Grant Hinton was kind enough to provide us with a short story for his guest post today. Sit back and enjoy.
Do you remember the scariest time of your life? I do. It was the time I met Granny Decay. We called her Granny decay because her garden was full of weeds, dead plants and littered with the bones of dead animals. Little did we know, as twelve-year-olds, that her garden wasn’t the worst part of her home.
It was the Halloween of ‘94 and me and my friends were allowed out trick or treating for the first time alone. Well, with the exception of having my older brother tag alone. He didn’t like it, neither did we, we also didn’t like it when he told us we would be giving up some of our stash of candy in compensation. In truth, it wasn’t such a bad thing. Our street was long and relatively quiet in terms of traffic, with the vast majority of homes participating in the festivities it was going to be a good hoard. We could give a little to Jason – my brother – and still have loads for ourselves.
Granny Decay’s house was at the end of the street, every kid in our neighbourhood knew her house and dared each other to go and knock on her door. None did though. Sure, some of the braver kids got a few steps past the rickety gate, but their courage soon fled as did their pals. It was only a matter of time before me and my friends were standing outside the broken gate. It seemed to grin at us, it’s broken slates like jagged teeth.
“I dare you,” said Johnny to me, removing his plastic Dracula fangs so he could speak better.
Jason, my older brother by four years snorted, smoke curled from his nose. “If you’re so brave, you do it.” Then punched Johnny on the arm.
“I’m telling mum that you’re smoking,” I retorted with a slight smirk. Jason plucked the cigarette from his lips and blew smoke into my face.
“Do that and I tell her about the mag you stole from dads collection.” My cheeks reddened with his blackmail as he twirled his Zippo lighter between his fingers.
“That’s what I thought.” It was his turn to smirk.
“Hey, Jas,” called a blonde girl in a white gown with red blotches from the opposite side of the road. “What are you doing? We’re all going to Jessica’s house. Wanna come?”
“Hey, Ciara. I’ve got to watch my kid brother,” Jason grabbed me in a headlock and gave me a noogie. “Maybe another time?”
“Bummer. See ya later?” She shouted as another girl dressed as Witch pulled at her arm. Jason smiled and waved, then he let me go and his smile faded.
“I dare you,” said Johnny again looking at me, “you’re the one who’s always going on about being the bravest.”
Johnny rubbed at his arm and shot my brother a hurt look.
“Look!” Henry pointed his tentacled arm at Granny Decays house.
I’m still not sure what type of monster he was, some cross between a winged octopus, and a man. The curtains twitched again and a cold shiver went through me.
“It’s her! Granny Decay, I saw her,” he said, still pointing at the dirty window.
Like her garden, her house was decrypted. The once white wall-shearing had turned a rotten green, vines and plants snaked in and out the boards making it seem like the garden invaded the home. An old mailbag discard by, what I imagined was a scared mailman, hung snagged on a thorny bush. Wrappers and scrap pieces of paper littered the barren grass adding to the cesspool.
“Double dare you,” Johnny said, I could tell that he was just as scared as I was, even Jason looked a tad bit frightened by the prospect.
There are pivotal moments throughout childhood, this was one such occasion. Even though I was scared, another thought overpowered that fear. If I was the one who knocked on Granny Decay’s door, I would be remembered forever.
“Do you remember that time when Grant Hinton knocked on Granny Decay’s door back in ‘94?”
“Yeah, what a legend!”
“He’s too scared.” Jason’s punch was light, but it brought me back from my daydream, the smile faded from his face as I locked eyes with him.
“Here, hold my candy,” I shoved the cauldron into Henry’s hand and pushed at the rickety gate.
“No way,” I heard Johnny hiss as I left them slack-jawed behind me. I was halfway up the broken path when my fear finally caught up with me. Each weighted step after felt like I was wading through custard.
I saw the net curtain twitch again, and I swallowed. An old lady in a white nightgown with long white hair stood frozen behind the thin grey net. I looked back to my brother and my friends, their jaws still wide open. The local kids had started to gather around them. Dracula’s, Witches, Frankenstein’s, Ghosts, all watched my advance up the path. With each additional kid, I knew I had to go on, I couldn’t turn around now. The door loomed in front of me. Cobwebs covered the porch, every crevice taken up by large black spiders at the centre of their webs.
I swallowed again and raised my hand. My throat felt as dry as sandpaper as the boom of my knock echoed through the house. I heard the slow drag of feet over wooden floors, then a latch being removed. The door handle turned one way, then the other, then back again.
Then, the door opened.
“Your the first kid who’s ever knocked on my door.” Granny Decay smiled a gap-tooth smile. She didn’t seem as scary now she and I was face to face.
“Aren’t you supposed to say something, mmm?” I didn’t know what to say as she smiled at me again, I never intended for the door to open, let alone to be having a conversation with her.
“Um, trick or treat?” I said passed the lump in my throat.
“That’s it, dear, come in, I’ve got candy in the kitchen.”
I looked over my shoulder as Granny Decay shuffled down the dark hallway. Jason, Johnny and Henry all shook their heads no, but a few other kids had started to cheer and clap. What was I supposed to do? I stepped into Granny Decay’s house.
Once inside the gloomy, musty interior, I saw more cobwebs with small carcasses in the corner of the walls and hallway doors. A mouse, a moth, something I couldn’t discern. The drab, grey walls were pockmarked with moth holes and deep gouges. The accumulated dust of years obscured the inhabitants of several pictures that hung haphazardly from a dated picture rail.
I crept down the hall behind the shuffling old lady. Her back was malformed and crooked. Something long and black ran down her spine beneath her dress. My eyes wandered back up to her shoulders and I caught a glimpse of the kitchen in question. A large bowl of candy shone like a precious treasure. A treasure that I would bring to school and gloat over.
“Every year I buy candy, and every year it goes to waste. Do you know why?” She asked as she approached the bowl.
“Um, yes ma’am, you’re…your house is creepy, we’re all too scared to knock on your door.”
“Creepy? Why, isn’t that what Halloween’s all about?” She turned with a handful of chocolate coins, I took them and glanced up into her eyes. Her irises were wide and as black as tar in the gloom.
“But, you knocked?” She asked, her eyes fixed on me. I pulled at a strand of gossamer that was stuck to the back of one of the coins. Maybe the candy had sat there for so long that cobweb had covered them. A fly buzzed past my ear and I swatted it away. Granny Decay watched as it flew past, her head twitched with the erratic flight of the fly.
“Yeah, I kinda got dared to,” I said, peeling the golden wrapper off the coin.
“A brave one, or a fool.”
The fly flew into a web and buzzed noisily. I wonder if she meant me or the fly. Granny Decay licked her lips as the spider came charging out to snare its prey.
“Maybe both,” I chuckled, “but, they will be talking about this at school tomorrow.” I stuffed another chocolate into my mouth.
Granny Decay smiled and turned back to the spider.
“Did you know that the pirate spider cannot make webs of its own to catch prey, so it invades others and steal its food and even eats the other spider?”
I swallowed, the chocolate stuck to the sides of my throat, thick and gloopy.
“They invade the webs of other spiders, in a bid to lure them out and then kill them. Gently, they pluck the strings of the web,” she motioned her hands like pincers, each one plucked at an invisible web.
“Once the host spider has ventured out to investigate, the pirate makes its move. First, it encloses its prey within its two massive front legs. They’re fringed with elongated spines, called “macrosetae”, which trap the other spider in a prison-like cage. Then, the final move.”
She turned as my arms sagged, the candy dropped to the dusty floor and rolled away.
“The pirate spider bites its prey and uses its fangs to inject a powerful venom that instantly immobilises it.”
My legs turned to stone, I couldn’t move. Every part of me slowly shut down.
“Total paralysis.” Granny Decay, blinked then. But instead of two eyes opening, six eyes did instead. As her normal eyes blackened, two above them and one on either side blinked again. Two thick black spindly legs crept over her shoulders, as more craned around her sides. Then, a large black abdomen extended from her dress.
Granny Decay scuttled over to me and picked me up with her new legs, a stream of silk spewed from her spinet as she twirled me around. The sticky web covered my face like a hood, the sounds of the house muffled as more covered my ears. Very soon, I was cocooned.
She dragged me along the hall, I vision obscured to shapes and outlines through the silk. She stopped suddenly, then dragged me a few feet more, then my world turned upside down. Her spindly legs hooked me up on the ceiling, then methodically worked their way down over her work.
“Build a web, catch a fly, wrap it up in silk, then devour at leisure.” She cooed as she scuttled out the door.
I tried to scream but my voice wouldn’t work like the rest of my body. My silent struggle didn’t even make me swing in my prison. The only thing that worked was my eyes, but they couldn’t do anything but watch as the door opened again.
I shut them tight as the dark figure came to devour me. Then, the web came free from my face and Jason’s voice whispered in my ear.
“You fucking dick! I told you not to go in.” Jason freed me from the silk bag and threw my arm over his shoulder. I managed to move my head slightly. Other bags hung from the ceiling. Some bulged, some sagged, others had been split open to reveal dark moist interiors, pools of black laid beneath them. I didn’t know if the juices were the underside of the silk web or the inside of the hapless victim. My feet still didn’t move right, so Jason practically dragged me to the hall.
“Where… has.. she gone,” I asked, surprised that my voice worked again and winched at how loud it sounded in the hollow corridor.
“Shhh! She’s gone back that way,” he said pointing to the kitchen. “We’ve gotta get out of here before she comes back.” Jason heaved me upright again, as I started to slide down the door frame.
“Come on,” Jason pulled me down the corridor.
“More flies? It’s my lucky day.”
My blood froze, and the hairs on the back of my neck did a better job of standing up than I did. We turned as one, the slow creep of dread wormed it way up my spine, slowly tickling my skin as it went.
She hung in the doorway, her human feet inches above the floor. Her spidery legs lost in the doorway to the kitchen. Her eyes blinked, it was the most menacing thing she could have done; something so natural, that it unnerved me further.
Her web shot out from her spinners again and stuck to my chest. Her legs pulled at the web as Jason tried to heave me away. A tug of war ensues, one where my life was the prize.
“My pocket Grant, get my smokes!”
“My lighter, you dickhead, get the lighter.” Suddenly I knew what he was aiming to do. I stretched my hand out and my fingers gingerly poked into the top of his pocket as my body jerked back toward Granny Decay. Jason heaved me around my waist and my fingertips slid over the cigarette box.
“Come to me, flies,” Granny Decay’s huge forelegs collapsed on themselves and bend through the door frame, one pierced either wall. I could see now that what I thought were moth holes were, in fact, leveraged holes.
My fingers dragged down the box, one index finger on one side, middle finger on the other. I squeezed them together and pulled. The cigarette pack came free and I snatched at the lighter in the box. Quick as a flash I turned and stuck the metal reel, a spark flew but no flame. Again and again, I tried but the thing wouldn’t work.
“Jason, it won’t work!” I struck it again and again, the smell of paraffin caught my nose, but still, no flame spewed forth from the zippo.
Jason grunted as Granny Decay pulled as down the hall, as if scenting prey, the spiders in their webs shook at their mistresses impending triumph. Praying that any god would hear me I closed my eyes and struck the lighter again. I felt the heat on my fingers and opened my eyes to the most glorious yellow-tinged fire.
Granny Decay screeched at the fire and pulled even harder. Evidently, she had been toying with us, her strength was unbelievable. One minute we were by the front door, the next we were seconds away from her clutches. The fire burnt my hand and I remembered what I had. I brought the flame under the web and it burnt like dried tinder, then snapped. I fell on Jason in a heap and we both scrambled to our feet.
“Quick. Give it here.” Jason made a grab for the zippo and snatch it out my hand. He placed it against the peeling wallpaper and soon fire rolled up the wall. Granny Decay screeched again and made a lung for us. One of her legs shot out and pierced Jason’s shoulder. The lighter fell from his hand and burnt against the opposite wall.
“Jason!!” I shouted as he fell to the ground. I pulled at his hand as the fire billowed around us. Granny Decay’s screeches filled the hall as grey-black smoke clogged the passage. Soon only her screeches told me she was trapped in the kitchen. I pulled Jason to the front door and kicked it open.
The army of kids gasped as fire flew out behind us like we were action heroes in an adventure movie. Some screamed as we stumbled down the path and then fled. Jason clutched at his shoulder a tight grimace on his face as we fell to the pavement.
“Jason, are you ok?” I asked as blood leaked l through his fingers.
“I think so, bitch stabbed me in the arm.” He pulled his hand away. Ciara, the blonde girl from early, raced up to him and started to kneel, but Jason seeing her, grunted and stood up.
Fire and smoke billowed from the house and everyone turned when a ball of fire scuttled out the house screeching. Granny Decay withered and flailed around on the dry lawn. Patches caught fire as she bucked and squirmed.
The neighbourhood kids stumbled back away, panic and terror taking the place of curiosity. The fire consumed the hissing figure like she would have consumed me. We all watched in a state of perplexion until Granny Decay stopped moving, her charred legs curled in as did her burst abdomen.
When I turned around it was only Jason, and the girl, left by my side. Even Henry and Johnny had fled to the safety of the opposite pavement as the fire enveloped the house.
“We need to get away from here Jason.” I started to cross the street as he and Ciara followed.
“I think I need the hospital,” he said and reached an arm over the girl’s shoulder. She smiled delightedly to have his attention. Suddenly adults swarmed the streets and the distant sound of a fire truck filled the air. Our mum screamed when she saw Jason and he collapsed to the ground once again. Jason smiled up at me.
“You’re not the only one who will be remembered for this, Grant.” He said with a chuckle and then passed out.
I played a lead role in this dark Halloween tale about that one suburban house at the end of the street. We’ve all trick or treated and know the joys of racing up and down the garden paths collecting a bounty of chocolate and candy, and we all know too well the frights that await us on that spooky night.
Halloween is every horror writers time to shine. So I tackled the childhood memory I have of that old crooked house at the end of my childhood street. In truth, that ransacked, wind strewn, garbage ridden home with the dead garden was nothing to be scared of. But, for that one night a year our imaginations made it the home of a monster.
Children can be cruel because in reality, the monster was nothing more than a reclusive old lady who spent her time amassing a huge stockpile of newspapers and various other local paraphernalia. You would occasionally see the curtains twitch as you walked by but that was all. She never ventured out from behind those yellowed drapes. That still didn’t stop us daring each other to knock at her door, which, as I write this, seems another cruelty of our youth, I bet all she wanted was to be left alone.
My monster concept was designed upon the pirate spider, purely for the swashbuckling approach it has at stealing its prey. How better a monster than a spider that lure you into her web with candy and chocolates only for you to realise too late that it was a trap. My favourite section in this story has got to be, “A fly buzzed past my ear and I swatted it away. Granny Decay watched as it flew past, her head twitched with the erratic flight of the fly.
“Yeah, I kinda got dared to,” I said, peeling the golden wrapper off the coin.
“A brave one, or a fool.”
The fly flew into a web and buzzed noisily. I wonder if she meant me or the fly. Granny Decay licked her lips as the spider came charging out to snare its prey.”
This is the first time I let you imagine the monster I’m hiding. Thankfully, the bond of brothers defeat this beast for a happy ending, well, for my brother at least because he got the girl.
Grant Hinton is the wifi password to the world of horror. His technological knowledge mixed with the grasp of the human condition results in devastatingly chilling results. Not only that, this bestselling author is hauntingly gifted in all things to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, all the ways to quickening your heartbeat, and leave you with a lesson that stays long after your eyes have left his words.
There are great things on the horizon coming ahead, stay tuned for more soul gripping content.
Grant Hinton – horror author, writing advocate, teacher and family man.
From supernaturally scary to real-world horrifying, this collection boasts 32 harrowing tales. Each accompanied by a brief epilogue into the author’s deranged mind, adding a little insight into their creation. A lady is trapped on a train, but she doesn’t know it until too late. I professor sells sex toys for one purpose only. A policeman finds more than he bargained for on a routine call to a place that doesn’t exist.