Flash Fiction: Late and Solo

Posted: September 9, 2015 in Fiction
Tags: ,

Hey All,

I know it’s been awhile (holy crap…two months?!), but I’ve been exceedingly busy with my day job. Anyway, there was no Flash Fiction Challenge over at terribleminds this past Friday, so I decided to get down something that’s been in my head for the last week or so. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get more stories out during this last quarter of the year, but for now, enjoy “Sermon”:

    “And don’t let him have any candy tonight. He’s been stuffing himself full on it for the last week since Trick-or-Treat – I don’t want him having the ‘sugar pukes’ on you.”

    Beth laughed softly and genuinely at Mr. Pogue’s joke. “I’ll be sure to stand stalwart against his attempts, Mr. Pogue.”

    The older man chuckled and paused in front of the hallway mirror, running his fingers through his blonde hair and adjusting the collar of his shirt. He grabbed his keys and wallet from the bowl that sat on the nearby table, before half turning to face the teenager where she stood in the door to the living room. From behind her, the sound of cartoons on the television drifted into the hallway. “I should be back by eleven,” Mr. Pogue said. “If I’ll be late, I’ll give you a call and pay you double your hourly rate, Beth.”

    The young woman blushed softly, her mind immediately jumping to the obvious implications of Mr. Pogue’s date making him late to return home. “Sure, sure,” she replied, brushing a lock of her long, red hair back behind her ear. “Have fun tonight, Mr. Pogue.”

    He smiled, nodded to her, and stepped out the door.

    Beth crossed and locked the door behind him, watching her employer pull out of the driveway through the small window in the door, before turning and heading back into the living room. On the couch sat Elijah, Mr. Pogue’s five year old son, snacking on some vaguely healthy vegetable chips while he watched cartoons. Though Beth had been babysitting for Mr. Pogue for close to three years now, she’d never met Mrs. Pogue, having only seen the tawny-haired woman in photos. Her heart felt heavy as her thoughts to turned to Mr. Pogue’s late wife, watching Eli from the doorway. What little she’d heard from her parents and from Mr. Pogue over the years, it seemed that after Eli had been born, she’d entered into a bad period of postpartum depression. Even with treatment, Mrs. Pogue hadn’t been able to get past it – her parents mentioned rumors of hallucinations and nervous breakdowns – culminating in her suicide not long after Elijah turned one. The thought of that little boy growing up without ever having really known his mother weighed on her for a bit, as it did from time to time, but over the years Beth had learned to deal with the sadness of that thought and it usually passed quickly now.

    She crossed to the couch and sat down next to Eli, settling in for what she figured would be an hour or two of him watching cartoons and possibly wanting to play before she got him into his pajamas and put him to bed. Sure enough, an hour and a half later, she was helping him strip out of his clothes and clamber into the onesie he wore to bed. As she snapped up the buttons on the front, Beth felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up and a chill run down her spine. Like the heaviness that weighed on her heart at times, these too were sensations that she’d grown used to while working in Mr. Pogue’s house. It wasn’t always while she was helping Eli dress, but the feeling of being watched or her senses pricking up for one reason or another, was so regular that Beth had come to expect it every time she walked into the place.

   A small, superstitious voice always whispered in her head that it was Mrs. Pogue watching her care for her son, but Beth always pushed that thought to the back of her mind. It was silliness. It was probably something like nearby power lines or some such other mundane cause, not ghosts.

    Half an hour after she put Elijah to bed, while she was watching some reality show about twenty-somethings sharing an apartment, Beth’s phone dinged.

    The kid down? Read the text from her friend, Jenny.

    Yeah, Beth replied.


   Less than a minute after Jenny’s second text there was a soft rapping at the front door. Smiling softly, Beth rose and answered the door, finding Jenny grinning toothily on the other side. “When’s the handsome widower supposed to be home?” the raven-haired girl asked as she stepped inside.

    “Keep it down, Eli’s sleeping,” Beth replied as she closed the door. “And Mr. Pogue isn’t supposed to be home until eleven, so you have to be gone by ten. And don’t call him that.”

    “Why? Because you want to deny your love for him?” Jenny asked wickedly as she moved into the living room ahead of Beth. “I keep telling you: you should just greet him naked when he comes home some night. What man in his right mind could resist your seventeen year old body?”

    Beth blushed. “God…I tell you about one steamy dream that I have and you never let me live it down,” she grumbled.

    Jenny flopped on the couch and smiled innocently up at her friend. “What? Me? I would never!

    Beth lightly backhanded Jenny’s upper arm as she sat down next to the raven-haired girl on the couch. “Bitch,” she said with a grin and a roll of her eyes. “So, what do you want to do? This show isn’t bad, but Mr. Pogue has some of the premium cable channels…”

    “Actually,” Jenny interjected, opening her purse as Beth trailed off, the redhead flipping through the on screen guide. She withdrew a small, clear baggie with a half-dozen white pills inside from her purse, crooking a grin at Beth. “I was thinking of going for a ‘trip’, if you know what I mean?”

    “What?” Beth looked at her friend, then down at the baggie. “What are those?”

    “Major Tom,” Jenny replied. “I got ‘em from Dave’s cousin’s friend. It’s supposed to be really cool.”

    Beth frowned. “I…I don’t know. I mean, Eli’s in his bedroom–”

    “Sound asleep,” Jenny pointed out. “You said so yourself. And it’s not like acid, you don’t completely lose touch with reality…from what I hear. Come on, B! I don’t want to do it alone.”

    Beth bit her bottom lip as she gazed at the little, white pills. “Why…why don’t I watch over you while you do it…?”

    “Because it’ll be more fun if we do it together, Beth.” Jenny pushed out her lower lip and looked at her friend with big, puppy dog eyes. “Pleeeeeeeease?

    Beth took a breath and then let it out with a deep sigh. “Fine,” she said, holding her hand out. “How many do we take?”

    A giant, toothy grin plastered itself on Jenny’s face as she fished two pills out of the baggie. “One each. Here.” She placed one of the pills in the palm of Beth’s hand. “On three? One, two, three!”

    The two teenagers popped their respective pill into their mouth, swallowed, then looked at each other. “H-how long does it take?” Beth asked.

    “At least a few minutes. That’s what Bill, Dave’s cousin’s friend, told me.” They sat next to each other looking around the room for a moment or two before settling into the couch and watching TV as they waited for the drug to take effect. Beth had almost begun to think the drug wasn’t working when she glanced at Jenny and a vibrant scarlet halo outlining the other girl’s profile as she watched the screen.

    “Holy shit!” Beth gasped, giggling despite herself.

    “Wha–?!” Jenny began to say before looking at Beth and making a surprised, inarticulate sound of her own. “Fuck me! You’re glowing, B!”

    The two teenagers giggled near uncontrollably as they inspected the shining auroras that hovered around their forms, experimentally poking fingers into the radiating colors and watching how the colors mixed and changed hue in the affected areas. After a few moments, this normalized and Beth’s attention was drawn elsewhere as she looked at the lights and the TV. She got up from the couch and approached the standing lamp in the corner of the living room, entranced by the sparkles and the shimmering haze of some undefinable color that surrounded it.

    “What? What’s over there…?”

    She heard Jenny’s voice distantly and didn’t give much attention to it as she inspected the lights. Beth gasped softly in silent realization as an idea struck her. Elijah! She made her way down the hallway toward the boy’s bedroom, for some reason trying to suppress an idiotic grin on her face as she contemplated what Eli would look like through the lens of the drug coursing its way through her awareness. She watched her own hand with hyperfocused attention, observing it reach out and grasp the doorknob, turning the metal protuberance and pushing the wooden barrier inward.

    It took her eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness within the room, but when they did she saw Eli standing up on his bed, facing a corner of the bedroom, gently and silently bouncing himself on the mattress. Instinctively, her eyes followed the direction of the boy’s gaze and Beth fell back a step, a cry of surprise and terror dying in her breast. In the corner stood an inhumanely thin figure, so tall was it that it had to bend a good three feet of its upper torso against the ceiling, while its form was jet black – almost blending completely with the shadows in the room – except for its face. Its face, which could only vaguely be called that, was dark beige in color and ornamented by two dark holes and a thin, lateral line. The figure sinuously twisted its face toward Beth as the door to the bedroom opened and a beat after that, Elijah looked over his shoulder at her.

    The scream that had died within her breast revived itself as the little boy looked at her, his eyes dark, shadowy pits that had small, arachnid forms crawling out of them and over his cheeks and forehead.

   Beth raced back down the hallway, her breath coming in panting gasps as her scream echoed through the house. She came to a stop, within the living room, her panicked eyes rolling around in search of Jenny, an instinctual impulse driving her to find safety in numbers.

    “I understand,” she heard the other young woman say from the kitchen. “This is your sermon.”

    “Jenny?!” Beth called, unable to keep the terror from her quaking voice as she crossed the living room toward the doorway into the kitchen. Jenny came into view standing in front of the sink, a butcher’s knife held tip-first against the hollow of her throat, the fingers of one hand wrapped around the length of the handle while the palm of the other was pressed against the butt of it. A small bead of scarlet blood welled up beneath the sharpened tip, rolling its way down her throat toward her collar bone.

   “Jenny…?” Beth said weakly as she came into the doorway, drawing in a short, frightened breath through her nose as she did so.

    A few feet in front of Jenny, stood a tawny-haired woman, her hair heavy and wet and clinging to her head and bare shoulders. She stood naked, a puddle of water collecting around her feet on the linoleum floor of the kitchen, while rivulets of blood rolled down her palms and fingers from her wrists.

    “It all ends in pain and nothingness,” the teenager said, smiling softly. “Best to end it.”

    Jenny nodded to the woman – a calm, beatific expression on her young face – before she slammed her palm against the butt of the butcher knife, driving the blade deep into her throat and neck. A wet, choking gasp came from the teenage girl a second before her body collapsed limply to the kitchen floor, blood running quickly from the wound in her throat.

    Beth cried out in horror and took an unthinking step toward her friend, wanting to help her, but was stopped as the naked woman slowly turned her head to face Beth. A chill ran down the teenager’s spine as she recognized the woman from the few photos she’d seen.

    It was Mrs. Pogue.

    The woman’s mouth opened and opened, stretching to an inhuman limit before thin, spidery fingers with long, uncut nails slipped out of the gaping aperture and gripped the corners of her lips. Beth screamed in mindless terror before taking a step to turn away from the kitchen, but as she did so, she saw the beige face and jet black body of the strange figure emerge from the hallway into the living room, accompanied by the patter of small feet on the hallway carpet. Panicking, her breath coming short and quick, her head beginning to feel light, Beth turned and ran toward the door that led to the backyard, but found it locked or jammed.

    “Beth?” The little boy’s voice cut through her panic, but instead of calming her it only focused her mind on the horror of the current moment. She looked over her shoulder and as saw the five year old standing in the doorway to the hall, the dark figure with its mask-like face looming over him as it stared at her. “Beth, what’s going on?”

    He sounded so innocent, so confused and somewhat scared. But Beth couldn’t help but be revulsed by the tiny, black spiders crawling out of the deep, night-black pits of his eyes and scurrying about his face. To her left, in the corner of her vision as she stared at the boy, she saw a wooden chair and grabbed it without thinking. Lifting the piece of furniture, she whirled and slammed it against the window that lay on the other side of the backdoor. The bottom pane shattered almost completely, and the top pane lost the bottom frame, leaving jagged glass hanging down. She heard Elijah scream and paused a moment to see something beginning to crawl and worm its way out of Mrs. Pogue’s monstrously gaping mouth, before Beth gripped the window sill, hissing at the pain of her palms being cut and sliced by broken glass. She lifted herself and slid the her head and torso through, wiggling some to work her body through the window.

    Beth heard the movement of wood on wood as the upper pane worked loose. Fire and terrible pain erupted through her back and belly a second later. A small, dispassionate voice in the back of her mind knew it was the window pane, but Beth merely heaved a weak sob of pain, feeling blood well up in her throat and dribble out past her lips as her vision quickly faded to black.


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