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20 min read

It Called at Sundown

Author since 2024 2Stories 1 Follower
It Called at Sundown

“I dunno Chris, eldritch abominations are kind of old hat at this point ”

My brother Terry had said after reading over a rough draft of the latest story I was writing. His words stung more than I think he intended them to because though I wouldn’t admit it outright, I knew that they were true.

“Oh come on Terry! I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time I sit down to write.”

I had huffed back at him somewhat annoyed.

“True, but stories with big, creepy, indefinable entities are just so… overdone. Lovecraft cornered that market decades ago, and the internet is absolutely saturated with stories like that.”

“Well what kind of creatures do you think I should write about?”

“What about Vampires?”

I could not contain my disappointed sigh at that suggestion.

“Vampires are probably the most overdone monsters in the genre and besides, they aren’t actually scary because everyone knows their weaknesses.”

“So? Why does that matter?”

“It matters because if the audience knows the monster’s weakness, then they gain a sense of control over it, and any sense of fear evaporates. The essence of a good horror story is a lack of control.”

I said, sounding almost like a professor giving a lecture.

Terry threw up his hands in an overly exaggerated expression of defeat

“If you say so, Maestro.”

I didn’t want to come off as a conceited dick head that couldn’t take criticism so I decided to concede that he did have a point.

“Look, they might be old hat, but they are easy to write about, and that works for me right now. I feel like I’m in a rut creatively. I just can’t seem to think of anything to write about like I used to,  and everything I do write just feels so bland and unoriginal. I end up hating it before I get half-way down the page.”

I  said, sounding more fatigued than I had meant to, I pressed my head into my arms that lay folded on my writing desk in my less than tidy room in the two story house Terry and I lived in with our parents and younger sister.

Terry’s expression said that he wanted to comfort me, but wasn’t quite sure what to say. After a moment or so of uncomfortable silence however, he did manage to think up some sincere sounding words of encouragement.

“I think you’re just being too much of a perfectionist Chris. Like you said, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you sit down to write, you just have to write what feels correct to you. Don’t write to please an audience, write to express yourself and remember what Mr. Talbot used to say.”

Terry’s mention of the creative writing teacher we both shared in highschool caused a wave of nostalgia to wash over me as I recalled the words that the gentle old man repeated to us at every opportunity like it was his personal catch phrase.

“There are no original stories, only original ways to tell them.”

I mumbled aloud. Terry smiled in agreement as he got up from where he sat on my bed and made his way to my bedroom door, glancing back over his shoulder at me and saying

“I’m gonna go make something to eat and I’ll be back up in a bit man, take a break if you need to and don’t beat yourself up so much, the right idea will come to you in its own time. And you’ll say to yourself  Eureka! I have something to write about now!”

With theatrical fervor  before he walked out, leaving me alone with my thoughts and a rough draft of a story that now looked like a horrid and detestable abomination to my eyes staring back at me from the screen of my laptop.

I lamented my inability to reach into  the ethereal realm of imagination just long enough to pull out the even the smallest embers of an idea, that could in turn be nurtured into a fire from which I could forge words and sentences, and then use those to make paragraphs, and then build those paragraphs into a cohesive narrative that could be sold to a wide audience of readers that sought out even the smallest escape from banal the realities of their day to day lives with ravenous abandon and  briefly considered deleting the whole thing in a fit of frustration before I just opened up another tab in my web browser and started monotonously clicking on Youtube video after Youtube video with the attention span of a squirrel stricken with ADHD.

I had listened to about half a horror story narration who’s overall plot sounded infuriatingly similar to the one I had written when I felt my phone vibrating in my pocket. It was becoming relatively late at this point, the evening sun had just about completed it’s descent under the horizon, painting the evening sky with deep hues of  red and purple as it went and I could hear the soft patter of summer rain, like the subtle tapping of thousands of tiny  little fingers against my window pane as I fished my phone out of my pocket to see who could be calling me.

The number that flashed across my phone’s screen was not one I recognized, so I just declined the call as was my habit. I had barely put the phone back in my pocket when it started vibrating again. I took it back out and peered at the screen. The same number was calling me again. I declined it again only to have it call me a third time.

Whoever it was, they seemed pretty damn desperate to get a hold of me. So with my curiosity piqued, I decided to answer it.

“Hello?”

I got no immediate verbal response, but noted what sounded like running water and the steady, rhythmic clicking of something metallic in the background. I was half a second away from hanging up when a voice I didn’t recognize finally spoke up.

“Hello?” It said  back to me.

“Who is this?”

“Who is this?” the voice repeated.

“You’re the one who called, so you tell me.”

I had said, already annoyed with this mystery caller. The voice on the other end simply repeated my words back to me again in a sarcastic and juvenile tone the likes of which you’d expect to hear from a middle schooler, self assured and totally convinced that his lame joke was in fact hilarious.

“You’re the one who called, so you tell me.”

The voice sounded like someone young trying to do an impression of someone much older, a gruff monotone that cracked at frequent intervals revealing a softer and higher pitched sounding voice that almost sounded feminine  though  I couldn’t quite decipher if it was male or female. But regardless  It seemed obvious to me at this point that this was some bored kid’s idea of a prank call, and since I wasn’t really doing much anyway I decided to play along for a minute.

“I’m an unoriginal dipshit.” I said, waiting for the voice to repeat it.

The voice let out a delighted giggle before saying

“You’re an unoriginal dipshit.”

“Yes. Ha ha, very funny. Listen kid, 1997 called and it wants its lame prank call back. If you’re gonna do shit like this, you need to at least be funny first.”

The voice didn’t respond right away and I was about to hang up when it said

“If you say so, Maestro.”

Then the line went dead.

Weird.

My first immediate thought was that Terry must have been the prank caller, and that he had probably used some kind of voice changer the likes of which you could buy at a halloween shop or order online. I made a mental note to chastise him for interrupting my work next time I saw him  and then I put my phone back in my pocket and went back to surfing the web, putting the strange prank call out of my mind. I spent another hour or so .watching videos and intermittently adding a few new sentences to my story that seemed doomed to remain forever unfinished due to my own lack of creativity before I decided to get up from my desk and go downstairs to make a pot of coffee, as I usually did when I needed to kick start my imagination.

Leaving my desk, I stepped over some dirty clothes that never managed to make their way to the hamper that laid at the foot of my bed and made my way out into the hallway. As I walked toward the stairs I passed the washing machine and the dryer that lay in a closet just at the top of the stairs and noted the familiar sound of running water and the steady rhythmic clicking of something metallic coming from the dryer as the machines worked through their wash cycles.

That was pretty common in my house, especially since Terry rarely ever bothered to check his pockets for change before he put his clothes through the wash, and the end result was always that metallic clicking sound as the change left in his pocket was tossed around in the dryer.

This kind of solidified my idea that Terry was my mystery caller, and I resolved to go downstairs and make fun of him for his lame attempt at a prank while I made my coffee. I strolled down the steps at a leisurely pace and proceeded into the somewhat cluttered living room where I found Terry lounging on the couch watching what looked like some old black and white Noir film.

The TV screen was filled with the image of a middle aged man in an overcoat and a fedora that seemed to be the trademark of the genre as he browsed what appeared be a library bookshelf absentmindedly before a woman approached him and asked

“Can I help you sir?”

“Oh yeah I’m looking for a good mystery on something off the beaten track like the Maltese Falcon.” he replied.

The two characters bantered back and forth like that while Terry watched with intrigue, totally oblivious to my approach. I scooped the remote up off the couch and tossed it at him lightly, intending to startle him. He jolted upward when the remote made its impact and whirled around with a scowl on his face.

“What the fuck dude?”

“That’s for that lame prank call, you seriously gotta up your game man! hard to believe you called me unoriginal”

Terry looked both perplexed and genuinely confused by my statement, being ever the dramatic actor that he was.

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t play dumb Terry, the voice changer was a nice touch but I could tell it was you on the phone. Nobody else calls me Maestro.”

“Phone? Voice changer? What the actual fuck are you talking about man? Why would I call you for anything? You’re literally in shouting distance.”

“Yeah, sure of course Terry. You’re clearly innocent, it was obviously the boogeyman who interrupted my writing session with a lame ass prank call from on top of the stairs.”

I replied sarcastically.  Terry’s response was defensive.

“Look man if somebody prank-called you, it wasn’t me, I don’t even have my phone on me, it’s in my room on the charger!”

I had expected him to smile and laugh while he admitted to making the call, maybe even make a few well-intentioned jabs at my writing like he usually did, but his adamant refusal to accept responsibility began to sow seeds of doubt in my mind.

“Cut the shit man! I know it was you, it had to have been. I could hear the washer and dryer in the background!”

Terry opened his mouth to reply but the words died on his lips as a loud crashing sound resonated from upstairs and both of us turned a deathly pale. The sound was followed by  loud scratching noises like nails on a chalkboard and then the quick pitter patter of what sounded like small feet running quickly down the hallway before silence prevailed throughout the house once again.

I looked at Terry with undisguised fear in my eyes. Our sister was spending the night at a friend’s house and our parents were both working until late, meaning Terry and I were supposed to be alone in the house, so it goes without saying that we were both scared shitless by this development.

After a few tense moments of silent stillness I finally said to Terry

“Go get something from the kitchen.”

He nodded, understanding that by “something” I meant a weapon we could use for self defense since it seemed clear that we were dealing with some kind of break in. Without a word in response, he went to the kitchen and I followed close behind. We each grabbed the largest and sharpest kitchen knives we could find and proceeded back into the living room toward the stairs.

I don’t think I’ve ever taken longer to climb up a flight of stairs in my life than I did in those moments. Adrenaline slowed the flow of time down to a trickle and each step felt like a mile.

Even with Terry at my back I don’t think I’d ever been more scared in my life. As we both ascended the staircase not knowing what the Hell to expect, all of the typical sounds I usually associated with my house suddenly sounded alien and threatening. Every creak of a floorboard was an attacker about to ambush me, and every gust of wind that echoed from outside was a monster about to leap from the shadows.

When we finally did make it to the top of the stairs, I found my bedroom door hanging open, and after getting closer, I saw what looked like some kind of weird geometric symbol on the inside of the door that looked as if someone had carved it into the wood with their fingernails. Fresh crimson droplets of blood ran down the door in some areas where the symbol had been drawn, and I almost gagged when I saw what looked like an entire blackened  fingernail lodged in the door, as if someone had jammed their fingers into the wood of the door so deep and with such haste that they literally tore off their own fingernails while drawing this weird arcane symbol that almost looked like a star with seven ugly points that curved outward along the width of my door like talons with an inverted triangle at its center.

“What the fuck?”

I heard Terry say behind me as I slowly proceeded  into my bedroom with the kitchen knife at the ready since I was now totally convinced that some psychotic teenager had just broken into our house. As I passed through the door frame and into my room with Terry in toe, fear gave way to confusion as I looked around my bedroom expecting to find it ransacked after the commotion I heard from downstairs only to find it neater than I had left it just moments ago, and not just neater, but wholly different in ways that shouldn’t have been possible in the short time that I was downstairs.

The wallpaper for example had been a dim, dingy green when I went downstairs to get coffee, but now was a bright mustard yellow with this tacky floral pattern. My writing desk and laptop were in the same place as they were before I left, but the laptop charger and even the outlet it was plugged into were now located on the opposite wall from where they were before I left. Clothes that had been strewn across the floor were now tidily folded and placed atop an ornate looking dresser I’d never seen before, and the posters of various cartoon characters that had been on my walls had been replaced with framed portraits of people I didn’t recognize .

An old woman in an expensive looking red satin dress with sad gray eyes, a middle aged man in a dark overcoat with a bitter expression etched into his bearded face, and a yellow-eyed child whose face reached into the Uncanny Valley and disturbed me deeply. He looked normal at a glance but the longer I stood and looked at him the more off he seemed. His eyes were too far apart and his prominent cheek bones were a bit too high while his nose was a bit too low on his face. It looked less like a portrait of a real person and more like some  alien who had never actually seen a human child before had attempted to paint one based on a description of one alone.

Terry and I must have stood there staring at my room’s sudden transformation with slack-jawed confusion and mounting terror for what felt like forever before the ring of the cell phone in my pocket snapped us out of our stupor. I fished the phone out of my pocket with trepidation and felt my blood curdle in my veins when I looked at the screen and saw my mystery caller’s number flashing across it.

I answered it almost without thinking.

“Can I help you sir?”

the voice asked, sounding delighted that I had answered the phone on the first ring.

“Wha..what the fuck is going on? Who are you? What do you want?”

“I’m looking for a good mystery off the beaten track like the Maltese Falcon”

“Look kid I don’t know how you got in here or what you want but you’re sick and you need to leave my house now, my brother and I are armed and if you don’t get the fuck out right now somebody is gonna get hurt.”

“Somebody is gonna get hurt. You need to leave my house now”

It repeated with a demented giggle, adding emphasis to the word “my” as if to say that this was not my house at all, but rather Its before the line went dead.

My next immediate instinct was to call the police and I readied myself to dial 911 only to have my heart sink as I found that I suddenly had no service. I turned back to Terry to see his face a pale, bloodless mask of dumbfounded confusion as he looked toward the doorway that lead back into the hallway and I followed his gaze to find that the plain, white wall of our hallway had been replaced by the same mustard yellow wallpaper that now covered the walls of my room.

Not only that, but on the wall directly opposite to my room, carved in the same grotesque manner as the symbol on my door, was a cryptic  message of some kind that read

“Seven points for seven doors, seven horns upon seven heads, and seven sacrifices asleep in their beds.”

“Wha…what the actual fuck?”

Terry wondered aloud in a bewildered voice and I had no words to form a reply. I could still hear the rain as it beat against the window pane from outside, each drop against the glass sounded in my ears like the crack of thunder as my mind reeled from what was unfolding before me, and the sound brought me back  to what I know loosely refer to as reality. I clutched the kitchen knife in my hand while I turned back to Terry.

“We have to get outside!”

He nodded in agreement and we both bolted for the hallway toward the stairs, only to find them completely missing when we made our way out of my bedroom. Replaced by a long hallway covered with that same ugly yellow wallpaper and lined with countless doors all etched with that same gruesome symbol and portraits identical to the ones in my room hung from the walls at regular intervals.

Scared doesn’t begin to describe what I felt as I looked down that long hallway where my stairs used to be. Nothing seemed to make sense anymore. I looked behind me to see what remained of my house’s second floor replaced by this hallway that seemed to stretch on endlessly until it faded from view. In a panic I ran down  the hallway as fast as I could, heedless to Terry’s cries for me to slow down as I searched desperately for an exit and found only more of the hallway.

That’s when my phone rang out again. I hesitated to answer for only a moment, before I accepted the call and brought the phone back up to my ear.

“Hello?” I asked

“Hello,” the voice said.

“What is this place? Why are you doing this?”

The voice’s response was petulant, like that of a child explaining the obvious.

“Because the essence of a good horror story is a lack of control.”

My response to this thing’s twisted taunting died in my throat when I heard Terry scream somewhere far behind me followed by the guttural growls of something that sounded utterly inhuman. Without thinking, I pocketed my phone and  called out after him as I turned tail and ran back down the hallway looking for him, but found only a massive pool of blood that started in the middle of the hallway, and ended at one of the doors on the right.

I approached the door slowly with the kitchen knife still in hand, mortal terror making each step a herculean task. The sharp hiss of the door’s hinges made the hair on the back of my neck stand up as I stepped through the doorway, expecting to see something ghastly, only to see my empty bedroom, just as I had left it before I had gone downstairs to harass Terry.

I looked around in astonished bewilderment, and saw that the strange hallway that had been there just a moment before I stepped through the doorway was now gone, replaced by my own second floor hallway. I must have slammed and opened it again at least ten times trying to get it to open back up into that awful yellow hallway to no avail. I ran all throughout the house calling out for Terry only to met with the silence of an empty house with my brother nowhere to be found.

Left with no other options, I quickly donned my jacket and ran out the front door into the freezing rain toward the police station up the road, desperate to tell someone about what I had just gone through. I must have made it at least halfway down the street when I heard my phone ring again, for the last time that night, and I answered it with rage and indignation pouring from my voice.

“What have you done with Terry!?”

At first there was no answer, just the steady sound of something metallic clicking in the background before the Voice finally said.

“You have something to write about now, Maestro.”

And the line went dead.

You’d think that hearing that awful voice next to the unmistakable sounds of my own washer and dryer would have terrified me, because that meant that whatever that thing was, it was still in my house. But that’s not what scared me the most about that final call.

What scared me the most was that the voice now sounded exactly like Terry.

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Endy avatar
Endy
1 hour ago

this was awesome