A couple of weeks ago I took part in a flash fiction challenge hosted at terribleminds. I wrote the first part of a story. Somebody else was supposed to finish it. In the meantime rules got changed and the next person had to write the middle part instead of the end. Here’s my beginning, followed by Dave’s middle part. Next week we should know how the story ends. In case rules don’t change again, that is.
Night Terror – Part I (the beginning, by Delia)
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…
Part II (middle of the story, by Dave)
Suddenly a giggle and a look of confusion washed over my face. It giggled again as it crawled closer to my face. Fumbling for the light and twisting the switch, I turned back into the face of a child.
The little boy smiled, “found you!” he squealed.
Her heart was still racing but the fear had all but disappeared. It wasn’t a woman eating rat a child, who wasn’t hers, right in front of her as if it was no big deal.
“Hi there little guy. How’d you get in here?” she asked in as soothing high pitch voice as she could muster.
“Mommy said I should go play hide and seek. So that’s what I did. I found you. You weren’t really hiding very well.”
I tried to recall who in the building had a child but nobody came to mind. Recovering and throwing a big smile, I asked where mommy was.
“She’s at home.” he replied as he sat on the bed, crossing his legs as if he’s ready for a story.
“Hmm, I don’t know. At school we are learning where we live to help us.”
Great she thought. This kids probably 5 or so, doesn’t know where he lives and somehow got into my locked apartment.
“Well, why don’t we go into the kitchen and get something to eat. We can figure out where you live and take you home. Does that sound good?”
“Yeah, I guess. But mommy said to stay out until the sun comes up. And the sun isn’t up yet.”
She started moving off the bed, reaching for her robe and the boy followed. Walking down the hallway she finally asked the odd question.
“That’s a long time from now. Why did she want you to stay out so long?”
“She always says I should go explore at night. Because I feel better when I do. She’s right. I don’t feel good when the sun is up. Mommy says it’s a condition I have. I don’t remember what it is but she told me. I know she did.”
“How does some cereal sound?”
“Does it have marshmallows?” his face brightening.
“Sorry, no marshmallows.”
“Aww, man.” he said with defeat.
“But it’s got sugar” trying to cheer him back up.
“I guess. It’s not as good without the marshmallows.”
“Yeah, I agree”
They sat at her small table, the boy scarfing down the cereal and sipped some tea herself. He was pumping his legs back and forth while humming and chewing.
She started asking a series of questions that he might be able to answer, helping her narrow down where he lived.
“Do you live in this building?”
“Where do you live?”
“In the woods”
The woods she thought? She lived in the heart of a small town, the woods are a few miles away. Something wasn’t right and she went to grab the phone, something she should have done minutes ago.