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I had told the bull-headed nun not to hire crazy old Merrell, but me being seen as a stupid kid, Sister Bernard would hear none of my input. Merrell’s past record should have been enough to keep the old man away from children, but Sister Bernard insisted he was no longer a threat, just a poor man who needed help since the car accident that left him a cripple three years ago.

“He just lost his only son to suicide,” she told the faculty, “and couldn’t even afford to bury him. He desperately needs help and so I ask all of us here at Holy Ghost School to find it in our hearts to reach out and make Merrell feel welcome.”

I didn’t like or trust that dirty old cripple, regardless of his troubles, or his recent return to the church, and I became obsessed with finding something to get Merrell fired. A couple of months after Merrell’s hire, while passing the school on my way home from my girlfriend’s house at two in the morning, I was surprised to see Merrell’s beat-up Buick in the parking lot, backed up to the old bomb shelter. I knew the creep must be up to no good, so I snuck into the school to spy on the old man, hoping I would catch him committing some dastardly act.

I entered the old building through a classroom fire door and tiptoed down the dark cool halls toward the sounds of Merrell’s keys rattling at his side and the squeak of his broken cart that limped much like its driver. I peeked around a corner, hiding in the shadows, and spotted Merrell standing in a beam of moonlight shining from an above skylight. The illumination from the full December moon was the only light, except for an eerie red glow flowing from the foyer a few feet behind where the old cripple had stopped. I could tell he was wearing the same tattered garments he wore the day before; it seemed he never changed out of those dirty rags, giving him a scent of rotten onions, which was as shocking as his disfigured appearance.

I carefully observed as the crazy old man used the moonlight to examine a ball of dirt and hair he snatched from a swept up heap of filth. After eyeing the dirtball for a minute, Merrell shoved it into his mouth and swallowed, grinning and chuckling like a happy school child. I thought I was going to be sick but stopped myself after letting out a quick gag. I stood perfectly still, breaking out in a cold sweat, as Merrell glared down the hall in my direction with the look of a rabid animal in his eyes.

“Ehh!” he sighed and turned his attention to a garbage bag sitting on the cart next to an ancient vacuum cleaner that was as worn down as the man himself. The crazed grin returned to Merrell’s weathered face as he dug through the trash like it was a grand treasure, while feebly holding the bag open with a mangled claw-like hand attached to what was nothing more that misshapen bone covered with inked skin. The cripple pulled out used tissues, rubbed each one all over his face, and stuffed them into his pockets. My mind raced to think of a reason for Merrell’s bizarre actions; and the conclusion I reached was that the old man was stark raving mad. I kept watching, waiting to see what the old man would do next, and after his excavation of the garbage was complete, Merrell hobbled toward a drinking fountain, supporting himself with a wooden cane

he held with his strong arm decorated with a tattoo of a crucifix wrapped in thorns. Merrell’s left leg bowed backward at the knee and looked as if it would have snapped in half if not for the obtrusive metal brace he wore upon it. By the time he reached the fountain he had used his claw to unzip his pants and began to urinate into the water fountain. It was a sickening display that made my disgust for the distorted madman boil. The maniac crept around the dark halls of the old school each night, consuming filth and marking his territory, while slipping into the depths of his disturbed mind that was more twisted than the broken body housing it.

Even though Merrell’s actions were reprehensible, I knew I needed more tangible evidence of wrong doing to get the disgusting creep fired, so I quietly moved away from my spying corner, being careful not to alarm the cripple of my presence, and headed to the boiler room where Merrell’s locker was located. Having worked with the insane cripple for a good spell now, I knew he was a packrat and felt he surely had something stashed away I could use against him, and I was hell bent on finding it, no matter how terrible it may be.

I reached my destination in a hurry; my tiptoe through the dank building quickly turned to a sprint when I felt I was out of the old man’s earshot. Heat radiated from the heavy steel door leading to the boiler room, and as I slowly opened it, a rush of damp hot air that turned my face flush and caused my pores to tingle overcame me. Only a single bulb dangling from the high ceiling lighted the room, casting dancing shadows upon the moldy stonewalls. Occupying half of the room was an immense boiler that steamed and rumbled like an angry mechanical beast ready to devour anything crossing its path. I stumbled over broken floor buffers and scattered tools, opened Merrell’s locker, and was knocked back by the horrid stench of death. I covered my nose and mouth with my shirt and dug through the crippled man’s stash of crumbled papers, broken pencils, crayon bits, and candy wrappers. The odor was overpowering, but I held strong and discovered the awful source. Four dead mice in various stages of decay wrapped in standard school issue brown paper towels lay hidden at the bottom of the mess. I knew the mice did not willingly crawl to the bottom of the locker to die and rot, and I couldn’t fathom why Merrell would have put them there, despite the obviousness of his mental illness. This, however, was still not enough to satisfy my drive to get that mockery of humanity fired, so I continued sifting through the refuse, still believing I would find the concrete evidence I needed.

The heat and noise from the diabolical machine-beast intensified, making me feel as if I were standing at hell’s gates, causing my nerves to vibrate like strings ready to bust on an electric guitar being pounded by a masked heavy metal musician. The shadows, cast from the perpetual swinging light, danced hauntingly around me, tricking my eyes, making me jump at what my frightened mind thought was something creeping up behind me.

When I felt I could take no more of the steaming inferno and was about to freak out, I discovered exactly what I had set out to find. I noticed the corner of a couple photographs sticking out from under the rotten rodents’ tomb and quickly pulled at them like a magician pulling a tablecloth, trying not to spill or disturb what lay on top. What appeared to me on the photos sent my heart plummeting into my stomach. The first picture was a cut-out yearbook photo of a schoolgirl who went missing about a month earlier, the other, a Polaroid, showed the same girl, only in this depiction, she was hogtied and lying on a dirt floor in some manner of dungeon. Despite the atrocious content of the Polaroid, I studied it feverishly, knowing I had seen the dungeon before, but the memory was just out of reach.

I shoved the awful pictures in my pocket and racked my brain to remember where I had seen that place before. Then it hit me. Merrell’s cane hit me upside the head and I heard him yell in his haggard voice, “Get outa here ya hooligan!”

“It’s me, Wyatt, you crazy old bastard.”

“Wyatt, whacha doin’ in here at this hour snoopin’ in my locker fer?”

My head throbbed and I could feel a bump rising where the heavy wooden cane struck me. I had to think of a good lie fast to tell the disfigured monster standing before me. “Well, ya see, I left my cellphone in here earlier today, and, well, I came in to find it. Damn, Merrell, you railed me a good one, man. I think I have a concussion.”

“I ain’t got no phone in my locker and I don’t like smart-ass kids rootin’ around in my stuff. Now you get da hell outa there fer I wallop ya again!”

The old man was obviously irate and there was no telling how he would react if he found out I had those photos. The best move I could make was to play it nice and cool in order to get out of that inferno and go directly to the police with the evidence.

“Aw, come on Merrell, you know I wouldn’t take any of your junk. I guess my phone is in the mop closet, I’ll just go check.” I picked up his cane and handed it to him while attempting to flash a friendly smile, which probably looked more like a half-assed grimace due to my skyrocketing anxiety.

“No way you little punk!” Merrell shoved me with unexpected strength and hobbled to his locker. “I wanna know what yer up to boy, and if I find anything missin’ in here yer gunna wish you was never born!”

I could have run away at that moment, but just stood watching, frozen with curiosity, as the crippled geezer mumbled incoherently while digging though the locker mess now spilled all over the floor. I felt both fear and pity toward the insane cripple, but my rage for Merrell dominated my thoughts.

Merrell grunted and groaned like a wounded animal, turned and looked at me with a ferocious stare and in a demonic tone said, “I know what you took and I know what yer thinkin’, but you ain’t gettin’ outa here till ya give me back them pictures!”

“Look dude, I know you have something to do with that missing girl and I plan on going to the police. You may as well give up Merrell; you can’t stop me!” I was amazed at my courage in the face of danger and my body trembled as I spoke, making my voice sound like I was under water.

“I don’t know nothin’ bout no missin’ girl. I’ll tell them cops those are yer pictures, not mine!”

“Bullshit Merrell, I know you got that girl hidden somewhere. You kill her yet, or you just going to let her rot? What kind of sick asshole are you?”

“You don’t wanna piss me off, boy!” Merrell said with the demonic roar that this time sent a chill down my spine.

My adrenaline surged; it was time for flight or fight. I was sure the old cripple couldn’t hurt me in a straight fight but I feared him nonetheless. He wasn’t human anymore. His physical and emotional state had driven him mad and I was standing in the way to the fulfillment of his muddied desires. I gathered all my courage and strength, let out a yell, and kicked the old man’s good leg out from under him, dropping him to the floor, causing him to let out an awful cry. I ran out and slammed the door, locking it from the outside. The beast was caged and as I made my escape, I heard the old man as he continued his shrill screaming and felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand in attention.

I ran out of the school and started for home when I again noticed Merrell’s car in the rear corner of the lot, backed up to the old bomb shelter that was used for extra storage. Then it dawned on me, the dungeon in the terrible photograph was the shelter, and the missing girl may still be in there. I thought about running home and calling the police, but decided to check out the shelter myself, as my curiosity guided me once again.

I dashed across the blacktop, avoiding icy patches, and stopped at Merrell’s rusty old Buick. I gazed in the car and noticed a shovel and a flashlight laying in the backseat. Knowing the old bomb shelter had no light; I grabbed the flashlight, not noticing the fresh blood covering the handle until my palm was red. I took a deep breath, wiped my hands on my pants, and rushed to open the heavy wooden door leading underground. My nerves were shot and my heart pounded until it burned. Nothing but pure adrenaline fueled me to continue my mission. I slowly made my way down the shaky stairs, clearing cobwebs with the flashlight, and discovered a small hole dug in the dirt floor in the back of the filthy room. The dungeon was overcome with the familiar stench of death that was much more intense than the diseased mice, so I held my breath as I shined the light into the freshly dug hole.

The disgusting sight at the bottom of the hole combined with the ghastly odor sent my stomach into a spin, dropping me to my knees to vomit and heave until acid burned my throat. After sitting on my hands and knees for what seemed to be an eternity, I gathered the strength I had left, and pulled myself to my feet, covering my nose and mouth with a dirty rag that smelled of lemon cleaner I found on the floor next to me. I sobbed as if I were a terrified child searching for a way out of a horrendous nightmare. The flashlight shone upon the wall just above the open grave, illuminating small handprints smeared like finger-paints through a splatter of blood red. I began to panic and bolted out of that dreadful tomb, bounding up the stairs, and running home faster than I had ever run in my life, gasping for air from the frigid winter night.

Upon returning home, after my four block mad dash, I was blinded by red and blue flashing lights. A squadron of police vehicles lined the driveway and street in front of my house. Completely out of breath, I hunched over holding my cramped chest, and saw my parents standing outside on the porch. My father, who stared at me with disdain, was holding my mother who appeared to sobbing, and the sight of it sent me into a head-trip; the likes of which I had never experienced before. The entire nightmarish experience began to flood my every thought. Merrell the horrible sideshow attraction and disgusting manic, the dead girl, the smell of death, and the blood, the blood that now covered my hands and smeared my clothing.

“Get your hands up over your head right now asshole!” I heard someone yell, but didn’t respond. The words were lost in my head as soon as they cleared my eardrums. All I could hear was that cripple’s voice, that irritating shrill, and the screams of terror, the girl’s pleading, the begging, the crying, it all came back to me. And with one big gasp, I drew in all the air I could, stood erect, eyes watering, body trembling, and ears deafened with the petrified screams of a tortured child, and I watched as the blue figures descended upon me and engulfed me in a flurry of swinging batons. I welcomed the pain, as focusing upon it relieved my mind of the appalling visions of my mortal sin, and the sounds disappeared too, the girl’s screaming, shut off instantly, with a skull splitting bluster.


BIO:  I’m an amateur writer, born in Saint Louis, MO, currently living in the Orlando, FL area, and had lived abroad in Asian countries for 12 years. I have always loved horror, dark fiction, fantasy, and science-fiction, reading constantly and writing when I can.  I will soon have a fantasy tale on a serial fiction website running each week and I will continue to post my weird and bizarre tales here on  Thank you for reading!


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