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Topics - Logan96

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1
Story Critique / "Green Door"
« on: 12:53 PM, 06/19/20 »
When I was younger, I partied a lot. My college classes were not a priority; I didn’t even wanna be in school. I just went so my parents wouldn’t think I was a disappointment. My life was a flurry of alcohol, drugs, and the occasional one-night stand. One night I lost a part of myself I can never get back.

My friends Lewis, Gage, and I were driving around. Sitting in the back of Lewis’ mini van, I tried my best to ignore the horrible music blaring from the speakers. Gage passed me a joint from the front seat and cracked open a beer.

“Pass me one of those,” Lewis said.

“Not while you’re driving,” Gage said. “The last thing you need is another D.U.I.”

I took a drag. “When’s the acid supposed to kick in?”

Gage shrugged his shoulders. “Soon. It’s been an hour since you took it.”

“Where are we going?”

“Nowhere in particular, Roy,” Lewis said.

“We can walk around Yellow Brooke for a bit and kill some time,” Gage suggested. “I’ve gotta take piss anyway.”

Lewis took a right down Burroughs Lane and pulled into Yellow Brooke’s parking lot. Gage burst out of the van and sprinted for the forest.

I stared at the forest, the colors of the surrounding trees, bushes, and flowers were amplified. The smell of pine and citrus combined in the air. This wouldn't make sense to anyone who hadn’t taken LSD or other hallucinogens, but I could taste the forest.

“Are you done, Gage? You’re taking forever.” Lewis said.

Gage came running out the woods struggling to button his pants back up.

“What took you so long?” I laughed. “Were you jerking off?”

“I found a trapdoor by a tree. I heard someone from the other side crying and begging for help.”

“Bullshit.” Lewis said.

Gage gestured towards the woods. “Go check it out if you don’t believe me.”

Lewis and I followed the path, the birds chirped their song and the Lilly’s looked like they were dancing. As we walked past them we came across a green door covered in moss, twigs, and dead bugs.

Lewis rolled his eyes. “Are you sure you’re actually hearing someone, or are you just fucked up?”

“Please help me.” A frail, feminine voice pleaded.

Gage went to open the door.  “It’s okay we’re going to help you.”

Lewis grabbed Gage’s arm. “Stop. This could be a trap. Don’t you think it’s a little too convenient that all of a sudden we hear a woman screaming for help? It could be some psycho trying to bait us.”

“Please help me!” The woman cried. “A man put me here. I haven’t eaten or drank for days.”

Gage rubbed his temple.  “We’ve got to do something, we can’t just leave her here.”

“We can go to the cops.” Lewis said.

Gage jerked his arm free from Lewis’ grasp. “What if she’s dead by the time we get help?”

Lewis ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. “They’re better equipped to handle this situation. Besides, we’re all high right now, I don’t wanna risk getting busted just cause you think you hear someone begging for help.”

Gage pushed past Lewis and struggled with the door. He cleared away the brush and discovered there was an old, rusty lock on the handle. “Fuck. We’ve gotta break the lock somehow.”

I scanned the area and spotted a large rock next to Gage. “Use the rock next to you to break the lock. It's all rusted.
You’ll probably break it with a couple blows.”

He struck the lock and it broke off easily. Underneath the door was an abyss of darkness. He pulled out his key chain and used the mini flashlight attached to illuminate the dark.  A naked woman laid on the ground. Her hair was caked with dirt and blood, her eyes were sunken, buried in an ocean of  purple and blackened flesh. Her nose was twisted in the opposite direction, dry blood was underneath her nose and at the corners of her mouth where her lips were torn and swollen. Bruises and cuts covered the rest of her body.

Gage jumped down into the chasm and approached the woman hesitantly. “Can you walk?”

The woman wiped tears from her eyes. “No, I think one of my legs is broken.”

“Okay, I’m gonna pick you up and my friends are gonna help lift you out,” Gage said.

As Gage got closer to the woman my heart pounded rapidly, a horrible tightness formed in my chest, my stomach twisted in knots as an overwhelming sense of panic and dread consumed my body. Gage bent down to pick the woman up; she grabbed a hold of his arm and tore it off in one swift motion. He dropped to his knees and clutched the area where his arm had once been. He stared at the once incapacitated woman as she stood over him feasting on his severed arm like it was a giant turkey leg. Yellow liquid oozed from her mouth as she ate, dissolving the limb. A horrible slurping like the someone slurping filled the cavern.

Eight black spindly legs burst from her back, her mouth stretched and contorted growing bigger and revealing two large fangs that were each the size of a traffic cone. Eyelids that I didn’t realize were there before opened one by one, eight red glowing eyes stared back at me. Thick, black hair spread over her entire body, the creature grew larger and kept changing into something inhuman.

Lewis started to run. “Let’s get the fuck out of here!”

The message was delivered, but the rest of my body didn’t get the memo. I couldn’t take my eyes off that thing. The creature shot a silk strand at Gage and pulled him into the darkness. The door slammed shut, I pulled, but I couldn’t get it to budge. I banged on the door until my fists were bruised and cut. Helplessness washed over me as I could do nothing to save Gage. tears spilled down my face as I listened to the  sounds of screaming, ripping of flesh, and breaking of bones. I snapped back to reality and ran for the van.

At the police station Lewis and I were scared shitless. They didn’t care about the drugs, the focus was the woman and Gage. We told them that we found a woman calling out for help beneath a trapped door in the woods. Gage opened the door,  jumped in the trench, and twisted his ankle very badly when he hit the ground. The cops found the door, but they never found Gage or what had taken him. Lewis and I were prime suspects in the disappearance since we were the last ones to see him. Eventually, we were let go because there was no evidence Lewis or I had harmed Gage. Even though we were innocent in the eyes of the law, in the eyes of the public we were guilty.

The rumor that floated around campus was that Lewis and I were satanists and sacrificed Gage. Some of my professors were visibly uncomfortable around me, some even suggested that I transfer schools. Gage’s family held a vigil in his honor. I made the mistake of showing up and it was made perfectly clear that I was not welcome there. His family also had the police in their sights, they publicly criticized the lack of effort to find their son and they claimed that they knew what had happened to Gage and were covering it up for some reason.

The family announced if the police wouldn’t help them then they would conduct their own investigation and find out what happened to Gage. Gage’s parents along with a few other family members and friends went into Yellow Brooke determined to find answers. They found no leads, after the failed search the family moved across the country.

After the incident at Yellow Brooke I took school seriously. I needed to pour myself into something to keep my mind off of what happened to Gage. From then on I stayed sober, drugs were just another reminder of what happened. I graduated, got a good job, and started a family. As for Lewis, well we soon drifted apart after everything that happened. He dropped out of college and got a job at a gas station. A mutual friend had a drink with him at a bar a few years ago. Lewis was skeletally thin, about half of his teeth were missing and those that remained were piss yellow and rotten. He was still working shitty minimum wage jobs and had a few illegal side hustles going on. Out of curiosity one day I looked him up and found his obituary. Overdose was the cause, I wish I could have done something more to help him.

Twenty years later, the fear of that night still haunts me. I buried what happened deep inside me for so long. I had almost forgotten about it until I saw on the news that a group of college students went for a hike at Yellow Brooke. They claimed to have heard a woman begging for help beneath a trap door. One student opened the door, jumped in the pit, and the door slammed shut. The other students were not able to get the door open again.  When the police investigated they didn't find the  student nor the woman; the other students are the only suspects in the case. Please, for your safety and my piece of mind  stay away from Yellow Brooke.








2
Derek was filled with a mixture of anxiety and excitement as Jack’s pickup pulled up to the old abandoned high school. This was the party spot for plenty of teenagers around town, because it was on the edge of town and out of the way, so any parties wouldn’t be broken up by cops.

“Can we roll a blunt now? I haven’t had a chance to smoke all day. I had to babysit my younger brother. Those stupid cartoons they have out nowadays really suck. Cartoon Network used to be great, but now it’s gone down the toilet. “Teen Titans” was great now that have this stupid “Teen Titans Go” Shit. It’s enough to make me cry.” Chloe said.

Jack reached into his coat pocket and produced a blunt. “Here, I rolled this earlier you can have it. I picked up from my guy earlier. We've got plenty for tonight.”

Chloe took the joint and sparked it up a large plume of smoke rose from her lungs as she exhaled. Derek couldn’t help, but to keep sneaking glances at her. Her porcelain white skin looked so beautiful in the pale moonlight. He always imagined what it’d be like to run his fingers through her long fiery red hair. Chloe's dark purple eye shadow always brought out her crystal blue eyes, and her black lipstick made her lips plumper and more kissable.

Jack turned to Marcus who was sitting next to Derek in the back. “Hand me a beer.”

Marcus pulled a bottle from the twenty-four pack and handed it to Jack. “Here. pass that joint my way when you’re done puffing on it, Chloe.”

Chloe sneared. “Fuck off, get your own this is mine.”

Marcus kicked the back of her seat balefully. “Fuck off? Bitch you stole owe me for that ounce I fronted you.”

Chloe turned around and blew smoke in Marcus’ face. “Yeah, and I had to suck your teenie weenie dick for it. You should eat more fruit and shave down there.”

Marcus sniggered. “You need to learn how to suck. That was the toothiest blowjob I’ve ever had.”

Chloe scoffed. “Don’t talk shit about my head game you cam, you’re just mad I spit your gross ass load out. You would know something about sucking dick anyway you probably sucked dick to get that weed.”

Marcus punched Chole in the arm. “Your momma, bitch.”

“Is your momma the one who taught you how to suck dick? Cause she’s certainly the one who taught you how to punch, my brother hits harder.”

Derek wished that for once Chloe would suck his dick. But she just saw him as a friend even though he was a nice guy. He held the door open for her and was there for her every time someone broke her heart. He wasn’t like one of those jerks she always dated; he was a true gentleman.

Jack opened the truck door. “I’ll roll another one when we get in now shut the fuck up.”

We walked around the school and jimmied open a classroom window and climbed through.

“Careful, Chloe here let me help you.” Derek said.

Chloe climbed through without an issue. “I’m fine thanks.”
Where were we gonna party?” Marcus asked.

“The gym.” Jack answered.

They used the flashlight on their cell phones to illuminate their surroundings. They walked down the hallway, Derek couldn’t help, but notice how clean the floors and lockers looked. Someone was taking care of this place.

Chloe shivered. “I’m cold.”

Derek wrapped his arm around her. “I’ll warm you up.”

Chloe pursed her lips and pushed him away. “I’m good thanks, Derek.”

“Man, she’s not into you, stop it. I’ve seen all the dumb shit you’ve been posting on Facebook about how you’re a true gentlemen and how women are sluts. Pathetic.”

“Don’t be such a dick, Marcus.” Chloe chided.

Marcus snorted. “You know I’m right.”

“Shut up I don’t like you like that either.” Chloe responded.

“You don’t like me?” Derek asked, his eyes were watery as if he was about to cry.

They approached the gym and  Jack kicked open the gym double doors.

“Ladies and gentlemen it’s party time!” He yelled.
Jack took a seat on the bleachers, and pulled a baggie of weed from his jacket pocket then began rolling joints. “Do you guys know why this place is abandoned?”

Chloe cracked open a beer. “Why?”

Jack shined his flashlight on his face. “It happened thirty years ago. A few seniors like us wanted to pull off a big prank before they left. They hated the janitor, he was a dick. The janitor Frank Thompson got one of their friends arrested. Frank found weed in their locker, and the friend was expelled. Revenge was very much on the seniors minds before they would graduate. The plan was to leave a big mess and trap Frank in the gym, then one of them would put a bucket over his head. Then they’d bend him over, pull his pants down and shove a broomstick up his butt.”

“Ew.” Chloe said.

“Well, it didn’t go the way they wanted. They ambushed Frank, but they weren’t expecting him to put up a fight. Right when it seemed like their prank had failed one of the seniors snuck up on Frank and struck him in the head with the bucket knocking him out. The seniors were not content with that, they were gonna finish their mission. They shoved the bucket over Frank’s face and removed his pants, then they humiliated him. They shoved the broomstick so far and deep inside of him. But the story doesn’t end there, A month later Frank would have his revenge. The seniors were found in the center of the gym with a broomstick shoved up each of their butts.

Marcus took the joint from Jack and puffed on it. “Sounds like a lot to digest.”

“Did they spit on it?” Derek asked.

“Shut up.” Jack chastised.
They took it too far, the broomstick was shoved so far it was coming out his mouth.” Jack finished.

“How’d they get away with killing him?” Marcus asked.

Jack smirked. “Well, there weren’t tons of cameras around in nineteen-ninety like there are today. No one knew and no one really cared. Frank wasn’t the most liked guy in the world. You’d think something like that would be a big thing in the paper, but no. It’s a small town and people’s memories tend to be selective around here.”

Chloe drained the rest of her beer and threw the empty bottle into the darkness. “Bullshit. You’re just trying to scare us. This isn’t the first time you’ve tried to pull this shit. Remember the “haunted house”? That place wasn’t even haunted and we got chased out by a homeless crackhead.”

“You’re right, Chloe. Remember when he took us to the woods he said that was haunted? We spent two hours there and we had nothing to show for it, but sore legs and bug bites.” Derek added.

“How’d you hear of this anyway? How do we know you’re not making this up?” Marcus asked.

A heavy sigh left Jack’s lips. “My Uncle was one of those kids. He told me a few years ago when he was drunk. I never told anyone until now.”

Chloe scrunched her eyebrows. “Why bring us here?”

“It’s simple. I wanted to prove to you guys I’m not full of shit and show you I’m right for once.” Jack said.

Marcus pursed his lips. “Well, I don’t see anyone, so this looks like another dud.”

A smile spread across Jack’s face. “It’s not over yet. You’ve got to challenge him first then he’ll appear. Why don’t one of you do it since you think I’m so full of shit.”

Silence filled the air as Derek, Marcus, and Chloe considered Jack’s challenge. This wasn’t like the other times Jack was dead serious and there was an eerie sense of danger that surrounded this place. The three of them glanced at another knowing they all shared the same thought: Why wasn’t the school demolished?

“Why wasn’t the school destroyed then? Obviously no one would want a reminder of what happened.” Derek said.

Jack took the joint back from Marcus and took a drag. “Well, you’d think so, but the demolition crew that was set to tear down the school was found sodomized to death with broomsticks.”

Chloe winced. “Jesus.”

“Jesus is right. Since you pussies don’t have the balls to challenge him I will. Oh, Broomstick Man come out and face me and show me what you’re really made of! Come on pussy!” Jack screamed.

A minute passed and nothing happened.

“Come on.” Jack called again.

Another minute passed and still there was no Broomstick Man. This seemed like just another one of Jack’s ploys to try and scare everyone.

“I knew you were full of shit again.” Marcus said.

Jack ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. “Fuck you.”

“No man, fuck you. I’m tired of you playing these stupid little games. You wonder why everyone talks about you and thinks you’re crazy. I wonder why I bother to hang out with you, if it weren’t for the free weed I don’t even think I’d be friends with you.”

As Jack stared Marcus down he could see a silhouette moving in the darkness. Jack shined his light over Marcus’ shoulder. It was the Broomstick Man. He held his broomstick like a spear, dark green coveralls covered his body and a metal bucket covered his entire head, two eyes were carved into the front of the bucket and a frown was scratched into the bucket where a person’s mouth would be located.

“There’s someone behind you.” Jack warned.

“Do you really think that’s gonna work on me? What do you think I am six years ol-” Marcus’ sentence was cut off violently.

Jack, Derek, and Chloe all stood in shock as they stared at Marcus. He stood erect, groaning mouth wide open. In the back of his throat just behind his tongue was a bloody end of a broomstick. The stick was violently pulled out. Marcus dropped to the ground with a heavy thud. The Broomstick Man brandished his stick, blood, shit, and other fluids dripped off the end if it.

“Anyone wanna take a ride?” Broomstick Man asked mockingly.

Jack turned for the gym doors and bolted. “We gotta get the fuck out of here!”

“Oh, come on, just the tip?” He called after them.

The trio burst out of the gym door. They ran back to the classroom window where they had snuck in. To their dismay the window was shut.

“Fuck, who shut the window?” Chloe cried.

“I don’t why don’t you go back and ask bucket head if he did it.” Jack said.

Derek tried to open the window, but it wouldn’t budge. “This fucking thing won’t budge!”

Jack picked up a chair. “Move I’ll break it.”

Derek stepped aside as Jack swung at the window with all his might. The window didn’t even so much as cracked. Jack’s face turned bright red in a mixture of rage and frustration. He hit the window again and again and the window didn’t break.

“Just stop, we have to find another way out.” Chloe said.

Jack threw the chair across the room. “Fuck!”

The sound of heavy footsteps reverberated down the hallway. Chloe rushed to the door and shut it. The three all scurried in different corners of the room trying to hide.

“You can’t hide from me.” Broomstick Man said.

Chloe started sobbing, Jack crouched down and got in a three point stance, and Derek just sat there too shocked to feel any emotion. The door knob rattled and turned. The Broomstick Man flung the door open. Before he could do anything Jack tackled him to the ground.

“Help me get this bastard!” Jack screamed.

Derek and Chloe sprang to their feet and began kicking the Broomstick Man while Jack tried to rip the broomstick from his hands. The Broomstick Man’s grip was weakening and it was getting harder to hold onto with all the sweat and blood covering the stick.

Jack had both hands wrapped around the piece of wood, he was so close to wrenching it away from the broomstick wielding freak.

“I’ve almost got it.” Jack said.

With one last desperate burst of aggression the Broomstick Man threw a hard punch square to Jack’s nose. Blood and tears streamed down his face. Derek and Chloe were too stunned to continue their assault.

“Keep him down.” Jack implored.

The Broomstick Man rose to his feet and grabbed Chloe by the back of the neck. “Too late.”

Chloe punched and scratched at his hand, but that did little to loosen his grip.

She dug her nails into his wrist. “Let me go you fucking bastard.”

He bent her over. “Oh, don’t be like that. You and I both know this isn’t the first time you were about to have something hard and big shoved in you.”

Derek charged Broomstick Man and jumped on his back trying to pull the bucket off of his head. Chloe quickly pulled her pants on, but before she could aid Derek in any way, Broomstick Man had thrown Derek to the ground and was getting ready to make his very own Derek kabob.

Jack tackled Broomstick Man to the ground again. “You guys go and get help!”

“We’re not leaving you!” Derek said.

Broomstick Man grabbed Jack and lifted him up with ease.

"Just go.” Jack eked out.

Chloe grabbed Derek by the arm. “He’s right let’s go.”

Without another word they were gone and now Jack had to face Broomstick Man all by himself. He rose to his feet and bent Jack over. He didn’t stick Jack right away, he was savoring this.

“You’re getting off on this aren’t you? Well, I’m sorry to tell you this isn’t the first time I’ve been bent over.”

Broomstick Man pressed the end of the stick against Jack’s butt. “Any last words?”

“Fuck you, you shit.” Jack spat.

“Fuck me? No, fuck you.” Broomstick Man said.

The broomstick was unceremoniously shoved up Jack’s butt and out through his mouth.
***********************************************************************************************************************************************************************
Derek and Chloe ran through the hallways of the school looking for a way out. They ran for the front entrance. They tried to open the door, but like the window it wouldn’t budge. This wasn’t the best time, but Derek needed to confess his feelings for Chloe.
 
“Chloe, I need to tell you something. I love you” Derek said.

Chloe rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I love you too now help me think of a way to get out of here.”

Derek grabbed her by the shoulder. “No, I really love you.”

He kissed her. Chloe pushed him away coughing and gagging.

She wiped her mouth. “You taste like Mountain Dew and Doritos.”

Derek grinned. “Code Red and Cool Ranch.”

“Look, if we make it out of here alive I’ll let you touch my boobs.” Chloe said.

Derek sighed. “I don’t wanna just touch your boobs I wanna be your boyfriend.”

Chloe chuckled. “You know that won’t happen.”

Derek’s head dropped. “Can I touch your boobs with no bra on?”

“Sure, now let’s find a way out of here.” Chloe said.

The horrible echoes of wet boots smacking against the ground filled the ears of Derek and Chloe. They turned around to face the Broomstick Man. Derek and Chloe ran upstairs with nowhere else to go and ducked in a classroom. Derek and Chloe looked for a place to hide. He opened a closet in the classroom and nothing, but a bunch of crap and a mop fell out.

Chloe wiped away a tear. “There’s no point in hiding, he's gonna find us like last time.”

“The only way we can get out of here is by fighting.” Derek said.

Broomstick Man kicked the door in ready to fill their butts. Derek charged the Broomstick Man with his mop. He raised the mop in the air and brought it down in a high arch. Broomstick Man blocked the attack and kicked Derek in the stomach. Derek hunched over and groaned in pain, but he did not let go of his weapon. Before he could advance Derek rammed Broomstick Man in the balls causing him to clutch them and groan in pain.

Derek raised the mop above his head, but before he could deliver the finishing blow Broomstick Man returned the favor by punching him square in the sack. Derek puked and dropped his stick. Broomstick Man pulled him to the ground and pinned him down. He looked over to Chloe who was crying in the corner.

“Don’t look.” Derek said.

Those were his last words before he was violated. The pain of being sodomized and having his organs pushed around was agonizing. Broomstick Man had pulled the stick from Derek’s body once he was satisfied.

Derek was dead, Chloe and Broomstick Man were the only ones left. As the Broomstick Man approached her she pulled out her pepper spray and sprayed, but she held the can backwards, and sprayed herself in the eyes. She ran around the classroom like a chicken with it’s head cut off. Until she rammed into something solid and collided to the ground. Her vision was blurred. The last thing she saw was the Broomstick Man looming over her.















3
Story Critique / "Break In" (Flash Fiction)
« on: 02:52 PM, 03/22/20 »
After a long day of dealing with stupid and irritable costumers at work, Ron wanted nothing more than to relax, have a few beers, and watch Monday night football. Three hours later Ron had a six pack in him, half a pizza, and had happily watched the Jets get their asses kicked up and down the field.
After the game the news came on and there was a report of an escaped prisoner who had a history of breaking and entering, battery and sexual assault. The news reporter implored everyone to keep their doors locked, but Ron was too drunk to fully comprehend the seriousness of the situation.

 He turned off the T.V. then went to his bedroom. The alcohol did its job as Ron quickly fell asleep a few minutes after laying down. An hour later he was awakened by his door creaking open. Ron figured it was his girlfriend Mary returning from a late night at work.
She got into bed with him and began tugging at the waistband of his underwear. A second later and her hand slipped in his boxers. Ron’s genitals and ass were firmly gripped in a rough and warm hand. Ron could felt his boxers being removed and butt cheeks being spread. Hot breath wafted in his nostrils, it stank like garlic and rotten meat. His head was pushed into the pillow as his body sunk deeper into the mattress he felt the weight of another body on top of him.

He felt wrong, bile crept up his throat; he was too scared to move, paralyzed by fear. He felt like a helpless fly stuck on a spider’s web. Something cold and sharp pressed against the soft flesh on his throat.

“This is the only thing I’ll miss in prison.” A gruff male voice said.


4
Story Critique / "Strange Occurrences In Burningham"
« on: 08:47 PM, 03/11/20 »
If you live in Burningham you probably know that there’s things that happen in this town that don’t happen anywhere else. Sure, there’s plenty of towns around the state that have paranormal or strange happenings, but they’re nothing like what happens here. Usually, I don’t pay attention to those oddities. Until a Burningham plane crashed a few weeks ago. A plane was on its way to Italy. The plane had only been flying for three minutes when disaster struck. The plane crashed and everyone on board died. The media ran stories that the crash was caused by pilot error, but that couldn’t be true. Black box audio is usually made public, but the audio for Burningham Airlines Flight 1357 was never released and kept from the public.

Deep on the web, theories came flooding in like water through a broken dam. Despite the best efforts of the government to sweep this under the rug, the families of everyone who died on board demanded answers. They didn’t get any, until the audio was leaked.
The audio started off normally. The pilots were having an ordinary conversation, until  they both noticed something. The next thirty seconds of the audio was completely silent.

 Suddenly, the two pilots said something, but it was inaudible and couldn’t be understood. The last three minutes of the recording were filled with screams.
This wasn’t the only incident that I’ve come across. After discovering the plane crash my curiosity grew and I wondered if there were any similar occurrences. I found an article about an astronomer who killed himself last year. His body was found in his home by a relative, he had hung himself. There was a suicide note, but it was not a ordinary suicide note. The note was incoherent, it was a mess of scribbles and random numbers. Only one sentence was written clearly enough to understand. 


Don’t look at the lights!

Needless to say this incident elicited endless intrigue, theories, and speculation. What could’ve it been? This couldn’t be a coincidence. This article inspired me to dig a little deeper, lo and  behold I found another article from only a few months back. A man called Brent Henderson was at a going away party for a friend. The party started just like any other: booze, drugs, music, strangers hooking up with strangers. Until, Brent caught his fiance cheating on him with someone in one of the upstairs bedrooms.
 Enraged, he broke off the engagement. Brent walked outside and to cool off and smoked a cigarette. He gazed up into the sky and something caught his attention. It looked like flashing lights, but he couldn’t make it out. The report went on to detail how Brent pulled out his gun, then shot and killed everyone at the party. When asked why he killed his friends Brent claimed to have no memory of the massacre. Brent Henderson was sentenced to life in prison.

The last two reports I found were very disturbing. Thirty years ago there was a massive car crash. It was a brutally cold, snowy winter New England night. Everyone was paying extra attention to their driving due to the roads being wet and slick. Dan Stevens was driving a large tractor trailer when he got distracted by something in the sky. He veered off into the wrong lane causing a ten car pile up.

Stevens was the only one that survived. When asked what caused him to veer off into the wrong lane he said that he saw something in the sky, it looked like a bunch of flashing lights and faces. At first the faces looked like animals, then they morphed and twisted into the faces of people he knew. He saw his mother, father, ex-wife, and kids. His mother died in nineteen-eighty-seven and his father died a year after that. His ex-wife and his kids hadn’t spoken to him in two years.

Stevens claimed that the faces were angry and they were telling him all sorts of things, but he couldn’t remember anything. He didn’t remember the crash. He had no traces of drugs or alcohol in his system. After a long legal battle Stevens was fired from the company he was driving for and the families of the victims sued the company.


The last piece I found was a journal from roughly one-hundred years ago. The Whalsh family went missing during the spring of nineteen-twenty while staying at their cabin in the Burningham forest. When found, the journal was gnarled, and had a terrible odor to it. The author of the journal is presumed to be the father of the family, Jacob Whalsh.

Entry 1  5/2/1920

I moved my family here for the spring and summer. The winter was harsh on everyone, so I figured we’d need a change of scenery. I get so wrapped up in my work I miss out on the little things in life. Burningham is so beautiful during Spring. I’m also looking forward to spending more time with my wife Debra and my two children Susan and Henry.

Entry 2   5/4/1920

The first day of our stay was wonderful. This was the first time we really spent quality time Susan and I went for a hike in the woods with our pet dog Molly. Susan picked some heavenly flowers. Henry and I took Molly into the woods and hunted rabbits, then went fishing, after dinner Debra and I spent the night lying by the fireplace.

Entry 3   5/6/1920

Yesterday was odd. While Henry and I hunted squirrels he asked me if I saw the lights in the sky last night. Puzzled I said no. Henry then went on about the lights saying that they hovered over the forest then descended into them. The whole forest was lit up with a mass of red, blue, and green glowing light. Within the light he could see dark shadows and silhouettes of things moving in the dense forest foliage. He said they were communicating with him somehow, he heard voices inside his head that were not his own, also they were showing him dreadful images. As he told me of his experience I noticed he had turned pale. I suggested that it might have been a vivid nightmare, but he remained adamant that what had happened was real. That night after everyone went to bed I stayed up with my shotgun and pot of coffee waiting to see the lights.

Entry 4 5/7/1920

I had the most horrible dreams last night. I dreamt that Debra, Susan, Henry, and Molly had all turned into these terrible scorpions like monsters. I tried shooting them, but my gun would not fire. I woke up screaming. I realized that I was still in the living-room from last night. I looked out the window and saw it was still dark outside, but the clock read 9:00 A.M. Also I saw the lights in the woods that Henry had mentioned. Everyone gathered in the living-room when I called them. They rubbed the sleep from their eyes and yawned.
 

I told them that we needed to leave because there was something very wrong. At first Debra protested, but once I pointed to the lights and the silhouettes of creatures in the woods she understood. We gathered what we could, but when we headed outside we realized to our dismay that there was a red, blue and red hue surrounding the cabin. Molly broke free from Susan’s grasp. He charged ahead for the woods, but when he hit the colored hue he disintegrated and turned into a pile of ash. Susan dropped to her knees and sobbed. I grabbed her by her shirt collar and pulled her inside, the others followed. I barricaded the door and grabbed my gun knowing that it might not do much good against what was out there. Henry plopped down on the couch and stared at the floor, looking defeated. Susan continued to weep and Debra pulled out a cigarette and sparked it up. When we all decided to sleep, we took our mattresses and laid them down in the living-room.

Entry 5  5/8/1920

Susan is dead, and it’s my fault. When we woke Debra and I rationed the food and water. After a breakfast of oatmeal and water we talked about our options even though they were few. Then, that’s when something tumbled down the chimney. It was a scorpion about the size of a German Shepard. I pointed my gun at it and fired. The bullet did nothing to the creature, Debra and the children ducked for cover behind one of the couches. Susan was frantic and demanded to know what I was shooting at. I was the only one that could see it. The beast hissed, and clacked it’s claws together, venom dripped from its stinger and dripped onto the floor burning a hole through the wood. Susan marched towards the fireplace where the creature stood. I demanded she move, but she did not listen, she just got closer to the beast until she was standing in front of the fireplace. She pointed to the horrible thing insisting that all there was just a pile of wood there. The monster stung her with its stinger. She was infected now. If I didn’t act she was gonna become one of those things then infect Henry and Debra. My nightmare I had a day ago would become reality…

I leveled my weapon at her head, then pulled the trigger. Her head exploded in a mass of blood and viscera. Blood, bits of brain matter, and skull fragments covered the fireplace and the wall next to it. Debra vomited and Henry looked at me with a level of fear I had never seen in his eyes before. I dragged her body down to the basement and cleaned the horrific scene to the best of my ability. Henry still hasn’t eaten or drank anything in hours. Debra locked herself in our bedroom an hour ago and has been crying ever since.

Entry 6 5/9/1920

Henry and I are the only ones that remain. This morning I brought Debra breakfast. When I saw her body  the dish and glass of water slipped from my hands and smashed into a million shards. Debra was laying on the floor stone cold, she was dead. She held an empty barbiturate bottle in her hand. I shut the door and returned to the living-room. Henry barely touched the food I gave him. Henry began muttering something to himself over and over again. Tears dropped from his face, I placed my hand on his shoulder in an attempt to comfort him. He looked at me with vicious anger. He slashed at me with his breakfast knife slicing my wrist. I backed away from him cradling my wrist. He charged at me once more with his knife. I dodged his attack and grabbed my gun. I implored him to stay away, but he continued to rush me. I shot him in the stomach, I could see through the hole that I blasted through him. He locked eyes with me one last time then, groaned, and collapsed to the ground with a heavy thud.

Entry 7 5/10/1920

This is going to be my last entry. I know whoever finds my journal will think of me no more than a madman. Perhaps they’d be right. Maybe, I am a madman, last night was the worst of them all. As I laid in bed trying to sleep after I moved Henry’s and Debra’s bodies into the basement I heard the most frightful noises. There was pounding on the basement door, shock over took me for a moment, then cold realization washed over me like a tidal wave. They had come back to life somehow…

They called my name and told me all the horrible things they would do to me. If this wasn’t real I don’t know what is. Maybe, this was all in my head and I killed my family. Tonight will be my last night on earth. May God have mercy on my soul.

I wanted to know more so I stayed up all night searching for more, but that was the last thing I found. So many questions rushed through my mind, but I didn’t know where to go. I gazed out the window and noticed flashing lights. I chalked them up to being from a plane or a jet.
My stomach growled and I went to the kitchen searching for food. I searched the covered and fridge and only found expired spaghetti and a fridge with only condiments and soda. With no other options I hoped in the car and headed to Burger King. As I drove I noticed the lights again. I began feeling melancholy as I stared at them. I kept my eye on them during my drive back home and sat in my drive and continued to stare at them. As I gazed at the strange alien lights a odd thought popped in my head.

My sister.

I haven’t thought about my sister Kayla in the two years since she died. It wasn’t my fault. That’s what my parents told me, but I knew better. They were right in a way, she was the one that had shot herself. But I was the one who drove her to it. I told her to kill herself, I’ve told her to kill herself several times before during our squabbles and she had never killed herself before. She claimed that she tried to kill herself twice. I always thought that she did it for attention, that stay at that psychiatric hospital was another stunt that she pulled when she was eighteen. Kayla always used her mental illness as a crutch.
A day before Kayla died we got into a fight over my great grandmother. I was her primary care taker when she was dying from Alzheimer's. Kayla accused me of hitting my grandmother when I was helping her up to go to the bathroom. My grandmother was frail and old, so every part of her body ached. I always had to be very careful with her because any slight brush or bump she’d scream like a banshee.

I accidentally bumped my grandmother’s foot when I helped her off the couch. Kayla came charging down the stairs accusing me of hurting my grandmother. Once I explained what happened she called me a liar and repeatedly punched me in the face. I retaliated by throwing a punch of my own, my fist connected to her jaw and knocked her flat on her ass. She didn’t bother to get up from the floor instead she just sat there staring up at me like she wanted to kill me. That’s when I told her to kill herself.

This was unlike the other times I told her to kill herself. She calmly got up and left the house. That was the last time I ever saw her. I’m not sorry for what I did. At that moment as I gazed at the lights I realized something. This thing, whatever it is and wherever it came from, it feeds on guilt and human suffering. The question was: Was the thing here to punish me or torture me? It couldn’t have been some sort of avenging angel; it drove Brent Henderson to kill his friends. He did not mention that lights made him feel guilty before the massacre.
The lights began to morph into the face of my sister. She was enraged. I could hear her voice inside my head screaming at me and blaming me for her death. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

I thought about being anywhere, but there. I applied exercises that I had learned in therapy to combat negative thoughts, or emotions. I imagined my happy place, me at my great grandparents’ house as a boy. I always felt safe there, like nothing could hurt me. The feeling of hate left my body a warm feeling spread throughout my being.

It was love.

I slowly opened my eyes and the lights were gone and I was relieved. I exited my vehicle and entered my home. I laid down knowing that I had won and had escaped with my life. Unfortunately, there were many other potential victims out there that would have the will or the ability to stave this thing off. Maybe, one day there will be a way to thwart this thing for good.
 










5
Everyone in Burningham is haunted by something; I would know after living here for thirty something years. For years now, I’ve wondered if I should leave this place for good and start a new life somewhere else, or if I should just try to put my life back together here. It seemed so much easier to start a new life where no one else knows you, but I never wanted to leave my parents behind. As they grew older and older, I found myself more and more reluctant to leave, but now that doesn’t matter. They’re dead.

They didn’t die from health complications; in fact, they were in great shape for people in their sixties. They were driving cross-country when they got into a terrible accident. The worst part was going down to the morgue and seeing their cold, lifeless bodies. I fell apart then and there, that night I didn’t eat or sleep. Two weeks later, I held a small funeral. I was the only one there. As the only living relative left, it was my responsibility to clean up my parents’ house and prepare it for the market. I knew this wouldn’t be an easy task.

As I pulled into the driveway, the house stood before me, a poor copy of what it used to be. What once was a lush, well-kept lawn was now overgrown with dry, yellowed grass. The house and garage across from it were thankfully made of brick; who knows what shape they would be in if they weren’t. Brush was piled into the old, rusty dog cage across from the garage.

As I walked up the path, childhood memories flashed through my mind: Dad tossing the ball to me when I was ten, Mom helping me walk the dog around the house when I was twelve. The memories quickly faded away, and reality sunk in. I’d never be able to make new memories with them. My knees buckled from beneath me, and I fell to the ground. I let out a loud sob.

My parents were gone forever. Nothing I did would ever change that. Wiping the tears from my face, I tried to follow the breathing exercises my new therapist taught me. I took a few deep breaths and counted to ten, and once I calmed down, I stood back up. I unlocked the front door, took another deep breath, and entered the house.

The inside of the house didn’t look abandoned. For a moment, it felt like Mom and Dad were still in their bedroom, as if nothing had changed. It was almost like being inside of one of the Chernobyl houses. Everything in the house looked the same as it did when it was abandoned. Canned and boxed food still sat in the cabinets. There was a smell of rot coming from the refrigerator, accompanying the house’s strong scent of mold and mildew.

I held my breath, and stepping around the mouse droppings, I trudged forward to the bedrooms to look for my parents’ financial information. After a few minutes of rummaging through their drawers, I found the paperwork I needed, but I also found a box. Inside of it were letters written by people I didn’t recognize. Curious, I began to read through them.

Nov. 14th, 1989

Dear Uncle Tony,

Happy Birthday! Love is not something you can see. Love is something you feel deep in your heart. I love you!

Love,

Lorraine.

Lorraine? The letter is addressing my father, but he and my mother didn't have any siblings. Even if he had a falling out and decided he didn’t want anything to do with his family, why would he lie to me?

Nov. 21th, 1989

Dear Uncle Tony,

I really like staying over and spending time with you and Aunt Pam. I love staying up past my bedtime to watch cartoons and eat chocolate chip cookies. At bedtime, I heard someone whispering my name from under my bed. I was scared. But I peeked over the side of my bed, and my Daddy’s head popped out from underneath. I haven’t seen him since he and Mommy got divorced. I was so happy to see him. Then he asked me to go under the bed with him. His voice was deeper. There was something wrong with his eyes. They were all black. I told him no and rolled back over. I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night.

- Lorraine


Really strange. This probably was just a dream she had; when I was younger I had a similar dream about my parents being under my bed. It probably felt so real to her that she believed it actually happened.

Nov. 28th, 1989

Dear Uncle Tony,

I had lots of fun building snow forts with you and Aunt Pam last weekend. I had more fun when I caught both of you by surprise and nailed you with snowballs. It was fun until bedtime, when the thing that looked like my Daddy called my name again. I told him I wasn’t going to go under the bed with him, and I knew he wasn’t my Daddy. The thing got really mad at me. It grabbed  my foot that was hanging off the edge of the bed and scratched it. I wanted to run away, but I was afraid that whatever was under my bed would come out from underneath it and get me.

- Lorraine


Dec. 4th, 1989

To Tony:

I’m always happy to let Lorraine spend the weekend over your house. You’re family after all, and I want her to know her Uncle and Aunt. You and Pam have really been there for Lorraine and I ever since Rick abandoned us a few years ago, but Lorraine came home on Sunday with a scratch on her foot. Please keep a better eye on her while she’s playing.

- Susan

Man, it must have been hard for her to take care of a child by herself. It’s a good thing Mom and Dad were there to help her. I had a friend who was raised by a single mother, life was hard for them.

Dec. 8th, 1989

Dear Uncle Tony,

I’m really looking forward to spending Christmas with you! Thank you for buying me a barbie. I love her so much. I was having fun until the monster under my bed started talking to me again. He promised not to hurt me again. He told me if I went under the bed with him I could have all the cookies I wanted. He even held one out for me to take from him. I know it was dumb, but I was hungry and I reached for it, but when I did he grabbed my wrist. I was able to pull back, but he scratched me again and it really hurt this time.

- Lorraine

Dec. 18th, 1989

Dear Pam,

For whatever reason Tony hasn’t bothered to listen to me. I’m looking forward to having Christmas with you, but Lorraine got a big scratch on her wrist. How is she getting hurt so much?

- Susan

Jan. 1st, 1990

Dear Pam,

I really appreciate you and Tony having us over for the holidays, but there’s something really odd that happened when I was there. Lorraine woke me up in the middle of the night. She was crying and telling me that someone was someone under her bed. I walked into the room she was staying in, and there was nothing there. She had fresh scratches on her. What is going on? Clearly, I have not been listened to. I do not think I can allow her over your house if you continue to ignore my requests. I’ll allow both of you one more chance. I do not want to have to do this, but if you force my hand, I will do what I feel is best.

- Susan

Jan. 4th, 1990

Dear Uncle Tony,

I really enjoy seeing you and Aunt Pam, but I don’t know if I wanna come over anymore. I appreciate you letting me sleep in your bed last time, but I’m not safe even with you and Aunt Pam. I could hear the monster calling my name from my bedroom.

- Lorraine

Jan 7th, 1990

Dear Tony and Pam,

I can not allow Lorraine at your house. When she got home from the last visit, she said she never wanted to go back and wouldn’t stop crying. I don’t know what happened, but she is not going to your home anymore. I’m furious that my rules were not obeyed! How dare you undermine me! I think you know how Lorraine got hurt, too, but I’m starting to think it wasn’t just an accident due to your negligence.

- Susan

February 1st, 1990

Dear Tony and Pam,

How dare you try and play the victim. You want me to reconsider? No way! If you guys didn’t hurt Lorraine, then how come you can’t at the very least admit the both of you are negligent caretakers? How dare you throw in my face all the things you did for Lorraine financially, emotionally, or otherwise. Don’t try to spin me a sob story “Lorraine is the daughter I’ll never have.” Cry me a river. Also, never throw my condition in my face again! I’ve been just fine mentally, and I’ve been taking my medicine. My illness has nothing to do with the decision I’m making. I laughed when I read the part of your letter when you mentioned you were afraid for the child’s well-being because I’m unwell. Don’t ever threaten me! You’ll never see Lorraine or me again as long as you live.


I heard my parents calling my name down the hallway. I followed it to a bedroom. The door creaked loudly as I opened it.

“Max.” The voices called again.

As I entered the room, the door slammed shut behind me. It was probably the wind. Cold, stale air nipped at my face. The bedroom looked like it hadn’t been touched in over thirty years. I remember it my parents said it was a guest bedroom, but we never had any guests. The walls were painted pink and the bedspread was littered with bug carcasses and a few mouse carcasses as well. The whole room smelt so strongly of death and decay I could taste it.

“Hello?” I called out.

“Under here.”

The voice was coming from under the bed. Dread filled my entire being. There had to be a reasonable, logical explanation. I haven’t been sleeping or eating much, maybe it was my mind playing tricks on me. I knew I shouldn’t have, but I crouched down to see under the bed. I had to do it; I needed to see who was calling my name. I peeked under the bed expecting to see the face of some unworldly monster, but instead, I saw the faces of my mother and father.
My father’s old, wrinkled face was stretched into an unnatural smile, and his eyes were black and void of all emotion and life. Long, white, wispy hair hung over his face. My mother’s appearance was nearly identical to Dad’s: her wrinkled face stretched into a smile, her eyes all black, and her hair hanging over her face.

“You’re both dead. I buried you. This isn’t real. You’re not real!” I screamed.

My heart pounded rapidly as I backed away from them.

“We’re real, and we’ve come to see you.” They said.

There was a hope for a minute. Maybe, my parents were still alive and the trip to the morgue along with the funeral were all part of a terrible dream that I’ve woken up from. Perhaps, there was a chance that I had my parents back. As I gazed into their strange smiling faces I realized that there was hardly any mirth in their smiles. These weren’t happy smiles, they were deceptive, designed to get me to let my guard down. The imposters looked hungry and ready to pounce. I knew these were not my parents

I dropped to my knees and clasped my hands around my head. Tears streamed down my face. This can’t be real. I did the only thing that I could think: I got up and ran to the door. The door knob wouldn’t turn. I kicked the door and threw myself against it, but it wouldn’t budge.
They crawled out from under the bed and seized my ankles, pulling them out from underneath me, sending my face crashing down to the cold, hard floor. They continued to pull me towards the endless abyss.

“If you don’t come to us, we’ll come to you.”

I tried to sink my nails into the floorboards. “No!”

Their grip was inhumanly tight. As they dragged me, my nails left trails in the wood. Their nails sank into my ankles, drawing blood. Hot, searing pain filled the bottom half of my body.

“Please let me go.” My plea was only meant with cruel laughter, they were enjoying this.

“Please let me go.” Mom mocked.

“Don’t waste your tears, son. There will be plenty of time for tears soon enough.” Dad said.

I made another attempt to pull my feet loose, and their grip loosened as my ankles grew more and more slick with blood. I pulled and jerked, getting more and more control with each try. I pulled my left foot and slipped from Mom’s grasped. She looked at her blood-stained hands in disbelief, and then I freed my right foot. Before they could grab me again, I kicked both of them in the face. My ankles burning, I struggled to get to my feet. I charged the door with my shoulder lowered. The door gave way on impact, falling off its hinges. Dull, agonizing pain traveled up and down my shoulder, but I ignored it. I rushed down the hallway and threw the front door open.

“Come back!” They screamed.

“Fuck you. You’re not my parents!” I screamed back.

Before I slammed the door shut, a horrible, growl filled the house. The house shook as if there was an earthquake. I slammed the door shut and sprinted to my car. I sped off, gunning it down the street with no care for the speed limit. I don’t know what that thing under the bed was, and sadly, I’ll never know what happened to my Cousin Lorraine or my Aunt Susan.

I haven’t been to my parents’ house since and I refuse to go back there alone. The thing that bothers me the most is that the next owner doesn’t know what they’re in for. I could have the house demolished, but my gut tells me house or no house that, that thing will still be there no matter what.

6
Story Critique / "Skin" Part 9 (Final)
« on: 01:43 PM, 10/14/18 »
The next morning I was awoken by the sound of a hairdryer coming from the bathroom. The noise was giving me a headache, so I went to see if whoever was using it was almost done. I peered through the crack of the door and saw Mom. “Are you almost done? The noise is hurting my head.”

She turned off the blow dryer. “I’m done now. I'm going to Grandma's house soon."

My stomach ached with worry. "Can I go too?"

Mom removed a brush from the drawer and brushed her hair. “Sure, you should put on some fresh clothes. Did you take a shower?"

I let the silence linger in the air; she rolled her eyes and sighed. "Just go get changed.” 

I got changed, and Mom finished getting ready. We went downstairs.

Dad was stuffing his face with candy while Stacey watched cartoons. Stacey got up walked over to Dad, and she put her hand out. "Me too."

Dad dumped some candy in her hand. "Here you go."

“Make sure she gets real food Bill.” Mom said.

“Alright.” He said through a mouthful of chocolate.

As we approached the vehicle, I got that sick feeling in my gut again. I started thinking about what Grandma was talking about the last time I saw her. We pulled into her driveway as we walked up, the walkway, we heard Grandma scream from inside the house. We rushed into the house and found her curled up on the living room floor. There was a small pool of blood forming underneath her body; a bloody knife was laying next to her.

Mom rushed over to Grandma trying to help her up, but she couldn't lift her. “What happened?”

A patch of skin was missing on her hand; labored breaths escaped her mouth, eyes wild as if she had seen something unspeakable. She weakly lifted her head up.  “A man was asking for my skin.”

Mom scrunched her eyebrows in concern. “What?”

Grandma grabbed mom's pant leg. “Skin… I gave him my skin.”

Mom rushed over to the phone. “Jesus Christ.”

She quickly dialed  911. “Hello, my elderly mother fell, and she can’t get up, she cut herself and is bleeding badly!” She slumped in her seat; tears streamed down her cheeks. “I can’t lose another one I can’t.”

I felt like something was watching us. The  scent of smoke filled the room a low clang filled my ears. My legs felt like they were trapped in wet cement and my lungs felt like they were filled with it too. My heart began pounding rapidly, one of the people I love the most was the victim of something awful. Something so evil and hateful it transcends human understanding. This thing wasn't going to stop until it had taken everything from me. A feeling of fear and despair swept through me like a roaring tidal wave. As Grandma laid on the floor, I wondered what would happen to her. 

I didn’t want to skin myself, that’d be too painful, but if I weren’t around would that fix things? Would the ghost leave everyone alone if I were dead? He would. My death would be just as good as my skin. It was my fault all this happened I grabbed the knife laying next to Grandma.

“What are you doing?!” Mom screamed.

I dug the knife into my wrist and dragged the blade down vertically, blood spilled down my arm. "You'll all be safe soon."

Mom rushed at me. “Stop!”

She wrapped her hands around the knife. “Tommy, please stop!”

“I need to do this Mom!” I screamed.

She ripped the knife from my hands and I fell to ground with a thud. I laid on the ground and writhed in agony, it felt like someone had splashed gasoline on my wrist then threw a match on me. I needed to die, my death would make sure everyone was safe.
The smell of smoke got stronger as well as the clanging. I faded in and out, sirens screamed in the distance, as my vision became more and more blurry the man stood over me, grinning, he was muttering something over and over I could hardly make it out.

“No escape.” He said.

Everything faded to black.

I woke up in a hospital bed with Mom, Dad, and Stacey standing at the foot of it. A bandage wrapped around my wrist.
I sat up scratching my head in confusion not being able to remember what had happened. “Where’s Grandma.”

“They’re taking care of her in a different room Tommy.” Mom said.

“Is she gonna be okay?” I asked.

“Yes, you just rest.”

My head started feeling heavier, I let it drop and sink into the pillow. I stared at a plain white wall for what felt like years. The words "No escape" rattled around in my mind. No one was safe, I can’t die, it won’t let me die. I laid there wondering what would happen to everyone else. What would happen with no escape?







 


 




7
Story Critique / "Skin" Part 8
« on: 01:21 PM, 10/14/18 »
We pulled into the driveway and quickly and entered the house.

Mom ripped the door open. “Mom!"

“I’m in the living room.” Grandma replied.

We entered the living room, Grandma was sitting on the couch with her arms wrapped around her, rocking back and forth, eyes wild and darting side to side. “There... was... a little girl on a tricycle”

Mom scrunched her eyebrows in disbelief. She searched the house then returned to the living room. “There’s no one here.”

Grandma sucked in her lower lip and pointed her boney finger at Mom. "I'm telling you there was a girl here riding a tricycle. She was clanging a bell and laughing like hell. I'm not crazy, I know what I saw."

Mom pointed her stubby finger at Grandma. "There is no girl here Mom. I just looked we're the only one's here."

Grandma sat back and crossed her arms. "Bullshit."

Mom placed her hands on her hips. "Stop talking bullshit."

Grandma leaned forward. "Go to hell."

"Go to hell? You call me talking about bullshit, make us worry, and then you tell me to go to hell? You go to hell!" Mom screamed.

Grandma flicked her top tooth with her thumb at Mom. "You're lucky your father isn't alive."

Mom balled her hands into fists as if she were about to strike Grandma. "You're lucky my father isn't alive, he'd be ashamed of have you're acting."

Grandma got up and walked to her bedroom. "Get out or I'm calling the cops!"

"I'm going to checking on you in the morning." Mom said.

We headed out; Mom placed a hand on my shoulder. "I shouldn't have lost my temper like that. I was wrong. She's just harder to deal with now that Grandpa's dead."

We left and quickly drove home. When we got through the door, Stacey rushed toward Mom and wrapped her tiny arms around her. "I'm hungy Mommy."

Mom stormed into the living room. “Your father should have fed you.”

Dad was sleeping on the couch. Mom shook him. “Bill you were supposed to feed Stacey.” He continued to sleep.

She whacked him on the head. “Bill Wilcox!”

Dad 's eyes slowly opened. “Huh, what?”

She poked her stubby finger in his chest. “You should have fed your daughter while we were gone."

He sat up and stretched. “I've just been tired from working.”

She pushed her finger deeper into his pudgy chest. “I don’t wanna hear any excuses; you keep putting everything else before your family.”

Dad got up off the couch. “Okay."

He walked into the kitchen and put something in the microwave. Stacey sat at the kitchen table, after a few minutes the microwave beeped and Dad took a  bowl of  mac and cheese out and placed it on the table in front of her.

Mom pulled out a chair from the table to sit. “I’m gonna have to check on Mom at least once a day ”

Dad handed Stacey a plastic fork. “Why?”

Mom ran her fingers through her hair. “Because she was going on about a little girl riding a tricycle around the house."

Dad pulled out a chair too. “It must be the age.”

Mom sat up in her chair and leaned forward. “I’m going to go over in the morning.”

Dad picked bits of stuff out of his beard. “I’m going have to go in early tomorrow, probably around six.” 

Mom's face sunk. “Bill you need to be here for Stacey.”

Stacey turned to Dad. “I was wooking forward to spwending time with you Daddy.”

She had a smile spread across her face and was looking at him lovingly. Mom scowled at Dad.

He patted Stacey on the head. “I’ll tell Buck I’m gonna be a bit late.”

Mom grinned. “Good.”
 
I sat there quietly as I thought about what else is in the house with Grandma.









8
Story Critique / "Skin" Part 7
« on: 10:51 AM, 10/12/18 »
My eyes opened, and I stared at the white ceiling for what felt like an eternity, tendrils of smoke seeped through the cracks of my door, the sweet smell of buttermilk landed on my taste buds. Pancakes weren't enough to get me out of bed.

“Tommy.” Mom called.

I was uncertain about therapy, but it was either this or boot camp. I would have to lie about what was bothering me. If I told the therapist about the ghosts, I’d be locked into a small white room.

“Tommy, time for breakfast.” She called again.

After a few seconds, my stomach started to growl, and I couldn’t ignore the hunger pains so, I headed downstairs. Dad, Mom, and Stacey were sitting at the kitchen table eating. A platter of pancakes sat in the middle of the table along with a bottle of syrup, a gallon of milk, and a gallon of orange juice. I sat down and served myself.

Mom poured herself a glass of orange juice. “Tommy, your father and I have noticed that you have been having issues."

My heart began to work overtime I felt weak, and I felt a knot twisting in my stomach. My appetite was gone, and I wanted to go back to bed for ten years. I placed the syrup down and let my head drop.

“You’re not in trouble son; we’re just concerned is all. " Dad said.

I poked at my breakfast with my fork no longer hungry. I knew he was still pretending to care about me, he was only happy the cops weren't called last night. “I know.”

Mom finished her juice. “You have an appointment with Mr. Warner at nine.”

I looked at the clock hanging on the wall; the meeting was in an hour. “Okay.”

As I finished my breakfast, I noticed a terrible smell. It smelt like someone had just finished a five-hour workout and didn’t bother to shower. I scrunched up my face. “What’s that smell?”

Mom sniffed the air then covered her nose.“That’s you, Tom.”

“Ewww.” Stacey added pinching her nose closed.

Dad slowly got up from the table. “You should shower before you leave son.”

After breakfast, I jumped in the shower. Time must have escaped me because when I came downstairs after the shower, Mom was waiting by the door jacket on and keys in her hand.

Mom opened the door to leave. “Alright, we’ll be back soon.” We got into the car and headed off.

"You can’t tell Warner what happened last night." Mom said.

"Why?" I asked.

"Your father will  go to jail."

I shrugged my shoulders. "Doesn’t seem to be my problem."

Mom sucked her lip in. "He’s just trying to take care of you?"

I whipped my head in her direction. "He tried to kill me last night."

Mom sighed. "He didn't try and kill you, Tommy."

I bit my lower lip almost hard enough to draw blood. "Dad, doesn't care about us. He proved it last night, he never does anything for anyone unless it benefits him or makes him look good. It's always on you or I to take care of Stacey. You're only with him because you're afraid of being alone."

Tears fell from Mom's face. "You need to be the man your father isn't willing to be. I understand that he's hard to deal with, but he's your father and he cares about you. He might not show it in the way that he should, but he cares about you."

Before I knew it, we had arrived at Mr. Warner's office. On the way in we passed by a man smoking a cigarette. A cloud of gray smoke engulfed us. We both coughed violently. Mom scowled at the guy. “Second-hand kills, man.”

When we walked into the building, Mr. Warner was waiting for us outside his office. He wore a black button down shirt with black jeans to match. Red lips parted into a smile exposing white rows of ivory, a neatly trimmed mustache lined his face. For someone who looked like they should have been in their late fifties or sixties, he seemed to be in good shape. He extended his hand outward for me to shake it. “How are you, Tommy?”

I was nervous I didn't want to make eye contact at first. “Good.”

He motioned for me to follow him. “Let’s head into my office.”

I followed him to his room.The room was plain: Eggshell white walls, and a framed degree hung on the wall behind him.

He pointed to a chair sitting across from his desk. “Tommy have -” His face turned black as oil, patches of his face were red as a tomato, the room smelled like a ash tray. That horrible sickening flavor of smoldering flesh filled my mouth and ravaged my taste buds.

“Skinnnnn.” He hissed.

I backed away until my back was against the wall. “No, no, no, no."

He stood up from behind his desk and walked after me. "Skinnnn."

After fumbling with the handle for a second, I looked back the thing that was following me. All burnt and charred, It reached its hand out to me trying to grab me, I tore the door open and ran for the exit screaming.

Mom rushed after me. “Tommy, what’s wrong?”

I curled up into a ball in the corner of the lobby shaking and crying. “He’s trying to take my skin!”

The smelled ebbed, a hand rested on my shoulder, I turned to see Mr. Warner instead of a monster. “It’s okay, Tommy no one’s gonna hurt you here. I’m going to help you.”

All fear left my body. “I’m ok, I think.”

He offered me his hand. “Why don’t we go back to my office and talk for a bit.”

I grabbed it and pulled myself up. “Okay.”

He pushed a bowl of hard candy at me. “What happened to your lip?"

I rubbed where my lip was split. "I fell off my skate board. I was being stupid, trying to do tricks I saw on TV without ever doing them before."

"Gotta be more careful. So, do you mind telling me what upset you so much?"

I popped a candy into my mouth. "It's the smell of smoke that makes me crazy, every time I smell smoke I'm brought back to that night my grandfather died. My Grandpa’s friend Nick killed him. That night I smelt the awful smell of cigarette smoke, when I woke up Nick was standing over my bed with a knife. Anytime, I think about that night I can smell that exact smoke, I can taste it. I feel so; guilty,I feel like I should have died. If I had done something else other than lay there, maybe Grandpa would still be alive."

"And it's only cigarette smoke that makes you feel this way?" Warner asked.

"All smoke is starting to smell the same... also, clanging triggers me too, like the clanging of a tricycle bell."

Warner took a tissue and blew his nose. " I see. You shouldn't feel guilty, It’s not your fault Tommy. You’re only a kid what could have down? If you got up and tried to fight, maybe you would have gotten killed too."

My lips quivered, and mucus rolled down my face. Mr. Warner handed me a tissue. Before I knew it, time was up. On the way to the car, a ringing filled the air. Mom reached into her bang and pulled her Nokia out. "Hey, Mom. What?.. There's no girl on a tricycle clanging a bell.”

My stomach turned to mush, and my legs felt like Jell-O.  "W-what's going on?"

She put the phone back in her bag. “We’re gonna stop by Grandma’s real quick before we go home.”

My heart began to race as I got into the car, I sunk into my seat and tried to calm down, mom pushed the key into the ignition and turned it; the car came to life. We were on the way to Grandma’s house.









9
Story Critique / "Skin" Part 6
« on: 09:26 AM, 10/12/18 »
I woke up from a dreamless slumber still feeling sick. I had one glaring question swimming around in my mind. Was what I saw last night real? It looked real, smelt, and tasted real, but it couldn’t have been real. I knew being at home should have put me at ease, but it didn’t..

“Tommy, it’s time for breakfast." Mom called.

I walked into the kitchen Mom, Dad, and Stacey; were sitting around the table.

Mom poured me a bowl of cereal and handed it to me. “We’re going to have to eat fast so; we can each get into the shower, and get to Grandpa's wake on time.”

Dad swallowed a mouthful of cereal. “What time is the wake?”
                         
Mom raised her eyebrows. “It's at ten, why?” She pursed her lips; her eyes bulged out of her skull knowing what he was going to say.

Dad's face turned as red as an apple. “I’m going to try to get a few hours in at the store.”

“No!” Mom flipped her cereal bowl sending milk and bits of debris everywhere. “I’m tired of you putting that store before everything else! I just lost someone very close to me, and all you can do is think of yourself ?!” She stood over Dad the veins in her neck pulsated specks of spit flew from her mouth hitting Dad in the face.

“Stwop fighting!” Stacey cried. She fled from the table and ran upstairs to her room.

Dad’s arms were stretched out in front of him defensively. “Okay… I’ll stay here.”

Mom took a deep breath then exhaled. “We all need to start getting ready now, Tommy help your sister get ready, I'm going to get in the shower."

I grabbed Stacey by her hand and led her to her room. She sat on the bed while I removed clothes from her dresser.

"Why dowesn't Dwaddy love us? I fweel like he loves the stowre more than us." Stacey said.

I placed her clothes next to her. "He loves us. He just doesn't show it like he should." I didn't know what to say. At three years old she had hit the nail on the head. Dad did love the store more than anything or anyone else. Once the shower was free, Stacey went in, then I went into my room and got my clothes out.

I could hear Dad downstairs talking to himself. "Ungrateful, everyone is ungrateful. I work myself raw to the bone and this is how I'm treated? I need a smoke." The front door slammed.

Stacey finished,  I quickly showered, then Dad showered. When everyone was ready we got into the car. During the drive, Mom kept sneering at Dad every time he glanced at her. Stacey’s eyes were still red and puffy; she spent the ride looking downward; not speaking to anyone. Grandma was waiting outside the funeral home. She held a balled up tissue in her hand, her nose dripped with snot, and her face was drenched with tears.

“Gandma!” Stacey rushed at Grandma and wrapped her arms around her.
 
Mom wrapped her arms around her too. “Are you ready?”

“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be Jenny.” Grandma said.

We formed the condolence line inside. "Family" I have never seen before had filled the place. Everyone was crying, but I felt nothing. Grandpa was the person that loved me more than my father, and I felt nothing. I don't know why I didn't feel anything I wanted to cry, but for some reason I couldn't. The only familiar faces were Mr. Williams and Lilly. He and Lilly weren't their happy, upbeat selves I saw at the picnic. A frown stretched across Mr. Williams' face his eyes looked to be a deeper shade of blue, he dragged his feet when he walked.

He embraced Mom. “I’m so, sorry Jenny.” He embraced the rest of us one by one and expressed his condolences.

Lilly hugged me. "If you ever need someone to talk to me I'm here for you."

There was a table with a blue cloth covering it; candles were scattered all over the table, right next to the coffin.
The candles waxy vanilla smell permeated the room. I tried not to look at Grandpa. He was as pale as the little girl on the tricycle I saw on the first night I stayed at my grandparents' house. It didn’t look like he was dead, It looked like he was sleeping, his eyes began to move as if he were trying to open them. His lips curled up into a grin.

I took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. Mr. Williams tripped and knocked the candles over, catching the tablecloth on fire.
He tried to fan the flames.The smell of burnt fabric offended my olfactory immediately. Giving me a headache and causing me to feel sick. I massaged my temples in a attempt to ease the pain, but the smell kept growing stronger.The funeral director hosed the table with an extinguisher.

Mom walked over to me. “Are you okay?”

“Skin.” A voice said.

“No, no, no.” I cried.

I looked up to see Grandpa sitting up in his coffin. “Skinnnnn.” Blood gushed from his neck wound.

I pointed at the coffin. “He’s… he’s alive.”

“What?” Mom bit her lower lip, and there was a hint of worry in her eyes.

 Dad just gawked at me like everyone else. Looking at me as if I were some sort of  freak or idiot.

Stacey rushed at the coffin. “Gandpa, he’s alive.”

“Stacey come back.” Mom called after her.

I blinked my eyes and Grandpa was no longer sitting up. Mom sat us down, the rest of the wake was a blur and so was the funeral. As we left Dad apologized for my outburst, he didn’t care about me; he only cared about what others thought of us. When we got home, I headed straight to my room without saying a word to anyone.

I could hear Mom and Dad talking downstairs.

"What is wrong with that kid?" Dad asked.

"Stop, Bill, I just want to try and have a peaceful night and go to bed. Please don't start any trouble." Mom said.

"He doesn't act right, Jen."

"How do you expect him to act?"

"Not like that..."
 
“Tommy it’s time for dinner.” Mom called.

“I’m not hungry.” I said.

“Tommy, your mother made a meal get down here and eat this instant.” Dad demanded

I didn’t respond. Rage filled me and boiled over, Dad didn’t care, he was pretending to care. I was fed up and rushed down the stairs filled with anger. Mom and Stacey were sat at the dinner table cutting into their steaks while Dad was rooting around in the fridge for something.

I marched over to the fridge and slammed the door on him. "You don’t care about me. The only thing you care about is the store, and you treat everyone and everything else like a inconvenience. You didn't even ask me how I was when I came home from the hospital. At the wake when I was freaking out you didn't even try to check on me. You apologized for my outburst to people that don't even care about us."

Dad's face became as red as dragon's flames. He delivered a hard slap to my cheek. "I work my ass off for you! I apologized for your outburst because you made an ass out of yourself in front of the whole family."

Mom quickly got up from her seat and got in between us. "Bill, let him be!"

He pushed her to the ground and she landed with a heavy thud. "Stay out of this cow!"

I felt something burning through me; it spread through my entire body, I felt like I was on fire and my heart was about to explode. The hot pain spread across my face like fire through a forest. "Bullshit! You only work for yourself."

 "You better watch your tongue boy!" 

"Fuck you."

He punched me in the face, knocking me to the ground, and splitting my lip open. The taste of copper filled my mouth and blood rolled down my chin.

He crouched down in front of me so he was face level with me. His eyes were filled with hate like the eyes of a bull that's seen red or the eyes of a rattle snake. "Any other comments?"

I spat a gooey red glob in his face. "Fuck you." He could have killed me and it wouldn't have even mattered. In fact, I wanted him to.

Mom got up from the floor and forced herself in between my father and I. "Bill stop or I'm calling the cops."

Dad stood up. "Fine." He walked away.

Mom helped me to my feet. "Let's get you cleaned up." She walked me to the bathroom and cleaned me up then sent me to bed.

I drifted off to sleep. A few hours later I woke up feeling a pressure in my bladder. On the way to the bathroom, I could hear Mom and Dad talking from their room.

“He needs help, Bill.” Mom said.

“I want to send him to boot camp.” Dad said.

“He needs therapy, Bill.”

“He needs someone to straighten him out."

"His grandfather just died, he's obliviously not dealing with this well, I'm setting up with my therapist I used to see. Have some consideration and empathy for someone else besides yourself for once."

"Fine. We'll try therapy first."

I quickly finished in the bathroom. Then went back to bed wondering what was in store for me.











10
Story Critique / "Skin" Part 5
« on: 03:15 PM, 10/10/18 »
“W-where’s Grandpa?" I asked.

Tears rolled down my mothers tan skin as her pink lips quivered. “Grandpa is- Grandpa is...” Her body racked with sobs as she tried to get the words out.

“Grandpa is." She dropped to her knees, and she buried her hands into her face then  fell to her side. Dad  bent down next to her; he rested his hand on top of her shoulder.

“What about Nick? " I asked.

Dad looked at me, there was a look in his eyes I have never seen  before. “Dead.” 

I didn’t know how to feel and could hardly think straight. My eyelids felt like they weighed a thousand pounds.
They shut. That acrid stench filled my nostrils again, my eyes opened, and I saw the horrible facsimile of John's face.The man took his cigarette and jammed it into my eye. I felt like my entire face was on fire. He pushed it deeper and deeper; twisting it as he laughed. My eyes snapped open and I sat straight up. I was drenched in sweat and noticed a dark splotch on my blanket. I spent a few days in the hospital and was released with a bandage wrapped around my hand and a bandage on my chest.

Mom pulled me into a tight bear hug and kissed me on the cheek. “We’re gonna go home. Dad, Grandma, and Stacey are waiting for us.”

“Okay.” I replied.

We got into her car, Mom pulled out of the driveway then pulled out into the road. “So, what happens now?” I asked.

Mom stifled a sob. “Well, I already made arrangements for the wake and funeral. The service will be in a few days."

I watched her in the rear view, tears rolled down her cheeks, her hand covered her mouth. She sniffed and swallowed trying to compose herself. We drove home in silence. A loud roar of thunder bellowed from the heavens, as rain smashed against the windows. We pulled into our driveway; green peeling paint covered the house, the lawn was overgrown and yellowed, a tree branch scraped against the roof of the car. She parked in front of the garage; packed with bobbleheads, movie posters, sports cards, and various other knick-knacks.

Mom sighed. "Your father needs to find another place for the stuff from the store I’m tired of not being able to park the car in the garage.”
She looked at the backseat and pursed her lips. “I forgot my umbrella; we’re gonna have to run  to avoid the rain, Tommy.” We rushed out of the car despite our best efforts to avoid the rain; we got soaked.

"You two look like you got out of the swimming pool." We heard Dad say, as we cleaned our feet on the welcome mat. He scratched his black beard that was so long it rested on his beer belly. He didn't even acknowledge my bandaged hand or chest.

Mom pointed her stubby little finger in Dad's face. “Bill you’ve got to do something about that garage, it's ridiculous that you have all that shit packed in there."

Dad's shoulders slacked exasperatedly. “There’s nowhere else to put it. There’s zero room at the store, that warehouse is as packed as it’s gonna get.”

Mom shook her head. “Figure it out Bill that crap isn’t gonna be in there much longer.”

“Whatever.” Dad said.

"When are thewy coming home?" I heard Stacey ask as I walked into the living room.

Stacey was sitting on the couch facing Grandma. Grandma noticed me and smiled. "Turn around."

Stacey turned, and her face lit up. She jumped off the couch and charged me with her arms wide open. Stacey wrapped her arms around me. “How’s your hawnd?”

“It’s… better.” I replied.

Grandma noticed the time on the clock on the wall, and she got off the couch. “Alright, everyone, I’m gonna be heading home now."

“Are you sure you want to be in the house alone?” Mom asked.

Grandma headed for the door. “Regardless of what has happened I want to be in my own house, my husband built that house, I spent most of my life in that house and nothing is going to drive me out."

"Okay, I understand." Mom said.

I felt pretty tired and wanted to lay down in my own bed. "I’m gonna go upstairs and lay down."

“Okay, I’ll call you down when it’s time for dinner, I'm making meatloaf.” Dad said.

I climbed the stairs and went into my bedroom. Laying down I let everything sink in. I knew nothing would be the same again. One of the most important people in my life had just died. I wish I could have done something more. If I would have gotten up and helped Grandpa fight Nick maybe he’d still be alive. Grandma’s life will never be the same, she’s trying to keep her spirit high for everyone, I know she’s in great pain. Tears streamed down my cheeks and out the corners of my eyes, drenching the pillow. My heart thudded in my chest, and my stomach began to ache. I turned on my side and curled up. The burning started in my hand again. I needed pain meds, but I was too weak to get up; too feeble to call out for help. The smell of smoke filled my room. My eyes slammed shut, and I fell into unconsciousness. I woke up in an abyss of darkness, I didn’t know how I got there, or how long I’ve been there.

“Help!” I screamed.

“Skin.” I heard someone say.

Smoke filled my nostrils; oddly it smelled like burnt meat. I dropped to my knees. “No, no, no, no!”

"All he wants is your skin.” A familiar voice said.

I turned to see John; plaid shirt unbuttoned exposing his pale fat gut, splotches of blood covered the pale flesh, dirty, unkempt hair spilled down his shoulders. Blood, exposed nerves, and muscle served as his face.

"All you have you have to do is give him your skin.” He said.

"W-why me?" Was all I could muster through heavy sobs.

"You angered him. Now, he can't rest until he gets your skin. If he can't get yours he'll take everyone's around you."

I noticed something shiny in John’s hand.  After a second glimpse, I realized he was holding a knife. He offered me the knife “Your skin."

I shook my head incredulously. "I-I can't."

"I don't blame you for crying you're just a boy. But if you give him your skin all this will end no one else has to die. Think of your mom, think of Grandma, think of Stacey.

I was terrified, but he was right. This thing wanted me and if it didn't get my skin it'd take someone else's. I took the knife in my hand and pressed the cold edge against my forearm.

“What the fuck." John said.

 I looked up at him confused. His mouth hung agape, a loud screeching emitted from his mouth it sounded like a a alarm. My eyes snapped open, and I was standing in the kitchen, a puddle of yellow liquid pooled around my feet. The awful screaming of the fire detector reverberated through the house.

Dad grabbed the knife from my hand. His face was as red as magma. “What the fu-”

“Bill stop.” Mom said.

I ran upstairs to my room, as I laid in bed.

John’s words echoed in my mind.






 

11
Story Critique / "Skin" Part 4
« on: 03:14 PM, 08/14/18 »
The sound of robins chirping woke me from my slumber. Sun rays bled in through the blinds filling the room with their opalescent hue. Instead, of the smell of pancakes or french toast filling my nostrils, I only smelt french vanilla roast. Stacey ’s loud snores rang out through the hallway. I slowly walked out of my room and started down the stairs. I stopped on the fifth one. I was able to see Nick and Grandpa sitting at the kitchen table. Nick's back was to me, but Grandpa was in decent view. His eyes were red and puffy looking like he was sick, and he was holding a balled up napkin in his hand. I had never seen him like this before.

Grandpa wiped his nose with the napkin. “It was horrible...  there was blood... everywhere.”

Just hearing him utter that, made me feel horrible for him. I didn’t know what happened to John, but apparently, it was taking its toll on my grandfather.

Nick shook his head. "Awful. I don’t know what I would have done in your situation.”

Grandpa's head lowered into his hands he stared into his coffee for a few seconds. “I know we both have seen a lot during the war, but seeing that ..."

Nick took a long drink from his coffee. "All these years later I still hear the voices, still hear the screaming. So, I understand, you weren’t expecting… that,  no one would.” 

Grandpa lifted his head. “You’re the only one with a strong stomach. I can’t tell Peggy she gets all teary-eyed when I broach the subject.”

Nick stretched and reclined back in his chair. “Understandable. I would understand if you sold this place, and moved on."

"I'm not leaving this house. I built it with my own two hands, I've raised a child and grandchildren here, I spent most of my life here. I'm staying here until I'm dead." Grandpa said.

Nick stuffed his hand into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette pack then flipped the top open, examining the smokes. "You always were very prideful Joe."

Grandpa leaned forward. "Have you been smoking upstairs?”

Nick stuffed the pack back into his jeans. “No, but now that you mention it I have been smelling smoke and hearing a clang at night. Also, I’ve been hearing someone whispering outside my door. Sometimes…  I’m not sure if it’s real or the illness. I can’t make out what the voice is saying, but it keeps telling me to get frish zin.”

Grandpa squinted his eyes and pursed his lips. “Frish zin?”

Nick shrugged his shoulders. “Beats the fuck out of me Joe, do you think I know what frish zin is? Also, about the smoke, I hate to accuse anyone, but, I think Tommy might be sneaking up to my room and stealing my cigs."

Grandpa balled his hands into fists. “He would never do that."

"Joe." Nick sat back and sighed. "Who else could it be? I don't smoke in the house."

Grandpa jumped up from his chair. "Liar!"

Nick stuck his hands up defensively. "Look, Joe, I've noticed my smokes missing, I might be old, but my minds not gone yet. So, who else could it be?"

The two went silent for only a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity.

Nick looked at his watch. “Oh, shit it’s nine, thanks for the coffee Joe, I’ve got to get going now.” 

The screeching of the chair sliding on the wood caused me to cover my ears, it was like nails on a chalkboard. I turned to go back upstairs I made it to the top.

“Tommy, I need to speak with you.” I heard my grandfather say.

I turned and saw Grandpa at the bottom of the stairs with his arms crossed and lips pursed. There was a hardness in his eyes, I’ve never seen before. "Yes, Grandpa?"

“First off were you eavesdropping?” Grandpa asked.

 My head dropped I couldn't look him in the eye. “No.”

Grandpa lifted my head up with his hand. “Tommy, I thought you knew better, you need to respect other people’s privacy.”

I turned to go back upstairs. “I’m sorry Grandpa.”

“And I know you’re stealing Nick's cigarettes and smoking them.” He added.

I turned and scrunched my eyebrows. "What?"

“There’s no other way the house is smelling like smoke. Why are you smoking?” He asked.

"I wanted to feel grown up." I sad letting my head drop in shame. Knowing he wouldn't believe me if I told him about the ghosts.

Grandpa shook his head disapprovingly. "Okay, follow me.” He grabbed my collar and dragged me behind the shed. Weeds five feet tall lined the back. “You wanna act like a grown up? Well, you’re going to work like one. I’ll get you a pair of gloves. I want all these weeded."

I looked at him incredulously. "But that's going to take all day. I thought I'd be able to go with Lilly."

"Well, you've lost that too. It's part of your punishment Mr. Smoker." He left and quickly returned with a pair of gloves.

After weeding for what felt like hours, I heard Grandma pushing  Stacey on the swing. “Weeeee push me higher Gandma!"

I turned my head and saw Grandma pushing Stacey on the swing. Grandma stared daggers at me while Stacey stuck her tongue out at me. As I worked, I felt that awful feeling in the pit of my gut. The same feeling I got when I caught, John was staring at me. I suspected someone was looking down at me out from one of the windows on the top floor. I hesitantly looked up; I saw a familiar zit covered face staring down at me. His face didn't fit right it was like he was wearing a Halloween mask that was too big. The lips parted into a terrible smile. A charred finger pointed at me. "Your skin." The face mouthed.

Nausea sunk its cruel claws into me. Bile moved from my stomach and out of my mouth in a second. Yellow viscous vomit shot from my mouth like flames from a dragon’s maw. Horrible yellow mess with bright pink bits of pork dripped down the wall. The terrible mixture looked like a very gooey bacon and cheese omelet. Horrible tasting meat flavored slime covered my tongue. I didn’t dare swallow it. I spat until all the puke was purged from my mouth. 

The familiar bell chime filled the air. I turned to see Lilly behind me, she looked disgusted, for good reason. "You've got a little..." She pointed to the left side of my mouth.

I wiped my mouth. "Thanks. I can't go to the bookstore."

"Why?" She asked.

"I got caught smoking."

"Bad boy, huh?" She pulled out a small piece of paper and a pen, she quickly scribbled down something on the paper. "Call me sometime bad boy."

"I will."

She shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe next time." She rode off.
 
I collected myself and finished pulling the weeds. I made my way out from behind the shed. I headed for the door.

"Hey." I heard  a voice say.

I turned and saw Nick getting out of his car. He smiled exposing yellowish green teeth.

He slammed his car door shut. “Is it hot enough for you?”

I wiped sweat from my brow. “Asshole.”

He marched over to me with his fists clenched. “What was that? You better watch your tongue boy, or I'll tear it out."

A lump formed in my throat. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a buck knife. "I know you're stealing from me." He grabbed my collar. "If you steal from me again, I'll take your skin. You can tell your grandfather I threatened you, but why would he believe you? You're a filthy smoker.

He let go of me, and I ran into the house. I went inside and showered. After the shower, as I was putting on my Bledsoe jersey and sweats, the scent of meatloaf and mashed potatoes, had snuck under the door and filled the bathroom. Making my mouth water, and stomach growl. I hesitantly walked into the kitchen everyone sat at the table eating.

"Come sit." Grandpa said.

 I took a seat and he filled my plate with food. "Maybe, I was a little too harsh, but you can't smoke. I know you're not a dumb kid, I know you're at the age where you wanna rebel. You think you're able to make your own decisions. You aren't old enough to make that type of decision yet you need to wait until your of legal age. I had a friend when I was a kid, he started smoking at twelve and he died at forty-seven. We just care about you and we don't want you to get hurt."

I didn't know what to do I wanted to tell them about the ghosts and Nick, but I couldn't. I was so overwhelmed I felt like crying tears fell from my eyes and landed on my mashed potatoes. If I told them they'd think I was lying and I'd be in trouble again. There was something wrong with me, I must have done something horrible to deserve the torment at the hands of the ghosts and Nick.

"I'm sorry." I said.

Grandpa patted me on the shoulder. "It's okay, Tommy you should eat."

I cleared my plate without another word. After dinner I went straight to bed, not having the energy to sit through a movie. I laid in my bed staring at the ceiling waiting for sleep to come. Not caring if the man came for my skin. I could hear Nick talking to himself upstairs. It sounded like he was arguing with someone. Perhaps, it was that voice he was telling Grandpa about. My eyelids were heavy, and I was exhausted, my eyes shut, and I fell into a dreamless sleep. My door slowly creaked open. Then I smelt that awful smell. Hot breath touched my face. It Smelt like smoldering flesh. "Skin." A voice said.

My eyes snapped open. Nick was standing over me with a knife raised above his head. I could see my scared expression in his shiny bald head. My heart was beating rapidly, and my whole body began to shake like I’ve been left out in below zero weather. I wanted to scream until my throat bled, but I couldn’t yell. No sound would come out. When I opened my mouth I only could let out a whimper. “P--pppp-ppppp” Was all I could manage.

He plunged the knife downward aiming for my chest. “Fresh skin!”

I put my hand out defensively; the knife stabbed through my palm. The other end of the blade dripped with blood. Blood rushed from the wound; it flowed down my arm drenching the limb.

The horrible burning pain was radiating through my hand. Tears and mucus rushed down my face meeting and combining at my upper lip creating a mustache of bodily fluid. Something warm and squishy filled the back of my pants. I opened my mouth to scream, gooey strands of saliva hung from the roof of my mouth and touched the top of my tongue. "Help!"
 
Nick pulled the knife from my hand; blood sprayed onto him as he withdrew the blade. He pushed my jersey up exposing  bare flesh. The edge of the blade pressed against my chest, vertically pushing the blade up word drawing blood and creating a searing sensation. Blood gushed from my chest wound covering my chest and abdomen. Crimson spilled onto blue fabric. My door flew open Grandpa tackled Nick to the ground.

“What the fu-.” Grandpa said.

His sentence was interrupted by a slash to the throat. Blood spilled down his wife beater, staining the white fabric cranberry red. He wrapped his hands around the wound trying to stop the bleeding.
 
Nick stood over Grandpa a sick smile spread across his face. He was panting as if he had just ran six miles. “Fresh skin!”

He raised the knife above his head. Grandpa tackled him again with his last bit of strength. The blade slid across the floor. Grandpa’s hands wrapped around Nick's throat, his face was as purple as an eggplant. Blood dripped onto his face. Nick threw Grandpa off of him as if he were nothing. Both of them scurried for the knife; Grandpa got to it first. My vision began to fade. All I remember is Grandpa raising the blade above his head.

Then.

Darkness.
       
I woke up in a hospital room with Grandma, Dad, Mom, and Stacey standing at the foot of my bed. Their eyes red and puffy from crying. Grandma and Mom were wiping their eyes with a tissue. Stacey wiped her runny nose with her sleeve. Dad didn't shed a tear.

Grandpa was nowhere in sight.



         


12
Story Critique / "Skin" Part 3
« on: 01:46 PM, 08/ 2/18 »
The next morning I woke up alone in my grandparents' bedroom. The smell of breakfast permeated the air. My stomach growled hungrily, as I slowly got off the air mattress.

I could hear Stacey in her room talking to Grandpa. “Gandpa could I have a piggyback wide pwease?"

“Sure sweetheart.” He said.

As I walked down the stairs, I could hear Grandma talking to my mom on the phone.

“He hasn't sleepwalked in years you say... you think he’s making it up for attention?  Alright, I'll talk to him.“ Grandma said.

She hung up, and I tentatively finished walking down the stairs. I saw that there was a plate stacked with pancakes where I usually sit at the table. I walked passed the living room hoping Grandma wouldn’t spot me.

Grandma's old, boney hand suddenly rested on my shoulder. “Tommy, we need to talk.” I cursed myself internally, and turned to face her.

Her wrinkled face furrowed in concern. “Are you jealous of Stacey? Is that why you’ve been acting odd?”

I forced myself to smile to assuage her worry. “No.”

She tussled my hair. “Your grandfather and I love you both equally.”

I wrapped my arms around her. “I know Grandma, I love you too.”

She smiled, exposing her old yellow teeth. “I made your favorite for breakfast.”

Grandpa came down the stairs with Stacey; her arms and legs wrapped around his body. “Pancakes! Pancakes!” Stacey squealed like she did whenever we had pancakes, and sometimes I joined in.

Stacey, Grandpa, and Grandma joined me at the table; a blood-curdling scream suddenly rang out.

It startled Stacey causing her to shrink in her seat; eyes wide and frightened. Grandma and Grandpa just rolled their eyes.

"How many times do I have to tell him to lower that damn TV?" Grandpa said shaking his head.

I remained unbothered. I knew John was watching “Friday the 13th” or some other horror movie that I’m not supposed to have watched. The screaming ebbed, then creaking  stairs and feet stomping reverberated through the house. John ambled into our kitchen; his messy, unkempt hair spilled down his back. A few buttons on his shirt were undone, allowing fat to be pushed through unopened sections. He was pale as a corpse, his eyes were empty and vacant. 

“Morning John.” Grandpa said disdainfully.

John didn't bother to reply. Instead, he walked over to Grandpa and placed a check in front of him. "Do you smoke?"

Grandpa squinted his eyes in confusion. “No, I don’t, Peg and I quit smoking ten years ago. Why do you ask?"
 
John sighed and crossed his arms. “I keep smelling smoke at night.”

“That’s odd.” Grandpa said, trying to make sense of the information.

"I've also been hearing this awful clanging at night. I haven't had a good night's sleep in the past couple nights and I've been falling asleep at work. My boss says if it happens again I’m fired. So, I’d like it if there was something done about the smell and noise." John said.

My grandfather sat there nodding , listening thoughtfully. “You’re right John. I’ll see what I can do.”

John thanked my grandfather and left.

Grandpa directed a cold stare at Stacey. “Stacey, are you playing with your trike at night?

“No gandpa. It wasn’t me, it was the girl.” Stacey said.

“Stacey.” He said sternly.

Her head lowered in shame; Grandpa leaned forward. “You need to take responsibility for your actions and be respectful of others. I worked in a gas station when I was twenty-one, just like John. I know how it is dealing with people. It’s probably worse dealing with people on very little sleep, and on top of that, his job is in jeopardy. No more tricycle at night.”

“I’m sorry Ganpa I love you.” Stacey said.

He smiled and tussled her hair. “I love you too sweetheart."

“What about the smell?" Grandma inquired.

My grandfather pursed his lips. “It’s probably Nick, I know he hates going outside to smoke, so he lights up inside. He probably hoped nobody would notice, I’ll talk to him later."

"It's funny he mentions that, I've been hearing the same clanging and smelling the same smoke too. I thought it was just my mind playing tricks on me." Grandma said.

After breakfast Grandpa ran some errands, Stacey and I watched “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” in the living room while Grandma read. Through the window, I heard a car pull into the driveway. The front door slammed, followed by heavy footsteps going to the third floor echoing throughout the house.

Grandma looked up from her book. "That might be John, I hope he didn’t get fired."

Once the movie ended, Stacey glanced out the window. Outside, it was the perfect day. The sky was bright blue and cloudless, the scent of fresh cut grass filled the air, and  butterflies with beautiful opalescent patterns on their wings had landed on the window sill. She turned  her little head towards me. “Will you pwush me on the swing?”

I looked out the window. “Sure.”

We went outside Stacey sat on the swing, a bell chime filled the air I turned and saw Lilly riding her scooter towards Stacey and I. "Grandpa Jack and I are going to the bookstore tomorrow, they have a wide variety of horror books, I was wondering if you wanted to go."

"I'm sure my grandfather would let me go, I'll have to ask, but I'm sure it'd be okay."

Her face lit up like a Christmas tree. "I'll see you tomorrow."

After a few minutes of pushing Stacey, I had an odd feeling in the pit of my gut. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. I felt like someone was staring at us. I looked around, and  saw John staring down at us from his window. I could swear I saw a charred hand caress his face. Nausea swept over me like a tidal wave, all the muscles in my body tensed up. Feeling paralyzed I wanted to scream, but when I opened my mouth, no sound came out. John seemed to realize I was staring back at him and he moved away from the window.

The smell of pork chops spread through the air, Grandma's head was poking out of the kitchen window. The sun was trapped behind an archipelago of white fluffy clouds. “Tommy, Stacey, time for dinner.”

“Come on Stacey.” I said. She jumped off the swing, and we went inside. 

After dinner, Grandpa grabbed a deck of cards. "Wanna play Uno kids?"

"Sure." We both said.

Grandpa dealt out the cards while I scanned mine. "Grandpa, I wanted to ask if it'd be okay if I went to the bookstore with Lilly and Mr. Williams tomorrow. Is that okay?"

"Sure." Grandpa said.

The game took a half hour to finish, after the game we called it a night.

As I laid in bed terrified of what was going to happen, I heard screaming coming from the third floor. I surmised John was watching another horror movie too loudly. Eventually, I fell back asleep, happy the man hadn’t visited me. I knew he'd be looking for skin and might be coming for me again. Fearing his visit I stayed awake until my eyes would no longer stay open.

I woke up feeling great because I slept well the entire night without any unwanted visitors. An awful smell offended my olfactory; it smelled fish like guts. Despite the terrible smell, I was still hungry. I hurried downstairs and joined everyone else at the table, with a smile, Grandma placed french toast sticks on my plate. To my dismay, that putrid stench stuck to my nostrils, not allowing me to enjoy the sweet aroma of the golden brown logs.

Grandma squinted her eyes. "Does anyone else smell that?"

My face twisted in disgust. “Yes.”

“Yuck!” Stacey exclaimed in agreement, sticking her tongue out and rolling her eyes in the back of her head.

Grandpa hacked and gagged. “Yeah, I do. I think it’s coming from upstairs. Hold on, I’ll see what it is.”

He hurried up the stairs, the squeaking of the stairs beneath him filled the house. We could hear the  whine and screech of door hinges from the third floor.

“Hey, John?" We could hear him say.

“John... oh my god! ” Grandpa screamed.

I haven’t heard a scream like that before, and I don’t think I will again.

Grandpa rushed downstairs. "Tommy take Stacey to your room and don’t come out until I say!"

‘Wha-” I said, confused and scared.

“Don’t ask questions,  just do it.” He interrupted.

“Peggy call nine-one-one.” He barked.

Grandma rushed over to the phone while I took Stacey up to my room. Stacey sat down on the bed. "What's gowing on?"

“I don’t know.” I replied.

Her eyes filled with tears. “Is anyone huwrt? My friend said he was going to get kin from John. I hope he’s okay.”

My blood turned cold in my veins; the sound of sirens filled the air. I looked out the window and saw a ambulance in the driveway. My grandmother appeared to be hysterical; Grandpa seemed to be stoic as he talked to the paramedics. I continued watching through the window.

They carried out a body with a sheet draped over it; Grandpa and Grandma were silent for the rest of the day. Feeling solemn, confused, and afraid we decided to stay inside. We watched old reruns of "Tom & Jerry".  After a while, Grandma and Grandpa sent us to bed.

That night I was wide awake all night, I could hear Grandpa talking to Grandma downstairs beneath my floor. His voice was too muffled to understand clearly, so I got down on the ground and pressed my ear to the floor, the wood as cold as January ice. I heard him say. “What a way to go... of all the ways you could kill yourself."

His voice got muffled until I couldn’t hear him at all. I gave up and returned to my bed. As I was about to drift off to sleep.

I heard a voice say from outside my door. "More skin."




13
Story Critique / ”Skin” Part 2
« on: 05:58 PM, 07/27/18 »
To avoid further concern, I ate my breakfast - a piece of toast and scrambled eggs. I was hoping Grandma would forget about finding me in the hallway.

"Can I use the phone?" I asked.

Grandma's eyebrows furrowed in worry. "Sure, Jo- jo- Tommy, I'll call you every name, but your own."

 I was sick to my stomach and wanted to go home. I grabbed the phone and took it to my room for privacy.

“Hey, Tommy." I turned around to see John holding a V.H.S tape. “I know you’re interested in the movie I was talking about yesterday. I’ll lend it to you, and it can be our secret.” He handed me the tape.

 I took it into my room. Luckily there was a old T.V. and VHS player in the room.

I dialed my mom's number.

“Hello, Tommy, what’s up?”

“Mom, can I come home early?”

“Why?”

A lump formed in my throat..“I just miss being in my bed.”

She sighed. “Tommy I know you’re only twelve, but you need to grow up.” Her voice was low and agitated like it gets when I steal ice cream from the freezer.

“Okay.”

“Calling me wanting to go home is something I expect from Stacey.”

Click.

She hung up before I could say anything else, I felt guilty, but I was still afraid, I returned the phone. My grandparents and Nick were sitting in the living room watching the morning news with Stacey.

“Last night, The Church of Omega was firebombed. Authorities are searching for suspects.” The reporter said.

Nick shook his head incredulously. “We spent all that time at war trying to protect this country. Now there is a war breaking out on our own soil?! Religion is a poison in this countries veins."

“How are you feeling?” Grandma asked.

“I’m okay.” I replied.

“Good, I was worried about you, I never knew you sleepwalked.” She said.

"Glad you’re all right kiddo.” My grandpa added.

He dug into his pocket.  “Here.” He handed me a hard butterscotch candy like he did when he suspected I was upset. I eagerly popped it into my mouth. Stacey stopped paying attention to the news and sighed heavily.  “Can I go outside and pawe pwease?”

“Sure go ahead.” Grandma said.

Having gotten permission, Stacey scurried outside to play with her tricycle. The news was boring me, so I followed her a few minutes later, hoping to play with her. Finding Stacey was easy. She was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk looking forlorn. I went up to her to see why she was so melancholy.

Concerned I asked her. “What’s wrong?”

She didn't bother to look up from the ground. "Nothing."

“It doesn’t seem like nothing.”

She slowly looked up. “Alright... I’ll twell you... I haven't seen Amy.”

The image of the girl falling down the stairs flashed through my mind.

 “Mhm.”

"The man said he doewsn’t like you, he’s mad you won’t give him your kin, I wanted you to be friewnds with him. Why won’t you giwve him your kin?”

“Stacey… What’s kin?”

“I don’t know.” She replied innocently.

A cheerful jingle grabbed her attention.The ice cream truck was making its rounds.

Stacey jumped up and down. “Ice ceam ice ceam. Can we go pwease?"

I nodded, and we made our way to the truck. Lilly and Mr. Williams were waiting in line.

They turned to us. "Hey kids. Nice day out." Mr. Williams said.

"How are you liking the book so far Tommy?"

I was nervous, I felt like there were marbles in my throat. After a few minutes I found my voice. "I like it, I really liked "The Big Toe", the book you were talking about yesterday really caught my interest. Can I borrow it when I"m done with the other one?"

"Sure." Lilly said.

I paid for our ice cream with money I earned from working at the shop. Stacey had almost finished her ice cream by the time we got home.

"Tummy will you pawe a game with me?"

I grabbed a pack of cards. "Okay lets play fifty-two pick up."

I took all the cards out of the pack and threw them on the ground. "Pick them up."

Stacey crossed her arms and pouted. "Thawt's not fair."

"That's how the games played."

She picked up all the cards and handed them to me. "Hewre."

I threw them on the ground again. "Pick them up again."

"Gandpa!" Stacey yelled.

Grandpa walked in. "What's going on?"

"Tommy keeps throwing the cards on the ground and making me pick them up." Stacey complained.

Grandpa playfully grappled with me and took me to the ground. "I'll teach you to pick on your sister." He lifted my leg up. "Do the count Stacey."

Stacey tapped the ground three times. "Owne, two, Thwree. Ganpa wins!"

Grandma walked in. "What's going on in here?"

Grandpa slowly got off the ground. "Defending my title."

Grandma kissed Grandpa on the cheek. "Well, champ, why don't we pop in a movie for the kids to watch while we make dinner."

Grandpa turned to us. "What movie do you guys want to watch?

"Jumanji." I said.

Grandpa placed the tape in the V.H.S player. Dinner was ready after a hour, after dinner we played a board game, I was savoring the daylight. The sun was making me feel safe.Then, night fell; bedtime came.That night I was barely able to sleep. I kept expecting to hear that awful clang, or see those terrible arms. I watched "Night of The Living Dead" To help stay awake, after the film I fell asleep. I was only asleep for five maybe ten minutes when an acrid stench filled my nostrils; I heard repetitious whispering.

My eyes snapped open. A burnt face was about three inches away from mine, a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. Its visage was mostly black except for a few patches of red on the cheeks and chin. After a few seconds, I was able to understand what he was saying. He was saying, “fresh skin” over and over. Fear coursed through my veins like snake venom.

I sat up and backed up against the wall, the rest of his body was like his face, I shook like a leaf. Tears were pouring down my face like they do when Dad screams at me for screwing something up at the shop.

"No, no no, no!” I screamed.
 
I lost control of my bladder drenching my pajama pants with urine, the air smelled like cigarettes, the room filled with smoke, it was as hot as burning your hand on a stove top. Sweat dripped off my ears and landed on my shoulders. The taste of smoldering flesh violated my taste buds. The man’s arms shot out like a bullet from a shotgun, and grabbed me, sharp nails dug into soft tissue. Blood pooled around his nails and dripped down onto the bed.  It felt like shards of glass were being pushed into my arm.  A teardrop fell from my eye, and hit his hand, sizzling on impact. He violently jerked me up off the bed.
 
“I want fresh skin!" He screamed.

The bedroom door flew open; light flooded the room as my grandparents burst in, I dropped to the bed with a heavy thud.

"What happened?" Grandpa asked.

“I-I-I-I” The sobs were still in full strength I couldn’t complete my sentence.

"Jesus Christ, tell us what happened!” Grandma said rushing over to me.

She noticed the dark blotch on the front of my pants. Her face twisted in disgust. “Did you...?”

I showered and put on fresh clothes. I examined my arm in the mirror, there were only four faint scratches, when I came out of the bathroom, Grandma and Grandpa were waiting in the hall.

Grandma pulled me into a bear hug. “I think you should sleep on the air mattress in our room. I don’t know what’s going on with you. However, I want to make sure you’re safe."

I didn’t argue, and I went into their room. I still couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night despite having the protection of my grandparents. I couldn’t get the image of that horrible face out of my mind.

 I swear I could hear him down the hallway muttering about fresh skin.


14
Story Critique / "Skin" Part 1
« on: 03:48 PM, 07/25/18 »
Pine trees buzzed past us as we drove down the road, the song “Sugar” was playing on the radio. The smell of fresh cut grass and mustard flowers seeped in through the cracked car window. The scent of the flowers made me think of hot dogs. My stomach growled hungrily.

“Do we have any more snacks?” I asked.

My mother reached over to a snack bag she usually brought with her during long car rides and passed me a bag of pretzels. “Share these with your sister.”

Stacey was sitting in her car seat, incorrectly singing the lyrics to the song. I scooped some pretzels into my hand and dumped some out into her hand. She shoved the snacks into her mouth. Crumbs fell from her mouth and landed on her Bugs Bunny shirt and pants. They did little to satisfy my hunger.

Dad turned down the radio. “I’m gonna have to spend a couple hours at the shop today, Jen.”

Mom's mouth dropped open in disbelief. “What? I thought you weren’t going to spend any time at the store before we leave for Jamaica."

Dad let out a deep sigh. “Look, I need to spend a few hours at the shop to get this order processed. Rover Rose ordered fifty-thousand dollars worth of product."

She sat back in her seat and crossed her arms sophomorically. “Your brother always makes time for Kim."

Dad rubbed the pulsating blue vein on his temple. "It’s only a few hours, and we’ve been working on this for a couple of days, we should be done today.”

Mom huffed and rolled her eyes. “Fine. You better be back home at a reasonable hour Bill, we have to get up early tomorrow."

We pulled into my grandparents' driveway. Their house was white, three-stories with a shed adjacent to it. My grandmother stood on the front porch; her face stretched into a jovial smile. She was wearing her purple nightgown; blonde hair rolled into curlers. Her nose was huge. It always reminded me of the Wicked Witch of the West.
 
My mother helped Stacey out of the car and walked us up to the porch. Mom and Grandma exchanged pleasantries. The smell of chocolate chip cookies filled my nostrils, I was starving and felt like I hadn't eaten for days. We went inside, as we walked down the hallway towards the kitchen we heard the voices of the two tenants and Grandpa.

"Zombie movies are my favorite, Romero is my favorite." John, one of the tenants, said.

"I don't see how you can stomach those gory movies." Nick the other tenant said.

The kitchen walls were painted bright yellow matching the yellow floor and oven; Grandma pulled her world famous cookies out of the oven. The only decoration was a painting of the last supper hanging on the far wall.

Stacey and I each took a cookie from the tray. Gooey, melted chocolate oozed out between my fingers, making them stick together.

Nick and John were sitting with Grandpa at the kitchen table having coffee. John had his brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, a red plaid button-up shirt covering his bulbous gut, coke bottle glasses covering bright blue eyes. Nick sat across from John, a gray bushy beard and mustache consumed most of his face, Patriots cap covered his bald head, and a red flannel and blue jeans covered the rest of his body. Grandpa was sitting at the head of the table. Hair as white as snow nearly covered his hazel eyes, his wife beater was drenched with sweat. His old wrinkled face lit up as soon as he saw us. John and Nick offered us welcoming smiles.

“Hey, kids.” Grandpa said.

I grabbed a paper towel and cleaned the excess chocolate from my hands. "Hi, Grandpa. What was that movie you guys were talking about?"

" "Night of the Living Dead" You're too young to watch it though kiddo. On the bright side, I got you something." He got up and walked into the living room, he returned holding something behind his back. “I hope you like this Tommy.” He said pulling his hand from behind his back. He handed me a Drew Bledsoe jersey. His lips parted in a sea of white once he saw the grin on my face.

“What about me Gandpa?” Stacey asked.

“I got something for you too, it’s in the shed.” He said leaving to get her present.

After a few seconds, he returned with a bright red tricycle.

“Tycycle tycycle.” Stacey said jumping up and down. She mounted it and clanged the bell. The bell caused a sharp pain in my ears; she noticed the painful expression on my face. A malicious smile spread across her face and she clanged the bell three more times.

"I'll kill you." I mouthed.

Nick got up to leave. “Thanks for the Coffee Joe, I’ve gotta get to the farm.”

“My buddy Jack is having a BBQ at five, do you guys want to go?” Grandpa asked.

“Sure.” They both said.

Stacey walked her tricycle to the front door." Can we go outside and pawe?” 

"Sure, you kids can go out. Tommy you're becoming a young man, I think you're old enough to learn how to shoot. I was twelve when my father taught me how to shoot, and seeing that your father is very busy these days, I figured I'd be the one to teach you."Grandpa said. Stacey rode her trike, while Grandpa and I went into the woods with a twenty-two and a bag full of empty beer bottles. Grandpa set up the bottles.

He grabbed the rifle and aimed it at the targets. "I want you to watch how I do it, then you try, take a deep breath and, then shoot." He fired a single shot and obliterated the bottle, sending thousands of tiny, brown, sparkly, shards of glass everywhere. "Try to think of it as a extension of you." He handed me the rifle, anxiety swam in my gut like a goldfish on speed. It took me a minute to hold the rifle comfortably, then I aimed, shot, and missed horribly.

Grandpa laughed to himself. "You remind me of me when I was learning. Take your time, you've got all the time in the world, there's no reason to rush your shot."

I took a few long deep breathes, until I was feeling calm and collected. I fired and took out a bottle, then I took out the other bottles. "Are there any more?"

Grandpa took the rifle from me smiling. "No, those were all the bottles I had, maybe they'll be more in a few days."

 That horrible clang filled the air. We turned to see Stacey behind us. "Gandpa I'm tiwred can we go inside pwease?"

"Sure sweetheart." He said.

 We all sat down in the living room, Stacey grabbed the remote and put on cartoons. After a few minutes, she turned down the volume on the television so Grandma, Grandpa, and myself would be forced to listen to her.

“Did I ever tell you guys about my friwends? There’s a girl named Amy who has a tycycle like mine, she’s lazy, and she never picks her head up. She always has her head like this.” She rested her head on her shoulder. Also, there’s a man whose skin is all black he always, has a cigarette in his mouth and, he keeps asking me for freck kin. Do you know what that means?” 

We all shook our heads no. Stacey looked confused for a moment then turned the volume back up. “The things kids make up these days.” My grandfather muttered to my grandmother. A buzzing caught my attention, a fly landed right on Grandpa’s wrist watch. “Got ya you little bugger.” He said as he smashed it. He focused his eyes on the watch. “It’s four-fifty-nine we should get going. Since Mr. Williams lived next door,  it was only a five-second walk over to his house. The blue paint job on his home was flawless and the grass was freshly cut. We followed the smell of hamburgers and hot dogs into the backyard.

“You like the gory stuff, huh?” We heard Mr. Williams say from the backyard.

“I love Rami.” John said.

We turned the corner and entered the backyard. Paper plates and plastic ware was set for us on the picnic table John, Nick, and a girl about my age were already seated. Mr. Williams stood at his grill flipping burgers.

“I like comedies, “Caddyshack", is my favorite, "Groundhog Day" Is good too. I love Bill Murray. I heard there's another movie coming out soon "The Cradle Will Rock” Is the name of it. " Mr. Williams said.

He placed a tray of burgers on the table; when he saw us his old wrinkled face formed into a smile. “Hi everyone, this is my granddaughter Lilly."  We sat down, and he served us. “So, Joey what’s it’s like to be retired.”

“It’s pretty boring but, they keep me pretty busy.” Grandpa titled his head toward Stacy and I. "Is she keeping you busy?" Grandpa gestured towards Lilly.

"Of course." Mr. Williams laughed.

"What grade are you in?'" Grandpa asked.

"I'm in sixth, the only class I like is English." She said.

Grandpa took a bite out of his burger. "You like to read?"

Lilly nodded. "I read horror books mostly." She looked at me. "Do you like to read?"

"Not as much as I should. If I read more I'd probably read horror books." I said.

She scooped macaroni salad onto her dish. "Wanna come up to my room after dinner and take a look at my collection?"

"Sure." I said.

Mr. Williams  took a bite out of his burger. He turned to me and asked. “How’s sixth grade going Tommy?”

“It’s going okay, pretty boring, but it’s okay I guess.” I said.

He swallowed. “Yeah, I was pretty bored when I was in sixth grade."

“What about you Stacey?” He asked.

“I’m learin' lots of stuff I love it cause I get to see my fweinds every day; Ms. Jackson Is really nice, she bakes cookies for us.” Stacey said with a smile plastered on her face.

Mr. Williams looked at John. "What do you do?”

John opened the bottle of ketchup and squirted some on his burger. “I work at a gas station right now. I’m also, a student studying business.”

Mr. Williams dumped a helping of potato salad onto his plate. “That’s great, where are you from?”

John took a bite from his burger. “I’m from Greensville."

“Ah, rich blood.” Mr. Williams said through a mouthful of potato salad.

John sipped his coke. “Yeah, you could say that. My parents run their own poster company.”

Mr. Williams wiped his mouth. “How come you’re not working for them?”

John looked at his burger as if it could answer the question for him. “I made the mistake of believing family and business could mix and… yeah, it doesn’t work. So, I’m on my own now. My illness has made things even worse.”

There was an awkward pause after John spoke. A frown formed on Mr. Williams's face and his eyes became sullen. “I understand. I used to run a motel with my cousin Jacob, on the outskirts of town, we had a falling out, and I haven't heard from him in five years.” 

John shrugged his shoulders and ate his burger in three giant bites. "I'm sorry to hear that."

Nick swallowed a mouthful of hot dog. “Well, I grew up with Joe and Peg. Joe and I went into the army when we were eighteen, after the war I tried college for a bit, but I wasn’t an excellent student. I grew up working on a farm, so I was able to get plenty of farm gigs. I traveled around a bit and then came back to Burningham. Joe was generous enough to let me have a room for cheap."

Mr. Williams got up from the table. "I was never that good at school either. Does anyone want ice cream?”

“Yes.” We all replied.
 
Grandpa got up from the table “I’ll help you.”

They went into the house after a second then returned. Mr. Williams was holding a container of chocolate ice cream. Grandpa carried bowls and spoons. Mr. Williams handed out bowls of ice cream.

“Can I have freck kin for my friend?” Stacy asked.

“Ummmmm?” He squinted his eyes in confusion.

I flicked her ear, and he laughed it off.

"Wanna come see my collection now?" Lilly asked as she finished the last of her ice cream.

I got up. "Sure."

We headed up stairs to her room. The bed room was decorated with Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails posters, as well as "Friday the 13th" and "Halloween" movie posters. I looked at her bookshelf, I could make out some of the names on the spines. Her shelf contained books by Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, and Harlan Ellison. She stood in front of the case as if she were going to make a selection.

"Do you have a favorite?" I asked.

Lilly scratched her chin. "Maybe, "IT" I had to have my mother sign a permission slip to let me read it. At first, I thought it was because of the violence, after I finished the book I realized it was for another reason.

I scrunched my eyebrows. "What was the other reason?"

She turned to me and pursed her lips. "Eh... you don't wanna know."

She grabbed a book called, "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" "Is that any good?"

"Yes, I read it when I was in second grade, it's a good start if you wanna get into horror." She said.

"Who's your favorite author?" I asked.

"King." A tear drop raced down her cheek. "My father bought me a bunch of his books before he died."

My head dropped. "I'm sorry, how'd he die?"

She wiped the tears away. "Car crash, I like to spend as much time as I can with my grandfather. He's the closest thing I have to a father."

"Tommy it's time to go home!" Grandpa called from down stairs.

I gave Lilly a hug. "It was nice meeting you, your grandfather is lucky to have a granddaughter like you."

On the walk home Grandpa asked. “Care to watch a movie with us, John?”

“I would love to, but I’ve got to get up early tomorrow.” He said.

We watched "Ghostbusters" before bed. That night I was sleeping on the second floor in one of the old guest bedrooms. As I was getting ready for bed, I heard a terrible screaming come from John's room.

Grandpa pounded on his ceiling. "Can you turn your T.V. down, John?"

The screaming was no longer audible. I read the first couple stories from the book Lilly gave me. They scared me, and I was some what afraid to go to sleep. A few minutes later I went to bed, then I was awoken by the infamous bell clang. Wide awake and extremely pissed at my sister's inconsideration. Flabbergasted that this did not wake up my grandparents. I threw my door open and marched into the hallway. I froze in my steps; there was a little girl as young as my sister, at the top of the staircase. She sat on a tricycle, her neck lolled lazily to the side, resting on her shoulder. It looked like someone had wrung the girl's neck. It all felt wrong; cold air kissed my cheeks. Bile crept up my throat; a rancid tang filled my mouth. I swallowed it.

"Hey." I said.

The girl turned to me; she was as pale as a dead fish belly, her eyes glowed like the lit end of a cigarette. She flashed me a broad, toothy smile; the bell clanged once more. The front wheel was dangerously close to the edge. A pair of charred arms shot out from the darkness and pushed her. Thudding filled the air; the chaos came to a crescendo with a crack and pop.

A loud shrieking filled my ears; it felt like needles were jammed into them. I dropped to my knees. My skin was cold, and clammy like I had been in the bath too long. My pulse was racing rapidly, it felt like pins were piercing  my heart. The pain was unbearable. Not knowing what to do I began sobbing, tears and snot cascaded down my face like a roaring waterfall. I curled up into a ball and eventually passed out.

The next morning I woke up in a cold puddle of drool. I gingerly lifted my head up, the suns rays rushed in through the hall window.

"Tommy what happened?!" Grandma said as she rushed over to me.

"I... I was sleep walking." I said groggily.

She pulled me to my feet and scanned me with her eyes. "You have no bruises that I can see. Stay here I'll get you some.. uh I can't recall the name of it."

"Advil." I said.

She went into the bathroom then returned with the pills and a glass of water. "Wash up then come down for breakfast."

During breakfast, I barely touched my eggs, all I could think about was the girl's shrieking and who was behind those awful charred arms.

 

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