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Hair-Raising Stories
By J. D. Adams

The creepiest tales I have ever heard came across the Atlantic from Germany, not far from the Old World country of Transylvania. The stories have been passed down through generations, related in hushed tones as listeners sat spellbound. Being of a religious nature, the old storytellers understood that man’s fears revolve around good versus evil, and the sense of what lies beyond the unknown. In the twilight hours of a person’s life, it is said that a battle is waged for possession of a person’s soul. Whether or not one believes in an afterlife makes no difference. We are all vulnerable under the cold staring eyes of what lies in the blackness outside the window, calculating our weakest moments with the cunning of the undead. When you walk into a dark room, what stands before you as you reach for the light switch? The grotesque touch of the otherworld is surprising in its power to sweep away everything that you’ve held sacred. The old stories were held to be true tales of evil incarnate, possessed of human form as they knocked upon your door late at night. So begins the first story, “The Shadowland Visitor”.

A blizzard rages in the remote hills of the backcountry. Snow is drifted high against a bungalow that sits alone amid the storms fury. The only sign of life is a glow coming from a few small windows. With the severe cold, no one dares go outside in the whiteout conditions, for death comes quickly to those who might become lost even walking a few hundred feet. Inside, a small group of farmers huddles around the fireplace, nervously sipping Vodka to ward off the chill.

There is something different about this storm, an intensity that seems to permeate the building. The wind comes down the fireplace in great blasts that threaten to put out the fire, which writhes as if tormented by an unseen force. Occasionally silent before the power of the storm, the group breaks into conversation that tails off into hoarse whispers. One man in the group rarely speaks, looking at the windows with barely concealed dread. There is something on his mind, a secret that has risen like a ghost from the past. Out of the corner of his eye, was their something at the window, like two glowing embers? There is a slow knock at the door. Startled, everyone stares at the door, amazed that anything would be out in this weather. The silent man rises, and walks to the door. He pulls it open and stares wide-eyed.

A shadowy form stands before him, cloaked in a long garment. The head of the man is impossibly huge, as big as a bushel basket. Horrified, the eyes of the group are drawn down to view two hooves that are visible where the man’s feet should be. With hollow clicks of the hooves, the creature steps inside. The wind blows out the fire, blackness filling the room. A scream rips through the void, ending in a wretched gurgling that is barely human. Every man feels his own surging heartbeat in moments of stunned silence, awaiting a touch worse than death. After fumbling in the darkness, a candle is lit, to reveal only the absence of the apparition and the brooding man. Outside the front door, a single set of hoof tracks in the snow disappear into the howling storm.

This next piece was inspired by true events. That makes it all the more chilling. I call it “ Billy’s Birthday Song”.

It is summer, and with great anticipation, a family prepares for a camping trip. There is merry conversation on the way towards the mountains, with no expectation of anything out of the ordinary. They pass into a grand forest scented of pine and earthy duff, coming quickly to a small sheltered meadow with a bubbling stream flowing through it. It is a place they’ve never been to before on the edge of the mountain range. The family finds blissful solitude in the alpine cove they’ve stumbled upon, and they set about making camp. A single black crow sits overhead to critique the various camp jobs being completed.

Amid the splendor of the forest the family enjoyed a fine day of fishing, exploring, and relaxation. The trees were festooned with thick moss that blanketed everything in the area. In the afternoon light it was quite picturesque but it acquired a different look as the shadows grew longer, more like a covering of mold. As the evening faded to dusky light, the family built a fire and sat around telling stories, unconcerned about the sinister ambiance that seemed to emanate from their surroundings.

In the quiet of the evening, sounds became more apparent. In particular the stream noise rose from the background in peculiar fashion. The deep gurgles and splashes began to sound like human voices. Taunting, beckoning, they played with the mind in a disturbing manner. Family members exchanged glances and tried to ignore it. Finally, someone mentioned, “ Do you hear that?” By now the sounds had coalesced into a steady mantra, haunting and melodic. It was indeed a song, familiar in a strange way. “…Dear Billy…happy birthday to you…” The mysterious birthday song droned on for a while, sadly proclaiming a celebration for a Billy that was nowhere to be seen. Just as it had started, it faded away into the night. The dying glow of the fire cast strange shadows upon the faces of the group, with thoughtful expressions that looked outward beyond the circle of light. The song had carried the weight of distant emotion, of a time that had been long ago. Retiring to their tents, the family laid to dream in melancholy tones through fitful slumber.

Morning bird songs woke the group to golden sunlight that filtered through the trees. They packed up and headed down the road away from the rustic campground. Almost immediately, they noticed the rusty wrought iron gate of a cemetery. Swung open, it seemed to invite them in. They stopped and walked through the gate without speaking. Before them was the headstone of Billy, a young boy who was only 9 when he died. He had been born on yesterdays date thirty years ago.







Comments

The following comments are for "Hair-Raising Stories"
by quantum

I liked this a great deal....
Good reads both of them. I am an avid fan of both Stephen King and Anne Rice, as well as have been blessed with a vivid imagination. So these stories were quite enjoyable for me.Furthermore, I am also a believer in what might lie out there in the shadows, the battle between good and evil and lastly, have had an experience with a friendly poltergiest.

( Posted by: CJHerlihy [Member] On: August 5, 2004 )





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