I was cleaning up my files this week, a lame exercise that I use to avoid working, and I came across some files that were from a writing challenge I participated in last Halloween. You had to write a scary tale every week in under 500 words for eight weeks leading up to the holiday. Not as easy as it sounds. Some of them were embarrassingly terrible, some may be spun off into something more, and some just need to never see the light of day.
For some Friday fun I thought I would share one that was based on something that really happened to someone I know. Enjoy.
Her passing had impacted us all, him worst of all. Since our aunt who had raised us died three months ago he had spiraled down with booze and other poisons. I hadn’t spoken to my brother, Jack, for almost two weeks. That, in and of itself, was not that unusual.
The unexpected nature of Auntie’s cardiac aneurism had amplified the blow for everyone and I knew he needed help but I also knew I had to have good boundaries with him. Otherwise, he would suck me down to crazy town with him. My aunt had spent years trying to save him from himself and I truly felt her inability to do so had broken her heart to the point of death.
I thought a little TV would crowd out these thoughts and I was thrilled to see a spy movie marathon was happening. I don’t think I got to see more than 20 minutes of it. I woke with a start to the shrilling of the phone. I reached for it and groggily brought it to my ear.
“Mickey, I’m so worried about your brother. Please help him.”
“I’m sure he’s fine, Auntie. Just on a binge…” I sucked my breath in. “You can’t be calling me, you’re dead,” I whispered. I could feel my insides dropping to the floor.
The line became full of static and a hissing sound followed by a screeching that hurt my ear. I threw the phone down hard and it went silent. I eyeballed it like it was a big poisonous spider looking for a snack.
My head felt a little foggy, maybe I was dreaming. I bit down hard on my lower lip and the bitter taste of blood told me I was wide awake.
My head slowly cleared. There was no way the phone could have rang. After all the funeral expenses I was a little strapped and I had the landline disconnected to save some money.
“What the hell?” I said aloud to the empty room, relieved not to get an answer.
I went into the bathroom to wash my face. I had to be hallucinating. Maybe I was having a waking dream. That’s a thing, right? After all I had been thinking about this stuff before I dozed off.
I was inspecting the injury to my lip when the buzzing of my cell in my front pocket made me jump. I checked the caller ID, unknown. I thought about letting it go to voice mail but instead I slide my finger to answer it and slowly lifted it to my ear. My heart was pounding so hard my hand was bouncing in rhythm with it.
“Hello?” I croaked.
“Hey. I just wanted to tell you that I’m ok and I’ll be sober from here on out. I was just trying to dull the pain, ya know?”
“Where the hell have you been? Are you in jail?” I demanded.
“Ya, Jack, where are you?”
“Auntie says hi.”
And the line went dead.
©Joy Yehle, 2013
Well, I hope this makes you never want to answer your phone and Never Turn Off the Lights. Try your hand at a 500 word or less story and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post in the comments, I’d love to read them!