Today we have a special treat for you, it’s a short story written by S.D. Hintz. S.D. is the author of numerous horror books. And if this short story has anything to say about his other work, I’m excited to read more from him in the future.
A note: This is a horror story with adult language. Readers of a more delicate nature need not read on.
The Horror House
By S.D. Hintz
“Pretend they’re Girl Scout cookies. Your husband will love ‘em.”
“Frank’s been dead for fifteen years!”
The solid oak door slammed in Dickie Dangler’s face. “Just buy the stinking subscription, lady!”
The tenth consecutive neighbor had turned down his offer. Dickie was at his wits’ end. His new money making scheme had rendered him penniless. Christ, if he couldn’t sell magazine subscriptions, what the hell could he do? Deliver the Pioneer Press? A paper route was a dying trend, too, and he wasn’t sixteen anymore. He was twenty-three and still lived with his parents. Why? He wasn’t about to ask and blow his free ride. He simply wanted to prove that he didn’t need a college degree to succeed in life. He was a man on a mission, which lately seemed like a mission impossible.
Dickie climbed into his lime green Yugo. He tossed his black duffel bag of magazines on the backseat. “Who now? Who can be fooled?”
He gazed through the bug-splattered windshield as he turned the ignition. The engine sputtered to life and a dim bulb flickered in his skull.
The Tickle twins!
Of course, he thought. Who else?
A wide grin cracked Dickie’s freckled face when he spotted Tibia and Tritt Tickle. The mischievous fraternal twins sat on the curb three houses up the block. Tibia’s middle name was gullible and Tritt’s was…hell, probably the same thing. After all, they were twins.
Dickie snapped out of his daydream and punched the stick shift into reverse. The Yugo screeched down the drive. It jolted as it jumped the gutter onto October Street.
“French Ticklers, here I come!”
He put the pedal to the metal and burned rubber in a cloud of charcoal smoke. Tritt looked up from the magnifying glass as he fried one last ant. He nudged Tibia with his elbow. At the end of the block, the Yugo shot toward them.
Tritt shoved his torture device into his pant pocket. “Great. Tricky Dick rides again.”
Tibia stared at an anthill she had spit on. “Really? I like Dickie.”
“Only cause he sweet-talks you.”
The Yugo skidded to a halt beside the Tickle twins. Dickie craned his ostrich neck out the passenger side window and smiled.
Tritt glowered as he stood up from the curb. “What are you looking at, dickhead?”
Dickie whistled. “Have I got a deal for you.”
“Sorry. We don’t make deals with the Devil.”
Dickie paused and sized up the twins. He’d tricked them more times than he could count on both hands. He’d known them for about three years, but still had no idea where the strange twelve-year-olds lived. They were always in the neighborhood. In truth, Dickie didn’t care. He merely loved the sick enjoyment of emptying their unusually fat pockets. All in all, they acted and looked too damn innocent to be ignored. Tritt resembled Damien from The Omen; he had pallid skin, a coal crew-cut, cerulean eyes, and wore a black hoodie with matching sweatpants. His eccentric sister Tibia was a borderline anorexic with straight black hair that curled at her waistline. She was also ghostly pale with a hooked nose and large wart on her cheek. Even though they were fraternal twins, they always dressed identical.
Dickie reached into the backseat and grabbed the bulky duffel bag. He then exited the car, neglecting to remove the key from the ignition, and approached the twins.
Tritt sneered. “I’ve read every issue in your bag.”
Dickie was caught off guard. “How the hell do you know what I have in there?”
“Cause you stick out like a sore thumb. Nobody sells subscriptions in this neighborhood. Most of the block won’t answer their doors while the rest are crushed when they find out it’s not the Girl Scouts. It’s dickface!”
“That’s why I’ve come to you! I bet you’d make a mint off a scheme like mine.”
“We’re tired of your schemes.”
“We? I’m tickled pink. Tibia, my queen of the curb, tell me you don’t feel the same way.”
Tibia looked up from the street for the first time. Her cheeks flushed at his flirtatiousness. “Well, Dickie. I—”
“Feel exactly the same,” Tritt interjected. “We’re twins, for God’s sake!”
Dickie set the duffel bag on the Yugo’s trunk. “I was just asking. I thought it would tickle my fancy, that’s all.”
“Dick!” Tritt turned to Tibia. “C’mon, let’s go.”
“Whoa, Tonto! Okay, I confess! I came here for a reason!”
Tritt whirled and glared at Dickie. “A reason?”
“Fine, a challenge. Since you’re so critical of my scheme, why don’t you give it a try? Let’s see who’s more successful at selling subscriptions. We’ll pick a random house and pitch our asses off.”
“What’s at stake? Besides your reputation?”
Dickie thought for a moment. He was broke as a bum, so he’d have to wager something of value. But what the hell did he have besides his vintage 1985 Kangaroo high-tops? “How about my ride?”
Tritt looked incredulously at the jalopy. “You’re serious?”
“For once, yeah! C’mon, it’s a classic! If you sell a subscription and I don’t, you win the ride. If I sell a subscription and you don’t, I get all the money in both of your pockets.”
“Excuse us for a moment, Richie Rich.” Tritt grabbed Tibia by the arm and led her a few car lengths away. “What do you think?”
Tibia smiled. “I think he wants to be friends.”
Tritt seized her by the shoulders. “Are you brain-dead? Don’t you remember the last time he tricked us? It took a month to scrub that makeup off your face. Not to mention, we’ve got over four hundred dollars each in our pockets. He’s trying to scam us again. It’s time we turned the tables. If he plays by our rules, maybe we can make him look like the chump.”
The Tickle twins shook hands and approached Dickie, who tapped his fingers on the Yugo’s dented hood.
Tritt nonchalantly removed the magnifying glass from his pocket. “Okay, Carrot Top. We’ll agree to your deal on two conditions. One: we choose what house you have to con and vice versa. And two: since this is your line of work, you go first and show us how it’s done.”
“Okay, Twit, have it your way, but we use my magazines. Deal?”
“Deal,” the twins replied in unison and spat into their palms.
Dickie grinned as the saliva dripped between their fingers. “I didn’t say shake on it. Shit, you guys must be French.”
Dickie reached into the duffel bag and removed two magazines. He slapped a rolled up issue of Penthouse in Tibia’s slimy hand and winked. “Hold on to this. And don’t even think about peeking at the centerfold.” He stuffed his own issue in the back pocket of his corduroys. “So, which sucker will it be?”
Tritt answered with a roving glare that Dickie followed across October Street, up along the sidewalk, and then somewhere in the distance. “The last house on the corner.”
“The Hauer house,” Tibia informed, much to Tritt’s disapproval.
Dickie furrowed his brow. “The Hauer house? That place has been vacant for years.”
Tritt glared. “Prove it.”
“Fine, Tickle Me Elmo. If I go up to that house and no one answers the door, that’s a subscription sold.”
Dickie grinned. This would be easier than he thought. The Yugo wasn’t worth more than a hundred dollars, so a profit was inevitable. He could already smell the scent of green. Or was it something stronger? He sniffed the cool breeze, and then felt the burning pain in his big toe. He leapt a foot off the ground with a yelp. He glimpsed the magnifying glass as Tritt concealed it in his pocket.
Dickie stomped his smoldering shoe. “Goddamn it!”
Tritt chuckled. “Better hop to it, Dangler. Pitch that porno mag!”
Dickie turned his back on the twins and marched down the sidewalk. He cursed under his breath and squinted ahead in the simmering sun. The Hauer house loomed two lawns down. He glanced over his shoulder. The Tickle twins followed in his footsteps at a safe distance. He returned his gaze to the corner as he passed a yard shaded by evergreens.
The Horror House.
Dickie shuddered at the recollection of the nickname. The Horror House. That’s what everyone called it. He’d heard his fair share of stories back in high school. One in particular used to haunt him around Halloween. He vaguely remembered some sort of tale regarding an ax murderer. It had been too a few years since he last trick-or-treated. His short-term memory wasn’t what it used to be.
He came to the last lawn and followed a row of half-dead hedges to the property line. As he rounded the corner, the strange facade of the Hauer house came into view. It was one of the creepiest places he’d ever seen. It was two stories tall with weather-beaten, blue-black siding that seemed to be clinging on for dear life. It had two cobwebbed dormers with barred windows, as if imprisoning its occupants. The rest of the place was windowless. The front steps were even stranger; the entrance descended into the ground like a cellar stairwell. The front yard was weedy and riddled with crabgrass. A gnarled dogwood creaked in the breeze.
“Little early to be ghost hunting, isn’t it, son?”
Dickie stopped in his footsteps and turned. An old man with wrinkly, raw sienna skin and long snow-white hair down to the small of his back rounded the hedges. He wore a sweat-stained, white tank top and faded cutoffs. He clutched a pair of rusted shears. As he approached, Dickie noticed that his beady eyes were bloodshot and he reeked of bourbon.
Dickie searched for an excuse. Instead, the truth came out. “I’m selling subscriptions door-to-door.”
The old man pointed the shears. “Then where the hell are your magazines?”
Dickie reached into his back pocket and revealed the rolled up issue. He then opened it up for the man to see.
The man smirked. “Why don’t you save yourself the trouble and sell it to me? I’ll give you double the price you’re asking for.”
Dickie snickered at the man’s voracious appetite for pornography. He shook his head. “Can’t. I made a deal.”
“Please tell me it doesn’t involve this house.”
Dickie nodded, rolled the mag back up, and then stuffed it in his back pocket. He glanced over his shoulder. The Tickle twins sat on the curb across the street. They held hands and sneered.
The old man narrowed his eyes. “Take my advice. Turn around and forget this place still stands.”
“What’s it matter? No one’s home. It’s been vacant for years.”
“A house is never vacant. Especially this one.” The man snapped the shears shut. “Enter it and it enters you.”
“Ooh, I’m shaking in my Kangas, Father Time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a subscription to sell.”
The man seized Dickie by the shoulders with surprising strength. When he opened his foul mouth to speak, Dickie’s stomach churned. “Listen to me, numbskull! That house is evil! You don’t know a shitting thing about it, do you? Well, do you?”
Dickie shook his melon head until his neck cracked. Sweat trickled from his brow.
The man’s grip relented, but his trembling hands remained on Dickie’s shoulders. “The last time a man entered that house, I happened to be within spitting distance. It was Halloween of ‘92. You might remember it like the rest of us. That year the blizzard buried trick-or-treaters up to their necks? Anyhow, the Hauers lived there then. Old couple, both in their seventies, kept to themselves. And believe it or not, October thirty-first was their wedding anniversary.
“I was outside shoveling my driveway. I’d seen Mrs. Hauer leave in her car earlier, before the snow really started blowing. Well, I’m just about at the end of the drive when a young man goes trudging up to the house. I’d say he was about your age, bundled up, puffing like a chimney. Saul Hallows was his name.” The old man paused and removed his hands from Dickie’s shoulders. Dickie exhaled as they both gazed at the house. “Anyways, it turned out old man Hauer was having an affair with Saul, a boy five decades younger, mind you. They must’ve figured nobody would notice anything unusual in the middle of a blizzard. Well, they forgot about Helena. She pulled up to the house about five minutes after Saul arrived. From what I know, she walked in on the two…and only one person came out alive.” He mulled over the details as he ran the shears through his windblown hair. “I was milling about my garage, waiting to see the outcome, when the gutters on the house…well, I still I have trouble believing what I saw, but they started…gushing blood.” Dickie stared at the man in disbelief. “Saul came stumbling out of the house screaming bloody murder. He started rolling around in the snow like he was on fire. He was yelling about snakes…snakes all over him, everywhere. At that point, I called the police.”
“What happened to Saul?”
“A straitjacket and padded cell. The kid never stopped seeing those damn snakes.”
Dickie was unfazed. “That’s a pretty good campfire story. Well, you changed my mind. I’ll be seeing ya.”
Dickie turned his back and walked toward the street. A foot before he reached the curb, he whirled and dashed across the weeds and crabgrass. He blew by the curmudgeon, practically knocking him down, and sprinted to the underground stairwell.
The man shook his shears in the air. “You stupid son of a bitch! I know! I’ve seen! You’ll never see the light of day again!”
Dickie slowed his pace as he reached the crumbled brick steps.
Knucklehead bastard, he thought. What does he think, I’m coming here to roll out the welcome mat? Shit. One knock on the door, no answer, and I’m turning tail. We’ll see who’s tickled to death then.
Dickie descended the mossgrown steps. When he reached the bottom, he discovered that there was no door. Instead, a long corridor with cobwebbed, mudstone walls disappeared into the shadows.
Well, there must be a door somewhere, he thought. If it’s not at the end of this hallway, I’m dropping the porn and telling the twins I sold it.
Dickie ventured a few steps farther into the musty darkness. He could see an iron gate up ahead. It was ajar with a broken padlock and shrouded in spider webs. Dickie squinted down the corridor, his eyes slowly adjusting.
Hell, maybe this is the door, he thought. Goddamn Ticklers.
He shook his head. He wasn’t about to push the gate open with his bare hands. He took a step back and gave it a boot. It slammed against the wall and Dickie darted through.
After six yards, he paused. The hallway was longer than he thought, and he could barely see his hand in front of his face. He turned and squinted behind him. In the faint light, it looked as if the gate was closed. His heart leapt at the recollection of the old man’s story.
What if the house is haunted? he thought. Or worse yet, Mr. Hauer’s ghost sodomizes me?
Dickie hurried back to the gate. It was indeed shut.
The broken padlock had somehow been magically repaired. Dickie yanked it down, but it refused to budge. He booted the gate with his heel. To his dismay, the cobwebs failed to even quiver. He kicked it hard three more times to no avail.
“Goddamn horseshit licking Ticklers!”
He cursed a few more times under his breath. What the hell was he going to do? He could yell for Old Man Crazy Coot, but he was probably long gone by now. He could holler for the twins, of course. What a brainstorm that was. No. That was definitely out of the question. That would be admitting defeat. Presumably, there was only one way out, back the way he was headed, down the length of the corridor.
Dickie turned his back on the gate and returned to the shadows. The farther he ventured, the mustier and darker it became. After what seemed like a minute, he began to wonder if it ever ended.
His foot snagged a loose brick. He stumbled, falling to his hands and knees. He felt along the ground. It was frigid and fractured.
Dickie blindly reached ahead. It was a step! There were steps leading upwards!
Grateful he’d arrived at the end of the corridor, Dickie scrambled up the stairs. He reached the top and ran his hands along the door. He grasped the cold knob. He turned it as dread crept over him. He sighed when it opened with ease. He stepped across the threshold.
He scanned the cobwebbed room. It appeared to be a large foyer with a glimmering tile floor. Curious, Dickie crossed over to it. With a wide swipe of his foot, he cleared away a thick film of dust.
He furrowed his brow. He saw that the floor wasn’t tiled at all, rather covered with plates of glass. He wondered if Mr. Hauer was some kind of sick pervert who had used the reflection to look up skirts. Then Dickie realized he was the pervert with the sick imagination. After all, Mr. Hauer was banging paperboys.
A howl echoed throughout the room. Dickie shivered from head to toe. He prayed he was hearing things.
Dickie whirled. He glanced at the shadows, certain something was lurking about. The entire room was vacant and unfurnished. His gaze settled on a doorway in the corner. The darkness seemed to waver. No. Fluctuate!
Dickie backpedaled and nearly lost his balance on the slippery glass. His back slammed against the wall. His heart raced. His brain told him to run like hell. The stairs! It’s the only way out!
A dark form emerged from the shadows. It slowly glided and wavered across the room.
Dickie’s instincts screamed, Run!
He made to dash for the stairs, but his feet slipped out from under him. He landed flat on his back with a grunt. He raised his head. The apparition continued to approach. It appeared to be a bride in a black wedding dress and matching veil. She was hunched over and inched forward.
Dickie stood. He looked up from his shoes and saw only black. The bride loomed over him. His legs turned to Jell-O and his knees ice caps. Her pungent perfume enveloped him, churning his stomach — concoction of rotten eggs and horseradish. Before he could think of holding his breath, a skeletal hand clutched him by the throat and lifted him off the floor. He flailed, but the ghost’s grip was relentless.
A glimmer caught his eye. He glanced down, and then instantly wished he hadn’t. A portion of glass had been cleared of dust. In the reflection was an entanglement of black snakes slithering in midair beneath the bride’s dress.
Saul, she moaned in a rasp.
Dickie’s wide eyes returned to his ghostly assailant. He saw only black — the shoulder-length veil tickled his face.
Kiss me, Saul! Raise the veil!
Mortified, Dickie pounded his fists on her head as he gasped for air. Her chokehold tightened, unfazed, as her nails pierced his skin.
Kiss me or die!
Neither option appealed to Dickie. He cursed his strong will. He didn’t want to die, especially in a haunted house, and he was clearly overpowered.
He reluctantly grasped the bottom of the veil. His hand trembled. His lips parted. He slowly raised the cloth. He grimaced at the sight of the bride’s hooked chin and dangling skin. He felt her icy breath against his fingertips. His hand shook uncontrollably. He inched the veil up, dreading the look of lust in her eyes and the tongue that would slither down his constricted throat.
A rattling sound shook the house. Dickie unveiled her pursed, crimson lips. Her toothless mouth dropped open. A black snake shot out from her throat. It was at Dickie’s tonsils before he could scream. His eyes rolled back as his mind drifted into a writhing void. His entire body quivered and felt as if his veins slithered. His temples throbbed rhythmically.
After what seemed like an hour of excruciating pain, the snake withdrew and Dickie collapsed. He clutched his head and screamed as a deafening hiss coursed through the room. There was no other sound, only hissing. Dickie’s mind reeled as if he was drunk. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t see straight. He squeezed his eyes shut and willed clarity.
His eyes snapped open. He shrieked at the top of his lungs. The bride was gone and the entire floor was writhing with black snakes. They slithered down the stairs and coiled the banisters. They fell from the ceiling.
It’s all in my head, he told himself. It’s all in my head. None…of this…is real.
His eyes focused for a split second on the steps. I have to get to the stairs! It’s the only way out!
“No!” Dickie’s shout was swallowed by the symphony of snakes.
He fought the driving thoughts in his head. Something urged him to ascend the stairs. Something yearned for him to follow its lead.
He struggled to think straight. The house! It’s inside me!
The old man’s words of warning flooded him, “Enter it and it enters you.”
Dickie moaned. He gritted his teeth against the pain that pulsed in his brain. “I have to…get out of here!”
He turned as the snakes strove to entangle his legs. The room swayed. Dickie’s glassy eyes focused on the wall he’d backpedaled into earlier. He saw that he’d been leaning against a dusty window the size of a door. He stumbled toward it. His feet slipped on the glass and he slammed into the cobwebbed sill. He glanced down. The rattlers were slithering up his thighs. He wiped away the grime and peered outside.
Dickie couldn’t believe his eyes. Tibia and Tritt Tickle were rolling in the lawn, giggling maniacally. The same black snakes wriggled around them. Tritt spotted Dickie and pointed. The twins clutched their stomachs and laughed .
Dickie punched his fist through the glass.
The hisses and maracas faded. Dickie stared at his bloody hand. The drunkenness eased in his head. He looked to his thighs. The rattlesnakes were lapping at his crotch. He seized both of them by their throats and threw them aside. Their siblings slithered toward him. He took a few steps back and rammed the broken window with his shoulder. It shattered on impact and the shards rained down. He clambered over the sill, overjoyed to have escaped the house. He then stumbled to the ground as his equilibrium capsized.
He looked up. The sky was black as night. A loud screech echoed in the distance. Dickie clutched his head and howled.
He saw his Yugo passing by through a sea of snakes. Tibia and Tritt Tickle waved from the front seat, cackling. They tossed his duffel bag out the window. It landed at his feet and the magazines spilled forth. He stared in shock as the green machine disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
A thunderclap rocked the neighborhood. Dickie’s nightmare came into focus. He was certain he’d escaped the house, but such was not the case.
Rattlesnakes slithered everywhere — in the crabgrass and bordering lawns, on the rooftops across the street, and down the sidewalks. At the edge of the curb and the corner of the block, in fact, on every doorstep of the neighboring houses, and strolling through the writhing street were a hundred Mrs. Hauers, searching for Saul in her wedding dress and veil.
Want more from S.D. Hintz?
Thank you so much S.D. for sharing this story with us here on Horror Made! And thank you, my dear reader for visiting. ❤