Tag Archives: horror

#FlashFic: Benton House

The Benton House by JC Rosen

She crept along the hallway in dappled light, dawn peeking through drapes. A sound ahead made her freeze, her bravery faltering. She had to keep going. If she didn’t, they might catch her. Big brother Jackie had told her to keep going and “don’t look back, Ellie, not for anything.” Her little hands turned to fists.

It had been a long night. Super scary, being alone in the dark, old house. The wind didn’t help. It made the building creak. Its fingers dashed chills all over her little body. Scrawny, even though she was seven, and stubborn to go with it, Mama said.

Her brothers each spent a night in the Benton House. The twins teased her until she was angry enough to show them she was as brave as they were. Braver! They were ten years old when they did it. She ignored their spooky stories of cold places and whispers. Secretly, she curled up in her room with a pillow afterward, when she was alone. She was scared all right, but she wouldn’t show it to them.

Only Jackie, her oldest brother, understood. He held her hand and told her she didn’t have to do it. It was spooky in the abandoned house, he said. When he saw her jaw set, he stroked her hair. His eyes looked sad. That’s when he took her hand and told her not to look back. He told her a lot that afternoon. Nearly changed her mind, but she gulped and held her ground. At least the twins weren’t there to hear or see. Bobby and Thom were only twelve. All they knew was how to make fun of her.

The night was darker than Ellie ever saw. There were chills even when the wind wasn’t shaking the house. Weird noises, too. The worst was the whispery sound, like voices too quiet to hear right. Ellie thought she heard “girl” a few times. It was probably the wind, though, wasn’t it? Jackie snuck her a flashlight and told her to save the batteries. She only turned it on when she got really scared. Its beam swung around her closet hiding place, scouring the walls and corners. Nothing there. Breathe nice and slow, like Jackie said. It helped.

The darkness under the door seemed to reach for her. When it turned gray with the coming dawn, she shed silent tears. Easing from the closet, she saw a dingy, harmless room. Light filtered half-heartedly through tattered curtains. She tried to laugh. It came out as a cough, her body shaking. All she had to do was get out of the house.

The sound ahead in the hallway made her freeze, her tummy tingling. Keep going, she told herself firmly. Jackie said keep going. She swung her fists at her side as she marched down the stairs and through the living room. Ellie ran when the front door was in sight. It fought back when she tried to open it. She almost panicked, but the hinges groaned open. Trembling, knees rubbery, she flew through and down the steps of the porch. Ellie turned and looked at the Benton House. It had so terrorized her. In the half-light of sunrise, it looked old, sad and saggy.

Ellie, over here, be quick.” Jackie held out his hand over the fence edging the property. Ellie smiled smugly and strutted through the yard. She did it! Bobby and Thom might stop teasing her. At least for a while.

She reached for the gate. It didn’t budge. She tried pushing and pulling. Jackie ran over and grabbed the gate. He leaned against it hard. A quiet scream built in her throat. It died as a cold finger caressed the back of her neck. “No, Ellie! Climb over, keep moving!” Jackie pushed and pulled frantically. Ellie knew it was already too late.

Invisible hands grabbed hold and dragged her away from her horrified brother. Ellie heard the whispering voices clearly. “A girl child! We’ve waited so long. Welcome, welcome.” The voices soothed away her fear. The farther away they lifted her, the more peaceful she felt.

They took her high above the yard. Below, Jackie yanked open the gate. He gathered up a small, limp girl. Curiosity made Ellie hover, watching as he shook his head and cried. Boredom came. She swirled through a window. Her new family waited.

FlashFic: The Deading

 

A flash by JC Rosen

 

The secret to successfully being dead is to remember what it was like to be alive. Does that sound too simple? Until you’re dead, you can’t understand the big deal. Moving to the other side of the veil makes it harder to stay like a human.

I don’t know many dead people. Those I met convinced me I’m not missing anything. Lots showed me what I didn’t want to do. Being with them made me understand how to have a good life after death. What a tired saying that is. “Life after death.” There must be some other way to put it. There’s “living,” maybe there should be “deading.”

I’m rambling. I rambled a lot when I was living. I do it more now that I’m dead. Now that I’m deading. There’s so much time to fill, you see. Think of all the busy things the living do. They eat, there’s school or work, they sleep. These take up time. These help the living stay tethered to time. These are things that were stripped from me when I died. So much time to fill and no tether to time anymore. It’s easy to lose track.

Losing track of time is worse than idle hands. To say it’s the Devil’s workshop is only a figure of speech, so relax. Losing track means time passes without notice and all the familiar things blur away. The dead lose their sense of self. Just like the living, the deading get depressed, angry, confused.  They start acting stupid, brushing at the veil between the dimensions. Pushing themselves on the living. Terrifying them. It’s hard to come back from that and be all humanlike again.

The veil is gauzy thin. I watch the other world through it. I fantasize I have a tether to time. Familiar people, places and events remind me what it was like to be alive. Whisper light and lovely, the veil is so attractive. I want to touch it, even reach through it and touch my familiar stuff. I move close, too close sometimes. The idea of having an effect on my stuff is crazy cool. I miss it, but I’m afraid of scaring the living. I’m afraid I’ll lose myself in the rush, too. I dance away again, but I don’t lose sight of the familiar. My anchor to time and remembering my living self.

The living press against the veil from the other side sometimes. People who die and get saved, go back to living. Curious people, mourning or looking for kicks. Most often it’s just a dreamer. Like a nurse to a confused old patient, I say soothing things to the dreamer. “Yes, I’m here. I’m fine. I love you.” Pretty words. As close to having an effect on the living as I let myself get. No idea who they are, but they always leave the veil peacefully. It’s part of remembering what it’s like to be alive. Remembering that need to know loved ones are okay, even when they’re deading.

Age at death doesn’t much matter. I’ve seen old and young spirits lose track of themselves. They become ugly and mean, lashing out at each other and pushing at the veil. Sometimes they become desperately sad and try to reach through. Either way, I pull in tight and think myself away.
Leaving makes me lose sight of the familiar, though. Time blurs. I grasp hold of something, anything, that can be an anchor. Pets are nice. They can see through the veil. Their eyes are soothing. They make me remember being alive and loving my dog. Good anchor stuff. Good reminders of living for the deading.

Familiar things from life give way to new things as the living change. As the living join the deading, new familiar things take their place. If time blurs too long, all the familiar stuff is gone. There’s no anchor. Rebuilding the pretend tether to time is hard. Giving over the memory of living is the easy way out. I fight hard to remember living. Mom always said I was stubborn.

Don’t be sad, Daddy. She’ll be here soon, too. Hold her in your sights, let her be your familiar anchor. She’ll help you remember what it was like to be alive. Just like she does for me.

#FridayFlash FlashFic: Family Ring

Photo by Mauro Cateb

Photo by Mauro Cateb

Clean laundry mixed with dirty as Siobhan tossed clothing over her shoulder. No time to waste. How had she misplaced it today of all days?

“Looking for this?” Michael stormed in, holding out the ring. “I took it back when I learned your secret!” He sneered as he tucked the ring into his jacket pocket.

“What secret?” she asked with a far calmer voice than she expected.

“Old Lady Semple told me you know what that ring is worth now. You only want it because it’s valuable, not because of what it means to me!” Michael bristled.

“Aw honey,” cajoled Siobhan. “Mrs. Semple knew your grandmother. She told me how your grandma valued the ring, a gift from your grandfather’s mother.” Siobhan dared to brush a hand over Michael’s arm. When he didn’t jerk away, she smiled a little. “You gave a special family ring to me. You made me family. That’s valuable beyond measure.” She faked a gulp. “Does this mean you’re taking my family away?”

Michael wilted into a chair. Digging the ring out of his pocket, he held it up into the fading light. It glimmered, a silver band with a silver wire wrapped around it. Ancient symbols were inscribed inside. Michael thought it was Gaelic and full of romance. She knew better. Glancing at the window, she grit her teeth. She had to play this just right.

“Please, Michael, don’t do this. Let me be family again. It means so much to me to be part of you, to wear the symbol of your acceptance.” She eyed him. He nodded quietly in the dim room.

Swallowing a sigh, she held out her hand. As he reached out to her, proffering the coveted ring, she felt the too-familiar tingle in her belly, the strain on her cuticles. Siobhan snatched the ring from Michael’s palm and tried to jam it onto her finger, but it was too late.

She felt her dress shred as her spine lengthened and her body filled out. Her fingers grew with thick knuckles, claws at their tips. She retained enough humanity to catch a glance at Michael’s pale face, the whites of his eyes showing. His mouth was open. If he screamed, she couldn’t hear it above the Change.

Fever dreams, full of heavy scents and thick, rich textures, chased the beast through the night. Wanton destruction and a hunger nearly sated drove her on toward dawn, when the beast finally lay down. She rose from the makeshift bed, wincing as she moved. The fetid scents of mud, blood and viscera attacked her. Painted in them, she couldn’t get away from it, and her gorge rose. Spasms racked her body until it emptied itself of things she’d rather not try to name.

The overcast dawn clothed her in shadows. She picked her way through the woods behind Michael’s house, their home, and bustled up the back stairs. Shaking her head, trying to clear it of the night’s after effects, all she could think was the word “shower.” Padding down the hallway toward their room, she skidded on a damp spot. A pool of dark stickiness. Her hand flew to her mouth. She turned toward their room. Already knowing, she made herself look through the open door. What was left of Michael still sat in the chair. His head lay at an odd angle to his carved out body. Bits and shreds of skin and what looked like part of his liver sat in his lap along with tufts of chair stuffing. His heart had been chewed out. Siobhan ran to the bathroom and vomited until she dry heaved.

Mrs. Semple picked up immediately. “I didn’t get the ring back in time, Mary.” Silence on the other end. The old lady was going to make her say it. “It’s Michael. I need a cleaning team.”

“We’ll be along shortly, girl. Get yourself cleaned up and for heaven’s sake, put that ring on.”

 

#FridayFlash: The Little Library

Flash Fiction for #FridayFlash by JC Rosen

Photo by Pete

July 4th was a week gone, but Travis still had fireworks. His mother was all, “You’re not setting those off here.” We laughed when Travis acted out his mom. He was a riot. Problem was no way could we go to any of our houses with the fireworks, either. Someone would call Sheriff O’Bannon. We didn’t need him up in our business.

Brian picked the Milford place. It was for sale, had been since last summer. This year they weren’t even taking care of the lawn. The place had that empty-a-long-time look now. “How do we get in?” quavered Polly.

Brian dug into his pocket and pulled out a couple thin metal sticks. “I have a key,” he grinned. Travis bumped knuckles with him and Clay laughed. Polly gave me a look, but I shrugged it off.

The Milford place was way out on the edge of town. Travis set off his bottle rockets and stuff. The boys jumped around. Polly and I clapped. In Elksville, this was an exciting day. Breaking into the house made it more exciting. Brian fiddled with the lock on the back door and a long minute later, turned the handle. We piled in, kicking up dust and coughing.

The place was deserted, but the old furniture was still there. I tried to ignore the scuttling in the walls. Chills shook me and my tummy flipped. I went to Polly, who stood in the middle of the living room with her arms wrapped tightly around her middle. Her eyes were big and blue, the whites showing around them. “When can we leave, Laurie?” I shook my head. We always did things as a group. She whispered, “I don’t like it here.”

“It’s gross,” I nodded. Polly gave me an odd look, kind of impatient, and she walked back to the door. The boys were off exploring upstairs. I was pretty sure I heard one of them treating a bed like a trampoline. This was going to take a while.

Bookcases lined the walls of the living room, making it a small library. My favorite place in town was the library, but this one had books I never saw before. I ran my hand over the spines of a bunch of leather bound books labeled Harvard Classics and sighed. One day I would own a library like this. I twirled, taking in the view of all the books, hundreds of them, and sighed again. A moaning sound undercut my sigh, joining in.

Cold wound around my belly before washing through me. I felt my long hair rustle as it passed by. Scared, I tried to shake the feeling off. I wanted to bolt from the room when a book fell off a shelf. It landed so hard, I jumped like a gunshot went off. Automatically, I bent to pick it up. As I did, the shelf emptied itself, books bouncing off the back of my head and shoulders, knocking me down to the floor.

“Are you okay?” Polly’s anxious voice came from the back of the house, nearly a shriek.

“I’m good, Polly. Ready to go?” My voice was strong, even confident. I had not opened my mouth to speak, though. My voice came from the bookcase. I looked up and stared, a silent scream in my throat.

“Yes, oh yes, Laurie, let’s go!” Polly cried. While I got up, I heard her calling for the boys. She yelled their names to be heard above the racket they made. As though I rushed through a long tunnel, I stepped toward the sinister bookcase, my friends’ voices dimming in the distance. I stood before it, resting a hand on the now-empty shelf, casually kicking the books away. Inwardly, I marveled at my calm, at my knowing what to do.

“Release me.” The whisper lingered on the air of the empty room, soaking into me until my insides trembled. “Release me.”

I reached out my hand. I pressed the palm against the wall. There was an answering pressure. As I took my hand away, I could see the imprint of a hand against the other side of the wall. I gulped and tried to turn away, to run away. My feet were rooted. Whipping back to stare at the impossible handprint, I saw it fade.

Unearthly cold filled me, slow and true, from my belly out. I was shut aside, somehow pushed away in my own mind. My vision hazed and another’s vision cleared. I watched as the other tested moving hands, then feet. Her glory flowed through me, spiking my fear.

“Polly,” I heardfelt myself say. “Send Clay to fetch Sheriff O’Bannon. Quickly now.” My voice was harsh, hurried and deep. Through a distorted lens, I saw Polly wring her hands and back away, then flee up the stairs. Clay came down, stared at me and was off like he had a butt full of birdshot.

“Laurie,” I feltheard this other speak to me. “I can’t sustain this. You must tell Sheriff O’Bannon I am Anita Milford. I did not run off with that carpenter. My husband killed me. My body is in that wall.” I felt the other weep and weaken. “Tell the sheriff… if he doesn’t believe say he was called Rooster and I never forgot his kiss under the bleachers.”

We collapsed.

Next I knew, Dr. Rooney was waving some hateful stink under my nose and I tried to scramble away. Sheriff O’Bannon’s face loomed close. “Okay now, Laurie?”

“She’s in the wall,” I forced out in a whisper. “Anita Milford. She’s in the wall.” His eyebrows frowned. “She said you’re Rooster and you kissed her under some bleachers. Mr. Milford killed her and put her in the wall.” The sheriff swallowed hard.

They all jumped when a big sigh came out and swirled around the room. I just lay there, tension seeping away at her relief.

FlashFic: The Storm

The Storm, flash fiction by JC Rosen

Photo by Mike McCune

The static levels were too high. The hairs on his arm not only stood on end, they vibrated. Something was coming. 

Robert manned the little weather station alone. The meters fluttered then stood in the red zones. He frowned. Cold logic told him it was impossible. It told him there was some explanation. It told him to sound the alarm. He froze until sheer panic slammed the alarm blaring. He felt more than heard the oncoming storm. Storm? He never saw readings like this before.

He ran to the window in the cinder block wall. The thick cloud in the distance made his hands shake. It was viciously dark. Like a buzzing, snapping beast, it ate its way over the horizon. Tendrils reached down, each ending in an explosion of damage as it reached the ground. The carnage was hideously precise. The city, destroyed. Suburbs, gone. His own town, shattered in a whirlwind of dark lightning. Each exploding, drawn up and spit out as the heartless cloud moved closer.

The thin remainder of cold logic told Robert he had to warn others, people the alarm wouldn’t reach. The equipment was smoking. He grabbed the phone. Crackling made him flinch before a shock threw him across the room. He slammed against the wall and crumpled, arm shooting pain to its shoulder. Biting his cheek, he dragged himself across the floor and up using a chair. Back to the window, arm hanging useless. Every muscle reverberated. The machines popped and sizzled. Get out, they said. It’s coming, get out.

He darted from the building. Run, logic said. No, not the car, electronics won’t work in this storm. In this thing. He made the mistake of looking up. The sight stopped him in his tracks. The cloud blotted out the sunny day, spreading across the sky. The onrushing sound was deafening. The pressure began to crush him. It shocked him into moving again. Running. Running away from the weather station. Running toward nothing.

Robert’s entire body quivered, throbbing, his arm a mute screech of pain. He cried out, the sound echoing in his head. The explosion threw him off his feet. He landed amid broken cinder blocks and a tire that rolled on its rim. A flash of time to marvel he survived. Enough time to ache and roll over.  Time to shriek as a thin, dark streak of lightning speared him.

It lifted him up. It held him fast, his body stiff. Pain screamed through him. It was abruptly shut down. Everything was shut down. The lightning dropped him. It moved on. It took the fear and pain away. It took Robert away. What was left rose awkwardly. It slammed its shoulder into its socket. It began to walk along with the broadening darkness, pausing while the creature above destroyed the amusement park, stopping while the creature exploded the little town beyond it.

Others were stabbed by the dark lightning. They were lifted, dropped to the ground. They stumbled out of the wreckage and joined what was left of Robert on its pilgrimage. It saw blood spurting from a damaged drone. That drone won’t last long, came a thought. A thought. A sliver of Robert hiding within tried to contact the thought. The sliver was cold logic. The sliver faltered, fearing for Robert’s brain functions under the control of the sparking, crackling creature.

The drone which was once Robert stumbled. The sliver observed the effect. It reached, experimenting. The drone stopped. It tilted its head. It resumed shambling with the cloud. The sliver grabbed and clawed. The drone fell to its knees and held its head between its hands. There was a moan deep in its throat. The sliver, now rippling and waving through pathways, forced its way into lobes, touched sensitive places, retreated when the drone spasmed. It was on the ground, twitching, hurting. Robert’s sense of self took painful hold. It heard the humming in the remaining part of the drone’s brain. It forced Robert to work past the hum.

Get up. Walk. Don’t let it know. The thoughts formed with great effort. Each one made the next easier. Each one made him more Robert. Ahead in the distance, the darkness reached down and wove a wall. The cloud poured into it, leaving daylight. Robert shuffled along with the others, stepping through and around the rubble of a small town. He peered ahead. Drones walked to the wall. It reached out and grabbed them, impaling them on black lightning and pulling them in.

There was a truck ahead on its side. Cold logic and panic combined. Robert stumbled to it and crouched in the upturned bed. Drones passed him in crowds, a horrifying, silent parade. When the last of them passed, Robert dared to peek through the cracked windshield.

The cloud became viscous, roiling shadows. They coalesced into a roaring sphere. He watched as it lifted from the dust, leaving a whirlwind behind. It shot up, soon a black dot in the clear sky.

Panic and relief overwhelmed logic. Robert lay in the dirt, whimpering and shaking as the sun set and the moon rose.

“We got a survivor over here!” Robert heard. “You’re lucky, buddy. First survivor in all these tornadoes.”

“Not a tornado,” Robert shook his head. It poured out. “Not a tornado. Not a tornado.”

“Right, buddy. Not a tornado. Don’t worry. We’ll get you patched up.” Robert felt a sharp sting in his arm. As he slumped, he heard, “Sure, not a tornado. Like anything else could do this.”

Back to Center

Writing the last story I posted, Emptiness, really threw me off center. Such a small thing, a short flash. I didn’t expect the difficulty I faced writing it. I certainly didn’t expect the soul searching which came after.

The title was appropriate to the story, but I think it had more to do with how I felt about it. It took three days to write the rough draft. I dragged my feet because I knew where I was going with it and was horrified to face it, horrified to think I could contemplate it. Self-recrimination and introspection went on for days after. Silly thing to happen, but there it is. I avoided writing, avoided thinking about the whole issue for a while. I think stepping away, even in that manner, helped.

I wrote a flash this morning. I’ll post it on Friday. It’s not one which left me questioning myself. One thing I did learn from this process, though: if … no, when… another dark horror idea comes my way, I’ll write it and take joy in bringing a new story into the world.

Balance is a good thing.

FlashFic: Emptiness

Story by JC Rosen

Photo by Scott Robinson

Dreariness tentacled in through windows and under doors. Chill gusted and loneliness scuffed along with dry leaves on pavement.

~

He shambled inside, not knowing where he wanted to be, what he wanted to have or do. Balled up fast food wrappers with empty cup sculptures littered the room. He dropped into a chair, groaning along with it.

Thin wails sliced the silence and he clenched. As they built to hiccups and shrieks, his face fell into his hands. Squeaks spoke of the wife prying herself from the bed, thumps of plodding across the hall.

Bouncing and screeching in the crib. Swift silence enclosed him in meager comfort, the comfort from a lack of machines grating and babies screaming and wives jabbering. He took shelter in it.

The wife flumphed into a chair. A snap lit the ever present smoke. He tolerated the rasping. Haunting, this quiet. Empty. Wrong. He squinted and turned a look at the wife.

~

Dreariness tentacled in through windows and under doors. Chill gusted and loneliness scuffed along with dry leaves on pavement.