FANDOM


  • “One minute!”

    Robert waited patiently at the doorstep, hands in his pockets, looking outward towards the winding country lanes. They bobbed up and down across the hilltops like buoys, disappearing over the rocky peaks and popping right back into existence again at the bottom. Visible for miles on end, they looked like nothing more than a series of interconnected brown streaks from afar, like tunnels in an ant farm.

    The muddy ground outside the house was streaked with fresh tire tracks, still moist from last night’s thunderstorm. Dirt stuck to Robert’s boots as he shifted nervously from foot to foot, whistling quietly and making a mental note to purchase a thicker jacket before the last remnants of Autumn fully faded, making way for the long, cold Winter. Even now, the air held an icy thinness, one that would soon amplify and expand to encompass every little extremity. Snow would be blanketing the land soon. Thick, heavy snowfall, several feet deep in the worst years. Snow up to the doorknob.

    The sound of soft footfall came from the upstairs floor. Robert turned towards the house, craning his head in the direction of the bedroom window. A familiar shadow danced across the blinds, making the rickety old window frame rattle with each step. It reminded him of candlelight, the way her body shimmered and glowed against the pale dark of the room, like a flame melting hot wax. Robert smiled, wondering if she could see him standing there, with a little less hair and a little more stubble, but still him, undeniably, still him. Still the Robert that she used to know.

    The light drained, and Robert frowned as the house went suddenly quiet. He stepped up onto the porch to press the doorbell once more, just as she came treading down the top of the stairs.

    Even through the warped front door windowpanes, he could see just how beautiful she still was. In ten years, he had expected her radiance to dwindle somewhat, but no, she had matured into an even more heavenly being. Her movements across the downstairs corridor were so fluid, so ethereal, he almost thought he’d seen her ghost. Her pace slowed as she saw him, perhaps standing a little closer than was necessary. Catching himself, he took a step back, giving her the space to move forward and unlock the door.

    “Hello, Margaret.” He spoke as she came fully into view, putting on his most earnest, sincere smile.

    “Do I know you?”

    Her voice was like an angel’s, yet her words pierced his soul like daggers. Robert masked his sadness and cleared his throat, scratching the back of his head.

    “We, um…we knew each other back in high school. Well, more then just knew each other, really…I recall at some point we were-

    “Ah, I remember,” She cut him off, leaning against the doorframe. “Funny how things change, huh?”

    “Ha, I know, right?” Robert laughed awkwardly. “God, how long has it been, like, a decade? So many memories. Though to be honest, quite a few I think I’ve forgot. I don’t even remember why we broke up.”

    “Because I didn’t love you. I never loved you.”

    Robert stammered, picking at his nails as he glanced towards the ground. Margaret plucked a cigarette from under her ear and took a long drag, blowing the smoke out of the corner of her mouth.

    “R-right, right…anyway, I…um…I came here because-

    “How’d you find my address?”

    A jagged chill rippled down Robert's spine.

    “Well...um...you weren’t answering your calls, so I gave Emily a ring instead. She said the last she’d ever heard from you was that you were moving here. Brookfield Pines. It’s a shame you two didn’t stay in touch, you always seemed like good friends.”

    Margaret stared blankly, playing with her whitened curls.

    “Hah…it’s funny, y’know, you always said you wanted to live out in the sticks somewhere, surrounded by nature. I always thought that would’ve been nice too, but I got stuck in some dead-end city office job. Guess we can’t all live out our dreams, ha-ha!”

    “What do you want, Robert? Why are you here?”

    The indifference in her tone nearly pushed him to breaking point. If only he could wrap his mouth around those scarlet lips one last time.

    “Yeah, um…I’ll, err, I’ll get to the point, shall I? Like I said, nowadays I work a boring office job, but last year I won a holiday trip to the Falklands to do some treasure hunting. Exploring forgotten tombs and such. It was a lot of fun, though, I didn’t find much of anything…except this ring.”

    Robert fished it out from his trouser pocket, holding it out before Margaret as her eyes flared with a subtle excitement. She leaned in to get a closer look of the thing, examining its unique patterning. In the centre was a cloudy grey gemstone, surrounded by intricate engravings that seemed to glow a hushed milky-white.

    “Originally, I was just going to sell it, but no one will buy it off me. Some silly old superstition about a curse or something like that. To me, it’s pretty much worthless, so my next idea was to give it to you as a gift. Think of it as a reminder of all those good times we had together.”

    Margaret scooped it into her hand, bringing it up to her eye.

    “Well…I suppose it’s very thoughtful of you…and it is a lovely ring…”

    She slipped it onto her finger effortlessly, sliding it all the way down to her knuckle.

    “Thanks, Robert.”

    Margaret gasped in confusion. She couldn’t hear herself talk. As a matter of fact, she couldn’t hear anything.

    “Robphert?” She slurred, her mouth filling up with saliva. “Ropbhern, whasp haphenning?”

    She looked back to her hand. Instead of grey, the ring’s gemstone was now glowing a fiery red, the patterns twisting and spreading across the skin of her finger, warping it to a saggy heap of flesh. Snot filled her nose, dribbling onto the floor as it leaked from every pore on her face.

    “I know you can’t hear me,” Robert began with a sigh. “But I’m sorry you never loved me.”

    Margaret shrieked, but no noise came out. She felt her entire mouth swelling up like a water balloon, filling with more and more saliva until it was drooling down her chin like the juices of a ripe mango. Her ears turned in place like corkscrews until they dropped right off onto the ground, shrivelled and coated in a layer of pus and slime.

    “I’m sorry I was never good enough for you, or your friends, no matter how hard I tried to keep you happy.”

    Margaret’s entire arm was wilting, the skin peeling onto the ground as it fell from the bone. The pattern worked its way up her shoulder as she tried desperately to wrench the ring off her finger, to no avail. It was stuck in place, and all she could do was watch as her shoulder blade unattached itself and began turning in the opposite direction.

    “I’m sorry about that worthless ring, and all the ones I made for you when we were together.”

    Margaret’s breasts burst open, spewing maggots and larvae eggs. She staggered forwards, rotting arms outstretched towards Robert as the pattern covered her legs, bending them like a bird’s at the knee as her feet crumbled into ashes.

    “But I suppose, in some sense…”

    She collapsed onto the mud, her clothes dropping off one-by one. First her scarf, then her shirt and blouse and shoes, all laid spread eagle on the ground on top of the misshapen husk that was now her body, dripping and leaking as she disintegrated into nothingness. She dragged her head upwards and pointed her melting eyes at Robert.

    “That ring is priceless to me.”

    The caw of a faraway crow echoed across the fields, breaking the silence as Margaret’s neck cracked open. Robert sighed and plucked the ring from her broken finger, watching it dull back to a boring grey as it separated from her body. Placing it back into his pocket, he turned tail and hopped back into his car, catching one final view of the corpse through the dusty wing mirror as he disappeared over the hilltop, the streaky brown path behind him becoming nothing more than a blur.

      Loading editor
    • “One minute!”

      Robert waited patiently at the doorstep, hands in his pockets, looking outward towards the winding country lanes. They bobbed up and down across the hilltops like buoys, disappearing over the rocky peaks and popping right back into existence again at the bottom. Visible for miles on end, they looked like nothing more than a series of interconnected brown streaks from afar, like tunnels in an ant farm.

      The muddy ground outside the house was streaked with fresh tire tracks, still moist from last night’s thunderstorm. Dirt stuck to Robert’s boots as he shifted nervously from foot to foot, whistling quietly and making a mental note to purchase a thicker jacket before the last remnants of Autumn fully faded, making way for the long, cold Winter. Even now, the air held an icy thinness, one that would soon amplify and expand to encompass every little extremity. Snow would be blanketing the land soon. Thick, heavy snowfall, several feet deep in the worst years. Snow up to the doorknob.

      The sound of soft footfall came from the upstairs floor. Robert turned towards the house, craning his head in the direction of the bedroom window. A familiar shadow danced across the blinds, making the rickety old window frame rattle with each step. It reminded him of candlelight, the way her body shimmered and glowed against the pale dark of the room, like a flame melting hot wax. Robert smiled, wondering if she could see him standing there, with a little less hair and a little more stubble, but still him, undeniably, still him. Still the Robert that she used to know.

      The light drained, and Robert frowned as the house went suddenly quiet. He stepped up onto the porch to press the doorbell once more, just as she came treading down the top of the stairs.

      Even through the warped front door windowpanes, he could see just how beautiful she still was. In ten years, he had expected her radiance to dwindle somewhat, but no, she had matured into an even more heavenly being. Her movements across the downstairs corridor were so fluid, so ethereal, he almost thought he’d seen her ghost. Her pace slowed as she saw him, perhaps standing a little closer than was necessary. Catching himself, he took a step back, giving her the space to move forward and unlock the door.

      “Hello, Margaret.” He spoke as she came fully into view, putting on his most earnest, sincere smile.

      “Do I know you?”

      Her voice was like an angel’s, yet her words pierced his soul like daggers. Robert masked his sadness and cleared his throat, scratching the back of his head.

      “We, um…we [ellipses – three dots and a space] knew each other back in high school. Well, more then [than] just knew each other, really…I recall at some point we were-[em dash (--) and end quote marks]

      “Ah, I remember,” She [she] cut him off, leaning against the doorframe. “Funny how things change, huh?”

      “Ha, I know, right?” Robert laughed awkwardly. “God, how long has it been, like, a decade? So many memories. Though to be honest, quite a few I think I’ve forgot. I don’t even remember why we broke up.”

      “Because I didn’t love you. I never loved you.”

      Robert stammered, picking at his nails as he glanced towards the ground. Margaret plucked a cigarette from under her ear and took a long drag, blowing the smoke out of the corner of her mouth.

      “R-right, right…anyway, I…um…I came here because- [<- ellipses/quote marks]

      “How’d you find my address?”

      A jagged chill rippled down Robert's spine.

      “Well...um...you weren’t answering your calls, so I gave Emily a ring instead. She said the last she’d ever heard from you was that you were moving here. Brookfield Pines. It’s a shame you two didn’t stay in touch, you always seemed like good friends.”

      Margaret stared blankly, playing with her whitened curls.

      “Hah…it’s funny, y’know, you always said you wanted to live out in the sticks somewhere, surrounded by nature. I always thought that would’ve been nice too, but I got stuck in some dead-end city office job. Guess we can’t all live out our dreams, ha-ha!”

      “What do you want, Robert? Why are you here?”

      The indifference in her tone nearly pushed him to breaking point. If only he could wrap his mouth around those scarlet lips one last time.

      “Yeah, um…I’ll, err, I’ll get to the point, shall I? Like I said, nowadays I work a boring office job, but last year I won a holiday trip to the Falklands to do some treasure hunting. Exploring forgotten tombs and such. It was a lot of fun, though, I didn’t find much of anything…except this ring.”

      Robert fished it out from his trouser pocket, holding it out before Margaret as her eyes flared with a subtle excitement. She leaned in to get a closer look of the thing, examining its unique patterning. In the centre was a cloudy grey gemstone, surrounded by intricate engravings that seemed to glow a hushed milky-white.

      “Originally, I was just going to sell it, but no one will buy it off me. Some silly old superstition about a curse or something like that. To me, it’s pretty much worthless, so my next idea was to give it to you as a gift. Think of it as a reminder of all those good times we had together.”

      Margaret scooped it into her hand, bringing it up to her eye.

      “Well…I suppose it’s very thoughtful of you…and it is a lovely ring…”

      She slipped it onto her finger effortlessly, sliding it all the way down to her knuckle.

      “Thanks, Robert.”

      Margaret gasped in confusion. She couldn’t hear herself talk. As a matter of fact, she couldn’t hear anything.

      “Robphert?” She slurred, her mouth filling up with saliva. “Ropbhern, whasp haphenning?”

      She looked back to her hand. Instead of grey, the ring’s gemstone was now glowing a fiery red, the patterns twisting and spreading across the skin of her finger, warping it to a saggy heap of flesh. Snot filled her nose, dribbling onto the floor as it leaked from every pore on her face.

      “I know you can’t hear me,” Robert began with a sigh. “But I’m sorry you never loved me.”

      Margaret shrieked, but no noise came out. She felt her entire mouth swelling up like a water balloon, filling with more and more saliva until it was drooling down her chin like the juices of a ripe mango. Her ears turned in place like corkscrews until they dropped right off onto the ground, shrivelled and coated in a layer of pus and slime.

      “I’m sorry I was never good enough for you, or your friends, no matter how hard I tried to keep you happy.”

      Margaret’s entire arm was wilting, the skin peeling onto the ground as it fell from the bone. The pattern worked its way up her shoulder as she tried desperately to wrench the ring off her finger, to no avail. It was stuck in place, and all she could do was watch as her shoulder blade unattached itself and began turning in the opposite direction.

      “I’m sorry about that worthless ring, and all the ones I made for you when we were together.”

      Margaret’s breasts burst open, spewing maggots and larvae eggs. She staggered forwards, rotting arms outstretched towards Robert as the pattern covered her legs, bending them like a bird’s at the knee as her feet crumbled into ashes.

      “But I suppose, in some sense…”

      She collapsed onto the mud, her clothes dropping off one-by one. First her scarf, then her shirt and blouse and shoes, all laid spread eagle on the ground on top of the misshapen husk that was now her body, dripping and leaking as she disintegrated into nothingness. She dragged her head upwards and pointed her melting eyes at Robert.

      “That ring is priceless to me.”

      The caw of a faraway crow echoed across the fields, breaking the silence as Margaret’s neck cracked open. Robert sighed and plucked the ring from her broken finger, watching it dull back to a boring grey as it separated from her body. Placing it back into his pocket, he turned tail and hopped back into his car, catching one final view of the corpse through the dusty wing mirror as he disappeared over the hilltop, the streaky brown path behind him becoming nothing more than a blur.

      -

      Mechanical issues – just the ellipses and quote marks I pointed out.

      Style issues – Very well written, a lot going for it. Seriously, good job. I just think that it could maybe use a bit of work on pacing. I felt like the leap into gory territory was quite sudden, and it meant that there was this moment of whip lash where you go from this really well written bit of tension and creepiness to full on gore and I just think that if you’d toyed with that creepiness for longer, you could help bridge that gap. On a similar note:

      Plot issues – This is seriously good writing. I had to dig deep to get meaningful and helpful criticism. So I think the main thing here is you that do the story well but it leaves me wishing you’d done more, which is a really good thing when you think of it. So it kind of ties into the previous point where I feel that this exchange could have been fleshed out just a little more so there’s less tonal whiplash, but also so that there’s more opportunity to show off the good writing and creepy tension.

      On that note, two other plot problems come to mind. You obviously try to do this little bait and switch, and it works well where Robert starts out normal but the more we find out about him the creepier he gets, if only just because tracking down a high school girlfriend and randomly visiting her is pretty weird in itself. On the other hand, the woman comes off as short and a little unpleasant. Her shortness makes sense in context, but her taking the ring makes her a little too complicit in her own death. A) taking gifts like that is tacky, and makes her appear selfish or shallow or materialistic. B) if you really want this to be scary, it helps if she’s more of an actual victim.

      Having the exchange happen in a more organic way could help rectify this, letting you flesh out her reasons for taking the ring, making her seem more sympathetic so her death hits harder (and increasing our investment in her), giving the audience more time to enjoy the writing while also smoothing out the tonal disconnect between set up and outcome.

      Maybe Robert contrived a false reason for re-entering her life – an engineered coincidence, something that encourages her to invite him in for a coffee and a chat, during the course of which we start to see Robert’s behaviour grow ever more unsettling until it ends pretty much where it does now. Ultimately though, the choice is yours.

      Great story overall, your descriptive writing is getting better and better.

        Loading editor
    • Thank you for the review. Your praise means a lot, and you've brought up some good points. I'm glad I could finally get some feedback on this piece.

        Loading editor
    • A FANDOM user
        Loading editor
Give Kudos to this message
You've given this message Kudos!
See who gave Kudos to this message
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.