Here’s another very cool #horror short to put you in the mood for #Halloween.
“Can you smell it?” asked old man Jessup rocking in his rickety wooden chair. Considering his age, it was difficult to tell if it were his bones or the chair which creaked more. “It’s the scent in the air, boy, what always comes this time a’ year.”
Max rolled his eyes at the old codger’s babbling as he passed him on his way out of the small town’s produce store. Max had absentmindedly passed close enough to Jessup’s chair for the old man to sense someone had walked within earshot. A smile crossed Jessup’s wrinkled face when his ears detected what his blind milky blue eyes could not. Some said Jessup had outlived most folks in the small town of Sleepybrook, while others claimed he had been around since before the town was founded. Max just thought he was a kooky old man with nothing better to do than sit out on the wooden slat porch of the store and harass the tourists. Out-of-towners found Jessup to be a quaint bit of ambiance that added to the old world feeling of the town square area, but Max found him to be an annoyance he had to tolerate when his mom sent him to pick up groceries.
“A-yup, it’s the autumn smell, boy,” Jessup continued after spitting some greenish phlegm past his scattered yellow teeth. “The stench what comes from mixin’ dead leaves and harvested autumn corpses.” Max stopped dead in his tracks. Surely the withered codger had meant to say “crops” and just mixed up the words in his addled senile mind.
“I think you mean autumn crops old man,” Max corrected him, flashing a wry sarcastic smile. “You know, like the corn and apples and pumpkins for sale inside?”
With the speed impossible for such a frail looking elder, Jessup shot a hand out to grab Max’s wrist in an iron grip, sudden clarity filling his normally vacant stare. “I said exactly what I meant, boy. Harvested. Corpses.” Max felt rooted to the dry porch boards, unable to pull his arm from the old man’s skeletal hand. Jessup’s eyes were no longer cataract-ruined, but had shifted to be unnaturally black. The gaze of those dark eyes swallowed Max up in their emptiness. Seconds passed like soul-crushing hours before Jessup released his grip with a cackle, rocking slowly back and forth in his chair. His milky blue eyes returned to stare out blindly across the town square. Still in a state of shock, Max took a few staggering steps backwards, almost falling off the edge of the porch. Jessup did not as much as glance back in Max’s direction, the bewildered teen already forgotten, waiting to chatter to the next patron who wandered near.
For days Max tried to rationalize the startling encounter with Jessup. Despite his difficulty telling the story without stammering over the details, his friends criticized him for attempting to get attention with some ‘scary’ Halloween story. He avoided the county store for weeks, making up excuses to his mother for why he could not pick up the weekly groceries. Visions of the old man haunted his dreams, waking him drenched in a cold sweat with a scream caught in his throat. Try as he may, Max could not shake the image of the old man’s transformation.
It wasn’t until the night before Halloween that Max saw old man Jessup again, with those withered hands pressed up against his bedroom window and the moonlight reflecting off Jessup’s pitch black eyes. Max had only seconds to puzzle out how Jessup had found the strength to climb up to his second story window or how the blind man found his house, before the window glass shattered under Jessup’s impossibly strong fists. In the blink of an eye, the skin and bones creature skittered from the windowsill across the floor to Max’s bed, its mad cackles drowning out Max’s strangled cries for help. Wet tearing sounds at the stroke of midnight greeted that year’s All Hallows Eve.
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