Cemetery Dance is proud to join our friends at CLASH Books to reveal the cover of Michael J. Seidlinger’s upcoming home invasion novel, Anybody Home?
Anybody Home? is narrated by a sadistic, seasoned invader with multiple break-ins under their belt as they recount their dark victories while offering tutelage to a new generation of ambitious offenders. Following the invaders as they identify homes where they will terrify, torture, and ultimately eliminate entire families in a host of evermore cruel and inventive ways, Anybody Home? is sure to shock and unsettle even the most hardened of horror fans as Seidlinger points the camera lens at the quiet, comfortable suburbs and its unsuspecting abodes.
Drawing inspiration from films like Funny Games and The Strangers, sensitive readers be warned: Anybody Home? is as relentlessly bone-chilling as it is compulsively readable, and trumps any jump-scares you might find in a supernatural thriller. In this story, the monsters are real.
Check out the exclusive excerpt below and preorder Anybody Home? at CLASH Books: https://www.clashbooks.com/new-products-2/michael-j-seidliger-anybody-home-preorder
We started early, shortly before dawn. We started on the outskirts of a big lake. The name of the lake, like everything else, we leave unnamed. The authorities do the filling-in later. Give them too much and it’s just another robbery or break-in and you don’t want that.
But we had something in mind.
It almost never happens during the height of a new day.
It never happens during the week when vacationing families, looking to get away from the city, fill the houses lining the lake.
Camera shot wide across a paved road.
I can still picture SUVs and Escalades, newly washed sedans and sports-utility vans driving the speed limit, hulking with them bikes, boats, and other luxury items. We spotted the house on the far eastern bank.
Camera narrow in on that driveway, the front gate opening and closing on its own. We walked around the back of the house. It was impressive, really it was.
Just because those shrubs grow high, and the vines cover your windows, doesn’t mean there isn’t someone watching.
We stepped inside these homes.
We took our time, learning their routines.
We weren’t going for just another performance, you see.
We spent at least eight months just on the setup, the planning. When it finally happened and he was in place, waiting for the first family to arrive, me in the backyard, waiting for the first cue, it was serenity.
It felt like… like a perfect fit.
And then the family showed up.
There was a daughter—about eleven years of age—and the parents. They drove up the driveway, took their time getting situated, airing out the house, the wife wandering around out front, checking to see that the landscaper had successfully kept the flowers and other vegetation in shape. That freshly cut lawn wasn’t the husband’s doing.
We watched a crew arrive and tend to the house’s upkeep.
Two actually. One of the employees wasn’t as careful as the others. It’s how we were able to get inside the house. It’s easier than you think. It almost never has to come to actual break-ins or invasive lock picking.
Never learned how to pick a lock.
Few do. It’s easier to figure out the source of the locked door than the lock itself.
By the time the daughter was indoors with the husband, who worked on fixing the power via the switchbox in the basement, the power we extricated an hour before their arrival.
He knocked on the door gently. He said what he was supposed to say, “Hello, I’m from the house down the road. We were wondering if you have any power? Ours seems to have gone out.”
From there it was the wife calling to the husband, who then seemed relieved that it wasn’t just their house that suffered from the power outage.
By then he was already inside. And so was I.
But I waited until he dropped a picture frame, the glass shattering, distracting the wife, who went into the room I just left, the kitchen, for a dustbin.
The husband tended to the broken frame.
He did a great job playing the pity case, apologizing profusely.
Then I was there, and they both wondered how I got in.
“We’re friends, brothers actually.”
See how I switched it up, making it unbelievable?
It was up to me to tend to the rest. I asked if they had a pet, maybe a dog.
I asked about their daughter.
By then, the daughter had been neutralized—tied up and taped—upstairs in her bedroom.
The wife called for the daughter.
The husband ran to fetch her.
The wife didn’t take much to subdue.
She didn’t even scream. She was all shivers—which I couldn’t stand—so I got him to hold onto her while I followed the husband up the stairs.
Right around the time both the husband and the camera panned across a frightened daughter, a daughter that pissed herself while alone in her room, the basics of the invasion had already begun. A quick strike to the back of the husband’s head with a blunt object—in this case it was one end of the daughter’s skateboard—and we could get to work. We tied them to their individual beds. The husband regained consciousness and we got to talking. He proved to be an easy one to break. Talk about his life—career, hobbies, various flings he had on the side—and he’d begin to sob.
My partner-in-performance mentioned that his wife was attractive.
I joked about guessing her age.
I joked about whether she was in shape.
I wasn’t joking when I asked the husband. And then the husband wouldn’t tell me. We had to find out a different way. I brought in the daughter, untied her so that she could run. The daughter forgot about the rope around her ankles.
“Poor thing. Now that didn’t need to happen, did it?”
Plastic bag over and around the daughter’s head got them listening. All throughout, we both looked to the situation, looked for something we could use. We needed to improvise because we were ahead of schedule.
Then I said the one thing that defined everything else:
“Let’s play a game.” With great effort, they played out various games in order to be untied, led back out in front of the house, and led to believe that they’d have to eat grass, if only to see that they aren’t above being demeaned.
The daughter didn’t make it though. I think we didn’t let in enough air. She suffocated on the fifth or sixth tightening of the bag around her neck. It was part of the game. Guess right and the daughter doesn’t get hurt. This one moment became one of the more memorable characteristics of our performance.
It didn’t end there either.
The games continued.
From the front yard, we saw the second family, as prototypical as the first, waving to each other, talking about dinner plans and yachts.
Shortly after finishing with the husband and wife, we followed the camera over to the next house, the next family. He asked about the power being out.
I wandered around back and waved to the husband with his young son, who had been approximately nine years old, where they were cleaning, maintaining their yacht.
I complimented them on the yacht’s condition.
I told them I was a neighbor, using the same excuse: power-outage.
We made this one last a little longer. The wife being the last to go, sinking to the bottom of the lake like dead weight. We increased the games with each family until we had the sixth in turmoil—two teenage sons competing for their own lives while we watched.
By the time the authorities arrived to play their part, one son ran while the other chased after. It became their own deadly pursuit, a game based around the guilt they wouldn’t be able to lose. The camera captured it long before the one son tackled the other to the ground, near a dock, and drove his thumbs into both sockets. With an injury like that, you don’t just lose sight; you lose your life.
We weren’t there though.
Later, it became just another piece of evidence, the footage for all to see.
I’ll tell you, though, in those last couple moments when our performance became more than the sum of each individual part, I could almost see it all—everything—for what it really is. I could see the various roles and the various emotions; I could see the authorities getting the call, combing the crime scene, marking up each house for their inevitable burial. I could see the effect of the events on the private community, causing a drop in property values and a rise in paranoia. I could see popular culture wrapping its mind around the performance. I could see borderline success long before we got an offer. I could see the annals of privacy and personal space shifting and contorting to welcome in a world realer than real. I could see the cults and their members clamoring over the uncensored footage. I could see them going through, like armchair investigators, long before the edited, commercialized version ever makes it onto the screen. I could see the trail of evidence slowly reaching us. I could see my own concern, worry mounting, if only because it would be more dramatic for it to end with our identities being revealed. Yet, like any other successful performance, we are deemed “invaders.”
Without names established they couldn’t trace back our identities. Without fingerprints or true faces on footage—our likenesses little more than blurred pixels—the authorities couldn’t get any closer than recovering the evidence and initial plan for invasion. It was an invasion, and it invaded the collective senses. I could see success in all its conceptual glory. And it is beautiful. You know it is, otherwise you wouldn’t be listening. It’s truly magical when you think that the only people that could ever identify us are the victims that end up losing their lives and thereby immortalizing our efforts.
It’s a certain kind of celebrity; one lived from behind a number of screens, equally factual and false. We take it because of the performance.
We take it because it entertains the millions that watch.
We take it because it’s ours to take.
We decided to take it. Now I’m going to ask you—
What are you going to decide?