At The End Of Lout’s Street

The kids at the end of Lout’s Street called it “Her Road.” It was a quiet, sad street containing a single decrepit house. Ivy and brambles had crawled across the garden and spilled out over the sidewalk like tiny fingers hanging over concrete. Swaths of dust haunted about the air and earth. And it was, or at least it seemed to the neighboring residents, that the place had managed a permanent expression of gloom. This was made even more apparent on sunny, cloudless days on which somehow the street remained, as it was, eclipsed.

Now, the house that the road harbored was rather tall and rather old; wispy wood made the entirety of it, and for some mysterious reason each window had been left wide open. This hardly mattered. No sign of light or movement had ever been seen, not since….

The owner of the home was Elias, who was, much like his home, solitary and weakened by time. His nose was large and hooked, which sadly redirected away from his gentle, luminous eyes, and he had arthritic fingers that never stopped twitching.

That is, of course, until Mrs. Francis found him dead on the sidewalk. His bloodless face, the mouth hanging ajar, the way his eyes looked. It was too much for poor old Mrs. Francis. She had screamed for all she was worth, but it wasn’t until her eyes trailed to the front door that she had found out she was worth much more and fled screeching like a bat out of hell.


“I saw her, I dids!” spluttered Mrs. Francis a couple of days later to Max, her grandson, who was shuffling some quite important papers in regards to the now vacant home. They stood now at the end of Lout’s Street.

“Saw who?” responded Max, sporadically paying attention. He was ruminating over how lovely the neighborhood will be now that this wretched house will be refurbished and sold. It will terrify prospecting buyers no more, he thought gleefully to himself.

“Her! Her!” squealed Mrs. Francis. She swallowed a lump and dropped her voice, “Hailey.” She covered her mouth with both of her spotty, crinkled hands.

The name set off some sort of latent alarm in the man’s head. His head revolved to Mrs. Francis with an eyebrow raised, “Who?”

“You know who!”

“Hailey –  As in Hailey Horxon? Grandma, she’s been dead for over ten years.”

“Don’t you dare speak like that,” snapped Mrs. Francis, pushing one finger into Max’s chest. “The dead don’t forget!”

Max felt uncomfortable and did not know how to handle the situation. He called on his elder sister to escort Mrs. Francis back to the house as he finished envisioning the new neighborhood. He caught sight of his sister coming their way. This seemed to unleash a sort of frenzy in Francis.

“You don’t understand! You don’t understand! She’s back – She’s never left! Her! Her!”

Max’s discomfort was working its way into an obscure feeling of anxiety. He was relieved when his cell vibrated on his leg: a proper excuse to ignore her.

“Hello?” answered Max, putting up one finger at Mrs. Francis.

“Got some weird stuff for you,” replied Mr. Tallow, who was spearheading the community renewal process.

“What’s up?”

“Our request to demolish the house has been denied.”

“What? By whom?”

“The owner would like to keep it standing.”

He paused, perplexed. “The owner was Elias, who is now on his way up to Sixth Street Cemetery.”

“It was his. But – ready for this – It’s Hailey’s now. Spooky right?”

It was a couple of seconds before he said anything. “Can you explain? How can a dead girl own a house?”

His sister reached them and was now trying to negotiate with her. He plugged his finger into his ear so as to better hear Mr. Tallow.

He heard the static chuckle on the end of the receiver. “That’s what I thought,” Mr. Tallow continued. “Turns out there are two Hailey Horxsons. So what I did was I called up the other Hailey, who apparently lives in the middle of nowhere in Scandinavia. Called twice, I did. Third time, I heard the receiver open. Said hello a couple hundred times and it was just silence. I thought it was some busted answering machine, but I swear I could hear someone on the other end. Anyway, I hung up, and then I got an e-mail a second later from an undisclosed user. All it said was – hold on – let me pull it up. Here: No home will be sold at the end of Lout’s Street lest it burn, signed H. Unsociable family it seems.”

He snapped back to his physical surroundings to watch Mrs. Francis being no less than dragged away by his sister.

“The dead don’t forget!” she gasped, helpless, locking eyes with him. “The dead don’t forget, Max!”


At night Max laid in bed with his fingers intertwined over his belly. His wife and children had fallen fast asleep and the maddening silence had seized their household. He had dreaded this moment, had even gone running to tire himself out. But it hadn’t mattered. The moment his body slipped under the sheets muscles aching, his mind refused to let go. It began to wander and to Hailey it went.

She had been a sick girl. An unfortunate little thing, who was doomed from the very start of her affliction. Elias was a private person and as such, kept whatever ailed her a deep secret. If it were shame that he felt, no one ever knew. This practice proved well and all until the screaming.

Several nights a week the neighborhood would be rattled awake by her shrieks. Excruciating sounds they were; the type that made the kids and parents alike jam their heads under their pillows, flinching and clenching their teeth. Many times the flashing blue and red of the police would arrive at their home only to depart minutes later, delivering no explanation to the worrisome and irritated neighbors.

She died a month later. The screaming stopped, and the maddening silence began.

A week before her death Elias had come to Max, to all of his neighbors, with a proposition. To each door he knocked and recounted his story. He explained that Hailey was dying, and he told them that her health bills had bled his accounts dry, and for a chance for her survival he would require a couple thousand dollars. This would be a loan, he pleaded, crying even. In the end, no one gave enough.

She was a hopeless case, Max thought. He had, after all, donated a reasonable hundred dollars, and thus naturally he was absolved from any guilt. He was. He had to be. Yet, sleep did not come.

The culprit thought, though he did not know it, rested just below his threshold of consciousness. Many of us know this feeling whether we admit it or not, and if we took the time to travel down this road perhaps we would all be better for it. Had he approached this, he would have acknowledged that he had plenty more to give than what he had. He would have acknowledged the screaming had affected his sleep and made his workdays unbearable. He would have, eventually, arrived to the suffocated thought that he wanted her to die. And more than anything, he wanted silence.

Instead, he thought about how ‘tragic’ the whole thing was, how he simply could not imagine what that poor family experienced. And he resolved that he thought of that poor unfortunate girl often. The image of Elias’ empty eyes watching two burly men carry a casket out of his house was the last thing he saw before he, at last, turned over and fell asleep.


High-pitched screams presently filled Max’s ears. His mind struggled to shake the sleep that pulled at him. Once awake; he peered into his panting wife’s eyes and an instinct linked them. Without another breath, they ripped the sheets off, leapt from their bed, and staggered out from their room. They dashed upstairs and nearly split the door in two. His heart sank as he saw his worst fear confirmed: his daughter’s bed empty and her now undeniable screams piercing the night.

The next moment they were both out into the streets, their bare soles scratching against the pavement they ran under. They did know need to know where, already unconsciously knew. They gravitated to their child’s pain, to “Her Road”. And to his horror, they found nearly all the adults in the neighborhood scrambling around, calling out a flurry of names, for each heard their child’s particular voice coming out from that old, sad home.

Parents in delusional packs descended onto the home; all the doors were locked, windows refused to crack no matter the size and strength of the rocks that were flung on them. Some fell back and broke down to tears, others would not halt their attempts and resorted to vainly kicking and clawing the foundation of the house.

A fear, a dread, an anxiety unlike anything Max had ever felt consumed him. He stuck his hand into his wife’s robe pocket and retrieved a box of matches, reserved for her nightly cigarettes. He careered toward the home, lit the match, and held it up against the front door. The wood licked the heat and soon later the tongues of flame transformed into a column that exploded upwards. It was then that Max received the first blow to his skull.

Bewildered parents did not have the time to question his motives. They only shoved him back as they attempted to suffocate the flame. But it was too late. The vulnerable home was alive with fire and in a matter of seconds half of it was crumbling; the screaming of the children continued. When his wife caught up to him, Max lay balled, smashing his fists into his ears, repeating an indiscernible phrase. Whether it was a second or hour later he did not know. When he opened his eyes the house was leveled and replaced by one enormous plume of smoke and rubble.

He rose to his feet shaking, waiting. The other parents were in various positions and making sounds, and he waited still. The first cry was that of his own flesh and blood, he recognized it instantly. His daughter crawled out from the left flank of the home, drenched in soot. Then another child, then another, and another, and seconds later each child emerged. He sprinted and scooped his child into his arms. He hugged, hugged, and hugged, pressing her head to his own. He focused on her screaming, the way it rattled his eardrums, and never again wished for silence.


author bio:

photo by Jacob Spence

J.R. Night is a recent graduate from The University of Maryland. You can find more of his work in The Dime Show Review, The Ogilvie, and The Drabble. You can also find him frantically sprinting on a treadmill when things go awry.