Wrong House: A Short Story

Dave and Susan were making love when their home was invaded. They heard a kick that splintered the front door and then another that knocked it wide open. It smashed loudly against the wall.

Susan was on top and she looked down at Dave. “I think you should check that out.”

Dave pushed her off. “Probably. Stay here.” He stalked out of the room naked.

Two men in black ski masks met him in the hall. Both carried pistol grip shotguns and had Glocks riding their hips. It didn’t look like their first time.

The taller of the pair pressed the barrel of his shotgun into Dave’s bare chest. “Where you headed, tough guy?”

“I thought I heard a noise,” Dave said.

The shorter one laughed. “That’s pretty funny.”

“Yeah,” said his partner, and jabbed Dave with the barrel. “You’re hilarious. Why don’t you back your comedic ass up into that bedroom?”

Dave started to turn around but Tall Guy hit him in the face with the shotgun. “I said back up, shit head.”

Blood was running briskly out of Dave’s nose. Without wiping it away he walked backward toward the bedroom. The two men followed, shoulder to shoulder, filling the hallway, their weapons never wavering.

When Dave got to the doorway, Tall Guy hit him again, this time in the belly. Dave folded up and Tall Guy shoved him into the bedroom. He tumbled in on his back and Susan yelled “What the fuck?”

The shorter man followed Dave in. He stayed low and moved fast. In a moment, he was at the edge of the bed with his shotgun in Susan’s face. Tall Guy was covering him from the doorway.

“Don’t move, doll,” Shorty said.

Dave got to his feet. “You stay right there,” Tall Guy told him.

Shorty backed into a corner where he could cover both Dave and Susan. “I’m good,” he said.

“Excellent,” Tall Guy said. “Let’s do this.”

“OK,” Shorty said, and twitched the shotgun at Susan. “Let’s have you get up slowly and head over there beside your man.”

Susan got out of bed naked and walked to Dave’s side. “You OK, babe?”

He smiled through the blood. “I am.”

“Why don’t you put some clothes on, pal?” Shorty said. “I’m tired of looking at your dick.”

Dave pulled on a pair of sweats that were draped at the foot of the bed. Susan reached for the t-shirt she’d tossed on the floor earlier.

“Nope,” Shorty said. “Just him, doll.”

Susan turned to face him. Sweat from their love-making still gleamed on her tits. “Really? Jesus Christ.” She didn’t move to cover herself with her arms, just glared at him.

“Let’s go,” Tall Guy said. He moved out into the hall, his gun steady on them.

“Follow him,” Shorty told them. “Very slowly. He’ll be in front of you the whole way. I’ll be behind you. You’re locked between us and any movements we find overly interesting will get you fucking shot. Understand?”

“Not entirely,” Dave said. “If he’s in front and you’re behind us, won’t you hit each other if you have to shoot?

“Holy fucking shit,” Tall Guy said. “Are you still being funny?”

“It’s more logistics than comedy.”

Shorty took a quick step toward them and laid his shotgun barrel against Susan’s ear. “You have two choices. Shut the fuck up and she lives. Keep yammering and she dies. Pick.”

Dave eyed Susan. “Let’s keep her around.”

“Then shut your yap and move.”

The four of them went down the hallway, Dave and Susan walking between the invaders. They were herded into the kitchen. Tall Guy gestured at the table in the middle of the room. “Sit down.”

Dave and Susan pulled out chairs and sat.

Shorty drifted to a corner again. His shotgun remained threatening. “Make them comfortable.”

Tall Guy unzipped a black duffel bag that was lying on the floor. He pulled out a handful of stuff and went to work.

Dave’s ankles were individually zip-tied to the legs of the chair. His wrists were fixed to the arms the same way. Tall Guy did the same thing to Susan then he showed them a roll of silver duct tape. “I can do your mouths but that’s dangerous. You could suffocate. But you seem like reasonable folks. If you promise to keep quiet we don’t have to worry about this.”

“We’ll be quiet,” Susan said.

Tall Guy looked at her tits. “You say that now. We’ll see.”

Shorty had relaxed. He leaned against the wall, the shotgun loose. “I’m sure they’ll be fine. Get to work.”

Tall Guy picked up the duffel bag and disappeared into the house.

Susan looked at Shorty. “So. After you guys get done I’m sure you’re just going to let us go, huh?”

“If you cooperate.”

She shook her hair out of her face and her breasts jiggled. “You don’t have any other plans?”

Shorty slid off the wall and stepped up to her chair. He let the muzzle of the shotgun hit the seat between her legs then he shoved it forward till it was snugged against her labia. His free hand plucked her right nipple until it stiffened. “Oh, I have plans. That’s why we brought the duct tape. You look like a biter, not a screamer.”

Dave laughed. “Indeed.”

Shorty looked at him. “You don’t seem particularly concerned here, friend.” He put the shotgun on the table and walked behind Susan’s chair. He leaned over her and cradled a breast in each palm. He slowly circled her nipples with his thumbs. “I’d be concerned if I were you.” He put his nose in Susan’s hair at the nape of her neck and took a deep breath. “I’d be all kinds of concerned.”

Dave was wearing a smile under his bloody nose. “I am a little concerned. For you, little guy.”

Susan jerked her head around and snapped her teeth at Shorty’s face. He recoiled just in time. “Goddammit!” he yelled, and snatched the shotgun off the table. He reversed it and slammed the butt into the side of Susan’s head.

She didn’t move an inch. Didn’t even appear to have noticed he’d hit her. She wiggled her tits at him. “Come on back, baby. Come back one more time.”

Shorty backed across the kitchen, the shotgun trained on her. Dave laughed.

Tall Guy popped up in doorway and said “What the hell’s going on in here?”

Shorty jumped. “Nothing’s going on. What have we got?”

Tall Guy tossed the duffel on the floor. It made a heavy thud. “Jewelry. Cash. A few antique-looking things. Couple laptops.  It’s getting a little loud in here. Do we need the tape?”

Susan smiled. “You might need it for your buddy, there. Tape his fingers to that shotgun. When he puts it down he tends to stick his hands where they don’t belong.”

“Is that right?” Tall Guy looked at Shorty. “I told you no flirting till we’re done.”

“Fine,” Shorty said. “I’ll finish up. You keep an eye on these assholes.”
“Both eyes,” Tall Guy said, and put them on Susan’s tits. She smiled at him.

When Shorty was gone Tall Guy smiled back at Susan. “Did you scare my pal? He seemed a bit jumpy.”

“I wasn’t trying to scare him,” Susan said. “I thought he wanted to play.”

“We don’t normally play with folks, you know. We get in, get the stuff, get out. Clean and simple. But you, doll.” He shook his head. “Whew. You are a piece. And you being already naked when we arrived…I dunno. It just seems like fate.”

“You can’t argue with fate,” Susan said, and stood up. The chair came apart around her, pieces of it still zip-tied to her.

Tall Guy snapped his shotgun up but she was already there. She yanked it away from him with one hand and slammed him against the wall with the other, her palm over his mouth. He made muffled grunts, eyes wide.

“Now I’m going to play with you,” she whispered. “And my man over there is going to play with your little partner.”

“Tie him to a chair,” Dave said.

“Good call.”  Susan, her hand still clamped over Tall Guy’s mouth, maneuvered him into one of the other chairs. “If I take my hand away, are you going to yell?”

Tall Guy’s eyes were still bulging. He nodded. Then he shook his head.

Susan laughed. “Which is it, dummy?”

He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head no. “Excellent,” Susan said and removed her hand.

“What the fuck?” he whispered. “What the fuck is happening?”

Susan fished through the duffel bag and pulled out more zip ties. She trussed him up exactly the way he’d done them. “There you go, doll,” she said. “All snug and tight.”

Dave looked at his new companion and grinned. “Nice work.”

“What the fuck?” Tall Guy said. He was shaking. “How did she do that?”

“Be quiet,” Dave told him. “I hear your buddy coming back.”

Susan slipped into the far corner of the room and went still. When Shorty walked in he said “I can’t find anything else. I think you got it all.” He stopped when he saw Tall Guy sitting next to Dave. “What are doing over there?”

Tall Guy flicked his eyes toward the corner where Susan waited but Shorty didn’t get it. “Seriously. What the fuck are you doing?”

Dave jumped up. His chair exploded and showered Tall Guy with splinters. Shorty was faster than his partner. He almost got the barrel of the shotgun into Dave’s chest but Dave sidestepped him and wrenched it free.

Shorty backpedaled and slapped for the Glock on his hip. Dave smacked him in the face and he went down. Shorty tried to crawl away but Dave scooped him up and tossed him onto the kitchen floor next to Tall Guy.

“We’re running out of chairs,” Susan said from her corner.

“That’s alright,” Dave said. “We’re about to run out of bad guys.”

Susan picked Shorty up from the floor and cradled him in her arms. “I want this one.”

Dave smiled. “Of course you do.” He watched Shorty struggle like a kitten trying to escape a toddler.

Susan said “Shhh” and patted him on the head. Her mouth grew jagged shark’s teeth and gaped open wide. She nuzzled the side of his neck and then bit deep into it.

Tall Guy didn’t notice his bladder let go but he did notice Dave suddenly standing beside him. Dave’s mouth had gone all huge and sharklike, too. “Hi, there,” he said.

One Shot by Brent R. Oliver

     Three things slammed into Annie when she woke up. The first was her headache; the second, nausea; third, the realization of what she and Jason faced after today. The heavyweight trio pinned her to the dirty sheets and the idea of movement filled her joints with cement. If she remained perfectly still, perhaps it would all float away. Maybe someone else would have to hoist this weight.

      Jason grunted next to her, then twitched, then groaned. She could feel the echo of her rusted discomfort rolling off him. The bed felt heavier as he woke up, like everything sinking in was adding more mass to him.

     Annie took a deep breath, closed her eyes against the incipient vertigo, and turned on her side so she could drape an arm over Jason. Her poisonous insides sloshed and she pressed her face against his back, mashing her mouth closed so it couldn’t vomit.

     “Fuck,” he muttered. “Your face is hot. It’s hot in here.” He tried to pull the covers down and knocked a half-full bottle of Bud off the nightstand. There was a thump and gurgle when it hit the carpet. The smell of warm beer rose.

     “Didn’t need that,” she said into his skin. “Feel like I took a bath in it.”

      “Me, too,” he said. “Tasted okay last night, though.”

     “That was last night.”

      Jason turned over. It was a halting, disjointed process that required rest stops. When he was done, Annie’s head lay on his chest. He plucked a soggy cigarette butt from her hair and tossed it on the carpet. “Jesus. We really got into it.”

     Annie nodded minutely and her brain swam like a fetal pig in formaldehyde. “Had to send Gus off right. You know.”

     He did. The pantry was stocked with enough dry goods for ten people to last a year. And enough booze to float a frat house for forty days and nights. Jason didn’t know who’d owned this house before, or why they’d abandoned it, but it wouldn’t be out of place on Doomsday Preppers: Alcoholics.

     As more of the morning filled their dull senses they became aware – as they did every day – of the scratching outside. The windows were boarded up which muted both the daylight and the sound, but both were there. The sunshine was thin and anemic between the cracks. It didn’t fill the room any more than cottage cheese filled an overweight dieter. And the scratching was pitiful but insistent. Waxing. Waning. It would have been faint if it weren’t so overwhelming.

     Jason felt Annie’s fingernails dig into his chest. She didn’t realize it but they kept perfect time with the clawing at the window. The rhythm was insidious; it governed the cadence of their speech, their steps through the house, even the tempo of their lovemaking.

     “We have to get up,” Jason said.

     Annie’s nails dug deeper. “I can’t. Can’t do it again. After today, it’s just…”

     “I know. But we still have to do it.”

     Her nails clutched and relaxed. Clutched and relaxed. “We’ll never get out of here,” she whispered. “Not just the two of us. If we couldn’t do it before, we’re fucked now.”

     “It doesn’t matter. We promised to take care of these situations. One and all.”

     Her lips peeled back from her teeth. “Yeah. And we’re almost down to one. Why bother?”

     “Because we said we would. We promised.”

     “Right. A roomful of us promised. Have you seen that room lately?”

     Jason rolled away from her. She crashed to the covers like the tide on a beach. “Don’t,” she said, reaching out and touching him. “Please.”

     His back was hard. “We have to.” The words pulsed in time to the clawing.

     “Does it have to be right now? We can’t be together any longer?”

     She felt him tug an arm from under the covers. He was looking at his watch. “Soon. You know how it works.”

     She did. It was the same every time. Every. Single. Time. She pulled back from him like the moon was drawing her away. “Twenty-four hours from start to finish. How can it be so precise?”

     Jason shrugged. “Does it matter?”

     “Shouldn’t it? Maybe we could figure out how to stop it if we knew why – “

     “We haven’t yet. And we’ve had plenty of chances.”

     The clawing continued at the window.

     Annie lay on her back not looking at Jason. “It was just a scratch.”

     He rolled back over and put his arms around her. “I know.”

      “It could have been one of us.”

      “I know.”

      “Someday it is going to be one of us.”

      Jason didn’t say anything because there wasn’t anything to say. Assuring Annie they’d be fine was pointless. They probably wouldn’t be fine. No one else was.

      He kissed Annie’s greasy hair and swung out of bed. The hangover wobbled him but he stayed upright. The clothes on the floor went back on his body and he walked out of the bedroom.

      Annie sat up. It was a bad idea. Felt like it would take her another thirty minutes to get out of bed and dressed. Gus might not have thirty minutes.

      She put her feet carefully on the floor and let her agitated hangover settle into her. When she stood up, it sank twisted fishhooks into her brain and belly. She ran for the bathroom and puked into the puke bucket.  The smell of the piss bucket next to it didn’t help much.

      When she was done, she felt a little better. Lighter. Hollowed out. She put her clothes on and went to the living room.

      Gus and Jason were sitting together on the couch. There were beer bottles and shot glasses and full ashtrays scattered everywhere. Annie kept her eyes on them so she wouldn’t have to look at Gus. Scratching sounds came from the big boarded-up picture window.

      “Hi, Annie,” Gus said.

      She nodded at him, her throat tight.

      “I can’t believe you’re getting out of helping us clean this up,” Jason said.

      Gus laughed. It sounded real to Annie and she couldn’t understand it. Had never understood how people could joke right up to the last minute.

      “I can’t help but feel partly responsible for the mess,” Gus said. Now Jason laughed.

      Idiots, she thought.

      Gus looked terrible. She and Jason were both addled by hangovers but Gus was stamped with something deeper. It was impossible to tell where the hangover ended and the infection began. He was pale and sweaty. His hands shook and the long scratch on his right arm was every unhealthy color in the world. Black fluid seeped out of it and Annie could smell the reek of decay across the room. Both of his eyes were sunken, like his febrile brain was pulling them backward.

      Annie sat down on a chair and noticed that Gus was drinking a beer. “Urh. How the hell can you do that? I’ll never drink again.”

      “She says that every time,” Jason said.

      Gus smiled. Bright red blood outlined his teeth. “It takes the edge off. Plus, I don’t have much on my calendar today.”

      They both laughed at that. Annie thought her head would explode if they kept it up. Gus took another drink of beer, a good long pull, and her stomach had a small seizure. He set the empty bottle down on the coffee table next to a dozen others.

      “You ready?” He was looking at Jason.

      Jason nodded. “Are you?”

      A trickle of blood fell from Gus’ left eye. “I certainly fucking am. Matter of fact, let’s hurry the fuck up.” He scratched at his scratch and it yawned open, spilling out sludgy blackness.

      Both of them stood. They turned to look at Annie. She was crying and trying to fold herself up into invisibility.

      “Annie,” Gus said, “you are a truly incredible chick. Please try to keep this asshole alive for a few more months.” He nudged Jason but this time Jason barely smiled.

      Annie stared up at him, tears dripping down her face. She tried to smile but her mouth was locked in place. She wanted to say something witty but her throat was an icicle.

      Gus’ smile was gentle. “Don’t get up, babe,” he said softly. “We probably shouldn’t hug anyway.”

      That surprised a wet, broken laugh out of her. It vanished as soon as it left and her mouth and throat clamped back down in trembling wait.

      “There it was,” Gus said. “That’s all I needed.” He and Jason walked into the kitchen. A moment later she heard the door to the garage open. Then shut.

      Annie got up and stumbled over to where Gus had been sitting on the couch. She sank down on his spot and put her face in her hands. Even over her sobs she could hear the scratching. There was only one thing that made it stop, and even then only for a minute.

      A monstrous gunshot roared in the garage. The scratching faltered ceased. Annie cried quietly in blessed peace for forty-five seconds. Then the scratching began again, louder, more frantic this time. She could hear the moans behind it.

-Brent R. Oliver