Two weeks after buying the dilapidated Victorian, Levon moved in. His grandparents had built it at the turn of the century, but lost it during the great Depression. The state converted it into a home for unwed mothers, but shut it down after a series of questionable adoptions and the mysterious disappearance of several young mothers.

Since then, it had been repeatedly occupied and abandoned. When the state finally put it up for auction, Levon saw an opportunity to bring it back into the family and refurbish it to its original splendor. After submitting the winning bid, he decided to convert it into a bed and breakfast.

Now, here he was lugging box after box of belongings and furniture into the long-abandoned house. The musty odor of old, heavily waxed Oak floors and moldings lent a hypnotic ambiance he hoped his future guests would appreciate and remember.

That afternoon, while taking a break, Levon decided to look through an old desk covered by a sheet in the parlor. He inadvertently pulled a drawer out too far and found a key that apparently had fallen behind the drawer. He tried several doors, but the key didn’t fit.

Then, he tried the attic. While the old rusting key unlocked the door, the wood had swelled from years of moisture. Levon slam his shoulder against it until it flew open. A rush of chilling and sickly, foul-smelling air escaped.

He shined his flashlight into the room, and then made his way to the transom, which he opened to allow fresh air to circulate.

The bright white shaft of dusty sunlight sprayed the room. Large faded splotches that appeared to be furniture stain splattered the dirty floor and walls. Levon explored the attic, and found several broken chairs he thought could be refurnished as well as several old mattresses and bed frames.

As he shined the flashlight around the room Levon spotted a few dusty, cobwebbed boxes stacked in a dark corner. Inside one box, he found a couple of teddy bears, baby clothes and booties, and a wrinkled, faded photo of a young woman holding a tiny baby.

Although she smiled into the camera, her fear-filled eyes suggested anything but happiness. Then, in the bottom of the box, Levon spotted a newspaper article describing her strange disappearance, and an unsuccessful county-wide search that had culminated in the state shutting down the home.

The sunlight through the opening began to fade. Levon figured he ought to get a little more unpacking done and then call it a day. Once he got settled in, he would come back and draw up a rough plan on how to install a large window for light and turn the room into a honeymoon suite.

Shortly after midnight, the sound of someone rummaging through the kitchen cupboards awakened him. Levon slipped out of bed, and grabbed his four iron from the golf bag leaning against the wall.

He tiptoed to the landing, and peeked through the banister slats. A full moon shining through the Victorian’s window cast the living room in a silvery patina.

He caught a glimpse of a shadow moving in the light. Levon pressed his back against the wall and cautiously sidestepped down the oak stairs.

He reached the first floor and tip-toed across the room, slowly making his way through a virtual maze of haphazardly placed furniture and boxes. Levon edged up to the kitchen door and peeked around the corner.

A woman with long, stringy hair hanging limp over her shoulders, rummaged through the cupboards. The kitchen light shined through her ragged, soiled nightgown and the nearly diaphanous material outlined her bone-thin body.

“I’ll fix you all for stealing my baby you bastards,” she rasped, removing a bottle from the cleaning cupboard.

After removing the cap, she let out a hoarse cackle and gulped it down. Levon could smell the Drano burning her throat and see the smoke curling out of her mouth toward the ceiling.

The same foul stench that had escaped the room, wafted across the room. Levon gagged, and the woman swung around, hissing and snarling.

Dark shadows surrounded her wild, milky eyes. Chunks of pasty flesh hung from her decaying, once youthful face. Blackened spots of rot pitted jagged teeth, and bugs crawled in and out of her nostrils, mouth, and ears.

“Wh-who are you and what do you want?” Levon asked, poising his golf club as though about to tee off.

Without a word, the waiflike woman leapt and knocked him to the floor. She seemed to have the strength of three men as she straddled Levon, and pinned his arms against his chest. Her tongue snaked from her mouth and lapped at his face and lips.

“All that matters is, you are a man,” she said, in a foul-breathed, gravelly voice. “Your kind done it to me and the others who lived here, but you took ‘em from us. Now you can do it to me, and let me keep it.”

“Do what?” Levon cried, twisting and turning like a madman, trying to free himself from her grip. “I don’t know what you are talking about!”

“Love me and give me my baby!” she demanded.

She feverishly kissed and licked his ears and throat, leaving a trail of putrid slobber. Then, she raked her pointed, dirty fingernails deep across his chest, and sucked the blood off them, one by one.

Her raspy voice cracked as she growled, “Love me, love me!”

Then, a drop of what felt like a sticky tear slid off her cheek, and she whispered, “they took it from me but never loved me.”

Levon fixed his terror-filled eyes on the ceiling and fought the urge to respond. She had her way with him however, and after several few minutes, emitted a shrill scream. Blood gushed in spurts as she sunk her teeth into his neck, and ripped away the flesh.

“This is MY house now,” she squealed, hovering over Levon’s jerking, twitching corpse, “where you will always love me and our baby shall live forever.”

Copyright: © 2010 Hal Kempka

Harold ‘Hal’ Kempka is a former Marine, and Vietnam Veteran. His poetry has appeared in Leatherneck Magazine, and short stories published in Many Midnights, Black Petals, Dark and Dreary, Microhorror, Long Story Short, The Shine Journal, and the Fiction Flyer, among others. He is a member of the FlashXer flash fiction workshop, and lives in Southern California with his wife, Celeste, and son Derek.

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