The first part of the WEP – Halloween Challenge is to discuss a favorite frightening tale, movie, novel, photograph, or painting. For me the most frightening movie ever made was the Nightof the Living Dead. I saw it at a drive-in with my older brother, and while I watched it with my eyes covered; I saw enough to freak me out for life. I can't watch zombie movies to this day, and even have nightmares after a discussion of them.
I've always believed that humans were the true monsters, but zombies embody everything horrific about death and the undead. While I can write horror stories, I'm also very easily frightened, and yet Halloween is my favorite holiday and Stephen King one of my favorite authors. I prefer reading horror to watching it - the gore is too graphic - but my brain can separate all that for me in a book.
My contribution to the Youthful Frights vs. Adult Fears Challenge is based on one of my childhood fears:
While soaking in lavender and bubbles, long forgotten memories flood her mind.
Her mother's lilting voice beckons her deeper into the past and a memory she'd suppressed for seventeen years.
Her mother's voice floats into her room like the warmth of an angel’s caress.
"Allie, I need you."
Allison hurries to the kitchen.
"Hey, sweetie pie, I'd love your help with dinner."
"Sure, Mom, what can I do?"
"Go downstairs and get a jar of green beans and pickled beets. To celebrate Halloween, we're having dad's favorites. Hurry, he'll be home soon. Then we'll all go trick-or-treating."
Allison shudders. The basement; that horrid dark swamp of ghouls. There's no way, not tonight! Yet, she moves toward the basement door. The dull chop of steel against wood as her mother continues to slice potatoes follows her. Her hand shakes as she twists the doorknob. Opens it. Just a crack. Then she flings it open with a forced confidence she's trying to possess.
The scent of rot crinkles her nose. Green eyes glow in the dark. He's at the bottom of the steps. She's sure he's a beast with horns, enormous flesh-ripping teeth, and open sores that seep poison. Frozen in place, he calls her name. Allison screams. Slams the door and runs.
Her mother finds her cowering behind the recliner. Comforting arms pull her close. "Honey. There's no such thing as monsters. I go downstairs all the time. Daddy fixed the light. It's bright now. No more shadows."
Allison presses closer.
Her mother kisses her head. "We'll go together? I'll prove to you there's nothing to be afraid of."
Allie shakes her head. "I saw his eyes. He called my name."
"It's your imagination. I'll prove it." Her mother pulls her to her feet. Hand in hand, they return to the kitchen.
Despite her mother's reassurances, tears roll down Allison's cheeks. She plants her feet. Fear stops her from going any farther. Not even her mother’s look of disappointment can budge her.
Shaking her head, her mother marches to the basement door. "This is the last time, Allie." The light clicks on and she starts down the stairs. "Wait til your father gets home, young lady. I wanted to tell him how you'd helped prepare dinner; how grown up you are. Now what will I say?" Her mother's voice was strong and assuring as she descended and gathered the needed jars, even though scolding.
Allison wipes away her tears. Mom's right. I'm eight, not a silly little girl. It's time to grow up.
She hears her mother's returning footsteps. I'll make it up to her. Tonight, I'll do the dishes without a fuss. Allison bravely stands in the doorway, an apology on her lips. Relief fills her when a smile says all is forgiven.
Then her mother stops.
Her look of terror shouts run!
The beast's claws’ are clasped around her mother's ankles. Shrieks of terror reverberate through the house. The jars burst and splatter their contents. Her mother's body thuds down the stairs to the concrete floor. But it's the beasts’ howl that will forever haunt her nightmares.
"Allison!" Her husband's voice jerks her back to the present.
They'd moved back into her childhood home two months ago. An inheritance, even though her father had known how much she hated the place. She'd wanted to sell, but Tom insisted on moving in.
"Where are my tools?"
The back door slams and muddy boots stomp across clean floors. "How many times do I have to tell you to quit messing with my stuff?" His voice grows louder with each word. "Damn it, I'm talking to you! Son of a bitch!"
He storms into the bathroom. He'd broken the lock a month ago when Allison hadn't answered his call quickly enough.
She pulls her knees to her chest. "I moved them to the basement like we agreed."
Tom yanks the plug on the drain. "Where's dinner?" He looked around the room. "Think you're still a beauty queen? More like an old hag. Look at this crap!" With a swing of his arm, Allison's toiletries shatter against the tile floor.
She squeaks out a response, "I had the workshop built for your birthday." She stands and grabs a towel as the water circles the drain. "The contractor finished today. The workbench and all your tools are organized." Allison waits for his response, hoping his hand won't add to the colors already on her cheek.
Allison manages a smile. "Happy Birthday. It's a day early, but go check it out. You'll love it."
"I'll be damned!" He grabs her by the hair, twisting it around his oil-covered hand until her head and body are at his mercy. He gives her a sloppy kiss and bites her lower lip, drawing blood. He tears the towel away and touches her roughly.
He'll never, ever touch me again, she vows.
"Don't bother getting dressed," he growls.
Allison watches him leave; remembering the day his strength was something she admired. His footsteps fade, but she waits naked, immobile, body and mind numb. With the bathroom door open, October's chill circles the room hunting for any remnant of warmth. Shaking off the fear and a gnawing foreboding, she washes the grease from her hair and his touch from her body.
A moment later, she hears his screams and returns to that frightening moment from the past, but only for a second. Smiling for the first time in months, she finishes cleaning his filth from her soul.
Wrapped in a robe, Allison rushes to the telephone repeating, "Call the police, then the real estate agent." She dials 9-1-1.
Footsteps turn her into a statue.
Covered in blood, Tom appears in the kitchen door. He proudly holds the horned head of the beast. "That new hatchet sure came in handy." He grins.
Then he scowls, walks slowly forward, and raises the ax …
Yolanda Renée © 2015
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