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There’s a spooky old house, a deserted motel, a desiccated corpse in the fruit cellar, a deranged young man who dresses in his mother’s clothes and wig and kills people with a big knife, a main character who dies thirty minutes into the movie, and a creepily effective music score. What more could you want from a great horror movie?
When He Saw They Were Dead ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
(This ghost story I wrote was published in an anthology called Legends: Paranormal Pursuits 2016, by Grey Wolfe Publishing.)
His name was Edgar Delong and in 1921 he was fifteen years old. He had an accident in his sleep and his mother and father wouldn’t stop laughing at him. They called him baby and said he ought to be ashamed of himself. They kept it up all day. Finally he went and got a shotgun they didn’t know he had and, at seven minutes after four in the afternoon, he shot both of them in the chest, his mother first and then his father. When he saw that they were dead, he went up the stairs in the old house to the attic. He found a rope, climbed up on a table and tied one end of the rope to a rafter and the other end around his own neck. After pulling on the rope to make sure it would hold at both ends, he stepped off the table into the void. As he strangled to death he said, “This is the thing I’ve always wanted.”
It was written up in all the newspapers. People loved talking about it, recounting and embellishing all the details. The house where it happened stood vacant for years and was said to be haunted. Weeds grew up in the yard. Small boys threw rocks at the windows. The front porch began to sag. People claimed to hear demonic laughing coming from the house, gunshots and screams.
Finally a man bought the house and fixed the sagging porch, the broken windows, the missing shingles and the peeling paint. He lived with his large family in the house for more than twenty years. Then there were other families after that to put their imprint on the character of the house. The day would come when the only people who remembered Edgar Delong and what he had done were the superannuated.
Edgar Delong still existed, though, in the world the living cannot see. Every day in the house his mother and father laughed at him and every day he went and got the shotgun they didn’t know he had and, at seven minutes after four in the afternoon, shot both of them to death, first his mother and then his father. Every day he heard the startled cry from his mother right before he shot her and the strangled shout from his father. Every day he climbed the creaking old stairs to the attic, tied a rope around his neck and hanged himself. Every day he relived the whole thing, even though he was dead. Every day the same, the days unending.
More than eighty years after the death of Edgar Delong, a writer named Charles Delong rented the house for the summer. He was the grandson of Edgar Delong’s father’s brother and, so, a cousin of Edgar Delong. He had grown up hearing the stories and, when he began researching and writing a book about sensational murders, he knew he had to include a chapter in the book on the Delong double murder and suicide. He believed that by living in the house, if just for a few weeks, he would feel close to Edgar Delong and would understand him a way that no other living person could.
The house proved a wonderful inspiration to Charles Delong. While he didn’t believe in ghosts, he did believe that something of Edgar Delong remained behind in the house. Using newspaper accounts and photos of the day, along with family reminiscences and his own grandfather’s diary, he wrote an inspired and chilling account of the crime, to which he added a personal slant. “I am related by blood to the murderer,” he wrote, “and am writing about his crime in the house in which it occurred.”
He finished his book ahead of schedule and was sure it would be a success. He sent it off to his publisher and began working on his next book, a novel and a complete departure from crime. He still had a couple of weeks on his lease in the Delong house—which technically hadn’t been the Delong house for decades, although he still thought of it in those terms. He stocked up on groceries and planned to spend a quiet time alone.
Except that he wasn’t alone. Edgar Delong, his murderous young cousin, was there in the house with him, watching him, standing behind him, sometimes touching him on the shoulder or the back of the head. Edgar Delong would make himself known to Charles Delong when he believed the time was right.
The house had a soporific effect on Charles Delong. He took to taking naps on the couch in the afternoon, hearing only the ticking of the clock, the wind outside rustling the trees or the faraway barking of a dog. One afternoon during one of these naps he was made to see the thing that happened every day at seven minutes after four. He thought he was dreaming as he saw Edgar Delong emerge from the back of the house bearing a shotgun and walk with it toward his parents as they sat in the room they called the parlor. His mother drew back instinctively and gave a startled cry when Edgar shot her. His father began to stand up and emitted a strangled shout as the bullet entered his chest.
After he had killed them both, Edgar Delong turned to his cousin Charles Delong and said, “It’s always the same.”
Still believing he was dreaming, Charles Delong said, “I don’t understand.”
“Every day the same. They laugh at me and I keep killing them but I can’t make them stop.”
“None of this is real,” Charles Delong said. “You’re a figment. You don’t exit.”
“Maybe it’s a figment to you. To me it’s real and I can’t stop. I want to stop. I want you to help me to stop.”
“How can I do that?”
“Let me come into your body so I can have the means to leave this house.”
“No, I would never do that! It’s impossible!”
“I can make you see it every day. Live it every day. As I do.”
“No, it’s out of the question!”
“You wanted to know what it was like to be me.”
“You’re a murderer. I don’t want to be you.”
“We’re cousins. We’re the same blood.”
“I’m going up to the attic now and hang myself, as I have thousands of times before. I want you to come along and watch.”
“I think we’ve reached the point where there’s no longer a choice,” Edgar Delong said and raised the gun and shot his cousin Charles Delong squarely in the chest.
The body of Charles Delong wasn’t found for five days. When the police were called in to investigate and were unable to find a murder weapon or a motive, they deduced that the murderer was somebody that Charles Delong knew and had willingly admitted to the house.
And so it continued. Every day at seven minutes after four in the afternoon, Edgar Delong shot and killed first his mother and then his father, after which he climbed the stairs to the attic and hanged himself from a rafter. The only difference now was that he had his cousin Charles Delong there to experience the whole thing with him. Without end and ad infinitum.
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp
A Quiet Evening at Home ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Eunice and Bitsy gave each other an unfeeling peck on the cheek and sat on opposite ends of the couch. Squeamy sat in a chair across the room, crossed his legs and looked down at the floor.
“How have you been, Squeamy?” Eunice asked.
“I have this terrible pain,” he said.
“I think I know what you mean.”
“We didn’t come here to talk about Squeamy’s pains,” Bitsy said.
“Would you like a drink?”
“No, thank you. We didn’t come here to drink, either.”
“What are you here for, then?”
“Now that mother has been dead for six weeks,” Bitsy said, “I think it’s time we discussed some practical matters.”
“I’ll just come right out and say it. Since she left the house to you, I think I should get all the money in the family annuity, instead of half.”
Eunice laughed. She and Bitsy had had these conversations before, many times, going back to when they were small children.
“Both our names are on it,” Eunice said. “That’s the way mother wanted it.”
“We both know that mother could be very unfair.”
“Why didn’t you talk to her about it before she died?”
“I did. We got into an argument.”
“What is it you want, Bitsy?”
“I want you to agree to remove your name from the family annuity so only my name is on it.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because I deserve it.”
“Maybe I don’t agree.”
“You get the house and everything in it. Don’t you think it’s only fair that I get everything else?”
“I’ve never thought about it.”
“No, doing the fair and right thing would never enter your mind, would it? Or mother’s, either.”
“The annuity is worth almost four hundred thousand dollars,” Eunice said. “Isn’t half of that enough for you?”
“Why so greedy?”
“It’s not greed. It’s fairness. And I have my reasons for wanting the money.”
“If you can’t be more specific than that, I’m afraid we have nothing to talk about.”
“I’ve seen a lawyer.”
“I can take you to court. I can also get you to sell the house.”
“Why would I sell the house?”
“Because half of it should be mine. You sell the house and give me half the money.”
“Mother left the house to me so I would have a home after she died.”
“You can buy yourself a smaller house that doesn’t cost as much.”
“I was the one who stayed her and took care of her,” Eunice said. “Do you know how horrible she was? She used to scream at me and call me names and throw food at me.”
“Go ahead!” Bitsy said. “Tell me how miserable your life has been. I’ve heard it so many times before.”
“Go to hell, Bitsy!”
“Yes, that’s a fine way to talk to your sister, isn’t it?”
“You left home right out of college and married Squeamy. I stayed here and assumed all the responsibility.”
“My life has certainly been a bed of roses, hasn’t it?”
“If you’ve had an unhappy life, it’s your own fault.”
“If I end up taking you to court—and believe me, I will—all the money from mother’s estate could be eaten up in court costs. Then nobody gets anything.”
“You’re being childish, Bitsy.”
“Yes, it’s easy to say that, isn’t it? It’s easy to ridicule and call me names.”
“What are we going to do with her, Squeamy?” Eunice asked with a little laugh.
“You can’t laugh her away,” Squeamy said. “I’ve tried.”
“Both of you are against me!” Bitsy cried. “You always have been!”
“Did you forget to take your meds, dear?” Eunice asked.
Bitsy buried her face in the sofa cushion and wailed.
“We should try to get along,” Eunice said. “We’re all that’s left of the family.”
“What does that matter to me now?” Bitsy said.
“Squeamy and I are getting a divorce.”
“I don’t love him. I’ve never loved him. I don’t want to spend another day married to him.”
“Is this true, Squeamy?” Eunice asked.
“Oh, he doesn’t know anything,” Bitsy said. “He doesn’t even know that New Mexico is a state. He’s never read a book in his life.”
“You’ve been married to him for a long time,” Eunice said.
“Time lost. Never to be regained.”
“I thought you and Squeamy were happy.”
“I’ve never been happy. That’s why I want the money. I’m going abroad.”
“What does it matter? I only want to get away and live in some other country. I’m going to renounce my American citizenship.”
“That seems drastic.”
“I want half of everything mother had so I can leave this country for good and never look back.”
“Do you plan on writing when you get to where you’re going?” Eunice asked.
“No! I want to sever all ties.”
“Well, all right, then.”
“So, you’ll agree to remove your name from the family annuity so I can have all of it.”
“No. You get half, the way mother wanted it.”
“Do you want me to take you to court?”
“Do you want all of mother’s estate eaten up in court costs?”
“Bitsy, you sound like a vengeful child!”
“I’ve been looking to have her committed,” Squeamy said.
“You just try it!” Bitsy said. “Try having me committed. I’ll stick a knife through your heart so fast you won’t see it coming!”
“You would kill me?” Squeamy asked.
“Just try me, you son of a bitch!”
“Time lost for me, too,” he said. “Never to be regained.”
“You’re an ignoramus and I don’t know what I ever saw in you in the first place. I see now that I only married you to get away from my mother.”
“You’re always telling me how stupid I am,” he said. “What about the time you let yourself be swindled out of five hundred dollars by a slick-talking guy at the door?”
“It might have happened to anybody!”
“I didn’t happen to me,” he said.
“I paid for it with my money! It didn’t cost you a cent!”
“What about the time you drove the car through the garage door?”
“My foot slipped!”
“And the time you tried to get a stain out of my suit and made a hole in the material big enough to put my entire arm?”
“It was a cheap suit!”
“It was the only suit I had!”
“You’ve never had any taste in clothes or anything else!” Bitsy said. “You think pink and red go well together!”
“I like pink and red!”
“You think spaghetti is an appropriate side dish to go with turkey!”
“My mother always served spaghetti with turkey.”
“That’s because she’s a moron, too!”
“You leave my mother out of this!””
“This arguing isn’t helping anything!” Eunice said.
“Oh, what do you know?” Bitsy asked. “At least I have a husband. No man in his right mind ever showed the slightest bit of interest in you! You never knew how to dress or how to use makeup, and you were always so self-righteous and moral. Men hate that!”
“I think it’s time for you to leave,” Eunice said.
“Throw a bucket of water on her!” Squeamy said. “That’s what I do when she’s out of control.”
“You do not! Nobody throws a bucket of water on me and lives to talk about it!”
“Do you have your pills with you, dear?” Eunice asked. “Why don’t you take one of your pills and I’ll fix you a nice cup of tea?”
“Don’t you tell me what to do! I don’t take advice from anybody, but especially not from you!”
“You should hear yourself!” Squeamy said. “You sound like a crazy person!”
“Well, who wouldn’t be crazy after living with you all these years? I could kill you for the things you’ve done to me, and no jury in the land would ever convict me!”
“Why don’t you just try it?”
“I’m so glad now I never had any children with you!” Bitsy said. “If they had been the least bit like you, I would have taken them out and strangled them!”
“Squeamy, no!” Eunice screamed.
He had taken a small handgun from his pocket and from across the room shot Bitsy squarely in the forehead.
Eunice jumped up and covered her ears, expecting more shots.
Bitsy slumped over against the arm of the couch. Eunice’s first thought was to try to help her, but there was nothing to be done. It happened so fast, like a lightning flash.
Squeamy rested the gun on the arm of the chair in which he was sitting and covered his face with his hands. “The terrible pain is gone now,” he said.
“Squeamy, what has happened?” Eunice said.
“It was the only way I knew to shut her up.”
“You could have socked her in the mouth, which she deserved, but you didn’t have to shoot her.”
“You’ve always been decent to me. Your mother was, too. I couldn’t stand by and let her cheat you out of your mother’s inheritance. She’s been planning this for years. She was waiting for your mother to die.”
“I’m going to have to call the police now. They’ll take you away.”
“I know,” Squeamy said. “But before you do, might I trouble you for a drink?”
Eunice went into the kitchen and took the good wine, two hundred dollars a bottle, out of its hiding place and, with trembling hands, took down two wine glasses. She took the bottle and the wine back into the room where Squeamy was sitting and her sister lay dead and poured him a glass full, careful not to spill any on the carpet.
“A toast!” he said. “Here’s to happier times for all of us!”
He drank all the wine in the glass and looked up at Eunice and smiled.
“I’m not going to prison, you know,” he said.
He brought the gun to his temple and shot himself dead.
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp