Geez, man, your brains are all glooping out.
I was brainstorming some robots, and this popped up. Ohm.
This is the last of the 3-part Terribleminds challenge. I’m finishing a story that two other people worked on. Below are all three parts, but here’s some links to the original part 1 and part 2 of the story. It’s funny, I almost did this story as my part 2. It would have had a pet demon that the girl summoned through reading the ghost stories. Very different.
The noise came again, and this time there could be no mistake: somebody was in the house. Worse, somebody was in my bedroom. I strained to hear, holding my breath, hoping that what I heard was just something from outside on the street, a drunk perhaps, a stray dog going through the garbage bins, but no. It was faint but unmistakably closer. I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them again, trying to see in the dark without moving. It was there, a scratching sound on the wooden floor, like something scrambling frantically in the same spot. Perhaps a rat, I thought as I lay, face up, cursing silently the fact that I stayed up late, trying to finish that damn book – the one with rats on the cover. No wonder I was imagining things.
The noise had stopped and nothing else could be heard, except for the occasional car going down the street but even that faded away and the fear began to loosen its grip on me. My eyes grew heavy, my body relaxed. Then it came again, closer, the scratching, and in my mind I saw a huge rat, as big as a cat, its teeth sharp and hungry for meat, the beady eyes glistening in the dark. I considered my options. Option one, pretend nothing happened, it was a nightmare (a persistent one at that) and try to go back to sleep. Option two, stretch out my hand over to the nightstand and turn on the light. Perhaps it was a small mouse and the light will frighten it. Or perhaps the light would scare it right into my bed.
I began to shiver under the blanket. I tried to move my hand as quietly as possible but the thing must have heard me and it stopped. I breathed slowly, trying to give myself courage. Now this is truly stupid, there is no rat, it was all in my head. I shifted slightly to the left, reaching out with my hand.
The noise began again, and this time it was so close it made my skin crawl and my heart beat like a war drum. It must be under the bed now, whatever it was. Perhaps I could use my pillow, swat it away. Or my tube of hair spray, or the chunky volume of ghost stories. All on my nightstand, if I could just reach over and turn on that light.
I inched closer, my fingers stretched to find the switch of the reading lamp. I knocked over an empty glass, and it tumbled to the floor, rolling, before coming to an abrupt stop. I cursed silently, and in the next instant I heard the scratching on the floor, followed by a soft thud. It was on the bed now, whatever it was. I bit my lip and swallowed the scream that threatened to spill out; I felt the blanket slipping from my body, slowly, cold air on my skin, my blood turning to ice…
* * *
Suddenly a giggle and a look of confusion washed over my face. It giggled again as it crawled closer to my face. Fumbling for the light and twisting the switch, I turned back into the face of a child.
The little boy smiled, “found you!” he squealed.
My heart was still racing but the fear had all but disappeared. It wasn’t a woman-eating-rat, but a child, who wasn’t hers, right in front of her as if it was no big deal.
“Hi there little guy. How’d you get in here?” I asked in as soothing high pitch voice as she could muster.
“Mommy said I should go play hide and seek. So that’s what I did. I found you. You weren’t really hiding very well.”
I tried to recall who in the building had a child but nobody came to mind. Recovering and throwing a big smile, I asked where mommy was.
“She’s at home.” he replied as he sat on the bed, crossing his legs as if he’s ready for a story.
“Hmm, I don’t know. At school we are learning where we live to help us.”
Great she thought. This kids probably 5 or so, doesn’t know where he lives and somehow got into my locked apartment.
“Well, why don’t we go into the kitchen and get something to eat. We can figure out where you live and take you home. Does that sound good?”
“Yeah, I guess. But mommy said to stay out until the sun comes up. And the sun isn’t up yet.”
I started moving off the bed, reaching for my robe and the boy followed. Walking down the hallway I finally asked the odd question.
“That’s a long time from now. Why did she want you to stay out so long?”
“She always says I should go explore at night. Because I feel better when I do. She’s right. I don’t feel good when the sun is up. Mommy says it’s a condition I have. I don’t remember what it is but she told me. I know she did.”
“How does some cereal sound?”
“Does it have marshmallows?” his face brightening.
“Sorry, no marshmallows.”
“Aww, man.” he said with defeat.
“But it’s got sugar” trying to cheer him back up.
“I guess. It’s not as good without the marshmallows.”
“Yeah, I agree”
We sat at my small table, the boy scarfing down the cereal and sipped some tea herself. He was pumping his legs back and forth while humming and chewing.
I started asking a series of questions that he might be able to answer, helping her narrow down where he lived.
“Do you live in this building?”
“Where do you live?”
“In the woods”
The woods, I thought? I live in the heart of a small town, the woods are a few miles away. Something wasn’t right and I went to grab the phone, something I should have done minutes ago.
* * *
The little boy pointed at my smartphone.
I held it out for him while I looked up the police non-emergency line.
“It’s a phone. I can use it to call a friendly police officer who can help.”
His face turned bright red.
“No! Not them!”
I held up my hands in surrender.
“It’s okay! I won’t call the police.”
“They hurt daddy! The mean police made him go away.”
I felt a lump in my throat. I rushed to his side with open arms. He wrapped his tiny arms around my neck, and sobbed into my shoulder. I kept my voice hushed.
“We can do this, alright? No mean people, just us.”
He nodded weakly.
“So, you live in the woods. Can you describe your house? Is it made of wood?”
“It’s made of rocks and dirt.”
“Is it close to a road?”
The tears slowed, and the boy pushed away so that he could eat again.
“Mommy says roads only help the bad people come. But, there’s a lake with lots of fish. I catch them sometimes. They’re wiggly.”
My fingers tapped against the phone. Maybe I was going at this the wrong way.
“How are you so good at hide and seek?”
The boy shoved a big spoonful of cereal in his mouth. His mischievous grin lost some of its effect between full cheeks.
“I want to learn how to be sneaky, too. Can you show me how you came inside?”
“I think really hard. Pretend it’s daytime. Then, my claws come back and I can climb the bricks!”
The boy scrunched his face up. He took a deep breath in, then exhaled slowly. He placed his hands on the table. The seconds drifted by. I couldn’t help but sit and watch. The kid was confused. He couldn’t possibly mean…
Tufts of gray fur suddenly sprouted on the sides of his face. His forearms and hands went fuzzy as well. Sharp puppy claws scratched the cheap wood of the table.
I scrambled to my feet.
“You’re a werewolf?!”
The boy stared up at me with his mouth pushed to one side. The fur and claws retreated into his skin.
“I don’t think so. Oh! I remembered! Mommy said I have rebers-lie-canter-dopey.”
I repeated the words in my head until they made sense. Reverse lycanthropy. He wasn’t a werewolf, but a were-boy! Once my body stopped its frightened shaking, I walked over to the boy’s side of the table.
He nodded, so I reached out my hand.
“Let’s go for a walk. Do you think you could find your way home if I take you to the edge of the forest?”
He wrapped his hand in mine as he scooted off the chair. His grin extended to his ears.
We went out into the pre-dawn darkness. As we walked, I breathed a silent hope that the boy’s mother wouldn’t maul me for going near her puppy.
Talk Like A Pirate Day is upon us again! Yarr!
Oh man, I love Face Off. It’s a special effects makeup art competition. Each week, I try to redo one of the designs (usually one of the bottom looks), because it’s loads of fun. This week was a G.I. Joe / Cobra super snake soldier! I picked the reticulated python, turned him into a brawler …
Remember that “first 500 words” challenge I participated in? Well, this week I’m picking up the middle 500 words from somebody else’s story.
The first part is by Arin Pandey. My part follows after the “* * *” halfway down. Next week, a completely different person might take this story to its conclusion.
It was only after I opened the door at seven fifteen that I remembered Mum’s catchphrase sounding all my life: “Don’t open the door to anyone after seven.” She didn’t say it that night, before she went to work her night shift. But that’s no excuse.
I’d asked the obvious question when I was much younger, “If it’s so dangerous to let anyone in then why is it okay for you to go out at night?”
The answer was as bizarre as the instruction itself. “Because Tamara, the Grim Reaper comes to get you, not the other way around.” Then, whispering a prayer, she left for her night’s excursions.
The stranger standing on the doorstep looked as wild and woolly as the night itself. His thick, curly, black hair stood in wet spikes, so I didn’t notice the peaks at each side of his forehead. Not then. The light coming from the hallway behind me was too pale to see his face clearly.
The wind was whooshing like a drunken ghost, and there was so much rain that I could hardly see the other side of the road. None of our street lights have worked for as long as I can remember. I know this ‘cause I do look out the windows, like a prisoner behind bars.
Although the unknown quantity didn’t look much older than me, I felt the need to protect Tonkin. He’s only sixteen. I didn’t want the guy to think I was afraid or that we were alone at home. Obviously I couldn’t shut the door in his face, so I barred the entrance and started to angle the door slowly shut.
“Play with them,” Dad used to joke. “Then hit them with it when they’re least expecting it.” Of course he was halfway across the world, doing exactly what he preached.
“Sorry, we’re going out,” I mumbled, keeping my voice as low as possible so I sounded older.
“I just want directions,” he said in a teenage twang I recognised. “My GPS says I’m on the corner of Blackthorn and Wildling Streets. But if I go either way I hit a dead end.”
“Then go back the way you came.” I stated the obvious.
“That’s the funny thing. Every way I go from the intersection hits a blind alley.” He was sounder higher pitched.
Then what I had been dreading. “Who’s at the door?” Tonkin called out.
I wouldn’t have minded so much if Tonkin’s voice was deeper, more like Dad’s.
“He’s just leaving,” I called back, trying to remember what Mum did when she opened the door at night.
Then I turned to the guy. “Turn your GPS off. GPS signals go kaput in this part of town. Then drive back the way you came. If you come to a kerb, do a U turn. Try this on all the streets until you find a way out. Who are you?”
I was surprised to see the Grim Reaper looking frightened.
* * *
“That’ll take too long. I need good directions, or…”
He glanced away, checking the street.
“Or a place to hide.”
My arm stiffened against the door jamb.
“I told you, we are going out. Who are you?”
“Don’t. Go out, I mean. You really, really shouldn’t. It always gets nasty when he shows up.”
“I’ve had enough of this. You won’t tell me who you are? You got your directions, now get going!”
Outside, the wind whipped the rain into icy daggers. It blew the door from my grasp.
My brother stomped down the hall behind me.
“What are you still doing? Let’s finish the movie.”
Tonkin saw the drenched stranger outside and ushered him in.
“That storm’s terrible. Get inside, man!”
I reached out to shut the door on the stranger, but he was quicker than anyone I’ve ever seen. In a blur of black-green, he was behind the door, pushing it closed. I jumped out of the way with a shriek, just barely managing not to lose a finger as the door slammed shut. The teen slumped to the ground against the door.
I glared down at him.
“You got what you want, now I get what I want. Your name.”
He turned to face me and my brother. I took a step back when I saw his face. Tonkin gasped behind me. Our unwanted houseguest had a pair of short, curled horns sprouting from the hairline above the brows. His eyes were a brilliant amber. He had a face that was almost, but not quite, human.
“I have no name, aside from my title.”
“The Grim Reaper?”
He choked at my words, then laughed.
“Well, if not, then who?”
“I’m an acolyte to the Wild Guardian. And… a thief.“
He reached his hand into his jacket pocket. I shifted my stance, ready to run. I would push Tonkin to the back door when the stranger inevitably pulled his weapon on us.
When his hand retreated from the pocket, the stranger held a glowing, pearlescent key.
“My job was to safeguard this. But, I got greedy. I stopped myself before I sold it, but the buyer won’t take no for an answer. Now, he’s after me.”
The storm outside raged. Hail beat hard against the windows. The stranger scrambled to his feet.
“We need to move. Somewhere without windows.”
I glanced outside. The streetlights were turning on, one after another. A large shadow stalked beneath them. The storm grew wilder as the thing approached.
I was frozen, fixated on the thing outside.
Tonkin grabbed my arm and led us down the hall. But it was too late.
The beast’s footsteps shook the house. It slid past the window. I covered my ears at the sound of claws on glass. Why didn’t I listen to Mum’s warning?
With one kick, the shadowy monster broke the door from its hinges. It bellowed a gruff laugh.
“Humans. Don’t you know to never open the door after seven?”