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.”

#1MinFiction: Vertigo

“Please, sit down.”

Another spell of vertigo sends me into a whirlwind, and the ground underneath suddenly feels 20 feet away.

I fall into the chair behind me. “I don’t want to remember.”

I still see his face, still feel his clammy hands around my throat. The darkness closes in, as when I went unconscious and woke wearing no pants.

“When will you catch him, officer?”

—Nortina


Spending time catching up on some prompts that I missed while on a brief hiatus. Here’s my contribution to a previous #1MinFiction prompt: whirlwind

#MicroMondays: First to Die

“Scared?”

No, but there was a criminal out there. Jocks and popular girls always die first, usually together.

“It’d be cool to go while doing it.”

Swallow your words. I hear the chainsaw.

word count: 33

—Nortina


Written for #MicroMondays, click here for challenge details, and here to read more “criminal” tales at 33 words. 

Also inspired by today’s #1MinFiction slasher prompt. What are some of your favorite slasher movies?

#ThrowbackThursday Poetry: With Those Bulging Eyes

It’s Throwback Thursday once again, and in the spirit of Halloween and all things fearful, I’m revisiting this terrifying poem, originally published in fēlan magazine’s fear issue in November 2015.

“With Those Bulging Eyes” is one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written, and probably the most talked about among family and friends who’ve read it, most likely due to its extremely graphic content. (My mom’s co-worker is probably still wondering what happened to that sweet little angel she once knew).

This poem—inspired by the frightful painting, Saturn Devouring His Son, by Spanish artist, Francisco Goya—tackles the uncomfortable and controversial subject of abortion, how it can affect a woman physically, emotionally, psychologically.

Read the full poem below, and if you want to know more about my inspiration behind the poem, and more about me as a writer in general, check out my artist interview on fēlan’s website here.

By the way, I’ve been on quite the extended hiatus (two years and counting!) when it comes to new writings not published on this blog. I know I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but I’m looking forward to 2018 being a much more productive year, as far as writing goes.

I’ve spent most of this year trying to clear off my plate and get myself better organized so that I can have more time and energy to dedicate to writing. While I don’t think I’m there yet, I feel I’ve made a lot of progress since January. Here’s to hoping 2018 will see lots more publication acknowledgements! My “Published Works” page is getting quite dusty…

#MicroMondays: Haunted Wood

I am curious too. Enough to follow his flickering match between trees. Monsters aren’t real, but the low growling behind my ear still frightens me.

word count: 25

—Nortina


Written for #MicroMondays, click here for challenge details, and here to read more “curious” tales at 25 words. 

Full

Our first night we kissed
he bit my bottom lip
pierced it through
licked blood from his fangs
howled at the moon

—Nortina


 

Fright Night Fridays:  Every Friday night, dare to venture into something spooky, something paranormal, something suspenseful, something that would surely give you a fright. Are you brave enough to stick around?

Recurring Nightmare

It was only a dream, but when I see him in the checkout line, three aisles down, my heart quickens, and I remember his eyes shooting bullets through my chest, two thumbs applying pressure to my throat.

The air in here is stifling—I can’t breathe. Leaving my groceries on the conveyor belt, I dash for the exit, nearly colliding with a woman steering two shopping carts; one carries the children who will devour the food in the other within a week.

The humid air of the late summer afternoon is a surprising relief to my lungs. But the reprieve is brief. A whisper of sliding doors behind—he’s followed me.

He doesn’t even know how much he should hate me. Suspicion of what I have done far from his imagination. Yet it haunts me every night while I sleep.

He’s seen the woman with the three kids. That will be us soon, he tells me, with his two and our one on the way.

Only, it’s not on the way. At least not his third. And it’s only after he bends to hug my expanding stomach that I notice who is with him.

His companion shakes his head, knowing what I want to say. How long can we keep this secret? Until the baby’s born? How long before family resemblance can no longer hold as an excuse for why his child looks more like his brother than him? And would he ever believe me if I tell him it was rape?

He stands to kiss me, lips dry and rough like the first time I told his brother no.

He says he’ll be working late tonight but will come by after his shift—the ex watching the kids. As much as I love him, I tell him no. I must sleep, don’t want the truth of my nightmares to slip out while he holds me.

A friend once offered me sleeping pills to make the nights more bearable—at risk of hurting the baby, but I’m desperate to do anything. I’ll bury my head underneath a mountain of pillows because I fear his hatred more than never waking from a dream that kills me.

—Nortina


 

Fright Night Fridays:  Every Friday night, dare to venture into something spooky, something paranormal, something suspenseful, something that would surely give you a fright. Are you brave enough to stick around?

X is for Xenophobia

Originally published April 28, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge. For this post, I used the word, “xenophobia,”  in reference to Whitmore’s ghost coming back to haunt Jessica in her guilt. The poem pretty much describes the fear and insanity she’s descended into since Whitmore’s suicide. This poem won’t appear in the novella (maybe). Like V is for Visitor, it veers into a different [paranormal] direction that doesn’t really fit into how “Love Poetry” has developed. 

This is also a re-working of a poem, “Necro-Lovers” originally published in FishFood Magazine.


He was dead before I met him
A walking corpse
His discolored skin clung
To his bones like bed sheets hanging
On a clothesline

His vacant, gray eyes revealed no soul
Only memories of deceased relationships
A mother’s abandonment
A lover’s betrayal

He sought a woman whose essence he could feed on
Drain her of life
replace it with misery


He arises from the sinister world beneath
Hovers over my sleeping body
Ejaculates rivers of possession into me
You belong to me
He whispers
Nibbles on my ear
Gnaws on my breasts
Bites my bottom lip

Let’s drown together in this memory foam

I scream and he cups my mouth
I beat his concave chest and he spread my legs
He feels his foreskin peeling
I am inside of you

He stays there to morning
Until he feels the last, faint throb in my neck
Then he rises, taking my skin with him

—Nortina

Friday Fictioneers: Brief Reprieve

I pretend I don’t hear gun shots afar off.

Fourth of July’s in three weeks. It’s just fireworks. Drunk frat brothers shooting off exploding rockets for practice.

But I back inside just to be safe, close the sliding glass door to the balcony and lock it.

Money and privilege doesn’t mean a thing these days. You can be a United States congressman and still be targeted. How many presidents absorbed the bullet? How many of them lived?

I’m only here for the weekend though. Be back in Chi-Town by Monday, where I recognize the gang bangers who shoot me.

word count: 100

—Nortina


PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Friday Fictioneers challenges you to write a story in 100 words or less using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to read other stories and add your own.