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Horror Writers

52 Challenge

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  • #123610
    Catholic Creed
    @hannahrenner

    Ray Bradbury said “Write a new short story every week.  It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”  So technically this challenge starts with him.  I think.  Feel free to write a short story about that!

    Anyway, the only rule is that 52 short stories are completed, with a preference for the horror genre.  BUT any genre is acceptable.  Building on previous short stories is acceptable.  Going buck-wild and blasting us with a novella is acceptable (mostly because I think that would be funny over-kill).  As for word counts, the short story must be at least a complete sentence, at least 6 words.

    For convenience, I am providing 52 prompts.  Use or don’t use.  All I ask is that you number the prompt you are using.

    Here we go:

    1. Retell a RealLifeTM scary / interesting story.
    2. TheDollRoomTM setting with a twist
    3. Character A is removing the evidence of their clone/doppelganger (Bonus: show your research)
    4. Animal born with extra limbs isn’t a portent of doom.  (Bonus: genre is horror OR comedy)
    5.  You walk in on your imaginary friend and your favorite toy talking about you.
    6.  Scientists open a cave – there’s something alive in it.
    7. Your favorite weird fact.  Just a short story about it.  Doesn’t have to be horror just mind boggling.
    8.  The Sun is actually an eldritch abomination
    9. Normal interaction, only you write it scary.
    10. This shouldn’t have human features but it does.
    11. Retell your favorite ghost story.
    12. Non-Standard Horror Setting (example: underwater cave system, middle of a desert, motorway full of dead cars, play spaces after hours, crashed aircraft carrier and abandoned/ruined military things in general, multistory car-parks, shopping centers gone under, dead malls, ghost towns as in Wild West, abandoned anything, That Spot in your neighborhood – come on, you have at least one!)
    13. Character A haunts the team producing a horror film in their area. (Bonus: the film is still made and Character A has an uncredited cameo in the film.)
    14. The weird noises at night didn’t bug you until after your pet died.
    15. A sci-fi horror story.
    16. After a strange weather phenomenon, the townspeople find the graveyard dug up and empty
    17. A story on your favorite cryptid. (Bonus: show your research.)
    18.  There is something mundane and cheerful and happy – but it is at the bottom of the sea and shouldn’t be.  (Goal: mood-whiplash!)
    19. Zombies – or what you consider a close second (like That Relative before coffee.)
    20. The Gothic of your stomping grounds.
    21. Retell that story assigned to you in school that kept you up at night.
    22. Your favorite haunted setting
    23. Character A is in a classic horror situation but has (and uses) more than two brain cells.
    24.  The dog with a shadow of a wolf.
    25. Your cool talking toy is starting to get creepy. (Bonus: there is a perfectly natural explanation.  Bonus Bonus: still horror genre)
    26. In the country, we ignore weird noises at night and don’t go outside.  It’s smart.  This time, it’s smarter to go outside.
    27. Fracture your favorite fairy-tale.
    28.  The furniture is alive and scary (think dark!Beauty and the Beast)
    29. Grandma’s got a secret.
    30. “No, this isn’t a supernatural haunting problem.  You did a stupid.”
    31. Retell a RealLifeTM scary / interesting story only Three Truths, One Lie.
    32. The formally locked room is now unlocked.  You wish that hadn’t happened.
    33. Someone believes Character A is a changeling. (Bonus: show your research)
    34. It’s not a demon.  It’s a cat.
    35. You’re selling a haunted house.  It’s going… about as well as you would expect.
    36. Google the thing that scares you.  Now write about it.
    37.  The clock only goes to 11.
    38.  Google “most dangerous islands” and set a story in one. (Bonus: show your research)
    39.  A short story during your favorite historical event. (Bonus: show your research)
    40.  Pull three key words from your favorite quote. (Bonus: cite it)
    41.  The first personal object you spot in your room. (Bonus: why is it personal?)
    42. Retell ThatStoryTM from ThatRelativeTM.  You know, moms’ kitchen story that only the women hear, grandfathers’ story when relaxing without making eye-contact, grandma’s strange story she tells like a joke and then you grow up and are 0.o.
    43. You just made friends with everyone in the haunted house – you learn it runs all year long.
    44. Character A is the new president.  They are given new information: it is their worst nightmare
    45. Google the thing you love.  Now write it scary.
    46. America is spooky because it is big.  Europe is spooky because it’s old.  Why is your imaginary country / continent (your Neverland) spooky?
    47. Set the story during Thanksgiving dinner
    48.  Escaped science experiment.  (Bonus: It is never mentioned directly.)
    49.  Why is your favorite Christmas ornament WrongTM?
    50.  Christmas Elves are creepy.  They are not only always watching you, they are waiting for you to mess up.
    51. “You better watch out, you better watch out, yOu BeTtEr WaTcH oUt.”
    52. At the end of every year, you must fight an eldritch abomination that is stopping the new year from coming.
    • This topic was modified 9 months, 1 week ago by Catholic Creed. Reason: link didn't work
    • This topic was modified 9 months, 1 week ago by Catholic Creed. Reason: double checking the link revealed profane language. Created list based off original

    When life knocks you down, wait 'til it passes over you and then attack it from behind.

    #123657
    Cathy
    @this-is-not-an-alien

    @hannahrenner
    ‘K sis. Challenge accepted…ish!
    Here’s something like a short story I cooked up…idk how long ago… 😛

    See You Over the Edge

    If you can read this you’re all alone.
    The guns are in the graffiti locker, the one with the red star. Trust me, you’ll need them. If you hear a bump don’t open the door. We won’t be there, but they will. Under the bed are your instructions, which is how you found this paper, assumably. The TV doesn’t work but there’s a camera in the ceiling. If you’re in a masochistic mood there’s Ramin Noodles under the TV and a Rubik cube under the desk. But you can’t win the Rubik by peeling the stickers around; I spray painted them on to drive my partner crazy.
    You’re probably confused, or you’re experienced enough you won’t need this.
    Ok, so here’s the deal; about a century or so ago pre-modern scientists and behavioral-analysists developed a game chip that’s been introduced to our dictator AI. They’ve probably told you something about the Bystander-Syndrome where the average person does not intervene in strangers’ lives. The example has been a murder in a subway in front of approximately three hundred persons who did nothing; roughly half of these didn’t even realize there was a problem. However, the rare few who don’t fall to Bystander-Syndrome are the most dangerous segment of the population. Congratulations, if you’re here you fall into that faction and the government has deemed you a threat to national security.
    You see, you’re the type more willing to question authority and notice inconsistencies. The Bystander’s Test is just a cover, naturally; it also tests your logical aptitude, your private moral convictions, your leadership capacity and basically the probability of you seeing that everything wrong with this system and rebelling.
    Don’t worry; you’re the last of us. Nobody expects you to save the world and you just want to live, right?
    First, test the computer panel that we hid it in the TV; it’s that green square-shaped thingy with the punch lines and buttons and the big sticky note that says “Computer Panel” on it (you’re welcome). Now take that with you to the locker. See the stupid mirror with the paper flower rim all over it? Look sharp and peel the cover; it’ll come off like nothing. See the phone? (If you don’t, sorry; you’re dead). Insert panel in mirror.

    Can you read this?
    Yes/No
    View options?
    1. Turn left. Head straight 10.46 km. Left. Further instructions contin…
    2. Wait for them. They’ll break down the passage (:bump).
    3. These are the r&eal 1nstru3tions
    YLSC ۊ
    À’@€€€ÿÀÀÀÿÀÀÀÿ€ À’@ À’@ ÿÿ À’@ ÿÿÿÿ $@ À’@
    Are you going to follow the 1. Instructions?
    Load the gun; you’ll need it. If you hear nothing but static they’ve already found you.

    If you can read this you’re all alone.
    Congrats, you’re still alive! If you shot them, move the bodies into the lockers. Don’t worry, the lockers are emptied every fifteen minutes, if I explained why you wouldn’t like it. If you’re injured the first-aid kit is behind the hand-print in the wall art. Welcome to Room 666.
    I hope you brought the Rubik with you; it’ll be a while. I don’t know if there’s any food left but you can check their pockets; grab the keys. Most likely they’ll have a knife somewhere on them; use it to dig the chip out of their wrist. It really stinks but wipe it off and press the chip in your wrist, don’t worry; it’ll push itself in. You can use strips of their cloths to stanch the wound(s)
    Stay in the corners and you might survive the night. Depending on how much blood you’ve lost you’re going to need to drink a lot of water; there’s a canteen on every one of them. By the end you’ll need all you can get. If you’re out of bullets, steal them.
    I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to help you so just remember if you hear a bump, don’t open the door. If you want to deep six now you’ve got plenty of bullets but I wouldn’t recommend it. Chances are, your nerve will fail and you’ll miss mostly, which means a very long painful death. It’s not worth it; you can still make it out of here. Try the Rubik cube.
    Do you know what a mathematical matrix is? It’s a cluster of numbers treated as one numeratical entity. If you add one to any of the numbers you add to all of them. Same with subtracting and multiplying and rooting and cubing etc etc etc. Right now everything’s a matrix. Every action you make affects everyone. If you know anything and you’re captured, we’re all dead. Trust me.

    Ca48 540e j49 ; —–44 4*/+
    Can you k3–970=+21+/244 )9-
    Can you read this?
    Yes/No
    View options?
    1. Hack the main computer to open door. Step 1; initiate program instructions contin…
    2. Surrender. Tell everything.
    3. DON’T FOLLOW 1NST9UCT!ONS
    4. +¿ºê’Yüî¥?Ÿ¤üZ¢•Fž@»
    ÍÀÝTÎӁ,ç’ÀL•Ù¿¿éüÚ¾ËÞÌ”§‹ö1à×ëþÀ!Šï?‡YüþÚIýÈ2`אƶ³üþMùuäßl~9 ›¸A6ϧêO†?õ^†Ùçðg, Q‰~âTgl–Îhâo÷²ù“2o:¿•Æ×2ÿw•r01‡‡Œpl6öëa!’4éÀt÷òË7‘p­XVÈjõ5-gù7›ß¿C.ÿ$­

    If you can read this you’re all alone.
    Have you ever played Prisoner’s Dilemma? It goes like this; two (or more) people are captured and the bad guys give them three options. One; you betray your friend and bounce scot-free out while your friend holds firm and gets the devil’s due. Two; you both hold firm and get a light tap out of it. Three; you both betray each other and you each get half of what’s coming to you.
    If I’m not here, it’s over. I can’t promise option two so don’t bother over your conscience too hard.
    If you can walk, get out of here. If you hear the lockers or the slide doors bump don’t open the doors! I hope you found something to eat but I can’t help you there. Cloths are above the wires on the second door. Wear the cap. Keep your head down. Next comes the walk through.
    Hold your arm out and let them scan your wrist. All your injuries; hide them!
    By now you’re at Checkpoint 66; basically, nobody’s made it past here, so good luck! We think you’re close to the end but it’s a labyrinth in here (you’ve noticed?). The Tower has 6,666 stories according to legend. Talk about a bad omen. If the guards let you past there’s supposed to be a sky gate leading out. Take one of their machines; it’s your only choice unless you want to chill on the other side. If you get out you’re outside the cities. We don’t know what’s past that. But the government placed a protective field around the sky levels for a reason, so be super careful.
    If you’re reading this I’m probably dead. It’s not that I have much of a legacy to leave behind and my friends are probably dead too. Just focus on staying alive, ok? If enough of you guys live, you can build a community outside of the walls. I know it. Don’t make the same mistakes we made. Don’t develop artificial intelligences to rule you; unexpected complications happen. People aren’t trustworthy but at least they’re human.
    The machine has picked the best and the brightest people to live. That’s about to begin so anyone you leave behind will probably die. If you’re different or have any health issue they won’t let you take up valuable space. Just remember every person has a purpose and nobody deserves to die.
    I’m rooting for you so don’t kill off on me. Tomorrow’s my sixteenth birthday! I’m also out of paper just remember if you can rea…

    She fixed her stare on the handcuffs, focusing all her efforts on ignoring everything else. A slick slap of the doors sliding open caught behind her. Not looking up, she stiffened and smothered a cough.
    “Name and purpose.” The voice above her required tonelessly so she matched the expression.
    “Designated or preferred.”
    “Designated.”
    She sighed and stretched her arms awkwardly, further bunching the wrinkles on her Mario T-shirt. With a half attempt to flip back her hood with the bill of her cap, the prisoner mindlessly twisted her cuffs.
    “AB7489. Project Behavioral Analysis of Post-Trauma Disorders.” she droned
    “Come with me.” The person didn’t bother dragging her to her feet and she got up of her own accord. Clip, clopping footsteps echoed deafeningly on the reflecting floors. She blinked back blurry lights that assaulted her adjusting hyacinth eyes. Counting tiles just made her dizzier so minutes or hours sifted by unmeasured. Everyone wore the same polished shoes with the same noisy steps so she derived morbid pleasure from her threaded sneakers with mismatched socks.
    The elevator went up forever but nobody spoke. Words were scripted to meet etiquette. Mostly. These would be the last steps she took, wouldn’t they? Possibly, or possibly there was a place outside with the real sunlight and real people. There was–somewhere.
    “If you can read this. You’re not alone.”

    Don't let the voices in your head drive you insane;only some of them can drive; most are underage

    #124159
    Catholic Creed
    @hannahrenner

    Its the little things in life, you know? Thunderclaps, lightning strikes, a cute little brother in your lap, a quirky kid’s show on the TV.  Little things.

    It really puts life in perspective.

    Especially when you realize you don’t have a little brother and you don’t know what day it is and this is not your house and that is not a thunderstorm.

    When life knocks you down, wait 'til it passes over you and then attack it from behind.

    #124238
    Cathy
    @this-is-not-an-alien

    @hannahrenner

    Dang. That’s a punch story!

    Don't let the voices in your head drive you insane;only some of them can drive; most are underage

    #124240
    Catholic Creed
    @hannahrenner

    @this-is-not-an-alien , Thanks!

    When life knocks you down, wait 'til it passes over you and then attack it from behind.

    #124355
    Cathy
    @this-is-not-an-alien

    You enter, but leave your body behind. You can walk away but you can never leave. Not truly. We can always find you, darling. You remain in our cyborverse. Once you enter you can never leave. No one can stop you here if you’re good enough. There is no justice, there are no rules, no system, no confines. You are alone. But we’re always here, darling. We’re always watching.
    Talk to anyone, you don’t know who they are but they don’t know who you are. Be whatever you say you are, it doesn’t matter here, no one will catch you if you’re good enough. Government has no place here, it can’t control us, it can’t stop us. And one more word; even when you die you will always be here if someone looks hard enough.
    Sincerely, the Internet (:

    Don't let the voices in your head drive you insane;only some of them can drive; most are underage

    #124356
    Catholic Creed
    @hannahrenner

    Look into the sky, little heart, and see the twinkling distant reaches.

    This is the last night.

    We all smelled it.  We all tasted it.  We all heard it.  We all felt it.  We all saw it.

    This is the last night.

    So little heart, reach your heart out: The stars are yours if you just reach.

    Go beyond the implants tangled in your body.

    Go beyond the decaying skin.

    Go beyond to that light just out of reach.

    Are you there yet?

    Take another step.

    Are you there yet?

    Come on.

    You always wanted the stars.

    No, don’t look around.  There are frightening things here.

    Just follow the light.

    You know you want to.

    Come on.

    Carefully.  They live in the water.  Don’t let a ripple be your destruction.

    Tread lightly, lightly on the grass.  They live deep underneath.  Don’t let a heavy step be your destruction.

    Come on.

    I’m right here.

    Can you reach me?

    Careful.  Don’t overturn the stones.  Don’t bend the branches.

    All disturbance is a path for them.

    That’s right little heart.  You’ll be safe soon.

    So brave of you to leave all that behind.

    Come on.

    You know you want too.

    Hold out your hand.

    That’s right.

    Closer.

    Closer.

    Don’t rustle the leaves.  They’re there too.

    Good.

    Now, this you can grab.

    And don’t scream.

    My brood doesn’t like it when supper screams.

    When life knocks you down, wait 'til it passes over you and then attack it from behind.

    #124909
    Catholic Creed
    @hannahrenner

    The rebel commander stormed across the parking-lot.  Her long-coat flew like batwings, dark as the sky above them.  Her hands swung loose at her side, seeming to point the driving wind and rain toward her enemies.  Her pace measured the distance between her and the foe and found it wanting.  Her bare, tattooed scalp reflected the searchlight, rain rolling into the collar of her shirt.

    The sirens slowly died.  The rain did the opposite.

    Neil glanced at his watch – timer steadily counting down.

    7 minutes.

    “It’s a trap.” The boy – that’s right, Andrew, his name’s Andrew – clutched his arm, eyes wide.  “That redneck will kill you!”

    “Your pardon?” Neil glanced at the woman – standing specter in the searchlight and rain.

    The boy (use his name!) held out a piece of paper.  “Got a communication from cyphers.  They say there’s a bomb.”

    Neil sucked in a sharp breath, side-eying the woman.  the billowing long-coat.

    Southern born and bred.  To her, it was bitter cold.

    He cleared his throat sharply.  “Thank-you for the warning.” he lowered his voice.  “I promise everything will be fine.”  He turned to the barracade (so flimsy, like a scene out of Les Mis – his sister would be singing if she were here).

    Thin – too thin – fingers latched to his sleeve.

    “Please sir.” Andrew whimpered.  “Don’t go sir.”

    6 minutes.

    Neil quietly pried the hand off and walked to the barricade.

    “Commander Carol!” he bellowed through the speakerphone.  “Commander Charlotte Carol! Are you armed?”

    The woman laughed clearly, waving her empty hands.  Rain-water sprayed from her fingers.

    5 minutes – he thought.

    “I’m coming out!” He set down the speakerphone, climbed over the barricade, and stepped into the driving rain.

    “We should have been more intelligent about this.” he muttered.

    He stomped through the parking lot.

    “No.  No, they’ve been out here.  If the rain can’t stop them, it can’t stop me.”

    4 minutes?

    “Comrade.” He pulled out his pack of cigarettes.

    “Brother.” She flicked on her lighter, shielding the flame with her scarred hand.

    A moment later, both exhaled, smoke curling around their lips.

    Charlotte smiled – almost flirty, mostly flinty.

    Neil returned the smile – attempting flinty, mostly tired.

    She glanced at his wrist. “Time?

    3 minutes.

    “Any regrets?”

    The words where in the air – but who said it and who it was meant for was unclear and of no consequence.

    They smirked – they were made of nothing but regret.

    The searchlights were still on them.  They should be talking more.

    “A truce – until the politicians send out word?” Her hand tightened into a bitter fist, but the slight shiver was sparks of joy.

    Neil chuckled, rolling his cigarette in his fingers, one hand shielding the lit end. “But of course.  You on your barricade, I on mine.”

    2 minutes.

    “This peace – it could have been the greatest thing.” She exhaled a long coil of smoke.

    Neil sent his own poisoned stream chasing hers.  “Not really.”

    She shrugged.  He did too.

    “Food.” She said suddenly.  “I guess I should ask you about food.”

    “I guess you should.” Neil glanced up.

    The rain drove down, plinking against him like fey bullets.

    “You think He’ll flood us – for our wickedness?” she brought the cigarette to her lips again.

    “I don’t think so.” He shivered – the rednecks were right, it was cold! “He doesn’t exist.”

    “I think He does.” She shivered with him, “I think He’s disappointed in me right now.”

    “Cold feet?”

    They laughed uneasily.

    1 minute.

    “Your scar suits you.” Neil tapped the side of his face.

    “Thanks.” Charlotte traced it absently.  “I remember when you gave it to me.”

    His laugh was hollow, bitter.  “I never did thank you, did I?”

    “For what?”

    Neil shook his head.

    They were silent, to dragons waiting.

    “Time?”

    He held out his watch – the numbers glowed blue.

    Ticking.

    Ticking.

    Ticking.

    Ticking.

    17…

    16…

    15…

    14…

    13…

    “I think… I regret it.” Neil whispered.

    “I think… I don’t.” Charlotte frowned.  “At least not yet.”

    3…

    2…

    1…

    Beepbeepbeep.  Beepbeepbeep.  Beepbeepbeep.

    Neil thumbed the watch.  She sighed and slumped.

    All that happened was a blink.

    The watch resetting.

    8 days

    19 hours

    17 minutes

    The rain lightened.  There was a cheer from her side.  They glanced up.

    She shivered, the cigarette back in her mouth.

    “I thought I would hear it.”

    Neil raised an eyebrow.

    “I know it’s silly – but I thought I would hear it.  At least spiritually.”  Charlotte glared at the huge buildings around them.

    Sniff.  Smell the carnage.

    Sniff.  Smell the smoke, just the smoke.

    A quick shake of his head, and Neil said, “I guess, I was expecting more too.”

    “The headlines will be screaming tomorrow.”

    A green and red blinking star drifted over a gap in the clouds.

    “Wonder if that’s them.” she murmured.

    Neil took a last drag.  The rain was trickling off.

    She threw her cigarette to the ground, twisting her boot-heel over it.

    “They’ll say tonight is the beginning.” She tipped her head to the side – birdlike – and smiled.

    When life knocks you down, wait 'til it passes over you and then attack it from behind.

    #126722
    Catholic Creed
    @hannahrenner

    It’s a black flip-phone.

    That’s it.

    I have a contact list.

    I don’t answer unless a name appears.

    (Don’t tell anyone but sometimes I don’t answer then.)

    I’ve had it four years.

    Yesterday I learned how to change the ringtone.

    That’s right, yesterday.

    In case you haven’t noticed, I’m low-tech.

     

    It is… embarrassing that only yesterday I could figure out how to change the ringtone.

    I decided I should learn my phone better.

    Especially since my inbox was – apparently – full?

    Maybe I shouldn’t have my phone on silent so frequently

     

    334-316-6222

    Called Dec 31, 2020, 10:45 PM

     

    334-316-6222

    Called Dec 31, 2020, 11:56 PM

     

    334-316-622

    Messaged Jan 1, 1:14 PM

    Hi, my spouse is gone…

     

    3666 messages – 2654 were from the exact same number.

     

    It rang.

    Again.

     

    I don’t know who this number is.

    But – suddenly – so many things are falling into place.

     

    334-316-622

    Messaged Oct 5, 2:34 PM

    ?

     

    I’m not gonna read them.  I’m not gonna read them.

    The phone displays the first few words though.

    Every.

    Single.

    Message.

     

    [Erase Message]

     

    I’m clicking it for every single one of them.

    Isn’t there an erase all?

    Okay.  Try it.

    Press the right, blank button.

    [Erase All]

    {yes}{no}

     

    Left, blank button.  {yes}

     

    Okay.  They’re gone.

    Double check the locks tonight.

    This is just a troll, right?

     

    It’s ringing.

    Don’t open it.  Look at the number.

    334-316-6222.

    When life knocks you down, wait 'til it passes over you and then attack it from behind.

    #134385
    Catholic Creed
    @hannahrenner

    On hands and knees, she crept between thorny bushes rotting fence: jacket still tied around her, puppy still wriggling at her belly.

    “Quiet Kazoo.” Her lips barely moved.

    Emily was a quiet girl, slight lisp due to her missing front tooth.  Freckles splattered her face, arms, and back.  Her red hair wisped around her round face.  Her cheeks were plump and very kissable.  

    She hunched close to the ground, hands over her ears.

    The hacking drew closer.  The voices, the footsteps.

    The howls.

    The deep, guttural grunts.

    The puppy wriggled in her jacket and she quickly clamped her hands over it’s mouth.

    “Shh!” she though desperately.

    Kazoo whimpered between forcibly grit teeth.

    Emily?  Yeah, bright-eyed kid, super sweet.  Always sharing.  You know, perfect little girl all that, ah, junk.

    The noises were closer – the crunch of stepping, the scrap of dragging.  Guttural growls.

    Howling…

    Kazoo whimpered, the girl slipped forward, on toes and finger-tips, knees knocking her stomach.

    “Don’t see me, don’t see me, don’t see me, don’t see me, don’t see me…”

    Gunshots.

    So many.

    So close.

    So loud.

    The girl curled into a ball, hands over her ears, biting her lip so hard she tasted blood.  “Don’t see me!”

    Thuds.  Loose and firm.

    The steady crunch of firm footsteps.

    Voices.  She heard voices…

    That meant nothing.  Aunt Mable was still talking when…

    Ah yes, Emily.  Little miss inquisitive.  Always asking another bothersome question no one wanted to answer.  About why the dead were burned.  About why their ashes were buried. 

    We always told her that it was a custom.  

    The girl yelped as the puppy tumbled out of her jacket.  The six little paws hit the ground.  The little mouth opened.  The little bark echoed.

    She crouched into the ground, sobbing.

    Emily was a great shot.  But maybe too kindhearted for her own good.  She never could kill anything when she was with us.  But Jeff?  Well, he could and he liked her.  So we weren’t worried when they went away.  

    “Hello?!”

    The puppy growled and barked again, tripping around the girl.

    “I swore I heard…” The barrel of a gun rattled through the bushes.  “Something was here…” It hovered over her.

    Don’t see me.” she repeated – a tiny phrase on loop.

    The man – no soldier, soldier – cautiously tapped the area with his gun.

    She shivered, almost hopeful – but the last one was in a uniform… rot, death, smell…

    The barrel tapped her side.  Still warm.  She squeaked and stumbled away, eyes wide.

    He staggered back as well, spitting out swear words.  Then his shoulders slumped and he pointed the gun in the air.

    “Hey!” he called over his shoulder.  “Someone radio Sawbones, tell her we found the brat!”

    Then in a softer voice.  “Hey sweetie.  Want to come out?”

    She nodded timidly, wrapping her arms around the six-legged puppy.

    Emily was a lot more ferocious then people realized – but she only let the five of us see that.  Jeff saw more of that than anyone, honestly.  Everyone thought she was the sweet, innocent one. 

    She wasn’t. 

    Like, at all.

    He guided her to the trail, carefully hovering around her.  His gun stayed at the ready, but as long as she was on the path, he wasn’t watching her.

    They reached the armored vehicle in decent time.  The red cross was splattered with an odd-smelling substance.

    The girl looked away.

    The doctor stormed out, blood streaking her combat uniform, her helmet dented and crooked, short red hair flying around her face.  “What?” she snapped.

    When she saw the little girl, her eyes brightened and her voice softened.

    “Recognize me?”

    “Mom?!” The girl ran over, the puppy still in her arms.  “His name’s Kazoo – he saved me.”

    Dr. Emily Branson nodded solemnly at the dog.  “A brave soldier already, I see.”  Then, smiling, “Just like my baby.”

    Emily.  She’s something else.

    We went to med-school together.  Fell in love.  Married.  Divorced.  Married someone else.  Buried them.  

    Yeah, I met your dad too.  Okay fella, that Jeff.  Good for her, honestly.  Jillian… Jillian and I both cried when he died. 

    Anyway, hope you don’t mind hanging out with our kids for a bit.  I guess they’re kinda your siblings, so you should get to know them.

    Oh, before I forget.  Do you think you’re responsible enough for a puppy?

     

    ~#~#~

    4. Animal born with extra limbs isn’t a portent of doom.  (Bonus: genre is horror OR comedy)

    When life knocks you down, wait 'til it passes over you and then attack it from behind.

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