Category Archives: Dark

A Date with Death

FF190 Dale Rogerson

copyright Dale Rogerson

A Date with Death

The moon was a milky corpse eye shining over the Lopinot Estate, Trinidad’s most haunted site. Inside, flashlights beams swept back and forth.

One disappeared.

“Honey?” There was no answer. She listened. A scream came from out in the jungle. Just an animal. Probably.

Creak. She hid her light. Come on, she thought.

Nothing.

A light appeared in the next room. “Hey, I found the basement!” he said, poking his head out. “It looks like there’s a grave. Let’s go down and sit in the dark.”

“Awesome!” She kissed him hard. “I love you. This is the best anniversary ever.”

I wrote this story for my wife Leah. As of tomorrow we will have been married for sixteen years, and I’m sure one of our anniversaries in the future will be spent exploring a haunted house in the dead of night looking for ghosts.


My Terrible, Horrible, Heroic Summer

Writing Prompt #1: Write about going back to school after summer vacation.

Writing Prompt #5: Write out the best or the worst day of your life.

I dreaded going back to school after such a summer, dreaded seeing the breathless looks of admiration and hearing the praise from teachers and students alike. I didn’t want to endure the fame when all I felt inside was agony. Finally though, the day came, and I went.

“There he is!” I heard a girl whisper to her friend as I walked down the hall.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course. I saw him on TV.”

Everyone had seen me on TV. I must have given a hundred interviews in the last two months, but the worst was the one they played over and over, the one right after it had happened, when I was dirty and out of breath and wearing that blood-stained T-shirt that I couldn’t bear to wear again, but couldn’t bear to throw out.

My first class was English with Mrs. Robins. “I want everyone to write about what they did this summer, okay?” She giggled slightly and glanced over at me. “When you’re finished, maybe I’ll get a few of you to read yours out.” She glanced over again. Other kids were looking too now. We all knew who would be the first person “randomly” chosen to read.

I played baseball with my friend Terry, I wrote. There, I was done. I’d done that.

Mrs. Robins walked by, looked down, and frowned. “Write about the most important thing that happened to you. You know.” She gave me a meaningful look and walked away.

I closed my eyes and for the first time in more than a month, I let myself go back to that overcast Saturday morning when it had all happened, when I had become a national hero. The worst day of my life.

*        *        *

It had rained the night before, on that day, and when I left my house before dawn and walked the mile and a half to the bus stop, the air smelled clean and freshly showered. It took the bus forty minutes to get to the city and then fifteen minutes for me to walk to Precious Angels Orphanage. Lily was waiting for me outside. She took my hand, almost shyly, then leaned over and kissed me softly on the lips.

“Was it hard to sneak out this time?” I asked as we walked down the street, heading downtown.

“Nah, Frances was fast asleep. Easy.”

“Will you get in trouble?” I asked. She shrugged and squeezed my hand.

We walked all the way down to the harbor and had ice cream at a small parlor. My ice cream melted as I watched Lily savor every bite, letting her eyes close in silent pleasure.

“Do you ever get ice cream in there?”

“Of course.” She snorted. “It’s not Oliver Twist.” Then, grasping her bowl in both hands, she crossed her eyes and in a terrible British accent said, “Please sir, may I have some more Rocky Road.” I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair. It was then, when I was gasping for breath and trying not to pee myself, that I realized how much I loved this girl. It made me glow inside, like I was Ironman with an untouchable arc reactor, powered by Lily.

“So what do your parents think of me?” Lily asked, as we walked along the beach, watching the waves roll in. There was an odd smell of rot in the air coming from somewhere out to sea.

“They’re dying to meet you,” I said.

“What did you tell them?”

I shrugged. “The truth.” I looked out to sea, not looking at her. Lily coughed and wrinkled her nose at the smell but I felt like it was at me, as if the stench of my lies were rolling off me.

No one knew about me and Lily. It wasn’t that she was an orphan. It wasn’t that her mother had died of a drug overdose when she was five and she had never had any other family. I knew that wouldn’t matter to my parents, that they would love her like a daughter. They would love her so much they might even try to adopt her and then . . .

And then she would have parents who loved her and everything she’s ever dreamed of and I would have lost her forever because you can’t date your sister even your adopted sister, ran the frantic undercurrent of thought I would never allow to be voiced, not even in the lonely sub-basements of my mind. If no one knew, no one could ever call me petty or selfish, or accuse me of maybe, just maybe taking everything away from Lily because boyfriends might come and go, but parents are a strictly limited commodity.

The smell was getting worse and I was just about to suggest we get back to the city when the ocean started to recede, like watching the tide go out in fast forward. The word tsunami bolted through my mind, and I looked out to sea, dreading to see that mountain of briny death rushing towards us. What I saw was even worse.

It was some sort of thing rising from the water, taller than any known animal, crawling on four legs out of the sea until its vast barnacle-encrusted bulk was swinging free of the water. It was not heading directly for us, but towards the city.

Lily was smarter than me. She was already pulling at my hand, trying to run not towards the city but away from it down the beach. I ran with her, but turned back to take one last look. A tail whipped out of the water and sliced towards us, four feet above the ground. I dropped and pulled Lilly with me, but she stumbled and fought to stay upright. I screamed at her, “Get down, Lily!” but as I said her name, I heard the sickening crunch as the tail hit her and threw her across the beach.

The next moment, I was kneeling beside her, praying with all my might, although I could see it was hopeless. She had just enough life left to squeeze my hand before she died.

No cameras caught the next five minutes and so no one knows how I did it. They’ve even tried to hypnotize me to find out. Here is all I remember: wet, foul-smelling scales that went up and up like a mountain. It was like a dream, just climbing that mountain of horror, fueled by rage, hoping to find Lily at the top, knowing it was all in vain, climbing anyway.

They tell me that I must have climbed up the creature’s back and stabbed it in the eye with a piece of driftwood. I have to take their word for it. They found me lying on the dead creature’s head, my arm up to the elbow in its eye socket, still clutching a three-foot piece of driftwood like some poor man’s Excalibur. I’ve seen video of that, so it must be true.

Four people died that day on the beach in the space of five minutes, including Lily, but they were practically forgotten as people breathlessly calculated and exclaimed on how many lives I had saved. No one connected me with Lily. No one questioned the blood on my shirt; they didn’t know it was hers, and I didn’t tell them. It was like I still wanted to keep her all to myself, even the bloody shirt and the pain that ate away at me like cancer. I couldn’t go to her funeral. I held one for her by myself, the night after my appearance on the Late Show. I thought about joining her, decided against it.

*        *        *

I opened my eyes. Everyone else in the class were still writing, describing in detail that one camping trip they took, the girl they met at the movies, the swimming party they went to. Mrs. Robins was still glancing my way every few seconds, silently urging me to write the glorious hero story they were all expecting.

I took out a clean piece of paper, took a deep breath and began to write:

This summer I lost someone I loved. Her name was Lily.


Black Market Bacchanalia

FF172 Ted Strutz

copyright Ted Strutz

Down among the subway tunnels, past the sign of the pansy crapper is the lair where the Donkey-boys rave. Anyone’s welcome, but they have a trial—test magic, they say—a special stone passed across your forehead. If it turns blue, you’re free to party but if it’s red, you have to leave something behind.

I’ve gone twice: two reds and two terrible losses. The first time I hopped out; the second time hobos carried my legless body out.

Come back anytime, they said. If it’s blue, all is forgiven and all is returned. I just need a way back.


Dear Aunt Hattie…

Dear Aunt Hattie Letter

I refolded the yellowed paper and after slipping it back into its crinkled envelope, I set it back against the gravestone. As I stood up, I saw a chinchilla staring at me from the top of a gravestone twenty feet away. Its eyes seemed to glow in the dying twilight. I’d never seen one in the wild before.

The sun sunk below the hills and the cemetery was plunged into darkness. I bolted for my car, every second dreading to hear tiny, skittering footsteps on the path behind me.

 

 

 

 

 

chinchilla gif


Shades in the Dark

As you may know, I am an English teacher. This last month, our university was host to a group of students and professional from Mexico, as part of the Proyecta 100,000 program. They are gone back home now, I am very sad to say, but while they were here, I was their writing teacher. Among the projects we did were short stories. I asked if I could post them on my blog and they agreed. So here is the first one, Shades in the Dark, written by Frank Soria and Jorge Montesinos.

Shades in the Dark

by Frank Soria and Jorge Montesinos

It was an October night full of stars, and the moon shone in the high clear sky. There was nobody but the wind blowing outside. Deserted streets seemed to be aware that something unexpected was coming up. Everything was quiet, warm, and cozy. Emily and Kevin had just gotten to their grandpa’s home. He was an old fashioned man, rough of character, but lovely deep in his heart.

The first days passed harmoniously, soft, and warm. One night after having dinner, Kevin heard a slight creaking noise coming from the corridor. Without notice he stood up and went through it to realize no one was there. He felt how the temperature in the room dropped drastically. His legs trembled as he walked away. He was almost voiceless, nobody seemed to be there, but the whisper of a strange entity surrounded his little body, taking him to his deepest scary feelings. The lamp in the corridor flickered, announcing the inevitable encounter with the paranormal event. His heart beat as fast as a horse in the wild field. Suddenly, he felt a hand grabbing his shoulder. His breath stopped for a moment. He turned around to realize that it was his grandpa looking at him. He told his grandpa about the noise, but he said nothing about it.

The following day his sister teased him about the ghost story, laughing at him. Kevin cried for her madness. Night came back. A storm was announced in the papers. The lights went off. It was windy and cold outside. Grandpa took some candles from an old drawer and met the boys for dinner. Kevin was afraid and asked grandpa to take him to bed. Emily stayed for a while in the kitchen. Suddenly, she heard somebody coming to her. She turned around. No one was there, but an empty room in the shadows. She never had felt so lonely and frightened. A gust of wind opened the window blowing the candle out, pulling everything in its path towards Kevin’s room. She ran to rescue her little brother, but she couldn’t open the door. She yelled at him desperately. There was no answer. Lightning lit her frightened face when her grandpa hugged her and calmed her down. They heard a horrible roar coming from the inside of the room, but the door remained sealed. After a few minutes they could open it and Kevin was not there. The room smelled like a rare fragrance. They had a terrible feeling, but they could do nothing.

The little boy had disappeared. Not a single roar, strange sound or shadow was seen from that day on. No one mentioned a word about that event. Emily grew up there with her grandfather and sometimes she woke up thinking that was a weird nightmare and looked for Kevin but he had gone.


Monster in the Closet

Belfry Rating - Dark

Monster in the Closet

 

 

There is a monster in my closet, waiting to rip my throat out.

I wake up, exhausted. I don’t want to do this again. I just want to get up and leave the room. I look towards the closet and in the deep gloom of the nighttime room, I can barely see that it is open a crack. The monster inside is quiet: you never hear anything until that snort of discharged steamy breath when it charges and it is too late. I close my eyes. I don’t want to die again.

Eight feet from the bed to the door; six to the closet. I should be able to make it but that thing is always too quick for me. I have tried it fast and I have tried it slow but it never matters. Once I even had my hand on the doorknob before I felt pincer-like jaws clamp down on my calves, crushing my tibias and fibulas and pulling me backwards towards its lair underneath my dress shirts. I even remember the hem of that red sweater tickling my face as the creature slashed my stomach and I felt my vital organs tumbling out like sausages from a slit shopping bag. I woke up in bed, thinking of that sweater. It was always too big for me, but I couldn’t give it away since my grandma had given it to me.

I have even tried just waiting. Once, I waited for what seemed like hours, biding my time until the sun rose and burned away the mists of this unending nightmare. But the sun never rose and I waited until my bladder was bursting. I wet the bed and waited some more until I was cold and stinking and frantic. I screamed, “Come get me, you bastard!” and ran for the door.

It came. It got me.

After that, I woke up in bed, in that same eternal half-darkness. I thought I could smell a faint aroma of urine, which scared me almost as much as the monster, but I didn’t know why.

Now, I sit up in bed. No reaction. Slowly, I take one pillow and hold it to my back. I prop the other in front of me and pulling out the thinnest blanket, I tie them to me. I cinch it so tight that I can barely breathe. Slowly, oh so slowly like a sloth on tranquilizers, I lower my foot to the ground.

As soon as I touch carpet, I’m off. There is a roar and a shriek of angry, Stygian breath. My hand is on the handle when I am yanked back. I scream and pull hard. There is a ripping sound and the pillow is torn away. I yank the door open and then I am out, in the dark hallway, running hard for the front door. The monster crashes through the bedroom door behind me and I can hear the wood of the frame splintering. I can’t make it to the door in time. It will be on me in a second. Then, it feels like time slows and just before those ravenous fangs sink into my flesh one more time, I flick on the light switch.

I wake up in bed to my cell phone buzzing angrily. It is my co-worker Larry.

“Hello?”

“Where are you?” Larry asks. “Are you coming to work today?”

“What time is it? How long have I been gone?” I ask. I must sound like a wild man because Larry suddenly sounds disconcerted.

“Settle down. You’re only fifteen minutes late. Are you sick?”

“No, I’ll be there,” I say. I hang up. Daylight is streaming into the room through the slits in the blinds. I look at the closet.

The door is open, just a crack.

There is no sound, but of course, there never is before it charges. But now it’s day. There has never been a cell phone call before. The nightmare must be over.

But I can’t explain why my heart is pounding so hard or why I can’t make myself step onto the carpet. Because as long as I stay on the bed, there is a chance that everything is fine and my closet is empty.

I find myself straining to hear breathing.

I don’t want to die again.

I don’t want to die again.

I don’t want to die—


The Sleepwalker

This is a bit different from some of the stories I’ve written lately, darker for one thing, but it’s been rattling around inside my head for some time, so I finally let it out.

The Sleepwalker

The first thing Dillon saw when he came into consciousness was his hand, moving spasmodically in the muck by the lakeside, his fingers moving like five fat maggots. He took a shuddering breath, coughed out some water and stood up.

Sleepwalking. It must have been that again. The medicine seemed to have stopped working. He had the feeling he had done this before, walked outside in his sleep and right into the lake. It was lucky he hadn’t drowned.

Dillon staggered back up to the split-log cabin that sat on the bluff overlooking the teacup lake. Tiffany never liked going there, but he loved it, this tiny outpost beyond the grasp of civilization. No Internet, no TV, and just enough electricity to run the lights and his used Dell laptop where he forged his bizarre, surreal stories, one keystroke at a time.

So tired. His head ached and he walked with his head down and eyes half-closed until he reached the door. It was locked. That puzzled him. How had he locked the door when he was sleepwalking? Sure, it had a button lock on the inside that he could have pushed, but he had never known himself to do that before. He fished the keys out of his sodden pocket and stepped into the sparse kitchen. All the appliance were at least 30 years old, the old-fashioned, hard to use kind that drove Tiffany nuts. He liked them though. Or perhaps it was just that they guaranteed she would let him come here alone. Antique appliances were a fair trade for total solitude.

The coffee maker, the one modern concession besides the laptop, was set to turn on by itself in 10 minutes, as it always did. He pushed the button and as it gurgled and hissed, he pulled out his pill bottles from the drawer above it. Three blues, two whites: he popped them into his mouth and ducked to get a mouthful of tepid water from the faucet. He felt the meds kick in almost immediately and by the time the coffee was ready, he was a man reborn. They did not keep his mind from spinning; on the contrary, his mind was turning like a flywheel now, generating the necessary creative juices.

He looked out the window and a shock like electricity went through him. Next to his silver pickup truck sat a blue Jaguar, one that he knew very well. Tiffany was here? Since when? Dillon opened the bedroom door, expecting to see her, but it was empty. It was a tiny cabin, but he searched it again and again for ten minutes.

She must be swimming. Ha, not likely. His wife didn’t go near water without adequate chlorination and a handsome, college-aged lifeguard to watch over her. Hiking? Even less likely. If Tiffany couldn’t walk there in high heels, she did not walk there at all.

Finally, Dillon went outside to see if she was sitting behind the wheel. It was empty and locked. It didn’t make sense. He went inside, poured the coffee and took another white pill with it, just to calm his nerves, along with one of the tiny red ones, just because he felt he deserved it after all this confusion.

He turned on the laptop and it sprang to life with an electronic trill. There were no games on it or other distractions and he had set it up to open the file of his current work in progress automatically. Up came the title page, The Woods of Trillium. He scrolled to the bottom. When he had left off, the main character Turner Belasco had just left the witch’s house and was staggering through the forest, trying to get the cursed dagger out of his hand.

Dillon stared at the screen. There was text he didn’t remember writing. It didn’t fit with the story.

“Where is she, you dumb bastard?” the witch cried, tearing at Turner’s clothes with her claws. “You think I don’t know why you are wandering these woods all the time? You’re not looking for the Fountain of Light, you’re screwing some wench!”

          “You are surely mad, woman!” Turner shouted. He shook the cursed dagger to loose it from his hand, but it was stuck fast.

          “You must prove your loyalty to me,” the witch said. “Burn down this hovel you have constructed. Burn it to the ground and you will be free of the curse.”

          “But the house is the key to finding the Fountain of Light,” Turner said. “I carved the map on the floor myself, with hard labor. I will never give it up.”

          “You will or you will suffer!” The crone flew at him and Turner held up his hands to defend himself. But the cursed dagger, which was frozen to his hand, stabbed her in the throat and she dropped to the floor, dead.

          Turner cleaned up the witch’s blood and then carried her and her garments out to the Pool of Trillium, that sparkled with diamonds in the moonlight. He saw her body sink into the inky depths and with that, the cursed dagger fell from his hand and disappeared with her from sight. Then Turner went back to his hut, arranged his traveling garments and potions, set the coffee aright and set out to search for the Fountain of Light.

Dillon staggered up so fast, the table almost overturned. He made his way to the medicine drawer and shook out some pills, not bothering to check the colors or even how many he was taking. All he could think of, the thought that pounded in his head like a gong was: They don’t have coffee in The Woods of Trillium. It doesn’t exist there.

It was just a story. It was not real. Turner Belasco wasn’t a real person. He tried to tell himself this, but his mind was spinning out of control. He got down on the kitchen floor to look for blood. The lines on the flooring ran together and seemed to drip away into nothingness, but when he ran his hand over them, it came away dry.

What seemed like hours later, he found himself in the forest, yelling Tiffany’s name.

Dillon went back to the cabin and tried to think. It took two more cups of coffee. It might be only a story, but the Jaguar was real and he could not have driven them both there. If he had really killed her, it was all over for him. He had to at least look for her body, to make sure for himself. He had to find her or die trying.

It was early afternoon by now. He shut down the computer, put coffee in the filter and set the timer, out of habit more than anything. Then he went out and locked the door and walked to the lake. The water sucked greedily at the hems of his pants, pulling him in further. Finally, he ducked his head under and dived, down into that green-black world of weeds and shifting light, where everything looked like something that it was not. He continued to go down, looking here and there until the blackness seeped into his mind and his last thought was extinguished.

*        *        *

The first thing Dillon felt was a burning in his lungs. He hacked and coughed, spitting weeds, and when he finally opened his eyes, he was lying on the edge of the lake, his clothes and hair muddy and sopping wet. How had he gotten there? He must have been sleepwalking again.


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