's 2016 Horror Write-off:

Halloween Special

Submitted by Miranda Johansson




FATHER and MOTHER are seated on the couch. Mother is watching TV. She smiles vacantly. She is knitting a scarf. Father squirms uneasily and wraps his arms around himself, as if he is very cold.



It's the moment of truth. Will Diane's antique china set be worth as much as she hopes?


Mother turns to Father. Her eyes stare through him.



(mechanically) Oh, look at those. Those are lovely. We ought to get ones like that for the dining room.


Father moans unintelligibly. His throat sounds clogged, wet. The audience laughs uproariously. Mother turns back to the TV. Her knitting needles click rhythmically.



(to herself) Lovely.



Looks like the trip wasn't a complete waste for Diane!


The front door opens, and the audience erupts in deafening cheers. Mother and father shudder in ecstatic horror as their great and terrible PROGENY unfolds itself in the doorway, silhouetted by blinding light. It enters slowly, veils dragging on the floor, multitudinous hands pawing at the walls and ceiling with bony fingers. Father squirms spasmodically, sliding off the couch onto the floor. Mother remains in place, her face rapturously blank, her knitting needles working furiously.



(to herself) Lovely. Lovely.

What the fuck am I doing?

I push myself away from the desk with an irritated sigh. Shit. Writing never goes as well as I imagine it's going to, in my head. I make such rookie mistakes all the time. I mean, just look at this family. How perfect can you get? Make your characters flawed, that's what every expert on writing says. Flaws are good. They help create conflict.


I do the opposite. I make my characters too perfect, and as a result my stories are just... trash. Boring trash. It's honestly embarrassing. Sometimes I don't know why I keep trying.


I shouldn't hold myself to such a high standard, I know. I'm only human. Or I used to be.


I stretch, and touch the ceiling with my fingers and my wings. The room is bathed in brilliant light. It bothered me at first, but not anymore. I don't need to sleep anymore.


It all started a while ago. I don't know how, or why. I didn't get briefed or anything, and by the time I pieced together what was going on, a lot of things had already started... changing. Things are always changing now. I can't stop it. I don't want to stop it.


When I write things changing, they change. They don't ever change back.

Usually, while I write, dad kneels outside the door. He puts his forehead and hands against the wood and he moans and rocks from side to side. Sometimes I write it so he changes. Sometimes I don't.


Because of the light, he used to squint all the time when he looked at me, and it bothered me. Now he just has a smooth plane of unbroken flesh where his brow and his eyes used to be. He gets around with exaggerated care now, pawing along the walls. What I didn't consider at the time was that the squinting was a character flaw. I tried to write his eyes back afterwards, so he would squint again - but of course, things never change back.


I float to the door, immobile, like a statue, or an idol. The door opens before me. Dad howls hoarsely and falls backwards as the holy light spills out into the hallway, and casts his altered features in sharp planes of white and black.


I open one of my myriad mouths and I speak. My voice sounds like bells ringing underwater.


The audience laughs. They have no choice. They line the walls, so much a part of the scenery now that I hardly even notice they're there, except they remind me of another of my creative mistakes.


They always laugh, whenever I speak. No - I don't even have to speak. I just have to open a mouth and they start squirming and wheezing out their version of uproarious laughter. It's not loud, but quiet, whispery. More like just a low-level background static when I talk.


I had to take their voices away.


They wouldn't stop screaming.


That was a flaw too, of course. I was being stupid. It irritated me, so I acted without thinking. I always act without thinking! I always make mistakes!


Overcome with frustration, I lash out at dad, hands clawing at his face. He howls like a dog as my sharp nails rake chunks out of his flesh, gouging deep in the soft flesh where his eye sockets used to be, turning one nostril into a ragged hole. Then I draw back, thick blood boiling and vaporizing instantly on contact with my skin.


Dad doesn't try to fight back. He doesn't dare. He simply kneels and kowtows, touching his wounded forehead against the floor. Downstairs, I know, my mother sits in front of the TV, blank-faced, empty-eyed, quiet. She never moves from her spot on the couch. She can't.


They're both so self-sacrificing. They would do anything, if I asked. If they wouldn't, I could write it so they did. We make such a perfect picture of such a boring, boring family. I can't make them interesting! I can't make them flawed enough!