Shawn P. Madison

The NovemberSelected Writer is Shawn P. Madison

Feel free to email Shawn at: asm89@aol.com


by Shawn P. Madison

He watched her as she hung, suspended with her toes barely touching the floor, slightly swaying despite the stagnant air—stale and thick—that permeated the dark confines of the tiny space. It was a truly dreadful scene, filled with the stench of death. So pointless…

She had been missing for the better part of three weeks. The case had gone very cold after the first couple of days, not warming up again until this morning. The abandoned house on the very edge of this dreary little town had been empty for years; close to a decade. He found that out from the neighbors.

The camera snapped yet another picture—clack-zing—and the flash lighted up the gruesome spectacle inside the closet and forced his eyes off of her corpse.

“You ok, Nate?” Parker asked and he only nodded. It was August and the heat outside was unbearable. In here…it was hard to breathe.

“How long has she been dead?” Nate asked the ME and a grunt was all he got in return. McKenzie was not a man of many words under the best of circumstances, and these were clearly circumstances not at their best.

The skinny man was sweating through his polo shirt at the armpits, neck and chest as he studied the scene. “I’d say just about as long as she’s been missing, Cortland,” he said as the fingers of his left hand raked through his silver-gray hair. “Damn, but she’s a sight and I’ll need menthol under my nose to hide the smell.”

Nate gave his own grunt in return and turned to look out the small window in the room that housed the small tomb of the swaying girl. Looking around, the floor was littered with beer cans, broken liquor bottles, empty snack bags and used syringes. A complete and utter disaster out here but…in there…in the closet…it was pristine. The only piece that didn’t fit into this particular puzzle was the desiccated body hanging by a frayed rope tied over what looked to be a high pole for hanging clothes, dresses most likely.

“Little old lady next door told me she’s the third one this year,” Parker said and Cortland whirled around to face his partner.

“In this house?”

“No, in that closet.”

“Can’t be,” Cortland muttered but Parker was already nodding his head.

“I checked, she’s right,” Parker sighed. “This is the third corpse to be found in there since February.”

“That doesn’t fit, Mike,” Cortland said and found himself facing the woman’s eyeless sockets again, just inches away. The sorrow and the utter despair of this poor woman nearly brought him to tears. “We would have heard of the others.”

“Nope, they were homeless, and no signs of foul-play,” Parker said, checking the report on his tablet. “One froze to death in February, the other had a heart attack while crashing in there in early April. Everyone who died in this old house died in that closet.”

Then Parker laughed, but it sounded strained. “Makes sense now, how little kids are always afraid that there’s something hiding their closet at night.”

The tip of Nate’s shiny left shoe caught an empty Coors can, sending it skittering away into the dust and other debris as he took one step closer to what was left of the young woman. He shook his head once, twice to clear it…something was calling to him on this one…something from far off, almost whispering to him…words that gave Nate Cortland the shivers and sent a shock of cold down his back despite the August heat.

“I’ll be outside, Mike,” he said and swiftly left the room that held the body in the closet.

McKenzie and Parker shared a look between them and then the older man smirked. “Why, Parker, I believe your partner’s just seen a ghost.”

Parker laughed at that but he definitely shared his partner’s discomfort and continued to inch slowly away from the swaying corpse that hung in the closet.


The darkness was closing in on him like a cloak. Only a slice of blue moonlight illuminated a tiny corner of the room. He was back in the old house because of a compulsion that he didn’t understand.

Nate had done some research—the house had seen its share of tragedy, of horror, and of sadness. Over one hundred years of history and all of it dreadful. Built by a farmer in the early 1900’s, 850 Crossroads Way had suffered its first tragic death before it reached its first birthday.

The first death was the farmer’s oldest daughter who succumbed to a high fever just two days after falling ill. He and his family never recovered and the house lay empty for nearly a decade.

Several families had taken up residence since and there were similar stories through the following decades. Accidental deaths, violent deaths, brutal attacks by family pets, relatives killing relatives, deaths from various illnesses and more than its fair share of suicides.

What he found most bothersome was that many of those deaths from suicides had taken place in this room. A good share of the twenty or so souls who left this Earth by their own hands within the confines of 850 Crossroads Way had done so in this far back bedroom on the upper floor—in the closet.

The coroner had identified the new body as Terry Ranton, twenty years old. Nate felt even worse knowing that.

Earlier in the day, he’d seen that the window looked out on rolling green fields, badly overgrown, that seemed to stretch to the horizon. Now, in the darkest of night, the gloom surrounded the old house, close and tight.           

“Why are you back here?” he asked himself, his voice barely audible, but he thought he heard a reply sighing softly on the wind.

Nate twirled around so fast he nearly tumbled over, and more discarded aluminum and glass scattered around the room as he caught his balance.

He could hear it clearly then, hear them, the whispering voices inside his head and he fell back toward the wall near the room’s lone window. His heart hammered. His breath came in quick rasps. His eyes were riveted to the open door of the empty closet, now nothing but deep shadows.

“What in the holy hell is going on?” he wondered aloud and shook his head again and again to clear the cobwebs that were forming. “This house…this room…”

No….he heard but didn’t hear at the same time…Not the room…the closet.

The whispers in his head had an origin: a place within.

As he stood in the room, the door to the empty closet slowly opened an inch on rusty hinges, the squeal of metal in sore need of lubrication cut through the voices in his brain like a bolt of lightning and Nate snapped to his senses. He was no longer against the wall in one of the room’s dark corners, he was now just one step away from the doorway that led into utter blackness.

The small space continued to call to him, urging him to enter. He had not gone into the tiny space earlier due to Terry Ranton’s swaying corpse blocking the way but she had been cut down hours ago, the frayed rope lost here among the black shadows of the floor.

Nate fumbled to turn on the flashlight he had been holding but his sweaty hands lost their grip and it tumbled into the darkness, and he could hear its clatter as it disappeared into the gloom.

All around him, the sounds of the night were rushing in, the breeze moving lazily through the window that one of the officers responding to the call here earlier today must have opened in a futile attempt to fight off the overpowering heat. It had been closed when he’d been standing here hours ago but it did nothing to relieve the oppressiveness of the room, the unyielding hopelessness of this place.

The voices were there again, between his ears, fighting their way past the sounds of the night, speaking to him, invitations, urgings…his feet fumbled as he crept ever closer to the closet door.

“No. I don’t want to do this,” Nate muttered, but he continued to inch his way forward.

Hearing his own words brought him out of the fugue state he’d been in just seconds before. Sweat dripped into his eyes and down his nose. Breath rushed into his lungs again, delicious and sharp…he hadn’t been breathing for most of the last minute or so. One step back and more refuse clattered away into the shadows. “What the hell?”

His right foot found an empty bottle of some strong-smelling brew and he found himself on his knees, splinters from the rough floor cutting into the palms of his hands. He noticed drops of sweat hitting the floor just a foot or two from the empty closet’s open door…the pale sliver of moonlight gave him just enough illumination to see it.

Had he been drinking? Had he maybe hit his head in here…he couldn’t tell since parking his old pick-up out front only minutes ago. The old lady next door had warned him against entering the looming old house, repeating over and over that it was all starting again, but he had failed to heed that warning. He didn’t even know why. It was like he was obsessed.

The sounds of the night grew louder, drowning out his thoughts. He used his right hand to wipe the sweat from his eyes and nose and tasted blood from the splinters in his palm. Blood…my blood…the thought of the blood surging through his veins right now, coursing through his body, so much of it…

Crawling now…closer to that dark open doorway…what was in there, he wondered. Who was in there?

The voices again, stronger this time, still barely a whisper but bouncing around inside his head, the pain pounding between his temples. More crawling…inch by inch…closer.

His eyes, stung by sweat, found that core of darkness again, that black oblong that was the inside of the empty closet. Not a single piece of debris had been seen in there, despite the shadows earlier, beyond the swaying corpse of Terry Ranton.

What had brought her to this house, to this room, to this closet remained a mystery. What had lured her here, to tie a frayed rope around her neck and hang herself inside that dark void…what had inspired her to die here, to make this place her grave?

An animal sound, sharp and evil, shattered the night and Nate saw that he was already most of the way inside the closet, only his legs from the knees back still in the room.

His breath caught and terror took over as he scrambled to try and leave the black confines of the tiny space. His hip caught on the edge of the creaky door, slamming it against the wall with a bang that felt like a hammer against his forehead. He twisted to the side, fell over and tried to get up but the pain in his skull was too much to overcome.

The words were there again, whispered by raspy voices, the sounds of death from long ago, filling his brain. His arms were shaking, the blood from his injured palms soaking into the rough floorboards inside the closet.

The old house groaned; a mournful sound that raised every hair on the back of his neck. The voices were hungry, the whispers frantic with need. This closet wanted Nate Cortland.

With one last effort, he surged up on his knees and tried to crawl backwards, out of the small prison that seemed to be holding on tight. Nate’s heart was pounding in his chest, skipping beats with the adrenaline of pure fear, his breath coming in short ragged heaves as he struggled to move. It was like being in a dream, wanting to run but going nowhere. Wanting to run for his life, needing to get out of this godforsaken place…

The first hand that grabbed him came as a shock and took what little breath he had away. He fought against something that wasn’t there, just shifting wisps of gray smoke in the darkness of the closet. The second hand held on tight and would not let go…Nate Cortland’s knees entered the empty closet, followed quickly by his shoes.

An agonized scream left his throat as the hands, so many hands, grabbed and pulled him into the dark. Just for one second, his death cry stilled the night sounds but it was quickly cut off by the slamming of the closet door.

Shawn P. Madison, creator of the Guarder/U.E.N. Universe, currently lives in the beautiful Garden State of New Jersey with his wife and a veritable cornucopia of kids. Although he has written in many different genres, he tends to write mostly science fiction and horror. He has published more than eighty short stories in thirty different magazines and anthologies, both electronic and print, so far this century.

Other than his Guarder novels, his collection of short horror fiction, The Road to Darkness, was released by Double Dragon Publishing in April of 2003 and his novella, The Empire of the Iron Cross, was released by Cyberwit Publishing in March of 2019.

You can reach Shawn through his author page on Facebook
or via e-mail at: asm89@aol.com