House of Misery
“What do you think?” Brooke asked, flipping back her long, blonde hair. She parked the black four-door sedan in a space alongside the dark, dilapidated structure that used to be someone’s home.
“Well, this street is called Misery Isle.” Austin sat next to her, flashed his partner a smile as he finished setting up the long-range camera.
The two investigative reporters were selected to this assignment, not due to their journalistic acumen but because they were the only ones who didn’t get caught up in the circus surrounding the origin of the house. Blake Misery had been the architect of this gated residence, just as he was for a majority of Grand Island’s modern buildings. The man was the epitome of success, and the naming of a local street in his honor was just a small sample of what the community thought of him.
But just as there was with every proclaimed hero, there was a dark side. It was rumored that one night, Blake returned home early from a conference, finding his wife of twenty years and her much younger lover in passionate embrace. He became enraged, grabbed a machete, and sliced them into pieces and buried them somewhere on the property. He then doused himself with kerosene and lit himself ablaze. Local law enforcement kept the details of the case under wrap, despite the fact that Blake’s son was also missing. A few months later, people in the neighborhood started seeing apparitions of Blake, his wife, and her lover roaming the property. Several reporters had attempted to enter the house to uncover what had really happened, but before they could get inside, something scared them away. Brooke and Austin wouldn’t be swayed that easily.
“It’s just a name. Don’t freak out on me.” Brooke laughed, exiting the car and opening the rear car door to grab a dark plastic bag from the back seat. She undid the tie string and removed several digital recording discs.
“Me? Freak out? I wouldn’t call it that…exactly.” Austin looked at her over the roof of the car, both eyebrows raised. The comment was not accurate in describing the former bodyguard. He had a history of being in volatile surroundings, and this wasn’t anything close to those.
His partner on this assignment was Brooke Anders. She was a recent graduate from Purdue University, possessing the cookie-cutter good looks most women in her profession usually displayed. Austin, on the other hand, had gained a great deal of weight around his midsection. The combination of high fat and nutritionally extinct meals, along with the lack of any type of fitness program, were to blame for that.
“You ready with the camera, Austin?”
“Hold on. I’ll be done in a few seconds.”
“Hurry up; this is supposed to be the night. I want to be ready, just in case,” Brooke said.
“How did you find out it was tonight?” Austin leaned in towards her.
“Strange phone call from an unknown source…early yesterday morning.”
“What do you mean strange?” Austin asked.
“Well, when I answered the phone, the man’s voice whispered something I could barely make out.”
“What was it again?” Austin had a little grin on his face, as he stared at the old structure.
“‘The evil you seek will find you on December 24, at the hour of contemplation,’” Brooke said, as the hairs on her arm stood up and her body suddenly felt like it was dipped in freezing water.
“What in the hell does that mean?”
“I don’t know, but the day, Christmas Eve, does seem a little out there,” Brooke said.
“Yeah, it’s definitely out there,” Austin said.
A flash of light from a window on the second floor caught Brooke’s attention. “Look up there!” She feverishly tapped on Austin’s shoulder, pointing at the window.
“Whoa. What’s gotten into you?” Austin brushed her hand away.
“Get the camera quick…something is up there.” Brooke ran through the overhang of branches covering the sidewalk. She burst through, almost tumbling at the feet of the crumbling cement blocks, which used to be the front steps.
“Wait! You’re gonna kill yourself if you don’t slow down,” Austin called, chasing after her.
“I think someone’s in the house,” Brooke said, almost out of breath.
“I think you’re seeing things.” Austin finally caught up to her at the top of the steps.
“I know what I saw. There was something in the window looking at us.”
The two reporters faced the front door of the mysterious home. Austin held the camera at the ready, while Brooke shakily grasped the ancient silver doorknob. She jerked her hand back, staring at it in disbelief.
“You all right?” Austin asked.
“I don’t know. The knob is freezing. What’s going on?”
“Brooke, hello…it’s winter. Of course the doorknob is freezing.”
Brooke stared at her hand, noticing the skin immediately showed signs of frostbite. “Damn it! Look at this.” She stuck her hand out for him to inspect.
“Okay, I see it. You don’t want to leave, do you?”
“No, but you go ahead and try to open it.”
Austin reached into his pocket and slipped on one of his winter gloves. He reached for the knob, and slowly opened the door.
“We’re in.” He glanced back and could see Brooke wrapping her injured hand with her brown scarf.
“I’ll be alright, but stay close, in case I want to get the hell out of here.”
“Gotcha. You’re right, though…it’s a little strange.”
“Okay. It might have some paranormal aspects to it.”
Brooke finished wrapping her hand as the two walked through the entryway. A thin layer of frost covered everything within sight. Brooke could see the warmth of her breath cut through the icy air. She looked in Austin’s direction. He gasped, noticing the icy interior as well.
“You got the camera rolling?” Brooke shivered as she grasped at the pocket flashlight. Even though her hands were covered, numbness crept through her fingertips.
“Yes, it’s ready.”
Brooke glanced at the side of the device, realizing the recording button wasn’t working. She tapped at it with her hand, and soon, the red light activated. The two reporters had only taken a few steps when they were assaulted with an odor of rotting flesh and defecation.
“Oh my God…that’s awful!” Brooke put a hand over her mouth, the taste of vomit filling her throat.
“Probably some dead animals in here somewhere,” Austin said.
“In this cold? That’s nasty, Austin. And it looks like this place is pretty well boarded up. I can’t imagine anyone ever living here.”
“Well, they did.” His voice was terse.
Before she could respond, a shrilling sound erupted from above the two. “Ahh, ahh, ahh…”
Brooke turned her head toward the noise. “What in the hell—”
“Sounds like someone’s hurt. You were right. Somebody’s up there,” Austin said.
“I told you I wasn’t imagining it.”
Brooke pointed up in the direction of a spiraling staircase, as it seemed to disappear into darkness. A small ball of red light screamed across the floor above them. Brooke clung to Austin, nervous and afraid. Austin guided her with one hand, as his other held the recording device in position. He aimed the lens in the direction of the unknown illumination. Brooke’s first instinct was to turn and run, but the firm grip Austin had on her forced her to move forward. Brooke gave her coworker a sheepish smile. The two cautiously ascended the stairwell. The deep, penetrating sound became stronger, piercing the eardrums of the houseguest.
Brooke tried to cover her ears but was unsuccessful. Tears started to well up in both eyes. “Austin, we gotta get out of here!”
A strong booming voice began to reverberate through the walls, as the two again grabbed at their ears. The light flared brighter, and suddenly, they heard a voice with distinct clarity.
“The hour is at hand, and many have come before you are waiting.”
The stairs began to sway and rumble beneath the frightened investigators. Austin tried to keep his hand around the camera and maintain his balance, but he was failing desperately. The camera slid from his grip, falling over the edge of the staircase. Brooke scrambled up the stairs, racing against the wooden planks that fell as they were torn from their foundation.
“Austin, what is happening? Oh my God…we’re going to die!” Brooke cried out. She felt her body lift as it was hurled forward from the unknown force. Blood began to flow from a gash she had on her forehead as she bounced helplessly at the foot of the second floor. She turned and couldn’t see Austin.
“Austin? I’m hurt—where are you?”
Brooke realized the screeching noise had ceased, but the other noise was still deafening to her ears. Crawling to her feet, she braced herself against a wall. In confusion and disbelief, she fumbled for the flashlight but was unable to find it. She again called out for her partner.
Just as Brooke regained a little balance, the unseen energy again struck her with little compassion. It propelled her backwards, smashing her through a hallway door, splintering her small ribs. She looked up and could see something approaching her. It was a man dressed in black with a hood around his head.
“Who are you?”
“I’m here. Everything will be fine, my child,” he said.
“Who are you?” she asked again, sobbing.
The figure in black stepped forward, then slowly slipped his hood away.
“My name is Austin Misery, and this is my father’s house.”
Brooke grabbed at her waist. “You’re Blake Misery’s son?”
He put a finger to his lips, removing a machete from under his cloak. “Shh. No time for talk now…lots of work to complete before daddy gets home.” He placed the palm of his other hand on her head, smoothed her hair. “Welcome to your new home. And more importantly, welcome to Hell…”
Brooke Anders grasped in the dark, at the icy fingers around her calves, as she struggled for survival. It was no use, Austin Misery was too strong. The more she tried to fight, the more Austin dug his nails into her flesh. Only a matter of time before I’m gone forever. Her captor was dragging her through the catacombs of the house’s interior. The smell of dead flesh permeated the passage, causing her to gag on the vomit that was trying to make an escape. To some extent, she was relieved darkness surrounded her; Brooke might lose the little sanity she had, if she actually could witness what was causing the ungodly stench.
Austin suddenly stopped, dropping her legs. The sound of grating steel filled her ears.
Gate or door of some kind.
Within a few seconds, she felt something clasp around her ankles. “Now, you really won’t escape!” Austin laughed.
“Just do it already…fucking kill me!” Brooke spat.
“Not just yet. We have plans for you.”
Did he say we? “So you were responsible for all those missing reporters and journalists?”
“Me? I don’t think you understand. Enough talk for now…”
Brooke tried to respond, but a searing pain along the right side of her face, almost sent her into an unconscious state. The next sensation she felt, was that of being dragged in a downward direction. Hard rough edges of stone cut both, clothing and skin, until mercifully they had reached their destination. Brooke closed her eyes, knowing this was going to be the place of her demise. But whatever she thought would happen…didn’t. She waited for the longest time, before managing to sit up. “Austin, let me go. You don’t have to do this.” Her pleas for mercy appeared to be on deaf ears, because Austin didn’t respond. “Austin are you here?” Several minutes of silence told Brooke, Austin was no longer there. Where the hell did he go?
Braveness overtook her, as she tried to stand. At first, she was unsteady, but as time passed, Brooke was able to shuffle along. The pain in her midsection had increased, without a doubt; the ribs were broken during the paranormal event on the main floor of Blake Misery’s abandoned house. They could puncture her lungs at any time, so movement would need to be slow and steady. She extended her shaky arms, searching for the wall, which she actually found with little ease. Wet, why is it wet? Figuring, she had no choice, Brooke inched her body along the wall, hoping to make herself almost invisible to Austin, when he did return. Halfway down, small pockets of warm air, assaulted her face. Maybe a way out! She clawed at the dripping surface, as her fingers searched for an opening towards the warmth. “Shit.” Apparently, Brooke wasn’t the only creation of God looking for a way out. Certain insects and rodents had decided to use her body as a roadmap to their freedom. Brooke patted herself, trying not to give her away her position, as she removed the unwanted visitors.
When she felt the last of them drop, it was time to move on. Again, her hands ran through the slippery wall, until they found what they were looking for. Is this what I think it is? Pulling down with all her strength, a portion of the wall released, opening into another passage. Her pulse quickened. Off in the distance, small specks of amber staggered this room’s interior. Yes! Brooke stumbled through the opening and had taken only a few steps, when she heard a deep voice off to her right.
“Hello, Brooke Anders. I have been waiting for you…”
Brooke’s body trembled, but she still stood her ground. The man with the booming voice was out of her vision, but if he attacked, even though she was weak from her wounds, she would be ready.
“My child, you have no reason to fear me. I’m here to rid you of your pain,” the voice said.
“Why… me?” Brooke wiped at the blood on her face.
“Why you? Indeed… that is a profound question?”
“Fuck you, let me out of here!” Brooke spit a mouthful of blood in his direction.
“I’m sorry… that is not possible. You are needed for my survival.”
“What are you talking about?” Brooke reached down and tried to free herself from the metal restraints.
“So much for you mortals to learn. This house… my house requires a sacrificial lamb to survive and grow… and my young one, that is you.”
Brooke clenched her fist. “This fucking house is alive?”
The man came into her line of vision. His rail thin body was covered in a blood-red gown, and his face appeared to be burnt beyond recognition. “Alive and growing towards the gates of what some would call hell.”
“You didn’t die in the fire?”
The man’s face contorted. “By your standards… yes, I did. But as you see, I stand here before you.”
Gotta find a way out. “Where’s Austin?
The man laughed. “That poor boy hasn’t seen me since my death, went off to prepare the chasm of pain.” Blake Misery put a bony finger to his lips. I will tell you a secret Brooke Anders, unfortunately, my use for young Austin is dwindling.”
Brooke bent to her knees. Satanic bastard. “Where are the others?”
“The gaggle of reporters and the like… oh, you will see them soon.”
Now or never. Brooke bolted towards the light, even though each step, felt like it would rip her apart. She didn’t look back, but the laugh of Blake Misery seemed to follow her. Stopping would ensure Blake Misery of his sacrifice, and she wasn’t going to make it easy for him. Brooke kept moving, but noticed the passage was becoming warmer as she traveled further. Can’t turn back. Following the small lights was the only option and hopefully, when she reached the end of them, there would be another way out of this place. Several feet ahead, the passage veered off in two directions. Brooke took the first choice, which proved to be costly. The passage led into an interior foyer, and more importantly, Austin Misery.
He was anything but surprised, when he saw her stumble into the room. “I see you found the chasm.”
Brooke, out of breath, stared at him. “Austin, you don’t have to do this!”
Austin adjusted his black robe. “Some things just must be. Brooke this is how he survives.”
Tell him. “Austin, he will kill you too.”
Austin pulled the dark hood over his head. “Only the doomed would say something like that.”
“No, its true… your father told me—“
“Told you what? His eyes bore into her.
Brooke backed up. “He said… your usefulness was about up.”
“Liar!” Austin lunged at her, forcing her to the ground. “He would never sacrifice his own son!”
Brooke lashed out, kicking him in his midsection. “I’m not lying!”
Austin forced her hands above her head, pinning them, while he reached into his robe and removed two large pieces of rope. He quickly tied her to an iron wrung jutting from the wall. He rubbed her face, as his eyes met hers. “Enjoy your last few breaths, before you burn….”
Austin Misery smiled down, as wetness filled Brooke’s eyes. She had been stripped of all clothing and was now spread eagle onto a wooden blood-stained alter. She gazed up, her eyes pleading with Austin, not to go through with this. But he was focused on the task at hand. He walked to the wall, pushing on two handles jutting out from the cement. The floor started to retract and was soon replaced with an endless abyss. The only refuge from the darkness was a pillar where Brooke laid, plus a short walkway to where the organizer of the sacrifice would travel to carry out the deadly deed. Austin attention was diverted to the entryway, where Blake Misery had finally arrived.
Austin handed him a serrated silver blade. He bowed his head. “Father, it’s been a long time—“
Blake pulled his red hood over his disfigured face. “I know my son. Is our present to the underworld ready?”
Austin shook his head. “A little fight in this one… but ready nonetheless.”
The older man tapped his son’s shoulder. “Then we shall begin.” The two walked side by side along the thin concrete path, until each had a place along either side of the young journalist.
“No, Austin… no.”
Blake Misery looked down at her. “Brooke Anders, your blood will cleanse my soul, and I thank you for that.”
“Fuck off!” Brooke squirmed. She turned her head in the direction of Austin, hoping in a last-ditch effort, he would stop this madness. “Remember, what I told you? I wasn’t lying, and you know it.”
“Son, what is she talking about?” Blake Misery cocked his head.
“Nothing father, it was just a feeble attempt to save herself… some ramblings about you sacrificing me as well.”
Blake misery lifted his mask. “Son, all of them go through this stage of denial… you know I love you, and would never hurt my remaining flesh.” He readjusted his hood, and placed the blade against Brooke Anders’s chest.
Help me Austin. Brooke closed her eyes, not wanting to see the knife penetrate her flesh.
Blake Misery started to force the blade into Brooke Anders skin, but before he could complete the sacrifice, a sudden flash of steel sliced through the air, and nestled itself deep into his life source.
“Son?” Blake Misery clutched at the intruder, but it was no use. He stumbled backwards, misjudged his footing, and then he was gone. The chasm had claimed its’ final victim. Austin pulled away his hood, and stared into the darkness. Grabbing the serrated blade, he cut away Brooke’s restraints. He pointed to the walkway. “Go through the door and don’t look back. There is a passage to the left, take it and that will lead you to your world.”
Brooke wiped her face. “Thank you Austin. You did believe me.”
Austin slumped to the ground. “I didn’t at first… but when he used the word “love” I knew you were truthful, and he wasn’t. Again, he thrust his hand out towards the door. “Go from here… now!”
She staggered to her feet, as she was careful of her footing. Brooke followed the path, and within several minutes, she was above ground, and surprisingly, not too far, from the sedan, which she and Austin had driven to this god-forsaken place. She opened the car door, and picked up her cell phone, but before she could place a call, the house on Misery Isle erupted into flames. It was almost like the devil himself, had clenched his fiery fist, in disgrace. Brooke stared into the second floor window; almost certain she had seen the figure of Austin Misery looking back at her. Blake Misery was no longer able to reap the souls of the good in his quest for eternal life. The pit of hell and the spirits that come with, would now unleash their terror upon him forever…