Violently waking from a nightmare reliving a recent attack, Sheree found herself mere inches away from a viscous loogie about to fall into her open mouth. That’s when she decided it was finally time to kill her little brother. Nine years was long enough to ruin her life, and nine years was all the life he was going to get.
“Get out of my room Brendon!” Sheree screamed from her bed, throwing a round purple pillow in his direction but missing him by a long shot, with the pillow instead hitting a framed picture on her nightstand, knocking it onto the floor. The glass pane had shattered years ago leaving just the outer frame, so any hope of stray shards hitting her brother were also out of the question, much to Sheree’s dismay.
“Brendon, leave your sister alone,” Mrs. Hollins yelled from the bottom of the stairs, a wooden spoon dripping with blood red sauce in her hand as if she was threatening her son with it.
Brendon rolled his eyes and spun around. “Oh all right. Geez!”
A pleased smile was over Sheree’s face as she watched her brother leave the room. Getting him in trouble was always a pleasure because for years she was an only child, spoiled rotten to the core. Veruca Salt had nothing on her. That is, until little Brendon came home from the hospital that fateful day nine years ago, completely crushing Sheree’s worldview that life revolved around her. It was a devastating blow to her fragile little-girl ego, and one she has never quite been able to forgive. For all the affection once bestowed upon her was now even more-so given to this boy. This strange, lumpy, wriggly little monkey her parents called Brendon, the boy. And they always added that part about him being a boy to friends and family as if having a penis was something to be proud of! With a bit of satisfaction, and also a bit of frustration at having to get up, she walked over to the pillow she threw at Brendon and tossed it back onto her bed.
It was the last day of August 1999 and everyone was obsessed with the world ending. Sheree on the other hand was more concerned about the end of her privacy.
The Hollins family had just moved into an old house on Song’s End in the little town of Ravenwood a few weeks prior. It was at least a hundred years old, if not older. However, the ‘recent’ remodel added some much needed bathroom space and amenities, albeit, almost entirely in a putrid shade of avocado green. Avocado wasn’t much of a big thing to Sheree because it was her favorite fruit to eat, and a great moisturizer that also helps to maintain an even skin tone. Her father said they would remodel next summer, while her mother’s response to that was that it would never happen unless she did it herself. Other than the few odds and ends and minor patches to be made, the house was great. With the exception of rumors around town that the house was haunted and that was why the last family moved. Of course, rumors around town also said that the entire street was haunted, so obviously these small-town folk have nothing better to do than tell ghost stories, or so Sheree thought.
The Hollins’s daughter Sheree was tall and thin, but not so thin you could bend her over your knee and snap her in half. There was a little pudge in her mid-section that she called her ‘papa belly’ after her grandfather on her dad’s side. “It’s all his fault!” she proclaimed to a friend one day, “Damn genes are too strong, it will never go away!” While she persisted that it was indeed hereditary, it was also a possibility that her late night infatuation with Death by Chocolate ice cream may have partially contributed to it as well. Her eyes were an almost unreal aquamarine, shimmering like the deep blue sea somewhere tropical and warm and definitely not Washington State, and she also had wavy strawberry blond hair that flowed just below her shoulders, which she normally had pulled into a ponytail that at the moment was being strangled by the purple pillow. For the past few weeks she had been trying to decide whether or not to bleach out the reddish tint and just go blond.
Although she was sixteen years old, she was only a freshman in high school. She started school a year late due to an early childhood tragedy, and then had to take first grade twice because she was afraid to cross the street to get to the bus stop and would go into convulsions and miss school and thus not be in class enough to learn anything. One thing Sheree didn’t like was that she was going to be twenty years old before she graduated, but being the only driving freshman was sure to make her popular. And if there was one thing Sheree liked, it was to be popular. In middle school, back when they still lived in West Seattle, she was an excellent gymnast and head of the cheerleading team. Although she had only been to Ravenwood High for a week, she was quickly becoming an A-lister among people to hang out with, even with the upper classmen.
Brendon was in complete contrast to his sister. He was a little short for his age, and a little stocky, and his hair and eyes were both a light brown. And while he would appear sweet and innocent on the outside, those who were familiar with the kid knew that he always had something up his sleeve. He also, for some reason or another, would wear over-the-calf socks pushed all the way down to his ankles, leaving the bulk of the sock flopping around in front of his toes. Sheree had always hoped that this would cause him to trip, fall, and break his head open, possibly indirectly causing a frontal lobotomy, leaving behind a more agreeable little brother. Of course, this never happened. Brendon seemed quite adept at wearing his socks, even if it was rather goofy looking.
“Dinner time!” Mrs. Hollins called from the kitchen.
Hungrier than she realized, Sheree rushed out of her room and jogged down the old staircase. Each step was followed by a small creak from the ancient wood, the first few causing her to wince even though she knew to expect them. As she looked forward, turning her head toward the dining room table, she saw her brother sitting in her usual spot.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she questioned Brendon, giving him a cold stare as she walked over to the table, arms folded across her ample chest.
Brendon just looked up at his teenage sister with an evil grin across his round face. Too evil.
“Oh, sit in another chair. There are plenty of other places to sit at this table,” Mr. Hollins, their young looking father told Sheree. He may have been forty-one, but he looked like he was only in his twenties. A lot of her friends would mistake him for an older brother and ask if he was seeing anyone, that is, until they’d see him drinking thick, dark beer and watching the television as if it were a god, then he was obviously just her dad. Or so she convinced herself, never acknowledging the fact that most of her friends would still have sex with him knowing full well his real age.
Reluctantly, she sat next to Brendon in his usual spot. He’s going to pay, Sheree thought to herself, staring at him with eyes full of anger, her cheeks and ears flushing with red. He always gets his way. Why do they let him get away with everything? Oh, that’s right... he’s ‘the boy.’ Goddamned penis.
Sheree decided to push the subject off to the side, landing in the ‘To Be Continued’ portion of her brain, which, at the moment, looked like a disarrayed scattered mess right next to an overflowing trash bin. All bad thoughts aside, she was ready to enjoy the meal.
Mrs. Hollins, with her flashy copper hair that obviously came from a cheap box of generic brand hair dye found at the supermarket, came into the dining room carrying a platter of spaghetti. She set the plate down in the center of the large oak table for eight and sat herself down in the chair next to her husband.
Brendon slid his plate over to the spaghetti dish and scooped himself a large helping of the pasta, some of the sauce splashing here and there as he did so, marking the table with what looked like blood splatter from a crime scene. There was a look of disgust over Sheree’s face as she watched her brother slurp down the noodles, tomato sauce clinging to his cheeks, nose, and chin. His tongue unsuccessfully tried to lick it off his face, inadvertently smearing what appeared to be even more spaghetti sauce around his lips. He looked like a clown and the sad thing was that Sheree knew that he enjoyed it. Both Mr. and Mrs. Hollins had already served themselves and started eating their dinner. It was silent except for the chewing mouths and clinking of milk and wine glasses being placed back on the table, so really it sounded more like feeding time at the pig farm minus the oinking.
“Oink, oink!” Brendon oinked.
“Thank you, Brendon,” Mrs. Hollins responded. “I also think we have a winner with that new Ragu sauce. Don’t you agree Frank?”
“Oink!” Mr. Hollins said too.
Rolling her eyes and coming to the realization that her family was a bunch of pigs, Sheree reached over to the spaghetti platter and put a small pile onto her plate and began picking the mushrooms out with a fork. I hate mushrooms, she thought, making an annoyed face as she continued moving the fungus off to the side of her plate and allowing one to quite noticeably fall onto the table. So much for your winning spaghetti sauce theory, Mother.
As if Mrs. Hollins had read her daughter’s mind, she suddenly realized the fungal catastrophe she had created. How could she have just forgotten that Sheree hated mushrooms? She had hated them since being introduced to solid foods in her infancy. But she brushed it off because the rest of the family obviously loved them, and, well, she also knew that Sheree was just so complacent about everything that she could practically get away with murder and Sheree wouldn’t say anything about it one way or another. After having mentally worked through her little dilemma, she smiled and continued eating dinner, twirling another bite of spaghetti with her fork, topping it off with a huge, slimy whole mushroom.
Once they were finished eating, Mr. Hollins got up, wiped his chin of any sauce that was still on his face, then went into the family room and turned on the television. The same ritual he did every night. With the exception of Saturday night, that is. On Saturday’s he would get up out of his chair, give his wife a kiss, and then softly stroke her hair before heading into the family room to watch the TV. This, Sheree thought, must be their little code for, “After I’m done watching three hours of mindless bullshit, let’s go into the bedroom and fuck.” Just the thought of her parents actually having had sex at least twice to conceive her and her brother was revolting enough, let alone them doing it on a regular basis.
Thinking to herself what album she was going to listen to—another nightly ritual—Sheree got up and was about to go back to her room when her mother told her that she had kitchen duty first.
“Mom, it’s Brendon’s turn tonight,” she complained, hoping that she’d somehow get out of it.
Her mom glared at her with a don’t-argue-with-me look. “I don’t think so. Brendon did it last night.”
Recognizing her defeat and realizing she caved far too quickly than she normally would have, Sheree scrambled over to the table and began clearing it off, not even caring that the mushroom that fell off her plate and onto the table was now on the floor, putting the dishes directly into the dishwasher without rinsing them off first, mumbling nondescript curses. She knew that the job wasn’t hard, and it didn’t take very long, but she still hated doing it every other night. Maybe if there were five more kids and she only had to do it once a week she’d be happier. But then the thought of six Brendons would pop into her mind and rid her of all wishes for more siblings. When she finished the five-minute task, she strolled over to the stairs.
Sheree turned her head toward the basement door, then she looked back to the family room where her parents were; her dad staring blankly at the television as if he was under hypnosis, and her mom reading one of those magazines that only older women and gay men read. Maybe it’s just the house, she thought. Old houses always make noises for no reason, right?
Hmm, she thought. Maybe it’s Brendon.
Getting a wicked look on her face, she went closer to the door... closer, almost there now. She reached for the doorknob and turned it. The iron door hinges creaked with a shrilling sound, causing her dad to momentarily flinch but not enough to break him out of the trance that was holding him hostage to the television set. Her mother on the other hand probably didn’t even hear it, too absorbed in some article about creating an inexpensive duvet cover out of two flat sheets, or embroidering monograms on napkins or something absurd like that. Or maybe it was the three glasses of red wine with dinner she swallowed down like a fish that altered her sensory reactions. Entering the basement, she searched for the light switch, looking furiously to locate it. There didn’t seem to be one as she felt over the walls on either side of the door. There has to be a switch somewhere, she said to herself, frustrated. Deciding that the light from the hall was good enough, she took a precautious step down the stairway that led to the dark, unwelcoming, musty room below the house.
Terrified, Sheree became panic-stricken from the darkness in the horrifying subterranean chamber and reached for the doorknob, turning it but it wouldn’t turn. Trying again with a little more force, thinking that it was just old and maybe rusted, hoping it would budge if she put a little strength into it.
It was pitch black, not even a sliver of light from between the bottom of the door and the floor, as if it had been sealed. Turning her head from side to side and carefully behind her in hopes that she would find a source of light somewhere, but not daring to move her feet for fear that she would stumble down the stairs.
Break her neck.
Or worse, become paralyzed. There was nothing but desolate blackness surrounding her. The air seemed to be getting heavy like she was going to pass out, so she banged her hands on the door over and over.
“Help!” she cried, breathing ferociously. “Let me out!”
The door burst open, intense light pouring in and washing everything out momentarily. Shielding her eyes with her arm, she looked down, and there on the ground, Sheree saw her little brother laughing hysterically, holding his stomach from the pain.
That’s it! I can’t take it any longer. He’s going to pay big time!
Staring at Brendon for a moment she decided that he wasn’t worth it. Although she felt like beating the crap out of him, she instead gave him a light kick to his side then stormed up the steps to her bedroom, hot tears starting to slide down her cheeks. It was the only somewhat private place in the house (though she wished it had a lock) she could be that didn’t give her the creeps or scare her. Barely audible from top of the stairway she heard her father tell Brendon to stop laughing because he was watching a very important TV show about some war and he’d understand when he got older how important it was for him to watch it.
How could he do that to me? He knows that I can’t stand being locked up in a dark room, especially not after...
Once again, she pushed the angst toward her brother aside, bottling it up. After she got into her room, she slammed the door shut and turned the stereo on, raising the volume loud enough for the whole house to hear clearly. She turned it down soon after, knowing that she would get in trouble from her dad if he couldn’t hear the TV show about some war that she was far too young to understand the importance of. She decided to dig out her old headphones so she could listen to it as loud as she wanted. Placing the headphones on and letting out a loud breath, she drifted off into her own little world, escaping all of her problems.
Deadly Rhymes by Cory Blystone
After the Hollins family moved into an old house on Song’s End in the little town of Ravenwood, Washington, Sheree thought the hectic life she had in Seattle would finally be behind her. She was wrong. At first she didn’t want to believe that their house was haunted, however the first night she heard a small child singing a creepy rendition of a children’s lullaby quickly changed her mind.
Is there any way she can rid her life of the ghost determined to haunt her, or is she doomed to suffer until she too falls victim to its wrath?