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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2235785
Andy's morning devoured by others. HM in 2020 Quill Awards - Dark category.
The Burden of Responsibility

Andy woke up when it was still dark. This was the day when he must judge SCREAMS!!! so an early start would be a good foundation on which to build his skills as an accomplished arbiter of the contest. He rolled out of bed and dressed.

The apparition was there on the stairs as usual. Without thinking, Andy moved to push past it but today it clung to him with ghostly hands. Its nails were grown into talons so that they became stuck in the folds of his sweater. Andy had to stop to disentangle himself from its clutches. He found himself muttering at the thing in irritation.

“Why today of all days? You hover there, doing nothing every morning and now you choose to delay me. What the hell do you want anyway?”

The empty mouth moaned for a while, the claws still reattaching themselves whenever he managed to free himself from their tearing at his clothes. Then words formed in the open maw of its misery.

“Want? I want nothing. But notice me, you never notice me. You’re supposed to be afraid and cower away from me but you just push past without caring. Is that all I’m worth to you?”

This made some sense at least. Andy decided to try reasoning with the thing.

“Look, I have things to do and I can’t waste too much time with you. Will you let me go if I agree to greet you every morning?”

The ghostly figure stopped its struggles to peer off into the distance.

“Could you at least pretend to be afraid?”

“Sure, that’ll be no problem.”

“Then we have a deal.”

The apparition released its hold and Andy continued down the stairs and into the kitchen. Once there, he flicked the switch on the coffee machine and put a couple of slices of bread into the toaster. While both commenced to do his bidding, he found a clean plate in the cupboard and gathered the usual ingredients from the fridge.

The toaster popped and Andy grabbed the toast to butter it. Two quickly unwrapped slices of cheese followed and then he realised that the coffee machine was still roaring to itself. It should be done by now.

There was nothing in the mug waiting for its promised contents so he flicked the switch again and opened the top to see what was wrong. A rather furious and very much heated sprite looked up at him from the water reservoir.

“Nice one, fun in the morning to boil up a gremlin or two. Thanks a bunch, buddy.”

Andy raised his eyes to glance at the ceiling. “How was I to know you’d snuck in there? And what did you do with all my water?”

“Drank it,” said the gremlin, obviously pleased with his accomplishment. “Fell asleep afterwards. And I’ve pissed in the bed, I’m afraid.”

As if in confirmation, two steaming, green drops of evil liquid dropped into Andy’s mug. Andy reached the end of his tether.

“That does it,” he said. “Out you get and don’t let me catch you at this game again.”

“You mean it’s okay if you don’t catch me?” asked the nasty little creature.

“Out!” yelled Andy and the gremlin climbed reluctantly out of the machine and disappeared around the corner of of the counter. Andy sighed and started the process of completely disinfecting the coffee brewer.

By the time he sat down to a breakfast of cold toast and hot coffee, Andy had lost the advantage of his early rising and was falling behind schedule. He threw the used plate into the sink and wandered through to the study.

Alfonso the dragon lay on the couch, pecking away at the keys on Andy’s laptop. Andy ignored him and sat down at his desk, pressing the button to start his computer. Nothing happened.

“Ah, there’s a problem there,” announced the dragon. “Bloody thing wouldn’t start for me either. Which is why I’m on your laptop.”

Andy frowned. This was becoming more than annoying. He could try to get Alfonso off the laptop but he knew that would just lead to an argument that might last all morning. The contest judging nagged at him, insisting that he get online as quickly as possible.

He rose, grabbed a coat from the peg and left the house. In full expectation that the car wouldn’t start, he turned the key. A brief squeal and it burst into coughing life. He backed down the drive and headed for the library. A succubus that had been sleeping on the back seat popped up and tickled his ear.

“Where are we going, honey?” she cooed. “Somewhere nice, I hope.”

Andy shrugged off her ministrations. “To the library, if you must know. Hardly the place for you and your, umm, shenanigans.”

The succubus pouted at the back of his head. “You’re no fun these days,” she complained. :"All mouth and no trousers, that’s you. I’ve a good mind to leave this burned out posting and find something worth doing.”

“Good idea,” responded Andy, concentrating on his driving. “And, for what it’s good for, I’ve never seen you before in my life so don’t tell me we’re old friends.”

“No fun at all,” repeated the succubus and disappeared in a puff of smoke. Andy could no longer see through the fog created and had to pull over and open all the windows to clear the atmosphere. It was half an hour before the thick, pungent cloud had drifted away. Andy climbed back in and continued on his way.

The library’s computer was occupied by a hulking, great ogre, tapping hesitantly at the keys as he worked on some document or other. There was no way Andy was going to attempt to move the monster. Walking disinterestedly past behind the ogre, Andy could see that the document was a hopeless mess of different-sized fonts, garish-coloured text and excruciating misspellings. On impulse he stopped and spoke to the creature.

“D’you want help with that? I’m quite a fast typist.”

The ogre turned to regard him. “Why would I want to speed things up?” he asked.

“Well, I’m sure you have better things to do than sit in a library all day. Much better to be off somewhere scaring people and kicking butts.”

The ogre’s eyes took on a far off look. “Hmm, you’re right. Sod it, I’m off.”

With that, he rose and left the library. Andy sat down gratefully at the computer. The ogre’s document stared back at him from the screen and he couldn’t avoid reading the first few words.

It was a suicide note.

I’s had enuff this livin game is for the berds an I cant stand it aneemore good by crool werld.

Andy looked up. Oh shit, he thought. Anybody worth their salt would go after the ogre and persuade him not to do the deed. And it was really up to Andy, since no one else could see the creature. It would make him late in judging the contest but he could see no way out of his predicament. He stood up and left the library.

And that is where Andy spent the rest of the morning, in consoling a tearful ogre who really wanted to end it all. Who can blame him? It was a deed motivated purely from a sense of community and responsibility, a truly selfless action on behalf of another of God’s creatures. We should all be proud of him.

And the ogre? I have it on good authority that he was inspired by Andy’s words and opened a scare shop in the mall. Latest accounts say that business is booming. Well, very loud at least. Such is the habit of ogres.

Word Count: 1290
For SCREAMS!!! October 21 2020
Prompt: Please terrify your judge with a story that explains what I have been doing today that has prevented me from reading the SCREAMS!!! entries until now.

Signature for use by anyone nominated for a Quill Award in 2020 Finalist signature for the 2020 Quill Awards Signature for those who win an honorable mention at the 2020 Quill Awards
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