I personally love stories about houses with history, with ghosts, with attitude. Such places become characters in the story and few writers can lure me in to their haunted house stories better than Tara Fox Hall. Alongside her superb story The Chalet, All That Remains, with its deliciously scary Latham's Landing ranks as my own favourite among this talented author's works. All That Remains is one of the stories in the awesome anthology, Bedtime Shadows and Tara is particularly proud of it because it was her very first short horror work written some years ago.
All That Remains
We went back to the car, me shoving her and her protesting. When we were on route back, I told her.
“You can’t have found a filling, Tina. The windows in there were soldered together, some of them. It must have been a bit of lead—”
“I know solder and lead, and this was neither, this was silver. And there was a little tooth chunk stuck to it!”
“So some kids were fighting, and one of them got in a lucky punch. It’s nothing.”
“I don’t care!” I shot back. “I’m leaving!”
We rode the next few minutes in silence back to the landing, relief washing through me when the little house of glass faded from view.
I began untying the raft, as Sandy parked the car and shut the garage door.
She was just walking down the granite steps to me, and I was imagining how good a hamburger was going to taste when she stopped.
“I heard something,” she said, turning to look back at the main house.
“I heard nothing, Sandy. Let’s get going.”
“Hey, what if some of those kids are here, Tina? That soda bottle wasn’t that old. This is a historical site.”
“They can wander around then!” I shouted. “I’m not going to chase after them!”
“We left the door open yesterday, Tina!” she shouted back. “What if the kids light the house on fire, or something? It’ll be my fault! I had to sign a paper to get the key!”
“We’ll go back and get Fred! He can come look for them!”
“He’s gone until tonight! He won’t be able to look until morning! And we’re right here!”
“Fuck it, I’m leaving! You can stay here if you want!”
“After all Fred’s done for us, I’m not going to leave here without checking it out!”
She turned and bolted up the stairs, running for the entrance.
Fuck! I retied the boat, and ran after her. When I got to the entrance, Sandy was nowhere in sight.
I got inside, and let my eyes adjust to the gloom. By my watch, either we’d lost time again, or the time we’d spent at the sea house had taken longer than I’d thought. It was about two p.m.
I walked the first floor, the second floor, and the third floor, following Sandy’s steps and my own from yesterday. I didn’t see anyone, or any signs of anyone being there but us.
I walked back downstairs, wondering if I should check outside, when I heard a noise. I turned, and out of the corned of my eye, reflected in a broken hall mirror, I swore I got a glimpse of a young man in a red plaid shirt and jeans, his arms flailing wildly as he shouted soundlessly. But when I whipped around, there was no one there. Darting a look back at the mirror, I expected to see nothing. Instead, I saw the man there, looking back at me from the mirror, grinning at me, his eyes tinted yellow.
I let out a shriek and ran for the front door. I got as far as the stairs, and then stopped with a whimper.
There was a young boy on the stairs in front of me.
“Father, I’m so glad to see you,” he said gratefully, his innocent face breaking into a smile. “I looked for you, and couldn’t find you!”
“I’m not your father,” I whispered.
The boy came closer, his light blue eyes shining. “I’m so glad you’re here. It seemed like such a long time I’ve been looking for you.”
“Where is my friend?” I grated out, making myself get closer. “What are you?”
The boy tilted his head and studied me, but didn’t reply.
I took another step closer. “Get out of my way.”
“Stay,” the boy said, his voice no longer grateful.
I lost it. I grabbed hold of him, expecting him to fade into smoke or disappear, but instead it was like reaching into ice water. I gasped in shock as my hands clasped onto bony arms, and the boy let loose a snarl, his eyes narrowing to red pinpricks as he bared his teeth and tried to sink them into my hand.
And if All That Remains doesn't become one of your favourite stories from Bedtime Shadows, I'll eat my broomstick!
Happy Halloween everyone.