A Cold House

A Cold House

By: James G. Boswell 

Note: This is a preview from the scary short story collection e-book, “Deprived …and Other Stories.” To find out how the story ends, you can buy the collection on Amazon for $2.99. Click here to buy on Amazon.

Sweat covered Lauren’s face as she sprinted down the street while sirens blared behind her. She zipped past rundown houses with boarded up windows, rotten siding, and collapsed framework. A police car sped into view with lights ablaze and she ducked into a home’s overgrown side yard, then around to its back porch.

She tried to open the door but it was locked, so she steadied herself and pulled a bobby pin and paperclip out of her pocket, then used them to pick the lock with a smooth, practiced motion. It disengaged with an audible “click.”

Once inside, Lauren locked the door and then stood at the threshold while she caught her breath. Small streams of sunlight peaked around the edges of boarded-up windows and provided faint illumination. As her eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness, she perceived bare wooden floors, scuffed woodwork cabinetry with broken or missing drawers, and walls covered in grimy, torn, yellowish wallpaper. Everything was engulfed in dust and cobwebs.

Her sweat felt like it turned to ice and her teeth began to chatter. “That’s strange,” she thought. “Why would someone turn the air conditioning on in an abandoned house in the middle of summer?”

Before she had time to ponder, Lauren heard radio static outside. Someone rattled the doorknob, and then she heard a woman’s voice say, “I think she went in here, but I’m not sure. The door’s locked and I don’t see any other way to get inside. We should search all the homes in the neighborhood, just in case.”

A man’s voice said, “Yes, miss.”

“Take your team and start at the end of the block, then work your way down. All these houses are abandoned anyway, so kick in the doors if you have to. I’ll start with this one and meet you in the middle. Get going.”

“Yes, miss.”

Someone slammed against the door and the sound echoed around the room. The impact repeated every few seconds until the door began to splinter, and Lauren realized she had only a few moments before the door collapsed. She took one step, but the floorboard let out a loud “creak” and she froze in place. The banging paused for a moment, then resumed with harder blows in shorter intervals. Lauren got down on her hands and knees to distribute her weight and minimize the noise of her movement, then crawled through the kitchen doorway.

She found herself in a dark hallway with several closed doors on either side. She reached up and tried each doorknob as she crept along, but they were all locked. She heard a “crash” behind her and then heavy footsteps. When she looked back she saw that a police officer stood in the same spot where she’d been moments before. Sunshine flooded through the doorway and framed the officer in an aura of light.

The officer pulled her gun out of its holster and said, “This is the police. Come out with your hands up!” She looked right at Lauren but didn’t see her in the shadowy darkness.

Lauren crawled to the end of the hallway where she found a flight of stairs around the corner to her right. She slithered up the stairs to the second-floor landing where she saw another, darker hallway that was also flanked by closed doors. Faint light spilled through an open doorway at the end of the hall. Footsteps and creaking floorboards sounded beneath her.

She scraped her knees as she scrambled toward the light and gagged on an unseen cobweb. When she made it to the doorway, she saw that it opened into an empty bedroom with boarded up windows.

She entered the bedroom and closed the door behind her, then looked for a lock but found none. She noticed the room had a closet and tried to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. A dark red liquid oozed out from under the closet door and she stifled a gasp. Then she heard footsteps pound up the stairs and realized she was trapped. She pressed herself into the corner and tried to make herself as small as possible.

She heard the officer rattle the doorknobs in the hall, and the sound came closer and closer. Finally, she heard footsteps approach the bedroom door and saw a flashlight beam through the space underneath it. She held her breath as the officer tried to open the bedroom door, but it remained closed as if it was locked. Then, the footsteps receded through the hallway and down the stairs.

She sat there until she no longer heard anything, then got up and tried the doorknob. The door opened without any effort at all.

Lauren peaked through the space in between the boards that covered a window in the first floor living room and saw a squad car parked outside the house.

“All I have to do is wait,” she thought. “Sooner or later they’ll leave the neighborhood and then I’ll make a break for it. That is, if I don’t freeze to death first. I still don’t know why it’s so cold in here. It must be 90 degrees outside even at night.”

Pale moonlight shined through another window that wasn’t boarded up and bathed the room in a spectral glow. She saw her breath as she sat on the floor and rubbed her bare arms. Then she looked over at the living room’s fireplace with a wistful expression.

Muffled voices came through the ceiling and startled her. They were hushed at first, but then grew louder and more intense. She listened hard but couldn’t make out what they said. A deep voice began to shout while a high voice began to sob. Then, the high voice let out a scream, but it was cut off by a “whack,” then a “thud” as if something heavy fell on the floor. She looked back outside at the squad car with anxiety, but didn’t see any motion.

Several minutes passed and then she heard a strange grinding sound as if someone was sawing a wet log. A dark spot formed on the ceiling. Liquid began to drip from it onto the floor…

Click here to find out how the story ends and to read many more tales of terror by purchasing the e-book, “Deprived …and Other Stories” on Amazon for $3.99.

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