Bad things come in small packages . . .
EPIC Award finalist Howard Odentz has penned twenty-six disturbingly fascinating horror stories about the youngest predators among us.
From Andy and Boris to Yuri and Zina, this eclectic anthology is filled, A to Z, with psychopaths, monsters, and murderers!
So turn on the lights and huddle under your blankets because murder isn't just for grown-ups anymore. Come meet our gallery of little killers.
Author and playwright Howard Odentz is a lifelong resident of the gray area between Western Massachusetts and North Central Connecticut. His love of the region is evident in his writing as he often incorporates the foothills of the Berkshires and the small towns of the Bay and Nutmeg states into his work.
"5 Stars, a relentless, thrilling ride.” – Court Street Literary, on Bloody Bloody Apple
"Howard Odentz takes this mis-mosh of dysfunctional characters and puts together a wonderful story that is equal parts horror and love.” – Scared Stiff Reviews, on Bloody Bloody Apple
A is for Andy Who Watches His Dad
THE MAN FELL on
the driveway twenty minutes ago.
saw him slip as I watched from the kitchen window. His right leg went out in
front of him and his left leg slid backwards and turned in a way that a leg isn’t
supposed to turn.
thrashed around on the ground before trying to get himself into a sitting
position, but couldn’t. Maybe it was because the ice was too slippery, or maybe
it was because of something else.
heard him scream from inside the house. The man has always been loud like that.
dogs were outside playing in the snow when he fell. The old yellow one with the
cloudy eye didn’t even notice. The black one stopped for a moment and stared at
the man but quickly became distracted by the falling flakes. Both dogs jumped
and snapped at each other before eventually swimming through the white drifts
to the other side of the barn.
disappeared behind my mother’s old Datsun. No one has started it since she went
to Hawaii last October. She didn’t really go to Hawaii, but that’s what the man
always says when someone dies.
moved to Hawaii.
not worried about the dogs. They’ll come back when they get cold enough. They
twenty minutes later, I haven’t moved. I just watch, and wait, and think.
man is wearing his thick Dickies coat that he got at the Farmer’s Co-op, and a
pair of those high Muck Boots that he was pissed about buying. He said they
cost more than a good time down on Lyman Street in Springfield.
how the man always talks—with a mouthful of trash.
cheek and my mouth still hurt from last night. I’m hungry but I don’t think I
can chew. Even though I filled the wood stove in the basement before bedtime,
the man told me he was still cold. I tried to explain that the fire was just
starting up again, but he didn’t like the sound of my voice and tried to make
me swallow my words with his fist.
stomach gurgles and I want breakfast. Instead, I sip on instant coffee as I
watch him through the window. He doesn’t have any gloves on. I don’t know why.
Maybe it’s because he thinks he’s tougher than the cold. The man always thinks
he’s tougher than everyone and everything.
keeps raising one of his hands and flapping it around as the snow falls. When a
gust of wind howls across the front pasture, he brings his naked hand down
again, maybe to stuff it inside his Dickies coat.
the clock on the wall is right, the school bus will be by in twenty minutes. Mrs.
Duke, the ancient bus driver who drove the school bus even back when the man
was my age, won’t be able to see the part of the driveway where he has fallen.
There’s a big, blue pick-up, all dents and rust, that’s blocking the view from
the road. Besides, the house and the barn sit at the back of the field.
one can see that far.
one even wants to.
have to make sure to get on the bus when it comes. The school has already
called the man too many times about me missing days.
told Mrs. Geldart, the school secretary, that Mr. Andrew Rumford has chores to
do and doesn’t need any more learning.
told the man that Mr. Andrew Rumford can make that choice for himself when he’s
told Mrs. Geldart that Mr. Andrew Rumford, the school, and everyone else can go
that’s just how he talks.
we lived in the suburbs instead of the hill towns, I think the school might
care about me more, but not up here. Lots of kids in these parts are dropping
out to make cash, get knocked up, or push heroin because it’s cheap and
popular. Besides, the school doesn’t want to press the man too much about me.
belong to him until my next birthday, and no one messes with rabid animals.
though, I have to get on that bus.
man tries to roll sideways and waves his hand in the air again before
screaming. This time all I hear is a whistling on the icy wind. The snow is
coming down faster now. Several inches have accumulated since the man has
keep the radio on just to make sure that there aren’t any last-minute school
cancellations. Most other towns down in the valley have already cancelled, but
my school can’t. There was a fire in the custodian’s basement last month and we
missed almost fifteen days of class. The school district says we can’t miss any
more this year, so Mrs. Duke is going to be driving no matter what.
the snow is supposed to stop later this morning, but the bitter cold is going
finish my instant coffee and wince at the pain in my mouth and under my eye. I
don’t have to look in a mirror to know there’s a mottled blue and yellow stain
there. My face has been that color before. I know the drill.
snow splatters against the kitchen window, I go to the basement door and undo
the rusted bolt that the man screwed into the jam after my mother went to
Hawaii. It creaks open and I stare down into a black abyss. I’m afraid of the
basement and what can happen down there. Still, I close my eyes, take a deep
breath, and steel myself against the fear.
by one I carefully tread down the stairs. The third one squeaks like it always
does, a combination of an unfortunate mouse under the man’s heel along with
unbearable neglect. At the bottom step I pull the string and squint as a naked
light bulb bursts into life.
a pile of wood in the far corner of the basement next to a monster wood stove.
I quickly grab a dozen or so pieces, open the cast-iron lid, and throw them
into its burning belly. My heart is beating faster every second I stay in the
basement. I avoid looking at the other corner with its thick ropes and belts
hanging on the wall, but I can’t stop my brain from knowing what’s there. As
nightmare images begin dancing inside my head, I force them away and focus on
my job to stoke the fire before I leave for school. Today, I have to do
everything the same as always. I can’t miss a single step.
upstairs, I pull my own Dickies coat off of the row of pegs next to the front
door and shove my feet into an old pair of work boots. My eyes catch sight of
my mother’s Mucks with the pink rims, toes against the wall, which will never
be worn again. That’s the man’s fault. He stayed out late then came home on
fire the night before she went to Hawaii. The paramedics think she fell and
cracked her head open on the living room hearth. I know differently, but that
seems so far away it’s a lifetime ago.
lightning bolt of pain runs through my mouth and cheek, but I do my best to
ignore it. Instead, I pull on an oversized knit cap that I found for a quarter
at the Colrain Thrift Shoppe. Then I put on an old pair of the man’s work
gloves that are torn in more places than not. I can’t make snowballs with them
because cold seeps through the holes. Besides, any time I’m asked to come make
a snowman or build a fort, the man doesn’t let me go. He makes me clean the
stalls, stack hay, or collect eggs. He makes me work until my hands through the
holes are blue and raw.
delays at Mount Tom Regional today,” the Drake & O’Malley guy says through
the radio. I think the Drake guy is talking. The O’Malley guy sounds just like
the man so I don’t like listening to him. The Drake guy seems nicer. "Sorry,”
he says through the little box. "Wrap up tight. It’s a real flag-pole licker.”
talking about that Christmas movie where a boy is triple-dog-dared to stick his
tongue against a flag pole in the freezing temperature. His tongue gets stuck
that way because moisture and cold don’t mix. It makes you stick to things like
man says that the actor who played the boy has grown up to do nudie films. I
don’t know how he knows that. I don’t even know why he cares.
the cold and the snow whip against my sore face, but I don’t feel it. I stare
at the brown pile on the driveway, trying to see if the man can move or not. He’s
not moving right now. If he gets up I can’t get on that bus. Maybe I never
I walk down the stone path, now six inches deep with snow. I’m quiet and
careful. When I’m ten feet away from the man I hear him groan. He lifts one
hand again, and I notice the vaguest notion of blue on his fingertips. From
here I can see that one of his legs is turned sideways and bent in the middle
like how geese fly south in the winter.
quickly walk past him.
he cries, but there’s something small and weak about his gravel-filled voice.
in the distance I hear the dogs bark. They love the snow. If I get on the bus
before letting them back inside, they’ll just hang out in the hayloft for the
day. It’s not like that hasn’t happened before. They’re smart like that.
to the barn is a small tool shed. I kick snow away from the makeshift door
before pulling it open and grabbing for the green bucket that I use to water
the animals. Next to the shed is a frost-free pump, the kind that doesn’t freeze
unless it gets really, really cold, like it might get today.
put the bucket underneath the spout and pull up the lever. The nozzle gurgles
and water comes splashing out into the bucket. As the handle gets heavier and
heavier, I think about last night after I put wood into the stove and what
happened next. Then my mind drifts back to last fall when the paramedics’
flashing lights filled the night and threatened to drown out the man’s lies.
caricature version of Hawaii flits through my brain.
the water is two inches from the top, I push the lever back down, then turn to
where the man has fallen, broken, on the driveway.
seconds later as he moans in a mixture of cold and pain, I throw the bucket of
water on him, soaking his skin, his face, and his clothing, and watch as one
naked hand starts sticking to the freezing ground.
doesn’t make a sound.
I put the bucket away, I trudge up to the top of the driveway without any
books, just in time to meet Mrs. Duke as she pulls the school bus to a halt by
the mail box. "Lookee who’s coming to school today,” she cackles in her
cigarette voice as she accordions the orange door, skipping a second to survey
my face and cheek. It’s nothing she hasn’t seen before. "Will wonders ever
they will,” I whisper and climb the stairs, walk down the aisle between others
who would do the same as me if given half the chance, and sit down next to
Barty McMartin, who always has identical bruises to mine on his face.
suspect we won’t look so alike after today.
B is for Boris, and Rifka, and Vlad
I HAVE A GUN.
I need to do is pull the trigger and the monsters will go away.
bang bang, and they’ll all go away.
Boris Denisov watched the three monsters as he stood ten feet back from the
front window. The sun hadn’t yet dipped fully beyond Skinner Mountain off in
the distance. The yard in rural Hampton Fields was bathed in deep orange.
Still, even in the fading light, there was so much dust and dirt caked on the
glass that he really didn’t have to hide himself. As far as anyone was
concerned, the house looked deserted. The jumble of chairs and debris on the
front porch only added to the illusion, and now that the apple tree had split
and toppled over during last winter’s snowstorm, the house looked like just
another derelict Western Massachusetts building waiting to be burned.
and Vlad, his sister and brother, were supposed to be hiding in the basement
underneath their family’s stack of steamer trunks with the hidey hole beneath,
just like Boris told them to, but they were impatient. They only lasted twenty
minutes before climbing out of the cleverly concealed space and quietly making
their way to where their brother was watching the monsters.
stood by his side for almost a minute before Boris dared to pull his eyes away
and glance sideways.
told you to keep hidden,” he hissed at Rifka. She didn’t say anything. She
watched the monsters outside, hanging by the fence and staring at the house.
Eight-year-old Vlad played at her feet, quietly gurgling and making spit
bubbles. He was two years younger than she was and had never been quite right
in the head.
father would have called that ‘a silver lining’, but their father was gone now.
from the old country was gone.
do they want?” Rifka whispered. Rifka was in the middle, two years younger than
Boris and two years older than Vlad.
do any of them want?” Boris said. "They’re monsters.”
stared at the floor. In another world she would have told him to shut up for
scaring her, but in this world she knew her brother was deadly serious.
monsters were ruthless. They brought death and carnage. The monsters had taken
their father away. The monsters had killed their mother. They had murdered
Auntie Magda and Uncle Yuri, Silent Alexi, the twins, and Lizabeta, too. The
list could go on and on, but after a while, she forced herself to forget.
world, such as it had become, was easier that way.
are you going to do?” Rifka whispered to Boris. "Are you going to shoot them?”
don’t know,” Boris answered. "It depends.”
bang, bang,” said Vlad, almost a little too loudly, and both Boris and Rifka
the three monsters started pacing back and forth. One of them was gray and
grizzled with coarse hair covering its face. Another wore all black. The third
carried a huge pack on its back. Rifka could only imagine what was inside. In
the end, she knew whatever the monster had, it was nothing good.
depends on what?” Rifka asked.
shrugged. "It depends on if they come after us.”
sucked on her lips until her mouth almost sank into her gaunt face. Why couldn’t
the monsters just leave them be? Why did they always have to come and ruin
"Letme shoot them,” she said.
she whispered. Boris wasn’t her father. He was only two years older. "You’re
not the boss of me.”
looked down at her, still holding the gun, the smell of oil tingling at the end
of his nose. "Because I said so,” he sighed. "And yes, if no one’s left, then
the oldest is the boss of you. That’s how it works.”
knew he was right. She didn’t have to like it, but her brother was in charge
Boris made a quiet, desperate sound and tightened his grip on the gun. Rifka
looked out the window and watched as one of the monsters, the one with the
grizzled, graying face, quickly scrambled over the fence until it was standing
on the dead grass instead of the dust of the road beyond.
two others abruptly followed.
immediately stopped picking at dirt on the floor and blowing spit bubbles. He
could sense something had changed. Vlad had always been sensitive like that.
Others in their extended family from the old country were sensitive, too.
their father had said, everything has a silver lining.
Vlad clambered across the floor to the basement door. When he got there, just a
shadow in the slice of dark that bubbled up from downstairs, he gestured for
the two of them to follow.
should really shoot them,” Boris said.
watched the three monsters staring at the house. The one with the pack slowly
lowered it to the ground, crouched, and began rummaging inside. "Maybe we
should go hide with Vlad.” she whispered to Boris. "It’s a good hiding place.
They won’t find us.”
shook his head. "They always find us,” he said. "No matter how good our hiding
Boris talked, Rifka watched the monster with the pack pull supplies out and
place them on the ground. Whatever the fiend had been carrying was wrapped in
burlap. She could see the rough cloth through the dirty window even though it
was halfway across the lawn.
murderous hands, the monster undid the parcels and slowly rolled them out on
the ground. The other two monsters gathered around to see what was there.
sucked on his tongue and a cold chill ran up Rifka’s spine all the way to her
tangled mess of hair.
have to go hide with Vlad,” she said, and grabbed at Boris’s shirt. "Either you
shoot them or we have to hide.”
didn’t know if he was scared, or angry, or both. Still, she could tell her
brother’s resolve was quickening. She had seen that hard look so many times
before—in her father, her mother, the others—that it was unmistakable in its
hiding,” she said.
turned and hurried after Vlad, who had already slipped into the dark of the
basement and the secret places down there.
love you,” Boris called after her as she went. His words made Rifka feel odd
because he had never really told her that before. She remembered the rest of
the family saying similar things when the monsters came, and each time she
heard those words, they were nothing more than a death knell.
too,” she said back, even though saying it felt funny coming out of her mouth.
If anything, her words felt final, as though there would never be any turning
back from them. With dry eyes, too long past crying, she slipped through the
partially opened basement door and rushed down the stairs.
the gloom of the sprawling basement, she found Vlad underneath the steamer
trunks, still blowing bubbles, still being Vlad.
she whispered. "We can’t hide there. We have to hide in a better place.” She
bent down beside the hidey hole and held out her hand. Vlad slowly reached out
and intertwined his fingers in hers, letting himself be pulled out on his
upstairs there was movement. Dust that was clinging to one of the joists holding
up the floor came raining down. Rifka watched it settle. She could tell Boris
had moved across the room to be nearer the window behind the broken porch swing
that they all sometimes sat on in the evening talking about when they lived in
the old country.
closed her eyes and concentrated, believing that she could actually see Boris
in her mind’s eye and what he was doing. Her imagination told an old story, one
in which she already knew the end. Sorrow welled up inside her and brushed the
insides of her throat.
more dust fell from above, followed by several loud thuds. Boris had moved
across the room, upending furniture as he went, and was now most likely
crouching behind their old couch. He was going to shoot the monsters after all.
Rifka knew it in the pit of her being. She knew that he was going to fight—for
him, for her, for her little brother—and she was glad.
get this over with,” she heard an angry voice bark in the night. The words didn’t
belong to her brother. She didn’t know if they belonged to the grizzled
monster, the one in all black, or the other with the pack. It didn’t matter.
All that mattered was that the monsters were coming and Boris was going to
shoot them if he could.
off my property,” she heard her brother cry—words that were dangerously close
to the same proclamation her father had said before he was killed. "Go away if
you know what’s good for you.”
eyes grew wide. He covered his mouth with both hands and laced his fingers
don’t you make this easy on us, boy,” she heard another voice say.
make it quick,” a third voice called out. The words either belonged to the
grizzled-faced monster or the beast with the pack. Somehow she didn’t think the
monster in black would make such promises.
said, get off my property,” Boris cried again, and Vlad began to whimper.
grabbed her little brother’s arm and pulled him along in the dark until they
came to the faux brick wall that no one would recognize for what it really was.
She gingerly pushed on three bricks in the lower left-hand corner and listened
for the click of the almost invisible door. Seconds later she leaned up against
the brick and it gave way, leading to the large grouping of chambers where
everyone used to sleep, hidden safely behind the wall.
rooms were filled with loneliness and despair. Once her family had talked, and
laughed, and dreamed there. Now it was just Rifka and her brothers. The
emptiness left a bitter taste in her mouth.
to Auntie Magda and Uncle Yuri’s room,” she told Vlad. "Hide in their bed. You’ll
be safe there.” Vlad, his fear-filled eyes so big and round that Rifka wanted
to scream, pointed at her and shrugged. He didn’t have to say the words for
Rifka to know that he was asking where she was going to squirrel herself away. "I’m
not hiding,” she whispered. "I’m going to help Boris.”
began frantically whipping his head back and forth, tears streaming down his
put one finger to his mouth and smiled, waiting for her little brother to calm
down. Finally his shoulders slumped and he stared at the dirt floor, utterly
be back,” she whispered to him so softly that her words sounded like a moth
flapping around candle light. "I’ll always be back.” Then she left Vlad there,
in the chambers of her family behind the fake brick door, and went to the
her she heard footsteps and knew that the three monsters were on the porch.
all this crap?” one of them said, talking about the stack of broken chairs and
debris that had been expertly laid one on top of the next, to make their home
more for us to burn,” said another voice.
hatred that was ancient and pure kindled in the very pit of Rifka’s insides and
burst into being. "Not my house,” she hissed under her breath. "Never more.”
she flew up the stairs and threw open the basement door. She had just enough
time to see Boris raise his head from behind the couch, the cool metal in his
hand and the muzzle of the gun pointing at the front door. The monster, all in
black, was at one of the windows.
it cried. "There are two of them.”
grizzled monster laughed. "Then it will be a good night.”
front door, though locked, suddenly bulged inward at the force of being kicked
in, and the three monsters were inside and Boris was shooting. He had never
handled a gun before nor knew how to aim.
hit. I’m hit,” cried the monster that was carrying the pack.
cried the monster all in black. "They have firearms.”
has nothing to do with the likes of them, Padre,” the monster with the grizzled
face screamed at the creature all in black. The grizzled monster was
brandishing a cross in one hand and a stake in the other, the same kind of
pointed wood that had taken so many of Rifka’s family before.
shot again, and this time his aim was true. The bullet found a home directly
between the grizzled monster’s eyes and it fell over backwards, dead before its
body thumped against the floor.
hit, I tell you. I’m hit,” screamed the thing that Boris shot first. It was
half in and half out of the front door and blood was streaming out of its side
and its leg. The smell of copper and salt rushed through the house in waves and
Rifka growled like an animal.
monster in black, the only one still standing, also held a cross in one hand
and a vial of water in the other. Without a second of hesitation, it dashed the
vial to the floor in front of Rifka and the glass exploded in a holy spray.
Jewish, you asshole,” she cried as she soared through the air and fell upon the
priestly monster, climbing it like a murder monkey until she was at its neck,
biting deep and letting the thing’s life splash down her throat and into her
and gallons, and eons and eons, came out until the monster in black, with
nothing left to give, fell to the ground an empty husk.
last monster, the one that carried the pack, watched in horror as viscous,
crimson syrup gushed out of its wounds.
ancient boy with the gun stood up from behind the couch, the smoking piece
still in his hand, and slowly walked across the room. He stepped over the
lifeless bodies of the other two, and came to stand right over the beast.
the monster begged. "Please let me live.”
the boy had a chance to answer, the little girl with the rat’s nest for hair,
her mouth painted with death and her eyes bright with hellfire, was at his
side. With its free hand, the monster held up its own cross and began spouting
old nursery rhymes from a book that never held any meaning for Rifka, Boris,
Vlad, their parents, or anyone else in their old, old family.
you live?” she whispered through her fetid, dead mouth, sharp with fangs and
putrid with decay. Rifka suddenly began laughing in a truly horrific way that
would make any sane monster’s brain crack in two.
monster with the pack that was filled with useless charms and trinkets began to
screamed for the monster in black, and it screamed for the grizzled monster
that was shot through the head. Mostly, it screamed for its own immortal soul,
for in its monstrous, misguided mind, it was damned for all eternity.
Boris and Rifka grabbed the monster by its legs and pulled it inside the front
like when they scream,” Rifka said to Boris as they dragged the horrible fiend
toward the basement door. She turned and looked at it as its arms flailed and a
trail of blood flowed across the dirty floor. "Keep screaming,” she told the
monster, and flashed a ghoulish grin. "My little brother downstairs is starving
and he likes his food fresh.”