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October Bradbury Writing Contest Winner: Home

This short story is the winning submission for the 2020 October Bradbury Writing Contest!

 

 

Welcome! The purpose of this page is to formally recognize the winning submission of our October Bradbury Writing Contest! But first, we would like to express our deepest appreciation for everyone who participated in this spooky themed writing contest, the judges definitely enjoyed reading all of your creatively horrifying stories. No matter the outcome of the contest, you should all be proud of the writing that you have done. Just as Ray Bradbury would, we encourage you all to continue writing and expressing yourself!

 

Below you will find the winning submission:

FEAR by Tauna Sonne LeMare

 

For all the writers out there, be sure to watch for future writing contests!

 

 

 

FEAR
By Tauna Sonne LeMare


Charlie huddled in her bed beneath covers and pillows to defend
against the rage outside her door. When her parents fought, IT would rise-up
under her bed and poke her through the mattress to remind her IT was waiting.
She stopped IT last time when she piled everything in front of her door
so IT couldn’t get out.
The firemen broke her window and carried her away. That stopped IT,
but grownups made her go back to her parents, and IT was waiting.
Before she could hide in the loud noise from the TV until her mother
smashed the screen, now even her parent’s angry whispers clawed at her ears.
A red glow seeped under her tear-soaked lashes. She drew her knees
up close, clutching a pillow to her ears and humming loudly, but for all her
efforts to resist, the sounds of her parents screaming crumbled her pretense.
I don’t want to be here. The thought slipped out. Charlie didn’t mean
it--did she? The red glow nodded up and down. It knew that she did.
Charlie was afraid to open her eyes, but she believed it would protect
her. It would devour her parents, It promised. No one could make her go back
to them if they were gone. They had their chance. She’d tried to warn them,
but they punished her instead of listening.


#####


"What a cute little place this could be. A bit of paint and some flowers
in the window box should do the trick." Jennifer Jacobs assessed her newest
investment.
"It might not be that easy to sell unless you get some out-of-towner.
What with that child disappearing and her parents found in pieces."
"That was fifteen years ago, if you mean when I was a kid. Who is
going to remember that?"
"You did. Did you know it happened two more times?"
"Rumors and gossip, no doubt, you old reprobate."
Bernie’s eyes twinkled with delight. He liked nothing more than
getting a rise out of Jennifer and had done, ever since high school, when she
worked summers at her father’s office.
"You don’t see me buying up murder houses hoping to make a buck."
"You don’t have two cents to rub together. We at Jacobs Realty know
what we’re doing."
"You mean your father is senile and hasn’t been able to reign you in."
"Mind your manners, Bernie. I pay you and expect the work with no
tales spread to prospective buyers."
"Don’t say I didn’t warn you but zipping my pie-hole."
"A little less pie and your overalls might fit better." They both laughed.
Jennifer hadn’t known anything about the house’s history, only that it
was a long time empty and worth twice the asking price, which she bargained
down even further.
She was still in school when the first murders occurred. The only
murders she knew about, and she didn’t think it happened in her house. But,
she wasn’t going to let Bernie know she hadn’t done her due diligence.
Back at the office, she asked Mirriam to find out everything about
murders at 333?"
"Sure, JJ. I can talk the sheriff into spilling the beans. It will only cost
me a spaghetti dinner and a boring evening." Mirriam gave a very theatrical
sigh.
" Okay, do you think he would talk to me then? Is he that bad? "

"Better you than me. The sheriff likes long-legged blondes or anything
in skirts. Slim pickings date wise for him since he came to town. But he is a
dish even if he is my brother."
"Mirriam, way to hide the lead. How am I just hearing about him?"
"Aden was always away. He just came home because he was able to
take over for the old guy. You know when our dad retired."
"Mirriam, you are a hoard of secrets to be pried open."
"Don’t hurt me, please. I’ll call him and arrange a date."
"Date?"
"Yeah, he’ll be eating out of your hand. He’s already housebroken.
I’ve wanted to throw you two at each other and watch the fur fly."
"Thanks, I think."


####


After his sister’s call, Sheriff Aden Walker rummaged through the files
with little interest. Once he started reading and found two other cases initially
considered connected, he became more involved.
The officer at the front desk nodded Jennifer towards the conference
room. She pushed open the door and found the sheriff huddled over a table
littered in paperwork, photos, and evidence bags.
Aden turned and melted her with his best smile. At least that was what
Mirriam told him would happen if he remembered not to frown, his go-to face
when working. He hoped she was right since he asked J.J. here to look over
the files in lieu of dinner. Hopefully, a dinner free of shop-talk to follow.
"Miss Jacobs, I’m Aden Walker."
"Please call me Jennifer or JJ if you like. That’s what Mirriam calls
me. What is all this?"
"Sis told me what you wanted. I was surprised to find files for three
separate cases. My father wasn’t big on new-fangled contraptions, so nothing
is digitalized, yet."
"You mean it wasn’t just gossip? There were three murder scenes?"
"Not exactly, but they thought so at the time. Let’s start with the first,
that’s the one at 333. Your property now, I believe."
Jennifer nodded.
"The police responded to a dozen complaints at 333. The husband was
an abuser. He’d beat on the wife, and if he hadn’t passed out, he’d start in on
their five-year-old daughter, Charlie. Once she moved her bed to block her
door, the fire department had to climb through her window. They found her
hiding in her bed, soaked in urine. Couldn’t get a word out of her. You would
think Social would place a five-year-old child somewhere safe, but they
didn’t."
"Social Welfare sent her back into those conditions?"
"Yes, sadly. Toxic, but parents’ rights upheld. Within a week, both
parents were dead, and no sign of Charlie. You can see from the pictures how
the father killed the mother."
"Could Charlie have seen him do that?"
"Forensics determined that the mother had managed to fight back and
wounded her husband severely enough that he died not long after she did. She
bonked him on the head with a cast iron fry pan. It was still in her hand."
"Is bonk a technical term?" Jennifer smiled, hoping Aden would smile
again.
"No, they got all cerebral with Latin." He turned back to the table and
pulled out pictures to illustrate his story.
"At first, they thought the father might have killed Charlie and hid her
body, but he didn’t live long enough. The girl just disappeared. The mother’s
body was in the kitchen, and the father collapsed outside. It appeared a pack of
feral dogs or coyotes chewed off anything that made the man’s body appear
human, a gruesome mess. They never found Charlie, so like as not, she had
fallen prey to wild animals as well."
"Was the second case similar?"
"Not really. My dad got several calls complaining about dragging
noises and someone at their daughter’s window, but there was no evidence.

They were known to get drunk and argue, like Charlie’s parents."
"How old was the daughter?"
"Okay, so she was also a five-year-old girl, but that was the only
similarity. A neighbor called a week later that he’d found a blood path. There
was blood, but not three bodies worth. The family most likely staged the
scene, so police would think it was another set of murders. But they were in
debt big time. The husband took out a sizeable loan, and they disappeared
with the money leaving broken furniture and a ripped out the front door. The
department ruled it a hoax after three weeks. No doubt changed their names
and just moved on to a new life.
"I see that they left their clothes, suitcases, phones, and even
abandoned their car."
"Yeah, it did seem strange they left everything. But, I called my dad,
and he said they couldn’t pack if they wanted people to think there was foul
play. The phones and car would be traceable anyway. They were thorough,
they didn’t call for a taxi, so dad believed they had an accomplice pick them
up."
"Not even Skip tracers could locate them? That is odd considering the
amount they owed. What about the last case?"
"That one had my dad scratching his head. The week before it
happened, the mother complained that a big girl had been bothering her
daughter. There were bruises on the daughter’s arms where the strange child
tried to drag her daughter away. The daughter said it was a little girl who was
very strong, and she had someone with her, hidden in the bushes. The
daughter could only see its red eyes and a dark form. My dad suspected
someone was using night vision goggles. The mother and father were found
dead less than a week later, ripped to pieces over three rooms. The daughter
climbed out a window and up onto the roof. Whoever committed the murders
left a gash on the daughter’s leg, trying to grab her. The fire department had to
rescue her with a hook and ladder. Someone tried to follow her onto the roof,
but it had caved-in. She kept saying it was a little girl and something
‘enormulus’ with glowing red eyes."
"The murderer left the girl alive?"
"I’m not sure alive is a good description. She is still in a hospital psych
ward and screams almost every night since, even with the lights on. They keep
her sedated, or she hurts herself, bruises and cuts all over her arms."
J.J. sighed. "So there are enough similarities to start gossip. A mention
of a girl possibly used as bait in the last two cases, of course. I noticed all
three occurrences happened five years apart on the same month and day,"
"Exactly. It will be another five years in six days. I noticed that too,
when I was digging out the case files."
"Should we warn people?"
"That could start a panic. But, I told the front desk and all the officers
to watch for any complaints coming in from parents of young children
regarding attention from strangers, particularly if it is a young girl."
"You aren’t thinking of a ghost?"
"What? No, an abductor using another child. Why would you suggest a
ghost?"
"Because the descriptions in this file suggest pale, almost translucent,
and the ability to disappear from plain sight."
"Where did you see that?"
"From neighbor’s statements in these two files, see," J.J. turned some
papers toward Aden.
"They saw the girl used as bait. That’s how they described her. I know
a bit about houses and roofs, it is my business. Roof trusses can’t just cave-in.
It takes several tons of a falling tree usually. Something destroyed that door
from the inside. Even the frame was splintered."

 

####


"You need to come with me." The visitor grabbed hold of the smaller
girl’s wrist and pulled.
"No. I have to help mom with the new baby when he comes. Daddy

and I talk to him in mommy’s tummy," said the little girl.
"You like them?"
"Of course silly, but I love them too. I told you, Charlie, you should
come inside. Then I’d have a big sister. I don’t know why you stay out here in
the screen room, you’ve seen how nice my room is. You’ve been here ever so
long. My parents would love you like I do."
"Love me?"
"Yes, and protect you from all the scary bad things."
"I have to go now!"
"Don’t go, please."
"I’m your big sister, and I have to protect you from the scary bad
things,l," said Charlie.

 

####
 

"What was so urgent, Aden?"
"It happened again, J.J.—the five-year thing."
"Two or three bodies?"
"One, a very unexpected one."
"The family’s daughter took in a strange girl. She was living in their
Summer room, like a screened back porch. She was there for days watching
the family. The daughter doesn’t make much sense, but it seems she asked the
girl to be part of her growing family. They have a baby on the way. The visitor
said she had to protect the girl or her new family, and she successfully fought
off the murderer. He got away. She didn’t. It turns out the victim was small,
malnourished, but not a little girl. It was Charlie, the first girl to go missing.
She must have been his prisoner all along. Forced to help him, but not this
time."
"So, no ghosts or things that go bump in the night after all? Did the
little girl see who fought with Charlie?"
"Just more gibberish, glowing red eyes, a ten-foot-tall mass of swirling
black."
"Any footprints?"
"There were places the ground had sunken in, and a tree got uprooted,
but it was planted recently so the roots wouldn’t have taken hold yet. So
mystery solved."
"Adult witnesses saw things, not just the two hysterical children. Not
one of them suggested it was a man. There were no footprints, no human
footprints. Doesn’t that make you wonder?"
"Come on, J.J don’t tell me you believe in monsters?"
"I saw the photographs, Aden. No man born made that roof cave-in.
There was no dry rot or damage caused by the weather—something strong and
heavy crushed those tresses. In that supposed runaway case, why take the time
to demolish the door and frame when the noise could draw someone’s
attention. Sorry, but I think your dad or the men who worked on these cases
didn’t follow through. Who says a serial killer has to be a man? Why the
timing? Are there other cases elsewhere?"
"Hold on. You think I need to follow up on this?"
"I live in this town, and right now, I know that whatever or whoever
did this can get into my house through locked doors or even through my roof.
With Charlie dead, who is to say that the time frame will remain five years or
involve children? Do we hide in fear, wondering who is next or when?"
"I don’t know what to think, honestly," said Aden running a hand
through his hair.
"What if it was Charlie controlling the monster from the beginning?
Now that she is gone, what do you imagine it will do without her?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

          Thank you for reading!