We Need To Be Nice

            “Who gave you these, sweetheart?” her voice quivers at the sight of a hemp doll lying stiffly on the table. The children lower their gazes and do not reply. Fear tickles her throat, but she tries a more stern tone, “Sweetie, what house are these from?”

            Neither child even so much as blinks. Hesitantly, she lifts the doll to her face to analyze the blue dress. It is strangely familiar in a way she cannot explain. There’s also a small envelope, about four inches wide, pinned to the back of the brown doll. Locking eyes on her daughter briefly and taking a deep breath, goose bumps cover her entire body. She reads the name on the envelope aloud.

            “Denise…” she watches her daughter closely. There’s no response. She repeats herself, making it clear that she’s asking a question now, “Denise?”

            Her shaking fingers make a jagged tear in the thick paper, exposing a blood red piece of cardstock. A rotten odor erupts when she parts the envelope to remove the note. She also gags when touching the somewhat damp paper, feeling that it might’ve been wet earlier that day.

            “We were caught being naughty, Charlotte,” her daughter remarks, keeping her hands folded in her lap. Hearing this is shocking because Denise is one of the most obedient little girls at school, and she almost always wins the monthly citizenship award in her class.

            Then her son abruptly stands up and dumps his trick-or-treat bag, revealing a similar doll with a matching card. Even if she doesn’t feel the sting of tears forming, they are undoubtedly streaming from her eyes. With wet cheeks, she manipulates the angle of the card so that she can read it while still watching both children.

            As she’s starting to scan the paper, though, she scolds her daughter for not calling her by the right name. “Don’t call me by my first name unless there’s an emergency.” She waits for her daughter to apologize but Denise doesn’t make a peep.

                       This little girl was caught being naughty,

                       So here’s your chance to make her be nice.

            “Denise, you need to tell me what is happening right now,” she demands, flashing the card for both children to see the message. “I’m not asking anymore. Tell me where you got these dolls!” She glowers at her son too, hoping he might respond after being acknowledged. But he just remains standing with his trick-or-treat bag turned upside down.

This scene is frightening. What could they have possibly done naughty? Her youngest is never disobedient. Her oldest is never defiant. Something is very wrong and it worries her deeply.

            “Somebody needs to tell me what this nonsense is about now, or you’ll both be grounded for a month!” she shouts, although it probably sounds more like a shrill scream. Panic begins settling into her bones, making her tremble. Rigidly, she straightens herself back to her full height.

            “I was naughty, Charlotte,” Denise declares in an empty voice. The sound of it carves a pit in her chest. Towering above them, hands on her hips, she stares her son down instead.

            “Travis Mitchell Bowers, you better start talking. Is this a prank? If this is a prank and you tell me right now, I’ll forgive you for taking it this far, but if you keep playing around like this,” her voice cracks, “then you’ll be grounded until Christmas.”

            They both gawk at her helplessly. Tears form in their eyes but they are not clear. Blood is dripping down their faces and she nearly faints at the sight of it. As the teardrops fall, she notices the card on the table melting, spreading, and dripping on the floor in unison as they cry. A coppery flavor fills hers mouth at the sight.

            “They’re voodoo dolls,” Travis says coldly, “and you’re supposed to make us be nice, Charlotte. We were naughty.”

            Denise chimes in, her childish voice bubbling up and over her lips in an unfamiliar squeal, “We need to be nice.” Her statement quickly evolves into a chant, which Travis joins immediately.

            “We need to be nice.”

            “We need to be nice.”

            “We need to be nice.”

            Dolls and letters in hand, she races away from her children to the sink, their voices growing louder with each repetition.

            “We need to be nice.”

            Fumbling through the junk drawer just to the right of the sink, her vision begins to blur while searching for a lighter. A massive gasp of relief flies from her lungs when she finds one stuck beneath some neglected mailers. One hand traps the dolls in the sink while using the other to get a flame from the lighter.

            Once she sees a spot of fire, she pushes it against hemp dolls from her children’s bags. Unfortunately, before she turns back to talk to her kids, the same scent from the envelope returns, only it is much stronger now. Horror washes over her as she sinks to the floor, hearing their voices over the crackling of their bodies.

            “It hurts to be naughty!”

            “We need to be nice!”

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The Girl In My Reflection

Contest Host:     Writers Weekly

Contest Title:     24-Hour Story – Fall Segment

Theme:     940 Maximum Word Count; Following this exact scheme “The barren, tan corn stalks behind her snapped in the cold
evening breeze, the only sound louder than the dry, fiery red leaves swirling around her tiny, shivering bare feet. She’d lost her bearings again and she hoped the dinner bell would ring soon. A gray tree with endless arms and fingers, devoid of any remaining foliage, loomed before her. She gazed at the odd markings on the trunk, which appeared to
outline a hand-cut door of sorts. And, as she stared, it opened…”

Placement:     Grab Bag Door Prize (85 Prizes are awarded in each contest, I was listed as 1/35 Grab Bag winners).


Today was another long day at work. Everyday is a long day at work, though. Especially Fridays because it’s almost time for two days off and everyone wants to get to quitting time and crawl into bed. Okay, so only I want to crawl into bed, but I worked two twelve-hour shifts this week. This body has been running on fumes since Tuesday.

Before I can do any sleeping I am going to have to shower. I didn’t this morning, so there are all kinds of product in my hair and on my face. The apartment is small and sort of triangular in the layout. My roommate loves it, unfortunately, so I put up with it for cheap rent. But it never takes long to get from the front door to the bathroom, which is quite nice after work.

Immediately, I turn on the water for some noise while I get everything I need: pajamas, towels, washcloth, and so on. Moving through the motions is incredibly easy in spite of the fact that I can’t feel my face and I can’t think straight because I keep fantasizing about my pillows. To distract myself, I flick on the television sitting atop my dresser for another layer of noise to help me stay awake.

“Help me.”

The words don’t register at first but they are repeated, “Help me,”­ and I turn around to see what is on the television. As it turns out, it’s one of my favorite sci-fi shows. I love this episode because the wife has to save the husband for a change. Laughing under my breath, I return to the bathroom. Mindlessly I push my hands out to check the shower temperature. It’s warmer than I prefer but I won’t mind. I will be able to stand in it.

Quickly I peel away my button up, slacks, socks, and hair tie. As my hair cascades and I shake it out, I swear I see something moving behind me. Hesitantly I turn myself to check Nadia’s door. It’s shut. I then peer through to my room. It’s empty.

“Help me! I am lost.”

That isn’t a line from this episode. I must be getting really tired if I’m hearing things. Distracted, I wipe off steam build up on the mirror. I wasn’t exactly paying attention, so when I see an image instead of my reflection I don’t react. It takes several seconds before I decide that I’m not hallucinating.

A small, frail girl with blonde greasy hair sticking to the tatters of her clothes stands there expressionless. Her eyes are dark and her skin looks to have been stretched over her bones. I know it’s insane to believe this little girl is standing in the middle of a dark, barren field is actually inside of my mirror, but I do. The maternal side of me emerges and takes over. I need to do something; “What happened to you? Are you hurt?”

I drag the towel more harshly down the mirror, hoping for a drier surface to see the child more clearly. As I pull the cloth away, this thick black ooze replaces the water residue. Without hesitation, I begin using my hands to clean the mirror. When the substance covers my arms entirely, I realize it is blood. I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t stopped to climb onto the counter.

“They want to kill me. Will you help me?” Soft tendrils of her voice reach beyond the glass barrier between us, and it just consumes me. I hear nothing but her pleas for help. I know I have to save her. I push myself hard against the mirror. At first it doesn’t budge…

…But then it does. My entire right side slides through the glass no differently than reaching down into a pool. I can see the girl, the dead world behind her, and I can see it every bit as plainly as I did before breaking the barrier.

“Take my hand, sweetheart. I can pull you through.” I say to her, using the voice I use to tell my nieces when it’s bedtime. My sister says it is serene and comforting. I wish to be so welcoming now, “Come on, and just take my hand. I will help you.”

She seems uneasy at first, but her frown starts to melt away as she glances cautiously over her shoulder. Naked feet carry her fragile body nearer to me. Feeling as though there is not a single moment to spare I push myself harder again into the mirror, slipping more and more into some other world that has trapped this innocent child.

She is walking but she seems no closer than she was minutes ago, and so I lean out more and more and more until only my feet are left on the other side of the mirror. Once my head is on the other side of the mirror completely, I realize that I’m covered in the tarry blood. Since I’m balancing with one hand I have to use the other that I’ve extended to the girl to clear my face off. In one swift motion I smear away just enough to regain unobstructed sight.

What I see startles me. The girl is not a girl at all but rather a slender black mass. It’s eyes match the child but there is no other resemblance. A scream rises in my throat but I have no opportunity to let it out. Tree roots sprout from the ground and wrap around my neck. My fear is smothered as I just barely hear, “There’s the dinner bell. I’ll be glad to have you.”