I'm at this point where in the middle of the work day I'm DYING to write, but can't due to my job. But then the weekend comes and I'm EXHAUSTED. Pregnant plus work week stresses really bring me down, and thursdays are the days I usually write.
I'm glad Kristina Horner gave us an extra week to catch up with word bound, because I'm currently three prompts behind, BUT that opens me up to another blog idea later ;)
This was the hardest prompt for me. I don't believe something can truly be broken beyond repair, even shattered glass can be thinly glued back together, even wounds have scars, and to be human is to heal and to love... so I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do for this prompt, and have a cold on top of my pregnancy has made me an extremely lazy writer.
So, I'm sorta cheating, by copy and pasting a short excerpt I wrote last year. It was supposed to be the start of a role-play, and then the start of a co-written story, but the people I partnered with gave up because they in their own words admitted to me that they were too intimidated.
So that is something broken, beyond repair, because for the life of me I can't get someone to write with me even for fun without feeling as if they're not my equal, which is a shame, because I'm not a professional or above average like they have the impression of me.
"Will you go to the Annual Founders Party?”
Elliot grimaced in response.
Riley pulled back his lips and barked a laugh, “oh come on, Kingsley.” He chuckled. “Not everyone in your family rivals the Founding Family.” When the silence dragged, the red-heads smile faltered. “I didn’t mean it man… just teasing, Elliot…”
Elliot Kingsley sighed heavily, “I know Riley.” He ran his fingers through his own dark brown hair. The Founding Family, the Lockwoods… he simply couldn’t get away from them. They owned the Gated Community named after them, and all the various businesses within those gates, including the Academy he had graduated at years before. Lockwood Estates, Lockwood Academy, Lockwood Manor, Lockwood Hotel… the very building they stood in, the Lockwood Guard House. He felt his nails bite into the palms of his hands.
“Your sister said she wanted to go,” Riley pressed. Elliot glanced at the young night guard. “I thought she may have been hinting at me to ask her, what do you think?” His voice pitched a bit, enough so that normally Elliot would’ve laughed, but this time he didn’t. He simply stared at the young red-head. Riley Davenport, not yet eighteen, all love-struck with Elliot’s little sister, though she a bit older than Riley, that didn’t stop him from pursuing her. Riley Davenport, a dog shape shifter, a Therian from a lesser family than the Kingsleys…
“I don’t know,” Elliot shrugged. “I suppose I could watch my father that night, give her a break, and see if she’d dance with a dog.” Elliot joked, finally cracking a smile. Riley exhaled a held breath, giving his own breathy chuckle. The kid wasn’t bad and was well on his way to becoming an officer… even if it was for the gated community… for the bloody Lockwoods.
Elliot's smile fell, and he leaned against the wall. All was quiet, except for the occasional car that drove up to the window and requested entry. Riley would ask for id, and lift the bar so the guests or late night members could enter. The Lockwood Guard House was small, only big enough for a table, a filing cabinet, a coat rack, and two chairs. Honestly, this little shack was just a detour from going home, to where his sister and sickly father waited for him. He didn’t really have anywhere else to go where he could relax, not unless he left the gated community.
He wouldn’t go to the Annual Founders Party, he wouldn’t be caught dead there, it would disappoint his father to attend an event hosted by Therians so stuck up that they’d banish anyone unable to shift into their animal familiar form. But Paige was enchanted by the old time-y balls hosted by the Lockwoods. She wouldn’t tell their father of course, but she dreamed of living in Lockwood manor, like a princess. It was a very unpopular desire, especially among their family.
Poor Riley Davenport didn’t have a chance with Paige, but he could try, and keep trying, until he learned the hard way. Maybe his puppy dog charm would win Elliot’s sister over… maybe. The Kingsleys would side with a Davenport over a Lockwood any day.
Elliot jumped out of his thoughts when he felt his cell vibrate through his jeans. He pulled his phone out of his pocket to see Paige’s smiling face brightly on the screen. He grimaced, knowing he should’ve been home by now to watch their dad so she could sleep early tonight. He couldn’t put it off any further, so he clicked the green button.
“Hey Paige,” he said quietly. Riley perked up instantly, itching closer to get in on the conversation. Elliot placed a heavy boot on Riley’s chair and tipped him over. “I’ll be home soon,” Elliot announced. “Riley just stopped me at the Guard House,” he lied, “to butter up to me. Seems like he needs a date for the Annual Founders Party,” he winked at the dethroned red-head.
“Dude, c’mon!” Riley wheezed.
Elliot chuckled, but as the silence dragged, his spirits dropped. “Paige?” He asked gently. A whimper echoed across the phone. Elliot's heart clenched tightly in his chest. “Paige, what’s wrong?” His throat tightened, and he quickly left the Guard House, leaving Riley confused and behind. Elliot stood in the small locker room in the back, “Paige.” He said quietly. “I’m alone now, Riley’s up front… what’s… what’s..wrong?” He asked quietly. He pressed his forehead against the cool metal of the locker, listening to his sister to struggle out the words he felt coming. She began to cry first.
“Eli…” her voice wobbled.
“Don’t say it,” Elliot said quickly. He couldn’t have her say it, he couldn’t hear it. He felt his stomach twist as she wailed.
“He’s g-g-gone!” She squealed over the phone and Elliot felt his chest collapse. His vision blurred and he pulled his phone away, unable to silence his sister's cries. “Eli…?” His sister whispered and Elliot sighed heavily, rubbing his dark eyes and the slight tears he couldn’t keep in. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t wait until you got home to tell you…” She said weakly into his ear.
“I’ll be home soon,” he all but growled out unable to keep his voice straight. He hung up, pocketing his phone and opening the locker he had been leaning on. As he pulled off his work jacket, Riley walked in. Elliot ignored the teenager, keeping his back to Riley as he pulled his white shirt over his head and placed it in the locker with his jacket.
“Everything… okay?” the dog Therian asked.
Elliot unbuttoned his jeans, but held off and said, “my dad's gone.” He stood there, trying to accept the fact that his old man really was gone. It was a long time coming, but still, he wasn’t ready.
“Oh, man… I’m, I’m sorry.” Riley muttered. Elliot bit his tongue, wanting the awkwardness to pass. He just wanted to be alone.
“Doesn’t look like my sisters going to be up for a party,” Elliot huffed towards Riley, hoping he’d take the hint and leave. He then pulled off his boots, socks, then jeans. He tossed everything in the locker, uncaring if Riley was watching or not.
“Going for a run?” The red-head guessed.
“Just for a bit,” Elliot replied and waited for the young guard to leave the room. Once alone, Elliot pulled off his boxers, tossed them in the locker, and slammed it shut with such force it broke the top hinge. He didn’t care, kicking the back door open and running into the forest stark naked. No one would notice though because in a blink of an eye man became beast and a dark brown wolf sped through the night.
DANG - I'm on a roll tonight, three prompts in one night!
The house was too big, with not enough windows. It was over a hundred years old, with most of its internal structure grandfathered in and passed by house inspectors carelessly. It didn’t matter to them that the stairs creaked, or that the doors squealed, or that the wiring was shot and made the lights flicker without warning. The home heating fuel would clog constantly, making it cough and sputter back to life before blowing hot, dusty air through the stagnant rooms. The hallways twisted and turned, quick additions thrown together over the years, that were nothing but dark tunnels that led to various dead end rooms used for storage; filled with crinkled, rotting boxes full of whatever my great grand aunt had left me when she passed.
My mother told me not to come back here.
Three days, that’s how long I’ve been here. My name is on the paperwork, but I feel like a stranger, unfamiliar with the scarred and stained walls that surround me. I haven’t been here since I was young, and even then I barely recognized the place…
Night shift, that’s the reason why I got this place. Ever since I graduated high school, I worked night shift and took night college classes. My great grand aunt Rosy and I had that in common. We were night owls, the only ones awake and on the Internet at the same time. Though I barely talked to her, she often liked the content I posted on my social media accounts. Ghost stories, conspiracies, folklore, myths, and legends… all old stories passed down by tradition. I didn’t wholeheartedly believe in any of it, but it was something oddly romantic to me, something often ignored by my friends and family… except for my great grand aunt Rosy, who’d like each story like clockwork.
Now she’s gone, dead and buried in the town cemetery, and I’m left here, in this giant, quiet, creepy, old house…
I should be grateful… twenty-four with my own home and a leftover inheritance I can access when I turn twenty-five. The amount in it I won’t know a moment before then, but it had to have a decent amount in it since great grand aunt Rosy was loaded…
But still, my mom begged me not to take the place, just as she often, almost feverishly refused, to visit this place for the holidays. That’s why I can’t remember being here much.
I have been here for three days, and constantly I felt the sudden feeling of chills down my arms, snakes up my legs, bugs weaving their way through my hair and biting at my scalp. But every time I tore at my clothes to check, nothing was there.
Nothing, I tell myself, is here.
I take a deep breath, already accustomed to the smell of the old wood and stale carpet. I pull on the sleeves of my hoodie, sensing the cold coming in through the cracks of the split window sills. I can’t see outside into the dark night, the windows are pitch black because of my great grand… no, it's not hers anymore... because my house is now a beacon of light; with every room I enter illuminated, just as is every room I exit.
Never have I ever been afraid of the dark, not until I started to sleep in this place. I tell myself, over and over again, that the house is old. It has a personality all on its own. It speaks to me every time I shift my weight over the floor boards, up the stiff stairs, through the thresholds of every room. When I sleep, the wind and the house constantly bellow and wail at each other like an old married couple.
I can’t sleep unless the sun's light is pouring into the house.
The night, once my closest friend, is now a distant, scary, stalking stranger who’s upset with me for staying here.
The teapot whistles and I grab it before it can scream against the silence. I need to hear, straining my ears against the quiet, as I pour the hot water into the mug. Something bangs near the back door, and my body goes rigid. My teeth clench, my innards start to shake, and my face is a strained mask of indifference.
Don’t let them see your fear, my mothers whispered to me when I left. Don’t let them know you know. Ignore them, then they can’t hurt you. They won’t bother you then.
Never had her words shaken me so hard to the core, because they were downright silly… but her eyes were wide, her body so sprung she looked like she was about to pounce on me, hold me down, and never let me go. Never let me come here, to this place she feared so much.
I have been here for three days, and never have I seen proof or witnessed anything to tell me this place was dangerous or haunted, or god forbid, possessed by some strange entity. Those were claims left for my social media accounts, for the stories that said, ‘Top Ten Myths Hardly Disproved’.
But there was a feeling…
Clutching my mug, I left the kitchen and swatted the light switch as fast as I could, nearly jumping away from the threshold and into the dining room.
I felt it, something breathing down my neck, a cold sweat breaking on my back, and my heart started fluttering wildly. I practiced my breathing, keeping it slow, steady, and even, and I pass the grand dinner table, beautifully polished red oak, and reach the base of the stairs... I keep my head forward, refusing to turn it, for fear of what I may see in the darkness of the kitchen from the corner of my eye.
Don’t let them know you know, my mother's warning hisses in the back of my head.
There’s no one here, I tell myself, and I feel my back strain against what I sense behind me. My hand shakes as I reach for the light switch at the base of the steps. I flick it on, illuminating my path upwards to the second story. My fingers tense as I reach for the next switch, the one that’ll turn off the dinner room light. My body is stiff, my lungs straining, and I bite my tongue against the scream I feel crawling up my throat. My legs quiver with anticipation, and I can tell from the crooked hands that slowly touch the small of my back, that I’ve stood here too long, straining to hear what was coming up behind me.
My fingers snap the light off and I launch up the stairs. Me feet stomping up the steps sends the house groaning at my unnecessary roughness. I can feel it, oh god, it’s right on my heels! I get to the top, grabbing the next switch to turn on the hallway light. The shadows instantly disappear, and I spin around to see that the steps behind me are empty.
I feel like something is laughing at me, hidden in the shadows below, and the hot tears in my eyes flow gently down my cheeks. I gasp for breath, my hands shaking. I lost nearly half my tea on the steps, but I don’t care. I won’t go back to clean them until the sun is shining.
I turn my back on the steps, switching off the light and sending the shadows downstairs. I’ll leave the hallway light on tonight, I can’t bare to think of what could be hiding outside my bedroom door while I wait for dawn.
Three doors down is the room I call my own. Whether it was my great grand aunt's room, or a guest room, or a servant's room, I didn’t know nor care, but it was the only room I felt the safest, and yet the most trapped.
I enter it and close the door behind me, wiping the tears away with one hand, and setting my mug of untouched tea on the night stand with the other. I breathe deeply, feeling the anxiety and paranoia that has plagued my family for generations dissipate from my very skin. I know there’s nothing in this house. There’s nothing out to get me. It’s as clear as ever as I stand here, in my personal safe haven.
But I know once I go back outside this door, I’ll feel those eyes on me again, feel their unseen hands somehow phase through my clothes and touch my skin.
I shutter at the thought.
So, since I have extra time to write, I'm going to work on some prompts I missed out on in the month prior.
I remember the sensation of being watched in the woods, always in the woods. Living in Northeast Pennsylvania, you're surrounded by nothing but woods. Trees of various ages, types, and conditions curl their branching fingers together like lovers in summer or corpses in winters. And every time I walked the deer stomped paths that splintered throughout the forest, I felt unseen eyes watching me; burning two holes into my back.
It started when I was young, exploring the woods like any adventurous and curious kid would do. The difference was that I was always alone.
Where I lived, you had to drive ten minutes to get to the next house, and twenty minutes to get to the gas station, and even thirty minutes to get to my school.
In summer, when my mom didn;t have enough money to put food on the table, let alone put gas in the car to drive me to a friends house, I entertained myself by pretending I was a wild animal, claiming my favorite parts of the forest I frequented as my territory. I was always by myself, with no friends to laugh with me, and barely any family to fawn over my reckless decisions that marked my skin with a number of scars. That's why the sudden feeling of being watched turned my stomach so violently because even as a small child I knew I was playing in the woods alone.
I tried to investigate at first, a rambunctious nine-year-old climbing over boulders a jumping over logs, shouting, "ah, ha!" But every time I searched, I came up short. Nothing was in the woods with me, save the occasional squirrel, doe, or rabbit. The small birds usually kept to the tree tops, but the sleeping owls and the cawing crows would flutter above me from time to time.
I tried to swallow the feeling as I got older, an awkward preteen whimpering next to a hollow tree, scribbling in my journal about the latest bullying incident. The forest was my safe zone, a place where I could be alone when my dad left, and when my mom brought her newest boyfriend home. It's where I went when my first dog died, and I didn't make any of the after school sports teams. It was the place where I still felt the eyes watching me, and where I was heading to now, as a fresh college graduate.
My jeep rolled into my childhood driveway, the house that built me groaned a hello as I slammed the door and gazed at how weathered away it looked. Four years ate away at the deck and the paint, and since no one lived in it, no one was caring for it. It was sad, to see my old home on its last leg, but it was something I could do nothing about.
Instead, I headed around the back and towards the woods I knew so well. Into the clearing the deer made by constantly bedding down, over the V trunk base that two old maples shared, and through the endless ferns that caressed my shins with fuzzy fingers.
The more I followed the paths I grew up on, the more I began to realize that I left marks in the forest just as much as it had left on me. The broken branch where I had climbed still hung lifelessly without leaves, like a broken finger, matching a jagged scar on my right elbow seamlessly mirroring the crooked bend.
I didn't feel the sensation of being watched until twenty minutes into my walk. This was why I came, this was what I needed. A part of me was more romanced than curious of the feeling because it was so intense and only in specific spots of the forest.
I found the stump I used to sit on years prior, and placed myself squarely in the middle. Legs folded, I undid the clip holding my honey brown hair, and simply waited with eyes closed. What I had learned over the years of coming to this stump, in particular, was to ignore the feeling to make it more intense. Whether it was a trick of my mind or imagination, the feeling gave me goosebumps as I half smiled towards the sky.
The wind rustled the leaves, the various animals shuttered the forest floor debris and the gentle chirping that had always alluded me returned.
I kept myself very still.
This quiet cricketing sound was one that appeared only after I began to ignore the feeling of eyes on my back. It was an uneven rhythm that matched my movement, and the longer I stayed still, and the longer I pretended that nothing was there, the louder the sound became as it skittered closer to me from behind.
I could feel my heart hammering in my throat, my pulse pounding in my ears, threatening my ability to hear the chatter approaching behind me. I felt my stomach twist, my mouth water, as whatever creature creeping behind me got close enough that I could've sworn I felt it's breath on the back of my head. And just as I was about to jump out of my skin, to turn and look to see what I had found all these years, the chattering sound shuffled to my right.
It was never anywhere but right behind me.
It was enough to shock me out of my romanced naivete and send my stomach into spirals that threatened to make me vomit my lunch of chocolate chip pancakes. My brown eyes flip open, my neck snapping to the right, where I could've sworn I saw a branch move and something depart into the darkness.
Part of me, the rational survivor, told me to turn back and leave, never to return to this haunting place. The other part, the curious young white girl who would surely die in a horror movie while looking for answers that should never be revealed, pushed me off the tree stump and propelled me forward through the line of oaks.
I could see very clearly the tree branches move aside for an unseen force just out of my line of sight. I tried to stay focused on it, but was forced to watch my footing as I stumbled and tripped over lifted roots, loose stones, and washed out ditches; enough so that the child in me would shake her head ashamed at my rusted experience.
I saw the ravine too late.
I skidded to a stop, my sneakers slipping in the moist earth before my momentum brought me leaning dangerously over the edge. With an "eep!", I tried to lean back but fell uselessly foward.
The drop had to have been at least three stories before I belly flopped into the water below. The sting on my skin told me I was still alive, enough so to wake myself up so I could swim to the top. Breaking the surface, my lips gasped like a fish, but the wind had knocked hard out of me. It took a moment before I could breathe, and when able, sucked in as much as I could whilst treading water.
No doubt I had lost whatever I was chasing. But whatever it was, it was real. Something alive that watched me grow in the woods behind my house. Big foot was my first thought, but with a smile and a huffed chuckle, I put off the thought and swim to the shore. Soaking wet, tired, and red raw from my hideous high jump performance, I shuffle onto the edge of the river and try to ring out my clothes.
I had never gone this far south before, and regret not being even more adventurous as a youth to find this gem of a peaceful place.
To the rivers left, where I had fallen, was a straight drop to the water below, but to the rivers right, where I was currently standing on the shore, the forest continued uninterrupted. In the distance, I could hear the soft whoosh of a car drive by.
Well, time to see where I was, since there was no way I could safely climb the cliff side and hike back soaking wet to my jeep.
I was too excited about finding my creature, be it human, animal, or... my inside did a little dance, a folklore myth, to be upset about my soaking wet self trudging through... I looked down to my black sneakers, my white laces stained red.
Unmistakably blood, that iron red with dirt flakes was all too familiar from my various mishaps playing in the woods.
I circled, looking in all directions for a dead or hurt animal that was more than likely limping away from being struck by one of the cars I heard up ahead. But there is no animal, no bloodied deer hobbling around, so where did this blood come from?
Curiosity and blood lead me, if I was in a horror movie, undoubtedly to the scene where I find a murderer or bloodied up corpses.
"Is someone there? Hello?"
Never before had I felt the need to call out in the woods that were mine alone. But this fresh blood lead me down a rotting hillside covered with last years leftover autumn leaves. The blood, to my knowledge, isn't enough to assume the victim dead. But it was enough for me to think that something must have gotten hit by a car, or chewed it's leg out a trap.
The blood trailed curved around a large boulder, so I followed it, my eyes falling on something smooth and brown... like the back half of a young black girl, who rested in a pile of mud, ferns, leaves, and her own blood.
"Oh shit, hey!"
I rush to her side, placing my fingers on her neck and happy to report that she was alive and breathing, not because I felt her pulse, but because I could see her bare chest rise and fall with breath.
She was completely naked. Thought I didn't have anything to cover her without revealing myself, I pulled my soaking blue t-shirt over my head and draped it over the girl. It was better than nothing, ever if my white bra was now partially see-through.
I wiggled my arms under her and sat her up. In an instant, I almost drop her. She had been laying on her left side, and when I lifted her, blood covered her arm.
Someone had carved long streaks into her entire left side, like marking strips of bark down her side.
"Oh god, oh god, cmon", I tried to calm myself and lift her into my arms. No amount of heavy lifting at my dad's lumber yard prepared me to carry a body the same size as mine through the woods and hopefully towards what I assumed was a road.
"I'm sorry, I am so sorry, hang on-" I say over and over again, trying to get a good grip around her body without touching the lash marks. Her body smells heady and makes my mouth fill with bile. I try not to think about how slippery her blood is and opt to just dragging her instead of picking her up. "I'm sorry, we're almost there".... there being I don't know where as her heels drag across the ground.
She's unresponsive but breathing.
It feels like forever, the heat of the late summer air blocked by the canopy of forest leaves above us. I try to blow away the bugs landing on her wounds, but at the same time, I can't stop huffing and puffing from dragging her who knows how long. I shouldn't have left my phone in my jeep... but if I had brought it, it would probably b dead from the water.
Finally, the pavement is in sight, and I pull her to the shoulder of the road, my back and breasts swimming in sweat. I lay her down and turn, already hearing a car coming up. I raise my dead arms and shout until I see the car, and then I step into the road.
Hopefully, they see the blood and take me seriously, a worried thought, but it passes as the car slows and pulls over. Really now, who would think a young white girl would be anything dangerous?
A man and woman both get out of the car, and I feel the exhaustion hit me all at once. My legs buckle and I fall to my knees. Panting, the woman comes up to me and kneels, asking if I'm alright.
I can't stop staring at my blood soaked hands. I use one to point to the girl, "she... huff... needs... huff... help", as I say the words, the couple turn and horrified the man runs to the girl, digging his phone from his pocket.
I lean against the woman, my eyes heavy and the world going silent.
The last thing I feel is the sensation of being watched from the woods... I turn and see in the fine moments before darkness, the branches moving in the distance, waving goodbye.