By: Rosalyn Price
A grave is where you go to end a story. And the more stories that end, the more headstones you find. I suppose if you build a house atop the headstones, it becomes a place that welcomes those that are already dead. And if you listen closely to the walls, you can hear the cold pulse that still runs through them. And all the stories they carry. I lived in a house like that for 204 years. The Headstone House, I called her. And I know all her stories. This is but one.
“Mr. Lundy, you do understand that Donovan Price was last seen on these premises, correct?” Detective Downs inquired.
The detective took a log drag from his cigarette.
I had poured tea for the inept officers, but they insisted on coffee. And they only waited to make that request until after I had gone to all the trouble.
I suppose when you have dozens of murders that all end at the same house, and no results, you’d like to push the buttons of whomever lay at the center of your most reliable failures.
Truthfully, I didn’t mind.
I felt bad for the poor bastards, because they were questioning a nightwalker, expecting him to crack on the subject of murder.
It simply wasn’t done.
They may as well have been questioning a barrel of poisonous snakes.
“I understand, but I’m not sure you do, detective. Mr. Price has not been here in quite some time. I’d like to see him caught just as badly as you do. If even half of what you told me is true, he would never be welcome in my home.”
“We have reason to believe that anyone he has come into contact with would have been his accomplice in all of the missing children cases around town.”
“He has one child that I’m aware of. Little Franklin is twelve years old, and is a most considerate child. And in all the time that Joyce and her son have been here, Donovan’s presence here has been fleeting at best.”
“Mr. Lundy, are you aware that it’s a crime to lie to a police officer?”
“Oh, yes. And I’m quite aware that accomplice liability is the intentional aiding, counseling, commanding, or encouragement of a crime. All of which would be difficult, considering that I don’t even know where Mr. Price is.”
Detective Downs looked at the floor, and tightened his clasped hands together.
“Mr. Lundy, this is not the first time you’ve fallen under suspicion. And this is certainly not the first time that strange disappearances have happened under this roof. How do you explain that to people?”
“Quite simple really. You’re seeing patterns that are not there.”
“Patterns that aren’t there? Is that your defense?’
“It’s simply the facts. One man leaves without paying his rent, and that makes his last known address a very difficult one to track him from. Very few people here that have rented out a room here have had a connection with me prior.”
The detectives started to feel themselves losing ground.
“Your excuse is that Donovan Price stayed here for a period of roughly one month, and then he just left?”
“You’d be amazed how common that is. But I do fear for Joyce’s ability to support her child.”
“How is Mrs. Price paying for the rent now?”
“In advance,” I offered.
The detectives rose up, and looked resigned.
“If anything should happen to come up, please let us know at the station, Mr. Lundy,” Detective Downs insisted.
“Of course,” I smiled.
I led both of the officers out of the house, and I locked the door behind them. I didn’t take the time to look out the window. Police always love to exploit that desire that the interrogation is over, and then double back to see what you really get up to. But after a few dozen attempts at that, it seems that the Flint Police Department had truly given up on any attempts to see what I was doing. I was just a humble landlord renting out his living space.
I then made my way through the hall, and to the room with the bay window. I took a breath, and knocked on the door.
“Hello?” Joyce asked.
“It’s me. Marko,” I insisted.
“Are they gone?” Joyce asked.
“I don’t expect they’ll be coming back,” I assured.
“Please, come in,” Joyce gasped.
I found Joyce Price and Franklin waiting.
“Do you think they suspected anything?” Joyce whispered.
“They’ll always suspect this house. But I must tell you, the only thing better than renting out this house is all the excuses that come with it.”
“What I saw was real, then. My husband won’t be bothering us anymore?”
“You are blissfully free of him, I assure you,” I smiled.
Joyce seemed grateful that her husband was gone.
I looked at Franklin, and he also seemed relieved.
“Would you like some tea?” I asked.
“I’d love some,” Joyce breathed.
I made my way into the kitchen to make use of the kettle, only to find that another scent was lingering in the air.
But I couldn’t place it.
It was so faint, amid the cigarette smoke from Detective Downs, that I almost missed it. But as I crossed over to the warm kettle, I realized that it was the smell of rot.
That smell that always lingered in the house, but I had done everything I could to prevent it from festering.
I took a deep breath to locate it.
It wasn’t just stronger. It was fresher, and it was moving.
“Where are you?” I pondered.
“I’m right here,” Joyce replied.
I turned around, and saw that Joyce was lingering in the doorway.
“My apologies. But would you be so kind as to pour the tea? Everything is prepared.”
“Of course. But…you look like something terrible has happened.”
I looked out the window, and wondered if the source of the scent was to be found outside.
Then I saw it.
Outside the house, near the stretch of trees, there was a gangly, decomposing body in a tan suit. It had pieces falling off, and was trying to get as far away as possible. I could barely see it as it passed through the trees, and I was grateful for that.
Donovan Price got out of the death chute.
“I’ll be right back,” I promised.
I rushed out of the house, and I felt the sudden return of warmth return to me. The Gravegrass had lost its hold on me.
If he was left alone, it was only a matter of time before everything came undone.
I rushed up to him, and saw that his skin had become gelatinous and melting. The scent of rot came from his insides, which had been reduced to porous jelly.
When he saw me, he doubled back and toppled over. He wheezed and began to sweat a dark liquid out of every pore of his body.
“How did you get out?” I demanded.
Donovan looked up at me, with defiance.
He managed to escape death in a way nobody was able to for the last 86 years. There was no way he was going to give that information to the nightwalker that tried to kill him. It would make it more difficult to escape a second time, and even if he couldn’t, he would do this just to spite me and leave me to ponder the mystery of how he escaped.
“How long?” Donovan asked.
He lay himself against a tree, and wanted to get something from me.
“What are you asking me?”
“How long have you been throwing bodies down there?”
“And you’ve been throwing them into that…monster.”
I felt my blood turn to ice.
I didn’t know there was a monster beneath my house.
“What did you see?”
There was a guttural spurting of sludge from behind Donovan’s teeth as he coughed. He looked like a hound that was dying of a gunshot wound.
“Don’t act like you don’t know. That pile of squirming bodies. The one that tried to take me into the pile.”
“Oh, my God. You don’t know. You never knew,” Donovan shuddered.
“That doesn’t matter now,” I lamented.
“Wh—” Donovan began.
I took his head in my hands and violently thrashed it to the side. It was softer and more pliant than the average vertebrae, and his head spun clean around, before it fell into the dirt.
I rushed the body to just outside the Headstone House and got a pile of firewood. I didn’t want Joyce or Franklin to see Donovan that way. They never wanted to see him again. Let alone with his body shedding and decomposing, with his eyes locked in the mortal terror for whatever was waiting at the bottom of the Headstone House’s death chute.
Of course, I still had to know what was lingering at the bottom of that flume. I had built it over eighty years ago, and even when the bodies had lost the potency of their blood, and I had to send them down, they would only have seconds left to live. I had to know what had changed. I had to know how Donovan managed to escape.
The fire burned quickly, thanks to the kerosene I had on hand. And to my surprise, the body was crushed under the slight weight of the logs, and it was already reduced to a puddle. But if there was anything I knew about humans, it’s that they only became more complicated after dying.
I was undying proof of that.
“What’s that awful smell?” Joyce demanded.
I came into the kitchen to find that both of them were covering their noses in disgust. I rushed to close any open windows in the house.
“Terribly sorry. But the fire is being contained. Had to deal with a pest problem, and this was the most efficient way to do it.”
Joyce was repulsed, but she looked out the window at the burning pile. The fire had taken on a sickly green color, and while her eyes were watering from the foul odor, she looked satisfied with the fact that the filth at the bottom of the pile was burning.
“I’m taking Franklin for a drive, until this gets resolved.”
“Of course,” I allowed.
The two of them made their way to the car, and they drove off in the same direction of the police. And then I realized I had to get to work.
I entered the hallway, and came to the gothic curio cabinet at the end of it.
It held very little, but that was to my advantage. I reached behind it, and pressed the button hidden six inches up with a slight click.
The cabinet collapsed as I pushed it to the side, no different than an elevator's scissor gate.
I pushed it to the side, and saw that there was a bare wall. Clearly, Donovan had done everything he could in order to cover his tracks. But then I pressed the button hidden just behind the collapsed curio cabinet, and it sounded off with another click.
A metallic chute had opened, and the smell of rot fluttered throughout the house. It was ghastly and made me feel ill. I thought it was terribly clever to put this in so many years ago. That the earth would do my work for me, and make it less likely that I would ever be found out by the police. But now that I pondered the mystery of what lay on the other side, I started to wonder how my powers would fare when I crossed that threshold.
Especially now that the monster may have suspected I might be coming to visit.
I quickly returned to my room and gathered my Colt M1877 revolver. I loaded it with all six shots, and I gathered a rope to go along with it. I needed to have some means of getting out of there if I couldn’t dig my way out. So, I gathered a triple-braid rope and tied it to the clawfoot tub that was waiting in my room. It was heavy enough to sustain my weight, even if I was climbing my way out.
And for good measure, I gathered another canister of kerosene and a book of matches.
I made my way down the chute, and with every inch I slid down that harrowing passage, I could smell the rot and hear the squirming that lay on the other side. My senses had been duller, but still sharp when I was within the Gravegrass, and as I left it, the darkness became less dominating, but the sounds of the writhing and smacking of flesh on flesh intensified. It was the first time in years that entering the darkness had made me feel afraid as a nightwalker.
I finally stopped in pure darkness, and the sounds of flesh consuming itself had filled in my ears.
I looked out, and saw the accumulated death of everyone I had sent down the chute. Alive, but turned into the ultimate waiting predator. Much like the bloated frog with a swift tongue, this monster was bulbous, patient, and dull in its eyes. The many eyes that it had were milky and most likely blind.
Humans were folded together in a ghastly form that was barely recognizable. And while many of them had been the color of a body that had long been deprived of oxygen and sunlight, all of them wheezed with the desire to escape. Some bodies were healthy and pink, and some were sickly and had died decades prior.
The stench was overwhelming, and yet when I stopped myself and let the slightest amount of kerosene slip out of the canister, every dead eye had rushed towards me. And it let out a putrid cough, and the mass of bodies floundered in the darkness.
It was anxious to reach out to me.
I’m sure if I had a necromancer, they would be able to tell me what this abomination was called. But I didn’t want to keep it alive long enough to find out.
But I had to be careful.
This flesh pile was surely aware I was here. And with kerosene falling onto it, I didn’t have much time. If I were to burn it, it would catch fire and make a massive plume that would roast the ground above. I didn’t know how that would affect my home. But I shuddered to think what would happen if I simply left it.
I saw that one of its mangled hands was trying to reach out to me, and I realized there was no choice but to destroy this monster. The damage I had done by sending these bodies down the flume had only made things worse.
I would have to find a new way to dispose of bodies.
But now, to dispose of this one.
I threw the canister into the monster’s embrace, and I found that it had landed in a dead, gaping mouth. Like an apple that had rested into a man’s jaws, just before the bite. I could still see it from this distance, but there would be no way to get it to ignite.
I took out my handgun, and fired all six shots.
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
The shots rang out, and the foul stench of the kerosene had showered the monster. I took out my book of matches, and I knew that once I threw that down the abyss, there would be no going back. But so far, every action only made things better. Even the kerosene had an aroma like perfume, when weighing it against the rot that I was trying to cover.
The monster reached out with all manner of appendages to try and reach out to me. Appendages that were elongated torsos, claw like feet, fleshy bands that tied fragments of bodies together in a web that tried to claim me. All as unnatural as the spider’s web claiming the spider and trying to drain it of her vital essence.
I had made this monster, and now I had to do away with it.
I ignited my entire matchbook.
The small flame danced in my hand, and I dropped it into the darkness. For a moment, it disappeared. Either into the embrace of shadow, or the embrace of the monster’s flesh. And for a terrible moment, I thought that it had fallen to a place where the kerosene had not reached. But then I saw a small plume of yellow light. Then it turned emerald as it raced across the entire chamber.
The reach of the flames had gone much further than I thought it could. The monster had cleverly hidden its full extent by hugging against the walls, but letting elongated pillars of skin and bone tower above.
But soon, it was all burning and it screamed louder than any living being was capable.
I turned around and rushed out of the flume, and I could feel that something was following me. Made my way out of the chute, only to find that it had started raining on the topside.
The smoke had followed me out, and had made the whole house come under a black smog.
The gentle pattering of rain was waiting for me when I finally made it back to my home.
I rushed out of the house, and tried to let the stench come off of me by standing in the rain. I threw off my jacket, and let the rain wash over me. It did little to wash away the smell, but it still felt cleansing.
I held my hands out, and closed my eyes, and looked up at the sky.
All of that time I had spent hunting men and draining their blood. It has given me a life longer than any I could have imagined. And now, I felt the weight come over me of even the slightest mistake, and the unnatural consequences it had wrought.
I struggled to think of a time when I would simply wander from one town to another, and how empty that left me. And how if I even suspected that the police or another monster had found me, I would be quick to leave.
Now, I felt relieved because I didn’t evade a lynching.
Now, I felt relieved because I saved my home.
I wondered what the damage would be. If the house would suffer any burns, if the ground would become putrefied or summon more Gravegrass.
I smiled to myself at the thought of expanding the house to make way for more tenants.
But as I came to the grounds, I saw that every window and every door and every crack of the house had been billowing with smoke. And no matter how hard I looked, there was no flame to be found.
A perfect fumigation that made a column of smoke climb out of the house, and toward the crushing clouds of the storm.
I walked around the house, to appreciate it all.
Finally, there was a soft rustling beneath my feet.
I looked just below me, and I wondered what it could have been. A snake, mole, or some other creature of the earth coming to escape the effigy that burned beneath the surface, perhaps. But this sound was much larger than that of a common creature of the dirt.
I looked down, and the snarling was one I recognized in the past.
The sound of a man struggling to escape a live burial.
I moved to the side, and I reached for my gun, but realized that it was in fact, empty. I would have to be careful how to approach the desperate soul.
Finally, the earth broke, and a mane of green grass and black smoke had surrounded the head of a face long-dead. It was surely part of the flesh pile I had just narrowly escaped and now served as kindling for the biggest fire the Headstone House had ever seen.
But as the rain continued to fall, I saw a strange sensation come across this dead man’s face.
He looked up with his eyes unblinking.
Any instinct to preserve his eyes had long been shed.
And even though he could not see what lay ahead, he looked up at the sky, and smiled. He let the rain fall on every part of this rotten features. His porous bones, his charcoal tongue, and even his eyes that refused to blink, even when poured on by rain.
The look of relief on his face was one that I will never forget.
I didn’t know who it was that had finally escaped that endless grave beneath the foundations of my house. But he deserved to escape.
They all did.
But he was the only one that made it out, and the only one that felt the rain again.
Just as soon as his head appeared, the smoke intensified, and I knew that the flames were consuming him. His head plummeted back down the column he had formed, and the rain followed with him.
I patched up the hole where the man had narrowly escaped, and I wondered if the cavity in the earth was going to hold up.
To my surprise, it did.
Only the slightest shifts of earth formed as I marched back to the Headstone House.
I opened every window, even in the wake of the cutting rain. The storm had turned into something truly epic. As though to mark the occasion of a monster that had been thriving beneath the soil for eighty years.
I sat in my armchair, letting the sour smoke and the wrathful rain dominate the house.
I had long been neglectful in the most important aspect of keeping the Headstone House safe and a true home for anyone that could walk through it. To care for the lives that had been lost here.
It was a common cross for any nightwalker to bear, and that is why so many of us are wanderers. We did not know how, or simply did not care to dispose of the bodies or to expel the souls from a given house.
If I was going to keep this façade going any longer, I would have to find another way to make this work.
I smoked my pipe, lost in thought at the puzzle of how to properly outwit death and the many forms it could take.
More info on The Headstone House
What if the monsters we feared, were in fact, our neighbors?
That is the question that gave rise to the most terrifying haunted house that you never heard of.
And it took far more than just one author to answer it. The premise inspired thirty authors to tell that story, together. The story of one monster being a neighbor to countless others.
So, who is this monster?
His name is Marko Lundy, and he is a vampire (or nightwalker, as he’d prefer to be called). And he has been the proprietor of America’s most haunted house for 204 years.
The stories he has collected have been fragmented and fleeting for all this time, and now, they have finally been committed to paper.
Join us as we unravel this harrowing collection of supernatural sightings, monstrous creatures, and harrowing crimes. Told by a very old monster, and penned by very new authors. All at the peak of their powers.
Welcome to the story we all made together.
Welcome to The Headstone House.
Five stories are to be digitally released this October on Long Overdue Publishing’s website. The list of stories and authors you will find leading up to Halloween of 2022 include the following:
Chute - By Roslyn Price
Max - By C.W. Lochland