's 2018 Horror Write-off:

The Red Spire

Submitted by Ellen "Space Lizard" Edwards (email)

One night in a sleepy little suburb in the outward reaches of Chicagoland, an impossible spire rose.

No one much noticed at first. It was a mere five feet tall, and metal. Odd, but few noticed beside children playing in a nearby creek, and snooping neighbors, speculating on the activities of the old man who owned the land. His wife had passed the year before, and he was little-seen since; maybe it was a way of passing the time, they speculated - or maybe he had lost his mind.

Talk turned to the other oddities on the fringe of their perfect little town. The laid off man who ran to the store every day at 8 AM, shirt off, walking up the railroad tracks, or the reclusive family on the corner, whose son was excitedly speculated to be a murderer fifteen different ways.

In the morning, the tower was ten feet. The next, twenty.

Calls were made to the town council, to the building commission, to the homeowner's association. Concerned neighbors knocked on the old widower's door, but received no answer. A late night stakeout in the creek saw and heard no work being done - but when the sun rose, the tower was forty feet tall.

At night, lights began to flash within the spire. Not like aircraft warning lights, but something more constant, like a stream under the surface. As the spire hit eighty feet, answers continued to elude everyone. Those adjacent to the widower's land discovered reddish, bubbling water seeping into their basements, and the spire blocking out sunlight as it hit one-hundred-and-sixty feet. Stakeouts continued, the knocking continued, the frantic phone calls and screaming at council meetings continued.

No answers revealed themselves.

When a stray scrap of metal smashed into a backyard, destroying a shed and nearly killing a boy and his dog with debris, the confusion turned to rage. Locals rallied together, researched how to safely demolish such a tall structure, hired a crew and equipment to destroy it.

When they trespassed onto the widower's land to bring down the spire, they were shocked to find that the beams ran into the earth. As the tower was brought down in sections, some of the crowd swore they heard groans, and warbling screams of pain. The streams of red light flickered and sputtered and died.

When the tower was demolished, they dug up the foundations of the spire. They pulled the beams from the earth - and the old widower, encrusted with dirt, his eyes pale and blind, his hair nearly gone, his body wrinkled far beyond even his advanced years. There were beams of spiraling metal driven into his temples and a hole in his skull, and when they pulled him free of them, he immediately began to bleed out.

All he said was "...happy birthday, Maureen. Happy...". And then he died, in his own backyard, among the scraps of the impossible tower he built. Within his home they found notes and maps no one could understand, and no one would ever understand more about the tower at the end of the lane.