A new house brings a new lease on life until mysterious photographs begin showing up on the new owner's cell phone... but that isn't the only thing happening at night while she sleeps!
Photosensitive by Joe Solmo http://pennedinblood.com
Music by Ray Mattis http://raymattispresents.bandcamp.com
Produced by Daniel Wilder
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Lacey set the cardboard box down at the door’s threshold and took a minute. This was the last box, and she was finally moved in to her new home. It really was a long time coming, she had saved up for years to afford a house of her own. No more apartments with noisy neighbors, she was on her own out here in the country. It really was a steal; nowhere could she find a three-bedroom house for this cheap. She had been looking for a while. The best part would be the commute. She was now only five miles from work, as manager of the tabletop game store, Dragon’s Den. She had been there since high school, working her way up to her position. “Get a move on, bitch,” came a voice from behind Lacey as her sister Simone, bumped into her. “Are you trying out your future as a door?” “I’m just taking in the moment. This is kind of a big deal,” Lacey said and moved into the house. Her sister was always the impatient one, but as far as older sisters go, she wasn’t half bad. There really wasn’t much of a rivalry growing up together. When Simone and her friends got into witchcraft, they would let her sit in the corner and watch them. She had no idea what they were doing back then, the age difference was too much. An eight-year-old can barely understand what the high school seniors were doing, but it seemed exciting to Lacey. They entered the kitchen and Lacey put the kettle on the stove, the cold late October morning chilled the bones. The furnace guy was coming later today to clean it and make sure it was good, and she didn’t want to turn it on until he said it was okay. “So which bedroom will be mine when I leave Dan?” Simone asked, pushing her auburn hair out of her face. “You can have the basement. Seems more your style,” Lacey joked.” “You have all the luck, little sis. You know that right. Single, owning your own house. I envy you.” “Ha, I will be lucky if I can afford groceries after the mortgage. You don’t seem to have a problem with that though,” Lacey joked poking her sister in her belly. “I miss this. Living in North Carolina kinda sucks, to be honest,” Simone finished. “Well at least I got three more days to hang here with you in New York. I fly back on November first.” “Don’t blame me, you’re the idiot that decided to chase your dreams,” Lacey said as the tea kettle began to whistle. They spent the rest of the day putting Lacey’s belongings away and making the house feel more like a home. She was getting worried about the furnace, the guy they sent over had been down there a long time. He had startled her when he showed up, one minute she was in the kitchen, putting away the dishes that didn’t get broke from Simone’s lousy packing, the next he was standing in the doorway. Neither sister heard him enter the house. When she saw him there, leaning against the kitchen doorway, it made her jump. She hadn’t heard a noise from the basement in a while and went downstairs to check on him since Simone decided to take a nap on the couch. She always could fall asleep anywhere. It was like turning a switch off. Lacey used to tease her and call her a robot. She descended the wooden basement stairs slowly. She always hated basements. She didn’t like the dark open space. She knew the fear was irrational. In her imagination, once a space was empty and dark, that’s when spooky things could fill the space. She decided that she would just leave the basement lights on from now on. That would give her peace of mind, at least. “Almost done. The furnace looks good. Even for sitting as long as it did. I put a heavy-duty air filter in there, because of the dirt,” the furnace guy said pointing next to the loose dirt near the washer and dryer. His name tag on his blue work shirt said Brad. “Thank you. I wonder why they never finished the basement,” she replied. Brad kind of gave her a weird look, like the answer should be obvious. “It’s going to be ninety dollars for the service. I just need to pack up my tools. Cash or check works, I don’t have a way to take credit card,” he said as the furnace kicked on for the first time since she moved in. She couldn’t wait for the warmth. She shivered from the cold. She headed upstairs to get the man the money. She had enough cash to cover it. Simone was snoring, so Lacey took a few seconds to record it on her cell phone to blackmail her later, like sisters would do. She giggled with glee at the thought. A moment later Brad entered the kitchen where she was taking the cash from her purse. She handed over the cash to him. She noticed he wore a gold ring. Too bad he was taken. He was a little older, but was good looking. “Thanks. I ran out of receipts. I will have the office send one over in the mail, if that is okay with you,” Brad asked her with a smile. “Yeah, that’s fine. Thanks for coming on short notice. The office said they weren’t sure if they could send someone that quick. I definitely will be calling you guys for all my furnace stuff. Let me walk you out,” Lacey said. “Sure thing,” Brad said and turned towards the front of the house, his tool belt hit Simone’s tea cup, which fell to the floor and shattered. “Oh damn. I am so sorry. I can be a klutz sometimes,” he said apologetically. “Let me pick this up.” “No, it’s ok. I will get it,” Lacey said grabbing some paper towels for the spilled tea. She got down on her knees and began to clean it up. “Ok then, I will just show myself out,” Brad said and left the kitchen. Simone entered the kitchen a second later. “Hey. What happened?” she asked. “You left your mug on the edge of the table and Brad knocked it over on his way out,” Lacey said picking up the broken pieces in her hand. “Who is Brad? Do you have a secret boyfriend you haven’t told me about?” Simone joked and helped her pick up the pieces of the mug. “You must have seen him. He was just here. He fixed the furnace,” Lacey explained. “I just woke up. Must have just missed him,” Simone said. “Was he cute?” “He had his charm. Now that we have heat, let’s get a pizza and watch some cheesy horror movies. I think I am done for today,” Lacey said. “Fine with me!”
Later that night, Lacey washed up for bed. It was fun having her sister around. After living alone for so long, it was good to have someone to talk to. She hadn’t realized how lonely she actually was. Simone had passed out halfway through Chopping Mall. Lacey left her on the couch, even though they had set up one of the spare rooms for her. She crawled into bed and checked her phone. No new messages. She really was lonely. She decided she would try to be a little more outgoing and make an effort to meet someone. It didn’t have to be romantic, just someone to watch movies with or something. She placed her phone on the night stand and closed her eyes.
The next morning Lacey woke with a start. She had had a nightmare. She couldn’t remember it, just the uneasy feeling it gave her. A sleezy, greasy feeling. She got out of bed and looked for her phone. She shook out the blankets and it fell to the floor. She looked at the nightstand for a moment and then shrugged. She had been pretty tired last night. She heard Simone downstairs in the kitchen and smelled bacon cooking. Her stomach rumbled in agreement with the delicious odor. She went downstairs and sat at the table. The kettle was already on. She checked her messages again. Still nothing. Simone looked at her with a cocked head. “Someone special getting ahold of you?” she asked. “No. No messages,” she said with a sigh and put her phone on the table. “I’m sorry Brad hasn’t sexted you,” Simone said and set a plate of food down in front of her little sister. It reminded her of when they both lived at home and she had to babysit. “Wait until I go back to North Carolina before having him spend the night. I need my beauty sleep and I don’t need you two keeping me up all night!” Simone joked. “Me keeping you up? That’s rich. Do you know how loud you snore?” Lacey said and reached for her phone. “I certainly do not snore!” Simone said loudly. “Dan would have told me when we moved in together.” “I have proof!” Lacey said and opened the photos on her phone. Her face went pale and she dropped her phone onto her plate of eggs and bacon. “Lacey? What is it?” Simone said. “That wasn’t very funny!” Lacey said cleaning off her phone. Simone gave her a confused look. “Taking those pictures last night,” Lacey finished. “I don’t know what you are talking about, let me see,” Simone said and grabbed her phone from her. There were half a dozen picture of Lacey sleeping in the same pajamas she was wearing now. Except the last one. The last one Lacey’s top was pulled up exposing her breasts. “These are from last night?” Simone asked. “Yeah, that’s the new room around me. When did you take them?” Lacey asked. She looked at her plate, but she had lost her appetite. “I swear it wasn’t me, the last thing I remember is falling asleep during the movie and waking up like a half hour before you. I didn’t do this, I swear!” Simone said. “You better not be fucking with me,” Lacey said and got up. They both went to the bedroom and looked everything over. The windows were still locked. Lacey explained to her sister how she thought she left her phone on the nightstand and when she woke it was on the bed. Both of them agreed that it was really creepy. They got dressed and went to the hardware store to get new locks for all the doors. As the day grew long, Lacey dreaded going to sleep in that room. The more she thought about it, the close to a panic attack she got. Around eight she came up with the idea of her sister sleeping in there with her. Before they went to bed, they checked every window and door in the house to make sure they were locked. Satisfied everything was secure they went upstairs. “I don’t know what’s going to keep me up more, the thought of those pictures, or your snoring,” Lacey joked as she put her phone in the drawer on the night stand. “I don’t snore!” Simone refuted. Lacey’s eyes cracked open. It was light out. She rubbed her eyes and looked at Simone sleeping next to her. She didn’t realize what a comfort her sister had been. She rolled over towards the door, thinking about going back to sleep. Startled, she sat up straight in bed. Her cellphone was on the top of the nightstand. She reached for it with one hand while the other instinctively itched her side. She lifted her shirt and look at the spot that itched. There were scratch marks across her side. Did she just do that? Her eyes darted to her cellphone. She quickly opened it and looked. “SIMONE!” she said, and without taking her eyes off the phone slapped her sister in the face. “Get up!” The panic in her voice snapped Simone out of her sound sleep. “What is it?” her older sister asked. “It. It happened again,” Lacey said and dropped her phone into her sister’s lap. “It couldn’t have. I was here all night,” Simone said with disbelief. She began to scroll through the pictures, her eyes widening with each one. The first two pictures were just like the night before. After that they got more perverse. Again, a topless photo of her. A wide shot. Simone was in the photo as well, but asleep and undisturbed. The second topless photo showed the scratched on her side. They were from the middle of the night. Four gouges across her belly and off to the side. The next photo showed a close up on her face. A hand from the photographer could be seen holding her head to the side. The back of the hand was obscured by a blue blur that continued out of frame. “What’s this?” Simone asked. “That’s a shirt, I think. Like a work...oh shit, oh shit,” Lacey said and started to hyperventilate. “I know who it is. It’s Brad,” she cried. “Ok let’s call the cops and nail this fucker!” Simone said and dialed 911 from Lacey’s phone. They got up out of bed to meet the police at the door. She explained everything to the officer that came to take her statement. His named was Officer John O’Neil and he was a new transfer and therefor sent on things like this. He said once he reports back, they would make this case a priority. He paid attention to Lacey as she told him every detail she could remember. He genuinely seemed like he cared and that made her feel better. He left with a promise to get back to her later that day with whatever he could find out. “Maybe I can stay a few more days. Until we get some answers,” Simone said as they hung the last of the Halloween decorations up. This used to be their favorite holiday, now neither of them could stop thinking about those photos. “You don’t have too. I am sure Dan is waiting for you to get home,” Lacey said, but the tone in her voice revealed she felt the opposite way. “It’s no problem. He will just have to cook for himself a little longer,” she said. “Probably just order out every meal, to be honest.” “If it’s no bother. I would appreciate it,” Lacey said. “Hey. Do you still do that witch thing like you used to back in high school?” “No, I haven’t talked to those girls in years. They were really into it. I was just there to be the third witch, I think. They probably watched too much Charmed. Although I would turn lesbo for Alyssa Milano. Sorry Dan,” Lacey’s older sis said with a smile. They sat in silence for a moment. “Wait. Were you thinking of doing some protection magic or something?” “I don’t know. The cops are on it, but I would feel safer,” Lacey said and grabbed a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup from the candy dish next to the front door. “I don’t think we knew what we were doing. We were just being edgy and different. Nothing ever happened with that stuff,” Simone explained and grabbed a Reese’s too. “I can look them up on Facebook and see what they say, if you want?” Lacey nodded her head and went into the living room. She plopped down on the couch and wondered when Officer John was going to call her. In a few hours it was going to be dark and she wanted some progress. Maybe him calling to tell her that Brad was rotting in jail and would never bother her again, that would be ideal. Her dream house has been turning into a nightmare. What had she done to deserve this? “Snap out of it, sis. It’s ten minutes to go time,” Simone said pointing at the clock. Trick or treating was about to start. It was supposed to be a good feeling, the first time she could give out candy from her own home, but she felt emotionless inside, distant. The last two days have taken the fun out of everything. A quick phone check showed that no one had called her. No news was good news? That was the saying right? Ten minutes passed, then twenty. She could hear kids in the street, but none rang her doorbell. She began to eat the candy. She was a little disappointed, to be honest. Seeing all the happy children would be a good distraction. “You want to watch something?” she asked her sister. “Sure, what did you have in mind. By the way, Rachel got back to me. She told me what to do to protect the house and keep danger out. I might have to run out to the store really quick. Do you mind being here alone while I go?” Simone asked. “Well, I guess. As long as I am awake, I seem to be safe,” she joked. The doorbell rang and they both looked at it. “Well answer it,” Simone said with a shooing motion. Lacey jumped up and ran to the door, excited to get her first trick or treater. She pulled the door open and presented the bowl of candy. She did so a little too eagerly and two Twix went overboard towards Officer John on the front step. He caught them instinctively and held them up. “If I catch them can I keep them?” he asked playfully. “And who are you supposed to be little boy?” Lacey joked with him. They both smiled. Simone pointed from Lacey to the officer and made a whistle noise out of sight of him. Lacey rolled her eyes at her sister. She was always playing match maker. “Officer, can you stay with my sister for a few minutes while I run to the store. She would really appreciate it,” Simone said and winked at her sister. “Sure,” he said an turned to Lacey. “You can call me John. I am off duty. I just wanted to give her some information that I discovered today.” “Well by all means, give it to her!” Simone said and slipped out the door. “I took your car keys be back in like an hour or so!” she said as she ran down the driveway. “Come in. Would you like anything?” Lacey asked. “Oh, this Twix was plenty. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” he said as they entered the living room. “Listen, what I need to tell you is kind of scary. We better sit down.” They both sat on the couch and Lacey turned off the cheesy movie she was watching, Rubber. She just wasn’t in the mood for a killer tire story. “So, I did some research because the guys at the station didn’t seem very helpful. I am still new enough for them to prank me. Anyway, this is what I found out. The furnace company does not have an employee named Brad,” John explained. “What? I saw him,” Lacey said. “There’s more. Not only that, but it seems your house has an interesting history. Did the real estate lady tell you about the murders?” he asked. Never mind, by the look on your face I can see she didn’t. It’s not actually illegal to not tell you, I looked into that as well. At least not in this state. Although it is shitty, in my opinion,” he continued. “What happened here. I am not sure I want to know, actually,” Lacey said looking around the room as if for the first time. “I think you should. There was a serial killer that lived her about fifteen years ago. He used to bring women here and torture them before strangling them and breaking their necks post mortem. There was a police report from a woman who said she escaped this house and told the police about him, but nothing was done. The man’s name was Brad. Retired Police Chief Brad Crawford. He opened a HVAC company after retirement. We think that’s how he found his victims. Anyway, they both went missing right after that, and they discovered a map and photos in his bedroom. All the photos were in their beds alive, then the rest were taken here, in your room, after he broke their necks. Several had scratches on them when they struggled. The map lead to the forest out on route nine where they found the bodies. All but one woman in the photos were accounted for. The one they couldn’t find was the woman who filed the report. It was all kind of swept under the rug because the small community didn’t want all the attention. He had fled. The HVAC company went to his nephew ad they doctored a death certificate to close the case. That last part I learned from the court records janitor who was around back then. When I told them of your case, they thought it was a joke someone was playing on me and ignored it,” John explained. A tear rolled down Lacey’s cheek. John reached and held her hand. “I swear I don’t think this is a joke. I won’t let this happen. Even if the assholes at the station will,” he said and squeezed. Lacey laid her head against his shoulder and began to cry. A little while later, Simone returned and prepped the house as her friend instructed. After that was done all three of them settled in to watch a few movies and put a dent in the candy that no trick or treater had come for. It didn’t take long for all the stress to overtake Lacey and she fell asleep on John’s shoulder. Simone made herself scarce and went into the den where she kept all the supplies that Rachel had told her to get. Sometime around midnight, Lacey woke. She felt the warmth of John next to her and started to settle into him, but goosebumps spread across her skin like the wind on the lake’s surface. She opened her eyes and saw Brad standing in front of her. She tried to speak, but was frozen in fear. He held her cellphone in his hand, and took a picture of her, a wicked smile on his face. He leaned in close to her and placed his icy fingers on her neck gently, tracing the lines of her veins. She shivered from the touch, which was enough to wake John. “What the fuck!” John yelled out and reached into his sock. Brad turned and sneered at John. The change of attention broke Lacey from her fear and she jumped over the back of the couch and away from Brad. She called out to Simone. John stood, with a pistol drawn, and pointed it at Brad. “Back off. It’s over, asshole,” John said. He called out to Lacey over his shoulder. “Are you okay? “Yes John,” she said and called out for Simone again who came running from the other room. She stopped dead at the sight in front of her. Brad leaned in close to John, his chest mere inches from the gun pointed at it. John swallowed hard. “Not another step. Or I swear to god I will fire,” he said. “You guys get out of here,” he called over his shoulder. “Call the state boys in.” Brad stepped closer and John fired as promised. The bullet passed through Brad as if he was made of air. He gripped Johns neck in his large hands and twisted. Lacey screamed as she watched John’s body drop to the ground after the sickening snap. She grabbed Simone’s hand and pulled her towards the hallway. That was when she noticed Simone’s other hand held a backpack. They ran into the kitchen, since Brad was between them and the front door. In their panic they fled to a dead end. The only other door in the room led to the basement. They heard a furious scream from deeper in the house, and as quietly as they could, went into the basement. The lights were already on, thanks to some preplanning anxiety from Lacey. They ran over to the washer and dryer set up by the unfinished dirt floor. They wiggled behind the dryer as best they could. There wasn’t really enough room for both of them. Lacey had to balance herself by placing her hand in the dirt. They heard the basement door open and they both jumped a little bit. The footsteps sent chills down their spine. Why didn’t John’s bullet stop him? The footsteps stopped and that was even worse. They didn’t know where he was. The washer began to shake. She knew they had been made, but she didn’t know what else to do. Simone on the other hand was digging in the backpack she had, looking for something. She glanced up at her sister. “Stall him,” she whispered. Lacey grabbed a handful of the dirt and stoop up. Brad was on the other side of the washer. He gave her a predatory look. She tried not to panic as she faced her stalker. “You want me?” Lacey said. “You can’t have me!” she called out and threw the dirt into his face for a distraction. There was a flash of something in the dirt as it flew, something shiny. Brad took a step back as if the dirt had hurt him and she started to gain some hope, that she wouldn’t die tonight. “Hate that do ya?” she asked and reached down for more dirt, but her hand found something more unexpected. Something stuck in the dirt. She glanced down to see what it was and was shocked at what she saw. It was a hand sticking out of the dirt. Her eyes went back to the shiny object on the floor. It was a ring, just like the one Brad was wearing! “Simone. Look at the dirt!” she called out and grab some more earth to throw at Brad, who had recovered from the first toss. “Gross!” Simone called out as she pinged the hand’s fingers with hers. “I think it’s him. It’s why he disappeared. The woman who reported him came back and got revenge! Does that make him a ghost? You know about that kind of shit, right?” Lacey asked. “I don’t know. Maybe, hold on, let me ask Rachel!” Simone called out as Lacey pelted Brad with the dirt from his grave. “We don’t have time for a fucking online chat. What do we have to do?” Lacey called out, irritated. “Rachel says we need to consecrate the grave,” Simone answered after a moment of frantic typing. “Oh ok, that sounds easy enough. How the hell do we do that?” “I am on it,” Simone said and began to pull stuff from the backpack. Lacey could hear her bad pronunciation of Latin as she kept Brad at bay with the shower of his own grave dirt. She had a rhythm going, bend and grab, toss, wait two seconds, bend and toss, it kept him from getting any closer, and the contact with the dirt seemed to hurt him. It was like figuring out a boss strategy in a table top or video game, which she had years of experience with. A few second later, the Latin stopped. Lacey gave a quick glance over her shoulder, her sister shrugged at her. “That should be it,” Simone said. Suddenly a rumble shook the basement as the dirt swirled around Brad, an eerie red light shone from under the dirt and rocks on the floor. Black hands reach up and grabbed Brad’s legs. He looked down in horror and clawed at the hands gripping him, trying to break free. Lacey stepped back against the wall of the basement to get as far away as she could. More and more hands reached up and a demonic cackling could be heard from the swirling dirt. In a quick second Brad was pulled straight down into the earth and everything returned to normal. A second passed as the sisters caught their breath. “Holy shit,” Simone said. “Holy shit,” Lacey repeated. “Guess he is done for, dragged straight to hell?” “One would imagine,” Simone said with a wild-eyed look. “Good.”
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