Rory Larkin often asked himself why he had decided to visit the house on Baileigh street. Was it an attempt to show everyone that he was fearless and rational enough to discard some silly superstitions that reigned over the hearts and minds of Rasperville’s townsfolk? No, no and no. Rory knew that he had never been like this – he never tried to be something special and he definitely didn't crave for much attention. It could also be a simple curiosity, an innocent attempt to check the existence of supernatural, especially, since he could find a supposedly haunted house right there, in Rasperville.
This was more probable. Even as a child, Rory was fascinated with everything strange and mysterious. He enjoyed reading about the unsolved gruesome murders, weird cryptids, UFO sightings, but he never actually believed in anything paranormal, seeing this kind of stories as a simple amusement. Moreover, most of the really interesting cases took place far away from home, and they never concerned him directly. On the contrary, the House on Baileigh Street was just in a few miles from him, and nothing forbade him from paying it a visit after school.
Nevertheless, at some point Rory realized that it was not a simple curiosity that moved him. It was some deeper and darker instinct that pushes the man into the gloomy corners of reality, the same feeling that attracts a moth towards a burning candle. Rory hadn't even tried to resist that powerful inner force, and now all he could do was to be sorry about it.
It was the late September afternoon when Rory stood before the house on Baileigh Street with a photo camera. Everything he had heard about this place flowed in his mind, and the boy started to feel goose bumps slowly covering his skin. Only a few months ago one could see its owner, the man named Edward Pine suspiciously walking down the streets of Rasperville. People who knew him described him as a strange and reclusive individual who avoided his neighbors. Although nobody ever saw him visiting any parties, he used to leave his home at nights. Nobody knew where he went, and as it often happens, people suspected the worst.
One early morning, their suspicions realized. Edward Pine was arrested in the nearby park, his arms covered in blood, and a body of his victim lay under the closest tree. The man didn't confess his guilt affirming that he had been framed by some supernatural force; the following morning he was found hanging in his cell. Most people were sure that Pine was the murderer, although a little evidence was discovered to confirm that. Nevertheless, soon afterwards, a new stream of dark rumors started to circulate around Rasperville. A few brave souls who approached now the abandoned house on Baileigh Street close enough reported hearing weird noises, often described as laughter, weeping or even singing. Unsurprisingly, nobody ever dared to go inside the house and one could find the “for sale” sign near many of its neighboring houses.
As for Rory, he got used too much for the paranormal stories and nothing in the world could make him believe in those rumors. However, the sole idea that he was going to be the first to enter the house after so much time sent chills down his spine. “I have nothing to fear,” he kept telling himself. “That’s all bullshit, and there’s nothing dangerous. I’ll just make a few shots here and there, and it will be over.” In any case, there was no way back after he had promised to make a few shots in the house and then upload the pictures on the Internet, as the ultimate proof that there was nothing paranormal about the alleged killer's lair. At first, his friends laughed at his idea, then some of them tried to discourage him, but Rory was persistent. He tried to invite some kids to join him in this night expedition, but everyone refused, often giving some excuse. At first, their fear seemed laughable but now standing before the house, Rory felt his skepticism slowly leaving his mind. Meanwhile it was getting dark, and having no urge to wait any longer, the boy walked on the porch and with a deep sigh opened the front door.
A wave of stale offensive air flowed over him, as Rory entered the house. He stepped slowly, as if he was afraid to violate the silence of this place. The house didn't look that dilapidated, although the owner’s absence made itself known. A thin layer of dust covered most of the furniture, and the faded wallpapers started to peel at places. Looking around, Rory noticed some red-brown stains on the floor and sometimes on the walls. He crouched to take a closer look at them, and he could swear that they reminded him of clearly human footsteps. Their color doubtlessly gave out their origin: somebody had left these traces in blood.
This discovery made Rory want to leave the house as soon, as it was possible. The story of Edward Pine was morbid enough, but it never included him walking around his house barefooted and smeared with blood. However, the boy quickly came to the conclusion that taking a picture of those bloody footprints would be the best evidence of his night adventure. He took out his camera and a barely audible click pierced the air of the house.
In a following instance, Rory heard another sound which echoed from upstairs. It made him jump, but he managed to calm down. “It could be some animal,” he thought. “Or, maybe, it's wind. Yes, it's wind – it was blowing quite hard when I was outside, and some windows could be open.” He strolled into the living room, hoping to discover something interesting, but didn't manage to find anything except for some old furniture and more bloody footprints. One of them attracted his attention, and Rory didn't resist the temptation to lean down and touch it. Horrified, he backed away – the blood was fresh.
At some point, he thought that it could be nothing but red paint used by some particularly sick practical joker. However, after he licked his finger, all doubts quickly died ceasing their place to the pure panic. He didn't care about his classmates who would laugh at him the following day – all that mattered at that point was running like hell out of that place.
“What’s going on?” Rory whispered. “It could be left only today, only a few hours ago.” His heart started to beat rapidly and Rory was about to turn back and bolt into the hallway and then outside, but in the same moment, the sound was heard again. It sounded like a footstep, like someone was walking on a wet surface. Walking downstairs. To his terror, Rory realized that he didn't have enough time to run away unnoticed. Desperate, he darted toward an empty cupboard in the corner, opened its door and scrambled inside holding his breath.
The footsteps were getting louder, and soon Rory could see through a crack between the doors a dark-red shape walking through the living room. The figure seemingly belonged to a woman wearing an eerie pale-white dress; however the woman had one distinguishing feature: she had no skin. With every step, she left a bloody trace on the floor, while she strolled around the room, like if she was looking for something. “What the hell is this?” Rory wanted to cry then he understood how grave his situation was. “Who is she? What is she? What will she do if she finds me?” Rory prayed to every deity known to the mankind, as he felt his body getting paralyzed with an unspeakable horror.
The Blood Woman, as Rory called this creature, stood for a minute before the window and then turned back, moving her eyes through the room. “God, please.” Rory huddled shaking and sweating, but he couldn't stop looking through the crack at the monstrous figure slowly walking across the room. For a few seconds, she stood dangerously close to the cupboard, and Rory couldn't recall more fearful seconds in his life. The rancid smell of rotting flesh invaded his nostrils, and if it lasted just a bit longer, the boy would go insane.
The woman smiled or, rather, grinned with her lipless face which made Rory close his eyes for a moment. Luckily, the creature turned around and walked upstairs, with her wet footsteps sounding above Rory’s head. Without any waiting, the boy slid out of the cupboard and flung himself into the hallway. The footsteps upstairs started again, this time they sounded more hurried, but Rory didn't pay attention. He swung the front door open and rushed into the night. Incessantly, he ran to the closest bus station, tripping and panting, his heart beating rabidly, and tears of fear flowing down his cheeks.
His mother was having party at their old friends’, and Rory came home unnoticed. This emptiness frightened Rory: alone, he felt himself even less safe,although he couldn't be sure that his mother would protect him from that grinning demoniac creature. He didn't eat, as he was sure that even a little untimely memory about what he had seen in the abandoned house would turn his stomach. The boy just lay in his bed and tried to fall asleep. There was a chance that the creepy being from the house hadn't noticed him, otherwise there was a hope that she wouldn't find his home. Anyway, Rory couldn't think about this situation anymore – all he wanted was to get rest and then… then things would resolve somehow.
Needless to say, he couldn't fall asleep as quickly as he wanted. Tossing and turning in his bed. Rory shuddered, hearing some noise downstairs. He covered his face with his blanket, although he perfectly realized that this childish move wouldn't help him, but he wasn't in a right mood for any rational thinking. Soon enough, Rory heard a voice obviously belonging to his mother, and the boy sighed with relief. Later, she entered his room to check on her precious son and after seeing him in his bed calmly closed the door.
She had no idea how restless her son was. For a few hours, he lay silently thinking about the horrors he had seen. “Where did this walking illustration from an anatomy textbook come from? What did she want? What did she have to do with the former owner of the house?” One night his whole world shattered in pieces, and life in Rasperville didn't seem safe and boring anymore. A few times, Rory managed to fall asleep, but the Blood Woman followed after him even in his dreams. He saw her grinning at him, raising a butcher knife above his head, and then the utter terror pulled him out of his sleep. Back, into reality where he lay drenched in sweat and hardly breathing, but still protected by the walls of his house.
Nightmares came after nightmares drawing more and more disturbing images. Rory wound up back in the empty house, huddling in the cupboard and hearing something echoing from the cellar. He tried to guess what would betray him: his loud breath, rapid heartbeats or shaking of his fingers. The dark-red figure came back again, and with the grin on her face she swung open the cupboard's door. With a yell, Rory woke up again but this time there was something wrong. There was something wrong in the air, like if he could smell some mixture of blood, rotten flesh and yet another thing… Was it sulfur?
Rory put his hand on his forehead, and his fingers touched something wet and sticky. He turned the lights on, and his vision started to blur. Without any doubt, it was blood but Rory was not hurt. It was not his blood, which could mean only one thing.
The boy looked down to see a chain of bloody footprints on his carpet. Just like in the house. One thought echoed in his mind: “How did she find me?” Soon another thought struck him as a lightning: what happened to his mother? She could hurt them when they were asleep. Rory bolted out of his room to check on them, but as soon as he opened his door, he saw something written in blood on its opposite side. He turned the lights in the hallway, and what he read pierced his mind more than any “mene tekel fares”.
IF YOU TELL ANYONE YOU WILL LOOK JUST LIKE ME
For a few minutes, Rory couldn't move a limb. He felt like his guts were tied in a knot. Nonetheless, soon he realized that his situation was not as hopeless as it could seem. The hallway was literally smeared with blood, but the footprints didn’t lead in his mother’s bedroom. Moreover, after hearing happy snoring sounding out of there, Rory could be sure that his mother was fine. “It means that if I keep my tongue between the teeth, she won’t do anything,” he thought. Somehow, the idea that the being invading his house was following some rules gave him a tad of hope. However, it would be hard to keep being silent if someone found all the bloody footprints in the house, so Rory tiptoed into the bathroom to take a mop. He cleaned all the footprints off, then took a wet rag to wipe the writing on his bedroom’s door. That night, it was raining outside, and he didn't have to worry about any traces in the yard. Having done all that, Rory exhaustively dropped on his bed: he still had a couple of hours to get some sleep before going to school.
Early morning he sat in the kitchen lazily eating fried eggs. His mother sat in front of him looking at the bags under his eyes.
“Are you all right, sweetie?” she asked.
“I’m fine,” muttered Rory.
“You look like you didn't sleep at night.”
“It’s ok, mom. Please, leave me alone.” Rory took a few greedy sips of coffee, then stood up, put on his coat and hurtled to the front door. On his way to school, he was wondering what he would say to the kids to whom he promised to enter the abandoned house.
“If I tell them the truth, I’m dead meat.” Rory was perfectly sure that the Blood Woman would somehow know about him giving out her secret. She had managed to find out where he lived after all, and there was no guarantee that she couldn't actually read his mind. “But if I tell them that I walked inside to find nothing supernatural, they’ll all go there, and that can piss her off. No, there’s only one way.”
On his way to school, Rory met Dave, his best friend who was one of the kids who had tried to discourage him from entering the house. If only he had listened to them! But it was too late, and as soon as Dave mentioned the house, Rory swiftly answered:
“I didn't go there.
“What? You were too scared?”
“Yup. I shat my pants while I stood on the porch.”
“Did you hear anything?”
“Yes, I did.” Rory leaned to his friend’s ear as if he was about to whisper something. “I've heard that: Boo!” he yelled the last word making the boy shudder.
“I mean that,” he said. “We shouldn't disturb that place. C’mon, the guy was a piece of shit, and we want to visit his house like if he were some fucking celebrity. That’s just, you know, disrespectful.”
They didn't talk about the house anymore, although Rory couldn't hide his condition. He looked disturbed, so would say his classmates later. The teachers would affirm that it was at that time when their normally above the average student’s grades started to plummet. He would often fall asleep during the classes; he started to avoid his peers, including his friends. Nobody could explain this sudden change of behavior, and it didn't take much time before Mrs. Larkin was informed about her son’s apparent troubles.
After a few after the incident in the abandoned house and a few serious talks with his mother, Rory realized that he got used to this life. The constant fear accompanying him every minute turned into a sort of a pal, annoying, but useful. He would often join his friends at their parties, and at some point, things seemed to hit their stride.
One day everything fell apart.
Rory’s mother left to visit her aunt in the county and, as she was fascinated with rural life, she decided to take a photo camera with her. Unfortunately, her camera was broken, and having no time to do anything to fix it, she took Rory’s camera which lonely sat on his bookshelf since that day. That night, the boy came home lately. He opened the window in his bedroom to let some fresh air in and out of sudden, he looked down at the windowsill. Two words were written in blood:
Rory turned around and saw that his camera was absent from its place. Instantly, he grew pale and started to stir around his room. He tried to call his mother, but her phone was out of range. His heart was beating painfully, one thought pulsated through his mind: How could he be such an idiot? He had forgotten about the camera, with all the shots of footprints, handprints and other traces of blood. Desperate, Rory sat on his bed and covered his ears with his hands.
This time, there were no footprints in the house; apparently, the Blood Woman came through the window. Rory didn't sleep the whole night, and only on the following day he got some rest after finding out that his mother was alive and well.
In a couple of days she returned. As Rory expected, she had seen the picture, and the whole night she didn't stop asking him questions. She wanted to know what on Earth had happened to her son. Why didn't he sleep at nights? Why did he constantly act, as if he was being watched? What was the deal with the footprints on the pictures? The youth didn't know what to say: any careless word could lead him to a rather gruesome fate. She persisted; she wanted him to meet a counselor, to inform the police about things that he had seen. Rory felt that he would go insane.
Their talk didn't lead to any end. When the night fell, Rory went to his room and lay in bed. After a sleepless hour, he heard slurping sounds below. The boy took on his clothes and slowly tiptoed out of his room. Some stirring sounded in the hallway, right before his mother’s bedroom. The boy gasped realizing what was about to happen and rushed into the hallway.
She was there.
The Blood Woman saw Rory, and the boy could swear that he saw her grinning in the dim hallway. She turned toward him and made a few steps, slowly and carefully. He backed away, knowing that he had nowhere to run, and now all he could do, was to confront his fears.
She was getting closer, her foul smell almost unbearable. Rory moved back, in his room, and she followed. At least, she dididn't menace his mother anymore. The boy was trapped, as she shut the door behind her.
“What do you want?” He whispered. “I didn't do anything, really. Please, don’t, don’t do it. I didn't tell anyone, and neither did my mother!”
The Blood Woman let out a barely audible laugh.
“Of course,” she answered. “You didn't do anything, but she will. She won’t be rest until she finds out all the truth, and then I’ll have no choice. However, we can end it all now.”
She sunk her fingers in her flesh at her shoulder and instantly pulled out an object which Rory recognized as a bloodied butcher’s knife. He cowered in terror, but she didn't try to use it against him. She tried to hand him the knife.
“Take it,” she said. “Take it, and we’ll become friends. Then you’ll do it, but don’t worry, nobody will find out. She will die as you want, quickly and peacefully, and I won’t have to do it myself.”
Rory held the knife with his shivering fingers and stared at his tormentor. Did she seriously believe he would do it?
“Edward Pine was also your friend?” He whispered.
“He was not good, and he let them caught him. Thankfully, he knew what to do, and he delivered me from doing that myself.”
A noise sounded in the hallway. Mrs. Larkin got up, awoken by strange sounds in her son’s bedroom and decided not to wait until the morning.
“Rory!” She shouted. “Rory, what’s going on? Who are you talking to? God, what’s that smell?”
“Now,” whispered the Blood Woman.
Desperate, the boy stood still, but only for a few moments. At last, he pulled himself together and drove the knife into her skinless body. She didn’t scream, but it seemed like her mouth opened wide, as if she was really hurt. Rory didn't wait any second and ran toward the door, but the couple of bloodied hands grasped him before he managed to touch the doorknob.
“What’s going on, Rory?” sounded from behind the door. “Please, answer!”
Rory struggled as he could, trying to get loose out of his captor’s grip, but to no avail. The Blood Woman looked on him with anger and pulled the boy toward the window. Another knock at the door. The demonic creature opened the window and started to push the boy outside.
“Help me!” Rory didn't know he could do it, but he screamed. His scream apparently succeeded to make the monster jump just a bit, but it was enough to let the boy break free, run toward the door and open it.
Mrs. Larkin was petrified, as she saw the skinless woman at her son’s bedroom. But there was no time: Rory grabbed her arm and they ran toward the front door. The Blood Woman was behind their backs in a moment, Rory could feel it. In a following second they were both struggling with her. Mrs. Larkin fell on her knees after the blood-smeared abomination’s strike, but she managed to bring her down with her. Rory kicked the Blood Woman a few times, but she seemed to be invulnerable to his strikes. She pinned his mother to the ground and started to squeeze the life out of her throat. Rory was about to collapse out of desperation, but then he saw a lighter sitting on a small table in the room.
That night the Larkins’ neighbors woke up to the smell and sounds of the burning house. Toward the morning the firefighters managed to extinguish the fire. Inside the house, they found a badly burned unconscious woman and a teenage boy who had a few burns on his face, his shirt was smeared with blood, but he appeared to be fine. Both were rushed into a hospital.
Neither Mrs. Larkin, nor her son could tell the police about what had happened. Apparently, they were in a state of deep shock. The following day, Mrs. Larkin’s ex-husband came back to Rasperville and inquired about his son’s health. Soon after he talked to Rory, the boy was taken into a mental institution.
The following year, Rory met a lot of specialists, but nobody managed to tell what the cause of his condition was. The patient just sat in a corner, fearfully looking around. He had never answered any questions, and despite all the drugs he had taken, his state of mind never changed.
One night, an orderly heard a shrilling scream out of Rory Larkin’s room. He rushed at the sound and saw the patient sitting on his bed and shaking. Turning on the lights, the man found the cause of the youth’s disturbance: a bloody handprint on the window.
“She was here,” said Rory. “She… she…”
The orderly took a wet piece of rag and in a blink wiped the handprint off the glass. Rory looked at him, astounded, but the man was only smiling.
“What?” He said. “I’m just doing a favor to a good friend.”