short story

Short Story Sunday: Letters to No One

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The old black teapot was fuming, signaling it’s had enough of that heat and wants to get off the stove right now. Mr. Blinchley on the other hand was in no rush, he lived alone and rarely had company so he enjoyed any sound that broke off the monotone silence, even if it came from a teapot. Plus he felt cold, despite the fireplace going, and a cup of hot tea would help with that more than a barely warm one. It was April, the week of Easter, but it appeared that the weather missed the memo. The temperature was dropping with each passing day instead of rising as it should, so Mr. Blinchley penned it a winter in disguise in his letters.

Maybe it wasn’t just the weather though, Arthur Blinchley was about to enter his ninetieth year of life and age certainly makes some adjustments to the weather forecast. It makes the winds feel heavier, the rain louder, and the sun weaker. Mostly it makes the cold feel colder, and puts a man a season or so behind in attire. For everything beyond that, he decided it’s all a matter of personal choice. We ourselves choose when we give up, when not to get out of bed, and when we stop doing the things we love. The answer Mr. Blinchley was aiming to leave as an example for everyone else was never. That’s why on his work desk where his favorite chair was situated, lied a pile of letters.

Letters were like a piece of magic for him. And since magic strayed from the ordinary and mundane, he never sent any letters around Christmas anymore. He preferred waiting till the Easter holidays. The few months between the two holidays gave him just about the right time he needed to read several times the letters he received, and then to come up with just the right responses they deserved. The longer he was with them the more special they felt. He had set on a mission to live his days alone, and for better or worse he found he excelled at the task. Yet every now and then he felt the loneliness creep in behind his mind and give him distant memories, enchant his dreams with company, force him to wake up with a craving for friendship. The letters helped him with that. They reassured him he still has all that even though nowadays he rarely sees anyone but the milkman, the newspaper boy, and the employees in the shop across the street.

With the cup of tea in his hands to warm the old bones, Mr. Blinchley sat down at his desk, admiring the handwriting he’s mastered over the years. If those letters did not include personal details and told the dreary tale of his life, they might have been considered a piece of art. At least he wanted to think so. Just as he often thought of the excitement these letters might give to his carefully selected recipients. Yet he knew the truth, especially with this new age and technology, is that most of them were likely uncomfortable or ashamed to be receiving and sending written letters.

Arthur Blinchley also pondered why the letters have not been sent yet. You see, they were already written, signed, placed in lovely light yellow envelopes, unpleasantly licked and carefully closed. Now they were simply sitting as a pile, gathering dust and reminding him that one of these cold days he need to put on an extra sweater and head down to drop them off in the closest main box. But for a reason he could not quite perceive, he did everything but that. He even managed to do some household chores he was so diligently putting off as if he had hoped one day when he wakes up they’d all be done in some mysterious way. And while Arthur still found the thought of magic endearing, he didn’t quite fancy mysteries, he just really wished the housekeeping would get done on its own for once.

Not today, he told himself. In his ninety years of life, that was one of the easiest phrases he could tell himself. It appeared simple and short, clean and sweet, even though deep inside it was the root of all things evil and lazy. Might be that’s the plans of villains never go as planned, they always tell themselves not today whenever it comes to executing them. Heroes don’t do that, heroes act. But Arthur had no trouble chewing on that thought, he hadn’t been a hero his whole life so why would he seek that now? Plus heroes were never old either, if they could not save the world at the age of ninety, how could anyone expect Mr. Blinchley to do the things he did in his prime?

Between spinning thoughts during his time at the desk and watching an episode of whatever that was on the TV that he couldn’t recognize, Arthur forgot to have a look at the clock. “Funny thing, time. We stop doing things on its account, but it never stops for us”, Mr. Blinchley thought to himself as he moved to get to his bed. He had what might have been one of the best nights of sleep, even though he might have said that the night before, and the night before that. It was a common occurrence for him to enjoy his sleep.

Yet, as he moved across his apartment, Arthur fell a heavy weight fall on top of him. He extended his arms and leaned toward his favorite chair for support, but failed and made things worse. By pushing the chair down he hurt his left arm when he fell with it on top of the chair. The whole event rumbled the place and the pile of letters fell on top of him. Lying there on the ground, next to his favorite chair and among some of his prized possessions, the letters he wrote to his friends, Mr. Blinchley pondered once again why he didn’t send the letter sooner. Was he too old for such a task? Or did the procrastination delay the thoughts that yet another year of his life had passed? Was it fear kept him back?

In his final moments, Arthur felt maybe it is better that the letters didn’t reach anyone. Maybe it will be a better form of goodbye than any note or words he may have sent them. Sure, his handwriting looked beautiful even though his hand shook when he wrote, but maybe the letters he wrote weren’t worthy of being his last words to his friends. Funny, he thought to himself, we rarely look at it what way and hardly ever accept it, but time does stop on our account.

Short Story Sunday: Cinema Night

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Being part of winter the months of January and February are usually filled with cold, rainy, and windy days. Thus one usually finds it enjoyable to spend those days at home with a cup of warm coffee. Or, since it is also the awards season for motion pictures, one might also enjoy going to the cinema to catch up with award nominees. My roommate and I are avid movie fans so that’s what we used to. It all stopped one night four years ago.

The night I have in mind we were going to see a thriller romance, which we would usually avoid but it featured Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp so we thought to ourselves how bad can it really be? Awfully bad, apparently. I guess it didn’t help that I had pulled two shifts at a fast food restaurant before going to the midnight screening of the movie. Somewhere along the way I must have fallen asleep. Which is quite normal with me being tired and the movie not entertaining enough to keep me awake. What isn’t normal is waking up all sweaty and frightened as if I’ve had a nightmare but not remembering any details. The first thing I realized is that I was at the cinema. The next thing I did was look left to where my roommate was sitting but he wasn’t there, his seat was empty. In fact, after looking around the room I noticed all seats were empty. The cinema was empty, there was no one there but myself.

I was more confused than frightened at this point but I could sense a fear setting in. I saw the movie was over, though a black screen was clearly still projecting, as if the credits were to run but there was no change. If the movie ended, why wouldn’t my friend wake up? Why wouldn’t I wake up from noise of everyone else leaving? Aren’t there staff members who check the rooms after each screening ends? Too many questions and no answers. As I moved toward the exit of the cinema I pulled out my cell phone with the idea to call my roommate, but it had likely ran out of battery because I couldn’t turn it on. No biggie, I told myself, until I reached the cinema’s front door and realized it’s locked. I tried pushing, pulling, even kicking it but it wouldn’t budge. While with each push and pull and kick I could fear my heart racing faster and faster. How did this happen? Am I spending the night at this place?

I was set on finding a phone, they had to have one somewhere. Making my way through the halls though, I started pondering if just sleeping off the night isn’t a smarter move. I could hear noise. The noise quickly turns into more clear sounds. And the sounds soon turn into voices. What if I’m not alone here? Is that a good or a bad thing? My brain was tired, my body was exhausted, I needed sleep and not creepy thoughts, so I took a deep breath and moved toward the source of the voices. Getting closer to them, I realized they’re not actual human voices. It sounded like they were coming from a TV – and rightfully so, there was a movie playing. From fear to disappointment, I could not catch a break. I had almost decided to give up and find a comfortable place for spending the night, when I noticed a black shadow in the front rows. It looked like a small dark figure moving quickly between the seats, making its way toward the back exit of the room. In the dark I could not see who or what it was, I just stood there observing its movement. As the light of the movie changed, from dark to light, I caught a glimpse of it before it disappeared through the exit. An extremely thin, crooked figure. It wasn’t small as I thought, it looked tiny because most of its body was slithering on the floor.

I was seeing everything from a different point of view now – there was no sign of my friend, my cell phone wasn’t working, I was in an empty, locked up cinema, and there was something else with me there. Something I couldn’t even define and the bare thought of it send shivers down my spine. I was frozen, blocked, unable to move or maybe I just didn’t know where to go but I knew I was just standing there. I tried to shake off the negativity from my mind and left the room. I decided I’ll lock myself up in the owner’s office so I made my way down the hall. I didn’t make it even ten feet when I saw the thing again. It was coming from the restricted areas, it had likely visited the offices – but how did it get there so quickly? Or were there more than one? I noticed that I can hear the thing making a snake-like hissing, but stronger, sharper, and it sounded a bit deeper. It’s probable that in the previous room the sound from the movie was preventing me from hearing any of this, but now the hall was mostly quiet and I could hear it. I could hear it clearer and clearer. It was coming this way.

At this point I was completely worn out. My body and my mind kept reminding me about the lack of sleep, lack of food, lack of water, and pointing to the excess stress, dismay, and fear. I did not have the energy or the will to pretend that I’m strong or that I’m smart or to make strategic moves. I decided to make a run for it. The bathroom was close, I could lock myself up in there and hope I make it to the morning. Due to being exhausted my running wasn’t very fast, and even though I’m sure my feet were stumping on the ground and my heart was thumping, all I could hear was the noise the slithering was making. I was so focused on reaching the bathroom that I didn’t think about other possibilities – just as I was about to enter the bathroom I noticed there’s a short corridor on the right that has stairs which lead to the roof. I pushed the bathroom door as hard as I can, hoping it distracts the thing, and made a run for the roof.

The idea of getting away from that thing and that place gave me hope and strength, I could feel myself rushing at a faster pace than before. In fact I was moving so fast that I completely forgot to lock the door behind me. I thought to myself if there are stairs to the roof then there must be fire-escape stairs that lead down from the building. And there were, I could see them as soon as I came out on the roof and without even stopping to take a breath I kept running. I’m not sure if due to my state or my rush, as I was going down the last stairs I slipped and couldn’t hold onto them. Within a second I found myself on the ground, lying on the back and my whole body aching while all I could do is let out a scream of pain.

I keep going back to this moment, I’m not sure if it was a response to my scream or a victorious roar of its own, but at that exact moment the thing peeked from the room and let out a vicious hissing sound that resonated across the whole street. Despite all the pain and exhaustion, I pushed myself up on my feet and started running. I never glanced back, not even once. I just kept running. I do not remember how but apparently I almost made it to the hospital, I had collapsed nearby and someone picked me up and took me inside. I awoke the next day, but the joy of surviving last night’s happenings quickly faded away. While I made it out alive, I  was informed my roommate didn’t, or at least they couldn’t find him. In fact, they couldn’t find any of the people who were in that cinema last night, I was the only person who made it.

It’s been 4 years and the police never really got any leads on the case. But then again, I never told them what truly happened to me that night.

Short Story Sunday: Don’t Mind the Rain

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I find it soothing to sit by the window and listen to the rain pouring outside. There’s something peculiar about it, a soft noise that shatters the silence and puts you at comfort. I’m in my twenties now, living alone, it’s a Sunday night and I’ve already prepared for work in the morning so I’m lying on the sofa with my eyes closed and listening to the rain.

But my story doesn’t start here. My story starts in my childhood, during my years in elementary school. As it is common among kids of that age, we did a lot of sleepovers. The first one I remember was at Michael’s house. It took place on a Friday; his dad came to pick us up from school in their van and brought us directly to their house. It was Michael, me, Dean, and Henry. We spent most of the day playing outside in their yard. It was a large yard with a freshly mowed grass, several large trees and a few swings among them. To top it all there was a tree house skillfully hidden behind a layer of leaves – the perfect thing you need for pretending you’re ninjas or secret agents. All in all, there were enough things to keep us busy throughout the day. It feels like dinner time came barely moments after we started playing.

After dinner we resided to Michael’s room. We talked about happenings at school, we shared jokes and stories. As the night went on we could clearly hear the rain on the windows, and as it almost felt eerie combined with some of the scary stories being shared. You would think a bunch of little kids wouldn’t be able to sleep all night when they’re scared, but likely due to the sound of the rain or because we were tired from playing all day long, we quickly started falling asleep one by one. I had a bit of trouble sleeping on new locations, that’s probably why I was last to fall asleep, but the sound of the rain definitely helped.

I thought I was already asleep when my heartbeat became more prominent. The sequential lub-dubs were louder and louder each time. It took me a while to realize it wasn’t my heartbeat, but someone coming up the stairs. By the time I realized this, they were already at the door. Out of nowhere I felt a strange fear taking over my body. I noticed that I could no longer hear the rain, and I did not know when or how it stopped. In fact, I could no longer hear anything – it was a complete silence excluding the movement of whoever or whatever was outside that door. Even scarier is that I did not hear the door opening, yet I knew deep down that it was already in the same room. The sound of their movement was no longer muffled; there were neither walls nor doors separating us from it.

At this point I was seriously panicking, yet I could not do anything because I was immobilized, bewitched, and unable to move my body in anyway. My eye lids would not open regardless of the effort I put into the task. But whatever was in the room didn’t have this issue; it was now moving directly toward us. Directly toward me, more precisely. I could not hear my heart but I was sure it was beating like crazy at that moment. Beating like a person locked behind bars, as that is how I felt as the thing approached me. Or at least I thought it was approaching me. A few feet away it stopped and silence devoured everything but my thoughts. If I was afraid when it was coming my way, I have no words to describe my terror of not knowing what it’s doing or where it’s going. With no previous warning, the thing let out a ravenous loud roar and in the same instant my body shut down, the fear and shock likely too huge for the little boy back then.

I cannot tell you what precisely happened. What I can tell you is the next day we all woke up in Michael’s room, except Michael himself. Michael was gone, nowhere to be found. He still is, actually, they never found him and they never even got any lead as to what had happened to him. The same could be said of the rain. You see, when we told our story to our parents, they reassured us there was no rain and we were likely hearing something else. But we all know what we heard that night and in the nights to come, though I never shared with anyone what I heard during my attempt to fall asleep.

I didn’t even share it with Henry when Dean disappeared the same way. And once Henry disappeared the same way, I had no one to share it with even if I wanted to. So you see, when the sound of the rain is there it means there is no silence and that means the creature isn’t there. That’s comforting to know and that’s why I don’t mind the rain. But come to think of it, I’m not hearing the rain…