Happy Halloween, dear imps! As promised, here is my contribution to the Childhood Chills blogging story challenge. For those of you who don't know, the challenge was to write a short story (under 2000 words) about a childhood fear . . . ending on the moment of highest tension and offering no resolution! Just like a classic ghost story. Here is my story dealing with my personal childhood monster. Enjoy!
Did you write a spooky story to share as well? If so, email me the link to your blog post (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I will add your story to the list!
By A. E. Stengl
She lay unmoving in her bed, and the clock clicked the red-digit minutes by, one by one. Only five minutes until midnight. She watched the clock, waiting, counting out seconds with her breaths.
Now it was four minutes to midnight. Still she dared not move.
She knew, somehow, that she must rise. She must get out of this room. It was a simple thing really. Slide her arms out from under the duvet—the heavy duvet that felt like lead atop her, but which was stuffed only with downy feathers and worked with elegant needlepoint. Slide her arms out from under the duvet, fling it back. Swing her legs over the edge of the bed. Her robe lay across the footboard. She could grab it, pull it round her shoulders. It would take only moments, and she would be out of the room, down the hall. Flicking the light switches as she went.
So simple. And yet she lay where she was.
Click. Three minutes now to midnight.
This was ridiculous. There was no reason for her to lie here, staring up at the dark ceiling above. There was no reason for her to watch from the tail of her eye as the clock ran up its tally.
And there was nothing, absolutely nothing for her to strain her ears after. No sound save for the distant susurrus of nightly traffic beyond the complex. Shhh. Shhh. Shhh.
Hush. Hush. Hush.
Stupid. Stupid, stupid. What was she listening for anyway? There was only traffic. Traffic and silence. There was no breathing in the shadows beyond the footboard.
Two minutes to midnight.
Amazing how the shades of evening will render a grown and rational mind childish once more. Amazing how fears, long since believed vanquished, will rise up from oblivion so soon after the sun has set.
When she was a little girl, she knew a blind hag stood at the foot of her bed each night. If she moved, even a toe, even finger, the hag would hear. The hag would turn. And then the hag would devour her. It was beyond rationality, but it was as true, as vital, as real in her brain as any other belief. As real as the changing of seasons. As real as a round earth. As real as God Himself.
As real as the count to midnight.
One minute now.
She should get up. It was such a stupid waste of time to lie here wide awake. There were things she could do with the lights on. Why not, if nothing else, put on the bedside lamp and read? It would be better than staring at the ceiling!
But the hag would see her if she moved.
There was no hag. There never was a hag. Long ago, she outgrew the hag and filed it away along with Santa Claus, fairies, and all those other childhood imaginings, both dear and dreadful. There was no hag waiting, poised, ready to turn and fix sightless white eyes upon her the moment she shifted where she lay. There was no need to hold herself rigid as a corpse.
She should turn on her light. That’s all. Nothing more. Just turn on the light. Slide her arm out, through the darkness, find the switch, and put it on. Just a light. Nothing more. Just light.
She slithered her hand out from under the duvet.
The hag turned her head at the sound.
Click. . . .