Halloween Short Story Competition: Shortlist – Day 1

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Thank you to everyone who entered the STORGY Halloween Short Story Competition! It was a pleasure to read the diverse entries received, and we are honored to have experienced the thrill of reading such fine writing. Our editors have chosen the winning stories and over the course of the next week leading up to Halloween the full shortlist will be published in STORGY Magazine, with the two runners up and winner of the competition revealed on the final three days! Congratulations to everyone who made the final shortlist. We hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as we did. Happy Halloween…

Rapping At My Chamber Door

by
Leah Cooper

*

It’s back. The noise.

I can only describe it as the noise fingernails make when they are dragged over wood. Not your Smooth Ikea flat pack more your jagged splintered lumber. The thought of wooden shards and splinters disappearing and nestling deep inside the flesh under your nails; where every attempt to remove them ends with nerve shredding pain at the slightest of touches; the thought was enough to make me shudder.

There’s the noise again.

I slowly pull my legs under the blanket and draw the blanket high up to my mouth, slowly shrinking into its warm crusty comfort. In the dim light I observe my knuckles shifting from the red blotchy hue I was used to and teased about into an eerie transparent off white, an eggshell white; which reminds me fleetingly of my grandmother and how her hands resembled arthritic bunches of sausages dangling on a dainty wrist, thinking of them now they were probably more like chipolatas with warts; emaciated from years of abuse, skin as thin as paper, eighty years of hard labour.

My breath’s hot and sticky, condensation forming on the underside of the blanket, my breath escaping the covers as steam to a geyser’s imminent eruption.

The noise comes again.

This time it’s in the room with me. I lift my head off the pillow, enabling my eyes to get a good look around the room. They turn up nothing. I peel back the blanket ejecting myself from my soggy cocoon; like a brown banana free from its skin at last. I shuffle over to the edge of the bed and look at the shadows which move hypnotically across the floor, momentarily morphing the carpet into an iridescent volume of water. Net curtains tumble out into the room; blown by the air from the open window. The shadows form long bony fingers reaching out to strangle me.

I shift in the bed revealing a wet patch where my body had been incubating, I rise, my clothes sticking to my back like a wet t-shirt to a rock. My clothes are sodden by fear and quite possibly faecal matter. My hand touches the floor and the illusion that it was water evaporates. My t-shirt rises exposing my back, the air slashes at my uncovered skin; which in turn causes goose bumps to break out and spread down my arm. I watch as my arm transforms into the blemished skin of a goose after plucking day. I can’t help but envisage a leprous blistered hand steal out from the shadows beneath my bed and pull me under.

It doesn’t.

I lower my head down. Blood pumping. Heart pounding. Inch by inch I lower my head. I can feel the pressure building; a vein protrudes from my head, forming the strange V that appears when I’m furiously masturbating or furiously mad. My eyes peer under the frame of the bed.

Nothing. Phew.

BANG.

The sound causes me to shoot manically up in the air, flipping around on my mattress like an un-medicated epileptic. My back smashes against the wall, quickly followed by my head. I reach out and pluck the blanket from where it lay; pulling it up to hide my sorry excuse of a body. I feel like ET sitting in that boy’s basket; wrapped up at the mercy of the encroaching enemy. Teasing and taunting me. I can feel something cold, something moving, something tickling, snaking through the hair on my head. I reach up quickly, my fingers diving under the blanket, which was shrouding my head like a nun. Instantly I wince. Sharp electric shocks tear through my head. Instinctively thinking of the game Operation; where if you removed a man’s cock without setting off his conk you win a prize. My fingers search through my scalp with as much attention as a blind man reading the braille sign on a toilet door. I pull my hand into focus, the tips of my fingers covered in a dark red, clotted blood.

A memory erupts in my mind. I can’t shake it. I was thirteen. At school. The day was a blur, but I had just finished Science; we were looking at moths or butterflies and how they turned from white to black to adapt to their environment. Something about birds eating them came to mind because of a factory nearby and the soot and smog making the trees black; so the white moths were being devoured. I sometimes wished I could be one of those moths; change what I looked like, be able to blend into the background. But no. I was the short, fat, acne faced girl with no friends and a mother and father who were nothing but an embarrassment to me. I sat in the toilet cubical. I felt strange, hurt,  like something just bottomed out. I reached down. Between my legs. It felt warm. But wet. But not like when I used to piss myself in class. It was more of a thick, meaty heat. I brought my fingers up; index and middle finger covered in red clumps of clotted blood, which slowly dribbled down my hand nestling in a warm pool in my palm.

Scratch!

The noise pulling me back from my puberty; with an intake of breath. I scan the room. Shadows dance around like a phénakisticope flickering things into life before my eyes. I slow my breathing.

Scratch.

It’s getting closer. I still can’t see it. I wipe my bloodied fingers on the bed sheets. The dim light makes it look like faecal matter. Instantly I draw my hand to my nose to smell it; before turning my focus back to discovering the origin of the noise. I bum shuffle across my mattress as a dog with worm’s crawls across a carpet. I creep forwards still shrouded in my blanket and lower my foot off the bed. The air is cool. My toes stretch out to connect with the wooden floorboards. Nothing. No noise. I slow my breathing again and shift my weight. If I can get to the light switch this whole situation will be over with. As I shift my weight.

SCRATH.

The floor comes alive; vibrations travel up my leg.

SCRATH. SCRATCH.

I fling myself backwards onto the bed; throwing the blanket up in the air like a parachute, the air catches it as I pull the corners down. Momentarily I’m under the crusty canopy of my blanket. The blanket slowly drops out of the air, collapsing slowly upon my cold body.

Whatever it is must reside under my floorboards. If I just stay still long enough it may just get bored, hungry and move on. Or will that draw it out.

If its hu…ngry’.

The words escape my mouth before I internalise them. I hear the scratching intensify; it must have heard me? Whatever it is, it’s furious.

The bed begins to shake. The noise moves haphazardly around my room one minute it’s under the bed; a split second later it’s across the room emanating from my wardrobe. Then it’s by the door, cutting off my exit. It’s at that moment I realise.

There’s more than one!’.

I speak the words now as I am pretty sure I won’t see out the night. At the birth of these words the scratching noises increase with ferocity. It sounds as if the floorboards are being shredded.; their structural security being brought into doubt. So even if I could make it to the door would the floorboards be able to hold my weight? Or would I collapse through the weakened floor? Struggle to stay above ground, fingernails clinging to the floorboards. Shards of wood gouging into my bare stomach; shredding my abdomen like pulled pork. Stringy pieces of flesh glistening in the moonlight; warm yellowy green juice leaking from my stomach sack, reminding me of the consistency of raw eggs.

Then as the sound reaches its crescendo, it stops. I wait. I can only hear the pulse in my ear, its hypnotic rhythmic whooshing. I realise that my face is nestling into the damp, bloody smears on the bed. I recoil thinking it was leaked anal juice, but after sniffing realise the error of my ways.

I slowly lift up the edge of the blanket enough for me to see out and enough for a breeze to come in. Then I hear it. A whimpering. Like a child crying. But distant. Muffled. Strangled. Then I realise it’s a fox lovemaking outside my window. I pull the covers down from over my head. Instantly the cold clutches me and my skin breaks out in a fresh case of goose bumps, but on my acne it could be mistaken for smallpox. It remains silent. I dare not get up. I turn slowly, being careful not to make a sound. Now laying on my back looking at the ceiling. Completely undercover apart from my neck and head. I lower my head onto the pillow but instantly wish I hadn’t. A searing pain almost making me wince out loud; but I choke it out before it escapes. Resigning myself to a painful night sleep and will deal with the injury tomorrow.

I stay still so long that my bones hurt, but the pain is nothing compared to the name calling I had to endure in school or the psychological pain my mother and father caused. I said to them once ‘why do you keep bullying me?’. They said ‘It’s not bullying its victimisation’.

That was my life.

Thinking about it makes me apathetic, which is a good state to be in when trying to sleep. But I am trying to stay awake! My eyes feel heavy. Suddenly I drop into sleep. My limbs spasm making me feel like I’m falling and it jogs my consciousness into action. I hear a sound. Cupping my ear with my hand to hear better; because who doesn’t use that renowned tried and tested technique? I hear it.

SCRATCH.

SCRATCH.

It’s under my bed now. With my vibrator. Handcuffs and whip. I can feel it vibrating, the floor not the rabbit. The scratching continues. It’s getting louder. Longer. Faster. Then it’s right next to me. The scratching continues in its ferocity and begins to climb up the wall. I reach out my hand to touch the wall. I can feel the scratching vibrating through the plasterboard. As the scratching rises so does my palm, flush against the wall. I look like a Nazi sympathiser saluting our grand Fuhrer. My hand moves over the wallpaper, bobbled indentations caress my fingertips. My fingers hit something hard, out of place, unmoveable. The scratch passes out of my reach; my fingers remain fixated by this sudden intrusion. My fingers reveal an old nail which used to hold an autographed photo of David Bowie. Every evening I used to kiss that thing; well after his death; I couldn’t help thinking that it was a weird type of necrophilia and I didn’t want to take part in that sordid affair; especially after the last time. I notice that the wall is bleeding from this old puncture wound; all too soon I realise that the blood was mine. Looking at the length of the nail instantly gives me a headache.

The scratching rises even higher up the wall; now it is on the ceiling. I retreat below the covers pulling them up over the lower part of my face, my nose protruding like a submarines periscope. The scratching increases. It’s now right above me.

SCRATCH.

SCRATCH.

Flakes of plaster tumble down and bounce off my blanket.

Dust falls, hangs momentarily in the moon light. I blink like my friend Lisa who suffers with a severe tic.

Then I noticed the hole.

SCRATCH, SCRATCH, SCRATCH. Suddenly a bulging eye glares at me through the hole.

That’s when they come!

*

STORGY Halloween Competition Illustration by HarlotVonCharlotte