Slice of Fiction: Consequences

A bit of a creepy story for your reading pleasure. Hope you enjoy.  As always, copyrighted, etc.etc., and please let me know if you liked it. 

 

Chase and Todd

Ursula was babysitting tonight. Chase and Todd McIvers were less than thrilled. They argued with their parents, citing that Chase at age 10 was certainly old enough to watch 8- (“almost 9!”) year old Todd for a couple of hours. Their parents disagreed, and in return cited the unfortunate Scorched Mayonnaise and Tuna Incident of a month ago. There was, of course, no arguing after that. The fire department had had to be called. It was settled. Ursula “Bigfoot” Hendricks would be coming over and staying with the boys for a couple of hours.

Great. Just, great.

Todd whispered fiercely to Chase as they waited on the stairs for Ursula to arrive. Their parents were upstairs doing that esoteric dance called “Getting Ready.” The boys were mystified that it could take that long to put on some clothes and smell-good.

“What if she knows that we were the ones who egged her mailbox?”

“Jeeze, lighten up. She doesn’t know, no way. Mom-n-Dad would of said something.”

Todd was still worried. “She’s weird, Chase. I don’t like her.”

“Aww, she’s not that bad; just bossy and a major pain in the butt. Don’t worry, it’ll be OK.  Just keep your head down and stay out of her way.”

Over their heads, the doorbell cling-bonged, causing both of them to jump.  From their parents’ room, there came a thump. The door opened a crack, spilling light down the stairwell.  “Boys, get that will you? We’re almost ready!” The door banged back shut on the last word. A soft giggle and a drift of perfume drifted down after her voice.

“Crap.” Chase looked at Todd’s hunched body. “I’ll get it. Stay here.”

Relief washed through Todd. He really didn’t know why he disliked Ursula so much. She had sat for them on many occasions and never done anything to him. Every time she was around though, he would get the feeling that she was, “…I dunno, watching me or something.” Suddenly aware that he had spoken his thought aloud, his tanned face pulled down at the corners and he scrunched up against the wall. The jibblies. She just gave him a screaming case of the jibblies. He could hear Chase and Ursula coming towards him. Well, he could hear Ursula’s clumping steps. His brother’s footsteps were swallowed by the sound of hers.

After a minute, Ursula and Chase swam into view out of the murky hallway.

“And here is Todders! Hello, Todders. How are you doing? I brought some gum for you! Would you like some?”  Ursula held out a plump, long-fingered hand, the large knuckles almost hiding the package of Juicy Fruit she held out. Todd didn’t want to take the gum, any more than he wanted her to call him by that baby-name. However, there wasn’t a polite way to refuse. He tried to smile and began to reach toward her offering. Ursula bared her teeth at him in a padded grin. Overhead, the door to their parents’ bedroom opened again. Shadows and footsteps began to descend the staircase, Mom’s heels clocking loudly on the wooden steps. Todd glanced over his shoulder at the sound. When he glanced back at the babysitter, the gum was gone.

Todd and Chase were in the kitchen, having a quick snack before heading out to play in the last of the daylight. Their parents were in the other room, discussing their plans with Ursula. We’ll be here, call this number if you need, bed by ten, blah blah blah. The boys had cleared some outdoor playtime. It was only for the last hour or so before sunset, but it was an hour outside without a babysitter breathing down their neck. Then showers – Ursula was a bit of a neat freak – then dinner and a movie. Ursula had volunteered to cook for the boys but Mom-n-Dad had given her pizza money. Finally, bed. That way, they would only have to put up with her for a bit before their parents got back. It was the perfect plan. They stuffed the last of the pimento cheese into their mouths and slammed out the back door into sweet freedom.

Forty minutes later, they were at the park’s equipment shed. It was locked (they’d checked) but some kid had left a kickball on the playground. They were playing Shed-ball. Each boy stood opposite the other on either side of the small outbuilding tossing the ball over the roof. Whoever caught the ball could try to sneak around and tag the other out. A couple of the other neighborhood kids did this by throwing the ball as hard as they could at your head. What a laugh riot THOSE jokers were.

Todd tossed the ball over and listened. His brother was bigger and stronger. Quick hands? Not so much. Sure enough, there was a muttered curse and a crashing noise. A minute later and the ball sailed back over. Todd snatched it neatly out of the air, trying to keep the !boing! to a minimum.  He crept around the edge of the shed and wound the ball up behind his back. He crouched and started to lean around.

“RAWR!  I am the EVIL BABYSITTER!” Chase yelled from behind him. Todd shrieked and bolted. His feet tangled in each other though, and he faceplanted into the dirt.

“Oh, very funny. You asshole!”

“Well, it was to me!” Chase held out a hand to help his brother up. He was still snickering under his breath. Todd thought he would start plotting his brother’s downfall right after dinner. Speaking of which… “Chase, we gotta go. Its starting to get dark. I don’t wanna piss off Bigfoot.”

“You worry too much; she’s just a freaking babysitter.”

“Yeah, a babysitter from Mars or something. There’s something wrong with her, man. Like she’s got bodies buried in the backyard or something. Or …” Todd paused to unwrap the chain from his bike. “I dunno. Like she thinks you might be tasty in a stew or something.”

“With a nice bottle of Chee-antee!”

“What the hell is that?”

Chase shrugged. “Heard Mom say it to her friends once and they all cracked up.”

The boys sat on the couch watching Ursula fiddle with the TV. Snowy lines marched in horizontal troops across the screen. From behind the entertainment center, where she was leaning, her voice came muffled. “Well. I can’t tell what is wrong with this thing. I suppose a movie is out of the question for now.”

“Aw, man. Now what we gonna do?”

Ursula looked around the corner of the television set. “Well, I could tell you boys a story.”

“What a bedtime story? Pfft, thanks. Left those behind when I stopped wearing diapers, Bi…Ursula.” Todd stared at his apparently suicidal brother. Who poked a bear when they were being nice?

“Oh, this would be something you’d like. It’s a very scary story.” Ursula bared her teeth in something that was not quite a smile. “Very scary. You boys go play quietly upstairs for a bit. I will be up in a few with some cocoa.”

“So, as I promised: a scary story before bed. You sure you two are up for this? It is a very scary story.”  She set the mugs on the nightstand next to their beds.

Chase rolled his eyes at Todd. Todd minutely shook his head “NO!” at his brother.  Chase looked back over the large woman sprawled in the desk chair. “Sure. I think that we’ll be all right.”  The sarcasm in his voice ran down the walls in big, oily droplets.  He jumped into his bed and settled backwards, propping the pillows against the wall behind his head.

Todd, who was not nearly as stupidly brave as his brother, leaned over his blanketed legs. He wrapped his arms around his shins and he stared at Ursula over the hillocks of his knees.

That hungry grin of hers sailed across her face for a moment as she glanced over at Todd. “Well, of course most bedtime stories start ‘A long time ago’ or ‘In a land far, far away’ but those are baby stories. Plus, they’re not real. What I am about to tell you is absolutely the truth. And it all started with a family living in a house not too far from here, and a little girl named ‘Anne’.”

Anne

Anne was walking home from school, wearing her prettiest shoes. She had chosen them especially for t…

Chase and Todd

“Ah, man. A girl? Talking about her shoes?!” It had seemed impossible a moment ago, but now even more derision coated Chase’s voice.

“You have to let me finish. Otherwise, all you will get is the tiny little bit I have told you. Patience, grasshopper.”

Chase harrumphed but didn’t speak again. Todd sat on his bed and worried. Ursula began again. “As I said, the whole thing starts off with Anne walking home from school…”

Anne

Anne was walking home from school, in her prettiest shoes. They had little hearts on the edges where the snaps were. She had chosen them especially because it was picture day. As was her wont, she had chosen her entire outfit with care. Everything in her outfits always matched; there was always a color or pattern theme. In today’s outfit, there were both. Pink hearts with purple zigzag lightning bolts ran around the hem of her blouse. Her jeans had the same purple lightning running up and down the outside seam. Plus, her Mary Jane shoes had more pink hearts clustered around the buckle. She was a marvel of fourth grade fashion.

As she walked, Anne counted the brown doors in her neighborhood. She didn’t know why she did it. It just seemed important to know how many brown doors there were. She was particular to discount just dirty doors or even beige ones. No. Only dark brown doors would do. She had done white doors yesterday. From her school to her house, there were eight white doors. Today she would count the brown ones. Then, tomorrow she would count the “other colors.” Day after that would be Saturday and she wouldn’t have to count any doors at all.

Of course not! She giggled to herself. How silly that would be. Saturdays were for counting rose trellises, not doors.

Five.

Six.

When Anne reached home (red door, lion head knocker) she had counted eleven brown doors. Eleven matched up with her tally of last week, comforting her. She went into the house, using her key.

The Boys

 “Apparently, this Anne chick is full-on crazy!” muttered Chase.  Not loud enough to interrupt Ursula, thought. Todd winced. He wondered if his brother remembered what color their door was. He couldn’t quite recall.  He took a sip of his cocoa, thinking.

Anne

Inside the house, the air conditioner hummed. The temperature difference was quite marked from the warm May afternoon. She allowed herself two minutes to acclimate – timed on the purple watch on her left wrist – before wiping her feet on the doormat and removing her shoes. Sock feet slipping a little on the wooden floor, she carried them up to her bedroom. “Everything in its place and a place for everything.”  She had that credo by heart. It was important to know the rules.

When she got to her room, she carried the shoes straight to her closet and put them away. Her backpack she placed on the floor next to her desk. Anne stepped to the middle of her room and turned slowly.  Yes. Everything was where it was supposed to be. Nothing out of place. Nothing disturbed. No signs of trouble. She settled in at her desk to do her homework.

At seven o’clock, Anne heard the front door open and close. She sighed and continued her study of the multiplication tables. A tiny bead of sweat glistened at the hairline of her temple. The pencil in her hand creaked briefly and then the tip of it snapped off, sending the nib willy-nilly into the room. Anne’s mouth formed a round “Oh!” of fear and dismay.

The Boys

 “Man, can’t we skip past these boring parts, Ursula? You said this was a scary story. So far? Zippo scare. Anne is freaked by a dam…err, darn pencil breaking? Ffff. Whatever.” Chase threw the “W” with his fingers to further indicate his level of scorn.

“Why…um. Why is she so upset? I mean, its just a pencil tip. Just sharpen it, no biggie.” Todd couldn’t quite believe that he was asking questions of Ursula. This was so not keeping his head down. He couldn’t quite help himself, though. The story of Anne was upsetting him, somehow. There was just something so sad about her.

Ursula looked at him without answering for a moment. Finally, she answered. “Why, she was afraid of the consequences. Haven’t you ever been afraid of the consequences of something you’ve done? Something bad, perhaps?”

Chase smirked into his cocoa cup. Todd just snapped his mouth shut. Even if his brother didn’t see what that meant, he sure could. She knew. He was sure of it.

“Well, let’s see. ‘Skip past the boring parts’, eh?  I suppose we could that. I was trying to let you boys get a feel for young Ms. Anne but I suppose we could say that we’ve already accomplished that.” Her teeth made another appearance as she flashed a low smile at Chase. “She was, as I was saying, a girl very concerned with order. She liked having a routine, a set way of doing things. Anne was above all else, a tidy person. Just like her Father. But…oh, she could be so naughty. She liked to sneak around, see things. That counting habit, don’t you know. Got her into no ends of trouble; there’s always a consequence for your actions, you know. As I understand it, later that same night, after punishment for the pencil, she decided that she needed to count all the pictures in the house. All of them, everywhere. Even those that might be in places she wasn’t supposed to go…”

Anne

 She glanced at the door to the attic then immediately back down to her feet. She was not supposed to be here, not at all. This was not a place for little girls. So she had been told, and so she believed. Anne turned to go. As she turned, a tear slipped out of her eye and down her abraded cheek. The burning in her heart flared again – shame and fear and pain. She crouched down where she stood and breathed deeply. In her mind, she began to go over all the things that she knew were true. She quietly chanted the truth to herself.

“Eleven brown doors. Eight white doors. Three rose trellises on the block. Fifteen pairs of shoes in my closet. And there are eighteen photos in frames in the house. That I know of.” Anne sighed. There might be photos in the attic. She didn’t know.  Eighteen was a good number, a fine number. Probably the right number.

Probably.

She stood up, and looked once more at the attic door. It was up a short flight of stairs (six stairs, wooden) and it was locked. Probably.

“But what if it isn’t? What if its been open this whole time? I could go and look. No one would know. I am careful. I could look and then I would know if there were photos in the attic. What if there are more and I don’t know? What if my count is wrong?”

So thinking, her feet started up the stairs of their own accord. Her hand slipped out to the faux crystal doorknob and twisted. The door opened easily and silently.

 

The Boys

 “So is it a monst…” Chase’s question was interrupted by a huge yawn. “…ster in there?” His eyes slipped shut almost against his will. “Our attic is spooky like. That. Too.” The last of his words were lost in a gentle snore.

Ursula Anne glanced over at Todd, who was already fast asleep on his bed. “Oh, no. Much worse. It was Father.”  She gathered up the cups and set them back on the bedside tables. No need to be messy. No need at all. Why, there were consequences for messiness. All kinds of consequences.

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