Within a few minutes, they started to see signs of life. At least, the extinction of it. Just as Herb had described, the woods opened into a clearing with piles of bones and skins stretched over frames at the edges. The house sat at the centre, a sagging porch with swing hanging from rusty chains moved gently in the…

“There’s no breeze. How is the porch swing moving? Does anyone else think that’s weird?”

Cassandra gestured to the outdoor ossuary.
“That’s the first thing you notice?”

“Well Herb already told us about the yard so I knew what to expect. Also, we should probably be watching out for booby traps. If I was a psycho killer living in the woods, I would definitely set traps for interlopers.”

“It’s awfully quiet. Maybe he’s not home. Maybe he’s still down at the restaurant looking for us.”

“I doubt it. He is most likely watching us even now, waiting for his moment to strike.”

Kirk slid the machete from it’s sheath on his back.
“I say we strike first. What are we waiting for? He’s already killed Tommy, and probably Nathan. Are we really going to wait around and see who is next?”

He turned and walked toward the house, testing the steps leading to the porch tentatively. They let out a couple of creaks but held steady. He swung the blade through the air at the top of the stairs. “No trip wires so far.”

The rest of the group followed, with Herb bringing up the rear. Kirk was already at the door, turning the knob gently and meeting no resistance. He let the door swing open, while he braced himself with the machete raised above his head. His whole bearing leaned in to listening to the house, trying to determine if there was anyone inside. It seemed altogether quiet. The front entry was sparse, a small table to the left, and some coat hooks just past it. A couple of jackets hung there, a pair of slippers on the mat below.

“Well he’s obviously not here. If he was home, he’d be wearing his slippers and his boots would be on the mat.”

Cassandra gave Kirk a look rife with incredulity.

“That’s your logic. That’s what you’re going with. He’s not home because he’s such a meticulous housekeeper that he won’t wear boots in the house. Do you think he’d just be sitting around in his slippers waiting for us to pop by? He must know we’re on the way, if not already here.”

Casey leaned in to the conversation, lowering his voice to one step above stage whisper.

“First of all, if he is here and doesn’t wear boots in the house, I’m sure he wouldn’t be happy that we are. Second, what kind of psycho killer keeps a little kid’s art on his fridge?”

Casey gestured through the kitchen door on their right. A large 50’s style refrigerator dominated the small room, begrudgingly sharing space with a cookstove. Indeed, a small grouping of child’s drawings covered the fridge. One was of a woman, her brown hair a mess of curls and red spurts with two men in black holding guns. In the corner of the picture was a bed with a figure crouched under it. Cassandra moved closer.

“Oh no. If this is a picture he drew of the day his mom died, no wonder he’s such a mess.”

Kirk snorted. “Ok, I know you didn’t just start to feel sorry for the asshole who killed Tommy. Don’t forget we’re here for revenge, Cassie.”

“You’re here for revenge, Kirk. I never wanted that. I just don’t want you to get my brother killed if I can stop it. Because if we’re being honest, he has way less of a chance of getting out of here in one piece, especially compared to you or Herb.”

“Thanks, sis. I appreciate your vote of confidence.”

“Casey. You’re a massive stoner who almost had his hand ripped off by a tiny dog. The odds are not in your favour.”

“Fair enough.”

Cassandra looked at the other pictures. One depicted a family, intact. The dad character, wearing green pants and the blue jacket which resembled the one hanging in the entry. The mom, wearing a red dress and a little boy holding her hand. There was a bubble coming from the mom that said, ‘you’re my little Ray of Sunshine’.

“Hey you guys, I think the little boy is named Ray.”

“That is correct.”

They turned as one at the sound of the deep and unfamiliar voice to see a stranger standing in the hall behind Herb. Kirk let out a yell and pushed Herb to one side, then raised the machete and charged forward.

Photo by Dawn Kim on Unsplash