More horror stories, written for the Short Scary Stories subreddit.
You were walking along unfamiliar streets, on your way to the birthday party of a friend-of-a-friend. You were running late, and a little lost. It was already dark, and ill-maintained street-lights shone too dimly to be a comfort. You heard a noise – a dull crack. Perhaps a fox knocking over a flowerpot, or a tree branch breaking under its own weight. You glanced behind you, suddenly paranoid. In that moment, I took my first breath, thin and rasping. You shivered in the cold air, and I breathed again.
Your heart rate quickened, just a little, and that gave me a pulse that beat in time with yours. You started to scrutinise every shadow, suddenly wary, and that gave me eyes to see you, to find you. You muttered to yourself, trying to reassure yourself, and that gave me a voice. With joy, I croaked into the night, and you jumped at the noise.
You began to walk more quickly, and that gave me legs to chase you; though my footsteps were light, you seemed to feel my presence, and you started to run. My footsteps became heavier, more solid, until I knew you could hear them. You glanced behind you one last time, and saw me. Shadowy and incomplete as I was, you were afraid of me, and that made me strong and hungry. You screamed, one last time, and that gave me teeth. You fell to the ground, and I was upon you. In your fear, I was born. From your flesh, I took my first meal.
For seven nights she crouched at the end of the boat. Each morning, she would be gone, back beneath the sea, but each night she would return. I was stranded, drifting, without food or water. She, it seemed, had come to torment me in my final days, or perhaps just to watch me die. That was all she did – motionless, she would watch me all night, staring unblinking, and breathing in heaving, rasping breaths. I couldn’t sleep – when I closed my eyes, I saw only her. Her hands, crooked and white, with dark webbing between her long fingers; her skin, so thin that in the moonlight I could see her dark organs pulsing beneath. I occupied my nights by ranting and raving at her, while she looked on unflinching, until I was too weak from hunger and thirst to do even that.
On the seventh night, she brought me a gift – a fish, dark and fat and still gasping weakly with life. “Survive”, she whispered, in a voice like pouring sand. Too desperate to refuse, I took the creature into my hands and bit deep into the soft flesh. Though I tasted a foulness in the bloated organs, though I felt the wriggling of strange parasites in the meat, in my hunger I devoured the offering gratefully. She resumed her seemingly endless vigil at the end of the boat, but now she seemed to be waiting, rather than simply watching.
Now it is the eighth night, and she has come to my boat one last time. I look down at my arms, the skin now so thin I can see the blood move beneath; at my hands, white and crooked with fresh, dark webbing between the fingers. The only sound I hear is my own heaving, rasping breaths. I look up into her devastatingly human eyes, and once more she says “survive”. Now, I will. Together, we slip gracefully into the waves.
Dad doesn’t live with us anymore, he hasn’t for a few years now. Mum gives all sorts of reasons, but I’m old enough to know the truth; he changed, and she couldn’t deal with it. He kinda lives out in the middle of nowhere now, so we don’t get to see him too often. At Christmas time, though we make the effort. Heading out to see him has become a family tradition – one day out of the year where, despite everything, we’re a family again.
As we climb into the old four-by-four, I clutch our present to him close to my chest; it’s bulky and cold, wrapped in wax paper and tied with brown string. It’s the same thing we get him every year – my Dad’s never liked surprises anyway, and it’s become just another part of the tradition.
The weather’s not too bad, but as we get further out into the hills we find the roads not yet been cleared – even with snow-tyres it’s slow going. By the time we reach the edge of the forest, it’s already getting dark.
I smile as I see that Dad’s still there, that he’s waited for us, knowing we wouldn’t forget. I toss his present out onto the snow, and he crawls out from the shadows of the trees to retrieve it, his bulging, yellow eyes staring unblinking into mine. He tears into the wax paper with long, clawed fingers, and bites hungrily into the cold flesh within. I know that if I turn around, I’ll see tears rolling down my mother’s cheeks, but I can’t help but be happy that we’re all together for Christmas day.
An excellent dramatic reading of this story, by DeadJosey, can be heard here.
Her bedroom window hung open, letting the night roll in; the boy crouched on the sill, looking in at her, hand out-stretched. He reminded her of a marble statue – perfectly handsome and defined, and false – but he wasn’t still. Even crouched in one place, he seemed to twitch with unrestrained energy.
Freedom was the offer he’d made. She looked down at the bruises on her arms, on her legs, and around at the cramped confines of her room, and thought Why shouldn’t I be free? It seemed to her that she would not be missed – except perhaps next time her father came home furious and stumbling, and found kicking the dog not release enough.
She took his hand.
Suddenly they were whirling up, out into the night sky, the boy pulling her towards the stars. Up and up they went, into the clouds, past flocks of geese honking in apparent disapproval. She laughed to look down at the midnight streets, to feel so far above them; she laughed harder when they faded entirely from view, and the only proof at all of a world below was the dwindling, shining points of the streetlights.
“You can let go of my hand,” said the boy, his voice clear despite the rushing winds. “You don’t need me – the power was yours all along.”
He relaxed his grip on her and, grinning, she relaxed her grip on him. He smiled his wide, perfect smile as she hurtled back down to the world below, and became free.