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 29 - Things Mom Forgot
Maybe October 29 – Jayla
Try #1 (Didn’t Work)
I breathed in the horrible smell of the basement but it didn’t make me sick to my stomach anymore. The smell didn’t get any better. It got worse.
The reason that I wasn’t sick to my stomach was that I couldn’t feel my human body anymore.
I was used to the idea that I couldn’t know whether Lola was the real Lola or a fake one. That was okay. I didn’t need to know. Lola was always a person to me, no matter whether I thought about her as a real person or as a fake one. The person in there was the same, regardless of where the body came from.
But I wasn’t used to the idea that I might not be a real person.
Maybe that’s something that happens to witches.
I am a witch. I have magic, dark and smoky and smelling good. I have Ghost Cat.
When I went down the basement stairs, I think Mom
I have a body like Lola does. Not a real person, not a fake person.
I don’t know when I became a witch.
Was I always a witch? Or partly a witch? Did I get it from my mom? Is it something wrong with me or just something that is?
I think it doesn’t matter. I am a witch now.
When I went down the basement stairs, I had to be a witch, fully a witch, or I would have been
Try #2 (Not right either?)
My mom tried to hurt me.
My mom is a witch and she is a magical version of the house. She stopped being a person and now she has taken over the house and replaced it.
There is a real house, in the real world.
But there is also a fake house, and everything in the fake house is the inside of my mom’s mind, or magicc, or soul, or self. I don’t know.
Everything in the house is controlled by my mom.
She has been taking me through the house to see what is inside her.
She loves me. But her magic is stinky black ooze.
She doesn’t want me to see what she is really like.
She wants to push me away.
But she wants someone to see.
I don’t want to be in charge of fixing my mom.
I am looking at her secret heart right now in the basement and it’s icky and I love it and hate it at the same time.
She wants my heart to be like that. She is mad that my heart is sometimes like that, but mostly not.
She forgot that Stepdad Dave was her friend.
She forgot that my dad was her friend.
She forgot that
When I go down the basement stairs, the smell is worse.
The stairs are covered with only a little ooze. Leftover ooze.
At the bottom of the stairs is the big downstairs living room, the old couch, the scratchy blankets.
My mom is there, wrapped up in a blanket, the scratchiest one.
A movie is playing in black and white. The TV lights up the room with flickers.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
The characters are in the greenhouse and inside is one of the pods. It is starting to split open.
Inside the pod is my mom.
My mom is watching the movie. My mom is in the movie. Both at the same time.
Rising over the couch is all the ooze that has been pouring down the stairs.
The ooze is black and moving and rippling. It leaves behind only a thin layer of ooze as it moves.
It does not smell of black licorice or coffee now.
It smells of vomit. And chemicals. I don’t know what kind of chemicals. I think it also smells like aluminum foil tastes if you chew it. I think it might smell like blood but it’s been a long time since I smelled so much blood, so I’m not sure. It smells rotten, whatever it is.
The ooze is reaching out and spreading around my mom. Its tentacles are reaching across the back of the couch, making disgusting noises.
This is not my mom’s magic.
I know this because she is crying and pulling the blanket over her head, trying to hide.
“Hey!” I yell at the ooze.
It doesn’t pay attention to me.
I step on a tendril but it only squishes away. I go to the couch and try to pull off one of the tendrils. It is cold and squishy and yucky and my hand squishes right through it.
“You should go, Mom,” I say. The ooze has almost reached her.
But she doesn’t move. She is crying.
I go around the other side of the couch and try to pull Mom off the couch.
I pull and I pull on the scratchy blanket, and it pulls off the couch, but it is like an elastic hair tie. It stretches until my back is against the wall on the other side of the room and my Mom doesn’t move at all.
The ooze comes closer and closer to her.
“Mom! You have to run away!”
But she only keeps crying.
The ooze moves slowly. I pick up one of the blankets to try to wrap the ooze up and pull it away, and I move it a little, but ooze squishes above and below and through the blanket and starts wrapping around her again.
I grab another blanket and wrap it around the ooze, too. It slows down again and I grab another blanket.
Blanket and blanket and blanket, until the only blanket left is the one wrapped around my mom, the one that won’t move.
The ooze keeps moving and my mom keeps crying.
It crawls over her.
I push my hands inside it to try to pull it away with my whole body. I can’t tell whether it’s working or not.
But the ooze doesn’t like it.
It tries to push me away but I keep pushing forward.
It can’t push me and be ooze at the same time, I guess.
We are fighting and nobody is going anywhere.
It flops over my head and wraps around my neck and tries to hurt me.
But it can’t hurt me.
At first I don’t understand why. I cough and I spit and I choke, trying to get the ooze off my head.
But I’m okay.
Because this isn’t my real body.
This is the same kind of body that Lola has. Not real, not fake.
I am a witch. My magic protects me.
With the ooze over my head, I can hear what it is saying. It is talking to my mom.
Listen you little piece of shit, this is MY couch.
I lean backwards and the ooze comes with me.
For a second.
Then it flows off me and lets me fall on the floor.
This isn’t working.
I have to fight harder.
I turn toward the place under the back kitchen. It is full of boxes now.
I open the first box.
Inside is Stepdad Dave.
Inside the second box is my dad.
I reach inside carefully and lift their fake bodies out.
As I put them down they become solid, with only a few flaky spots where my hands gripped them too tightly.
Stepdad Dave wakes up first. His face goes from a 3D printer kind of face, to a soft face that isn’t moving, to a face that is almost real looking. His hair moves like it’s blowing in the wind, though, and it’s not. He’s just a fake.
He lifts a finger and points behind me.
“Jayla?” he asks. “You have to run, Jayla.”
The ooze is completely covering my mom now.
The TV flickers.
On the TV, the replacement Mom sits up and climbs out of the pod.
I look back toward the replacements. Now my dad is waking up.
“Jayla,” he says. “I’m sorry you have to see this.”
A horrible idea occurs to me.
“Dad?” I ask. “Who was the witch that killed you?”
He lifts a hand and points toward the couch.
Toward my mom.