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

Take You for Granted

There’s a lot of things we take for granted, right?

Like generally, you accept that your car will start, and that most likely your morning will be uneventful— or rather, eventful in the normal way. Traffic, maybe a near collision. Something like that. Something that happens as it usually does with little variation.

Until the car doesn’t start that one day.

But you get it fixed, and soon you just continue assuming it will always start like it should.

You assume you will wake up, and your spouse will wake up, and your child will wake up. Maybe you’ll have breakfast together. Maybe not, depends on how your family runs, right?

Or maybe you don’t have a family. So you don’t expect that some day you would just wake up and… poof… there’s a kid asking you to make breakfast and someone hogging up the bathroom.

Because that wouldn’t make any sense, would it?

But sometimes things happen. Like the car stalling.

Or pregnancy.

Or maybe… maybe one day your body doesn’t work the way it should. And it’s terrible and it sucks, but you take for granted that it’ll get better.

Except it doesn’t. That happens, too.

And sometimes, it isn’t your body that isn’t working the way it should— sometimes it’s your mind.

And sometimes, that get’s better too. Or it doesn’t.

You think about those things, and you shudder in horror. You shudder because you think you take for granted that you’ll live through it. That you’ll experience it… well, maybe not forever, but you really do kind of think of it as forever, don’t you?

You take for granted that you’ll die some day, but you never really think about when. Well, at least, you avoid thinking about it whenever you can.
At least, you think, you will die in a generic way, probably. Maybe you prefer a certain way, but you don’t think about it being sudden or quick, generally.

You put on your shoes every morning and take for granted that you will always keep putting shoes on. Or slippers. Or whatever it is you do each day.
You don’t think about disappearing. Probably, you take for granted that you’ll go to Heaven. Or live another life. Or something. Maybe something like sleep.

You definitely take for granted that you won’t disappear.

At least not soon.

Not suddenly.

Not now.

Nightmare Fuel, Day 5

Left alone

She breathed, alone.

She lived, alone.

She died, alone.

But dying didn’t come quickly, it did not come easily.

What had been the name of her family? She did not quite remember.

But she remembered when the last of them had left. When he had gone from being quick, and fast, and full of energy to when he began to slow and dull and fade… and when he was finally still. And later, when he was bloated and rank. But she still held him within her. She kept him safe. But she could do nothing when the strangers came. When they had finally carried him away in a bag. When others came and took away the bits and pieces of himself that he’d collected within her over the years.

His smell had lingered for a bit, until a ball hurtled through one of her windows. And when another broke, later. But she still imagined she could still smell the traces of him. Traces in the carpet and tattered couch.

Someone had driven nails into her, covering the holes in her wounded flesh with wood and plastic.

She was barely aware anymore. Didn’t think any more of the rot creeping in her bones. Of the kids and druggies and vermin that crept inside her although she did her best to keep them out.

The last had left a fire in her, candles lit on the chandelier while they partied and laughed. Then they had left her. Alone, with the fire. The fire which reached up, touching and exploring her heart.

But still, for now, she breathed.





Nightmare Fuel, Day 4


“Hey, Steve, who do you think this statue is?” She asked, while they were making out under the tree in the cemetery.

“I dunno, some guy who died in World War I?” He wasn’t really bothered by the interruption. They’d been meeting here a long time, and at this point they were familiar enough with each other’s bodies that conversation had ceased being a distraction. Honestly, he really enjoyed it. Caroline was different. Not like the other girls. He looked at her gentle, calm face out of the corner of his eye. Although…

“Hey, want to come back to my place this weekend? My parents are going out to visit a friend a few hours away, and are going to stay the night over there if you know what I mean.”

Caroline sighed into his neck. “What’s wrong with just meeting right here?”

She was always like that.

This felt familiar.

Now that he thought about it, she really was always like that. How many times had he asked her to go somewhere else? He couldn’t quite remember.

“How long have we been seeing each other?” Caroline looked at him when he asked that, her brows wrinkled. She brought a hand up to his face, and peered into his eyes. He began to sweat.

“How long?” he asked, his voice rising. Caroline brought up her other hand, cupping his head as she stared into his eyes. Panic began to bubble up his throat.

“Ssssshhh…” Caroline crooned. “You enjoy being with me, right?” He could feel something being sucked out of him, and his breathing slowed. Caroline pushed herself away from the tree and towards him, pushing him back towards the statue.

“I guess it’s time,” she muttered.

“Time? What do you mean, time?” He was calming down now. He could feel the panic being sucked out of his back.

Caroline didn’t answer, but kept pushing steadily against him, forcing him back until he felt the cold base of the statue against his back.

“I’m sorry, Steve. It won’t hurt, I promise.” He thought he might have felt a prick of fear again, but it was distant now, so very distant. Like his memories. Who was Steve? He couldn’t remember. He stared at the girl pressing him against the frigid, hard surface. Who was she? Something was pulling at his back, sucking at him. Pulling something out through his spine…

Caroline stepped on the pile of clothes as she reached up and touched the statute on top of the concrete base. Was it her imagination, or was it finally getting a little warm?

“Soon…” she whispered. “Just a few more, I think…”
The statue of the fallen soldier had been cast as a daring, brave figure. She glanced at the statue’s face and thought she saw a flicker of fear there, for just a moment, which quickly faded.

“Thank you for your sacrifice.”

Nightmare Fuel, Day 3

Home Is

It knows everything about me. And why wouldn’t it? It’s known me for most of my life.

True, it wasn’t there when I was born— that had happened at a hospital. But I came home to it a day or so later and lived there ever since. The wood was old even then, but not as old as it is now. My hand shakes as I touch the wall, but the shaking has less to do with age than it has to do with fear. It was a beautiful house. Mostly on the outside. Much of the inside as well. But not here. Here the wood was damaged, pitted. Ignored. Forgotten about. The cost was too high to bear, so we rarely spoke of it and even more rarely came up here.

“Michael, sweetie, see you later!” My wife yelled from downstairs. She was leaving for work. Something I hadn’t done in… a while. Not since that day. The day when I became aware. The day I woke up.

The day the house spoke to me.

My wife was still asleep next to me when I first heard the whisper. It isn’t a voice, really. It was instead the sudden realization that the house knew everything about me.

It remembered the secret games I played with my friends. I gasped, sweating. I looked at my wife. The whisper was louder. Could she hear it?

The house told me things. The house told me about the things I said after my grandfather died. The horrible things I had muttered to myself, when everyone else was away at the funeral. How I hated him.

But it knew other things.

It knew about that time, when I’d brought Alison home, while my wife was way enjoying some time with her friends.

The house was everything about me.

It was the first time I’d discovered myself.

It was my father’s belt.

The first time I’d touched a friend.

It was that time I killed my brother’s fish when I was angry, pouring a little bleach into its bowl and lying about it.

It was the time I pretended to not notice invitations.

It was the time lied about donating to charity.

It was me, coming home drunk.

It was the time… I gasped, shuddering.

It felt like an electric current was running through my body, the panic flowing like an electrical surge. Was there a switch, a switch inside me somewhere? I did not know, I could not find it.

I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.

I was in the attic. The mattress was still rumpled from when Alison had come. Careless. As if I’d wanted my wife to find it. I could feel the tears, heavy and hot on my cheeks, streaming into my beard. The window was huge, round, and staring.

The house is an eye.

The house is my father’s belt.

I’m so sorry, dear.

The house watches as I tie the belt.

The house has watched me my entire life.

Nightmare Fuel, Day 2

Keep the Roses

She breathed deeply, taking in the essence of the flower in her hand. Pulled in the air, held it, feeling the particles trapped within. Swirling, as if panicked and seeking a way out, until finally being absorbed by her lungs. She wondered, as she often did, why it wasn’t enough. But she would buy them anyway. She looked at the price, then in her wallet to see if she had enough. Out of the corner of her eye she took in the woman standing near the door. That woman had fallen in love instantly, and was clutching a handful of fat yellow rose blooms. The wrinkles in her face crinkled as she took in the scent. The florist, sensing prey, quickly converged on the scene.

The verbal transaction was ignored. She imagined that woman going home with those flowers. She would take them, and add them to the flowers she’d bought the other day. Maybe she had a table just for the flowers she was collecting. They’d be for her, of course. Different flowers for different moods. Maybe different flowers just on a whim on different days. She’d touch the flowers. She could see the flowers looking at her, with their open keep sockets and wide grins. Then she would feel the flowers on herself. Felt their fingers slide across her skin. She licked her lips, breathed hard. Suddenly she remembered where she was, and her eyes flew open in a panic.

The florist and the woman were still talking. No one else was in the shop. No one seemed to have noticed.

She put down the flowers and hurried out of the store.

That was close.

She was being careless.

She needed to get home. She needed to get home now.
She needed… No, don’t think of that. Do not think of…

And then, she was home. She wasn’t alone. There was a man with her. Who was he? Yes… he had helped her. She was panting, in a panic, when she realized she’d set her wallet down with the flowers. But she had to get home. She licked her lips. He was handsome. She should get her wallet. She needed to get home. He paid her bus fair. He could tell she was in trouble, right? He was forward. He was trash. Why else would he get off the bus with her, a stranger, and lead her to the door? It was alright then, right? He was trash. She breathed him in. The particles floated there, confidently. They didn’t know they were trapped.

She invited him in. Drew him into the living room. The curtains were closed. They were always closed. He sat on the couch, relaxed. Maybe eager. She licked her lips. Was he eager? Maybe he was nervous. She sat next to him. They exchanged words. The words didn’t matter. They never did. They were reflex. Instinct.

She touched him. Caressed his arms, his face. He looked at her, and she could see a moment of fear. She inhaled his scent again. Kissed him. Felt him melt into her. Felt his skin ooze and drip. Felt faint wisps of vapor trickling into her lungs. Eagerly, she gripped his head and breathed in deeper and harder until she finally exhausted herself in a frenzy.

That evening, she spent some time in her study with a glass of wine sniffing the skulls strewn on every surface. She pushed a few aside on one table, and grabbed one off a bookshelf with a complimentary shape and scent and arranged it with the newest one. It was hard to feel regret when she was so relaxed.

Nightmare Fuel 2018, Day 1