by Than Pence
While babysitting, Erin grasps the terror that can come with a text message...
“‘Don’t go in the toolshed’. Yes, Dad. This is under control. You two have a great night out. I’ll have a great night earning ten bucks watching Sarah and Jessica.”
Erin’s dad smiled. “I just want my girls to all be safe when we get back.”
“We have to be gone before we can get back, dear.” He cut his eyes to Erin’s mom, pursed his lips, shrugged.
“Well, the little woman has spoken, so it shall be. See you guys later.”
“Girls, Dad. We’re girls.”
“Right,” he said. “Right you are.”
“Bye,” she said, shutting the door. Immediately pulling out her cell phone, she began composing a message.
“Who are you texting?” asked Sarah as she tucked her blonde hair behind her ear.
Erin: rents out come over
“No one. Mind your business. Go play with Jess.”
“She’s watching Bubble Guppies. I don’t wanna watch that shit.”
Erin looked at her seven-year old sister. “What’d you say?” Sarah grinned and Erin, at fifteen, didn’t know what to make of it. “You shouldn’t say things like that. It’s bad.”
“You said it.”
“When you dropped the food last week. You said it.”
Erin blushed. She had said that, but low, not thinking Sarah had heard. Erin also marveled at Sarah’s memory.
“Well, I shouldn’t have. It’s not nice.” Mental note: children are always listening.
“Oh. Who did you text?”
Erin’s phone buzzed and beeped.
Beep beep. . . beep!
David: ill cum all over you
Erin cringed. David was getting graphic, making her uncomfortable. She was okay with kissing and some over-the-clothes stuff, but he wanted to screw. Soon.
Erin: sisters here nun of that
As she hit Send, she pulled her phone up. Sarah was being nosy. “Sarah, god! What’re you doing?”
“Daddy and Mommy said to watch us, not your phone.”
“Daddy and Mommy don’t care, as long as we’re alive when they get back. So buzz off, you little… snot.”
“You almost said shit! You did! You almost said it when you said I couldn’t!” Hopping a little, her voice was rising and Erin felt her cheeks flush with embarrassment. What if the neighbors heard?
“I didn’t say it. Now sit down. Sit down!” Putting her phone on the coffee table, Erin pulled Sarah to sit on the couch. “Now, if you sit down, I’ll turn on Netflix. And you can pick from the grownup choices.”
Eyes wide, Sarah’s mouth tightened. The grownup programs: they were turned on after Sarah and Jessica went to bed. After working the TV, Erin turned on what Sarah had requested: Gremlins. Erin knew that was one of the movies not allowed for children because of the scary images, but Erin thought it was harmless. She went upstairs to see if Jessica wanted to watch, but found her four-year old sister asleep on the floor with the DVD looping in the background. She put her in bed and returned to sit with Sarah.
Thirty minutes into the movie, Erin’s phone chimed.
Beep beep… beep!
It vibrated the glass table surface, beeping louder than ever. Erin, catching her breath, reached for it to check the text.
David: Come outside.
Erin shook her head, deciding to forget David tonight.
Erin: staying in go home
She set it down, watching Sarah watch the movie. She looked scared, but excited.
Beep beep… beep!
Erin jumped again, but only a little. She realized she might have to tell David to leave in person, but she’d try one more message. She checked the phone.
David: Come outside. Now.
A chill developed as Erin read silently. David was sloppy, but now he was using capitals and punctuation. Erin felt something was wrong. While composing a new message, the phone vibrated and beeped again, making Erin scream a little uncontrollably.
“What’s wrong?” asked Sarah. “Who’s that?”
Erin didn’t register the question, just the message.
David: Get your boyfriend’s head out of the toolshed!
The toolshed. The one place where the girls were not allowed. It was filled with tools and rusty equipment and was not fit for children. Their father had let them look in it while he got a rusty rake or a squeaky set of clippers, but they couldn’t go inside. Something might happen.
Sarah’s nosiness won out. She saw the message. “Hey! We can’t go—”
Erin covered Sarah’s mouth, shushing her. On TV, gremlins were causing mischief, unnoticed. Erin saw fear in Sarah’s eyes, but no excitement for the toolshed was gravely off limits.
Deciding to call David’s bluff, Erin dialed his phone and listened, straining to hear through the pounding of her ears. It rang once, and she heard a faint ring in reply, outside.
Another echo, closer, still outside.
“I hear it,” said Sarah. She jumped up, running down the hall, towards the kitchen and the back door.
“Sarah, no!” she screamed, dropping the phone and chasing her sister. She switched on the hall light and saw Sarah nearing the back door at the far end. The window in the door was dark, but Erin should’ve been able to see the back yard, brightly lit by security lights.
Erin ran down to grab Sarah, to stop her, when the blackness swirled around to show a bloody, white mask housing the wide eyes of a crazy man! The cell phone rang once more before he put it to his face. With a deep, rasped voice, he shouted through the door, “Go to the toolshed!!”
He then turned and ran, disappearing into the shadows. Erin was terrified, shaking and clutching Sarah to her body. Sarah was breathing, motionless.
After several still moments, Erin crawled to the kitchen phone, calling her parents. After a few words and sobs, she hung up, satisfied that they were coming with policemen.
Beep beep… beep!
Erin’s stomach tightened. She crawled to the living room, to her phone. The message was simple, but terrifying.
David: I’ll be back…
She cried while sirens approached.
Word Count: 1,000