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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2030748
A first person, supernatural horror.
Word Count: 2,106

Superstition was for everyone else; I wanted to believe that I didn’t need such nonsense to get on with life. I was wrong.

Leap year was coming and as everyone around me flittered in a laughable sense of panic, I stayed calm in an arrogant sense of feeling untouchable. My dear friend Susie Higgens spent all of two-thousand and fifteen trying to convince me that two-thousand and sixteen would be a bad year.

As much as I love Susie I was getting increasingly annoyed by her ‘end of days’ attitude. So, I tried to explain in return how superstition had dominated too much of the worlds decisions; the twelfth of the twelfth, two-thousand and twelve yielded no Mayan disaster. The Millennium did not bring on a global technology crash. And every other leap year I had experienced had all but passed me by. I could not see why the next one would be any different.

They say you bring on your own fate, good or bad, a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. In my case I think ignorance is not always bliss.

On the eve of two-thousand and sixteen poor Susie was beside herself, convinced that something horrific would occur. She had started the evening joyful and her usual extravagant self. However, the closer we got to mid-night the more frantic she became.

By one o’clock on the first day of the leap year, while everyone else was beginning to wind down, Susie had become almost unhinged with panic.

“You need to calm down Susie, please.” I pleaded, dragging her into my room for some quiet.

“I, I, can’t. This year will be worse than last time.” Susie muttered, clinging to her red hair, almost pulling it out.

I leaned towards her, unclenching her fists and taking her hands in mine. She instantly clamped back down on my fingers; I had to resist squealing as her nails dug in.

“Susie what on earth are you talking about?” I tried to catch her gaze but she kept shifting.

“Gabby, you don’t understand, you will think I am losing my mind.” She muttered blushing slightly.

Laughing I replied, “Oh, hunni, that ship sailed years ago.” Trying to lighten her mood, it didn’t work.

Susie scowled at me, anger surging through her, her breath deep and horse.

“Gabby, how could you mock me? I am telling you my house is haunted, whatever it is plays up in the leap year. Michael nearly died last time.” She strained as she spoke, embarrassed and terrified.

“What?” I stuttered, trying to believe her, and finding it very difficult. “Haunted?” I continued.

“Yes, haunted Gabby, I am telling you our house is haunted.” Susie replied sternly, letting go of my hands with a nudge and moving almost seamlessly to my window.

“Then why don’t you move?” I asked innocently.

“You think we haven’t tried?” Susie snapped back, she swung her head to meet my gaze, returning it with a stern look. “It is unsellable! Every-time we had a viewing something went wrong.”

“A coincidence,” I offered, hopefully.

“We had over a hundred viewings, each one ended worse than the next; I don’t think it is a coincidence.” Susie replied, deflated. She slumped forward, her anger with me flowing from her with every breath.

After a few moments of awkward silence I had an idea on how to help. “Why don’t you and Michael come and stay with me for a couple of months? You can go back in March, then the extra day would be gone, maybe this will stop the haunting.” I asked excitedly.

“Really?” Susie enquired; enthused she stood up from her perch on the windowsill.

“Yeah, you can stay in the spare room and Michael can have the office, there should be room for his bed in there.” I answered, sure it would help.

“Oh, thank you Gabby!” Susie squealed; a wash with glee she ran across the small space and jumped on me.

The next day we set about gathering a few bits and bobs from Susie’s house that she and her son Michael would need. I had known Susie for a couple of years, and every-time I walked into her house I felt like I was walking into an ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ of mystic objects. Before then I had figured it was a quirk, she had always come across as eccentric.

But looking at the ‘Devil Catchers’, the cloud of incense, and the other unusual objects dotted around the house I was filled dread, these were all weapons against her unseen enemy.

I must have looked shocked as when I found Susie in her bedroom she smiled at me, a sad and knowing look.

“You never asked yourself before?” Susie asked me pointedly.

I shook my head, a sour look spread across my face. “I should have asked you.” I admitted soulfully.

Susie shook her head and replied, “No, to the rest of the world I was a little odd, how I needed it to be.”

From somewhere below us a massive thud echoed through the house. I jumped out of my skin, where as Susie seemed unfazed, if not angry.

“What the hell was that?” I gasped, winded with shock.

Susie smiled at me in a knowing way, “That is our intruder making them-selves known.”

“What do you mean?” I stammered, unnerved.

“Well, Michael is at school, and it’s just us here. I have tried to chase the noise but every-time I think I’m close, it happens again from somewhere else in the house.” She paused a moment looking to the door. “If I am upstairs it comes from below me, if I’m downstairs it comes from above.” A sigh, “It’s like I’m being toyed with.”

I felt the urge to step quietly out of the house; I was beginning to understand now why Susie was so edgy.

“Shall we go?” I suggested, longingly.

Susie nodded and started to collect the rest of her belongings. She pottered about throwing her clothes, makeup and some personal bits into a bag she had placed on her bed.

We got back to mine and at first a sense of ease washed over us both. We were no longer stifled by a growing sense of fear.

It wasn’t until later that evening when the sun was just beginning to set and we had picked Michael up from school and started dinner that we began to think maybe it was the house which was haunted.

“What do you want to watch tonight?” I asked from my open kitchen, from the hobs I could see Michael playing and Susie relaxing with her Kindle.

“Something fun, I do not feel in the mood for a scary film.” Susie replied looking up from her tablet and smiling at me. This was the first time I had seen her genuinely smile in a good year.

“You know what, that makes two of us. What do you say Michael?”

Michael looked over to me his big blue eyes alight with childish joy. “Disney.” He squeaked.

“Well that settles it then.” I announced as I stirred the Chilli. We had decided that some spicy food would warm us up as my heating had packed up earlier that morning.

As the night crept in and we had eaten dinner and sent Michael happily to bed, myself and Susie sat down to watch a romantic comedy.

We must have fallen asleep on the sofa, I jerked awake at two in the morning covered in the throw that I kept on the fabric sofa.

Something felt off, despite the living-room light and the T.V. being on, the room felt very gloomy, shadows had sprung up in odd places.

I nudged Susie who woke with a start, when I managed to calm her down I pointed to the far corner, which was usually lit up by a streetlight. I could see the streetlight from the window and could tell it was on. But something was blocking its glow.

“I’m dreaming,” Susie murmured looking to me with a shocked look on her face.

“No,” I said shaking my head; I couldn’t take my eyes off the far corner.

I saw as the shadow shimmered and moved towards the ceiling, it stretched until it had snubbed out nearly all of the light in the room, hovering above us.

It was then we saw something I thought meant I had lost my mind. The ceiling above us began to peel easily away; it revealed a black space with coppery liquid dripping down from seemingly nowhere. We were covered in the thick slop, we tried moving away but the further we went the larger the hole got.

“What do we do?” I shouted over the sound of wild creaking and muffled screams.

“I don’t know!” Susie replied whipping some of the crimson liquid off her face.

We couldn’t move as something grotesque creature clawed its way into our world. It heaved and squealed as it dragged itself across the ceiling. Its skin looked as though it had been savagely attacked, hundreds of open wounds seeping with black blood. Its mouth opened wide as it screeched again its crimson teeth sharp and jagged. Its face was covered with a dank, stained bandage, making it blind.

“Shhh.” I hissed to Susie as I realised there may just be a way out of it yet. As silently as we could we moved towards the kitchen, but with every move we made the awful creature seemed to sense it and would rapidly move towards it, skittering across the ceiling leaving deep wounds in the plaster.

Panicking I grabbed the nearest sharp knife I could find and as the beast lunged itself off the ceiling and at us I plunged the blade through its open mouth and into what I hoped was its brain. One more inhuman noise, this time from me the creature had clamped down on my wrist sending my own blood spurting across the room.

I felt myself fading, the dead creature still attached to my wrist by its teeth, a vice like grip. I crumbled to the floor and looked to Susie who was whiter than I felt.

She opened and closed her mouth, trying to find the words, eventually she managed to stutter, “What do I do?”

But we both knew there was nothing I could do and I welcomed the gloom of death.

I was being dragged from my body by a force I could not see, I felt myself get closer to the darkness that had claimed me and I wanted to scream in protest.

Panicking I looked down to see my vacant corpse lying limp the creature seemed to be peeling away, its reminisce hitting me as I headed towards the blackness. I kicked and waved my arms trying to get Susie’s attention who was slouched by my side sobbing hysterically.

I was swallowed by the darkness, left in a world of horror and pain. I could see no more colours bar black, grey and crimson red. More creatures grabbed at me pulling at my limbs until they tore. I screamed with agony and then it all went silent. I was stood once more my legs and arms attached not just to me but to chains. Stood before a little girl, she had a pale parlour and black lips. Her teeth were stained almost blood red.

“Welcome to your hell.” She said kindly, almost innocent.

“What, why?” I gagged, feeling my insides turn.

“You have one task, to claim a life every leap year. Once you have done this the first time they will take your place in here. Keep doing it and you will never be here again. If you fail, you spend four more years in this place with me.” She explained so calmly like it was something she had done for a lifetime.

I looked around and saw her tools of torture and wanted to cry. “I would never put another person through this.” I yelled.

The girl smiled and replied, “They all say that, I said that over a thousand years ago, but you will learn. It is better to be in my position than yours.” A glimmer of excitement flashed over her face, “Happy leap year.” She smirked and plunged a scissor like blade into my stomach. My bowls exploded onto the floor, I howled wanting to die. That was when I realised I was already dead, and when I passed out and came to again it started all over again, and again, and again until I no longer recognised my own flesh, I was the monster I{/dropnote}
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