Category Archives: Dark

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—

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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.


I think something is stalking me

It’s out there somewhere, I know it. It knows where I am and I feel it getting nearer, little by little. I haven’t told anyone before this—I’m too afraid of people thinking I’m crazy. Afraid it’ll hurt my career if anyone finds out at the office. And so I go along day by day, trying to ignore the fear, like the man who avoids the doctor because he is terrified of confirmation more than the cancer itself. The truth is, I know something is after me.

If I only knew what it was.

I say “it” and not “he” since I can’t tell if it’s even human. Sometimes it looks like it, but then it moves wrong, or just disappears. I can see it across from my house sometimes, if it moves into the streetlight. I saw it once out my office window, just a flash of something dark moving between two cars. I can’t prove it but I know it wasn’t a person or an animal.

I finally got a picture of it. It was standing there in the streetlight across from the house, almost taunting me with its presence. I turned off the lights and took a picture. It turned out horribly, of course. I shouldn’t have taken it through the screen, for one thing.

I’ll have to use video next time. I’ll let you know if I get anything more.

I thought it looked human, but now I'm not sure.

I thought it looked human, but now I’m not sure.


Waxy Wolly – Friday Fictioneers

Well, I’m back from the hospital and back into my routine. My apologies for not being able to read many stories last week, but I’ll make up for it this week, I promise. Also, although my Monday post, Drowning Day, was supposed to be humor, it was rather dark, so I’m sorry (to those who prefer my lighter stories) for another dark story today. I have a funny one coming up on Friday this week.

Also, since this is a horror story, I will dedicate it to my friend, K.Z. Morano, whose book 100 Nightmares just came out.

copyright Renee Heath

copyright Renee Heath

Waxy Wolly

Do you know Waxy Wolly, that goblin with the soft, melty face, drooping eyes flickering like malevolent candles? May he never come to your house.

Many a mother has looked into a cradle to see her baby staring up, a living effigy of that happy, laughing soul of only an hour before. And then when she washes it in hot water or puts it near the fire . . .

No one believes me. They all think I killed them. But there are no bodies to convict me. Just a waxy stain in front of the hearth, like someone spilled a large candle.

 


Fog Tweets

Fog Tweets

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All Wrung Out

This story deals with somewhat disturbing material. Just a heads up. It’s a story for Al Forbes’ Sunday Photo Fiction. A bit over the word limit, but please forgive me this time.

All Wrung Out

I feel wrung out, with a soul like an old dishrag, flapping in the burning wind. But you gotta keep on, so I flip a smile, crack a joke and pretend. We all do.

“We got a drill hole on 10th Avenue,” Marc calls. “A real slip-n-slide.”

“And here I forgot my bathing suit,” I say, climbing into the truck.

There are no survivors, of course. The laser beam drilled a perfect hole down through the 20-story building, gutting it and disintegrating everything in its path. Nobody calls us when there are survivors, only when there is “organic material” to clean up. I don’t mind the “organic material”; it’s picking up the body parts I can recognize that gets to me. Nobody said war was pretty.

“Do you ever wish one of those lasers would get us?” Marc asks that evening. “Just erase the memories and nightmares forever.”

“What, and leave this dream job?” I say, laughing and taking a swig of beer.

He looks at me with pain in his eyes, pleading silently for me to be serious, just once. But I can’t do it, because I feel so thin inside that if I stop smiling, I’ll shatter.

I’m just all wrung out.


Jasper’s Lamp – full story

This past Wednesday, I did a Friday Fictioneers story called Jasper’s Lamp. It’s a creepy story about five generations of women and their relationship to a lamp that has something growing inside it. The problem is, that the Friday Fictioneers stories are 100 words and I wanted to say more about it. So I wrote this one to tell the whole story. It’s a bit long, but if you like creepy, then enjoy.

lamp

“I brought it,” my mother says, and with those three innocuous words, a shiver of terror goes down my back. This is the moment I have been dreading since my grandmother showed me the lamp and told me it would one day be mine.

“I don’t want it,” I say. “How dare you bring that thing here?”

Her eyes are filled with the wearied horror that comes from years of caring for a monster. “Look, I promised my mother I would do this. Throw it away if you want. I don’t care. I’m sorry to do this to you, Sarah. God knows I’m sorry, but now I’m done. I’ve fulfilled my promised. I brought the papers too.”

With that, she stands up and walks to the front door. “I don’t want it!” I shout after her. I know it is useless; the front door clicks shut.

I go to the door in time to see her drive away. The lamp is sitting next to the door, covered loosely by a canvas bag. I am tempted to leave it there, but of course that is impossible. What if Evelyn, my daughter, sees it? What if the wind blows the bag off and the neighbors see the monstrosity that is underneath?

It takes all my willpower to knowingly bring that thing into my house; to actually put my hand under the glass globe and lift it, holding that terror so close to my body. A folio bound with a string is next to it, and after I bring the lamp inside, I get the papers and bring them into the kitchen.

They smell old, with a mustiness that reminds me of sickness. I make some coffee and then open the folio. My mother has told me about these papers, which my grandmother collected as a history of the lamp and an ongoing record of it. She loved it, my mother said, although I cannot understand why.

The papers on top are a bundle of yellowed, type-written transcriptions of an interview between my grandmother Ursula and her mother, my great-grandmother Celeste.

Ursula:  Tell me about my father, Jasper.

Celeste: Jasper, he was quite the dashing young man. He was dark-skinned, and my parents didn’t approve of him, but he was a romantic. Always talking about places he’d been all over the world. He said he’d take me with him sometime, but I didn’t want to go. Getting malaria in some sweaty, God-forsaken jungle, no thank you.

Ursula:  And when did he give you the lamp?

Celeste: The lamp. He sent it to me, if you can believe it. I don’t how it didn’t break, but he packed it tight into a crate with straw and paper and bits of rag. It was an oil lamp back then, not the electric lamp you’ve made it now.

Ursula: Can you describe the lamp?

Celeste: Describe it? You know damn well what it looks like! Fine though, I guess it has changed over the years. When I first opened the package, it was a brass oil lamp, with a glass chimney and underneath, a large glass globe. Inside the globe, there was a single eyeball floating, about as big as a cow’s eye. Gave me one hell of a fright. I found the note he sent with it. ‘I need you to look after this for me. Promise you will, it’s important. I’ll be back for it soon, but for now, keep the lamp burning. Keep it warm!’ That’s all he said, no ‘I love you’ or anything.

Ursula: And that was the last you heard of him?

Celeste: That was it. He was heading for Indochina when I said goodbye to him for the last time, but that note and the lamp was the last I got from him. Five months later, you were born. I did as he asked though, taking care of you and the lamp, keeping it lit, although I covered up the bottom most of the time. I couldn’t abide that big, staring eye just looking, always looking. I kept expecting it to fall apart, just decay, but as you know, it didn’t.

Ursula: When did you first notice it growing?

Celeste: you were about three at the time. You were toddling around and you grabbed at the skirting around the lamp and yanked it off. You screamed when you saw the eye first, but then you couldn’t keep away from it. You named it George, I remember. It was then I noticed it was growing, that there was more flesh behind it and another eye growing next to it, though at that time, it was dull and undeveloped.

Ursula: What do you think about the lamp?

Celeste: [sighs] I didn’t like it and I still don’t. It still gives me the creeps and if you didn’t have such a connection to it, I would order you to destroy it when I die. But Jasper’s last letter to me made me promise to take care of it and I did it for him. You can do what you like with it. For years, I kept imagining he’d come back and take it off my hands. I don’t suppose he will now though.

The transcript ends there. I heard hints of this from my grandmother, but not everything. The next thing in the folio is a battered,spiral-bound notebook. On the cover, it says, “The Book of the Lamp, by Ursula McIntyre-Willis”. I didn’t know about this.

June 5, 1958: I’ve decided to call the thing Jasper instead of George. Not that it’s Father, but I never met him and this is all I have from him. Sometimes when I look into the lamp, I can imagine those eyes speaking to me as they look unblinkingly into mine. I can almost understand, but not quite. It’s frustrating. Both eyes are full size now and a body is growing behind them.

I flip through a few pages. My grandmother Ursula has made detailed notes about its development and her feelings about it.

August 19, 1961: The body is taking on a definite shape now and I can see a head forming around the eyes. Last night I had the insane thought to open the globe, even though I knew it might endanger Jasper. I pried off the lamp part, but the globe is totally sealed, as if it was made whole. I don’t know how they did it. I will replace the lamp with an electric one, I think.

July 29, 1964: My husband Randy tried to smash the globe with a baseball bat. He’s always hated Jasper,  but the bat didn’t even make a scratch. He knows not to try to touch Jasper again though. I made sure of that.

February 3, 1968: The kids never want to go near Jasper. I don’t care about Brody, but if Rose is going to take care of him after me, she needs to love Jasper as much as I do. An hour a week in the closet together should help their relationship. If she looks into Jasper’s eyes, he’ll speak to her.

March 28, 1970: I got the good idea to record my mother’s recollections of the lamp. She never loved him as much I did. I’m glad she let me take care of him.

July 2, 1973: The area over his eyes has been thickening for almost a year now. At first, I thought they were fading, but now I see it is the eyelids growing. Last night, I saw my dear Jasper’s eyes for the last time. Now they are shut and he is sleeping.

November 6, 2003: I am going into a nursing home tomorrow and I can’t keep Jasper anymore. My heart is breaking, but now it’s Rose’s turn.

At the top of the next page, my grandmother has written my mother’s name: Rose Willis-Hunter. But the pages afterwards are blank. At the back of the notebook, I find a letter from my mother to me. It has been crumpled up, but then smoothed out again. It is dated June 20, 2007, the day after my grandmother’s funeral.

Dear Sarah,

I feel like I’ve been living in a nightmare most of my life and the last thing I want to do is pass it on you. You were there for the reading of the will, but there was a secret clause about it. She left it to me along with her papers and a book of things that the thing inside has supposedly told her. She wants me to pass it on to you when I get old.

My darling Sarah, forgive me. I will keep it away from you as long as I can, but you have no idea what it was like living with her. She broke me, slowly but steadily. I hate that thing, but I can’t destroy it and I can’t abandon it. I dream about my mother even now and about that thing she loved. The hours she locked me in the closet with it before its eyes closed changed me somehow. I hate it and I hate myself for being so weak.

Your mother,

Rose

At the bottom, in red pen, my mother has scribbled, I threw this letter away, but decided to show it to you anyway. It was a moment of truth I don’t think I can bring myself to repeat. I burned the book of things it told her. I made the mistake of reading it and I may be weak, but I couldn’t let that survive. I left the notes she made of its history, so you’ll know the truth and be warned.

I close the folio and go out into the hallway, where the lamp is sitting. With a deep breath, I pull off the canvas bag.

The monster, Grandma Ursula’s Jasper, lays curled up inside. It is more developed than the first time I saw it, that time when Grandma brought me up to her secret library when my mother was away. This is Jasper, she said, as if introducing me to a friend. One day, he will be yours to take care of. Now, I can see a whip-like tail curled around the bottom, curved spines along its back and its hundreds of little legs curled up, each ending in a single claw. Its closed left eye is pressed against the glass now. I have a sudden image of it opening and I throw the bag back over the lamp. Somehow, I get the lamp down to the basement and bury it behind boxes.

I go out to do errands and come back that afternoon to find, with horror, my 8-year-old daughter Evelyn reading the papers about the lamp I have thoughtlessly left out on the table.

“What’s this?” she asks.

“Nothing,” I say, grabbing them.

“Do we have this lamp?” When I don’t reply, she continues, “Where is it? I want to see it.”

It’s like I don’t have a choice. With mute horror, I lead her downstairs and move aside the boxes, aware that I am continuing the chain. Show her now and she will be revolted by it, I think, to comfort myself.

“So this is Jasper. Wow, he’s so cool,” she says, gazing into the globe.

“It’s just a thing and it’s not cool.”

“But great-grandma Ursula called him Jasper,” she says. “He’s almost done, right?”

“Done?” I ask with alarm. “What do you mean?”

“Well, from the notes on the table, he’s been growing for years. So when he’s finished growing, he’ll wake up, right?”

“What makes you say that?”

“I don’t know. I guess I just assumed.”

“Look, Evelyn. Don’t come down here, okay? This thing is evil. I’m going to get rid of it, okay?”

“But I want to be there when his eyes open,” she says and my mind revolts at the smile on her face. Not for this! I want to shout. Not for you, Jasper. You can’t have her.

I lay awake in bed that night, thinking. I am all by myself since my husband left two years ago and I need to do something to stop this. I need to destroy the lamp, carry it to a dump, drop it into the ocean, anything to get it away. I fantasize about doing it, day after day, while I keep the basement door locked and an eye on my daughter. But I feel that time is running out. It’s almost done,” Evelyn said, and I feel it too. So I keep on, think about destroying it and do nothing and hate myself for doing nothing, around and around, in a maddening spiral.

But I have to do something. I have to. Before the eyes open.

lamp 2


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