Wednesday, October 21, 2015

WEP Halloween Challenge: Youthful Frights vs. Adult Fears

It's time for the WEP Halloween Challenge!  This challenge is all about Childhood Frights vs. Adult Fears.  The goal is to show how a childhood fear can turn into an adult one, whether real or imagined.

To start the fun you can:
1.    share a favorite frightening tale, movie, novel, photograph or painting that will leave us quaking in our boots
2.    in a short paragraph describe how it scared you, and why it did and or still does today
3.    then you can:
a.    submit your own scary piece, 1000 words or less, in any format or
b.    share a photograph or painting that captures the horror you've felt.

Not many movies scare me, but one that I watched recently certainly had me on edge the whole way through.

The Babadook kept me uncomfortable.  I don't want to give too much away for those who haven't seen it, but I started out worrying that the little boy was going to hurt himself or someone else.  He insists he sees this monster that no one else can see, and he acts out in frightening ways.  That fear switches when his mom visibly starts to lose her mind, and I spent the rest of the movie terrified that she was going to hurt her son. The tension was killer, and I think the fact that I have kids of my own made it more intense.  The atmosphere of the movie was also perfect for the story it was telling.

Okay, on to the second part of the challenge.  I hope you enjoy this little piece of flash fiction I wrote!  Or, more accurately, I hope it scares the daylights out of you.  I'm not a horror writer, but I did my best.


The boogeyman is real, and he’s standing outside my house.
Creak!  Creak!  Creak!  The wood protests as the stranger paces back and forth on our porch.  The sound sends chills down my spine.
Tap.  Tap.  Tap.  He raps on the door each time he passes.
“Daddy, why is he doing that?” Emily whispers in my ear.  Her thin arms are wrapped around my neck, and she’s trembling so hard she can barely hold on.
“I don’t know, sweetheart.”  I hold her close as I’m transported back in time to the days of my childhood when I feared the boogeyman was coming for me.  I used to cling to my mother and father the exact same way.  Now I’m supposed to be the protector, and I can’t escape the fear that I’m going to fail.
This faceless stalker has been after my family for weeks.  It started with notes slipped into the mailbox and under the door.  The messages were only vaguely menacing in the beginning.  “I’ve seen you around.”  “You have a lovely family.”  Things that seemed creepy mostly due to the anonymity of them.  They soon grew more aggressive.  “I’ll make you scream.”  “I want to know your family from the inside out.”
The police didn’t seem all that concerned.  “It’s probably just a prank,” the officer told me.  “There’s no specific threat, so there’s only so much we can do.”
They might believe the disemboweled cat I found on my porch when I got home from work today is a more tangible threat, but I have yet to report it.
I should have reported it.
Now I feel helpless.  I am a child all over again.  My older sister Courtney used to tell me horror stories about the boogeyman who came in the night to collect frightened children.  “Mark, I know that you broke my roller skates,” she said.  “You know what that means.  The boogeyman is going to come get you.”  Or “Mark, you threw your peas in the trash and told Mom you ate them.  You know what that means, don’t you?”
The things I told myself as a trembling child, huddled in the dark, come right back to me.  The boogeyman is coming to get you.  You deserve all the bad things he’s going to do to you.  Mom and Dad are upset, and they won’t protect you.
What did I do wrong now?  How did I bring this upon my family?
The thought is ludicrous, of course, but it burrows its way under my skin and makes a home there.
Tap.  Tap.  Tap.
“Hello.  911?  Yes, there’s someone outside our house, and they’re threatening us!”  My wife Caroline’s voice is higher in pitch than normal, but she’s holding herself together.  She crouches down beside us, and Emily lets go of me to cling to her instead.
I stand and scan the area.  There are no guns in the house, but I need to find some way of defending us.  That’s my job.  If I can’t protect my family, what good am I?
I find my old baseball bat in a closet and go to stand near the door.  All the while, I’m running through possible courses of action.  Should we go out the back door, or are we safer here?  Should we hole up in a hidden room?  That might eliminate our hope of escaping.  So many options, and none of them feel right.  There’s too much uncertainty.  One wrong decision and I doom us all.
As a child, I felt certain that my parents could protect me from anything.  Now I wish that fiction had been true.  I wish I could live up to it.
Tap.  Tap.  Tap.
“Mommy!”  Emily is sobbing even harder.
Caroline shushes her softly, then says something to the operator.
Creak.  Creak.  Creak.
As the dark-clothed boogeyman passes the window, I see the glint of some kind of weapon.  Though I don’t know what it is, my heart speeds up even more at the sight of it.
I take a deep breath.  My fingernails dig into the wood of the bat.  My breaths come shallow and quick.
Tap.  Tap.  Tap.
“It’s going to be just fine.”  I don’t know if the words are meant more for them or for me.  It doesn’t matter, because they have no substance.  They’re nothing but tissue paper.  Pleasant enough at first glance, but translucent and easily shredded.
Creak.  Creak.  Creak.
“Please tell them to hurry,” Caroline begs.
Another glint seen through the window.
Tap.  Tap.  Tap.
My heart pounds in my ears.  I wish it were loud enough to drown out all the other sounds.  I wish I were brave enough to go out there and put a stop to the nightmare.  I wish I had someone to comfort me and convince me everything will be all right.
Creak.  Creak.  Creak.
I’m losing my mind.  I imagine my family being torn to pieces.  I can see the blood on the floor.  If that happens, it’ll be my fault.  My failure.
Tap!  Tap!  Tap!
Tap!  Tap!  Tap!
The change in pattern jars me.  That isn’t good.  Not good at all.
“Daddy!  Make it stop!” Emily screams.
I have to do something.  I can’t let it end like this.
Then I hear the sirens.  The red and blue flashing lights filter in through the curtains.  I’ve never seen anything more beautiful.
The sound of pounding footsteps tells me our terrorizer has fled.
“It’s okay,” I say, dropping the bat and running to embrace my family.  “We’re fine.  It’s over.”
I don’t know how much time passes, but I haven’t yet let go of my wife and daughter.  One of the officers is standing in our living room, and I must still be out of it, because I don’t recall letting him in.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Hanson.  The guy got away, but we’ll do what we can to protect your family.”
It isn’t over after all.

Word Count 997/FCA


  1. I love this piece, the tension in it is great. I like the use of the taps and creaks. It reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe's Tell Tale Heart :)

  2. Ooh, Laura mentioned Edgar Allan Poe. That's my guy. I've shared a poem of his. And yes, it does have echoes of The House of Usher feel about it. Loved it L.G. Poor father. Those childhood fears are a living dread now. How will this story end? Naughty, leaving us hanging.

    I attended a masterclass on horror and the supernatural in writing and Babadook came up quite often. It's a low-budget Australian movie and apparently it scared the pants off everyone who saw it. Did well overseas. Not my kind of movie. The plot is enough to cause sleepless nights. It explores so many of our fears, though, which is why it resonated so much with people.

    Thanks for sharing such a great entry for the WEP Halloween challenge. Was a delight to read!

    Denise :-)

  3. Great tension. LOVE it. Now I just want something awful to happen, because then it's true horror. Of course, the cat was pretty horrific.

  4. I haven't seen the Babadook, though I want to, but I'm a little frightened to. I have horror buff friends whom this movie freaked out. Not ready for nightmares haha

    Your story is great! I love all the tension and when he's thinking about the banter between him and his sister, spot on taunting, that. I like that you left the ending up to the imagination. Awesome job!

  5. When I was four, I remember hearing someone on the porch. Saw the porch swing moving and heard footsteps; I was convinced it was the boogeyman too. Still remember the fear to this day. Great subject!

    You did a beautiful job of building tension, but I expected his sister to jump out and say, I told you so, or some other such nonsense. Loved the ending though, 'it's not over' – wonderful! I so enjoy it when a writer tries their hand at horror - the surprises are always amazing!
    I don't know The Babadook, but I don't like that kind of tension, it gives me ulcers, I become so wrapped up in the story. Stressful horror I call it!

    Truly wonderful job LG and we're so happy you joined in on the fun. I'm so enjoying all the different tales, thanks for participating!
    Happy Halloween!

  6. Awesome story! I still need to see that movie. :)

  7. I am reading this early. Very early. It is still dark. If I hear tapping or creaking there may be an unfortunate accident.
    Essentially you done good. I am haunted.

  8. I could literally see and feel his fear. Excellent. And I wanted and didn't want to read on all at the same time. It freaked me out, totally. Thank you, I think.

  9. Oh well done. I loved the phrase, words are tissue paper.

  10. I liked the suspense in your story. I was thinking he would end up hitting an innocent person over the head with the bat. Like the pizza delivery guy. The Babadook movie does sound really creepy. I don't like those horror movies where kids are threatened and/or the parent is a psycho. I always hate the suspense in those things because you are waiting for terrible things to happen. :)

  11. Great story, very uncomfortable. Love those "Creak, creak" "Tap tap" too.

  12. hordes of evil
    In our souls
    Do hide
    Yet we think
    They’re before
    Our eyes
    They make us
    Who we
    have become
    yet from ourselves
    we never seem
    to run

  13. Oh that was good. Too real, I'm afraid. I especially liked where Mark was transported back to his childhood, clinging to his parents for protection, then realizing he was the parent now, the protector. I think I'm sleeping with a baseball bat tonight.

    Babadook sound scary enough for me :)

  14. He should definitely have reported the cat murder! Great, taut tension right up to the end, and I too was reminded of the Tell Tale Heart. Well crafted.

    I'd probably be too much of a wimp to watch that film...

  15. Heard a lot of good things about The Babadook. Maybe one day I'll muster up the courage to watch it!

    A very creepy and atmospheric tale. I loved the use of sound to convey the urgency of the situation. I'll be honest, I like an unhappy ending in a horror story, so I did feel a slight bit of disappointment when the cops showed up. That last line nailed it, though.

  16. I don't like a bad ending, especially since too many deranged people do roam the streets. I'm glad you put a little reality in the tale by having something real be the cause. I would definitely hire someone or get a weapon in this case. Well written and like someone else said, the sound of the tapping upped the tension.

  17. A couple things came to mind. What if the "disemboweled cat" had been recently neutered and that's why it was .. that way. Also, I had a grandmother who was paranoid schizophrenic and she would always think that someone was out there or in the house and she would constantly call the police. They could never find anyone and they did not always come out after too long. I am a fan of using words to make the reader feel motion and mounting suspense like was done in this piece. It was effective! :)

  18. Elegant and spooky. Your story's a good read.

  19. Great tension!
    The repetition is atmospheric - really creeped me out!
    It's late at night, everything is quiet and now I'm really spooked...
    Great job, L.G.
    (Off to bed for me. I'll read the other entries in the morning)

  20. While I enjoy a good fright from time to time, I don't seek out scary movies. After all I've heard of the Babadook, it's one of those movies I think I'll just take everyone's word on.
    It's scary.
    As for your piece, too close to home, but still gratifying. I've dealt with stalkers and it's a terrible feeling- feeling as though you're being watched and having subtle, but not definitive, proof of it. Then it all comes down to catching the guy.

  21. You certainly manage to capture the tension and suspense and fear in your piece. I could feel the fear emanating out of the words. Great story.

  22. Fantastic. I love what you did with the emotions here. It really drew me in. Great work.

  23. I haven't seen that movie, but maybe I should. I may inspire some horror. Good job, LG! You had me going.

  24. Gahhh, it got away! That's got relocation written all over it. Tension was fabulous, I was ready to grab a bat too, by the end!