Wednesday, October 20, 2021

#WEP--The Scream

WEP challenges are FREE and open to all.

On the 1st of the challenge month, there will be a get-your-thinking-caps on post. The badge will include the dates of the challenge and the winner’s prizes.

The InLinkz sign up will open on the third Wednesday and close 3 days later. It will contain no news, just the sign up. Participants link up with their DLs (Direct Links to their entry). 

Learn all about it here

 

My entry this time is based on an actual incident. Mom and my brothers will recognize it. My apologies to them for the non-trivial liberties I took with history and their personalities.

We are now also meant to provide a tag line for our stories, so here's mine:

What terrors lurk in the root cellar?

  

The Scream

The house we lived in that year wasn’t much. The wind blew in everywhere you could imagine a draft, and some places you couldn’t. The old enclosed porch we used as a root cellar was worse. It wasn’t just the wind that could get in through the chinks and cracks in that one. Though it stayed just enough above freezing not to spoil the potatoes, it was infested with everything from spiders to mice, maybe more. At least there weren’t any snakes in that part of the country.

By the end of October the porch was full of root veggies from the huge garden we’d maintained all summer, plus rows and rows of quart mason jars full of fruit—peaches, plums, applesauce, tomatoes. It was Mom’s pride, but none of us much cared for it when we had to go in there and dig out a bunch of spuds or parsnips. I especially hated going for parsnips, because I really couldn’t stand them so it was sort of doubly icky.

As a result, it was usually Mom who had to go rummage in the gunny sacks for the evening meal. We kids would make ourselves scarce, even though my brothers were older than me and supposed to be brave and tough and all that stuff teenaged boys claimed to be.

The night I’m talking about was Halloween, so we were all upstairs working on our costumes, even though we were too old for trick-or-treat. There was a party at the high school for everyone who wanted to come, and we had to have costumes. It was cold upstairs, but we were all working in our rooms to keep the costumes secret, for some reason I can’t remember now.

It was that time of year when dark came on early and took us all by surprise, and a gloomy afternoon was the worst. This one was rainy enough to make me glad I was too old to trick-or-treat, though the truth was we lived too far out in the sticks to make that work anyway. The previous fall, when we’d just moved in, I walked the mile up the road to the nearest neighbor, was given an apple, and walked back. That was it. No one else lived close enough to visit.

So this year I was pleased we’d be going to the high school, where I was sure they would have candy. My oldest brother would drive us in after dinner. He’d just gotten his license and was itchy to show it off, though carting the siblings around wasn’t what he had in mind. I could hear those pleasant kitchen noises that meant Mom was starting to fix dinner, though no good smells were rising yet. It didn’t much matter, since we were all saving up to stuff ourselves at the party.

The wind and rain beating on my windows was kind of creepy. It wasn’t really dark, but that super-spooky kind of dusky light, and I hadn’t turned on my lamp yet, so I could see out. I kept flinching from things flying by the window, but maybe that was because we’d been studying Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” in art class. That was the teacher’s idea, to keep our interest when we just wanted to play with paints and clay. But I thought the screamer was dodging some kind of black ghost or something and for the moment blowing leaves made me jump.

I switched on the light, which kept me from seeing out, but might have made my jitters worse. I kept glancing at the windows, now blank black rectangles, and wondering what might be looking in. Honestly, I was kind of enjoying working my way up to a good case of the spooks.

Then Mom screamed.

It sounded just the way the one in the painting looks.

I nearly wet my pants. Mom never screams.

If Mom was screaming, it meant an unthinkable horror. With visions in my head of accidents with the kitchen knives, vampires, monsters, and the undead, I left my room at full speed.

My brothers, I’m glad to say, catapulted from their rooms just as fast. We narrowly avoided a pile-up at the top of the stairs and flew down in close formation.

As fast as we were, Mom had stopped screaming before we got there. It might have been a single scream. Cut off by the fangs of a vampire?

The door to that porch/root cellar was open and the very dim bulb inside glowed feebly. We raced for the spot, crowding around the door, too worried about Mom to be scared, though I kind of hung back and let the boys go first. After all, there were two of them, so Mom and Dad could spare one if the vampire got him.

Mom stood there, looking a little shame-faced, but shaken. While we watched, she pulled on Dad’s heavy work gloves—he wasn’t home—and reached into the nearest potato sack.

She glanced at us. Her voice was almost steady as she said, “Sorry to scare you. But… have you ever felt a furry potato?”

She pulled a dead rat from the bag.

I’d have run, but my knees had gone weak.

And those rotten boys were laughing.

###

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
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42 comments:

  1. Great story with an unexpected twist at the end.

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    1. Thanks! Mom totally scared us with that scream, though in fact it was a pretty minor scream :D

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  2. Hi Rachel - lovely story and the truth of our upbringing ... the description of the root store is fun to read about ... I'm sure we had stored potatoes, onions and apples ... probably not parsnips - though I do find them delicious - sorry! I think I'd have chucked the whole bag of potatoes - dead rat and all ... I have dealt with them too ... not funny I agree, but of course 'killingly funny'!! ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Pretty sure we didn't store parsnips, but it's totally true that I hated them. I'm still not keen!

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  3. That’s a lovely story, and full of imagery. Poor Mom!

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  4. I cannot picture you nervous about the darkened windows. Don't seem the type, to my way of thinking, and I feel like I know you a little.

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    1. Oh, I've been known to spook myself with my imagination. But in fact, I made all that part up. It wasn't really even Halloween :D

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  5. Loved it - from the cozy, homey feel of the narrative to the twist! I'd have screamed too! Great job :)

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  6. Ack. I would have joined your mama. And don't think I could have stopped at one scream...

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    1. Mom's no screamer. But feeling fur instead of spud was a bit of a shock!

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  7. What a wonderful story! So much tension. I thought something terrible was coming, but instead the ending was a comic relief. Marvelous!

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    1. Thanks! And you've read enough of my stuff to know the comic twist is more likely than the horrific :) (Still, that rat really was the only thing I ever knew made my mom scream. That's horror enough!)

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  8. That wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting. ☺ Nicely done! Still, a dead rat in a bag of potatoes would elicit a scream from most people.

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  9. Hi Rebecca. I was expecting worse at the end, but I loved the way you created that family feeling throughout. The unexpected find in the gunny sack was nicely foreshadowed. What terrors lurk in the root cellar indeed!

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  10. I found your story humorous and had to laugh at the end. You did a magnificent job of painting the imagery.
    Shalom aleichem

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  11. Really well written, a scream like that would have everyone running. I would not have returned to that basement (root cellar) LOL someone else would have had the job! As it was a regular basement scared the crap out of me. Great story, thanks!

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    1. Well, it wasn't underground, and it's where the food was, so we were motivated. I suspect Dad had to set some traps after that!

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  12. Loved the humorous ending and the family atmosphere. Great sense of time and place, polished treatment of the setting. Enjoyed reading this fun Halloween flash. Thanks.

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  13. Such fun Rebecca. You genuinely got me worried for a second. All the best for Halloween.

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    1. Hey, that scream really did scare the snot out of us!

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  14. Hi Rebecca,

    I liked your take on THE SCREAM... Imaginations can certainly run wild with the build-up you created. Having my scream from a dead rat was not what any of us suspected...so a great, unexpected twist.

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    1. I've spooked myself more than once with my imagination, and not just as a kid!

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  15. I love your story. You got me good. Lol. Great buildup with lots of cool imagery and thoughts of scary monsters. I like your voice. I felt like I was right there with you and you were telling me the story. I love surprise endings.

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  16. You did a great job of setting the scene and creating the atmosphere for this story. Poor mom! I wouldn't want to be in her shoes.

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    1. Hey, you talk like you knew us kids :D Somehow Mom survived... must've made her tough, raising us, because she's 93 and still going strong.

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  17. Last year, on the morning of my birthday, A rat scurried over my arm as I slept in my bed. And, the way I screamed when I saw the furry thing...I am sure that's exactly how your mom must have screamed. I can imagine how terrorized she must've been!
    But, thank god it was just a rat! Loved the story :)

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    1. Yuck! A live rat running over you is worse than touching a dead one... maybe?

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  18. That is so perfect. I love the rural scene, the root cellar, it sounds so familiar. I hope my kids come to my rescue one day!

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    1. I hope that if they ever do, it will be for as much of a non-threat as ours was!

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  19. Your story was fun to read because you created just enough tension to keep me wondering where it was going, and the end of a humorous surprise.

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  20. I'm laughing too. Loved this take. Great job.
    Nancy

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  21. And there was I expecting a...........................................spider, although my mum would have chatted to it. Loved the detail and the build-up. Great atmosphere. Parsnips - I devour them, especially roasted.

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  22. Amazing story Rebecca. The build up of tension, the way you wove the painting into the story, the little touches that made me laugh despite the horror - they added up to a wonderful story. I loved, "too worried about Mom to be scared, though I kind of hung back and let the boys go first. After all, there were two of them, so Mom and Dad could spare one if the vampire got him." Hahahahaha

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