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 27 - The Goo House
October 27 – Jayla
I woke up alone in the back kitchen of Stepdad Dave’s house. It was light but the lights weren’t turned on. Outside the window there was only gray shimmer. I put my hands around my face and pushed my face up to the glass and squinted.
Outside was only the place with the boxes with all the fake people inside.
Some of the boxes were open.
I couldn’t tell whether the fake people had come out of the boxes or not. I couldn’t see very well. I could only see the edges of the corners of the box flaps.
The rest of the kitchen was blocked off by a wall with a door in it.
Just a regular wall and a regular door.
I should explain that the back kitchen was different than I remembered it.
The breakfast nook table was a different table. It was a red plastic kid’s table made of heavy plastic that was scratched up and stained, and the chairs were short and yellow plastic.
When I stood up the seat of the chair I was sitting on had the word BUTT written on it.
It looked like someone had tried to scrub the word off. It was scratched and worn away, but I could still read it.
The radiator was still there. It was a little warm when I held my hands over it. Bathtub warm. I touched it and it didn’t hurt.
Where there were no cabinets against the wall, someone had markered words all over it, in green crayon, same as the wall at the real Stepdad Dave house, except I could read the words.
Each letter was bigger than my hand and two fingers wide, and colored so hard that it broke the paint underneath it.
RENEE IS A WITCH
And then, under that, in fancier, skinnier writing:
At least I’m not a bitch
I started shivering.
Renee is my mom’s name.
I tried to find my magic and call to Ghost Cat, but I couldn’t. The soft black smoke was gone. When it was there, it smelled like cold Halloween air, woodsmoke, leaves going soft and rotten, and caramel for caramel apples.
I didn’t know what my magic smelled like until it was gone.
I put my ear to the door and listened.
Outside the door were gross squishing and sucking noises. I took a deep smell and it smelled like vomit, black licorice (which I like but not with vomit), and coffee.
My mom’s magic.
The smell made me sad.
Nobody’s magic should smell like vomit.
I went back to the radiator and stood next to it, trying to get warm enough. I was shivering a lot. I wasn’t cold cold, but I was shaking, and trying to get warm next to the radiator wasn’t helping. It wasn’t hot enough to make me feel like I wasn’t scared, or something.
I knew that if I wanted to, I could stay there in the back kitchen, and sit in the chair marked BUTT and stare out the window and pretend not to see all the boxes outside.
I could stay there forever.
And maybe I thought that would be okay.
And maybe I wanted to sit down again.
And maybe I did sit down again for a while.
But the chair was too small and the table was too short and I felt like I didn’t fit there. And I got bored. And I looked out the window again with my face pushed up against the glass.
And I saw people moving around and getting out of the boxes.
Not a lot, but some.
And maybe I knew there would be more, and more, and more.
So I went to the door and opened it.
Outside was the other half of the kitchen.
It was gross.
The floor was covered with black ooze.
It squished under my Crocs.
I took one step forward, two steps, and then I bent over and vomited on the floor because the smell was so gross.
I thought I would be able to make it to the sink but I couldn’t.
I threw up a little bit, not very much, but then I couldn’t stop trying to throw up more. There was nothing left to throw up and my whole body still kept trying to vomit.
It smelled so bad I couldn’t stand it.
Then it started to smell a little less bad, as I got used to it.
And I started crying.
Because I didn’t want to get used to it.
The black goo on the floor was getting deeper. I got a cup out of the cupboard and tried to fill a glass of water, but only black goo came out, so I spat in the sink a few times, then wiped my mouth on my sleeve.
One patch on the kitchen floor wasn’t as deep, so I stood there.
The goo moved, making a path in front of me, leading out of the kitchen and into the dining room. I could almost see the floor, but there was still enough black goo under my feet to make it slippery and squishy.
I walked slowly out of the kitchen and into the hallway.
Thick black goo was pouring down the stairs, across my path, and down into the basement stairway.
When I walked closer, though, it pulled back so there was a path.
I walked into the dining room.
The same table and chairs were there, but the pictures on the walls were different.
They showed my mom and an older girl who was bigger and taller than her, but looked like her sister.
My grandma and grandpa died a long time ago. My mom lived with her grandma for a while, until she got old enough to graduate from high school.
I didn’t know she had a sister.
My mom used to live in this house, in Stepdad Dave’s house.
It wasn’t Stepdad Dave’s house at all.
Why did Stepdad Dave own Mom’s old house?
The goo moved again, making a new path.
I followed the path up the stairs. I squished over to one side and the goo squished to the other side.
I think it was trying to be polite.
I kept throwing up in the back of my throat. Nothing came up but a bad taste. The smell was still pretty bad.
The stairs didn’t creak.
Even when my foot slipped and I almost fell.
The path led me upstairs to Mom’s room.
I went inside.
It was mostly the same.
The same furniture, but different blankets and pillows and pictures on the wall. Grown-up Mom has boring pictures. The picture on the walls in the goo-house were of cute teenager boys I didn’t recognize. At first I thought they were posters but one end on the pictures were all folded over, because they had been torn out of a magazine.
There were stuffed animals everywhere, on shelves and on the bed.
In real life they might have been cute.
But in the goo-house, they were dirty and ripped apart and rotten things dead in the stuffing. There was a unicorn that looked like a zombie unicorn, and a tiger that looked like a zombie tiger, and a ballerina music box that was broken in half so the top half lay on its side and the feet stuck up straight.
The ballerina was a white girl, not like Mom.
The path took me to the dresser beside her bed. Some of the goo oozed up and opened the drawer.
Inside was a picture album, with my dad and Stepdad Dave and Mom inside, all three of them standing together and smiling.
My dad had his arm over Mom’s shoulder. He was sticking his finger in Stepdad Dave’s ear, giving him a wet willy.
They were smiling real smiles.
The goo took me back down to the main floor, then took me to the basement door.
I thought about Mom saying that Stepdad Dave wouldn’t be a problem anymore.
I hoped he was okay.
I hoped Mom hadn’t broken him.
I hoped she remembered that he used to be her friend.
The goo stopped at the door. It rose up and wrapped around the handle.
Then it sank back down again, and pulled away until the floor was almost dry and only a little stained.
It couldn’t open the door for me.
It was scared.
I tried to throw up again, thinking of how bad it must smell down in the basement.
But there was nothing left to come up.
I couldn’t even be scared anymore.
So I turned the handle.
And started walking downstairs.