Friday, February 22, 2008

Entry #24

Fade to Black
by Beth Ostrander


“It’s so cold though.”

A rag doll blowing in the wind, anchored to earth by her big brother‘s hand.

“We’re going up there past the tree.” His voice cold as bare toes in rubber boots in winter.

“Peter, can I work in your forest with you?” She wipes a red raw hand across her cheek.

“My what?”

“Your forest with all the flowers.”

Florist,” he snaps.

FLOREST.” She spells it in her head ... F - L - O - R - E - S - T. Flower forest. This makes her smile. “Please?”

“Just hurry up.” Another hard tug on her hand. She wishes for a hat and mittens; warm, fluffy, heavy ones like on Campbell’s Soup commercials.

“Why are we running? Mom won‘t catch up to us.”

He stops so fast, they collide, and half-whispering asks, “Why would you say that?”

The house was right behind them, if she turned her head just a little, she‘d be able to … he pulled hard on her hand.

She shrugs in response.

“You must know that it’s … it’s wrong.”

Another shrug.

Peter’s eyes a farmhouse faucet. She reaches up to his wet cheek with her blood red hand.

“I didn‘t mean to, Peter.”

“You never do … Aunt Ellie, Grandma. I can’t now … ” He shivers, knees hitting the still frozen earth, burying his face in both hands, almost soundless, “We have to go back.”

She fingers the sharp blade in her pocket as everything fades to black.

48 comments:

24crayons said...

ACK! This is still creeps me out - it really surprises you at the end and then it all falls into place and... chills. I loved it!

Beth said...

Thanks, Amy. I wanted John to write on your entry, but he won't use the computer. He really loved what you wrote. I mean a LOT, which surprised me because he hates what I wrote. Oh well. At least one of us is getting some love. haha

Missy said...

Oh, Beth, you're good! I love the "Flower forest" bit; that is so how I think. She seems so sweet and innocent. Poor loving brother...

Beth said...

Thank you, Missy. My husband did not understand this from start to finish. Admittedly, he is not literary, but I was wondering if anyone would actually understand it. You made me feel a LOT better by just not being confused. lol

ChristineEldin said...

Okay, I'll admit I'm confused. But I really like it. How can that be?

sandra seamans said...

That's one scarey little girl. Nice twist because I believed it was the brother who'd killed Mom when I started reading.

Remiman said...

Beth,
Macabre! Oh yes, I had to read it twice before I saw it. I guess that means my mind doesn't think that way. It's a way to get lots of flowers in her life though.
rel

pattinase (abbott) said...

The flower forest is a lovely image in a scary story.

Beth said...

Christine, my husband is still confused. I wanted to pull this after he told me that because I didn't want others to feel that way. I'm glad you ended up liking it though.

Sandra, that's exactly how I wanted it to read -- bad brother, sweet little girl right until the end so thank you for commenting here. I'm glad you weren't confused.

Rel, I'm glad you got it the second time.

Patti, it's my first time writing horror, but I'm like Burton in the way that there should always be some beauty in it.

Thank you, everyone. I'm glad in the end, everyone understood. (except maybe Christine and my husband so far ... lol)

DBA Lehane said...

Oh yes dark and a little twisted. Took me a couple of reads...but maybe that says more about me than anything else! :)

paisley said...

now that one is a definite walk on the dark side.....

JLB said...

Excellent - a nice complete piece with an intriguing character.

Veggies.... said...

Very evocative. Intriguing and well written.

Beth said...

Thanks, everyone. All these comments are much appreciated and boy, didn't this contest break up the dreary winter?

Mr. T said...

Beth, I love the macabre. This is great. The poor brother and what he's being tasked to do (or at least that's where I went with it).

There is nothing more creepy than innocent girls with the devil's mind.

BernardL said...

I knew what you were doing, but it didn't stop the chilling aspect of blood red hands. The switching between childlike innocence and murderous intent is always a creeper.

Ello said...

Ooooh! I loved this! Sweet innocent murderer! I love her! And how clever to make up the term florest! I thought that was quite clever. I totally got it in my first read so don't worry Beth! But then again, I do have a twisted, macabre sense of humor!

Beth said...

Phew, thanks guys and gals. This is my first time down a more clouded, darker road and I just didn't want it to be too cloudy. Much appreciated!

Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

Dark and disturbing tale with a wicked twist in the end. Very chilling in it's innocent telling.
Really well handled!

SzélsőFa said...

It has an easy flow and an interesting setting, but I have to admit that I'm joining the company of Christine and your husband.

It took me several reads, including the reading of the comments to understand (?) what's going on here.

But as so many other readers understood and enjoyed it - I blame my non-getting it entirely on my language barriers.

Anyway, thank you for the experience.

Sarah Hina said...

Beth, this one blew me away! Really great tension and mystery, until the final few lines reveal the little monster for who she is.

Such great dialogue and insight here. One of the best, for sure! :)

Beth said...

Szelsofa, girl, keep re-reading it until you want to vote for me. Hahaha! No, don't feel bad, I get that way with some of your stuff too because I realize there is a language barrier, but Christine and my husband speak English as a first language and didn't get it. In my head, it was so straight forward, but I'm the one who wrote it. No problemo. I'm just glad not everyone was lost. Phew!

Sarah, thank you so much. You are such a fabulous writer, that means a lot!

Parabolist said...

This was an excellent and chilling entry, Beth. I rather enjoyed the darker aspect of it.

pjd said...

I'm with Christine... I was confused. I guess I got that the little girl killed the mother, but I wasn't sure. I think it's the running up the hill and the "can I work in your forest with you" line. I don't understand why he's running away and dragging her along.

And at the end, everything fades to black... for her? She fades to black?

Sorry, I don't read horror much so maybe there are cues in here I'm not picking up on.

bluesugarpoet said...

The last line is the clincher: is she mentally impaired or a cold blooded killer? The characterization is great. Only two lines confuse me: "Peter’s eyes a farmhouse faucet. She reaches up to his wet cheek with her blood red hand." Up to that point, I thought they were climbing the hill. Where is the faucet located? Is it a hand-pumped well or something? I'm assuming that he is washing his face at the faucet, and that is why his face is wet?

Nevertheless, I still get it, and the result...creepy. Great story!

Beth said...

Parabolist, thank you.


pjd, the boy (the big brother) is always taking the girl away from what she's done, covering up for her, helping her. "Fade to black" ... she fingers the blade, her blood red hands, brother is taking her back home, this time he can't do it, so the little girl's mind begins to blacking leaving you with the possibility that even he may be killed. In my head, this is so clearcut.

bluesugarpoet, do you write poetry? I was curious. A farmhouse faucet is always leaky. He was crying. His eyes were 'leaking'. I had to cut back on words to 250 and cut indiscriminately when I do it. In my own head, it is clear. Peter's eyes A farmhouse faucet. It doesn't mention they were "in one" or "near one," so I'm not sure where you get that idea.

So, Peter's eyes are A farmhouse faucet (crying like) and his face is with tears. Her hands start being raw red, then they are blood red ... then the knife. The conclusion -- she has blood on her hands from killing her mother. Hope this helps!

Sorry to have confused some of you and am only glad it is the minority. lol

bluesugarpoet said...

Ah ha - I see that now! I was reading "eyes" as a verb, lol. But as I mentioned before, that was a minor confusion. It didn't subtract from the overall meaning of your piece.

I do like to write poetry; mostly, though, I like to think my approach to writing prose is poetic. (The secret truth is, however, that I know someone who lives on "Poet Road" and stole the idea from that...lol).

Jaye Wells said...

“You must know that it’s … it’s wrong.”

I think this line was where I was confused. A dialogue tag might have clarified the twist in the story.

That said, I enjoyed this one a lot. I love u-turns. You toyed with us, and I like it.

Kathleen said...

Nice job, Beth. I wasn't confused at all, but perhaps it's because I've read enough of your stories that I was expecting something dark?

The "Peter's eyes..." part, however, I'm wondering if you need the 's.

I understood the last line to be her blacking out again...and this time possibly killing Peter.

Beth said...

I have no idea what a dialogue tag is or how to do one. I just use quotes.

I actually liked this story a lot and usually, I'm not feeling that great when I finish something. I'm always second guessing. This time I just went with it.

I always only do a first draft, that's it. I'm glad those who liked it, liked it, and those who didn't or were confused, took the time to say so.

So, thanks!

MickyMc said...

Hi Beth great story. I know it’s meant to be scary, but I was still laughing at the florist line when I got to the end! So I had to read the end again to get into the mood. I think your Peter is a nicer person than mine!

tiff said...

Doe sit say something baout me that I wasn't confused at ALL reading this? Flowed wonderfully, the story opened up on its won, and the end simply leaves me wondering if she's about to branch out to the male side of the family murder tree. Well made!

Beth said...

Micky, I think you're right -- about the Peter thing. Lots of people liked that flower forest thing. =)

Tiff, that you're smart? I read some of your darker stuff and really liked it. What does that say about me? haha

Dottie said...

Beth, I'm trying to figure out some of the comments people have left. I didn't find your story confusing. I think people get in a fast pace reading all of the entries and it is hard to shift gears for a piece that requires the reader to more fully engage. You don't just hand it over and I think it works great. Regardless, you have created the first endearing serial killer. I think one of my two year olds could give her a run for her money. Great read.

Hoodie said...

One of my favorite things I've ever written was this 500 word piece that when I shown to my husband got, "Huh. Sounds cool, but I don't get it." So I let other people read it and they didn't get it either. I knew my genius must not be genius. But someone did get it and thanked me for writing it in a way that the reader had to be trusted to understand. It is still dear to me, like an unpopular child.

Your story is chilling and complexly emotional. Very nice writing, dear. I'm a fan.

Hoodie said...

forgive the weird sentence in there. Two thoughts merged into a sentence that doesn't make sense. Oops.

Precie said...

Wow, that's dark. The "innocence" of the children makes it that much more powerful. And I like pieces that don't spell everything out...

The "I didn't mean to, Peter" was especially chilling.

Beth said...

Dottie, thank you. I appreciate it.

Hoodie, it's a weird thing, you know? This writing thing. Sometimes we are over-critical over what everyone else seems to love and we love what no one else seems to understand. I feel honestly blessed to have received so much feedback. Truly, the reading and the feedback are what make these contests so great.

Precie, same here. I like a little depth in writing. And thank you.

r2 said...

I like this alot. Very dark. Great twist.

Posolxstvo said...

The "florest" bit was an interesting way to set up that she is in many ways still just a normal kid, despite her, ahem, socialization flaws. It took me a second read to figure out why mom wouldn't come after them. I suspect that the confusion arises from the 250 words not giving you enough room to establish context.

Pretty devoted brother there. "Of Mice and Men" anyone?

JaneyV said...

I think there are few things more chilling than a psychopathic child. So sweet and innocent .. so scary! My heart breaks for Peter and his conflict between his moral duty and the wish to protect his sister.

Funerals have great flower forests I believe.

Fab story!

Beth said...

Thanks, everyone, for all comments. I often say the feedback and the reading are the best parts of these contests!

Aerin said...

Well, I only got confused once I started reading the comments!

My son has autism, and so the involvement I have with the disabled community may have given me clearer perspective, I don't know. That the girl doesn't understand why her mother's not coming signaled to me that she was not a cold-blooded killer. Especially when she reaches up to wipe Peter's tears (loved the faucet reference.)

I love how their relationship makes the skeleton of this story. It was really well done.

raine said...

I got it right away. That should probably worry you, Beth, lol!
Good creepy stuff, well done.

Beth said...

Thanks everyone for all your comments and input ... and for a super contest! I looked back through the comments and found it odd the most supportive ones were from the writers of the stories I most enjoyed. Coincidence? =) Congrats to all the winners too!

jason evans said...

Loved the misdirection! The deranged child who kills.... Great dialog. High marks!

Aine said...

This is chilling. Who is she? And what has she done? I love the florest idea-- a mentally challenged girl becomes a serial killer just to have more flowers delivered....

Great job!!

Paulette said...

Love it, Hubby does too!