Today, I listened to a great podcast on Writing Excuses where the hosts spoke with Alyssa Wong — Nebula-Award winning Hapa writer of tiny horrors. After they dissected the woes of the “impostor syndrome”, Alyssa gave us listeners a writing prompt: Step outside of your genre and write in a new one. One that maybe you’ve always wanted to.
All of my friends know that I am a horror addict. And I’ve been one since I saw Child’s Play at 6 and learned about the origins of the Omen at 7. I was the “Goosebumps” junkie and an avid “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” reader.
So here is my answer to that challenge: The beginning of a horror tale entitled:
Big Momma’s house stood against the darkening sky, peering at us as we pull into the circle driveway. Small flecks of lights shined through the large windows, causing a light glow to emanate from the hallways. The once welcoming bright red door was now a deep crimson with years of cracks and blemishes covering it’s surface. The dark wrap-around porch was no longer brimming with lively clematis and knockout roses. Only their remains hung from the columns and gutter. Death hands it’s hand on every brick, every flower, every once of the once immaculate home.
“Momma is this Big Momma’s house?” Anaya asked looking completely shocked at it’s dark demeanor.
“Yes it is baby.” I answered back but I wished I was lying. This wasn’t the house that I wanted her to see. I wanted her to see the jubilant summer home that me and my parents visited annually. The family home that was continuously joy, laughter and tons of fun with my cousins. This wasn’t that house. Her liveliness and bountiful spirit was gone, and so were those feelings. Everything about it’s current state made me want to drive back those wonderful memories to help cope with the new sullen reality.
“I’ll get the bags,” Canden stated, heading to the trunk. “You guys can head inside.”
I took in a deep breath of this new reality and mustered up the courage to head inside. But before I could step one foot in the door, something told me to have Anaya wait with her dad. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was a feeling I refused to ignore.
I whispered to her that it looked like Daddy need some help with the bags and asked her to be his little helper. She gladly nodded and raced back to him. I turned back to the door and slowly opened it.
As the door squealed open, I got a whiff of Big Momma’s homemade cornbread. It smelled like a fresh batch had been just pulled right out of the oven. The darkness began to give way to the light of my beautiful memories coming back, so I explored more.
I continued through the house and noticed that nothing was different. The photos of my parents, prior to me, were still standing on her fireplace mantel. The painted portrait of Papa Gram was hanging at the top of the stairs. The broom and dusk pan which she used everyday to clean up the grass that we brought in was neatly placed against the downstairs door as usual. She kept it there to discourage us from going downstairs. We wouldn’t dare touch the broom because she would make us sweep the entire house.
I laughed at that memory. I could remember Big Momma sending us her warning.
“Alright now. If you ain’t trying to be in dis house all day, don’t try to go downstairs. Cause if you touch my broom, I swear yous cleaning this whole damn house.”
I took a moment to relive that childish memory. Such a witty and caring woman. I missed her so much. And even as the warning ran through my head, I couldn’t help but want to reach out to the broom. It was as if I wanted to hear her yell at me just one last time.
I grabbed the broom and just like the rest of the house, it was cold. then I felt a breeze move between me and the downstairs door. The breeze was strong, so strong that it shook the door. I reached for the knob and to my surprise it was warm. Almost as if someone had just let it go. I turned the knob.
Suddenly the front door swung open, and Canden and Anaya came flying in with the suitcases. It scared the shit out of me but I quickly went over to them and helped them take them up the stairs. The basement would have to wait.
A few hours later we were settling in for the night. After I cooked a quick meal in the kitchen, still brimming with the wonderful scents of cornmeal, we talked about some of the adventures of the house. It felt good to tell stories about Big Momma and her boisterous but loving ways. She was our matriarch. The stone that held the wall together. She was who I wanted to be but could never live up to.
I tucked Anaya in her bed, kissing her softly before my nightly prayer over her. She didn’t know the verse yet but she mouthed what words she could understand. I turned on her monitor sitting on the dresser and turned off the room light as I headed back to the room we were staying in.
Canden met me at the door with a questions.
“Did she die in this house?”
“Soooo that’s a horrible questions to ask.” I responded as I pulled back the sheets.
“I’m not trying to be an asshole, just wondering. If she did, she could be lingering around this place.” He jokingly searched the room. I rolled every bit of my eyes at him. He was his own personal stand-up comedian, but this time his jokes were coming from the wrong place at the wrong time. His timing was worse than a squirrel deciding to cross the road right after the light turned green.
“To be honest, I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”
“You didn’t ask?”
“No,” I yelled at him now aggravated with the conversation.”I didn’t and don’t care. Not having her here is enough in itself.” I could feel tears swelling in my eyes.
“Look, we just need to stay here long enough for the attorney to tell us about the will and then we can get out of here. I got in the bed and turned my back toward him. I wasn’t in the mood for his dumb questions nor did I want to have any discussion about losing the one woman who had been there for every important life event. She loved me as if I was her very own child.
“I’m sorry babe.” He crawled under the sheets and held me tight. I imagine his arms were her loving embrace and I lost it. That night I sobbed myself to sleep. Truly hoping that it was all a dream. A dream I was dying to wake up from.
That night I did dream.
It was the summer I turned 12, and me and my cousins were running up to the house. We were excited to see Big Momma but then I glance to the top window and saw a woman’s face. A face that was sunken and pale. A face I hadn’t seen before. Her thin, fire-red hair draped over her shoulders, covering her dingy lace blouse. Then my attention moved back to my cousin who called my name. But when I looked back up at the window she was gone.
I stopped running up to the house and started a slow walk. Then everyone started moving in slow motion around me. The brilliant sun that was shining soon blackened as I watch it set behind us. I turned my gaze back to the door and the tight grasp of cold holds ran up my arms and over my shoulders. The mysterious red hair woman now stood in front of me with glowing red eyes. She never said a word but slowly shook her head yes.
“Who are you? What do you want?” I yelled at her. My speech was slow and low. The woman open her mouth and I saw a light crawling up her throat. My heart began to race. I tried to break free but her cold grip was strong and steady.
Suddenly I woke up. My chest and back were damp from sweat but a chill raced up my arms, as if she was still touching me.
With my heart now racing, as if it was trying to climb out of my chest, I sat up in bed trying to shake the dream. After a few deep breaths I was calm. I laid back in bed and looked over at Anaya’s monitor anticipating that she was quietly sleeping in her bed. But she wasn’t, she was standing up next to her bed. I picked up the monitor and peered closer to the screen. She was leaning over the bed, as if she was hugging someone or something. Between her embrace floated two red glowing eyes. The same eyes from my dream.
I jumped up from my bed ready to race down the hall. I opened the door and ran into the darkness but was violently thrown back on the floor of the room. Canden immediately jumped up and ran over to me. Before he could lift me up, I hopped up and ran back over to the monitor to see Anaya now back in bed.
But there was someone now very visible in the room. A woman who looked exactly like me. She was embracing my first and only child in disguise as me. Wearing my face to allure my child into her arms. Her fire eyes glared back at me through the screen — daring me to come in.
“What’s wrong?” Canden asked me.
“There’s someone in Anaya’s room.” I yelled and threw him the monitor.
I ran full speed down the shadowy hall, seemingly on an endless plight to save my child from this mysterious being. I finally made it to her door and put my hand on the knob. As if it was a flashback to earlier in the day, the knob was warm and a breeze was blowing from under the door. I didn’t know what the being wanted but at that point, I knew I needed to save my daughter. I opened the door.
Sooooo…what do you think? Feedback is encourage as this is my VERY FIRST SHOT at horror. I would love to hear your thoughts.