Written by L.A. Chavez
“You call that scary?!” said Fred. Brent joined in and they laughed together at John’s attempt at a spooky story.
“The tale of the Bloody Bay Butcher is plenty scary, thank you very much!” John replied.
The boys gave each other shit, but it was all in good fun. All three of them had known each other since childhood, and every Halloween season, they would take turns to have a sleepover in each other’s houses to tell horror stories. They never really managed to scare anyone. They knew each other too well. But tonight was different, they had agreed to let the new kid at school join their little fraternity, and insisted they spend the night of 31st at his place.
“What about Carlos? He hasn’t gone yet,” asked Brent.
“He is our host, only right he should tell a story,” said John.
“Shit guys, that’s not fair, have you ever heard anything scary from Spain?” said Fred. “Hell, have you ever even heard anything at all from that tiny piece of the world? No offense, Carlos, but my expectations are pretty fucking low.”
Carlos had arrived at their little town of Brodrick only two months ago, the first foreigner they’ve ever had in their hidden corner of Connecticut. His family had come from Spain for his father’s job as an antique dealer, and though he spoke English, his heavy accent got a lot of the kids at school to pick on him. Fred would know because he was the first one to do so.
It’s true Fred liked to pick on people, but only because he hated weakness. Seeing those little cowards shit themselves at the sight of him gave him a sense of deep satisfaction; he felt like he was doing his part to toughen them up.
That wasn’t the case with Carlos though, he didn’t seem remotely scared of Fred. He just looked at the boys calmly, with those big black eyes that never seemed to change. As much as he hated to admit it, it unnerved Fred, but he respected that about Carlos.
Brent and John didn't like it, but Fred was able to talk them into letting Carlos join them. Yes, he wasn’t from here, but he could pass as one of them. Fred couldn’t explain why, but he felt he wanted him around. Maybe for the novelty of it, or because he sensed that same strength and fear he liked to inspire in others. For his part, Carlos seemed amused by this and accepted, but he mostly kept to himself. Fred didn’t mind though, every group had a quiet one.
“I know quite a few actually,” he said, his voice soft but resonating in the air like a melody.
“Do you think scary things only happen in the U.S.?"
"All right Carlos, what terrifying tales do they have in your fruiffy ass country? Is it bulls gone wild?” Fred asked. Brent and John snickered at his comment.
“You think you’re clever for referencing the only thing you know about my home?” he asked cooly.
“Whatever man, just do your best. I promise we won’t laugh too much.”
Carlos smiled at him, unaffected. He took one of the candles on the glass table they were sitting around and drew it close to him, illuminating his face eerily for dramatic effect. “I don’t need to make up a story to scare you. España is full of horror, and some of those stories get passed down by each generation. Not as a means to spook children, but as a warning.”
Carlos started hovering his hand above the small flame, moving it from side to side. The effect was hypnotic, and Fred couldn’t help follow it as he talked.
“There is real evil in the world tios, sometimes it takes the shape of the supernatural, but more often it’s just people doing shit no one wants to imagine. There’s an abyss...and yeah, most of us run away when we see it...but some prefer to jump in.”
His hand stopped right above the candle suddenly, and Fred felt anxious watching it. He was close enough to feel the fire on his open palm, why didn’t he move it?
“But are we pushed into doing those horrible things? Is there a dark force pushing us to hurt...to kill?”
Fred could smell it now, the scent of burning flesh. It was faint but still awful, as was the soft popping sound of the skin crisping that came next. Fred was transfixed by the sight, while Brent and John looked horrified.
“…please stop that.” Fred managed to blurt out, it seemed to have cost him all the energy in his body to even whisper it, but Carlos thankfully complied.
The crisping sound ceased, and the smell disappeared. Carlos never made so much a wince, but he showed them his palm and the black spot the fire had made in it…still smiling.
“Oh don’t look at me like that, pain is only a problem for those that mind it. Believe me, there are worse things than a small burn.” He said this, seemingly feeling no pain. “Now, I believe you boys wanted to hear a scary story, si?”
“What?” said John, he seemed to only now have snapped out of the shock of seeing a seventeen-year-old boy burn himself for fun.
“Here’s a bit of a local tale where I’m from, in the town of Malaga. There was an old college there by the coast, long gone now, but for those few that remember it, they do because of what lay there once, and the lives it helped take.”
He held their gaze for what felt like an eternity, as they waited for him to reveal what someone like him would find scary.
“They called it the Throne of Malaga,” he said finally, closing his eyes as he did.
Fred blinked. “Wait, throne? Like a chair?” He couldn't help but laugh at this, and for a moment the dread that had descended upon him and the entire room lifted a bit. “Dude, the hand burning was nuts! I don’t know how you pulled that trick, but you had me there!
Now you’re gonna ruin it with a fucking chair?”
Brent and John chuckled nervously next to him. The situation did seem rather silly all of a sudden. The hand burning must have been some sleight of hand to scare them, and Fred felt dumb for falling for it.
“It’s not just any chair. The devil sat in it,” Carlos replied casually.
“Oh, well, excuse us for not being frightened by the devil’s ass print,” said John.
“Did he fart and the smell haunted the chair forever?” Fred added.
“You tell me, you’re sitting in it.”
Fred froze immediately. The color drained from his face, his eyes fixed in place as his brain processed the information. The others fell quiet as well, looking at the chair now.
They had been sitting in Carlos’ living room, around the table with four old wooden chairs.
These were old, made in what Fred had assumed to be some European style, and the rest of the house did seem to be full of old things like that anyway, so he never thought much of it until now.
“Bullshit! If that’s true, then how the hell do you have it, then?” asked John.
“I told you my father worked in antiques. The ministry gave it to him after their fourth attempt to have it Exorcised by the Catholic Church...you know how we Spaniards are when it comes to our faith and all.” He mused, enjoying a joke they were not privy to.
“But no matter what they tried, the people that sat in it kept going insane and killing their loved ones,” he continued. “Nine recorded times. I guess it took them a while to figure it was the chair that did it.”
“Why the fuck didn’t they smash the shit out of it?” asked Brent.
“Oh, they did. Many times. They burned it, too. Threw it into a wood shredder. Hit it with a really big hammer. Whatever you can think of, it’s been tried. They even sent it away once, far into the woods outside the city, but the chair always appeared back in its usual place the next morning.”
“You’re fucking with us,” said John, although it sounded like he didnt believe it himself.
“I guess we’ll see. Tell me, Freddy...are you feeling particularly murdery tonight?” saidCarlos, smiling, and at that moment, Fred hated that smile so much.
“Fuck you, man! You think this is funny?” Fred tried to sound more angry than scared, but the sweat drops falling from his face betrayed him.
“Every single time,” was all he said, and it sent a chill down Fred’s spine.
“What the hell does that mean?”
Carlos paused, and his smile faltered for once and he looked thoughtful instead. He looked like he was considering how much to share.
“My father told me not to sit in when he brought it home, although he never told me why. Seems almost unfair, doesn't it? Telling a child not to do something, when that always makes them want to do it more.” He sounded strangely melancholic.
“You sat in the chair,” said Fred, knowing it was coming.
Carlos smiled in reply, but this wasn’t the infuriating grin from always, but a sad humorless grimace.
“Nothing happened at first, in fact, it never felt like anything changed. I just suddenly....knew what I had to do.” His eyes were looking down, and he seemed to be talking to himself now.
“I knew I had to go to my dad’s study, and I knew where he kept this ancient knife he got abroad in Russia. An ottoman dagger from 6 centuries ago…it should have been rusted and useless, but no, it was quite perfect. Still sharp…see?” And he pulled the long blade from behind his back.
It was long and polished, with a curved edge and a handle of pure white ivory. It gleamed gold with the light of the candle reflected on its smooth surface, which just made it seem like Carlos was holding a dagger from hell.
“Oh, there’s nothing special about the dagger,” he said, noticing Fred’s gaze. “I'm sure it’s worth some fair amount of money, but it wasn’t the dagger that possessed me, but what did guided me to it, and to what I did next.”
“…where are your parents, Carlos?” asked Fred, knowing the answer.
The smile returned as answered, “Not here.”
“I...I think I better go,” said Brent, starting to get up.
“No,” replied Carlos. He didn't yell or raise his voice, but it was a command, and Brent immediately froze in his chair. “Don’t you want to know what happened next?”
“I think we know, and we don’t need to hear this crazy shit anymore.”
“Well, if that’s how you feel, by all means, you’re all free to go,” he said casually, raising his hands as if to say no problem.
“They all looked at each other, unsure if he meant it or not, and what they would do if the latter. Fred eyed the poker by the fireplace behind John, giving them the signal to grab it if necessary.
Brent and John rose out of their chairs and slowly started walking towards the door, but Fred felt he couldn’t. For some reason, getting out of that chair seemed the most difficult thing he’d ever tried to do. He felt stuck to it as if an invisible force held him there, and he couldn’t stop staring at Carlos’s placid black eyes, which were fixed on him.
"Do you know what you have to do, Fred?” Carlos asked, extending a hand with the ottoman dagger in it.
Fred suddenly felt very relaxed, which seemed odd. He thought what Carlos said should have disturbed him, or at least given him pause. Instead, it was as if everything suddenly made sense. As if he knew exactly what he had to do. Where to cut his friends to get the best spray of blood, and how to clean it after. It did seem odd he would suddenly know that there was an empty lot of land two miles from here that no one went to, perfect for burying three bodies.
“I know what to do,” he replied, smiling, accepting the dagger.
He turned around and saw the boys waiting for him by the door, they eyed the dagger nervously, confused. “Fred?” asked John.
“What’s wrong with him?” asked Brent.
“Perhaps he’s seen the abyss and decided to jump in, or perhaps he heard that little voice in his head like I did, telling him I’ve already prepared a few plastic bags for your bodies when he’s done.”
Brent and John didn’t need to hear anymore, they ran for it. Fred wasn’t worried though, he also knew Carlos had locked every door and window in the house. He could take his time.
Enjoy it. He smiled again, and Carlos smiled with him.