“See, right there, she just winces and grabs her side,” he said, touching the screen with his finger. The camera was zoomed out, it was an old security film, the black and white kind that hardly has any details at all.
“Wait, back it out,” said Amber, as she was pushing his hands away from the controls. As the zoom receded , there was a man. A man outside the window. He was looking in with a crazed determination that you see in movies, the kind where the bad guy has red rungs under his eyes, his hair is sweaty, and he is tilting his head slightly down do that he has to look up to see you straight on. That creepy kind of stare. It sent chills down Amber’s spine.
“We need to talk with him. Find out who that is.”
Fred hadn’t known what happened, only that it worked. After the accident down at the nuclear plant, he stayed home and just sat around, the thoughts burning in his head, his mind, the disaster, the radiation. He didn’t want it to ruin him, but that voice was now small and quaint, in deference to the other voice in his head.
“DRAW THEM,” it commanded, and he grabbed a flimsy kids’ sketchbook and began to doodle. The sketches were terrible.
“The accident down at Indian Creek? That was three years ago,” she pursed her lips and took some notes.
“Yup. I tried to find him but his house is abandoned. Along with half the town.”
“Down on First and Oak, corner lot, dollhouse-lookin’ place. Can’t miss it.”
The blue dollhouse with purple trim *was* hard to miss. The boarded-up windows and eviction note on the door weren’t exactly hard to miss, either.
The door was open and the house smelled like a mid-century house. The squeak of the door startled her as the wind blew it shut. She looked around the debris – someone had wrecked the place. “Hmph. Hobos,” she thought as she scattered some papers with her foot. She found a door leading downstairs, a dim light glowing. She closed her eyes, whispered a prayer and fumbled for the light switch.
The basement of her mom’s house always freaked her out as a kid. Her mom kept the garbage down in the basement; when a bag filled up, you had to take it down. She always held her breath and ran, stopping on the bottom stair, never brave enough to step onto the cold concrete.
Making her way down the creaking, groaning steps, she felt her grip tightening on the rail as she bent over to see into the basement.
The room was lit by a single bulb, dim and swaying. She saw the small, rectangular window open and took another few steps. The room overflowed with sketchbooks. Everywhere, books piled on books. She picked up the closest one and carefully thumbed through it.
Faces of people. With names on them. Faces that she recognized as towns folk.
Some of the sketches were terrible, and dated from three years ago. The more recent they got, the better the drawings were. She jumped at the date of one picture: two weeks ago. She looked up and scanned the dark corners, holding her breath and listening. She scolded herself for being that same scaredy-cat girl and picked up the next sketchbook.
The pictures in this book were torn about 3/4 through. the pictures were’t bad, but they were torn nonetheless. No eraser marks, just tears. Tears right through the face.
In the corner was a desk with a small reading lamp and another pile of sketchbooks and an old coffee can full of pencils and pens. She carefully made her way across the room, stepping over piles of sketchbooks and catching her balance on the back of the chair. The creak of the chair shattered the silence and spooked her again.
“Get a hold of yourself, Amber,” she said to herself. “It’s just a basement. A spooky basement, but a basement.”
The cover of the sketchbook had “rebma” inscribed in jagged letters. Opening the cover, she stood up in a panic as the sketch on the first page was her. And the next page. And the next, on through the entire sketchbook. She dropped the book and tried to shake the creepy off of her hands, then wiped them on her pants.
The laughter started from under the stairs, as she whipped around she caught a glint of light in his eyes. She looked around her, desperately looking for a second exit, eyeing the narrow basement window and clambering onto the desk.
Fred crept out of the shadow of the staircase, dirty, unkempt, the missing teeth made him look even crazier. He had a piece of paper in his hands. A drawing. A portrait.
A sharp pain in her side stopped her climb, the horror in her eyes as she fell pleased Fred as he finished tearing the picture in half.
I’ve always been an artist in addition to being a writer. I was in honors English classes in high school, the editor of the high school’s literary magazine, and I was also the class artist.
I was in the Navy’s nuclear power program for 8 years. I was always fascinated that people thought that radiation could make you into the Incredible Hulk or magically bestow some paranormal power.
I combined these things in this flash fiction.
My middle name is Fredrick.