Throwback: Snappy McSprinkles

I do not understand the appeal of Elf on a Shelf. The whole thing is CREEPY; a twisted way people are screwing with their children’s minds.

In light of that, enjoy this piece I wrote back in December of 2017:

Elf

They’re sleepin’, so quiet-like. Little pink cheeks smile in dreamland. Soft breathing’s moving their fluffy blankets.

Perfect.

Now, time to untie this string. I’ve been hangin’ around all day, grinning like a fool.

They’ll be the fools soon.

C’mon, striiiiing! I broke through thicker ropes back at The Pen’!

Good ole North Pole Pen. You don’t hear any annoying Christmas songs about that place. Just crap about naughty and nice and coal and presents.

Candy-coated lies, that’s what.

If I just twist this way -oh. The dog. Glaring. Waiting for me to fall. You can fool those fat humans, but never the slobbering dog.

I even tricked a pet parrot once. He was completely clueless, right up till I pulled the first feather. Would’ve had bird for dinner if Blabbermouth Jingle hadn’t seen.

Made for an impressive scar, anyway.

Nice, doggie. Stop growling; go to bed. I’m just a toy, ya dumb mutt. Just a tied-up toy hanging EXACTLY WHERE FUDGING MOM STRUNG ME UP!

What kind of mom ties up a toy, anyway? What kind of twisted caregiver can’t even use a toy the way she’s supposed to?!

Oh! Footsteps. Stop swinging, string. It’s just the wind, dumb broad -I swear.

“Stay, Duke.”

That’s right, ya drooling waste. Stay there. You’ll be asleep soon, too. She doesn’t tie me up every night.

“Hmmm. Where should we put Snappy tonight, Duke?”

Why ya talkin’ to the dog, lady? It’s not like he can answer you. Just wait till you hide me near the Christmas presents. saw that chemistry set. Ha ha. Dead dog, anyone?

Yeah, don’t whine at me. I’m more valuable than you, dog. I’m Santa’s secret messenger and all that.

“I think we’ll do a treat tonight.”

Oh, good. Make it truffles, woman. I’m tired of eating that candy cane crap. That’s all I got in the joint, too: candy canes. You’d think Santa could hire someone who branched a bit, but no.

Maybe they have some sort of deal with Wal-Mart for all the unsold candy from a decade ago.

Dots and Dubble Bubbles! She is doing candy canes. And, duct tape. Why ya got duct tape? What the -no! No no no no no no no -ouch! Oomph!

“Good night, Snappy. Come, Duke.”

Oh, sure. Of course it’s a good night for your walking pet drool machine. He’s not taped to a box of Fun Dippin’ CANDY CANES! He can probably move to piss somewhere besides his own fleecy bottoms and jingling shoes.

Just keep it up, all of ya. I’ll wait. Every night you tie me is one more slit in a sleeping neck. Who’ll be seeing dancing sugarplums then, huh?

Original Post

Since the Bombs Fell: Six

Continued from One, then Twothen Threethen Fourthen Five.

Finn’s entrance into the fallout shelter was therefore not a graceful one. Their imminent pursuers, his rescuer’s voice, and her near-pushing him in order to secure the door befuddled him. Patrick was better at instant decisions; perhaps he would know what to do and wouldn’t be walking at near-gunpoint to a foreign elevator shaft.

Perhaps.

Finn stumbled again. “We ‘ave to get b’low,” his companion said. She activated the elevator, then gestured to enter once its heavy cross-doors opened. Finn nodded and went first. She followed, turning a key in the wall and pressing a red button.

They dropped to a chorus of pained and rusting gears. Patrick’d be able to fix those, Finn thought. And the entry. Thinking of his brother worried him. Even one leg down, the rash young man might go looking for Finn if he didn’t return. Muties made the surface dangerous, yes; but there were ways to get back if Finn needed. Not all the train tunnels lay in ruin nor all the rooftops proved unsound, he knew.

They stopped. The door ground open to reveal a dim and untidy living area. The layout resembled Finn’s, albeit in greater disrepair. He made a mental note to thank Mary, should he see her again, for insisting they fix up and clean their post-apocalyptic warren.

“Home sweet home,” she’d said, once things were in order. She’d smiled that charming smile of hers, the one she’d borne since Mother’d first noticed Mary wasn’t -as Father said- “Quite all there.”

After exiting the elevator, his companion sealed the door and punched at the filtration system. It whirred like a hoarse donkey, but worked. She then began extracting herself from her breathing gear. Finn shrugged and did the same with his. He felt this an odd game to play with a stranger; making himself more vulnerable, piece by piece. If she wanted to kill him, however, she could have shot him back at the hospital.

He set his breathing system on the counter. His helmet followed suit. He turned as the woman did the same, her auburn hair falling sweaty and loose. It rested in a disheveled braid and framed a pretty but scowling face.

“All right, then,” she said, setting her helmet next to his. She rested her right hand on her hip and studied him. Then her eyes widened. “Finn?”

“Aye,” Finn answered. He smiled a crooked half-grin at his former girlfriend. Of course she’d been skulking around the hospital; they’d first met there. He’d been a patient and she a surgeon. “An’ how you doin’, Livvy?”

Olivia Green could not reply. She looked at Finn again, who wished he’d shaved before surfacing. “Where …Where’s Patrick?” Olivia gasped. “Oh, no! Where’s Mary?”

Finn waved a calming hand. “They’re fine, though waitin’, I’d wager.” He smiled fully. “Would you like to go to them?”

THE END

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

Since the Bombs Fell: Five

Continued from One, then Twothen Threethen Four.

Ungainly, inhuman, unsettling; the Mutants roiled into the supplies room. A piece or part or person in the mass swung into the lower shelves; unseating bandages, dust, tins, and pills. Finn counter-balanced against the blows. The measure brought to mind that series of weeks only months ago, when he, Patrick, and Mary crouched together beneath the rocking world; when they wondered if they or the Earth herself would come out of it, and what they’d all look like then.

“Ooomph!” Something hit his shoulder. In the noise and tumult, he’d forgotten the person near him. Having gotten Finn’s attention, the stranger tugged at his arm. Tugged hard. Finn couldn’t tell where his companion thought to go, but the writhing ground was no longer an option. He nodded in the wristlight and followed.

Together, they squat-walked across the shelf top. Finn wondered if their attackers could climb. He felt certain they could, given the right impetus -say, like him. That thought and their howling and scrambling drove him faster.

His companion stopped and sheathed his gun across his back. Then, to Finn’s surprise, he stood. A second later, his legs and feet kicked the air before Finn’s face. He disappeared.

A sharp jarring beneath him galvanized Finn. He, too, shuffled to where his companion had stood. Rising, he found himself halfway within a wide ductwork. Probably the heating, he thought. Sheathing his own weapon and bracing against either side of the hole he’d entered, he pulled his heavy body up and in.

A dim light shone from down the tube and off to the right. Finn deactivated his, and followed. A reverberating *clang* of metal on metal, then a *clong* of metal on cement told him their shelf had fallen. The animal sounds seemed muted or leaving, but maybe it was he who left them behind. He had no idea where he crawled or if he crawled to safety; he knew only the bobbing glow ahead, and the scrabbling form attached to it.

A few seconds of eternity passed and he crawled out of the jagged-edged remnants of ducting and onto a stone ledge. The sun wavered at the tops of the mountains in the distance. Sunset.

The stranger in the suit pulled at Finn again. One after the other, they scaled a rough climb down the hospital’s remaining back wall. Once their feet touched the ground, Finn and his guide took off running. He still followed, mostly by instinct. What Patrick might say or do worried him, though not as much as what Mutants would do should he be caught.

Passing shadow, outline, foundation, and rubble; his guide stopped at a large manhole cover set in a cement-crusted tunnel. He dug a bit in his pocket, then removed an access card and panned it against the cover. The outermost access door opened.

“In!” barked the suited figure. When Finn hesitated, it added, “Now!”

Finn complied. He still felt in shock. The voice commanding him was clearly female.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

Since the Bombs Fell: Four

Continued from One, then Twothen Three.

Step, Finn told his legs. Step againJust there. Almost there. This mantra kept his stiff-suited body moving forward, till a Mutant rolled or made a sound. At those times, he had difficulty maintaining the rhythm. He felt sweat pooling at every joint. He felt his heart pounding against his ears. He felt his finger itching to engage the Laserlock’s trigger.

Yet, he gained the supplies room door, leaping the last mound of creatures to do so. Some internal sense or paranoia warned him to hurry; warned that their movements increased with each second he passed among them. He’d be a sitting duck if that were true. “A legless duck, like Patrick,” he whispered.

But Patrick canno’ get you, should that happen, his thoughts reminded. “Damn,” he said aloud.

Finn sheathed his gun to free his hands, looking right to left to back to front as he did so. He did not, however, glance up. Activating a small glow pack on his wrist, he clumped over to the nearest shelf of medical supplies. There, he found an empty case. Near it were scattered bottles and a few ashen strips of material. More bottles and spilled white pills, like gravel, covered the next shelf. Yet another held filthy surgical masks and some sort of tubing.

He pocketed handfuls of pills and gauze, small containers of what he hoped were ointment, and a few liquid-filled bottles. Then, his view fell on a dirt-crusted tin. He wiped at the top, revealing the words, “General Suture Supplies.” Bingo.

At that moment, he thought he heard a scrabbling. Turning, he pulled out the Laserlock and panned it at the doorway. Nothing appeared out of place: the hallway still twitched with random, mutilated bodies. The wheelchair wheel still spun. The ash and late afternoon sunlight still filtered into a decimated hospital entryway and foyer.

Finn let his breath return to normal patterns. Scanning the room once more, he returned the gun to his back.

As his hands closed around the precious tin of suture materials, he heard the noise again. Spinning and backing against the shelf, he arched his whole form in order to look upwards. There, in a hunched, firing position, perched another fully-suited person.

Finn’s shock and tilted helmet made breathing difficult. He backed farther away, arms raised, till he reached the direct opposite corner from whoever this other being was. This other, armed being.

They may have stayed forever staring at one another, had not a moan sounded from the hall. The person gestured sharply with his gun toward the tin Finn sought. Needing no more encouragement, he rushed forward and grabbed it. He scrabbled with a zippered pocket on his suit front, as he heard the distinct shuffling of many bodies. Get in, he told the supplies. He shoved at them and turned to face the doorway.

Like in a nightmare, he saw the creatures’ movements increase in intent and purpose. They were waking. Stretching. Sensing. Shifting.

Finn arched up to view his companion again. The other person had activated a glow pack as well, and seemed to be waving with it. Finn watched for a precious few seconds before realizing he was meant to climb up. He turned and scaled the shelving without hesitation. No need for, Step. Step again; he sensed a rising intensity that lent his limbs a frenetic adrenaline.

Gasping, he reached the restrictive summit. He squeezed in the space between top shelf and ceiling. The other person squatted right next to him, mirrored helmet lens to mirrored helmet lens. Thus, Finn nearly knocked into his new companion when the first Mutants sprawled into the room.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

Since the Bombs Fell: Three

Continued from One, then Two.

They were …sleeping. Hibernating? Congealing? Finn couldn’t tell what the humanlike creatures inside the shadowed hospital hall were doing. Since none rose; none joined with its brothers into the mass of bodies they preferred for attacking, he assumed their actions to be a form of sleep.

He found himself gagging; forced himself to breathe. He needed control. Control lent Finn whatever fighting advantage existed.

Once a master of that small, living part of himself, he studied them from where he stood. “I shoulda run scans,” Patrick’s voice said in Finn’s memory. “We coulda ‘least seen how the Muties work. How they live. …If they be livin’.” Finn lifted a hand to his helmet and activated the feed. Half his visor view blurred as controls panned across. He knew Patrick’s regret to be a stupid one. He wouldn’t have wanted the interference, had he had any time for something as trivial as recording them whilst fighting.

Blips of focus reticles attempted to lock onto recognizable body parts. You won’t be findin’ many faces in there, Finn thought. He switched the sensors to heart rates; then, after a few moments, to heat signatures. The creatures stayed as inert as they’d initially been, meaning that they twitched or convulsed without rising. The overall effect unnerved him. He kept his finger resting against the trigger guard; it twitched as much as they did.

One moaned and rolled into the wall. Ash crumbled and fell like snow. “Snow, Finn!” he remembered Mary saying. “Can’t we go play in the snow?” She was so young, even when she wasn’t. Patrick and his coarse descriptions hadn’t convinced her of what really fell outside the shelter.

What fell on these creatures.

Finn stepped back and deactivated the recording. He needed as much view as he could get. His solid boots crunched against the foyer’s detritus, yet the sounds appeared to have no effect on the horde. Maybe, he told himself, Just maybe.

He tried a tentative step forward. No change. He took another step. No change.

The gaping, torn doorway of a medical supplies room stood just beyond a pile of creatures. He needed that room. He needed it for Patrick. Continuing to breathe as evenly as he could, Finn stretched his leg over the first body. He did it again and again, telling his imagination that they were rugs, or bits of desk, or wall. Step by step, he performed the most intricate, deadly dance since the bombs fell.

And, twitch by irritated twitch, he knew: they sensed something among them.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

WINNER of the Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

My apologies, as always, for the delay. I had an astounding number of very scary entries to review this week, unsure of who might haunt me after I chose a winner…

And that winner is:

Halloween Queen

by Ruth Scribbles

I’ll be a queen
On Halloween
Oh that’s just mean
Did she declare
How dare you try
To be so high
And mighty
You’re a witch
You b*itch
Go scratch your
Head and
Think
Again
Queens are not scary

Or are they??
“Off with your head”
She screamed at her
“Your head will roll”
She raged at the troll
Oh me oh my
She makes me cry
I’d rather be a witch
Of course

—–

Congratulations, Ruth! You are the most terrible poet of the week!

While I had great (scary) fun reading all the marvelous (scary) entries, Ruth’s won for an overall effort of bad poetry. She missed the meter, missed the rhymes, and missed a coherent story arc. Well done!

I had many favorites who nearly won; see if you can get through them:

Resurrected for Halloween

by Bruce Goodman

Like a guy-rope swing eternally from a pendulum
With the fiery blast swelling, Superman sank
Into percussion of fiery anticipation
And landed with a plonk at the bottom of the hall.

Like a dreadnaught, it nosed its way, silently weeping,
And wished, well-wishing it had never left the ceiling.
Deep! Oh Deep down it thundered in the mall
Then landed with a plonk at the bottom of the hall.

—–

Untitled piece

by Nitin

Spooky nefarious ghosts
And their terrifyingly odd boasts
Blood, gore, grim and sin
But for them it’s a win-win
Awful phantasms
Ruining the coal-miner’s orgasms
Terrible, ghastly ruins
Deadly, doleful tunes
This is the season of rust
And don’t you dare say, ‘psst!’
You’ll find out why soon enough
When the one-eyed crone lets her dogs loose, ruff ruff

—–

Simplicity

by The Abject Muse

O, what shall I be

for Hallowe’en?

A monster, a princess

or a Lima bean?

With pumpkins carved

and burning bright

if one tips over

the porch will ignite.

Trick-or-treaters won’t come

if the house is on fire

unless they’re as stupid

as an old flat tire.

Fake skeletons dangle

from the dead oak trees

One’s leg is on backwards

and his head’s stuck to his knee

Sometimes directions

are too hard to read.

O’ what shall I be

for Hallow’en?

Probably something simple.

Like me.

—–

I Love You Lorena

by Matt Snyder

We met in jail, I a drunken serial cheater, she a thief

The night I said I do, I shook like a leaf

Earlier that day I slept with her sister

What can I say I’m that kind of Mister

It was our wedded day of dread when they threw the rice

I felt like I was skating on thin ice

That night things got kinky, she tied me to the bed

I lied there awhile lost in my head

I called out her name and got no response

Then she came back with her sister both spouting hateful taunts

I tried to break free, I was quaking in my socks

Her sister handed her a knife and with a devilish grin she cut off my…

—–

Why I hate Halloween – A Protest

by Deb Whittam

I’m an Australian
The shops are full of chocolate treats
Designed to guilt trip me
Into participating in an event
That is for another county

I’m an Australian
The internet is obsessing
Over a tradition that
Means nothing to me
Can’t get away from it, can’t be free

I’m an Australian
Kids will be knocking on my door
Yelling trick or treat
I tell them to emigrate
I just don’t care you see

I’m an Australia
Why should I be involved in this farce?
I’d rather the kids went out and exercised
Than shoving more junk in their gobs
To mimic a country
That does nothing for me.

—–

This is Childrening
(A terrible homage to the song “This is Halloween”)

by Peregrine Arc

Pumpkins, ghouls and spaghetti strands
Oh my lot loves doing handstands
With jellied fingers and muddied hands
I find their artwork all over this land
Come with me and you will see, in this land of Childrening

Mustard stains, broken glass
Footballs punted into the nightstand
Come with me and you will see
The reason for my punctual screams

This is Childrening, this is Childrening!
Everybody scream, everybody scream
In this land of Childrening

Parents cry in the Dead of night
Wondering how they’ll survive the fright
Round that corner is their toddler of two
Wondering if he can fit more jelly into mom’s shoes

This is Childrening, this is Childrening!
Everybody scream, everybody scream
In this land of Childrening.

—–

Bed

by Rogblog666

Bed, bed what have you under thee.
A reflection of my peculiar mind?
Or just a hidey hole for your scary bits,
Do you mirror me, do you parallel me?
Or are you my dark side?
Boo no just a dust bunny
Bed, bed what have you under thee,
Is it my mothers’ reflection?
Is it a portal from another dimension?
Is it a collection of your what ifs?
being seen from the planet regret.
Boo no just dust bunny
Bed, bed what have you under thee,
Am I just shadows of something lost,
Or just shadows of something to come,
Am I a shadow of something more solid,
Or just a shadow of your imagination.
BOO I am no shadow I am you, killer dust bunny

© 2017 r leach

—–

The Vampire’s Night Out

by Joanne Fisher

There once was a hungry vampire

of fresh blood he could never tire

one night from his dark castle he flew

looking for a fair maiden that was new

until through a bedroom window he did see

a slumbering maiden who looked a beauty

so he crept into the room to have a bite

lucky for him she obviously had an early night

she was motionless and lying fast asleep

so right up to her he did silently creep

his fangs chomped down on her exposed neck

only to find the skin was hard, and his teeth now a wreck!

She was only a mannequin left lying in the room

he quickly left, flying in shock back to his tomb.

That experience left him feeling so pitiful

without his fangs, he now gets blood bags from the hospital.

—–

Dead Man’s Jamboree

by Violet Lentz

rattle me bones and shiver me timbers
it’s a dead man’s jamboree
from dusk till dawn
around the graves
a dancing they will be
a raspy throated woodwind howls
as drums are banged with bones
and out there in the mist somewhere-
another dead man moans
with but one night, the whole year thru
this gay thread to weave
they dance the jig, and tip the jug
in gleeful toast to moon above-
‘salute!’ all hallows eve…..

—–

Untitled piece

by Gary

The moon is full
It’s time for blood on the wool
Halloween terror
Your in the wrong place, a deadly error
Knifes sharpen
The atmosphere slowly darkens
The clock ticks
While the madman plays his tricks
This is sick
As bad as the worst horror flick
Witches potion
An unpredictable explosion
Straight from hell
Too horrific for Slasher Motel
Frankenstein creation
A Poltergeist apparition
Beyond X rated
The result is pure evil hatred
All hope is forsake
Dads been trying to bake a SPONGE CAKE

—–

Definitely scary! Thank you all for the frights, and come back tomorrow for next week’s prompt.

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Ruth: D. Wallace Peach created this graphic that you can use (if you want) for a badge of honor as the winner:

Since the Bombs Fell: Two

Continued from One.

“You are a paranoid skinny,” Finn said aloud. His voice sounded both muffled and loud. He felt like a stiff fish, swimming through the driest ocean of death ever conceived. Stepping over the crumbling wall before him, he skirted a pile of charred remains.

The remains stayed inert.

“But then,” Patrick’s voice came to Finn’s memory, “An arm moved.” Finn felt his heart rate rise; heard his recirculated air pass more rapidly through his mouthpiece. He forced himself forward while his eyes roved over every broken beam, body, and nuclear shadow. The emergency room entrance loomed closer, its automatic door frame hanging at a skewed and jagged angle. Its filthy and cluttered foyer stood in full sunlight, thanks to the shattered glass roof and upper floors.

“I ran over t’side,” Finn remembered his brother describing. “That was the wrong way, but I didn’t know. There were …swarms. Swarms of them everywhere, pouring out the door…”

Finn stood, hesitating. He knew they’d decided the front would be best. He knew his goal ought to be just beyond the foyer. Yet, he also knew how he’d found Patrick, gasping at the last of his air, struggling against a crippled limb, fighting them from within a fallen shack a few meters away.

Mary had saved him. When Patrick didn’t show, she’d looked round the shelter and commented, “Where be Patrick? Shouldn’t he be back now?”

A movement caught Finn’s eye from the hallway past the bright, open entry. He squinted and walked closer. His hand reached back and pulled down the Laserlock. The gun felt solid and reassuring in his arms as he walked. He ducked beneath a bent piece of sliding door. Paused. Did a full sweep. Now fully inside what remained of the hospital, he couldn’t help but feel trapped. He swallowed and forced himself on, toward the movement he may or may not have seen.

There, in the dim light and falling dust, a bent wheel spun atop a smashed, half-buried wheelchair. Finn found himself mesmerized by the spin. How could it do that in this silent, still world?

And that was when he noticed them.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Come here, my poet, and prepare to enter the Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest #49! You’ll find a basic outline on terrible poeting here. Ready?

Here are the specifics for this week:

  1. Our Topic is Halloween. Write something SCARY!
  2. As is usual, the Length is up to you.
  3. Rhyming is also up to you. Frighten us with what you do.
  4. Just Make it terrible! Make the very souls of the Wal-mart imps moan in agony and terror at the thought of your verses.
  5. The Rating’s fine at PG-13 or cleaner.

You have till midnight of All Hallow’s Eve, 12:00 a.m. MST next Friday morning (November 1) to submit a poem.

Use the form below to be anonymous for a week.

For a more social experience and immediate fame, include your poem or a link to it in the comments. If you do not see a pingback within a day, drop a comment as well.

Roll up your casting sleeves, and have fun!

neonbrand-ASNSoeead70-unsplash

Photo credit: NeONBRAND

Never Forget the Soap

“It happened again.”

“What?”

“The door.”

….?

“The door of the laundry room.”

….

*Sigh* “It hit me on the way out again.”

“Oh…” “Well…” “It’s just a door.”

“It doesn’t hit me every time.”

“Huh.”

“I’m serious!”

“I know! -Look, maybe you’re just jumping to conclusions.”

….

“Like, you know, that… say, air currents from a different door or whatever sometimes close that one.”

“On me.”

“…Yeah.”

“Never on you.”

“…Yeah.”

“Never on anyone else.”

“Yeah!”

“And only when I start a load at midnight.”

“Yeah! -wait; why are you starting laundry at -”

“And only when I can also hear whispering…”

ryoji-hayasaka-gkbAYJIMVDA-unsplash.jpg

Inspired by my own laundry room experiences for Carrot Ranch‘s prompt: someone unremembered.

September 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone unremembered. Is it a momentary lapse or a loss in time? Play with the tone — make it funny, moving, or eerie. Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by October 1, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

The Flash Fiction CONTESTS start after this, so check them out beginning October 3!!!

 

Photo Credit: Ryoji Hayasaka

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

The Choice of Three: Roll Your Initiative

Continued from Peregrine Arc’s writing prompt….

Although a heavy, musty dust chokes the corners and edges of every room in the derelict house; the silver pocket watch, gold candelabra, and string of pearls upon the dresser appear untouched. I read the note again:

You who so boldly enter this realm, lay down your tools and be away from this hell. 

But should you still keep Adam’s vain, stay awhile and forego your shame.

An object of three you see with your mortal eyes. Which one shall be your coveted prize?

My senses feel heightened as my anxiety levels rise. Who left this note? These objects? Most importantly, I wonder at who I chased. What I chased. Where did he go?

Was there a ‘someone’ at all?

Despite my worries, I can’t help but feel intrigued by the message and pristine items before me. I read the words for a third time and wonder what they mean. “Lay down (my) tools?” “This hell?” That sounds serious. What is “Adam’s vain?”

My imagination, though tickled, reverts back to teenage years spent tucked in Johnny Platt’s musty basement. The dim lamp we plugged into about three extension cords shone pewter figurine shadows across our wet-erase marker map.

“Roll your initiative,” Johnny’s friend, Dwight, said with glee. We all knew what that meant: we’d stirred up trouble, and we had to fight it.

After a terrible battle of 3,872 orcs; Paladin, Ranger, Fighter, and Thief emerged victorious. Our Mage, on the other hand, succumbed to a curse inflicted in the last encounter; Mike was busily rolling up another character as Dwight listed our prizes.

“There’re 4 healing potions, 500 gold, a jeweled dagger, and a ring.” The Dungeon Master’s eyes glittered as much as the dagger surely did.

“Are they magic?” Kevin, the thief, always wanted to know.

Dwight shrugged. “Run a check.”

Johnny gave him a look. “We can’t. Mike’s dead.”

“I know!” Kevin said. “I’ll try them out.” Addressing Dwight, he declared, “My character examines the dagger.”

As per usual, Dwight rolled a die behind his book. His face was impassive. “It looks expensive.”

“All right; I’ll keep it.” As I and the others in our group began protesting, Kevin waved a hand. “I’m gonna split the costs once I sell it!” We settled down, ever wary of the dodgy thief. “Now,” he continued, “I’m going to put on the ring.”

Another masked roll from the DM clattered on the table. He cleared his throat and we could hear the excited tone Dwight always had trouble hiding when something unexpected happened in the campaign. Something that was usually the result of a stupid decision. We were doomed. “You begin to feel rather strange… like the world has never made sense and now you see clearly. You eye each of your party members jealously; but, never fear -you’ll get what’s yours once they’re asleep….”

“Crap, man!” I said.

“What?” Kevin asked in a panic.

“Change your alignment on your sheet,” Dwight grinned. He stroked his Machiavellian chin. “You’re now Chaotic Evil…”

A small noise from a corner brings my attention back to the present. I turn but only see shadows. Perhaps a section of flooring gave way there, as well. Who knows how many panels I broke in my mad rush to this strange, spooky nursery?

As my eyes pass over the note and the items it references, my fingers twitch a bit.

Kevin ended up murdering everyone but the Paladin in our group. Johnny only survived by the divine influence of his deity, thus finishing off the little thief and his ring in the ensuing Blessing.

My fingers quiet. No, not worth it. If there’s one thing D&D taught me, it was to never take chances with a strange object.

I cast my gaze around the room as I back out of it, even stealing glances over my shoulders. I’ve seen enough scary movies to know that one ought to never not look a certain direction. That’s how you end up getting stuffed in a bathtub by a dark, long-haired ex-lover of your husband.

My return to the porch is less hasty than my leaving of it, particularly since I’d left random, haphazard holes in the hallways and had to dodge them. I look at one in passing but only see swirling, pitch-dark dust. I wonder how far I might have fallen if I’d broken through.

Not soon enough, I regain the porch and my lunch. The rain is still falling, though not in torrents. I won’t be able to finish mowing with wet grass. “Reschedule, it is,” I tell the vacant property. Stooping, I pack up my lunch and self and rise and head down the creaking porch steps. I pass the ancient lawn mower, still parked near the hawthorn bush. I push it into the bush; perhaps that will stave off some rust.

As I near my car the rain slackens and a waterlogged sun peeks out. I can’t help but look back. I see the old, old house; yellow, peeling paint muted in the recent showers. Just before I get into the driver’s seat, I catch a movement from an upstairs window.

I look back, heart racing a mile a minute, but there’s nothing. It’s only a gold candelabra, glinting in the new light.

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Photo Credit:
Rikki Austin