A short horror story (989 words). Read at your own risk.
This one is for Jasmina R. Offer, check out her cool page here.
Tom and Susan spilled into the basement, following at their mothers heels. The thrift shop had converted it into a sale area. It was big enough, and with all the racks you could nearly get lost. Better even, there was just enough natural light coming down through the thick dirty windows that they could get by without using extra electricity.
“Hide and seek?” Tom asked, wrinkling his nose at the musty smell.
“You two behave yourselves, no running, you break it you buy it,” Ma reminded them promptly.
Susan jingled her allowance in her pocket with a devious grin. “Yes Ma, we’ll be angels.”
Mrs. Wutherstorm gave them a look that only a mother could. “I’ll be perusing the racks over there.”
As soon as she disappeared into the clothes racks, Susan gave Tom a good nudge on the shoulder. “Thinking what I’m thinking?”
“A little game of buy it or break it?” Tom was grinning from ear to ear now.
Susan didn’t answer picking up a figurine and tossing it to him. “Catch!”
It almost slipped through Tom’s fingers, but he caught it, sticking his tongue out. “Try again.” His eyes scanned the miscellany as he dropped the figurine in a box.
Well that was new. A near life sized marionette hung by its strings in the corner. An ugly thing, almost in tatters, dowels sticking out from its arms, the paint on its happy face peeling, grinning like a maniac. Susan would love it in her room Tom decided. “Catch,” he said with a smirk, picking a football out of one of the cardboard bins and throwing it to her. Susan caught it with ease.
“You’re supposed to pick something that can break idiot.” She threw the football back with a vengeance. Tom stepped aside, watching with satisfaction as the football smashed into the marionette, cracking the porcelain face.
He gave a whoop as it teetered and tumbled towards the concrete floor, but just before it gave him the ultimate satisfaction, it halted, jerking on its strings. “You broke it! Got ten dollars?” Tom motioned at the bright orange price tag stuck on the blue and white motley cloth.
Susan’s face fell. “How in the-”
Something whapped Tom square on the back, making him jump. Then a rustle of fabric, the marionette must be falling over, but as he turned back to it he could see that it was quivering and jerking something wild. The grin on the pale cracked face seemed even more maniac, if that was possible, dowel arms teetering up and down ever so slightly.
“What’s wrong with it?” Susan grabbed his arm pulling him away.
“Dunno, maybe it’s a wind-up?” But then what was the point of the strings? The strings were rubbing to vibration against the nail that held them, fraying already.
“Let’s go find Ma.” He was trying hard to keep his cool, wouldn’t do to let Susan see him freaked out.
“Yeah let’s go.”
But as Susan tugged harder yet at his arm, the strings snapped, one after another, the sharp crisp sound making them jump. A dowel arm sprung out, jamming hard into Tom’s upper arm. They both took off through the racks, pushing clothes aside in their rush, knocking hangers down with a clatter.
“Ma!” Susan called, panic on the edge of her voice. Did Tom blame her, he felt ready to piss his own pants. He thought he might see his mother’s red skirt around the corner, but it was nothing more than a sale rack. How far could she have gone really? This basement was big, but not that big. They both came to a halt, rubber shoes squeaking on the slick concrete floor, as the upstairs door slammed. Another costumer? But the lock was grinding, snapping into the locked position he imagined. Susan looked so pale. Tom gave her arm a squeeze.
“It’s ok Sis, just another costumer, ‘s all.” The rack in front of them swayed, the clothes moving as though someone had ran a hand over them. Before Tom could say another word, the marionette popped from the fabric, head first, like a rocket, dowel arms a blur as they savagely slashed and jabbed the air. Susan broke from Tom, taking the left, leaving Tom to take the right. Tom got as far as the dishware room, before realizing he’d run himself into a dead end. He pressed his back into the wood shelves, looking around frantically. There it was, zooming into the room, keeping more than pace with him, small wood shoes clacking on the floor, as it alternatively ran and glided. “’m sorry.” Tom’s pant leg was getting awfully warm as he said it. The dolls dowel arm whizzed by his face, sending a pile of saucers flying. Porcelain face jumping up and down with the exertion, motley cloth body rippling. The next jab caught Tom in the neck, like a bullet, burying right into the skin, making him squeal. When the dowel drew back it flashed red with blood. He managed to push aside the next flurry of attacks, but it was going for his eyes, and came within a hair.
A loud cracking noise filled the room. The marionette collapsed at Tom’s feet, Susan standing over it with a baseball bat.
She didn’t have to say anything, grabbing Tom’s hand. When they got to the top of
the stairs Susan struggled with the door for a second, but managed it. They all but fell through the door, into the clean air and light of the upper floor. Ma’s red skirt caught Tom’s eye right away, she was leisurely perusing the books, oblivious.
“There you two are, been looking for you.” She glanced at Susan’s pale face. “Something wrong?”
Susan shook her head promptly. “Nothing Ma.”
“Nothing,” Tom chimed in faintly, covering the wet spot on his pants with a hand, ”just gotta use the bathroom.”
© Meno Silencio 2016