The curse of the house o.., p.1
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       The Curse of The House on Cypress Lane: Book 0- The Beginning, p.1

           James Hunt
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The Curse of The House on Cypress Lane: Book 0- The Beginning
The Curse of the House on Cypress Lane 

  James Hunt

  DBS Publishing LLC

  Copyright 2017 by DBS Publishing LLC

  Chapter 1 – 25 Years Ago

  Moonlight penetrated the branches of the old cypress trees that sprouted from the swamp. The black water was still and reflected the night sky. Cicadas buzzed and frogs croaked. A hot breeze blew the dangling strands of Spanish moss that hung from branches. They wiggled like fingers and moved shadows in the dark, breathing life into monsters that didn’t exist, and concealing the ones that did.

  Sharon’s bare feet smacked against the thick Louisiana mud on her serpentine sprint through the swamp. She swatted at the Spanish moss dangling from the branches, catching on her hair and arms, tickling her body with scratchy fibers. Her wet, soiled tank top clung to her body like a second skin, and her jeans with the holes in the knees were heavy with water.

  The skin around her eyes twitched as she stole a glance behind her on the run, the shadowed figures still in pursuit, and she tripped over an unearthed root. She thrust out her hands to help break the fall, but the deep mud swallowed them whole, slapping her face and chest against the muck.

  Sharon struggled to lift herself out of the earth sucking her deeper into the ground. Her hands and knees slid awkwardly in the mud that kept her on all fours, desperately clawing, driving forward. She blinked and wiped away the mask of crud from her eyes, tasting the gritty flecks of Cajun sludge on her lips.

  “I think I see something over there!”

  The voice was distant but growing closer. Desperation, and the instinct of survival, propelled Sharon to her feet. Slabs of mud fell from her stomach, legs, and arms and then plunked to the ground.

  The quicksand-like mud eventually gave way to water that rose to her ankles, and with each noisy splash, she gave away her position to the crazies chasing her.

  A cramp bit at her left hamstring and Sharon slowed to a hobbled limp. Her lungs burned and her chest tightened as she waded into warm, waist-high water, the mud dissolving into the black water. She ducked behind a tree, praying that the ripples from her wake calmed before the men saw.

  Sharon shivered and hugged her stomach. An adrenaline-laced fear gnawed at her innards. She pictured the bodies back at the house, her family torn apart by that… that… thing. She couldn’t rid herself of that rattling noise, those bones, the screams. She saw the teeth, claws, and black eyes. How could it even see with eyes so black? Part of her believed that it wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. But the proof was in the fresh blood oozing from the bite marks on her arms.

  Feet splashed quickly in shallow water, then slowed and transformed into a heavy swoosh as the legs submerged deeper into the swamp. The movements sent ripples around the tree where Sharon squatted. She covered her mouth and passed silent breaths through her nose, which filled her nostrils with the hot stink of the swamp. The swooshing ended and the water grew still.

  “It’s no use, sweetheart. It’s either death by bullet or claws. I would think a bullet is kinder.” The voice was thick with a Louisiana drawl. What had been charming Southern flattery when she first arrived to the town was now evil and ominous. “You don’t have nowhere else to go, darlin’.”

  More water rippled to her left, and Sharon shivered in the dark, covered in blood and mud, and stinking of a young woman fearful of death’s open, waiting arms. Tears squeezed through the corners of her eyes and trickled down her cheeks. She slowly submerged herself deeper until the water reached her upper lip.

  A knee appeared to her left along with the end of a rifle, and Sharon shut her eyes tighter, her head and neck vibrating from the effort it took to remain still. The man took another step forward and ripples from the movement sent water up her nose.

  “Fine,” he said, exasperated. “Have it your way, bitch.”

  Water swooshed again, the noise drifting away from her, then grew into softer, fading splashes. Sharon kept herself curled in a tight ball, waiting for the monsters to return, but their voices and splashes were replaced by the steady buzz of cicadas.

  Slowly, and keeping low in the water, she crept toward the left of the tree trunk, her fingernails clawing rough bark. She craned her neck around the side and saw nothing but still black water, trees, and moonlight. She stood, water droplets falling from the hem of her tank top and elbows.

  She took a step forward, and then another, that primal function of survival motoring her forward. Her thoughts wandered to her father’s truck. It was still parked in the drive, but the keys were inside the house. With the bodies.

  A sudden wave of sobs curved her body forward, and she buried her face in her dirty palms. All of their eyes would still be open, their bodies lifeless on the living room floor. She thought of wading through the swamp and finding another house or road, but she didn’t know the area, and she remembered her father’s boss talking about gators and snakes. The truck was safer and faster.

  Her legs chafed from the wet jeans, and the mud and blood began to harden over her chest and face. It tightened her skin, and the dark shades highlighted the whites of her eyes. She weaved through the path from which she came until she saw the open field that led back to the house.

  Sharon paused at the clearing’s edge. She gazed across the waist-high grass and reeds that stood straight and still like the house on the other side. She saw no movement, just the darkened windows of the house and the truck parked out front.

  Looking at the structure now, she couldn’t see anything else but death. But inside, amongst the dead, were the keys to her freedom.

  Sharon crouched low, using the tall grass and reeds for cover. After the first few steps on her toes she broke into a sprint, and the rush of air stung the bite marks on her arms. She aimed for the front door, and she leapt up the porch steps, then skidded to a stop.

  The door was open, the path ahead dark. Heat and a foul stench radiated from that dark plane. She whimpered and twisted the ends of her fingertips like a nervous child.

  Bushes rustled to her left, and it provided the needed grit to cross the threshold of darkness, the shadows swallowing her whole as she passed through with her eyes shut.

  After two full steps into the house, Sharon kept her head down and slowly opened her eyes. She stared at the floor until the tips of her mud-covered toes appeared in the darkness. She remained frozen in the foyer like a teenager caught coming home late from a curfew. She knew her parents were there on the floor. She didn’t want to look at them but knew stepping on them would be worse. Finally, she gathered the courage to lift her head.

  Her father lay on his back, his left leg straight, his right bent at a ninety-degree angle. His arms were stretched out from his body, and for a moment he reminded her of Jesus on the cross, his sacrifice meant to keep her alive. His face was turned toward her, his mouth slightly agape, his eyes open. Blood from the gunshot wound to his chest had pooled in a dark patch on the floor next to him.

  Her mother lay on her stomach, her arms bunched under her breasts, one leg tucked under her chest while the other stuck straight out from the bottom of her dress. Her face was turned away, and Sharon stared at the tight black curls of hair on the back of her mother’s head.

  Quickly, Sharon skirted around the bodies and raced down the hall to her parents’ bedroom. On the way, she passed the dining room where moonlight shone through the pair of skylights in the ceiling. But she didn’t look up to the second-floor balcony where her and her brother’s rooms had been. For all she knew, that thing was still up there.

  She searched for the truck keys in
the dark, not daring to turn on the lights and attract those men again. Her hands opened drawers, flung clothes, scoured the night stands, but the keys remained elusive.

  She clenched her fists in frustration, and desperation made them shake. She retreated to the wall, unsure where her father could have put them. She knew they weren’t in the truck. They couldn’t be because her father had just gotten back from work when—

  Sharon covered her mouth to muffle the frightened gasp. The keys weren’t in her parents’ room because her father never made it out of the living room. The keys were still in her father’s pockets. Her dead father’s pockets.

  Sharon walked to the living room like an inmate on death row, her steps slow and hesitant. Her mother watched her enter, and Sharon caught a brief glimpse of the bloody hole where her mother’s jaw used to be. The entire bottom half of her face had been blown away, leaving behind stringy bits of muscles that hung from her cheeks and the roof of her mouth.

  Her eyes remained transfixed on her mother’s face while she maintained a slow walk forward until she stepped in something warm. She quickly recoiled her foot from the pool of blood next to her father’s body. She turned away and scrunched her face, fixated on the warm liquid smeared beneath her toes.

  Sharon slowly wiped her feet on the floor, refusing to look down at the red streaks staining the hardwood, and then turned back to her father’s corpse. Her knees popped as she bent down, her arm outstretched and rigid.

  She paused at the opening to his pants pocket, knowing that she’d have to feel her father’s body. It felt wrong, but she forced herself to do it. She didn’t want to die. Not here, and not now. She shut her eyes as she reached through the hole. She winced at the soft give of muscle and fat, but found nothing but lint. She quickly removed her hand, then reached across her father’s waist to the other pocket, the heat of the body warming the skin of her arm.

  As she moved closer to the second pocket, a curious force pulled her eyes toward her father’s head where she saw a few specks of blood amongst the black stubble of his tan face. She remembered how rough it felt as a child when he kissed her goodnight, but also how comforting it was. An impulse to experience that comfort again diverted the direction of her hand. Her lower lip quivered as her fingers grazed the stubble. After the first prick against her fingertip she retracted her hand, clutching it tightly with the other, and she cried.

  Snot dribbled from her nose and she quickly wiped it away. The sudden and overwhelming sense of escape flooded through her and Sharon quickly shoved her hand into the second pocket and in one quick pull, she removed the keys and jumped back from her father’s body. She retreated towards the door, the keys clutched in both hands against her chest. “I’m sorry.”

  Sharon sprinted out the front door and hurried down the four steps of the porch, missing the last one. She landed awkwardly on her left foot and twisted her ankle. She skidded on her hands and knees in the gravel drive, fresh cuts in her palms, and then reached back for her ankle, baring her teeth with a hiss.

  “There she is!”

  Sharon jerked her head toward the pair of men aiming their rifles at her from the brush, and she scrambled to get her legs under her. The tiny rocks in the gravel cut into the tender flesh under her bare feet as the men hastened their pursuit. She moaned between sobs, hyperventilating as she fumbled through the ring of keys.

  Her ankle throbbed painfully by the time she reached the truck and she tugged at the handle, heaving open the heavy steel door. A gunshot thundered and connected with the side of the truck. Sharon jumped from the violent blast, then climbed inside cab.

  Sharon shoved the key into the ignition and jammed her foot down on the clutch as she turned the key. The engine sputtered and another gunshot sounded, this one shattering the driver side window next to her head. She screamed and ducked, lying low on the truck bench as she continued to crank the engine and hold the clutch.

  The engine choked then sputtered to life, and Sharon sprung up and shifted into first gear, but as she did, the door flung open and meaty hands grabbed her arm and groped her waist.

  “No!” Sharon flailed against the man that pulled her from the truck cabin and flung her helplessly to the ground. Her elbow smacked onto the gravel and a sharp crack of pain sent a thousand tiny needles up her forearm, numbing her fingers.

  “Trust us, sweetheart,” the man said, catching his breath. “It’s better this way.” He smiled, and the moonlight reflected off a silver capped tooth.

  “Sure you don’t want to have any fun with her first, Billy?” A thick beard covered the second man’s face, a pair of hungry eyes running down the curve of her body.

  “No time,” Billy answered, then aimed the rifle at Sharon’s head. “This place isn’t safe.”

  Sharon held up her hands in defense, crying. “Please, don’t. Just let me go.” But the cries for mercy didn’t budge the rifle barrel from her head, and some childish instinct curled herself into a ball as she lay on the ground. Thick, heaving sobs shook her body, and she tasted salt and blood on her lips. She shut her eyes and pictured her parents on the floor in the living room. And then she saw her brother in the arms of that creature. They shouldn’t have come here. They should have never moved.

  “Don’t worry, sweetheart,” Billy said. “It’s all over now.”

  And with the pull of the trigger and a bullet to the brain, it was. At least for her family.

 
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