This story is posted in Fiction, Horror, and Short Stories.
by Rick Cook Jr
“I hate him I hate him I hate him!” Wanda shouted, punctuating each stomp up the steps with another “I hate him!”
Laughter echoed up, clanging around inside her skull until she shook her head and leaned over the banister at the top of the stairs to cry, “I hope you find a snake and it bites your face!” She stalked off down the hall.
Her mother called from downstairs, “Wanda! You don’t ever-” Wanda slammed her bedroom door, cutting off the remark.
The sound pleased her and she grabbed hold of the knob to yank it open and slam it again. The door wouldn’t budge from its frame.
She screamed her frustration out while pulling on the knob. “Stupid door! Stupid house! Nothing ever works like it’s supposed to in this stupid old dump.” Wanda kicked the doorframe for good measure and heard a soft thump in the adjacent wall.
The baseboard came loose on that wall and a tiny crack of darkness peered up from behind it. She sighed as she kicked it back into place, muttering about the old house again. Only her foot shattered the wood of the baseboard and went straight through to – well, to nothing.
She became convinced in a flash that something was in the darkness of that hole, waiting for her. It had been waiting for years for a silly little girl throwing a tantrum to free it from its prison. If she moved her foot it would strike out, wrap around her ankle, and drag her into a bottomless, black pit.
A second passed, then another, and she couldn’t stand it anymore. She pulled her foot out of the hole she’d created, and… nothing
She found a flashlight in her desk drawer and got down on hands and knees, peering at the hole from a safe distance all the way across the room. She turned on the flashlight and its meager beam dispelled absolutely none of the darkness in that hole.
She crawled closer, an inch at a time, until the pale yellow flashlight beam glinted off something in the hole. She gasped and hid her eyes, then muttered, “Like that’s gonna do any good, ya lump.”
She peeked over her free hand and saw the glint again. A flash of green as the light wavered. She crept ever closer until the hole lit up fully. Inside it was a small magnifying glass, covered in dust and as pale green as old pennies. Its handle was ornately worked with a facet of gems that appeared to be eyes flickering back and forth in the flashlight’s beam.
She reached out, gripped the handle, and pulled it from the hole.
A leather cord was attached to the handle’s base, and wrapped around the leather cord was a small sheaf of yellowed paper.
She excitedly blew the dust from the magnifying glass and left the flashlight on the floor. Wanda unrolled the paper from around the cord and flattened it out. It crinkled and cracked so that pieces of the page flaked away and she tried to handle it with care.
The elegant script in the note was hard to make out and even harder to understand, but it said:
Woe is he that lets this house
What creeps within is no mere mouse
See and make it be
But know it ends in tragedy
She set the note aside and used her dress to wipe away the leftover dust and clean the lens. The lens slightly reflected the wall where the hole was and a shadow seemed to pass over the lens. She looked up and saw nothing, shrugged and went back to cleaning the glass.
The door banged hard and she jumped, crying out.
“Wanda! Open this door this instant, young lady!” The knob rattled and the frame bulged, but the door did not budge.
“I can’t, Momma, the stupid thing’s stuck again.” She got her to feet and shoved the magnifying glass under her pillow, tossed a shirt over the hole in the wall, and sat down upon the bed right before the doorframe finally shifted and the door came swinging open, followed by her stumbling mother.
“Blessed old house,” her mother grumbled. She stood up to her full height and stared down at Wanda on the bed. “I sent your brother and his friends outside to play.”
She’d forgotten all about how much she hated her brother. “So?”
“So you shouldn’t let him get to you like he does.”
“But Momma, I just wanted to go with ‘em!” She found herself dangerously close to a second round of angry, hot tears just thinking about her stupid brother and his stupider friends.
“You’re too young and they’re too rowdy.”
“No buts, young lady. If I ever hear you wish ill on your family like that, you’ll never leave this room again, do you understand?” She had placed her hands on her hips. Wanda sighed.
“Yes, Momma. I’m awful sorry. I just got upset is all.”
Her mother stared around the room. “And pick up your clothes.”
“And for the love of- You’re wasting the battery in this.” She leaned down to pick up the flashlight and through Wanda’s head flashed an image of a giant hand reaching out of the hole to grab her mother’s head. She squeaked. There was no other word for it. Squeaked. Like a mouse.
The flashlight clicked off in her mother’s hand and she placed it on the bed. Shaking her head, she turned to leave the room. “I swear, Wanda, you could lose a horse in this room.”
She stalked out and began to close the door, then thought better of it. “I’ll have your father deal with the doorframe when he gets home. Leave it open for now, sweetie.”
“Yes, Momma.” Her mother disappeared down the hall and Wanda listened for the fading footsteps down the stairs before she reached under the pillow again.
Out came the green magnifying lens and she drew it up to her face, peered through the lens like it was a monocle, and gasped.
Inside the lens the dingy old room appeared new, festooned with velvet draperies and gold scrollwork on the pillows. She pulled it from her face and stared around the old room, then back through the lens again. Still the plush carpet and the delicate curtains. A shadow loomed and Wanda turned to the window. Staring with one eye in the lens and the other in the regular old boring world made her dizzy and she clapped a hand over the free eye. Where the window should have looked down upon a dusty yard overgrown with weeds and brambles was a lush garden filled with pink and purple flowers, roses as red as the sky at dusk, a flowing creek dancing with fish.
In the midst of all this lush greenery were three handsome young boys in princely fashion, darting to and fro in a game of tag. One of them caught sight of Wanda and she tugged the lens down and out of sight.
It was just her brother and his stupid friends. But how dashing they seemed through the green lens!
Her brother sneered and went back to chasing his friend. Wanda pulled away from the window and ran to the bathroom. Inside she held the lens up and stared at the most beautiful little girl she’d ever seen. And yet it was still Wanda. Somewhere in that preening, perfect face staring back at her was the girl Wanda had always been. Only better. And happy.
She plucked on her kinky hair and watched the girl in the mirror dance a brush through silken locks. She tried to smile and fell in love with the perfect white teeth radiating back.
A cry from outside broke her reverie and she dashed to the little bathroom window to stare out. One of her brother’s friends was on the ground, wailing, holding his leg. The others were at his side, tugging him to his feet. Her mother came rushing out the back door and Wanda couldn’t help it.
She peered through the green lens at her mother and found a queen, her graying hair done up in a tight bun, her gown festooned with gems and lace.
But something was in the rose bushes, and as she stared through the lens it stirred, shrieking and flinging claws. It burst from the bush at her queenly mother, and just before it could strike Wanda closed her eyes.
And nothing happened. She lowered the lens and peeked out. Her mother hustled the boy inside, lecturing about playing near the dry creek bed. Her brother and his other friend followed.
She lifted the lens to her face again and stared at the bush where the nightmare creature had jumped from. It was still there, sniffing the ground, looking like a mutant hyena.
It stared up at her and howled. The bathroom door thumped behind her and she turned, screaming.
“Wanda, what are you doing?” her brother cried. She almost peed herself for her stupid brother!
She hid the lens behind her back and tried to think up a lie, but he ignored her and opened the medicine cabinet. The rubbing alcohol was inside. Of course.
“What happened?” she asked.
“He tripped and cut his leg. No big deal, ya big crybaby.”
“Who’s crying?” she shot back.
He ignored her and ran back downstairs. She stared at the empty doorway for a long time, and became convinced that the thing she had seen in the garden was in the room with her now. Snorting around, sniffling for her scent. Its claws would be clacking along the tile. Any second now its hot, rotting breath would blow her hair from her face.
She shuddered and ran back into her bedroom, slamming the door once again. She didn’t care if it never opened.
She hid under the covers, but the longer she stayed there the more convinced she became that the thing was on the bed. She could hear the sounds of playing downstairs again. She would not cry out for her mother!
She sat up in bed and stared around the room. Nothing was here. Nothing.
She stared down at the green lens in her hand. It couldn’t hurt to look again. Surely it couldn’t. She just wanted to see her own beautiful face again.
She held the lens up to her eye. A hot, rancid snort exploded in her ears, and she screamed. Before she could even think to close her eye again, her scream was cut short as jaws closed in around her neck.
So this was a little different than my usual short stories and writing prompts. There’s this crazy awesome thing going on at the Penny Arcade Forums where two forums are battling it out, using each others’ creative works as ammunition. I was the first victim in this epic battle by Laura Wilson for my story St. John’s Scorpions. As a side note, I was victimized with art a second time for my story The Last Ride by someone else.
Anyway, this short story was a retaliatory strike against Laura using a piece of concept art from her own forum topic for art:
Hope you enjoyed, and I really hope you go plaster Laura with tweets and such on her various deviantartumblrtwits!
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