Title: Dark Screams: Volume Five
Writers: J. Kenner, Bentley Little, and Mick Garris
Genre: Horror / Paranormal Fantasy / Paranormal Romance
Mick Garris, J. Kenner, Kealan Patrick Burke, Del James, and Bentley Little pry open a sarcophagus of horror and dread in Dark Screams: Volume Five, from Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of the esteemed Cemetery Dance Publications.
EVERYTHING YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED by Mick Garris
It was supposed to be the night of his life: a celebration of his one hit slasher flick. But the price of admission is higher than this has-been filmmaker ever could have imagined.
THE ONE AND ONLY by J. Kenner
When he was seven, Will Underwood’s nanny told him she had the Sight. Years later, a broken heart sends him to New Orleans . . . but it’s fate that leads him to Madame Darkling’s Voodoo Emporium.
THE LAND OF SUNSHINE by Kealan Patrick Burke
Although she was mute long before the affair that nearly wrecked their marriage, her silence has tortured her husband ever since. Now he will seek out what he has lost—or be driven mad by remorse.
MECHANICAL GRATITUDE by Del James
Arnold loves his ’68 Camaro almost as much as he loves his wife, and he’s willing to do anything to protect them both—especially after hearing strange noises coming from his garage.
THE PLAYHOUSE by Bentley Little
A real-estate agent is drawn into a children’s playhouse behind an abandoned property she’s trying to sell—and finds herself strangely reluctant to leave.
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Penguin Random House: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/234805/dark-screams-volume-five-by-edited-by-brian-james-freeman-and-richard-chizmar/
From “The Playhouse” by Bentley Little
It was a new listing, a foreclosure that had fallen into her lap only because Walt Lee had quit on Friday, and while Lois had read the stats and looked at the photos, she hadn’t had a chance to visit the property until now.
Nice neighborhood, she noted, driving up Brookview Street: single-family dwellings, the majority of them two-story; well-maintained lawns. She knew from her reading that there were no rentals on the street, and that it had been nearly a decade since any properties had been up for sale within a two-block radius. The flyer description practically wrote itself.
Lois pulled up in front of the property and got out of the car. Typically, Walt’s poorly framed photographs had not really done it justice—that’s what came from taking pictures with a phone instead of a camera—and she took her own photo of both the newly landscaped front yard and the exterior of the house, before letting herself in and finding the best angles to showcase each room’s most marketable feature.
Opening the kitchen blinds to let in more light, she was shocked by the state of the backyard. In contrast with the perfectly manicured and precisely placed native flowering plants in front of the house, the backyard was a flat mess of hardened dirt and overgrown weeds. Clearly, the landscapers had not worked their magic back here, and as soon as she returned to the office, Lois was going to find their phone number and get on their case. This needed to be completed yesterday, because she couldn’t start to show the house until the backyard was finished, not unless she wanted to knock a good five thousand off the price.
She opened the sliding glass door and went outside. In the center of the weedy backyard was a child’s playhouse, a homemade wooden structure with peeling paint and a window box filled with faded plastic flowers. That thing would need a new coat of paint as well. Briefly, she considered having it torn down, but in an upscale neighborhood like this one, a permanent playhouse could turn out to be catnip to parents with young children.
Peering through the window, she saw a wooden shelf on which sat plastic pails filled with mud and leaves. In the center of the room was an overturned child-size chair, and in one corner a broken Easy-Bake Oven.
Wait a minute, she thought. Mud?
Lois frowned. The property had been foreclosed on close to two months ago. It was summer. The mixture of dirt and water should have long since dried out.
Were neighborhood kids playing in here?
She needed to make sure there were locks on the gates. The last thing she needed was for some local brat to screw up her perfectly staged show home.
The playhouse was as tall as she was, and though she had to duck pretty low in order to make it through the doorway, once inside, Lois could easily move around with only a slight ducking of her head. There was no floor—the sides of the structure rested flat on hard dirt—but otherwise the playhouse seemed sturdy and well constructed. Light came in through the open doorway and a window in one of the side walls, illuminating the solid wall opposite the entrance, where the pails of dirt and leaves sat upon an unpainted board held up by metal brackets.
She picked up the overturned chair and put it down in front of the shelf. There were three pails altogether, one purple, one red, one yellow. Sitting down, she reached out to the one on the right, the purple one, and put her hand inside, feeling the cool squishiness of mud.
Immediately, she pulled back. What was wrong with her? Why had she done that? She hadn’t intended to do any such thing.
In fact, why was she sitting here in the first place? Why had she come into the playhouse at all?
Frowning, she got out of the chair, walked back outside—
And the light was different. It looked like afternoon instead of morning, and she glanced down at her watch and saw that it was after one o’clock. Three hours later than it was supposed to be. A chill took hold of her, an icy shiver that started at her spine and reached around her midsection until she was enveloped in it.
What had happened?