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.