Today is my 3 year blogiversary!
I’ve included an audio file of me stumbling through reading the story, if you are interested (you can find it below the text of the story). I stole the idea to include an audio file of me reading the story from Bruce Goodman. The flash fiction on his blog (https://weaveaweb.wordpress.com/) is amazing, and I suggest checking it out!
Thunder roared and a flash of ominously timed lightning outlined the stranger at the open door, her black, torn cloak whipping around her skeletal frame in the sideways rain. She wasn’t a stranger in the sense that the gathered family members didn’t know instantly who she was, or that she hadn’t visited them before, or even that each and every member of that terrified, huddled group didn’t spend a sizable amount of their time thinking about her. She was a stranger in that they didn’t want to know her and tried desperately to forget her existence between visits.
The drenched, black hood clung to her skull and she pealed it away as she entered, leaned her scythe against the inside wall, then shut the door behind her. Her cloak dripping on the hardwood flooring of the entryway, she glanced around at the shocked men and women that sat on assorted furniture in the living room.
“Looks like you’ve been waiting for me, hope I didn’t keep you too long,” she said, her voice more chipper than one might expect to come pouring out of a fleshless skull.
“Dear God,” a bearded, bespectacled man said quietly from a folding chair next to the television.
“Oh, there you are!” the stranger almost laughed, fixing the dark pits that should have been eyes on the man. “I was looking for you.”
All eyes had been wide and fixed on her from the moment she pushed the door open, but now a few flicked back and forth between the bearded man and the stranger, showing glimmers of both pity and relief.
Shrinking back from her, as if trying to hide his entire face and chest into his beard, he stammered, “I-I-I thought y-you were…” he couldn’t finish the sentence, but pointed upstairs to covey his meaning.
Slowly, the stranger moved towards him, raising her hand. Panic bubbling up from his chest made the man’s breath turn into a ragged wheezing. After two slow steps that seemed to last an eternity, she stopped abruptly and doubled over laughing.
Sometimes laughter served to help drain terror out of people’s expressions but, in this case, it seemed to only make it worse. When she got her cackling under control, the stranger straightened and wiped at where a tear would have leaked out, if she had possessed the required equipment to cry. “I’m just fucking with you, Doug. Of course I’m here for the old lady.” Looking around the room, she added, “that’s why you’re all here, right?”
A couple of heads nodded slightly as she turned. “Tough crowd tonight, I’m dying out here,” she said, making her way to the staircase. “Don’t worry, Doug, you aren’t going to die.”
With her foot on the first step she paused and looked back at the bearded man, finishing her thought, “tonight.”
Trailing laughter, she bound up the stairs and out of view. Not a word passed between the men and women who had gathered to say goodbye. They all just sat and stared at the place where the woman’s skeleton had disappeared, watching as the water from her cloak dripped from one step to another. Despite the sporadic thunder and the howl of wind and rain, they could hear the stranger moving about upstairs, not by her foot falls, but because she still chuckled.
Less than a minute later, the stranger was coming back down the stairs, followed by a spectral shape that, though lacking opacity, was still very clearly the family matriarch. She too was laughing.
“Mother?” Doug said, standing. “Mother, I don’t think you should go with her.”
“Oh, Dougy,” the elderly woman sighed, “It’s not like I have a choice.”
They had reached the bottom of the stairs at that point and the stranger reached up to help the old lady down the last step. “Besides,” the recently-deceased continued, “she’s not that bad,” then she again began to laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Doug asked, taking a step forward.
Hearing the pain in her son’s voice sobered her up for a moment. Her eyes had gone to her feet as the stranger led her toward the door, but now her gaze returned to meet Doug’s. “It’s just something my new friend told me. You aren’t ready yet. You wouldn’t understand.”
Doug opened his mouth to protest, but the two women had made it to the door and the stranger spoke, opening the door, “Don’t forget your coat. In a storm like this you’re likely to catch your death.”
Allowing herself to be directed out the door, her eyes closed and tearing with laughter, the old woman managed to squeak out, “Oh, you,” then she was gone. Out the door, she disappeared into the darkness.
The stranger turned back, gave them each one more look, grabbed her scythe from where it had stood against the wall and said, “See you later,” then pulled the door closed.
There was a long moment of silence where all those gathered still stared at the door. Then, suddenly the door popped back open a foot and the stranger’s skull was thrust back in. Doug almost fell over, startled.
“Oh yeah,” the stranger said, her voice still sweet and chipper, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Then the door was closed again and she was gone. Among the sounds of the storm raging outside, the dumbfounded family could hear the two women laughing like teenagers as they drifted off into the night.
Listen to me read it here:https://www.dropbox.com/s/mhoml7za4uajuj0/AStrangerComesToCall.mp3?dl=0
You can get swag with this image on it on RedBubble: http://www.redbubble.com/people/imasillypirate/works/21672364-a-stranger-comes-to-call