The Visitor

Note: Below you will find a rejected short horror story. The story needed to be under 600 words, feature a post-apocalyptic setting, and have a theme of love and loss. Though it was rejected I enjoyed the process. It was challenging but very rewarding. Enjoy!

The man who hated the world stared out the ash-covered window of his decaying house. Walking up to the house was a raggedy girl wearing tattered clothes. She was no more than 10 years old but she carried herself with great familiarity. The man pursed his lips in thought. 

Why is she here again?

When the seas dried up and the sun faded to an ashy smudge, a sickness fell upon humanity. It did not take long for the world to start eating itself. The rule of flesh was all for one and one for all. So the man would forever watch from the shadows of the house to make sure these murdering madmen stayed away. But sometimes they sent children. 

When the girl entered the house of ruination she did so without fear. The man, hidden in shadow, watched her with great curiosity. Careful to not make a noise, he followed as she gingerly walked up the broken staircase. That is when he saw the crude shiv in her pocket. She was surely one of the flesh-eaters.

He waited for her to reach the top of the staircase. Like she always did, she took a left and entered a room. The man gritted his teeth and followed. 

In the past, he had allowed this little girl the freedom to explore and take, but now, after seeing the knife, he had to but a stop to it. He had to kill her before she killed him. 

Before the greying of the world, he was a man of science and not a murderer of children. But was it not him who gave it to them? Thus, making him a murderer of worlds? The reminder sent a shot of anger and guilt through him as he reached the room upstairs. 

He waited and listened carefully. Was she…crying? 

Of course, thought the man. This little beast was well trained. She knew he was there. This was a trap. The man shifted his view so that he could peer through the crack of the door in hopes of seeing the would-be assassin. She wasn’t hiding. She was sitting Indian style in the middle of the floor, crying and holding something.

He should go inside and strangle her. That’s what he should do. Just get it over with. But, his old-world self could not find the strength to act. But why?

Her crying. It reminded him of what was and what could never be. The floorboards groaned as the weight of this thought made him shift with unease. 

The girl stood up and looked back at the door. The man froze as he saw her dirty and tear-streaked face. 

“Hello?” called out the girl. 

Silence fell between them. The man dare not move. 

“Are you there?” said the girl again. 

A voice from downstairs interrupted.

“Rose, time to go!”

Before the man could move, the girl named Rose opened the door and walked through him. 

Turning, she looked briefly towards the man. Her eyes searching.  

The man, perplexed, watched her leave before turning to the room. It was a child’s bedroom.

His eyes moved to a moth-eaten mattress where a skeleton lay holding a rusted gun. The man’s eyes fell to where the child was crying. On the floor was a picture of him holding the girl called Rose in a field of summer dandelions. 

Suddenly, he remembered the good: the smell of spring rain, the sounds of summer, the goodnight butterfly kisses. 

But then he remembered the betrayal,  the bullet, the loneliness. And suddenly the ghost of the man hated everything once again.  

The Mystery of Stanley Avenue.

Last weekend I decided to call off work and visit my favorite person in the world – my Grandmother. What was supposed to be a normal day filled with our usual platter of tasty conversation, in which we can (and often do!) discuss everything from current affairs to history, turned into a day brimming with unexpected mystery!

The day started with coffee and eggs at this very quaint little restaurant cleverly named, The Egg Beater Cafe. We gobbled up the most delicious eggs that I have ever had while discussing the troubles of the world. Our conversation seemingly was directed by the televisions hanging on the wall that softly spewed the news. Conversating this way is always a fun exercise. My Grandma and I are both chatty-cathy’s; so keeping whatever topic is at hand

Conversating this way is always a fun exercise. My Grandma and I are both chatty-cathy’s; so keeping whatever topic is at hand short is near impossible. Anyways, our bellies were full and the coffee was drunk in abundance. It was time for us to move on.

Somehow we both knew that the day was going to be one of exploration. Perhaps it was something in the cool September air that started an awakening in our bones. Whatever it was wanted us to find and experience the mystery that we stumbled upon.

Before our adventure began I needed to go to the library to attend to some personal affairs that required a printer. As we drove I asked Grams about a library she took me to when I was ten. I couldn’t remember what library it had been but I remember it was where she rented the Lord of the Rings audio tapes for me. We both scratched our heads in an attempt to wipe away the fog of the past. It was a lost cause. But at the last minute, she suggested two libraries. And at the last possible minute, we both agreed to set course for the Riverside Public Library. Unbeknownst to us, our choice would bring us to the mystery of Stanley Avenue.

We both scratched our heads in an attempt to wipe away the fog of the past. It was a lost cause. But at the last minute, she suggested two libraries. And at the last possible minute, we both agreed to set course for the Riverside Public Library. Unbeknownst to us, our choice would bring us to the mystery of Stanley Avenue.

Standing in front of the Riverside Public Library, I discovered that Grams and I shared an affinity for historic architecture.  As I write this I wonder if our trip to ancient England popped into her mind. I know it did for me as my eyes gasped at the enchanting library that lay before us.

libOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHogwarts much? Why can’t all libraries be this awesome? The modern library, though good for the community, suck when it comes to design. I would have totally lived in a library as a kid if it looked like it could be a place for wizards and witches!

The unknown ghost of exploration was at play. For when we looked at the stone block that contained the date the building was erected, it had ties to Grams! Construction of the library started in 1930. That’s the same year Grams was born!

After the library, we explored the little town of Riverside.  The town itself is a picture perfect town that belongs in a Ray Bradbury book. It’s seriously so tidy and American it started to feel weird. We loved it! Grams wanted to take me to this swinging bridge that passed over the Des Plaines River. I have never been on an actual swinging bridge! I was pumped!

Grams wanted to take me to this swinging bridge that passed over the near by Des Plaines River. I have never been on an actual swinging bridge! Grams hyped the hell out of the bridge. I was pumped!

Expectations.

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George Lucas and Steven Spielberg on the Temple of Doom bridge

 

Reality.

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H. Wallace Caldwell Memorial Bridge in Riverside, IL

I guess a guy and his Grandmother can’t get everything in one single adventure! However, this bridge is not insignificant to this tale.  It is rather crucial to this story. It was this bridge that led to our very most unexpected discovery!

After crossing the bridge and surviving the insane amount of weirdo bugs, we entered an isolated section of the Cermak Woods. A single paved road was our only path. The road was Stanley Avenue.

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As we walked further down Stanley Ave. something caught my eye. Now, keep in mind that we thought we were entering a forest preserve path. We did not expect to encounter what I am about to mention. It was simply beyond the realm of reason to think beyond the usual sights of a Forest Preserve path. So, dear reader, what my Grams and I encountered was an entire community of houses left abandoned. It was as if the people of Stanely Avenue simply just vanished.

So, dear reader, what my Grams and I encountered was an entire community of houses left abandoned. Windows smashed or boarded up. Clothing, garbage, and other items strewn about. It was as if the people of Stanely Avenue simply just vanished.

The following pictures will reveal these homes to you as we found them. In some pictures, you will see toys, bikes, and other signs of life. These items were strangely left behind as if the owners fled over night. I can’t stress that enough. It was so freaking eerie.

A little research revealed that every single home pictured was built in 1899. The only other bit of information I found was a newspaper article from 1969. The article calls attention to a major flood crisis that the community was forced to endure.

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The town was edged by the always flooding Des Plaines river. However, modern life has lived on Stanley Avenue since. What happened to these people? Why did they up and leave? It could simply be the effects of the 07’/08′ housing bubble. Or did they leave out of fear? Fear of something evil within the Cermak woods.

Before you wave that away let me tell you this: Grams and I found the remnants of an actual Ouija board! I shit you not. Don’t believe me? Take a look!

But as the great Billy May’s once said, “But wait! That’s not all!”

I decided to look further into the town of Riverside and the Cermak Woods. What I discovered was absolutely freaking eerie. I discovered that the town roots consisted of 8% Czech. Yeah? So? Let me tell you why this is so creepy.

What’s creepy is that the word ‘CERMAK’ is a Czech word used as a nickname for the Devil. Yup.

With that in mind, I will let you peruse through the photos I took. I tried my best to capture what I saw. However, my phone did die faster than expected while taking the pictures. I shit you not. The battery somehow went from 70% to 0% in a matter of 30 minutes.

Shall we begin?

 

 

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The First House We Found

 

 

When Grams and I explored the ruination of the first house we were completely in awe! The experience and discovery will be something that I will never forget. It was the total synchronicity of our emotions. We were both in a state of wonder of what lay before us. Sharing such an experience with my favorite person is simply special. But let’s get back to the creepy stuff!

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Grams raises her arms to push past the brush!

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House 2

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This was the house where we found the Ouija board box!

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We almost missed this because of the brush. A staircase that led to a secret garden and pond!

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This sign was nailed to the garage. WTF?

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Found at a dead end road.

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Halloween deco found in the woods that surrounded the home.

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A monster of a house hiding at the end of the road.

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Garbage was littered everywhere.

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Grass took over the brick pavers.

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Smashed window. What secrets lay within?

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Inside we heard a shrill beep, beep. We deduced it was a dead smoke alarm.

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It was as if the kids simply…vanished.

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The Devil in yellow. Do you see it?

 

What my Grams and I found on Stanely Avenue will be one of those stories that we will talk about every time we see each other. It was a day that was meant to be. So many little things fell together for us to have this adventure. I am so damn lucky to have a Grams that loves to explore and go on adventures such as this one. One thing is for sure, we will always wonder what happened to the people of Stanely Avenue.