When Alfie receives an anonymous tip from a fan; the paranormal investigator can't stay away. After all, this was the infamous Gingerbread House. (In the spirit of Halloween I am writing horror themed AR story. There are themes of violence, pain and fear.)
Chapter Description: When Alfie receives an anonymous tip from a fan; the paranormal investigator can't stay away. After all, this was the infamous Gingerbread House. (This chapter contains themes of Horror, Painful Transformation and Fear.)
Chapter One: Ginger and Spice
Alfie adjusted the straps on his backpack and stared down the dirt trail. He couldn’t believe he actually found it. This was going to be his best show yet. It had been five years since the thirty-year-old started his podcast about strange or paranormal locations but almost two years ago to the day it evolved into him streaming himself visiting the sites. Usually his streams were at night and mostly with permission from the local authorities. He never found anything definitively paranormal but it payed the bills and he loved ghost stories. So when he received a message from an anonymous fan saying they found the infamous “Gingerbread House” he had to investigate.
Alfie was surprised the house was exactly where they said it would be. He had been misled before and the hike there had not been easy. A four-and-a-half hour slog, half of which was uphill through a dense forest that seemed to go on forever was not Alfie’s idea of fun. His hiking partner, however, would have kept going for another four hours. Boo, his goofy one-hundred-and-ten pound baby of a rottweiler would have walked until his paws bled.
The man buzzed with excitement. He couldn’t wait to begin but for dramatic effect he knew he would have to wait for the sun to set to start filming. He decided now was the best time to feed Boo and check his phone.
No service. Not like he expected any all the way out here.
Alfie unlocked it and turned on he front facing camera. If he couldn’t use it to stream, he might as well use it to make himself presentable.
“Not bad,” his sterling eyes stared back at him as he brushed some dirt from his cheek. He had expected to look more dishevelled from the hike but with his dark auburn hair hidden under his favourite black and white ball cap he was ready to go.
“Greetings Ghouls, Goblins and everything in between,” each video started the same, “I promised you something special for Spooktober and here we are,”
Alfie turned his camera towards a building surrounded by overgrowth and dense woods.
“The infamous Gingerbread House,” he paused for dramatic effect.
Plucked from an old German fairy tale, the hoary, weather stained two-story house was run down and ivy had overtaken the eastern wall. The foundation was sunken and a ruined picket fence arbitrarily outlined what was once the property line. On the roof, the decaying ember shingles were ripped up and scattered. Every window pane appeared to have been broken but ragged embroidered curtains blocked anyone from seeing inside. It looked as if nobody had lived in the building for decades. It was perfect.
“I would like to start by saying thanks to the anonymous fan who tipped me off about this place. Because of you I’m in the middle of buttfuck nowhere and can’t livestream as there’s no internet out here...Seriously, I hiked past a ranger’s tower to get here.”
Alfie turned the camera back to himself.
“I hope you’re happy. I’m tired, and dirty, and can’t wait to lay down”. Alfie grinned, “which brings me to my next point. On my channel only, Boo and I will be the first living souls to explore and stay the night in this haunted site; with every spooky moment caught on camera...Dun Dun DUN!”
He shook the camera playfully then pointed it down at Boo.
“Boo’s excited too, aren’t you?” he zoomed in on the Rottweiler's face as he stared at the cottage, “or, maybe not. I don’t think he likes the house very much...”
Alfie turned the camera back to the house and started walking down the footpath with Boo reluctantly following beside him.
“Rumour has it that the so-called “Gingerbread House” is the site of 31 recorded child disappearances dating back at least a hundred years,” he kicked over the rotten gate; propped against the fence, “If forums and occult researchers are to be believed the wood that it was built out of came straight from the Black Forrest. That’s right my morbidly fascinated friends, we’re talking the OG horror story Hansel and Gretel.”
Alfie scanned the overgrown path, mostly so he wouldn’t trip but it was also good cutaway footage. He stopped when he reached the front of the steps leading to the porch and angled his camera upwards.
“No fuckin’ way,”
Just like the stories online had said; there were a dozen strings of cookies, treats and toys hung from the porch. Alfie knew it was probably put there as a prank from his “anonymous fan” but it added to the Creep Factor and that’s what got him views.
“This is crazy,” the porch steps groaned as he rushed to get a closer look at painstakingly decorated baked goods, “These look fresh...someone was busy,”
Alfie reached out and pulled one of the cookies off it’s string.
“So, from what I understand,” Alfie softly squeezed the cookie in his hand. It was a gingerbread cookie but it was soft; almost like cake, “just like the fairy tale, the old woman who lived here would lure unsuspecting children from their campsites with promises of treats and toys; all with the intention of eating them... the children, i mean; not the baked goods.”
Alfie turned the cookie over. It was round and perfectly iced but didn’t crumble as he played with it. A yellow moon and stars on a black backdrop were painted on it in sweet, sugary icing. He brought it close to his face a smelled it. It made his stomach grumble.
“Oh wow, this is probably the best thing I’ve ever smelled,” Alfie licked his lips.
The thought of eating one crossed his mind. His followers always go crazy for his reckless antics but he knew it was stupid to even put one in his mouth. What idiot would eat strange baked goods he found hanging in the woods? But he could fake it. Angle the camera and go full cookie monster. He smiled to himself.
“Another rumour is that the old woman was not only a cannibal but a real witch and if you ate her cookies you would be trapped under her spell” He brought the cookie to his mouth while making sure to adjust the camera, “I think I’ll put that theory to the test.”
Alfie breathed in deeply to feign anxiety. As he did, the scent of the baked goods filled his nose and he found himself biting into the cookie. His eyes went wide.
“Oh god...” Immediately his senses were filled with sweet ginger and spice. All his thoughts slipped away as the buttery icing coated his tongue and the gingerbread made his cheeks tingle with warmth. He couldn’t help but smile. It was like eating happiness. The camera slipped out of his hand as he took another bite.
“They’re so good” he reached to grab another cookie but found the string was now bare. Glazed with confusion, he looked around the porch. All the strings were stripped. Only crumbs and toys were left. Had he eaten all the cookies? Alfie brought his hands to his stomach. It grumbled again. If he had then he was still hungry?
He wiped his mouth. It was sticky with icing and crumbs. Now, so were his hands. Strangely, he didn’t question his sudden gluttony. Instead, it made him feel a bit childish for being so messy. He stared at sugary residue on his fingers. Thoughts of licking up the mess crossed his mind but as the wind shifted, the house groaned loudly and he was reminded of what he was supposed to be doing.
“Where’s my...” he spotted his camera on the ground, still running and went and picked it up. As a habit, he brushed any dirt off of it and cleaned the lens and inspected it for any damage. He was surprised to find the screen time read 3:33am. Did he set the clock wrong? It was just after 7:00pm when he had started filming. He looked to the sky. The sun had set but the moon and stars were hidden by the overcast.
The bark quickly turned into a whine. The dog still hadn’t come up onto the porch. He just stood by the steps anxiously watching Alfie, his eyes darting between him and the front door.
“Boo what’s wrong?” Alfie pointed the camera at him.
The dog took one step forward and stopped, letting out a nervous bark. The man felt a pit form in his stomach. Boo had never refused to go into any of the other locations. He usually bounded blindly into the buildings. Now that he was thinking more clearly, it was odd Boo didn’t go straight for the cookies.
“I think you may be right Boo. Let’s come back another day with more people,”
The house groaned as it shifted again. A loud CLACK followed by the slow squeal of the front door struggling against it’s own weight made Alfie turn. The once ornate red door, now badly cracked, lay half open.
“Alright, we’re leaving Boo” He took another step before the sweet ginger and spice smell caught his attention again. It sent shivers up his spine. It was like tiny spiders were crawling up his back and into his brain to fill it with cobwebs. Alfie breathed deeply and not unlike a certain cartoon pig floating towards a pie cooling on a window sill he was drawn towards the scent. Into the house.
Boo did not follow.
The door squealed once more as he pushed it open. The inside of the house wasn’t much nicer than the exterior. A thick layer of dusts covered anything that wasn't wet. Gnarled, slimy mushrooms had grown from the moldy wallpaper; forcing it to peel and flake onto every surface it could catch. The floorboards bent under Alfie’s weight and every step was accompanied with long, drawn out creaks. It made it feel as if the house were breathing. Old furniture, relics of the past were in their places but none in good repair. Some weathered by time; others by vandals. To his left, across the wall, entryway mirror and french doors someone had spray painted in large, hurried RED letters:
Beware the WITCH!
She’ll make ya’ Twitch
With CANDY CAKES and PIE!
Your time you’ll bide
Cause soon you’ll find you’ve DIED!
Alfie started to think maybe none of this was worth the trouble. He could film the show another time. Maybe during the day or with more people. This place just felt wrong. He wanted to turn back. He could still hear Boo crying outside. He could still smell the cookies.
His stomach growled.
It almost sounded angry. At him. Hunger pangs dug their claws deep as the scent called him to go deeper into the house. He pointed his camera away from the morbid poem and down the front hall. Something was there that he hadn’t noticed when he first entered. At the end of the hall a light flickered from an open doorway.
“Hello?” he kicked himself for being a horror movie cliche but started to walk closer.
The light continued to flicker. Dancing off the walls of what Alfie could now see was a kitchen. The hairs raised on the back of his neck. With every creak, the closer he got, the higher they stood. He carefully peaked his camera around the corner from the doorway half hoping to catch something. Half hoping he didn’t. Goosebumps nibbled at his forearms.
He stepped into the old, oddly clean but empty kitchen. Unlike the entryway, anywhere the wallpaper had peeled in this room was stripped and scrubbed clean. The furniture was far less dishevelled. The cabinets looked sturdy and the counters were strewn with baking supplies. At the kitchen’s centre a small, white farmhouse island stood askew. Yet, what drew his attention the most was the source of the light. Taking up most of the far wall was a large ancient cast-iron oven. Alfie thought it looked large enough to fit a whole pig; or maybe a child.
“This has to be it,” his voice quivered with excitement and trepidation, “the actual house,”
Alfie moved to open the oven when he spotted something in the corner of his eye.
On the counter.
In plain view.
His insides groaned and he forgot about what he had been doing. Alfie set down his camera on the counter, picked up a cookie and stuffed the whole thing in his mouth. It was instant joy. Nothing could possibly taste this good and yet; the cookies did. Like a greedy little boy he struggled to chew as he found himself trying to stuff another in his mouth before swallowing the first. Still, he grabbed another in anticipation. He planned on devouring the whole plate.
“Young Man...” Alfie choked as he spun around to find an old woman standing at the entry to the kitchen. She croaked out every word, “do you always break into people’s homes and steal their sweeties?”
“N-no Ma’am,” pieces of chewed cookie fell from his mouth.
The ancient woman was hunched over, craning her neck to inspect the intruder in her home. She looked like she had just dragged herself from a hidden crawlspace. Thick, grungy dirt blemished her long, well worn black dress. No. Funeral gown. Something to be buried in. Her pale, liver-spotted; translucent skin hung loosely on her face. Almost draped over her too sharp cheekbones. Her long; thin grey hair clung to her cheeks like greasy cobwebs and wrinkle after wrinkle folded over each other only to erupt into a jagged, unforgiving nose. Yet, what Alfie couldn’t stop looking into were her eyes. Her half blind, all-knowing, pale blue eyes.
“Oh you don’t?” Her pursed, peeling lips became a nasty sneer, “Then why, tell me is this little piggy boy eating all my treats?”
Alfie swallowed hard. He was at a loss for words. His hunger pangs turned back into a pit in his stomach. The old woman appeared frail but her voice had him vibrating.
“Well?” she spat, “Speak Up!”
“I didn’t...mean to?” A half truth. Something had lured him to the cookies but he didn’t stop himself. Couldn’t stop himself? The sweet scent from earlier had all but disappeared and was being replaced with the smell of his own fear.
The old woman cackled and all Alfie could think was “WITCH”.
“Didn’t mean to?” An awful humour filled her voice, “I think you did,”
“I’m sorry,” Alfie’s voice cracked, “I won’t do it again,”
She grinned a lothsome smile. Her teeth brown and black and jagged.
“Just let me leave and I won’t bother you again...,” Alfie reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, “I’ll replace anything I ate...I’ll pay,”
“Oh,” her voice oozed with menace, “You will.”
A cold chill shot through his body. The ancient woman stared at him; daring him to move. She was in front of the only exit but if Alfie moved fast enough he was sure he could get past her.
“Please, I don’t want to hurt you,”
The smile widened. Her eyes filled with a mad energy. She was enjoying this. It was all a game to her.
“Alright, fine,” he dashed; throwing the small white island. Not at the old woman but to cause a distraction. He reached her, turned to his side and slipped past the crone. Just as he ran through the doorway his backpack hooked on something solid and sent his feet flying out from under him. He slammed onto his back, the wind knocked from his body and looked up to find the cadaverous hand of the old woman gripping the handle on top of his backpack.
“You didn’t want to hurt who?” she lifted him into the air and like a child would a doll sent him crashing down the hallway; splintering the front door on his way out.
Alfie cried out in shock more than pain. He found himself crumpled on the steps of the porch. He struggled to catch his breath as he dragged himself off the steps and rolled onto his back. Boo was behind him growling and barking.
“Hurt who?” her mocking voice echoed from within the house. She was getting closer.
There were no footsteps. No creaking floorboards. No moving body parts. Like a decrepit marionette she hung in the air and the world moved around her. It moved until she was right in front of him.
“You couldn’t possibly be talking about me.”
Boo leapt over Alfie at the old woman.
“BAD DOG!” she shouted and with a flick of her wrist the rottweiler slammed into the ground letting out a pathetic yelp.
“BOO!” tried to reach the dog but found his body pulled back into place.
“Eyes on me piggy boy.” Her voice dripped with venom.
Alfie’s couldn’t help but lock eyes with the Witch.
“Better...do you know how hard it is to lure children into my home now?” She stood a little straighter, “Everyone’s so jumpy these days,”
She raised her hands to the sky but never broke eye contact.
“So, do you know what I do?” The wind picked up into a dull roar around them as the trees swayed angrily, “I have to lure sad, little piggy boys like you to my home...and make due.”
The air around the crone’s hands began to shimmer violently. When she next opened her mouth, a thousand tortured voices spoke through her. A cacophony of anguish. Her words ground together like gravel underfoot. Strange and hateful. Upside down and backwards. Alfie tried to squirm. Tried to crawl away. Anything to get distance between him and the old woman but the longer she spoke the heavier the air weighed down on him. He could only watch as her hand lowered, cutting through the violent shards of the shimmer, to rest over his body.
“Please let me go...” Fear crawled down his throat like an angry rat. It clawed it’s way into his stomach to gnaw away at him from the inside. He was going to be sick.
Her smile grew wide. Too wide. She stood a little straighter. “Little boy...little piggy boy...your fear only sustains me,”
Then he heard it. The snapping of branches.
Except; it wasn’t branches.
Pain exploded through his left arm as his bones cracked and splintered. Another snap and his right forearm became L-shaped. His legs caved in at his knees. The joints in his hands popped and crackled. His ribs ground against each other and his feet curled into themselves. He tried to scream but nothing came out.
“No voice, not yet.” The Witch watched in sadistic pleasure as Alfie seized on the ground. His bones, moving on their own, rearranging in jagged little steps.
Tears streamed down the mans face as his skin began to boil and blister. Every cell in his body became like angry little fire-ants. Biting, burning, moving and repeating. His vision blurred and faded but the worst came when his muscles began to spasm. They wriggled like eels under his skin. The sensation was worse than any pain he was feeling. He wanted to scream. To vomit. To tear his own skin off and claw out his eyes but still his body didn’t respond. All he could do was stare into the cruel eyes of the woman towering over him.
Then it stopped.
He knew what came next.
Alfie rolled onto his stomach, pushed himself up onto his hands and knees and began to vomit. Grey putrid bile spotted with bits of gingerbread projected from him in furious streams as his chest heaved and stomach turned. In between spasms he could swear he heard a child crying.
“That’s right little piggy boy,” the old woman’s voice sounded stronger, more matronly, “get it all out. It’s only good once anyway,”
Alfie thought the grey excretion would never stop coming out but eventually it turned into dry-heaving and finally became a terrible nausea. His body ached and felt weak but he was free to move again. After a few stumbles he managed get back onto his feet. Angry, terrified and covered in what once was gingerbread, he balled his fists, turned to the Witch and threw a punch. It landed just above her knee.
“What is..who’s ha...” He stared at the tiny shaking fist in front of him; unable to process it.
A wave of vertigo overtook him and he fell onto his butt. He looked up at the ugly old hag that now towered over him. Despair was added to the soup of fear and nausea in his stomach. As he came to a new realization. The stories were all true.
“It’s never as good as the real thing, you know...the meat gets tainted...” The hag bent over, grabbed the front of Alfie’s shirt and lifted him onto the tips of his toes so his face was next to hers, “real children are just much more...sweet,”
Real children? Alfie looked down. The shirt the old woman was gripping was not the one he had put on this morning. In fact, nothing he was wearing looked the same. The shirt was now a pastel yellow and his jeans had snaked their way up his body to become denim overalls. The straps of his backpack had become faded into a light blue and his socks had shrunk down so they only just peaked over the edge of his blue, yellow and white Velcro shoes.
Alfie let out a high pitched whine.
“I like my meals to look the part,” the witch hissed, “and it’s been a long time since my last meal. I think I’ll have a little fun with y-
A blur of Black and tan. Snarling, shrieking and the witch released the boy. It was her turn to scream. Alfie stumbled backwards but didn’t fall. He watched in awe as Boo tore at the hag’s arm. Old, rotten blood seeped from her wound as the dog slowly pulled her away from him. The look in the rottweiler’s eyes was an anger he had never seen before but it also told him something else.