A classic horror story to be told around campfires or recited during power outages when candles are lit.

Coffin

“A classic horror story to be told around campfires or recited during power outages when candles are lit.”

 

by Hace Williams

 

It was a dark and stormy night. Glen and Valerie had been stuck in the car for hours, driving in a pelting rain. Pushing against a strong wind. Road weary. Hungry. Lost.

“I have no idea where we are,” Glen said as he squinted at the fogging windshield. “I can barely see the road.”

“We haven’t passed a store, gas station, house or even a barn in hours,” Valerie agreed.  “We can’t even stop and ask for directions. It’s like we are in limbo.”

Glen reached in his pocket and pulled out a cough drop. He unwrapped it by expertly holding one end of the twisted wrapper in his teeth, pulling on the other end to untwist the paper cover and then sucked the cherry lozenge into his mouth.

“Tsk, tsk,” Valerie chided. “You eat those things like candy. They’re going to make you sick.”

“How can they make me sick? They’re curative in nature.” He smiled. That impish smile she still found so endearing.

“Too much of a good thing, you know. Wait!” Valerie almost shouted as she pointed at the windshield her finger banging against the glass. “I think that’s a house! It is! I’m sure of it!” She unhooked her seatbelt and pushed herself to the edge of the car seat so that her nose almost touched the windshield.

“I can’t even see the road in front of us,” Glen said. “How can you see….hey, put your seatbelt back on and for God’s sake sit back, you’re fogging up the windshield.”

The car bumped through a pothole and Glen’s attention turned full-on to the road ahead of them and indeed, there was a house. A large Victorian mansion looming immediately in front of them. The road took a 90 degree turn which they missed as they cascaded full speed through the large metal gate announcing the driveway to the house. They bumped through several large chuck holes before Glen was able to brake safely and avoid sending them into a spin. He continued to brake and brought the car to a complete stop. Glen looked at Valerie.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, all present and accounted for,” she responded, giving a mock salute.

“Well, thank God you saw it or we’d be wound around one of those gate posts right now. Nothing. No warning whatsoever. Nothing for miles and miles. No signs. No sign of life and then, WHAM, a house almost right in the middle of the road.”

“Well, at least we can go up and find out where in the Sam Hill we are,” Valerie said, her voice determined, as she dug a tissue out of her pocket and swirled it in squeaky circles around the windshield making a porthole-sized view of the house through the pattering rain.

“How many times do I have to ask you not to use your snot rags on the window? You smear boogers all over the glass and I have a devil of a time cleaning them off. I have to….”

Valerie turned her head like an inquiring owl and pronounced sarcastically, “Are we going to go up and get help or are you going to continue talking like a twelve year old?”

Glen clacked the cough drop against his teeth making a clacking sound – a habit whenever he perceived that Valerie was nagging.

“And stop doing that,” she snapped.

“You know, I almost choked on it when I realized we were leaving the road just then.” He mocked a gagging death face. Valerie rolled her eyes.

“I told you not to suck on them all the time,” she said as she wadded up her tissue and it disappeared into the pocket of her jacket.

Clack, clack, clack. Glen grabbed the door handle and started to push his shoulder against it to get out when Valerie clutched the sleeve of his coat.

“What?” he asked over-loud.

“Don’t you want the umbrella?”

“No. In this wind it would just turn inside out or carry me off to Kansas.”

Valerie turned away. “You are so sarcastic.”

Clack, clack, clack. Sigh. Glen opened the door and it was immediately snatched from his hand by a gust of wind and slapped wide, nearly springing the hinges.

“Glen!” Valerie shrieked. Half in, half out, Glen jerked back into the car and swung the door closed with a bang all in one swift motion.

“What? What is it?” he asked nervously as he tried to look around outside the car through the rapidly steaming windows. “What did you see?”

Valerie had the visor pulled down in front of her and in an uncharacteristically feminine action for her, was applying lipstick. “When you opened the door the wind blew my hair all over the place. It was getting all over my lipstick.”

“Dearest,” Glen started, “why are you choosing now to put on lipstick?”

“Well, I’m going with you and I want to be presentable,” she responded matter of factly.

Clack, clack, clack. “Did it ever occur to you that when you step outside the wind would blow your hair around?” Glen had his cell phone in his hand and was staring at the bluish light of the screen looking for the bars indicating there was a signal. Nothing. He shook his head and pocketed the phone.

“Silly you,” Valerie said smiling as she capped the lipstick tube and plunked it in her purse. “I’d already have my lipstick on and I’m wearing a hat.” As she finished her sentence, Valerie pulled on a brightly colored, knitted cap with a huge yarn tassel on top. “Shall we go?”

Glen put both his hands on the steering wheel, 10 and 2, and proceeded to gently bang his forehead on the space between his hands. He stopped and looked out at the house.

“I don’t think anyone’s home,” Glen observed. “You’d think they would have turned on a light or looked out with all the racket we made crashing into the yard the way we did.”

Valerie looked at her fingers as she applied mittens to her hands. “With this crazy storm, they probably didn’t even notice. Come on, let’s go figure out where we are.”

Glen reached across and blocked Valerie with his arm.

“Whoa young lady, you’re not going anywhere. I’ll go and scope it out and come back and let you know what’s up.”

“No,” Valerie stated firmly. “If you go, I go.”

It was the voice that meant don’t argue, just do as I say or there’ll be trouble in paradise. Glen pushed back the sleeve on his left arm just enough to expose the face of his watch.

“It’s almost midnight. About twenty ‘til. Maybe we should just nap here in the car and figure things out in the morning?”

“I’m not spending another minute in this car,” said Valerie as she pushed open the door, hanging onto it so it didn’t fly off. “Coming?” she shouted into the storm.

Glen exited on his side and slammed his door shut then turned up the collar of his coat. Valerie pushed her car door closed with her butt while she grasped the knitted hat with both hands to keep it from taking flight. Then they both took leaping quick steps to the large porch. The slanting, sweeping rain found its way right up to the door with them. Glen knocked loudly then jammed his hands into his pockets, waiting.

“Do it again,” Valerie shouted over the storm.

Glen pounded on the door while Valerie tried to peer beyond the lace curtains covering the front window. Glen pounded harder as the thick, wetted wood door absorbed the sound until he kicked at it in frustration and the door blew open. He jumped back in surprise, slipping on the wet surface of the porch and almost falling. Valerie rushed over to him and grabbed his arm while looking into the entry of the house.

“Should we go in?” she asked loudly.

“Breaking and entering? I don’t think so,” Glen shouted as the wind whipped along the porch and blew wet leaves into the entryway of the house. “Let’s go back to the car and wait until morning.”

“There’s probably nobody home,” Valerie stated and walked in. She turned and waved at Glen, coaxing him over the threshold. He entered cautiously, looking around. Valerie pushed the door closed. Compared to outside, it was quiet in the dark house.

“Anybody home?” Valerie called.

Silence.

“We’re lost and could use some help. Directions. A phone,” Glen said loudly.

His voice echoed up the large staircase across from the door. Glen took a couple of steps toward it and peered up into darkness.

“I told you no one was home,” Valerie said. “Look, all the furniture is covered like they used to do in the old days to protect the furniture.” It was true. White sheets blanketed the chairs and sofa in the front room. Valerie started to walk in and caught a cobweb across the face. She spit and sputtered while she combed her hands on her face to brush it off.

“Did you get cobwebs on your lipstick?” Glen chuckled.

“Smartie,” Valerie retorted. Then she stopped short, listening intently.

“What is it?” Glen asked, looking around.

“Shhh!!!” Valerie almost spat as she held up a hand to silence Glen, her eyes peering into the dark. “I thought I heard something.”

“Well, that’s rather obvious,” said Glen half to himself and he reached into his pocket where he extracted another cough drop. He unwrapped it, expertly holding one end of the twisted wrapper in his teeth and pulled on the other end to untwist the paper cover, sucking the cherry lozenge into his mouth.

Valerie was still listening intently. She took a couple of tiptoe steps toward the staircase.

“I think I heard a noise from upstairs,” she said. “Like someone trying to pull themselves across the floor.”

She put one foot on the first step of the staircase.

“Oh no you don’t,” Glen said as he grabbed her by the arm. “We’re going back to the car and waiting until morning.”

“But somebody could be hurt,” she pleaded.

“What makes you think anyone is here?” Glen asked. “The furniture’s covered, there are cobwebs everywhere,” he raised his arm and pushed one away, “and it smells musty in here. Like the place has been closed up for a long time.”

“But the door was unlocked,” Valerie countered.

Then they both heard it. A distinct sliding noise like something was being drug or pushed across the floor upstairs.

“Someone must have fallen or had a heart attack or stroke,” Valerie said excitedly and bounded up the stairs before Glen could stop her.

“Valerie!” he shouted through his teeth and then ascended the stairs after her two at a time. When he caught up to her, she was opening doors along a seemingly endless hallway and peering into long deserted rooms using the illuminated screen of her cell phone as a flashlight, then closing the doors to move to the next. He stepped up behind her and said, “Boo!” in her ear. She jumped.

“Stop it,” she snapped.

Clack, clack, clack. Glen inhaled deeply through his nose sending menthol vapors into his head.

They heard the sound again. Louder. But overhead.

“Look,” Valerie pointed as she cast the light of her cell phone down the hall. “Another staircase.”

Glen reached for Valerie’s hand and grasped her fingers tightly in his. He looked her in the eyes.

“Let’s go.”

She held the cell phone up directly in front of his eyes.

“No signal.”

He blinked and pushed her hand with the phone away from his face.

“So?”

“We may be the only help this person has and who knows how long they may have been here? Why it’s probably some little old lady who’s been cooped up here all by herself with no one to look after her and she fell and broke her hip and is in terrible pain with no signal and no way to get help.”

Clack, clack, clack.

“Or it could be a thief or murderer who broke in here and is waiting for some naïve do-gooder to drop by on a dark and stormy night so they can hack them up and bury them in the basement.”

“Do you have any idea how trite and well, immature, that sounds?”

Clack, clack, clack.

The sliding sound echoed overhead. Louder this time.

Valerie pulled away and followed the light from her phone towards the stair, periodically brushing cobwebs from her hair and face. She turned and waved to him to follow.

Crunch, crunch. He reached into his pocket for another cough drop and followed the eerie bluish-white circle in front of Valerie’s outline as it ascended the staircase.

They reached the top and waited, listening. No sound except the storm outside. Valerie proceeded to check doors and rooms like she had on the floor below. In the second one when she opened the door, a cold blast of air spun into the hall.

“In here!” she shouted. “The window’s open!”

Glen followed her in, strode across the room and wrestled the rain-swollen sash closed.

“Careful,” he said, “the floor’s wet and slippery right here.”

“See,” Valerie replied, “the poor little old lady who lives here probably got out of bed to close the window and slipped and fell.”

She slowly directed the cell phone around the floor of the room looking for her imagined victim. The cell phone screen went black.

“Stupid thing,” Valerie muttered as she pulled off one mitten with her teeth and tapped at the screen with her finger. “Where’s yours?”

Clack, clack, clack, tap. Glen’s cell phone glowed on.

“Hmmmm,” he muttered. “Still no signal.”

He turned the phone outward to finish scanning the room and stopped abruptly at the open door. Outside in the hall, a coffin blocked the doorway.

Valerie saw it, shrieked, and dropped her phone. It clattered on the hardwood floor. As she bent to pick it up, Glen’s phone went dark.

“Glen!”

The shuffling, dragging sound moved towards them.

Tap, tap, tap. Valerie’s phone illuminated. The coffin was in the room. It was moving by itself, coming towards them. Valerie screamed and threw her phone at it, then leapt at Glen for safety, hugging him abruptly just as the lid to the coffin started to open. The force of her hug made Glen choke and he coughed. The cough drop in his mouth jettisoned across the room and into the now widely yawning coffin. The lid slapped shut with a bang. Silence. No sound. No movement. The wind outside suddenly died down and the rain subsided.

“Hmmm,” said Glen, “those things are really powerful. See, it stopped the coffin.”

 

The End


Submitted: December 30, 2014

© Copyright 2022 Hace Williams. All rights reserved.

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Comments

storyconscious

I couldn't believe I fell for it. But I did.

Sat, January 10th, 2015 6:09am

Mark Reece Healey

Love it!

Sun, July 9th, 2017 10:38pm

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