Okay, so here’s my second Halloween post; I couldn’t resist due to the auspiciousness of the author, Alison Mosshart.
The Black Marks, by Alison Mosshart
To read the story in normal font, scroll to the bottom of the post.
Hunter was seven when he began to notice the first of the black oily marks scrawled on his bedroom wall next to the doorframe. They were straight horizontal lines about six inches long. Hunter noticed the marks first, when his father James scolded him for doing it. “Hunter, you do not draw on the walls of this house. That’s bad! You have been a bad little boy! You must ever do this again”, he yelled. And Hunter cried.James tried desperately to remove the marks from his son’s wall. The more he scrubbed, the darker they appeared. James tried to paint over them first with white, but they showed through. Next he tried orange. And then he tried blue. Finally he painted his son’s room red, and by then, gave up; the marks remained.The first mark was about two and a half feet from the floor. The second was nearly three. The third mark however, was the most interesting mark. It was perfectly the height of Hunter.Months passed and Hunter and James forgot about the marks. They grew used to them. Hunter had promised never again to write on the walls. But Hunter made this promise only to make his father happy. He knew he had not made them, and every morning when he woke up, Hunter looked at the marks curiously. He would crawl out of bed and run his hand along them on his way to the kitchen before school.On the morning of his eighth birthday he woke up excited. James had promised Hunter a new bicycle for his birthday and Hunter woke up early hoping it would be waiting for him downstairs. Hunter searched the house tirelessly, looking through the garage, the back yard, but stopped when he heard his father screaming for him. The sound of his father’s voice alarmed him. James was angry. Hunter walked to the base of the stairs with a confused and worried look on his face.“What’s that in your hair Hunter? The top of your head is black”, he yelled! “There is another mark on your wall two inches up from the last one! Have you forgotten what I told you?” James yanked Hunter by the arm and dragged him back to his bedroom. Hunter stood bemused. The new mark, once again, was scrawled perfectly his exact height.“But dad, I didn’t do it,” Hunter protested. “Nor did I do the others.” Hunter felt the top of his head and sure enough, his hand came up black and wet. Sudden pangs of sadness filled him. His father took his hand and dragged him to the sink. James began to pulse with depression and grief too. Suddenly they both began to weep. They stared at one another in the mirror, crying, utterly confused by their involuntary tears and their sudden sadness.As Hunter grew older, every year a new mark would appear on Hunter’s birthday. And every year they would argue, weep and stare at the wall. Until one year, Hunter decided on his thirteenth birthday to leave his room by jumping out the window instead of walking though the door. Determined avoid an argument with his temperamental father, or ruin his birthday with tears, he jumped down into the yard, hopped on his bike and road off down the street. “There will be no mark in my bedroom this year,” he said to himself, through gritted teeth, and peddled as fast as his legs would let him.He rode out of the neighborhood and into town and out the other side where the houses became fewer and traffic lessened. He came upon a graveyard and road along the path, passing stone after stone and stopping only at one. His heart raced. His hands clenched. He dropped his bike in a heap and fell beside a headstone. The headstone he stopped for, was dripping with black oily paint. It was Anabel’s grave, Hunter’s mother who had died giving birth to him. Scrawled in rough black writing over the headstone, letters in the dark oil read “HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUNTER. I’VE ENJOYED WATCHING YOU GROW SO TALL.”