ross Buchanan looked exactly the same except for a neatly trimmed moustache he was now sporting. Schuyler recognized each of the men form the descriptions Alana had given him. Only…there was something Alana neglected to tell him: Each of the three men had a look in his eye that could turn another man’s piss into ice water. Schuyler’s included.
“Listen here, man. I wanna know what this is all about!” Demanded Hank Willcutt, his voice so shrill it bordered on falsetto.
“Yeah, asshole,” put in Barrel Kalich, leering at Schuyler with ostensible distaste. “Why ya have us drive all the way out here for…? Your funeral?”
Clearing his throat nervously, Schuyler said in a choked voice, “It’s like I told you guys over the phone. I happen to know for a fact that Alana Jordan never left this town like so many people here like to believe. As a matter of fact, I know something that the rest of Bowers Mill doesn’t know…I know Alana never left this house alive. I even know where the murderers left her body.”
Ross was on his feet instantly, a switchblade gleaming in his hand. Fortunately for Schuyler, Barrel reacted quickly and intercepted Ross by grabbing his arm and bending it back. “Don’t let this little maggot get you all riled up, Rossie-baby. He ain’t worth it. Now, come on. Sit down and give a listen to this asshole’s pitch. You know it’s gotta be hilarious.”
“Oh, by the way, fellas,” said Schuyler in a taunting tone,” just in case any of you feel incline to follow in Mr. Buchanan’s example; I’ve got a news flash for you. I took out a little insurance policy on myself before coming out here this evening. I left an envelope with my lawyers, instructing him to open it in the advent of my sudden demise. In it there’s enough dirt to see the three of you fry for what you did to Alana. My apology if this puts a damper on tonight’s proceedings, but I always say, ‘you can never be too careful these days’.”
From the expressions on the men’s faces, Schuyler had the feeling he had just died three horrendously agonizing deaths. But he couldn’t afford to let them intimidate him now; he had too much at stake. If he gave Alana what she wanted, then he would be free of her forever. Right now, that freedom meant more to him than anything else. Since Alana had begun seducing him in his sleep, he hadn’t written a word. He was too worn out to think. He was never going to get anywhere in the literary world like that.
“Well, boys, I guess it’s time to get this show on the road, as they say. Would you be so kind as to follow me upstairs?”
The three men exchanged glances. Schuyler saw the confusion on their faces. He couldn’t keep one corner of his mouth form curling up in a wicked smile. Just like sheep being led to the slaughter, he thought as they followed his footsteps up the stairs.
Inside the very room that had been the scene of Alana’s grisly death, the three men stood rooted at the foot of the old brass bed. Their eyes bulged as they gaped open-mouthed at the moldering remains of their victim. She was spread-eagled on the bed, her wrists and anklebones were tied securely to the rails of the bed – in the same manner they had bound her when she’d been raped and murdered.
Considering the hasty hole the men had thrown her corpse into, Alana had held up remarkably well. Even after ten long years in the damp ground with the wriggling worms and other feeders, there were still a few tufts of long blond hair on what was left of her scalp. Here and there a shred of blue-tinged flesh adhered stubbornly to the waxy-looking bones. The dark hollows of her empty eye sockets appeared to be glaring g back at the three shaken men malevolently. There was an unmistakable grin on that horrendous mouth of hers. Dried blood was caked on her decaying teeth – blood that could not have been her own! However, as shocking as her appearance was, the stench was worse.
Schuyler thought the three men looked as if they might toss their cookies at any moment. The smell had gotten to him like that at first, but now he hardly noticed it at all.
Whirling around, Ross Buchanan confronted Schuyler. “What the hell’s the meaning of this? Just what kind of sick games are you playing, fuckface?”
“Oh, I thought you guys might like another crack at me,” said Schuyler throatily. Only…the voice that the three men heard wasn’t Schuyler’s. It was a voice from the past, a voice that still haunted them in their nightmares – the voice of Alana Jordan! “Now don’t be bashful. You know, it’s not like we’ve never been on intimate terms before. Come on. Take your clothes off and let me see what you boys have left after ten long of jacking each other off.”
The stark terror in the men’s eyes was almost palpable. Growing like an enraged beast, Ross made a lunge for Schuyler. Suddenly he found himself staring down the barrel of a sawed –off shotgun. The three men were frightened, and more confused than ever. Their minds didn’t want to accept what they had just witnessed. The gun that Schuyler had trained on them had materialized out of thin air – just like magic!
“Come on Rossie-baby…come a little bit closer. Give me another reason to blow your fuckin’ nuts off,” snarled Schuyler in Alana’s voice. Then, facing the three men squarely he said roughly, “Okay boys, it’s time to strip. Take off your clothes off. Take it all off. Now!”
There was a nasty mirk on Hank’s homely face. “Hey, guys…I think what we’ve got here’s a regular little homo. Or maybe one of those ‘morphodites I heard tell of.”
“If I were you I’d shut that stupid trap of yours and do as Alana says,” said Schuyler, his own voice having returned.
“This guy must be some kind of psycho. You hear the way his voice keeps changin’? One minute he sounds like a man – the next, like a god dam woman! If you ask me, I don’t think the bastard knows what he is,” barked Barrel, his face flushed floridly.
“I know one thing for sure: I ain’t takin’ my clothes off for this here cocksucker!” Raged Ross, his beady little eyes smoldering with hatred.
All of a sudden there was a loud smacking sound. Ross stumbled back a few steps, one hand rushing to side of his face. There was a red imprint on his left cheek – an imprint of a hand much smaller than nay of the men present.
“Who the fuck hit me? I didn’t see anyone.”
The room resounded with maniacal laughter.
“You made Alana mad,” said Schuyler soberly. “If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t do it again.”
Ross opened his mouth like he was about to say something, then snapped it shut as if he’d had a second thoughts about it. The side of his face was still red and stinging form the slap he’d received form and invisible hand. He kept rubbing at it with his palm, trying to massage the pain away.
“I’m getting’ the hell outta here!” Shrilled Barrel, his voice quite literally crackling with fear.
As Barrel made a dash for the door, Schuyler shouted outa warning to stop or be shot. Casting a quick glance over his broad shoulder, Barrel disregarded the gun pointed in his direction and kept on going. Schuyler shouted once more then pulled the trigger. The blast form the shotgun blew away the top part of Barrel’s head. Ugh across the hall and into the adjacent room. There was the musical tinkling of shattered glass as Barrel’s body smashed through the window and went crashing to the ground below.
Turning the gun on Ross, Schuyler hissed, “Get your clothes off or you’re next.”
Ross’ beady little eyes glared back with open hostility. He muttered something under his breath then began disrobing. Evidently, Hank had seen enough; he must have decided to play by Schuyler’s rules and not risk the chance of making him any angrier. He stripped down to the bare skin and stood shivering in the unheated room, his breath pluming from his mouth and his testicles drawn up so tightly they were barely visible.
“Good. Okay, Ross. Climb into bed with Alana.”
The look of revulsion on Ross’ face clearly said FUCK YOU. “You’re a real sicko, you know that? I’m not gettin in bed with that thing!”
“Oh, is that so?” Snorted Schuyler, shoving the barrel of the shotgun into Ross’ face. He tightened his finger on the trigger. Ross didn’t even flinch; he stared Schuyler squarely in the eye. “Think you’re a pretty tough cookie, don’t you? Okay then. If you want to play it that way…Hank gets your scrawny ass over here and gives me a hand with your buddy.”
Hank shook his head no. Smiling devilishly, Schuyler aimed the shotgun at the frightened man’s exposed crotch.
“Okay! Okay!” Wailed Hank mournfully.
Ross put up one hell of a fight, but the combined strength of the other two men was too much for him. Seizing him under the arms, they hoisted him up form the floor. Then, grabbing a hold of his shoulders and legs, they flug him over the foot of the bed. Ross landed face down on top of Alana’s decomposing corpse. His beady little eyes didn’t look so beady anymore. They were bulging form their sockets like they might pop out in the next instant. As he stared into the worm-eaten face he thought he saw something far more horrific than his revulsion. Deep in the hollows of her eyeless head, he saw the flickering of life.
Alana’s skeletal arms were straining against the ropes. Suddenly they snapped off at the wrists and came crashing down on Ross’ spine while the severed hands skittered across the bed. With unheard of strength, the arms bore down on him, purposefully grinding his chest and abdomen into the sharp projections of her ribcage. Howling in agony, Ross found himself skewered to the hideous corpse and unable to extricate himself without disemboweling himself.
Ross was almost to the point of losing consciousness when the severed hands grabbed him by the hair of his head. Forcing his head down, Alana’s ghastly mouth yawned open. Her blood-flecked teeth tore into his flesh with a savage fury. By the time she was finished, Ross Buchanan no longer had a face.
Laughing fiendishly, Alana’s corpse toss Ross’ lifeless body clear across the room, out the door, and into the hall. Turning her head, she croaked, “Next!”
All this time Hank Willcutt had been standing mutely by, a part of his none-too-swift mind refusing to believe his own eyes. It wasn’t until Schuyler pointed the shotgun at him and said, “You heard her. You’re next. Now get up there on that bed! that it finally struck him that this was his life that was on the line.
Like a condemned man walking down Death Row, Hank staggered toward the blood-drenched bed. As he came up along side of Schuyler, he jabbed his bony elbow into the other man’s side, knocking him off balance. Hank flew out of the room and scrambled for the stairs, knowing that his life depended on escaping this house of madness. Halfway down, the stairs suddenly dematerialized from under Hank’s feet. He went falling through space, landing with a thud on the hardwood floor below. He felt a jolt of pain shoot up form his hip. When he tried to stand, the pain was so intense that it brought a cry to his lips.
Dragging his leg to take some of the pressure off of his throbbing hip, Hank slowly made his way to the front door. At any moment now, he half-expected to hear the blast of a shotgun, and then it would all be over for him. But amazingly enough, Schuyler hadn’t pursued him as he had feared he would. A ray of hope flickered on inside his chest. He had made it this for and was a God, after all!
He flung open the front door. Alana’s corpse was waiting there in all her lurid resplendence, her jaws already unhinged, slivers of Ross’ flesh dangling form her teeth. Hank screamed and never stopped screaming until Alana ripped out his throat.
Entering the house, Schuyler made a point of avoiding the gruesome remains of Hank Willcutt, which were still scattered all over the living room floor. There was so much blood! Funny, but he had thought after he had all this behind him, he would feel a rush of relief. But he didn’t. What he felt was depressed. Because of him, Alana had succeeded in exacting her revenge…and three men had lost their lives. Although he knew they were scum – cold-blooded killers – and not worth his sympathy, no one deserved to die the way Ross and Hank had. Barrel had been the lucky one, really. He was the only one who had escaped those deadly teeth of Alana’s corpse.
Wandering into the kitchen, Schuyler removed his button-down sweater and hung it on a six-inch spike on the wall. Then sighing wearily he collapsed into a chair at the kitchen table.
He was grateful that soon all of this would be behind him. Once he had buried the men he could forget that any of this nightmare ever happened here tonight. Maybe he’d write a book about what had happened, a fictitious account, only…tone it down a little. Who knows? He might come up with a bestseller.
Even though he was glad he had earned his freedom, he knew he was going to Miss Alana. In the beginning, her lovemaking had been nothing short of fabulous. But it could never be the same…he had seen behind that beautiful facade she had shown him in his dreams, he had seen what cruel and unfeeling monster she really was. Caring for someone like her could be hazardous to your health.
All of a sudden Schuyler felt a chill run down the length of his spine. The chair he was seated upon had begun to vibrate. At first he thought it might be a tremor – a small earthquake – but looking around the room he saw that nothing else was moving except the chair. He tried to stand up; he couldn’t. It was as if invisible hands were pressing him down, forcing him to stay put. The chair was shaking so violently now that his supper shot up his throat and out his mouth, spraying him with a foul-smelling coating of vomitus. Then all at once the chair went sliding across the room, propelling him with it. Schuyler’s sweater fell to the floor just as the chair slammed into the wall. Schuyler’s head jerked back upon the impact, driving the six-inch spike into the back of his skull. With his head impaled on the wall, the chair spun around three times, then stopped. Schuyler’s neck looked like a pretzel.
Outside the wind was howling balefully. A cold drizzle had begun to fall. From the edge of the woods there came muffled laughter. Alana Jordan was jubilant. Tonight she had attained her revenge. Best of all, not the she had spilled human blood, she could continue doing so throughout eternity. For it wasn’t good enough to get revenge on just the men who had murdered her. Oh, know it was all men that she needed revenge on. For anything she had ever suffered in her life had been cause by a man. So now they would all pay. Giving up her soul wasn’t such a bad price to pay for what she was getting in return.
She hoped that someone would move into her little white house with the red tin roof before long. She needed someone she could make all hers now – like she had Schuyler. And when she was bored with amusing herself with him, she would devour him – along with the rest of his family if he had one! It really couldn’t be helped; years of lying moldering in her grave had left her with an incredible appetite and now she had the power she needed to feed that appetite.
“Soon,” she whispered lowly, and the sound of her voice drifted up from the grave and was carried off by the wind.
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