Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Invitation

“Okay Emma, do you feel up to talking about that night?”

Emma changed position in her chair and stared at the fidgeting fingers in her lap.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Go ahead.”

“That night…. Uh, my friend Carlos was in a film production class at the U, and he had to make a five-minute movie for an assignment. There’s a group of us who are friends, and he asked me, Jen and Toby if we would be in it. Of course, we were drinking and high and said, “Yeah, that would be cool,” but after that Carlos said we’d be shooting in this old house out in the country that some people said was haunted. I was kind of freaked by that, but didn’t want to look like a coward in front of the others, so I pretended it was fine. Carlos sent us a script he’d written called “The Invitation,” and we all met at the Sander’s House that night to start shooting. I got a creepy vibe the minute we stepped in the place, but no one else seemed bothered, so he set up lights and his camera and we began shooting.”

“What creeped you out?”

“I felt like someone was…hovering around me, like some freaky guy at a party stalking me. Everything was okay for about a half-hour and then weird shit started happening, like a piece of the ceiling fell down next us and we thought we heard a door open and close upstairs.”

“What was Carlos’s script about, Emma?”

“It was a horror movie, of course, about an insane woman who murdered guests she invited over. Kind of stupid, really.”

“Who played the insane woman?”


“What happened next?”

“We were shooting a scene where Toby is sitting in a chair and I sneak up behind him with an axe. I raise the axe like this and start swinging, only I stop right when I get to his neck. Carlos had this mannequin head with blood all over it and we would cut from me to the fake head falling to the floor.”

“But it didn’t happen that way.”

Emma looked out the barred window as if searching for something. “No, it didn’t. Something happened to me as I was swinging the axe. I can’t explain it, but I lost control.”

“And you decapitated Toby.” Emma looked down again. “That’s enough for today. We’re making progress.” The doctor stood, went to his office door and opened it. “Nurse, you can take Emma back to her room.”

A large, scowling woman entered and clasped Emma’s arm, leading her to the door.

“Doctor,” said Emma as she reached the threshold.


“You should come down and visit me sometime.”

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Essay: Why I like living in a small town

7B English
Mrs. Galligan

I love small town life. I know it’s not for everybody, but I think it’s the best thing ever and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Being only twelve, I haven’t traveled much, and the biggest city I’ve been to is Des Moines, which was plenty big for me, but everything I need and want is right here in my hometown.

I live in a nice house on Brigid Street with my parents and five-year old brother Sean. My father works at the Ace Hardware store and my mother teaches religion at the school. A lot of my friends live outside of town on farms. Their families work really hard every year to raise the crops and make sure everyone has enough food for the long winter. Of course we know that hard work alone isn’t enough to guarantee a bountiful harvest, but without farmers, all the food god grants us would just rot in the fields.

Every summer my two cousins from Chicago come to visit for a week. Jessica, the cousin close to my age, never leaves the house while she’s here. Every year I try to get her to go swimming or mess around downtown, but she thinks the people who live here are creepy. Our town is kind of “off the grid” as my dad would say, but that doesn’t automatically make us creepy.

My favorite thing about living in a small town is the holidays. There’s the Christmas concert at the school, the Easter parade down Main Street, fireworks on the fourth of July, and the Harvest Festival in October. It’s so cool to me that the whole town participates in all of these events, like one big family. That doesn’t happen in your big city!

The Harvest Festival is coming up in two weeks. I was very honored to be chosen this year’s queen of the festival and I’ll be attending events all week long, like the corn eating contest, barbeque and dance and the lamb draining. The final day of the festival is a big deal, of course, and as queen, I’ll be part of the evening’s program. I’m looking forward to it, although all of my friends will be there watching me so it will be kind of scary, too.

Some people, like my dumb Chicago cousins, don’t understand what it means to give to your community to help it prosper. They think our ways are old fashioned and strange, but I don’t care. When I stand on top of the pyre in three weeks chanting the sacred verse, the flames purifying my earthly flesh, I’ll know that I’ve given all I can to the people I love most in this world, and they will be grateful for my sacrifice.

Now I hope you understand why I love small town life.

Kelly O’Malley

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Love Interest

Landing a recurring role in the “Young and the Restless” was a dream come true for actress Tonya Curtz, as well as the beginning of a living nightmare. Only days after her initial appearance on the show, she began noticing a man at too many places during her day for it to be a coincidence, and was concerned she had a stalker.

The man looked to be in his mid-twenties, her age, with intense dark eyes that seemed too wide open to be a natural expression. It was almost as if the stare was intended to frighten her. Was he just a star-fixated fan with too much time on his hands or something else? People on the set were sympathetic, but couldn’t offer much useful advice.

That evening, as Tonya closed up her second floor apartment before bed, she glanced out a front window and was startled to see the man standing across the street in the shadows just beyond the glow of the street lamp, staring up at her. This is too much, she thought to herself, and called 911.

A half-hour later, there was a knock at her door. Assuming it was the police, she rushed to answer it, but instinctively looked through the peephole. For an instant she stared into the bulbous black eyes of her stalker, then yelped and jumped back.

“Go away,” she screamed. “The police are on their way.”

Tonya barricaded herself in her bedroom and called the police again. Ten anxious minutes later there were more knocks on her front door, but she could hear the police announcing themselves and sighed with relief.  They hadn’t seen anyone, but would patrol the area more often than usual throughout the evening.

Tired and surly, Tonya walked through the backstage area of the set to make up the next morning. Candi had her sit in a chair and began transforming Tonya into her pampered rich girl character, Eve Corbett, while telling sleep-inducing stories of her love life. Candi was working on her closed eyes when Tonya heard the voice of one of the shows producers, Paul Conklin.

“Tonya, I’d like you to meet our newest cast member and your new love interest on the show, Thomas Volker.”

Tonya opened her eyes and found herself staring at the smiling face of her stalker.

“A pleasure to finally meet you,” he said.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Neighbor

Explosive thunder like Thor’s hammer coming down on the roof shook the walls and Renee’s bones as she sat up in bed, holding her knees against her chest like she did when she was a child.  She had lived in small town Minnesota her entire life and should have been used to the violent storms that march across the Midwest every spring, but they always put her on edge and, of course, sleep was impossible.

The noise that made her jump this time was her phone. It was after midnight, but the number was local so she answered it.


“Hi Renee, it’s Ken from next door.”

“Hey, Ken. So I’m not the only one who can’t sleep through all this racket.”

“Janet could sleep through a nuclear attack, but I jump up if a floorboard creaks. But say, I’m actually calling for a reason. I’m not the snoopy type, but I get up a couple of times a night for the usual reasons, and so I’m up tonight and I see that your basement light is on. It’s never on this late at night, so I thought I’d just double check with you about it.”

“Ah. Well that is a bit unusual, but I did do laundry today.  I probably flipped on the switch and forgot to turn off the lights.”

“I’m sure it’s something simple like that.”

“I’m going to go down and turn off the light.  I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but would you stay on the line until I do that?

“Of course. You go ahead.”

“Thanks. I’ll give you the all clear.”

Renee threw on her bathrobe and padded downstairs and through the kitchen with her phone in hand. There was a thin line of yellow light at the bottom of the basement door, and Renee opened it cautiously.  She crouched and looked around the room, but everything appeared in order. Wanting to be sure, she descended the stairs and took a quick scan of the large room, then put the phone to her ear.

“Ken? Yeah, everything is fine.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” said Ken, in her other ear.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Changing Room

It was move-in day for the Patterson’s. Their new home was one of those turn-of-the-century Victorians with gingerbread trim and a large welcoming front porch. Even though it was a fixer-upper, Joseph had paid more than he wanted to and it was larger than they needed, but Kelly was in love with it and he was hoping it might help their marriage get through the current rough spot in the road.

Boxes went in and tired, sweaty Patterson’s came out. Joseph carried a box marked “basement” down the creaking stairs into the underbelly of the house. Like all basements in older homes, it smelled of mold and spider webs were draped in every corner. He set the box on the floor under a small window, and as he rose up, he noticed something through a crack between two boards on the wall. He squinted to see into the darkness, and he could swear he was looking into a small room.

After a few minutes of searching, he pulled on a board and to his amazement a door opened. His inner child’s heart was racing with excitement. A secret room! The dim basement light revealed a small, stark chamber decorated with only an old overstuffed chair and a small table with a framed photograph of a very grim looking man wearing a stained butcher’s apron. Joseph felt drawn into the strange little hideaway. The moment he lowered himself into the chair, however, the door slammed shut. He could see out into the basement through slits in the wood, but nobody could see him. The darkness in the room pressed down on his body and he couldn’t move or speak. Then the whispers began.

It was dusk but still humid and the two sheriff’s deputies were sweating despite standing in the shade of the porch. Kelly leaned against a wall, her face blotchy, her eyes red from crying.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Patterson. We searched the entire house and yard. Twice. He’s not here,” said the taller sheriff.

She was emphatic. “But where could he be? The car’s right there. His wallet is sitting on the kitchen table. This is insane.”

“I can understand you’re upset. We’ll continue looking for him tonight on our rounds. Try and get some rest. He may show up at any time.”

How could he just disappear she asked herself for the hundredth time as she brushed her hair before bed. He must be somewhere hurt, unable to get help or did the bastard just up and leave me? What would he—

Suddenly, in the mirror behind her stood Joseph. He was wearing the same clothes as this morning, but something about his expression was different, unsettling.

“Joseph? Baby, where have you been? What have you been doing?”

She caught the glint of a polished steel blade in his right hand at the same moment he spoke.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Upgrade

“Weirdest thing,” said Al Donner as he handed his wife a coffee cup.

“What’s that?”

He sat across from Janine at the dining room table. “I was looking out the kitchen window just now and saw a car drive by that was exactly the same make, model and color as mine. And the guy driving…looked like me.”

“Oh lord, please don’t let there be another Al Donner in the world,” she said with a smile. “Just kidding.”

“Ha. Strange, that’s all.” He got up and kissed Janine on her forehead. “Late for work.”

At a stoplight on his way to the office, Al wondered if he had time to grab a latte at the coffee shop just across the street. His gaze came to a rest on the front door of Peet’s, and a man who looked alarmingly like him came walking out of the shop holding a to-go coffee cup. He was even wearing the same color shirt. Car horns from behind broke his trance and he shook his head in disbelief at the strange events of the morning. Did he actually have a doppelganger?

The oddities continued as he sat at his computer in his cube trying to log in. His password wasn’t working. Frustrated, he looked up and saw his boss Tom Rhodes walking toward him with an uncharacteristically serious expression. The man leaned over the cube wall and spoke quietly.

“Al, can I see you in my office?”

As Al took a chair, Tom sat on the edge of his desk.

“It’s time,” said Don, with an apologetic tone.



“Time for what?”

“Let’s not make this any more difficult than it has to be.”

“Don, I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. Are you firing me?”


Al reacted as if he was hearing a foreign language. “Then what the hell are you talking about?”

“I’ve heard of this happening, but never…. Look, Al, just report to IT. Okay? They’ll explain everything.”

“IT? I don’t—“

“Al, please.”

“Fine,” said Al, standing. “Maybe someone there will tell me what the hell is going on.”

Confused and red-faced, Al l walked out of the office and headed in the direction of IT. A few moments later, he seemed to reappear in the doorway of the office.

“Mr. Rhodes? I’m Al Donner.”

Tom got up and extended his hand. “Call me Tom. Glad to have you on board, Al.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2016



The soft chime was just loud enough to raise Sheri Collins from the depths of sleep toward consciousness. She pushed herself up on her elbows and squinted, trying to pierce through the early morning darkness of the bedroom. The only light was a dull white glow from her phone on the bedside table. Propping herself up with pillows, she focused on the message she’d just received. It was from her fourteen-year old daughter Kate.

“Mom  My ride bailed on me. Can you come pick me up?”

Sheri frowned and began typing.

“Why are you out so late?”


“Please just come pick me up. I’ll explain. Corner of Woodland and 9th.”

What choice was there?

“I’ll be there in 15. Look for me.”



GPS was taking Sheri downtown into a dark, unfamiliar part of the city, and it wasn’t helping her mood at all. Bright window displays gave way to warehouses and fenced lots topped with razor wire.  Sheri jumped when the GPS lady announced that her destination was 100 feet ahead. She slowly pulled up to the intersection of Woodland and 9th and scanned the area, but saw no signs of life. I’m going to kill her, thought Sheri, who then pushed on the horn twice. The industrial wasteland around her was unnervingly silent, but she thought she caught something moving to her right.


She locked the doors and turned back to her phone. It was a text from Kate.

“Mom where are you?”

“I’m here. Where are you?”


“In my bedroom. I’ve been calling out for you.”

“That can’t be. What’s wrong?”


“Noises in hallway.  God, please let that be you coming into my”

“Kate? KATE?”