Affirmations: Short Fiction

It’s Halloween and this will be the last story of my writing challenge! I hope you’ve all had fun reading the stories, because I have had a great time writing (also stress, so much stress haha). You can check out every story by clicking on its title:

Monday: The Best Way
Tuesday: Whirlpool
Wednesday: Buzzkill
Thursday: The Hungry Visitor
Friday: Well
Saturday: Unseen Cost

Today’s prompt – the final prompt – is: a demon in your house that rearranges everything into LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH, kitschy stuff. Seasonal wreaths, reclaimed wood furniture, chalkboards with words of affirmation written on them.

Dedicated to Chris O.

Affirmations

Mary looked at the chalkboard that now hung in her home office. The words, “YOU CAN DO IT” written on it in brutal slashes of chalk.

It had been like that the entire month of October. First, a wreath of mullein, delicately braided hemp rope, orange and black ribbons, cheerful furry spiders, and the words: “HELLO WITCH” had appeared on her door. An antique wooden stool, etched with a wildflower design, appearing in her living room. Then a witch hazel candle burning in her bedroom once when she had gone to bed early.

And now, on Halloween itself, there was this chalkboard.

Bob had sworn he wasn’t the one leaving these little gifts. She wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t in his nature to be so… spontaneous. Or thoughtful.

It had led to a fight. Of course, it had. He had accused her of having a lover, of having an affair. He’d used it an excuse to drink.

The next day, she’d found a charcoal and lavender bath bomb waiting on the side of her tub. She hadn’t bothered to ask Bob about it.

The next day, she’d found a pair of pastel blue writing gloves with mottos on her computer chair, lined with fleece.

If he wasn’t the one leaving surprises around the house, who was?

Mary reached out, touched the chalk delicately with the tips of her finger. Then brought those same fingers to her tender right eye.

Another day, another fight.

Downstairs, her husband stomped around the kitchen. She heard the hiss of a beer bottle being opened. The office dropped in temperature so quickly she gasped. As she exhaled, Mary saw her breath mist up in front of her eyes.

Shivering, she backed away from the new chalkboard, turning to flee. Only to hear the scratching of chalk.

Whirling, Mary caught a glimpse of the chalk falling, hitting the carpet with a muted thud. She dragged her eyes up to read the new message. “YOUR LIFE MATTERS.”

Keeping her eyes on the chalkboard, Mary slipped out the office, shutting it door as if it would protect her.

“Bob?” she placed a hand against her chest, could feel the violent tempo of her heart.

Something shattered in the kitchen below, the air broken by the bright sounds of glass breaking and her husband swearing.

“Hope you were fond of this stupid bunny glass!” he called, laughing, and Mary clenched her teeth.

The bunny glass was a water glass etched with frolicking rabbits that her late mother had gifted her as a child. She had kept it safe all these years and it had been stored, out of reach, in a cabinet above the fridge.

Meaning Bob had deliberately gone after it.

Her body went hot, then cold, then numb. Mary’s mind raced. She brought one fist up to her mouth, biting deep into the knuckle of her index finger, trying not to scream. She was wearing the writing gloves and could smell something from them.

Something sweet, like cherries, but something else too, like sulphur. Wrinkling her nose, Mary dropped her hand again and descended to the first floor. Bob was sitting on the couch, beer in hand, watching some stupid movie. She slipped by, to the kitchen, to see the damage.

Bob hadn’t even bothered to clean it. Glass sprinkled the ground like diamonds and she knelt, catching a glimpse of a rabbit face there, a flouncy tail there. The light reflecting off the glass refracted, dividing, broke as her eyes filled with tears.

She smothered a sniffle in the back of her writing glove, and wiped her eyes. Standing, Mary caught sight of the Halloween wreath stuffed into the garbage. Yet another victim of Bob’s hatred. She reached out and caressed the fuzzy face of a spider, then rested her fingers on the hemp rope.

The air around her grew cold. Something clicked and shifted. When Mary turned, she saw a new surprise. A felt message board on the counter, hot pink letters cheerfully displayed. “BE ASSERTIVE AND BRAVE.”

Her palms itched. Overhead the lights flickered and the radio on the counter flicked on, buzzing harsh static, before turning itself back off again. Mary’s breath rose in trails of mist.

She pulled the hemp rope from the wreath. She wasn’t sure how she knew how to knot it the way she did, it was if she were being guided. But she didn’t resist either.

Creeping into the living room, Mary observed her husband sitting on the couch. Their house was a mess. When Mary’s mother had passed, she had left Mary a hefty inheritance. Mary had wanted to use this to renovate the house and Bob had said he would handle it, handle it all. Instead, he’d bought some tools, destroyed the living room ceiling to the rafters, and then used the rest gambling.

The ceiling wasn’t high. At least, not too high. All she would need was a step up and for that, Mary had a new stool.

She swung the rope up over the rafter.

Were those red eyes in the ceiling shadows? Was that a clawed hand grabbing her hemp rope when it almost fell short and guiding it over?

She had to move fast.

Mary pulled her noose over her husband’s head then, still gripping the loose end, jumped off the stool.

The writing gloves protected her palms from rope burns as Bob struggled, as he kicked his feet, as he clawed at the hemp.

Mary held on for dear life. If this failed and he got free, there would still be a death tonight.

Minutes passed and he was still. Mary let go of the rope but her husband didn’t fall to the floor. Instead he rose into the air.

She watched the rope being wrapped around the rafters and knotted. Red eyes watched her expectantly. Mary moved the couch, she placed the stool where it needed to be, and she called the police.

Above her, in the darkness, something chuckled.

x PLM

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