fantasy, horror, thriller

Seven Days – Part 1 (Horror)

Seven Days – Part 1

It had only been fifteen minutes, but Karen was already wiping a layer of dirty sweat and humidity from her braless chest. She had run from the house while still in her pajamas, her eyes bruised from last night’s makeup, hair a mess, and head pounding from her alcohol exploits. It was the phone call at 11:15 am that sent her straight from bed to the car within seconds…the phone call asking if Connor and Kenny stayed over last night. It was that phone call that let her know that her daughter Elizabeth was not at Connor’s where she said she would be. By 11:45, the parents, along with police and what seemed to be the entire neighborhood, were trudging through the woods a mile away. Boots slapping and sticking in the earth that was trying to dry after the seven days of rain had finally ceased.

It was a night alone with Tom, and now she felt guilty. She cherished the nights Elizabeth would stay with a friend. Freedom. Sex with Tom the way it used to be, alcohol, maybe a joint, staying out until she damn well chose to come home. Whenever the opportunity arose for Elizabeth to stay at Connor’s Karen took it. She knew it had been raining for days, but refused to count how many. Because if she had counted, she would have known it was seven, and that it would have been safer for Elizabeth to stay home that night. And now Elizabeth was missing. This was her fault. Her selfish fault.

Everything in her body told her Elizabeth was gone. “Elizabeth! Connor! Kenny!” She yelled every so often into the woods that surrounded her. Every time she yelled, she felt the squeeze of emptiness grow tighter around her body, strangling her with the thought of never seeing her daughter again. The “reassurance” from people walking around her was not reassuring at all. The three best friends have pulled stunts like this before. But they have always been sure to be home on time, if not early, to minimize the scolding.

She saw something blue in the distance. The top of the kiddie tent Elizabeth used when she was younger.

“Tom!” Karen could barely yell out as she ran toward the tent. “There!”

Tom and the mob followed Karen’s direction until there was a sudden stop. No one moved, and silence echoed between the people and the trees that surrounded them. A crow cawed in the distance. The police were the first to move toward the body. Only the sounds of their mud-smacking boots and rustling, pocketed pants filled the air. Karen couldn’t move, didn’t want to move. It was Elizabeth. She recognized her brown wavy hair and the Detroit Tigers pajamas. She was face down with her arms sprawled out as though she were lying in their king-sized bed. Her legs…her legs were… She moved up just a little, just enough to see that Elizabeth’s legs were missing. No, that wasn’t right. She moved a little closer. They were in the ground as though Elizabeth had been standing and the earth had formed around her, stopping mid-thigh. And the rest of her body, toppled over the earth silent, still, lifeless.

***

A loud bang stopped Kenny from finishing his story about why his mom took his phone away for the day, something about ignoring her when he was on it. Him and Elizabeth looked up to see a muddy handprint on the window, raindrops already creating trails that ran through it. The camper door opened, and Connor stood in the doorway with his face covered in mud.

“They’re coming!” he growled. “They’re going to eat us alive! First our feet.” He stomped into the camper. “Then our legs!” He did his best decrepit walk towards Elizabeth. “Then our…ouch!” He rubbed his head where the basketball bounced off, courtesy of Elizabeth.

“You’re an idiot, Connor” she said.

“It is day seven,” Kenny said, bouncing closer to Elizabeth on the couch before grabbing her in his arms. “I’ll protect you!”

She looked down at him. “Yeah, if anything happens, more like I’ll be protecting you two.” She rolled her eyes while pushing Kenny off of her. At age eleven, it was only natural that she was the tallest of the three. She was also better at basketball, baseball, and throwing crab apples at the other neighborhood kids.

Connor pulled her to her side, looping his arms around hers from the back and pulled her to the ground. “Get her!” he yelled to Kenny. Kenny straddled her and began tickling her stomach.

“Stop…”, she laughed, “…stop…I’m gonna…”, she screamed and kicked. “Stop it!”

Kenny stopped and held his hands above her, taunting her. She felt like she was going to vomit, but in a good way. She threw up once after going on the most amazing carnival ride ever, and compared her feelings for Kenny to that. Nauseating, yet amazing. “Get off me!”

Kenny and Connor looked at each other for approval before letting her go. She pounced on Kenny, knocked him to the ground and then straddled him, holding both his shoulders down.

“Help?” he said to Connor who was in the corner of his parent’s camper, laughing.

She sucked together a wad of spit and let it slowly drip from her mouth, then slurped it back up right before it landed on his face. Drop, slurp, repeat…it was a loogy-yoyo, and a pretty fine one in her mind.

Connor interrupted the torture with, “We should sneak out to the woods tonight. See if the Murmer Men come.”

“What?” She climbed off Kenny. “Are you serious?”

“It’s been seven straight days of rain. If the stories are true, they will come out tonight to feast on human flesh. I want to see what they look like.”

“They aren’t real, Connor,” Kenny said. “It’s just a fairy tale. There is no such thing as men made out of mud that eat humans. That’s ridiculous.”

“Oh yeah? Then there should be no problem hanging out in the woods then.”

Elizabeth could see a flash of fear in Kenny’s eyes, and felt one in her own. Unwilling to play the girl, Elizabeth said, “Done. I’ll grab my tent from when I was little that my mom refuses to throw away. We tell our parents that we’re staying over each other’s houses?”

“Yep,” said Connor. “Kenny?”

“Yeah, why not. Nothing’s going to happen anyways.”

***

Elizabeth reached to the bottom of her nightstand drawer and pulled out the picture of Kenny that she cut from last year’s year book. Her cheeks rose high as she took a breath in and held it to her heart. With an exhale, she pulled it from her chest and took in every last pixel of brown hair and brown eyes before placing it back in the drawer.

“What are you doing with that tent?” her mom asked. Elizabeth did realize it was a little odd, grabbing her tent she hadn’t played with since she was five. And, honestly, what would an eleven-year-old do with a baby tent anyway.

“Oh, I told Connor I was going to give it to his little sister.” Her mouth lifted with a charity-filled smile. In her mind, she heard a ding while a sparkle formed on her teeth…an Orbit commercial at its best.

“Are you sure? You may want to play in it again one day.”

Elizabeth smirked while raising her eyebrows. “Really, Mom?”

Karen sighed. “Go have fun. You sure you don’t want me to drive you over?”

“Nah, I can walk. It’s just rain.” She slipped into her poncho and threw the tent over her shoulders before leaving the house.

Kenny and Connor were waiting at the corner of Lindell and West Street. Each had their own items to lug. Kenny carried a backpack filled with sodas, cookies, jerky, flashlights and any other small items of necessity. Connor carried a garbage bag that held two blankets. Based on the size of the tent, though, they would only be using one.

They learned from their last adventure to take side streets to the woods. Last time they were caught walking down one of the main streets after dark, a concerned citizen thought it would be helpful to question them and then call the police to escort them to their homes. Their homes, of course, had very angry parents to greet them. That mistake would definitely not happen again.

The steady raindrops hitting their ponchos chilled as the night sky crept in, letting the children know that it was only a few hours before midnight. A few hours before the Murmer Men would finally rise for their feast.

“How far in should we go?” asked Kenny as they stood just outside the forest.

“Right to the middle. I want to make sure we see them rise from the mud,” said Connor before seeking his way ahead.

End part 1.

PART 2

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Chicky, Heavenly, love

The Mist – flash fiction-drama

It was the first time in months that I felt joy. The further I ran, the happier I was. The wet chill reminded me of fresh grass clippings while running through the sprinkler during the summer. It clung to my bare feet and held on for the ride, wherever it would lead. I felt free. The order from my dad to stay in the yard was nothing more than a mere whisper that was washed away by the thin mist that surrounded me. Laughter bubbled up through my five-year-old self. And when it finally escaped me, it traveled through the field and was lost somewhere in the fog. I stopped running and yelled into the barely-there cloud. “Ha!” I guess I expected an echo. “Hello!” There was no return of my voice. I looked around. I was further out than I had ever been. In every direction I looked, I could only see grass, a tree or two, and a white blanket that consumed the distance, consumed my house. My laughter ceased. I felt the chill of the morning, and my toes were aching from the cold. I wanted to go home, but didn’t know which way. Panic filled me as I began to cry for my dad. Tear’s covered my face while I cried to no one. That’s when I felt her.

Mom placed her hand on my cheek. Her touch was soft, just like it always was, and it tickled, just like it always did. “It’s okay, Dear, I’m here. Look,” she directed me to look to my right. My pink tea-time table was set in the field, complete with my flowered tea set. I ran to it, and I sat. She sat with me. In that moment, I had forgotten that she had been gone for so long. But that no longer mattered because we were going to have tea at my table. Just like we did every morning until she left.

“I like your dress,” she said as I passed her a cup of imaginary tea. It was a white, lacy dress that Dad had recently bought me for church. “It’s beautiful, just like you.”

I smiled. Mom always told me I was beautiful. Every day. I missed that. “Are you going to stay, Mommy?” I asked. A flower appeared on the table. I picked it up and smelled rose. It reminded me of the previous summer when I helped her trim the rose bush. “I didn’t like when you were gone.”

She placed her hand on mine. It was lighter than normal. “I missed you too, sweetheart,” she smiled and stared at me. I don’t remember how long she stared; I was too busy passing out the pretend cookies. “Baby, I need you to know that even though you don’t see me every day, I am here, watching over you and I will be for the rest of your life.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know I went to Heaven, right?”

“Yeah, but you’re here now,” excitement tickled a smile onto my face.

“When the fog leaves, you won’t be able to see or hear me anymore, but I need you to know that I will still be with you, okay?”

And just like that, my excitement was gone. I stood up from my chair and moved to Mom’s lap. I held her, and she held me, until the fog lifted.

My father dismissed that day as a child’s overactive imagination. My aunt insisted I get grievance counseling, which I never did. Eventually, I also dismissed it as imagination. Whatever it was, it helped the younger me get through the passing of my mother from cancer.

But today…today feels so much like that day thirty-five years ago. I find myself in the field, distant my back yard. The sun has barely risen. I feel a slight chill. Everything is the same, except this morning is crisp and clear. There is no fog in sight.   I don’t know why, but every inch of me feels the same as I did that day. Stranger yet, I’m not sure why I am in the field or how I got here. I feel a soft touch on my cheek that leaves a tickle. “It’s okay, Dear, I’m here.” I look toward the touch, and I see her. My mom, who is just as beautiful as she was thirty-five years ago when she died, is standing next to me.

“Mom?”

She smiles and moves her hand from my cheek to my hand. “It’s over,” she says. “It’s finally over.”

My memories of the past six months come back to me. Pancreatic cancer. The pain. Secretly wishing I would die quicker to end the misery, and to end the burden I was on everyone. Wishing I would survive to be there for Declan. Knowing survival was not an option. Feeling angry. Feeling sad. Feeling… beaten. I remember leaving my body. Lingering. I lingered here for…

“Two months, sweetheart,” Mom answers my thought. “Once you pass, your spirit stays until the weather is just right for fog. It’s the fog that lifts us to Heaven.”

“But I don’t see any fog.”

You are the fog,” she says with a knowing smile.

“But fog is just moisture accumulation.”

“Partially. When fog forms, any lingering spirits on earth are gathered into it, and then raised to Heaven once it dissipates.” She nods her head to my left. I turn to see my six-year-old son who is, like I was when my mom died, crying and lost. “It also acts as a window,” she says, “allowing the living to see us if we choose. He is very handsome, dear.”

“Declan, his name is Declan,” I say, excited to finally share my son with my mom.

“It’s time to say goodbye, Amanda,” she says as she looks from me to my son.

I reach out and touch him. “It’s okay, Baby,” I say. “I’m here.” I think about our mornings that we played with his train track, and it appears. I guide him to his favorite toy as we play and say our goodbyes. He nestles into my lap and we sit on the earth, holding each other, until I begin to feel lighter.   Thinner.  And I leave this world behind, following my mother to a place called Heaven.
~~~
Written by Sheryl Marasi
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The photograph (above) that inspired this story is by Jessica Musser Photography.

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Chicky, horror, thriller

Murder and Flowers-flash fiction-thriller

I am quite exhausted of hearing the fact that men are serial killers. I mean, how often do we hear of a woman serial killer? Sure it has taken place in the past; however, names of serial killers that come to mind are Jack the Ripper — I love him, by the way — and Jeffrey Dahmer, the man who never let his murders go to waste. Ate them up, yummy. But, never does a woman’s name come to mind when one thinks of serial killers. There is, of course a reason for that. See, the old saying holds true. “Anything a man can do…a woman can do better.” Of course there are plenty of women serial killers out there! We just don’t get caught!

“My dear, I am so pleased you could make it to my home this afternoon. How did you find your way?” I ask the seventeen-year-old darling who sits uncomfortably upright in my kitchen chair. Her long blond hair is thick and reminds me of the yarn-haired dolls I mutilated as a child.

“Do you mean did I find my way here okay?” She adjusts herself in the chair. “Sorry, I didn’t quite understand the question.”

I lean forward in my chair, placing my face within two feet of hers. I breathe her in, filling my lungs to capacity. Flowers. She smells like fresh cut wild flowers, and my body begins to tingle with excitement. But I must control myself. “Yes, Dear, how did you find your way?”

“It was okay. I didn’t use GPS, if that’s what you mean. I did as you requested and picked up a map from the store and found my way here from that.” She smiles. “That’s the first time I’ve ever used a map. I won’t have any problems driving your child around while you are at work.”

“Oh good, good. And did you also leave your phone at home so you would not be tempted to use that GPS?”

“Yes, I did.”

“And where does your family believe you are right now?”

“At,” she pauses, her eyes slightly squint and her head tilts a little to the side, “a…a job interview.”

“Splendid, Dear, splendid, as right you are!”

She looks around the room a little more closely now. She even leans to her left to get a view of the family room. It, as is the kitchen, is spotless and filled with expensive furniture and beautiful, breakable artifacts. Dare I say, she looks a little…uneasy. Delicious.

“Where…” she starts. “Is the child I will be a nanny to here? I don’t… I don’t see any toys.”

My heart is beginning to race, and I feel slightly lightheaded from the rush that is beginning to flow through my body. Her pupils are growing larger, and her skin… Is it a shade lighter? Yes. “Oh, I keep everything in Jacob’s room. He’s sleeping in his crib right now. Through those doors.” I point to the double-entry door behind her. “Go see him, but shhhh, try not to wake him,” I say with my head tilting down in admiration of my “baby Jacob”. She looks uneasy, but stands and does as she is told. I follow with soft footsteps behind her.

The doors are silent as she opens them. A blue, boat-themed room is displayed before her. And in the middle, there is a white crib with a bundle of joy inside. Joy is in the heart of the beholder, after all.

An odor fills the room that was not there earlier. It is an odor that I am quite familiar with, yet not at all fond of. I am certain she must smell it too. She, however, will not be familiar with what the smell is. And, of course, she will be her most polite and not even mention it. Wonderful girl.

She looks back at me before approaching “Jacob” as if to get final consent to approach my love.

“Yes, Dear, go on. Go on!”

She quietly places her face over the crib, looking at the bundle below her. She can’t see his face, of course. Well, I know why she cannot see the face. There simply is not one. But she does not know that yet.

“I…I don’t see him. Is he in the blanket? I’m afraid he may be suffocating. I can’t see his face.”

“Oh, Dear, he is fine.” I give a slight chuckle. “But, please, feel better and remove the blanket from his face.”

“Oh no. If you think this is okay, I’m sure it is.”

“You had better move the blanket…just in case. I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to little Jacob.”

She reaches into the crib and begins to tug at the wrapped bundle of blue and white striped cloth. And that is my cue to pull the blade from under the rocking chair cushion. I stand closely behind her. She is God awfully slow. She is a careful one, isn’t she? Then she stops. She does not move. I listen. I lean in closer and listen. She does not breathe. Yes, she sees what is in the cotton cover. The blood-stained, cotton cover. And there. There it is. Oh yes! Her scream. It makes me feel… And there it is again. Another scream. …so alive. I feel so alive. She turns and tries to run, but how can she with my knife in her chest? She tries to gasp, but she can’t breathe at the moment.  Her eyes fill with fear. Tantalizing. I soak that in before pulling the blade from her. Hunched and trying to hold her blood in, she moves toward the door. I skewer her back, the knife sliding easily between her ribs, but grazing the bone just enough to feel the dull grind as I pull it back out. She screams.  There, now she is breathing again.  Good for her!  She continues to hobble to the door. And I quickly slice through her soft flesh, anywhere–doesn’t really matter where–until she falls to the ground. Blood is everywhere, as though an artist has splash-painted red acrylic into a pattern only he understands. She has fallen and is nothing but a whimpering pile of blood-drenched flesh. She watches as I move toward her, her body no longer allowing her to do much else than stare up at me. I slice her wrist and watch the blood flow.

I don’t know if they are coherent at this point. Certainly in shock. But coherent? I’m not so sure, but I talk to her anyway.

“Got ya. Didn’t I? Everyone feels so safe when interacting with a woman. There is never a second thought about safety. Ever. You didn’t think about safety, did you? You silly, silly girl. You even left your phone behind. Something I’m quite certain you would not have done had I been a man. No one will ever trace you here now.” I pause. “How did you like the bundle in the crib, by the way?” I walk over and grab the decaying arm from the crib. “Do you recognize it? This arm?” Not that I expect her to answer. She just stares as I waive it “Hello” in front of her face. “It is your mother’s arm. Her interview was earlier this morning.” Her eyes glaze over. She is gone. Exquisite. That moment of departure is what I live for. I wonder if her mummy just pulled her to heaven. Who knows.

I guess the sexist fact that men have the stigma of being serial killers is a good thing. People trust me because I am a woman. Therefore, I am permitted do much more killing than they ever could. And because I am a woman, and so very clever, I will never get caught.
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Written by Sheryl Marasi
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Original photo by Josealbafotos