Tavern of Terror vol. 6: Short Horror Stories Anthology
Tavern of Terror vol. 6: Short Horror Stories Anthology
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Come in for a diabolical cocktail of thrills and chills…
Paranoia and bloodshed are unleashed, when a couple’s dream home slowly turns into a nightmare. An uprooted tree reveals a sinister surprise of death and darkness. And a prohibition-era ghost reveals more about the mysterious owner of everyone’s favorite pub…
Welcome to Hannigan’s, a cozy tavern just down the road, where the patrons have a taste for the macabre. Come for the drinks. Stay for the tales of terror.
As you sip your cocktail, a chill runs down your spine. A shadowy figure stares at you from across the bar. The laughter around you fades to a muted whisper. The figure raises an arm and extends a bony hand to point a finger… at you!
Glancing down, you see ice crystals form on your skin. The frost crawls up your arm, engulfs your neck. You try to scream, but it’s too late… The sun has set, and the room goes dark.
Death has claimed you. And it’s last call at Hannigan's for the night…
“What is that, a squirrel skull? Don’t eat that!”
Davis pulled on the thin leather leash. His dog, Mojo, growled and doubled down, snuffling and biting at the small pile of rotten flesh and bone that he had found next to the river. The chihuahua may have only weighed five pounds, but he was very serious about being gross whenever the opportunity arose. Davis took a short video of the scene and posted it on TikTok so his mother could watch it later. Then he leaned over and picked the small dog up.
“So gross, Mojo,” he said. The dog tried to lick his face, and he winced, holding him at arm’s length. The smell of death was caked on his muzzle. He’d need a bath when they got back home, despite the late hour.
Davis took Mojo for at least two walks a day. The vet had said it would be good for his hips, as the little dog had been born with a slight curve in one of his legs. Walking helped strengthen the muscles and, hopefully, would stave off arthritis in his old age.
The morning walk was usually around the block in their neighborhood. Davis would say hi to neighbors and Mojo would pee on everyone’s lawn. It was a good routine. In the evening, since Davis had more time, they got more adventurous. Their walks would take them a few blocks south to the river.
Mojo seemed to like walking by the water. The sights and smells were much different here, and the area was heavily treed but not heavily trafficked. There was a biking path on the far side, but Davis preferred the undeveloped side. Walking through the woods and the uncut grasses. He could get right up to the river and really relax. Most nights, he wouldn’t see another person, which was how he preferred it.
The path around the river on this side was more challenging than heading down the walking and bike paths on the other side. It ran behind a local pub called Hannigan’s, a place he had passed a thousand times before but had never gone into.
He had probably passed by the bar a hundred times in his day-to-day life and never once noticed that a narrow footpath had been worn through the grass and into the wooded area beyond it. One day, when out with Mojo, he took the risk and followed it, discovering the river path which came to be his and Mojo’s preferred trail.
The trees and the meandering nature made it fun. There were open areas with huge cattails and marshy landscape, and then an entire copse of weeping willows that made the area seem almost magical. If he walked far enough, there was a field of wild lavender. He tried to avoid that, however, as Mojo had gotten a tick in there once. And he also came home smelling like a grandmother.
Dead squirrels aside, the walk was a relaxing and refreshing one. The moon was full in the sky and the silvery light cut through the trees at odd intervals. It made Davis feel a little bit like he was part of something bigger, in a strange way. He had often felt the outdoors was a more natural place for him to be. Not that he wanted to rush off and live in a cave or anything. But the dreary routine of everyday life did take its toll. Wake up, go to school, be responsible, watch TV. It was all very mundane, he thought. Unnatural.
When he could, he liked to get away. Not just walks by the river, but trips to the wilderness. Hiking and camping made him feel alive in ways that life in town never really could. He wasn’t sure how much of an option that would be in the future.
Graduation loomed in Davis’ future. He had opted to stay in town to complete his degree, living at home to save money. He had never been one of those kids who butted heads with his parents growing up. Not in any serious way. He was happy to stay rent free in a place with people who cared for him and also cooked regular meals.
He was in his twenties now, though, and that meant it was time to move on. Time to grow up and be a part of the world. Even if the world was a little disappointing. He was eager to get a real job, but at the same time he wasn’t really looking forward to it.
His dad had worked at the same job for sixteen years now. He had a good salary, good benefits, a lot of responsibility and respect at the company. But he had spent sixteen years of his life doing the same thing. Davis wasn’t sure he was cut out for that. It made him think of that old saying about the definition of insanity. Doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results. But then again, no one was expecting different results. Maybe that was even more insane.
Still, he didn’t want to get too cynical about life before he even really started living it. So he was trying to keep an open mind. There were jobs out there that didn’t require a suit and tie and the same office every day. Jobs that allowed creativity and even travel. He’d find a way to be happy. And if he was lucky, Mojo could come along for the ride.
He set the small dog down again, several yards clear of the dead squirrel, and continued walking. The leash tugged in his hand.
Mojo stood rigidly by the edge of the river. His tiny hackles were up and he had squared off as though ready to attack. His head was low and his haunches were raised. Davis had seen this display before, but only when confronted with an aggressive cat. Usually, Mojo was a very chill dog.
The path behind Hannigan’s was usually quiet and serene. Sometimes they would see a man behind the bar cleaning things up or throwing out trash. Always the same man, and Davis assumed he was the owner or the bartender. He was a big guy and had a sort of intimidating air about him, but after a while he took to giving Davis a wave when they saw one another, and Davis would wave back. They’d never spoken.
“What’s up, buddy?” Davis asked. The light of the moon was bright, but not that bright. Not enough to illuminate a forested area at night. He didn’t think the bartender would wander back so far at night.
Davis felt tense as he tentatively approached the small dog. If there was a raccoon or skunk in the grass, it could spell disaster for both of them.
“C’mere, little man,” Davis said. The dog produced a whisper of a growl deep in his chest. Davis crouched low, ready to scoop the dog up as he surveyed the area. No other signs of movement anywhere. Whatever Mojo had keyed on, he could not see it at all.
His fingers gently gripped the dog. Mojo was shaking. His eyes darted to Davis for just a moment, then back to the water’s edge. Davis followed his gaze, his movement freezing. A woman stood in the water, just a few paces out.
Davis had not seen her a moment earlier. He was positive nothing had been there. In the open water, she was bathed in moonlight. It made her look silvery white from head to her legs, which were submerged just above the knees.
Her hair was long and lanky, like it had not been washed in some time. It hung in stringy clumps and tangles. Her frame was thin, her arms looked almost skeletal, they were so slender. The upper arms and forearms were almost the same thickness, as though she had no muscle tone.
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