Retribution

Writing prompts: Horror!

You wake up to a world in which all prisons are shut down, releasing dangerous prisoners into your neighborhood.

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People were terrified. Ever since the order had come down from the TOP that all prisons were to be closed, people were afraid to leave their homes–and afraid not to.

The reason for the closings? Well, the TOP said all prisons were inhumane, and were guilty of cruel and unusual punishment. Criminals, said the TOP, would be far better off to be rehabilitated in normal living conditons, not caged up like zoo animals.

The end result, of course, was that law-abiding citizens were now caged up in their own homes, desperately searching for ways to protect themselves from the freed prisoners. Very few ordinary citizens had guns of any sort, and they were secreted away from the prying eyes of the TOP.

People tried putting bars on all their windows, but the criminal just climbed to the roofs, broken holes with axes or hammers, and occupied attics wherever they chose. The owners of those houses were under a new sort of tyranny–become servants to the criminals, or watch your children die.

They tried alarm systems. Criminals laughed. Any experienced thief knew how to turn off alarms.

They tried dogs. Many dogs died of poison; others were killed with knives or bats; still others were shot. It seems the criminals had free access to guns.

The horror of constant bloodshed became a daily reality. No woman walked alone, anywhere. No child was left unguarded. Men who lived in neighborhoods learned to band together to provide safety for each other. And that, of course, led to vigilantism. The TOP was appalled at what he labelled “domestic terrorism” being used as a tool to keep the released criminals under some kind of control.

Secret meetings were held to determine how to fight the criminal population that now seemed to own the streets. The police had been weakened past the point of effectiveness. They quit, retired, resigned in droves, most of them either unable to find jobs or working security somewhere. People were desperate to figure out how to protect themselves from drug pushers, child molesters, rapists, murderers, thieves, arsonists–a long list of criminal threats that now had free access anywhere they wanted it.

Anarchy became the order of the day. Schools were unsafe. Youth programs were undermined by pedophiles. Vandalism and looting became daily activities. Stores were empty, boarded up.

And normal citizens became angry to the point of criminal behavior themselves, in an effort to regain the safety which had been a normal part of their lives before the prisons were shut down.

The TOP made sweeping announcements of proposed reforms; of penalties for vigilantism; of programs for ex-prisoners to receive counseling to help them overcome their nefarious tendencies. He mandated assigning specific areas in every city and town to be dedicated to released prisoners, building houses and apartments in which they could live, grocery stores, hospitals, libraries where they could get whatever help they needed and learn how to be productive citizens. Of course, such sweeping programs cost infinite amounts of money, which meant increased taxes for law-abiding people.

The TOP said, “Well, you’re not subsidizing prisons any more, so you should be willing to pay to help these poor unfortunate ex-prisoners get a leg up into a better life.”

The end result, much to the TOP’s dismay, was that law-abiding people grew disillusioned, angry, and desperate. Soon THEY became the criminals, and special forces were created to protect the ex-prisoners from the angry new criminals.

It was a horror story, a nightmare from which even the TOP couldn’t awaken.

Horror in the Bathroom

It had been such a normal night. Lynne had dropped into dreamless sleep.  Waking, she paused  to enjoy her doll collection ,  and then stepped through the half-open bathroom doorway.  Flicking on the light, she turn toward the toilet.

She blinked, looked again.   Please, please don’t let this be real! She squeezed her eyes shut, opened them; afraid to look directly into the toilet, she let her gaze drift there slowly.

It was still there, only now its ugly, sinister head was resting on the rim.

Screaming, mindless, she slammed the bathroom door and ran.

“Snake!  Snake! Snake in my toilet!”

 

We Need a Reprieve

Reprieve

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt

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You know, I think we need a reprieve in this old world.  I searched Google images for something to use here today, but even the jokes were too grim. There has been so much ugliness this week–no, not just this week. Months and years of horrible headlines about killing, bombing, maiming, shooting. I just wanted something light and funny that would give every one of my readers a reprieve from the sadness that has settled over everyone except, perhaps, those who believe that the Manchester bomber was doing God’s work.

I need to  say that I could never love and serve a god who requires the murder of children.

And that’s it for today. It’s enough.

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The Thing

Nightmare

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.

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Minta woke gradually, not realizing what was causing her distress. As she came up out of the fog of her deep sleep, she became aware of someone–something? at the end of her bed.  She couldn’t speak.  Couldn’t scream. Couldn’t move. She couldn’t see anything, but she knew something was there. Someone.

She tried and tried to scream for help, but her mouth wouldn’t open all the way.  Her voice was nothing more than a whisper. article-2553591-05f9dfae00000514-458_634x422

She felt the blankets being lifted off her feet, then the thing, whatever it was, slid between the sheets, and began to slowly, oh so slowly slide upward. She felt it on her foot, then her leg. She couldn’t kick, couldn’t move.  Her horror grew as the whatever-it-was continued to slide up her body. She was certain she was going to die. Her efforts to scream, to move, were useless.

Suddenly, the bedroom light flashed on.  Her husband, who was returning from a business trip, walked to the bed and shook her gently. “I could hear you screaming all the way  out in the garage. Are you having another nightmare?”

“Oh, please, please just hold me for a minute.  I’m SO glad you’re home!”

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I’ll Tell You Everything!

( 101, Day Seventeen: Your Personality on the Page
What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears. If you’re up for a twist, write this post in a style that’s different from your own.)

When I opened my eyes, and the cloud of drugs had dissipated, I saw something suspended directly over my head. It was semi-dark in the room, and I couldn’t make it out at first.  Then, slowly, the reality became clear.

A huge net was indeed suspended from the ceiling. It bulged out in some place, was concave in others. Those places changed every few seconds, and I began to realize that there was something alive in the net. Something alive and trying to find a way out.

As I watched in growing horror and fascination,  I realized other things as well.  I was bound hand and foot, my arms and legs spread out in opposite directions.  My head was also restrained, clamped by some evil tool that kept me from moving anything save my eyes.  I had a raging thirst. My throat was on fire, and I was desperate to work up just a little saliva to moisten my lips and throat.  I was cold; I wondered how my throat could be so hot and dry while the rest of my body was bathed in clammy sweat. I was covered with goose bumps, and shivering hard against the restraints. I realized that I was naked. Completely.

My concern, though, was that net above my head. It was the size of a small sofa, as far as I could see. What terrified me was that I thought I knew what was contained in the mesh, and the horror of it was making my misery excruciating.

Training my eyes and ears on the net, I was sure I could see separate bodies.  Writhing, wriggling, sinuous, slithering bodies. Sibilant sounds came now and then, causing the cold sweat to run freely off my body.  And then, suddenly and clearly, I saw the unmistakable reddish glare of eyes that were staring staight into my own terrified eyes!  Those eyes seemed to emit hatred toward me, and a determination to do me harm. I was mesmerized. I was horrified. I almost fainted with fear.

And then I heard the voice.  Calm, soothing and reasonable, the voice spoke my name. “Well, Mr.  Blakesly.  It seems you’re in something of a predicament.  You know, my friend, I’d be glad to help you out of your situation. Of course, you know that means you would owe me something in return. Do you care to bargain with me?  If not, all I have to do is release the cord, and you will be smothered in poisonous, angry serpents. You won’t last long. Ten minutes at most, but what an enjoyable ten minutes–for me–it will be.”

I could hear the the insinuating sneer in his voice, almost see the satisfied smugness on his face.  Finally, after chasing each other across oceans and continents, my archenemy had me completely in his power.  Little fragments of the events of the previous day began to flash through my mind, but I couldn’t hope to follow those flashes.  At the moment, all I could think of was finding some way out.

“What do you want?”  I croaked.

“Come, come. You know exactly what I want. I want everything that resides in that magnificent brain of yours. Every contact, every password, every code, every plot. And I believe I will have them, won’t I?”

A small noise above my head had me straining to see. I realized that the net was closer by maybe an inch.  A stench issued from the net. Snakes have a foul odor.

“Let me go, and I’ll give you what you’re asking.”

“Oh, no.  Oh, my, no.  That would be most foolish of me, wouldn’t it?  You’ll empty your head to me right where you are, and THEN I will consider setting you free.”

“I can’t think straight with that horror hanging above me!”

“Well, then, let’s bring it a little closer so you can see exactly what you’re looking forward to.”

And the net came down again, hanging barely six inches above my head and chest.  Individual snakes were clear now, huge ones and smaller ones, all of them ugly and evil.  My worst nightmare.  How did he know?  How could he possibly know?

“All right. All right, I’ll tell you everything. But I have to have some water. Whatever you used to put me out is making me thirsty. Please, water, and then I’ll talk.”

“Oh, Mr. B., you disappoint me.  I thought you’d hold out a little longer, so I could toy with you just a little more. Well, if you’re ready to talk, then of course you may have some water. After that, we’ll chat–just you and I and our slithery friends. If I doubt any word that comes out of your mouth–well, I think you know what will happen.”

I heard a metallic click, and the screech of an unoiled hinge. A little more light  came into my dungeon, enough to show me the true horror of what hung so close above me. As the man who entered helped me drink from a bottle, through a straw, I watched my nightmare.

“Thanks,” I said to the guard. “Don’t go away.  I’m going to need lots more water.  There’s a lot to tell.”

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You Never Know

The smell hit me as soon as I walked through the door; a sinister, decaying atrocity that assaulted my senses. I gagged, reached for a handkerchief to cover my nose and mouth. The fetid stench was caught in my throat, burning my mouth and nostrils and making me regret the faux-coffee I’d gulped as I raced out of my apartment in response to the call on my wrist unit.

My partner, Eva, turned green, then white, then green again. She turned back to race outside, and I heard the wretching gasps as she lost  her own breakfast. I waited, knowing she would man up and come back inside.

Darkdarkdark, not a slit in the shades to shed any light on what we were getting into. The whole city was dark. Black and reeling from an attack from across the ocean that had caught us all unprepared. My little apartment was one of the few that hadn’t been obliterated by the shattering green blast that rolled across our town, leaving smoke and stench behind. Some people had managed to seek shelter underground, and were just now poking their heads above the ground like prairie dogs checking for rattlers. The only reason my place was still relatively intact was because it was a corner in the basement of the toppled old tower that no longer housed anyone above ground level.

“Syd, what IS that?” whispered Eva, her voice muffled in the crook of her arm.

“Don’t know yet. You have your flash?  Mine’s right here, but I think we’re going to need them both. It’s like being buried alive in here, it’s so dark.”

“Yeah, I’ve got it. All juiced up, too, so we should be ok until we find—-whatever—oh, no!”

Eva turned and raced back outside, and the noises she made were painful to hear.  Made my own iron-clad gut shiver and shake. Finally, though, she seemed to be done.

“Sorry.  Sorry.  How are we going to do this?  Please don’t send me off alone. Is there any backup? Do you have your weapons? Man.  I can’t believe how nervous I am.”

“Backup should be here in a couple minutes. Since we’re both in our protective gear, there’s no reason for us to wait, though. The sooner we find whatever that is and clean it up, the better.  Stay right beside me. I’ll flash my light right and forward, you flash left and forward. Slow. Look up, around, down. And don’t take the next step until you know it’s clear under your feet.”

Progress was slow, like walking through a nightmare where you can’t move your feet. The malodrous air clogged every one of our senses as we inched through the room, wondering how many other rooms there were, or stairs leading to another floor. I hoped we would soon find a backdoor exit from this horror, and maybe find the source of the odor outside

It clung to us like spider webs across your face on a fall morning. It was so real, it felt like it must be palpable. If we just reached out, we would touch it, I was certain.

I heard the sirens and screeching tires as our backup reached the scene.  Car doors slammed, and someone with a mouthmike announced his presence and asked our location.  Clicking on my own mouthmike, I explained our situation and warned of the stench in the place. Assuming the guy out there knew what to do, Eva and I continued carefully pacing our way through the inky blackness.

Everything grew intensely silent. All the normal sounds were gone.  No birds, no dogs, no kids playing on the streets, no sound tracks from screens, no rattle of computer keys. We coud have been the only two people left alive, for all I knew. And so far, nothing to help us identify the foul smell.

Except that it was getting stronger, and I didn’t think I really wanted to know what it was.

“Syd, does the backup crew know how to deal with this?  So many were killed in the blast—”

“No way to know, Eva. Nothing to do but keep on moving.”

Just then, my light caught a glint of metal. As I refocused the beam, I saw that the glint had bounced off an old-fashioned door handle.  We were nearing a wall, although I couldn’t tell if it was a wall to the outdoors or just to another room. I struggled with an overwhelming desire to turn and run, but I knew what I had to do.  I stretched my gloved hand to the knob, gripped it, and slowly turned it to the left. It opened easily, showing the dim light from outside.

“Eva!  Come on, this is an exit.” And when the door cracked open, the smell got stronger. “Stay with me, now.”

Dreading whatever we might find, we leaned out the door and stretched our necks to check out the area. It was a patio, done in red brick like something out of the fabled Old South of the once-United States of America. Seeing no one out there, we gripped our weapons in our free hands and stepped outside.  There was a line of shrubs bordering the space between the patio and the back wall. I didn’t recognize the foliage at first. Then I realized, with a shudder that they weren’t shrubs at all. Instead, they were the bloodied remains of several people who had either been caught in the blast, or had tried to shelter against the wall. As our eyes adjusted to the dim light, we stared in horror at the piles of blood-drenched clothing, bones, strips of flesh and hair huddled against the wall.  The stink was beyond description. There must have been at least a dozen people who had died horribly, all crouched together in a vain effort to protect themselves from something they didn’t understand.

Shuddering, Eva and I stared at each other in complete blankness. It was just more than our minds could comprehend in that moment. And then, to our shock, a harsh voice at our backs shouted, “Hands up! Now!  Throw your weapons and your lights on the ground and get your hands up!”

I started to turn, but took a stunning blow between my shoulder blades accompanied by an order to  stay perfectly still. A man I didn’t know came around and took our weapons and our lights, and then the voice behind us said, “All right. You can turn around.”

Shock after shock rolled through my mind. The face I saw belonged to the chief of our squad. We were friends.  I thought.

“What–what on earth–Chief, what’s going on? What are you doing?”

“Hey, Syd. Too bad I have to do this, but a man’s gotta live. I’m on the other side now.”  And he pointed his weapon at my heart. I’d never looked at death in the eyes of a friend before. It was unbelievable.

BOOM! A shot rang out from behind the chief, and he crumpled at our feet. From the darkness of the room we had just  searched, a disembodied voice spoke. Image

“Watch yourselves, ladies. You never know who you can trust now.”

The silence fell again.

 

 

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