Stories

  • Funny Nightmares

    Funny Nightmares

    Samantha rose from bed groggy. What time is it? She asked herself. She smoothed over the sheets, patting the bed in the dark for her phone until her hand knocked it, wedged beneath her dozing husband’s lower back. Careful not to wake him, Samantha retrieved the phone and confirmed the time. It’s an ungodly hour to be waking up, she thought, rubbing her tender neck as a sense of apprehension passed over her like a delicate veil.

    What was that dream? It was so real…

    She moved at a slug’s pace; hung her head for a moment, groaned, and set the phone in the charger, reprimanding herself for not doing it hours earlier. Now she couldn’t use it to get back to sleep. It didn’t matter, Samantha’s early morning rises were a usual occurrence. They happened since she first gave birth. No longer did she desire sleeping in, as she did in her youthful days. She had responsibilities.

    Whenever she woke at this hour, it was for a reason, and sleep wouldn’t find her again until a perimeter check was completed. As soon as she left her bed, the dream came back to her, and the more she recalled, the more tense she became. Her son was an alien again, roaming around an abysmal realm. No longer did he possess the innocent wide brown eyes or puffy cheeks she yearned to squeeze whenever she told him, I love you. He was from another time, another place where people didn’t have faces, and with their shifting abilities between creatures to human, she couldn’t look at them as actual individuals. Even her son transformed out of his alien skin into an indistinguishable, majestic beast.

    Was he ever human in the dream? Samantha thought.

    Nightmares such as these meant danger had to be hidden elsewhere in her waking existence. This forced her to begin the perimeter check, a personal confirmation that everybody made it to bed and was still breathing. As evident by her husband’s snoring, the entire world knew he was alive. Samantha snorted, then covered her mouth. She didn’t want her amusement to wake him. As she listened to his rhythmic wheezing, she observed him as well; her laughter subsided when she imagined him as an alien too. Faceless, with the same body as a human but able to shift between bodies to his liking.

    Who is this man? Is he someone else beneath the flesh? Or am I losing my mind? What if I’m an alien too? Samantha imagined.

    She bit her lip and turned away. She always joked with her kids that, as a mother, she enjoyed utilizing her special powers, such as using the eyes in the back of her head. This little lie, also backed by her husband, would prove correct. Samantha could always foresee what her kids were about to ask before they said the words. She realized what happened before she saw what took place and was a master of deciphering tears by pitch alone. Now there was silence, the occasional clatter of ice being made in the refrigerator, or the gentle hum of the air conditioning system. Otherwise, everybody was fast asleep. All was well, except for Samantha and the troubling nightmares. It would take some time before she made it back to her desired slumber.

    Hours later, Samantha’s eleven-year-old son, Alessio, joined her in the kitchen. He dragged his bare feet across the floor like a pouting ice skater after a poor performance. In between sips of her French vanilla coffee, Samantha smiled at him and ruffled his hair. “Good morning,” she began. He met her loving gaze with emotionless, video game strained eyes from the night before. He was quiet as a library; the morning never sat well with him until he had breakfast.

    “You know, I had the strangest dream about you being an alien, then I woke up and thought we all were,” she scoffed, giggling to herself. “It’s silly. I can’t believe how spooked I got. I’m amazed I made it back to sleep. You ever get those crazy types of dreams where everything seemed so real?”

    Alessio didn’t answer. He stood in front of the open pantry with his video game in hand, already fighting in a timed battle.

    “Find anything interesting?” Samantha joked, stunned by how long he stood at the pantry doing nothing, “any aliens in there?”

    “Just you,” Alessio said with a you-should-already-know-this imperious tone.

    “Huh?” Samantha took another leisurely sip, while she scratched her increasingly itchy scalp. “Ouch! What was that?” her hand caressed the back of her head and pressed her finger into a thick, circular chunk. Another was beside it. She felt around her entire head. “What the hell?” Samantha panicked. She grabbed hold of the lumps stuck to her scalp and jerked her hand backward, ripping them out, root and stem.

    “They’ll just grow back, Mom,” Alessio said, shaking his head.

    She opened her bloodied hand. Two eyeballs stared up at her.

    Featured Image: Canva

  • Holliday on the Moon

    Holliday on the Moon

    When Holliday broke apart her fortune cookie, she stretched out a tiny slip of paper with unusual words on it. Big words her six-year-old head couldn’t grasp yet. She shook the fortune back and forth in her mom’s face while she was one bite deep into a crunchy egg roll.

    “Talk to the moon and you will have everything,” Mom read. She shook her head, finishing the last of dinner. “That’s an unusual fortune,” she handed it back. Holliday inspected the paper again.

    “What’s it mean, mama?”   

    “I’m not sure, honey. Maybe it’s a joke?” Mom kissed the top of Holliday’s head and went on collecting plates and cutlery to feed the dishwasher, “come on, finish up, it’ll be bedtime before you know it.”     

    Holliday watched her mom squeeze the bridge of her nose and anticipated another headache. Her sleep deprived eyes struggled to stay open, and her face sagged into its usual grimace. Her mom’s aches and pains didn’t exist when her dad was around. Holliday longed for those days; now, they only lived in photographs and dreams.

    Moments afterward, Holliday put the fortune under her pillow for safekeeping after she dressed for bed. Since the Tooth Fairy came for teeth, perhaps the Moon would come to talk. Then she could make her wishes. Assuming she’d have three of them, the first wish she’d ask for was to stop her mom’s headaches. It was simple, and she had nothing to lose. To prepare herself, Holliday swapped her pajamas out for everyday clothes again and arranged her backpack full of little toys and a flashlight. She even whipped up a cup of chocolate milk and stored it in the fridge ahead of time. This was an adventure she wanted to be prepared for.

    A little after o’dark thirty, a mysterious blue-black sky met Holliday when she parted the curtains. It was earlier than normal and she couldn’t smell coffee, the usual sign her mother was awake. Since she wasn’t, this meant it was late enough for the moon to still hang around.

    “Where are you, moon?” Holliday asked. She pressed her forehead into the window, searching for it.

    “Gotcha!”

    She flung the backpack over her shoulder, tiptoed as secretly as she could down the stairs, and retrieved the chocolate milk. She scurried out the back door where the black and spotted yellow half-moon hovered above the lush lawn, waiting.   

    “Greetings Holliday, sorry I’m late. The other half of me had to keep the sky lit. Do you forgive me?”  

    “Yes!” she clutched her backpack straps tight and hopped up and down.     

    “Climb aboard!” the moon exclaimed. “Is that chocolate milk?”     

    “Yeah!” Holliday offered the cup, raised high above her head. “Here, have some, I made it myself.”

    The moon drank the gooey substance. Its yellow spots shined brighter than ever in response to the sweet liquid bliss. “I love it, thank you.” Moon replied. 

    Holliday leaped up and down, stunned the moon drank her chocolate milk, prepared with mostly chocolate which gave the moon a matching mustache. “That used to happen to my dad, he always had a chocolate mustache after he drank it too.” 

    “Some things never change,” the way the moon lit up intrigued Holliday, as if she had known it all her life. “I missed you so much, so very much…” Moon said.

    “What the… Michael? Is that you?”  

    Mom called from the distance. Holliday looked at her mom. Her mouth was open wide and long enough to catch fireflies. Confused, Holliday looked back to the moon and leaned forward for a closer look. 

    “Daddy?”    

    “I’m home.” The moon revealed to them both. Mom sank to her knees in the grass, holding her head in her palms, bawling. Holliday gripped the moon tight with no intention to let go. 

    Mom bolted across the lawn and vaulted toward the moon, settled beside their daughter. Her smile was the brightest Holliday had seen in months.

    “You have everything now.” Michael assured them both.   

    Bound by magic and great fortune, the restored family took off into the glittering landscape together forever.

    Featured Image: Kirsten Curcio

  • Curiosity Killed the Cul-de-Sac

    Curiosity Killed the Cul-de-Sac

    “Excuse me, Miss? I got a package here addressed to you. The mailman thought it was best it stayed with me since your house was vacant. I’m Mary, by the way. Welcome to the neighborhood.”

    “Thanks. I’m Victoria. Nice to meet you.”

    Victoria took the package under her arm while they shook hands. She followed Mary’s smiling glance past her to the powder blue ranch-style home, where a sold sign swung in the breeze. The house sat pretty, with its navy-blue shutters and bold red door at the end of the cul-de-sac, the envy of the area.

    “You moved into the old Casarosa house; I can smell the fresh coat of paint it got. There’s lots of history there, you know. I’m surprised it sold; we’ve tried to sell ours for some time now but can’t get a bite. Why is that?” Mary asked, examining Victoria from head to toe.

    “Hmm. I’m sorry to hear that,” Victoria shrugged. “I wouldn’t presume to know why you’re unable to sell. I mean, I moved here. It can’t be so bad.”

    “When the time comes,” Mary said, leaning in close. “Tell him to go away, so we can move on.”  

    “Tell what to go away? And what do you mean, history?” Victoria’s eyes widen, darting from her house to Mary.

    “Don’t trouble yourself with this, dear. I’ve said too much already. I’ll be on my way.”   

    Mary turns away, her bunny slipper feet scraped the sidewalk, each step a struggle. Victoria set her package down and held the elderly woman’s arm.

    “Wait, you said it. I want to know. I mean, I should know.”

    As Mary found her balance, Victoria released her hands. “This is my home now. Wouldn’t you want to know what happened in yours? I’ve heard rumors around town that’s bothered me, and now you. I hope I didn’t get bamboozled with this sale.”

    “Well, if you insist, I can tell you everything,” Mary sighed. “It was forty years ago when I moved here…”   

    1952

    “… My husband and I needed a bigger home to accommodate our three little boys, and I was two months into another pregnancy, so space was a big factor. Four months later, the Casarosa’s arrived. They were a handsome pair, young newlyweds, no kids, yet, but with the way I heard them go at it every night, it was only a matter of time. I used to watch them, especially the wife. She was a beautiful creature with this pin straight black hair down to her waist, olive brown skin, skinny. Big in all the right places. I was jealous and fat all over. My hair was falling out, surrounded by hyper kids and endless housework. Her life seemed perfect. I wanted that happiness back. I wanted her husband.” Mary laughed.

    “Oh, he was a looker. He had some big position down at the base. But I felt Mr. Casarosa wanted to settle down and fill the other three rooms of that house up. He was always the first spouse in the cul-de-sac to get home from work, and the last to leave in the morning. You would think most offices opened around eight or nine, but he left for work around ten or eleven. One day he left for work only to come back two hours later. Next thing I knew, both Mr. and Mrs. Casarosa had loaded their car up with a bulging picnic basket, blanket for two, and a bottle of wine. Most men couldn’t wait to get away from home, not Mr. Casarosa.”  

    “Seems like they had a lot of fun, I take it?”

    “Mm hmm, yes,” Mary’s eyes roll. “Although, I wasn’t sure how Mr. Casarosa would support a family with how rare he went to work.”

    “Were you close with them?”  

    “No, no we weren’t.”      

    Victoria frowns. “What did his wife do for a living?”

    “She was an artist. Painting, reading, banging on the typewriter. I saw it all with how often they kept their curtains open. She had a few other girlfriends over for brunch sometimes, or tea, and they always filled their dinner parties with laughter and joy.”

    Mary shot her wistful eyes to the sky, lost in thought. A smile crept along her face and soured just as fast.  

    “One day, I got the most intense cravings I had traced back to their house. I knew Mrs. Casarosa made Apple Bran Muffins. I had to muster up the courage to go over and introduce myself, hoping to try one, and meet my neighbor. She didn’t answer. Next morning the tart apple scent returned, and you know how pregnant women’s cravings get. So, I went over again, no answer. This is when it got strange. When I got back to my house, the lime house there, right across from yours, I saw Mrs. Casarosa at her window, watching me watch her. Maybe she wanted to talk, I don’t know. I regret going back.”   

    “Why, what happened?” Victoria said.  

    “Well, I waddled back to her house and… I waved. Mrs. Casarosa didn’t move from the window. I knocked on it even, and she stood right there, standing, watching me through the glass as if I—I invaded her soul. Her hollow, wide black eyes looked me over, particularly at my belly. It’s easy to know when you’re not wanted, and I wasn’t sure what I did wrong, so I left. She spooked me. Even when I made it back home, I looked at her house again and she was there just watching.”  

    “She never said a word?”

    “No. She stood at the window the entire time until her husband came home. Oddly late, mind you. It wasn’t like him. He turned my way, as if he knew I was watching him. I mean, I was, but I didn’t think he knew since it was so dark out. That eye contact though, even from across the way, his eyes were glowing red, just like your front door. Then I felt a—a sharp pain in my belly, like someone had dug a hot knife into my gut. The pain was—it was horrible. I shut the curtains so fast and struggled back upstairs. I sat in the bathroom all night wondering if I was about to lose my baby.”  

    “My goodness, were you and the baby okay?”     

    Mary ignored that. “Something told me to stay away, this little voice shouting in my head, don’t look again, don’t look, it said. I went back to the blinds, anyway.”     

    “What?” Victoria scoffed; the tale was absurd. “Why did you do that?”     

    “I couldn’t help myself; It drew me in. You’ll see when it comes to you, too.”     

    “When what comes?”

    “Curiosity,” Mary whispered, rocking back and forth. Her arms brace against her chest, bound by an invisible rope. She continued, “the next day Mr. Casarosa left for work, right at nine o’clock. His wife was at the window again. Every time I pulled the curtains back, she was there. And that night, when the flashing red and blue lights danced across my dining room, I looked and saw Mrs. Casarosa wheeled out in a straitjacket. The entire time, her harsh, angry eyes never left me. I never knew what happened. I had the worst nightmares after that, and every night since. It’s the same for all of us, and it will be worse for you now that you’re in their house.”

    “What do you mean, worse for me?” 

    “It’ll always be their house, the one you think you purchased. He’ll come for you just as he does for all of us… Mr. Casarosa. He’s coming… he’s coming… he’s coming…”

    Mary continued to repeat herself and walked away. Victoria watched her go, confused. She picked her package up and went back inside.

    That night, Victoria awoke from sleep with a thirst. She made her way downstairs where a shadowed figure stood gazing out her front room window. She gasped; her shaky hands cover her open mouth. Her heart bounces against her chest as the glass of water slips from her fingertips.

    It doesn’t fall.

    Victoria gripped the wall, watching the glass as it hovers onto the counter. He’s coming, he’s coming, he’s coming… Mary’s warning words echo in her mind.

    “Don’t mind me, ma’am,” the shadow said. Its voice is deep, lined in mystery. “I’m here for my wife.”

    Victoria took cautious steps forward, curious despite her fear. “… Y—Your wife isn’t here. I own this home now.”

    It turns to her, a tall silhouette of a man void of any distinguishable features. A blank slate. “Don’t mind me. I’m here for my wife.”

    “I said she’s not here. You need to leave!” Victoria wasn’t sure where she found the courage to raise her voice, but she had to do something.

    “Not until death…” he said. Victoria followed his shadowed hand to Mary’s house across the street, where his black silhouette stands at the foot of her bed.

    “She drove my wife insane. She interrupted her creative process at every turn and watched her every move. It didn’t help we failed to conceive. Seeing her pregnant belly was the last straw. Now I watch Mary, and all the rest, forever, until death do us part.”

    The old woman lay there, frozen in fear. Heavy hands grip her body, forced down into the bed. The last Victoria saw was Mary’s frail, raised hand, dangling lifelessly in the air. It’s forced down, as well as the frilly pillows and flowery comforter tumbling on top of her. It’s all sucked down, suffocating her.

    Victoria ran out her front door, spinning. Each house was cursed with standing silhouettes at the foot of their bed, each inhabitant forced inside their mattress, every night, from generation to generation.

    Victoria ran back inside to find Mr. Casarosa, his hand still raised, pointed ahead. 

    “Don’t mind me, ma’am,” Mr. Casarosa began. “I’m here for my wife.”     

    “I understand now.” Victoria whispered to the devastated husband. “Do what you must.”     

    She got another glass of water and went back to sleep.

    Featured Image: Canva

  • The Green Goodbye

    The Green Goodbye

    A collision of illuminated gold specks and lush green made up the intensity of his eyes, yet his facial expression bore a gloomier shade.

    He was my morose classmate forever staring at the exit, desperate to leave.

    I know, I sat beside him going through the same thing. Fate destined us to take the required history course and see it through until the bitter end, as boring as it was. It was comforting to find another classmate who shared the same disposition.

    He was an unusual sort. He never took notes during lectures, never uttered a word. During group projects attempts to engage with him resulted in a glare built of stone and odd silence that spoke volumes.

    Was he okay?

    One day, however, he possessed an aura filled with the brightest light when we returned to class.

    Affable, natural, happier. He must have received some good news, I thought, imagining a tar-like substance of dark weight slipping from his shoulders. I took his gleeful demeanor as a welcome signal for a friendly exchange. And while I can’t recall what I said, the memory of piercing golden rays dancing along his eyes as he laughed remained with me. Warm feelings of wholeness surrounded my heart — it all felt so familiar.

    In the following days, the repeat occurrence of green found me. Traffic lights kept the color as a constant fixture which made my travels smooth. Teal, Mint, Lime, Fern, Forest, Sage and Olive foliage, signage, and structure captured my curiosity in every direction; accompanied by the golden hues of a fall sun, the sights were unforgettable. Appreciative of such beauty, my classmate came to mind.

    He’s okay, I remember thinking to myself.

    But the next time we returned to class he wasn’t there, and a strange sadness clouded my mood. Something was wrong. Our instructor stood by the door, stone faced and mute.  

    “He killed himself,” her words a jumbled whisper. Waves of silence ensued once we grasped the news.  

    I pictured his eyes then: shimmering green pools drained of its potential, sunlight laid to rest. Class dismissed early dealing with the news, departing through the same exit he always stared at.  

    Did he find his way? 

    The shock of his death remained with me. I felt he was someone I had to look after and failed. Perhaps another lifetime, another path. Maybe we would meet again, maybe not. Were we meant to? What was the point of our laughter? The thoughts drove me mad, although in time I took comfort when I remembered the vast array of luminous colors of green that found me, and knew he was okay.

    Featured Image: Team GHB

  • The Horrible Luck at Summer Thorn

    The Horrible Luck at Summer Thorn

    Beneath the scorching heat of the sun, a brother and sister’s skin glitters.

    Beads of sweat cover their brows, released with each splash and dunk as they play in the water. Their trips to the lake were a rejuvenating escape from the dullness of childhood while away from classes for summer holiday.

    “I don’t want this to end,” sister tells brother. She floats on her back, gazing at the cerulean drenched sky.

    Brother looks back to the shoreline where their parents are talking to a man wearing a tan hat. “I think it’s about to.”

    Father gathers their belongings.

    It was time to leave.

    .     .     .    

    “We can’t swim there anymore. Summer Thorn Lake is a private area for residents only like the tan hat said.” Father explained for the eleventh time in the days that followed. “We’ll plan a trip to the beach instead.”

    The kids groan.

    An hour-long drive to the beach sounded lousy. Why go so far when joy was waiting for them down the road? They swam in the lake other times without detection.

    “Beach water is better than no water.” Father reminds them.

    He flops on the couch in between his kids and points the remote at the television.

    On the news, a preview of the local news opens with a grim flash briefing:

    Local man dead after swimming in Summer Thorn Lake. A brain-eating amoeba is to blame. More at eleven.

    “The beach sounds great, Dad!” the kids shout.

    Featured Image: Team GHB