thehorrorwriter2 The Sasser Flea Market libraryofshadows

thehorrorwriter2 After [the YouTube incident](https://www.reddit.com/r/rhonnie14/comments/f1erfp/premiere_the_scariest_youtube_countdown_textprose/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3), we had to make another move. And could you blame us? The good news was with Corona running wild, Jess was able to keep doing her classes on-line while keeping her mysterious ESL tutoring gig.

Me, on the other hand, well, by October, Albany, Georgia wasn’t favoring quarantine too much. Then again, most of the country wasn’t. So there I was back on the part-time bartender scene, my latest stop at a shithole club called the Sandtrap. Not to my surprise, every Friday and Saturday night was lit without a mask or anything remotely resembling social distancing in sight. Lucky me…

But while the transition from Tally to Albany meant less cool shit and entertainment, it also meant cheaper rent. And our new apartment wasn’t too bad.

The Greystone was lovely actually. There was a pool we’d never use, but hey, there was also space aplenty for a young couple like us… and an amazing walking trail for our chihuahua Ripley.

Yeah, we’d only been there a couple of weeks but The Greystone checked off all the boxes for Cory and Jess’s latest home. Not to mention there were no neighbors next to apartment sixteen… which was what mattered most to me. Especially in 2020.

From day one, the building’s manager Sara seemed eager to have us. Hell, she even waived the pet fee. After giving us her business card, Sara took us on a detailed tour. Jess was immediately hooked by her showmanship. Certainly, The Greystone sold itself as did the price… But in all honesty, Sara’s hotness swayed me.

As the three of us checked out the apartment, I couldn’t help but check out Sara’s alluring body in that tight business suit. Judging by the excessive make-up and super-stylized blonde hair, she must’ve been approaching fifty but I couldn’t know for sure considering the boobs and ass she was all too eager to flaunt. Of course, I couldn’t also help but notice my girlfriend’s occasional glare. Jess’s jealousy quite notorious during the span of our almost-half-decade relationship.

Just a few feet away from our lakeside view, Sara stopped next to the kitchen counter. The cleavage so obvious… and on point. “So what do y’all think?” she said in her Southern drawl.

“Oh, I love it!” Jess responded.

I stared on at our lovely hostess. The lady more like a socialite heiress considering the immaculate appearance… A postmodern Scarlett O’Hara. “I love the tits too,” I blurted out.

Instantly, I felt Jess’s hand reach behind me. I knew I’d fucked up, and Jess’s quick squeeze on my ass further highlighted the mistake.

“I mean I love *it* here too,” I corrected. Sara gave me a sly smile. “This apartment, I mean,” I added.

“Indeed,” Sara said. She fixated those green eyes on Jess. “But I can’t blame you, girl.” She lowered those emeralds toward Jess’s hand. Stealing an admiring look at my ass. “Not at all…”

I smirked at Jess. Okay, so I was flattered…

Jess just gave an awkward laugh…

“But I’m glad y’all enjoyed the tour,” Sara said.

Jess’s grip got even tighter. “Well, what else is around here?” she asked Sara. “I know there’s Lake Chehaw and the zoo and all.”

Excited, Sara leaned back against the counter. Yeah, I was still staring at those tits… “Oh yes!” Sara said. “There’s a bunch of nice little places and restaurants! The aquarium’s just up the road.”

“Anywhere to shop?” Jess asked.

Grinning, Sara nodded. “There’s actually a famous little flea market down in Sasser.”

“Sasser?”

Sara pointed out the window. Pointed beyond glorious Lake Chehaw… “Yep, it’s only about five miles down the road, past the city limits.” Sara stood up off the counter. “It’s my hometown actually.”

“Oh okay,” Jess and I said in unison.

“It’s a little community but the Sasser Flea Market is *legendary*. Trust me.”

“Sounds like we should check it out.” Without hesitation, Jess confronted me. The intimidating RBF putting me on the spot.

“Yeah, Hell yeah,” I replied.

So of course, we moved in. Apartment sixteen now all ours. Most of The Greystone was for that matter. Regardless of the cheap rent, I didn’t see anyone out there. No families, no kids hogging the pool. No drunks being reckless after midnight… No strangers for Ripley to bark at. Call it selective memory but about the only other resident I saw during the day was Sara on her afternoon jogs in those tight yoga pants…

Together, Jess, Ripley, and I warmed up to The Greystone. To this town in general. Plus with quarantine, I now had more time than ever to work on my YouTube channel. My new laptop definitely helped… only the writer’s block didn’t.

But even in the middle of a pandemic, Jess and I did decide to go out from time to time. Albeit with masks and an itinerary of outdoor locations. And this October weekend was no different. The perfect time to visit the infamous Sasser Flea Market.

On that fateful Saturday, Jess and I finally put up our Halloween decorations. The inflatable smiling jack o’lantern, the black cat who sang “(I Always Feel Like) Somebody’s Watching Me”, our assortment of hanging skeletons. And the Bela Lugosi *Dracula* poster I hung right next to Jess’s framed Justin Bieber picture… one from circa 2012. Don’t ask.

Of course, Ripley wasn’t too happy.. But Jess and I gave her a kiss before we left. Ripley had the whole playpen to go apeshit in, after all. Not to mention pounds of food to eat.

Both of us dressed in our casual Saturday best, Jess and I walked to her SUV. Awaiting us inside was all the beer and wine we bought earlier. That morning, we’d even bragged to Sara about finally going to check out the flea market. Needless to say, she was delighted.

“Y’all go enjoy it!” she’d told us

Slouched back in the passenger’s seat, I retrieved my iPhone. “Let me check on Ripley.”

“Already?” Jess teased. She brushed her straight blonde bangs back. My girl looking nice in that hoodie and jeans.

“I don’t want her getting too lonely.” I pulled up the Blink app. Straight to the live feed of Ripley playing with her chewy toy pumpkin. Too Goddamn cute…

“She’ll be fine, Cory,” Jess said as she started the car.

“I think you might be right,” I chuckled.

My epic Halloween playlist was the only soundtrack we needed. Alice Cooper’s “Caught In A Dream” getting this road trip started…

Jess and I did our best to keep a low profile and avoid as many people as possible… something we did pretty damn well even before Covid. There was the Ray Charles statue downtown. The brewery right next to it. The occasional stopover at one of Jess’s ‘stores’. But hey, we had booze and each other. A perfect Saturday off in my opinion. Who knows, maybe inspiration for another scary story would appear at some point?

Throughout the trip, I checked in on Ripley on the Blink app. Not that I needed to. Ripley was just fine chewing up toy pumpkins and fake bones… Hell, she wasn’t even crying or howling. The playpen her personal paradise.

“I told you!” Jess said.

“Yeah, yeah,” I replied. I raised the traveler’s coffee cup to my lips. One I’d filled to the brim with Miller Light… not that I needed much more booze at this point. Neither of us did actually.

About an hour later, an hour after Jess ambushed the Albany Mall, we pulled up to the Sasser Flea Market. All it took was reaching Sasser, Georgia, passing one gas station, then making that fateful right turn on to a bumpy dirt road.

As Lon Chaney Jr. sang the *Spider Baby* theme song, I didn’t see many cars greeting us. Then again, the place supposedly closed at seven and here we were rolling in at six-fifteen.

Then again, the flea market wasn’t anything too elaborate. Just two warehouses. Two long shacks essentially.

To our relief, there was no fanfare here. No annoying clerks. Clutching our drinks, Jess and I made the rounds in warehouse number one.

Like a junk museum, we were greeted by many strange items. The type of furniture and memorabilia most would consider trash but Jess and I considered gold. Hip to say the least.

The open front doorway let that fall breeze sweep through us. Jess’s hoodie and my San Diego Chargers jacket little help against its chilling attack…

But Jess didn’t care. Not in her wheelhouse here in the flea market. She had shit to choose from: clothes, posters, decorations. Fucking anything else.

The two of us journeyed through these various Sasser sections. The book station. The sports memorabilia. And of course, the many fucking clothes.

The bland walls and claustrophobia were all offset by the abundance of oddities. Shit this place was just *cool*. How could we not be entertained?

Soon, Jess guided us toward the flea market’s trinkets. A trash treasure chest.

She got lost in the sea of banners, figurines, and small statues… And as Jess piled up our newest decorations in the shopping cart, I stole another glance around the store. Around this mysterious market.

So far, I’d only seen one clerk at the front counter. A short blonde-haired woman in her forties… possibly pretty if not for the many wrinkles, stained tee shirt, crooked glasses, and yellow teeth she didn’t bother to disguise. Riley read the name tag. And I never saw a smile or sign of joy from her…

“Oh, I love it!” I heard Jess say.

I turned to see her holding up a grinning bronze cat. Just her type.

“We’re so getting this!” Jess said.

“Oh, I know,” I replied. Then my gaze drifted down those many shelves… until I stopped when I saw it. A large item on the ground floor. “What the Hell…”

“What is it?” Jess asked.

I leaned down and grabbed the poster. The Justin Bieber one. The 2012 Biebs in all his smiling, sexy glory. The same exact poster my girlfriend studying clinical psychology had plastered in our very apartment. “Yo, check this out!”

Upon seeing it, Jess cackled. “Oh my God, really!?”

“Hey, maybe you want another one?” I joked.

Jess shoved the poster away. “You’re crazy, Cory!”

I tossed Justin back on the shelf where he came from. Glanced off toward the front of the store-

And then I saw her! The weird clerk Riley staring back at me. Her gaze glowing behind those glasses. Her smile shook me to the core. The one finally making an appearance… Just how long had her ass been watching us?

“Come on!” Jess said. She snagged my arm and pulled me away.

“Alright…” I replied.

Shoving the cart, Jess led us further toward the back of the first warehouse. This first foray in to the Sasser Flea Market’s deepest darkest depths.

Now we neared the restrooms. Jess had us over at the discount section. The one dollar section to be exact. She searched through the artifacts, me at the mercy of her meticulous method. Of Jess’s particular taste.

Still being battered by the wind, I folded my arms in the Chargers hoodie. “You like anything, babe?” I looked off behind us. Off toward the open doorway in the distance. What I got was a brief glimpse of the great outdoors: tall weeds and trees. And the entrance to warehouse number two… a smaller building, for sure. But who knew what the Hell was inside?

“Duh!” Jess replied.

I watched her go through one box in a matter of seconds. Nothing of interest inside, not until the bottom when Jess pulled out a couple of used and abused toy pumpkins. The kind a certain chihuahua would like. “I’d get these for Ripley but someone already got to them,” Jess remarked at the toys’ bitemark scars.

“Her ass’d still chew them up,” I replied. I lowered my mask and took a quick swig of booze.

Laughing, Jess tossed those toy pumpkins down. “Smartass.” Followed my lead with a swig of wine.

Flashing a smile at Jess, I walked over toward the bathrooms, dreading their appearance. “Yo, I gotta go piss!”

“Alright, just meet me back out here,” Jess said.

“For sure! I love you.” I entered what I was sure was gonna be close to a literal shithole and I wasn’t disappointed.

The cramped corridors showed a sink and stall. A rusty lock for the front door my only protection from the flea market for privacy.

Even with one narrow window open, a nauseating stench hit me. Slicing straight through my Goddamn mask. The smell too putrid to be shit much less urine… And this shit lingered. The scent permeating through the bathroom in sickening suffocating fashion. I figured something had died somewhere in the bottom of that murky toilet. Either that or the flea market had attempted to flush down a human corpse many years ago.

I took a deep breath. Hit some Miller Light for courage. Even checked my phone for more courage… No service like I figured. All I could do was show a cynical smirk.

Even if Jess was gonna be holding me hostage till long after closing time, I still had to hurry and get back to her. I put my phone up and stepped up to the plate. Pissed away right there on the spot. Lost in the relief, I tilted my head back…

And then a sudden sound crashed through the smelly silence: barking off in the distance! Nervous, I zipped myself back up. “What the Hell…”

Tracing those canine cries, I stumbled up to the sink. To the window. The closer I got, the louder and more distinct the barking became. I looked on across the dirt driveway to warehouse number two… where those October howls were clearly coming from. Those guttural yaps coming from somewhere deep behind that rusted metal tombstone.

“Weird,” I muttered as I cut on the sink and let the brown water ‘cleanse’ me. All the while, the barking continued. The pup sounding more and more anguished… more and more desperate.

Now it wasn’t just the fall wind unnerving me but the howls drifting in deep beneath this dog dad’s sympathy. Finally, I stepped back into part one of the Sasser Flea Market symphony.

To my relief, I saw Jess over at a Halloween section. One complete with a toy black cat that looked to be a twin to our own beloved decoration.

Scattered plastic jack o’lanterns watched me as I stopped next to Jess. Each October cliche covered in dust everywhere except those wide smiles. Like a cold jury, their crooked eyes pierced into my soul.

Jess faced me. “Hey.”

Trying to downplay the fear factor building inside, I grabbed on to the cart handle. Those many unique trinkets and clothes right at my fingertips. “You ready to go?”

“What?” Jess chuckled. “We still got thirty minutes.”

“I don’t know, this place is…” I looked over at those grinning pumpkins. “It’s kinda creeping me out.”

“Creeping *you* out?” Jess chuckled.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m a pussy, I know,” I quipped.

Reassuring me, Jess ran a hand along my arm. Along my attempt at a bicep. “Let me just check the other side real quick.”

I gotta say Sasser’s was *interesting*… Plus, the weather kept this flea market from being a furnace. So I decided to relent and play Good Boyfriend Cory.

Pushing that heavyass cart, I followed Jess through a side exit. Out on to that same dirt driveway I saw from the bathroom. The only item out here a standing poster from the 1930s. A carnival reject featuring two dancing ants, its cursive font in candy colors screaming: *Y’all, come back soon!*

The isolation did alarm me. A field of tall weeds created a blockade separating the flea market from the highway. Behind the two buildings, I saw nothing offering civilization on the horizon. Just a green inferno I wanted no part of. And that rotten odor remained present… All Jess and I could hear that brutal barking…

I noticed a few cars beside ours but how come the only other person we’d seen so far was Riley? The zombified clerk who hadn’t talked much less offered any Southern hospitality to Jess and I. And some of those cars were clear clunkers. Rusted in place for a permanent parking job. Hell, maybe they were part of the exhibit for all I knew.

“Come on, Cory,” Jess said.

I looked back toward the first shack. Just in time to see Riley standing on the edge of the entryway, most of her body obscured by a hulking scuba diver suit. The lady silent enough to be on display herself if not for those lively bright eyes watching us. Her cryptic smile back again.

Upon entering Sasser Flea Market part two, we saw no other clerks. Certainly no other customers. Even the dog had stopped its howls…

What we got instead was just the same sea of random shit. The many rows of books, clothes, and scattered snapshots of a discarded past. And God knows how far this past went.

I saw a table full of vinyl records by unrecognizable musicians. The covers and productions even looked homemade. Their deep scratches caused by excessive play. A mix of garage rock and church choirs of unknown origins.

Elsewhere, posters aged beyond belief were piling up. Each of them covered in cracked frames. No bands or performers I recognized… None from the last half-century at least.

The desolation then *really* set in. We were all alone for sure. Under the dim lighting, I got a shotgun view of this warehouse. There was only a bulky wooden door a few feet away from us… otherwise, there were no windows. No bathrooms. No escape. Somehow, the Sasser Flea Market was scarier in the silence.

I had to squeeze my mask. Somehow that sickening smell was still getting through. It’s gotta be more than the antiques, I thought. Hell, I can’t even blame ‘Riley’ now.

“There’s so much stuff,” Jess commented as she pushed the cart further within this antique abyss.

Staying by her side, I nodded nervously. “Yeah…” I needed another swig-

But Jess beat me to it. However, not even fear could slow her shopping spree. Especially when she laid eyes on that furniture section. A cluster right there by the lone door in this warehouse.

Along the way, I stumbled into something! A cold *CLANG* rang out! “Shit!” I cried. Struggling to keep up, I reached out and grabbed Jess’s arm. “Hey, wait up!”

“I am!” Jess laughed.

I looked toward the site of my near-accident. Saw the sight of a large rectangular cage still rattling… A pretty big one at that. And judging by the rust and dangling padlock, the cage had been used previously… and deep in my unease, I couldn’t help but wonder for what?

Of course, that didn’t stop Jess. After all, she was tougher than me.

“C’mon, Cory!” she said.

I let her pull me up to the first table. In the claustrophobia, I still felt the frigid fall wind… or maybe it was the dread I felt lurking inside.

As Jess examined a green bird box we’d never need, I stole a glance back at that door. One fit more for a castle than Sasser, Georgia. The heavy brass knob hung on for dear life, clamoring for one last grip. Naturally, I couldn’t help but wonder what other ‘treasures’ or terrors this flea market had in store…

“This is pretty,” Jess said.

Turning, I got a front row view of the wooden bird box… but also something else-

That silver beauty beckoned me. “Yeah,” I muttered to Jess. Distracted, I staggered past her, closer to the edge of the table.

“Do you think any birds will fly on our patio?” Jess asked.

The horror wouldn’t let me respond. I stopped and touched the laptop’s smooth surface. Its flawless, brand new appearance so alluring in a dump antique store like this.

This was the same brand, the same model as what I had back at apartment sixteen. Probably the same damn everything. The shiny flashy replacement for my old 2015 craptop.

A scared shiver shot through my veins. Why would this be here? Who brought it here?

“Hey, Cory,” I heard Jess say, her voice unable to hide the obvious concern.

Welcome to the fucking club, sweetheart.

Tracing my hand along the laptop’s front cover, I saw a small card tucked into the keypad. Trapped in there, its edge sticking straight out, just enough to draw me in… Shit! I thought. What the Hell is this…

Jess put the bird box down and stopped next to me. But I didn’t wait much longer.

I snatched out the business card. The big bold letters and dark lake logo all instantly familiar: *The Greystone*.

The manager’s name stared back at us: *Sara Dillon*. But what left Jess and I in a state of shock was who was listed as her co-manager: *Riley Dillon*.

Jess grabbed my arm in a death grip. Hanging on for dear life… “Isn’t that her name?”

Turning, I glanced back toward where we came from. Toward the dirt driveway. The ant sign. The scuba diver guy… Only Riley was gone.

“The lady who runs this place!” Jess went on. “Her and Sara are sisters!”

“It’s crazy,” I said as I tossed the card back on to the laptop. On to what I was sure was my laptop. “This shit’s weird, Jess!”

“No shit!”

Through my drunken panic, anguished concern hit me: Ripley. I retrieved my phone. A Blink notification stared back at me, one from over an hour ago…

I felt Jess pull my arm closer. “Cory, let’s go!”

But not even she could stop me. I clicked the app. Then the clip.

There was our living room, our Halloween Utopia. Only I saw two pairs of legs walking around. I heard two sets of female voices inside apartment sixteen. I knew those longer, muscular legs all too well. Knew Sara’s Southern accent…

Huge boxes scattered in stations around our coffee table. Each of them getting filled up fast.

Now I saw several of our decorations were gone… until I realized they’d been stuffed in those cardboard boxes. All of them along with our other most beloved items. Justin Bieber’s smile amongst them.

Then there was the soundtrack: Ripley’s angry, defensive barks. They were brutal to the ears. And not much different than the ones we’d heard earlier…

Horror hit both Jess and I! Her grip grew tighter, strangling my blood flow.

Like an actor exiting the stage, the other woman walked off camera. But I heard her voice hollering commands. “Get that one, Sara!” “Let’s get that Goddamn dog!”

Through the living room windows, vivid sunlight illuminated this home invasion. Illuminated Sara snatching our singing black cat. My Blink app now a home for snuff rather than those cute Ripley videos I obsessed over.

“Shit!” I cried.

Jess faced me. “Cory, we need to go to the police-”

“Hold on!” I couldn’t turn away. Not when the video now only gave me silence and suspense. “Ripley!” I screamed into the phone.

Popping out of nowhere, a craggy face leaned over the camera, overtaking the screen! Those beaming eyes looked right at Jess and I! The woman’s expression evil, Riley Dillon’s smile absolutely terrifying.

The video ended on this chilling crescendo! Before I could get a full view of her sister Sara, before I could even see them leave the apartment… Or see Ripley.

Suffering from a stomach twisting in knots, I looked over at Jess. “They took her!”

I could see Jess struggling to subdue her own unease. A pitiful attempt. “You don’t know for sure-”

The barking erupted! Ripley’s cries for help.

Immediately, Jess and I both turned toward the door. Where our beloved pet’s pleas were coming from…

“Alright, we get her and get the fuck out of here!” Jess said.

“Amen!” I replied. Grabbing my girlfriend’s hand, I led us both up to that imposing door. Closer to our Ripley. “Ripley!” I cried.

To my relief, the door was unlocked! But I let go of the knob. Just for a moment.

“What the Hell are you doing!” Jess said. She lunged for the doorknob.

I held her back. “Hold on!” Trembling with each and every howl, I raised the Miller Lite to my mask. One lift, one sip. All I needed for a temporary fix to these frenzied nerves. Not that it helped much… but hey, every little edge helped this alcoholic at least.

“Well, Hell, let me do the same!” I heard Jess say.

Upon getting our drunk courage, we threw the door open and burst inside the backroom! The smell was even worse. A sickening mist at this point.

A single dangling lightbulb swung but there were no windows to help its beam. The room was spacious and wide… and all we heard was Ripley. Our Chihuahua trapped in a small cage right by the entrance. A couple of bigger cages positioned right next to her.

Jess and I rushed toward Ripley. But then came to one scared stop.

Bodies upon bodies piled up in the very back. Not so much preserved even in this October cold. The smell of decay was too strong, the corpses ranging from mutilated to a paleness only interrupted by the occasional blood stain. All of the bodies adults… except for the slaughtered children in slaughtered families.

A mother and father’s dead gaze stayed on us. Their throats slit from ear to ear. Their children dissected and now on display.

But it was the framed photo I saw lying at the family’s feet that shook me to the core. A picture taken well over a decade ago. One of a smiling Sara and Riley. Further proof for what Jess and I feared: The Greystone was these sisters’ gore factory. No wonder they had so many cool antiques… and no wonder the rent was so fucking cheap.

Ripley’s guttural growls broke us from our scared spell. Immediately, Jess and I came to her rescue!

In one frantic slide, I unlocked the cage. Ripley jumped into my arms and licked my face!

Horrified, Jess pointed toward the cage. “Cory, look!”

I now saw blood stains covering Ripley’s cage. Being the worried dog dad I was, I inspected Ripley’s body, much to her annoyance. But she was good. No cuts, no scratches. “It’s okay, baby,” I reassured her.

“No, look at the others!” Jess said.

Following girlfriend orders, I confronted those other cages.

They had blood, alright. Not to mention stray pulpy bits collected from organs and intestines of old. All of it human. But what struck me most were the two cages placed by Ripley’s… their doors were wide open. Their sizes exact enough to reserve one spot for Jess and one for me. Another Greystone family these sadistic sisters had hoped for. Had fucking *planned* for.

Struggling against the nauseating scent, I squeezed the mask again. “Jesus fucking Christ…”

Ripley barked in agreement.

“Fuck this shit!” Jess yelled. She pushed Ripley and I both back toward the warehouse. “Fuck the clothes, let’s go! Run!”

Don’t ask me how but Riley wasn’t waiting for us with a chainsaw. I don’t know where she went nor did I wanna know. Hell, technically, Jess and I never even checked out of the flea market. That shopping cart full of Jess’s crazy shit might still be there to this day…

But we ran outside! Ripley and that beer held tight in my protective grasp. Somehow, Jess’s SUV cranked and we roared out into the night! Somehow, the three of us had survived.

We never went back to The Greystone. Never saw Sara Dillon again. But one thing was for certain: I finally had my horror story… and just in time for Halloween 2020.

[14](https://www.reddit.com/r/rhonnie14FanPage)After [the YouTube incident](https://www.reddit.com/r/rhonnie14/comments/f1erfp/premiere_the_scariest_youtube_countdown_textprose/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3), we had to make another move. And could you blame us? The good news was with Corona running wild, Jess was able to keep doing her classes on-line while keeping her mysterious ESL tutoring gig.

Me, on the other hand, well, by October, Albany, Georgia wasn’t favoring quarantine too much. Then again, most of the country wasn’t. So there I was back on the part-time bartender scene, my latest stop at a shithole club called the Sandtrap. Not to my surprise, every Friday and Saturday night was lit without a mask or anything remotely resembling social distancing in sight. Lucky me…

But while the transition from Tally to Albany meant less cool shit and entertainment, it also meant cheaper rent. And our new apartment wasn’t too bad.

The Greystone was lovely actually. There was a pool we’d never use, but hey, there was also space aplenty for a young couple like us… and an amazing walking trail for our chihuahua Ripley.

Yeah, we’d only been there a couple of weeks but The Greystone checked off all the boxes for Cory and Jess’s latest home. Not to mention there were no neighbors next to apartment sixteen… which was what mattered most to me. Especially in 2020.

From day one, the building’s manager Sara seemed eager to have us. Hell, she even waived the pet fee. After giving us her business card, Sara took us on a detailed tour. Jess was immediately hooked by her showmanship. Certainly, The Greystone sold itself as did the price… But in all honesty, Sara’s hotness swayed me.

As the three of us checked out the apartment, I couldn’t help but check out Sara’s alluring body in that tight business suit. Judging by the excessive make-up and super-stylized blonde hair, she must’ve been approaching fifty but I couldn’t know for sure considering the boobs and ass she was all too eager to flaunt. Of course, I couldn’t also help but notice my girlfriend’s occasional glare. Jess’s jealousy quite notorious during the span of our almost-half-decade relationship.

Just a few feet away from our lakeside view, Sara stopped next to the kitchen counter. The cleavage so obvious… and on point. “So what do y’all think?” she said in her Southern drawl.

“Oh, I love it!” Jess responded.

I stared on at our lovely hostess. The lady more like a socialite heiress considering the immaculate appearance… A postmodern Scarlett O’Hara. “I love the tits too,” I blurted out.

Instantly, I felt Jess’s hand reach behind me. I knew I’d fucked up, and Jess’s quick squeeze on my ass further highlighted the mistake.

“I mean I love *it* here too,” I corrected. Sara gave me a sly smile. “This apartment, I mean,” I added.

“Indeed,” Sara said. She fixated those green eyes on Jess. “But I can’t blame you, girl.” She lowered those emeralds toward Jess’s hand. Stealing an admiring look at my ass. “Not at all…”

I smirked at Jess. Okay, so I was flattered…

Jess just gave an awkward laugh…

“But I’m glad y’all enjoyed the tour,” Sara said.

Jess’s grip got even tighter. “Well, what else is around here?” she asked Sara. “I know there’s Lake Chehaw and the zoo and all.”

Excited, Sara leaned back against the counter. Yeah, I was still staring at those tits… “Oh yes!” Sara said. “There’s a bunch of nice little places and restaurants! The aquarium’s just up the road.”

“Anywhere to shop?” Jess asked.

Grinning, Sara nodded. “There’s actually a famous little flea market down in Sasser.”

“Sasser?”

Sara pointed out the window. Pointed beyond glorious Lake Chehaw… “Yep, it’s only about five miles down the road, past the city limits.” Sara stood up off the counter. “It’s my hometown actually.”

“Oh okay,” Jess and I said in unison.

“It’s a little community but the Sasser Flea Market is *legendary*. Trust me.”

“Sounds like we should check it out.” Without hesitation, Jess confronted me. The intimidating RBF putting me on the spot.

“Yeah, Hell yeah,” I replied.

So of course, we moved in. Apartment sixteen now all ours. Most of The Greystone was for that matter. Regardless of the cheap rent, I didn’t see anyone out there. No families, no kids hogging the pool. No drunks being reckless after midnight… No strangers for Ripley to bark at. Call it selective memory but about the only other resident I saw during the day was Sara on her afternoon jogs in those tight yoga pants…

Together, Jess, Ripley, and I warmed up to The Greystone. To this town in general. Plus with quarantine, I now had more time than ever to work on my YouTube channel. My new laptop definitely helped… only the writer’s block didn’t.

But even in the middle of a pandemic, Jess and I did decide to go out from time to time. Albeit with masks and an itinerary of outdoor locations. And this October weekend was no different. The perfect time to visit the infamous Sasser Flea Market.

On that fateful Saturday, Jess and I finally put up our Halloween decorations. The inflatable smiling jack o’lantern, the black cat who sang “(I Always Feel Like) Somebody’s Watching Me”, our assortment of hanging skeletons. And the Bela Lugosi *Dracula* poster I hung right next to Jess’s framed Justin Bieber picture… one from circa 2012. Don’t ask.

Of course, Ripley wasn’t too happy.. But Jess and I gave her a kiss before we left. Ripley had the whole playpen to go apeshit in, after all. Not to mention pounds of food to eat.

Both of us dressed in our casual Saturday best, Jess and I walked to her SUV. Awaiting us inside was all the beer and wine we bought earlier. That morning, we’d even bragged to Sara about finally going to check out the flea market. Needless to say, she was delighted.

“Y’all go enjoy it!” she’d told us

Slouched back in the passenger’s seat, I retrieved my iPhone. “Let me check on Ripley.”

“Already?” Jess teased. She brushed her straight blonde bangs back. My girl looking nice in that hoodie and jeans.

“I don’t want her getting too lonely.” I pulled up the Blink app. Straight to the live feed of Ripley playing with her chewy toy pumpkin. Too Goddamn cute…

“She’ll be fine, Cory,” Jess said as she started the car.

“I think you might be right,” I chuckled.

My epic Halloween playlist was the only soundtrack we needed. Alice Cooper’s “Caught In A Dream” getting this road trip started…

Jess and I did our best to keep a low profile and avoid as many people as possible… something we did pretty damn well even before Covid. There was the Ray Charles statue downtown. The brewery right next to it. The occasional stopover at one of Jess’s ‘stores’. But hey, we had booze and each other. A perfect Saturday off in my opinion. Who knows, maybe inspiration for another scary story would appear at some point?

Throughout the trip, I checked in on Ripley on the Blink app. Not that I needed to. Ripley was just fine chewing up toy pumpkins and fake bones… Hell, she wasn’t even crying or howling. The playpen her personal paradise.

“I told you!” Jess said.

“Yeah, yeah,” I replied. I raised the traveler’s coffee cup to my lips. One I’d filled to the brim with Miller Light… not that I needed much more booze at this point. Neither of us did actually.

About an hour later, an hour after Jess ambushed the Albany Mall, we pulled up to the Sasser Flea Market. All it took was reaching Sasser, Georgia, passing one gas station, then making that fateful right turn on to a bumpy dirt road.

As Lon Chaney Jr. sang the *Spider Baby* theme song, I didn’t see many cars greeting us. Then again, the place supposedly closed at seven and here we were rolling in at six-fifteen.

Then again, the flea market wasn’t anything too elaborate. Just two warehouses. Two long shacks essentially.

To our relief, there was no fanfare here. No annoying clerks. Clutching our drinks, Jess and I made the rounds in warehouse number one.

Like a junk museum, we were greeted by many strange items. The type of furniture and memorabilia most would consider trash but Jess and I considered gold. Hip to say the least.

The open front doorway let that fall breeze sweep through us. Jess’s hoodie and my San Diego Chargers jacket little help against its chilling attack…

But Jess didn’t care. Not in her wheelhouse here in the flea market. She had shit to choose from: clothes, posters, decorations. Fucking anything else.

The two of us journeyed through these various Sasser sections. The book station. The sports memorabilia. And of course, the many fucking clothes.

The bland walls and claustrophobia were all offset by the abundance of oddities. Shit this place was just *cool*. How could we not be entertained?

Soon, Jess guided us toward the flea market’s trinkets. A trash treasure chest.

She got lost in the sea of banners, figurines, and small statues… And as Jess piled up our newest decorations in the shopping cart, I stole another glance around the store. Around this mysterious market.

So far, I’d only seen one clerk at the front counter. A short blonde-haired woman in her forties… possibly pretty if not for the many wrinkles, stained tee shirt, crooked glasses, and yellow teeth she didn’t bother to disguise. Riley read the name tag. And I never saw a smile or sign of joy from her…

“Oh, I love it!” I heard Jess say.

I turned to see her holding up a grinning bronze cat. Just her type.

“We’re so getting this!” Jess said.

“Oh, I know,” I replied. Then my gaze drifted down those many shelves… until I stopped when I saw it. A large item on the ground floor. “What the Hell…”

“What is it?” Jess asked.

I leaned down and grabbed the poster. The Justin Bieber one. The 2012 Biebs in all his smiling, sexy glory. The same exact poster my girlfriend studying clinical psychology had plastered in our very apartment. “Yo, check this out!”

Upon seeing it, Jess cackled. “Oh my God, really!?”

“Hey, maybe you want another one?” I joked.

Jess shoved the poster away. “You’re crazy, Cory!”

I tossed Justin back on the shelf where he came from. Glanced off toward the front of the store-

And then I saw her! The weird clerk Riley staring back at me. Her gaze glowing behind those glasses. Her smile shook me to the core. The one finally making an appearance… Just how long had her ass been watching us?

“Come on!” Jess said. She snagged my arm and pulled me away.

“Alright…” I replied.

Shoving the cart, Jess led us further toward the back of the first warehouse. This first foray in to the Sasser Flea Market’s deepest darkest depths.

Now we neared the restrooms. Jess had us over at the discount section. The one dollar section to be exact. She searched through the artifacts, me at the mercy of her meticulous method. Of Jess’s particular taste.

Still being battered by the wind, I folded my arms in the Chargers hoodie. “You like anything, babe?” I looked off behind us. Off toward the open doorway in the distance. What I got was a brief glimpse of the great outdoors: tall weeds and trees. And the entrance to warehouse number two… a smaller building, for sure. But who knew what the Hell was inside?

“Duh!” Jess replied.

I watched her go through one box in a matter of seconds. Nothing of interest inside, not until the bottom when Jess pulled out a couple of used and abused toy pumpkins. The kind a certain chihuahua would like. “I’d get these for Ripley but someone already got to them,” Jess remarked at the toys’ bitemark scars.

“Her ass’d still chew them up,” I replied. I lowered my mask and took a quick swig of booze.

Laughing, Jess tossed those toy pumpkins down. “Smartass.” Followed my lead with a swig of wine.

Flashing a smile at Jess, I walked over toward the bathrooms, dreading their appearance. “Yo, I gotta go piss!”

“Alright, just meet me back out here,” Jess said.

“For sure! I love you.” I entered what I was sure was gonna be close to a literal shithole and I wasn’t disappointed.

The cramped corridors showed a sink and stall. A rusty lock for the front door my only protection from the flea market for privacy.

Even with one narrow window open, a nauseating stench hit me. Slicing straight through my Goddamn mask. The smell too putrid to be shit much less urine… And this shit lingered. The scent permeating through the bathroom in sickening suffocating fashion. I figured something had died somewhere in the bottom of that murky toilet. Either that or the flea market had attempted to flush down a human corpse many years ago.

I took a deep breath. Hit some Miller Light for courage. Even checked my phone for more courage… No service like I figured. All I could do was show a cynical smirk.

Even if Jess was gonna be holding me hostage till long after closing time, I still had to hurry and get back to her. I put my phone up and stepped up to the plate. Pissed away right there on the spot. Lost in the relief, I tilted my head back…

And then a sudden sound crashed through the smelly silence: barking off in the distance! Nervous, I zipped myself back up. “What the Hell…”

Tracing those canine cries, I stumbled up to the sink. To the window. The closer I got, the louder and more distinct the barking became. I looked on across the dirt driveway to warehouse number two… where those October howls were clearly coming from. Those guttural yaps coming from somewhere deep behind that rusted metal tombstone.

“Weird,” I muttered as I cut on the sink and let the brown water ‘cleanse’ me. All the while, the barking continued. The pup sounding more and more anguished… more and more desperate.

Now it wasn’t just the fall wind unnerving me but the howls drifting in deep beneath this dog dad’s sympathy. Finally, I stepped back into part one of the Sasser Flea Market symphony.

To my relief, I saw Jess over at a Halloween section. One complete with a toy black cat that looked to be a twin to our own beloved decoration.

Scattered plastic jack o’lanterns watched me as I stopped next to Jess. Each October cliche covered in dust everywhere except those wide smiles. Like a cold jury, their crooked eyes pierced into my soul.

Jess faced me. “Hey.”

Trying to downplay the fear factor building inside, I grabbed on to the cart handle. Those many unique trinkets and clothes right at my fingertips. “You ready to go?”

“What?” Jess chuckled. “We still got thirty minutes.”

“I don’t know, this place is…” I looked over at those grinning pumpkins. “It’s kinda creeping me out.”

“Creeping *you* out?” Jess chuckled.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m a pussy, I know,” I quipped.

Reassuring me, Jess ran a hand along my arm. Along my attempt at a bicep. “Let me just check the other side real quick.”

I gotta say Sasser’s was *interesting*… Plus, the weather kept this flea market from being a furnace. So I decided to relent and play Good Boyfriend Cory.

Pushing that heavyass cart, I followed Jess through a side exit. Out on to that same dirt driveway I saw from the bathroom. The only item out here a standing poster from the 1930s. A carnival reject featuring two dancing ants, its cursive font in candy colors screaming: *Y’all, come back soon!*

The isolation did alarm me. A field of tall weeds created a blockade separating the flea market from the highway. Behind the two buildings, I saw nothing offering civilization on the horizon. Just a green inferno I wanted no part of. And that rotten odor remained present… All Jess and I could hear that brutal barking…

I noticed a few cars beside ours but how come the only other person we’d seen so far was Riley? The zombified clerk who hadn’t talked much less offered any Southern hospitality to Jess and I. And some of those cars were clear clunkers. Rusted in place for a permanent parking job. Hell, maybe they were part of the exhibit for all I knew.

“Come on, Cory,” Jess said.

I looked back toward the first shack. Just in time to see Riley standing on the edge of the entryway, most of her body obscured by a hulking scuba diver suit. The lady silent enough to be on display herself if not for those lively bright eyes watching us. Her cryptic smile back again.

Upon entering Sasser Flea Market part two, we saw no other clerks. Certainly no other customers. Even the dog had stopped its howls…

What we got instead was just the same sea of random shit. The many rows of books, clothes, and scattered snapshots of a discarded past. And God knows how far this past went.

I saw a table full of vinyl records by unrecognizable musicians. The covers and productions even looked homemade. Their deep scratches caused by excessive play. A mix of garage rock and church choirs of unknown origins.

Elsewhere, posters aged beyond belief were piling up. Each of them covered in cracked frames. No bands or performers I recognized… None from the last half-century at least.

The desolation then *really* set in. We were all alone for sure. Under the dim lighting, I got a shotgun view of this warehouse. There was only a bulky wooden door a few feet away from us… otherwise, there were no windows. No bathrooms. No escape. Somehow, the Sasser Flea Market was scarier in the silence.

I had to squeeze my mask. Somehow that sickening smell was still getting through. It’s gotta be more than the antiques, I thought. Hell, I can’t even blame ‘Riley’ now.

“There’s so much stuff,” Jess commented as she pushed the cart further within this antique abyss.

Staying by her side, I nodded nervously. “Yeah…” I needed another swig-

But Jess beat me to it. However, not even fear could slow her shopping spree. Especially when she laid eyes on that furniture section. A cluster right there by the lone door in this warehouse.

Along the way, I stumbled into something! A cold *CLANG* rang out! “Shit!” I cried. Struggling to keep up, I reached out and grabbed Jess’s arm. “Hey, wait up!”

“I am!” Jess laughed.

I looked toward the site of my near-accident. Saw the sight of a large rectangular cage still rattling… A pretty big one at that. And judging by the rust and dangling padlock, the cage had been used previously… and deep in my unease, I couldn’t help but wonder for what?

Of course, that didn’t stop Jess. After all, she was tougher than me.

“C’mon, Cory!” she said.

I let her pull me up to the first table. In the claustrophobia, I still felt the frigid fall wind… or maybe it was the dread I felt lurking inside.

As Jess examined a green bird box we’d never need, I stole a glance back at that door. One fit more for a castle than Sasser, Georgia. The heavy brass knob hung on for dear life, clamoring for one last grip. Naturally, I couldn’t help but wonder what other ‘treasures’ or terrors this flea market had in store…

“This is pretty,” Jess said.

Turning, I got a front row view of the wooden bird box… but also something else-

That silver beauty beckoned me. “Yeah,” I muttered to Jess. Distracted, I staggered past her, closer to the edge of the table.

“Do you think any birds will fly on our patio?” Jess asked.

The horror wouldn’t let me respond. I stopped and touched the laptop’s smooth surface. Its flawless, brand new appearance so alluring in a dump antique store like this.

This was the same brand, the same model as what I had back at apartment sixteen. Probably the same damn everything. The shiny flashy replacement for my old 2015 craptop.

A scared shiver shot through my veins. Why would this be here? Who brought it here?

“Hey, Cory,” I heard Jess say, her voice unable to hide the obvious concern.

Welcome to the fucking club, sweetheart.

Tracing my hand along the laptop’s front cover, I saw a small card tucked into the keypad. Trapped in there, its edge sticking straight out, just enough to draw me in… Shit! I thought. What the Hell is this…

Jess put the bird box down and stopped next to me. But I didn’t wait much longer.

I snatched out the business card. The big bold letters and dark lake logo all instantly familiar: *The Greystone*.

The manager’s name stared back at us: *Sara Dillon*. But what left Jess and I in a state of shock was who was listed as her co-manager: *Riley Dillon*.

Jess grabbed my arm in a death grip. Hanging on for dear life… “Isn’t that her name?”

Turning, I glanced back toward where we came from. Toward the dirt driveway. The ant sign. The scuba diver guy… Only Riley was gone.

“The lady who runs this place!” Jess went on. “Her and Sara are sisters!”

“It’s crazy,” I said as I tossed the card back on to the laptop. On to what I was sure was my laptop. “This shit’s weird, Jess!”

“No shit!”

Through my drunken panic, anguished concern hit me: Ripley. I retrieved my phone. A Blink notification stared back at me, one from over an hour ago…

I felt Jess pull my arm closer. “Cory, let’s go!”

But not even she could stop me. I clicked the app. Then the clip.

There was our living room, our Halloween Utopia. Only I saw two pairs of legs walking around. I heard two sets of female voices inside apartment sixteen. I knew those longer, muscular legs all too well. Knew Sara’s Southern accent…

Huge boxes scattered in stations around our coffee table. Each of them getting filled up fast.

Now I saw several of our decorations were gone… until I realized they’d been stuffed in those cardboard boxes. All of them along with our other most beloved items. Justin Bieber’s smile amongst them.

Then there was the soundtrack: Ripley’s angry, defensive barks. They were brutal to the ears. And not much different than the ones we’d heard earlier…

Horror hit both Jess and I! Her grip grew tighter, strangling my blood flow.

Like an actor exiting the stage, the other woman walked off camera. But I heard her voice hollering commands. “Get that one, Sara!” “Let’s get that Goddamn dog!”

Through the living room windows, vivid sunlight illuminated this home invasion. Illuminated Sara snatching our singing black cat. My Blink app now a home for snuff rather than those cute Ripley videos I obsessed over.

“Shit!” I cried.

Jess faced me. “Cory, we need to go to the police-”

“Hold on!” I couldn’t turn away. Not when the video now only gave me silence and suspense. “Ripley!” I screamed into the phone.

Popping out of nowhere, a craggy face leaned over the camera, overtaking the screen! Those beaming eyes looked right at Jess and I! The woman’s expression evil, Riley Dillon’s smile absolutely terrifying.

The video ended on this chilling crescendo! Before I could get a full view of her sister Sara, before I could even see them leave the apartment… Or see Ripley.

Suffering from a stomach twisting in knots, I looked over at Jess. “They took her!”

I could see Jess struggling to subdue her own unease. A pitiful attempt. “You don’t know for sure-”

The barking erupted! Ripley’s cries for help.

Immediately, Jess and I both turned toward the door. Where our beloved pet’s pleas were coming from…

“Alright, we get her and get the fuck out of here!” Jess said.

“Amen!” I replied. Grabbing my girlfriend’s hand, I led us both up to that imposing door. Closer to our Ripley. “Ripley!” I cried.

To my relief, the door was unlocked! But I let go of the knob. Just for a moment.

“What the Hell are you doing!” Jess said. She lunged for the doorknob.

I held her back. “Hold on!” Trembling with each and every howl, I raised the Miller Lite to my mask. One lift, one sip. All I needed for a temporary fix to these frenzied nerves. Not that it helped much… but hey, every little edge helped this alcoholic at least.

“Well, Hell, let me do the same!” I heard Jess say.

Upon getting our drunk courage, we threw the door open and burst inside the backroom! The smell was even worse. A sickening mist at this point.

A single dangling lightbulb swung but there were no windows to help its beam. The room was spacious and wide… and all we heard was Ripley. Our Chihuahua trapped in a small cage right by the entrance. A couple of bigger cages positioned right next to her.

Jess and I rushed toward Ripley. But then came to one scared stop.

Bodies upon bodies piled up in the very back. Not so much preserved even in this October cold. The smell of decay was too strong, the corpses ranging from mutilated to a paleness only interrupted by the occasional blood stain. All of the bodies adults… except for the slaughtered children in slaughtered families.

A mother and father’s dead gaze stayed on us. Their throats slit from ear to ear. Their children dissected and now on display.

But it was the framed photo I saw lying at the family’s feet that shook me to the core. A picture taken well over a decade ago. One of a smiling Sara and Riley. Further proof for what Jess and I feared: The Greystone was these sisters’ gore factory. No wonder they had so many cool antiques… and no wonder the rent was so fucking cheap.

Ripley’s guttural growls broke us from our scared spell. Immediately, Jess and I came to her rescue!

In one frantic slide, I unlocked the cage. Ripley jumped into my arms and licked my face!

Horrified, Jess pointed toward the cage. “Cory, look!”

I now saw blood stains covering Ripley’s cage. Being the worried dog dad I was, I inspected Ripley’s body, much to her annoyance. But she was good. No cuts, no scratches. “It’s okay, baby,” I reassured her.

“No, look at the others!” Jess said.

Following girlfriend orders, I confronted those other cages.

They had blood, alright. Not to mention stray pulpy bits collected from organs and intestines of old. All of it human. But what struck me most were the two cages placed by Ripley’s… their doors were wide open. Their sizes exact enough to reserve one spot for Jess and one for me. Another Greystone family these sadistic sisters had hoped for. Had fucking *planned* for.

Struggling against the nauseating scent, I squeezed the mask again. “Jesus fucking Christ…”

Ripley barked in agreement.

“Fuck this shit!” Jess yelled. She pushed Ripley and I both back toward the warehouse. “Fuck the clothes, let’s go! Run!”

Don’t ask me how but Riley wasn’t waiting for us with a chainsaw. I don’t know where she went nor did I wanna know. Hell, technically, Jess and I never even checked out of the flea market. That shopping cart full of Jess’s crazy shit might still be there to this day…

But we ran outside! Ripley and that beer held tight in my protective grasp. Somehow, Jess’s SUV cranked and we roared out into the night! Somehow, the three of us had survived.

We never went back to The Greystone. Never saw Sara Dillon again. But one thing was for certain: I finally had my horror story… and just in time for Halloween 2020.

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