With everything else going on, and particularly school and the launch of Ancient Runes, I probably could have been forgiven if I’d skipped today on this, but I didn’t want to. A challenge is a challenge, even if I’ve set it for myself, and it’s not too late yet, or it wasn’t when I started.
Yesterday, I mentioned I was going to muck with the alternating SF and Fantasy stories. My thought was to push myself a bit and toss in a couple of other genres. I decided to go with Horror for tonight, though left to my own devices I never read it or watch it. That probably explains why, when I try to write it, it becomes SF or, more likely, Fantasy within a couple of paragraphs. And often not even terribly dark. Sometimes, but not usually.
I started today’s image search with the word blood, and came up with the lovely image you see attached to this post. The 601-word story that follows took, according to the stopwatch, 22 minutes and 44 seconds to write. Surprisingly, I didn’t push as hard against the 1000-word barrier as I have the last couple of nights. As I typed, I didn’t even feel like I might get close to it. this idea more or less came fully formed and some proper editing (as in the usual 2nd through final drafts), which I’m probably not going to do might even trim a dozen or so words from the total. It certainly wouldn’t get longer.
Sometimes I can manage word limits, and sometimes it’s work to stay where I’m supposed to.
However the image might have initially struck you, please enjoy the not-particularly-horrific piece that follows.
Stay safe and be well, everyone.
Blood in the Bathtub, Beer in the Kitchen
The truth was, I should have been scared.
My apartment was still locked when I got home, all of the windows as well as the deadbolt on the door. Nothing had been disturbed, nothing had been moved, nothing had been touched. Everything, not that I had much, was exactly where I’d left it when I went to work that morning.
But the crimson splatter in and around the drain of my ancient bathtub told a different story, one that involved someone losing a lot of blood while standing over or in the tub. And by how liquid it was, by how freely it had sprayed towards the drain without getting on the wall or the shower curtain, by some of the larger drops still trying to build up enough surface tension roll across the scuffed enamel to that final slope into the sewer, that blood had been lost by the poor, unfortunate victim not too long before I’d put the key in the door.
Except there was no victim and no evidence of one. Or of the attacker or killer or whoever. No bloody footprints, handprints, splatter outside the tub, signs of a struggle, a fight, or a duel with sharp blades. My apartment, and particularly my bathroom, was exactly as I’d left it ten hours and however many minutes before.
So I should have been scared. But I wasn’t because there was only one conclusion I could reasonably draw from the facts presented. I was living in another haunted building with another restless spirit who had unfinished business. And the only way I was going to get enough long-term sleep to regularly stay awake at my crappy office job was to help move that spirit along to wherever they were supposed to go.
Still, it hadn’t given me a lot of evidence to work with so far. Blood in the bathtub. A lot of it sure, but just that one manifestation of ghostly displeasure. I needed more to work with. But if blood was its main calling card, I couldn’t let that go on very long. I didn’t have enough stuff to let any of it get bloodstained for no reason.
Thinking about my latest predicament, I turned on the cold water and pulled the little plunger that shifted flow to the shower head so I could rinse the blood down the drain before it started to dry. Better to save the scrubbing time.
In the kitchen, I turned on the oven to 425, unwrapped a mediocre frozen pizza, and tossed it in. My 1970s, fold out kitchen table was clean and clear, the two 1960s plastic and metal kitchen chairs tucked in nicely. Since the pizza would take twenty minutes starting from an almost cold oven, I had nothing to do but wait. Netflix didn’t seem like it was going to help my problem, so I pulled two bottles from the fridge, a wildberry cooler and a generic beer, twisted the caps off of both, and set them in the middle of the table.
Picking the chair closest to the stove, I sat down, leaned back, and folded my hands in my lap. “Pick one before they get too warm. Let’s try talking this out.” It took almost a full minute, but my reward for being open and not panicking was getting to watch the beer drag itself across the table and come to rest in front of the other chair.
I picked up the cooler and took three long swallows. Blood in the bathtub, beer in the kitchen. It wasn’t much, but it was a place to start.