Tavern of Terror vol. 1: Short Horror Stories Anthology
Tavern of Terror vol. 1: Short Horror Stories Anthology
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Welcome to Hannigan’s, where every drink is served with a double shot of terror…
A small-town carpenter exterminates a nest of ravenous insects, only to find them building a new home deep within his flesh. A brilliant doctor’s medication unleashes supernatural vengeance upon a pair of remorseless killers. And a peaceful camping trip becomes a blood-soaked nightmare, when a local legend is unleashed…
Scare Street welcomes you to Hannigan’s, a delightfully cozy Irish pub on the road just ahead. Everyone at Hannigan’s has a story to tell. Tales of ghosts, ghouls, and other shadowy horrors. Whispered nightmares, guaranteed to make your skin crawl and keep you up at night.
So pull up a chair, order a drink, and try to relax. After all, these twelve bone-chilling tales are just local legends and drunken mutterings. They can’t really hurt you, can they?
But as the bottles are emptied and the warm fire dies down, you can’t help but wonder.
After all, every legend begins with a grain of truth…
Friday’s Mega-Bucks Jackpot was worth a whopping seventy-four million dollars. And Arnold was ready to win. This was his time in the spotlight. It had to be. He’d been playing the lottery religiously for years now and had yet to make his mark. His biggest win had been 250 dollars. He was due for the big one. It was only fair.
For the better part of a decade, Arnold had been working nights at the Food Stop grocery store. He stocked shelves, made everything look neat and organized for morning shoppers, and took home a small paycheck. He had been given raises, and he had some benefits, so he couldn’t complain that much. His seniority meant he got the shifts he wanted, and the work came easily to him. People liked him, more or less. But he never socialized all that much.
Working nights meant he slept days and was awake in the evenings. His social life was limited to a few hours of online gaming with people he’d never met in person. He had dinner with his elderly mother once a month. Every once in a while, he watched hockey games on TV over at Hannigan’s. He was spinning his wheels and had been for a long time.
Winning the lottery would change his world. He could be free, finally. He could do anything he ever wanted. A new house, traveling, anything he wanted. That was what he wanted.
Arnold knew that the odds of winning were slim. But he was going to win. He knew it. A lot had won in the lottery, so when people said it was a long shot to win, they weren’t really being honest. People became millionaires literally every single week. It wasn’t a long shot. It was a real possibility.
His mother was getting sicker and her medical bills were starting to get out of control. Soon, he wouldn’t be able to manage her expenses, plus his own. His dad had died years ago, and he had no brothers or sisters. There wasn’t anyone else out there. It was all on Arnold. So he put it all on the lottery.
Every spare dollar went to buying tickets. He worked out a system where he’d buy enough so that he had every number covered at least once. That increased his odds, he knew. Sooner or later, it would pay off. He just wished it was the sooner rather than later.
For the seventy-four million jackpot he had gone all-in. He always made sure his bills were paid first, and that he had groceries. But he spent every dollar he had otherwise on tickets. He had one hundred for the week. It was the most he’d ever spent in a single week on lottery tickets before, and although he felt bad about spending so much spare cash, he was excited. That many numbers made him feel confident that things were going to pay off.
Before, the most tickets he had ever bought for a single week was about thirty. Doing that every single week racked up a lot of money at the end of the month. Sometimes he won enough to cover it across all the tickets. Ten dollars here or twenty dollars there. But he usually reinvested all of that in more tickets.
“You have to spend money to make money,” his dad had always said, and he was right. No one won the lottery if they didn’t play. That was always Arnold’s biggest fear. He’d miss a draw and then realize he could have won. So he always bought tickets for the next week, right after the previous week’s draw. Just to be safe.
It was Friday evening, and he was excited to see what came of his tickets. Normally he checked them at home, but for big draws he liked to go to the Max Mart at the end of his block. He never worked Friday nights, just so he’d be free to check his tickets and find out the moment he won.
The draws typically happened at midnight and Arnold made sure he was in the store by ten minutes to the hour. He could see the numbers come in on the store’s tiny TV by the lottery booth, and so was able to check his tickets right away. It was his ritual.
The Max Mart was usually busy on a Friday night. It was located near the downtown area, so lots of bar hoppers and partiers made their way in to buy snacks or cigarettes on their way to clubs or parties. Arnold stayed by the lottery booth, minding his business, waiting for his moment.
His mother had told him long ago—when she discovered that he played the lottery—that money didn’t buy happiness. She said that all the time. He understood her meaning, but she never understood him when he tried to explain himself. He wasn’t buying happiness. That wasn’t the point at all. It was much more than happiness. It was freedom and security. It was buying hope.
Were rich people unhappy? Probably. But they could go to the doctor when they wanted to. They could buy nice houses and not have to rent run-down apartments. They could travel the world and meet interesting people.
Arnold believed that happiness didn’t need to be bought by money. Instead, money opened the doors to find happiness. It made happiness attainable. And that was worth everything. That was what Arnold needed.
The minutes ticked by towards midnight. Arnold’s excitement grew. With one hundred tickets, it would take him a long while to tally up his winnings. Even that was exciting.
The clock by the store display read 11:59. Arnold felt his pulse racing. It was so close. People in the store chattered away about this and that. He focused on the time. It clicked to twelve and his breath caught. Nothing happened. Seconds ticked by. Nothing happened.
Arnold looked back at the clerk. He was selling a bag of chips to someone. He looked back at the clock. A minute had passed. He felt anxiety building and then the numbers appeared.
Relief flooded over Arnold. The seven numbers came up on the screen. He began running over his first ticket, using a highlighter to mark the numbers he had. Two on the first ticket were worth nothing. He set it aside. Three on the next. Only one on the next. Then three again.
Ticket after ticket were set aside. Three numbers were worth a free play. He got three of those in quick succession. He got excited. The chances of a big score were building even as his pile dwindled.
One ticket came up with four numbers, which meant ten dollars. He put that with the three number tickets. He continued through the pile until he reached the end. He stared at the two piles he’d made, one of winners and one of losers. He had ten free plays, and thirty dollars.
He went through the tickets again. He hadn’t missed anything. He’d won less than half of what he’d invested. Again.
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