September Challenge – Click

Here is my September entry; a short story I came up with based on some amalgamation of ideas presented in Stephen King’s story “1408” and Euripides’ The Bacchae.  I like the idea of a person’s descent into madness being the result of external forces, especially because you can always turn a story like that around and see other’s reactions to a person who may or may not be on the same plane of reality anymore.  My apologies for any spelling or grammar errors, but it is late and I need some sleep.


 

Emily wasn’t sure what was worse; the constant changes, his smiling face, or the continual  clicking of his tongue against the roof of his mouth.  That dry, snap-like noise that he made as if he were some kind of metronome.  It wasn’t the kind of thing that would normally bother her, but this wasn’t a normal kind of situation.

She barely even noticed the guy when he first came into the library.  She was busy poring over her ethics book, getting ready for her test later that week.  She looked up for a brief moment and saw him at the far end of the library, smiling and looking directly at her.  She didn’t think much of it and assumed he was smiling at someone near her.

She put her head back down and kept reading.  But after a few minutes, some random flash of light caused her to pick her head back up.  This time the man was standing just a few feet away from her with his mouth closed and that same smile on his face.  Emily could definitely tell where he was looking this time.  He was staring straight into her eyes.  She didn’t know what it was about his smile, but she became immediately uncomfortable.  She gave him a quick “hi, I’m busy” smile and put her head back down.

She tried for a brief moment to get back to reading, but she couldn’t.  All she could do was think about the man.  She could feel him still standing there, his presence demanding her attention.  She let out a slight sigh and picked her head back up.  “Yes?” she said with a hint of annoyance layered in.

The man didn’t say anything back, he just kept smiling and staring at her.  Emily couldn’t tell if it was the man’s greasy black hair, his slightly wild eyes set in deep, dark sockets, or his strangely heavy and rhythmic breathing, but she no longer felt safe, despite how many people there were around her.

“Do I need to get a librarian or security over here?”  She spoke a little louder than she typically would for a library, but she was hoping to attract some attention from the other students.  It didn’t work.  Instead, the man’s lips parted and his smile extended to its full length.  His teeth weren’t well cared for; they were deeply yellowed and caked in plaque from meals past.  His teeth were separated by small gaps and, in some places, they overlapped each other.  

His mouth was opened enough so Emily could even see his tongue.  She wished she hadn’t though, because the moistness of his mouth made her instantly feel ill.  It was in that moment that the man touched his tongue to the roof of his mouth and started making clicking noises.

He seemed as though he were keeping a rhythm, but he wasn’t holding on to it well.  He had the semblance of keeping a beat yet he would be slightly too fast or too slow with each beat.  The lack of timing was instantly starting to get on her nerves.  Emily was about to ask him to stop when she noticed the first change.

One of the bookshelves behind the man switched from a plain metal rack to an ornate wooden shelving unit.  It didn’t even make a noise or take the time to change shape; it simply went from one thing to another in an instant.

Emily blinked several times, as if the problem were her eyes.  The change was unsettling and she couldn’t even trust whether she saw or just hadn’t realized it was always there.  She would have kept staring at the bookshelves, but the clicking brought her back to the immediate problem; the man in front of her.

“I don’t know what you want, but if you don’t leave in the next couple of seconds, I’m going to call security.”  Her voice had raised a few decibels more than the last time.  She wanted to get the attention of as many people as she could.  She wanted someone to get involved.  She just needed someone to look up.  No one did.

Instead, the clicking continued and the changes became greater.  More metal racks changed into wooden shelves.  Some had trees growing out of them that touched the ceiling, some were carved directly out of wide tree trunks that merged perfectly with the laminate floor and tiled ceiling.  

Emily felt herself starting to panic.  She shut her eyes tight and took a deep breath.  None of this is happening, she told herself.  It’s obviously a dream.  You’ve been in here for a long time studying and you’ve just had too much.  So in a second, you’re going to open your eyes, wipe the drool off your books, and go take

Her self-assurance mantra was cut short by the realization that the clicking hadn’t stopped.  It snapped her out of her own head and brought her back into the terror of the situation.  Determined to find some help, Emily reached into her purse on the seat next to her and pulled out her cell phone.  She dialed 911, put the phone to her ear, and stood up to meet her opponent eye to eye.

“911, what is your emergency?”

“Hello,  I am here in the student library on campus and there is a man here threatening me.  He hasn’t attacked me yet, but I think he might.  Can you send an officer to help out, please?”

“Hehe,” the responder’s voice went from professional to mocking almost instantly, “Sure, sure. We’re gonna get you set up real quick.  Don’t you worry about nothin’.  Don’t worry about nothin’ ever again…”

The phone lost all power instantly and the battery began to heat up in her hand.  Emily shrieked and tossed the phone onto the desk.  It melted through the middle of the desk, catching it on fire along the way.  The phone dropped to the ground and sank through the floor.  The desk she had been sitting at, as well as her books, burned away within seconds as though they were all made out of flint.  She looked over to the other seat to grab her purse, but found the back of the chair slamming down on the seat, crushing her purse and everything in it.  The chair back raised a few more inches and Emily noticed small, sharp teeth protruding out of it in multiple rows.  The chair continued eating her purse, although without a throat, the pieces of her purse and it’s contents just kept falling to the ground.

Emily lost her ability to rationalize her situation anymore.  All she could do was stare at the insanity around her.  She turned her head to look at her own chair, only to see it hungrily waiting for her to sit down.  She watched it for a brief moment, uncertain of whether she should try sitting down again or not, but before she had the chance, her chair dashed at the chair eating her purse.  The purse chair yelped like a dog and ran forward.  There were no tables in the library anymore and the floor was now a mix of laminate and soil.  The purse chair continued its run, but stumbled on a student that had been sitting four rows ahead of her before all of this began.  He was now lying face down on the ground with his chemistry book attached firmly to his face.  Emily couldn’t tell if he was alive or dead, but she didn’t even have time to think about it as her chair leaped over the man and brought its face directly down onto the purse chair.  Splinters flew as her chair devoured the other one.

Emily tried to take a moment to think, but the clicking just kept bringing her back to “reality”.  Another student began to walk between the few feet of distance between her and the smiling man.  Emily’s eyes shifted focus from the chair-eating chair and slowly drew up towards the student’s face.  She surveyed the woman’s conservative clothing that covered what was a very firm and tight body.  As Emily’s eyes drew up, she saw a large pair of breasts hidden under a thick sweater (which seemed an odd choice for the summer), and a neck covered in brown and red feathers.  When she finally looked straight at the woman, she realized she was looking at human female with a robin’s head.

The woman continued to walk, but turned her head toward Emily.  The cold, black eyes stared back at her, never breaking contact as the woman continued her march forward.  She kept walking past Emily’s right, turning her head to face Emily as she went.  The robin’s head has turned fully backwards to continue its stare at Emily as the woman diligently walked between two bookshelf trees.

“Yeaaaaaahhhhhh…”

Emily snapped her head to the left as she heard the low, breathy sound.  She found her face was inches away from a human-sized fox wearing a police officer’s uniform.  It would have seemed almost cartoonish to her, if it weren’t for the disturbingly realistic features on it’s face.  The nose was wet, the teeth were bright white, and the mouth was drawn back in a sinister smile.

“Yeeeeeeeaaaaaahhhh…”, it continued, “I’m gonna take care a you, just like you asked me to, lady.  Just as soon as I get a piece of that hot chick over therrrrrrreeee….”  The fox darted past Emily, sprinting toward the bird-woman.  As it did, it lifted a dull, rusted axe over it’s head.  The fox got between the bookshelf trees and continued its pursuit of the bird-woman.  Suddenly, the trees slammed shut against each other.  Emily couldn’t tell if it simply closed, or if it crushed the people between them, but she wasn’t sure it even mattered anymore.  Her attention was inexplicably drawn to something different even farther to her right.

She turned to see another male student.  This one seemed to be the only person left sitting at a chair, but he wasn’t studying.  He was leaning forward and weeping.  He sobbed and moaned down onto a photograph he was holding.  His tears poured onto the picture and he didn’t seem to be stopping.

“She was so young…  Just so young…” His voice was cracking and frail.  “She could have stopped it, she could have done something.”  The man continued to cry onto the picture and stare down, but his wrists turned to the picture outward toward Emily.  Given his position, he shouldn’t have been able to turn his wrists very far, but he continued to turn them as they each gave a loud crack as they popped out of their joints.  He stopped when the picture was fully turned toward Emily.  

For the first time since the insanity began, Emily produced a reaction. Her mouth dropped open and her eyes widened.  She couldn’t believe she was staring at an antique black and white photograph of herself.  She was wearing clothes that suggested the picture came from somewhere just before the 20th century.  Her own eyes stared back at her from the photo and terrified her.  She wanted to scream, but found she couldn’t.  

The man continued his wailing and moaning.  “She should have made it stop.  She COULD have made it stop!”  The man’s voice began to raise and Emily thought for a brief moment that the picture of her went from a stoic face to one that was smiling.  It was too much for her to bear so she began to turn around.  Before she could face completely forward again, the crying man was standing directly in her face.  “YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO MAKE IT STOP!!!!!”  He screamed.  He pulled his head back and threw it forward violently, attempting to head-butt her with the full force of his weight behind it.  Instead, he disappeared the moment he was about to make contact with her forehead.

Emily felt the scream well up inside her throat.  She took a deep breath and prepared to let every last ounce of terror come shrieking out of her.  Just as she was about to let her last vestige of sanity slip, she heard the clicking again.  It drew her back, just as it had always done.  She turned to see the smiling man standing exactly where he had been the entire time, clicking and smiling away.  Things continued to change around her and the world continued its slide into dementia, but all she could do now was stare back at this man.  She began to realize everything was happening because of the clicking.  The snap of his tongue on the roof of his mouth started this confusion and that it wouldn’t stop until he did.  He had control of this situation, him and his rhythmic clicking.  All she had to do was reach out and make him stop.  All she had to do was wrap her fingers around his neck and strangle him until the light faded.

But she didn’t want him to stop anymore.  She didn’t want it to end.  She had heard the clicking long enough and had come to realize the beautiful symphony of sounds within.  For the first time since the man had walked into the library, Emily began to smile with him and she began to dance.

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September Challenge: Hallo-wait, we’re doing this already?

Yep, we’re doing this already to get in the mood for the halliest of hallowdays.  The challenge here might be harder for me than it is for you, but write a scary story without grotesque or horrific imagery.  Another way of thinking of it would be “scary without the blood”.  Good luck to both of us.

Subject: Scary Without the Violence
Setting: Anywhere that isn’t covered in bodies and blood
Time Period: Whenever you’d like
Length: Let’s keep it short
Restrictions: no blood, no guts, no horrifically disturbing images
Due: September

June/July Challenge: The Choice

So this isn’t completely suspenseful, but it is in its own way.  It’s a new blending of suspense and depressing.  It’s deprenseful.  As for my incredible lateness, I don’t have any excuses; I’ve just been lazy.  I’d like to get back to one a month though, so I’ll post a challenge for September after I post this story.

——————–
The sunlight shone down hard on the green grass at the Johnson family’s quiet suburban home.  The lawn had been mowed just a few days ago and everything looked pristine.  The Kool-aid Man looked at grass with a wistful smile on his face.  He appreciated the colors of the world much more than he had just days before.  The way the sky went from light to dark blue, the leaves changing from green to all sorts of different shades; this was his world and all he wanted to do was to drink it in.

He felt the cool autumn breeze blow around his pitcher and send a rush through his glass.  The hairline fractures even felt renewed, as though they could somehow heal themselves.  The birds chirped their messages to each other and in the distance he heard squirrels trying to accompany the birds with their chittering.  He smiled, closed his eyes, and let his mind drift back.

For the first few moments, The Kool-aid Man felt like he was back in his prime.  He was gleefully smashing down walls as though they were paper thin.  Children everywhere were excited to see him and parents were mortified at the damage he would cause.  It didn’t matter to him though, all that mattered was getting those kids their drinks.  He felt like a god.  He could go anywhere and knock down any wall.

Then his memories drifted back to the moment that still haunted him.  That time three weeks back when he smashed down a wall with his usual gusto, but walked away with a slight leak.  He had seen small leaks before, and they were usually nothing a trip to the doctor couldn’t handle, but this time it felt different.  The leak felt larger.

“Mr. Man,” Doctor Chihuly said with a slight hint of sadness in his voice, “there is no other way to say this to you; if you keep smashing walls, you will most likely die.  You have to stop right now.”  The Kool-aid Man sat there for a moment in the heavy silence, then he realized he was leaking again.  This time it was Berry Blast and the leak was coming from his eyes.

The memories snapped him back into reality as a single drop of Wild Cherry rolled down his five-foot tall face.

This is it, Kool, he thought to himself, what are you going to do?  You’ve got enough money to retire.  You could settle down and take it easy.  Hawaiian Punch hasn’t been doing much these days, you could hang out with him more.

But what would it matter?  My life has always about breaking down the barriers between children and refreshments.  That’s all I’ve ever wanted.  Besides, the doc did say there was a chance I could keep doing this for years with just this small leak.  I knew my line of work was risky when I started doing it, but that didn’t stop me back then.

The breeze blew over his body again.  Thirty to forty percent chance, he thought, thirty to forty.  What does that really mean?  What does that honestly mean in the grand scheme of “will I live or die?”

The Kool-aid Man heard noises on the other side of the wall.  Timothy Johnson shouted, “Wow!  It changes colors in water!”  Time to decide, big guy.  What are you gonna do?

April/May Writing Challenge – The Real Monster

Subject: Add Some Humor
Setting: Any
Time Period: Any
Length: 500 Words
Restrictions: None
Due: Next Month

So I got a little dark in writing my comedy.  Let’s make a new niche genre and call it “dark fourth wall comedy”, shall we?  If you’ve never read the book this story is based on, then either your parents never loved you or you never loved your children.
—————————————-

Grover let out a deep sigh.  He had made it to the end of the book and all he could find was himself, the words “The End”, and the reader.  It felt like he had spent an eternity worrying about the monster, but nothing had come to pass.  He was thinking inwardly to himself about the long nap he would take after the light would fade and thinking outwardly about how embarrassed he was.

As these thoughts passed through his head, he heard the terrifying cries of “Again! Again!”  Before he could even react, Grover felt a heavy rush of wind and found himself walking casually down Sesame Street, passing by a sign that read “The Monster at the End of This Book”.  A line below the title read “starring lovable, furry old Grover”.  “That’s Me!” he exclaimed, looking outward.  It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood and here he was, taking a walk with his best friend, the reader.  He wanted nothing more in the entire world.

Grover felt a small wind rush past and for a moment he felt as though his consciousness was split in two.  Like there was two of him existing at once.  It didn’t make sense to him though.  There’s only one lovable, furry old Grover and that’s him.  The feeling passed after a second.  He tried to recall what it felt like, but he couldn’t. All he could remember was how happy he was, walking past this brick wall with a sign on it, here with his best friend, the reader. 

There was some text at the top that read “The Monster at the End of This Book” as well as a lot of much smaller text that didn’t seem particularly important to him.  Grover kept walking by the words.  He told his friend, “This is a very dull page.  I wonder what is on the next page?”

Grover suddenly felt that feeling again.  Like he was a copy of himself and the original at the same time.  He also felt shocked and completely calm all at once.  He tried to wrestle with his emotions and after the feeling of a dual existence passed, he came to a horrible realization.

“WHAT DID THAT SAY?” Grover shouted to his friend, “On the first page, what did that say?  Did that say there will be a monster at the end of this book?”  Grover heard his friend reply “yeeeess” with an elongated “e” sound that almost seemed to be teasing him.  Why would his friend be that way with him though?  Wasn’t his friend always looking out for him?  Then the realization of what his friend said sank in.  “IT DID?” he shouted, “Oh, I am so scared of monsters!!!”

Grover felt that odd wind again and the feeling of duality pass through his entire being.  Somehow, he knew he was walking, yet he felt as though he was cowering on the floor.  The feeling passed yet again and he realized he had been on the floor of the book the entire time.

Grover shushed his friend as loudly as he could, emitting a noxious cloud of green smoke from his mouth as he did.  He wanted to apologize, but he didn’t have time for that.  He had to save himself and his friend.

“Listen,” Grover implored, “I have an idea.  If you do not turn any pages, we will never get to the end of this book.  And that is good, because there is a MONSTER at the end of this book.”  Grover thought for a second, then decided to add “So please do not turn the page.”

The duality came back once again.  Grover was cowering on the floor, begging for silence and screaming right at his friend all at once.  Once it passed, all he could do was to shout “YOU TURNED ANOTHER PAGE!!!”  He felt betrayed and horrified at the same time.  His friend was turning against him and disobeying his pleas for help.  How could it get any worse?

Grover’s duality happened faster this time and he found himself discovering exactly how it could get worse.  He had worked hard to tie ropes to the edges of the page to keep the reader from turning the it, but something about the ropes bothered him; it was the colors.

All he could see out of one eye was a bright shade of green and nothing else.  The other eye seemed to be fine, but from it he could see that some of his ropes had been erratically colored green.  Lines across his fur had been colored as well.  The waxy look to the color made him assume it was some sort of crayon.  Had the reader done this to him at some point?  He couldn’t remember.  As far back as his memory would go, this was the first time he had ever gone through this book with his friend, so it didn’t seem likely.

Grover had just started to explain to the reader why he had to tie all of the ropes when he felt the duality and rush of wind yet again.  Suddenly, his ropes were broken and stars, lightning bolts, and dark clouds were spewing from his mouth.

He screamed at his “friend” and demanded that they stop turning pages.  But somewhere deep inside he knew his “friend” wouldn’t listen.  Grover’s heart filled with dread as he accepted the inevitable betrayal. 

The next wind left him feeling more confused than he had ever felt before.  This time it wasn’t the duality that bothered him, it was the situation itself.  Grover had set up planks of wood and a table to saw them on, but he was building a brick wall instead.  He even found himself telling the reader (he refused to think of the reader as a “friend” at this point) that he was nailing the pages together.  If he was nailing the pages, then why was he building a wall?  The dichotomy perplexed him.  It was as if several events in his life were missing, but he just couldn’t figure out what.

The next rush of wind hurt Grover in ways he couldn’t have possibly prepared for.  He had gone from building a wall while talking about nailing pages to being buried alive under the rubble of his careful construction.  The pain was excruciating.  He mustered what strength he had to ask the reader “Do you know that you are very strong?” 

Just then he heard the reader exclaim “I turn page! Not you, mommy!” Grover knew this wouldn’t end well.  From under the pile of rubble, Grover could see the very fabric of reality being torn apart.  This was more than just the edges of his world being cartoonishly ripped and tattered, this was destruction on a level that introduced a frightening new dimension to his flat sense of reality.  He felt the world around him coming apart.  A loud shredding sound deafened his ears and shook the bricks he was piled under.  Without any time to react, Grover felt two of his fingertips being ripped off and whisked away onto another plane of existence, never to be seen again.

It was less than a second later that he felt even worse.  He was still buried under the rubble and missing his fingertips, but he also felt those same mauled fingers buried deep into the left edge of his own face.  He was buried and yet also standing up, pleading with the reader at the same time he was lying in a heap with almost no energy to move or speak.  He no longer felt himself commenting on the reader’s strength, instead all he could do was beg from the one side of his face, like a meek little puppy that’s been scolded.  “PLEASE do not turn the page,” he begged from under the destruction and while standing and sweating profusely at the same time, “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!”

The wind came once again and Grover welcomed it.  Whatever monster awaited him had to be better than the monster he was currently facing.  His whole existence was a jagged mess of pain and pleading and he was powerless to make it any better.  His betrayer had total control over him, like a puppet master forcing a puppet to do sick and painful things.  All Grover could do was wait and see what horrors would be unleashed upon him by the monster at the end of the book and hope that his end would come quickly.  But as the wind continued to sweep over him, he got a small sense that everything would be alright.

When it passed, Grover felt true elation.  He had made it to the end of the book and all he could find was himself, the words “The End”, and the reader.  His kind, helpful friend, the reader.  Grover was so glad to have such a good friend with him at the end of his story.  He had never trusted anyone more in his entire life.

April/May Challenge – Funny Stuff

Subject: Add Some Humor
Setting: Any
Time Period: Any
Length: 500 Words
Restrictions: None
Due: Next Month

Since Grant is still in the middle of his big move( and it’s already the middle of this month), we’ll give this one a month and a half.  The premise is simple; write a story that is either humorous throughout or incorporates humor in some way.  If you’re not a fan of humor, then you can try your hand at wit, humour, hilarity, comedy, or jocularity instead.

March Writing Challenge – The Will

Subject: Shifting POV
Setting: Any
Time Period: Any
Length: 500 Words
Restrictions: None
Due: This Month

So here’s something I tossed together this month.  It’s probably longer than 500 words.  My intent was to find a way to go third-person to second to first to second to third, but that didn’t really pan out with the story I had in my head.  So it’s third to first to second to third to something to third.  It also doesn’t read as perfectly as I might want it to, were I to try to publish it.  If I were to do that, I’d definitely go back and clean it up a lot more and add some flavor (build the scenes out more, establish a bit more of the characters, etc.).

————————————————————————–

Frank frantically knocked on Jean’s door while simultaneously trying the door knob. Jean got up from her desk and calmly opened the door.

“Come on in, Frank,” she said with an exasperated tone. She knew what was going to come out of his mouth before he even said it. She didn’t want to do this, but she knew it was finally coming.

“Jeannie! Thank God you’re here! The cops are after me and they say they’ve got proof I did it! But I ain’t done nothin’! You know that! They won’t stop chasin’ me ! Come on, I gotta go! I’ve gotta get out of here!” Frank’s mouth could barely stop running as fast as his heart beat.

Jean went back to her desk and sat down. “Pull up a chair, Frank. I gotta tell you about what I’ve been doing,” she said as slow and calm as she could. She knew he was on edge and was ready to run at any minute. “You hired me to investigate this case and that’s just what I’ve done. The last day has turned up a lot…”

————

After you told me about your trip back to your father’s house and how you found Sharon there rifling through Tom’s desk, I figured Tom’s will might not have actually been with his lawyer.

I took a late night trip to Tom’s and decided to do a little digging. It surprised me that even though Tom’s been in the ground for two weeks now, Sharon still hasn’t bothered to change those locks on his office door. That’s kinda dangerous since Tom’s killer is still on the loose, but I guess Sharon isn’t too worried about it.

Tom’s desk didn’t reveal anything new, which makes sense. The cops did a pretty good job going over that. The only new thing I could find was a few pictures of your father and Sharon in a drawer mixed in with older love letters between him and your mother. It was a shame to see her go, but it was good to finally see him happy and moving on. When he would smile, everybody in the room would feel it. And he hadn’t smiled much since Helen’s death, had he?

Sorry… I’m getting off track, it’s just that your father was a great man and whoever did this must’ve had a serious grudge. Anyways, I took a step back from the scene and realized that if he really wanted to keep that will a secret then he wasn’t going to hide it in the first place anyone would look.

So I headed downstairs. None of you have wanted to go into that basement since Helen died down there three years ago, so it made sense that if he really wanted that will hidden, the basement was the best place to go. There were cobwebs and dust over everything. There’s so much of Helen down there that all of you have tried to hide to help get over her. But there was one thing that looked odd.

In all of that dust and dirt it’s easy to follow someone’s tracks. A pile of boxes looked like they had been drug out of the corner and then pushed back into place. I pulled them back and found the concrete underneath had been torn up and replaced. I tossed the concrete chunks to the side and dug through a few inches of soil and found everything I needed to close this case.

Still not following me, Frank? Well, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but he was on to Sharon and he had me trailing her even before he died. But here’s the thing, I also discovered something I didn’t get a chance to show him before he died.

Now don’t get all worked up, Frank. Calm down. It’s over now. Officer Pendleton is actually over there in the other room. I’m the one who told them about you. Sharon has already been brought in for her part in this, but they weren’t completely sure about you, so that’s why we set this little meeting up.

Not gonna fess up yet, Frank? Well, let me walk you through it.

————

You weren’t a big fan of Sharon when she first started dating your father. She was half his age and seemed like she was just there for the money. But after a while, you came to like her.

The two of you were even starting to get kinda close. You started taking walks around the grounds together and taking canoes out on the lake. Tom noticed it too, but he didn’t want to say anything. That’s why he was such a great guy. Even if things were falling apart around him, he’d do what he had to to keep his family happy.

So you and Sharon kept getting closer. Close enough to end up in bed together. At the rate you were going, you were never going to move out of your father’s house. But you also couldn’t stand the idea of sharing the same woman, could you? And she must have confessed that she was really in love with you around that same time because that’s when things started getting colder between the two of you and him.

It was around two or so months ago that the two of you started looking into his will. He was already talking about changing it and you both got suspicious. You wanted to know who else could be involved in getting his money, so you started snooping around.

It was that night he caught you searching through his desk that it all came to a head. You were both shouting, he told you that you needed to get out of the house and then you lost it.

Sharon came down while you were both yelling and knew it wasn’t going to end well for either of you. She went to your gun safe and got your revolver. Then either you or her took that shot as Tom started to walk out of the room. Both of your prints showed up on that gun so the only question that remains is who pulled the trigger. What we do know is that you must have been the one to run the gun back to your safe because you knew the staff would show up soon.

So when everyone came in, you both played it innocent. Sharon had already cracked the back door to make it look like someone ran out, so everyone thought they were looking for some outside party.

———–

“It was a pretty good crime,” Jean said, lighting her cigarette. “You both could have gotten away with it if it weren’t for what I’d found in the basement. You thought he still had the original will with the lawyer, but he’d taken it out a few days before to start making changes.” She dropped the documents on the desk in front of her. Officer Pendleton had come out of hiding in Jean’s bedroom and stood behind Frank, but Frank was in too much shock to even react.

“That’s… that’s… No. We loved Dad. You don’t understand. I’ve never touched Sharon.”

Jean dropped three photos on the desk. One showed Sharon and Frank out on the lake in a canoe. Another had them walking around the grounds and talking. The third showed them both sitting on a bench. Sharon had her head on Frank’s shoulder.

Frank stared in amazement. “These are completely out of context. Why would you have these?” He asked.

“Like I said, he didn’t trust you two.” she said in an almost apologetic voice. Officer Pendleton stood Frank up and put handcuffs on him. “No. This doesn’t make sense. He was there too. He should have been in these pictures!” Frank was practically yelling, but at no one in particular. “Come on,” Officer Pendleton said, “we’ll go over it all at the station. Thanks for your help, Jean.”

“No problem, Jack,” she said, still sounding sad. “I’m so sorry about this. About how it turned out.”

Officer Pendleton just nodded at her in agreement and escorted Frank out the door.

———–

Jeannie,

Thank you for everything you’ve done for my family. You’ve always been there to help with business concerns and to look into anything suspicious for me. You were always a trusted friend to both Helen and I.

And when you comforted me after Helen died, I just felt

Well, that’s when I started to fall in love with you. But you knew that already, didn’t you? That’s when you fell for me too. The time we had together was special and I’ll never forget how tender and loving you were to me.

But we both knew it couldn’t last. Frank had been smitten with you since he first laid eyes on you. Hell, sometimes I think he tried to find things for you to investigate just so he could see you again. It was because of Frank that we kept it all under wraps. And maybe that’s why we started fighting. I know we never said it, but under the surface of those fights were your frustration with us not being open about it.

Some of it was that it seemed too soon after Helen’s death. At least it was for me anyways. 36 years with someone and it’s only 4 months later that I end up in your bed. But you were so good to me. And I’ll never be able to thank you enough for that.

Which is why it hurt so much to end it. It was best for both of us and I thought you understood. You were sad (I was too), but you said we could still be friends. I believed you when you said that.

But what’s been happening since then is troubling. I’ve seen you taking pictures of me and Sharon. And I know you’ve been looking into her without my asking you to. When I came to you and told you that you had to stop, you said it couldnt. I know you think she’s not right for me, but she really is a wonderful person. Even Frank likes her now and I thought that would never happen!

So here we are again. I’ve asked you repeatedly to leave my personal life alone and stick to the work I need you for, but you can’t, can you? I suppose it’s got to be hard for you to, when there isn’t much else going on in your life.

So that’s why I’m terminating your work contract as well. You’ve done good work, but this can’t keep happening. I’ll talk to my legal team on monday and tell them and HR to write up some cancellation documents. They’ll want to collect all information you’ve found for us (that was part of the initial contract you signed when you started working for us) and then you’ll have what you truly need. Some space.

Space from me, Frank, Sharon, the business, all of it. Maybe with time and a new focus in life you can find a way to get past us and get over me. I hope you can build something stronger and healthier for yourself and just leave all of this behind you.

Goodbye Jeannie,

Tom

———-

Tears streamed down Jean’s face and hit the pages. They were only slightly damp as she bundled it back together with his other love letters, the pictures they had taken together, and the pictures she had showing the full scenes of what she had shown Officer Pendleton and Frank. The pictures had Frank and Sharon together, that much was trues, but she had cropped the photos and taken Tom out.

She put her cigarette to the edge of the bundle and held it there. After a few seconds the letters started to burn and the pictures were beginning to warp. Jean tossed the pile into the trash can, then pulled out another set of pictures. They were distance photos of Sharon, Frank, and Tom at their outdoor shooting range. Tom was firing his revolver in a few of the photos and Sharon in some of the others.

Once the fire started to consume all of the evidence, she stood up and walked to the liquor cabinet. She grabbed a bottle of vodka and drank straight from it, taking large gulps. It burned her throat as it went down, but what she had done was tearing her apart worse than the alcohol ever could.

Jean scribbled a quick note to her landlord about needing to go see her sister in Chicago, stuffed it into an envelope with the rent, then she packed up her clothes in a suitcase and headed toward the door.

She took one last look around her apartment/detective agency. She couldn’t stop seeing Tom every time she glanced around the room. She wanted to stay and lose herself in the memories, but she knew it was time to go. Pendleton may have bought the story she crafted, but there was still a chance it could come back around to her. She gave a final sigh and then she turned away. It was time to finally get what she believed she needed. Some space.

A Slightly Late Halloween Story

Here it is; after many months of not doing anything with it, here is my Halloween story.

———————————

Sugar-filled coffee and sugar-covered fried foods; every morning should start this way, he thought to himself.  Ryan McCarthy patted his expanding belly and tried not to think about all of the things that could kill him hidden in his breakfast.  His doctor talked to him about the threat of diabetes at his last physical, but he quickly put that thought out of his mind as well.  Today, he had coffee and donuts and life was good.

 

He ate his donuts at the kitchen counter, giving his teenage son and “tween-age” daughter plenty of space to eat at the table.  Neither of them were morning people and he had no desire to start a fight just by being happy in their presence.  His wife, Cindy, had no qualms with upsetting either of them, because she sat down with some toast and orange juice while humming a song.  It was something from the pop stations, but Ryan couldn’t remember what it was.  It sounded familiar enough that the kids would get it though, and they wouldn’t like that their mom knew something they knew.  Ryan took a sip of his coffee and decided to watch the show.

 

“Mom.  Stop,” Daniel said.  

 

“I can’t help myself,” she replied, “I have eighteen great years of marriage behind me with a wonderful husband, a brilliant twelve year old daughter with an incredible smile, and a seventeen year old son whose artistic talents are going to light up the faces of everyone…  just as soon as he finishes high school and picks a college, of course. ”  She said the last bit with a small smile on her lips.

 

Ryan braced for impact.  College had been a big issue around the house at the moment and he knew it would set Daniel off.

 

“Mom,” Daniel said, and then he paused.  He looked down at his food for a moment, looked back up at his mother and said with a sad look in his eye, “I’m going to miss you guys when I go.  You know that, right?”

 

“I know that, honey,” she said with a softer expression on her face, “and we’re going to miss you just as much.  But you’re going to take a different path soon.  It won’t always be easy, and sometimes you’ll feel alone, but we’ll always be there with you.”  Daniel smiled back with a slight tinge of sadness.

 

Holy shit, Ryan thought to himself, a happy breakfast and an open conversation; she’s a miracle worker.  He watched in amazement as Daniel slid a hand across the table and Cindy reached out and squeezed it tight.  

 

“Well I’m ready for you to get out,” Beth said in a snippy – sounding voice, “Your friends are annoying and you spend too much time in the bathroom spanking it.”

 

“Fuck you!” Daniel replied, his voice cracking in the process.  

 

“Beth!”  Cindy snapped back, “You need to cool it.  Your brother and I were talking and you don’t need to interrupt just for the attention.”

 

Beth stuck her tongue out at Daniel and then went back to her food.

 

And life returns to normal, Ryan thought.  He took the last few sips of his coffee and headed upstairs.

 

Ryan adjusted his tie in the mirror hanging off the back of the bedroom door.  He turned around and stared longingly at the bed.  It’s sheets still left in disarray and looking as though someone were still nestled snugly within them.  Only sixteen more hours, he thought, then I can go back to the comfiest place on earth.  He let out a small sigh and then Ryan reluctantly turned around and headed towards his car.

 

He walked outside with his head down, not paying a bit of attention to where he was going.  When he finally looked up, he noticed he was standing at the passenger door of Daniel’s car.  

“God damn it, Daniel,” Ryan muttered under his breath, “why did you park here?”   Ryan started to turn around and head back into the house when he felt the hard smack of concrete against his skull.  His head rang out in pain, his vision went white for a moment, and his heart started to race.  

 

He had just started to realize he was staring up at the morning sky when he felt a long, bony hand grab his leg.  Ryan wanted to scream, but was in too much shock when he found himself dragged under his son’s car.  The back of his shirt scraped across the pavement as his face and body simultaneously smashed into the underside of the car and passed straight through it.

 

The pain was intense.  His nose burst open in a spray of blood as it made contact with the drive train underneath the center of the car.  His portly stomach had long gashes torn into it from the various nuts and bolts it snagged on.  And yet, at the same time he Ryan felt himself slipped easily past each and every object.  

 

Ryan came to a stop just on the other side of the car.  Most of his body was free, but his head was pinned directly under the driver’s side tire.  The hand on his leg had finally let go and Ryan prepared himself to run.  Then he willed himself to get up and run.  Then he forced himself to get up and run.  Then he begged himself to get up and run.

 

But nothing happened.  He remained pinned to the ground, his body betraying him.  His mind begged to scream, but he couldn’t do that either.  He was completely paralyzed.  His entire body screamed in pain and his breath raced in terror, but all he could do was lie there.

 

His eyes were open and facing toward the back tire.  His mind slowed down from its base, instinctual reflexes and began to allow him to form coherent thoughts when the creature appeared in front of him.  The sight caused him to lose control once again.

 

The human, yet vaguely faceless creature was both there and not.  The apparition seemed to shift from a skeletal shape, then muscles, and then a black, velvety skin all forming directly on top of each other over and over again.  The cycles were happening at least once every second, if not faster.  At the end of each cycle, it would blink out of existence for just a moment and then the cycle would begin again.  

 

The right half of its human-like body seemed to be passing through the driveway while the other half was floating in the space between the ground and the car.  It put one rapidly changing hand up to its mouth and it let out a shushing sound.  It came closer, getting its face right up to his, and in the moments the dark flesh appeared on its body it seemed to be giving ryan a gentle and caring smile.  It let out a series of unintelligible sounds that seemed to coincide with the changes in its shape.  When it was a skeleton it simply made a hollow wind sound; when it became a muscled yet skinless creature it would make a mournful moaning; finally when it would reach its final form it almost seemed to be forming words.  The changes were happening so rapidly though that all three sounds blended together in a cacophony of noises.

 

The creature flew away for a moment, then re-appeared in front of Ryan.  It raised one hand, placed it on his shoulder, made a few more unintelligible noises, then stopped regenerating.

 

Ryan laid there in shock, pinned under the tire.  His body was wracked with pain and his mind felt as though it were coming apart at the seams.  He felt the cool concrete underneath him heating up under his own panic sweat.  It was a small thing, but the recognition that he was sweating and it seemed to affect the world around him brought his mind back into focus and allowed him to think again.

 

Ok.  Ok.  Ok. Your sweat and your heat are causing the concrete to heat up.  That’s good. (godithurtsgodithurtsgodithurts) No, that’s bad.  That means you’re actually here.  You’re not dreaming this.  (godithurtsmypantsarewetwhatwasthatthing) But that doesn’t make any sense.  How is any of this physically possible?  And why can’t I move?  Wait, am I having a stroke?  Do these things happen when you have a stroke?  (mybellyhurtsithurtssobaddeargodhelp) Is this an aneurysm or something?  How bad am I bleeding?  

 

Ryan made a few more desperate attempts to move, but found that nothing worked.  He couldn’t even blink.

 

(Thetireispushingtoohardithurtsgetitoff) Dear God, let Cindy find me before Daniel.  Please.  I don’t want him to see me like this.  That thing was a hallucination, right?  Fucking Christ, it had to have been.  But if that was a hallucination, then how did I get to this side of the car?

 

Ryan’s thoughts and subconscious ramblings went on for several more minutes, then he heard the front door.  He heard his son say goodbye to his Cindy as he closed the door behind him.  

 

God, please, Ryan pleaded, please don’t let him see me.  He’s a good kid and I don’t want him to see me like this.

 

Ryan couldn’t look up, but he knew that Daniel was getting close.  He heard Daniel’s footsteps come around the front of the car, then, nothing.  No scream, no gasp, nothing at all.

 

Then Ryan heard the sound of Daniel fishing around for his keys.  He heard them come out of his pocket, but there was still no reaction from Daniel.

 

What the fuck is happening? Ryan wondered, Am I not really here after all?  Thank you Lord!  This must just be a dream! There’s no way he can’t see me AAAHHHHH!!!

 

The pain of having his ribs shattered and his organs smashed against the other side of his body would have sent him into involuntary spasms and caused him to black out.  It would have, except it wasn’t happening at the same time it was.  He simultaneously felt the pain and felt nothing at all.  He realized Daniel hadn’t kicked him.  Daniel had stepped through him.

 

Another blast of searing pain came as Daniel took a second step directly through his father.

 

This isn’t happening.  It can’t be.  I feel fine and not fine.  How is that possible?

 

Daniel stepped into the car and shut the door.  Ryan felt a new sense of terror well up within him.

 

Fuck!  He didn’t see me!  What if he tries to take off?  Why the fuck can’t he see me?  God what is happening?

 

Ryan heard the car rumble to life.

 

God!  Help me!  Please!  Daniel doesn’t even know I’m here!  Just let him see me or notice me!  Something!  Anything!  Please let this whole thing just be a dream!

 

Ryan heard the car shift out of park and into reverse.  As it did, Ryan felt something he hadn’t felt since this whole ordeal began;  he felt whole.

 

Just let them know how much I loved them.

 

——————————————

 

Given the nature of the crime, Daniel McCarthy was tried as an adult.  It was determined that there was no way he could have not seen his father as he entered the car and he was sentenced to life in prison.  Daniel always claimed to be innocent, but was never able to offer any solid explanation.

 

Cindy refused to speak up at the trial.  She honestly didn’t know how to react.  Losing both her husband and her son in one brief moment tore her apart.  She kept herself together during the trial, but over the years grief took over and her sanity started to slip.

 

———————————

 

Tragedies are defining moments in people’s lives.  They change the reflection of the past and make indelible changes to the arc of people’s lives.   When a family is torn apart by tragedy, it can send the survivors into disparate directions.  Though the tragedy of Ryan McCarthy’s death affected them all, it was only meant to change the course of one.

 

This is the story of Beth McCarthy.