Whilst Halloween creeps and glides, when children roam the streets seeking sustenance for their eternal hunger and our ancestors extend spectral fingers into our memories and souls - something dark... something dangerous awaits.
Lost Soles by TK'n'C friend, horror writer and poet, Angel Zapata will chill you to the bone. Here is insanity. Here is love. Here lies what horror fiction is made of.
Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers is proud to give you the winning story in our Halloween Horror Competition 2012.
LOST SOLES by Angel Zapata
The loud bang woke Daniel from a deep sleep. It had fallen from the shelf again. He crawled out of bed, wandered into the hallway, and lifted his prize shoe. He examined it for any further damage. The heel was still broken in the same place and there didn’t appear to be any scuffing on the old bloodstains.
His wife, Josephine had left him because his morbid collection continued to grow and overtake every surface in their home. But he hadn’t minded. She had never been interested in what made him happy.
Daniel repositioned the leather pump. He placed it between the half-melted tennis shoe and the pink house slipper with the bullet hole.
He began acquiring the footwear of accident and murder victims simply by chance.
His pug, Lightning had taken ill one night in March. He was barely breathing. Daniel had panicked on his way to the vet. Ignoring stop signs, he kept his foot jammed on the accelerator. He crossed Newmantown Road going eighty in a forty-five mile per hour zone. The oncoming driver, a young woman, barely had time to avoid him before she swerved, overturned her vehicle, and died holding a broken tree branch through her chest.
Daniel hadn’t slowed down.
“Lightning’s gonna have to stay a couple of days,” Doctor Burke told him. “Gotta say, I don’t think he would have made it if you hadn’t rushed him in.” The older man smiled and removed his thick glasses. “You saved your dog’s life.”
On his way home, Daniel stopped at the scene of the accident. The body had been removed and the minivan carted away. Car debris was scattered everywhere and torn police tape flapped wildly from a privacy fence post. Guilt threatened to surface, but he quickly pushed it back down. It was an unfortunate event, nothing more.
As he opened the door of his SUV, he noticed what appeared to be the victim’s black pump lying in the lifeless grass at his feet. It was caked in dry blood and brown leaves. He felt compelled to take it.
Later at home, after his wife fell asleep, he snuck down to the garage and popped the trunk. For some unknown reason, he licked the shoe’s filthy instep. It wasn’t a sexual act. Daniel just needed to taste the memory of the woman who’d worn it. He wept there alone, the shoe on his face like an oxygen mask.
The following Friday, he bought some screws and plastic anchors to install his first display shelf. He ordered a police band radio online and spent most of his weeknights and weekends scanning for tragedy. All of his trophies were stolen from crime scenes and emergency room red bags. In the span of a month, he obtained a crushed work boot at an industrial accident site; a masticated sneaker from an illegal dogfight pit; and a tan deck shoe shredded by a boat propeller.
Occasionally, he’d find the Cracker Jack surprise of a toe hidden inside one of his treasured collectibles. He preserved these in a custom-made silver box.
In June, there was a preschool fire across town. There were reports of several children trapped in a classroom coat closet.
Daniel returned home covered in soot and ash.
“Something’s wrong with you, Danny.” Josephine watched him remove his recent acquisition from a wrinkled paper bag. “Can’t you see that?”
“What are you talking about?” He lifted the smoke-stained toddler shoe by its Velcro strap and set it inside a glass curio case. “I feel great.”
“I can’t take much more of this.” She was crying, pointing at the walls. “Our home is becoming a house of horrors.”
Daniel sat down on the couch and stared at his wife’s feet. “Nice shoes.”
Josephine took Lightning and moved in with her brother’s family the following day.
Daniel cried for his dog.
The next few months were slow. The authorities had received an anonymous tip that vandals were stealing items belonging to crime scene victims. Local hospitals tightened security. Daniel was forced to lay low and wait.
He attempted to maintain a level of normalcy and continued to work as an advertising account executive, but it became increasingly difficult. His relationships and interaction with colleagues suffered a gradual deterioration. Whenever he was around other people, he would stare at their feet and conjure up perverse scenarios of pedal mutilation.
They accepted his resignation in late September.
There wasn’t much money left in his savings account, but the house and car were paid for, and he cancelled the majority of unnecessary utility services.
Most of his time was spent cataloguing his collection and listening to the police scanner.
On October thirtieth, a young woman was discovered naked and unconscious in a downtown alley by the Hindshaw Hotel. The rape suspect had not been apprehended. Detectives had spent several hours searching the area for evidence.
The following evening, Halloween night, Daniel arrived at the alleyway’s entrance dressed as a vampire. On the sidewalk, a fat princess and a scrawny goblin looked up from their shopping bags of treats and waved at him.
He flashed them his plastic fangs.
The bright beam of his heavy-duty flashlight sent roaches and rats scurrying along the narrow passageway. He rummaged within and beside the green dumpsters, but found no discarded clothing or shoes.
“Damn!” He threw an empty beer bottle against the wall, then scrunched down, defeated, near the broken glass. He switched off his light.
Five minutes of silence were interrupted by muffled screams. Two shadows entered the alley at Daniel’s right. One was dragging the other.
“Shut your mouth, bitch,” the male voice hissed. He threw the woman to the ground. “Damn, it’s gonna feel so good inside you.”
Daniel pressed himself further into concealment. He pulled his costume’s cape over his head.
“No cop’s gonna guess I’d come back and do it again in the same mutha-fuckin’ place.” The man tore the woman’s dress off.
Daniel couldn’t make out any of the man’s facial features, but estimated his black Converse at roughly a size eleven.
“I don’t mind if you squirm.” The rapist pulled out a knife and cut the woman’s bra between her breasts. She struggled, but he flipped her and pushed her head down onto the concrete.
Daniel slowly rose to his feet.
The rapist sucked in a breath and tugged at the woman’s panties. “Here comes the monster.”
“The monster is already here,” Daniel said behind him and split the bastard’s skull with his flashlight. The man crumpled to the side. Daniel straddled him and beat him until his brains poured out.
The woman’s eyes were bruised and swollen. She was barely conscious, but moaned in fear when Daniel touched her.
“Don’t worry,” he told her gently, “I won’t hurt you.” He untied his cape and draped it over her.
He located the knife and used it to leave a message.
The November first news article stated the woman was in serious, but stable condition at an undisclosed location. The suspected rapist was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities were seeking a third party in connection to the incident who may or may not have been able to shed light on some of the questions they had.
There was no mention of the words Daniel had carved into the man’s back or his missing running shoes.
Time crept by.
Christmas week granted him the gift of a charred Santa boot plucked from a chimney flue.
Shortly after New Year’s, Daniel was served with divorce papers. Josephine had claimed emotional damage. He set them aside and focused his energy on the task at hand.
A trip to a local fashion museum exposed him to a world of shoes he sought to possess. He was really hoping to stumble upon something rare, yet realized a Lancashire clog or medieval turn-shoe reproduction would be an impossible find.
His kept his fingers crossed. It didn’t improve his luck.
During the Easter holiday, he encountered something strange. At some point in the wee hours of morning, he would hear footsteps in his dark home. Sometimes they clicked or shuffled, squeaked or swished; but regardless, he was alone in the house and it shouldn’t have been possible.
He grabbed the baseball bat he kept propped on the side of his headboard and slowly opened the bedroom door. No intruder was found roaming the halls or hidden in closets. The only evidence he could confirm as real was the shoe lying on the floor. Often, it was recovered in a different room, one he hadn’t placed it in. It was almost as if that particular woman’s shoe had been walking about on its own.
Over the next week, he installed several closed circuit cameras throughout the house and locked himself in a bedroom aglow with stacked monitors.
In late March, on the last night of his life, he was reading the paper at his desk when that same loud bang startled him.
Toward the bottom left monitor screen, there was a woman standing in the dark hallway. Her back was to the camera. Black hair fell to her shoulders and the hem of her black dress reached the floor. She slowly bent down, lifted the black pump from the floor, and dropped it again.
“I knew it,” Daniel seethed. “Damn you, Josephine.” Eager to confront his soon-to-be ex-wife, he swung open the bedroom door and switched on the light.
The hallway was deserted.
“Josephine?” His voice was barely audible. “Are you fuckin’ with me?”
With his heart racing, he searched the house. The locks on all the windows and doors were secure.
On his way back through the hallway, he picked up the leather pump. It had belonged to that minivan woman whose death he’d caused. Something told him it wasn’t a coincidence.
“Maybe you’ve come back to settle the score, huh?” He sneered and flicked off the hall light.
His home erupted in maniacal laughter.
Daniel spun at the doorway, screamed, and dropped the black pump. A woman hobbled in the darkness. One foot tiptoed inaudibly as the other clacked against the laminate flooring.
“Shit!” Daniel toppled backwards and jerked himself through the bedroom door. “I didn’t mean for you to die.”
The woman paused before her fallen shoe. She raised the hem of her dress, extended her leg, and stuffed her cold, dead foot inside. She stood there, swollen in shadows, and snapped her teeth.
“Sweet Jesus.” Above Daniel’s head, the light bulbs in the ceiling fan flickered into blackness. From behind him, cold hands slid around his neck. “I’m so sorry,” he sobbed.
The woman began to squeeze the air from his lungs.
In his final moments, Daniel looked down at the Converse on his feet and wondered what had possessed him to wear the shoes of a rapist.
After the funeral, Josephine and her boyfriend, Trey gathered all the shoes Daniel had collected. They piled them into a rusted oil drum and burned them with gasoline in his backyard.
“Your ex was one sick bastard.” Trey tossed his cigarette butt into the flames. “I mean, stealing from the dead?”
“I can’t imagine.” Josephine shrugged her shoulders and shivered. “Danny must have really gone insane.”
“You think he hurt anyone?” Trey wrapped his arms around her.
“I don’t know.” Josephine broke away from him. “Let’s just get out of here.”
They drove back to their apartment in silence. Josephine was plagued with visions of horror. She just couldn’t understand how Daniel did that to himself.
The official report listed it as death by airway obstruction. Daniel had choked to death. But beside his corpse, an empty silver box had lain open. And very few people knew what was removed from Daniel’s body.
“Toes,” the medical examiner had revealed. “His throat was filled with the mummified toes of a dozen different feet.”
Bio: Angel Zapata knows he’ll one day wear dead man’s shoes, but he’s in no hurry to try them on. Recently published fiction and poetry can be read at Every Day Poets, Bewildering Stories, MicroHorror, The Bradburyesque Quarterly, Devilfish Review, Mused, Microw, and From the Depths at Haunted Waters Press. Visit him at http://arageofangel.blogspot.com.