Zach Kalusky, host of Sci-D TV’s Xavier Paranormal Investigators, is ecstatic when he’s given the opportunity to explore the most haunted site in Chicago for a Halloween Special: Rosewood Asylum, a place long made off-limits by the local government, plagued by decades of mysterious fires and unexplained events. It’s Zach’s dream investigation- but there’s a catch: the network forces Xavier Paranormal Investigators to partner with the more dramatic-but less ethical-Demon Hunters. Now, Zach must fight for both his show’s integrity and his team’s loyalty while trying to protect his own secret: that he, himself, is possessed.
December 26, 1981
Glenn Razzovich didn’t consider himself a career criminal—just a successful one. He glanced around to verify he wasn’t being observed by a nosy neighbor, but at three o’clock the morning after Christmas, that was highly doubtful. Most good people were fast asleep dreaming of sugarplums—whatever those were. He crept up the alleyway and through the light dusting of snow toward the darkened house. He didn’t care if he left tracks—he planned on burning the old pair of jogging shoes along with his gloves after he was done with the job.
“Good King Wenceslas looked out,” he sang under his breath, “on the feast of Stephen.”
Glenn had no idea who King Wenceslas was, but years ago he’d stumbled upon the fact that December 26th was the Catholic’s feast day of Saint Stephen. He never understood why a holiday song celebrated not Christmas itself, but rather, the day after. In fact, Glenn didn’t much believe in Christmas other than one conviction—that he could profit from people who celebrated the long-ago birth by taking trips out of town.
“When the snow lay round about.” Glenn casually unlatched and opened the back gate. “Deep and crisp and even.”
Houses in either direction remained dark. It was a mature neighborhood outside the center of town and not far from the Missouri river which snaked along the Kansas/Missouri border just east of Atchison. He advanced toward the target, an old Victorian two-story which had been unlit the previous two nights. No tire tracks marred the snow in the long driveway next to the house. He swiftly mounted the back steps and slid into the porch shadows.
“Doo-do doo do doo, that night,” he sang, while his hands worked as though operating of their own accord. The lock clicked. “On the feast of Stephen.”
Glenn couldn’t suppress a wry smile. He opened the door a crack, slipped his wry body out of the frigid air, and then in one smooth motion, twirled and then pressed the door silently shut behind him.
A warm stench invaded his nostrils. It reeked of spoiled meat and rotten cabbage. Did Mommy leave hamburger out? Could Daddy have forgotten to take the garbage to the alley? Many people would have gagged at the wicked odor, but to Glenn it was the sweet smell of an empty house. No human being could live in a home with such a stench—especially not during the holiday season.
Before hunting down the stink’s origin (more out of curiosity than any practical reason), Glenn noticed the under-the-counter TV in the kitchen.
“Jackpot,” he murmured. “Mommy gets a small television in the kitchen, and Daddy gets bigger toys somewhere else.”
The noise came from upstairs. He instinctively froze and listened intently. There was the distant rumble of a train, a sound so common to Atchison it was rarely noticed unless one’s attention became alerted to it. For a solid minute more, he heard nothing else. Better to be safe than sorry—Glenn crept silently through the house to the front room. A 27” TV sat in the middle of an entertainment center which also housed a stereo and top-of-the-line VCR. Glen noticed the brand names of the electronic equipment and smiled. But something wasn’t right.
Dozens of presents were piled under the Christmas tree. Nicely wrapped too—silver ribbons and bows that refracted the moonlight from the front window and sent shards of white light throughout the room. The gifts were stacked in a dramatic fashion around the tree reminiscent of a shopping mall display. Why hadn’t anyone opened them? Or taken them on their trip?
Distant mumbling came from upstairs.
And a tap.
Pictures of a man, a woman and two young girls decorated the ascending wall of the staircase. Had one of the kids left a toy going? From deep in the pit of his stomach, a feeling told him to just leave, scrap the couple of nights staking the place out and just cut bait. Ridiculous. No one was home.
No one alive anyway. For all he cared, the rotted stench could be a whole dead family poisoned by Christmas cookies the week before. He’d feel even less guilty about cleaning them out. And the wrapped presents would be a bonus.
The soft speaking again. This time it sounded vaguely familiar—like a quiet chant.
It had come from upstairs. Looking up, Glenn climbed the steps. The foul odor became more pungent and more putrid. Glenn wasn’t a hardened criminal and had never encountered a dead body, but this reeked how he’d imagined one left for days inside an abandoned house might smell.
He reached the top stair, listened intently, and then headed down the hall towards the far end where he assumed the sounds were coming from. Through the room’s open doorway, a picture window let in the moon’s blue light. Glenn heard nothing. No talking. No movement. Not even any breathing. He inched closer—a few feet from the door.
“When she’d seen what she had done…”
Recognition didn’t click right away. Glenn peered into the room. Sitting cross legged on the floor, a girl no older than nine-years old wore pigtails and a white nightgown that glowed in the moonlight. In her hands was a large kitchen knife. Was this one of the daughters from the photo on the stairs?
“She gave her father forty one.”
She drove the blade into the wood floor where a wide deep hole had been carved.
What in the love of hell is this? He thought. Her unlikely appearance. Her vacant expression. She seemed more an apparition than real.
He slowly backed away. Through the cracked door, he caught a glimpse into the next room. An arm extended at an unnatural angle from a lump on the bed. Even in the half light, he could tell that the sheets were stained with dried blood. There was no doubt that at least one murdered body lay in there.
“Lizzy Bordon took an axe…”
Glenn almost puked. He rushed to the staircase.
Before he took his first step down, a floorboard creaked. Not underfoot, but behind him.
He whirled and heard the “Pfffft” before he felt the stabbing pain in his thigh.
“And gave her mother forty whacks.”
Her eyes. Wildly insane—inhuman.
He pulled the knife from his groin. Some blood spewed out the hole in his jeans, but most gushed down his inseam.
He staggered down the stairs and clawed at the front door. He clutched his leg remembering to press on the wound. The blood was slippery, warm and wet.
Christ, don’t let it end this way!
He fumbled with the locks. He flung open the door and glanced over his shoulder.
She stood atop the staircase. “And when she’d seen what she had done!”
Glenn stumbled outside, across the porch and down the first two steps before tumbling into the cold dusty snow. He frantically gathered a handful of it and pressed it to his wound. He was already lightheaded. Too much blood lost.
Or was this shock?
He tried to stand and couldn’t manage. His trail of blood extended from where he was laying, up the front steps through the doorway—the warm red liquid melting the white powder.
He just wanted to live.
He cried for help. But it came out more like a gasping croak. Even to him, it didn’t sound very loud. So he inhaled deeply.
And then, as forcefully as he could, Glenn Razzovich screamed.
Stephen Prosapio received his Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science from DePaul University in Chicago. For several years, he reported for one of the nation’s largest fantasy football websites, Footballguys.com. Dream War, was a top-five finalist of 2,676 entries in Gather.com’s 2007 First Chapters contest. Stephen works as an executive recruiter and resides in Oceanside, California.
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