SHORT STORY: The Vacancy by Stuart Garcia

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Here is the latest in the series of short stories written by members of the 390-strong Portsmouth Writers’ Hub

Cindy and her aunt Emma hit the road. They knew of an old trailer park past the forest and they needed a place to stay.

The axe man was at the door. Cindy was suddenly covered in blood. She couldn’t stop screaming. She felt the blood on her. It was so wet and sticky. Cindy screamed again. The trailer was still in darkness. Her hand felt out for her aunt but she wasn’t there...

‘That’s the last time he hits me,’ said Emma.

‘I know,’ said Cindy. ‘But look at this place. It’s not where I expected to spend halloween.’

The park was more ramshackle than Emma remembered and the ‘VACANCY’ sign was half falling off. They drove into the yard.

‘You see that axe over by the shed? Aunt Em!’ Cindy screamed. ‘I can’t stay here. You know I had nightmares for years after my dad killed my mum with an axe, and it was on halloween.’

‘I don’t trust no-one with an axe either,’ said Emma. ‘But we ain’t got no choice’.

The manager of the trailer park showed the women to a trailer which had seen better days and he went in first. He was a weird one – his hair was sticking out everywhere and his glass eye made his face look lopsided.

‘So what d’you think?’ he asked.

For a moment, Cindy looked shocked.

‘Hey dude,’ said Cindy. ‘Is that blood on your shirt?’

‘I’ve been skinning squirrels,’ said the manager.

Cindy cringed.

They were both looking at the wood veneer peeling off the walls. The whole place was in disarray – an old shirt no longer white was hanging over the sink.

‘Aunt Em, we can’t be staying in a place like this.’

The manager’s dog came into the trailer and was chewing on something.

‘What’s in your dog’s mouth?’ said Cindy, horrified when the dog spat something out, ‘Is that a finger he’s been chewing on?’

‘Course not,’ said the manager.

‘I ain’t staying in this dump,’ interrupted Emma. ‘What else you got?’

The manager was silent at first as he let some cigarette ash fall on to the floor.

‘I’ll tell you what,’ he said. ‘They’ll be another free soon, real nice, you’ll like it. You give me 20 a week for this place and I’ll give you first dibs when the other one becomes vacant.’

‘All right, we’ll try it for a week.’

‘No! Aunt Em,’ said Cindy, horrified, but the deal was struck and the manager was on his way with the week’s rent.

‘That man gives me the creeps,’ said Cindy who was trying to scrub the ingrained dirt off the window. ‘He’s just so weird looking and looks like a beat-up Krusty the Clown.’

‘Don’t go worrying about him,’ said Emma. ‘We’ve got to clean up this place, he’s probably harmless.’

‘Oh damn!’ said Emma as her phone fell into the bucket full of soap suds. She pulled her phone out of the bucket and started wiping it on her outfit.

‘D’you think that other trailer will be any better?’ said a worried Cindy.

Emma was concentrating more on her phone, shaking it and holding it against her ear as if it was a broken watch.

‘It’s busted,’ said Emma.

Suddenly there was a loud knock and the manager was at the doorway holding his axe. Cindy recoiled backwards at the sight of the axe.

‘Just saying hi and seeing how you’re settling in.’

‘Hi to you,’ said Emma. ‘But we’re busy.’

The manager was holding out a hand but it stayed hanging in the air. He just shrugged.

Cindy quickly went over to the kitchen and took some groceries out of the bag.

‘Seriously dude, can you go please, we’re trying to do dinner?’

‘I’m just being neighbourly.’

‘Neighbourly? With an axe in your hand?’ said Cindy.

‘Oh, don’t worry about that,’ said the manager. ‘I’m just going to take down that VACANCY sign outside your door.’

Cindy watched the manager remove the sign and breathed a sigh of relief when he walked off.

‘Aunt Em, we don’t want that man coming in here. Make sure you lock the door.’

Emma was cooking burgers. ‘Damn!’ she said. Emma used that word a lot, as a line of tomato ketchup crossed the floor.

‘Oh Aunt Em, be careful.’

After dinner the women went to bed and watched TV. Cindy fell asleep and didn’t know what time she heard the crash.

The axe man was at the door. Cindy was suddenly covered in blood. She couldn’t stop screaming. She felt the blood on her. It was so wet and sticky. Cindy screamed again.

The trailer was still in darkness. Her hand felt out for her aunt but she wasn’t there.

Cindy kept screaming. Emma finally managed to put on a light.

‘Cindy, honey.’

‘Aunt Em, he’s trying to kill us, it’s Krusty. He’s got an axe,’ Cindy screamed. ‘Call the cops, oh no, the phone don’t work.’

Emma was comforting her. ‘Calm down, honey. Everything’s all right.’

‘But Aunt Em, Krusty crashed through the door. I heard him... and look at this blood.’

‘Cindy, honey, no one’s here. You had a bad dream. I went to get something to eat and it was so dark, I sent the plates crashing down on to the floor. And it’s not blood, its tomato ketchup, I did it again, I’m so sorry.’ She hugged Cindy so tight that both were now covered in ketchup.

There was a very loud knock at the door. Cindy jumped up.

‘Who’s that in the middle of the night?’

The women looked at each other and went to the door.

‘Who is it?’ They asked in unison.

An axe came through the door. An outstretched hand appeared and opened the door from the inside.

Emma and Cindy recoiled, both screaming as the door opened. The manager was in the doorway holding an axe.

‘I heard a commotion. What’s happening?’ asked the manager as he saw the two women covered in ketchup. ‘Is that blood?’

The manager raised the axe. His dog came running over with something in its mouth. It looked like a human hand with a missing finger.

• Stuart Garcia is a lawyer and recent graduate of the acclaimed Birkbeck Creative Writing Masters course at the University of London