Monday, 15 November 2010


One Way or Another

Dorothy pulled into the driveway, coming back home after a voluntary commitment to the state hospital. She hadn’t been cured, but at least she now had the mental tools to cope with her fears during however long her therapy might last.

Pulling to a stop, she thought she spotted someone in the shadows by a thick lilac bush. Autumn-hued Maple leaves rustled beneath her feet as she crossed the lawn toward the side of the house.

“Hello, can I help you?” she called out, walking around the corner of the house.

She found nothing but gloomy afternoon shadows. However, the image of a shadowy creature that once fueled her childhood fear of the dark flashed through her mind. How silly it all seemed now, she thought, forcing a chuckle.

Dorothy lugged her suitcase from the car to the front steps. After knocking, she inserted her key into the lock and stepped inside.

“Hey, you guys, I’m home!” she hollered.

After a few seconds, her mother hollered, “Dorothy!”

She hurried down the stairs and hugged her daughter. “We weren’t expecting you for at least another week. I’ve been using your room for sewing and storage, and haven’t even cleaned it out yet.”

She seemed careful not to broach the subject of Dorothy’s hospital stay.

“That’s all right, mom,” Dorothy replied. “I’ll sleep on the couch for a day or two. It’s super comfortable anyway.”

“Honey, I wish we would have known you were coming so soon. We already made plans to have dinner with the Henderson’s across town, and won’t be home until late. Do you mind?”

“No, go have fun. It’ll give me a chance to unwind and enjoy the quiet,” Dorothy said.

After her parents left, Dorothy lit the gas fireplace and grabbed an afghan from a wicker basket by the hearth. It had only been a week since Halloween but her mom obviously wasted no time setting out the Thanksgiving decorations.

A pumpkin spice candle flickered on the end table. Breathing in the relaxing aroma she conjured up false, yet romantic images of Pilgrims and their arrival
in the new world.

As she immersed herself into her book, goose bumps flooded her arms. The sudden draft of cold air had Dorothy snuggling under the blanket, comforted by the familiar surroundings of home. Outside, a chilly North wind whistled and moaned.

After a few minutes, she heard scratching at the windows. She sat up and listened intently thinking, it’s only Tree branches. The downy hairs on her neck bristled however, and she found it difficult to shake the unsettling feeling she thought she could cope with.

Dorothy ran to the kitchen, and grabbed a carving knife from its butcher block holder. Then, she hurried back to the couch.

“Oh, good God Dorothy,” she said, frowning, “quit acting like a damn child! You’re home and safe.”

She slid the knife between the cushion and arm rest. After changing the channel to a classical music station Dorothy delved into her novel. An hour later, she sensed someone watching her.

Peering through the window into the darkness, Dorothy felt certain something moved. She ran room to room locking windows and shutting blinds.

She grabbed the phone to call the police, but hung up wondering if they would think she was nuts for calling them to come investigate because she heard creaking and scratching.

A little later, the upstairs floor emitted a loud creak, and Dorothy wrapped her fingers around the knife handle. Tip-toeing to the stairs, she flipped the light switch.

“H-a-a-a-h!” She gasped, and jumped back grabbing her chest with her free hand.

A moment later she dropped her arm and stared disgustedly up the illuminated stairs.

“God Damn it Mom!”she hollered, “Did you have to put a frigging coat and hat tree at the top of the stairs?”

Dorothy returned to the couch and after several deep breathing exercises, began to read. She fell asleep, but was awakened an hour later by something tickling her neck. An unruly strand of hair she thought, and brushed at her neck. At the same time a spider skittered across the floor from beneath the couch.

Dorothy jumped to her feet, thinking it had been the spider. She then felt something crawling on her leg, and kicked off her blue jeans. Her skin rippled as though something crawled beneath it and she raked her nails across her ankles and legs.

There seemed to be more crawling around inside her and Dorothy ran around the room in a panic.

She flailed her arms and sobbed, “Ooooh! no-no-no, please no!”

Bile rose in her throat. Dorothy vomited a handful of thick slugs. Then, several of the creatures began eating their way through her skin. She grabbed the knife, and wildly stabbed at her rippling belly.

Blood splattered the walls and furniture, and she screamed hysterically. Dorothy finally collapsed into a dark crimson pool. Her legs involuntarily jerked for several seconds while the swelling slugs entered and exited her body without

A soft, sinister laugh echoed in the darkness. An opaque, featureless creature inside a shifting cloak-like shadow extended an emaciated hand. It raked its gnarled fingers across the coagulating blood, and licked them clean.

The creature then spread open the cloak and whispered, “Come children, we must move on.”

The engorged slugs crept toward him followed by narrow paint brush trails of blood. They then disappeared into the shadows.

Shortly afterward, headlights swept past the windows and a car pulled into the driveway.

At that moment, somewhere in a darkened room, someone felt a shiver. Perhaps from scratching at a window or a bump in the night. Maybe they heard a creaking floor, or felt the itchiness of something crawling beneath their skin.

Dorothy however, lay undisturbed in the dark, never to hear the horrific screams about to break the silence.


Harold ‘Hal’ Kempka is a former Marine, and Vietnam Veteran. His short stories have been published in Thrillers Killers and Chillers, Night to Dawn, Golden Visions, House of Horror UK, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Night to Dawn, Blood Moon Rising, The New Flesh, Sex and Murder, and Death Head Grin, among others. Hal also has stories in upcoming anthologies from Pill Hill Press and Blood Bound Books. He is a member of the FlashXer flash fiction workshop, and lives in
Southern California. His email address is:


  1. Wasn't quite sure if it was Dorothy's psychosis acting up or if the malevolance in the house was real. Deliciously creepy, Hal.

  2. Finest kind. Blending doubt and horror right up to the last line stioches you to the wall. Creepy good. Cool.

  3. Really enjoyed this one, Hal!! Downright disturbing.