I set you a monstrous challenge for last week’s Friday Freaky Flash, and some of you almost snapped my hand off as you reached for the gauntlet;
Demons. Witches. Vampires. Werewolves. Tell me your most monstrous story.
But first, a late entry for the previous week’s dreams challenge from the wonderfully talented poet, singer-songwriter, blogger and philosopher, Éilis Niamh…
Four PM, the night of the blood moon, saw me picking my way carefully across gnarled tree roots and jagged cracks as I entered the park alone. The day’s warmth seemed to be fading more rapidly than the sunlight, but both cast a collective shadow, an impending foreboding that silently trailed behind me. My friends tried to warn me earlier. People were being advised to stay indoors after five, they said. But I already had plans.
I noticed an absence of birdsong as I ducked inside the tent which mom erected for our campout. We’d watch the eclipse in style, faces turned to the stars. But first, we had a play to rehearse.!
At six PM, Kyle, a teen actor in our play, nervously checked his watch. “It’s late” he exclaimed. “I need to get home to my family.” He got on his bike, and the night swallowed him.
With growing trepidation I zipped the tent, fiercely hoping he’d make it home alive.
I sprawled on a sleepingbag and the casual conversation between mom and I created an oasis within the rapidly encroaching darkness, hovering watchful, right outside.
Suddenly, something under the sleeping bag bumped me from behind. “Mom!”
“What is it?” She half-turned from the mirror.
Desperately, I fought back panick. “Something’s wrong. Under the sleeping bag. I don’t want to touch it.”
Her presence behind me was reassuring until the cry of alarm. Startled, she dropped the edge of the sleepingbag and stumbled backward against the wall. “It’s a bug. It’s been skillfully dismembered.”
“How did it get in here?” I thought of the bug’s insect family whose mother or father would not be coming home tonight, and the boy who might not make it home, and wanted to cry.
Something was dreadfully wrong.
Mom stepped around in front of me, and was staring at me with hollow eyes. Her energy grew distant, dissociated. I watched in horror as her spirit ebbed out like a tide, and the dark separating silence took its place behind her eyes. Her mouth spoke with someone else’s voice: “A witches brew.”
I bolted. Outside, I almost crashed into a woman.
“I can’t go back in there to get mom,” she interrupted apologetically. “She’ll have to save herself.”
Heart pounding, I stood in bafflement for a moment. Then I knew. She was myself, who separateness would have stolen from me. In a daze, I reached for her. She had no body, but slipped seamlessly into the space which could have permanently held absence.
When mom emerged moments later, I was fully integrated. Hands clasped together, we fled the shadows of separateness and the vacancy of an eclipsed sky.
When I woke, unsettled and disturbed, my ancient kin stood around me, Sadbh’s peaceful light Glowing soft above my head. “We can expand the light within and woven around us until there is no place for the illusion of separateness,” Caoilte explained. I waited expectantly. “It starts within you, first.”
You can find out more about Éilis on her blog, The Sound of What Happens.
Next up it’s Helen Jones, who is new to the challenge, and who floored me with this beautifully intricate twisted tale of what it feels like to be a monster…
Monsters. That’s what they call us.
Like I care.
I can’t help the way I am, any more than they can. So I ignore the taunts, pretending even to myself that the words don’t hurt me. But at night they return, banging around in my head until I can’t take it any more and bury my head under my pillow, tears hot against cool cotton.
There are others like me, but base born, no more than cattle to my people. I’m different, because of who my parents are. We don’t get born that often, you see. Some sort of genetic throwback, memory of a time when we had to live in hiding, demonised and forced apart from society simply because of who we were. I don’t know when things changed and we started to take over. It’s so long ago now, though there are those who can remember, their skin stretched parchment pale over their bones, eyes a sunken glitter. I see them recoil as I go past, baring their teeth at me, hot hiss of breath.
And every day I shrink a little more into myself, every night I curl a little tighter in my bed.
My mother tries to help me – I suppose she feels somehow responsible, as my mutation is only carried on the female line. She is here now, sitting on the edge of the bed, waiting for me to emerge from under the pillow.
‘Come, my darling girl,’ she says, cool voice in the dark night.
I give in. Pulling the pillow away I feel her hands, chill on my hot skin. See the gleam of her teeth as she leans in to kiss me, before her dark fall of hair blots out what little light there is.
‘Do you want me to try again?’
‘What’s the point?’ I mutter, rolling over and hugging the pillow. I feel her touch my hair.
‘It might work, this time.’
I roll back. ‘Why? Why would it be any different this time?’
She stared at me, her beauty all fine planes and shadows. ‘Halloween is coming…’
‘I know.’ How could I not? The biggest festival of the year, presents and parties and fun for everyone.
Unless you were like me.
‘There will be a party. You could go, dress up-‘
‘I don’t want to try again!’ I snap the words out.
Mother pulled back, dark silk around her like wings.
‘I don’t want to talk about it any more.’
I roll over again, ignoring her. She probably needs to go out, anyway. It’s feeding time, after all. I hear my father moving around down below, then his call. Her weight leaves the bed.
‘Just think about it.’
She touches my hair one last time. Then I hear her squeak as she changes, the flap of wings, the sting of her teeth as she nips my hand. Ashamed, I pull it away, sick of what I am.
Human. In a world of vampires.
And last but by no means least, we have the wonderful Geoff le Pard, who is no stranger to this blog, with a right creepy tale which has its sting right in the very last line… genius!
Toni thought the back bedroom odd from the outset. The smell – like something she remembered from her grandparents’ farm when she was small. ‘What’s the smell?’
John turned from the window. ‘What smell?’
The seller appeared behind her. ‘The farm probably. Over there.’ Toni couldn’t say why but she didn’t like him at all.
They moved in. John wanted to use the back bedroom but she refused so it filled with the stuff they didn’t need immediately.
When John went away for a conference Toni avoided the room until she couldn’t find the address book. ‘Damn where is it?’ She lost track of time and began to feel sleepy. She knew she should get up but dozed. Instantly she was in the room but it was night. She was in bed. John came to her and they made love. Yet when she opened her eyes it was the seller not John.
Toni came to with a start, shaking her head. In her hand was the address book.
When John returned she had news. ‘I’m pregnant.’ They were delighted.
Slowly the back room emptied, though Toni never went back in it, leaving it to John.
Then six months later, he went away again. She had him make sure the back bedroom door was firmly shut. He even offered for her to come with him but she knew that was stupid.
As she lay in bed her mind drifted back to the farm and her childhood and that smell. It came to her: It was the smell from the parlour when they laid out her great aunt. The smell of death. Maybe something had died on the farm next door. There had to be a rational explanation. Even so she didn’t want to fall asleep yet eventually tiredness overtook her.
She was in the back bedroom, in bed but this time she was on her own. Gradually she realised she was in labour and the baby was about to appear. In horror she watched as the infant’s head emerged, calloused, weeping sores and tiny black eyes set almost touching. There was no hair but rather two stubs like the beginnings of horns. A man was taking the baby; the seller.
She woke with a jump. Her phone was ringing. She pulled herself out of bed and realised pains were shooting across her stomach. Labour pains. She snatched up the phone. John.
‘John, the baby’s coming. I need you.’
‘What? Now? Oh heavens. Right I’m on my way. I’ll call an ambulance.’
‘Thanks.’ Relief flooded Toni. ‘Why’d you call?’
‘What? Oh the seller rang. He left something important and he’s coming round to collect it.’
*Shudder*. Geoff has recently published his new book, My Father and Other Liars. You can read an excerpt from it here, when he stopped by my blog a couple of weeks ago. His first book is called Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, and you can buy them both here. You can catch up with him on his blog.
Thank you all for being such good sports, and for supporting my blog with your most excellent stories.
Which brings us to this week’s Friday Freaky Flash challenge; in case you hadn’t noticed, next weekend it’s Halloween, the night when the souls of the departed are said to walk the earth. What are they up to? Why have they returned? What, or who are they after?
Give me your greatest, gruesomest, gory, ghoulish GHOST STORY. Have you got what it takes to frighten the life out of me?
Good luck, and have fun with this one. You can submit here, I will include links to your blog and books. Entries must be under 500 words, but please remember that I write YA, so there may be young people on this site… please keep it family friendly. Please send to me by next Thursday 29th October @ 12:00pm. I really hope you will join me and take part in the craic!