A collection of short stories on the dark side
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Maggie eyed her coffee cup with trepidation; Harry was being far too attentive lately. Perhaps it was just her writer’s intuition working overtime, she thought, remembering the many times she had been accused of being overly suspicious.
“Drink up,” said Harry, watching her every move.
Reaching for the cup finally, she thought back to their conversation of the night before. He had been so vehement about her zealousness in bringing her family into her stories. It mattered not that most writers wrote about what they knew best, he still didn’t like the idea of being the victim in most of her stories. She’d laughingly told him that it was the price he paid for being married to a mystery writer. He hadn’t laughed back, though.
Watching him now watching her, she wondered what he was really thinking.
Ruefully, she wondered what he would say if he knew what she was working on now. Could she help it if he lent himself to being a victim rather than a hero or, God forbid, a villain?
Putting the cup to her lips now, she tossed aside any such thoughts to fully enjoy the aroma and flavour of the coffee. The aroma was the same as always, but her tongue detected a bitterness she had never noticed before and she reached for another spoonful of sugar to offset it. Stirring thoughtfully, she tested again before fully drawing in a mouthful of the steaming brew.
Harry straightened in his chair as if waiting for something to happen, a move that did not escape Maggie’s attention. Pushing the cup away without finishing it, she watched for his reaction.
“Drink up, Maggie,” he said, pushing the cup back toward her. ”I don’t make that bad a cup of coffee, do I?”
“I’ve suddenly lost my taste for coffee, thanks,” she replied, ignoring the cup.
Getting up from the table finally, Maggie was not surprised to feel his eyes following her across the room as she took her cup and spoon to the sink. Swishing them under the tap in a half-hearted attempt at washing them, she felt his eyes burrowing through the back of her head and a curious draining feeling rushing to her toes at the same time. The cup and spoon slipped from her hands before she could put them on the rack. She could hear the cup shatter in the sink as she slithered to the floor, but the sound was so far off she thought she must be dreaming, and closed her eyes in response.
She was awake, but her body did not respond to her commands as she lay on the floor. She could feel Harry beside her, even before he attempted to lift her.
“Maggie, can you hear me?,” he whispered into her ear without really expecting a reply. With nothing working, she did not disappoint him.
“Don’t worry, Maggie, this won’t hurt a bit, honest. I just wanted to show you what it’s like when the shoe’s on the other foot for a change. How do you like being the victim – fun isn’t it?”
Countless unprintable words ran through Maggie’s mind, but unfortunately, she was powerless to use any of them on Harry. She couldn’t see anything but blurred shadows through her frozen eyelids, but she was sure Harry was smiling at her.
Wishing he would just get over with whatever he had in mind, she listened for any hint of what that might be.
“Living in your shadow has done wonderful things for my ego, you know Maggie. I almost thought of trying to write like you, but I knew that wouldn’t be possible, so I decided this would be better. You know I’ve always been a do-it-yourselfer, Maggie.
“So. Now that the worm has turned, how does it feel?,” he laughed, picking her up finally.
I wish I could tell you, thought Maggie, as she felt herself being lifted high into the air and wasn’t able to do a thing about it. I wish I could tell you, she silently screamed again as she heard the distinctive creaking of the basement door as he opened it. She felt the air cool and dampen as Harry clumsily carried her threw the doorway and down the steep wooden stairs.
You may be a do-it-yourself Harry, she mused, but you really have no imagination at all. The basement is so trite, Harry, it really is. But then again, who am I to quibble at a time like this?
- 0 -
The Little People
We called them The Little People. Strange creations of cork and wood and imagination. Harmless little souls with no life of their own; no, minds, no will, and no emotion. The stuff of dreams and fantasy, of the wondrous world of a growing boy.
Or so we thought!
It was his grandfather that had gotten him started, showing him how to create characters from twigs and odds and ends they found during their daily walks up at the lake where he rented a cottage every summer. When my son got home, he started doing it on his own. Using the strange characters and fantastic creatures he’d see in the movies he went to a models, he recreated them in miniature using wine bottle corks everyone gave him, molding material from local craft stores, and anything else that came to hand. Soon his bedroom shelves were full of them.
As night fell and silence crept over the landscape, we heard them for the first time. Softly at first, as if testing themselves and the territory around them. Scraping sounds as of things being dragged across a wood floor - but our floors were carpeted.
When I opened our son’s bedroom door to check him as he slept, the noises stopped. All was still as before. I closed it again and waited. A pause, and then it began again. Scrape, scrape went the sound, the undefinable sound of movement where none should be.
I listened at the door, but could not detect just what it was that was happening inside. I opened the door once more, and again I was greeted by unnatural silence. Even my son’s breathing seemed to have stopped in mid-intake.
Puzzled, I closed the door again.
The next night it happened again. Something else was added, though, a sort of sawing sound, yet nothing seemed disturbed when I gave the room my close scrutiny in the morning.
Several nights passed, and each night a new sound was added to the repertoire.
I had taken to a nightly vigil by now outside my son’s bedroom door, determined to find out just what was happening inside. The sounds were louder than usual tonight, and there seemed to be a weird kind of laughter overall, as if they were celebrating a special event.
A loud crashing sound interrupted my thoughts and I pushed open the door without any attempt at muffling the sound it would make.
My brain could not accept what wasn’t there. The bed was gone along with my sleeping son – and so were The Little People.
In their place was a giant model of my son in his bed as I had left him – a model of cork and wood and warped imagination.
They had taken him away, away to a place where I could never find him – and left me with what they thought I cherished most. But what is imagination without soul – just a hollow shell and nothing more.
I wait in this room of cork and wood and interminable silence for their return. For soon they will return and I will be ready for them. For this is their home and he is their God and this is his craven image. And all gods must have a sacrifice.
And I wait.
- 0 –