Manteo (excerpt) by Mark Ryan

The following is an excerpt of the short story: Manteo by Mark Ryan, which you can find in the anthology The Hawthorne Project. Inside you’ll find ten dark and creepy stories written by him and other amazing authors. I hope you enjoy this little snippet. Oh, and click any of the links below to buy.


When she was young, around nine or ten, Olivia and her sister had begun to be looked after by a Mrs. Langford who lived around the block from them. Up to that time, their mother had been taking them to their grandparent’s house when she needed to work. The life of a single mother gave her the added stress of holding down two jobs, and much of the time she would have to drop her kids off with her parents. This was only up to the time when her own father passed away, and her mother struggled both with his passing and then in being able to look after the kids. The demands of a nine and six-year-old were too much for her and the onset of dementia. Olivia loved her grandparents, and enjoyed staying with them with their giant yard, plentiful and delicious food, and the tender moments only a family could provide.

Mrs. Langford offered no tender moments, her food was minimal and foul, and she lived in a small unit that smelled of cat piss. Both she and her sister hated going to her house, as Mrs. Langford – though it was never known of a Mr. Langford – refused to come to theirs. In hindsight, Olivia was somewhat thankful of this as she had been a cruel and suspicious woman, and Olivia could only imagine her sniffing about her home and forcing the chores upon them. As it was, they did very little when they stayed with her, as she seemed not to care about her own surroundings. Being told to keep quiet and out of sight surprisingly worked for both parties when they would stay with her. Olivia and her sister Rachel would usually take to the only other bedroom in the unit, and were thankful for the wall and dividing door between them and the older woman, who would while away her time watching television and smoking away on her Camel cigarettes as the tiles above her caramelized.

It was rare, but sometimes they would have to sleep over when their mother worked, Olivia could recall only a handful of times, but one stood out more than any of the others. She and Rachel were in the small single bed that was pushed up to the wall beneath the tiny window. The cold air would seep in, but it gave them a sense of a world beyond the realm of Mrs. Langford and the smoke-filled unit. Rachel had fallen asleep, something Olivia struggled to do there. She had heard Mrs. Langford go to bed earlier, for once not spending the night on the couch with the tv blaring.

All was somewhat quiet when she heard a small sound coming from the other room. The cat usually went where Mrs. Langford went, but Olivia was sure she was in her own bedroom. Listening harder, she watched suddenly as the door of their room clicked open and slowly pushed itself ajar by an invisible hand. Olivia had sat up then, scared and unsure what to do. She wanted to wake her sister but was too scared to make a sound. She saw it then, a dark figure looming in the crack of the door. Its head started low and then moved upwardly as if independent from any body. It had no features, and even in the dead light she could see it was not human, the head was pulled back in an unnatural fashion. It hovered there, seeming to have noticed the girls in the bed.

She heard it then, a low breath, like steam out of a heated pipe. Not from the figure, but next to her, breathing in her ear like a dead tongue. Motionless she sat there; her hands gripped to the duvet. The door nudged open a tiny bit further and it seemed the figure were about to cross the threshold of their little protected sanctuary. Just then, she had seen a light go on in the other room, and she heard Mrs. Langford stumbling out to go to the bathroom. One of the only times Olivia was ever grateful for the old bag. Though the figure disappeared instantly, in the moment that the light was on she had seen the faceless image clearly; and with eyes that she knew weren’t there, she knew it had looked deep within her and marked her for something. 


You can find Mark’s story, along with nine additional ones, in The Hawthorne Project. Each creepy tale interweaves with the others for a week of terror on Hawthorne Drive, a small cul-de-sac in Greenfield, Wisconsin. Buy it at lulu, Amazon, or on your Kindle.

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