's 2018 Horror Write-off:

The Eldritch Neighbor

Submitted by Viola "Ms" Fortune

“So, A few months ago, our town had a disappearance, this girl named Cindy Norton, and We’re fairly isolated, cut off and all that, right? So it shouldn't be too hard to find her, right? But we were looking for hours and hours and suddenly, this old guy, at least, I think he was old, he was a bit odd looking and his hair was all white came out of the woods with her hat, and spoke to one guy, and he had this thick accent that I can't really place, then ran up to her father, and I mean like, a full body running for your life run. He ran up to him, showed him the hat, murmured some shit, and her father just like, ran away, and like a few weeks after that the old guy just...moved on in. and it's the funniest thing, no one really questioned it...hell, I didn't, either, and now I wonder if he did that.”

“But, he was always really nice, at least...nice enough, it felt like. He felt like someone you could be calm around, especially in a small town like this, even though he did the oddest shit and said the weirdest hokey-pokey horse crap. Like… he stripped all the paint off of people's houses, and everyone seemed happy with it, and would cook outside, hummin a buncha songs that if I tried to reproduce now, I don't think I ever could. But we all tolerated it, because every time someone gave him a gift, he would pay us back ten times over, though he got this awful funny look on his face, like he was genuinely upset, sometimes. I gave the sonuvabitch shoes, once, he gave me a pet crow. Dunno where he got it, but he had it. But there was some shit he always hated, i swear, when those cartoons with the funny little short people and that ring came out, i could hear him SNARL each time he saw the cover, and it wasn't like the kinda snarl you’d normally hear out of a person, it was like glass breaking. But somehow, none of us took that as a tip-off that anything was wrong. He also had like, a huge loathing of santa claus, and I don’t blame a man for not being a praying man, especially after halloween, but I swear, the man took pains to avoid church. One time, I saw him sobbing when the church bell rang near him, and his tears shimmered like the night sky, and i’m not talkin all poetic and pretty, either. I Think they were GLOWING.”

“You know somethin’, though? Everyone trusted this man with their children, or at least, i think they did. They all thought his singing voice was hot shit enough that he had to be a great child sitter, they were so tranced up. I thought, at least for a while, he was druggin’ the damn kids. Whatever he was cooking, I suppose. And I mean cooking like...soup, not meth or anything of the sort, though I wish it was meth, it would explain some of the shit he did. Like, he always stole musical things, and no one ever made him pay for the dvds and records or anything, they’d charge him for a soda-pop though--you ever see a man pay for that in gold, by the way? Yeah. he did that. But as I was sayin’, he never paid for any music, even like, fancy violins, he would just grab one and walk out of the store. At least, sorta walk out. It seemed more like he would slink out, before the door was even open. So he was either a thief, or cuttin some deals, I thought, and even still, I dunno.”

“You know, that reminds me. He always slunk everywhere, really, like he wasn't comfortable in his own skin, like he was always...crouching. Suppose he was, in a way. One time, I asked him about it and all he did was smile. I didn't say anything, cause my mother raised me better than to do so, but he had a lot of teeth, and there was this...orangish color to them. Guess it mighta been somethin else, though i’ll get to that later, if i were to just keep it fragmented you might not get the full picture, ya know?”

“One day, this kid went blind and hanged himself, and I saw him, just before the funeral started, he was doing this weird little dance, it didn’t seem to even be a disrespectful one, either, slow and somber, and--get this-- it started fuckin rainin that night, having gone from a clear sky just three hours ago. And like, you could argue wind blew it in, but the goddamn weather station was describing clear skies all around the state, man. Maybe it was his way of apologizing, considering the kid ran into him before he hit that tree. Or maybe the wizard-sorcerer-whatever-the-FUCK he was was doin it because it was poetic like he always yammered on about when he came across weird shit with us, like a deer eating a wolf, wouldja believe that shit? All he did was write up a song about it, sang it to a fuckin pre-school, and it had bits of like...I dunno, it sounded like goddamn klingon to me but…i remember a single verse of it: “bia le haghaidh na fianna, bia ón madra”.”

“So, ya know, that shit was all crazy, already, but I never actually talked to him one on one until after that. I FINALLY had to ask what the fuck he was doing, ever wonder what it's like to talk to a serial killer? Cause… like, I imagine talkin’ to one wouldn't be as scary, really. His voice was...really off, like he had a thick accent but an accent from either every part of the world, or no parts of the world, it's hard to explain without hearing it… but i had asked about the song, and he said that all of his people sing, that that’s how it is and must be. Some sorta shit like that… you ever see a fuzzy tv signal, by the way? Staring him in the face, he looked exactly like that, and I don't mean like...I don't mean in the sense of he was particularly blurry, he straight up looked like a tv signal was overlaid on him. I dismissed it as a migraine, especially since I WAS starting to get sick near him, but that was a fuckin mistake, cause if I had just said something then to SOMEONE...i dunno, can’t dwell on that.”

“You know, I think the warning sign we all should have seen was when he started a cult. Like, no joke, he turned his house into a mansion to move people in, had uniforms, designated roles, all of that. Like, 30 people were working with him on that, gathering animals and shit for god knows fuckin what. Every night they would throw some sorta party though, getting people drunk, and there would always be a few new converts. I saw something in their eyes, in some cases. Like some sorta screaming lack of free will, though others seemed just fine about it, worshipping their antlered figure. Few of them said he was God with a capital G.. Not that Ainsley fellow, though, he said it was chernabog or Colonel, or something like that. I know it had an S at the end. And you ever see those weird dances people would do in front of fires, in those corny caveman movies, the ones that always wound up a little bit racist? They were all doing that in front of mushroom rings, which...reminds me of what my grandmother used to talk about, things of the woods back in her old country.”

“And well, it wasn't long after the cult started that people started seeing the ghosts. I heard whispers of em being demons, and all of that, but someone certainly WAS causing mischief. Children and animals fell sick, food vanished, objects would fling themselves across town, and there was always whispering and singing and laughing in the woods. People would sometimes vanish too, only to wander out, a little confused acting like they just went in, and I heard people saying they’d meet friendly strangers in the woods, who would then reveal something weird. Antlers, usually, or extra pupils. Weird shit like that. As time wore on, too, the ghosts would spread further, and the mansion always had shadows in or on it. Obviously, they were not ghosts, though, cause Ihave it figured what they are NOW, but we all called em ghosts back then, and it's still the best description of this form. And the shadows were ALWAYS twitching, too, like outta some horror movie. One moved into my house, though it took me a while to realize it, but it was down in the basement, just before the mold problem started. It made some exaggerated gesture to wink at me, before, ya know, poisoning my house. So I had to move back in with my mother that week while my house rotted to the core. It fucking sucked, especially when I saw my mother had gotten rid of all her church memorabilia cause a friend of hers, “That ol’ Ainsley fella” had asked her to. Always fun to realize how bad something is.”

“Now, i maybe woulda been fine with the cult, until they started making rules that everyone should follow. I’d ignore em, except every time someone broke a rule, such as, say, no wearing clothes with metal sewn in, or no staring at birds for too long, or no eating meat from stores, something awful would happen. A dog would get sick, or someone would get attacked by a ghost and lose a vital part, or even someone would full on die in an awful manner, like a plant or fungus growing in their lungs. And we could follow em well enough for a month, but visitors? They didn’t know, and it wasn't fair, but they were punished all the same. Course, some still went to church, but as time went on, people stayed indoors, especially as ghosts lurked outside the gates. The good father, i’ll call him that as respect even if really, I never cared much for the guy, did his best to trick the bastard out, figure out what he was, but he was always a step behind, and eventually, based on what he did on halloween, I suppose it killed him in the end. But that’s for when I get to the end.”

“But… if there's one good thing they did, at least they provided beautiful music leading up to their attempts at I suppose destroying the town. Music boxes and wind chimes in each tree, you see. Music every time the wind blew, and it stopped blowing at night when people were sleeping, so… that’s their one good thing. Though maybe that's whatever spells were in the songs to make em calming that makes me say that. And I mean calming, animals wouldn't even walk outside, they’d just fall asleep except for ones ghosts or ainsley were watching. And followers did something similar, though they would paint themselves before sleeping near the chimes. All blue paints, of course. I think for a few of them it...changed them. The grew static-y, and i could swear their shadows had Horns. Guess that’s where some of em came from. And, I know, I know, I keep mentioning halloween night, i just gotta work myself up to talkin about it, aight?”

“Before I get to it, I suppose I should ask: you ever seen cars driving themselves, or motorcycles for that matter? I know we’re working on the technology, but I saw it happen to every car at once, including the cars of visitors to Widders glen. I can tell you who was driving it, of course, but it did its purpose anyways. Most were cut off from travel, and...well, Ainsley and the ghosts did not like tourists, much, saying how it's just like the ones who drove them off in the first place. I have a strong feeling as well, what he did with them. I hope the FDA sure as hell didn't approve of the pork, cause he told the truth: it sure as shit did contain long pork, but he timed it for october, so there’s no way of knowing how many people bought and ate it and if it wound up in stores PAST Widders glen. I asked the butcher, once, why he did it, why he was letting it happen when he could stop taking in the meat, since the cops were not of any help, I suppose having the sheriff's name caused that. All he did was point to his chest, thumping his heart a little. And that guy, I knew he was human, so i'm guessing what that meant was...they had something of his, some sorta grip on his heart. Maybe it was literal. I don’t know. But hey, Ainsley didn't even sell the best cuts, I know from seeing his pork pies and his cookouts--...and how he did those cookouts, jesus christ. I thought it was a weird trick, that he was doing that thing those people do in hawaii for tourists, the fire swallowing thing? But no, he never swallowed the flames to spit out, he could that. He could breathe fire like a fucking dragon. But, i saw during those cookouts with his cultists, the less static-y ones dropping in number each time, that he kept the best shit to himself. Greedy fucker, huh?”


“So… I suppose I should get right to it, right?”

“Could I get a drink first? Anything, really, as long as I can get enough after the story to forget I told it.”

“So...halloween. I didn't have a good sleep the night before it, having seen something horrible. Some deformed dog man leaping around, carving runes and digging and making a sorta...moat thing. And I saw ghosts. No, like...actual ghosts. In the sky, in a torrent of blank faces. And I had thought it was a nightmare or hallucination, seeing Ricky and Cindy and a bunch of people with bites in em up in the sky. But I found out on halloween that no, they were ACTUAL ghosts. And I figured it out, because everyone else joined them. To set the scene...on halloween morning, there was church service, from both churches, though at that point i suspect it was really just one. Everyone was in costume, of course. Lots of shadowy costumes, with antlers on top, and cloaks and robes and hoods, and you know what the priest was? Some headless horseman looking fucker, he had his head on the pew and was riding a headless horse. I had thought it was a really good costume, at first, as he yammered on and on about his lord, but it was when he mentioned the name of his lord that I realized something was up with him, too. Chrom something? Don’t matter. He waved everyone outta the church, and nearly everyone left silently, just a few songs hummed between em. My mother, even, left with them, as ainsley lit every jack o lantern in town, carving new ones to light again and again, while dancing circles around the town, and he was barely hiding it anymore. His fake form was wobbling and waving, and everywhere he stepped a mushroom circle would pop up. Demonic, that shit was. And he was being danced with by The Fake Ghosts, as they leaped and soared around him like it was a ballet recital. Suppose it was a reason to celebrate, the day went on, Ainsley sorta reverse trick or treated with all his fucking lackeys, in their antlered or hooved or otherwise just wrong costumes, giving each child candy and a bone charm, so they’d be “prepared”. And he made cakes all day, just out in the open, cakes and pies. Seems like a set up for a good party, especially with beer, too...i just wish it had been a party for us humans, ya know?. But it was not. It was for Ainsley, and his people. And I found that out when the clock struck 8. The moon was fat and orange, at that moment.”


“I wish he was comin' out as gay, i really do wish, we could’ve welcomed that, but instead we welcomed...something worse. He Began to wobble quite a bit more, and I heard the crowd murmuring, even as I was inside my house, and maybe they thought it was special effects, but it was harder to fake what he became. His body was long, and pale, with even longer limbs, long enough that if he wanted to make eye contact, he had to be on his hands and knees, which he stayed that way the entire night that I saw. He grew horns, like those of a cow, though I suspect they were probably an auroch, which he then grew antlers between those. His jaw stretched longer and wider than it had any right to, and his teeth filled the space. And if i didn't see him staring as intently as he was, I would have thought he was blind. His followers followed, as they always do, taking on their OWN forms. Most of them stayed around their same heights, but some got taller, and they came in their own rainbow of pale colors, really. I could see their ribs, too, all bulging out and shit. Some of em grew weird, too, like...rabbit mouths, or their pointed ears growing ribcages inside, stuff like that. Everyone cheered, for a second, until each of these Things did what they do best, I suppose. They ruined it. Each ghost became unshadowed, and...well, they ate. Ainsley picked up a few people on his own, wringing them to store in a bag, perhaps to ensure if the hunt did not go well, then he’d still have a few snacks, right? But after each ghost had bitten a chunk, and each...for ease of knowledge, let’s call them demons...after each demon fired something in the air, the crowd scattered, screaming in panic, save for a few unlucky bastards thinking it was part of the show. Those men weren’t even killed, not right away. He just merged them to their chairs with a wave of his hands and a lyrical chant, in tune to the music playing in the howling wind. Whak-de-fol-lol-re-da, or some hocus pocus like that. I could hear em screaming the entire night as I ran, with where most of the crowd ran, into the church. I supposed they couldn’t get inside that, right? Even if the priest was one of the cultists, it'd still be a holy place, right?...hah, headless horseman wasn’t a costume, it turned out. While he paced back and forth for 10 minutes, it seemed he was impatient, and started attacking, whipping with what i think was his own spine. He spoke of his god, shouting out names of people who would die of heart attacks that exact second, and that his kind was the wind and woods so We shouldn't bother running. Honestly, I’d say he was full of shit, except...well, ya know. But we ran, anyways, and he didn't bother to stop us, and while we did our best to seal the church in, the doors just burst open before it caught fire. It was then I looked up, and saw that same sky river of ghosts again. Except, this time, there were a lot more faces. Luckily, i thought at the time, the demons were distracted, eating dropped candy and bread left out by cultists just before, even if they were looking annoyed as they did so, so I figured I could run, and hide. And I did, for a good while. Then the wind started up again, and...they caught it. They caught the wind itself, grabbing on to leaves or even just air currents themselves, to get higher in the sky. Some tried to swoop down, but others were smarter, even if their physics were strange. They would shoot arrows, and have a buddy grab the arrow, before grabbing a person when they would catch the wind again. Each time someone was caught in this maelstrom, after they died they would...I dunno how to put it, rapture into the sky I guess, limp until they hit the stream of ghosts, screaming silently. After...i guess around 30 minutes, they ran mostly out of a crowd, and a look of realization hit their face, realization and glee. The moon turned from orange to white, as they lit the church on fire, and after a while, as the smoke rose, I saw another moon pop near it, and then white rectangles in the sky, with towers of ivory above.. It took me only a few seconds to realize… it wasn't a pattern. It was a face. And the face was singing, but it didn't seem joyful.”

“Singing isn't really...the right word, though. It was more just...chanting, as though it expected everyone else to sing for it. Which everyone else DID. with the screams of the sky turning into music of their own, as I saw the towering thing in a better light. Around it's belt it had a coin purse, and that's not a euphemism, gold was literally falling from it, Gold coins the size of cars, and all the living wild life flocked to these coins, and to the giant thing itself.”

“It was chanting something like…”sióg, sióg, Cad ba mhaith leat?” and with each chant, a cry was sung out, each creature...I guess respectfully dancing in place? I don’t know how to describe it, Pirouettes and prostration. But they would shout out “chun adhradh duit! chun adhradh duit!” and some of them he looked at, and merely devoured on the spot, but some he lifted up. Including, unfortunately, the bastard who started this all, that Ainsley fucker.. “We have brought you a town that you may call a home on earth! And food , as you have so indulged, and we’ve even made, for the beheader, a new child. What sayeth you?” and it spoke, for the last time I ever heard, and the last time I hope I ever WILL hear it. “Good. You have done good, Mac Aillen. You may have rest at a place of your choosing.” it said, before shoving “mac” into that Gold coin purse of his. And, unfortunately, as he left, he did two things. He pointed me out, first, and unfortunately, I met the sharp end of one of the demons hands, as the headless horseman lifted me by the neck, taking one of my eyes as a souvenir, and two...I saw my town, even as I faded from consciousness, float into the air, before disappearing in a flash of butterflies and crows, the sky stream itself dissipating. And I saw the horned god, towering above, looking down as though this was just another halloween, a party went okay at most.. Lucky that they didn't know where my heart was, I suppose, or i would not be telling this tale. All I know, is, though...I still see those “ghosts” in the woods sometimes. Sometimes like little old men who need help, or beautiful women, trying to lure people in. And, ya know...I did digging after all this, and you know what gets me? The word Eldritch wasn't invented by that lovecraft guy. I Think these guys are the ones the word was made for. So, if you see any of these ghosts...milk and bread should suffice. Keep em happy.”