One Yellow Balloon

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She sighed in relief as she turned the key to the deadbolt, glad the day was finally over. Her normally friendly, happy customers all seemed to be grouchy and in the mood to complain. Maybe it’s a full moon, that would explain it, she thought to herself.

Although her walk home was a short one, about 6 or 7 minutes if she walked the couple of blocks down Main Street, she decided to take a shortcut through the field that runs between the school and a forest of trees.

Normally at this time of the year, when it started to get dark earlier and earlier each night, she avoided walking through the field because it was unlit. But she was tired and just wanted to get home to Real Housewives of Orange County, leftover spaghetti, and a glass (or two) of wine.

The moon was bright and she could almost see from one end of the field to the other. She walked along, pulling her jacket closer because of the chill while she hummed a song she couldn’t quite place.

She heard a noise behind her and quickly turned around. There was nothing there. She walked a little faster, not realizing she stopped humming so that she could listen to the sounds that make up the night.

There it was again! The same sound. Maybe it was footsteps on the leaves of the trees in the forest? She didn’t stop this time, but turned her head quickly towards the forest. She didn’t see anything.

I’m just being paranoid,” she said to herself under her breath. She was on high alert now, the silence screaming in her ears. She stepped up her pace again. Then the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. Somebody was watching her – tracking her – she was sure of it.

She stopped again, this time turning in a slow circle peering into the darkness towards the school, again towards the forest, and then behind her. There was nothing. She turned towards home, wishing she would’ve just stayed on the sidewalks and the safety of their street lights.

That’s when she saw him. Standing directly in front of her, about 20 feet away. His face was smiling but it wasn’t a friendly smile and his eyes were glaring straight into her. Hate. His costume was stained and dirty. The face makeup was painted on quickly, messily…almost as an after thought. A blood-red frown, not a smile. Black around the eyes that ended in sharp points.

He just stood there smiling that awful smile while her feet seemed to cement themselves into the grass on the field. She was so confused. “Hello?,” she said and she was frightened even though he hadn’t said or done anything. She noticed that in one hand he held one yellow balloon, and something shiny in the other.

The clown didn’t move or respond. He just glared at her, smiling. He let the balloon go and said in a sing-songy voice, “Look at my balloon, as yellow as the sun. 1, 2, 3, you’d better run.” Then he held up his other hand and she saw that he was holding a knife. A very big knife.

She turned back towards the safety of Main Street and started to scream. She ran, so fast that she lost one of her shoes.

She looked back to see if he was chasing her, but he wasn’t. He was walking. Then she heard the clown start to laugh a vicious, terrifying laugh, as he yelled “This is gonna be fun!”

I wrote this for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop for Prompt #5: Write a blog post inspired by the word: paranoid. I thought it would be fun to write a spooky story centered around all the creepy clown stuff going on!

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The Stain

She had scrubbed at the stain on the carpet for so long that her knuckles were raw. She hadn’t even noticed that she was actually scrubbing the carpet with her outer knuckles instead of the rag that they held. She realized that she had tears dripping down her face, or was it sweat?

The stain represented a bittersweet moment in her life: both an ending and a beginning. She hadn’t planned on what happened, but she had fantasized about it too many times to count.

She could smell the cloying scent of clean, the bleach, mixed with the coppery scent of pennies, the stain.

She wasn’t cleaning the stain. In fact, she was making it worse. She didn’t feel the pain of the bleach leeching into her body through her raw knuckles, but she knew that it had. Her blood was mixing in with the stain that had already been on the floor.

She stood up too quickly and felt dizzy. She needed a break.

It was then that she realized that the stain wasn’t just on the floor she had been scrubbing. The stain was on the ceiling, the walls, in her hair, on her clothes. She ran to the mirror in the bathroom, stepping over but not even noticing Joe and the knife sticking out of his chest still. She looked in the mirror and saw the dried reddish, brown stain was on her face too.

She stepped on top of Joe’s stomach this time, and heard a squishy sound as more of the stain seeped out from around the knife. Did he moan quietly in pain or was that the voice of the devil inside of her head, laughing?

She knelt down at the stain once again, and began to scrub. She scrubbed as if she could scrub the memory from her mind. She tried to scrub away the abuse, the words Joe said that would never leave her mind, the tears…the endless tears and bruises and broken bones. She scrubbed away at the stain searching for her broken soul.

She could just get up and walk out. She could run away and never look back. They wouldn’t find her; she’d hide in Canada or Mexico or maybe in plain sight.

But she knew she wouldn’t leave until the stains were all gone. Nobody had ever been able to say that she didn’t keep an immaculately clean house.

Are you listening? A short piece of fiction inspired by the word "listen".I wrote this for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop for Prompt #5: Write a blog post inspired by the word: stain.

Waiting

She awoke suddenly, the traces of a nightmare still lingering. She sat up, and immediately grabbed her head. There was a screaming pain running from the back of her head down her spine. She felt a goose egg sized bump near her forehead, and realized she had no idea where she was. She tasted blood.

It was dark – nighttime? No. She began to slowly understand that she wasn’t in her own home. Where was she? She tried to stand, and realized she was on the floor. A matress on the floor in a completely black room. Maybe the nightmare was real.

She tried to feel around, and her hands struck a wall in front of her. She ran her hands along the wall and realized it was cinderblock or something similar. No windows anywhere. No carpet underneath her feet, only cement. Within just a few feet, she met the corner of two walls. She continued to feel her way around the room, and determined it wasn’t even a room. It was more like an oversized closet.

She started around again, panicking and realizing that she couldn’t find a door and there was nothing else in the room.

The clothes she had on were torn and wet. From her own sweat? Or was it blood? Water? She tried to smell her blouse, but couldn’t detect any odor.

She called out a loud hello, with no response. Banging on the walls would be useless. She screamed a terrified HELP, and was not surprised by no response.

Bits and pieces of the nightmare were coming back to her in glimpses as quick as the blink of an eye. A man. A stranger? Her running. Her cell phone falling from her hand as she tried to dial 911.

Oh my god, this is real, she thought.

And what scared her more than being in a pitch black room in an unknown place, was the fact that there was nothing left to do but wait.

Are you listening? A short piece of fiction inspired by the word "listen".I wrote this for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop for Prompt #5: Write a blog post inspired by the word: wait. But there’s more to this story than that. This past weekend while we were barbecuing at my mom and dad’s house, I was under the palapa in their backyard. I was standing underneath a ceiling fan that fell and hit me! It left a huge bump and bruise in my hairline on my forehead. That bump and the word wait actually inspired this very short piece of fiction.

Are You Listening?

“Are you listening to me?” She listened to the words coming out of his mouth, not really registering them.

“I’m not in love with you anymore”

“…affair…”

“Megan”

“moving out”

“divorce”

Megan? As in Megan, Megan? Her best friend of 30 years? The one she first told when she started her period, had sex for the first time, fell in love, and found out she was pregnant? That Megan?

He kept talking. She was listening, but had already started to think of all the things that would follow this conversation. She wasn’t really surprised by his confession but she was surprised about Megan.

The rain tapped gently on the window. She noticed that the yard needed to be mowed. He was too busy on all of his “business trips” to take care of it. Had he really been traveling? Or was he spending all of that time with her?

The breakfast dishes in the sink had to be done. She needed to vacuum. And she had a hair appointment. So many things to do.

“Are you listening to me?” he asked again, this time not so kindly.

But she couldn’t respond. There were credit card payments and they had just bought airline tickets for their summer vacation with the kids. The kids! How would she tell the kids?

What? She said quietly.

He looked at her and asked her if she had anything to say.

She could kill him. But how? In his sleep maybe, a knife? No, too messy. Cut the brake lines on his car like they do in the movies? She realized she had no idea where or what they were, and she couldn’t Google it because the police would find the search when they confiscated her computer. Or maybe she could kill Megan. Go to her house for drinks and poison her? Where do you even buy poison? No, she could never get away with murder. She’d watched enough of those police shows to know that.

She listened to the silence, thinking that she may actually be going crazy. The silence is deafening when you actually listen to it. It’s noisy and chaotic. It screeches constantly. It’s like white noise turned up to top volume.

Maybe she could just play the bitch and take him for everything he’s worth, leaving Megan with nothing. Maybe she would sell his coin collection, just to spite him. Trash his car. But there was an easier way…

Okay. She said standing while looking directly at him.

“What does that mean, okay?”

Whatever you want it to mean Tom. It sounds like you already have your mind made up. I can’t do this right now. You said it wouldn’t happen again. The last time it happened and the time before that. You said that you had changed. You PROMISED me that you were done with the lies and sneaking around and cheating. So okay. I’m done. Just go away.

He stood to leave. Presumably going to Megan’s. She was too exhausted to deal with it all again, so she wouldn’t.

After he left, she stood staring at the front door. He had carried her over the threshold the day they bought the house. She had carried their first, second, third, and fourth children through that door from the hospital. She collapsed in that doorway the day she found out her mother had passed away. The kids went out that door to school, dates, and eventually to begin their own lives.

She walked slowly, a death march up the stairs to the room she’d shared with him for over 30 years. She went to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and filled her water glass to the top. She took the sleeping pills out of the medicine cabinet, and carried the water and pills to the nightstand that they’d refinished together.

She dumped all of the pills out, slowly brought her hand to her lips, and put them in her mouth one by one. They were chalky and bitter but she didn’t mind. She chewed slowly, adding a new pill each time there was room. And then she drank that glass of water, happy that it was the last time she’d have to deal with that bastard she called her husband.

Are you listening? A short piece of fiction inspired by the word "listen".I wrote “Are You Listening?” for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop for Prompt #1: Write a blog post inspired by the word: listen. Interestingly enough, the last time I wrote fiction it was inspired by Mama Kat, too!  The title? Sounds of Silence. What a coincidence, huh? 

You can find more of my fiction here.

Sounds Of Silence

darkness It’s funny how intimately well you know the sounds that your house makes.

The creaks of certain floorboards.

The air whooshing from the ceiling fan that is always on in the den.

The squeak the front door makes because it needs to be oiled, though you only think to do it when you are running out of it to do errands or take the kids somewhere.

The soothing tick-tock of the clock in the front room.

That irritating bang of the screen door every time the kids run through it.

Sounds are even more intimate in the middle of the night.

The sound of your sleeping neighborhood through a cracked window.

The way the bathtub will drip, drip, drip in the middle of the night for no reason.

The tree branch gently scratching the side of the house when there’s a breeze.

The sound of your child’s foot hitting the wall as they roll over in bed.

Those pops and sighs the house makes as it settles in for the night.

And sometimes you notice a sound that is out of place.

You hear the door that separates the garage from the kitchen slowly being opened.

It’s not a loud sound; it’s a soft click and moan, as if the door is giving up its responsibility to keep the outside out (or the inside in).

Maybe you are laying in bed sleeping, or more correctly, you realize that you are not quite asleep, but not quite awake either.

Your mind is somewhere in between awareness and dreams.

While you don’t move a muscle, your eyes immediately pop open and you stare into the darkness.

Your mind is wide awake now.

I thought I locked the door.

My husband is supposed to be at work – maybe he’s home early.

But he never comes in through that door.

Maybe I didn’t hear anything, maybe I was dreaming.

I know I locked the door, I remember doing it.

I did do it, right?

You listen intently as you stare into the dark, the silence now screaming in your ears.

I don’t hear anything now, why am I scaring myself?

I know I locked the door.

See? No more sounds. I must’ve been dreaming.

And just when you think that you have talked yourself out of hearing the door opening, a footstep falls on the bottom stair.

It is then that your body is flooded with a fear that you had always hoped never to know.

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Mama’s Losin’ It I wrote this post for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop for Prompt #3: Write a post inspired by the word: Flooded.

You can find more of my fiction here.