As a special New Years treat I am posting my short story, New Years Eve free on my blog until January 2nd. The story is also available as a .99 cent download at Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble if you would rather read it on one of the reading devices. Enjoy.
NEW YEARS EVE
A Short Story by Mark Edward Hall
“Honey,” Sally whispered, reaching across the seat and shaking him. “Honey?”
Kevin groaned as his head lolled first right and then left against the seat back. “Huh?”
“Did you see that?”
She knew he hadn’t seen it. He’d been sound asleep and snoring.
“I saw something run in front of the car and duck into the shed.” They’d just returned home from a New Years Eve party where Kevin had gotten totally drunk, it was late and cold and all Sally wanted to do was curl up under the covers of Kevin’s warm bed and get some sleep. But as she’d pulled into the driveway something had dashed through the beam of her headlights and run into the shed. She was so pissed. How many times had she honked on Kevin in the past few weeks to fix the latch on that door? Oh well, it was his house. He could do what he wanted. Now she could see the door blowing back and forth in the wind. She sat with the engine idling, headlights trained on the door.
Kevin groaned again. “What did you see? An animal?”
“I don’t know. Something. Maybe . . . somebody.”
“I said I don’t know.”
“You sleeping at the wheel?”
“Probably . . . nothing.”
“It was something, Kevin . . . looked like somebody all hunched over. Damn it, wake up. This is serious.”
“I am awake.”
“What’ll we do?”
“Go in the house. Go to bed.”
“No way. I’m not getting out of this car until you go in the shed and make sure there’s no one there.”
“I saw it, Kevin.”
“Okay . . . okay.”
“Do you know anyone all hunched over who might sneak around in the middle of the night?”
“Yeah, my demented uncle.”
“There’s nobody here but us,” he said. “Just you and me.”
“I’m still not getting out of the car.”
Kevin’s arm moved toward her. He put his hand on her breast.
“Lay off, buddy.” She lifted his hand away. “Are you going to do something?”
“I could think of lots of things.”
“Just a little.”
“I’m about two seconds away from dumping you out and driving home,” Sally said. “You can spend the rest of the night alone with your demented uncle.”
“There’s no one in the shed.”
“Okay. Fine. I’m out of here.” She put the car in reverse and stepped on the brake. The car lurched. “Are you getting out?”
“Hang on,” he said. “You can’t leave at this hour. We had plans.”
“That was before you decided to drink half the booze at the party.”
“Aw, come on, that’s not fair. It’s New Years Eve.” He opened his door. “I don’t want you to leave.”
“I don’t want to leave either, sweetheart.” She put the car in park and turned the engine and the lights off. The house was not even visible in the darkness. “Why didn’t we leave an outside light on?”
“I thought we did.” He opened the glove compartment and was rummaging around inside.
“What are you doing?”
“What do you think?” He came back with a flashlight, switched it on and shined it in Sally’s eyes.
“Woops, sorry. He lowered the beam and zeroed in on her breasts.”
Smiling, she shook her head. “Letch.”
“Why don’t you use your cell phone and call the police.”
“Silly Sally. Why would the cops come all the way out here?”
“Because there’s something or someone in the shed, maybe in the house. You don’t have a gun, do you?”
“Just the forty-five caliber Johnson in my pants, baby.”
“Kevin! It’s cold.”
“Okay—okay. I’m on my way. Should be tracks.”
“The ground’s frozen and there’s no snow, dummy.”
He stepped out of the car on unsteady legs. Sally followed.
“Where are you going?”
“You don’t think I’m staying out here alone, do you? Just go. I’m hanging on to your coattails.”
The shed door was banging in the wind. He stepped inside and shined the light around the interior. She stepped in behind him.
“See, no one here.” He turned and closed the door, locking it, tried the light switch. Nothing happened. “That’s funny?”
“Must be why the outside light was off. Blown bulb.”
He went to the door, took his key and unlocked it. “That’s even funnier.”
“The key turned too easily.”
“Damn it, Kevin, did you check to see if it was actually locked?”
“Don’t worry, my demented uncle must have made a copy.”
“Stop it, you’re freaking me out.”
“I’m kidding, silly.”
The kitchen was warm. He flipped the kitchen switch. Nothing. “Christ!”
“Power must be out.”
“But there’s no storm.”
“Wind. These old lines are sensitive. Here, I’ve got another flashlight.” He rummaged around in the cupboard drawer until he came back with it, handed it to her. “I’ll go look for candles. Wanna come?”
“No, I’ll stay here until I know the coast is clear.”
“There’s no one in the house, baby.”
“I wish you had a gun.”
“I told you—”
“Don’t even go there.”
“Not to worry. I won’t need one. If someone’s in the house I’ll run like hell.”
“Damn, this isn’t funny.” She picked her cell phone out of her purse. “I’m calling the cops.”
“Don’t be stupid.” At the dining room door he turned and shined his light on her. “You can call the cops if I’m not back in half an hour.”
“Cut it out, you asshole.”
He hurried through the doorway. She heard his quick footfalls receding. “Shit, I don’t like this. I’m coming with you.” She went into the dining room, shined the light around the interior. He wasn’t there.
“Kevin?” she called. No answer. “Kevin this isn’t funny.” Gooseflesh exploded on her skin making her shiver.
She heard more footfalls like someone climbing stairs.
“It’s all right,” Kevin called. “I’ll be down in a minute.”
Aiming the flashlight Sally entered the hallway. By the time she reached the foot of the stairs Kevin was gone.
She didn’t know if he’d heard her but decided not to call out again. No point in acting too needy.
Sally stood motionless gazing up into the darkness. She could hear her own heart pounding in her ears. Sweat trickled down her back.
She turned off the light to see if she could see Kevin’s light flashing around upstairs.
Everything was dark.
She heard nothing but her own breathing, her own pulsing blood.
Silence was probably a good thing, she thought. If something goes wrong, I’ll know about it.
She gripped the flashlight with one hand, the cell phone with the other. They were both slippery against her skin. She looked at the phone’s dial. It was black.
She felt around until she found the on button, pushed it. The dial lit up and she could hear a dial tone. With another push of her thumb the light went out and the phone went silent. She sighed, dropped it back in her purse.
“Kevin, I’m coming up.” No answer.
I don’t really want to go up there, do I?
Sally began ascending the stairs, the beam from her flashlight trained at the top. When she reached the landing she heard a thump then a sound like a bowling ball rolling across the floor.
“Kevin?” she called. “Is everything all right?”
A voice that didn’t sound very much like Kevin answered, “Never better.”
She flinched and the flashlight slipped from her hand and crashed to the floor, the beam dying.
Oh dear God, what is going on?
“Kevin? Stop screwing around.”
She felt a scream about to break out of her throat.
She pulled the bedroom door open, leaned across the threshold and peered inside.
Kevin’s flashlight lay on the bed. Its beam backlit the hunched figure coming toward her. He was no one Sally had ever seen before—big and lumbering, impossibly bent, as though he’d suffered some terrible trauma. The tattered shirt that he wore was dripping with blood. In his hands he held a machete.
This isn’t real, Sally thought distantly. Kevin must be playing the world’s worst joke on me.
But Kevin’s head was perched on top of one of the bed-posts. It looked like a Halloween mask mounted on a broomstick. His eyes were open and staring. Blood ran down the post pooling on the floor. The lumbering figure moved toward her. This had to be a joke.
Screaming, Sally lurched backward and slammed the door shut, whirled and tried to run. Her foot came down on something that had to be the disabled flashlight. It rolled away and she went airborne. Her back slammed onto the floor. The breath pushed from her lungs.
As she tried to get up the door flew open and dim light poured into the corridor.
Quasimodo charged out. Seeing Sally lying on the floor he stopped abruptly.
“Who are you?” she screamed, scrabbling to get up.
He was raising the machete above his head. “Kevin didn’t tell you? I’m his uncle. His demented uncle. That’s what the family likes to call me anyway. They get a big laugh out of it. I’ll bet they won’t be laughing after this.”
“No!” she cried. “I didn’t do anything. Leave me alone.”
She rolled as the machete came down.
She heard him grunt.
Something struck her shoulder but there was no pain. She got to her feet and ran for the stairs.
She felt the pain now and the warm blood against her skin. Her left arm dangled, immobile.
Something heavy struck her in the back and she tumbled down the stairs.
At the bottom she opened her eyes. He was standing over her. She tried to push herself up but it was no use.
She knew this wasn’t happening. It had to be a joke. She and Kevin were supposed to make love, sleep-in tomorrow morning, have a languid and lazy New Years Day.
He raised the machete. She tried to move.
It was no use.
All she could do was scream.