Archive for diane’s way out

Short Story: DIANE’S WAY OUT, Part 2

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Part two of two. For the beginning, CLICK HERE.

DIANE’S WAY OUT (2)

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Her tears were falling now, and she sobbed without sound. The presence moved closer, so that its weight was on top of her, and though it was comforting, she shook with a chill beyond words – an extraterrestrial chill. Absurdly, she found herself wondering, why aren’t my tears turning to ice?

The chill then focused on the underside of her chin, and her head was lifted upward by a phantom hand. Her eyes found no others to look into, but the voice went on, “Would you like me to help you?”

The voice took its time, and in the pause, the sounds of the house overwhelmed Diane. She could hear the soft sleep breath of her children, the rumble of her husband’s snore, whispering in unison around her. Then the voice giggled and said, “You must leave that to me. Our methods are complex, and your mind would not comprehend them, not without damaging itself. But these methods are – how would you say? Foolproof. We do not know failure.”

In spite of the cold, Diane smiled, and then laughed aloud. “Yes,” she said. “Yes, foolproof. What do I do? What do you want me to do?”

“Go back to sleep,” the voice said, caressing. “You were, in fact, never awake at all – but go to sleep. When morning comes, you will find your wish granted. Do you understand?”

“Yes, perfectly, yes. But… how will I repay you for being so kind?”

“Oh, Diane…” The cold moved over her shoulders, and she felt a touch of air against her ear. “That should not worry you. Your freedom is so close. Don’t you want it, no matter what?”

The dread that had been creeping inside her writhed briefly and she pulled away from the cold weight. The breath of her children was undeniable in her ears, prodding, invading. Again she saw the impression of an alien face staring down, with the faintest trace of impatience. What have I done? she thought, shivering.

Through the noise and the fear, the burst of a human voice came to her – John, waking, grunting her name. “Diane, where’re you?” And the bile in her stomach boiled, rising into her throat and mouth; her brain filled with a thick black tar, spewing loathsome anguish. She looked back to the face that was not there and said, “Yes, I do.”

The laughter that answered her was not kind – the very walls shuddered with it. “Very good, Diane. Now go to sleep, darling – you will wake up and see.”

Her ears swelled with a terrible sucking sound, and then the hallway was empty, warm and rid of the presence. Diane held herself against the terror that was worming through her limbs. She thought again, and not for the last time, what have I done?

After she had followed the voice’s orders and fallen into a deep sleep, Diane dreamt. In the dream she floated through a dark blue void, full of movement and rumbling speech. All around her, though she could not see them, she sensed beings of immense size and power; bodies of amorphous matter, faces of stale air, slipping into and out of each other like slime. And she knew, if she so much as twitched, she would alert them to her presence. All night she held her breath and watched them, waiting, trying not to scream.

—-

Diane knew that something was different when she opened her eyes and saw that the sun was too high. When John usually woke her to make breakfast each morning, the sun was still slipping through the window in weak strands; now it had grown full and bright. She sat up in a panic. John would have her head on a stick if she were late. It was not until she felt the dampness, already congealing, that she remembered what she had dreamed.

With a quiet gurgle in her throat, Diane stared at the dark stain on her skin, the sheets, and the pillow. The bed had become a thick lake of maroon. Her eyes wanted to follow the trail, onto the floor and up against the curtains where a crumpled mound lay still. She shut them to avoid this image, but it had already seared itself into her eyelids. There was no scream, for her lungs were filled with liquid terror, and for a moment she thought that she, too, was going to die.

In jagged fragments, the voice’s prophecy returned to her, and she started to understand. Though her feet were unsteady, she rushed into the hall, to the children’s room at the end of the house. They might still be asleep, after all, without her to wake them up. She tried to open the door at a regular speed, not too slowly, and winced as the handle crashed into the opposite wall. The room was dark, curtains drawn, still littered with the bedroom war of the previous night. Caroline’s arm hung out of the bed, still unmoving, and Ty’s little shape lay buried beneath his rocket ship comforter. They’re just asleep, of course, just sleeping, she told herself, placing a hand to her pounding chest. But the smell came to her in the end, and she knew; the voice had fulfilled its promise after all.

“Free,” Diane said to the dead air, going back into the hall, smiling painfully. “Free at last.” Time became strange for her, and it was not until noon that she called the police.

“And what time did you wake up? When did you find them?” the man said. He, like the others, arrived moments following Diane’s call; all day they had been sniffing like dogs. The three stretchers with the three bags on top had already been wheeled out, and once the investigators were gone, she would be alone in the house. That word dominated her, even through the questions. Alone.

Thus, the man’s last question almost escaped her. “Only a moment ago,” she said. “I mean, a moment before I called. I was so confused, I didn’t know what to do. There was so much… so much…”

She watched the man, but his expression did not change. “Only a moment ago,” he said. He looked at her, and she had the urge to slap him, for staring so intently. “That’s late to wake up, on a weekday. Isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is late, it is strange. John… he always wakes me. I slept so late, because he…”

“Sure, sure,” the man said. “But one thing gets at me, here. If you called us so soon after you woke up, how did you have time to get all dressed and cleaned?”

Diane gazed at him. The hours slipped away, you see, the void came back and I don’t remember! she started to say, but the voice, the strength, were not there. She knew the silence would not help her, and the choked noises were telling them another story. Did I put on makeup? Did I do my hair? She tried to laugh, but the man only looked more intently, and waved his hand to someone behind her.

“Miss,” he said, “I’m afraid we will have to hold you for further questioning.”

Once the second man took hold of her and led her to the car, surrounded by the flashing red-blue, Diane fell back into the void from whence the voice had come. It was colder now, and the voice distant, its non-face vague. As the flashing lights dimmed, she said to the darkness, “Why don’t you help me? This isn’t freedom. This is not what you promised.”

For some time the voice did not reply. Diane thought she could hear it, humming a song from far away. Her mind wandered in its absence, and the ghosts of a hundred news stories floated to her – the domestic violence, the acts of vengeance; and how did all of those stories end? How many of those sorry people went to trial and were told of their irreversible fate? She was not sure of the number, but she knew enough, and she felt the tears come down, spurred on by the truth of her destiny. And, summoned by her tears, the voice returned to her.

“Why do you despair, my child?” it cooed, so softly, around her. “I did help you. And now, here you are – your wish granted.”

“But I will be locked away,” Diane cried. “And they’ll sentence me… don’t you know they’ll choose that punishment? You said you would make me free, and let me be happy. Please…”

The voice laughed, and it was not cruel; her tears were stopped. “My child,” it said, “you musn’t be ungrateful, now, after all we have done. We have fulfilled our promise. You are free. They are gone from you now. They can’t hurt you any longer. Whatever else comes to you, they are gone, and thus you are free.”

 The voice left her then, and she saw that the driver was staring at her, but she did not mind him. Her thoughts were lost in the void, surrounded by the massive moving darkness, brushing past things that were dead, that she would soon join; and in the void, she understood that the voice was right. She smiled, and laughed. “Goodbye, John; goodbye, Caroline; Ty, my child, my children, goodbye. I will not see you where I am going.”

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Short Story: DIANE’S WAY OUT, Part 1

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2016 by smuckyproductions

The first section to a horror story I wrote about a year ago. An homage to Shirley Jackson, with a bit of cosmic dread thrown in for good measure. 

DIANE’S WAY OUT

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The chicken, pink and raw, squelched when Diane pressed her nail into its surface. Too soft, she thought, and no blood. She retracted her nail and, shivering, wondered where that thought had come from. She dropped the mauled chicken onto the pan and listened to it burn.

Upstairs she heard one of her children scream. Her spine shuddered and she clenched her teeth against it. The scream must have come from Ty – still youthful and piggish, not yet fully human. Caroline was taunting him again, she was sure, pinching him or spitting at him. “Caroline, stop it!” Diane yelled, and the sound jarred her head into a dull throb. One day, I swear, one day… She pressed down on the chicken with a spatula until the juice sputtered in boiling snaps. They would complain about the chicken, and maybe the mashed potatoes, too. John would want something heartier – more exotic, he would say. She didn’t know what he meant by exotic. But the chicken was already in the freezer, and she did not have time to go to the store, not with the children tearing at each other in the back seat the whole ride. Let them complain.

“DADDY!” The scream rooted in Diane’s brain and she thought her head might rupture. John was home. A thin coil of dread unwound inside her.

The laughter, too, made her intestines cringe. It reminded her distantly of witches cackling before the sacrifice. She stared into the pan and tried to fill her ears with the juice’s sizzling. The stabs of their voices still came through – Caroline was telling her father about some contest she had won at school, as Ty squawked over her to be picked up. Bit by bit, their words blended together until all she could hear was a merciful drone; and then John said, “Where’s your mother?”

They betrayed her without a thought. “In the kitchen! In the kitchen!” She held the spatula like a knife as his careless footsteps crunched toward her. His frame, rectangular and silhouetted, appeared in the doorway.

“Dinner’s not ready yet?”

“No, I had a lot to do today. It won’t be much longer.”

His shape remained for a moment, glowering, then turned to the stairs and crunched away. She shot daggers through her eyes and wondered, too late, what would have happened if she had thrown the pan at him. The chicken, bubbling in the grease, had started to look like hardened skin.

It wasn’t so long before the meat was cooked through and the potatoes were mashed. In the pasty kitchen light, the potatoes looked like opaque sludge, the chicken like petrified flesh. She smiled at this notion, though she knew they would complain all the more, and today, she didn’t know if she could hold back. There was a dark sphere surrounding her when she took the platters into the dining room, where John and the children were already waiting. They glared at her from their places and she widened her smile until her sight blurred.

John waited only an instant before grumbling, “Chicken again?”

“There was nothing else. I didn’t have time to go to the store.”

“Didn’t have time,” John said to himself. “Didn’t have time. What was it that you did all day?”

Diane’s throat closed. She fumbled in her thoughts for the proper response, but it would not come. “It doesn’t matter, John, I’ll go tomorrow. We can enjoy this, can’t we?”

“I hate chicken,” Caroline said, and the words were needles in Diane’s ears.

“You will eat your chicken, you must. Now, let’s all sit down and have a nice dinner, all right?”

“But I don’t like it!” Caroline shouted.

Diane took her seat forcefully and served the chicken over Caroline’s yelling. Ty was inspired by his sister to laugh, a toad-like sound that could have been a strangled man’s last cries. Diane could not rid herself of that image. She wondered if there were any bones in this chicken, bones that could get stuck and scratch away, until the laughter turned to silent gasps.

“Overdone,” John muttered through his food.

She looked at him and saw that his plate was nearly empty. Hers remained untouched. It looked worse than before, dry and wrinkled, rotting.

—-

“Diane. I will let you out.”

The voice was in a dream, but when she woke, she found that the presence was real. It had filled the room while she slept – an alien heaviness across the ceiling. John slept on, breath rattling in his nose, without acknowledging the voice. She waited for another word, all the while wondering why she was not afraid.

From the air she heard, “Follow me.” Then the presence shook away from her, and as the door opened, it blew into the murk of the hallway. The air became light again, but it was now cold, and Diane new she had little choice but to, indeed, follow.

The hallway was still, except for the murmur of the children’s breaths drifting from their room. They had been resistant to the idea of sleep, as they were most nights, and Diane had barely been able to stop the screams without beating them into silence. Even when she had lain down, next to John’s sweat-stinking body, the screaming had threatened her with the possibility of its return. Her appetite had come back by then, but she refused to pay it attention – John had already thrown out her chicken in a fit of mute disgust. For her, sleep had come reluctantly and without grace. But she was awake now, facing an unseen intruder. That was the wrong word, of course, because this presence had made itself welcome. Diane was unafraid for the first time in a long, long while.

“Yes, Diane, you have no cause to fear me,” the voice cooed, smooth as black velvet. “I am here to make you happy again.”

That word sent a pulse of electricity into Diane’s skull. It was an awful suggestion, because she word was forbidden in her vocabulary. Yet, this honey voice was assuring. She knew, somehow, that it was not lying to her.

“How?” she whispered to the darkness.

“By granting your wish,” the voice laughed. “I know how long you’ve been calling. You thought no one was listening. I listened. And now, you will be free of your sorrows at last.”

Free. Diane felt weak. She leaned against the banister and closed her eyes. Against the lids, she thought she could see the projected image of her guest – a halo of white glow, surrounding the lightless impression of a smiling and inhuman face, carved out of the darkest shade. The first stab of dread went through her. What kind of face is this? she thought. She opened her eyes and the impression stayed, but only for a moment. The hallway was empty.

“What are you?” she said. Her voice was high and weightless, like a child’s.

“It would be difficult to explain to your ears,” the voice said carefully. “You may not understand. It is better if you do not, in fact. Let us just say that I am here to give you what you want.”

What I want, she thought. What is it that I want?

“Why, you want a happy life! You want to be rid of the people who take away your freedom! Is that not what you want?”

Each word ripped into Diane and she thought she might sob. Yes, she told herself, that is my terrible dream. She hated the intruder now, coming into her home like this, stealing her private thoughts, and resurrecting her want. What right did the intruder have? Her tears did not come, but she had to grip the banister to keep her knees from failing.

“You musn’t cry,” the voice said. “No one would blame you for dreaming of this. In fact, any other might not have been able to withstand it as long as you have. Day after day, enduring the screams and the crying, holding back when you just want to scream at them yourself so they understand how you suffer? Slaving away at meals that get thrown out and scrubbing the house clean only to watch them ruin it so gleefully; all this, and never a word of thanks, of kindness. You’re watching them make jokes, long and cruel ones, and you are the punch line. They never see you as a member of their family – you may as well be a prisoner of war. What person deserves this life, Diane? Not you, not anymore.”

—-

Stay tuned for Part 2 of DIANE’S WAY OUT tomorrow, 1/6!