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 – Dark Horse

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He rode up on a dark horse this morning, just as the sun rose through the line of trees that faced the house. I was on the front porch, wiping sweat from my brow as I sat in a rocking chair. I needed a rest. I’d been working all night.

He told me I didn’t have to worry any longer, that I was safe. He would take me far away from this squalid house, my unfulfilling marriage. He was going to rescue me.

Then his eyes widened as he saw the deep, brownish-red stains on my white apron, the perspiration on my face, the hole dug at the edge of the property. The sun shone in the window of my house, illuminating what was lying on the floor of the front parlor. He blanched as he looked back at me with eyes full of fear, not pity, for once, and my chest swelled.

I don’t need rescuing.

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. 

Boy

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There is a boy outside. I see his shadow against my wall. I shake my husband awake, allowing fear to narrate my thoughts.

He’s coming up our walk now. Did I remember to lock our doors?  My husband creeps down the steps and I sit on the landing, staring at the bedroom doors of my sleeping children. The doorbell rings and I nearly leap from my skin.  He’s standing under our harsh porch light.  I see the bloody eye, the bruise rising from his temple.

“We had an accident.  Phone’s busted.  My mom’s hurt real bad.  Could you please call 911?”

 

The Moral Mondays prompt is JUDGE NOT, LEST YOU BE JUDGED.

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 – Intruder

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She was born into a world of silence.  She’d never known any different, so she never viewed it as a disadvantage.  She cherished the friends she’d made, the community that had embraced her, the life she built herself.

She spent her days walking the grounds of her secluded estate, dreaming and jotting ideas for future novels in her journal.  When the weather didn’t cooperate, she sat indoors near the window, clicking away at her laptop.  That’s what she was doing when the man entered through the carelessly unlocked back door.  He made as much noise as he pleased entering her home; he knew it didn’t matter.

When he reached her living room, where she sat with her back to him, he stood close enough to see the hairs on the back of her neck, the dots of lint on her well-worn sweatshirt.  He would wait for her  to turn around, to see him, her eyes widening with fear and surprise.  Then, his game would begin.

Read Part 2 – Warrior

Thursday Thriller – Sick

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My children are crying for me.  They’re all cuddled upstairs in bed like three adorable peas in a pod.  All flushed cheeks and runny noses, sweaty foreheads and chapped lips.  So tragically beautiful.

News of my little ones’ health has reached every corner of our state.  Hundreds of people are talking about them, praying for them, missing them.  My children.  My babies.   People fold crisp dollar bills in my trembling hand when I encounter them on the road, they listen, enthralled, as I recount my story, our story, with tears in my eyes.  My table is laden with covered dishes and treats from the neighbors and friends.  Baskets of muffins and fruit, casseroles, pies, tins of homemade cookies.  I’ll pack the food away for now.  I know what my children need.  I know why they cry.

The soup is almost done.  It’s their favorite.  My own recipe.  One I’ll never share with anyone.  I add a little pinch of my most special ingredient before ladling large helpings into three identical, bright yellow bowls.  My babies will be beloved forever.

 

Thursday Thriller – Peace

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“I’m fine!  I don’t want any of your help!” Julie knocked over a glass of wine on the coffee table as she sprung to her feet, nostrils flared.

“Julie, we care about you.  We’re just concerned,” her sister, Heather, implored, extending an arm that Julie quickly shrugged away.

“Let us help.”  Her brother, Tate, stood next to the front door, trying to block her path.  His eyes searched hers for the sister he once knew.  She looked away, pushing past him.

“Please don’t contact me again.  Just. Leave. Me. ALONE!”

When she got home, he was waiting.  The guy everyone warned her about.

“Where were you?” He approached her in a slow, deliberate way that made her shiver.

“My family…they…they…called me…”  She backed away, farther and farther until she was pressed against the wall.

“You really expect me to believe that you were with your family this entire time?”  He never raised his voice, but each word filled Julie with an urgent, desperate terror.

She couldn’t respond with words.  She nodded frantically, swiping at the tears racing down her cheeks.  He was standing right in front of her now, so close that she could see the drops of perspiration forming at his temples.  She focused on his eyes, searching them for the man she loved, as his hands closed around her throat.  His shoulders released as she slid to the floor.

He left her there, in the peace of her dark, quiet apartment.  The phone never rang. She had no visitors.  She’d been left alone.

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.