I Know What You Did Last Halloween: Part 2

“Like, I Know What You Did Last Summer? Hmm, sounds original.” Mike crams the last Krispy Kreme donut into his mouth without offering me a single bite, but it’s probably better that I don’t start my morning with a pound of sugar on my stomach.

Especially after that email.

I need absolute clarity of mind to get through this day. And not only because of the tedious work I do as an Editorial Assistant—tracking submissions, ensuring that authors meet journal guidelines, pushing automated messages through the workflow, processing invoices, not nearly enough copyediting of manuscripts, which was what I was expecting when I initially went in for the interview, the impression I still had when I accepted the offer fourteen months ago. I should’ve quit then. After Sam, it’s a wonder I haven’t bailed before now.

I pour myself a mug of lukewarm coffee from the pot and try my best to refrain from gagging when I put it to my lips. It’s bad enough that Dana, the office assistant and someone else who apparently hates her job, still hasn’t restocked the sugar and cream in the breakroom—which were the two things that made the coffee somewhat bearable—but for God’s sake, when will we ever replace that aged coffee maker? It’s seen a better day, and I can’t afford to buy Starbucks every day just to keep my head on straight whenever I receive a cryptic message that makes my hairs stand on end.

Mike finishes his breakfast with a large, audible gulp and says, “I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s probably some internet troll too obsessed with the holiday. Can’t even come up with a better prank.”

“In any other situation, I’d agree with you, but—” I lower  my voice when our co-worker Trisha walks in. “I did do something last Halloween. We both did.”

“Can we not talk about this here?” Mike snaps under his breath.

“What are you two whispering about?” Trisha lifts the lid to the empty donut box, frowns, and immediately whips her head toward Mike.

“Early bird,” he says, smiling.

“I’m the one who bought the damn donuts,” she says, clearly unamused. She snatches the box off the counter, stomps onto the petal controlling the lid to the trash can so hard it cracks, and stuffs box inside.

I wait for her to leave, but she lingers, obviously more interested in our conversation than what to eat for breakfast. She reinserts herself into the space between me and Mike and reaches over his head for a bag of pretzels and a granola bar from the cabinet behind him, shooting me a death glare at the same time.

It’s no secret she has a thing for Mike and thinks I’m creeping in on her territory. Before me, it was Sam.

I guess she doesn’t have to worry about that competition any more. A year later, and the same flowers still enshrine Sam’s abandoned desk. Plastic—giving off the illusion of immortality. Too bad Sam wasn’t so lucky.

A part of me wonders why the company hasn’t hired a replacement yet, why, even though I push it in every afternoon at five before clocking out, her chair is still slightly pulled away from her desk every morning as if expectant of her return.

Every morning the same. This morning no different. In fact, this morning, the chair was pulled all the way out, and turned facing the aisle, as if someone had been sitting there and had briefly stepped away.

Which is why I’m currently hiding out in the breakroom with Mike, the only other person who—before the email—knows what really happened to Sam. The only other person who can assure me that it won’t be Sam who comes back to that chair.

I admit the breakroom, which is more like a breezeway that connects the office suite to the conference room next door, is the wrong place to be discussing our previous indiscretion. There’s too much foot traffic. Anyone can hear us. And since our current predicament is that someone else in fact did hear us, or saw us, or knows something about what we did, enough to send that email, I have to be careful with my words.

Everyone’s a suspect. Even—though I hate to think it—Mike.

When Trisha is gone, and I’m sure she’s out of earshot, I say, “So you didn’t get anything.”

“No.” He exhales loudly through his nostrils. “And I’m sure it’s nothing. You’re overeating to something that’s just a coincidence and nothing more.”

“Fine.” I swiftly leave before he can say anything else. Like I’m just being a woman. Curse our overeating, overemotional selves. Calm down. It’s only a coincidence, I repeat. It’s more settling on my stomach than the former, which causes the bad coffee to bubble and rise.

But I’m still not convinced, and when I return to my desk—directly across from Sam’s—I’m even less convinced. Propped on my keyboard, carefully balanced between the Q and A rows, is a handwritten note. I look to Trisha, who sits next to Sam. The chick is always scowling, but this time, it isn’t at me, because Mike, emerging from the breakroom, has the same look on his face. Four of us share one of five workstations in the suite—one that still has friendly reminders of different processes written on scattered Post-its by the fourth and only absent member of our group.

However, we all feel her presence now. Because those are Sam’s swirly squiggles on the folded sheet of copy paper in front of my computer. They form two words:

“I know.”

So much for coincidences.

I Know What You Did Last Halloween: Part 1 (Intro)

Fall—or for those who like to be fancy, autumn—the season most people look forward to. The cool, crisp breeze in the morning, yet the sun still warms you by the afternoon. Harvest colors and flavors. Cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, pumpkin. Boots, scarfs, and sweaters. Decorations beginning to crowd the store shelves. A pleasant reminder that the holidays are right around the corner.

It’s a season everyone loves. Everyone, that is, but me.

In fact, recently, I’ve come to dread it. I see it now only as the anniversary of what happened to Sam. Something I care not to remember, but as my luck would have it—it seems—fate has other plans.

It’s too early in the morning, and still much too dark in my room for me to be scrolling through emails on my phone. But one email in particular, from an address I don’t recognize, glares at me, and it has me freaked. The longer I stare, reading it over and over again, the brighter my phone’s backlight seems to become. Even when I dial it back to its lowest setting, it still pierces my retinas with seven simple words that, although  nonsuspicious on their own, when strung together, may potentially derail this fantasy of a life I’ve spent the last year concocting for myself…

“I know what you did last Halloween.”

#AtoZChallenge A Drabble for a Tag: Conclusion – X, Y, and Z

X Marks the Spot

Mel

“I think, therefore I am.” Five little words to explain human existence. It’s become my mantra as I meander down the empty road.

I am still flesh, blood, bone; still mind coherent; still…human.

Carol didn’t give me a chance to explain. But she will. I saw a man in the car with her before it sped off, which can only mean Mr. one-night-stand with the Victorian era house is real.

See, I remember. Humanity still exists in me.

When I get there, I’m not alone. Others like me—humans still—surround the house, all interested in the treasure hidden inside.


YOLO

They’re chained to the wall—mere inches from each other—Grace and the woman I thought I saw him murder…

Except, they’re different. Pallid, rotten skin. Moaning incoherently…

“I thought I could use Grace to save the ones that don’t turn back in the day…” he says.

Is that what Mel has become? I wonder.

He points to the woman. “What you saw me stab her with was a serum.”

At the restaurant, she was beautiful—flushed cheeks, hair the color of sand, deep brown eyes—I was envious of her. “So it works!”

He shakes his head. “Only temporarily.”


Zombie Apocalypse

Mel for only half a day? Can our friendship withstand it?

No time to wonder. There’s a clawing and ripping at wood. The drain of color from his face and eyes tells me what we both fear, and when the basement door is ripped open and flung to the bottom of the staircase, he slams the door to our tiny room and locks it.

But are we really safe? Confined in this tight space with two hungry zombies while an army beats tirelessly on the other side.

Hours from morning, and even then, only two of them will become human…

—Nortina


The A to Z Challenge is over, and today is actually reflection day, but I still have to finish my 26 drabbles (100-word stories) using some of my favorite unused or underused tags.

Today’s conclusion was brought to you by the tags, “X marks the spot,” “Yolo,” and the tag that inspired the whole story, “zombie apocalypse.”

I hope you enjoyed! I left the ending open ended intentionally. Do they survive to the day? Interpret it how you will.

#AtoZChallenge A Drabble for a Tag: Werewolf

“I was a doctor before Grace,” he says.

Grace, who is real. An elderly woman who came to his office one day with a dire problem.

“I thought it was an advanced form of dementia. Then she invited me down here—” We stand in front of the obscure door at the back of the basement, where he finally acknowledges the knocking that has haunted me since I was last here.

“I watched her transform.”

“Into what?”

“They’re like werewolves,” he says, “except instead of a full moon, it’s every night. And they’re still—”

“Human?”

He nods. “At least, a version…”

—Nortina


The A to Z Challenge is back, and this year, I’m giving you 26 drabbles (100-word stories) using some of my favorite unused or underused tags.

OK, so I fell behind, but I won’t leave you hanging! Thursday’s tag was “werewolf.”

Stay tuned for the conclusion, “X,” “Y, and “Z” tomorrow!

#AtoZChallenge A Drabble for a Tag: Vulture

Mel

The high doesn’t last.

Yes, in that way it is like sex. The pleasure shoots you to the moon—until you orgasm, come crashing down, back to earth, where you roll over and realize the man lying in your bed is a rotting corpse.

A zombie.

Or vulture, as they prefer. It sounds less “Night of the Living Dead,” less “Give me your brains.” Although, we still want brain…

After he’s had his fill, he leaves with half my spleen and small intestines dangling from his mouth.

All I can think about is what to eat next…

or who…

“Carol.”

—Nortina


The A to Z Challenge is back, and this year, I’m giving you 26 drabbles (100-word stories) using some of my favorite unused or underused tags.

Today’s tag was “vulture.”

Stay tuned for “W” tomorrow!

#AtoZChallenge A Drabble for a Tag: U.S. Army

He’s not hysterical like me, ready to call the police, the national guard, the army…

My mind races a mile a minute with scenarios as I wrap the towel around my torso, hands shaking. Are there more out there like Mel? Is this an epidemic? Who else knows?

His face remains expressionless, a mild contentment, as if he’s unsurprised, as if he already knows what’s coming.

Finally I ask him who he is. I ask him about Grace, the house, the dead woman in his trunk. His answer is even more terrifying.

“She’s not dead,” he says. “Well, not completely.”

—Nortina


The A to Z Challenge is back, and this year, I’m giving you 26 drabbles (100-word stories) using some of my favorite unused or underused tags.

Tuesday’s tag was “u.s. army.”

Stay tuned for “V” later tonight!

#AtoZChallenge A Drabble for a Tag: Til Death Do Us Part

If you’ve been following this series since the beginning, then you know I opened it with a scene that left you (and even me) with a lot of questions. Since then, the story has slowly started to come together as I’ve picked up the pieces of the puzzle that led to that infamous shower scene (B through S). Now we’re back at the beginning, continuing where “A is for Accessory to Murder” left off…

“Carol.”

I don’t respond. Am I safer with him on the other side of this shower curtain?

Then I see Mel, a shadow of her former self, alive but not, inviting me to taste her…

This is far less gruesome.

Suddenly the curtain is ripped back, the rails screeching like nails against metal in agony. I slip and reach for anything to break my fall. He snatches up my arms, puts them at my sides, looks me over, spins me around.

“What the hell—”

“I’m making sure you haven’t been bitten or scratched.”

“Why?”

But I already know the answer.

Nortina


The A to Z Challenge is back, and this year, I’m giving you 26 drabbles (100-word stories) using some of my favorite unused or underused tags.

Today’s tag was a bit of a stretch: “til death do us part.”

Stay tuned for “U” tomorrow!

#AtoZChallenge A Drabble for a Tag: Serial Killer

“Her eyes were dead.”

That’s what I say when I get into the car, when I run back to the serial killer.

Mel was lying on the floor, in a pool of blood, and the man—her date?—was on top of her, eating her.

“He was fucking eating her!!”

I couldn’t hold still to dial 9-1-1.

When she moved. When she raised her hand, called my name. When she pushed him aside, stood with her guts spilling out, and said, “Come and try.”

I panicked. I ran. Back into the arms of the serial killer.

Just like in my dream.

—Nortina


The A to Z Challenge is back, and this year, I’m giving you 26 drabbles (100-word stories) using some of my favorite unused or underused tags.

Today’s tag is “serial killer.”

Stay tuned for “T” on Monday!

#AtoZChallenge A Drabble for a Tag: Rebirth

Mel

I’m hungry.

I lost my appetite at dinner, but it’s come back now. As he kisses me lower, that familiar song runs through my head…

I didn’t know that I was starving ’til I…

“How do I taste?”

He doesn’t speak.

I don’t feel like I’m in my skin. I look down; he’s biting my thigh. I think it tickles. Yes, I like it. I want to bite him too, make him feel like his skin is coming off, like mine, unveiling a new layer, a rebirth.

Who knew this would be better than sex?

I have to tell Carol.

—Nortina


The A to Z Challenge is back, and this year, I’m giving you 26 drabbles (100-word stories) using some of my favorite unused or underused tags.

Today’s tag is “rebirth.”

Stay tuned for “S” tomorrow!

#AtoZChallenge A Drabble for a Tag: Question

He agrees to take me home.

He just confessed to murdering multiple women….

And he agrees to take me home.

What is it about me that has spared my life? What am I to him but a drunken one-night stand? A mistake, given my history. And yet, he seems suspiciously protective of me.

I give him Mel’s address. Mainly because I don’t want him to know where I live, but also because I fear I may invite him in if he were at my doorstep.

Even with a body in the trunk.

Maybe Mel was right about my self-destructive habits.

—Nortina


The A to Z Challenge is back, and this year, I’m giving you 26 drabbles (100-word stories) using some of my favorite unused or underused tags.

Today’s tag is “question,” because I don’t have many “Q” tags. 😀

Stay tuned for “R” tomorrow!