Twelve Steps (Cracked)

Step One. Drag his body away from the window. He might not be dead, so try not to hit his head off the coffee table. Don’t worry about the stuff his hands leave behind as they drag on the carpet. The carpet of the history department’s sitting area has suffered far worse insults than that stain.

Step Two. Go to the staff room. That feeling in your throat means that you need water. Yes, it’s important. More important than checking to see if the door to the history department is locked. After all, doors didn’t help Frazier. You really need water.

Step Three. Ignore your thirst because you really, really need to see that the door is locked. Even if it doesn’t help, it will make you feel better. You will not die of thirst in the next two minutes. You could possibly die from what killed Frazier before then. When you find the door is already locked, remember the window behind Frazier and realize that the door is not your problem.

Step Four. Return to the scene. Step on Frazier’s outstretched hand and say the worst swear word you know (it’s four letters and rhymes with ‘grunt’) because swearing has to be better than screaming. Note that he is making more stains on the carpet. Try not to look at his face. He does not look like Sarah’s brother anymore and you don’t need to be reminded. Oh, right, and get off his hand, just in case he is still alive.

Step Five. Look at the cracked window Frazier was sitting in front of. Notice that the hairline cracks that cover it look like a spider web or a snowflake or mosaic. Listen, to make sure the world is still quiet. Notice that outside, the clouds are made of steel and there are no longer any birds chirping. Maybe they all look like Frazier. Not helpful to think about. Get your hands under Frazier’s arm pits again and start to drag him out of the room so you can hide in an office without windows.

Step Six. Your throat hurts. You need water. Drag Frazier’s body a few more feet until you’re out of breath. How can one guy weigh so much? Maybe he is dead and you can leave him. Stop and listen. Still nothing outside. Maybe they’re gone.

Step Seven. Notice there are no car sounds on the street. Maybe everyone’s dead. Maybe you’re the last person left alive. Maybe you will be forced to raid grocery stores full of bodies that look like Frazier’s. Work harder to get Frazier down the hall. I said not to look at his face, it’s only going to make it worse. Because if you look, you’ll see how every bit of his skin is covered with cracks like the window, each oozing a thin line of blood. He is like a smashed porcelain statue full of blood.

Step Eight. Porcelain? You never were any good with art. Keep pulling. Is that a sound? Pass by the staff room door and realize that you need something to drink right then or you just can’t keep pulling. Leave Frazier in the hall under a dozen signs directing you in a thousand directions that he’s not going to be going any time soon.

Step Nine. Open the staff room cabinets, looking for a glass. No good. Every single cup and bowl and plate is a network of fine fractures, and when you touch them, they shatter. In the quiet that follows the splinter of glass, you think you hear the humming starting again, them coming back, but it’s just the small fridge. You dump the plastic pen can out on the counter and fill it with water. When you swallow, it makes you cough, and the water you spit back up into the sink is pink.

Step Ten. Go for Frazier again. He is looking less like a priority, isn’t he? You were just making out with that body forty-five minutes ago. He tasted like gum and uncertainty. Right now, he’d probably taste like the water you just horked up. Stop. Listen. Your heart is pounding. And now you hear them.

Step Eleven. Far away, they sound like an old dial-up modem. They hum and keen from the trees, moving closer and closer. You don’t want to know what they look like, but more than that, you don’t want to shatter. You don’t care whether or not you’re the last person left on earth, left to scavenge cans of Spaghetti-Os from empty grocery store aisles, you decide that you don’t want to die. Leave Frazier — finally, he’s dead, you know that, don’t you? — and run for the windowless staff bathroom. Slam the door and shove the greasy shag bathroom rug you think looks like a skinned buffalo up against the bottom of the door. Cover your ears with the heels of your hands.

Step Twelve. Swallow blood. The water didn’t help. They’re coming closer. You can feel the atoms inside you shaking. A slow crack is beginning to snake across the mirror, but you cannot hear anything with your hands pressing over your ears. Maybe you’ll be okay.

But we’re right outside the door.

Author’s Note: A monster I have been rolling around in my head for awhile.

prompt this week from Karen Kincy. Thanks, Karen!

112 thoughts on “Twelve Steps (Cracked)

  1. Oh, this reminds me of a nightmare I used to have with something like godzilla but not godzilla, and the sound that would kill you.
    I love it.

  2. This gives me the hoobies. In a good way. Kind of. But also in a, “Oh, shit, please don’t let anything start keening outside my window…” way.

  3. Very creepy. It feels especially atmospheric for me right now b/c I’m sitting below one of the new windows that was installed in our house today. There aren’t any curtains up yet, and I’m looking out onto the skeleton outlines of tress in the night right now.

    Oh, and for the record, I’d like to note that I promise I’m not stalking you online as of late, despite my almost nearly immediate comments on most of your recent blog posts. Me + a lot of time on a computer lately = me enjoying your posts as a brain break during work as much as possible (since the work part is less than fun). πŸ™‚

  4. Note to self – When you see Maggie’s tweet announcing a ‘sort of gross’ short story, don’t hunker down with a bowl of ice cream. Because ‘sort of gross’ to Maggie means VERY gross to you, and also, that ice cream will start to look a lot like what you imagine is being left behind on the history department’s sitting area carpet.

    Other than that… Awesome, Maggie! That last sentence gave me the heebie-jeebies. And I’ll probably have a creepy monster nightmare tonight.

  5. This is amazing. The structure is so different from anything I have seen before. I love how you show the reader what you want them to see rather than just tell it to them. It really is a talent being able to write like that.

  6. The last line to this gave me chills. I also adore how you wrote this, it being in Steps.
    Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

  7. This is great! One thing though – what are we supposed to do now, not knowing what’s outside the door and why is everything cracking and whether this person in the bathroom is going to survive? In other words, at least a short story is in order!

  8. Man. I was shivering the whole way through. That had me creeping out so badly. I’m dying to know what the monster is. Whatever it is, it sounded scary as well. I’m putting my beats on crazy angels sent to destory earth… then again, I’m a weirdo.

  9. Gahh. Creepy. I especially like the way you’ve used second person here, and the sudden twist at the end where you realize that it’s not just a stylistic device.

    Also, there is someone outside right now with their bass up so high that the windows are shaking just a little bit, and it’s kinda creeping me out. So thanks for that. XP

  10. *sips coffee nervously* *glances over shoulder* *shudder* O_o That was so unnerving. I think there’s something so scary about the threat you can’t see. I need to know what happens, but at the same time, really don’t want to know. πŸ™‚

  11. Oh that is so incredibly creepy and really imaginative. I like how you don’t know at first what’s happening and you think she might be a murderer, but then you realize there’s something way worse out there. It would make for a very nail-biting, psychologically terrifying movie (albeit a visually terrifying one, too, if people’s faces are cracking). I hope that monster rolls around some more. <– That sentence sounded better in my head but you probably know what I mean. πŸ™‚

  12. Thank you! I was brainstorming about what to write and the first “step” came into my head: “First Step, move his body.” And I was instantly intrigued as to what had killed him.

  13. At the end I was worried it would be too gimmicky, but I’m sort of pleased with it. So thank you.

  14. Oh, yeah, I totally agree. Also a threat without a name — if we can put a name on it, we’re much happier.

  15. Oooooh that was good! Very creepy! At first I was thinking that the protagonist had killed Frazier and was trying to cover it up but then I realised that something else was going on. I love that, when you think it’s one thing, but actually it’s another. I was dying to find out what was REALLY going on but like you said, not knowing what the threat is makes it even scarier! Also, I loved the “step” process. Excellent work Maggie! Gold star for you!

  16. This is like a short movie they have on SBS here. Stay up late, grab a beer, relax, turn on the TV and scare yourself with a mini movie marathon.

  17. It was still very good!! I’m just glad there are distractions today and I wasn’t lying in bed listening to random sounds wondering if stuff was cracking. ;0)

  18. Love this! It’s so nightmarish and delightfully unsettling. That last line is especially creepy…

  19. *laughs*

    It’s true. You make me use my “freak” icon the most (though the other merry_fates have made me pull it out once or twice), Tess makes me use my “ballet dancer vs. vampire” icon, and Brenna makes me use my “sadness” icon the most, although “tulgey wood” comes out occasionally, too.

    Don’t use a lot of happy, cheerful icons on this forum, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  20. I think this story is so amazing, it kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading it! I wish I could write like Maggie does!

  21. Oh, I think I forgot to breath through this as the tension kept building!

    It’s so amazing how much improvement your writing has undergone since you and your critique partners started this short story adventure! All your characters are starting to have their own voice and clicks that make them seem more realistic. Well done!! ^_^


  22. Superb. I like the voice and tense choices (and tension, but you’re consistently good at that). Unlike others, I most certainly do NOT want to know what those monsters are, because my office is not all that far from the history department and there are windows everywhere…

  23. I really enjoyed this. It feels like a nightmare… but then it feels like something that might have happened. Like a nightmare so real it becomes a memory and you can’t actually remember if it happened or if you dreamt it. This is so amazing.

  24. Great writing! Leaves me wanting to read more. =) I love the step approach. Again, great writing. =)

  25. Soo deliciously creepy. I love how you don’t realize who is narrating until the end, and then it’s like “Dun dun DUUUUUUUUN.”

    Yup. Just like that.

  26. Much yay! It inspired me to write a short story (a good one) for the first time in months. I thank you muchly.

  27. Oh, and I meant to add, I was listening to Running Up That Hill while reading… man. Makes it much creepier than reading without!

  28. Ok Maggie? That’s creepy. πŸ˜› It’s like… Nothing I’ve ever heard of. Meeble!!

  29. Thanks! (and no, he doesn’t.)(also, that’s the name of my computer, because he was difficult to get to know but worth it in the end)

  30. Excuse me while I go huddle in my closet with a baseball bat.

    Wonderful story, very creepy!

  31. We only post short stories and our round tables here on this blog — we keep it totally free of advertising. Sorry!

  32. Whoa-kay. Weird. I have to ask, where in the world did you come up with the idea for this?

  33. Awesome story!! Loved the 12 step idea! Creepy = Amazing!!
    I was already scared of porcelain dolls… now every time i see one I’ll be thinking of this story and bloody porcelain dolls…

  34. I love the last line, “But we’re right outside the door,” it’s power for me was in implying that they we inside her head the whole time listening to her struggle, and then popping out at the end. Switching from her desperate steps to their simple statement at the end was very cool, she was sort of a misdirection of sorts. I too would love to get to know these monsters better (in a story, not for real). For a moment after I read it, I wondered if she was one of the monsters and that is why she survived, but I decided that wasn’t you’re intent. Great story, and really gross- porcelain with blood flowing from cracks, the whole cracks theme really got to me.

  35. Heh. Um. I don’t remember — I’ve had these monsters in my head since at least a year before LAMENT came out, because I played with them in a novel that I never published. I think I must’ve broken a glass and my brain went crazy . . .

  36. Again, a great comment! And you’re right, not the intent (that she’s one of them).

    Thank you.

  37. “Notice that outside, the clouds are made of steel and there are no longer any birds chirping. Maybe they all look like Frazier. Not helpful to think about.”

    I think that’s my favourite line. And showing my bizarre sense of what is creepy, I don’t find the story scary. It’s just deliciously evocative and foreboding, and makes me wary of fridges. ^_^

  38. YES. Fridges are the true danger here. Also I love that you pulled out that line (which took more thought than the more showy bits).

  39. Creepy. Fantastic.

    Especially that the whole thing’s written in second person, and then at the end when you find out, that it wasn’t just a method of writing… MAJOR CREEPY

  40. Oooohh… that is good! How is it, that all you have to do is have some utterly bizarre idea (in a wonderful way) and start writing and I am instantly paying rapt attention?!

    I love it! I want to know more! *greedy greedy greedy *


  41. *grin* Thank you. I just realized that I never replied to this comment. I swear I’m not an ingrate.

  42. So creepy… I loved the idea with the steps. Might this possibly develop into a book in the future? πŸ™‚

  43. awesome… this was really really creepy! i’m addicted to this comm now! πŸ˜€

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