Naomi would always associate Rascal’s House of Horrible Wax with her brother Max.
He had tried dragging her into the creepy museum during asummer when they were both kids, but to Naomi, that was a no-go. Anxiety would rise up whenever her family would pass by the museum on the main strip of the vacation village of Lake Minnetonka. She would stare up at the sign calling out to tourists, its font all bloody-drippy, the outside resembling an old gothic castle, a row of skulls in the giant front window. Once inside the lobby, they were blasted with frigid air conditioning and the sounds of an organ and crows cawing. Naomi wonderedwhat the hell kind of person would enjoy such a thing on a beautiful summer day.
Max, that’s who.
“Come on, Naomi,” he said, dragging her by the wrist. She hated that. “You’ll LOVE it!”
She had always been both put off and intrigued by it as a child because it was so horrible. Though intrigue wasn’t enough to get her past the black and purple lobby and through the faux stone archway into the museum itself.
Here she was, an adult now, childhood vanished, facing her fears without her brother beside her.
Max had disappeared six months earlier. No warning. No leads. Nothing was scarier than not knowing what happened to him. Her heart and thoughts would race whenever she thought too hard about it.
It’s a hard thing to wrap your head around when someone vanishes.
Max wanted me to face my fears.
Max would’ve been proud of her if she went in there on her own. It would be good for her.
Or at least she had convinced herself it would be good for her.
No one else was in the museum. It a beautiful Monday morning during tourist season and Naomi assumed a lot of them had something better to do, like swimming or boating.
Holding her breath, Naomi passed through the dark doorway into the black hall, following the small lights on the walls. From the outside facade, Naomi expected there to be scenes of Frankenstein’s castle and full moons and werewolves. Instead, she was greeted with torture. There was a man in a rack, his mouth contorted into a gasp of silent horror, his limbs stretched to the point where they became thin and unnatural like an insect’s. Wax rats nibbled at body parts. Witches were burned. As she moved from one scene to another, she tried to blink away the gruesome images, but the afterimage was burned into her mind.
Time disappeared in the dark. She found herself drifting from one scene to another as if she were a ghost, her feet unseen on the carpeted hallways. Nothing made a sound in the dark.The wax figures stared at her in horror, their blank eyes boring into her, disturbing her.
She was a quiet traveler, padding her way through the black, until she came upon the last scene.
It was a wide wax figure with a pig’s head on top. It wore a butcher’s smock and stood in what looked like to be a basement. Naomi had to squint to see the blood splatters against the red brick wall behind it, camouflaged underneath the light. The figure was holding some kind of nasty glob underneath a tattooed arm. She didn’t want to strain to see what it was.
It felt too weird, too modern, as if it had been tacked on near the end of the museum. Naomi knew this would be the image that would haunt her mind when she was finally out of there.
She stared into the black holes of the pig mask. The two voids gave way to new sensations inside her. The metallic smell of the bloody basement filled her nostrils. It soon turned to the odor of raw meat and Naomi gagged on it, able to taste it on her tongue.
The hallway seemed to swallow Naomi, a black tunnel in the middle of a tourist town. Nothing existed except for the figure, glaring back at her.
The holes bored into her, upsetting her soul. Naomi knew she should keep going, but her feet were glued to the floor.
The two holes turned into eyes.
Breathe escaped her, hard and quick.
She placed her palms upon the glass, staring into those eyes, her breath fogging up the window. A small cry escaped her as she looked directly at what was under the figure’s arm.
What she thought was an undefined glob had become Max’s severed head.
The figure did not move. It did not betray any sign of life within it. It just was.
Then the hallway swallowed her whole.
Shannon Grant had a vivid imagination as a child. Then she grew into an adult and decided to use her imagination to try to scare the bejesus out of the general public. Her first body horror story, “The Butterfly Queen,” is in the anthology Invocations by Great Old Ones Publishing. Her second story, “Grandpa’s Bears,” is the last story in Exploits in the Adirondacks by 518 Publishing. Issue #2 of the Necrocastazine holds her tale, “Serum.” Her story “Wallpaper” is in the book Scary Snippets: Valentine’s Edition. In her spare time, she enjoys movie marathons, cosplay, and traveling to weird and unusual tourist attractions.