Thursday Thriller – Rumors

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“Come on!  Let’s go in!”  Andrew tugged on her arm painfully, but her feet were planted on the ground.  She looked at the brown weeds sprouting up through the cracks in the sidewalk, the vast parking lot, sprawling and expanding around them like a gray, concrete ocean.  The empty mall had been sitting there, an abandoned eyesore, for years, since Mona was a little girl.  The town had no idea what to do with the space and no investor would touch it.  So it sat, and the stories began to swirl.  The murders that had supposedly taken place there, the girls who’d slowly started going missing in the years since the mall had been abandoned, the body found buried in a shallow grave, the madman that supposedly lived there in one of the desolate anchor stores.  It made for great scary stories at sleepovers when she and her friends were little, but Mona had never taken the rumors seriously.  It was just a hiding place for homeless people and a spot for losers to  get high.

Andrew tugged on her arm again, flashing that lopsided smile, and she remembered why her mother had warned her about him.  He took her hand and she squeezed it as tightly as she could as she followed him inside, crawling through a gaping hole in a wall that faced a deserted side alley.

The lights were still on.  She could hear the hum of the electricity all around her, despite the fact that the floor was littered with shattered glass, dirty sleeping bags, and trash.  Every fixture had been ripped from the walls and ceiling, signs hung crookedly around them.  “Welcome Back!” A banner screamed, brushing her arm as she walked past trepidatiously.

“This place is super creepy, Drew.  Let’s just go,” Mona pleaded, trying to pull him back.  He didn’t stop, just kept dragging her forward.

“I have something I want to show you.  It’s just around the corner.”

They ducked into one of the abandoned stores.  It was dark and Mona found herself longing for the well-lit corridor, spooky as it was.  There was a shadowy figure curled up in the corner, laying against the wall.  He stood as they approached.  As they grew closer, she could see the strange look in his eyes, the knife gleaming slightly in the sparse light that escaped from the hallway.  Andrew’s grip on her arm tightened; it was no longer safe, reassuring.  He was restraining her.

The stories were true.

 

I have a strange obsession with creepy abandoned malls, which sadly there are many of in certain parts of the U.S.   Enjoy the video if you’re interested!

Thursday Thriller – Transformation

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

Read Part 3 – Beast

Read Part 4 – Rose

Read Part 5 – Quest

Read Part 6 – Banished

ONE YEAR LATER

Ash was up early. Early morning light slipped through the cracks in the drapes, giving the room a purplish hue. Calla yawned, then slipped out of bed reluctantly. The air was cold on her skin.  She lifted her son from his crib and relished his sweet early morning baby scent. Edgar told her he could hire a fleet of nannies and baby nurses to come running every time Ash as much as whimpered, but she refused. She trusted no one.

Catherine visited often, always wanting another look at her beautiful grandson. He was perfect. He had his father’s pale complexion and dark hair, but his mother’s soulful brown eyes and full pink lips. She ran her finger over her son’s smooth skin as she fed him, smiling when his eyes locked on hers. It was her favorite time of day.

She and Edgar had married in secret days after she’d agreed to return to the mansion with him. A judge, an old family friend, had been summoned to the property.  They’d stood, Calla in a hideous, puffed-sleeved ivory gown, selected by Edgar of course, Edgar in his dinner tux, under the archway in the parlor, rushing through their vows.  Calla looked at the floor the entire time.

After they wed, Edgar didn’t come to her room many nights, only a few. She always thought of something else, another place, a time long ago when she was happy, until it was over.  The rest of the time was for her and Ash. She read to him, sang him lullabies, took him on long walks in the sun on the beautiful grounds, which were now tended by a team of gardeners. Edgar was happier now that Catherine had finally released all of his inheritance, and rarely lost his temper.  He was obsessed with restoring the mansion to its original glory, as well as traveling the country looking for a doctor who would perform the risky, life-threatening surgery to repair his face. Since the growth was engorged with blood, there was a chance for irreparable blood loss during the operation. He thought it was worth the risk. Maybe he held onto some futile hope that one day she would actually love him.

There was a knock at the bedroom door. Breakfast. She ate all of her meals in her room now with her most favorite, and adorable, dining companion.  Esme, the new housekeeper, entered the room, carrying a tray that she set on the bedside table. She hadn’t warmed to Esme yet; the sight of her just made her miss Rose, plus she envied that the staff went home at night to homes filled with warm light and happiness, the laughter and footfalls of loving spouses and extended family.

“Mr. Henry wanted me to leave this too, ma’am,” Esme said, placing a folded newspaper next to the tray.

“Thank you,” Calla said with a tight smile, putting Ash on her shoulder and patting his back, hoping to elicit a burp.

“I can take him for a bit if you’d like,” Esme offered, extending her arms. “I have experience with infants.” Calla had overheard Edgar ask Esme to help more with the baby when he thought she was out of earshot.

“I appreciate that, but it’s okay. I prefer to keep him with me.”

Her face fell before she left the room, and Calla felt terrible. Esme probably thought she hated her. She just couldn’t risk letting Ash out of her sight. Ultimately, Esme’s loyalty lied with Edgar, not her.

Bouncing Ash on one arm, she reached for the paper. It wasn’t local, dated a week ago, in a city on the other side of the country. She opened it to see a short article, no more than a paragraph really, circled in dark red ink. Her knees gave when she saw the picture of the woman next to the article, and she sank onto the bed, keeping a tight grip on Ash. The name was different, but it was Rose. Her Rose. She’d been found murdered.

Ash began to whimper. She clutched him close to her chest and they wept together.

 

Read the final installment – Rescued

 

My favorite prompt during Story A Day in May was Rewrite a Fairy Tale, so I decided to tackle it again, this time with Beauty and the Beast in a serial form. 

Thursday Thriller – Rose

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

Read Part 3 – Beast

Calla pressed her lips together as her eyes ran over every inch of his face. Thick, jet black hair fell over his forehead, which was unnaturally white. He had an unusual nose, the bridge starting in the middle of his forehead and coming to a peak several inches above his lips, leaving a wide gap between his nose and mouth. Wet, blue eyes bulged out of their sockets and were lopsided, the left eye being much lower than the other. A grotesque-looking patch of skin under his right eye was engorged with blood and pulsating, as though it were filled with hundreds of tiny, slithering worms. Edgar stared at her, awaiting her reaction. She managed a tiny smile, and whispered, “It doesn’t change a thing.”

It was true.

The answer seemed to satisfy both of them, who moved on to their favorite subject – money. Calla stopped listening, her mind back on the woman who’d just disappeared into the kitchen.

The days dragged onward without much variation. Each day Calla spent much of her time alone while Edgar was wandering through the other, restricted, wings of the crumbling mansion, doing who knew what. The only thing that had changed – her bedroom door was no longer locked. She could move freely about one wing of the house, which meant that in addition to the bedroom, she had access to the dining room, kitchen, and library. It mattered little. All the doors that led to the other wings of the house, and the outside, were locked.

Every evening at dinner, Edgar chose another old-fashioned, unflattering, ill-fitting dress for her to wear. They spoke little, Calla living in constant fear of displeasing him. She wore the evidence of his displeasure on her skin. When she didn’t dress and come down to dinner quickly enough, when he didn’t like her answer to one of his questions, when her appearance didn’t meet his expectations, he vented his anger, violently, painfully.

The only bright spot in her days, besides her long afternoons in the library, was her time spent with Rose, the only servant caring for the sprawling property. She was a few years older than Calla, with the beginnings of soft lines etching her olive-skinned face. She had huge dark brown eyes even sadder than Calla’s, and chestnut hair scattered with gray that she always wore in a no-nonsense bun. Calla helped Rose with her work, and in return, Rose gave her information.  The first thing she learned – Rose was as trapped as she. She’d shown up to the mansion one winter day, inquiring about a job, and been attacked by Edgar and locked away. She was only allowed off the property once per month to go into town for supplies. Just like Calla, she’d been disowned by her family. No one was looking for her. It had been 10 years.

It was obvious to Rose that Catherine, Edgar’s mother, had no intention of ever giving her son his share of the family fortune in her lifetime. She never expected Edgar find a wife. And now that Calla was in the picture, she had no choice but to up the ante. She wanted an heir. Edgar hadn’t mentioned his mother’s words since that first horrible night, but Calla knew he would. She could feel him. Thinking about it. It was a matter of time. Whenever she thought of it, she felt the bile rising in her throat.

“Why don’t you run? The next time you get to leave?” Calla asked Rose morning they scrubbed windows in the kitchen side by side, looking out at the sunrise.

“Where?”

Calla said nothing. But that night at dinner, she grabbed a steak knife and stabbed Edgar through the arm. As he screamed and bled she swiped the keys from his pocket and ran for the door, holding her breath.

Part 5 – Quest

Thursday Thriller – Tower

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Read Part 1 – Calla

No one is looking for me.  

Those words sat like an anchor in the pit of Calla’s stomach because she knew how true they were.  The result of years of lies, stealing from her family and her friends to feed her lengthy addiction, the blackness that had possessed her mind and body for more than a decade.  Everyone had cut her off.  Even her mother, who no longer took her calls, who pulled the blinds closed when her daughter’s car came up the drive.  She was completely alone.  And he knew.  He’d been watching.

She’d awoken in a locked bedroom, where she’d remained for hours.  There was a huge four poster bed with an ornate carving in the mahogany headboard.  A family crest.  The bed was laden with a thick rich purple duvet with gold stitching.  A dress from another time, scarlet red with a tight bodice, puffed sleeves and full skirt was lying across the bed, with a note, commanding her to put it on. There was a window directly across from the bed, bolted shut.  She could see no signs of life outside.  Just a neglected garden, overrun with weeds, a white van parked in the bushes.  Screaming would do her no good.

There was also a bookshelf in the corner, stocked with all of her favorites, even a connecting bathroom with a luxurious vanity and whirlpool bath.  He wanted her to be comfortable, locked away, waiting for whatever he had planned.

The locks clicked open.  The knob began to turn.  Calla slowly backed away until she was pressed against the wall, feeling foolish and frightened.  There was nowhere to run.  The man stepped inside, dressed in formal attire – all black, a well-tailored suit.  His face was covered with a white mask, but she could see his eyes were steely and blue.

“Why aren’t you dressed?”  His baritone voice was cold, even-toned as he stepped closer.

She wanted to cower but she stood tall, her eyes meeting his.  “I won’t do what you ask.  I’m not playing this…this…game…whatever it is…just so you can kill me…”  The blow seemed to come out of nowhere.  His fist was a blur, barreling into the side of her head with a force that made her dizzy.  She crumpled to the floor, blood trickling down the side of her head to the carpet, as he leaned over to whisper into her ear.

“You will do everything that I ask!”  He stood, straightening his jacket.  “Clean yourself up.  Get dressed.”

The door slammed behind him.  Calla curled up into a ball, making herself as tiny as possible.  Though she knew no one was listening, she screamed.

Part 3 – Beast 

My favorite prompt during Story A Day in May was Rewrite a Fairy Tale, so I decided to tackle it again, this time with Beauty and the Beast in a serial form. 

Thursday Thriller – Calla

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If Calla had known this would be her last moment of freedom for two years, she would have taken a second to look at the sunset. It was an especially gorgeous one that day. Purples and oranges and reds swirling the sky, the sun an amber orb disappearing behind a lush line of trees. But she was thinking of other things – the daily uphill battle of her sobriety, the dirtbag ex she still loved who’d just left town without saying goodbye, how she would get through another sleepless night alone in her dingy apartment without a drink.

It happened so fast. She only caught a glimpse of his face before the hood covered her head. Enough to see that it was abnormal, disturbingly so. She clawed and screamed as she was tossed into the back of a van like cargo, the doors locked swiftly. How could no one see? Hear her screams? Was she that invisible?

She bounced around painfully against the hard surface as the van rumbled over jagged, bumpy roads. The ride lasted so long, her screaming until her voice gave out, she wondered if they were even in the same state when the van came to a final stop.

The doors opened again. She still couldn’t see, but knew it had to be night. The air felt cool; the song of crickets filled the silence as he dragged her outside and tossed her over his shoulder as though she weighed nothing. The fight was out of her. She tried other tactics. Pleading. Compassion. And when those failed – manipulation.

“There will be people looking for me,” she whispered, the loudest she could manage. “They’ve probably already called the police.”

There was a cruel twist to his laughter. “Calla,” he said as she heard the sound of a creaky door opening. “We both know that no one is looking for you. It’s why you were chosen.”

She felt a pinch, then all went black.

Read Part 2 – Tower

 

My favorite prompt during Story A Day in May was Rewrite a Fairy Tale, so I decided to tackle it again, this time with Beauty and the Beast in a serial form. 

Thursday Thriller – Warrior

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Part 1 – Intruder

She could feel his breath on the back of her neck.  She felt the shift in the air as soon as he stepped inside.  She had to think, while she had this tiny, secret moment.  If she failed, she’d be proving all the naysayers right.  The family members who said she had no business living alone, especially somewhere so remote.  That she’d come running back to mommy soon enough.

Should she run?  Somehow try and contact the authorities via her laptop without his noticing?  Then she saw it, the silver letter opener, it’s shiny handle sticking out from under the stack of mail.  She exhaled softly as she slowly moved her hand toward it, until her fingers were wrapped around its handle.  She squared her shoulders, took another deep breath, then, with a guttural cry, jumped from the floor and swung her body toward him in one fell swoop, aiming for his neck.

Later, as the man lay bleeding on her living room floor, she went outside and sat on the porch, remembering the look of fear and surprise in his eyes, and smiled.  She could see the red and blue lights through the trees.

Thursday Thriller – Descent

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Read Part 1 – Watched

Read Part 2 – Watcher

Read Part 3 – Harmless

Read Part 4 – Caught

She didn’t dance any longer.  She couldn’t.  Not after what Liz had done.   That last, violent confrontation.  A hotel maid had found her hours later, unconscious, in a pool of her own blood.  Liz was long gone.  Marley told the authorities the whole story once she recovered, but it was too late.  Liz seemed to have disappeared.

At first, it was easy to forget.  There was a flurry of activity around her.  The ballet dedicated a performance to her, honoring her onstage at the end with an award and a gorgeous bouquet of white lilies, which used to be her favorite.  She never told anyone that Liz used to send those to her too, always with a hidden, hateful message enclosed.  Friends invited her out, threw parties in her honor, her phone rang day and night.  But seasons change and people are fickle.  Marley had nothing to offer the world any longer, now that the one thing that set her apart was gone.  The attention faded, and she became something she’d never been in her entire life.  Ordinary.

She spent hours alone in her stuffy apartment, the sickly sweet smell of those dead flowers she couldn’t bring herself to throw out for some reason suffocating her.  Liz Randall.  That name swam in the darkness before her when she closed her eyes.  It had taken her a year.  A year of her slowly descending, retreating, hiding.  But she’d found her.

The door was open.  Liz was confident she would never be found.  Or just stupid.  Marley stepped into the tiny, squalid house, the oppressive heat and the stench of rotting garbage and animal waste bearing down on her.  Liz was sitting in a beat up metal chair, facing the window, her back to the front door.  She turned when she heard Marley’s footsteps.  Her mud brown hair was matted and filthy, a dribble of red sauce, from the pizza she’d just consumed Marley deduced from the greasy box on the kitchen floor, ran down her chubby chin. There was no surprise on her face as Marley approached.   She just closed her tiny, dark eyes as Marley raised the gun, knowing it would all be over soon.

*

Speeding home on a meticulously plotted route, Marley felt lighter than the breeze blowing through her hair.  She was finally free.  Somehow, she knew she would find a way to dance again.

 

 

Thursday Thriller – Caught

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Sorry for the late posting!

Read Part 1 – Watched

Read Part 2 – Watcher

Read Part 3 – Harmless

My tea is cool. I still wrap my hands around the mug, though I draw no warmth from it. It’s Marley’s mug. I remember it. Her lips have touched it. I imagine her, sitting by a frosted window in her old apartment, resting her sore legs and flipping through a magazine, sipping herbal tea. I wonder if my lips are touching the same places as hers.

Our conversation has reached another lull. I know that she will ask me to leave soon. Politely, of course. Dear Marley is always perfectly polite. But I’ll still be outside in the cold. Politely dismissed. I’m tired of being left behind.

Marley yawns dramatically and stretches, probably about to tell me about how exhausted she is and how badly she needs a shower and a nap. I’ve seen her do it before with other unwanted guests. Before she can say anything, I ask her the question.

“Why didn’t you recognize me that night?”

She cocks her head at me, a strange-sounding laugh catches in her throat. She will figure it out soon. Her thoughts are starting down the path, slowly leading her to the truth.

“What do you mean?”

“I waited outside for you for hours. I was freezing. But you treated me like just another…another…fan!” I spit out the last word violently because it offends me.

She knows now. She rises from the couch slowly and begins backing towards the door.

“I’m sorry, Liz…”

“I thought we were friends. We were so close in school…”

“Liz, there are so many people crowded around me after a performance. I probably didn’t see you.  I’m sorry, Liz. I’m so, so sorry,” she repeats.

“Not enough,” I say, standing and stepping closer to her.

“What do you want from me?” She asks, her eyes wide, tears streaming down her disgustingly beautiful face.

“Nothing,” I say honestly. Then I lunge for her.

Read Part 5 – Descent

Thursday Thriller – Harmless

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Read Part 1 – Watched

Read Part 2 – Watcher

The city would welcome her back.  She’d conquered it once; she could do it again.  This was what Marley was thinking as a bellman helped unload her suitcases from the back of a cab.  She was at her favorite New York hotel. She’d run miles and miles away, changing her identity and hiding in the snow, only to learn that she wasn’t safe anywhere.

She was about to head inside the building when she heard a voice in the crowd.  Someone was calling her name.  A woman burst through the mass of people on the street, her cheeks flushed, frizzy hair flying, framing her face in a strange, brown halo.

“Hi, Marley!”  The woman said.  “It’s me, Liz.”

Liz?  Do I know a Liz?  Elizabeth Workman from college?  No, she always went by Beth.

The woman, sensing her confusion, stepped closer.  “Liz Randall.  From high school.  We were in drama together.”

Liz Randall.  She’d barely thought of her in years.  She hadn’t really thought of anyone from high school in years.  The girl who’d followed her around with worshipful eyes at every after-party.  The girl for whom she’d felt such compassion, seeing how she was tossed about and mistreated by the other girls.  But they’d never been friends, had they?  You wouldn’t know it by the way Liz was forcefully pulling her into a hug.

“Liz, it’s nice to see you again.”  They chatted briefly on the street.  Marley gave her the Cliffs Notes update on her life, leaving out the darker parts.  Liz told her about her life back in their hometown, her job at the hospital, her little cottage walking distance from the town square.  They quickly ran out of things to talk about and reached an awkward silence.  Marley shifted her feet uncomfortably as Liz stared her down with those same moony eyes, just like high school, a girl hoping to be invited.

“Would you like to come up?” Marley asked, not believing the words as she said them.  Liz nodded, her eyes brightening as she followed her into the lobby.

They’d have a cup of tea and then she’d say she was exhausted from her travels and needed to rest.  Liz would understand.  Shy, sweet little Liz from high school. She was harmless, right?

Read Part 4  –  Caught

Narcissa

 

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“Cora, hurry!”

Stef knew it was a mistake to include Cora in her scheme.  She was just meandering through the woods as though they were on a routine Sunday stroll instead of a race for freedom.  Stef had been planning this jailbreak for nearly a year.  It was always supposed to be a solo operation.

Cora’s biggest complaint about jail – the lack of beauty products.  She was insistent that she wasn’t going to make it another year without Sephora.  So, when she figured out what Stef was planning, she wanted in.

“A mirror!”  Cora exclaimed.  There was some sort of weird glass structure sitting in the middle of the woods.  Cora couldn’t give up the chance to see what she looked like after being deprived of her reflection for months.

“Cora, I have to go.  I can’t wait any longer…”

Cora motioned for Stef to go ahead. “Fine…fine…I’ll figure something out,” she mumbled, distracted.

Stef turned and fled deeper into the woods.  Her boyfriend was waiting on the other side with a car and a change of clothes for her.  They’d be out of the state before the guards did their count and realized she and Cora were gone.

A month after Cora was recaptured, she got a care package in the mail, which was strange.  She never got mail.  As the guard handed her the open box, she noticed the Sephora label and grinned.

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