Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Hey, everyone, check out my most-recent failure! I wrote this for the 24-hour Short-Story contest from Writers Weekly.

First, the prompt:

She was standing on the porch of a sagging cabin with bright yellow leaves collecting around her feet. As the cold wind billowed her skit, she shivered and wondered if the owner of the purse really lived here. She knocked timidly and the door quickly opened, revealing a tiny girl holding a hideous, bald doll…

Now, the entry that lost if for me:


The tiny girl held a hideous, bald figurine. It looked like a cancer-ridden Kewpie doll - something for very sick children. Not to inspire in them the will to live. Something to comfort them as they accepted the alternative.

The girl's arsenal of teeth was spotty - her mouth looked like the dental version of the porch on which she stood.

"Come in," I was certain I'd heard her command, as she turned and walked down the hall.

I looked around. All I saw were bare white birch trees, a carpet of bright yellow and orange leaves, and the wind intermixing the two. The path I'd arrived on seemed more faded by the moment.

As I crossed the threshold of the decaying cabin, I was immersed in feelings I'd last felt at six, frozen in bed in my darkened room, convinced any movement would guarantee my imminent demise at the hands of the murderous spirits whose presence I felt just beyond the mattress's edge.

Surprised to be the more scared of the two of us, I followed the girl around a corner, past a sliding glass door that revealed an enclosed porch, and into a kitchen that reeked of damp cigar smoke and rotting wood - strangely, because the room seemed neither damp nor rotting. It looked old and used, but sturdy and neat.

"This is him," the little girl said, pointing at the ground where she stood on the other side of the counter. Ice-cold fear shot up my back and down my arms as I approached her.

Lying there, eyes open, hand in mid-grasp, was a corpse. I almost screamed, but it would have been so incongruous with the girl's demeanor that I tamped it down into rapid breaths.

The man was skinny, before death. He wore no shirt - only overalls. He looked to be in his 40s, and maybe five days' dead, I thought, though I know not what experience I drew from.

His right hand reached toward me as if his last wish had been to grasp something in my direction. I tried to imagine what, and all I could picture was a mischievous hovering sphere - something like the snitch from Harry Potter - staying just out of the man's reach.

"I think we should go," I said, acknowledging the feeling that any of a hundred different things would jump out of the shadows, despite the fact it was a gray day of the type that fosters none - the kind in which everything seems to be illuminated by a diffuse, depressing fog of light.

"He said to stay," said the girl.

"When?" I heard myself ask, though I immediately felt that wasn't the line of questioning I wished to pursue.

"Just before he passed," she said, her voice dropping with each syllable, until it was an echoing, sonorous bellow. She seemed to expand imperceptibly, like a marshmallow in a microwave. I couldn't focus on both her and her surroundings, so I wasn't sure if she was growing or my eyes were readjusting, until suddenly she towered over me, a six-foot-tall mass of black shadow and yellow eyes.

"He said to never leave."

Again - the terror I'd felt as a child, my bed a lone raft adrift atop a black sea of sadistic death. The same terror I'd known in dreams when I'd scream for help but no words would come. When I'd try to run but realize I was completely paralyzed.

Then I felt my feet take me away. I expected the creature would overpower me at once, but it remained, watching. I was exiting the kitchen, the beast, in my eyes, shrinking in size as it stood there.

I turned just in time to feel the pane of glass that was the sliding glass door ram my nose down what felt like my throat.

I awoke later facing a strange ceiling. As before, my body moved before my mind could paralyze it. I lifted my head before the fear inspired by that black mass fully returned, and I saw that the coast to the door was clear.

Half my mind wondered if the man was still behind the counter. I didn't sense the creature there, but neither could I make myself look. I put out my hand, got to my feet, and began walking toward the door. Immediately, I was running. Expecting anything. Expecting nothing. I was simply where I was. Totally and fully:

Running out the door. Avoiding the protruding knot in the fallen branch. Speeding by the procession of leafless trees, over and down the hill. I dared not look back, too afraid my luck would change. I thought of Sodom and Gomorrah and salt and Lot's wife - the sound of those words in my head as I ran. I ran until I was on asphalt again. Until I saw my car.

I got behind the wheel. I turned the ignition. And I drove.

I drove until I saw cars - modern, sensical cars. And people driving them. Real, live people. I drove until I saw traffic lights and restaurants and pedestrians. I drove past the exit for my house. I drove past the city limits. I drove until I was in front of my parents' house. I wanted to go inside, as I had ten thousand times before. I wanted to turn off the alarm and pet my dog and go up to my room and just lie there. But I couldn't. My parents weren't here anymore. My parents weren't anymore.

Monday, October 24, 2011

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