Tales of Terror

Cheap Thrills At The Parker House
by Rich Logsdon


I.    Overwhelming evidence notwithstanding, thin and bespectacled Luke Matthews didn't believe in ghosts, werewolves, warlocks, witches, or demons. "To Hell with the Devil" had become a favorite expression of this tall,
stooping intellectual, voiced particularly around fellow graduate students, who admired Luke for his abandonment of belief.

   To Luke, sitting now in his parent's living room, puffing on his pipe, watching the red glow of the setting sun, and studying the spire of the old Parker House through the leafless trees in the front yard, Hell was a fabrication of the Church and, therefore, a delusion. The views of this thin bespectacled man were reinforced by Neitzche, Marx, and Derrida, whom he claimed in seminar after seminar as his most significant influences. A doctoral student in English, studying at a major California university, Luke was finishing a dissertation applying deconstructive principles to Bronte's Wuthering Heights. His parents, now away at a church revival this evening, were proud of him. Sitting on the faded green couch he had slept on as a child, Luke put his pipe to his mouth and reflected: during his college years, he had seen the superstitions of his ancestors uprooted like weeds, each tossed onto the pile of cultural discards that Luke kept in the back of his mind, just in case some day he might need a bit of trivia to impress  colleagues and students gathered around him to learn about his most recent publication.

   Evening shadows darkening, Luke wondered how he was going to use this weekend. He was glad his parents were gone, because that gave him the freedom he needed. Between semesters and burnt-out from too many books, papers,
and seminars, Luke wanted a boost, a thrill. He needed to do something different, he told himself, something that he would remember when he was working on his dissertation in his small attic room just off the campus.  In fact, he was tempted to visit the old Parker House, the rickety brick and wooden two story Victorian affair located on the corner of Seventh and Taylor, just a block away. Superstitions aside, the place had a creepy appeal.

   Luke had vivid recollections of the place. Even in the light of day during his childhood and adolescence, the old Victorian house had always seemed dark; looking at the place was like gazing through darkly transparent film. For another, throughout his youth, as he had made a point of walking past the deserted place to the local convenience store or to the home of one of his friends, Luke had occasionally heard awful sounds coming from the Parker house, particularly at night. When he was twelve, walking past the place around midnight in late November, he had heard scream after scream, something his father attributed to demonic spirit. Once, when he was sixteen and walking back to his house from his girlfriend's on the darkest night of the year, Luke had seen a light flickering through a corner second story window  and a shadow bouncing onto the shade. If Luke were making these stories up, his parents knew, at least the boy's delusions had a solid foundation.

   That foundation was his grandfather. During the first eighteen years of his life, Luke had heard stories about the Parker place from his grandfather, a crazy old coot who had lived with the boy and his parents from the time Luke was five and had made it evident, to his dying day, that he despised everyone in the family save Luke.

  Routinely, Grandfather Matthews would drag Luke into the family room after a winter meal of steak and mashed potatoes, sit the boy on his lap five feet from the fire, and fill his grandson's head full of Parker house stories. Sometimes, as Luke listened to the old man in the darkly carpeted and paneled room, he could swear that his grandfather was trying to scare him to death.

II.     "Take the murder and dismemberment of Cassie Russell over thirty years ago," Luke had told his friends a week before, as over beer at a topless tavern near the university he had tried to explain his warped childhood. "That was one of Grandpa's favorites, one that the old man added a bit more blood to each time he had told it. Cassie was high school student who made extra cash delivering pizzas and made the mistake of knocking on the door of the Parker house on Halloween in 1965. Odd thing was," Luke had remembered with a shiver, "no one had lived in that old house since the early '50's. Poor little girl. Anyhow, according to Grandpa, that was the last anyone ever saw Cassie alive; a month later, some teenagers  found her body, or the remains of it, scattered and decomposing over the basement floor in the old house. 'Stench was unbelievable, Grandson,' the old man growled at me, tobacco stains on his shirt, beard, and teeth. 'An'  blood everywhere: on the walls, on the carpet, on the TV, on the dining room table. Even more curious, little Luke: Cassie's eyeballs was gone.' No one ever explained what the boys were doing in the house, which had not been lived in for years. 'Cassie was sure as hell a cute little thing,' Grandpa would conclude, smacking his lips and looking wistfully into the distance."

    When his friends (all doctoral candidates) refused to believe this, but waited for more in breathless anticipation, Luke had lit his pipe and hit them with another Grandpa Matthews story. "Okay. So listen to this. Five years after the discovery of Cassie Russell, the dead and disemboweled bodies of two of these teenagers-a boy and a girl-were found hanging by their necks from a rafter in the attic of the old Parker house. The murderer had tied black nylon chord five times around the neck of each victim. An autopsy report showed the boy and the girl had been disemboweled before the time of their deaths. 'Eyes of the boy and girl was missin', just like Cassie,' the old man told me. 'Maybe the mice ate 'em, the eyes, that is, heheheh,' the old man had chuckled. Jesus, what a mean old bastard.

    "Then Grandpa would carry me over to the family room window and point with a crooked and trembling finger in the direction of the Parker house, just visible in evening light through the trees. 'House got some evil in it, boy.' the old man had wheezed, always struggling for air. 'People stupid enough to try to tear the thing down generally died.' The mean old man, actually smiling at me, always followed this up with accountings of some of the 'accidents': the body of city councilman Ed Jeffries, his heart cut out and stuffed into his mouth, had been found on the bloodied kitchen floor; the mangled eye-less body of Susan Thompson, former Miss Idaho contestant, had been discovered dangling upside down from a ceiling fan in the master bedroom on the second floor."

III.    Of course, Luke thought to himself as he sat in his parents' family room in Boise, his friends had thought he was making the stories up. No self-respecting Ph. D., one of Luke's friends had remarked, would ever take those stories seriously; doing so was equivalent to believing in the devil, a character now regarded in intellectual circles as nothing more than a harmful fiction, capable of nonetheless inspiring incredibly dark deeds.

    Now a young man on the verge of getting his Ph. D. in English, Luke actually missed the old man (who had died of congestive heart failure four years ago) and wondered as he sat puffing his pipe and gazing out the window, waiting for the darkness, how any sane individual could possibly believe the old man's stories let alone the explanation the community accepted: that the house was haunted. Indeed, to prove to himself that there was no basis for any superstitions regarding the old house, Luke had called a former girl friend last night and asked her to spend part of the next evening with him in the old mansion. "Consider it a cheap thrill," he had commented, smugly. "Sure, Luke," Misty had quickly responded, "I like cheap thrills," and Luke remembered then that in high school Misty had been one of those promiscuous beauties that would do anything for a thrill, which had included (on the night of Luke's graduation) taking on Luke and thirteen of his buddies in the back seat of her car.

IV. Luke met Misty in front of the store on seventh and Main, six blocks from the old mansion. A gorgeous brunette with a figure that would give the Pope an erection, Misty wore a blue Boise State sweater, blue jeans, and boots. Luke had worn his frayed green tweed jacket, leather patches on the elbows, faded jeans, and red tennis shoes. From there, full moon overhead, they walked hand-in-hand into the center of town, where they dined at Angel Fong's, an over-priced Chinese restaurant situated in the basement of one of the city's banks.

    Misty sat across the table from Luke in the darkened dining room and sighed as she remembered the old Parker place. "Me and my friends usually stayed the hell away from that place, let me tell you, except for once, " Misty droned on, dipping bread in her soup. "Once, Shelly and me threw rocks at the house when we seen someone inside. Shelly's rock went through one of the front windows. That was pretty fuckin' funny. Kind of a cheap thrill, I guess."

    Glancing around the room to make sure no one had heard the Misty, Luke remembered the story. It had been on a night after a local high school football game that Misty and Shelly, drunken sluts, had decided to drive by the old Parker place in North Boise and spend an hour or two just throwing rocks at the house. The broken window had become legendary in the Boise high schools, Shelly a local hero, when suddenly, one day after Halloween night
Shelly's nude body had been found in the foothills just overlooking Boise, her beautiful body impaled on a sharp post, her eyes ripped out of their sockets.

    "Sometimes," began Misty, taking a noisy sip from her wine glass and looking at Luke, "sometimes, late at night, I get this creepy feeling, like something watching me, like, Jesus, these fuckin' eyes that I know come from that old house. Then I think about Shelly, about how they found her. No eyes and shit. Jesus, sometimes I sit up in bed and cry I get so scared, and Jesus that's when Mom comes in to tell me that it's all right and to shut the hell up. 'You shut the hell up, Misty Jean!!' she'd yell. 'Me an' your old man's tyrin' to sleep.' "

    Studying Misty, who at twenty-four was more beautiful and more stupid than he had remembered, Luke slowly chewed his raw steak, savoring the juices. Between bites, he asked her if she still wanted to go to the Parker mansion. "Just a cheap thrill," Luke said.

    "Oh, hell yes. Hell, hell, hell, yes, I do!" exclaimed Misty, loud enough for the elderly couple at the next table to overhear and stare at the loud young woman. "I don't believe that shit. No one believes that shit."  She drained her wine glass and gesture to Luke that she wanted a refill. Then, turning to the old couple, Misty asked, "You folks still believe that shit?"

V.    Later that night, they entered the house easily enough, climbing a tree and jumping onto the roof, breaking a window, and getting in through what must have been a guest bedroom. Luke had brought a flashlight, which
he flipped on as soon as he and Misty were inside.

   The dark pine dresser and wall shelves, Luke noticed, flashing his beam around the room, were immaculate, an unusual touch for an abandoned place. He saw no dust anywhere. Too, the frame, Victorian-styled bed looked freshly
made. The only unusual item was the smell: The air was saturated by a thickly metallic odor that made Luke think of blood. Hanging from the ceiling was a chandelier, and when Luke tried the light switch the room lit up in a reddish glow, like a bonfire.

    "Jesus," exclaimed Misty, almost breathless, "Jesus, what a place. Jesus."

    "Sure is some place," responded Nick, still surprised by the cleanliness.

    "Wanna go on?" asked Misty, anxiously.

    Immediately, as he nodded, Luke saw a mental image of a corpse dangling bloodily from a full moon and sensed that something was terribly wrong with the house. Sworn, however, to resist impulses predicated on superstitions, Luke looked at the girl. "Fuck, yeah," he said, feeling a slight tremble in his voice, "let's see this place."

    And so Misty and Luke explored the mansion, turning on the chandelier lights in the long hall way outside the bedroom, then creeping down the hallway and entering the rooms upstairs one by one. They found the huge master bedroom, saw the ceiling fan and a dressing table stacked with very old photos of people that Luke assumed has once lived in the place. The people in the photos looked cold and sullen.

    Next, they crept downstairs into the darkness, flicked on the light switch at the bottom, and walked into the largest and most grandiose living room either one of them had ever seen, filled with padded nineteenth century high-backed chairs, three couches with wooden and bending backs, a grandfather clock that, oddly, was still ticking and keeping the correct time. From there, they walked to the dining room, which was more of a hall, and looked at the long oaken table ringed with old wooden chairs, all of which looked brand new to Luke.

    When they walked through the kitchen in the back of the house and noticed an open door seemingly inviting the intruders down into the cellar darkness, Misty stopped in her tracks.

    "What's the matter?" asked Luke, who had grown bolder and bolder the longer they stayed in the house.

    "Ain't goin' down there, boy friend," said Misty, pointing to the open door.

    "Why?" asked Luke. "Can't be a thing down there." As he said the word, Luke felt chilled, sensed something huge and dark passing inches from him, saw in his mind's eye two red eyes blazing directly at him. His heart jumping
into his throat, Luke reminded himself that what he had seen was superstition.

    "Shit, babe," Luke responded, shaken but imitating a cockiness which his fellow grad students had come to admire, "then I'll go myself." Luke started towards the door, sensing still that he was moving into danger.

    "Luke, Luke, shit, honey, please," whined Misty.

    "Please, what?"

    "Please don't go into that fucking dark hole. I get a bad feeling about this, Luke. Somethin' not right here. Shit. Like those eyes I told you about I dream about."

    Instead of seeing in Misty's fear evidence confirming his own suspicions, Luke pushed onward. He had to go down the dark stairs now. Besides, he needed the rush.

    "I'll be back in a minute," Luke said, approaching the entrance. "Anyway, to Hell with the Devil."

    "That's a cute thing to say, Luke, but what the hell about me?" Misty whimpered, and Luke wondered if she were attempting to make him feel sorry for her or if she were frightened. He decided this was an emotional ploy on her part.

    "You'll be all right, sugar pie," he assured her. "And it won't be totally dark. The moon is full tonight and even without the flashlight," and here he turned his light off, "you can see just about everything."

    Luke was right. In the light of the moon, everything in the old kitchen was visible: the linoleum floor, the old refrigerator in the corner, the shelves, the huge sink, everything.

    "Ok, Luke. Fuck it. OK, " Misty said, resigned. "But hurry back."

    Giving Misty a kiss on the cheek, Luke turned the flashlight on and bounded down the stairs, wondering what he would find when he reached the bottom.

    It was when Luke stepped onto the cold concrete of the cellar floor that he knew that he had made a fatal error. The revelation hit like and shovel against the side of the head. Panicked, he flashed the light across the walls of the cellar just as the door at the top of the stairs slammed shut.

He waited, breathless, heard the blood pounding in his brain. Then, he heard footsteps lumbering over the floor above him in the direction of Misty, heard Misty scream. Luke made out unmistakable sounds of a struggle, rapid footsteps indicating Misty was running to escape, heavier footsteps of her pursuer. Then, he heard her shout for him, heard her scream again and again, was reminded of the sounds of a huge animal caught in a trap. As if awakened from a dark dream, he rushed up the stairs, three steps at a time, and threw himself against the cellar door. The door, made of hard, thick wood, did not budge, so he threw himself against the door again and again, frantic, as Misty's screams suddenly stopped. Wondering if his girl were dead, Luke bounded back down the stairs, searched the cellar frantically with his flashlight, passing the beam over walls and floor again and again, nearly giving up hope when he saw something glittering in the darkness in the back of the cellar. Luke ran towards the object, light revealing that he had found a huge ax whose wooden handle seemed as fresh as it would have been had Luke purchased the tool that very day.

    Luke rushed back up the stairs, flashlight in one hand and ax in another and, two steps before the door, lay down his light so that the beam shone on the door, raised his ax and swung. At the first chance, the blade struck in the wood, but Luke easily pulled the weapon free. Luke swung again, and again, and again, finally piercing through the wooden door. With several more swings, Luke created a rectangular opening through which, as he dropped his ax, he could reach the door handle and unlock and open the door.

    The door opened, and feeling himself exhausted, Luke called out, "Misty!! Misty! Where are you? Where are you? Say something!"

    He listened and behind the silence he heard something, a rhythmic panting which grew louder and louder, like two great beasts fucking each other. Terrified, Luke dropped his ax and walked in the direction of the sound, walked up the stairs, down the hall, and finally into a room right next to the one through which he and Misty had first gained entrance to the mansion. Nearly crazed by terror, Luke pointed the flashlight in front of him, thought he saw something large in the middle of the very small dark room, listened for Misty, and then shining the light directly in front of him again realized what it was that he was looking at. He had found Misty.

VI.    In the brilliant moonlight, he could see her arms and legs were bound by rope and tied to steel rings protruding from each of the four walls. Misty was suspended horizontally in the dark space, three feet or so off the floor, her nude body in a spread-eagle position. The rope that bound her arms and legs had been pulled so tight that Misty could not move. Her face was turned away from him. The figure looked grotesque, seeming to float in the air.

    Breaking into a cold sweat, paralyzed, heart thumping wildly, Luke felt himself go numb, wondered what he was doing in this room on this night. For several minutes, unmoving, he stood and tried not to look towards the face, certain the eyes had been removed, sure that he was going to get sick or pass out. Then, he heard a voice he did not recognize rasp, "Hey, can you believe this shit?", and knew the girl had turned her head towards him. Glancing up and down her body, avoiding her eyes, he saw that her wrists and ankles bore red burn marks from where the rope had rubbed against the flesh, could actually feel the girl's pain as she weakly struggled to get loose. Then, with morbid fascination, he watched the blood trickling down her left arm from the rope and in the direction of her bare breast and wondered what he should do about it. Misty's breasts and flat stomach bore scratches that suggested a struggle.

   Mesmerized, stupidly almost, Luke stared at the body dangling spread-eagle in front of him, had trouble acknowledging that bound before him was a girl he had known since grade school. Feeling immersed in something so dark and dreadful that it was almost palpable, he gazed now at the golden rings piercing her nipples and pussy, wondered when Misty had decided to go in for piercing, actually felt himself slightly aroused.

    Summoning courage, he slowly looked up, towards her face, noticed that Misty's cheek and forehead bore deep cuts, realized she was bleeding slightly from the nose and mouth, and then forced himself to look at her eyes.
With a tremendous sigh of relief, he realized that Misty still had her sight but he could read only emptiness there, as if something had scooped out her soul.

   He looked at the girl, felt delirious, actually thought of running his hand over her breasts, lightly touching her crotch when he heard her whisper, mockingly, "Hey, little man, hey, little man; he's here. He's here. He's here. And you are fuckin' dead, dead, dead." This couldn't be Misty, he told himself, struggling to stay rational. This wasn't her voice. She sounded diabolical.

    "What?" Luke asked, stunned. "What are you saying?" It occurred to him that this girl, grotesquely suspended, felt no pain.

    "I said," the girl growled, guttural, her voice coming from deep within her, "he's here, you stupid miserable mother fucker. Somewhere in the house, shit pot. And, you baby boy blue, Mr. To-Hell-With-the-Devil, he's gonna eat you alive." At this, Misty smacked her lips; she actually seemed to enjoy this moment.

    Luke stepped back, looked at the body before him, glanced at the room around him, felt the room beginning to spin, and desperately struggled to focus on the task at hand.

    "Who's here?" Luke asked, terror sweeping through him, weakening him. "Who, who, who are you talking about?"

    "Who do you think, shit head?," she said slowly, laughing, looking at Luke through glazed animal eyes. "Whatever it was had a huge, huge dick, much larger than your own, and it fucked me-throbbed deeply and deliciously inside me--and I loved it."

    Nick paused, fascinated yet repelled.

    "Hey, little man, " she asked, smiling, beginning to pant heavily, "you can fuck me now. You can fuck me to death. I'm in position. Put that little pecker inside me. It'll be a real cheap thrill."

    Dazed, he looked at her, her mouth open, her face bloodied, then said, "What the hell is going on here? What is this? What the hell has happened to you?" Even as he spoke, he wondered why he had asked, felt a mixture of fear and pleasure, knew that something was watching him, zeroing in on him.

    Slowly, almost unable to move, he turned, looked into the darkness, illuminated by the moonlight, searched for whatever it was that had locked him in the basement and raped this girl. While he could see no one, he sensed darkness passing through the house, a cold dark breeze looking for him, felt the eyes of evil boring into him, knew that whatever it was had the power to take to the pit of Hell.

    Panicked, wanting to run, he knew he had to free Misty. It was imperative that he do so. So he turned back to her, reached into his pocket, took out his Swiss army knife, opened it, and put the blade of to the straps binding her legs. Frantically as he worked and she giggled, regardless of the pressure he put on his knife, he could not cut the rope.

    "Jesus Christ," Luke whispered, falling to his knees, knowing the situation was hopeless. "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus."

    "He won't help you now, little man," said Misty, slowly turning her face towards him and staring maliciously. "Go ahead, little man: fuck the daylights outa me. You'll like it. I certainly will. C'mon. Gimme that thrill you promised me."

    The rustling behind him, like the wind in the tree outside his parents' house, made his heart stop, the hairs lining the back of his neck bristle, turned his nose, ears, arms and legs ice-cube cold. He shivered, hoped this night would soon be over, felt something brush his shoulder, knew something large and dark and scaly was passing behind him, put his head down and took a deep breath, then stood up, turned and walked through the door into the hallway.

VII. It happened so fast that Luke didn't have time to react: a sharp hook arcing perfectly toward him and cutting into and through his stomach; the sensation of being lifted off the ground; the searing, darkening pain; the sound of someone screaming like a beast; the sudden nausea as the sharp thing ripped into his stomach; the stench of his own blood; finally, the sensation that he was gliding out of his own body, leaving his own bloodied and mutilated form, on the verge of beginning something new and indescribably horrible.

   Suspended in the hallway at a point near the ceiling, he looked below, saw his own body limp and bleeding, pierced by an enormous hook; the hook in turn was connected to a chain that dangled from the ceiling. He wondered if somehow he had come under Divine Judgment for believing the wrong things, knew he had been given over to a darkness so vast that it stretched forever beyond his imagination, knew for the first time that evil was a tangible mass.

    Floating, he studied his corpse, swinging on the chain, blood dripping onto the carpet, felt incredibly light, felt no pain, thought of Misty in the next room, somehow willed himself into the room where he looked down on the nude body, realized that Misty had died seconds before and then looked into the blazing red eyes of an enormous dark mass hovering before him, thought for an instant of his grandfather, then felt himself gripped by a force whose strength he had never known, saw the massive dark wings of this thing. He felt himself moving at light speed down an endless
dark corridor, heard the screams of millions who had suffered the same condemnation in previous centuries, saw the glow of the Lake of Fire at the end of the dark corridor, sensed Misty was waiting for him, and knew he would travel this corridor for eternity.

Rich Logsdon

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