Last year, after reading Half-Minute Horrors (HarperCollins, 2009), a collection of short short stories collected and edited by Susan Rich featuring well-known authors/illustrators, the daughter and I decided to try writing our own half-minute horror. The result was The Door and Bodies of Water, both of which we published in our Spring 2011 Edition of the zine TalyaWren. Below is Natalya’s The Door shared with her and the zine’s permission. (please seek permission if you want to share this, for whatever reason).
I asked permission to share this because I was thinking It’s Halloween! Happy Halloween! and because the Spring 2012 Edition of TalyaWren has been on my mind. Natalya has decided on a theme for the zine project and we are organizing ourselves to send out letters for submissions, etc. More on this later. Meanwhile, enjoy my then-10-year-old’s “horror” story in which I tried to interfere little.
by Natalya Hill
+ a smidge by
Leslie Hill Darnell
Was it a ﬂoorboard or an opening door? Or was it my overactive imagination?
It is silent again. And now shadows seem to crowd the room.
Out of the corner of my eye I spy what haunts me every night: a door that I have never opened.
I was the only person I knew of in this house. I shiver at the thought. No one to hear my screams for help. And no working phones either; which again means no help, I realize—too late…
I had never thought of a phone until now—stupid me!
My room is upstairs and the once locked door was adjacent my only exit. I had carved a triangle into the door to mark my exit so as not to confuse the otherwise identically carved and painted doors, but I can’t make it out in the dark. And I can’t take the risk of choosing the wrong door. Why can’t I remember if the door was to the left or right?
No leaving, no window?—I’m trapped…with something…something terrible.
Was the locked door opening? Or was it my exit closing?
I can make out only one door.
Sudden is the urge to investigate. Was it the door with the mark?
No, I can’t, musn’t…
Was something by my bed? I turn my head to the left, hair sticking to my damp face as it swung with the jerky movement. I push aside my blankets with as much stealth as trembling hands will allow, all the while squinting through the darkness, blinking rapidly to focus.
Toes propel me forward even as I barely touch the ﬂoor, propelling me away from an absent window. Quick breaths track my progress through the black.
The edge of the door bumps the tips of the ﬁngers that were still groping for the exit. I step back to catch the edge of the door, slowly, readying to launch myself behind it and away from that something by the bed.
Why not through the doorway? the dark quietly creeps out to whisper. It’s like a magnet, compelling me out of the bedroom. But into where? The hallway or…
And yet my legs move with purpose, forward, toes catching on the door frame, but still I step through as if in a trance—feeling everything and yet not. And then
5 years later…
A haunted house? If anything the Decrepit Painted Lady was mundane; comfortably normal; and I liked it for that very reason. True, the previous owner had disappeared. But it can’t be…
I turn at the sound of a scritching of nails on wood. My overactive imagination, I laugh to myself, but then, with whom else would I laugh? I’m the only one here.
This room will be my room. I can look out onto the garden and I can even spy the alleyway from here. As for the locked door that is without a key, another closet? I inspect the door out of the corner of my eye as I turn around in the middle of the room. No phone jack, and poor signal—no signal. I tuck my cell in my pocket. I’m sure I’ll be ﬁne with the one line downstairs. I pull out a list to add “buy a phone.”
The list was ripped from my hand. I turned around to realize the window was open when it should have been closed and locked. I whip back around to where the paper had ﬂown and is now sticking to the exit. When had that closed?
I collect the paper with a trembling hand. Curious how the paper didn’t slip to the ﬂoorboards. I pull it away from the carving of a triangle that pointed…
…to the corner of my eye.
Red bleeds along the edge of the paper.
I grip the knob of the bedroom door with a damp hand. And I see it move. From the corner of my eye.