Don’t Open the Door
Featuring Exclusive Preview – Heart Of Stone by J.A. Sullivan
A reality TV housewife finds that truth is often more disturbing than fiction.
A college field trip devolves into something stomach-turning.
A lonely boy finds something strange in the woods near his house.
These and even more wait for you behind the door.
Step inside and discover ten of your new favorite authors of the weird and terrifying, serving you chilling stories that reveal how everything familiar and safe can hide something sinister just beneath the surface. Each of these stories will make you look twice at the places and things you take for granted every day.
If you want to feel safe, if you want to sleep soundly in your own bed tonight, then you only need to do one thing.
Don’t open the door.
Publisher: Tomodachiworks (July 26, 2019)
Don’t Open the Door was originally released as a Kindle Edition only, however, Tomodachiworks is proud to announce a paperback version of 234 pages is now available.
Message from the editor:
We all have somewhere that we feel safe. Home. Work. School. In the arms of a husband. In the care of a parent. But are we really that safe? Take a glimpse into our safest places, and how dark, dangerous things may be lurking just out of sight.
Don’t Open the Door is the collected work of ten indie authors from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Within these pages are thirteen chilling horror stories, just as unique as their creators.
This anthology is also a work of charity, donating our profits to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, so that one person’s scares can help heal another person’s pain.
I am immensely proud of this anthology and honored to work with these authors. I hope that you have a frightfully good time opening these doors with us.
-Cory Mason, editor
Feed the Pigs – Augie Peterson
Nico’s Blood – Yawatta Hosby
Don’t Sleep – T.H. Willoughby
Heart of Stone – J.A. Sullivan
The Locks – Cory Mason
Noah’s New Friend – Kimberly Wolkens
The Dark Room – L.M. Du Preez
Man Cave – Yawatta Hosby
The Woman Of The House – A.J. Walker
Trapped in the Haunted House – Johvan Calvo
Chalk – T.H. Willoughby
No More Time – Johvan Calvo
The Ten-Fingered Man – Luke Elliott Alphonso Jr.
Want a peek behind the door? We’re pleased to offer an inside look to Kendall Reviews by sharing with you an exclusive short, Heart Of Stone by the incredibly talented J.A. Sullivan.
Heart of Stone
By J.A. Sullivan
Avril Montague placed her hand on the cinderblock wall for support as she descended the narrow wooden staircase to the farmhouse basement. Her palm was instantly coated with thick cobwebs and desiccated insect husks. She forced herself to retract her hand slowly and deliberately, making sure the police officer below didn’t see her wipe it on the outer thigh of her jeans. Taking a deep breath, Avril regained her composure and continued stepping down.
The officer at the foot of the stairs, underneath a naked glass lightbulb, looked like a broken man. He didn’t even seem to register Avril approaching him. The stark lighting deepened the wrinkled crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes, giving him an old, haggard appearance. Though she hadn’t dealt with this officer before, he didn’t look like a rookie. Avril’s stomach twisted. She’d seen horrific things working at the Children’s Aid Society, but she knew experienced policemen had seen worse. Whatever awaited her in this basement had shaken this man to his core.
Lingering on the last step, Avril listened to the commotion. Paramedics were talking into two-way radios, relaying the number of cases Brant County General would be receiving and requesting two additional ambulances. In the background, she could hear children sobbing, her fellow CAS workers murmuring in soft, soothing voices.
The entire CAS office had been called in, a first in Avril’s ten years as a caseworker. Now, rounding the corner of the basement corridor, she understood why.
Portable floodlights were dotted through the large room, exposing rusted metal bedframes bolted to the floor. On each of the six stained mattresses sat a child wrapped in a slate grey blanket, chains and handcuffs dangling from each bedframe. Beside each tearstained face was a CAS worker, some accompanied by a police officer.
Ginny, the newest in the CAS department, was with a young, sickly thin girl of maybe eight years of age. The girl had long greasy brown hair, a dirty face, and dead eyes. An officer scooped the girl off the bed. Someone called out, “Take her to #305. Driver will be up momentarily.” Avril moved to the side so the officer could pass, and as he did, she noticed the girl had only one leg poking out from under the blanket.
Shuffling after the officer was Ginny. “I’m not ready for this,” she whispered as she stopped next to Avril. The light and warmth that usually radiated from Ginny’s face was gone, replaced by a cold, stony exterior.
“We never are,” Avril responded, placing a hand on Ginny’s shoulder. “But we have to be.”
“Of course,” Ginny said, breaking into a weak smile. She gave Avril’s hand a pat, stood up straighter, and followed the officer with the girl up the stairs.
Avril remembered what it was like, a decade ago, when she’d been fresh like Ginny. The job never got easier. Each caseworker had to figure out their own way of coping, or they quit inside a month. Avril hardened her heart. The time for her own tears and anguish would come later. For now, she needed to find her boss, so he could catch her up to speed and assign her a case.
At the end of the large room was a door, painted red and peeling like the side of the barn Avril had seen outside when she’d arrived. The door was closed with an officer standing guard beside it. To the left, sitting on an old milk crate in the corner, was another policeman, head tilted back with a bloody gauze patch on his nose. A paramedic was tending to him, and so was Leo Baker, Avril’s boss. She raised her hand to get his attention and walked over.
She quickly evaluated the other children as she crossed the room. They ranged in age from five to ten, all girls. The ones that were crying, she realised, were sobbing in relief. Frightened, and surely traumatised, but soothed by the fact their nightmare existence was over. Each child was missing a limb. Some, like the girl who had been carried out, were missing a leg, while others had an arm missing.
“Thanks for getting here so quickly,” Leo said in his usual gruff voice. “Real shit-show on our hands here.” There was a reason he didn’t normally leave his office for the field. Years of being a caseworker hadn’t just hardened him, he wore layers of impenetrable armour.
“What’s happened here?” Avril asked, gesturing to the injured officer.
“It bit me,” the man growled.
Perplexed at what it was, Avril looked to Leo for an answer. He shrugged his shoulders and pointed to the door. “There’s another one in there.” Leo said before motioning to the officer, “He’s the only one that’s been inside.”
Avril felt a small tug at the back of her shirt. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw a small child of five or six sitting on the bed behind her. Renee, another caseworker, was on the opposite side of the bed going over paperwork with a policeman, and not paying attention to her tiny charge.
The girl pulled on Avril’s shirt again, and with her other hand beckoned Avril to come closer. She was as dirty as the other children, but unlike the rest wasn’t crying.
Avril sat down beside the child and noticed she too had only one leg. The girl cupped her hands to Avril’s ear and whispered, “Mary Ann’s in there.” She pointed at the red door with a grimy finger. “The man was always meanest to them.”
“You’ll see.” There was something unsettling in the way the girl’s lip curled in the corner. “Give them this,” she said, and reached to pull something from under her pillow. It was scraps of torn clothing tied into something that resembled a doll. Bits of hair and mattress fluff that had been used for stuffing spilled out of its side. The face of the doll looked like it was made from drops of blood.
The officer who had been talking to Renee came around to the side of the bed where Avril and the girl sat. He scooped up the child and carried her away from the madness, with Renee following closely behind. Before they rounded the corner to the stairs, the girl pointed at the door again.
“All the kids have a caseworker already, except for whatever’s behind that door,” Leo said, standing in front of Avril. “Guess it’s your lucky day.”
Avril stood up and tried to swallow saliva down her dry throat. She grasped the doll, shoved it into the back pocket of her jeans and walked toward her next case.
“You,” Leo shouted, pointing at the officer who had been guarding the door, “go in with her.”
The policeman’s fingers were caressing the edge of his baton. Avril convinced herself the action was subconscious, but that didn’t make it less menacing. She put herself inside the mind of a child and saw brute force emanating from his large frame. Even a child who hadn’t been traumatised would be intimidated by this man.
“This girl has probably been terrorised by a man every time this door has opened,” Avril said. “Look how she reacted to the other officer. It’s probably best if I go in alone. But keep an eye on me from the doorway.”
“Fine,” the policeman grunted.
With a deep breath, Avril grabbed the door handle. Slowly, she turned the knob and opened the door into a much smaller, darkened room. There was a barred window the size of a mailbox six feet off the ground on the farthest wall. Red flashing lights from the emergency vehicles outside barely penetrated through the mucky glass. Floodlights from the large room behind her didn’t help much either, only adding her own shadow to the darkness.
As she stepped over the threshold a stench assaulted her. It smelled of disease, like a gangrenous limb. In the handbag slung over her shoulder, Avril found her spearmint ChapStick and smeared it thickly under her nose. After putting it back in her purse, she felt around the wall to her right for a light switch but found none.
Rooting around in the handbag again, her fingers found the glowsticks she always kept in there ever since her case with Timothy Grand. He’d been locked in the dark for years when Avril had saved him. When the beam from her flashlight shone on him, he’d howled like a wounded animal. Glowsticks were better.
Cracking two of the tubes, she pulled out the greenish-yellow radiating lights and rolled them on the floor. It was no longer as dark in the room, but Avril still couldn’t make out many details. What she could see was that the glowsticks had rolled under a bed in the centre of the room. She took a few steps forward. “Mary Ann?”
The only reply was a brief shuffling sound in the corner to her right.
“We’re not here to hurt you. The bad man is gone now.” Avril bent down to retrieve the glowsticks, so their light wasn’t obstructed by the bed.
The door slammed closed behind her. She could hear the officer on the other side fighting with the handle. “I’m okay,” she yelled to him. “Just give me a minute.”
The handle stilled.
She closed her eyes to adjust to the dim light. When she opened them, a gasp escaped her lips as she crumpled to the floor. One of the glowsticks dropped from her hands and rolled toward the door. Small, slender fingers scooped it up.
In the faint illumination, Avril saw a being her mind couldn’t grasp. The flickering red lights from outside and the lucent greenish-yellow tube exposed only part of a monstrosity standing by the door. It was like a human-sized spider with limbs spilling out of its torso in all directions. Avril wanted to scream but no sound would come out.
The thing twirled the glowstick through its many fingers, transfixed and mesmerised by the light. It lowered itself to the ground and rolled the tube back to Avril. As soon as the glowstick touched her fingers she flicked it away out of instinct, causing it to travel back to the creature. The spider-thing grasped the tube and let out a giggle like that of a young girl.
This time instead of just moving the stick from finger to finger and hand to hand, it brought the light up to its face. Faces, Avril’s mind corrected. The glow revealed two human heads. “Friend?” both heads asked at the same time.
“Yes,” Avril stammered. “Light?” she asked, hoping the creature understood the word.
The spider-thing stood up and shuffled to the left side of the door. In an instant the room was bathed in fluorescent overhead light. Partially blinded by the sudden change, Avril blinked hard hoping her eyes would quickly adjust. The creature giggled again.
Now, no longer seeing the creature in the dark, Avril understood what she was looking at. She pulled the tattered doll from her back pocket and held it out. “For you,” she said.
They hobbled to Avril, took the doll, and sat on the bed behind her. Avril felt another layer of stone surround her heart, stopping emotion from taking over.
She turned to look at the child on the clean pink bedspread. Both faces were enamoured with the small doll, their lips curled in tiny smiles. Avril guessed they were about eleven. Their eyes were bright, a slight pink ran through their cheeks, and their hair, though a little unkempt, appeared clean. Whoever had been keeping them locked away had obviously been feeding and bathing them.
As they passed the doll from one hand to the other, Avril could see they had two functioning arms. Spilling beneath their handmade dress were two developed legs and a third atrophied leg that held the same skin tone as the rest of their body. Fastened by black thread stitches, other limbs hung off the split torso varying in shades from deathly white to blackened rot.
One of the faces said, “Daddy said if we’re good, he’ll be able to fix us.”
Avril stared at the girls, unsure how to respond.
The hand not holding the doll used fingers to mimic scissor blades and pretended to cut down the length of their shared torso. The heads turned to each other and giggled.
Forcing the lump back down her throat, Avril stood on shaky legs and went to the door. “I’ll be right back. Stay here, just a little longer,” she whispered, and opened the door just enough to squeak through.
“Don’t,” she said sternly to the officer outside, as he made a move to walk into the room. He glared back at her but took a step back.
The main room had been emptied of all the children and most of the adults while Avril had been behind the red door. Only the guarding officer, Leo, and a couple of paramedics – one man and one woman – had stayed.
“So, what are we dealing with?” Leo asked.
“Nothing we’ve ever dealt with before, that’s for sure.” Avril shook her head. “We need to get them to the hospital. ASAP.”
“Them? How many kids are in there?”
“Technically, just one.” She grabbed Leo’s thermal coffee mug from his hand. After taking a few swigs of the coffee and bourbon mix she knew he’d be drinking, Avril wiped her mouth with her wrist and handed the mug back. “Conjoined twins,” she said, and pointed at the female paramedic. “Come with me. The rest of you should wait for us outside.” Avril locked eyes with the other paramedic, “Be ready to roll out.”
Leo stood motionless for a moment, taking in what Avril had said. Then he looked to the others. “Well, you heard her. Get a move on.” He ushered the others toward the staircase. Pausing, he turned back. “You OK?”
“For now,” Avril said with a nod. He gave a brief smirk and continued his way up and out.
The paramedic stood staring at the red door with a vacant expression. Avril glanced at the woman’s name tag. “Jessica, there’s nothing to be afraid of, but you need to know what you’re walking into.” The woman nodded, picked up her kit bag and followed Avril to the door. “The missing limbs from the other girls, they’ve been sewn onto this child.”
Jessica’s face turned a shade of green. She crouched and dropped her head between her knees for a moment. When she stood back up, she looked better. Without judgement or emotion, she asked, “Infection or just decomposition?”
“Probably both,” Avril replied, understanding the paramedic’s change. Avril retrieved the ChapStick from her purse and offered it. “For the smell.”
“No, thanks. I’m ready,” she said and picked up her kit bag.
Avril opened the door with a smile. “Mary and Ann, this is my friend Jessica. She’s going to help you.”
They looked up from the doll, both grinning. For maybe the first time in their lives, their bedroom door had been opened with the intent to heal instead of hurt.
Don’t Open The Door
A reality TV housewife finds that truth is often more disturbing than fiction. A college field trip devolves into something stomach-turning. A lonely boy finds something strange in the woods near his house.
These and even more wait for you behind the door. Step inside and discover ten of your new favorite authors of the weird and terrifying, serving you chilling stories that reveal how everything familiar and safe can hide something sinister just beneath the surface. Each of these stories will make you look twice at the places and things you take for granted every day.
If you want to feel safe, if you want to sleep soundly in your own bed tonight, then you only need to do one thing.
Don’t open the door.
The authors of Don’t Open the Door wish to help make positive change in the world, so the profits from every copy of this book will be donated to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, in the hopes that it will help at least one person who is struggling.
Cory Mason is a graphomaniac with a god complex, making him a perfect fit for writing and storytelling. He loves books, video games, cartoons, movies, comics, and all forms of story. He lives on YouTube but can occasionally be found in the real world curled up in his writing chair, scribbling away at the stories stuck in his head.
Mason is currently working as editor for a new anthology focused on cosmic horror slated to be released by Tomodachiworks in late 2020.
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology (out July 26, 2019), and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan