Tag Archives: fiction

Hush Little Baby

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It’s a bit late or very, very early for Halloween but I’d like to announce that my short horror story, “Hush Little Baby”, has been published in The Haunted Traveler and can be read here The Haunted Traveler Volume 1 Issue 2

I’d also like to issue a warning, the contents of the story are of a disturbing nature.

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The House on Gambol Street

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The room was dusty, graceful sweeps of cobwebs decorated the ceiling and windows in ghostly garlands. Dancing, glittering motes streamed down as Kitty tiptoed through. Her wake caused more flurries of dust to rise like translucent blooming winds and it swirled around her, sneaking into her eyes and nose, tickling her throat. Kitty’s chest seized, covering her mouth, she surrendered to the fit.

 

The house was ancient to her twelve-year-old eyes. The decrepit, rambling Victorian with a sagging roof and missing shingles sat on the outskirts of town, near the end of Gambol Street where the pavement ended and the road became dirt. Outside, the summer evening was hastily advancing, the sky a dreamy violet and vibrant magenta. Kitty stalked silently through the house, her sneakered feet padding across softly creaking floorboards and musty carpets, rousing plumes of dust from their slumber. She passed a bank of windows, the glass broken and jagged. Shining pieces lay on the floor, catching the last bits of sunlight. A breeze stirred the sun bleached curtains; the moth eaten lace lunged for her. Squeaking with surprise, Kitty jerked away, skittering out of reach.

 

She found the staircase, her first goal accomplished and with a racing heart, she ascended, her hand gliding on the grimy railing. The steps moaned under her weight and she passed through curtains of cobwebs. Strands of the webs stuck to her face and arms, getting into her mouth and snagging in her eyelashes. She ignored the rising disgust and tried to rid herself of the silvery threads but they refused to be dislodged, nestling in around her neck and graying her ponytail. Cold fear tingled through her, raising goose bumps on her skin as she remembered stories she heard of this house and its occupant. Stories that inspired her derision, they weren’t so funny now.

 

The house had been abandoned long before Kitty was born, and from the questions she had pestered her parents with, it was empty before their time as well.

 

According to the stories told, the house had been home to the wealthy Markham family; their sole child was a daughter of great beauty and therefore had been widely courted. It was not a young, dashing heir that had captured Isabella Markham’s heart but the lowly clerk in her father’s store. They had made a pact to elope but on the night of their meeting, Isabella was left standing alone in the dark forest on the edge of town. The next morning, riddled with anger and despair, the heiress discovered her love had abandoned her. She had hung herself from the rafters of her bedroom. Still, Isabella was believed to roam the halls of the house. Kitty skepticism had spurred the dare. A dare that brought her inside the house.

 

She reached the landing, finding it dark. A murky twilight filtered in through the dirty windows. Kitty put a hand to the wall to help guide her down the hallway and to the bedroom. It was there that she was to go to the window and wave down to her waiting friends. She opened the door. The hinges protested, warning her with a rusty symphony.

 

The bedroom was a ghost of a once beautiful chamber. The walls were yellowed and smeared with some brown substance, dingy landscape paintings hung askew. Kitty stepped forward on the faded rug, intent on the two windows covered in moth eaten lace. The bed, a dark wooden, four poster creation with velvet hangings lay to her right. Something moved in her periphery and Kitty cried out, jumping. Her grimy hands went to her mouth and her heart thundered in her throat. She couldn’t see much past the foot of the bed, only shadows but something had moved.

 

As she slowly advanced, her eyes darting to the bed every other step, Kitty found herself wondering if the story was true. Something was there; she could feel its eyes on her, an icy fire danced along her skin. Kitty could hear nothing but the sound of her heart beating within her and sweat beaded along her brow, rolling down her face and leaving tracks in the grime she had acquired in her trespass. She wiped at her skin as the sweat stung her eyes. More than anything, Kitty wanted to complete her task and flee.

 

Kitty emitted a strangled shriek as the mattress springs groaned. She abandoned the dare, not caring whether she’d be branded a coward and bolted for the door. Freedom was only feet away when something yanked her back with violent force. The breath was knocked from her and her vision grayed, marred by bright, dancing sparks as her head hit the solid floor. She blinked rapidly, trying to regain her sight and wished she hadn’t when a face appeared over her.

 

Leathery skin was stretched taut over sharp bones. Hollowed eyes bored into her, deep darkness that held the glittering fire of life and intelligence in their centers. It grinned at her, sharp, jagged yellow teeth bared. Thin, ghostly wisps of gray hair clung to its skull, falling like cobwebs around the weathered visage. They tickled at Kitty’s nose as the creature knelt over her. She gagged, the smell wafting from it was foul, a dry mustiness combined with a deep earthiness.

 

Kitty opened her mouth to scream, help was only feet below her, but the creature’s hands wound about her throat. It squeezed and fire erupted along the skin of Kitty’s neck. She struggled, trying to escape but the creature slid atop her, pinning her firmly to floor. As the pressure turned into pain, Kitty’s vision waned, blackness encroached, narrowing her sight. It leaned in, closing the distance between them until the creature’s face was only inches above her. The creature began to lose tangibility, blurring around the edges. At first Kitty believed it was due to her failing sight but as she watched, helpless and terrified, she discovered that the creature was actually disappearing. The pressure eased and Kitty gulped in the musty air, the creature smiled, becoming evanescent as Kitty breathed it in.

 

 

It had been ages; decades even, since she had last ate. Her ancient body had thirsted beyond sanity for a vessel. Too long had she waited, and she had feared that the house she had been summoned into would be forever her crypt. How nice it was that such a foolish child had strode into her lair. She felt Kitty’s soul, her consciousness battle against oblivion as she overtook the child’s body. Possession was never a comfortable transition. She thrust the squirming soul back into the darkness of the subconscious and locked Kitty away.

 

She strode out of the room, the promise of freedom thrumming through her veins. Even though she knew that her time was already fleeing, could feel it tugging like a river’s persistent current, she was nonetheless eager to be once more about the cattle. She had only the vessel for protection; once the body was gone she’d be dragged back to this house. It had been Isabella’s ineptitude at dark magic that had created the curse and sealed her in the house unless she had a human host. For a decade, she had lived as Isabella Markham, had murdered the girl’s parents and roamed the country feasting upon flesh until she had been caught and killed.

 

She’d be careful this time, she promised herself. This body was young and she had decades of life she could live. The vow, a moment before made of iron resolve, wavered as Kitty opened the door and walked out into the dreamy purple haze of the summer twilight. Two children stood there, faces mirror images of anxiety. She grinned, her stomach growling.

 

“You were supposed to wave,” the boy said. Kitty tapped into the well of memories and pulled forth a name. Bobby.

 

“I got distracted. It’s scary up there,” Kitty said, laughing. Bobby’s face paled as she took a step toward him. He backed away.

 

“You lost the dare.”

 

“Fine by me,” Kitty said. “I want to go home.”

 

She turned away and began walking up the long dirt driveway. She heard the girl, Mina, race to catch up, her sneakered feet crunching on the loose pebbles hidden just under the soil.

 

“I think it should count that you went in at all,” Mina said, matching Kitty’s stride.

 

“I’m just glad to be out of that house,” Kitty said as they turned, reaching the mouth of the long drive, their feet scuffing plumes of dirt along the rural road.
Kitty knew she’d have to be careful out in the world; too easily would it be for her to be frivolous with her chance at freedom, especially when there were so many warm bodies to tempt her and she was so hungry. She grasped Mina’s hand in hers, relishing the feel of the girl’s pulse. Kitty grinned; perhaps she’d have a snack before going home to her loving parents.

Wish

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“Danny doesn’t like blue,” Cara said, tugging on Amanda’s hand.

“But it’s not all blue,” Amanda said, holding the sheet set down for her daughter’s appraisal. “See, there are white clouds and yellow stars.”

“But the sky is blue.”

“Of course the sky is blue,” Amanda said.

“Blue gives Danny nightmares and when he has nightmares, he wakes me up,” Cara said.

Amanda sighed, replacing the sheets once more among its brethren and strode along the aisle, Cara in tow.

“And that’s why you tore your sheets?” Amanda asked.

Screaming had woke them in the early morning hours. They found Cara’s room a complete mess, cotton ribbons strewn about, the mattress and pillows bare while Cara sat in the middle of the floor, shivering and wide-eyed.

“Danny did it.”

“You’re too old to have an imaginary friend. Just tell me what’s bothering you,” Amanda said.

She halted and crouched to her daughter’s level. Large brown eyes stared at her, slightly puzzled and a little hurt.

“Why don’t you believe me, Mama?”

“Because nothing is invisible, baby.”

“The air, chameleons and the Klingons’ Birds of Prey are invisible,” Cara said.

Amanda blinked and burst into laughter. Drawing Cara into her arms, she kissed her daughter’s head, still chuckling.

“Got me there, and you are spending way too much time watching movies with Daddy,” Amanda said.

“These!”

Cara wiggled out Amanda’s embrace and dashed several feet down the aisle. She spun, facing Amanda, a set of sheets clutched to her chest. Amanda unfolded and joined her daughter. Taking the set from Cara, Amanda studied the field of vivid yellow covered with a pattern in neon pink and orange paisley swirls and purple peace signs.

“Really?”

“Yep, they’re perfect. Danny loves them,” Cara said.

“These would give me nightmares.”

Grasping Cara’s hand, Amanda began the trek to the check out lines, weaving through the labyrinth of aisles. Cara chattered happily, though Amanda couldn’t understand what her daughter said. Each time she halted and asked Cara about it, her daughter only scowled as if Amanda was wasting her time and said:

“I wasn’t talking to you, Mama.”

“Those sure are bright, huh?” The cashier grinned as Amanda handed the sheets to her.

“She inherited her father’s lack of taste,” Amanda said. “He has a pea green suit I’ve buried in the depths of the closet.”

The cashier chuckled and rang the set up. Amanda paid for the sheets, tucked the purchase into her shopping bag and grabbed Cara’s hand.

“Have a nice day,” the cashier said.

“Thanks, I hope so. You too,” Amanda said, walking away.

Amanda slowed her pace as they exited the store, her heart lodging in her throat. On the sidewalk bordering the parking lot, a clown capered, a bouquet of balloons in her hand. Amanda swallowed, her hand squeezing Cara’s.

“A clown!” Cara bounced, pointing. “Can we get a balloon?”

“I don’t know.” Amanda eyed the cavorting creature garbed in silk motley. Unease coiled in her belly. “Why don’t we just go home and I’ll make us some lunch?”

Cara pouted and tugged on Amanda’s hand, refusing to move. They stood halfway between the store’s entrance and the cluster of cars in the parking lot. Amanda spied her car twenty feet beyond the clown. She sighed, giving in to the inevitable.

“Hello,” the clown said.

Amanda cringed, staring at the impossibly wide painted mouth.

“Can we have some balloons?” Cara asked.

“Sure can,” the clown said.

She picked out three strings from the others gathered in her hand, giving one to Amanda. Crouching, the clown grinned and gave the other two to Cara.

“You’re very lucky. This one here is my fiftieth,” the clown said, tugging on the string of the red balloon. It danced above Cara’s head. “And it’s special.”

“It is? How?”

“If you pop it after saying a wish aloud, your wish will come true,” the clown said, her gaze flickering to the empty air to Cara’s right.

“Wow,” Cara said, eyes wide.

“Thank you,” Amanda said, pulling Cara away.

“Thanks, clown lady.” Cara tried waving with the hand holding the balloons, they jostled and bobbed, rubbing together.

“You’re very welcome.”

Amanda’s hand delved into her coat pocket, searching for the keys as they neared the car.

“Mama?”

“What?”

“Can I borrow your pin?”

“Hmm?” Amanda frowned, withdrawing her keys. “What for?”

“I want to make a wish,” Cara said.

It would be one less balloon in the car on the ride home. She handed Cara her balloon, slid the keys back into her pocket and began to remove the decorative pin on her lapel. As she worked the clasp, Amanda glanced at the balloons Cara held. Three shiny balloons, not two.

“Why did she give us three?”

“One for you, one for Danny and the special one for me,” Cara said, passing the other balloons to Amanda.

“Don’t be silly. Danny doesn’t exist.”

Cara glowered at Amanda. She wound the string around her hand, lowering it.

“I wish Mama could see Danny,” Cara said, jabbing the pin into the balloon.

The thin flesh popped, resounding across the parking lot. Amanda gasped.

A white furry creature towered over her. Tiny, leathery wings sprouted from its back. Amanda’s gaze traveled up the torso, and she found herself staring into a pair of large, black eyes. Cat ears flattened as its pink nose twitched nervously.

“This is Danny.”

Danny grinned, the smile nearly consuming the lower half of his face. Sunlight glinted on dagger-like teeth.

Amanda screamed, her hands fluttering to her mouth.

Free of her hold, the balloons drifted to the sky. Two specks of color soon lost among the blue.

 

This is Dreaming Blithely’s 50th post! Thank you all and I hope you enjoyed the story. 🙂

 

 

 

The Old Witch

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“I hate living like this!” Disgusted, Jaspa tossed the can of tomatoes to the floor, spilling the contents.

“Starve then,” Jaspa’s mother said, trying to salvage the tomatoes.

“Can’t afford to be picky,” her father said, digging into a can of beans.

“Why can’t we settle somewhere? I miss having hot meals.”

“And become Scavenger bait? No thank you, I’m attached to my skin,” her father said.

“The light and smoke of a fire draws attention.”

“I want chocolate and a decent bed.” Jaspa pouted, crossing her arms over her chest.

Her parents exchanged exasperated glances.

“The Old Witch would know how to conjure chocolate and I bet she has a bed soft enough to ease her bones,” Jaspa said.

Worried glances passed between her parents.

“She’s all safe in her apartment building. No one dares to bother her,” Jaspa said.

“For good reason,” her father said.

“Her magic is the dark sort,” her mother said.

“I’m going to see her,” Jaspa said, standing.

“No you are not!” Her mother stood, putting her hands on her hips and staining her grimy shirt with tomato juice.

“She’ll take me as an apprentice,” Jaspa said.

“She’ll bake you into a pie,” her father said.

Jaspa snatched her backpack from the concrete and slipped her arms through the straps. She grinned at her parents, sure of her quest.

“If you leave you are no child of ours,” her mother said.

“I thought our common sense would have been inherited,” her father said, shaking his head.

“Fine,” Jaspa said, chin lifting as her eyes stung. “When I am an all powerful witch and you two are dying of starvation I’m not going to help you.”

“It’s been nice knowing you,” her father said. “I wish it was for longer.”

“Wait and see,” Jaspa said and stormed out of their hiding place behind the dumpsters.

Gritting her teeth, she was determined not to turn back as she reached the mouth of the darkened alley. Sunset colored the sky in fiery shades, causing the ruined city to become a silhouette of black spires. Fear snaked through Jaspa, her steps tentative. She had never been on her own. Inhaling, Jaspa bolstered her courage and strode onto the debris littered street.

She stuck to the sidewalk, staying close to the safety of the buildings. Her body was tense, waiting for the slightest sign of one of the bands of Scavengers that plagued the ruins. They’d kill her in a heartbeat, scouring her belongings for anything useful and leave her corpse to rot with the detritus abandoned by humanity. Jaspa’s gaze flickered constantly, trying to probe the shadows of alleys and doorways for movement.

The distant sounds of gunshots sent her skittering into an unlocked corner store. She ducked below the window display, her heart hammering against her ribs. Voices echoed, the words mangled as they resounded through the streets. Jaspa raised herself and peered out, her pulse roaring in her ears.

A band of people spilled into the crosswalk, semi-automatics slung across their backs and pistols in their hands. Jaspa slid down, her breath coming in gasps.  She stared at the shadowy interior, praying they would move along without investigating the store. More shots caused her jump, the loud reports too close for comfort. She slithered across the floor, her pack jiggling on her back.

Once in the safety of the shadows, Jaspa crouched and began weaving through the aisles. There had to be a back door, and those words looped in her head. It was a mantra to keep her focused, to keep the panic at bay. She almost cried out in relief, spying the exit sign over a blue metal door set into the wall. Rushing to it, she pushed, finding it unlocked.

Jaspa stumbled into the alley. Turning, she raced to the end of the alley and bolted across the street, not stopping until she reached the Old Witch’s abode.

Stars pinned the twilit sky, and the late spring breeze cooled Jaspa’s cheeks as she bounded up the steps and opened the door.

Candlelight illuminated the cavernous lobby with a soft golden glow. Closing the door stirred the air, causing shadows to leap and dance upon the wall. Jaspa shivered, her stomach knotting. Gathering her courage, Jaspa stalked to the stairwell and began her ascent.

                                                                                           

The Old Witch’s suite reeked of smoke and something sickly-sweet. Jaspa trembled, her muscles rubbery. Glass French doors separated the living room from the bedroom and as Jaspa approached, the hair on the nape of her neck rose. Through the rippled glass, she spied a creature of fire and bones. Hands shaking, she turned the doorknobs and entered the room. She had come too far to turn back.

Before her sat an old woman, skin papery and time worn. A gentle smile played upon the witch’s lips while kind blue eyes regarded Jaspa with surprise.

“Hello, dear.”

Jaspa inched closer, shivering with fear and cold. The paltry fire in the hearth flickered as a draft toyed with it.

“Goodness, child, why are you quaking so?”

“I have seen…things on my way here,” Jaspa said, her voice wavering. “A man covered in black dust.”

“Only the charcoal man,” the Old Witch said, gesturing at the fire.

“And a man clothed in gray fur,” Jaspa said. She drew closer to the crone, relief chasing away the terror.

“That is the huntsman. He’s kind enough to supply me with meat.”

“Then there was a man covered in blood,” Jaspa said, quivering at the remembrance.

“My butcher,” the witch said.

“I spotted a fiery creature sitting here before I came in.”

“You’ve seen my true form, dear.” The Old Witch grinned. With a flourish of her hand, the witch transformed Jaspa into a block of wood and tossed it onto the fire.

As the flames cavorted, hungrily feasting upon the wood, the Old Witch chuckled.

“Finally, I will be warm.”

 

NOTE: This story is for a flash fiction challenge found on Chuck Wendig’s blog, terribleminds. It is a retelling of Grimm’s fairytale “The Old Witch” set in a dystopian world.  

 

 

 

Christmas Auntie

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Auntie looked away from the cozy interior. The couple within had made a show of merriness, although her heart told her differently. They desired the one thing that they had trouble creating more than any of the gifts piled under the tree. She trudged through the snow to a pristine bank, flakes whirling around her and glittering in the flickering lights on the Wilsons’ house. With a grin, Auntie began rolling balls of snow. She hummed as she worked, sculpting a form and smoothing edges.

Auntie held the object she made, cradled in one arm as she removed her shawl. She wrapped it in the embroidered red wool, snug as a babe, and kissed the bared bit of snow. Words whispered tumbled from her lips, the magic light on her tongue. Crying, the snow sculpture was born. Auntie peered into the rosy-cheeked face with joy, admiring her work.

“Shush now, love,” she said, cooing to the infant as she ambled to the Wilson’s front door. “They’ll give you their hearts, I promise and a better home you’ll never find.”

Auntie placed the bundle upon the doorstep and rang the bell. She faded into the shadows as the door opened. The warmth of answering a Christmas miracle flooded her.

“Where did she come from?” Jason asked.

“It doesn’t matter.” Mara’s gaze didn’t leave the cherub in her arms.

Auntie’s laughter mingled with the wind. She hefted her bag, slinging it over her shoulder and began her journey once more.

Gas Station Santa

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“Hello there,” Santa said to Cara as the elf lifted her onto his lap. Cara stared into Santa’s dark appraising eyes.

“Hi.” She looked around the store. Paper chains and flickering lights dangled from the ceiling, illuminating Santa in an eerie glow. A table along one wall was laden with toys. Her eyes lingered on a doll, her heart full of yearning.

“Do you know the meaning of Christmas?” Santa asked.

Cara turned to him her nose touching his. “It’s Jesus’ birthday.” Her gaze flickered to the doll.

“Are you an honest girl?” he asked. “Hell is filled with naughty liars.”

Cara nodded, transfixed by the shadowy fire of his eyes. Santa kissed her cheek.

“Smile!” The elf said.

Cara started at the camera flash and blinked her eyes to clear her vision. She felt herself pulled from Santa’s lap and set on her feet. The elf shoved a box into her hands.

“Had fun?” Cara’s mother asked, leading her out of the gas station. A bell rang overhead as they departed.

“Uh-huh,” Cara said. Santa’s words rang in her mind, making stomach lurch.

They climbed into the car, and Cara’s mother started the vehicle. Cold air blasted from the vents, slowly warming on the drive home. Cara studied the box in her lap. Inside was the doll she had admired, its empty blue eyes shining in the dashboard lights. Cara tucked it under the seat, away from her and out of sight.

 

*Author’s Note: This story is slightly autobiographical, but of course I exaggerated and condensed the experience. Also, when I met the Santa this tale is based on, it was in a butcher shop next to a convenience store. It wasn’t until I was an adult that it dawned on me how creepy that was.

The Gift

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Molly thundered down the stairs, her heart soaring with anticipation. Christmas morning had arrived. As she reached the bottom step, she jumped it and rushed into the living room. The glory of gifts awaited her, cascading out from the adorned tree. Molly squealed and dove into the treasure.

 
“You are supposed to wait for us,” her mother said with mock sternness, her eyes dancing.

 
“She’s our little monster.” Molly’s father entered the room with two mugs of steaming coffee. Mom laughed at the joke and took the cup Dad offered her.

 
“Let her open the big one first,” Molly’s mother said. Her father set his coffee aside and walked to the mountain of presents. Molly squirmed, barely able to contain her excitement. There was a rustle as her dad searched for the gift.

 
“I had forgotten how heavy this was.” Her father pushed aside the presents to unearth a long, large box wrapped in red and gold striped paper.

 
Molly didn’t wait for her father to move out of the way before attacking the present. She tore at the paper, revealing a black lacquered box. She grinned, opening the lid, and cried out, delighted.

 
Lying upon a bed of silk was girl near her own age, her face peaceful in death framed by dark doll-like ringlets. Molly had admired the girl several weeks ago when they went into the city to shop. She gazed up at her parents beaming with joy.

 
“She’s perfect,” Molly said. “I can’t wait to introduce her to the others.”

The Morning of Christmas

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*This is actually a little story my dad wrote several years ago and my mom recently found. It’s a parody and an homage to the Christmas classic “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. I’d like to share with you all now, instead of waiting.

Twas the morning of Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse (we have cats). The stockings were stuffed, hung by the chimney with care because St. Nicholas had already been here. I laid in my bed all snug in my cap when outside I hear My dogs start to yap. I sprang from my bed to look out the window, you see, and I couldn’t believe what was in my yard and stretched out before me.

Twas the jolly old Elf and eight reindeer. His sleigh was broken with a worn out gear (it was a stick shift). So there I stood In my shorts and socks, thinking how oddly it is when opportunity knocks.

The Christmas bills The old Elf had left was more than one person could comfortably heft. I was looking for vengeance, that bright winter morn. A plan had never had the time to get born.

I ran to my room to get my old shotgun (both barrels!). I ran through the house and through the back room, burst through the back door and yelled:

“Now get ready for the BOOM!”

The old Elf’s jaw hit the snow and he yelled to the deer:

“Let’s get the @!#$ out of here!”

The deer took off running, dragging the sleigh and old Chubby was getting drug the whole darn way (while holding up his pants). They took to the air, clocked at Mach 2. Santa yelled (and shook his fist):

“I’ll get even with you!”

I stood in the snow and let go a grin, knowing Santa had adrenaline pumping within. Yes, he was being dragged through the cold morning air, the snow in his whiskers and the wind in his hair. His butt crack was showing as he flew out of sight. I yelled:

“Merry Christmas to you and to you a good night!”

*And I now know where I get my odd sense of humor from. 😉