This year’s October fiction project is a short middle-grade horror novel. The working title is “Turning Leaves,” but that will probably change.
Here are the rules (which I am making up as I go along!):
- Write every day.
- Write about a thousand words every day.
- Write words the same day the characters would be writing them, for the most part (that is, Oct 1 words in the story = Oct 1 words in real life).
- Don’t plan ahead.
- Don’t quit.
I don’t have an outline or even a plan.
It’s been a while since I wrote middle-grade fiction. This should be fun.
2018 – Tales of the Normal – Twilight Zone-style surreal stories.
2019 – Crime du Jour – Short crime stories.
2023 – Turning Leaves – Middle-grade horror.
Turning Leaves (Working Title): October 26 - In Circles
October 26 – Jayla’s Journal (Real) (Approximately)
It wouldn’t be so bad except Lola and her family aren’t safe. I guess my family is just messed up and that’s how it is.
I think Lola was trying to help distract my mom and Miss Emma so they wouldn’t fight. But it didn’t work and it’s too late now.
I started wearing black when my dad died. First it was because people are supposed to dress in black when someone dies, like at the funeral. Then it was because I didn’t feel like I deserved to wear any other colors. Then it was because I liked wearing black.
If you wear the right kinds of black, then people go, “You’re dangerous” and they leave you alone.
Sometimes they’re right. I am dangerous. I have a power that can hurt people, and I have a mind that can think up cruel things to do, and a heart that says, “But of course it’s fine to hurt mean people. They deserve it.”
I wish Lola would have seen me wearing black and gone, “You’re too dangerous to be around” and avoided me like everyone else.
But also I was glad she didn’t. That was selfish.
Now her parents are missing and her sister is missing and she went with Miss Emma to the library and I’ll never know what happened to her.
Because my mom came to the school and took me out of class while Lola was gone.
We went back to Stepdad Dave’s house.
Mom’s and my suitcases were in the hallway and there was a red stain on the floor by the basement steps.
I asked Mom what happened, she shrugged and said that Stepdad Dave wasn’t going to be a problem anymore.
I started crying and the house shivered. I tried to find Ghost Cat but I couldn’t. I tried to see the darkness that was my magic, and I couldn’t see that either.
I asked “Where are we?” and Mom raised her hand like she wanted to slap me.
“Don’t you dare,” she said. “Everything I’ve done, I done to keep you safe from the mistakes that your father and stepfather have made.”
I tried to stop crying but I couldn’t. Mom yelled at me to stop crying, but that just made me cry harder. I tried to tell myself to stop crying, that it was my fault that Mom was so mad and that if I wanted to help her calm down, I had to calm down, too.
I don’t want my mom to be broken.
She started yelling at me to tell her what was the matter now, why couldn’t I stop crying? She was shouting and angry, and that was scary all by itself, but also the whole house was sad, horrified. It felt like the house was watching Mom and me like a scary movie that was happening inside itself.
I think my mom’s magic has taken over the house. The Mom who was screaming at me to stop crying was a tiny piece of my mom, the house was a bigger piece of my mom, and the bigger parts of mom were horrified by what the person-Mom was doing, but couldn’t make her stop.
I tried to give her a hug to let he knew that I understood but she pushed me away.
I fell down on my butt and bit my tongue and I had to stop crying because my mouth was bloody and I was surprised.
Mom said, “Now that you’ve stopped whining, get your luggage. We’re leaving.”
I got to my feet and went into the kitchen and spat into the sink, then swished out my mouth with a glass of water.
Mom followed me. “It’s your fault that you bit your tongue. If you would just listen to what I say, none of this would have happened.”
“Where are we going?” I asked.
I thought, If she says we’re going away from here, then that’s okay. If she gets away from here she will get better. Being here is bad for her. Miss Emma is trying to take over and that is what is making my mom sick. If we can just get away from here, everything will be OK.
“Anywhere that’s not here,” she said.
I hoped that I was right but I was wrong.
We carried our luggage outside to her car and put it in the back seat. I got into the car and put on my seat belt.
“What about Lola?” I asked. “Are we going to stop at her house to get her stuff? Or is it already packed in my suitcase?”
Mom was already backing out of the driveway. “We can’t stop. She will have to figure things out on her own.”
“Where will she stay?”
“I don’t care,” Mom said. “That is not my problem. We have to get out of here, Jayla, just you and me. And we have to go now.”
I started reaching for my seatbelt but Mom grabbed my arms.
“If you touch that seatbelt I will kill you.”
My mom loves me. I love my mom. She doesn’t want to hurt me.
I didn’t try to touch my seatbelt again.
Mom started driving. We drove out of our neighborhood and onto a highway.
At first everything worked like normal.
Then I noticed that all of the cars were the same color, black.
And the road was flat and straight with no turns or hills.
And the brown hills covered with grass and houses beside the road were the same shapes over and over again.
And there was no way to get off the road.
Mom said, “Where are we? What’s happening?”
I wanted to explain about Miss Emma, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t crying but I couldn’t talk at all. I knew that Miss Emma had captured us like a spider in her web and there was no way for us to escape.
We weren’t in the real world, I was pretty sure, but a replacement world just like Mr. Henderson had become a replacement person.
It turned out that I didn’t need to explain.
Ahead of us there was a green sign that said, Home, 1 Mi, Exit 0.
When the exit came up, the blinker turned on all by itself and the car moved over to the exit. Mom tried turning the wheel but no matter how much the wheel turned or she stomped on the breaks, the car went the same direction, back home again.
The car stopped in front of Stepdad Dave’s house. The engine turned off and it wouldn’t turn on again.
Mom got out of the car and walked toward the house. Her feet walked her forward even though she didn’t want to go. She tried to hang onto the car door, but her fingers let go and she had to keep walking closer and closer to the house.
I followed her. My feet didn’t make me go.
Mom went into the house. She didn’t open the door. She walked through the door.
I had to open the door. It wasn’t locked.
Mom was already heading down the stairs to the basement.
I started to follow her.
“Don’t,” she said.
The basement door closed after her.
I waited but she didn’t come back. I still couldn’t find my power or Ghost Cat anywhere.
I washed the stain on the wood floor and the floor came off.
Under it was swirling black ooze.
The day is the same since we left school.
I don’t feel hungry. I don’t have to go to the bathroom.
I tried to open the door to the basement but it won’t open. I tried to go outside but I can’t open the door.
The car is gone.
I tried to go upstairs but the stairs just stop at a ceiling. There’s no upstairs anymore.
The living room disappeared. Then the dining room.
I am trying not to touch anything in the kitchen because it’s starting to melt down into ooze, too, but I am sitting at the breakfast nook in the back kitchen and writing in my notebook.
I think it’s my notebook. It was sitting on the counter in the back kitchen.
Maybe it’s fake, too.