By Josh Hilden
The moon hung fat and bright in the clear night sky as the three boys made their way over the bridge. The more they walked, the closer they were to the house at the end of Denton Road. The house was an object of local myths and legends.
And not in a fun way either.
“I want to go back to town and keep trick or treating,” Aaron said. His costume, Duncan MacLeod from the movie Highlander, made noises as the metal and plastic pieces scraped against one another. Clutching his pillowcase tight to his chest plate, he continued. “We’re not supposed to be across the river. If we get caught over, we’ll all be on restriction until Winter Break.”
All three boys flinched at the hoot of an unseen owl.
“It’ll be fine,” Jude said. The leader of the group, who was dressed as Captain America sans the shield, spoke but never broke his gaze from the sight of the dilapidated house.
The ancient structure loomed in front of them, creaking in the wind of crisp Halloween night.
Nobody in the Belleville region of Michigan knew for sure when the house was constructed, but it’d been a fixture in the tiny lake community for as long as anyone could remember. Rumored to have been raised at the turn of the last century, it was the consensus of most that the Denton Road House had been the plaything of one of the rich timber and railroad barons who’d dominated southeastern Michigan in the century before the development of Henry Ford’s Model A.
Regardless of when the house was built, the children of the area had always been afraid of it. There were rumors that more than a few teenagers had disappeared in the 70s and 80s, taking dares to stay the night in the supposedly haunted house.
“You never should never have let Tommy con you into doing this, Jude. We could have stayed home and watched horror movies and ate all of our candy. But no, you want to prove it you or one of the older kids, and so you decide to let him trick us into staying the night here. I’m not cool with this,” Aaron spat, not looking or sounding like he gave a shit what Jude had to say.
“I agree with Aaron Jude. We shouldn’t even be here,” Roger said. The younger boy looked scared and didn’t bother trying to hide it as they stared at the dark, broken-down house. The irony of his Batman costume was not lost on him as he’s as his fears fought with his pride to remain in control of his body.
They’d been outside the gas station when Tommy and his friends found them. Normally the senior boys would have just harassed them and going on their way, but being Halloween, they decided to take a special interest in Jude, Aaron, and Roger.
The greasy pack of seniors had done their best to torment the younger boys since elementary school. Normally Aaron, Jude, and Roger took every action possible to keep their distance between the two groups and not bite at their taunts.
But this night, Jude took the proffered bait.
Maybe if Judah kept his mouth shut and had not decided to see if he could keep pace with. Tommy and his crew in the school pool, things wouldn’t have gotten this far. But once the dare was made to go into the old house on Denton Rd, there was no way somebody with the ego of Jude could turn it down.
It took them 15 minutes to walk to the old bridge that led to Denton Rd another and 10 to actually reach the house at the end of the road. Now that they were there, the Denton Roadhouse looked more ominous than it ever had in their lives.
Sure, they’d seen it during the daytime dozens, maybe hundreds of times, but none of them had actually been here in the middle of the night staring at the broken windows which left the house open when looking at them with its dead eyes.
“Do you think Tommy and his gang are gonna be around here tonight while we’re in there?” Jude asked, showing his first signs of fear.
“I wouldn’t doubt it. They’re a bunch of assholes,” Aaron said.
“I just wanna go home,” Roger added.
“Look, Jude, I agree with Roger. We just need to go home,” Aaron said
“You know you guys are just showing me what big pussies you are, right? I’ll go in here by myself if you guys don’t need to go with me. There’s no way I’m left letting that shithead Tommy prove that I’m some kind of a wuss,” Jude seethed.
“Well, I don’t give a shit how you feel about it, Jude. If that’s how you really feel. Then we’re outta here,” Aaron spat.
To say that he was angry at his best friend was an understatement. In the 12 years, they’d known each other. Ever since they were in preschool, Aaron it always looked up to Jude, but he’d always been somewhat of a troublemaker, and now Aaron was convinced Jude didn’t care what happened to him or Roger.
“I agree with Aaron,” Rogers said, “we need to leave this isn’t any fun anymore, Jude. I just want to go home. This is probably the last year we’re going to be able to celebrate Halloween like kids, and I don’t want to end up sleeping all night in the goddam Denton Road House,” as if to punctuate his words, Roger threw his sack of candy over his back and headed back towards the bridge and the bright lights of town.
“Why don’t you just come with us, Jude? We can go back to my house. We’ll watch Night of the Living Dead, eat candy, and drink as much Mountain Dew as we can handle before throwing up. Tommy is too much of a wuss to come into this place himself, and he’s not really gonna come here and check to see if you’re in there? Roger’s right.
“This could be the last of the good old days. Next year will be juniors in high school, and we won’t be able to do this shit no more,” Aaron said, sounding hopeful.
But the whole point is, he felt soon died.
“You don’t get it, do you, Aaron? We need to show these guys that we can’t be pushed around anymore. We need to make them pay for what happened at the pool. I need to do this whether you come with me or not.” Jude answered. But he didn’t sound as aggressive as he had a few seconds earlier.
Now he sounded almost sad with a small flavoring of fear.
“Getting pantsed in the pool is no reason for you to do this,” Aaron said, throwing his hands up in the air in frustration before he turned his back on Jude. Then he followed Roger down the road towards the bridge and town.
“You guys are gonna regret not doing this tomorrow. When I come out of this house, I’m gonna be the most famous guy in town.” Jude yelled. As he turned his back on them and headed towards the house, neither Aaron nor Roger turned to look at him.
As far as they were concerned, this was a dead issue.
Of its own volition, the door shut behind Jude, and the young man was confronted with stygian darkness. The thunk of the door closing behind him caused you to jump back and let out a squeak of terror.
“Just calm down, for fucks sake. There’s nothing in here that can hurt you.” Jude said to himself, waiting for the thundering Echo of the door slamming to stop.
Reaching into his bag, Jude pulled out the flashlight his mother had given him for trick or treating safety. It was the kind you got at a dollar store, and it had a pumpkin over the light bulb itself. The light it cast was almost an orange. He fumbled with the switch and flicked it on to illuminate the area in front of him with a dull yellow light Barely shining through the orange of the head.
He wondered why his mother hadn’t upgraded to LED lights in the past year. But they were still using the old school lights, and he was stuck with the yellow. The hell of it was that it that made things scarier than they actually were.
“Alright, if there are any monsters in here. Be warned, I’m not gonna take any of your shit,” Jude said. He was surprised to hear a slight flutter of fear in his own voice. “I should have just gone with Aaron and Roger to watch movies and eat candy,” Jude said, not realizing he was speaking out loud.
“Yes, you should have,” a soft, wavering voice said from the shadow.
In response, ice filled Jude’s stomach.
The dare had been for the young men and Jude, in particular, to stay all night in the house. When Jude had been standing outside looking at the dilapidated structure, he thought it would be easy to do. Now, confronted with the darkness and the smells of rot emanating from what had to be the basement of the old home, Jude wasn’t sure he could do it.
He was just starting to calm down when the scent of onions and burnt meat wafted through the air. The smell was followed by the sound of something on the second floor falling hard to the ground. His legs shook as they attempted to turn him around and march him out of the house.
Once more, Jude let out a small scream of terror, but he was determined to follow through on the bet.
A thought occurred to him. And he opened his mouth to speak.
“Tommy, that’s you. I swear to God I’m gonna find you and make you sorry for trying to scare me, and don’t think just because you’re bigger than me, I’m scared of you. I’ll wait until you’re not looking on slash fucking tires” Judy Alden to the darkness.
The only response was the stillness of the House and the continuous smell of onions and burnt meat.
For a few minutes, Jude walked around the house, listening to the floorboards creaking, smelling the increasingly intense odor of onions and burnt meat.
He traveled into the kitchen and poked around, only to be met by a rat standing on the counter. Jude took a step back but didn’t run. He wasn’t afraid of rats. He merely respected their territory and hoped they would do the same for him. Once he finished exploring the first floor, Jude took a long look at the large staircase leading to the upper levels. There was something ominous about those stairs and the Back in the darkness of their head.
“Don’t go up there, man. This is not a good idea,” Jude said to himself.
“Yes,” the unseen voice said, “leave now.”
Jude froze once more. He was a little less sure the voice was coming from Tommy or his gang.
The weather outside was dry and cool, but he was covered in sweat as he put his foot On the first riser of the staircase. The board creaked loudly beneath his feet, and Jude fought the urge to turn around and run out the front door.
There was something wrong with this place, but he didn’t know what it was, but he did know he didn’t like it. But Jude to the stubborn boy, and he was going to see the upstairs whether he wanted to or not. As he cleared one step after another, he hummed to himself, not any song a person would recognize, just a random tune to keep himself calm.
It didn’t work.
Something crashed hard on the 2nd floor, and Jude froze in place. He was unsure what to do. Should he leave the building, or he could continue climbing the stairs to see what made the noise? He decided to keep walking up the stairs and took two more steps before stopping again and listening.
All was quiet, and he thought that he was just making things worse than they were in his own mind. His imagination was telling him this house was evil, but in reality, it was just a broken-down old house, and he had nothing to be scared of.
He was almost ready to keep climbing to the landing. When a figure jumped out of the darkness in the second stairs with a light illuminating his face, it was skeletal and covered in blood. It looked at him and pointed directly at Jude before it spoke.
“Leave my house and never come back boy.” the skeletal creature hissed.
“Oh, hell no,” Jude yelled, turning around and beating his way down the steps.
He took them two at a time and didn’t give a damn if anybody saw him. The thought he wasn’t alone spurred Jude forward. It was all he wanted to do was get out of the house and away from the malignancy that lurked within.
His body slammed into the front door, and within seconds he was on the front stoop breathing in the cool, dry night air. Turning to look behind him. Ice filled Jude’s stomach as he saw the creature coming down the stairs and following him.
Instead of sticking around to see what would happen, Jude ran faster than he ever had before. He was a heavy-set boy, and running wasn’t easy for him. But he moved like a doe in the spring, staying one or two steps ahead of the creature. When he heard the door slam shut, he slowed down and turned to look behind him. There was nothing. The creature that had been in the house was gone.
The door was shut, and the darkness from within was banished.
“Fuck me, that was scary,” Jude whispered, putting his hands on his knees and panting hard. He looked at his watch, something everybody at school made fun of him for having. I mean, who carried a watch in the day and age of the smartphone. But he was glad to have it as he didn’t have to fumble in his pockets for his phone. According to his watch, he’d only been in the house for 15 minutes, but that was 15 minutes enough for him.
“That’s it. I’m going to Rogers. We’re going to eat candy, watch movies and forget this night ever happened,” Jude said.
He had a smile on his face. He knew he’d take a ribbing from his friends, but it was better than being stuck in that house. Stuck in there with that creature. Stuck in there in the hell that existed between those walls.
As Jude’s feet pounded down the steps and the cool air drained the fear from his body. He heard one last sound, one bloodcurdling sound, a scream so loud he was sure they heard it across the river. A scream of terror, a scream of fear. Someone who knew their days were done on this world.
Instead of looking back, Jude ran harder.
Jude woke up to Aaron, shaking him hard. He’d been dreaming of Elisha Hardy, the girl in his math class when Aaron’s hands shook his body Vigorously.
“You gotta wake up, Jude. Man, you’re not gonna believe what’s on the television,” Aaron said. Releasing Jude and heading for the doors of the living room.
Reluctantly Jede got up and put on a T-shirt before stumbling out into Aaron’s front room. The Walmart television showed scenes He recognized from the night before. It was the house on Denton Road, framed in front of reporters who were speaking into a microphone. He couldn’t hear what she was saying in motion for Aaron to turn up the volume.
Roger got to it before Aaron couldn’t. The volume went for almost muted to loud enough to shake his teeth. He nearly told Roger to turn it down, but when he heard what the reporter was saying, Jude froze.
“This is Gina Hargrove Channel 7 news. I’m standing in front of the house at the end of Denton Rd. Just on the other side of the old bridge, the house has been closed and condemned for more than 20 years. It has officially been county property for the last five.
Early this morning, the Sheriff’s Department received a call from a young man. Saying that there were people dead inside the house and looking for help. Sheriffs deputies arrived. Whoever made the call was gone, but inside the house, they found the bodies of three deceased local teenagers.
The cause of death is currently unknown, and the names of the teenagers are being. Captain till their families can be alerted to the situation. I Will let you know more when we have more developments in this story.
This is Gina Hargrove Channel 7 news.”
“Did you see anything when you’re inside the house, Jude?” Aaron asked, looking from the TV to his friend.
“I told you, man, I saw that face at the top of the stairs, and I fucking ran. I have no idea if there was actually anybody else in the House, but that face scared the shit straight out of me.” Jude said, turning his eyes from the TV to his friend.
“Do you think the bodies are Tommy and his friends?” Roger asked. The younger boy Was transfixed by the images on the television, and he didn’t look away to see if anybody was listening to him.
“Maybe, but I never saw any of them. I only saw the single mask.” Jude said.
He sounded and looked more confused than he had when he showed up the night before. Roger and Aaron had been watching Night of the Living Dead and eating candy when Jude came banging on the front door. They didn’t question him too heavily about what had happened and instead welcomed their friend in with my arms wide open.
“Was it really a mask you saw on the creature or was it something else?” Aaron asked.
“It had to be a mask. There’s no such thing as monsters,” Jude said. But the young man kept his eyes downcast as he spoke.
“Do you not wanna know what I think?” Roger asked, dragging his gaze from the television to look at his friends. “I think you got seriously fucking lucky last night. Jude, I think there really was a monster in there, and I think he was going to eat you. I think that Tommy and his friends were committed to fuck with you, and the monster got them instead of you.” Roger said, sounding serious.
“I just can’t believe there are real monsters in the world,” Jude said.
“What if it was a person that killed them? What if it was a person who murdered them in that house but then would have murdered you if you’ve been in there much longer?” Aaron asked.
“Well, it didn’t. All I saw was that one skeletal face in Iran.” Jude answered.
The three friends looked at each other, none of them actually believing any of what they’ve been saying. Had there been a monster, maybe there was a monster that was most likely a human being and not something supernatural.
In the end, they all knew this would be their last time trick or treating. Not because they aged out and didn’t think it was fun anymore because they didn’t want to. They’ve never wanted to risk this happening again. They grew up. And that was the end of it.
What Aaron and Rodger would never know is what happened to Jude as he ran down the steps and out into the cool night air. They would never know about the scream that he heard. They would never know that he really did believe there was a monster in that house and that he had murdered those three boys. They would never know how much he would appreciate life from now on.
Only Jude knew, and he would take it to his grave.
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