33 Long Nights at the Lake House

This is a flash fiction horror piece I wrote for a creative writing class I took during college. One of the other students in the class (Wyatt Garland) made this awesome print after reading it.

Artwork by Wyatt Garland

33 Long Nights at the Lake House

When I opened the door it was there, grinning.

I screamed. I ran back into the kitchen. The screen door slammed shut behind me with a sound like a gunshot.

I sat hiding in the darkness of the kitchen for what seemed a long time. It took me a while before I could start reasoning that it must have been my imagination. Things like this happen, I told myself, recalling when I was eight and opened the cellar door to see a shadowy form lurking at the base of the stairs. Or that one night in the hotel room, when I was falling asleep and suddenly jolted awake after something grabbed my leg. There was nothing really there. There was never really anything there. Just my imagination.

I told myself this as I walked back to the screen door.

I opened it to find something really there.

Its eyes were as big as car tires. They stared at me from within sunken sockets that cast shadows over dinner plate sized pupils. They were human eyes. Bulging, unblinking, colossal human eyes.

A horrible grin stretched across the thing's face from ear to twisted ear. I stared at its teeth a long time. Those giant, blocky teeth. They were cracked and broken in some places, but they were human teeth.

The pale skin of its face was stretched so tight that it seemed like nothing more than the thin membrane of a rotten fruit. I could see branches of bluish green veins splintered across its face even in the darkness. It was bald, hairless, a sack of flesh that seemed like it would burst at any moment. Its head was wider than the doorway but that gave me no comfort. It had no body beneath it, save for four long, boney limbs that jutted out from the base of its head like the legs of a great spider. Somehow, they held up its bulbous weight, each thin appendage supported only by massive hands, human hands.

I couldn't breathe as I stared at that thing's grinning face. From behind me, the news anchorman's voice floated into the kitchen from the living room TV, a voice calling to me from a rational world that no longer seemed real.

Finally, I drew a breath. Then I ran.

I ran as fast as middle-aged legs could carry me out of the kitchen and into the living room. That thing just stared at me from the open doorway the whole while, standing there motionless outside.

I sprinted through the living room, down the hall, and slammed the bedroom door shut behind me. My cold, sweaty fingers fumbled with the lock. As soon as it clicked into place I spun on my heels and lunged to escape out the bedroom window-

It was already there. Its wide eyes stared at me through the unwashed glass, the corners of its sharp grin peeking up from the base of the windowsill.

I clawed at the lock on the door and spilled out of the bedroom. I felt exposed panting there in the hallway. The lake house had plenty of rooms but all with damned windows. In my panic, I nearly forgot about the hall closet right in front of me.

It was warm in the cramped darkness of the closet. I didn't want to think. I couldn't think. So I prayed. I hadn't prayed since I was a kid, the words sounded hollow and powerless.

###

I woke in a pile of old coats and rusted fishing equipment. The light of day leaked in from beneath the closet door.

The daylight made me bold. I opened the closet door slowly. I could hear birds outside and the water of the lake lapping against the shore through an open window.

I walked cautiously down the hall, my legs cocking back like springs with every step, ready to bound back to the pitiful safety of the closet at a moment's notice. The TV was still on when I reached the openness of the living room and the fateful corner that turned into the kitchen. It was harder than I thought to look beyond that edge.

It was worse to see the thing in daylight. I could see all of it. Standing there on crooked elongated limbs, its fat head glistening with sweat like dew. It stood there staring at me with that wide, unflinching grin.

I fell to my knees. I felt paralyzed, broken before the gaze of that thing. I started feeling light-headed and I had to lie down, but I couldn't turn my eyes away from it.

That abominable thing stared at me under the light of a beautiful Saturday morning as I laid down slowly on the cool tile of the kitchen floor. It towered over me, looking down at me from atop its perch on those long spindly limbs.

“Leave,” I whispered to it. So softly that I hardly heard the word myself.

“Go!" I cried out suddenly.

"Get out of here! Leave!” I rose to my feet and took slow steps toward it.

“Leave this place!” I waved my hands and tried to make myself look big, as though I could scare this creature away like it was a raccoon.

“Out!” I said, but my voice began to waver as the creature just stared back at me, grinning at my feeble display.

“Away with you! In the name of Christ away with you!” I made a trembling cross with my fingers as though that would help. “In the name of Christ leave this place!” my voice cracked and my eyes began to well up with tears as I slunk back down to the kitchen floor. The creature just stood there unmoving all the while. Watching. Grinning.

I rose from the floor in silence.

“If you're going to kill me then do it,” I said.

It stared on in silence.

I turned and walked slowly back into the hallway. I collapsed in the closet without bothering to close the door. That thing's face was burned into my head. I closed my eyes and tried to think of something else, anything else.

I could think of nothing but it standing there at my doorstep, grinning like a dinner guest waiting to be invited in.

Wasn't there something about monsters and being invited in?

###

The best thing I could find was a hatchet buried deep in the closet. Honestly, it was better than I hoped for.

I walked back into the living room as the sun was setting. I still couldn't bring myself to look at that thing yet. I had been waiting all day to feel some kind of determination wash over me. So far none had, but I couldn't wait around forever.

I gripped the hatchet in shaking hands and kicked the living room lamp over (Sophie had picked that one out at a garage sale). I threw my shoulder against the bookshelf and sent a cascade of books whose titles I'd never read tumbling to the floor. It took four checks before I got the bookshelf itself to topple over. I sunk my hatchet into the coffee table, chopping it into chunks. Each swung came a bit stronger than the last. I realized I was cursing, yelling, screaming.

I walked into the kitchen to face the grinning beast. Sweat poured down my back. My face was hot, and my breath came in deep heaves. For a brief moment, I wondered if I'd have a heart attack before the thing outside got a chance to kill me.

“Come on!” I yelled, brandishing my hatchet.

“Come on in! Welcome!” I paced back and forth, my gaze never breaking with the thing's eyes, two dark planets that followed my every move.

“Come on in!”

I thumped a fist on my chest. I kicked a hole in the kitchen drywall.

“Come in here!” I screamed at it.

“NOT. YET.”

The words came slow and wheezing, out from between the creature's clenched teeth.

My hatchet clattered to the floor.

The creature's eyes left me, only for a second, and then they were back without a blink. It had looked at the open pantry door.

I followed its gaze. There was nothing in there. A few boxes of cereal, maybe a stale bag of chips. My stomach grumbled. Hadn't I been leaving last night to grab a bite to eat?

“No…” I said, sounding like a toddler. I reached down to pick up the hatchet. The handle was heavy and cold.

I looked back at the creature and tried to gather the courage to rush out at it. I had to go out there and fight it while I still had my strength.

But I only felt hollow, and sick, and hungry. Not hungry, starving.

It was a long first night.