Scheherazade: A Halloween Story

This one’s for Halloween.

A dark room, small, white, no windows, only a door. A woman in her mid-thirties in the far corner, in a fetal position, crying. Footsteps, the clicking of new shoes outside. She manages to stifle her crying and cringes more into the corner.

The clicking comes closer and closer. It reaches the door. Stops.

A key slips into the lock and turns. The door opens. The light from the hallway floods the room, blinding the woman.

A man steps into the room. Lights a candle on the table. Closes the door behind him. He reaches over and pulls a chair from the table. He turns the chair with its back facing the woman and straddles it.

He doesn’t tell her not to be afraid. He doesn’t tell her to take off her clothes. Instead he leans forward, smiles and says, “Tell me a story.” There is ice in his voice. So much so his words turn the room chilly and put shivers on her skin.

She responds, her teeth chattering. “Leave me alone.”

He leans closer and raises his voice slightly. “Tell me a story, or—well, the choice is yours.” She can feel the frost on her face.

She swallows hard. “I don’t have any stories.”

An avalanche of words rolls out of his mouth. “Of course, you do. We all have stories. Stories of ancestors and parents and brothers and sisters. And the first time we had sex. Now tell me one. Just one.” The blizzard is coming for her.

She turns away from him and tries to protect her face from the freezing wind.

He rises from the chair and kneels before her, pushes back her hair, then says, “I told you I wouldn’t hurt you. Have I hurt you?” He smells of Old Spice and his breath smells like rotten meat.

“Why have you kept me here for so long?”

He reaches under her chin and turns her face to meet his. “I was waiting on the full moon. Now it’s the full moon. It’s time for a story.”

She takes a deep breath, taking in the cold air, then, “This is a story about a farm.”

He lets go of her face and smiles. “I like farms. My uncle owned a farm once. He lost it when he went bankrupt.” Then he is up and in his chair.

Trying to fight the ice, she breaths warmth on to her hands. “It was my grandparents’ farm,” she says, her voice as calm as she can make it.

“See, I told you that you had a story. And I’m liking it already.”

“It wasn’t a large farm. My grandparents had five chickens and a rooster.”

“Plenty of fresh eggs.”

“And they sold what they didn’t eat.” She sat up and leaned forward. “And they had a cow and a horse and two pigs. On top of that, Grandfather had a red tractor. Used to grow corn and fresh tomatoes and lots of potatoes.” The ice begins to melt from the warmth of her words.

“You must’ve loved visiting there.”

“I did. Every summer when I was a girl, my sister and I would go and stay. It was a lovely farm. I have such good memories,” she says, then she whispers, “Especially of my grandmother’s pies.”

He leans forward. “What did you say?”

“I have good memories of my grandmother’s pies. They were the best.”

“I love pies.”

“And so did my grandfather’s goat. He kept eating her pies. She would sit them on the windowsill to cool. And up popped that little goat head.”

“Why didn’t she get rid of the goat?”

“She wanted to, but it was my grandfather’s. He loved that goat.”

“Guess all your grandmother could do was close the windows.”

“That’s what my grandfather said. But my grandmother was having none of that. ‘Why should I have to accommodate a goat?’ she kept asking.”

“Any story with a goat in it is my kind of story.”

“One Saturday my grandmother made three pies. Two for the neighbors and one for Grandfather. She sat the pies on the windowsill and kept an eye out for the goat. Unfortunately she left the kitchen for less than five minutes. When she came back, one of the pies was gone. She knew exactly who the culprit was.

“She went to the hall closet and got out the rifle. She checked to make sure the rifle was loaded.”

“Guess it’s by-by goat,” he says, bringing his chair closer to the woman so that he can hear her soft voice.

“She ran outside and up aways, took one look at that goat, raised her rifle and fired.”

“Eating a pie was no reason to kill that poor goat. What would your grandfather do?”

“She missed but the goat didn’t. He lowered his horns, rushed passed her, accidentally knocking her off her feet. And went straight for the two pies. By the time she got to her feet, the pies were gone. And so was the goat. Grandfather rushed over. ‘Are you alright?’ he asked.

“‘Of course, I’m alright. But that fool of a goat ate my pies. Now I’m out of my secret ingredient and we won’t have pies till next month.'”

The man leans closer toward the woman, the two almost touching. His hands grab her wrists and they squeeze. “What was the secret ingredient?”

She moves so close to him that her chest is touching his chest. Then her mouth is against his ear. She whispers, “The secret ingredient is fresh human brains.”

Her teeth sink into his ear. They rip it off. She knees his groan. Then her teeth plunge into his skull, their poison freezing his body.

The room has turned hot as a summer day.

Near 500 words: Living Room Stories: Combat

Writers are asked again and again, “Where do you get your ideas?” Many of mine begin from observations I have in my living room. This story was inspired by a wasp behind the curtains in my living room.

Tray had just sat down when he saw the wasp. He swallowed, leaving his mouth dry.

The wasp bounced behind a sheer, white curtain, unable to escape through the opening between the curtain and its partner. Then it dropped out of sight behind the red couch.

Tray’s eyes studied the spot where the wasp had made its retreat, a lone guerilla lost in the jungle that was Tray’s living room. If Tray had been a warrior, he would’ve jumped up out of his chair, picked up a broom and whacked that beastie out of the ball park. Tray was not a warrior. He was allergic to wasp stings.

The wasp rose from behind the couch in front of the curtains. It had managed to find its way through the curtain parting.

Tray sat, frozen to his chair. His eyes followed the wasp’s movement.

The insect lit on the top of the back of the couch, and it glared at Tray. It was ready for hand-to-hand combat.

Try held his breath and hoped. What he was hoping for, there was no telling. Maybe the wasp would fly into something so hard, it would fall and die.

An itch came upon Tray ever so slightly. And the itch wasn’t just any place. It was on his bottom. Over the next little while, it grew until it became intense. It was the kind of itch that makes each minute seem like an eternity.

The wasp rose into the air and flew back and forth across the room from couch to door to wall to door..

From the  left to the right, from the right to the left, Tray’s eyes followed the wasp, making its maneuvers.

A shot of adrenaline rushed through Tray’s body. Out of desperation, he willed his body to move. Ignoring his fear, ignoring his itch, he stood up and rushed to the front door.

The wasp was on his tail.

Tray grabbed the door knob and turned and jerked. The door gave. It opened.

Tray fell to the floor. He felt the wasp fly just above his body. His eyes watched as the wasp escaped its prison and fly to the freedom outside. A second wasp passed the insect through the door and over to the red couch.

Near 500 words: The children

Nicole ran. She remembered the day she ran. It was the Day of the Rainbow. Karl, her brother, ran with her. They left their father’s house and ran from the fear. Their father had big hands and he knew how to use them. Especially on Nicole.

She was eight and Karl was ten and they ran. Their father followed them until he lost their trail. Then they walked. They did not know where they were going. Only they knew they were not going back. They would rather die first. So they walked.

When you are that young, you have no place to go. No refuge. They must have walked for weeks. They slept underneath things and ate the food they found in the trash. By this time, they were dirty and unrecognizable as the children of their father.

Summer was getting close to coming to an end. Autumn was closing in and soon it was to be chilly. And then the snow and winter. They had to find a place of refuge. But where.

They came to a forest. It was a large forest. Perhaps they might find a cave where they could stay to keep warm.

In that cave, the woodsman found them. Asleep. He was a big fella and he was handsome and was gentle. He had lived in the forest all his life long.

“My name is Theodore. My friends call me Theo,” he said when the children woke up. “What are your names?”

The children looked at him with frightened eyes. He could not see those eyes but he knew they must be frightened.

“Do you wish me to leave?” he asked.

“Y-y-yes,” Karl answered.

“I can do that. And you can stay here. I can bring you cakes if you are hungry. My wife makes very good cakes. But what are you going to do when the witch comes?”

“There are no witches,” Karl said.

“Oh, but there are. The one this cave belongs to is disguised as a bear. But she is a witch. And she likes the taste of children with her gingerbread.”

“Wake up, wake up,” Karl shouted to Nicole. “We have to leave. There is a bear coming.”

“Would you like to come home with me? I have food, a bath and a warm bed. And a wife who would love to meet you. If you are not happy there, you can be on your way.”

Karl and Nicole were not sure whether to take the offer. Theo might be just like their father. All smooth, then like a volcano, bursting with anger. Finally, the hunger got the best of them. “We will go with you,” Karl said. “But we will not stay.”

“At least, stay for the winter. Once the spring comes, go your own way.”

They stayed for the winter and then the summer to come and then another winter and another summer. Theo and his wife loved the two children as if they were their own. Finally, one morning Nicole told the story of their father’s anger. It was not a pleasant story to tell by a fire. But she told it anyway. Theo and Margaret, his wife, were happy the children trusted them enough to tell their story. That was the day a giant rainbow appeared through their window.

haiku for the day: halloween

Okay. Let’s admit it. We love a good fright. Most of us can’t resist a horror film. You might say that it is written in our DNA. If it wasn’t, why is it that we love a good horror ride. We’ll lay down our bucks just to feel the fear. Whether it’s a ride or a movie, it doesn’t matter. And how many of us have been tempted to say “Beetlejuice” three times? There’s even a rumor that Tim Burton will ultimately make the Juice into a trilogy. Because he can’t wait till the guy shows up. One thing’s for sure. Tomorrow night, when you’re out halloweening please, oh please, do not go down into the basement. If you do, don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

the house on the hill
downright scary the hauntings
no screams at midnight

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Now for something special for Leap Day

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. From time to time, a reflection on the movie will appear below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “Defending Your Life” (1991):

Have No Fear, Albert Brooks Is Here

Albert Brooks is dead. When Albert Brooks is dead, he whines about it. “Cheer up,” Meryl Streep encourages. “It could be worse.”

Of course, it could be worse. Albert could be you-know-where.

The two of them, Albert and Meryl, are at a way station between the Living and the Great Beyond, and they are being evaluated. Meryl Streep’s evaluation is Awesome Plus. Of course, it is. It’s Meryl Streep and she already had two Oscars to prove it. And a bunch of nominations as well. Seems she could do nothing wrong in her life on earth.

Albert Brooks? Not so much. He only had one Oscar nomination. That was for “Broadcast News”. As usual, he plays a schmuck. In “Defending Your Life”, he can’t do anything right. He lives in fear of his shadow. And it is a mild and meek shadow at that. For instance, on the best day of his life, he rewards himself with a new car. Not just any car. A BMW convertible. You guessed it. A car crash, and he doesn’t just hit another car. He has to hit a bus. He dies.

Well, he wakes up in this place and he’s wearing a white dress. It’s not that he’s the only guy wearing a dress. Pretty much everybody, who stops in on the way up or down, is wearing a dress. Rip Torn and Buck Henry aren’t wearing dresses. They work in the way station. In other words, they are way station employees.

Unlike most way stations, Albert and Meryl are not weighed for their weight. Here they are lighter than air. On top of that, they can eat all the lasagna they want and not gain weight. No, they are weighed on fear. Was there ever an event in their lives where they were fearless? Meryl is fearless as all get out. Albert wears fear like it’s a suit of armor.

And it’s that suit of armor that is going to keep him going back again and again. Or is it?