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A remote road, an old house. Now his retreat, a place to start over, a place to forget. He'd not been there four nights when his solitude was jarred by the sudden interruption of the telephone.

"Hello?"

Hissing. A lousy connection. And then, faintly, "I am the viper. I am coming in 30 days." The line went dead.

He forgot about the call. There were chores to be done, repairs to be made. No time for idle thoughts. Nearly three weeks had passed, and the phone rang again. Static. And then the faint voice: "I am the viper. I am coming in 10 days."

"Hello? What are you--?"

Silence.

Another week of projects, no time for nonsense. Then another late night call. The familiar hiss, the familiar whisper:

"I am the viper. I am coming in three days." Click.

Now his thoughts begin to ramble. He finds it difficult to concentrate.

The phone rings again. "I am the viper. I am coming in two days." The ticking of the clock, the wind in the pines, has him pacing. His hands tremble. His appetite, gone.

"I am the viper. I am coming tomorrow." Click.

Next morning, an unfamiliar sound. Footsteps on the gravel driveway. Faint. Stronger now. Then silence. A peek out the window. No one in sight.

A sharp banging on the door.

"Who's there?"

"I am the viper!"

"In the name of god, what do you want with me?"

Silence for a moment, an eternity of a moment, then:

"I vant to vipe your vindows."




Story from the oral tradition, heard around campfires, and re-enacted by Boy Scouts and summer camps each year. For various print versions, see Alvin Schwarz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (New York: HarperCollins, 1981) or the version in verse by Doug MacLeod.