Inkblots Special Hallowe’en Post – A Hedgehog Named Barry

Written by Lilith

hedgehog_foliage

Scavenge hunt. Image // Tomi Tapio

The hedgehog looked up at May with wide black eyes and twitched its nose. It was a tiny ball of brown spines, sitting at the edge of the pavement and staring up at her with something akin to adoration, though the little girl didn’t know why. She bent down to him, expecting him to shuffle away, but instead he sniffed her hand curiously.

“Hello,” she said nervously. The streetlights were starting to come on now, and she was late coming back from the shops. She would get into trouble for it, she knew, but she’d spent so long deciding what pick and mix to get – choosing and weighing and taking some out and weighing again until it was worth a pound. Now she knew she should hurry back so he wouldn’t be so angry, but at the same time couldn’t bring herself to face her father’s rage.

The hedgehog sniffled at her fingers and licked them.

“Can I call you Barry?” she asked, and although he didn’t say yes or no, she decided that he was OK with it.

“I have to go now… Sorry.” Another street lamp flickered from pink to orange to yellow above her. Home was only two streets away, so she picked up her satchel back and carried on walking.

She was only a few doors away from home when she heard a scuffling sound in the gutter beside her; she looked down and saw Barry waddling through the autumn leaves.

“What are you doing?” May hissed down at him. “Don’t follow me! My dad’ll be angry.”

Perhaps he understood her words or maybe her tone of voice, but Barry stopped still in the leaves and turned around a few times. He watched her go with mournful black eyes, his nose beneath a crisp golden leaf.

May’s father was angry, but her mother was less of a wreck than usual. She took one look at her daughter traipsing in with windswept hair and muddy boots and sent her to her room at once, in a tone that was forceful, but not wholly unkind. She stood between the little girl and her husband, who had been drinking for hours and was already shouting at the slightest thing. As May’s door closed, he began to shout at her up the stairs, and although May could work out some of the words, she did as her mother had said and kept the door tightly shut, then played pop music to drown out the worst of it. He fell silent after half an hour, but when May was called to dinner there was a dark mark on her mum’s face that hadn’t been there before.

That night, as May lay in bed, it started again. First her dad yelling, then the crashes and bangs as he threw things – anything that came near to his hand – at his wife. May was too scared to put on the music, so she pulled the duvet from her bed and sat by the window, staring at the sky.

“I wish…” she began to say, but the world was too big and too scary and too bloated with unfulfilled wishes that she suddenly didn’t know what to wish for. Should she wish for her dad to stop drinking? Would that make it better, or worse? How would she know? Or maybe she should wish for him to go away again… But when he did that before her mum had sat hunched over the kitchen table for days on end, crying into her wine, pulling May onto her lap and phoning him over and over again to tell him how much she missed him and they needed him back. Did she really want that?

“I wish Barry would come back,” she said, and looked down into the garden. The kitchen light was on, flooding the yard with light, and there besides a flower-pot was… No, it couldn’t be.

She squinted down at the flower-pot, trying to make out the dark shape beneath it. The noises from downstairs faded to nothingness as she struggled to identify whether that shadow was really her friend, or just a trick of the light.

There was only one way to be sure. She threw on a dressing gown over her nightie and stepped carefully out onto the landing. She could hear them arguing again – were they in the living room? She tiptoed down the stairs, placing her feet near to the sides of each step to stop them from creaking. Yes, they were in the living room, she decided, so she kept away from that door, instead stepping into the kitchen where piles of washing up had been discarded only ten minutes ago. As she reached the back door, she heard a crash followed by a sickening “thunk” sound, and then her mother screaming.

She peered out into the night. There was the flower-pot – the big one with the poppies – and there he was, smiling his sweet half-smile at her from the shadows.

“Barry,” she whispered. The door clicked open quietly and as quick as a flash she was outside in the yard, dropping to her knees to greet the hedgehog.

“Come with me,” the hedgehog seemed to be saying to her. “Just for a little while, until your mother is feeling better. It will be an adventure.”

May glanced nervously back at the house.

“Won’t dad be angry if he finds out, Barry?”

“He would, little girl, but he won’t find out. I promise.”

She put down both her hands to the ground and Barry climbed into them, carefully keeping his sharp spines from stabbing at her soft skin.

“You tell me where to go, OK?”

He nodded.

“Do you promise I’ll be safe, Barry?”

He turned around to face her, his black eyes meeting her blue.

“Yes, little May. Right now, this is the safest place you could be.”

Lilith’s ‘A Hedgehog named Barry’ was written as part of a HHC challenge in 2013, however it was such a wonderful short that we raided through the archives in order to bring it to you, our readers and followers, as an Inkblots special Hallowe’en post. Those feelings of uneasiness through the sinister shadow of May’s father really come to light within the final few sentences. Is Barry really a lovely hedgehog? Or is something more horrible happening? Either way, we can’t help breathe a sigh of relief when our fear for May’s safety is finally over. We hope you enjoyed reading Lilith’s story, and have a Happy Hallowe’en! 

Advertisements

Little Red

Written by Bandit Queen

little_red_riding_hood

Run, Little Red. Faster and faster until you can’t anymore. Image // GettysGirl

Run, little girl, run.

The forest is not your friend now. Where are the little flowers you picked, their sweet scent similar to yours and their pastel colours dappling the dark grass in the wood? Where are your sun beams you danced between, that streaked through the darkness of the thick branches up above? They are all gone. Nettles sting your dancing feet and the summer sun has set. There is only the Hunter’s moon; a cool, silver stare cutting down upon your face, as tears stream down your cheek.

You should have listened to your mother. Words do well to the wise, not to the brave. What can words do for you now? You think to bargain with me? Prey do not bargain with their predators.

Run, girl, run.

Your ragged breaths twitch my ears. Your saccharine smell waters my mouth. Your watery eyes widen mine. You are divine.
A branch snaps. I falter. You turn.

Hairs rise on your skin as mine bristles in glee. I can see you fleeing from the pine where we met. You are running. A monstrous grin grows on my face. Can you see my teeth that will tear you apart? Can you see my body heave forward, while I begin my chase for you?

Red is a dangerous colour to wear, my love. Your cloak ripples like a scarlet river through the silver trees, and you weave in and out to try to lose me. Why do you run? I see blood on your nimble feet. The forest is no longer the refuge you loved, is it? You will paint the trees crimson and the flowers will turn pale like the moon. The forest will mourn until your body lurches and your throat turns raw from your screams.

Then you can run through the forest, past the mountains to the river, you can dance in the moonlight, and howl to the stars. Give your family, your love and guard, your elder in the wood. Leave your petty village behind: the resentment, the marriage, the hatred. You are brave. Why do you fear me when the monsters share your bed?

You stop. You do not run. There are no more tears.

The chase is over, my love.

Genuinely, we feel a little terrified for Little Red, here. This incredibly tense piece of short fiction was written by Bandit Queen on behalf of the July HHC under the theme ‘Chase’. As a predator hunting its prey, you can smell the fear within this piece. Inspired by the Brothers Grim story, Bandit Queen’s piece serves as a truly dark tale. The masquerade of fairytale slips into a stalker and a vulnerable young woman, fleeing for her life. It’s serious, and it’s horrifying. If you enjoyed Bandit Queen’s first published piece here on Inkblots, please leave her a like, or comment in the section below.  

There Will Be Tea

Written by Miss Smiley

high_tea

High tea anyone? With a slice of lemon or death…? Image // Blake Bentley

The woman breathed raggedly, hurling a terrified look behind her as she ran down the alley. A shot of adrenaline hit her breastbone as she spotted her pursuer, no more than ten metres back, shrouded in the darkness, strolling along like they had all the time in the world.

Miss Herrington, however, didn’t. Too panicked even to scream, she bolted as fast as she could in her flailing skirts. The hobble skirt bashed painfully against her shins with each frantic step, almost tripping her. A thought flitted through her head –

What on Earth has fashion got against physical activity?

– too slippery and quick to follow. She threw her hands up to stop herself crashing into the brick wall. Wheeling around the corner, she scrambled against the cobblestones, wishing she had not been quite so vain that morning – without the hobble skirt and extra petticoats, she would have been much quicker on her feet.

She stopped short as she spotted the wall, mere inches from her face.

A dead-end. No escape.

“No…” she whimpered. She let out a little moan of despair and pushed against the wall with a palm, willing it to move, hoping for a miracle. “Please…”

Footsteps clicked on the cobblestones behind her. She wheeled around to face her attacker.

“Wh-what…what do you want?” It came out ragged, whimpering and terrified. Madeline Herrington cursed herself for not sounding more confident.

Her pursuer smiled from beneath a hat. “You know what I want.” A woman’s voice, refined and silky. On her hands, she wore white gloves. Madeline wondered how the woman would ever get her blood out of the fabric.

“Don’t you dare touch me!” she screamed as her attacker neared, those gloved hands outstretched to her.

“Why not?” The gloves curled around her arm, jerking her forward to the eyes of their owner. Her attacker smirked confidently. “It’s nothing personal. Curiosity killed the cat, Miss Herrington. We’re just putting that practice into play.”

“I’ll never publish it, I swear!” Madeline was weeping now, her make-up smeared with grime and tears. Her heart thumped frantically in agreement. “No one knows, I swear it!”

“Too bad. You still know.”

She looked into the eyes and recoiled. The reports hadn’t lied. The woman’s eyes were dead – lifeless, like a doll’s. “I swear I’ll take your secret to my grave.”

“Yes. Yes, you will.” The woman smiled from beneath the hat, a smile that never reached her lifeless eyes. Her gloved hand made its way up her arm to her neck, cold to the touch.

Madeline shuddered, too terrified to say a word.

The woman surveyed her for a moment with those blue eyes and then smiled again. “Goodbye, Miss Herrington. Nothing personal. Just orders.”

Madeline felt cold metal against her skin and swallowed. And then…

Nothing.

She hadn’t even had time to scream.

As many of our regular readers will know, Miss Smiley is a dab hand when it comes to creating suspension in short stories. This is only a mere snippet of more to come, but we hope it’s just as deadly as this piece. We’re also perplexed as to when tea will be served and if it’s laced with poison. Maybe someday we’ll have the pleasure of finding out. If you enjoyed reading Miss Smiley’s short horror, you may just find her other work just as charming in ‘The Bells of Campden‘ and ‘The Laurel‘. 

Last Breath

Written by Rob

dracula_christopher_lee

Christopher Lee stars as Dracula. Last breath? I don’t think so. Image // Warner Bros, Dracula Risen from the Grave

I don’t find this easy to talk about. People say that it is good to get things out in the open; a problem shared is a problem halved; talking is good; other such platitudes. I say “people” weren’t there; they didn’t go through what I went through; they probably have never felt that degree of blind terror. Even as I write, I find I’m crying and trembling again. I feel like I’ve been branded; that moment will forever be burnt into my very being, like an ugly scar.

I wanted to run but I couldn’t move. I wanted to cry out but my lungs were paralysed. I wanted to look away but no part of me would respond to instruction. I wanted the earth to swallow me. I wanted anything but to be there and then.

There is no shortage of clever dicks who tell me I was in no danger; there was nothing to fear; the whole incident was entirely harmless. And there is a corresponding supply of those who like to take the scientific tack; telling me about natural processes of decay and ferment; biochemistry of gas production in a dead body; rigor mortis and the like. None of this helps.

I was alone in the front parlour, with Uncle Ernie, laid out in his coffin, paying my last respects. I had only been stood beside him for a few moments. Then Ernie spoke to me.

The proverbial king of short fiction, Rob’s HHC – written on behalf of last month’s theme “sigh” is one to leave a lasting impression. So, a dead man talking rather than walking. That there is a real fear – a subconscious one. Of course, Ernie didn’t really speak, though maybe he spoke to the narrator in a different way. If you enjoyed Rob’s short entry, you can view some of his other work such as ‘Shot Blast‘ and ‘Mirror, Mirror‘. 

Not The One Who Knocks

Written by Blue-Eyed Devil

Part of the Grimsley Chronicles

full_wolf_moon

Can you hear that howling? Image // Bill Dickinson

‘S’nice place,Grimsley thought to himself.Breaking in hadn’t been all that much trouble. Duct tape placed on one of the small windows in the back door and a sharp jab with his elbow had allowed him to enter the premises without much hassle. He had found himself in a kitchen, cleaned well but small and rather bare. Running a gloved hand over the crockery, he put a little thought into what he would use to end the owner’s life.Skillet? No. Frying pan? Been done, and recently.His eyes slid their way over to the selection of knives in a wooden block and he pulled one free, examining the blade. Yes… this should do the trick.Seeing a tall glass on the draining board, Grimsley casually nudged it off. It fell to the floor and smashed into a dozen pieces.

He moved further into the house with practiced ease, his footfalls not making a sound on the floor as he inspected the place. He was no interior decorator, but you could tell a lot about a person by the way they kept their personal space.

No pictures anywhere – could be that she didn’t have any family alive, or was estranged from any that were. But Grimsley doubted that. There were more than a few pieces of furniture about. That implied that the occupier had company often; friends, family, partner. Or partners. He wasn’t old-fashioned; each to their own. No pictures but she had visitors often? Not a sentimental type, perhaps.

Working his way around, Grimsley continued his observations. Everything looked neat, nothing out of place or flung about randomly. A tidy person, then? But a quick inspection of her cupboards and drawers revealed things simply stuffed in haphazardly. She made a show of being put together, but under the surface was chaos. Out of sight, out of mind…

Grimsley sighed to himself. Were it so easy to put that into practice.

A sudden creak brought the thug back to his purpose. His target was finally awake and was investigating the noise he had made. It had taken her long enough.

Slipping silently out of sight, Grimsley waited for the woman to show herself. He didn’t have to wait long, the figure of a small but compact person was moving past him in the dark. She was shorter than him, he noted. A pleasant change, he thought to himself.

Well, time to get on with it. He approached her from behind, thrusting the knife upwards between her ribs and into her heart.

Or that had been his intent anyway. She surprised him by turning sharply and kicking the weapon out of his hand.

Huh. That’s odd.

Grimsley blocked a punch aimed at his jaw and locked the arm in place at his side. He thrust forwards with the palm of his hand and struck her nose, but she moved into the attack and it bounced off her forehead. A knee jabbed into his stomach, making him let go of her arm.

His head was beginning to ache again. Not now. Gotta end this now.

She aimed another kick at him and he caught her leg, taking the blow to his side but grasping firmly onto the appendage. She was well muscled, but Grimsley was much stronger. She discovered this herself when he shoved all his weight into her, knocking her straight to the ground. She tried to struggle free but the stocky thug had his forearm pressing down on her neck and his whole body was crushing down onto hers.

Grimsley looked down onto the slowly purpling face of the woman as he slowly cut off her air and suddenly realised something. She was… normal. She wasn’t changing. Her face was… human.

A sudden, blinding light filled his head and he felt… renewed. Refreshed.

Reborn.

“It’s your lucky day, miss,” muttered Grimsley, more to himself than to her. His fist cracked into her face and she stopped struggling.

He made sure she was still breathing before he left. Placed her in the recovery position too, just to be on the safe side. Concussion was a tricky thing.

Walking back to his flat, Grimsley reveled. Everyone was a monster. Makepeace had been the first. Others had come; people he was forced to work with, those that passed down his orders, those that drank in the same pub as him. But the woman he had been sent to kill was not. The pain in his head had come, but she had not changed.

He knew what the others thought about him. He was the organisation’s pet wolf. Everyone was afraid of him, of who the bosses would unleash him on next. He remembered someone saying that even angels would cross the street out of fear from him. Knowing that they were scared of him did not diminish him; on the contrary, it invigorated him, as if he fed off of their fear.

Striding into his flat, the thug made straight for his couch, lifting the seat and revealing the hollowed out innards. He reached in, rummaging inside it until he found what he was looking for. Things have changed now. The monsters had struck fear into his heart before, but he would exorcise that fear by becoming fear itself. Becoming the Wolf that even angels feared to tread near.

Running his hand along the blade of the machete, Grimsley smiled to himself.

Yes… this should do the trick.

Blue-Eyed Devil’s Grimsley shorts began with a simple Half Hour Challenge idea, from then the Grimsley Chronicles were born. Now, our Haiku creator writes interesting scenarios for his character to get into, and most of the time it’s tense in action. There’s definitely a big sense of fear in ‘Not the One who Knocks’, which is exactly what we’re aiming for with this month’s content. If you enjoyed Blue-Eyed Devil’s short HHC, you can check out some of his other work, including Haiku Selections One and Two

Sleepless Nights

Written by Ashcloud

insomnia_time

Time is a killer. Image // Mateus Lunardi Dutra

The shrill sound of nothingness deafens.
As silent as sleep itself,
Insomnia mutes functionality.
How is it that so many hide,
Behind a facade of concealer; lies
And steaming mugs of coffee?
What they truly long for – the black blanket
To shroud their ticking minds’ wound,
Beyond capacity, the taut spring awaits
Expectantly, for the slightest nudge
That will uncoil the mind’s formal graces,
In exchange for the unknown,
feared place within us all.

Ashcloud’s poem is something many of us on The Inkwell writing forum can relate to – suffering from insomnia is probably every writer’s nightmare, though it’s probably when we acquire our best material. Stimulated by caffeine, words can magically appear, but without it we’d suffer from the inevitable caffeine crash. It’s why Ashcloud’s poetry just hits the nail on the head; a deep fear some of us can’t seem to escape. If you enjoyed Ashcloud’s ‘Sleepless Nights’, feel free to check out her other wonderful poetry, ‘Knight‘ and ‘The Root of Insanity‘. 

Fiction Frenzy Winning Entry – Rabid

Written by Magnificent Mayhem

the_walking_dead_wallpaper

Sometimes there’s just no way out. Image // The Walking Dead AMC

It’s almost funny. You could almost say I’d been preparing for this my whole life. I had seen every movie.  Read every book, every comic. I had video games. I even recorded mini-series. My costume was a staple at every Halloween party and Comic Con event. People expected to see me in my best gaping wounds and shuffle step, they talked about it afterwards. Who could blame them?  I really committed when I was in character. So when I came home to find one in my kitchen, I suppose I wasn’t entirely surprised, not really. I suppose I’d been waiting for it for a long time.

What did shock me was to see my wife sprawled on the floor, hands pushing feebly against its back, mouth gaping noiselessly as it ate at her. Her eyes met mine for a moment and there I saw the fear, the panic. The floor was wet, sticky, slick. The smell was grotesque. I found her eyes again. Silent, pleading, tears streaming.

I never questioned my next move. Most days I still don’t.

I reached for a knife from the counter and lurched unsteadily towards the grotesque pair. I could not take my eyes from her. She made a sound then, I think she was trying to scream, maybe call out to me. But fear caught the noise in her throat and it trailed off helplessly. It – whatever that thing was – never even noticed me. It just kept eating at her, its teeth and jaws working away as she struggled to push it from her. My arm seemed to move on its own accord, plunging again and again into the base of its skull. And for the first time, it turned its attention on me, arms flailing as I hacked indiscriminately. My wife screamed then, harsh and hard in my ear as I brought myself close to finish it.

Once it lay still on the ground beside us, I took her hand in mine. I wiped tears, snot and blood from my face, in an effort to make myself a little more presentable. I even tried to smooth my hair down. I pulled her in close to me, so as to calm her harried breathing. Many of my haphazard strokes had cut her as well. Across her face, arms, hands, neck. But the damage had been done long before I arrived.

She blinked at me. She tried to speak but only managed to spill blood from her lips and mauled throat. Her hair was plastered to her skin, red and wet, clinging to her face. It hurt me more than it hurt her, I am sure of it.

I think I whispered something to her, there at the end, but all I could concentrate on was what had to be done. Continue reading →