#FridayFictioneers: Pondering

We’ve stayed too long. Cut off from all exits but my bedroom window, we sit on a corner of my bed, watching the vines pour in and swallow my dresser whole.

There’s no escaping now. Even if we tried to climb out, a loose, sinewy tendril would wrap around our ankles, drag us under.

“Reminds me of that movie,” Caroline says, “where the plants turn on people.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Mark Walhberg’s in it.” She picks at her fingernails with a serrated knife gone dull against the siphoning vine. “Apparently, they release a toxin that makes people kill themselves.”

word count: 100

—Nortina


© Sarah Potter

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.

Visitor in the Rose Garden

I hate being left home alone. Especially at night. I see things at night. Things I can’t easily explain away. It’s best just to go to bed early, right after dinner, when Aaron leaves for his shift at the hospital. Even though sleeping on a full stomach is never recommended. Indigestion, weight gain, not to mention the phantasmal dreams. But at least they’re just dreams; I can wake up from dreams.

A man in my rose bushes—now, that’s very real.

I dial Aaron’s cell and it goes straight to voicemail. He’s either in surgery, or he’s just ignoring my calls. I think he’s picked up more night shifts on purpose. He wants to get as far away from me as possible; he thinks I’m bat shit crazy. With him working at night, and my mundane 9 to 5, we only have two hours in the day when our schedules overlap, and still it is too much for him. But I wouldn’t be like this if he’d only show some concern for why I don’t feel safe, spend the night with me like any husband would, lie with me at least until I fall asleep. That’s not asking for too much, is it?

The man never moves, only stands there and watches me wander about the house from window to window. I’ve tried to convince myself that it’s something less terrifying, like a light post or a tree. Trees tend to take a different form when the sun goes down. But there are no trees in our backyard. No street lights either. Because we live way out in the sticks, a forty-five minute drive outside Savannah. The only sign of civilization for miles is a single-story Baptist church with chipped paint, cracked siding, and a parking lot riddled with potholes. It’s congregation can’t be more than three members, including the pastor, because that’s all the cars I see parked around its doors when I drive by on my way into town.

We don’t go to that church. We don’t go to any church. I haven’t been inside a sanctuary since my daddy died when I was sixteen, and I was so anxious to get out of that hot, stuffy box of a church, with no air conditioning, packed with a bunch of self-righteous parishioners who babbled on and on about how holy and godly a man Daddy was when he drank too much, cursed like a sailor, and the only gift he ever left me was a trail of cigarette burns down the back of my thighs.

But now I feel the urge to get on my knees and pray for protection. Even though the figure still hasn’t moved, and when I look too hard, sometimes I can’t even tell if its human. But there’s a mass of darkness between my bushes, darker than the blackness of night, which even out here isn’t all that black because we still have the moon and the stars to lighten even the darkest hour. Sometimes, especially when the moon is full and the sky is cloudless, it’s almost as if the night has passed hours early and dawn is just beginning to break over the horizon.

That’s how I know something is there, something that’s not there during the day when I’m out in the yard, circling in the spaces between the bushes, bumping into nothing solid blocking my path, and pruning the branches, making sure to avoid the thorns, cutting off a few of the fuller roses that have bloomed beautifully under the sun, unfurling their petals to expose their most delicate inner regions. Those I take inside and put in a vase of water, their sweet scent filling the room, and even though they last only a day, maybe two, I pretend Aaron has given them to me, out of the love he bears in his heart for me.

It stands three feet above my tallest rose bush, making it at least seven feet in height. Sometimes I can distinguish a head from shoulders, and when it’s windy, long locks of hair. I used to hold onto the hope that it is Aaron, sneaking home just to check on me. The lost romantic in me loved that. The idea that he would risk a patient’s life just to make sure his lonely wife was taken care of, that nothing was amiss at the house.

I’ve given up hope on that now. If he does leave the hospital early, it’s to see another woman. A woman who is less worrisome, more tolerable to make love too. I even know her name: Stella. He doesn’t bother to delete the emails from our shared account. They come right to my phone too. Her pleas to have her pipes cleaned again, long overdue. The adrenaline rush she got when they did it in the patient record room, bodies pressed up against dusty file folders. Pictures of her positioned on her bed in risqué poses wearing nothing but a sheer lace-trimmed negligee.

I wish this thing would come in and kill me already. It would be a relief to Aaron. One less problem to deal with in his busy, busy day. How did we come to this; when I would be seeking death to unburden his shoulders? Was there a moment in our relationship when everything just changed? Divorcees always say that it is, that you may not have noticed when it happened, but in hindsight, you always knew it was there. But I can think of nothing—a word, a gesture, a forgotten birthday or anniversary—that would’ve caused me to lose my husband’s love.

I open the back door, and I half see it turn its head; probably shocked that I’ve finally come outside to greet it, or maybe it’s just my eyes adjusting to the night causing my vision to jump. Before my trepid heart can change my mind, or before it disappears, I dash toward the figure in a full on sprint, unsure of what to expect—if I’ll be overcome with fear or gladness to have arms wrap around me, lift me up into the air in a warm embrace. But anything is better than spending another night alone in my cold bed, the white noise of an empty house seeping in to haunt my dreams.

—Nortina


Alright guys, what do you think of Fright Night FridaysEvery Friday night, I’ll try to post something spooky, something paranormal, something suspenseful, something that would surely give you a fright. Are you brave enough to stick around?

Mirage

We were within a mile-and-a-half of the service roads when we found it. Micah sprinted for the Jeep, climbed over the passenger seat, and raided the snacks in the back. Finding half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he ripped open the plastic bag and stuffed the sandwich into his mouth, the filling oozing from between the two slices of bread, down his wrists.

“Something’s not right,” I said.

“What’s not right is that cloud.” He pointed toward the darkening sky, giving the illusion of twilight, though it was just after one in the afternoon. “We’ll be buried under eight feet of snow by nightfall if we don’t leave now.”

“Don’t you think it’s odd that we’ve been wandering around this mountain for hours with no luck. Then suddenly…the car’s just here?” A large boulder rested about ten yards in front of the Jeep. A carpet of moss covered the side of the rock facing south, while the northern face was blanketed in snow. “I know I’ve seen that rock before.”

“Micah rolled his eyes. “When we parked here! Now get in. I’m ’bout to freeze!”

I followed his command and cranked the engine as a rumble of thunder shook the ground, and the sky was instantly pitch black.

word count: 197

—Nortina


ffpf_3Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner is a weekly challenge for writers to create a story in under 200 words using the provided photo prompt and introductory sentence as their ‘muse.’ Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

A Cold, Gray August

It was a strange day. Cold—the temperature at least forty degrees—and a steady rain, in the middle of August. The entire town was gray. The stone buildings disappeared in the skyline, and as the clouds lowered, a dense fog enclosed the city, making visibility less than arm’s length.

The change in weather was a sign for Anita. An omen, that something bad was going to happen. She decided to stay indoors, refused to step outside of her apartment, not even to check the mail. She kept the curtains shut so the view wouldn’t lure her to a window, where she could trip over a cord or one of her son’s misplaced toys and crash through the glass, falling several stories.

Anita sat between the arm and cushion of her couch in the dark living room watching The Weather Channel. She pulled her knees to her chest and rested her chin on top of them as she listened to the reporters talk endlessly of the unseasonal weather.

Beside her, lying on his side, was her three-year-old son, Aiden. She ran her fingers through his hair as he rested his head on the opposite end of the couch. Craving to be even nearer to him, she scooped him into her arms, sat him in her lap, and cradled his head against her chest. She kissed his forehead repeatedly, telling him she would never let anything bad happen to him as long as he stayed in her arms.

“I love you, sweetheart.”

“More than the world is round?”

“Yes, baby.”

“More than the sky is blue?”

“Uh-huh.”

“More than your cookies taste yummy?”

“Even more than that.”

There was a knock on the door, and Anita hesitantly rose to answer it, still clutching Aiden to her body. She opened the door and saw no one right away. As she moved to shut it, quickly so as not to let the evil in the weather enter her home, Aiden shook himself free from her grasp and slipped outside.

She heard him scream, “Mr. Huggy!” The name of the teddy bear he thought he’d lost a week ago. Remembering that she’d actually thrown Huggy away, along with other old toys she’d assumed Aiden had outgrown, Anita knew there was no way he could have seen Huggy outside, but when she swung open the door to save her son from the allusion, she found only clouds, mist, and gray.

—Nortina