Down the Stair

“Shh…iiit,” Cathy sighed as the key slid over the silver knob, again, and thunked into the door. “Goddamnit,” she muttered, fumbling again. She licked her lips and belched. It tasted like coconut. Sharon and Michelle laughed from somewhere behind her.

Cathy was standing in the hall staring at a hole in the floor where the carpet was supposed to be. Sharon pushed past her and floated into the living room with Brandon.

Brandon was complaining about the music being too loud so she turned it up even higher, and Mike threw a pillow at her. Everyone gasped when it knocked over the drink on the table instead. “Oooooooooooooooohh…” everyone said, and laughed. Cathy went to get a towel.

There was a hole in the floor.

A towel hit her face, and slid off. “You’re really going to hate that stain in the morning,” Michelle said. She peered into Cathy’s face. “You don’t look so good,” she said.

Cathy blinked cold water out of her eyes. She could hear the music from the living room. There were dark circles under her eyes. There was a damp towel under her hand. She took it with her when she left the bathroom.

There was a hole.

“Hey, hey, I’m going to make some popcorn, OK?” Brandon patted her on the shoulder, squeezing past her in the hallway and disappearing into the kitchen. In the living room, Michelle and Sharon were looking over a pile of movies spread out on the floor. Mike was pouring vodka into a cup with some juice.

“I need to go to the bathroom.” Cathy muttered, then accidentally kicked the empty popcorn bowl.

There was a hole.

Were those stairs? Cathy leaned closer. She could see the edge of the rug where the tassles spread across the floor. She traced the material to the edge and felt her finger slip into the darkness.

“Oops! Sorry!” Sharon laughed as she accidentally bumped Cathy from behind. For a moment, Cathy teetered precariously on the balls of her feet. And then she was falling, tumbling…

2019 Nightmare Fuel, Day 1

Expressions of Madness: Strange Road

I’ve seen bumper stickers with logos and graphics where it is clear that the creator and user mean them to be recognized, but they simply aren’t unless you are already familiar with them.

But there is a special level of that kind of thing. Today I saw one. It was a large sticker looking something like a police or construction tape with the yellow and black but oversized. It was on an ordinary white vehicle, something like a Ford Fusion, with no other particular labels or markings. The tape on the back read, “VEHICLE SPEED MONITORED BY GPS.”

This tape was also clearly placed over another similar label that clearly had different words on it but which could no longer be read.

My road experience was then followed by me driving behind an incredibly slow driving motorcylist who kept looking left, right, down, and into his mirrors. This gentlemen appeared to be in his 40s and the visible part of his face had the pouty, chiseled look of RoboCop.

Things seem strange on the road today.

Update: Soon after I wrote this, I was pulling out of a parking space when I noticed a car behind me pulling out of his parking spot across from me too close to me for comfort. Turns out, he was driving out of the perfectly good spot he was already parked in, to park in mine and make sure the other guy in the pickup truck couldn’t get the spot first.

Ghost of an Artist

My heart was so far up my throat, I was all but strangling on it. My sweat-slicked clothing was strangling my body with its grip. Ahead I could see a clearing. God, let it be a man made one…

When I stumbled on the grass, and saw that cabin just sitting there, I sobbed in relief. I managed to crawl the remainder of the way to the door, somehow. My legs felt like their strings had been cut. But I managed to haul myself up on the door handle and get it open. I slammed the door behind me and leaned on it, gasping and wheezing.

But I wasn’t expecting what I saw in that beat up, dingy cabin. I’d expecting something more like a hunter’s shack— maybe skulls and deadly looking tools handing everywhere. A rotting and neglected mattress, maybe. Some dusty animal mounts. That sort of thing.

Instead, it was full of modern art pieces. Some very abstract, some more down to earth. Faces, koi flags, that sort of thing.

There was no dust.

There was even an electric lamp, on, in the corner.

Sure, there were some rough wooden pieces, but not the kind made by some rough country guy or gal. The kind made by someone who probably sold pieces at city art festivals. Or like a fake butter churn you’d get to stick in the corner to make your cabin look rustic.

My heart, which I didn’t think could beat any faster, felt like it was about to explode.

I could hear the happy whistling outside.

Oh… oh shit…

This is…

There was movement in the window to my left.

I could see the doll staring in at me.

The doorknob began to twist beside me.

Nightmare Fuel 2018, Day 14 and 15

Expressions of Madness: End of a Dream

An Expressions of Madness/Nightmare Fuel crossover.


Someone once told me that reality is just what we observe. That we determine what is real. And when I say somebody, I don’t really mean someONE, right? I mean those friends that maybe smoke a little much, or are a little too New Agey, or maybe this or that guru’s documentary or some such.

And if they aren’t talking about that in a general way, or maybe they get the vibe you’re not into the spiritual stuff, maybe they start to talk about quantum this or that, about human observation, and about infinite universes based on different choices we make.

I’ve always found this kind of talk far too anthropocentric for my taste, not that I care for it at all.

But I suppose you never know.

Maybe, just maybe, we are just a flock of crows pretending to be human and we’ll just change our minds and fly away someday.

Nightmare Fuel, Day 13

House of Dreams

Thwack-thwack, thwack-thwack.

The rain was torrential, unrelenting. My hands were slick on the steering wheel as I leaned forward, chin over my knuckles. I appeared to be alone except for the car and the rain and the darkness outside. But I knew I wasn’t.

I didn’t glance into the back seat. Do not glance into the back seat.
There was nothing but me, the car, the dark, and the rain. There was the road, too. Void. Not even deer were out, though I was certain the moment I let my guard down one would flash across my vision. I squinted, trying to see past the watershed. My eyes flicking left and right for the signs of anything moving in the brush I couldn’t really see.

After an eternity, I pulled into the gravel driveway. The rain had stopped by then, but fresh enough that the drips were still loud, falling from the huge Victorian house in front of me. Dawn was still hours away. Electric lighting reached out from the windows, hungrily, illuminating the ill-kept yard and gardens just enough to determine that they were in truly sorry shape.
I didn’t glance back at the car as I shuffled up the steps to the front door. I already had what I needed. My fingers slid into the front pocket of my jeans and deftly inserted the key they found into the front lock.

“Did you do it?” she asked, taking my coat.


“Did anyone see you?”

I didn’t answer for a moment. Then, “He’s in the back seat.”

“… I’ll take care of it.”

“Thanks. I’m sorry.”

“You always are.”

I sighed. “Where will she be today?”

“You’ll find her in the woods out back.”

I didn’t go out immediately. Nor did I find my room and sleep. I paced a bit, rummaged through the bookshelves and liqueurs and finally settled on a splash of something that might have been whiskey and flopped down on the soft chair near the stairs. It would only be a couple of hours until dawn. I listened to the lingering drips outside as I sipped my drink and remembering how I’d first found this place so many years ago. In my dreams.

I jolted awake, but as usual, no one was there. The table was empty except for the green mood lamp in the center. Sunlight, weak, was trickling in through the gaps in the heavy curtains.

There was no sound except the soft thumps of my boots on the hardwood floor, even that barely audible. When I opened the front door I was not greeted by the sounds of birds or insects, just the impotent faded glow of a morning that seemed to have died before evening being truly born. The gravel path was empty, and I turned away from it, instead heading around the side of the house and into the woods behind it.

She was small today, I almost stepped on her in the brush. She was the chair of a doll today, broken and forgotten. She held up a mirror, and in the reflection I saw nothing but and endless river of her.

“I’m ready to go back.”

Nightmare Fuel, Days 11 and 12

Mama Always Said

Mama always said that a closed door was another one opening somewhere, that every exit is an entrance. The last time she’d said that was when they were dragging their belongings to the car. Before that, was when she’d come home early that one time. I could see her teeth like crushed eggshells framed in a smile so brittle that even the faintest breath could’ve blown it away. She wasn’t wearing makeup that last time.

I kept waiting for those doors, all those years. I don’t know where Mama saw those doors. After so many times, I wasn’t sure how she kept going and how she could keep saying that same thing over and over again. But then again, I didn’t seem to have any trouble seeing the doors after they were closed. There was always another closed door. Doors that could have been Success, Financial Security, Happiness turned us away towards Failure, Poverty, and Despair.

Probably, she was still saying it when I was grown and gone. What doors did she see, then?

I’m standing at her grave now, and in my mind’s eye I can see her standing there surrounded by doors. But not the kind of doors that just closed again. Wide, open doors.

At least, that’s what I would like to think.

As for myself, there is only another closed door.

Nightmare Fuel 2018, Day 10


Tim pursed his lips, edging them up and down the filter of his cigarette. “Do the stars seem brighter to you guys somehow?” He asked.

“I dunno, because alls I can pay attention to his how you’re sucking that damn thing like a tit.” Joey spat.

There was silence after that. Before, Mike and Sharon might’ve said something. Maybe someone would’ve called someone a slur and someone else would’ve rolled their eyes or there’d have been the sound of a smack and a short hollar of pain. But those days were fading now.

“Do you think we’ll meet again? On the other side?” Sharon said. That’s all Sharon really said, these days. Mike was staring into the black woods, and said nothing. Mike was beyond words altogether, Tim figured.

“God, shut up Sharon…” Joey breathed. He reached over and snatched the cigarette from Tim’s lips and threw it to the ground.

“You shithead, I’ve only got a couple left! Ow!” Tim yelled as Joey smacked him across the side of the head.

“You shut up too! You’ve ‘had a couple’ for weeks now.”
“…I know.”

There was more silence again. Sharon, having said her peace was staring at the horizon. Mike, still looking to the woods. Or maybe, looking at the twisted metal thing resting there.

“I’m sorry. You know, about the car.” Joey muttered. He was closer now, leaning into Tim.

“…I know.”

Together they watched the stars until the sun rose, bleaching them from the sky. And shortly after, they, too, faded into the light.

“I’m sorry, too.”

Nightmare Fuel 2018, Day 9


The water was cool, pleasant. She closed her eyes as it soaked into her, drawing out the heat of the day’s emotions. The water was still and pure, like glass. Charlotte wondered for a moment why she hadn’t spent more time in the lake before. But it was more of a whimsy when she asked herself. She knew the answer. Just laziness, really. The hassle of undressing, then when finished the drying and the redressing and this and that.
She’d spent a lot of time thinking about all the times she’d wanted to slip underneath the surface, just like she was doing now. Her emotions became as calm and her thoughts crystallized. She’d stared out of the window of the estate so many times. Longing, so many times. But always there was an excuse not to indulge.

She felt something stir in the water, then. Opening her eyes, she peered through the muck and the startled minnows to see a flash of pale skin. Felt, more than heard, the murmur of the voices on the surface splashing and playing. The vibration agitated along fine tendrils and set her heart skipping. She felt the pain of old memories weighing down on her. Even so, she was drawn forward, pulling herself along the lake bed by her fingers and toes, the cloud of mud disguising her approach.

Felt the eyes of those mocking girls from long ago, felt the scorn, the pity, the hate, and the disgust. Felt the lake when it had filled her, choked her, and embraced her.

Her fingers dug into the soft silt below. There was a flash, as a white leg, unknowing, swept by her face. She surged forward, snapping down on the soft flesh. The vibrations became screams, the mud became red as she pulled her jaws downward and reached up to sink her claws into the hated vibrations.

Soon, the lake was still again.

Nightmare Fuel 2018, Day 8

Memory of Wood

Mother was gone, the boy knew. The trees had taken her. But he was hungry, and no matter how he yelled or how far he walked, no one came. The phone never worked. She’d run with him when the roots had entered the house. Days before the family had locked themselves inside, watching the television scream about the trees, the trees and roots everywhere. The trees were taking people, eating them.

So they sat inside, and shivered and cried. They’d started to run out of food when Father disappeared. Mother had screamed and cursed his name, then. Screamed about him leaving them.

And now she was gone, too.

The boy was empty inside as he walked in the moonlight. Numb.

Autumn had come while they hid. The trees had lost their leaves, leaving grasping clawing fingers stretching in all directions. But they were still.
Trees died in the cold, the boy thought. They slept. Right?

He walked among them, his heart as cold and empty as the branches. He was near town. Father had taken the car.

By this point, the sky was beginning to lighten.

Suddenly, he saw a silhouette move… one… two… more…human silhouettes against the dawn, moving through the woods.

“Hey!” He called, “Wait up! Help!” The shapes stopped, and turned towards him.

Trees, wearing the clothes of men and women. Awake in the sunlight.
Reaching for him.

Nightmare Fuel, Day 7

Blood Always Tells

She was covered in blood again when she woke. She could tell before she even opened her eyes. The crackle. The cold, wet clothing against her skin.
She didn’t wonder whose blood it was anymore.

Didn’t cry or scream or wonder if she was a werewolf or a vampire, or completely mental.

Those emotions had run their course years ago.

She didn’t wonder about when the police would come banging on her door. They never did.

Didn’t ask why no one else seemed to notice it, not anymore.

Because they did notice it, she saw them notice it, before their eyes slid away. Before they talked to her less. Before the awkward silences, the unreturned calls.

Before the landlord stopped asking for the rent.

She didn’t wonder why no one returned her calls to look at properties.

She didn’t ask why there always seemed to be at least one man with a suit standing beneath the window. There were usually two. There would be three today, she guessed. Maybe four.

Years ago, sometimes she would wake and hear voices arguing and yelling outside. The light of cars coming and going down the gravel driveway.
But that was before.

Her eyes wouldn’t open. That would have panicked her… before. Now she just rubbed the crust sealing her eyes shut. It had been a busy night, it seemed.

She didn’t need to wash the blood from her skin to know it would be whole, unblemished. To know that it wasn’t her blood.

But she would shower anyway. She would put on fresh clothes. She would go out, enjoy some time in the woods, and get some eggs, milk…

She didn’t stop at the library anymore, even though they never charged her for the stained books. Never asked about them.

The house would be clean when she got back. The men in suits never spoke of it.

The Eye of God stared at her, painted in blood above the basin, between the two open windows. After all these years, she could smell the fresh scent of clean clothes and the scent of the woods carried in on the breeze over the scent of the blood. She didn’t wonder about God anymore.

She didn’t cry anymore when she thought about what that meant.

It had been bled out of her.

Nightmare Fuel, Day 6