Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
“Hey slow the hell down, would ya!?” I shouted at my friend as he sprinted past the encroaching tress that surrounded us.
We’d been walking for about half an hour and I think he was starting to get impatient. He practically had to drag me and my other friend out here to show us some abandoned house in the middle of nowhere, and he knew that it was getting dark. I wasn’t about to get lost out here for the night, not with it being a Sunday. My mom would raise hell if I missed any more school, and my dad would probably beat me within an inch of my life, him being the principle and all.
“You guys just need to speed the hell up.” He replied. “I want there to be enough time to show you two everything there is to see!”
I rolled my eyes. “It’s just some old house in the woods, Scotty. I guarantee you we’ll be done looking around within five minutes of getting there.”
“Oh yeah? Well that’s not what my brother told me.” Scotty retorted, slowing down his run and breathing heavily. “He said there’s some crazy s**t out here.”
“Like what?” my other friend, Zach, asked.
Scotty turned to us, his smug face barely visible in the fading daylight. “I’m not gonna tell you ‘till we’re there, so get a move on.”
The three of us continued to walk at the same pace, our shoes crunching on the dead leaves that covered the forest floor. Upstate New York didn’t have the largest woodland areas, but when it was late fall and the sun set on these dead trees, the woods were scary as all hell. I wasn’t getting scared, though. I knew that Scotty just wanted to play a prank on Zach and me. This was all a ploy to get us to crap ourselves and run home screaming. His big brother was probably out here with some of his asshole friends, ready to jump us.
“Can you just tell us why this damn house is so important?” Zach finally asked, breaking the silence that only the distant crickets had been interrupting.
“Fine, I’ll tell you the story behind this place, and we’ll probably be there by the time I’m done.” Scotty surrendered, turning to us and walking backwards. I kind of was hoping he’d trip and fall flat on his ass. “This used to be the house of Mary Very.” He informed us, an eerie tone in his voice.
“Who’s Mary Very?” Zach asked. Even I turned and looked at him in surprise. Every kid in town knew about Mary. She’d been the meanest old crow I’d ever met. All the kids knew to stay away from her, because if you got too close she’d smack you hard upside the head. No one would complain since she was so old and all.
Disregarding Zach’s ignorance, I said, “Didn’t realize she lived out here. What makes you think this is her old house?”
“Wait a minute, who’s Mary Very?” Zach demanded.
Scotty ignored him too, addressing me instead. “I know it’s her house, because my brother said it was.”
“You can’t be that stupid.” I said, unconvinced. “He could have been spouting a load of s**t when he told you that.”
“Who the hell is Mary Very!?” Zach repeated, clearly getting annoyed by our lack of explanation. However, we just kept ignoring him.
“I know he was telling the truth, because right after he told me, my dad brought him into the other room and started yelling at him. I don’t think he wanted me to hear, but I could tell he was telling my big bro not to tell me about it. That’s how I know he was on the up and up.” Scotty explained.
“Yeah, that’s some solid evidence right there.” I laughed.
“Guys!” Zach shouted at the top of his lungs, sending an echo through the woods and causing a murder of crows to fly out of their perch. Their caws drowned out the crickets for a moment before they faded away with the birds.
We both turned to him. “What?”
“Who is Mary Very?” he asked a final time.
“How the hell have you never heard of her?” Scotty asked.
“I guess it was before my family moved here.” He explained. I’d forgotten he hadn’t moved to town until after the old coot bit the dust.
“Mary Very was the single most heartless b***h to ever live in this town. I once saw her kick a puppy that was walking by. She used to smack kids around with her cane for no good reason, and always threatened us to stay away from her house, even though no one knew where she lived.”
“Jesus, why’d she do all that?” Zach asked, amazed.
“F**k if I know, the old bat didn’t need a reason. She probably just did it because she could.” Scotty replied.
“So why the hell are you dragging us to her house?” I demanded. Exploring some dead woman’s empty house was not how I wanted to spend my Sunday night.
My friend snorted. “Because now we can finally do what she always told us not to do. We can finally go on her lawn and into her house and break her windows and s**t. It’s the ultimate revenge!”
I gave him a deadpan stare. “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. She’s dead, you moron. Who cares what we do to her house?”
“You’re missing the bigger picture.” Scotty smiled. “There’s gotta be a reason she didn’t want us coming around here. I bet there’s some secret stash of treasure somewhere in that place. You know how old ladies don’t trust banks to keep their money safe after the Depression. She probably stuffed all her cash in her mattress or something.”
Raising an eyebrow, I asked, “Even if that were true, you don’t think the police found it already, or the real estate people, or even relatives?”
He went silent for a minute, contemplating it. “Hey, I say it’s worth a shot… Woah!”
Scotty fell backward, tripping over a small garden fence, and landed flat on his ass. Zach and I couldn’t help but laugh.
“You alright?” I asked, holding a hand out. Scotty grasped it and we both pulled.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He groaned, a bit embarrassed, but otherwise uninjured. All three of us looked at the poorly kept garden. No plants grew anymore, just weeds popping up here and there in the dried up soil. We looked past the neglected garden to find an equally neglected lawn, which led up to a small, broken down old house.
“Fuckin’ eh! I told you it was out here!” Scotty beamed victoriously, running past the garden and towards the house.
“Hold on, you dumbass!” I shouted after him. “Don’t just barge in there!”
Scotty stopped and turned back to me. “Come on, man. It’s obviously empty.”
“That doesn’t mean we should start splitting up.” I warned.
A pompous grin spread over his face. Oh, how I wanted to crack him right then!
“You aren’t scared, are you?” he teased. I knew that it was gonna come out sooner or later.
“You know what, screw you Scotty! Go fall into the basement and get stranded here for all I care.”
Scotty frowned. “Fine then. I’ll go find the cash by myself, and you two won’t get a penny of it!”
With that, he ran to the front door, kicking it in and disappearing into the house.
Great… I thought to myself.
“Should we go after him?” Zach asked.
I shook my head. “That’s just what he wants us to do. You realize he brought us out here to try and scare us, right?”
“Yeah, I figured.” He said, kicking the grass. Instead of following Scotty into the house, we walked the circumference of the yard. It seemed like a perfect circle. There was the house in the middle, the garden to the south, and a small utility shed to the west. There wasn’t a road or even a walkway to be seen.
“How’d she get to the main road from here?” I wondered out loud.
“I was thinking the same thing. An old lady couldn’t have walked all the way to town from this place, right?” Zach asked.
“I have no idea.” I replied. It didn’t make any sense. I’d never seen Mary Very drive a car before, but she couldn’t have walked through these woods every day. Not at her age.
The sun had almost completely set, and the only light came from the soft glow of the grey clouds overhead. Suddenly, I felt a strong feeling to leave the woods. At that moment, it was the last place I wanted to be.
“We should go.”
Zach looked at me with surprise. “What about Scotty?”
I turned to the house and cupped my hands over my mouth. “Hey dickhead! We’re leaving in ten seconds, so you better get your ass out here if you don’t wanna walk through the woods alone!”
Fifteen seconds passed, and no sound came from the house. I turned and headed for the garden.
“You’re leaving?” Zach asked.
“I told him ten seconds, and then gave him an extra five. Hell yes I’m leaving.”
I’d almost made it to the garden before realizing that I couldn’t hear Zach’s footsteps behind me. I turned once again to see him walking to the front door.
“What are you doing?” I shouted.
He turned to me. “Making sure he’s okay.”
I slapped my hand to my face. “He’s just being an asshole. Let him walk home alone.”
Zach shook his head. “I’d rather find out he’s just being a prick than leave him here if he really got hurt.” Then he turned his back to me, and the darkness swallowed him as he entered the house.
F**k! I cursed to myself. I didn’t feel like giving Scotty the satisfaction of going in there, but on the other hand, walking home by myself didn’t sound like an attractive option either. After a minute of pacing the yard, I decided to swallow my pride and enter the front door.
The inside of the house was just as welcoming as the outside had been. It was mostly empty, save a bed, couch, and a few other pieces of furniture. There was barely any light coming through the windows, the sun having already set. Remembering that I’d brought my cousin’s old police flashlight he’d given me a while back, I pulled it out and clicked the button, fully revealing the empty room. The room I was in seemed to be a living room connected to a kitchen. Nothing remained in the house except the aforementioned furnishings that must have been left behind after Mary Very’s death.
What caused unease with me was the fact that Zach wasn’t anywhere to be found. I walked in not two minutes after him, yet he still managed to hide somewhere. I was beginning to think he’d been in cahoots with Scotty the whole time.
“Come on guys, this isn’t funny!” I shouted, louder than necessary. Nothing in the house stirred in reaction to my outburst. There were only three rooms that connected to the living room, and all three were completely empty. There weren’t even any leftover items to be seen.
After looking everywhere else, I finally found a single door along the wall of the kitchen area. It was closed, but it was the only place they could have gone. I’d been in houses like this one before, and knew that there were two possibilities of what was behind the door. Either it would open up to a closet, or to the descending stairs of a basement. I tensed up, turned the knob, and opened the door, ready for the two assholes to jump out.
This didn’t happen though.
When I opened the door, only darkness greeted me. It was darkness, not merely the result of an absence of light, but as if Hell itself were sitting right beyond the threshold. Only three steps of the stairway were visible to me, the rest fading off into blackness. I pointed my flashlight downward, into the dark abyss, almost laughing when I realized it had died. It felt as if it weighed a ton in my outstretched hand, so I lowered my arm and turned, holding no illusions that I would even consider going down there without some sort of light source.
Turning away from the basement seemed like more of a mistake than going down, because when I turned away from the door, I found myself facing an even more frightening sight.
There, standing across the kitchen, was Mary Very.
Even in the lack of lighting, I could see her plain as day. She was wearing a white gown with long sleeves and some sort of bonnet that covered her head. She also wore heeled shoes with white roses on the tops.
I stood there, looking at her with eyes that bore terror and confusion. She seemed to only regard me with hatred and anger. Her brow was furrowed and her mouth contorted into a vicious sneer that gave off malicious intent. I could feel her negativity radiating, squeezing my very soul with its oppression and suffocating me with little effort. My breathing became short, sporadic, and my whole body shook violently, but I couldn’t move otherwise. She stepped closer, not cautiously but forebodingly, like a lion would stand against a threat to its den.
In this case, I was the ignorant creature who’d stumbled into the lion’s den, not realizing the danger and ultimately having my life taken by a pair of claws to the throat. That’s when I realized something that scared me far worse than the fact that I was standing in the presence of a dead woman. What truly struck my heart like a sledgehammer was the fact that she wasn’t looking at me, but past me. She wasn’t sneering at my presence, but the presence of something far more menacing. This force was behind me, just coming out of the bowels of the house. It must have climbed the steps from the basement when I had my back turned, and now it loomed over me, oppressing in its presence, but far more threatening than the ethereal woman.
Now Mary looked to me directly, and her expression changed from one of anger to one of sympathy. Her eyes began to water, and for some reason, so did mine. We both stood there in those few seconds, crying over something I had yet to even understand. I couldn’t feel my flashlight in my hand anymore. I must have lost my grip on it, but I never heard it hit the ground. I didn’t turn to face whatever monster stood behind me, but somehow, I knew it wouldn’t make a difference. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. First it was just a firm grip, but then it squeezed hard, causing pain to shoot through my body. The pain only lasted a second or two though, because then I felt my head shake violently before I fell to my knees. Then I felt myself falling even further, plummeting into a pit of nothingness. I no longer felt pain, or fear, or anything at all. I simply continued to fall, all the way down through the plane of existence until there was nowhere else to go.
Then my consciousness left me.
I stared out the window of Mary Very’s old home. It was raining outside, and the water droplets that landed on the window slowly travelled down the glass, using various routes to get to the bottom. Outside, there were police officers, EMTs, and reporters, all gathering around the small woodland abode. Inside, I stood with two sheriff’s deputies on either side of me.
“Can’t believe that psychopath was hiding out here all this time. They’d been looking for him for over two weeks after he escaped Attica with those DeMarco brothers.” One said, staring out the window.
A police cruiser took a small road out of the forest that I hadn’t seen there before. The back seat was occupied.
“Yeah, Richie Davis. He was in prison for three counts of attempted murder.” The other replied. “Looks like he was holding up in Mary’s old basement when those boys came exploring.”
“Did the investigators put it together?”
He shrugged. “More or less. Richie didn’t really keep anything to himself. He said the first boy entered the house alone when he strangled him to death and dragged him down into the basement. Apparently, he was down there cutting the first boy up when the second kid walked in. Richie snuck back upstairs and punched him in the face hard enough to knock him out cold, then quickly brought him down to the basement so he could finish up on the first boy.”
“Jesus…” the other officer commented.
“Then the third boy came in and Richie cracked his skull open with a metal flashlight. Sick f**k said he only wanted to knock him out though, so he was still living when he cut into him. They don’t make movie killers as twisted as this wacko. Can’t believe he only got forty years the first time they threw him in jail.”
“Well that’s not gonna happen this time. Two kids dead, one in the hospital, a half-mutilated corpse. They’ll give him the needle for sure, after this. Would have been even worse if those hunters hadn’t heard the screaming, stormed in on the prick, and held him at gunpoint until first responders could get here.”
“It’s weird, though, the hunters said they heard a woman screaming.” The one pointed out.
“Yeah, that is a little odd.” The other replied.
“No doubt about it.” The one nodded. “Come on, captain wants us to make a statement.”
The two officers left me by the window, and went out to address the growing crowd of reporters who’d gathered outside. I turned away from the window, once again facing Mary Very. She looked at me with sorrow, but also with slight happiness. I was surprised that no sadness had taken me. I didn’t feel much of anything.
Scotty stood next to Mary, giving me an apologetic look. He must have felt like this was all his fault.
I smiled at him reassuringly, then took one last look outside as two body bags were wheeled over to a waiting ambulance. Mary Very opened the basement door, where Scotty had met his end, but the basement was no longer there. Now it was a room of immense light; more powerful than any light I’d ever seen. Scotty immediately walked through the door, as if he knew what lay beyond, the light absorbing his figure until he was completely gone. Mary Very turned back to me, smiling, and reached her hand out. I took it, hesitantly at first, but then with conviction. She gave my hand a soft but confident squeeze, eliminating any remaining doubts I had. Whatever role she’d played while she was alive, I knew that now she was my guide, here to escort me someplace else.
I walked up to her side and returned her warm smile with one of my own. Then together, we stepped through the door, leaving this world behind and entering another.
Credit To – Seamus McAntler
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