Author’s Note: Welcome to the second piece for Quick Fiction Fridays! Sorry it’s a little late. Remember in November when I participated in Reuts Publications’ Project REUTSway? I didn’t make the final cut but it did leave me with this creepy, if somewhat rough, short story. This one was for the Bloody Ever After challenge. It also fits with The Daily Post’s weekly writing challenge for this week. I hope you like it. Don’t forget, you can share your own short fiction under the #QUICKFIC hashtag. Miss my last quick fiction? No worries, read it here.
Shannon couldn’t believe that her boyfriend had broken up with her via drunk tweet. Her first reaction should have been something like shock or outrage, but instead she laughed. “That’s just great,” she said aloud. “Humiliation in one hundred and forty characters or less.”
It took another minute for reality to set in before she went to her gut reaction: anger. Lewis always did let his beer do the talking. She couldn’t understand why she didn’t have the brain cells to dump his disrespectful self sooner. It wasn’t like she wouldn’t find someone else. The sadness didn’t come until morning the next day. By then she had settled into her standby habit for dealing with her grief. Baking.
She made tray after tray of muffins and cookies, finally having to open her windows when all the heat set off the smoke alarm. The rational part of her mind told her it was crazy to bake in the middle of November like this. The cold from the open windows was slowly seeping into her bones, but she couldn’t bring herself to stop. It was a comforting routine, a distraction, and she needed that. Soon baking sheets had filled every counter in her tiny green kitchen, along with the kitchen table and chairs.
So she gathered up the clothes that were lying around, stuffed them into her hamper and rode the old, creaking, elevator down to the basement laundry room. Washing her clothes would give her something else to do, and unlike the baking, this was something that she needed to do. She was almost down to her wouldn’t be caught dead in that clothes. Mostly hand knitted things from her well-meaning, but woefully unfashionable great-aunt. She shook her head at the thought of them, and as it thumped to a stop, stepped out of the elevator.
The hallway light was flickering on and off. As she reached the laundry room, the hallway went black and she tripped over something in the darkness. Her ankle jerked sideways and the hamper clattered to the linoleum floor. It echoed loudly in the silence.
“Damn. Just my luck.”
She felt around blindly for the edge of the wall and pulled herself up. As she picked her discarded clothes off the floor, the elevator dinged and it’s doors creaked open. She froze. That was odd. She walked over to the elevator slowly, peering around. It was empty. No one was there.
Somebody must have pushed the basement button upstairs before they got out, she told herself.
The laundry room was newly painted a deep plum and was lit brighter than the hallway outside. The machines were a little banged up, but they worked just fine. She let out a sigh she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. This was much better. She stuck the door stop under the door to prop it open, separated the dirty clothes into piles and tossed them into the washer. The gentle hum of the machines eased the tense silence.
She washed and dried clothes for another twenty minutes, folded them and put them back in her hamper. Just as she was about to go back to her floor, she jumped. A dark blur had streaked across her vision. She wasn’t the type of person to jump at nothing, but she couldn’t see anything now that would’ve startled her. Maybe she was just tired. She needed to get back upstairs and take a nap before work. Moving quickly, she pushed the button to get on the elevator, waited, and got on without turning around. The lights went out again just as the elevator doors shut.
Back upstairs, Shannon unlocked her door and dropped her hamper by the couch. She would have to call the super about the dying light bulb in the basement. She kicked the door closed behind her and locked it. After she finished putting the baked goods into containers, she went into her room sat on the edge of the bed. She picked up her cell phone. She’d better make that call before she took her nap, otherwise she would forget about it. The phone had just started to ring when there was a knock at the door. She wanted to ignore it, but every-time the knocking stopped it would start-up again. The super still hadn’t picked up the phone so she ended the call. She glared at her door when the pounding started up again. So much for her nap.
She flung the door open, thinking that maybe it was her noisy neighbor from 4E who liked to drop by uninvited. Instead, a little girl stood there in a white dress and red cape. She held a little jack o lantern bucket in her hands. “Trick or Treat,” she said.
Shannon’s irritation instantly evaporated. With a smile, she knelt in front of her, pushing her dark bangs out of her face as they fell in front of her eyes. “I’m sorry, Honey. Halloween’s been over for about three weeks now.”
The little girl didn’t reply. She thought she would walk away, run back to wherever she had originally been, but she didn’t. She stood there looking at Shannon, her blue eyes unblinking. Shannon stood up, her hand on the door. She looked at it, shifted her weight from each foot, and pulled at her navy sweater. “Actually, we never get kids coming up to the floors to trick or treat. They usually have someone hand out candy in the lobby…”
The words drift off. What was the right thing to do in this situation? She looked back and saw the containers of baked goods. Should she give her some of those? It’s not like she really needed to eat all of them. But would that be okay? Most people didn’t let their kids eat anything homemade anymore. They too worried about people trying to poison or harm them.
“Where are your parents?” she asked the little girl. There was no response. She was gone.
Shannon stepped out into the hallway and looked left and right. No one else was on the floor. Great. Once again, she slammed her door closed and went to get her cell. The front desk should know there was a little kid roaming around up here by herself.
That’s when she heard it. A faint giggle. Where was that coming from? It got louder as she went towards the front door. She pulled it open again, but no one was there.
“Okay. Very funny,” she yelled.
She stepped into the hall. There was a smell lingering in the air like wet dirt and…rot. She started to get dizzy and held in the urge to throw up. What was that? Someone giggled shrilly in her ear just as a sharp pain radiated at the back of her skull. Her vision went hazy and then, everything went dark.