(Edit) This will be published later this month in the Best of FridayFlash V.2
I wanted to introduce my new website properly. What better way to do that than by participating in the #FridayFlash. Here is the story I wrote earlier today.
By Jason Warden
Frozen to my pillow, unable to sit up and scream for my mother, I instead lay still and call out for her silently with my mind. I’m answered by silence; in it I shake and pull the Spiderman blanket up higher. I imagine that under them I’m safer, smaller, a less satisfying meal and therefore less likely to be torn apart. Images of the dream, the teeth like shining steel traps, the bony rotten finger, the thing behind the curtain, slowly, silently, they begin to lose context. I call for Dad, but he sleeps hard, mom says it’s because he works too much.
Finally, when the dream is nothing more than pictures seen through bulletproof glass, I eased my feet from under the covers onto the floor. It’s cold, smooth like glass, and I feel it attempt to freeze my feet in place. The fear threatens, but I banish it by looking around the room. It works, well, almost. The moon is bigger, it fills the window, and its light is brighter than I’ve ever seen. It shows me the way out, but its brightness comes with a price. The shadows behind the light are darker, more malicious. I can feel and hear my heart beating too fast in my chest. Even though the nightmare that woke me has fallen apart, it’s of little comfort, because now it seems whatever it was has followed me home.
I fix my eyes on the door of my room. It sits there, only a few steps away. I feel, rather than see the shadows move. I turn in a circle and watch as they become a pack of wolves. They huddle and begin to flank me. I step toward the door and they disintegrate, and once more become only spots of darkness. I force my feet to move, reach the door and look back to see the shadows have become a vampire with its cape thrown wide. He has no face, only darkness, but with his arms spread I can almost hear his words as he begs for an embrace. My paralysis breaks and I run from the room not wanting to see what he might become if I stay.
The hall leading from my room is dark, only the window on the outside door cast any light. It is small and the glass is smoked so that barely any light gets in. I’m in the hallway already embracing the safety of my parent’s bed, and thanking god for the lack of light when I see him. Beyond the door, as if created by the light of the small window, there is a man, his hat is askew on his head and it covers his face. If he has one, my traitorous mind says. I can’t move. Behind me, the shadows are silent, but I can feel the darkness crawling toward me. I risk a look back, and find my room has gone dark. Only a fraction of the light that had been there still is. It should have made me feel better, that lack of light, but I can see the black moving, slowly, as if it wants to camouflage its menace.
I turn back, already moving, and find the man squatting, he blocks the path to my parent’s door. I try to scream, but my mouth is too dry, only a squeaky cracked imitation of the terror I feel escapes.
I feel the cold of the shadow and can see it looming over me from behind as it passes out of my room. As it wraps its long arms around me on either side, swallowing me in the black, I feel its icy breath on my neck. It’s too much, I don’t think, I run. I skirt around the hunkering man, think I’m safe, and then something reaches out. It slams into my ankle bringing a bright flash of pain. The fall is short, like me, and I sprawl out on my stomach. I roll over, the panic spurs my movement, and I have only a second to see it before he falls on me. I feel another of those flashes of pain, this one both sharp and dull. I can feel the blood as it pools in my eye below where it hit me. Then I’m fighting him, kicking and flailing and find my voice has returned. I scream things I don’t understand, words I’ve heard older boys use. Words I know my mother doesn’t approve of. I’m amazed when I feel him weaken. The blows are working, so I scream louder, using those words kids whisper when teachers’ backs are turned, and he draws back further. Then, all at once, he is off me, and I feel hands pulling me up. I try to fight and continue to scream, but quickly my arms are restrained and a light flashes on. It assaults my eyes, forcing them closed. I feel powerless, but then I hear my mother’s voice, close, in my ear. I squint through the light and see her face next to Dad’s. They are holding me. They both look as scared as I feel. I grab her tight, the panic and fear returning, replacing my rage.
Dad has a napkin and he is blotting the cut above my eye. He looks at it seriously before wiping away the rest of the blood that has run down my face. He turns his face toward mine and speaks softly.
I can’t even try to answer, the words want to come out all at once and become one with my tears. I turn, point, and see the coat rack. Dad’s collection of hats is strewn across the floor. Under one of the hats, the one with the curved brim, the one HE had been wearing, I see a hook is broken off the coat rack. The curve of it smiles at me from beneath the hat’s brim. I shudder and turn away.