Derek Muk

The December Selected Writer is Derek Muk

You can email Derek at: derekmuk@yahoo.com

Derek Muk

by Derek Muk

“Why do you want to join our sorority?” the lead Sister asked. “You’re kinda old, aren’t you?” She eyed Elena appraisingly from head to toe.

“Not that old,” Elena replied, a tad defensively.

“I mean, you’re not an undergrad.” Her matter-of-fact tone implied that Elena was over the hill, ancient, and not worthy of pledge contention. “Plus, I think you started at the university a year or two older than most.”

“That’s true, but I’ve never been part of a sorority before and have always wanted that experience. It’s something I regret not doing when I was an undergraduate student.” 

The lead Sister cast a cold eye on her again. “Why do you want to join this sorority?”

Elena remained silent for a moment, calmly going over in her head what she had rehearsed earlier. Her facial expression grew solemn. That and her short dark brown hair and long face made her resemble Jamie Lee Curtis in the film, Terror Train. “This is a very prestigious sorority house and it has an illustrious history and a great reputation. Everyone on campus says it’s the one to join. The best of the best, I guess you could say.”

Another Sister in the room, one with long, flowing black hair, asked: “What have you heard about our house?”

“That you throw great parties,” Elena said. “And that you work closely with philanthropic and humanitarian causes, often donating to them. I admire that.”

The lead Sister maintained her poker face, crossing her legs. “Okay. My name is Claire. As part of your initiation into our sorority, you are to go to a place called the Borellis house and spend one night there.”    

Elena looked at her.

Claire caught her surprised gaze. “You do know of it, of course?”

“Yes. People say it’s haunted.”

Claire smirked. “That it is.”  

Elena again tried to appear calm and in control. Her place was not to question, protest, or create any waves. She wanted to join this house and the best way to accomplish that was to be cooperative, friendly, and somewhat submissive…not exactly a doormat or ass kisser, but something close to that.

From all over campus, she’d heard so many good things about this sorority. Add to the fact that she was never part of a Greek house as an undergraduate, she felt she missed being part of something; part of a group on this huge campus where the last thing you wanted to be was alone.

No one wanted to be alone. No one should be alone. She hated being a loner, of being a stranger to everyone. Ever since she left home for college she’d been alone: dear Mom called her weekly, concerned and full of questions as usual. Dad, no longer living with Mom, was nowhere to be seen, his whereabouts a total mystery. It would finally be nice to be part of something, to be part of a community. 

Elena swallowed. “Spend a night there alone?”

“Well, at least your hearing is intact. That’s what I said.”

Don’t pause! Elena thought. It shows hesitancy, cowardice. “I can do that.”

The lead Sister smiled, the first time she did that to Elena. “Good. Now, let me fill you in on the details.” 


“I can’t believe you’re going through with it!” Jan said, sitting next to Elena on the sofa. “I’ve been your roommate for a long time now, and I never saw this side of you.”

Elena stared straight ahead into space, at the late morning sunlight showering a group of dust motes in the air. “In some ways I can’t, either. But this is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

The living room they shared was cluttered with all sorts of odds and ends: a paper mache doll, the size of a guitar, sat on the carpet in one corner, leaning against the wall, coated with a thick layer of dust. It was one of Elena’s many art projects. Resting in another corner, on a tiny end table, was a series of small clay sculptures she created. Adorning the walls of the living room were a couple of paintings she did, one a landscape of rolling grassy hills, and the other a fuzzy self-portrait.

Devo’s “Ton O’ Luv” blared from the hi-fi entertainment center’s speakers as Elena continued looking at the sunlight. She wore her orange Denver Bronco’s jersey with the hem of it running all the way down to her tanned, muscular thighs.

“Why is joining this sorority so important to you?” Jan asked, her brow furrowed.

“I’ve never been part of one and felt like I missed doing something fun. I didn’t even have the whole dorm experience when I was an undergrad. Isn’t that sad?”

Jan nodded. “I understand. But, you know, everyone goes down a different path in life. We don’t all come from the same fabric. I’m a strong believer in fate. If it was meant to be, so be it. I was never part of a sorority and I’m not losing any sleep over it. So if you think this is your calling then I think you should pursue it.” 

Elena smiled at her, squeezing her forearm gently. “Thank you for being supportive!”  

“And by the way, you’re not old.”

“Thank you! Twenty-five is not old. I don’t know what the heck they’ve been smoking”


Elena drove to the Borellis house in her battered, sputtering 1977 Volkswagen bug, parking it in front of the dark, quiet house. Her car was the only vehicle on the deserted street. She immediately thought: Oh, my God, this is a bad idea! I need to get out of here pronto! But something made her kill the engine of the Volkswagen and stay glued to the seat. Some weird sort of energy propelled her to fulfill this crazy mission. After all, it was what she wanted.

She took a deep breath, looking out the window at the large house, thinking she saw someone at one of the second-story windows. Her heart stopped. The Borellis house was supposed to be deserted!

When she craned her neck to get a better view, she saw that it was just a dirty, ragged curtain blowing in the wind.

“Okay, kiddo, now you’re imagining things,” Elena muttered. Waiting a moment longer, she snatched her backpack and sleeping bag from the back seat and got out. None of the streetlights were on.

After hiking up the myriad concrete steps to the rickety front porch with its warped wooden floorboards and beams, she turned on her flashlight, pointing it at rusty mailbox. There was a name placard on the mailbox but the name had long since faded away. Cobwebs festooned the box, as well as the entire front door. She saw what appeared to be a black widows nest etched into the top right corner of the doorframe.

Suddenly, a pair of car headlights pierced the pitch blackness of the street below. Two of the car’s doors opened and slammed and footsteps were heard climbing the concrete steps, accompanied by a single flashlight beam.

Elena’s heartbeat pumped faster, like a rabbit’s, as she stood anticipating who it was. She turned to run back to her car when she heard the person speak.

“Glad you found the place okay,” Claire remarked, standing across from Elena on the porch. Accompanying her was the other Sister with long, flowing black hair. Both Sisters were dressed in long black overcoats, their faces as pale as ghosts. There was something eerie about the way they were looking at Elena, which made her feel very vulnerable. In the glow of the moonlight, their eyes were almost completely black, like the eyes of demons.

“Yeah, it was easy to find,” Elena replied evenly, trying not to appear frightened.

“So here’s the deal,” Claire continued, as if not listening to her. “You go into the house, explore as you wish, and find a comfy spot to settle down for the night. Understood?”

Elena nodded. “What if an emergency comes up?”

“If a situation arises, call my cell phone number. Understood?”

“Yes.” Suddenly, every story of every fraternity and sorority initiation or hazing incident gone awry flooded her mind. Am I crazy? What am I getting myself into? Is this the definition of crazy? Her rational side responded: Just do it. Be calm and just kick ass, girl.

Claire gazed at her with those creepy black eyes. “We’ll sit and wait in our car until midnight and then you’re on your own.” 

“Okay. I did a little research on this place. I guess a young couple, both Berkeley students, lived here in the late 1960s. And the man killed his girlfriend?” 

“Yes,” Claire replied. “Then the man took his own life. It’s said that he murdered her because he discovered she was having an affair with another man behind his back. Obviously, he was enraged because of this. It is said that their spirits haunt this house to this day.” 

“One question, though. Who’s Borellis? I never learned the answer to that.”  

“Why, that was the last name of the murderer.” Claire looked at her watch. “Good luck, Pledge.” They turned on their heels and left her.


Standing at a second-story window of the home, Elena watched the headlights of Claire’s car slowly disappear into the night. When it was finally gone she looked around the mostly empty bedroom. A single mattress with filthy stains on it rested in one corner of the room, while in the opposite corner, near the window, was a wooden straight back chair. Who did that mattress belong to?

The house had been abandoned for decades, for no one wanted to live in a haunted dwelling. She read that the last occupants were a small family, who during the dead of night, just decided to up and left …j jumped into their van with nothing but the pajamas and slippers they wore and that was it.

She looked up and pointed her lantern at one corner of the ceiling above the bedroom’s doorframe, where a wasps’ nest was cocooned. A bunch of the insects buzzed around above her head and she quickly exited the room, shutting the door.

She slowly made her way down the stairs that creaked with her weight. When she reached the first floor, she went to the narrow kitchen with its curled, yellowed linoleum and scraped and battered counter top that had seen better days. After knocking a white gauze-like haze of cobwebs out of her way with her flashlight, she proceeded further into the kitchen until she arrived at a small door near the defunct refrigerator.

That must lead to the cellar, she thought. When she opened the door it, she cringed, for it creaked loud enough to wake the dead and she pointed her flashlight down a narrow flight of green painted stairs. Jeez, it was as black as ink down there. She immediately closed the door. I’m not going down there!

Suddenly, she heard a low moaning sound and spun around faster than lightning, her eyes wide open.

Elena walked towards the staircase, looking up at the bedroom door she had closed. The moans seemed to be emanating from there. She cautiously climbed up the stairs, each step causing the stairs to creak with her weight. When she finally reached the second-floor bedroom door, she placed her hand on the cold steel knob and waited a moment, listening to the female moans.

She turned the doorknob slowly and pushed the door open, breathing in relief when she didn’t see anything. Looking at the room’s window, there was only the dirty, ragged curtain flapping in the wind. She couldn’t close the window because there was no glass.

Heading back down the stairs, she decided to settle down in the empty living room area instead of the creepy upstairs bedroom. She decided to keep her lantern lit all night. After taking her sneakers off, she curled inside the sleeping bag, staring up at the numerous water stains on the ceiling.

She had difficulty sleeping, induced by the anxiety surrounding this haunted house. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on her calm and steady breathing. In and out, in and out, in and out. She even counted sheep. Hey, it worked before when she had insomnia.

Gradually, she felt her eyelids getting heavy, like they were stones. She was less aware of the sound of crickets chirping outside. The sound eventually faded away from her consciousness, as well as the strong scent of a skunk that had wafted through the window. When she looked up at the water-stained ceiling again, the stains appeared fuzzy, blurry even, until her eyes finally succumbed to her drowsiness and shut into sleep.


Elena woke at 3:15 A.M., the witching hour, to the sound of moaning again. She listened for a moment, staring groggily up at the ceiling, still caught somewhere in that indefinable limbo land between consciousness and R.E.M.  

She untangled herself out of the sleeping bag, half falling, half slipping as she tried to get out of its grasp. By the time she managed to get free, the moans had stopped and she stood staring up at the ceiling, frowning, waiting for the noise to resume. But it didn’t.

Had the sounds come from the upstairs bedroom? Probably it was just the wind blowing through the broken window up there.

Elena looked out the living room window and saw a cat gazing at the house with its sparkling night vision eyes. It freaked her out and she turned away. Now she was all wired and creeped out and couldn’t go back to sleep. Grabbing her lantern,  she decided to explore the old house a little more. Just to be on the safe side, she went up to the second-floor bedroom and checked in. No one was there.

In another bedroom, she opened the closet door and found an old plastic witch’s cauldron, the kind you’d find at any drug store or Halloween shop. Weird. What’s that doing here?

Venturing further, Elena probed in another room and discovered a couple of Halloween masks up on a shelf in the closet. She tried to put two and two together but nothing made sense. Halloween was already over.

Probably left over from teenagers on a Halloween dare.

She looked at her watch. The night was almost over. Soon, with a little luck, she’d be out of this pest-hole and would be a fully-fledged member of the sorority and among the elite class on campus. No one would look down at her again, and more importantly, and she would finally be somebody.

Making her way back to the living room, she noticed that her backpack was gone. Elena frantically looked in all directions, but didn’t finding it anywhere.

“Okay, this is not good,” Elena whispered. She couldn’t remember if she had brought it inside with her or not. Maybe she’d left it on the porch.

She went outside and saw the same black cat as before staring at her with those glinting nighttime eyes. She walked back and forth across the front porch, jumping at every little sound, even her own footfalls.

She hadn’t been outside more than twelve seconds when something lunged out of the blackness.


Elena screamed and sprinted towards her Volkswagen bug. She was about to jump in when she realized her keys were in her missing backpack. She fell to the ground on her knees, sobbing.

Claire and the other Sister with the long, flowing black hair stepped out of the shadows. “You failed,” the lead Sister said. She threw the backpack on the ground.

Elena was still sobbing. “You’re the meanest people on earth. Keep your damn sorority.”

Both Sisters calmly stood next to Elena. “Try to get someone younger next time,” the other Sister said to Claire. “Undergrads try harder.”

“Will do.”

Derek Muk is a writer and social worker from California. His short stories have appeared in various online and small press magazines, including Dark Eclipse Magazine, Tales of the Talisman Magazine, Space and Time Magazine, Calliope Magazine, The Dead Walk (anthology), 13 Magazine, Diabolic Tales 3(Magazine), Both Barrels of Legends of the Monster Hunter I and II(anthology), The Trigger Reflex: Legends of the Monster Hunter II (anthology), Suffer the Little Children (anthology), Splatter: An Anthology of Horror, and Dark Things II (Anthology).

In addition to writing, he enjoys reading, traveling, museums, art, dining out, and meeting new people. He has a bachelors and masters degree in social work. 

The Occult Files of Albert Taylor is his first full length collection of short stories. His website is found HERE