Blood Rites is a short story by Anthony Hains that fits into the world of his Kindle Press novel. It is sure to be terrifying, so read only if you dare!
This short story introduces Simon from The Disembodied—a boy who plays a central role in ghost stories up and down the east coast, and whose reputation dates back to 1800s.
About Blood Rite
Danny shows signs of being physically abused during his appointment with the pediatrician. Someone will make sure that it’ll never happen again.
Parents rarely carried actively bleeding children into the pediatrician’s office, but today there were two cases.
The first was little Meredith Kutchenski. She was worried about her impending physical in preparation for her big transition into first grade. The poor thing didn’t notice the uneven sidewalk as she approached her doctor’s office. Her sneakered foot caught the lip of the panel and down she went, scraping both knees. That wasn’t the worst of it, though. She had been clinging to her mother’s hand and was off balance when she fell. Her face smacked the wrought-iron railing leading to the steps, squarely on her right eyebrow.
Mary Beth was the first to notice the crisis from her reception desk as Mrs. Kutchenski pushed open the door to the pediatric suite. The mom calmly escorted her shrieking child into the waiting area. Meredith was the youngest of six kids, and Mrs. K had been down this road of childhood injuries multiple times in the past so she wasn’t too frazzled. The girl, though, didn’t have that luxury of experience and her frightened wail probably echoed for miles.
“I’m sorry. We fell on the way in for our appointment with Doctor Duncan. Do you want us to reschedule?”
“Oh dear, no,” Mary Beth said while making a mark in the appointment book.
Doctor Duncan’s chief nurse, Minna, was gathering patient folders from one of the many file cabinets behind Mary Beth.
“Nonsense,” Minna agreed. “That’s what we’re here for. Let’s take a look at that.” Minna tossed three file folders onto Mary Beth’s desk and pulled a gauze bandage from a box off a back shelf and then disappeared from the cramped reception area. Her crisp white uniform snapped lightly with her movement. Seconds later she reappeared on the other side of Mary Beth’s sliding glass window which separated the reception area from the waiting room.
Minna leaned toward Meredith to apply the bandage. The girl followed Minna’s unspokenprompt and raised her hand to secure the gauze into place. Minna then escorted the bleeding girl and her mother into a vacant exam room.
Minna saw right away it would take two or three stiches right above the eyebrow. She gently pressed a clean gauze pad to the child’s forehead to stem the blood flow and then began to clean up the mess. By the time Doctor Duncan arrived on the scene moments later, little Meredith had calmed down.
Murmurs in the waiting room greeted Minna’s return. She nodded to the mothers who were clasping the hands of terrified children that everything was fine.
“What happened to that little girl?” a shaky voice asked.
Minna found the source, Scotty O’Brien, a boy nearly the age of Meredith. He perched on the arm of a chair while leaning into his mother.
“Oh, she’s okay. She’ll be better in no time. Don’t you worry.”
“I’m not worried.” The boy shrunk further into his mother’s side.
Minna laughed. “Well, good. You know why? It’s time for you to come on back.”
On cue, mom got up and took her son’s hand to lead him to a vacant exam room. Scotty pursed his lips in worry, despite what he said moments earlier.
The second bleeding child involved none of the melodrama. Danny just turned eleven the week before and he had always been a levelheaded kid. Minna wouldn’t have noticed anything out of sorts if he hadn’t tossed a bloody tissue into a wastebasket once they were inside exam room number four. Then, she spied faint specs of blood coating his left nostril as she inserted a thermometer into his mouth. So, a bloody nose. She also detected the barest hint of bruising under his left eye. That was troubling.
“My. What happened to you?”
Danny shrugged. “I fell.”
Working as a pediatric nurse meant you generally saw kids and families just once a year in the summer for their checkups—if things were going well. There were more frequent visits for some kids when nasty viruses were being passed around or when there was the occasional need for stitches. Minna started working for Doctor Duncan right after he returned home from Europe while serving in World War II. After seventeen years, she’d gotten to know just about all the long-termers—those families with multiple kids and those who started with the practice during those early days. Other families came and went.
Danny Richters, however, she saw at least weekly. Not because of the need for an office visit, but because he lived in the same building that housed the pediatric practice. Doctor Duncan and his partners had been leasing office space in the ground floor of a brick building that housed the practice and a real estate office. Four stories of apartments were stacked above them.
Danny probably should’ve been seen more frequently in the office. Not that he was a sickly child. Far from it. He was always tearing around on his bike, baseball mitt on the handle bars in the summer, and trailing or leading other neighborhood boys. They ran and jumped in the courtyard behind the building. She often saw them tossing around a football in the fall. The winter brought elaborate forts made out of fresh snow.
The real reason Danny should’ve been seen more often was his father.
Walter Richters was a hostile man. His eyes, deeply set into his face and containing pupils indistinguishable from the dark brown of his irises, always seemed to be cast in an unsettling shadow. His mouth never assumed the shape of a smile. Any individual caught in his glare always came away feeling inferior. Or weak. Or intimidated. And that was just from a look. Being on the receiving end of his fists was something else entirely.
Minna knew men like him. She escaped from Poland with her parents to avoid the brutal advance of the Nazis. She remembered how those monsters delighted in inflicting harm and havoc. Their very being boasted cruel authority.
Walter Richters was the same way.
He was never around during the day. The man must’ve had a job of some sort. But if Minna worked late, she would run into him after hours. If the weather was agreeable, he’d check on the children outside. If there was something not to his liking, he’d fasten a hand around a child’s thin upper arm and yank the child into the building.
Screams would ensue. Minna imagined the sound of slaps and punches, although she was never certain if they actually occurred.
But the results, well that was something else. A cheek with a handprint. Bruises on arms or legs.
Nobody ever said anything.
“What? Oh, nothing like that Minna. Danny’s such an active boy. He tumbled down the steps, is all.”
Danny’s two younger sisters were now showing similar markings. Not as severe, of course, but troubling nonetheless.
Minna now had her chance. The mother was with the two girls in an adjacent room. And Danny considered himself old enough to insist on going by himself into the exam room.
Good for him.
Danny sat silently in the examination room. Minna weighed him and checked his height. Then she started asking him questions.
“Danny, is everything all right?” She had an accent but he had no trouble understanding her. Normally she was spirited and kinda sarcastic—this was a new word he had learned in fifth grade. That made her funny, because most grownups kept things too serious.
Today, though, she was quiet, almost secretive.
“Yeah.” Time for caution.
“Hmm.” She stared at him. Danny averted his eyes as the moment grew longer. He hoped she would start talking about something else.
“You’ve recently had a bloody nose. And you have a bruise around your eye.”
Before he could stop himself, Danny’s hand wiped his nose. He felt like kicking himself. He looked down into his lap and watched as he rubbed his hands on his shorts.
“Did you have a fight?” Minna continued to stare at his face. Even though he was watching his hands, he knew she was looking right at him.
“I don’t know.” He shrugged.
“Well, that’s what it looks like. I could ask if it was one of your friends. But, friends don’t do that.”
Danny flexed his hands. He noticed the tiny hairs on his forearms were bleached to the shiniest blond. That’s what happened to him in the summer. He got so tan from being outside and his hair turned platinum, even on his head.
“So, it wasn’t a friend who did this to you.”
Danny looked up. He couldn’t help it. Minna leaned towards him and she turned blurry. He knew his eyes were welling up.
“I know it was you father. Fathers shouldn’t do this. He’s a bastard.”
Danny didn’t know what to say at first. He heard his old man cuss all the time. But never a lady. Right then he knew he had to tell her the truth.
“My father hurts me. He hits me when he’s mad. He does it to my sisters. And mom.” Saying it made him feel strong.
Minna nodded as if this is what she expected. “We can make it so that he stops.” The nurse leaned even closer than she’d been. Her gaze met his. Danny wiped his eyes and he could see her expression clearly.
“Would you like that, Danny?”
Danny thought of the beatings. How his father liked to kick him. Sometimes he was tied to the bed and burned with cigarettes. Half the time Danny didn’t do anything to deserve it.
“Yeah.” He whispered, cleared his throat, and repeated loudly, “Yeah.”
Minna nodded again and then rubbed his hair. “Doctor Duncan will be in to see you soon.” She rose from her chair to step out of the room. “Strip down to you undershorts and then jump up on the table.”
When Minna left, Danny undressed and sat down on the examination table. White paper covered the length of it and crumpled under his butt as he shifted. He looked at the clock and saw that five minutes had passed before the door opened. He expected to see the balding man with pink skin bounce into the room. Doctor Duncan usually said things like “Hey champ!” at the top of his lungs as if being at the doctor’s was the greatest thing a kid could be doing.
Instead, boy a couple of years older than him stood in the doorway.
“Who’re you?” Danny was too surprised to feel anything. All he could do was gape as the kid closed the door behind him and sat in a chair. The kid had reddish blond hair that was all over the place. It looked like it hadn’t been combed in weeks.
“Simon. My name’s Simon.” The red-haired kid said.
“What do you want?” Danny was pissed this kid would barge right in.
“There’s only a few minutes before the doc comes in.”
“Your father’s been beating the crap out of you.”
Danny noticed it was a statement and not a question. How did Simon know?
Simon. That was his name, right?
“How’d you know?”
“Listen, I know. I’ve been there.”
“What do you mean?”
“Doesn’t matter. I just know.”
Danny stared at the red-haired kid. There was something scary about him. But something strong about him, too. Invincible? Yeah, that was it. Invincible.
“I can do something so it doesn’t happen anymore.”
Danny tried to swallow, but all his spit was gone.
Danny’s shoulders shook but found his head nodding up and down.
Simon stood up and stepped forward. His head leaned closer and he started whispering into Danny’s ear.
After a few seconds, Danny smiled.
At the front desk, Mary Beth returned the telephone handset to the base. She made a note in the appointment book for later in the month. In the background, her transistor radio was set to WNEW as she listened to William B. Williams and his show Make-Believe Ballroom. The news was over, thankfully, and the information about President Kennedy and New York traffic barely registered. Time for music.
A red-haired boy in his early teens was walking across the waiting room area and towards the door. Mary Beth prided herself in running a tight ship as receptionist, so she frowned at the boy’s receding back because she hadn’t noticed him come in. She scooted from her reception desk and walked swiftly into the waiting room. She noticed the clinic door closing and ran to catch it. She was determined to follow him into the hallway to figure out who he was. After all, she can’t have kids coming and going. Just think of the problems that could cause.
“Excuse me, young man,” she yelled as she stepped into the hallway. She stopped short, feeling puzzled.
The hallway was empty.
She looked back into the waiting room in case she somehow missed the boy. No, he wasn’t there. She trotted to the end of the hall and stepped outside. Oven-like air blasted her. Cars sped in both directions just beyond the sidewalk.
No red-haired boy.
She returned to the office, feeling uncomfortable.
Three months later
Mary Beth smiled as Danny appeared before the sliding glass window over her reception desk.
“My goodness, Danny. That was fast.”
The boy held up his arm to show her a still raw, but definitely healing, three-inch scar on his forearm. “Doctor Duncan took the stitches out.” He beamed with pride.
“So, does this mean no more climbing trees, kiddo?”
Danny’s mouth gaped open for a second. “I never said that.”
Minna walked into the waiting room carrying a folder for the next patient. Before she called the child’s name, she leaned over Danny’s shoulder. “He better be careful in those trees or I’m going to cut them all down.”
Danny scoffed at the nurse. “No, you’re not.”
“How do you know?”
“Because, it’ll take too long.”
Mary Beth watched the exchange. Danny was clearly enjoying himself. Gone was the haunted look of the past. Now, Danny’s expression reflected a boy with a playful spirit.
A similar improvement was true of his mother. The weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. When she dropped Danny off for his appointment, the woman glowed—practically glowed—with peace.
The death of a monster would do that to a family.
Nearly three months ago, Walter Richters was found tied to a chain link fence down past the railroad station. He died painfully. And slowly. At least that’s what Doctor Duncan reported, and he heard this from … well, doctors have their own grapevine.
Danny said his goodbyes and walked toward the clinic front door. Mary Beth watched him reach for the door handle and then stop.
“Simon.” The name came faintly from Danny’s lips.
Mary Beth turned in the direction the boy was looking.
A red-haired boy sat in the waiting room next to a little girl who was a new patient. The girl looked dazed but was nodding in the direction of the red-haired boy. Mary Beth hadn’t seen the boy enter, but she could tell he’d been whispering into the little girl’s ear.
Now, the boy named Simon looked up in Danny’s direction. He grinned. Danny made a thumb’s up motion with his hand before quietly leaving the waiting room.
Mary Beth and Minna watched the encounter. The silence after Danny left seemed to go on for an eternity. Minna broke it by calling the little girl’s name. She and her mother rose from their chairs and walked towards Minna. Their expressions were strained.
“Let’s have you walk down the hall and go into the first room on your right.”
The woman mumbled something in reply and followed Minna’s instructions.
The only person remaining in the waiting room was the red-haired boy. After a few heartbeats, the boy stood and walked towards the door.
“I’ll be seeing you around,” he said.
To Mary Beth’s surprise, Minna answered as if she was familiar with the boy. “Okay, Simon. We’ll be here.”
Mary Beth shuddered. There was something about the boy that chilled her. She distinctly
remembered the last time she saw him. Three months ago when Danny had a well-child checkup.
That’s why Danny recognized him.
“There’s something about that boy,” Mary Beth said.
“Yes, there is,” Minna replied.
Mary Beth held her tongue for a few moments. “The way he appears in here. Like a ghost. I can’t help thinking he’s a demon or something.”
Minna began walking toward the exam rooms. “Not a demon,” she said over her shoulder. “He’s an angel.”