By Dick Johnson
He felt alone, and he was alone. The others had left him long ago.
The walls of the cellar were cold and peeling, like his old face.
The neighbor kids said the house was haunted. And it was. It had the ghosts of all the orphan kids who had burned up in the fire 50 years ago.
The old janitor had bought the dilapidated house. He had too. He had to atone. Or maybe he just wanted to be near and gloat.
He heard them at night, while he flip flopped on his cot in the blackened head masters office. He felt them touch him as he walked through the huge structure still smelling of smoke, and burned hair. He knew that they waited for him, just on the other side of the veil.
Those burned children and many more over the years, waited to rip him apart, for what he had done. For all his wretchedness, not only would he be punished in this life, but forever in the next. He knew this, so why bother trying to make amends? Make amends to who?
He had purchased the property from the city. They planned to demolish it, but he told them of his grand plan to renovate and make it a bed and breakfast. He had worked there shoveling coal into that old furnace to keep the kids warm in the frigid winters of the past, until that terrible tragedy. He would now bring a new warmth to the land, and give the children some peace.
He wasn’t going to renovate shit. He just wanted to keep the little demons who screamed into his mind quiet. They still hated him for burning them up. They shouldn’t have teased him. That head mistress shouldn’t have treated him like scum.
It was night, and he had gone to a nearby town on one of his excursions for the children. He went down the rickety steps in the cellar. The nice cool place, where he always felt safe.
He dragged a stone from the cellar wall revealing a crawlspace full of bones and tiny skulls. The skulls of all the children he had stolen over the years, to appease the screams of the burning hungry orphans who wailed at him through the night.
He fed them infants and they soon became quiet. But they always returned screaming for more, and the newest member wailed the loudest. It wailed for it’s missing mom, and the ache in it’s empty gut.
He opened the old burlap tote sack he had been dragging. It was black with soot and grime.
He pulled out a dead baby by the leg. Stiff and fat, without a diaper. It was battered and broken from the beating it had taken.
He stuffed the baby into the crawl space with the skeletons. Then he grabbed a shovel full of quicklime and threw it on top. He then returned the stone to its place.
Perhaps the orphans will be silent for a while and he could sleep. He knew they would be. They always got quiet when they received a new friend.
Nothing was right about what he did. He knew this. But, the orphans demanded friends. And he would provide them. Maybe they would leave him alone. In this world, and the next.
Bio: Dick Johnson is a writer from St. Louis, Mo.. He likes to tell stories on the grittier side of life. He has several on The Yard: Crime Blog. “A Bottle of Vodka” “Drunk Tank” “Thou Shalt Not” “Bag of Soap” “Do You Like Masks?” and “Sad Day“.
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