Horror · Short Story · Writing

Something Precious


When I was at Uni my lecturers were constantly encouraging me to try different things. Venture away from my comfort zone and write something else, a different genre or style. Experiment.

The following short story is one of those experiments – I tried my hand at a Horror Short Story. Was it successful? I’m still not sure. But the best way to find out is to share, right? (Any feedback is appreciated, even if you hate it) So here you are:

Something Precious by Carole Holland

Michael and Jess arrived three-quarters of an hour early after allowing far too much time for ‘traffic’ and sheepishly knocked on the polished wooden door of Mr. Carl Walker Junior’s stylish, modern house. They were desperately hoping they wouldn’t look too foolish, arriving so early for a Christmas house party. Jess was faffing with her hair for the twentieth time and just about to suggest they left and came back later when the door opened to reveal a bright, spacious hallway and Carl’s wife Georgia beaming widely out at them.

Blushing slightly, Michael held out the bottle of white wine and box of chocolates they had brought and smiled back at his hostess. “Hi, I’m Michael Carter and this is my girlfriend, Jess. Sorry we’re so early, we were expecting it to take much longer to get here than it did.”

Georgia took the offered gifts and ushered the two of them into the house out of the cold. “Don’t worry about it. It just means you’ll be able to claim the comfiest seats before anyone else!”

Pushing open a door, Georgia showed them into a modern living room, furnished in shades of cream and brown with two sofas, a matching pair of armchairs and a selection of dining chairs obviously brought through for the party. She put the chocolates down on a glass-topped coffee table and gestured at one of the sofas with the bottle of wine. “Take a seat whilst I stick this in the fridge and go get Carl.” She flashed a smile at her guests. “It takes him forever to get ready sometimes.”

Michael and Jess perched on the edge of the sofa and stared around the room as Georgia headed back out into the hall. They felt a little out of place in the massive house, Michael in particular couldn’t settle despite the comfy furniture.

“It’s like a bloody showroom in here, just with too many chairs,” he muttered under his breath glaring at the canvas picture panels framing a cream painted sliding door at the far side of the room. “Where are all the photos and ornaments and stuff?”

Jess laughed and eased herself further back onto the sofa. “I think it’s generally referred to as ‘modern’ and is supposed to make the room feel bigger and lighter.” She punched him lightly on the shoulder before pulling him back beside her. “Relax, Mikey, it’s meant to be a party remember?”

“Yeah, and I’m driving so bang goes the Dutch courage for chatting to the boss!” He grinned sheepishly and kissed Jess on the cheek. “I’ll be alright once everyone else gets here, don’t worry.”

They were still chatting softly when Georgia returned with Carl in tow. They were both wearing shoes and had their coats over their arms as they stood side by side in the doorway.

“We’ve just got to dash to the shop to grab a few last bits. You’ll be okay here for a while won’t you?” Georgia looked a little worried even through her bright smile.

“Help yourself to anything from the kitchen – drinks or whatever you fancy. We’ll be as quick as we can.” Carl added sending a friendly wink in Jess’ direction.

“We’ll be fine, thank you. Do you want us to answer the door if anyone else arrives?” asked Jess.

“That would be wonderful. I’m sure you won’t have been the only ones expecting heavy traffic on a Friday night.” Georgia shrugged on her thick, winter coat. “Carl, would you go grab my purse from the kitchen table whilst I get the car started? Thanks, Honey.” She waved at Michael and Jess and walked out of the front door as Carl obediently went to the kitchen for her purse.

On his way back past the front room Carl paused once more, the smile gone from his face and replaced by a haunted expression. “Feel free to explore wherever you like. I don’t want you sat awkwardly in here the whole time. Just, please, don’t go through there.” He pointed at the sliding door Michael had previously been glaring at. “There’s something in there that is very precious to Georgia and myself that mustn’t be disturbed.”

Jess nodded and smiled at her host. “We won’t go prying and the only exploring I’ll do is when I inevitably get lost looking for the toilet!”

“Upstairs on the left,” said Carl with a relieved smile. “See you in a bit.”

As the front door clicked shut behind Carl, Michael sat up and stared at the forbidden door. “I wonder what’s in there. I bet it’s something dodgy.”

Jess shook her head and stood up. “Well we’re never going to know are we? Because you’re not going to look and they obviously don’t want to tell us.” She glared at Michael, challenging him to disagree. “I’m going to find that toilet and then get a drink. Do you want a cup of tea or anything?”

Avoiding her gaze Michael nodded and slumped back into the sofa. “Coffee if you can find it. Caffeine will have to do as an alcohol substitute tonight I think.”

Laughing, Jess headed up the stairs curiously taking in all of the expensive looking Christmas decorations that wound their way up the banister beside her.

Once he heard Jess’ footsteps reach the stairs and he was sure she wasn’t going to turn back, Michael pushed himself up off the sofa and padded over to the far side of the room.

In front of the door he paused and pressed an ear to the wood. Silence. Battling with his conscience, Michael turned to sit back down on the sofa and wait for Jess. Then a little voice piped up in the back of his head; no one would know, he’d just open the door a tiny bit and have a look. He’d be back on the sofa within two minutes and no one would be any the wiser.

He turned back to the door and listened again. Convinced there was nothing moving around in there and with a last glance back towards the hallway he reached for the sliding bolt to open the door.

After a short struggle the bolt slid back and the door shifted slightly in its frame. Michael froze and listened for an angry shout from Jess or the sound of the front door opening.

Nothing.

Shaking slightly with nervous anticipation he slid the door open by about a foot and looked through.

The curtains were drawn across the window at the far side of the room but the light behind him and the glow from the streetlight outside made it bright enough for him to see without having to search for a switch. Beneath the window there were two boxes filled to the brim with toys and soft animals and against the wall beside them was a wooden desk adorned with a small lamp and pen pot. All were neatly arranged and had a distinct air of disuse about them.

Michael frowned as he eased the door open a little further so he could see more. He knew full well that Carl and Georgia had no children; it was a running joke at work that Carl had refused for fear of them growing up to be better at managing the business than he was. So why all the toys?

Intrigued, Michael threw caution and his conscience to the wind and took a step into the room so he could see everything. As soon as he let go of the door, it slid shut behind him with a soft clunk halving the amount of light in the room. He blinked as his eyes adjusted to the gloom before stepping further inside and looking around.

There were two beds against the far wall, both made up with matching teddy bears sat on the pillows. There was a pair of pyjamas folded neatly at the foot of each bed and two pairs of slippers sat waiting on the floor beside them. A mirror hung on the wall between the beds and Michael caught a glimpse of his own face, eerily lit by the orange light from outside. He didn’t look real and he was beginning to feel more than a little uneasy.

It wasn’t the contents of the room that were making him feel odd, it was the fact that they all looked like they had been there for years, untouched. Just waiting for their owners to come home, put on their pyjamas and sit in the middle of the floor with their toys. There wasn’t a single toy on the floor or crease in the bedclothes. Everything was perfect. And empty.

It was then he saw the two girls.

They were standing in the corner furthest from the window, one slightly in front of the other; heads down, eyes closed and shoulders slumped. Even in the dim light it was easy to see that the girls were Carl and Georgia’s children; each of them bore a clear resemblance to one or other of their parents. The closest to him was slightly taller than the other, with pale hair that reflected the orange from the street light. The smaller girl had shorter, darker hair and seemed to be half hiding behind her sister.

Michael cleared his throat. “Hello? Sorry. I, I didn’t meant to scare you.” His voice seemed to echo in the silence. “Are you all right?”

The two girls didn’t move a muscle. The more Michael stared at them, the more he became convinced they weren’t even breathing.

“Pull yourself together,” he whispered under his breath. “Of course they’re breathing.”

Cautiously and slowly, trying hard not to startle or scare them Michael moved closer to the two girls until he was standing next to the nearest one.

Gently he started talking to the silent, blonde-haired girl. “Hey, my name’s Michael. Don’t be frightened, I work for your Daddy.”

Shaking slightly he reached out and put his fingers on the back of her pale little hand. Immediately he snatched his hand back, staring horrified at the girl beside him. Her skin was like ice.

Gathering his courage he reached out again and this time gently took her wrist in his hand, searching for her pulse to reassure himself.

Nothing.

Something inside Michael broke and he bolted for the door and the light. Grabbing the handle he pulled madly but nothing happened, the door was firmly stuck. He swung round to look back at the children and almost screamed when he saw the blonde girl standing right beside him at the door. She was still slumped, still silent, still not breathing but her eyes were open and staring at him. Except there were no eyes. Only darkness.

Michael gave the door one final tug and practically fell through it when it opened easily. Slamming it shut behind him and shoving the bolt home as hard as he could, Michael threw himself back onto the sofa and forced himself to breathe.

He was still there, eyes closed and breathing heavily when Jess returned with a glass of wine in one hand and a coffee in the other.

“There you go.” Jess passed him his coffee with a grin. “What have you been up to? You look like you’ve just run a marathon or something.” She sat down beside him and sipped her wine. “This house is gorgeous, you should see upstairs.”

“You should see in there,” said Michael shakily pointing at the door before taking a huge gulp of coffee. “It’s mad. They can’t be real. It’s. They. I. Jess, we’ve got to get out of here.”

Jess put her wine down on the table. “Mikey, what are you on about? Did you go in there? We said we wouldn’t.” Concerned, Jess glanced over at the door. “What’s got you so spooked, Babe?”

Michael just shook his head and drank more coffee. “Don’t look. It’s not right.” He jumped when Jess put her hand on his knee. “I just don’t understand, Jess. I don’t know what to do.”

“Calm down for a start.” Jess hugged him close for a moment before standing up. “You’re just hyped up about being in your bosses house on your own. Look, I bet there’s nothing in there other than some random family heirloom or something.”

Jess walked over to the door and crouched by a sliding panel Michael hadn’t noticed before. Unclipping the two small latches Jess slid the panel across and looked through.

“You see? There’s nothing there.” She stepped back to let Michael see. “It’s just dark.”

Michael opened his mouth to argue just as something shifted on the other side of the door, letting through a chink of orange glow and opening a view of the room beyond.

Jess caught her breath as she realised that the darkness had been caused by something standing right in front of the panel. Something that had just moved. “What the…?” She shot a look at Michael. “What was that?”

“It doesn’t matter.” He slid the panel back in place, stood up and grabbed Jess’ hand, trying to pull her back to the sofa. “We’re safe out here.”

Jess pulled her hand free of his. “Safe? Michael, there’s not going to be anything dangerous in there or they’d have really warned us about it. You’re scaring me and you’re being stupid.”

Michael reached for her hand again, desperate to pull her away from the dark eyes behind the door and back to the warmth of the sofa. “Exactly. So forget it. Come on, finish your wine. They’ll be back soon.”

Jess frowned and pushed a lock of blonde-highlighted hair out of her eyes. She had had enough of Michael’s idiocy and was going to prove once and for all that his boss had nothing to hide.

Looking more confident than she felt, Jess pulled the bolt back and slid the door open wide enough for her to slip through into the room beyond.

“You’re not going in there,” said Michael firmly, trying to reach around her and pull the door closed.

“I am, but only because you’re being an idiot and trying to scare me,” said Jess, pushing through the door and pulling it closed behind her to make her point clear.

Automatically she felt along the wall for a light switch. Unable to find one, she decided to make do with the orange glow from beyond the curtains which was bright enough once her eyes adjusted. Something in the back of her mind was telling her to turn back and open the door but nothing had pounced on her so chances were, she thought to herself, there was nothing there. Ignoring her nerves she took a deep breath and walked further into the room.

Jess quickly took in the desk and boxes of toys and turned to stare at the beds standing, untouched and silent, side-by-side. Then she noticed the dark haired girl, stood in the corner close to the wall and the furthest bed.

Nervously she approached, forcing her face into a soft smile and willing her hands to stop shaking. “Are you okay?” she whispered. “Can you hear me?”

Gently, Jess reached out and brushed her fingers down the girl’s pale cheek. Shocked by how cold it was she put her other hand out as well to share her own warmth.

“Hey? You feel like ice, Sweetie, I need you to talk to me. What’s your name?” Jess was instantly concerned and went to call Michael to come in and help her. “Mikey? Could you give me a hand?” She turned to look back and had to bite back a scream when she saw the second girl standing inches behind her, eyes blank and staring.

Unnerved, Jess took a step back and turned to the first girl with the intention of grabbing her hand and leading her to safety. The dark haired girl was staring too, with the same dead eyes. There was no expression on either girl’s face and their bodies were still slumped as if sleeping on their feet. They just stood and stared.

Jess panicked. “Michael!” she screamed as she turned to run back to the door. She went to dodge around the blonde girl but as she set off her wrist was caught in a vice-like grip that was as cold as death.

Twisting desperately Jess wrenched her arm free and bolted for the door. Slamming up against it she cried desperately for help. “Open it! Mikey, I can’t get out!” She battered wildly at the wood. “Michael!”

No amount of pulling or pushing would make the door shift as Jess got steadily more and more petrified. She kept one eye on the two girls as she heaved at the door; they were standing where she had left them, the dark haired girl’s left arm still outstretched from grabbing at her wrist.

“Jess!” Michael’s voice was muffled by the wood. “The door’s stuck I can’t shift it. Don’t panic though, Baby, I’ll get you out.”

Jess pressed her face to the door and pushed at the handle with all her might, desperate to get back out into the light with Michael. She put everything she had into trying to move the door, every muscle tensed, her eyes squeezed shut and her breath held deep in her chest.

It stayed fast.

Jess slumped against the door as her energy faded, tears beginning to run out from her closed eyes. “Mikey, I can’t do it. I’m sorry,” she whispered, sliding down the door. Then she screamed as she opened her eyes to see both girls inches from her face, their blank eyes boring into hers.

*

It didn’t seem to matter how hard he tried, how hard he forced it with all his weight the door just would not budge. He had been pushing and shoving at the door since the instant Jess had stubbornly pulled it closed behind her. At first he’d thought she’d bolted it from the other side somehow but then she’d called for him to help her and he realised it was simply stuck fast.

Then Jess screamed.

Michael stared dumbly at the sliding door before him. The bolt was right back, clearly open and yet the door just would not shift. Jess hadn’t said a word since the scream and the banging on the other side had fallen silent.

It wasn’t going to open. He knew it wasn’t. Not now.

He was still standing there when Carl and Georgia returned from the shops with more wine and snacks. They didn’t say a word as they collected Jess’ bag from the sofa and cleared away her wine glass. They were still silent as they led Michael to his car and helped him into the driver’s seat.

“Don’t come in to work again, Michael. You won’t be needed.”

Michael didn’t hear him. All he could hear was Jess, begging for him to open the door. He hadn’t done it, he couldn’t.

And now the screaming had stopped.

7 thoughts on “Something Precious

  1. wow – that gave me proper shivers. I imagined it all in my mind as I read through your story and I don’t usually do that unless I really enjoy something.

    Brilliant! x

  2. This is rather spoiled for me now by the fact that I can’t see the name ‘Jess’ without thinking of four phones that spell Jess….. I love that last line, though, super creepy!

    An award awaits you on my blog, my dear x x x

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