The following is a look into a short story from my next book; The Darkness Defines Us, a collection of horror stories I am releasing late summer. This story follows the protagonist as she wakens to a nightmare that only continues to worsen with each passing minute.
She opened her eyes and looked fearfully about the room. It was a small sound that had awakened her, so soft that had she not been a light sleeper, she might have missed it. Constellations spun across the ceiling, random images that weren’t in their actual positions according any known star chart, projected by a small box sitting on her dresser.
She yawned sleepily and brought her tiny fists to her eyes, rubbing them vigorously for several minutes in an attempt to chase away the lethargy.
Though she called out softly, she was surprised to receive no answer. Her mother’s room was across the hall from her’s and their doors were never closed. Whenever she couldn’t sleep, she could usually count on her mother to comfort her after her first cry.
Curiosity got the better of her and she swung her legs over the edge of the bed and hopped down to the floor, wincing when they were instantly chilled by the cold wood beneath them. Pausing only to grab her blankie, she clutched it against her chest and quickly closed the distance between herself and the door.
From somewhere downstairs, an explosion of glass broke the silence. She stepped away from the door, frightened by the sudden noise below. Her body trembled in fear as she listened to something she had never heard in her home before.
Her nose crinkled in disgust as she caught scent of something foul in the air and she gingerly pinched it closed with one hand.
“Eww,” she moaned. Moments later, another voice answered.
It was a man’s voice, but it was deep and guttural. It was one she didn’t recognize. Her eyes grew wide as the realization dawned upon her that there was a stranger in the house. She darted across the hallway and into her mother’s room, not knowing the danger that waited for her inside. There was no reason for her to expect anything other than for there to be the one person she could trust, inside, and it was her innocence that prevented her from sensing otherwise.
The room was darker than she was used to. Her mommy had forgotten to turn the light on in her closet so that she could find her way, if she needed to, and she froze just before entering the darkness inside. There was something warm and sticky beneath her feet, and the foul smell she detected in the hall seemed to be everywhere. It reminded her of the time that mommy had found something rotten in the back of the fridge, something that had once been a chicken enchilada mix. There was another smell as well, one that reminded her of her Grampy’s basement, the one with the dirt floor.
“Mommy,” she whispered.
But again, she didn’t answer. What’s more, what she did hear only added to her confusion. It was a wet smacking sound, very similar to how Grammy sounded when she took her teeth out to eat.
But, that couldn’t be right? Grampy and Grammy lived far, far away!
She jumped as whoever was eating in the darkness bit into something extremely crunchy. She felt a fresh wave of warm liquid running between her toes, thick and sticky against her skin. The eater grunted out of contention as it bit into something that crunched like an apple, then chewed noisily on whatever it was feasting on.
She began to cry. She couldn’t understand why her mommy didn’t answer her. The smell was more than she could bear, and what on earth was she eating? She turned, wanting nothing more than to flee to the safety of her bed, only then to be blinded by a bright beam of a flashlight.
“Holy shit,” a male voice said from behind the beaming light. It hurt her eyes and she squinted them so tightly until she was only looking through a narrow slit. A hand reached toward her. It was nearly as large as her head and was worn from hard work, though she couldn’t know that. To her young eyes, they only looked very strong.
“C-come here now, little girl. It’s alright,” he assured her.
She placed her little hand into his, stepping back into the hall as he gently guided her out of her mommy’s room.
“Have you been bitten,” he asked nervously.
What an odd question for someone to ask? Of course she hadn’t been bitten! She giggled as she shook her head quickly from side to side. The man wasn’t content to trust her words, however, and he roughly turned her about as he inspected her with his light. Try as she might, she still couldn’t see him very clearly. He was only a large shape in the darkness.
“Ow,” she complained when he was too rough.
“Hush,” he commanded. “You don’t want that thing in there deciding that it wants something new to nibble on, do you?”
Again she shook her head in denial, but this time he seemed happy to accept her answer.
“Good. Is this your room,” he asked as he shined the light on her door.
“Y-yes,” she answered.
“Stay here,” he said. “I just need to get you a couple of things before we go.”
She felt panic beginning to rise inside of her. Go? Where was this stranger man going to take her? Who was he for that matter? Why was he in their house?
The questions flooded her frightened mind faster than she could even begin to answer them and she trembled uncontrollably. She could hear him going through her drawers, but at the same time, she could also hear the eater in her mother’s room behind her. With her feet no longer in the viscous liquid, they was quickly becoming dry and crusty. Her toes were sticking together, a feeling that was as unpleasant as it sounded.
The man reappeared in the hall with a small bundle under his arm and for the first time she was able to get a look at him. He was wearing dark clothing. The shirt and pants looked very much like a policeman’s but she didn’t see a badge on the front. She also saw several pouches on his belt, but it was only a brief glimpse.
“Are you a policeman,” she asked.
“Uh, yeah,” he answered. “Sure. Now, I need you to come with me. It’s, um, not safe here anymore.”
He started to lead her toward the staircase leading to the first floor, but she couldn’t leave. Not without the one person she trusted more than anyone else.
“But, mister,” she protested.
“What,” he grunted in response.
“Have you seen my mommy?”