MEET THE MISTERS is an ongoing collection of short stories and illustrations exposing some American boogeymen that you might not have heard about....yet. Written and illustrated by Alex Pardee.
Lindsey was finally turning 11 tomorrow. That’s not to say she didn’t like being 10 years old, however. In fact, she found the last twelve months one of the most comfortable years ever, even for a child with almost zero real responsibilities. Being 10 offered Lindsey a certain type of adjustable freedom. She was old enough to bake a cake with her mom, but still young enough to eat the entire thing without a drop of guilt. She was old enough to finally sit in the front seat of her mom’s car, but still young enough to pass out the instant the car turned it’s first corner. She was old enough to love horror movies, but young enough to still hesitate and close her eyes when she looked under her bed at night. And though she wasn’t encouraged to do so, she was also old enough to walk home at night from her friend Jordan’s house who lived just a few blocks away, but young enough to be genuinely afraid of…that one house. “Not tonight,” Lindsey thought. “I’m 11 now…11-year-olds aren’t afraid of dumb houses for no reason.”
Tonight, the night before her eleventh birthday, was one of the few times Lindsey actually did have to walk home alone in the dark. Her Mom, who was an English teacher at the local high school, worked a second job as a journalist and was usually home late on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and her older sister, Micha, just got a job at the only coffee shop that stays open until midnight. Luckily for Lindsey, it wasn’t TOO dark out, due to the light reflecting off of the full moon and hitting the spotty clouds, blanketing the suburbs with hundreds of tiny spotlights. “I love you, moon,” she thought, looking up at her friend in the night sky, moments before she clenched her jacket closed, put her head down and started walking. Lindsey always tried to walk fast when she was alone, but not TOO fast, because that might insinuate that she is scared, which might insinuate that she isn’t old enough for this, which might mean that she also may not be old enough to stay over at Jordan’s house any more, especially when Jordan’s mom’s not home. And she didn’t want that to be true, because she’s NOT too young. She’s ELEVEN! So Lindsey briskly set forth on the 4-block journey home.
Things were going as close to “usual” as they could have been on her adventure. Within two blocks she almost stepped on a frog, dodged a man blindly dragging out his trash can, took a quick detour to march through a pile of leaves before realizing how dirty and “wormy” they were, feeling disgusted by her own act, and then pretended to be a monster while chasing away a cat who was taunting a friendly squirrel.
But then, one and a half blocks away from her destination, it was time for her to pass “that house”. “That house” wasn’t necessarily spooky in a typical way. Sure, the yard was unkempt and Lindsey compared the chipped and weathered paint covering the house to “grandpa’s skin”, but aside from that, it was aesthetically ok. What was creepy about it was that, for as long as Lindsey could remember, everyone around her just warned her “not to bother anyone in that house” and to “just stay away from that house”. But whenever she would ask why, the typical response was “we’ll tell you when you’re older”, or “it doesn’t matter, just stay away from it.” Because of these responses, she always just crossed the street before she even came close to the house so she never even had to deal with it. “But I’m OLD enough, now,” she said to herself, “I’m not scared. If there was anything actually scary about that place, the police would always be there.”
So, for the first time on any of her adventures, she was going to walk by “that house”.
Her first instinct was just to run by the house as fast as she could. This was the same instinct that she had whenever she went downstairs in the middle of the night to get a glass of water and ran back up the stairs and leapt into bed as quickly as she could, even though she KNEW nothing was following her. But she was a new Lindsey on this night. She was a tough Lindsey. She was an eleven-year-old Lindsey!
It didn’t help that the houses neighboring “that house” seemed quiet and abandoned, too. But nonetheless, Lindsey and her newfound pride walked right past the first dark house and over the threshold onto the sidewalk surrounding “that house”. “So far, so good,” she thought. “Two more steps were two more steps toward victory”. A few strides later she was walking at a decent pace. Almost halfway through the gauntlet, she paused. She had never seen the house from that close before. There was something hypnotizing about it. She noticed a long, dangling metal wind-chime hanging above the front door that was making a pleasant noise in the wind. It looked to Lindsey “like the metal poles were a bunch of skinny people at a party all bumping into each other without saying sorry”. Her observational gaze then moved from the wind chime down to the doorknob, which, to her complete surprise, she noticed was turning. Her almost-eleven-year-old eyes widened and she automatically put her hands in front of her mouth. She was frozen on the sidewalk. She just stared at the doorknob, which made a harsh and uncomfortable squeaking sound that instantly drowned out the calming sounds of the wind chime.
The clouds chose a bad time to cluster over “that house” because all of a sudden, the moonlight shrank to one small beam piercing the porch, almost purposely pointing at the twisting doorknob. Lindsey couldn’t look away, and the concrete felt like quicksand as her posture was sinking as her muscles were stiffening. The doorknob clicked and the sound of the wooden door slowly opening seemed even louder than the screech of the knob.
From behind the darkness in the doorway and into the ray of moonlight shining on the stoop, a man’s head emerged, but even from 20 feet away, Lindsey could see clearly that his eyelids were closed, pulled over what must have been the bulgiest eyeballs she had ever seen. Then another head emerged awfully close to the first. Then, the first head turned to his right, and another head emerged from his left, and it was…attached to that first head! This third head’s eyes were open, however, and they were looking right at Lindsey. She shrieked like the 10-year old she still was, and turned to sprint away as fast as she could down the remaining block home, but her feet didn’t start working properly until after she noticed one last thing: Lindsey saw one of their mouths open, showing small, sparse, sharpened teeth, and she saw a tongue emerge from the droopy orifice and lick its own calloused lips while the other heads stared right at her.
Lindsey no longer cared about her birthday. She no longer cared about how the cat that she had just scared away moments before may have felt exactly as she did then. And she no longer cared much about her safety because she jumped right in front of her Mom’s car as they both arrived home in the driveway at the same time.
“Oh my god, Lindsey, I almost killed you!” Lindsey’s mom screamed as she screeched to a halt and jumped out of the driver’s side of her car.
“You’re not the only one, Mom!” Lindsey replied, panting in a sarcastic but frightened tone.
“What do you mean, sweetie? What happened? Why were you running?” Mom inquired, down on her knees with her hands clutching Lindsey’s shoulders.
“There’s guys in that house! And they saw me!”
“What house?” Mom asked, “The one I told you NEVER to walk by?”
Lindsey channeled her best ‘embarrassed-puppy-dog’ eyes and said, “M-m-m-maybe…” followed by a pause as she and her mom looked equally disappointed in each other, “but I’m OLD enough now! I wasn’t scared!”
“Lindsey, it’s ok,” Mom said, visibly happy that she didn’t just hit her daughter with her Toyota, “So…you went by there and saw someone? That’s it”
“Well…,” Lindsey said, “yah.”
“Just…don’t go by there anymore, ok?” Mom said, “You’re old enough to know it’s for YOUR safety.”
“I’m old enough to know you should have told me that BEFORE I almost just peed myself, instead of just telling me not to go by there” Lindsey said.
“Lindsey, I told you not to be so descriptive all the time,” Mom said, brushing off her knees and leading Lindsey safely into the house. “Well, now you know. So don’t go by there anymore. In fact, I don’t even want you walking home from Jordan’s by yourself anymore. I shouldn’t have even allowed in the first place. Your father never would’ve allowed it. I want you to live at least until your twelfth birthday.”
“Nooooooo, Mom!” Lindsey grunted and then asked while helping remove her shoes, “Can you at LEAST tell me exactly WHY, Mommy? Why those guys are so scary at that house? Why I’m not allowed to walk by it? THAT’S what I want for my birthday. I want you to tell me about that house so that I knowwwwwww.”
Lindsey’s mom peered at Lindsey as if she was thinking “I know that’s not ALL you want for your birthday….”
“So, you’re telling me that If I tell you all about that house, then you will PROMISE me that you will never go by there ever again?” Mom asked.
“Yes,” said Lindsey.
Mom continued, “And you promise that if you get scared by what I tell you, you’re still not allowed to sleep with me tonight?”
“I promise! I promise!”
“Ok, Lindsey, get your PJ’s on, I’ll tell you a story.”
As Lindsey began tucking herself in, her mom pulled out a pile of notes from her office and confessed, “I have actually been working on writing a version of this story to tell you someday, so, I guess there’s no better time than to try reading it out loud, so here we go. And in case you fall asleep, Happy Birthday, Lindsey.”
“Thanks Mom, now start talllkkkkkinnnngggg already,” Lindsey said with an almost-11-year-old smile.
And so Mom began to read softly from her notes:
“If there was one thing the Jankins brothers were known for, it was for being survivors. Practically all they DID was survive. Nothing much more was known about them for years other than the occasional muttering from their neighbors that consisted comments mostly in the vein of "How are those brothers still alive?" I mean, no one even knew that their mother had died. At least, not until 3 of the 4 brothers got sentenced to death. But that's skipping ahead a little too far right off the bat. So let's start a little earlier.
“Every doctor in the country would have bet against the Jankins brothers living longer than a day after their birth. You see, Brian, the eldest by mere seconds, Melvin, Bert and Eddie were all born at the same time, by the same mother, and delivered by the same doctor. But they weren't actually 'quadruplets' so to speak, because, well, I'm not sure how to put this so that it makes sense, but three of the brothers were....all kind of squished together on Brian's head. Nothing like it had ever been seen before. Brian Jankins was essentially one body with four heads. Sure, a few other semi-developed appendages hung from Brian’s torso, but when the doctors performed their first x-ray, they saw that each head had a separate brain and nervous system. However, all four of the heads shared Brian's other vital organs. Additionally, Brian had an average-sized brain while his three attached brothers had brains not only bigger than Brian’s, but actually quite larger than most humans.
“One body supporting four heads and four brains was scientifically illogical according to every doctor at the hospital. The brothers weren't expected to last even the night. Their main doctor, Dr. Han, even suggested ending their life in a controlled environment to save them from the definite future pain they would suffer.
“But their mother was a fighter fueled by faith. She refused to believe that her sons were any different from other children, and against every request and warning from the hospital officials, she took Brian and his three attached brothers back home with her to her humble home here on Pine Rd, and hid them away from everyone. It was there that they survived beyond all expectations, and it was there that she raised her sons and schooled them on her own.
“It wasn't until the trial some twenty-something years later that we all found out a little more about those...monsters.
“For the most part, their mother kept the gawkers and the intruders away. She was nice enough, or rather, she was TOLERABLE enough to the other residents that her stay was welcomed in the neighborhood, but she rarely emerged from her house. Usually when she WAS seen, it was when she headed out at night, assumedly just to pick up groceries or packages or to feed the countless amounts of stray cats in their backyard. So her disappearance went practically unnoticed for weeks until an entire group of residents, including your grandparents, met to discuss the strong smell that was emerging from that house here in the middle of Pine Rd. It was the smell of sauerkraut, wet copper and feces. The combined odor was so pungent that it actually triggered a seizure in Lois Vanden two houses down from ours.
“So the health department paid a visit to their house. And what they found was a sight that no one expected.
“Their mother…well, yes, she was dead. But that’s the only sliver of this story that is comprehensible. She was older than the average mother when she gave birth to her sons so we all figured that she was going to pass away in 20 or 30 years, but no one expected her to die so soon. But she didn’t actually die from natural causes. When Sam, one of the guys from the health department, walked into the house, he saw their mother’s body flayed open and propped up in the living room, horrifically contorted into the shape of a crude Christmas tree. And she had…gifts surrounding her, too. But those gifts weren’t your average Barbie dolls and Pillow-Pets. Those gifts were…body parts. Young ones, too. Really young ones, way younger than you. They were all piled nicely under the…”tree”.
“Brian and his brothers were found, alive, squatting in the corner of the back room. Blood was smeared in and over the mouths of all 4 of them except Brian, who, instead, had tears covering his face. He was crying.
“Brian and his brothers were arrested immediately and charged with multiple murders and kidnappings, but in a jury decision that left the town divided, Brian, who’s head the main “body” was attached to, was found innocent while the other three brothers were found guilty on all charges. The jury decided that because Brian’s brain was so much smaller in comparison to his brothers’ brains, and because his learning comprehension was also exponentially lower, he was influenced and brainwashed by the other three heads, who also had combined control of a lot of their entire body. The jury concluded than there was little that Brian could do to stop the evil influence of his brothers.
“Whether it was inherited, or a freak psychological defect, or just some kind of twisted revenge-upbringing taught to them by their mother that backfired, the three evil Jankins brothers hated all other children. And they hated them so much that Melvin, Bert and Eddie, without the cooperation of Brian, used their advanced brains to hypnotize their mother and convince her to go out and steal children from orphanages and bring them back to the brothers so they could…eat them.
“Eventually their mother’s guilt must have gotten to her, because she finally revolted and refused to feed her “children” anymore. This angered the three masterminds, and one night, after whispering in both of his ears for hours, they convinced Brian to murder their mother and then continue to sneak out at night and gather more “food” for them on their own. This “food” was what the health department found piled under the mom-tree like some kind of deranged souvenirs, and this food was what smelled up the entire neighborhood for weeks.
“The three brothers were executed. Brian was set free and allowed to go back to live in his house again, after it was cleaned up of course. It was Brian’s choice to keep his dead brothers attached to his body, mostly because he was warned that there was a strong possibility that he could die if the brothers were surgically removed.
“The execution took place on July 31, which happened to be the same night as a full moon. Though Brian was asleep under anesthesia while his brothers were executed by lethal injection, Melvin, who seemed to overall be the leader of the trio, made sure to use his last words to state that their collective brains are too large to be killed and that they will never really die.
“Brian went back to living alone in ‘that house’, shunned by almost everyone. Too poor to move, too much of a recluse to start over, his house had just become “the haunted house” for no other reason aside from that simple man’s unfortunate past.”
Mom noticed that Lindsey was still awake, and that she looked a bit terrified, as she had imagined.
Then Lindsey spoke up, “So, even though that evil man still lives there, he won’t hurt me?”
“No, Lindsey, he won’t,” Mom said. “He’s just a lonely old man now, but you still shouldn’t bother him, just to be safe.”
“Did they really eat the children?” Lindsey asked.
“Well, Brian didn’t, but yes, Lindsey, unfortunately they did.”
“Ok, Mommy. I promise I’ll stay away.”
Mom was about to say goodnight to Lindsey before she was interrupted by Lindsey’s sister, Micha, who had apparently been standing in the doorway listening to most of the story. “You didn’t tell her the ENDING to the story, Mom,” she said.
“What is the ending to the story?” Lindsey asked, ignoring her mothers ‘tucking-in’ advances.
“That was the ending, Lindsey,” Mom said, glaring at Micha, “I don’t know what your OLDER and MORE MATURE sister is talking about.”
Micha, much like Lindsey just moments ago, ignored her mother and looked at her younger sister and finished the story, “Rumor has it that whenever there’s a full moon, Brian’s brothers “wake up” and tell Brian to go out and gather some children to feed them. And just like always, Brian listens! So just watch out on nights where there’s a full moon out.”
“MOM! TONIGHT is a full moon! I told you I saw them!” Lindsey shouted, no closer to falling asleep.
“Better watch out, Lindsey, Mr. FOURhead is gonna eat you!” Micha said, taunting her little sister.
“Relax, honey,” Mom said, furrowing her brow in Micha’s direction while laying her hands on Lindsey’s blanket, “Micha is JUST MESSING with you, RIGHT, Micha?”
“I don’t know, maaaayyyybeeeeee,” Micha said giggling, as she backed out of the room waving her hands and making silly ghost noises. At the same moment she was gliding backwards down the hallway, the front doorbell rang and Micha quickly stopped her ghost noises to speak out loud, “Oh, good, that’s Todd. Mom, Todd’s here, we are gonna go back out for a bit.”
“Umm, no you’re NOT, Micha. It’s after midnight. But let me at least finally meet this Todd since he’s here already,” Mom said, sternly.
“Ugh, fine,” Micha muttered as she opened the door, “Hi Tod---“
Her words were cut short by the abrupt realization that it wasn’t Todd who was standing at the door. It was….Brian Jankins. And he was holding a knife, and all 4 of his deformed mouths were licking their lips.
Micha screamed in terror as the light from the full moon leaked into the house and Brian stepped through the doorway with his knife raised…