The Fools on the Hill (Flash Fiction)

Alan positioned the flashlight directly in front of his mouth and made eerie ghost sounds. The light, tainted red from shining through his flesh, made disconcerting shadows on the sides of the tent.

“Bre-e-e-tt, are you afraid of the da-a-a-a-rk?” Alan asked in the same ghost-mimicking voice.

“No, of course not,” Brett replied, all the while thinking Yes, yes, oh dear God, yes I’m afraid of the dark. But they were safe in the tent they had pitched in Alan’s backyard, Brett chided himself.

“We should tell ghost stories.”

Even in the dim light, Brett could see the wicked gleam in his friend’s eye.

“I don’t know any,” Brett muttered.

“Have you ever heard about the house on the hill?”

Brett shook his head.

“They call it the Fool on the Hill, like that Beatles song.”

“What’s so scary about a fool on some hill?” Brett asked skeptically, and then wished he hadn’t asked because he knew that now Alan was going to tell the story whether he wanted him to or not.

“Some crazy guy used to live there. Just a regular dude, worked at the factory, and then one day he just snapped and killed his wife and kids and boarded himself up inside of his house up there. Nobody has seen him since, and now it’s haunted by his restless spirit.”

The flashlight was back to illuminating Alan’s mouth, and Brett watched, mesmerized.

“Yeah right, whatever. I don’t believe in ghosts.” The goosebumps on his arms betrayed his lie.

“Don’t believe in ghosts, huh? So, it’d be no problem if I dared you to spend the night up there tomorrow night?”

Brett felt his eyes bulge. “No way, that’s trespassing. Plus Mom would never let me have a sleepover two nights in a row.”

Alan scowled. “That’s what I thought. Big yellow chicken Mama’s boy. Time for lights out, Chicken Little.” He flipped off the flashlight and was silent, his insults and his dare hovering in the stale tent air between them.

Needless to say, the next morning, Brett agreed to the dare.

“Good thing, too, cuz we’ve wanted to do this dare for years, and we’ve all been waiting for the right night to do it. Tonight’s the night!”

Zach and Logan joined them for their outing just before sunset, sleeping bags rolled under their arms and their backpacks stuffed with snacks.

Alan broke the flimsy padlock on the chain securing the gate of the fenced property, and they made their way up the drive. An enormous crow sat perched on the peak of the roof, and its caw echoed loudly across the hill.

“Aren’t crows supposed to be bad luck?” Brett asked nervously.

Logan burst out laughing. He caught Zach rolling his eyes.

“All the better,” Alan said with a wicked grin.

The boys went to work with crowbars to pry open one of the windows, which they all slipped through and deposited their things on the floor.

“Awesome,” Logan said, looking around the two-story entryway in awe.

Zach let out a whistle.

“Let’s explore,” Alan insisted. They made their way through the two-level house, exploring the kitchen, dining room, living room, then moved upstairs to poke through the four upstairs bedrooms.

“This is kind of a bummer. There aren’t any blood stains or skeletons or anything.”

There was a loud thump somewhere in the house, and all of the boys jumped.

Alan smirked. “You all scared yet?”

Brett was terrified. Not only did something feel incredibly off in the house, what with the darkened lower floor with it’s boarded up windows , but it was also shockingly clean. There was no clutter anywhere, the few pieces of furniture were meticulously arranged, but most of all, there wasn’t a mote of dust anywhere.

He shivered.

Since there wasn’t much else to see, the boys hunkered down in the living room and crawled into their sleeping bags. Snacks and handheld videogames were passed around, and they told spooky stories by flashlight, until finally, one by one, they flipped off their flashlights.

“Hope you all make it through the night,” Alan said after the last flashlight clicked off.

Brett buried himself deep inside his sleeping bag and zipped it shut. He turned on his flashlight inside the bag and left it burning all night.

He awoke panting heavily. The air inside his sleeping bag was stifling, so he unzipped it and peeked out.

The rest of the boys seemed to be sleeping quietly as he shined his flashlight on each bag.

His stomach flipflopped when he got to the last bag.

Four. Four boys had broken into the house.

So why were there five sleeping bags?

His heart leaped into his throat, and he had to swallow it down. As quietly as he could, he made his way to the bag closest to him.

Zach. His face was blue, his eyes open and unseeing. The cord from his sleeping bag and been tied around his throat, his flesh puffy around it.

Brett reeled backwards and fell, almost losing his flashlight. He clamped his hand over his mouth so he wouldn’t scream.

Dead. Zach was dead. What about the others? He rushed to the next bag, and found he couldn’t distinguish between Logan’s red sleeping bag and the blood that had gushed from his slit throat.

Brett gagged and scrambled away from his other friend’s body.

Alan. Oh God, Alan, are you dead too? Desperation propelled him forward. He had to know, even though he already knew. He had to see.

Alan’s head was pinioned to the floor by the large knife that protruded from one eyeball. Brett wondered if he had even been awake, because the other lid was still closed.

He turned to the last sleeping bag, on the other side of his own. He could see the shape of a body in it. Who else could it be? All of his friends were dead. Who had joined them while they slept?

He pointed his flashlight towards the bag, but before he could take a step towards it, the body inside sat up and stared at him, eyes wide and crazed.

Brett screamed and fled. He ran until he couldn’t run anymore, not looking back until the hill was a tiny mound, and the house was an indistinguishable smudge in the pale dawn light.

And now people tell the story of how the madman on the hill killed three foolish teenage boys when they broke into his house expecting it to be haunted by the dead, when it was actually haunted by the living.

Sara is a Kansas-grown author of the fantasy and horror persuasions. She is convinced that fantastical things are waiting for her just around the corner, and until she finds the right corner, she writes about those things instead.


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