The Best Way: Short Fiction

Happy Monday and happy first day of my October writing challenge! From today until Sunday, I’ll be writing one piece of fiction a day based on your prompts!

If you haven’t sent me one yet, you still can by commenting your prompt below! I’ve done this once before, you can read the stories from the past challenge by clicking here.

Today’s prompt: An alleged woman friend locks you in the laundry room with a ghost.

Dedicated to Thea

The Best Way

The air was thick with the perfume of dryer sheets and detergent, overhead a single bare bulb flickered a nonsensical Morse code. For the tenth time in as many minutes, Sam tried the door and found it locked.

“Please let me out, Claire,” Sam leaned her head against the door and shivered.

Every passing moment, the laundry room grew colder and colder. The bulb flickered again. More than anything, Sam prayed it wouldn’t go out and plunge her into absolute darkness.

Sam leaned her face close to the doorknob and keyhole. “Claire!”

“It has to be this way.” Claire’s voice was so close, right on the other side of the door.

“You can’t keep me in here forever. People will wonder where I am tomorrow, especially when I don’t show up for work.” Sam rubbed her arms and blew on her fingers, trying to get some feeling back in them.

“Not forever.” Claire’s voice was nearly a sigh through the keyhole. “It’s almost midnight now.”

A different kind of chill ran through Sam’s body. Overhead, the light blinked, blinked, blinked.

“Let me out, Claire. Please.” Sam stood, paced over to the wire shelving beside the washer, hoping for a towel or blanket to wrap around her shoulders but found only cleaning supplies and a couple lint bunnies in the corner. “I won’t say anything to anyone about this, okay? I get you’ve been stressed this past week but what are you trying to achieve with all this?”

Sam pulled her keys from her pocket, there were only two, along with some membership tags to a pet store and a grocery store. Still, she slipped the keys between her fingers, clenched her hand into a fist, and imagined punching Claire in the face as soon as she was out of this damned laundry room. Two keys didn’t seem like enough, but it was all Sam had. She’d left her phone on the coffee table when Claire said there was something she needed to see.

A sharp shove and a locked door behind her wasn’t what Sam was expecting to be ‘shown’, yet here she was.

“Two minutes to midnight,” Claire said.

“This is ridiculous.” Sam tried to sound annoyed, unafraid, but her voice cracked. “What? Do you have the A/C blasting in here? What do you want from me?”

The sound of cloth on wood. Sam imagined Claire sliding down the door in the hall outside.

“Just let me out, okay? Let me out and tell me what I did wrong and we can fix this.” Sam tried the door again.

“You’re not the victim here, Sam.” Claire’s voice hardened. “I am. You made me a victim.”

Sam stared at the door. Overhead the light went blink, blink, pause, blink. She felt the slightest movement of air across the side of her neck, like a faint breath. She whirled around, facing the matching washer and dryer.

“Tom left me.” Claire’s voice slithered into the room, full of venom. “He told me about what happened, about you two.”

Sam sucked air through her clenched teeth. That asshole.

“Okay, I get you’re pissed, Claire.” Sam’s mind danced, trying to find a solution, trying to think of the perfect thing to say to get out of this damned laundry room. “But it was one time at a work event and I told him that was it. I swear!”

“He left me because he wants a future with you, Sam.” Claire barked out a short laugh. “You always make sure you get what you want, huh?”

“It was a mistake, Claire!” Sam kicked the door once, twice, three times. Her foot ached and pain shot up her shin. “Don’t you make fucking mistakes? Like, I dunno, dating Tom in the first place? You can blame me all you want, but he took part.”

“It’s fine.” Claire didn’t sound fine. “You know what they say: the best way to get over someone is to murder them.”

Sam went still. Her palms began to sweat despite the cold. The lightbulb hummed loudly, pulsing like a heartbeat. “Actually, Claire, the saying is: the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.”

Claire laughed. Behind her, Sam heard the laugh echo. She spun again, looking around the room, her heart in her throat.

“You gave me this as a joke last Christmas, remember?” Claire asked.

From under the door, a Ouija board slid into the room. Sam stared at it and did not move. Behind her, something shifted on the shelves.

“I used it.” Claire said. “With some help from internet forums, I even got it to work.”

“This is such bullshit.” Sam raised her voice and kicked the door again. “Bullshit!”

“I just had to make a teeny tiny trade. But it was nothing compared to the pain you and Tom caused me. Nothing at all.”

“So you want to scare me?” Sam slapped her hand against the door. “Fine, Claire. I’m scared, okay? Let me out!”

In a different corner of the laundry room came a deep inhale, that of a giant sucking in all the air it could. Overhead, the light grew, casting a violent brilliance over everything before it shattered into a thousand slivers and the room plunged into pitch darkness.
Sam screamed and pressed herself against the door.

“Turns out, the things that exist beyond the veil can be awfully hungry sometimes.” Claire whispered through the door.

“Let me out Claire! Let me out right now, I swear to God!”

The only light came from beneath the door, a thin slit that coated Sam’s bare feet and sparked against the nearest pieces of glass. Across the room, where the darkness was the deepest, something took another breath.

“Please, Claire!” Sam’s voice came out as a whine, like that of a wounded animal.

Something wet and sticky pulled away from the floor and slapped back down again, closer. Then another, as a rush of rotten air – hot and humid – washed over Sam’s face, making her gag.

“Claire!” Sam slid along the door and into the nearest corner.

“It’s midnight, Sam.” Claire replied.

As if in response, there was a raspy growl that turned into a moan that turned into a pressing, ear-piercing howl. Sam felt this cry deep in her lungs, crushing her further against the wall, vibrating her very eyeballs in her skull.

“No, no, no, no, no!” Sam kicked out her feet, hoping to ward off the fetid lurker.

The sticky, slapping sounds approached, the breath got hotter and hotter. Something chuckled, a human sound in what had to be an inhuman mouth, watering for her flesh in the darkness. Sam screamed as her foot connected with something soft and thick, a bulbous flank slick with a chunky mucus that immediately soaked Sam’s pant leg.

The bare amount of light coming from beneath the door reflected on something that glistened.

Sam pulled her foot back, slipping on the reeking ichor, and she fell to the floor. The thing didn’t waste a moment. Fingers, leathery and skeletal, wrapped around both her calves with a strength that immediately killed all feeling to her feet and caused her muscles to cramp. There were too many fingers, dozens of them, they pulled.

Sliding along the floor, Sam couldn’t stop screaming until the stench of death and rot overwhelmed her and her screams were drowned in vomit. A whine in the darkness, hungry and yearning. Sam felt her lower body enveloped by a massive toothless mouth, folds of flesh gumming about her waist. She scrambled at the floor, finding no grip in the ooze and bile that coated the linoleum.

A throat convulsed around her calves, pulling her with a jerk, further into the gullet.

“Claire, please!” Sam croaked, blubbery lips slapping at her shoulders. “I’ll do anything! Anything!”

A burning sensation erupted in her feet, ankles, and legs. Another convulsion of the eldritch throat and Sam was sucked fully into the monstrous mouth. She dug her nails into flesh but found no purchase. The burning spread upwards as she was swallowed fully into the thing’s belly, crushed into a fetal position. A death in the parody of life, a stomach into of a womb, acid instead of amniotic fluid.
Darkness and pain, whole body agony. Once more, Sam tried to scream and the acid found its way down her throat, rendering her mute. It burned away her eyes. Muffled by layers of flesh, the last thing Sam heard was Claire’s crooning voice, humming through the laundry room door.


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