Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A Short Story

Just a little while ago it was put out there by Young Adult author Krystal McLaughlin that she was looking to put together an anthology of YA Horror stories.  I thought, what the heck.  I have been writing a mystery thriller called, The Cistern (which you can read about on this blog) so I thought about using the same characters as The Cistern only 10 years earlier.

I had a story idea many years ago about a horror story centered around a red couch in a dark barn.  So, I started there.  I asked on Facebook for things people found in old barns and was more than happy with the response.  Some of those I used in the story.

Bellow is the story that came out.  It is going to be available soon as a free ebook titled Pleasant Dreams coming out soon.

You Never Know What You’ll Find

Lorne Oliver


“I dare you.”

“I double dog dare you.”

“Seriously, dude?  Are we in some Stephen King novel now?  Are you going to say, you bet your fern?”  Spencer snorted.  “You can dare me all you want I’m not sleeping in that barn.”

It was a long building that had probably once held cows and horses, maybe some chickens at one time, but for as long as anyone alive could remember the family that had owned the property had always just used it for storage.  From the doorway Spencer Alcrest and his friends could see furniture that had been forgotten, boxes of paperwork, there was a crate of old license plates too.  A lot of the items were covered in old sheets.  At the very far end was an old tractor – the kind with a metal seat – that had one of its large tires flat to the floor, with pieces sticking out of the engine like people had probably come and scavenged what they needed.  There were old stalls down at that end that animals had been in.  From what the boys could see old ropes and tools hung over the wood sides.  Forgotten leather tack, dark and cracked was left there too.  They hadn’t even gone up to the second floor.  It was like one of those barns you saw on those TV shows where people went looking for forgotten treasures. 

Spencer wasn’t going to be picking for hidden finds, however, he had to clean out everything.  His father liked to buy rural properties for the summer, fix them up, and sell it at a profit, but wanted the entire barn cleaned out first.  The deal was that Spencer was allowed to sell everything and got to keep the money.  It was going to help with going to college in September.

“I thought you said the haunted stories were bull?”

Spencer shrugged his shoulders.  “They’re just stories.  There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

“You haven’t lived here long, man.  We’ve seen lights in here in the middle of the night.”

“Noises too.  We came here last Halloween and I swear I heard a girl laughing in there.”

“Maybe it was your friends laughing at you.  We’ve been in the house three weeks and I haven’t seen or heard anything.”  Spencer looked away from the other two boys back to the barn.  The outside walls were black from years of being untreated in the elements.  You could see where some of the boards had rotted away leaving holes and lines that sunlight went through.  The wind picked up and made the tin roof call out where it had broken free of the nails.  He ran a hand back through his short spiky hair to try and hold the sudden chill that made his body shiver.  He hadn’t seen anything because he stayed away from this side of the house the moment the sun went down.

“If you don’t think there’s anything in there then why don’t you prove it?”

“Yeah, man, prove it.”

Spencer only met the two boys three weeks earlier.  Jimmy and Cam lived just down the road.  The three of them had gone fishing and swimming by the Pine River falls and rode their dirt bikes around the gravel roads looking for whatever trouble they could get into.

“I’ll stay in there.” 

All three turned at the soft voice behind them.  Spencer’s foster sister stood there with her hands on her hips.  Her pouty, Angelina Jolie, lips were in a wicked smirk. She wore blue jeans with a hole on each knee and a pink tank top with the name of the dance school she went to across her small boobs.  She had the tanned skin of Aboriginal roots.  Chrys waited a second then crossed her arms in front of her.

“See, she’s not afraid.  I bet you, you can’t spend the whole night in there.”

“Bet?”  Spencer smiled showing his dimples.

~  *  ~

Spencer threw his rolled sleeping bag on the crimson couch.  It was what his mother would have called a chesterfield.  It had just one long cushion on it instead of three separate ones.  He and Chrys had cleared it off plus some extra space around.  On top of the couch had been a few boxes of books and a hard shelled lime green suitcase.  They had a battery operated lantern sitting on a tall bedroom dresser and a handful of stubby candles sitting on dinner plates around their small cleaned up area.

“Mom’s not coming back until tomorrow, right?”  Chrys had been part of the family since she was three so Mr. and Mrs. Alcrest were Dad and Mom to her.  “She’ll kill us if she sees we used her plates as candle holders.”

“Probably not until after lunch.”  The Alcrest’s owned a pub in the city.  Their parents spent most nights at their regular home expecting their eighteen year old son to watch his twelve year old sister.  Spencer was just happy they weren’t fostering any other kids at the moment.  There were times when they had four extra kids in the house.  “Let’s just set up and go to sleep.”

“But it’s so fucking early.”

“It’s ten o’clock.  And you shouldn’t swear like that.”  He slid a board into the slots on the inside of the barn doors to lock it.  His black sweatpants already had dust smeared across them.  He wore a shirt with The Alcrest Pub on it. “I just want to get tonight over with.”

Chrys dropped onto the couch.  She slipped off her flip-flops and pulled both bare feet up under her as she tugged some of the boxes closer.  “You’re scared.”  In the first box she found old copies of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Pooh, and Alice in Wonderland.

“I’m not scared.”

Spencer looked around the room.  They had a small circle lit up, but there were a lot of creepy shadows and the further you got down the building the blacker and thicker those shadows seemed to get.  It was still light outside, but it was fading and only a little of that came through the cracks.  The property was down a long driveway, far enough from the road that they only heard faint noises when a loud truck went by.

Anything could be standing in the dark, he said to himself.  His imagination liked to put things into his head.

Chrys screamed.  She pushed the box away sending hard covered novels scattering across the dirt floor.


“A spider.  There was a spider.”

“Oh big tough girl can stand up to ghosts, but a little spider makes her scream.”

“Shut up.”

“This place is probably full of spiders and snakes and who knows what else.  There could be raccoons living somewhere in here.”  Spencer flipped the lid of the cooler he had packed for the night.  The bet with the other boys had been for fifty dollars.  They couldn’t leave the barn for any reason during the night.  He threw a bunch of things into the cooler so that they would have something to eat and drink through the night.  He took out a bottle of Pepsi and cracked open the top.  He still hadn’t thought about the bathroom problem.

“We should explore.”  Chrys slipped her feet back into her flip-flops and pulled a pen flashlight from her pocket.  She climbed over the arm of the couch and carefully maneuvered around some boxes.  She couldn’t see much away from the circle of candles.  The sun was going behind the forest line so natural light was quickly being lost. 

“What are you, Chrys -” Spencer growled as he snatched the lantern up and headed into the depths of what had been collected over years and years.  His father told him it could be like that guy who bought a farm and found a barn full of antique automobiles.  He doubted that.  The place had been empty for five years so anything good had probably been liberated.  “Be careful.  We don’t know all that’s in here.”

He watched his foster sister climb over things, picked something up turned it around in her hands, and then dropped it and continued on.

Chrys didn’t know what she was looking for.  Some of the boxes were warped from moisture.   “Oh don’t be a chicken shit.”  She picked up a teddy bear and flipped it around in her hands.  One button eye was missing and one paw had been chewed open.  Creepy.

The bear dropped.  It hit the dust on a box sending a little cloud in the air.  Chrys turned to her left.  Her breath caught in her throat.  Something had been there.  She saw it move.  “Did you see that?”

Spencer scraped the bottom of his shoe on a pile of boards.  “What?”  What the hell did he step in? 

When he realised Chrys hadn’t answered he looked up.  His foster sister stared at the side wall.  A sheet covered something big.  The air was still. 

“I saw someone move.”  Not something, some ONE.

Her skin had paled.  Spencer watched her staring at the mountain of sheet.  There was no wind inside the barn moving things around.  Maybe it was the light from the lantern that cast a shadow.  She must have seen it out of the corner of her eye.

“Cut it out, Chrys.”  The hair on the back of his neck was standing up.

“I’m not kidding, Spence.  Someone walked past me.  I saw like a dress moving as they walked.”

His head cocked to the side.  There was no way.  “Someone?  You saw someone?”

“Well, like out of the corner of my eye, yeah.”

“Oh please.  Your minds playing tricks on you.  I moved the lantern and you thought you saw something.”

“Whatever, Spence.”  She turned back the way she had been going.  Maybe it was her mind playing tricks on her.  Either way the skin on her arms felt like it was crawling.

Just past a stack of wood framed windows leaning against a wall, Spencer was afraid the weight would topple the whole building, he found a work bench.  It had wood drawers and cubby holes.  There were cut marks and paint stains on the top.  Lined up against the back, under a dirt covered window, were plastic margarine containers, tobacco bins, and Folgers coffee tins.  They held nails, screws, and bolts – some rusted.  Leaning against the side was an old broom – the straw warn down almost to the handle.  He pictured a sad rodeo clown sweeping the whole entire barn floor and then starting over again.  He wouldn’t put his aqua eyes on the window pain.  Why did he have to picture a clown?

He gave each drawer a tug.  The only one to open had chewed up paper, feathers, and wood chips.  A mouse must have called it home.  What was going to be in the other ones?  There could be money or jewels or anything that could fill his wallet.  Or the clown’s collection of fingers he bit off with his own teeth.

Why did he have to think things like that?

Chrys studied the ground with her pen light.  Part of her hoped to see footprints in the dust, there were none.  As she came around a tall dresser her brown eyes fell on an bike leaning against a tarp.  It was one of those old bikes with a metal basket attached to the handlebars.  It had a large fender over the back flat tire.  The tarp it was on covered something big and long, about car length, longer even.  She put her hand on the bike seat, her palm smeared the dust off the old leather.  She carefully leaned it the other way until it was against a pile of boxes marked X-mas.

Something tugged her hair.  She ran a hand through her long dark locks.  She touched something.  She stopped.  Was she touching it or it touching her?  Chrys spun quickly flashing her light along as she did.  Pitch forks, boxes, an old saddle, snow shovel, a face, a yellow raincoat, antlers, a hula-hoop, her brother.  He was at least thirty feet away along the side wall.  He couldn’t have tugged her hair.

A face.

She ran the pen light back the way it had come seeing everything in reverse.  The yellow raincoat was there.  It looked as if it was so old and dry that it would crack and fall if anyone touched it.  Next was a snow shovel, the wood handle held to the wall by two nails beneath the metal scoop.

“What are you doing?”

“I saw,” a face. “I felt,” my hair get tugged.  Chrys blinked quickly and looked at her foster brother.  “I think this place is getting to me.”

Spencer suddenly held his breath.  “Did you hear that?”

Chrys ran her hand through her hair again and shook it out.  “What?”

Spencer held the lantern as high as he could.  His eyes stared up at the boards four feet above his head.

He turned and looked back at the circle of candlelight by the red couch.  It seemed so far away.

For a moment his eyes lost focus as if he was looking through the dirty window or a sheet of plastic.  He imagined a woman on the crimson chesterfield, stretched out – facing him.  Her flowing white dress cascaded over her legs and draped the side of the cushion.  Her hand waved through the air.  She had black hair which fell on her shoulders.  Her face seemed too white, almost like a mask.


The lantern fumbled in his hands.  He looked at his sister.  He turned back to the couch and saw the candlelight flicker on the empty cushion.

“What the fuck are you staring at?  You’re practically drooling.”

“I – I don’t know.  My imagination I guess.  I thought I heard footsteps.”  He looked back up at the floor above him.  What did he expect to have happen?  Dirt to fall from between the boards?  “Must have been echoes or something.”

Chrys followed his eyes to the floor above them.  She was seeing things and he was hearing things, great.  It must have all been in their heads.  Something created from what everyone else told them went on in the barn.

“Come see what I found.”

Spencer had to stretch his legs over some boxes and an old lawnmower.  He didn’t really want to go back to the couch any more.  His skin was tingling like every nerve was pulled tight.  “What did you find?”

“A car.”  Chrys pulled the fabric tarp up onto the long lump in front of her.  At first they saw the bubble fender over a thin tire.  The old car had clean straight lines.  It was long in the front with a small cab.  The paint was a dull black and the windows of the cab were dirty.

“This is awesome.”  Spencer switched the lantern to his other hand and ran his left along the body of the car.  “Probably early thirties.”

“Yeah, it’s like an Al Capone car.  Are those bullet holes?”

Spencer’s fingers touched the only default in the body.  Four holes in the door pushed inward scraping away paint and going right through.  “I think so.  This is so weird.  I’m going to make some money on this though.”

“How long do you think this car’s been here?”

“I don’t know.  Why is it here?”  Spencer looked around.  They were close to the old tractor and behind that was a set of double doors held closed with a thick chain and locks.  Beside the door was a makeshift ladder made with boards nailed to the wall.  Above it was the dark hole leading to the second floor.  He hoped his sister didn’t want to go up there.  That’s where the footsteps came from.

Chrys pointed her flashlight at the black square in the ceiling, the light barely reaching it.  “Do you think we should go up there?”

Hell no.  Spencer said, “We haven’t even checked everything down here.  Maybe we should look in some of the boxes.”  He put his hand on the car door handle.  What were the chances it would open?  It did.


They both turned to the couch.  The moment their eyes fell on it all of the candles snuffed out dropping a blanket of black on the area.  How much time had passed since they started to explore?  The sun was gone.  There was no light coming through the cracks in the walls or the window by the work table.

There was a noise.  Both of their eyes went up.  Spencer held the lantern up high.  Chrys pointed her pen light at the boards right above their heads.  There was another noise.  And another.  She pointed her light back at the opening in the floor.

“What is that?”

“Footsteps.  Something’s up there.”  If it was the other boys Spencer was going to kill them.  “Cam,” he called out.  His voice seemed to quake.  “Jimmy?”  The noises stopped.

A scream seemed to build inside their own bodies before their ears heard it.  A howling scream that made their bones ache.  Both turned.  Spencer saw it far across the barn in the darkness.  What was it?  It was white, a white that glowed, and trailed off to the sides and back like tentacles floating behind.  The scream stopped.  There seemed to be eyes staring back at them.  It was a woman.  It was a woman from the couch, only she was a spectre – a banshee.

Chrys put her light on it.  The image hung in the air just outside the power of the small flashlight.  Both of them held their breath.

It opened its mouth.  A wailing built inside and shot out in a fierce scream.  The sound made the walls shake.  Their skin burned.  It was coming at them.  The white entity soared closer and closer.  Its eyes were blacker than the night around it.  Fear ran through the two sibblings.  Fear that would paralize most.

“In the car.”  Spencer grabbed his sister’s arm.

She couldn’t move.  “What?  What is that?”

“Get in the car.”

“Why?”  She couldn’t move.

“I don’t know.  Get in.”  Spencer shoved her into action.  

She jumped onto the seat and crawled across the small cab.  He jumped in after her squeezing his legs beneath the large steering wheel.  He slammed the door hard.  The tarp fell back down blocking the windows.  The screaming circled the automobile.  The car began to shake.  Chrys let out a series of curses.  Spencer kept his hand on the door handle.  The car thumped side to side.  They were sure the tires were lifting off the floor then dropping down.  It was going to flip.

The car stopped shaking.  The lantern had fallen on the girls lap.  Her flashlight was on the floor of the car.  The noise had stopped instantly.  Their ears still seemed to ring with the sound.  They both held their breath waiting for something to happen.  Spencer expected the tarp to suddenly fly off the car and the face, or whatever it was, to be right there on the other side of the window his face was next to.  He suddenly remembered to breathe again.

“Spencer?”  Chrys’s voice trembled.  She had one hand on the other door and another on the dashboard.  “Did that happen?”

“I-” He couldn’t believe it himself.  It had been a woman, the woman that he saw on the couch.  How could a woman do that?  The two boys couldn’t have done that.

“What are we going to do?”  She turned her head around constantly to be looking at every window.  The whole inside was lit up with the lantern.  She didn’t want to think about what might be on the other side of that tarp.  She put a hand to her chest.  “My heart’s racing.”

“Let’s just sit here for a while.”

“What do you think was upstairs?”

Whatever it was could be down already and outside the car.  “I don’t know.”

“Well what should we do?”

“I don’t know, Chrys.  If you want to go out there, you go out there.  I don’t know what any of this is?  I don’t know what to do.”  He wanted to throw in, and this is all your damn fault, but kept it to himself.

“There’s no door locks.”  Chrys handed over the lantern and reached down to get her penlight.  She was the one that liked horror movies.  It was different when it was real life.  There was a back seat to the car, but it was small.  This wasn’t like a modern car with comfortable seats and all the bells and whistles.  And door locks.

Spencer fondled the door.  She was right.  Would a lock do any good against whatever was outside?

“There’s a book on the floor.”  Chrys pulled the book out from halfway under the seat.  It too had a bullet hole cutting through the edge and the leather cover was stained with something brown.  “You think this is blood?”

Spencer let out a breath.  “I don’t know.”

She opened the cover and flipped in a couple of pages.  It was a journal.  There were dates in there from 1935.  The penmanship was clean.  The ink had faded over time, but it must have been sealed well inside the car.  After a few minutes of reading she asked her brother if she could read something.

“Helen has almost completed her research into what we are calling the Crimson Chesterfield.  It has been passed on from household to household, owner to new owner with the same mysterious stories following it each time.  Reports are that the color never fades.  Stains disappear.  Most stories are about a woman seen relaxing on the chesterfield.”

“Are you serious?”

“Shut up.”  Chrys had to read a little to find her spot.  “Witnesses say they see her on the chesterfield after the sun has set.  They say there is a woman screaming and flying through the air.  Seven deaths have surrounded this chesterfield.”  She read a little in silence.  “Okay, one guy apparently just got up from a nap on the couch and walked straight into a river and drown.  A man and woman killed each other with their bare hands.  This is crazy.”  She flipped a couple of pages and read some more.  “The old bike, this says it made someone go insane.”

Spencer shook his head.  “That’s impossible.  So the barn is a storage place for things that people killed around or went nuts?”

“Cursed items.  That’s what it says here.  The only thing that seems to keep us safe from the cursed articles is the Phantom.”

“Yeah, the Phantom two.  This is a Rolls Royce Phantom ii.  I knew I recognised it.  It was mentioned in the third Indiana Jones movie so I looked it up and had a poster of it.”

Chrys flipped through the journal and absently said, “Maybe its fate that we’re here then.”

Spencer drummed the steering wheel with his thumbs.  Sweat ran down his temple.  Maybe it was fate.  It was fate that his little foster sister wanted to explore the barn instead of sleeping on the couch.  Would they have ended up killing each other?  Was it going to be fate that they get stuck in the car all night?  His ears strained to hear what was happening beyond the tarp.  Things like this didn’t really happen.

Chrys continued reading the journal.  She didn’t notice as time went by or the heat rising inside the car.  She read about all of the items that had been found and the evil things that circled around them.

~  *  ~

“Chrys, wake up.”

Chrys opened her eyes.  The journal she had read had fallen on the floor again and she must have kicked it half under the seat.  The lantern was still on lighting the whole car cab.  Her brother’s face was covered in sweat.

“It’s morning.”  Spencer pointed at his watch.  It was eight-thirty in the morning.  They had slept half the night.  “I haven’t heard anything.”

Chrys ran a hand across her face wiping away her own perspiration.  “You think it’s safe?”

Spencer slowly pushed the door open.  It was still dark beyond the tarp.  The smell of dust touched their noses.  He pushed the tarp up as high as he could with one hand and held the lantern out in front of him.  His foot scraped on the floor.  He didn’t know what to expect.  Was the ghostly woman going to be waiting for him?  Was there a finger eating rodeo clown?  What had been upstairs?

Nothing.  Some sun rays streamed in through the cracks in the walls and a distorted light came through the dirty window.  Everything was still.

Chrys climbed from the car behind him.  She flashed her light at the ladder and the hole to the second floor.

“Let’s go.”  Spencer grabbed his sister’s hand.  They quickly walked back toward the couch.  His eyes never left what he could see of it in the grey light.  They climbed over and around all of the boxes and items.  He left his sleeping bag and the cooler.  His hand threw the board away from the door and gave it a hard shove.

Clean fresh air filled their lungs.  The sunlight blinded them for a moment.

“What the hell did you two do?”

Spencer blinked quickly.  Cam and Jimmy sat on the grass next to their bikes.  “What are you guys doing here?”

“What was that scream last night?”

“And the bright light?  We were supposed to scare you two.”

“You two were upstairs.”  Chrys called them a colorful name.

Spencer turned the lantern off and dropped it into the grass.  “What did you guys see?”

“We climbed in through an open window in the loft and walked across it listening to you guys talking downstairs.  When we got close to the trap door there was that loud scream and light that you did.  We booked it.”

Spencer didn’t know what to tell him.  He didn’t know what they had seen.  He couldn’t explain it.  The journal told of cursed items, but that was ridiculous.  Still, it was his job to get rid of everything in the barn so that his dad could sell the property.  What if everything in there was cursed by some evil power?  He couldn’t let those things go out into the world and start all over.

“Breakfast?”  Chrys said with a smile on her pouty lips.


  1. Read it from start to finish, lots of adjectives. Make a fine book for teens like the Hardy Boys.

  2. Excellent read. Reminds me of the tv series Friday the Thirteenth (curious goods shop). Can't wait to read about these kids 10 years later!

  3. What an incredible short much packed into so few words. Wow!

  4. Interesting ghost story. I do wonder what else they could find in that barn, though I think they probably found the most fascinating bits, lol. :D