Got to thinking that, in the absence of a Halloween video, I really ought to give all of you who aren’t reading A World Full of Monsters something to entertain yourselves with for the day. So here’s a quick little horror story I wrote in response to a picture story request on FB, which I hope will stick with you the next time you visit your local mall on a rainy, foggy night.
At first, nobody thought much of it when people started reporting a ‘creeper’ in the mall’s back parking lot. Walking kind of aimlessly around parked cars, or following them at a distance. Always when there was rain or fog, usually at night but occasionally early in the morning. Most said they thought it was a man, wearing jeans and a hoodie and tennis shoes, keeping his head down like he was looking for something on the ground – or trying to hide his face.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later that someone got a good enough look to realize his head wasn’t down at all.
More people started to visit the parking lot, wanting to see if they too might be able to spot the ghost, wanting to prove that it was a hoax, wanting to just get in on something exciting and a little bit scary. The apparition’s response to this was to start coming closer – not to the people who wanted to see him, but to unsuspecting shoppers in the parking lot. Walking behind them, appearing in their rear-view mirror – a person who panicked and threw their car into reverse would feel a thud and then find him standing in front of their car instead, hands on the hood like he was leaning forward to scold them for hitting him. Running from him caused him to stand outside the mall doors, pointing at the runner, or to appear on the driver’s side of the runner’s car and tap insistently on the window.
After the morning when he yanked a car door open and grabbed someone’s arm, the mall closed the parking lot and roped off the sidewalks which led to that side of the building. They locked the doors on that side too, and put up signs that said ‘DANGER: UNSAFE AREA’. He took to beating on the glass with his fists, the pounding at first frustrated and then increasingly angry, and shoppers started avoiding that end of the mall altogether. Shops decided not to renew their leases, fleeing the premises for other locations that might not be as profitable but were infinitely less scary.
The glass windows and doors on that side started to show cracks. Management had them boarded up, but that only made the pounding louder. More shops fled. Multiple investigations were conducted, by both law enforcement and by experts who dealt with the paranormal: neither group found anything, although the paranormal investigators insisted that there had to be a reason why the apparition had chosen to manifest in that particular parking lot. Law enforcement inexplicably agreed with them, even though they were leaning toward the whole thing being a hoax – the location obviously held some importance to somebody, they just needed to figure out who that somebody was.
When the wood that covered the back doors started to splinter and the metal frames, now empty of glass, were found to be bent and close to being torn right off the industrial-grade hinges, the owners of the property closed the mall in its entirety, citing safety concerns, and insisted that the remaining shop owners could only remove their stock and fixtures on clear, sunny days. No one was allowed on the premises at night, not even a security guard – one kept watch from across the street, though, to make sure nobody tried to break in. Plans were made to demolish the building, pending city inspection and approval.
It was one of the city inspectors who finally solved the mystery. Searching for flammable liquids which, if present, could prove hazardous to the demolition crews as they worked, he pried the cover off of a fryer and found it still full of rancid yellow-orange oil and floating scraps of fried skin.
Some of which were attached to clumps of frizzled hair. The police were called, and came out with specialized equipment to remove the contents of the fryer for further investigation…including the cooked-bare skull and the separated jawbone that had been stuck in the opening of the grease trap at the bottom. The pounding stopped when the skull was raised, and one of the officers looked out through the open kitchen door, realizing that he could clearly see the back of the mall and the splintering wood that covered the broken doors. He made a face, remembering something from the previous investigation. “Detective, do you think the people he was chasing in the parking lot had…”
The detective cut him off, harshly. “I’m trying really hard not to think about it.”