Flash fiction challenge – Night Terror

It’s been almost two years since I wrote a flash fiction challenge. The first time it was a 100 word challenge called The Heart. Today’s challenge: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/09/05/flash-fiction-challenge-the-first-half-of-a-story-only/
I cannot end it, but if you want to, feel free and let me know so I can come over and see if she lives…or not…


The noise came again, and this time there could be no mistake: somebody was in the house. Worse, somebody was in my bedroom. I strained to hear, holding my breath, hoping that what I heard was just something from outside on the street, a drunk perhaps, a stray dog going through the garbage bins, but no. It was faint but unmistakably closer. I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them again, trying to see in the dark without moving. It was there, a scratching sound on the wooden floor, like something scrabbling frantically in the same spot. Perhaps a rat, I thought as I lay, face up, cursing silently the fact that I stayed up late, trying to finish that damn book – the one with rats on the cover. No wonder I was imagining things.

The noise had stopped and nothing else could be heard, except for the occasional car going down the street but even that faded away and the fear began to loosen its grip on me. My eyes grew heavy, my body relaxed. Then it came again, closer, the scratching, and in my mind I saw a huge rat, as big as a cat, its teeth sharp and hungry for meat, the beady eyes glistening in the dark. I considered my options. Option one, pretend nothing happened, it was a nightmare (a persistent one at that) and try to go back to sleep. Option two, stretch out my hand over to the nightstand and turn on the light. Perhaps it was a small mouse and the light will frighten it. Or perhaps the light would scare it right into my bed.
I began to shiver under the blanket. I tried to move my hand as quietly as possible but the thing must have heard me and it stopped. I breathed slowly, trying to give myself courage. Now this is truly stupid, there is no rat, it was all in my head. I shifted slightly to the left, reaching out with my hand.

The noise began again, and this time it was so close it made my skin crawl and my heart beat like a war drum. It must be under the bed now, whatever it was. Perhaps I could use my pillow, swat it away. Or my tube of hair spray, or the chunky volume of ghost stories. All on my nightstand, if I could just reach over and turn on that light.
I inched closer, my fingers stretched to find the switch of the reading lamp. I knocked over an empty glass, and it tumbled to the floor, rolling, before coming to an abrupt stop. I cursed silently, and in the next instant I heard the scratching on the floor, followed by a soft thud. It was on the bed now, whatever it was. I bit my lip and swallowed the scream that threatened to spill out; I felt the blanket slipping from my body, slowly, cold air on my skin, my blood turning to ice…

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16 Responses to Flash fiction challenge – Night Terror

  1. Awesome story Delia.

    I know that you are not supposed to finish it, but do you have some outcomes in mind?

  2. M-----l says:

    I experienced something similar a couple years ago. I woke up to the sounds of something scratchy and crawly in my bedroom. I got up and found a fat raccoon crawling up the brick chimney just outside the window. The angle of the window–one of those that opens out as opposed to up–made the outside noise sound like it was coming from inside.

    I convinced the raccoon to go back down the chimney and then returned to sleep.

    • Delia says:

      Hi M-l,
      That must have been creepy. Honestly, I’m grateful the only noises I hear at night come from my own nightmares. At least when I wake up they’re gone.

      A raccoon crawling up the chimney, now that must have been a sight. A bit early for Christmas presents. 🙂

  3. I’m good at writing beginnings, but lousy at endings, so I can’t finish this story either. It’s up to you to let us know what happens!

    I lived in an apartment building that had rats in the attic one summer, and an exterminator came out and set traps. I spent a whole night listening to a rat dragging a trap around. Thump, slide, thump, slide. All night. It must have been huge.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Diane,

      OK, I will do that. Beginning, ending, I never really thought which one is more difficult, but I did finish someone else’s story and I had a lot of fun writing that. I hope to post it here this week.

      I don’t know if I should laugh or be horrified at your rat story. I don’t like rats either but to hear and imagine one being tortured like that makes me shudder.
      We do get rats here sometimes, but they look more like hamsters and are actually cute. We use a humane trap and release them somewhere on a field.

  4. Priya says:

    “the that scream threatened to spill out” I love this, and the heart beating like a war drum. I am no good at descriptions and you’ve made this seem very easy, and it is effective. I wouldn’t end it, just keep guessing.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Priya,
      Thanks for the nice words.
      I think you don’t give yourself enough credit for your work. I still remember the description of the eagle’s wings from your story.

      I’m thinking of something that leaves the possibility for interpretation, not quite clear cut. But I’m very excited to share the ending of a story I wrote for the same challenge – somebody wrote the beginning and it was such a great inspiration that I managed to finish it in a way that I really loved. I’ll probably post it tomorrow.

  5. Vishy says:

    Very fascinating start, Delia! I can’t wait to find out what happens next! I am looking forward to reading the ending – both in your blog and in other participants’ blogs – love alternate endings and this looks like such a fascinating story.

    • Delia says:

      I don’t think anybody is writing an ending to this Vishy, so I’d better get started. 🙂 I’ll try to finish it by the end of this week. Glad you like it.

  6. Story Ender says:

    Then the movement and the scratching stopped, and the air became solid, and this, somehow, was worse than before. The blanket was pulled all the way, my body all exposed to the dark.

    I couldn’t see anything. I had pulled the curtains shut for the first time in months – an act I regretted now – and the room was pitch black. In the quiet the beating of my heart was loud, too loud. I tried to calm it down, to breathe slowly in and out but the breathing just added to the sound. I held my breath for a few seconds then I slid my fingers across the nightstand, gradually, quietly, feeling for the lamp’s switch. My eyes had been closed – some childish notion of protection against monsters – so I opened them, looking towards the source of the thud, praying there was nothing there, just a muscle reflex, an unconscious gesture of my legs pulling the blanket, hoping that the scratching was just a roach under the bed, the sound amplified by the dark and by a sleepy brain, open to suggestion.

    I reached the base of the lamp and carefully followed the contour towards the switch and that’s when I felt the touch on my legs, cold and wet and acid, not really burning but sinking inside the flesh, dissolving it almost painlessly, and panic hit me fully. My arm jerked back and landed on the bed, beside me. The slime moved up, consuming me, inexorably burying itself inside my bones, turning them into who knows what. I lay there, sweating, literally paralyzed with fear, while something was methodically probing my legs, something that could not exist, that did not belong in this reality, something that would make the Devil himself run scared and try to hide.

    I tried to make out what was in front of me, down my legs, but the dark had an ultimate, impenetrable quality, and my pupils refused to focus. I starred at the nothingness, unable to blink.

    Then I saw the eyes, silently resolving out of the dark, a whole bunch of them, grouped, connected by pulsating filaments of something that wasn’t flesh, no two of them moving in the same direction, searching, absorbing, “Oh God, oh God, no, please!”, those eyes, so … out of this world, so incomprehensible, the fire in them, the abyss beyond, all hope and understanding gone, drained, my skin going cold, shrinking, trapping me inside, “Oh God, what in Hell is this!!!”, the thing holding me in a steel grip, the eyes going inside my mind, preventing me from even fainting. One of the eyes found me and they all got closer slowly, taking their time, soaking in my terror, enjoying it. It was nourishment for it, whatever it was, and I realized I wasn’t going to die, no, I was going to spend an eternity agonizing until the last speck of fear (and with it my sanity) was vacuumed out of my soul, because this wasn’t about killing, it couldn’t care less whether I died or survived, this was pure feeding, pure malice driven by ancestral hunger, and it was going to keep me alive for as long as it could.

    The eyes floated in front of my face while the cold and the wetness worked their way up my neck. One of the eyes started growing, pushing the others aside. I felt heat on my face and saw jagged cracks opening in the surface of the eye. I heard screams from behind the cracks, voices that might have been human once, mixed with sounds that had never existed on Earth, all of them sending one, very clear message: “Please, make it stop!”

    I shared the feeling. I really wanted to die, I wanted it over, I wanted all of it to go away at any cost. I tried to scream, to move, to break the paralysis. I collected every bit of strength left and commanded my body to move.

    I woke up drenched in my own sweat and a whine escaped my dry throat. I reached out and felt my legs and found them where they were supposed to be, intact. I dropped back on the pillow and took a few deep breaths. “God dammit, no more horror stories before bed” I promised, and I think this time I really believed it. It was still dark so it meant I still had a few good hours of sleep. I relaxed and closed my eyes trying to dissipate the nightmare. It was over. Then I heard the scratching and something started pulling at the blanket.

    • Delia says:

      Excellent! I really like where you went with the story. Monsters, but are they real or imagined, and will she ever wake up and if she does, what will reality look like? Thank you for writing the middle part of the story. I really enjoyed it and I can’t wait to see how it ends!
      Readers beware, this is what happens when you read too many horror stories before bedtime. 🙂

    • Delia says:

      Thanks, Dave, it’s interesting how you shifted the mood and gave the story a new possibility to become even more unsettling. Now it’s not rats she has to fear.

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