Smells Like Reanimated Spirits

You’re at a burial, dressed in shoes you didn’t have time to polish or lace up correctly. It’s a grey sort of day, overcast with rain coming soon. They’re lowering the casket into the ground and all you can do is stare at the stubborn knot in your shoelaces.

Someone lights up a cigarette after the service is over and you move away to avoid the smoke. Your heels slip into the soft ground and you get mud on the hemline of your clothes. You stop to catch your breath after a long day and close your eyes. You smell rain in the air.

There’s a piano you can hear in the nearby chapel playing a soft tune. You think they’re playing “Amazing Grace” and then it changes. A sudden thought strikes you: “I must get back into the car before the last note. Once the last note plays, it’ll start raining.”

You’re heading back to the car when you see a man standing at the fence. He’s dressed in overhauls and a flannel shirt, looking directly at you. You glance away but are drawn back by the man’s intense stare. He’s holding something in his hand. A letter? A book? You can’t tell. You feel you must find out, before the last piano note…

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Dodging headstones and mushy half-buried plots alike, you walk to the fence. And the man. Conveniently, they are both in the same direction. As you walk, you wonder at the prevalence of recently-turned earth. Just how many people have died lately?

The eerie piano playing from the chapel plays background beat to your even tread. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” will do that to a person, even if it’s a piano cover version and therefore lacks that awesome bass guitar.

Your attention draws back to the overall man who is fascinated with staring. Some people clearly need a hobby, especially since there are a lot more interesting things to stare at than a muddy-hemmed, sneaker-clad burial-crasher like you. You get closer and closer, noting his lack of blinking; his lack of attention on a bird that poops on his shoulder or on a passing dog that relieves itself on his trouser leg.

Just before you call out to him, his image blips and reloads. He is a clean, staring man again, proferring a flat object that is meant to look like a book. Thunder rumbles nearby, and he finally glances to the grey and heavy clouds. His gaze returns to you, who have stopped just before the projection of him.

“244224,” he says, monotone. “42,” he adds. Then, “2442.” He beeps.

You roll your humanoid eyes, reminded of how your familial assigners could not be happy with a short sequence like all the others. “Yes?”

“Precipitation imminent. Nirvana ending. Accept reanimation.” *Beep*

Your eyebrows raise. “Reanimation??”

“Affirmative.” He pauses, then remembers to *Beep!*

You look back and around at all the mounds of dirt, and swallow. It’s not easy considering the difficulties the body emulators had in transferring your normal shape to a humanoid form, but you manage. The sky growls again. A spot of earth near you seems to as well, but perhaps it’s the simulated imagination you’re equipped with.

Whipping back around to the hologram, you place your right forearm directly over the outstretched object in its hand image. The flat object glares a red light of warning. You realign. Still red. The growling from below ground is definitely not just your imagination now and you grit your teeth in frustration.

“Please align to shape,” the ‘man’ intones.

You try again and get the angry light again.

“Please align to shape,” he repeats.

Just as a very visible hand claws through the mud to your side and just as the final lingering notes of the piano are played, the tablet magically accepts your forearm’s outline and turns blue. “Code accepted.”

Your humanoid form releases a sigh of relief just before dematerializing. Your normal self, meanwhile, has a final, comforting thought. I am so glad that finally activated. Earth’s a real downer during a zombie apocalypse.

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From the story prompt beginning shared by the highly-imaginative, amazing, wonderful, and fantastic Peregrine Arc.

You can play, too! The submission window closes on April 12.

 

Photo Credits:
Daniel Jensen
Wendy Scofield

Silent but Tardy

Stan heard his door’s assailant before the knocking; a shush-shush against the cement leading to his flat. He rose; walked; opened; stared. There, upon his stoop, was Death himself.

“Er,” Stan managed. What does one say to Death?

In what should have been an anticipated reaction, Stan’s guest only stared.

Stan scuffed a foot against his carpet. He bit his lip. Swung his arms.

Death still stared.

“So….” Stan tried. “May I help you?”

A nod. Silence.

Stan hadn’t thought Death would be so awkward. *Ahem* “How so?”

Impossible as it seemed; Stan knew, somehow, that his somber companion frowned in thought. Death reached a skeletal hand from draping cloak-sleeve to internal robe and withdrew a scrap of parchment. Hand and paper extended toward Stan.

Stan received the paper; declined the hand. Stan Dubrough, 17:00, he read. His palms felt chill and his body followed right after. Both jumped at Death’s bony finger, tapping to point at the name. His name: Stan Dubrough.

“That’s-” Stan squeaked. “That’s me.”

His guest’s other hand appeared from near the door-post. It gripped an awful, glinting scythe.

“The time’s not right, though,” Stan said, as though observing the weather.

The scythe paused. Stan sensed confusion. He also, inexplicably, recalled his mother’s exasperated reprimand, “Always a stickler for accuracy, aren’t you, Stan?”

Death stared. Asking.

“It says ’17:00,’ right?”

A slow nod.

“And, that’s 5 p.m.; yes?”

Nod.

“Well,” Stan concluded in a cheery tone, “It’s now going on 6.” He chuckled a bit till he recalled who his visitor was, and then wisely swallowed. “Hm; yes. Thing is: you’re a bit late.”

If a dark-cloaked being without voice could look gobsmacked, Death did. Without a word, he extended his non-scythe hand. Stan returned the paper and watched it disappear within the cloak folds. Then, just as silently, Death and his scythe turned and left.

Stan listened to the shush-shush of departure turn the corner before shutting his door. Returning to his couch seat, another of his mother’s oft-spoken sayings came to mind: “Stan, you’re so bent on being right you’d tell Death himself if he were late.”

“Well, mum,” he said, looking to the urn atop his mantel, “Looks like you were right after all.”

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Submitted, at the last, for The 2019 Bloggers Bash Competition.

 

Photo Credit:
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Crescent Illusions

“Hey! Wait up!” Pal gasped out the request, to no avail. The strange boy turned the edge beyond his view, taking all sight and sound of his movement with his retreating form. Pal leaned over his knees in crouched, deep-breathing pain from the chase. His heavy gasps echoed inside his helmet.

He’d need to keep going, he knew. He only had a few tics until -too late. Before his ground-pointed eyes, everything shifted and morphed. If his headgear were not equipped with anti-vertigo software, Pal would have retched at the twisting, swarming, mixing colors and land forms. He had no idea how the boy he pursued, apparently unencumbered by gear, could continue on through these conditions. How the boy could move so quickly. How the boy even existed, really.

Pal looked up from the sky beneath his feet, noted the re-orientation of his surroundings, and promptly crashed to the surface above him. “Eurgh,” he groaned, feeling the sluggishness and some of the bruising while his suit’s systems kicked in. He rose as it mended; scouted around.

Before this last shift he had been skidding around contoured shapes that rose from sand-like material. The ambient light had been annoyingly bright, yet also a pleasant shade of pink. Now, Pal noted, he seemed to be in a city. This city was unlike any he’d been in before, but not unlike images he’d studied at elementary training. “These are buildings,” his memory heard an artificial instructor note. “Homo sapiens sapiens inhabited and busied itself within these structures.”

Keeping his feet moving forward, Pal tilted his head back. The buildings reached beyond his sight. What a miserable, backwards way to exist. He supposed all species must start somewhere, but could never understand why his ancestors’ timeline progressed from perfection to disaster. Why had his progenitors constantly sought what was worse?

He heard a sound and snapped to attention. A face with large, crescent eyes peered at him from around a building just ahead. The boy.

Pal sprinted without thought toward his quarry. The boy rushed from hiding and pulled ahead, as he had since Pal first materialized and saw him. Both ran down the middle space between the tall, tall structures to either side. The ground felt soft, appeared white. Pal could see his footfalls leaving imprints in the material, though the boy’s odd tread did not. The dark shapes to either side seemed to melt away from them as they passed; no, they were melting away. Pal glanced right and left as he ran, witnessing the anomaly.

He wondered, yet again, what this destination really was. Clearly, it was not merely a physical location. No location they’d researched had behaved as this place did; morphing, moving, and melting like a living optical illusion.

Pal knew he was nearly at the end of his exploratory tic and would dissolve back to Central soon. He set his jaw, determined to gather more information before that happened. Since the ever-changing location proved intangible for collection purposes, Pal sought to catch the one constant he had encountered: the boy.

His suit worked overtime to compensate for energy and nitrogen loss. At his current rate, he would exhaust both and need to rest as he had before. And before that. And, before that. Surely, this time, he could draw near enough to catch the boy. Surely, he could get answers to return with.

The atmosphere darkened. A sound similar to a loud clap came from ahead, from the boy. To Pal’s surprise, the sky in front of them both molded into a dark sphere upon the dark of the air. Totally black at first; an outline of winking light grew to shine from the base and sides of the sphere.

As they drew nearer, Pal felt himself drawn to the new anomaly. Literally. The sensation felt like the projection arm of a spacecraft. He fought a natural panic, but explorer training calmed his initial reactions. “Always act decisively within your means,” another memory of an artificial instructor intoned. Pal ran on.

His wrist beeped a warning: a mere moment till dissolvement.

He strove to move more quickly but his speed was no longer his own. The boy and he were being pulled inexorably toward the eclipsed horizon. The buildings melted faster. Pal’s treads in the groundstuff deepened and blurred. His visuals clouded somewhat at the edges as he tried to keep the boy in sight.

Another beep sounded, then another. It was time.

Just as Pal’s body began to piece to data for dissolving, he saw the most unusual illusion of them all: an inverted flip of boy, buildings, sphere, and sky. Where once he knew the dark outlines of running youth and landscape; Pal saw the whitespace image of a gaping, grinning face. A face that swallowed the boy. A face that looked at him.

 


Written in response to D. Wallace Peach‘s extremely popular prompt. She just might get all 300 daily responses posted before she decides that April would be a good time for a vacation…

A Ghost of a Pinned Chance

For this week’s prompt, we’re at a restaurant for lunch. One of those local businesses, with an antique fireplace in your favorite room to eat in. The restaurant, you see, is inside a very old house, one with a murky, somewhat spooky, history. The restaurant is even part of the village’s ghost tour at Halloween time every year. But that’s all nonsense, right?….. (Read the rest of the opening prompt here.)

You eye the door. It’s solid, naturally, being a door and all. Still, if Lara Croft can fist-punch a granite statute, this skeleton-keyed obstruction shouldn’t stand much chance against a vegan-powered, Umbrella Academy-watching powerhouse like you.

Unfortunately, an attempted shift of your center of gravity reminds you that about three feet of petticoats and lace obstruct any sudden movement. If not for the witch-woman who first introduced you to The Door, you would have fallen in a puffy white heap. “Steady, Beatrice,” she admonishes. Then, some expression or resolve of your eyebrows catches her attention. “I wouldn’t try fainting again, Miss Pondewaste. Your father supplied me with smelling-salts.”

With a sniff, your matron of imprisonment opens the door. She hustles you out, arm firmly round your brocaded waist. “Not that he would consider such an event occurring that I would need smelling salts…” the stern woman mumbles as you attempt to walk down a narrow hall.

You feel too distracted to pay her much attention. The walls, formerly painted and hung with cheap printer paper pictures of vintage times, are now wallpapered. Sad, serious paintings hang in proper frames at measured spaces along the papering. A spindly-legged end table supports a flickering oil lantern atop an embroidered cloth. Its light plays across the delicate white stitchings of your dress.

Your dress! You stop mid-shush to admire the extensive needlework and lacework arms. How many slave laborers had to give their lives to produce this thing? “Now, Miss Beatrice,” Mean Lady hisses. Your tailing ladies-in-waiting snicker unprofessionally behind you, stopping at a quick glance from your captor.

Against any will you might have had, she drags you to the end of the hall. What is going on? What can I do? you wonder. Dimlit walls and antique furnishings distract and confuse you. Your tormentor walks you forward relentlessly, grunting with the effort and chastening you that, “It’s just the entry, for Pity’s sake!”

As a sunlight-outlined door flanked by sentry windows draws imminently close, you realize that something sharp is within your hand. You’ve been caressing it as you walked, oblivious to the action.

Your tread slows, even against the push of Mean Lady. You draw your hand before your face and squint to focus on the object in question. It’s the sewing pin, the one you picked up from a restaurant floor a few centuries hence.

“What have you got, Beatrice?”

As your fingers slip down the sides of the pin and you hold it aloft in the light, her eyes widen. Her eyebrows raise. “Where did you get that? Just give it here; I’ll -” her clawlike hand reaches to take it but instinct tells you to keep it away from her. You move it just as she snatches.

“Beatri- Miss Pondewaste! Hand it over this instance!” She makes another grab. Very unladlylike.

You turn your body to help shield against her reachings and make a split-second decision. With the aid of the other hand, you snap the pin in half. *Snit*

The Mean Lady’s gasp is the last thing you hear before blacking out.

The next thing you hear, of course, is that too-good-looking server’s voice, “Mushroom risotto, just as you ordered.” A plate clinks to the table in front of you and its steaming contents are the first, blessed thing you see. After that is the gorgeous server’s face. Nothing like the present.

“Oh, hey,” he says suddenly. “Did you drop something?” He stoops to the floor and retrieves two broken halves of a sewing pin.

“No!” you nearly yell. Seeing his confusion and surprise, you repeat it more calmly. “No, thank you.” You take up your napkin and lay it on your lap. “Go ahead and just throw it away.”

He shrugs and walks away, leaving you to your risotto. It’s a good thing Mean Lady isn’t there to witness your eating it, because you’re too hungry to mind many manners.

In response to Peregrine Arc‘s writing prompt. What an imagination!

Freddy and Teddy’s Valentines

Freddy and Teddy were best friends. They lived on the same street, liked the same candy, and loved the same robots movie. They even went to the same school, and sat behind each other in the same second grade class.

Valentine’s Day was the very next day and both boys were excited.

After school, their moms gave them 32 robot cards. Each spent a while tearing cards apart and writing “Freddy” or “Teddy” too many times.

The next morning, each got ready then walked to school together.

“I hope I didn’t skip anyone,” Freddy joked.

“Me, too,” Teddy laughed.

But later that afternoon, Teddy wasn’t laughing. He had dumped out all his Valentines only to find one missing.

There was no card from Freddy.

Teddy felt bad. “Freddy,” he said, “Why did you forget me?”

“What?” Freddy asked. Turning around, he saw Teddy’s frown. He felt bad. “I’m sorry, Teddy. I didn’t mean to.” Then, his eyes lit up. Freddy turned back to his desk, pulled a red paper from inside, cut carefully, and scribbled quickly.

Facing his best friend, he gave him a giant red heart. It read Best Friends. There was even a picture of a robot.

“Thanks, Freddy,” Teddy said, feeling better.

“You’re welcome,” Freddy said, happy to see Teddy smiling again.

 

Submitted for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Valentiny Contest.

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The Case of the Kitchen Cacophony

Frank stopped to listen; the drip drip drip of the old faucet echoing in an empty kitchen. A possibly empty kitchen, of course. Frank remembered The Escapade of ’18 like it was last year and wasn’t taking any chances.

He peered around a finger-smudged corner; first an ear, then his cheek, then his left eye.

Now that his ear was exposed, a click click click from the old kitchen clock played backup music to the faucet. A whirr whirr swoosh whispered from beyond the old kitchen window. An ergh creak moan drifted from the old kitchen floor.

Now that his eye was exposed, he watched the glint squint of dancing stove light caught in leaking faucet drips. He saw the spooky lift and shake of branches sighing in window wind. His attention flicked to the stuttering movement of clock hand inchings. His feet felt, surely, an undulation or two from the beams beneath them in the groaning floor.

What ear and eye did not see, to their owner’s relief, was any sign of HER. Frank sighed softly. Softly, so as not to alert HER to his presence.

His left sneaker inched to and around his peering-corner. Amidst the drip click whoosh creak of kitchen cacophony his squeak-toed sneakers barely spoke. Soon; his left arm, knee, side, and nose came out. He still saw no whole person; no HER. He decided to fully enter.

Thus he stood, midst stove light shadows and singing sighs. Thus he found things just as he spied. Thus he moved, more stealthily still, across an ergh creak moan floor-sea in squeak squeak shoes past click click hands and drip drip sink.

And reached the silent ceramic pot, alone. Alone, with the sounds; which now, for dramatic suspense, all held their noise and watched.

He stretched an arm.

He opened a fist.

He grasped the white ceramic lid.

He lifted.

Standing just a bit taller on tips of toes, Frank used his eyes to peer inside.

And gasped.

All at once, the old kitchen orchestra strummed to life. All at once, they played in time. And, as Frank returned ‘cross noisome space, their song came clear to his sad ear; a rhyme he knew from preschool years yet hadn’t recalled till now it played in drip click moan:

♪Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?♫

And, sad little Frank answered truthfully, “Not me.”

 

Thanks to Peregrine Arc, for a great prompt idea.

For this week’s prompt, I want you to imagine you are a thief. Whatever motive you have, good, bad, or both, is up to you. Whatever setting and condition the safe is in is also up to you. It could be underwater, in a mine, in a delapidated mansion…Take the wheel of literature and drive us there!

But here’s the twist: you don’t get what’s inside the safe. Do you crack it and the contents are missing? Or do you lose your nerve and get caught? Ponderings. Take it and fly and add a psychological twist for $1000, Alex.

Directions from a Druid


By Stefan Keller

 

“Just past The Swamp of Misery,” Alvin huffed. “Just past The Swamp of Misery…”

Though his whisper was barely audible in the frigid air, the man just ahead stopped and looked back. An icicle-crusted cloth obscured most of his face, yet he still managed to scowl. “I swear,” he said, his speech muffled, “If ye dunnae stop, ye’ll shortly be asking yer ANCESTORS about The Swamp of Misery!” He faced forward again and continued walking.

Alvin hadn’t even the breath to sigh. Given that, he doubted the other man’s threat had much clout behind it. They were all worn out, cold, and on edge. They’d been at this quest for the longest fortnight of any man’s life: rising in the dark, stopping after the next night’s dark, and sleeping round a sorry excuse for a campfire. And the weather was always, always cold.

If not for a small supply of bottled ale, Alvin felt sure he’d be as frozen a man as that statue up ahead.

Statue? Statue?! “STATUE!!” he yelled, stopping so suddenly he was hit from behind by the next man. Alvin fell to the ground but scrabbled up again. Snow flew from his waving arms and dusted back. “Giant! Statue! We made it!” Pointing and almost hopping, he shouted through his own mouth scarf.

His neighbors to front and back looked where he motioned in a comically slow fashion and blinked their frosted lashes. They pointed, they shouted, they turned to men near them and relayed the message. Soon a chorus of muffled male voices was crying out in disarrayed joy. Arms waved, mittened hands gestured, and petrified limbs found life.

Hope renewed, the company trudged onward with greater speed. Alvin’s feet crunched in time to the rest: Frosted. Giant. Frosted. Giant. It was just as The Druid had described -albeit much farther a walking distance than they had all anticipated from her, “…just beyond The Swamp of Misery” direction.

Up the whitefold hill they trudged; and up, and up. Alvin’s sweating breath exhaled cloudy puffs with the beat of his boots. Though still excited, the men’s synchronized hike faltered on icy rocks and the powder-coated trail. After a half day’s exertions, however, all managed to clamber to the great, gaping base of The Frosted Giant.

Alvin and his companions stared at the dragonlike mouth carved before them, traced its mouth to a pair of nostrils, followed the nostrils to the upper part of a bearded man, then ended at the sunset-glinted, shaggy head of the giant himself.

“The Frosted Giant,” Alvin whispered, and was promptly punched in the arm. “Ow!”

“Told ye I’d teach ye,” a familiar, cloth-wrapped voice said. The man behind it ambled off behind a few others, whom Alvin could see were setting up camp. He followed, rubbing at his arm. Soon the whole company of men were warming themselves around their usual, ineffective fire.

“Right,” grunted the leader, shifting his scarf to below his bearded chin and smiling. Given the frozen state of his facial hair, the friendly expression was more of a grimace. “We made it.”

Eighteen heads bearing varying levels of frost nodded ascent. A few grunted as well.

Alvin could hardly contain his excitement. Forgetting his sore arm and what caused it, he blurted, “Now, we’ve only another fortnight or so till the next destination: The Scorching Phoenix!”

 

Thanks to D. Wallace Peach, a most excellent writer, for the prompt.

Hallowe’en Serial: Final Night

Continued from #6.

*Bhrmmmm* *Bhrmmmm* buzzed the phone. Carol kept glancing at its screen to see if Miss Ziegenbusch had picked up yet.

She even knew where the woman lived, as Carol also did the job of Payroll Clerk and Human Resources Department. She did everything except attend pointless meetings, glad-hand clients, and look pretty at the front desk.

Hiring the current secretary, the woman she was now trying to reach, had not actually been Carol’s decision. Nor had retaining her.

“Hello?” said the phone. Carol’s car wobbled in its lane as she fumbled to answer.

“Hello?” –What was her name again?– “Um, Shelly?”

“It’s Cindy. Who’s this?”

“Cindy.” Right. “This is Carol Carter. Um, from work.”

…. “Oh.” …. “Uh, this isn’t the best time right now, Carol-”

For some reason, Carol felt she needed to be completely honest. “I’m being chased by something!”

She heard a gasp, then, “You are? Wait -is it that werewolf thing?”

Carol took a turn gasping. “How did you know?”

“Out of curiosity,” Cindy asked, “Has your radio also been playing songs based on what’s happening?”

Carol felt she was seeing herself from far away. Someone else was driving her car at dangerous speeds down the highway. Someone else was holding a cell phone with a grip like a vise. Someone else, surely, was doing all of these things at …she checked the clock on the dash…

At midnight. It was now Halloween.

“Carol?” Cindy’s voice called from the phone.

“I- I’m here,” Carol answered, pressing her phone closer to her ear.

Cindy sighed. “I thought so. Hey, I’m sorry for any bad feelings between us; but I really need to tell you something -something big.”

Carol wasn’t sure what Cindy could define as ‘big’ after her other revelations. “O…kay?”

“Um,” Cindy began. “You know that werewolf thing?”

As if on cue, Carol heard the tell-tale, Owooooooooo! She realized it had come through the phone, from Cindy’s end. “Cindy?!” she asked, in a panic.

“Oh shit.” Cindy said. “Um, sorry for swearing. I gotta go. …Basement…”

“Cindy?!”

“Yeah…?” Her breathing was more rapid. Carol could hear a door slam and hard steps on echoing stairs.

“What was the ‘big’ thing about the werewolf?”

Cindy paused. A cupboard from her end creaked, then Carol heard the unmistakable sound of a large gun being cocked. “Carol,” Cindy said, “That werewolf is Carl C. Carter. Your husband. I gotta go.”

And Carol was left alone, with the dead sound of a disconnected phone.

Hallowe’en Serial, 6th Night

Continued from #5.

Carol’s sharp, hasty turn brought her inches from a semi-truck approaching in the opposite lane. Its blaring-horn *Mruuuuuwwwmph!* trailed off behind her as she continued down the road at breakneck speed.

*Oh the werewolf, oh the werewolf / Comes a-stepping along* ♪

Her eyes flitted to the radio; back to the road. Werewolf? she thought. And, How in the heck does the radio know?

♫ *…Once I saw him in the moonlight, when the bats were a flying….* ♪

She chanced another look in the rearview mirror, yet could not see anything. The road was dark and ill-populated. She’d chosen to head East, away from the storm and towards the highway. She hoped to outrun the werewolf -or whatever it was- or at least discourage its following her.

The song stopped and “Thriller” began playing. “I’ve already heard that one,” she muttered, and switched to a new station.

“We’re here with Sergeant Riding to get the latest on this breaking story…” a businesslike female voice said. Carol’s hand, which had been hovering over the controls, slowly drifted back.

“Well,” a gruff male voice began, “We can’t say for sure what’s going on. We’ve had a lot of different reports. What we can say is that everyone ought to stay inside until we have a lead on this case.”

“Sergeant,” the female voice again. “Are you saying we’re on lockdown?”

The man laughed a short, humorless snort. “Now, we’re not trying to scare anybody. It’s more the advice that, if you want to stay safe, you’ll stay inside right now. Oh, and get your pets in real quick, too.”

“We-e-e-ell, I’m sure that’s all we have time for now.” The female reporter sounded worried to Carol. “Be sure to tune in next time for -Eeeeeeeaaaahhhh!”

*Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee*

Carol sat in shock. She was hurtling down a city road at 50 mph, but still felt numb. Slowly, she reached up and pushed Power Off on the dead radio station. She didn’t know where to go or who to contact; it sounded like the whole world was going crazy.

Slowing enough to multi-task, she pulled her phone to within visual range.

She had never, ever in her life used her phone while driving, a minor point of contention between her and her missing husband. But she was already finding herself breaking all sorts of personal and written laws in the face of potential death and dismemberment.

Scrolling carefully down her Contacts list, she tried to think of who she could call on a night like this. Anyone she was close to would not be awake to answer, nor would believe such a ridiculous story as she would tell if he or she answered.

“Gardener, Lawrence, Schwartz, Warner… Ziegenbusch.” At literally the end of her list, she paused over the last last name. Was she really desperate enough to try her nemesis, the front desk secretary?

Taking a deep breath, she pressed her finger on the Call icon. And waited.

Continued and ended at #7.

Hallowe’en Serial, 5th Night

Continued from #4.

Like any sane woman with a few self-defense classes under her belt, Carol panicked. “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” she screamed and flailed around helplessly. Fortunately for her, her left elbow bumped the Door Lock button mid-flail.

She heard the lock engage in the driver’s door just as the owner of the glowing eyes suddenly threw itself at her window. “Eeeeeeeeeeaaaaaahg!” she screamed again, and fell over the middle console to get away. Teeth, tongue, dark fur, manic red eyes, and long, long claws scrabbled at the window. The claws were the worst; each *Screeeee!* leaving a line behind and surely weakening the surface.

Carol looked around her small car, wishing for anything that might help her. The most lethal object she saw was a pen. She didn’t keep so much as a snow scraper handy in the front seat, believing all tools belonged in the trunk.

*Critch* went the window-glass, just as she spotted the garage door opener. A hasty getaway was her only chance, storm or no. She stretched up and pressed it, a brief relief touching her panic as the door to outside lifted.

Her attacker paused, distracted. She was surprised to notice he appeared to have remains of clothing on his …person. Carol squinted and could make out a few torn, striped strips, buttons, a cuff; maybe what once was a pair of khakis. The feral animal turned back to look at her; its brow lowered into a scowl. Carol could hear it growling as she saw its lip curl up in a malicious grin.

The creature squatted, then leapt. She heard a *thump* above her and watched its back legs and bushy tail thrashing through the driver’s side window a half-second before she realized what it was doing. “Eeek!” she squeaked out as the horrific face appeared in the passenger side, upside-down. She watched the whole of its body fall across the window, then was treated to the same desperate scrabbling on the starboard side. The attacks were more forced, more rapid this time. The car rocked on its suspensions; the glass creaked and cracked.

Before she had time to talk herself out of it, Carol slid back into the driver’s seat and started the engine. ♪ *…they don’t know -When / its coming,  / oh when / but its coming* ♫… crooned the radio. She put the car into Reverse and gunned it as she never had in her entire life.

♫ *Keep the car running* ♫

The poor sedan lurched and whined, hopping down the driveway in short, lame bursts. She smelt burning. The car was old, but hadn’t shown any signs of failure recently. She looked up and saw the hairy creature rising from where it had fallen in her hasty escape. Why couldn’t she go?! And then she saw the parking brake.

Without hesitation, she released it with a *Clunk*. The car shot backwards and collided into and up the opposite curb before she eased off the accelerator. Switching to Drive, she tore away down the street. She dared not look back, even to see if the garage door was still open.

♪ *And they don’t know / When it’s coming, oh when is it coming? / Keep the car running / Keep the car running / Keep the car running* ♫

The storm was closer; lightning illuminated the houses just a block away from her street and rain and wind buffeted her battered car. Just as she thought to slow down for the approaching stop sign, she heard a long, loud, Owooooooooooo!

Her eyes found the rearview mirror against her will. A flash of lightning showed a dark shape running down the street after her; hunger glinting in its red eyes and white fangs.

Traffic laws would have to wait. Quickly checking for oncoming cars as she drove, she ignored the stop and squealed a turn out onto the main road. Her sole thought was to get as far away from the man-creature as possible. She hoped no police were out, and not because she worried for her spotless driving record.

Continued at #6.