The Children's Home

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

The old abandoned children's home in the small town of Gillville, has been the scene of unimaginable tragedies and the backdrop for countless urban legends over the years. Halloween 1994, tragedy and legend came crashing together for Kyle Westin and his friends.

“Good morning,” Dr. Pelthing’s bubbly voice warmed the cold silence of her waiting room as she opened the door to her office and welcomed her first client of the day. Kyle Westin forced a smile as he rose to his feet and made his way in. As he plopped down on the couch where he sat every week, the doctor took note of his state. He looked like he made an effort to be presentable, but appeared as if he hadn’t slept in days. Hair slightly disheveled, sunken eyes with a far-off glaze in them and his lips ever so tightly pursed; he definitely seemed off.

“How are we today, Mr. Westin?” the doctor asked as she sat down in the chair adjacent to her patient and scribbled on the upper corner of her notepad to test her ink.

“Anxious. Depressed. Stagnant,” he said then shrugged.

“We’ve talked about your anxiety and depression and how to keep them in check. Did you try any of the techniques we learned about in here?” the doctor asked.

“Nah,” he dismissed as he stared at his lap still not making eye contact.

“Well. Remember, name five things you can see, four things you can…”

“This is different,” he interrupted her, but didn’t expand further. The two sat in momentary silence as the doctor waited for Kyle to offer more. He said nothing.

“Different how?” she asked.

“It’s almost Halloween,” he said sounding defeated, as he continued to stare at his lap, “I get this way every year.”

Dr. Pelthing was perplexed. Kyle’s appearance and personality weren’t in line with his norms.  Kyle had issues with extreme anxiety leading to depression, but generally he used his coping mechanisms well. He had a wife and two daughters and an extremely successful real estate business. Being superstitious over a spooky holiday didn’t seem to add up to anything she had observed or read in his psychiatric background.

“Just not a fan of Halloween then?” Dr. Pelthing inquired sympathetically.

“We’ve been seeing each other for a few months now,” Kyle nervously fidgeted his hands in his lap, “I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told any of my other therapists before.”

“Okay,” Dr. Pelthing sat her notebook down on the end table beside her and leaned forward. “You know it’s safe for you to open up and tell me whatever you need to here. I’m here for you to get it off your chest, Kyle.”

“My wife doesn’t even know. Nobody does,” he still just stared at his hands in his lap.

The two, again, found themselves in silence. Dr. Pelthing decided to remain quiet and let Kyle take all the time he needed to speak. Finally, after about thirty more seconds of painstaking hush, Kyle slowly raised his head and looked at the doctor. As he locked eyes on her she felt like he could see into her soul.

“Are you familiar with the Gillville Children’s Home incident in the 90s?” he asked.

“I’m not.”

Kyle took a deep breath and began his story.

“Back in Gillville where I grew up, there was an old abandoned orphanage we just called ‘the old children’s home’. It was built by the Freemasons in the 1920s, they took care of kids without parents there up through the 70s when it closed down. It was everything an urban legend needed to thrive, everybody had stories about it. When I moved to Gillville in third grade it was one of the first things I learned about the town. Kids told me ‘It’s haunted’, ‘the bell tower glows at night’, ‘a nurse poisoned and killed a bunch of kids there’, ‘Satanists sacrifice cats in there’.”

As he told his story Kyle shifted in his seat and rubbed the back of his neck, appearing a little more agitated than before.

“One day my bus had to take a detour through town that took us right passed the children’s home, this was the first time I ever laid eyes on it. I’ll never forget the way the loud ruckus of thirty or so school age kids came to complete silence as we drove past the old dilapidated building. A gothic looking mansion with huge white pillars in front and steps leading to a missing front door and a pitch-black doorway that I strained to see into as the bus ushered me passed. All the windows were partially or completely broken out, weeds over grown, white faded paint chipping off the hollowed-out bell tower on the roof. There was one main building with two other smaller buildings on either side, I would later find out were the boy’s and girl’s barracks. Completely breathtaking! It had been abandoned for twenty years at that point, but it looked like Vincent Price himself designed the scene down to every little detail. Even in the warm, bright glow of the morning sun, I was chilled to the bone.”  

Dr. Pelthing noticed she began to feel a tad bit anxious as Kyle talked about the building. The consummate professional, she prided herself on being able to separate her personal feelings from her work. She had listened to dozens of patients in the past describe childhood traumas that would give the average person PTSD just hearing, all while keeping her emotions in check and giving the patient the proper advice needed. This description of a building, however, made her upset. She acknowledged the feeling then pushed it to the side, keeping her patient in the forefront.

“Gillville was one of the first established towns after statehood, so there’s a ton of history there and a ton of haunted history at that. There’s a Victorian era bed and breakfast and an old county hospital that’s supposed to be haunted. They say there are hidden underground tunnels that used to connect bootleggers to all the speakeasys throughout the city back during Prohibition. But none of those stories captivated me like the children’s home did. My friends and I tried to go in several times over the years, but even just getting close to the building was terrifying, so we always got scared and backed out. Me, Allen and Patrick used to do everything together back then.”

Kyle stopped talking and squinted his eyes as he stared back down at his lap. Suddenly he closed his eyes, put both hands on them and rubbed them profusely. After a couple seconds he dropped his hands and took a deep breath. Dr. Pelthing noticed her right foot was bouncing up and down in place, an involuntary sign of nervousness. She stopped and hoped Kyle hadn’t noticed.

“I was a rich kid,” Kyle smiled slightly, “definitely rich for Gillville. My dad was on the school board and my mom managed several properties we owned and rented out. I lived in a neighborhood I later found out was called ‘snob hill’ because that’s where the upper middle class of Gillville lived. Allen and Patrick both lived in Shady Creek, a lower end working class neighborhood just under a mile or so from my house. Allen was my age. A no nonsense kid that loved to play war games and watched the Steven Segal movie Under Siege over and over. He lived with his mom and always said his dad was a Navy SEAL, but I think he just said that. Patrick was the fat funny one. He was a year younger than us, but he always made us laugh so we accepted him right away. Patrick was obsessed with Chris Farley. We spent most of our time at Patrick’s house because his mom always made sure we had something to eat. His dad owned a tow truck business and in the spring when the Dogwood Creek would flood the west side of Gillville, I’d get to ride along and watch him pull cars from the water.”

Kyle smiled outright now and even chuckled a bit out loud. His whole vibe seeming to lighten a bit as he reminisced on his friends.

“Patrick and his family were always real chill. That’s why when he reacted the way he did when it happened…” Kyle’s smile disappeared as he paused briefly, “…I still can’t believe how angry he got. Paul Pepser and Tommy Rivers.”

Kyle’s upper lip and nostril curled up on one side as if he smelt rotten milk. He shook his head and stared angrily at his lap.

“Fucking Paul Pepser and Tommy Rivers,” he said again as he looked up at his therapist, face still contorted in dismay, “I haven’t even said those names out loud since then.”

“And who are they?” asked Dr. Pelthing, knowing she should remain silent and let her patient divulge his story in his own time, but she was unable to help herself. She was thoroughly captivated by the story and slowly losing the fight to keep her doctor’s hat on in exchange for an enthralled spectator’s hat.

“Paul was from Gillville and two years older than me. Well, I was in sixth grade and he was in eighth but I suspect he had failed at least a year or two, so he was probably older than that. He was just kind of a dick. He lived in the Edwards Village trailer park across from Shady Creek, so he was always around stirring up trouble with us younger kids. He stole Patrick’s bike once, burnt Allen with a cigarette, another time he tried to steal my Walkman radio. I managed to rip it out of his hands before I ran away though. The back came off and I lost all the batteries. I have no idea where Tommy was from. He was living with a foster family in Gillville after being removed from his grandmother’s house for attempting to burn it down. Tommy was Paul’s little sidekick and they were like Hitler and Mussolini. It culminated with Halloween of ’94.”

Kyle closed his eyes and tilted his head back as if he were staring at the ceiling. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and drew in a long deep breath, he held it momentarily before noisily releasing it.

“I was Han Solo,” he began, head back eyes still closed, “I had a black vest over an off-white long sleeve shirt with knee high boots and an official Star Wars replica blaster. Allen was, of course, a Navy SEAL. Camo head to toe and camo face paint.”

Opening his eyes, Kyle adjusted himself in his seat and smiled enormously.

“Patrick was Matt Foley, the Chris Farley character from Saturday Night Live. Not only did he look exactly like him, he had the whole ‘live in a van down by the river’ impression down to a tee too.”

He paused again briefly, smiling to himself and shaking his head in fondness, before speaking again.  

“We learned from experience that the trick or treating was much more plentiful in my neighborhood than in Allen and Patrick’s, so we all met at my house that afternoon to map out the most productive route for the night. Soon as the sun set we headed off. We were having a blast. Knowing this was probably our last year trick or treating before we were too old, we were making the best of it and soaking it all up. It was starting to get late and all of our bags were on the verge of overflowing, but we decided if we cut through Upland Park there was still enough time to hit the neighborhood on that side. To make good time, we were basically running on the small trail through the wooded area of the park, when we ran directly into Paul Pepser and Tommy Rivers. There they were, almost like they were waiting on us, smiling like dual Cheshire cats. Paul’s long blonde hair was draped over his blue and black checkered flannel he had on over a Metallica shirt. ‘You fucks bring us some candy?’ he asked, then took a long drag off his cigarette and flicked it at Allen.

Allen blocked the cigarette with his hand and snapped, ‘We didn’t bring you shit, now get outta our way!’

‘Aren’t you pussies too old to be out here?’ Tommy asked as both boys laughed at us.

‘Your mom’s pussy’s too old to be out here,’ Patrick said perfectly timed.

Paul looked Patrick up and down and then asked, ‘Who are you supposed to be, fat Les Nessman?’

‘Who’s Les Nessman?’ Tommy asked, obviously not getting the reference.

Before any answer, Patrick quipped again, ‘I’m supposed to be fucking your mom in a van down by the river’.

Tommy punched Patrick in the face so quick, I heard the thud before I saw the punch thrown. Patrick instantly collapsed as blood flowed from his nose. Adrenaline pulsed through my body as I dropped my bag of candy and threw a punch at the much bigger kid. Suddenly, I was on the ground with Paul on top punching me repeatedly. I covered my head and did my best to protect myself but I had never been in a fist fight before. I could hear the commotion of the other boys scrapping but couldn’t tell anything about what was happening. Eventually the older boys quit beating on us and gathered all our candy that had spilt in the melee and left us there on the trail pummeled and bleeding.”

“That is absolutely horrible,” said the doctor.

“Yeah,” he responded flatly.

“Did you tell an adult?” she asked sympathetically.

“No,” he responded in anger.

“What did you do?”

“Patrick started to have like a psychotic break or something. He kept screaming ‘I’M GONNA FUCKING KILL THOSE GUYS, I’M GONNA KILL EM’. Allen was still on the ground sobbing like a baby. I got up and started trying to figure out what to do. I kept trying to get Patrick to calm down but he had lost it. I was angry and upset too but honestly I probably would’ve just took my lumps and went home, but Patrick’s rage was contagious. The more he raved, the angrier I got too.

‘We’re gonna get those guys!’ I said, as my mind started working out a revenge plot.

‘No, you guys let’s just go home’, Allen whined, still crying and still just sitting on the ground.

‘Fuck that! You go home! I’m doing something, even if it’s just toilet papering their house or shitting in the mailbox, I’m doing something!’ Patrick said with a confidence and determination I had never heard from him. He stormed off down the trail on his own, like he didn’t even need us to be apart of it, that’s how determined he was to get back at them.

‘I have an idea!’ I yelled at him as I raced after to catch up. When he mentioned toilet papering their house it made me think of the prank wars the high school kids would play on each other every year on Homecoming. Some of which were toilet papering houses and egging cars. ‘We could egg the bastards’ I said. Patrick’s face lit up.

‘We just can’t walk up and egg them, they’ll kill us. How do we get away?’ he asked with excitement. My mind raced for an answer.

‘What if we egg them, then run and hide in the children’s home? They’ll never go in there after us’ my mouth said before my brain determined if I was even capable of running into the children’s home at all.

‘No fucking way,’ Allen said as he caught up to us still nursing his elbow, an apparent war wound.  

‘What if we locked them in the children’s home?’ Patrick asked with a stone-cold look in his eye. I thought my idea was crazy, but Patrick one upped me like it wasn’t anything. How would we lock someone in the children’s home? He then explained that when his cousin was in town the month before, they explored the home. They hadn’t been brave enough to go in, but they found a side exit on the boy’s barracks with the steel door still intact. They open the door and saw papers and books strewn everywhere and about a dozen metal cot frames the children used to sleep on. He said they played with the door handle and it could be locked and unlocked from the outside but NOT the inside.

By this time we had reached the end of the trail opening out into Upland Park. Sure enough, there was Paul and Tommy at one of the picnic tables laughing, joking and dining on our hard-earned candy. The shine from the street light only lighting them as darkness encased them on all sides, they looked even more sinister. This sight must’ve got to Allen too, he now stopped crying and scowled at them from a distance. ‘Let’s do it,’ he said.”

Dr. Pelthing watched as Kyle nervously shifted in his seat and tried to find a comfortable position. The doctor, too, adjusted herself and placed her notepad back in her lap to give the impression she was still in her doctor’s role. Truth being, she had abandoned it and was now indulging in her own personal episode of The Twilight Zone.

“I told the guys to wait there at the end of the trail while I went back for supplies. Both my parents upstairs, I easily snuck in and stole a carton of eggs, two flashlights and grabbed my bike on the way out. Streetlights kept us from needing the flashlights for trick or treating but the other side of Upland Park and the children’s home itself would be dark. I got back to find the guys quietly crouched watching Paul and Tommy. We all went over the plan. They would head over to the children’s home now and get ready. I would egg the guys on my bike then lure them to the children’s home. I would lay my bike down beside the open door, thinking I went inside they would follow, then we slam and lock the door. Viola.

I watched Allen and Patrick walk off into the night along the back side of the park toward the children’s home. Standing with my bike between my legs, in the darkness of the trail entrance, open carton of eggs sitting in the basket on my handlebars, I prepared myself. As soon as Allen and Patrick disappeared out of sight into the night, I counted to 30 Mississippi then pedaled toward the bullies. I started slow not wanting to draw attention to myself until I got close. I was mostly shielded by the dark as the park light shone directly on them. The closer I got, the faster I pedaled. I grabbed an egg and prepared to throw it. Tommy looked up first and was completely shocked at seeing me riding directly at him, one hand on the handlebars, other hand above my head with an egg in it. ‘What the fuck,” Tommy blurted out, just as I let the egg go. It hit him directly in the face. I grabbed for another egg, by now Paul who was sitting on the picnic table was looking at me with confusion trying to figure out what was going on. Boom. The next one hit him too. I rode one lap around them throwing eggs with reckless abandon, as they cussed at me and ran into each other trying to get their hands on me. I have no idea how many eggs hit after those first two, but after the last one was gone from the carton I stood up on my bike pedals to get more leverage for speed and headed toward the children’s home.

I knew I needed to be far enough ahead of them to not be caught, but also slow enough so they didn’t lose sight of me, that way they knew where I was going. There they were about a half a block behind, screaming how they were going to kill me when they caught me. The wind rushed past my ears and my heart pounded in my chest, I began to feel a little bit like Han Solo himself on a dangerous mission against the empire. As I got closer to the old building the adrenaline pulsed through my body, to the point I began to feel sick to my stomach. Soon I spotted the top of the bell tower and knew this was it. When I pulled to within sight of the property I had no idea if Allen and Patrick were even there to hold up their end of the plan or not. If not, I would surely be caught and beaten even worse than before, right there on the children’s home grounds. I had to ride past the home to the far end of the building to get to the boy’s barracks. As every time I had ever been around the building, I was terrified. Cutting across the front lawn of the children’s home, it was completely dark except the faint beam from a single street light at the end of the block. My thigh muscles and lungs burned as I furiously rotated the bike pedals those last 100 yards or so. I knew I had to create enough time to get off the bike and hide without getting caught by Paul and Tommy.

As I rounded the building on the boy’s barracks side I saw the door wide open, but no sign of Patrick and Allen. Blocked by even the little bit of street light, everything on this side of the building was in the dark, but it was somehow even darker on the other side of the open doorway. Across that threshold inside the children’s home was an endless void of pitch black. It was like a black hole at the center of the universe and I was riding my bike directly towards it. I quickly jumped off the bike and let it crash into the massive brick wall and clatter to a stop on the cement walkway leading to the door. I knew from the noise it made that even if I had lost Paul and Tommy in the dark, they would know where to find me.

‘Over here,’ I heard either Patrick or Allen say in a low loud whisper as a flashlight flicked on, then immediately off. I squatted low and scurried to the corner where I saw the flash. There I found my friends crouched down, pale white faces pouring sweat, both looking full on panic stricken, but seemingly relieved to see me.

Before I could see the older boys, I heard Paul say ‘Did he fucking go in there?’, then instantly they were both right there. Close. So close I could have poked them with a broom. Adrenaline and fear hammered my body as I cowered there in the blackness watching the two older boys poke their heads just inside the open door. I remember feeling like the building itself was alive and aware I was there, but it didn’t care because I was small and insignificant. Which, for some reason, sunk me even further into the horror filled quagmire I was already in inside my head. Completely drunk with fear, I barely knew what was going on around me.

‘Fuck it, I’m goin in’, Paul said, then darted into the bowels of the barracks. Tommy hesitated like he didn’t want to go, but then disappeared in after him. The second he did, Patrick sprung to his feet, flipping his flashlight on, he quickly grabbed the big steel door and slammed it shut. CLANG! The sound reverberated, cutting through the darkness violently. As Patrick turned the lock, the subtle ‘click’ sounded like mission accomplished. Patrick, Allan and I all looked at one another, each of us with a smug look of victory on our faces. With no time to celebrate I grabbed for my bike and the other two boys sprinted off into the night.

‘Hey! Hey!’ I could hear the two trapped boys yell as they started to bang on the door.

Bang-bang-bang-bang-bang,” Kyle made a fist and with each ‘bang’ he pounded on his lap.

“Bang-bang-bang-bang-bang,” again pounding his lap in unison, he continued his story, “I pedaled to catch my friends and laughed out loud thinking about how scared those two must be in there and how they were finally getting a taste of their own medicine. Patrick and Allen were laughing and celebrating too. ‘They’re pissing their Underoos for sure,’ Allen said. We had slowed down and they weren’t even running anymore by the end of the block. When we got back to the park, we found all our candy still in one big pile on top of the picnic table.

‘I wish I could’ve seen those guy’s faces when you egged those bitches’, said Patrick as we looked over the yolks and shells left from the earlier ambush.

We didn’t know how long the door was going to hold those guys or when they’d get out a window or something, so we decided we better all get home. We split our candy up in record time and all went our separate ways.”

Kyle had a far off look in his eyes and didn’t really seem to be present, he simply stared at the wall glassy eyed and stopped speaking. The doctor, admittedly disappointed in the climax of the story, cleared her throat as she mentally returned to her official role as therapist.  

“Well, Kyle, I believe this is just a case of typical adolescent misch…”

“The next morning at school,” Kyle interrupted as if the doctor hadn’t been speaking at all, “everybody was talking about the two Jr High students that had been found dead in the children’s home that morning. The rumors were rampant. They said everything from satanic ritual to suicide pact to Halloween prank gone wrong. Television news crews flooded Gillville for weeks. They interviewed people about Paul and Tommy, everybody lied and said they were good kids. They ran stories about the history and the urban legends surrounding the children’s home, some even implying supernatural circumstances over foul play in the deaths. An implication that wasn’t farfetched, because from what I understand they couldn’t find any evidence of physical harm and never released an official cause of death. I heard when they found the boys that morning they were already stiff with rigor mortis, faces both frozen, screaming in terror.”

“Oh my god,” was all the doctor could muster through gaped mouth.

“Petrified, literally.”

The two sat in silence. The doctor opened her mouth part way to speak, but nothing came out. Her mind raced for the right thing to say, again, nothing came. Kyle returned his gaze to his lap. He put his index fingers and thumbs on each hand together and nervously picked at an imaginary grain of sand.  

“It’s weird to say it out loud,” a twinge of relief in his voice. 

“Do you feel…,” after finally speaking, the doctor paused and thought about exactly how she wanted to finish her question, “…responsible for what happened to the boys?”

While still dead in the eyes, a smile sprang across his face and his torso bounced subtly as he lightly laughed to himself. In the middle of reciting the most horrific event of his life he had found his own private joke that completely escaped the doctor.

“Bang-bang-bang-bang-bang!” he shouted suddenly, again banging his fist in his lap like he had before. The doctor was taken aback. The smile now gone from his face, he paused before speaking again. “Allen, Patrick and I never talked about that Halloween with each other again after that night. We still hung out, but none of us were ever really the same after that. Our junior year, on an overnight trip for a JROTC color guard competition, Allen blew his brains out. It was supposed to have been over a girl, but I don’t know. He was always so over emotional about everything. I never saw that from him before that night. Patrick ended up becoming a bit of a celebrity in Gillville. He was the star of all the drama club plays and got a few big roles in the community theatre. He moved to Chicago right after graduation and got on with an improv comedy troupe, just like his idol Chris Farley. He overdosed alone in his Chicago apartment, just like his idol Chris Farley.”

Dr. Pelthing hunched over in her chair slightly, arms crossed over her stomach like she was battling a stomach ache, completely pale in the face she said nothing. Kyle stared intently at his therapist and wondered exactly how therapeutic this had actually been.

“Do I feel responsible for what happened to the boys?” he repeated the doctors question from earlier. “Look, I don’t know exactly what happened inside that building that night. I do know that four out of the five of us that were there are now dead…and I want to be most of the time. So yeah, I feel responsible.”

Kyle sat back in his seat, fully defeated. He made a fist and slowly pounded his lap as he softly said out loud, “Bang...bang…bang…bang…bang.”

Submitted: October 03, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Clay Conner. All rights reserved.

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