11 October, 2012

Behind the Curtain | Flash Fiction Contest

The Dark Fairy herself, Anna Meade, made me do it. I just want this to be clear. If not for her, I wouldn't be writing fiction when I should be working. Because I'm busy. Too busy for fiction contests. But she called and my muse answered. It's not my fault. So I write flash fiction...

This is my submission for the Behind the Curtain contest, squeaking in at 399 words and inspired both by the description of the contest itself and this frightening bugger:

Image: https://pinterest.com/pin/179158891396922039/
 

Behind the Curtain

Don't look behind the curtain.
Don't scream if you do.
Don't make a sound
Or the clown may take you!

The childish rhyme faded as she opened her eyes. Stage lights hung dark and broken above her head. A stained velvet curtain that had once been red hid the audience from view but no sound, not even a murmur, could be heard beyond it. She turned her head. At the back of the stage rested a scenic mural, its paint cracked and flaking. A wooden horse leaned against it. One black glass eye was missing.

Fear crept through her belly. She tried to remember why she lay here but her memory offered only a blank slate. She sat up. The movement sent a creak through the wood. A light far above buzzed to life, flickering a sickly yellow. Swallowing sudden panic, she rolled to her feet.

Again the floorboards creaked, spreading the sound until the entire stage groaned. Shadows deeper than those cast by the dim light shifted beyond the mural. A ripple passed through the old curtain. The wooden horse raised its head. Its one eye sparkled with malice.

Icy fear numbed her skin. She must go before...before... Her thoughts spun, searching for the answer to her questing memory.

Someone snickered in the dark beneath the curtain.

Time froze around that one sound. Her heart stumbled in its beat for one exquisitely terrible moment. A will beyond her own forced her head to turn and her eyes to see.

In the shadows, on a deathly white face, painted lips spread in a mocking parody of a smile.

Her hand flew to her own mouth as her heart thudded to life against her ribcage, urging her to run. But she could not move. She could not even give sound to the terror coiling around her stomach, stopping the air in her lungs, pushing cold weakness over the hot rush of adrenaline.

Now she remembered. Her overwhelming curiosity, the shared giggles, a flick of the forbidden curtain, her own screams as she was pulled in. Now she knew what would happen here, behind the curtain, where children's verses grew fangs.

The painted smile spread unnaturally wide as its owner emerged from the shadows. Tears filled her eyes but did not fall. A wail rose from her throat.

In the empty theater beyond the curtain, no one heard her scream.

 
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So, tell me, friends: what did you think? 


35 comments:

  1. Excellent writing, very creepy! I certainly won't be peeking behind any curtains in future. :)

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    1. Thank you, Laura! (I wouldn't, either. ;))

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  2. I'm terrified of clowns. This brought that back. LOL. Nice writing. Very creepy!

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    1. I don't know if "happy" that I've creeped you out is the right sentiment, but I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

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  3. Wow. Shivers. This is a terrifyingly creepy story, especially the way you wrote the opening so that we could hear and feel what was going on. And of course playing into the fear of clowns... Nice job. :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Lauren! Always happy to get your input on my stories.

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  4. Eek! That was definitely creepy, and well-told. I like the creaking stage and other atmospheric markers in the beginning. Great job, Jessica! :)

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    1. Thank you, Colin! I'm thrilled to have produced an "eek!" from a reader. ;)

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  5. I particularly like the phrase 'fear crept through her belly', that's something to relate to, that creeping anxiety...and a very sinister wooden horse!

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    1. Thank you for the feedback, Lisa! When I write dark/horror, I try to explore those things that freak me out - fear tightening my stomach is definitely something I've felt before!

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  6. Whoa! You scared me to bits. I love it!

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    1. The fact that you were both scared and hooked makes this writer veeery happy. Thank you!

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  7. Really liked this, nice and scary!

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  8. This has got to be one of my favourite stories in the contest - absolutely fantastic! Gripping horror, perfect details dripped in - a creeping nightmare. What a fantastic imagination you have - and what fantastic skill with language!

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    1. You just made my day, Meg! Thank you so, so much!

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  9. Wow! What a wonderful piece. I love how gripping it was!

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  10. Scary- I don't scare much but that was good - I hate clowns and always have. It reminded me faintly of Ashes to Ashes - but more subtle. Great stuff, thanks

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    1. Now that's a compliment: thank you!! I'm so happy you enjoyed - scared? - yourself. :)

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  11. Great job evoking the unseemly undercurrent behind the circus.

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    1. Thank you! I've always been slightly unnerved by the circus vibe - seems only too likely that weird things would happen there.

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  12. AHHH! Why did I read this past midnight. O.o

    Thank you for entering...I think ;)

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  13. SCARED MY SOCKS OFF!!! AHHHHHH!! Luckily, I LOVE spooky stories, and the way you artfully condensed this to 400 words is amazing. Well done!

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm happy to have been so chilling. :)

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  15. 'where childrens verses grew fangs' Chilling. A grim tale well told.
    Louise Sorensen
    louise3anne twitter

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by!

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  16. I absolutely love this line: "Now she knew what would happen here, behind the curtain, where children's verses grew fangs."
    :O

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    1. Thank you! I wanted to really put the creep on in that one.

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  17. I really liked this - the style is very graceful and it was a pleasure to read.

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    1. You've just rocked my morning! Thank you!

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  18. Very creepy! Vivid imagery and tension creates the perfect horror piece. Wonderful!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I am pleased as punch that you enjoyed it!

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