Deathbed Tale

Black and white graveyard, illustration for short horror story

A Horror Story

Thank you all for coming. I am glad to see you all here, even though you are undoubtedly more concerned for your inheritance than for me. I’ve been a cold-hearted bastard for a lot of years, even more than you know. I can’t imagine that you’ll ever forgive me for what I’ve done, so I only ask that you judge my deeds in the proper context. That is why I have called you here – to tell you about my life and my sin, and to explain why one of you will die with me.

I grew up in a nothing town in the Arizona desert. Not even a Post Office; just a school, a diner, and the last gas station before the highway to Las Vegas. The only thing I had in the world was my friends. There wasn’t much to do, but we had so much fun that I never worried about the future.

I remember one night, desperate for anything to do besides homework, we had a game of hide-and-seek in the cemetery. On the count of ten, we flew in all directions. I ran to the back of the graveyard, past the tombs of the city fathers, to a place where time had wiped away the names of the dead. Searching for the perfect hiding place, I fell over a broken headstone, tore my leg something awful. Must have left half a gallon of blood in that grave, but they never found me.

When the final school bell rang out, my friends scattered to the wind – college, the army, anything to get out of that little town. But turning eighteen took me by surprise. I found myself working at the gas station, watching cars filled with laughing people headed to places I’d never see.

Months passed by like commercials on TV. The bell rang for the trillionth time, and I trudged out to fill up yet another car. This one was a Corvette, canary yellow, shining like candy wrapped in cellophane. Behind the wheel was a pretty, young thing in a tank top and aviator sunglasses. I scrubbed her windshield and out of habit said “Have fun in Vegas.”

She smiled, the sunlight glinting in her glasses. “Actually, Daddy and I just moved to town. I’m headed to work at the diner across the road. By the way, my name is Rosa.” She handed me a few crumpled bills and waggled her fingers goodbye. As I stared at her taillights, I realized I hadn’t told her my name.

After that, I had every meal at her table, trying to work up the nerve to introduce myself and ask her out. I ate slowly, hoping to find the words by the time I’d finished dessert. Only took me six months! Finally, she agreed to spend her next lunch break with me. Thank god she said yes. I was getting sick of rhubarb pie.

But where to take her? The only place to go in town was the damn diner! We ended up having a picnic in the field by the cemetery. That might sound morbid, but this was the desert. There weren’t that many places with nice grass.

She brought some strawberry crepes and I brought a bottle of wine. We exchanged awkward small talk and watched the grass dance in the wind until the wine spread its smile across our faces. She told me about growing up in New Mexico, her pets, her plans for college. I mostly just listened, because the only thing I wanted to say was “I’m lonely.”

We spent the next three months in each other’s arms. Her kindness and her laughter pushed away the dark that had enveloped my heart. This woman could save me. She could be my oasis.

One evening, I traded every dollar I had for a ring I hoped would make her mine. I headed to her apartment, too excited, driving too fast. The wind rose, carrying a summer storm. I drove through miles of water until the cemetery appeared, lurking in the dark. I always hated that curve.

The world exploded, blinding pain. I had slid, crashed through the fence, and the limb of an oak tree had pierced my chest. Everything was blood and broken headstones.

I would never see sweet Rosa’s face again. My joy had turned to ashes. Desperate to free myself from this fate, I cried out to whatever spirits could hear me. “Anything you want! Just save me, and let me share a long life with her.”


Something touched me on the arm. A voice like a flock of crows. “A child will pull the wings from a fly and laugh. So much less does your suffering matter to me.”

“My god…” This was worse than dying alone. I had been found by something that was going to watch me die and smile. I said, “Spirit, don’t I have anything to offer you? Not even my soul?”

“What makes you think such a thing exists?” Hot, putrid breath assaulted my face. “I roam the earth from east to west, devouring those who hear my voice. I steal the hopeful from their lover’s grasp. Why should you see her again, when my only companion is despair?”

This was agony. I had finally found some meaning, some purpose, and one slip had stolen it from me. I had to sacrificed anything to have it back. “Take one of my grandchildren for your own.”

“You will live to 99 with your Rosa, but I shall take the grandchild you love the most. I will sign my name in their flesh, and they shall join in my endless wandering.” The thing’s shrieking laughter still haunts me. “Will you cast them into the darkness? Choose quickly! My hunger grows!”

I said yes. God damn me forever, I said yes! My vision began to fade. The twisted liar! I was dying after all! A foul, choking wind, and something like the sound of wings.

I opened my eyes in the hospital. Rosa was at my side, clutching the ring and weeping. I threw back the bed sheets and felt my chest. No wounds, but every hair had been burned from my body.

A few months later, she would demand a child. At first I refused, but I couldn’t bare to see her unhappy, couldn’t bare the thought of her leaving. One child lead to two, then three, then four.

I did my best to make sure they never found love. I locked them in their rooms, trapped them in the basement, threatened their boyfriends with a knife. They ran from me, scattered, and had children of their own. I spent years trying to deaden my heart, trying to never feel anything for you girls, but I failed.

And now, once more, the light is leaving me. Quickly, search your bodies! You will know the demon has chosen you by the mark of—

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