Thursday, October 31, 2013

Childhood Chills: The Hag

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 (, and I will add your story to the list!

The Hag
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.

Amazing how—


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. . . .


Jenelle Leanne said...

Ah!!! Creepy!!!

Loved it! :)

Sarah Pennington said...

Oh my pumpernickel, that was creepy. And awesome.

S.F. Gorske said...

Wow, so chilling--I could feel the character's every fear--and with a perfect ending! Eek!

Clara said...

TERRIFYING! I think that the minute "clicks" were more chilling than even the hag! Absolutely wonderful, Anne Elisabeth. I'm glad I made myself read the stories this morning and not tonight!

Jenny Freitag said...

Shoo! Superb! I, too, liked the interjection of the "clicks," giving the sense that you are being dragged inexorably to the end. Spookier still, that awful moment when, having thought for years that you are an adult now and you are superior to the childish fears of the dark, the dark suddenly springs back at you and your brain tells you that nope, the dark is evil, and you will always be afraid of it.

Well done!

Hannah said...

Wow, Anne Elisabeth, wow. You feared HAGS when you were little? Obviously, you read a lot of fairy-tales. :)

Oh, this was SO well-written. I loved the countdown till midnight. So terrifying in its own way.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

Actually, my childhood goblin was a little more specific than "hags." I was TERRIFIED of Mr. Rochester's crazy wife in one of the movie versions of JANE EYRE that I saw bits of as a child. I seriously used to lie in bed, frozen with terror, believing that she and her nurse stood at the foot of the bed, discussing how they would eat me. And if I moved, they would catch me. Kid you not.

But I thought a more generic hag might work better in a short story like this . . . :P

Unknown said...

Happy Halloween!

Anonymous said...

Yiy! Loved it :)

J. L. Mbewe said...

I think I'm torturing myself reading all these creepy stories! Glad my hubby will be home tonight. Ha!

Good and creepy! Thanks for sharing!

Jenny Freitag said...

Seriously. You had a crazy literary night terror. How awesome is that.

...Point of interest, it took me years to catch on that the "crazy wife" in The Magician's Nephew that Uncle Andrew was supposed to keep locked in the attic was a reference to Jane Eyre.


Meredith said...

What a wonderfully chilling story! Like many others, I loved the count-down to midnight and the "clicks". Interesting that the blind hag could see with her sightless eyes. Excellent work.

Bertha Mason was indeed a scary character, wasn't she? One movie version always gives me chills because the actress had a particularly frightening laugh, hollow and very cold. Always felt sorry for that character, though.