There’s One On Every Corner

The birth of evil is never an ordinary thing.

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The birth of evil is never an ordinary thing.

From the story:

“We pave our own roads around here, son.”

Once upon a time, my true Father had spoken those words.

My Father would be proud of my accomplishments this far into my existence.  But, although it means the world to me to have my Father’s approval, I did these things mostly for my own sense of purpose.  I was longing for so long for that feeling of satisfaction and purpose that comes with something well done.  While others were plowing and mowing and building and creating out of having to do so or wanting, I was coasting without so much as a cause to rise up against.  While other’s had purpose, I had monotony and procrastination.  It was because of these two crippling attributes did my Father finally appear to me.

Tags: horror short story, demons, devil, horror flash fiction, todd alan benevides, haunted houses


Author Todd Alan Benevides
Edition Aarden Authors
ISBN n/a
Pages 17
Publication Date 2000
Publisher Todd Alan Benevides
Series  n/a
BCRS Rating  CA-13
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    There’s One On Every Corner

    By Todd Alan Benevides


    There’s One On Every Corner

    Chapter 1: Framework

     

    We pave our own roads around here, son.

    Once upon a time, my true Father had spoken those words.

    My Father would be proud of my accomplishments this far into my existence.  But, although it means the world to me to have my Father’s approval, I did these things mostly for my own sense of purpose.  I was longing for so long for that feeling of satisfaction and purpose that comes with something well done.  While others were plowing and mowing and building and creating out of having to do so or wanting, I was coasting without so much as a cause to rise up against.  While other’s had purpose, I had monotony and procrastination.  It was because of these two crippling attributes did my Father finally appear to me.

    I could never. Thank him. Enough.

    Now I’ll tell you that I’ve killed thirteen people in twice that number in years.  I will also tell you that I will never be caught.  That is one thing for certain that I absolutely know.  When police reports are stowed and shoved into deep, dark filing cabinets marked unsolved, I’ll still remain watching and waiting for the next unsuspecting man, woman, or child.  I have no preference. They all scream so terrifically.

    I, dear reader, know the difference between right and wrong.  I understand that the things that I have done are not what most consider being acceptable behavior.  And, to those people who have found my deeds horrific, I’ll ask when all is said and done, weren’t it all exciting?  Did they not make for grand bedtime stories these acts that I have carried out?  Having heard them, with your twists and changing’s, did your children not behave better having learned that bad boys and girls meet terribly sick fates?  Closets filled with black hungry rats.  Beds made from the dead.

    What I’ve done should be considered as public service.

    Thirteen dead.

    A sullen whisper or a constant rattling was sometimes all it took to cause the madness to set.  It was pleasurable to watch them unravel, my victims.  It was absolute pleasure to watch them tear each other apart upon occasion.  Sometimes they did so piece by swollen piece.

    Other times a well-placed chair or swinging door sufficed as my weapon of choice.  It was the most fun finding new and exciting combinations of cozy and quaint to do my victims in with.

    A rolled Persian rug and a marble or two had been evil bedfellows.  A porcelain doll slumbering; its eyes snapping to attention was a particular favorite and most fun.

    I often wondered that in that slight pause before death, in that moment of pure clarity when you told yourself that everything wasn’t going to be alright, that you were not going to survive, do you realize who is cutting your marionette strings.

    Let’s move on.

    I won’t bore you with the details of every horrible act.  I’ll leave you and your imagination to fill in the gaps.  What I will tell you is how this started.  Besides, it’s always the beginning that people wonder about more so than the actual acts.  With an understanding about why things happen, there are some misguided and arrogant that believes such behavior can be stopped.  I’m here to tell them that it can not.

    Chapter 2: A man once shook me at my very foundation.

     

    I was simple.  Glass sat before my eyes seemingly at birth.  When people who gaze upon me they would cock there head, left then right, and wonder why I wasn’t bigger or stronger.  Appearances, as you’ll learn, can often be deceiving.  They would walk past me snickering amongst themselves about my shattered appearance.  I was an insignificant shack standing on a row of mansions.  And the love that went towards the bigger, the stronger of those of my own age passed on by without ever so much a nod in my direction.  Everyone around me a bully.

    A man once shook me at my very foundation.  “Weak.”  He said turning towards the man who cared for me.  He waved his hand in the air with disappointment. “It won’t last for long.”

    The other man, Simino Paltrina, my caretaker, turned towards me and with a gentle touch wiped a bit of dirt off of me.  The rude man referred to me as it.  As if Simino knew what had been churning in my mind he offered a bit of advice.  He poked at me.  His fingers always calloused.  With fingernails riddled with dirt and paint he said in his thick Italian accent;

    “Nothing stays orphaned forever.  Someday you’ll grow.  Someday someone will love you as I do.  They will look at you with awe like the first sailors looked upon the stars.”  And as he left and closed the front door leaving me alone, he paused on the front stairs.  He had leaned against a post on the front porch and he cried for several minutes before wiping his weakness away and moved on with his day.

    It wasn’t until later in our relationship that I’d discover the reason for his tears.  I’ve learned that love and money are always front and center at a man’s sorrow.  For Simino, it was both.

    Simino Paltrino was a busy man and even at such a young age he would leave me alone for days upon end.  Some how I made it through.  There were things to do that kept me occupied.  Watching people pass by the front of the house was one of my favorite things to do.  The neighborhood seemed to expand and flourish within minutes as I stood watching.  Kids grew never knowing of me.  Their tricycles turned into bikes.  There bikes turned into cars.  1967 Mustangs that had carried dates and girlfriends now whisked to and fro carrying babies and wives.

    Simino would come back looking more elder with each visit.  The strong virile Italian man that had taken care of me for so many lonely years was aging right before my eyes.  His once strong tanned hands were spotted now.  Veins road mapped towards his brittle wrists that looked ready to snap at a moments notice.  His black hair now settled on the sides of his head rather than its top.  And it wasn’t quite black like I had remembered but grey.  And it hadn’t quite vanished, but soon would.

    Sometimes he’d whistle a soft tune as he walked up the porch steps.  Other times he kept his head down.  He always brought back something for me.  Usually the ‘thing’ was old and broken, a thing that he would fix with his own two hands.  Another man’s trash would become a new bed or dresser or cabinet.  He would feed me with the same love and brushes he put into so much junk.  Before long I actually started to look normal.  My shell, even after all these years, appeared unchanged but looks can be deceiving.  It wouldn’t be long until people actually started to notice me.  All of Simino’s hard work would eventually pay off.

    Sometimes Simino would just sit and talk.  It was usually after a few too many drinks and his talk was always slurred.  He spoke of problems at home.  He spoke of trouble with money not had.  He wasn’t a bad man, he would boast, he was kind and decent but in the world and with the way it was, all of its pain and suffering weighing in on his shoulder’s, it wasn’t a place that would let a kind and decent man triumph.  He said that things were going to have to change.  He was losing everything.

    I never spoke.  I only listened.  It’s how one learns the mysteries of life someone later in life would teach me.  No, that man hadn’t been my father but someone almost as influential in making me what I became.  Later in life a young boy, just four years old, would teach me that even the silent could be heard.  You have to know how to listen; what to listen for.  Of course, after the lesson had been learned, I ate him splinters and all.

    I once overheard Simino state that sometimes you have to listen with your eyes.  You’ll hear a lot more than you’ve bargained for.

    Lesson learned.

    When I was older, and Simino was older still, he came to the house one thunderous night covered in blood which was not his own.  I wanted to ask what had happened but I could see by the glare in his eye it was not a time for questions.  With time he would tell me all that I wanted to know.  I was his sounding board.  At the time that much I knew for certain.

    So I waited as he stormed thru the house tossing chairs and destroying pictures that hung on the wall.  He was wailing for someone to help him, and that he didn’t mean to, that he loved his wife, that it wasn’t his fault and that if she would have just kept her God Damn Fucking mouth shut it wouldn’t have happened.

    Whatever he had done, it had indeed happened in a fit.  And from his drunken ramble I concluded that he had killed his wife in rage and indiscretion.  It wasn’t until he calmed down and slid down against the foyer wall that I learned that he not only killed his wife, he had killed his children as well.

    Next, with my eyes wide with shock and horror, he turned and banged against the wall blaming me for everything that he had done.

    “It’s you!  You are the cause of all these horrible things!  If not for you I’d be home right now holding my Isabella tightly.  If not for you, all these miserable years needing my attention, I’d be home with my family!”

    It was then that I spoke.

    No.  I said.  It was you.  You did this.

    Simino turned for it had been the first time he had ever heard me speak.  It was the first time that I had anything to say.  His eyes went wide with revelation that I could in fact do so.  I saw his mind twist around this fact seconds before a barrage of red lights twirled just beyond the front porch.

    He turned to look at me.  His stare was just off to the left.  His eyes were clouded with drink.  From his waist he pulled a blood stained knife, the same knife he had butchered his family with, and raised it in the air high above his head.

    “They were leaving me.  Leaving me!  Said that I was just a silly old man.  That’s what they called me.”  Simino said waving the knife.  I was protected by his addiction to alcohol.  He never ever came close.  And when he spoke next I lost all worry about the knife for his words cut much more deeply than his blade ever could.  “You are worthless.  You are evil.  I hate you like all others do and like they always will.”  He whispered.

    There were footsteps on the porch.

    “You’ve always been a burden to me.”  He said.  Simino then held the knife to his own throat.  “No more.”

    As the front door opened and the police filed in with guns drawn, Simino sliced his own throat.  Its blade cut and inch into and around his neck with one swoop of his clenched fist and before the police knew what to do, before they could yell stop or no, my caretaker, Simino, buckled onto the floor with his knees making a popping sound as they hit the hard wood.  He bled to death in a pool of crimson.

    Thinking about it now it was my first taste of death.

    Everyone loses their cherry.

    Chapter 3: Time slipped through my grasp once again…

     

    Every once in a while a newspaper would crawl up upon the front porch that’d been caught on a blustery gust or autumn breeze.   I’d slip past the front door and wait for the wind to push the paper into my hands.   Only when the whole of me was inside again did I feel safe.  The outside world wanted nothing to do with me.  It told as me as such by giving me a phobia of the concrete and things naturally green.

    With paper in hand I’d slide into the kitchen and spread it straight onto the floor. I was only concerned about its date.  The last paper I had captured had been dated 1979.  This one and seemingly an hour after the first, read 1983.  Four years gone.

    I pushed into the foyer and watched the world unfold around me through the front windows of the house.

    They were all living at the speed of light.

    I watched children growing, marrying each other, having new children with new tricycles and chalk.   I watched parades of limousines and Hurst’s travel as if they were all connected by an invisible thread.  A black family moved in across the street and then they, older and worn moved away only moments later.  A dog lied upon the grass in my front yard.  I watch it disintegrate its skin turning into leather, its spine jutted through its worn back, and before I can realize what is happening there is nothing left but dust and bone.  Its teeth are two rows of tiny white needles in fifteen seconds flat.

    All the while, with my eyes pushed beyond my own front porch something was happening where I lived as well.  When I pulled back my vision and saw the neglect that my home was suffering it was no wonder why no one paid it much attention if only to sneer and jest.  Cobwebs and chipped white paint was all that it had to offer.  Leaves from last years fall, now in pieces with their brittle cells whispering about, covered the front stairs that Simino walked upon a thousand times.  The rusted doorbell was only used by neighborhood kids fulfilling a schoolyard dare.  The windows were graying with dust.

    Simino.

    I felt myself changing as well.  I felt darkness.

    But, I knew that I hated them; them with lives and their happiness.  I hated the birds with their freedom; the people with at least a sense of it.

    My stomach turned as I watched them go on with their lives, me being stuck in solitude, wanting.  I hated the grass that grew just beyond my reach.  I hated the smells that would sometime waft into my prison reminding me that I was not one of them.

    Smells of compassion.  Fear.

    Yes, I did hate them.

    Every single one.

    Chapter 4: There is nothing a fresh coat of paint can’t fix.

     

    I heard their voices first.

    “It’s kind of worn.”  Mr. Syche said to a portly man.  Syche, who stood six inches taller than this man in tweed coat and grey pants, stepped into the foyer.  He was an older man but had the looks of a movie star.

    The portly one stood to one side allowing his client into the house.  His tan leather shoes stood upon where Simino had perished.  I remember feeling the need to vomit – so disrespectful – but then something happened.  Mr. Syche looked down at the ground beneath this fat mans hush puppies and shoved him aside with ease.  The portly man had excused himself and shuffled off to the kitchen area all the while explaining why this house was such a bargain and what a wonderful place to raise a family it was.  If was as if this man, Mr. Syche, was staring at Siminos’ dead body.  He knew more about the house then he led on.  And as he stood there I saw the slightest hint of a smile raise upon the corners of his mouth.

    The portly man said, “Do you have a family?”

    Mr. Syche said that he had none.

    “A great bachelor pad then.”  The portly man returned sharply.  “I can see this house as being something of a project but it is well within your price range.”

    “Indeed on both accounts.”

    “There are two bedrooms upstairs, one down.  Master bathroom at the end of the hallway.  It’s just past the master bedroom.  It’s quaint.  Needs a lot of work.”

    “The work doesn’t bother me.”

    “Good.  Good then.  Downstairs there is the kitchen, guest bathroom, living room and so on and so on.  It’s your typical home.  Nothing too fancy about it.”

    “Nothing a fresh coat of paint can’t fix, right?”  Syche said almost cautiously.  He looked as if he were searching for something.  He stopped midway on the stairs and turned towards the now sweating portly man.  “You said that there was a basement.”

    “Yes.   Complete with earthen floor just like you requested.”

    “Can I see it?”

    The portly man looked perturbed as he made his journey back down the stairs and headed for the kitchen.  Half way there he turned left and placed his hand on the cellar doors knob.  I could see his body shiver.  The man called Syche noticed it as well.

    “I never did like cellars.”  He said smiling sheepishly.

    “It’s where the soul of the house is.”  Syche said.  “All houses have them.”

    I followed closely behind as the men went into the depths of the house but not so close that I would be noticed.  I slid down the banister and edged along the walls of the house seeping towards the cellar door.  There was an acrid odor coming from the basement probably from years of neglect.  I watched Mr. Syche as he inspected the stone walls and dirt floors.  The smell hadn’t bothered him in the least.

    The portly man, however, held a handkerchief to his nose and then excused himself.  “I just can’t stand the smell of musk.”  He said making his way up the cellar stairs.  I moved along the wall into the kitchen as not to be noticed.  And just as the final clop of his foot hit the top of the stairs I stood behind a curtain.

    “You can come up when you like.”  The man said checking his watch.  “No rush, Mr. Syche.”  He finished with a roll of his eyes.

    Mr. Syche; such a perfect name, I’d thought.

    When he rose from the earthen cellar he stood behind Mr. Portly who hadn’t noticed and startled him.  “You seem nervous, Mr. Sams.  Is everything alright?”

    The Portly man, who I now knew to be Mr. Sam, jumped.  “Yes.  Yes, I didn’t hear you come up the stairs is all.  Is everything alright?”

    I thought it odd that I had known Syche’s name from the start.

    “Are you sure everything is on the up and up, Mr. Sams?”

    “How do you mean?”

    “Is there something about this house that bothers you?”

    “Well, no.  I mean there was the goings on with the house’s previous owner.  An Italian immigrant, named Sims Palatra, or, Sima Palatino…

    Simino Paltrina, I had whispered just under my breath.

    “Paltrina!”  Mr. Sams said eyes wide.  “His name was Simino Paltrina.  He built this house with his own two hands from the foundation to the roof.  Every nail was his own.  In the end it was this house that cost him his life.”  Sams held his open hand against the corner of his mouth.  “He killed his family, you know.  Stabbed them to death.”

    “And that happened here?”

    “No. No. No, not here,”  He said waving his hand in the air as if this whole line of questioning was becoming bothersome to him.  “No one was ever murdered here.  You can be sure about that.  Now let’s proceed so I can show you some of the accommodations, Mr. Syche.”

    “But someone did die here, Mr. Sams.”

    Sams looked over Mr. Syche.  He realized that the tall man knew more about this house than he led him to believe.  Sams decided to come clean and for a moment I saw his demeanor change.  “Over there.”  He said pointing towards the front door.  “Someone did die here, Mr. Syche.  Mr. Paltrina himself ran the sharp edge of a blade across his own neck.  I guess it was the guilt of killing his family.  It’s the only thing that makes sense.  His wife had become suspicious of his activities here.  Thought that he had another woman or family or who knows exactly what she thought.  The police interviewed her remaining relatives after her death.

    It seems that Mr. Paltrina would come here and work on his house losing all sense of time.  Sometimes he would be gone for days.  He told her that it was a strange attraction he had with this house.  He was accomplishing something and that he was working as hard as he could to fix and then sell it.  He was doing all of this for his family.  They would profit from the house and have grand things.  Things for his family that he never had,” Sam’s now stood beside the discoloration on the hardwood floor.  “She became angry, Mr. Syche.  Having been never allowed to come here for herself, she didn’t know what to believe.  And, when the day came that she could no longer tolerate his disappearances, she told him that she and the children were leaving.”

    “That’s when he killed them.” Syche said finishing Sam’s thought.

    “She suffered the worse.  Each blow, thirty-seven in all, and not one of them fatal.  She was alive as her husband pumped that knife into her over and over again.  He was far kinder to the children.  They hadn’t suffered at all.”   Sams shook his head as if clearing out cobwebs.  “Anyhow, I don’t…”

    “And none of this disturbs you, Mr. Sams?”

    I saw Mr. Sams smirk.  “No, Mr. Syche.  The real question is does any of this disturb you?”

     

    Chapter 5: I saw an old wooden work bench…

     

    I’ll tell you now, having seen things unimaginable, that there was nothing that would have turned Mr. Syches away from buying my house.  There were things that lived deep within Mr. Syche that surfaced only – I am quiet sure – when he thought he was alone.   You can tell a man’s true nature by what he does in the comfort of his own home.  When he thinks that no one is looking its then that man reveals himself to the world.

    It was at those times, the madness took hold.

    At first his sickness reared its head in the form of Mr. Syches’ talking to himself.  Then came laughter followed closely by tears.  He would talk about love having been destroyed.  He would weep and curl himself into a ball in the basement.  He spent most of his time in the basement.  I watched as I always did from far off corners of the house.  It was still within my best interest to stay as far away from the man as possible and with him being the only one ever there I could easily stay, watch and listen without being noticed.   I was quite accustomed to being quiet.  And, I didn’t think that he was man that could be trusted.  When he would leave the house I’d slip down the cellar stairs to see what he was spending his time on.

    Once below, the darkness was rich, uninviting.  It took a moment for my eyes to adjust and once they did I saw Mr. Syches handy work.  The floor which was once covered with rocks and lumps of earth had been smoothed over.  The soft earth that had once smelled of musk now had been tampered down so that its surface was hard, the smell now was that of chlorine and perfume.  A terribly nauseating concoction that almost made me turn back but my intrigue grew as I saw an old wooden work bench standing alone in the center of the cellar floor.  Just beyond that was an iron wrought bed complete with pink or red satin sheets and pillowcases.  I couldn’t make out the color due to the still limiting darkness but it was more of a feeling that I was correct. There were two nightstands on either side with six candles on each.  Also, on the left stand, there was a large tattered book that I just knew wasn’t a bible.

    I wandered aimlessly trying to focus on anything that I could.  There were drills and screwdrivers, a hammer and a handsaw on the wooden workbench.  On the bed I could see a teddy bear and strips of what looked to be a mixture of leather and barbed wire.  On each of the beds rails there were chains with restraints attached.  I knew that there was something wrong with this man, Mr. Syche, but to what extent his mental injuries were had been a mystery until now.  I assumed he was mad as a hatter.  His mercury laced blood was set to boil.

    I didn’t know how right my assumption had been until one rain covered night; Mr. Syches tugged a woman’s body through the foyer, down the hall, and tossed her lifeless hump down the cellar stairs.  I remember seeing her red splattered toes exposed from under a black plastic tarp that covered her.  The smallest one had been missing.  My stomach churned but there was something else going on within me.

    It was a curiosity that made me venture closer to the man then I ever had.

    Thinking about it now, being clear with who I am and why I am, it was the dead woman who had peeked my interest.  I’ll make no excuses when telling you that I wanted to see what she looked like.  I had to see what she looked like.  It started to become clear why he had decorated the cellar in his particularly unusual way.

    There was no remorse within me for this dead woman.

    I realized that I hated her much like I hated them all.

    When Mr. Syches had washed his hands and slipped into something more comfortable than the yellow rubber jacket and pants he had come home in, he made his way down the cellar steps.  I followed cautiously knowing that I’d be able to peer from some dark corner and watch everything unfold.

    I was excited to say the least.

    I watched as he hoisted the dead woman’s body on the workbench.  Her right hand slumped out of the bag as he thumped her down upon its wooden surface.  Blood trickled from her finger tips and before long Mr. Syche was standing in the middle of all this blood.  It looked like black syrup.  With a pair a scissors he cut away the plastic tarp and tape that held this woman together.  Just before his last snip her forearm fell to the floor.  Without hesitation he kicked it away as if it was insignificant to what he had planned.  She wouldn’t be needed whole.

    I shifted further into the darkness wanting to make sure that I was well hidden (well enough anyhow) to be able to see the entire show.  I remember thinking that I had wanted this to last for hours.  It was the most excitement that I had ever witnessed.  Living alone and silent for so long made one need the obscure just to kill the monotony.  I was sure that what I was witnessing was the most obscure acts that anyone has ever witnessed.

    He cleaned her first.  Softly running a wet towel over her body he didn’t finish until there was not a trace of blood left upon her smooth pale skin.  Next he threaded a hooked shaped needle with flesh colored thread and proceeded to close her gaping wounds.  Mr. Syche took his time carefully making sure that there wasn’t a stitch out of line and when he was finished (despite the fact that her arm still laid underneath the workbench) she looked whole.  She almost looked alive as he had sewn her eyelids to her forehead.  The stump on her body still seeped blood despite his attempts to wrap it with gauze.  He moved towards the back of the cellar, a place that was still too dark for my adjusted eyes to see, and just then, when I thought I had a bead on his whereabouts, a brilliant burst of orange flame, then jet blue, came towards the woman.  He stood over her with a small hand held blowtorch and cauterized what was left of her arm.

    The smell of burnt pig.  Butter and fat.

    I thought what next?

    And, as if I had been talking directly to him, he replied.  “I’m going to lay with you my love. I’m going to lay with you and you’re going to love me like it was supposed to be.”  He caressed her still bloodstained hair.  “I miss you so very much, sweetheart.”

    Mr. Syche then lifted his love and laid her upon the bed.  When the candles were lit I could see that the satin sheets I had thought were pink were indeed red in color.  Plush and comfortable.  White lace surrounded each pillow case.  Her open lifeless eyes stared towards the cobwebbed ceiling and when he was sure that she was cozy and warm, he undressed himself, had lay down beside her and wrapped a leg around her naked torso.

    “I miss you.”  He whimpered.  “I missed you for so long.”

    He leaned closer and kissed her blue cracked lips.

     

    Chapter 6: …and then I was found.

     

    When Mr. Syche had finished and his breathing was quite irregular, he tightly rolled the corpse in the bed sheets and went upstairs to wash.  I stood there for a moment trying to comprehend what I had just witnessed.  The pure evil in this man was astounding.  There wasn’t an ounce of goodness in him.   I could feel it.  It was if I could see every bad thing he had ever done as he was on top of that cold dead woman.  Things he had stolen flashed upon my open hands.  Things he had seen appeared and vanished right before my very eyes.  The horrible things he had done throughout his life filled my stomach like much food.  Towards the end of his tryst I pushed back the urge to vomit afraid that he would certainly hear my wretches.

    When he had vanished up those cellar stairs, I stared towards the blood soaked bed (apparently the stitches had held like he had hoped) and knew that this woman, this girl newly dead and violated, wouldn’t be the last.

    I can remember not wanting to look away.

    When I turned, finished with that business, I flew towards the top of the cellar stairs only to find that Mr. Sams, the realtor, was blocking my retreat.  His portly belly jutted out from his white linen shirt and tweed vest.  His glasses seemed too small for his face and the eyes that sat behind them looked familiar.  They were my eyes staring right at me.

    I backed away slowly all the while in a state of panic.  It was the first time in a very long time that anyone actually noticed me.  It seemed that the darkness of the cellar wasn’t deep enough to hide my fear.

    “Don’t be alarmed.”  Mr. Sams offered with a slight smile.  His thinning mustache lifted at each corner of his mouth.  “Don’t think twice about it.”

    I remained silent.

    “It’s good to see you after all these years, boy.  Stay awhile, won’t you?”

    I wanted to speak, to tell him that I didn’t understand, but I could only whisper words that made no sense to me.  Another language pushed through my pursed lips but it seemed not to bother Mr. Sams in the least.  He understood every last gasp.

    “The toughest lessons are always the hardest to swallow.  That’s what this was, boy.  A lesson.  The hearts of men will always lead them astray.  No matter whom they are.”

    I don’t understand.  I remember saying.  But still the words were all wrong.

    I don’t understand any of this.

    Mr. Sams carefully stepped onto the cellar floor.  He noticed the carnage that Syches had left and stood before the work bench.  He bent over just enough to see the woman’s arm lying beneath it.

    I thought about running.  I had my clear shot to swoop up the stairs and out of the house but then as if he read my thoughts, Mr. Sams told me that it wouldn’t be a very wise idea.  Not wise at all.

    Why?

    “I think you know why.”  He told me.  “You think you hide that well, do you?”

    Well, enough.

    “Indeed.”  Sams laughed.  “Indeed, my boy.  You do live in the shadows don’t you?  Never the wiser were any of them – those who lived here, with you – never ever saw you.  Not once.”

    I lowered my head.  Of course Simino had seen me.  He had talked to me and fed me and brought me things.  He had cared for me and fixed up this wretched old house so that I would have a decent place to live.  He had killed his family because of me.  It was because of my constant needing of attention that he had finally killed himself as well.  I looked at Mr. Sams and shook my head.  The only reason Mr. Syches hadn’t seen me because I was careful.  I paid attention to his every move.  He was wrong and I knew it.  Simino Paltrina had known me.

    “He knew of you.”  Mr. Sams stated.  “Fed you?  Oh, my.  My, my you are so misguided.”

    “No.”  I said.  “He actually knew me.  You’re mad.”

    Sams smiled again and made his way towards the bed.  He lifted up the end of the sheet and examined Mr. Syches’ handiwork.  A small clearing of his throat signified that he was amused at the whole situation.

    “Who are you?” I asked him.  He was that portly man who I had seen showing the butcher upstairs around that first day, but, he was also someone else.  In the darkness his face seemed to shift as if there were someone living in him looking outward from a translucent skin.  “What have you come for?  To tell lies?”

    “Tell me, boy.  When is the last time you’ve had something to eat?”  He said lowering his head.  He looked up again when I didn’t answer.  “When is the last time you’ve done anything outside of the house?  Play in the yard?  Can you remember what you were before you became this that stands before me now?”

    “I was a child.”

    “Still are in many ways.”

    “I’m grown now.”

    “But still haven’t seen anything but these walls, this cellar, that foyer at the end of the upstairs hall.”

    An uncomfortable feeling started to churn within me.  I had never gone outside, he was right about that, but, it was because I chose not to, wasn’t it?  Was that the reason that I had never set foot even on the stairs of the porch or was it something else entirely.  If I listened to this man it was something different alright, but what?  If not a boy turned hermit then what was I?  What had I become?

    “Not become.” Mr. Sams laughed.  “What you’ve always been.  I made you.  I constructed this shell of sin for you.  This isn’t just a house.  You aren’t just living here.”  And when he spoke next he spoke with malice and hate.  “You are the house you silly fuck!  This is my church.  These are my steeples.”  His hands pointed towards the ceiling.  “And these are alllll my people.”

    No.  Simino built this house.

    “I gave him the fire!  That twitch in his head was mine.  Build a house, Simino.  Take a chance, Simino.  The world is yours for the taking, Simino.  He wanted that American dream so badly that he gave up his life for it, his family’s life.  Sold his soul and for what?  All dead now.  You watched that happen.  You were born to watch that happen.” Mr. Sams laughed.  He twirled around in a circle joyfully.  He clapped his hands and the stone walls of the cellar shook.  Dust fell from the ceiling.

    “Every God has his worshippers.  Every God has churches.  Mine just so happen to be not so grand when set against any landscape.  It’s the house at the end of the block that kids dare each other to go into.  It’s the house that fuels imaginations and scary bedtime stories.  I don’t need steeples and towers with grand brass bells to chime.  My churches don’t need funding nor do they need to take money from those less fortunate and promise them miracles or happiness for a one time low sum.  Line up and let me heal your wounds!  Come on down and let me lay my Jesus touched hands upon thee.  Let me cure thy cancer!”  His eyes grew dark.  His breath pushed with steam.  “Bullshit!  At least I’m fucking honest.  At least I say, hey…this is how it is.  Do you want in or not?  I don’t throw around my weight.  I don’t make a person do anything that’s not already in them to do.  I don’t need anyone to pray, only prey upon those that stand in there way.

    We all pave our own roads around here, son.  It just depends on which side of the road you travel.  There is no middle ground.  You’re either a sick twisted sadistic son-of-a-bitch, or your not.”

    Mr. Sams, my true father, placed his hand upon my shoulder.  It was the first time anyone had ever touched me.  “You were raised when he signed that contract.  The first nail that sunk into this places meat, there you were.  Taking notes.  Learning what lies in the heart of men.  Getting ready to become the haunting this place needs.  The Demon of the house named Thall.”

    My own hand touched his.  It was warm.  Rugged but warm.

    “Take charge.  Make me proud.” And as quickly as he had appeared he was gone without mention.  And, in that instant, I knew who I was.

    A haunting.  A voice of misfortune.  I hadn’t been seen for there was nothing to witness.  No body.  No shape.  A mist perhaps but only when humid air clung to my perceived shape.  I was nothing, but yet everything.  I was a demon left by my father to rule this church he had built.  A church built by the hands of a murderer who had sold his soul for profit.

     

    Chapter 7: Closing.

     

    I knew then that my name was Thall.

    I was left alone in the basement.  I thought about the kitchen and there I was staring at the blank white tile on its floor.  I thought about the closet that I had thought always kept me so well hidden, and again there I was standing in darkness and webbing.  I push through the door, literally through its wood and brass hinges and glided along the upstairs hallway and then sailed down the staircase making my way to the front door.

    A newspaper.

    Two years gone and they’d been no sign of Mr. Syche.  The paper told me that he had been captured.  The man that they were calling the Love Killer took the lives of twenty-five women.  They finally caught him in some off road motel.  He had been captured while defiling another woman.  This time he had only her head to satisfy his yearnings.  Some people had called him the Devil.

    I knew differently.

    Outside time shifted again.  The seasons dusted by orange then red, sticks then snow, rain then pure unfiltered sunlight.  Two whole cycles had passed from the time I read about our friend Mr. Syche and the time I stood up.  And when the seasons collided into one, snow covered rainbows over green fields with red and yellow leaves and sunlight filled hail pummeled the outside world.  A world in which I was not a part of.

    Often when confused the path of least resistance is the path to enlightenment.  I knew as I stood, and the front door opened through me letting in my good friend, my true father Mr. Sams and a family of five into my home that I was pure retribution.  For the first time in my existence, I understood the way it had to be.

    This house was built.

    This house was bought then again sold.

    Soon after there was the laughter of children playing throughout it’s halls.  There were words of true love between husband and wife.  There were birthdays, three for Jordan, now sixteen, and two for Michael, a young sturdy seven.  There were holidays and games and good foods eaten.  Towards the end there was a new pregnancy and a newly painted room with blues and pinks.

    Then one night there was a whisper.  A suggestion.

    Then, always present, there was my hatred for everything they were and I wasn’t.

    And of course, not long after, there was death.

    The End.

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