Midnight Fear: A Flash Fiction Spooky Story

Hey everyone!

I’m back from vacation (did ya miss me? :P) and I’ll be doing some NaNo-ish posts soon (eek!) but today I’m doing something… different. XD

Jenelle Schmidt has a Spooky Story Challenge again this year (check it out!), flash-fiction edition, aaand I decided to join in.

I’ve been kind of enjoying writing flash fiction — works one thousand words long or less — lately (like We Otter Do It and Mentor Problems). Only problem is, spooky/scary stories are NOT my thing at all. XD

But I did have a flash-fiction piece around that I wrote a few years back and recently rewrote, based on a nightmare I had. I kind of wrote it as “therapy” and after I got it down “on paper,” it didn’t scare me anymore — but I wasn’t really planning on posting it lest it scare other people! 😉

So be warned, if that’s not your thing.

But I decided to share it anyway.

Enjoy!

Midnight Fear

by

Deborah O’Carroll

Night shrouds the world. Black as ink, the dark sky hangs overhead—the roof of a giant safe or vault, locking me into this world of nightmare. A car screeches somewhere. The city block stretches before me, with but a few yellow street-lamps to shine small patches of imagined safety onto the pavement—bits of light, small, pitiful, feebly trying to push back the night.

The wind is on the move. It drives grey rags of clouds across icy stars, slips cold fingers of air down my collar, shrieks relentlessly through the branches of a tree I walk beneath. The twigs chatter together like teeth. I shiver and hasten my pace, casting glances this way and that. I should have been home long ago.

Someone runs up the road—whisks past, a shadow under a street-lamp. He calls back from behind me in a hoarse whisper: “It’s coming!”

I don’t need to ask what “it” is.

I break into a panicked run, clutching my skirt, my shoes pounding a war-drum’s call, my heart a fluttering bird trapped between metal bars. The street stretches on forever. I must reach home before it finds me.

My house appears in the darkness. Relief floods me. But as I near my yard, I freeze. Terror grips me in an iron vice. At the crossroads where my street meets the next, a shadow moves.

Round the corner with slow deliberation pads the embodiment of midnight fear.

The black panther.

It’s twice as big as I had heard. It stops in the midst of the crossroads, shadowy head swinging slowly as if deciding which street to take. Not my street. Not— Motionless save for the twitch of its tail, its gleaming eyes full of quiet malice fix on me.

I stand transfixed as we stare at each other for a short eternity. Then, with slow, measured steps, it pads up the street toward me. Panic breaks me free of my terror-induced paralysis. I tear across the road, stumble up my sidewalk and front steps to my house. Safety lies in wait for me behind the door. I claw frantically in my pocket for the key. Not there. It has to be there—

The key is gone. I can’t get in.

Nowhere to hide. I must find somewhere . . . I dart a glance over my shoulder. The beast still pads slowly up the street. I run across the porch, down the steps, and heave myself over the side of the bed of the pickup truck. I hunker down low with my head down, breath coming in ragged gasps, heart running a marathon. Perhaps the panther will pass by, continue down the street . . . Perhaps it will not find me.

All is quiet. I wait forever. Silence. I dare a quick glimpse over the side of the pickup bed. My heart trips and falls and skips a beat.

I had heard no sound. Yet the panther pads toward me across my grassy lawn, as silent and graceful as any of its smaller kin. In horrified fascination I watch its dark bulk make its slow, sinister way toward me, a deeper black beneath the tree shadows cast by the moon. Instead of leaping, the creature circles the truck. A long wooden plank forms a ramp from the ground up to the tailgate of the pickup’s bed. A path straight to me. The panther sets a fore-paw on the plank and begins its slow relentless ascent, fixing near-hypnotic eyes on me.

I seize the end of the ramp with frantic prying fingers, trying to flip it over. It doesn’t budge. The panther takes another step.

I scrabble desperately about in the dark in the back of the pickup. My hand touches an object. A hammer. I fling it with all my strength.

It strikes the beast between its gold street-lamp eyes.

I hold my breath. The panther pauses, shakes its head once, then comes on. Its teeth glitter under the moon. Its paws tread softly pad-pad-pad up the plank.

In a final surge of mind-numbing panic, I grab the next object my hand finds—a large heavy mallet—and fling that too. Then another—a length of pipe—and another and another, I know not what, flinging them in quick succession. I shut my eyes against the terror and only hope one of them will make it stop coming. Just make it stop coming toward me. I am out of things to throw. Dark despair seizes me, but no claws. I open my eyes.

The panther still stands on the plank. It does not move. Then it sways.

And

The shape of terror hits the ground with a thud. It lies still.

Relief tears a gasp from my lungs as I remember to breathe again. I collapse in the bed of the pickup truck.

***

Time follows in a blur. They come at last to find the beast, and find it dead. I climb shakily down into my lawn. People surround me, despite the midnight hour, praising me and my non-existent bravery for the death of the terror. Voices roll around me, talking of taking me to dinner, of celebration. I don’t listen to them. I can only stand beneath the trees, swaying like their branches, staring down at the panther. It lies on the grass, a sleek pile of black fur, motionless. Dead. But without losing its menace.

Unthinking dread still fills me, and I can’t look away, despite knowing that it’s dead from the heavy metal things I had thrown at it. I wish I’d thrown heavier ones.

I keep staring, half expecting the panther to move.

It does.

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