Red Eyes – A Short Horror Story by M. R. Kessell

A bird's eye view of a suburban cul-de-sac at dusk, with a horrific, evil red eye occupying the center of the circular space.

“I heard that someone wanted a scary story before bed,” the steps creaked as Papa carried Kaleigh upstairs, “So this is going to be really scary, okay?”

“Okay,” she yawned, “but I’m not really tired.”

She swayed in his tree-trunk arms. Her head rested on his shoulder, his shirt smelled smoky like the grill, like the hot dogs they had for supper.

“Not tired, huh?” he chuckled.

“Nope.”

Papa set Kaleigh down onto her bed. She flopped over on her side and her sun-burnt face melted into the puffy, cool pillow. An air conditioner hummed down the hall.

“Let’s see, this happened not too long ago,” Papa began as he turned the bedside lamp off. Kaleigh’s moon and stars nightlight flickered to life. He removed Mr. Barrington, Kaleigh’s favorite stuffed bear, and sat down in the tiny seat usually reserved for tea party guests.

“Not too far from here, lived a little girl named…Carly.”

“Oh, really?”

Kaleigh yawned a second time and rolled her eyes.

“Yes, really.”

Her gaze landed at the window behind Papa’s back. The sun had just sunk down into the bubblegum and sherbet sky. It was practically still daytime. I bet other kids are still up.

Papa planted Mr. Barrington next to Kaleigh and pulled the frilly covers up to her chin, “Carly always wanted to stay up late. Past her bedtime.”

“That sounds like fun.” Kaleigh looked down over the neighborhood, the street lights hadn’t come on yet, but the neighboring porch lights formed an arc that led her eyes out of the sleepy cul-de-sac.

“Sounds like somebody I know,” Papa laughed and checked his watch.

Kaleigh watched for the shooting star headlights of vehicles passing on the main road beyond. The past few nights she had fallen asleep counting the fireflies chasing one another across the front yards. There were no fireflies tonight.

“So, one night, after her mom and dad went to sleep, Carly got out of bed and decided to watch some TV.”

Kaleigh’s eyes had glazed over, her focus snagged on Mrs. Gilinksy’s white wooden fence. Something wasn’t right. Someone had left the gate open. It swayed in a slight breeze. Mrs. G’s not going to like that.

“So, she snuck downstairs, got a snack, even though she had already brushed her teeth, and tiptoed into the TV room.”

Something caught Kaleigh’s attention, past Mrs. Gilinsky’s yard; movement in the woods.

“Oh, and I forgot to mention, it was a rainy, stormy night. The wind was whistling and rustling the trees and stuff outside,” Papa started making wheezy thunderstorm noises.

Kaleigh squinted. She blinked and rubbed her eyes. There really was something moving out there. At first it was just some of the bushes shaking and shivering. Then it transferred to the low hanging branches that reached out, scraping the road like bony fingers. They whipped aside revealing a shadowy mass, a blob with arms, way too many arms, that spilled into the street.

“Carly quietly flipped through the stations.”

A car sailed by, its headlights briefly silhouetted a group of four or five kids. They looked like big kids. No big kids live on our street.

“She found what looked like an old-timey, scary movie.”

But here they came anyway. In the fading light they looked like they belonged on Grandpa’s black and white TV. She couldn’t make out any faces. They seemed to be wearing costumes. Are they Trick-Or-Treaters? They were carrying sticks and bags. They stopped in the street in front of Mrs. Gilinksy’s. Hers was the last house on the curve. They turned their heads one after another toward the open gate. They can’t be Trick-Or-Treating, can they? It’s still summertime.

“Carly jumped every time the thunder rumbled outside.”

There was a big one leading the group, the steps going up to the porch bent as he climbed. With an arm that looked like a shaggy, wet dog, he knocked on Mrs. Gilinksy’s door. The rest of the pack clambered up behind. There was a pause.

“She heard tapping on the window behind her. She thought maybe it was just the rain.”

The group on the porch was illuminated for only a second as the front door opened, then they pushed and climbed and scraped over one another to get inside. The door slammed and all the lights went out. Kaleigh lifted her head and gasped.

“Not trick-or-treaters,” her focus never leaving the window.

“No, no, not them,” Papa yawned this time and checked his watch again, “The tapping came again. Carly quickly turned the TV off.”

Kaleigh dropped back down, her head was heavy on the pillow. She thought about Mrs. Gilinksy’s little white dog Corky. He would bark any time someone knocked on the door, or opened the gate, or walked past the house even. Kaleigh wished she could have a little dog like Corky, but every time she went near him her eyes would get all itchy and she’d start sneezing.

“Carly thought she saw a pale face reflected in the blank television screen.”

There was some movement outside, like darkened fireflies in the night, Kaleigh squinted, she couldn’t quite see them, but she knew they were there.

They were coming closer.


They appeared in the dim light as they hopped over the little white fence. They probably stepped on Mrs. G’s flowers. She’s gonna be so angry. Kaleigh would never make that mistake again.

“The pale face was smiling at her.”

There was a straggler, a small one falling behind, he was dragging something that looked heavy. A big bag. It got caught up on the fence, he had a lot of trouble trying to get it over, the fence collapsed and he shambled on.

“Uh-oh,” Kaleigh whispered, her eyes widening.

“That’s right,” Papa said, “Very…creepy.”

The group staggered across the lawn of the neighboring house, the one with the crazy man who sprays the squirrels with his garden hose. He calls them tree rats. He was home like usual. Kaleigh could see the flashing lights from his ginormous television, he was probably yelling at the baseball players. He was always yelling. The group climbed the steps and crowded in the glow of the picture window.

“She peeked over the edge of the couch…”

Kaleigh could see a little better now, although her eyelids had begun drooping. She blinked. It looked like these big kids just decided to go out like it was Halloween, but they didn’t have any real costumes. No superheroes, no cartoon characters, not even a ghost. She didn’t recognize what they were supposed to be. It’s like they just used whatever sacks and trashy old fur coats and wood scraps and rope that they had lying around.

Papa was still talking, but his voice was fading, he was sitting so far away now…her eyelids were so heavy. She closed her eyes for just a second.

“…Carly hid under the blanket and waited…”

Kaleigh opened her eyes. She didn’t see them leave the squirrel man’s place. But the house was now completely dark. The baseball game must be over. She propped herself up on an elbow and scanned the front yards. The group was now right next door at the Russells’ house. Her view was obstructed by the overhanging roof on the Russells’ porch, but she could see their hairy legs and nasty feet and the shiny trail of foot prints behind them. They must have been banging on the front door; the porch light was vibrating, then it flickered and went out.

“…she peeked out and the front door was swinging open…”

The lights were on, but Kaleigh knew that the Russells were away on vacation. Papa had been feeding Sprinkles, their cat, and Kaleigh had been helping, giving out too many cat treats and cuddles. And then sneezing for hours after. They better not scare Sprinkles. I wish he could’ve stayed here with us.

She wanted to mention something to Papa but when she opened her mouth, a yawn erupted instead. Papa was talking so soft now she couldn’t understand him. The air conditioners hummed. She blinked once. Then again. All went dark.


Kaleigh opened her eyes and sat up in bed. Mr. Barrington tumbled to the floor. Papa’s chair was empty. The orange glow of the streetlight had taken his place and crowded around the rest of her room. There were banging noises coming from below, like wild hammering with tools and thumping with hands. Her tea set rattled on the tiny table.

She heard Papa heading down the creaky steps, he was yelling, “Go away! I’m calling the police!”

The thumping continued. Glass cracked and shattered. Howling tore through the walls and ceiling. Papa screamed. Heavy footsteps exploded, running in all directions. Was the house shaking?

Kaleigh sat there frozen except for her heart, clutching her comforter, staring out her bedroom door. Shadows twisted and writhed in the hallway. A hot breeze tickled her face. The staircase creaked fast.

She slid out of bed on the far side, away from the door. She ducked down as the lumbering shadow crossed by the open doorway. It paused, reflective red eyes scanned the empty space. She tried to quiet her breathing, but it was coming in short bursts. There was a deep gurgling growl. Hungry. The floor squealed as its weight shifted. Away. The shadow moved down the hallway.

Then Kaleigh sneezed.

Happy October!

I am holding out hope that everything will turn around in October. I know that it’s the season of cold and death and decay, but it leaves me feeling quite optimistic.

Maybe everyone will stay at home and watch horror movies all month. Or they will order candy apples in the mail and have cider delivered to their door. Maybe everyone would just wear a mask for once.

Even wild men wear masks

I have two different Halloween costumes planned, even though I doubt there will be a place to wear them outside of my own living room. Maybe this year we’ll have a Zoomoween.

I’ve said it before, at least Halloween won’t be canceled in my cold, dead heart.

Like usual, I have a handful of cool projects on the horizon that I can’t share with you just yet, but believe me, they’re going to be a lot of fun. Stay tuned.

I’m preparing a short story to publish on the blog next week that I’m hoping will get the goosebumps expanding and the blood pumping faster than usual.

In the meantime, did you know that I started a YouTube channel? There are some weird, new T-shirt designs over in my store. I also hang around on Twitter sometimes, stop by and say howdy.

Anxiety Drawings and Desktop Shredders

A maccabre pencil illustration of a man without a head but instead a large gritty, speckled black hole near the top of his torso.

Hey everybody!

I’m still plugging along. Some days my stress and anxiety get out of hand. Other days I channel it into art. See above.

An artist friend recently suggested that I try it. I think I always have done that to some extent, especially when it comes to my darker and more macabre pieces. But in the past few weeks I’ve made a more conscious effort to try it.

A sad, tired face wearing a mask to protect against COVID-19 infection.

Greetings

from the year

2020

How about you? How do you deal with stress and anxiety?

Another pursuit of mine is music. Lately I’ve enjoyed putting together some playlists on Spotify. Check out this one below that I call “Unknown Originals.” Famous songs performed by the original artists that you might not have ever heard before.

And finally, below is something I dug up in my archives from 2009. I recently revamped, polished up and uploaded to YouTube. It’s short and amusing and ridiculous and I had way too much fun working on it. Enjoy!

A Lowbrow Haiku

I’m trying something a little different today. Some of you may recall the first version of this from a few months back on the blog, it existed only as a pencil drawing in my sketchbook. But today I bring it to you in full color with sound and motion. Or at least the illusion of motion. I hope you enjoy!

Speed Drawing for Horror Enthusiasts On-The-Go

Here’s a quick little speed drawing over at my YouTube channel for any skull aficionados out there.

No? None? Just me? Okay then.

I’ve been going a bit crazy lately because I have a few big projects in the works and I can’t share any info just yet. They’re top secret!

So I’ve been keeping busy in between by creating these very random art and animation videos. Hopefully some of you enjoy them and maybe have felt some slight inspiration tickling your cranium. And if it’s not inspiration tickling your cranium I suggest that you do not turn around. There have been reports of a cranium tickler on the loose in your area.

That got weird pretty quick.

Anyway, until next time, keep doing whatever it is you do with gusto.

Why Aren’t You Drawing RN?

In an effort to show that I’m still alive and kicking (well maybe not kicking so much) I want to share a new introductory video from my YouTube channel.

It’s a short, somewhat motivational video intended to inspire the viewer through shame.

“What, are you watching too many YouTube videos?”

It’s my first attempt at a video other than a speed drawing, it’s a bit experimental, I hope you enjoy!

Disturbing Depths


Butch coughed up the last of his tobacco smoke as the screams escaped the mouth of the mine.

“You hear that?” he looked at Red. The bug-eyed man gripped his rusty pickaxe tight across his chest.

A low vibration started in their boots; an explosion deep in the tunnel. Hot air and dust erupted, knocking them to the ground. Through the cloud, Young-Johnny came running, face bloodied, and a fine rope trailing behind.

As he reached daylight, the rope glinted then snapped taut, pulling him backward off his feet. Arms flailing, trying to grab ahold of anything, Johnny shrieked, “Spiders!”


Christmas is Coming and I am not a Grinch

‘Twas a stressful December evening in the Gingerbread household.

In the spirit of the season, I’ve decided to create some silly holiday doodles. Hopefully they amuse you as much as they amuse me.

This is also an effort to prove to my wife that I am not a Grinch.

I’ll be the first to admit that in the past decade I have displayed some Grinchy tendencies; Complaining about Christmas music in October, avoiding being trampled on Black Fridays like the plague, insisting that Diehard is a Christmas movie, stealing all the toys and decorations and roast beast from Whoville.

But I’m working on it.

The past few years have seen our Christmas playlists expand like my waistline after feasting on a bacon-wrapped, Yuletide Turducken.

Below is my current favorite. And yes, it is a polka.

Must Be Santa by Brave Combo

My wife and I drive through suburban neighborhoods admiring the decorations whilst listening to holiday tunes and sipping hot cocoa.

I own an ironically ugly Christmas sweater. Need I say more? Yes?

Well, bah humbug!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that we visited London earlier in the year and I acquired a reproduction of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I’m terribly excited to read it. I should probably go start that now.

I will be posting more doodles as they come to me throughout the month on here and through various other social media. Let me know what you think!

By the way, do you have a favorite Christmas song?

I’m always looking to augment and expand those playlists. I’d love some new suggestions. The weirder the better too.

Okay, talk to you later, I’m off to meet my friend Scrooge.