The Mews Writing Contest

Hello, friends!

As you know, in the midst of all the COVID-19 quaranteening, isolating, and cancellations, school has given us an extra week of Spring Break and you may find yourself with a little bit of extra time on your hands. The Mews has a fun solution: The Mews Writing Contest!

This is a free-to-enter event where you may submit one of each of the following: Poem, Short Story, or Essay. Submissions will be due the Monday we return to school, digitally, on March 30 and the top three pieces in each category will be published on The Mews.

Each piece will be judged anonymously by three judges and winners will be determined using a points system rewarding creativity, technique, and more! Winners will be announced in a Mews article along with links to the pieces as they are published. Winners will receive a formal congratulations and a publication in The Mews.

Submissions should emailed to jonathan_pettyjohn@student.friends.edu and titled “Mews Writing Contest Submission(s)”. Each piece should be submitted as a separate Word document (.docx) and should not contain the name of the author anywhere inside the piece. Submissions should be in size 12, Times New Roman font, double-spaced with 1” margins. Pieces that do not follow these directions may be rejected.

Pieces should include the title and the type, written at the top of the page, like so:

Title

Category (Poetry, Short Story, or Nonfiction)

The work itself, free of grammatical or punctuation errors.

 

Hopefully this contest will provide a fun way to help promote safety and health while giving each of us a chance to become better writers!

TL;DR version:

  • Who? You, or any Friends University student
  • What? A Free Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction Writing Contest
  • When? Submissions are due March 30.
  • Where? Send submissions to jonathan_pettyjohn@student.friends.edu
  • Why? A Great Opportunity to practice writing.
  • How? Via Word in size 12 Times New Roman

If you have any questions or need clarifications, please contact me at jonathan_pettyjohn@student.friends.edu.

This page will be updated as more information is made available.

Thank you,

Jonathan Pettyjohn

“The Boy in Search of His Mother” by Dalton Palmer

Every foggy morning on my way to work, there’s a little boy standing on the sidewalk right outside of my apartment door, his head looking up while his eyes were lost in the clouds. Almost every day that I catch sight of him, I want to stop and talk to him to make sure he is alright, but I’m constantly running late to work. Tomorrow I plan to wake up early so I can talk to the boy, but sitting in a narrow blank gray cubical at a computer covered in years of dust on it for 12 hours straight turns me into a salty snail. On the bright side, the memories I don’t want to remember start to blur. When I get home at six at night, I usually watch reruns of whatever is on. Tonight, I plan on going straight to bed, so I can talk to that little boy in the morning.

 

 

As I wake up, I make my way to the unkempt kitchen, open the blue dusty curtain with my index finger just enough to see if the little boy is on the sidewalk. As I suspected, the little boy stood in the exact spot with a similar look from the day before and the day before that. I slip on my black house slippers, put on my wedding ring, look at the picture of my wife on the wall, and make my way toward my front door. The door’s white paint is starting to fade and there’s a screech that could make a monk lose his mind coming from the rusted door hinges: metal grinding together with metal. I mentioned this to the landlord, but he most likely won’t repair it. As I walk down the rickety wooden stairs outside of my apartment, I approach the little boy. He mumbles the word “mommy.” The boy looks up out of the corner of his eyes at me. His eyes are blue like the sky right before the day expires.
“Hello, young man.”
I can barely hear his response as he replies.
“Hello, mister.”
“Ya know, every day I go to work I see you in that exact spot looking up into the sky with your mind lost within it. Do you care to tell me why?”
“My daddy told me that my mommy was going to always be in the sky watching me, but every time I look into the sky and ask my mommy to talk to me, she don’t answer.”
Clinching my fist, I swallow the storm, drop to one knee, and look into his eyes. My mouth opens, but my throat tries to swallow the words.
“My wife and your mommy are both in the sky watching us. They can watch us, but they cannot talk to us.”
The little boy’s eye lids separate from each other, with one eyebrow slightly raised higher than the other, as his face begins to turn the color of a strawberry.
“WHY?! WHY NOT? I WANT TO TALK TO MY MOMMY!”
“They can’t talk to us because then they wouldn’t be able to protect us any longer.”
“But I don’t want my mommy to protect me any longer. I want to show her what I made for her in class.”
“I know how you feel bud, but we both have to learn to accept it for now. One day you will get to see your mommy and I will get to see my wife; then we can show them everything that we have done for them.”
Every day, I think about ending all the memories. I’m a 30-year-old man whose 29-year-old wife passed away, whole weeks going by as if I wasn’t even there because I’m stuck in memories, yet I am sitting here, telling a child, whose mind hasn’t even developed yet, to accept the death of his mother.
The little boy lets out a short breath from out of his mouth, looks down at the ground, then looks back at me.
“I hope one day you get to see your wife, and I get to see my mommy.”
“Me too, buddy; me to.”

 

Photo made available by Xavier Mouton Photographie via Unsplash

 

“In Pursuit of Originality” by John Ralston

It was a dark and…

“No, no, no! You can’t write that, you idiot, that’s plagiarism!” screamed my editor.

Four score and seven…

“That’s Abraham Lincoln, you dolt!” he shrieked.

We writers often worry about the health of our editor. Namely, about whether it has lasted too long. Ahem, back to the perfect beginning.

Call me…

“I swear,” exclaimed the editor (frequently, I might add) “if you try to copy the opening of Moby Dick, I’ll wring your throat until it’s dry!”

“Actually, I’m already pretty thirsty, could you bring me a glass of water,” I questioned innocently.

I have to admit, you had to give the man credit for a sense of humor. He did such a spot-on impersonation of disbelief that I had to laugh out loud and slap him on the shoulder for being alright.

“Thanks,” I finally managed between rollicking gasps. “Plenty of ice, please.”

As I returned to my desk, my mind continued to search for the perfect story. Already days had passed since my last article and word of my deficiency of ideas was starting to spread. It seemed that everything I came up with had already been taken. Since I held the job of investigative journalist, I decided maybe I should try looking for some facts for a change.

At that moment, trouble walked through the door. Her eyes were like pupils. Golden curls, red high-heel shoes, and pouty lips that were constantly smirking completed the outfit. Bringing all my occasionally sufficient intelligence to bear, I deduced that it was a woman. She made a beeline for my desk.

“I hear you’re looking for a story, sugar,” she said, her voice drifting over the room like sweet molasses on a yam.

“Uh…um, well, haha, rmmhph,” I suavely replied, merely capsizing three coffee mugs and two piles of papers in my attempt to strike a casual pose.

“Can I sit down?” she smiled.

Correctly interpreting my unintelligible noises and inability to achieve eye contact with her as “Yes, oh please, yes!” she took a seat opposite mine and began to tell her engrossing tale.

“About two days ago, you remember, it was dark and…”

“Nope, you can’t say that,” I interrupted.

Startled, she blinked a few times before continuing her report.

“Anyway, I was at my nephew’s hockey game and the score was four to seven…”

“Can’t say that either, you copycat!” I accidentally shouted.

Somewhat rattled by my interruptions, the lady stood up, fidgeting nervously with her curls, giving me the look one makes when trying to decide if dolphins count as an intelligent lifeform. For my part, I had already decided that they didn’t, but I was curious as to what made her think of them at a time like this.

“Well, if you decide you want the story, you can call me…”

“No, no, no! You can’t say that, it’s plagiarism!” I yelled, kindly.

After she had left (my companions preferred the term “fled”), I leaned back at my desk, bemoaning the lack of originality some people display. They just never learn. Ah, now back to my perfect, original, opening.

These are the voyages…

 

Photograph made available by Noah Näf via Unsplash

Deadman’s Switch

Arcade can barely get himself through the door, again. Drekky thing wedged itself into the frame again, and the landlord once again wasn’t answering calls. Aces. Pushing his way in, Arcade can finally take a breath free of the usual mix of chemicals that fills the air out there on the Edge. Air still stinks like a dirty rag, but at least he can’t see it. The cheap old floors groan under his boots, pulling Arcade out of his head. The apartment is small—barely more than three rooms—and probably hasn’t had a good cleaning in a lifetime or two. Unlike his last place though, it wasn’t on fire, so there were some plusses to living here. Playing the role of a runner was a life of feast and famine, and some chummer must have salted the earth long ago.

Arcade flicks his wrist, moving the sleeve of his dingy jacket out of the way of his DNI display chip. The green readout under the skin blinks to life, lighting up his face. With a chirp it links up to the place’s comm. Two messages. Arcade smirks; he hasn’t been this popular in a while. With a blink he sets the tapes to start playing, sliding over to a nearby notepad. Never know, might finally be a call for work.

First call is the landlord, cancelling his visit about the leaky faucet in what passed for a shower in this place. Leaky was his way of saying ‘runs hard enough to drown a horse,’ to put it lightly. Arcade makes a note next to the landlord’s name in his contact book, ‘null help: Bakebrain.’

It had been a while since Arcade had sat down and really looked at these notes. He paused, flipping through the pages. Page after page of names, each one with a series of little black notes scribbled next to them, already starting to fade away into blots of nondescript ink. Half of them were other runners, and of those barely one wasn’t marked as dead. Now he remembered why he never flipped the pages—not enough booze to drink to all these memories.

“Hey Arc, long time no run, eh?” The noise makes Arcade jump, hearing that awful grungy voice somewhere between dying pig and your average cop. He’d forgotten that the comm was running. Flipping around in his chair, Arcade had a second to see that smarmy smile he hadn’t seen in years. Half-Jack Crowley, one of his old partners.

“Drek Jack, warn a guy before you call, will you?” Arcade snapped, running a hand though his hair, thumbing the dataport on the back of his head.

“Now, before you get too far Arc, should probably warn you this is a pre-rec call,” the image on the comm continued. “And if you’re seeing this that means someone’s gone and offed me.” That hit harder than Arcade would probably be willing to admit. Jack hadn’t ever been the kind of guy that you could call reliable, or even decent, but they’d watched each other’s backs more times than not, and that meant something.

The hologram continued, taking a swig out of a dirty brown bag, “Probably deserved it too. Hard times living a life with a dozen names, even harder when each and every one is a guy like me.” The hologram stumbled, propping itself up against an unseen wall. Even when he was a collection of pixels, Jack might as well have been swimming in his drink. “Either way, that’s where you come in, kid. I want you to track down whatever SINless chromer decided to waste me.”

Arcade opened his mouth to protest, but remembered he was talking to a dead man. He wanted to shout every dirty word he could think of—on top of several that he couldn’t—about him going and getting himself killed like that, then expecting him to pick up the pieces. Typical. Arcade crossed his arms, watching the glimmering shape of his former friend wobble back onto both feet. He needed work, not a charity case.

Jack’s usual drek-eating grin dimmed, his breath leaving his puffy lips in a ragged sigh. “Look, Arc, I know you and I weren’t exactly chummers, but you’re all I got. If anyone in the world is even going to notice that I’m dead, it would be you.” Jack straightened up, tugging his trench coat tighter around himself, grimacing against the hands of some unseen chill. “We never talked after what happened with Nix…”

Arcade bit his lip hard enough to draw blood. He remembered that night clearer than anything else in his life. He still felt the icy rain stabbing at him as it fell all around the old gang. He still remembered that run, that night that everything went to hell…

 

“He’s late,” Duchess grumbled, her eyes darting back and forth. She sat on an empty shipping barrel, tapping the butt of her handgun on the polysteel rim. Her other hand hung limp at her side in a sad pile of twisted wires and warped metal, swaying in the breeze. The rest of her ware wasn’t faring too better, the rest of her arm pock-marked by bullet holes and dents, and her hair caked to her head in a mix of blood and coolant. She didn’t seem to notice, or was doing a damn fine job of hiding it.

The meeting place should have been a dead tip off that something wasn’t right; it was a makeshift bar the dockworkers used in between shifts. Unused crates and packaging were used for seats and tables, and a few hastily cobbled together neon signs sputtered hard against the rain. The four of them sat there, breathing hard, nursing wounds, wondering what went wrong.

Arcade was pacing back and forth, fighting to hold himself back. Nix had messed up, and now he was dead. It had to be that simple. He could still see the look of shock on his face when the corporate security guard had popped around the corner and laid into him, see the way he crumpled down to the polished floor in a mess of sparks and gore. Nothing would make that go away.

Across the way, Jack was talking to Tilt, the wispy little decker they had picked up a few months ago. Guy looked like a stick-figure made of twigs, and fought like a limp noodle. Still, he had his uses, especially when it came to cracking security. He and Jack were going at it, whisper-shouting in some hushed up argument.

“He’ll be here,” Arcade said, eyeing the two. The Johnson had said he’d have someone there over half-an-hour ago to pick up the package, and to slip them the cash. Damn well had better be worth Nix, if he ever showed.

“Don’t like this place,” Duchess continued, hopping off her barrel and walking closer to the others, her ruined hand seeming to wave to Arcade as she approached. “And these two have been at it like a couple of kids.”

“Everything cool over there?” Arcade shouted over the wind and the rain. Two pairs of eyes shot back at him. He could see Jack scowling so hard his face might split like broken glass, and the kid Tilt might as well have seen a ghost with the way his eyes bulged out. “Something’s wrong. Tell me.”

“Null sheen,” Tilt stammered, pulling his hoodie up to try and cover his face, “nothing’s wrong. Chip-truth.”

“Bull, and you know it,” Jack shot back, jamming a finger into Tilt’s chest hard enough to bruise. He snorted hard, looking less and less like some grungy runner and more and more like an angry bull. “You messed up, and now Nix is dead. Spill it!”

Arcade and Duchess crossed the way, Duchess placing her good hand on Arcade’s shoulder, giving him a warning look. “What happened?” Arcade hissed.

“Ask him,” Jack jerked his chin to Tilt, his voice shooting up in volume. “You’ve seen this guy’s rig. No way he trips an alarm in a place like that!” Tilt backed up into a shipping crate, cowering and shrinking from Jack.

“It was a mista-“ Tilt tried to defend himself, but was cut off when Jack brought his fist square into his cheek. Hard. The kid stumbled, scrambling back up and coughing up a spurt of blood against the rain-soaked pier.

“You let that guy kill Nix before you even tried to pull your gun! I saw you!” Jack yelled. He raised his fist to have another round with Tilt’s head, but Duchess caught him mid-swing and forced the brute down. There was an uneasy silence between the four of them. Only the rain and the distant roll of thunder broke it.

Arcade pulled Tilt up, holding him face to face, looking him dead in the eyes. “How much did you sell us out for?” His words were colder than the air, hissed out in dark, sibilant tones. Arcade’s eyes—one of the few parts of his body left unmarred by augmentation—burned with growing contempt. His fingers dug into the sides of Tilt’s head, knuckles white with strain. He’d never felt so hurt, so vulnerable, or so full of anger.

The silence returned, choking the air around the four. Tilt’s split lip pulled into a small grin, and he started laughing. Soft, menacing laughs. “I wanted out of this place, and you knew it. They paid me enough to get a cozy place in the Highrise, just like I always wanted.” His voice was void of any feeling, void of any sensation. Arcade dropped him like trash, catching something out of the corner of his eyes.

“Down!” Duchess shouted, and the three scrambled for cover among the boxes and crates. Gun fire rattled out, and a squad of corporate soldiers stormed in from the shipping lanes. They had them pinned, and the way their shots were ripping through what little cover the gang had wasn’t comforting either. Tilt continued to smile at them, walking towards the soldiers.

“Double pay to the man that scores their kills,” one of the soldiers shouted between bursts of deafening fire. Arcade rolled to another crate, lying flat on his stomach. The cold stone and metal of the pier soaked him through to the bone, numbing him. All around him, ghostly holo-images projected across the pier. Working at blinding speeds, his DNI projected vast amounts of information, from red-backed images projecting where his targets were moving towards, to smaller details such as distance, wind direction, and makes and models of their firearms.

He focused against the torrent of information, flicking his wrist and setting his sights on one of the soldiers. His DNI flashed ready, and Arcade focused in, feeling his augmented mind reaching out for the soldier’s own implants. The images shifted, blue lines jumping like lightning towards the soldier, graphic displays depicting Arcade’s mental barrage decking through the soldier’s defenses. A few thoughts, a few taps on his display, and the electronic signals he sent into the trooper’s head were enough to send him screaming to the ground, clutching at his ears as the runner’s unseen attack did its work, deafening him with wave after wave of debilitating sounds.

The gap in fire was small. Duchess peaked out from behind her own cover, taking a series of blind shots at the soldiers. None of them were close, but the return fire was enough to force them down into cover. Jack rushed across the makeshift bar, grabbing hold of one of the tables as he went. Augmented muscles bugled with effort as he hurled the table as a massive wooden missile, catching one of the hidden soldiers square in the side. He and the table smashed through the crate, ending up heaped among a pile of broken wood. Duchess popped out of cover again, placing a couple shots to keep the downed soldier out for good.

“Great one,” Duchess shouted, following after the man as he tore after the soldiers like a man possessed. Arcade slipped around the opposite way, hefting the rifle from the recently offed trooper. He held the rifle up against a chair for support, sighting in on the remaining troops. A few deep breaths, and a few quick shots rang out. One managed to connect, knocking through the head plate of one of the more cyberized troopers, laying him flat.

Two more soldiers sprang up, firing at Jack and Duchess. The burly man threw up his arms, the bullets springing and bouncing off of his steel-hard skin. Duchess, meanwhile, dropped to the ground, planting a round firmly between each corp’s eyes. Just like that, the three had somehow scrapped by again.

Arcade ran to the others, and the three of them clasped each other’s shoulders, breathing hard. None of them wanted to speak first, not even on the run home. They spent the rest of the night slipping in and out of alleys, jumping at shadows, and finally ended it hunkered down in an abandoned parking garage, cold, but somehow still living.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Things happened that night, and none of it good.” Arcade blinked back into the present. The sound of the rain returned to the dull thrum of a radiator, and the parking garage bled back into his dingy apartment. He was still looking Jack’s hologram in the eye. “After we all split, I started scrounging up enough cash to get a Deadman’s Switch. Knew it wouldn’t be long before someone got the better of me. Guess I was right.”

The hologram grunted, its lips pulling up into a dark smirk. “So what do you say, Arc? Willing to give an old friend another run, for old time’s sake?” Arcade paused, looking around his ‘humble’ abode. Judging by the way the paint was peeling, it seemed like as good a time as any to start looking for a new residence. He paused. Was he willing to get caught up in another one of Jack’s schemes for the promise of some far-off reward? Was it worth putting his own skin out there? Jack wasn’t Nix, never would be.

Half-Jack smiled, letting out a deep sigh as he reached to kill the record feed. “I hope you said yes.”

 

Image made available by Jared Arango via Unsplash

“ONSET” by Courtney Kruger

 

ONSET
by Courtney Kruger

 

SCENE ONE – EXT – OPENING CREDITS

 

Soft music plays as the definition of the word “onset” appears, in white font, on a black screen:

 

on·set (ŏn′sĕt′)
n. the first appearance of the signs or symptoms of an illness

 

The definition fades away into aerial shots showing ERIN ROBERT, a chubby, carefree but anxious girl of 22 walking out to her old, beat up, blue Jeep carrying the last of weathered brown boxes from her dorm room. Rounding around to the driver’s door she shouts a barely audible goodbye to her college friends on the sidewalk, waves, and gets into the car with a slam shut of the door. Continued aerial shots, blurring into the next, of ERIN driving through city traffic, then the highway, then smaller roads to a smaller town, etc.
The CAMERA CUTS to ERIN’s mother’s quaint little house from across the street, completely centered in frame. The house is on the outskirts of town surrounded my summer crop fields. ERIN’s Jeep slowly pulls up to the curb in front of the house and comes to a stop. ERIN gets out, shuts the door, and begins to grab her things from the back passenger’s door. Having heard the door slam, ERIN’s MOTHER has opened the front door to the house, and waits, hands on hips, smiling, as ERIN walks up to the porch. They hug, making inaudible, happy comments and ERIN’s MOTHER ushers ERIN inside, touching the back of her daughter’s hair, still smiling. The door shuts. The CAMERA stays fixed on the house until the outside porch door slowly closes with a click. The music becomes more and more ominous as credits come to a close.

 

 

 

SCENE TWO – INT – SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDWEST, USA – 8PM

 

The MUSIC cuts off. Immediately, summertime crickets chirp loudly.

 

The CAMERA CUTS to a profile shot of ERIN’S MOTHER holding a wet soapy rag in her right hand and a dirty dish in her left. She is completely silent, lost in her thoughts, as she stares, slightly wide-eyed, out the window over the sink. Unblinking. Frozen. The familiar orange of pill bottles fill the lower left corner of the shot, fuzzy and out of focus. No more attention is brought to their existence. The faucet remains running.

 

The CAMERA CUTS to ERIN just standing up from her seat at the kitchen table holding her dinner dish and cup, she clears her throat, and begins to walk over to the sink where her mother still stands, unmoving.

 

THE CAMERA PANS with her as she walks. She goes to hand off her dirty dishes to her mother, but her mother does not move.

 

ERIN:

Mom?… Mom?… MOM.

 

She jumps and gives a small, apologetic smile to her daughter.

 

MARA:

Sorry. I must have zoned out… I

haven’t been sleeping very well again. Anyways… (trails off)So, that one new show you were telling me about after dishes?? Yeah? It sounds exciting, huh?

 

 

 

SCENE THREE – INT – 9PM

 

THE CAMERA is placed in the living room between ERIN and MARA on the couch and the TV. The lights are on and the two are just sitting down to start their show.

 

MARA:

Oh! The curtains! The curtains, Erin, get the curtains. The curtains! It’s dark anybody could see in here. I hate it. Get them.

 

ERIN stands up, no complaints, and walks directly towards the curtains behind the camera.

 

The CAMERA FADES OUT as her stomach hits the lens, blocking everything out.

 

The CAMERA CUTS to a bit later in the night. ERIN and MARA are in their now dark living room, as the glow from the TV illuminates their faces. They stare completely engrossed, a bowl of popcorn between them on the couch. ERIN is on the couch, lounging, propped up on pillows, eating popcorn on autopilot. MARA has emerged from her blanket, feet on floor, putting her medications into an organizer for the upcoming week.

MARA:

So, who’s that?

 

ERIN:

Cersei Lannister.

 

MARA:

And that’s…
ERIN:

Jaime Lannister.

 

MARA:

But she’s married to…

 

ERIN:

Robert Baratheon.
MARA:

But they’re…

 

ERIN:

Yes.

 

 

 

SCENE FOUR – INT – 3AM

 

The CAMERA exposes a quaint room, mostly hidden by deep shadows, except for the twin size bed pushed into the corner of the room, 2/3 of which is completely bathed in the bright moonlight of the only large bedroom window. All of a sudden, ERIN jerks awake.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A CLOSE UP of ERIN tucked in the corner of her childhood room, uncomfortably hot with slithers of flyaways stuck to all sides of her forehead. Completely sprawled out on her back, and trapped in the full moon, eyes too afraid to move around, she instantly feels exposed and on edge. She has always slept on her stomach, curled into herself, for this reason since before she could remember. She cannot move, even though she tries, and she is terrified even though she sees no reason to be. She feels vulnerable.

 

The CAMERA PANS OUT as ERIN breathes in spurts as to not draw too much attention to herself. Too petrified in her damp sheets to try moving right away, she slowly wakes herself up and becomes reacquainted with her surroundings before she begins willing her toes, her legs, her arms, and her wits to inch back to the safeness of herself. Not ready yet to emerge from the depths of her sheets she stays inside the sweltering stick of them as they cling to the damp edges of her body.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A CLOSEUP of ERIN’s beside table as she fumbles picking up her phone to check the time. Even though it is plugged in, it’s dead. Funny. She was pretty sure she remembered it charging before she went to sleep.

 

The CAMERA CUTS to her open bedroom door. You can hear ERIN breathing, almost panting now, as she realizes this isn’t right. She always shuts her door for the night when she’s ready for bed.

 

The CAMERA CUTS BACK TO ERIN facing her straight on as she sits up in bed and stares out at the bedroom door for several long seconds before she moves her head.

 

The CAMERA PANS with her gaze as she slowly moves her head, wide eyed, to the TV.

 

The CAMERA starts to pick up the ringing buzz of her old television. It gets louder the closer it comes to getting in frame.

 

The CAMERA STOPS PANNING when the back of the small, bulky television comes into view in the lower left hand frame. ERIN stares motionless at the TV.

 

The CAMERA CUTS to a front facing view of the television, slowly panning in just a little showing the SMPTE color bands signaling all channels have gone off air for some unknown reason.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A DOWNWARD SHOT of the entire bedroom as a long figured shadow looms down the hallway form the TV light in the living room down the hall. It quickly disappears.

 

The CAMERA CUTS to just outside the doorframe as ERIN stares out from her bed hesitating her move. She then lets her left leg drop down off the bed, ready to stand, but hesitates once more.

 

ERIN:

Mom.

 

The CAMERA IS HANDHELD moving in front of ERIN, level with her height, as she slowly makes her way across the room to the door, arms spread out, eyes wide, mouth slightly parted. She stops just before the doorframe, gathering courage to leave yet another of her comfort zones.

The CAMERA keeps moving with her as she steps out into the hallway, covered in bluish white light, standing in front of a darkened hallway. At this moment, ERIN hears slight murmurs and increases her pace to the living room. Her anxiety pushes out from her chest into a heated, momentarily, searing flush all over her body as she bursts forth into the living room.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A CLOSEUP of her mother’s book lying face down on the carpet in front of the couch, pages bent under the weight of its spine.

 

The CAMERA UNFOCUSES on the book and moves up to where her lap blanket lays several feet away. At this point, the murmurs start to become crisper, understandable.
The CAMERA CUTS TO A WIDE ANGLE of the entire living room as ERIN enters frame. She notices the white static on the living room TV screen. The radio can be heard over all of this.

 

RADIO:

Again. We do not have much

information, but this is what we do know… They appeared this evening. Just after dusk. At first, they seemed to just observe. Just before midnight we started to hear of

attacks. We do not yet know what they want, where they came from, or how to best protect ourselves. For as long as we can we’ll be here. Stay safe.

 

ERIN:

(confused)

What.
The CAMERA CUTS TO a side view of ERIN, placed on the most left third of the screen, leaning down in front of the radio, hands placed on each side of the radio.
The CAMERA CHANGES FOCUS from ERIN to the dimly, green lit kitchen behind her. Two feet in white, wooly socks are poking out from behind the fridge. They suddenly, but slightly, shift. ERIN whips her head towards the kitchen she hears a rustle and low moan.

 

ERIN:

MOM?

 

The CAMERA stays in the same spot as ERIN jumps up and sprints to the kitchen, then kneels down by her mother.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO ERIN’S right shoulder looking down on her mother who lays on her side with her eyes partially closed, partially looking up at ERIN.

 

MARA:

Erin. It’s here. It happened so fast. So fast. It’s so fast. Baby, you gotta get somewhere. Go get

somewhere. I think it’s still in the house. Get out. Get out now.

 

ERIN:

What? What are you talking about?? Tell me what’s happening? What

happened to you? Are you alr-?

 

MARA:

SHH. Keep your voice down. It’s here. Oh, my god. You gotta get out. Keep your voice down, it’s here. I saw it. It’s really here. You need to go before it gets back.

 

ERIN:

I have no idea what’s going on! Let me help you up, PLEASE, let me help you up!

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A WIDE ANGLE of the kitchen. Her mother slowly sits up, making a short gasp of discomfort, as ERIN places her legs apart in an attempt to sturdy her stance as she leans her torso down towards her mother, reaching her arms out to help her up.

 

ERIN:

(grunting)

I got you. Okay.

 

 

MARA:

Get us to the basement.

 

 

 

 

SCENE FIVE – INT – 4AM

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A LOW ANGLE looking up the gloomy staircase. The darkened outlines of ERIN and MARA shuffle into view surrounded by the sea green light of the kitchen. They take their first step down.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A HIGH ANGLE looking down the staircase as the backs of ERIN and MARA make their way down the steps, one by one. MARA has her right arm slung over ERIN’s shoulder, while ERIN wraps her arm tightly around her mother’s waist. Their backs slowly lose the glow of the light as they descend slowly down the staircase and turn left into the basement’s only room.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A CLOSEUP of an old tattered couch pushed up against the cold cement block wall. ERIN helps her mom onto the couch with a plop and a grunt. ERIN leans back, mostly out of frame. Only the front half of her body from her shoulders down are visible. MARA wrings her hands and looks up at ERIN, who is watching over her; ERIN can only be seen by MARA.

 

ERIN:

Are you okay?

 

MARA:

…I think so, yes.

 

ERIN:

Wha… What happ-?

 

MARA:

Erin.

 

ERIN:

(strongly)

What happened?

 

MARA:

(sudden clarity)

They’re here.

 

ERIN:

(franticly)

Who?? Who did this to you?

 

 

 

 

MARA:

(to herself)

They’re here. Everyone knows it now. Not just me. I’m not crazy. It’s not me. Everyone will know it now.

 

ERIN pauses, and whispers.

 

ERIN:

Okay, you’re scaring me now.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO a higher shot where only ERIN’s head and shoulders are visible. With a sudden gasp, MARA scrambles to get up so she can face ERIN head-on. ERIN bends slightly as she grabs her mother, giving her support. They face each other. MARA grasps ERIN’s upper arms, wide-eyed and with a sudden fervent goal.

 

MARA:

(excitedly)

Erin! The radio! Please! Upstairs! Go get the radio. We have to know what’s going on out there! Please! Be

careful. Please, please be careful. It’s probably still up there. Go

quietly. We need that radio.

 

ERIN:

(incredulously)

IT?

 

MARA whispers.

 

MARA:

Please…

 

ERIN whispers.

 

ERIN:

Mom…

 

ERIN and MARA stare at each other for several seconds as ERIN decides what to make of this request and whether or not to follow through with it. With a sigh she relents.

 

ERIN:

Alright…

 

MARA:

Oh, thank you, thank you, thank yo-

 

The rest of MARA’s words are lost on ERIN’s face as MARA brings her hands up to the sides of ERIN’s face and kisses her over and over again.

 

ERIN:

(pulling away)

Okay, okay… Let me go if I have to go…

 

 

 

SCENE SIX – INT – 430AM

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO THE SAME HIGH ANGLE of the stairway as

before. This time ERIN slowly inches her face from behind the doorframe, eyes zoned into the kitchen light from upstairs. ERIN pauses when her face is about halfway out from behind the wall. She brings her hand up and wraps her fingers around the painted white doorframe. After a few seconds, she regains enough courage to continue. She quietly tiptoes over to the bottom of the staircase. With one hand on the wall, the other on the banister, she stalks her way up stair by stair.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO THE SAME LOW ANGLE as before as she reaches the top step and begins to look around the corner. Slightly hunched over, ERIN slowly turns into the kitchen. She disappears from view.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A HANDHELD OVER THE SHOULDER SHOT, as ERIN steps into the kitchen. ERIN’s nervous breathing can be heard with every shaky inhale and exhale. As she walks into the middle of the kitchen, ERIN hesitates when she hears the kitchen faucet.

 

The CAMERA turns with her body as she faces the kitchen counter where the faucet is running.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO behind the running faucet. Water pours into the sink. Was it on when they were here last? She can’t remember. ERIN is out of focus in the background of the shot behind the running water. Abruptly, ERIN hastily jerks forward, grabs the faucet handle, and shuts it off.

 

The CAMERA remains on ERIN’s hands gripping the faucet handle, knuckles turning white. She remains this way for several seconds, breathing heavily.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A DOWNWARD SHOT of the living room as ERIN walks slow taking measured, soft steps.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A HANDHELD PROFILE SHOT of ERIN looking around the room.

 

ERIN breathes deep and exhales.

 

ERIN:

Okay…

 

ERIN remembers why she is upstairs and looks over to where the radio still sits, surrounded by the small, scuffled chaos she came into not long ago.

 

The RADIO music swells up and out.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO THE SAME SHOT as before; a close up of the radio on the left side of the screen, sitting on an antique doily. ERIN walks over to the radio, all you can see are her hips and upper thighs. She turns her hips and squares off with the radio, her hands balled into fists beside her legs.

 

RADIO:

We hope you’ve enjoyed this Friday night’s old-time broadcasting of In the Night, They Came, by Frederick Pelts! Brought to you by the Columbia Broadcasting System and its

affiliated stations all across the country! This rounds off the third month of our weekly series of

old-time broadcasts brought to the 21st century airwaves! Next week we

promise a just as riveting dramatic presentation of The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells! So grab those crazy millennials in your family, gather round, and show them how it all began! Until next time! Have a wonderful night, America!

 

 

 

ERIN:

(almost silently)

Oh, my god…

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO inside the basement room looking out to the open doorway of the stairwell. ERIN appears in the doorway, looking bewildered, confused, and exhausted. She holds the radio in one hand, the other hanging lifelessly beside her body.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO ERIN’s POV as MARA stutters a gasp and jerks backwards on the couch. She looks up at her daughter, eagerly leaning on the armrest awaiting her daughter’s report. When ERIN doesn’t speak, MARA nods her head as if to ask, “Well?”. When ERIN doesn’t speak yet again, MARA vocalizes her questions.

 

MARA:

So?? Did you get it? Did you get the radio? Tell me what happened. Are you alright? Did you see it?

 

ERIN:

(almost silently)

Yeah…

 

MARA:

Erin??

 

The CAMERA CUTS back and forth as they speak.

 

ERIN:

(louder, slightly annoyed)

Yes, I got the radio.

 

MARA:

(almost hisses)

Did you see it?

 

ERIN holds up pill bottles.

 

ERIN:

Mom, what are these?

 

MARA:

What?

 

ERIN:

These bottles. What are they?

 

MARA pauses and narrows her eyes at ERIN.

 

MARA:

They’ve been recently prescribed.

 

ERIN:

What are they for?

 

MARA:

(silence)

 

ERIN:

Mom!

 

MARA:

(silence)

 

ERIN:

What! Are! These! For!

 

MARA:

“What are these for?” What are these for! Early onset Dementia! There! Are you happy now? I am not making this up! I am not making this up! I know what I saw.

 

ERIN:

Why didn’t you tell me…

 

MARA:

(suddenly weepy)

We were having such a nice time

together..

 

ERIN:

Mom…

 

MARA is silent, looking around wildly, and un able to focus.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A FRONT FACING SHOT of the couch. ERIN walks over and sits down next to her mother. She sits close, angled towards MARA who is still looking around the room confused.  ERIN places the radio on the small table in front of the couch, and places on hand on her mother’s leg.

 

 

 

ERIN:

(quietly)

Mom, it was just a radio show…

 

MARA makes inaudible mumbles as she looks at ERIN.

 

ERIN:

Look…

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A HIGH ANGLE CLOSE UP of the radio as ERIN’s hand comes into frame and turns up the volume.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A LOW ANGLE behind the radio looking up at ERIN and MARA as they listen to the radio’s message. MARA sits, intent on whatever is about to be said, while ERIN keeps looking back and forth between the radio and her mother.

 

RADIO:

Welcome back from the break and

welcome to our final presentation of the evening! The Columbia

Broadcasting System and its

affiliated stations from across

America invite you to listen to In the Night, They Came, by Frederick Pelts! We will return to our

regularly scheduled morning program around 6AM EST! So, if you’re a night owl like us-

 

ERIN leans forward and switches off the radio.

 

ERIN:

Mom…

 

MARA:

No…

 

ERIN:

(gently)

It says here your doctor’s name is Dr. Helem. Do you think maybe we should call in the morning and see if he can fit you in? Maybe?

 

MARA is silent.

 

 

ERIN:

Let’s go upstairs, huh? Let’s go to bed. C’mon.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO THE HIGH ANGLE of the stairwell as ERIN and MARA stare up into the light of the kitchen. It is completely silent. MARA grips ERIN’s forearm for physical support, while ERIN has soothingly placed her hand on her mother’s. After a few moments, MARA places her right hand on ERIN’s unconsciously. They continue staring, holding, unmoving.

 

 

 

SCENE SEVEN – INT – DR. HELEM’S PRACTICE – MORNING

 

The CAMERA FADES IN on Dr. Helem’s waiting room where ERIN and MARA sit among several other patients. There are quiet murmurs among those sitting together as people shuffle in and out of the morning light. The scene is a typical waiting room. Mild to moderately sick individuals, dressed comfortably sitting in uncomfortable, poorly patterned, mass produced chairs surrounded by tan, white, or off-white décor. A tiny TV hangs in a random corner, tuned into some daytime talk show, which cannot actually be heard. People are sitting a socially appropriate amount of chairs away from one another while children noisily complain to their parents, completely ignoring the magazines, books, and weird tabletop toy with all the blocks and figures you move around on colorful, twisted poles.

 

ERIN:

How are you doing? Do you want me to get you some water or something?

 

 

MARA turns her head away and shakes her hand no.

 

The CAMERA stays in place as ERIN and MARA stay still, slightly leaning apart and looking away from one another, as everyone else moves in fast forward, figures blurring into the next. Time passes by quickly, but switches back to a normal speed as a nurse comes out from a door to the left.

 

NURSE:

Mara? We’re ready for you.

 

MARA:

(huffs)

Finally.

ERIN and MARA begin to pick up their belongings. They stand up and start walking to the door the nurse still stands in front of to keep open. The nurse smiles routinely at ERIN and MARA. They politely smile back and disappear into the hallway. The nurse turns after them and the door swings shut.

 

The CAMERA stays on this scene until the door eventually becomes still once more.

 

The CAMERA CUTS to inside a room where ERIN and MARA are sitting once more. They look up as DR. HELEM walks into the room from the right, crosses the camera to the left and sits down with his laptop.

 

DR HELEM:

Alright, Miss Renato! I hear things might not be the best with the new medication we gave you.

 

MARA:

My daughter thinks I’ve had an

incident.

 

The CAMERA CUTS backs and forth between the three as they speak.

 

ERIN:

Yes. Thank you for making room for us today.

 

DR HELEM:

Absolutely. What’s the issue?

 

ERIN:

Well, she DID have an incident. It was…intense. She thought there was something in the house. She almost had ME convinced there was something in the house. She hadn’t even told me she’d been having problems, let alone been diagnosed with anything… I

haven’t been home so I haven’t seen the changes, I guess, but ever since I got home yesterday evening I’ve

noticed her zoning out, or forgetting things. Odd quirks. I don’t know if she told you, but I found her on the floor last night. Hurt! She’d hurt

(CONT’D)

herself. Had herself convinced an

alien (MARA looks sharply at ERIN) or something had come into the house and hurt her. It’s scary. She kept

repeating things to me or to herself. She was totally out of it at times. Angry at me. She was frantic. She can’t be alone like that.

 

MARA:

My daughter thinks that since the medication should have set in by now that maybe we should try something else. Dosage… Something completely different… I don’t know.

 

MARA waves her hand dismissively.

 

  1. HELEM smiles at MARA thoughtfully.

 

DR HELEM:

What do you think, Miss Renato?

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A CLOSER UP SHOT of MARA than previously.

 

MARA:

(stone cold)

I don’t think anything’s going to make much of a difference.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A WIDE ANGLE SHOT of the room at the end of the appointment. Everyone is gathering up their belongings once more.

 

DR HELEM:

Miss Renato, if you’d go with Frida there for your blood tests before you go, and we’ll call you if we find

anything odd.

 

The CAMERA PANS from ERIN, MARA, and DR. HELEM over to same NURSE FRIDA, the same nurse from before, who is standing in the doorway waiting for MARA.

 

NURSE FRIDA:

(smiles)

This way.

 

NURSE FRIDA raises her arm and hand ushering MARA forth towards the direction of the blood tests. MARA walks in and then out of frame as she obediently goes on down the hallway.

 

The CAMERA PANS back to DR. HELEM when MARA and FRIDA are gone. He catches ERIN before she leaves.

 

DR HELEM:

Mara? I’d like to have a word with you if you don’t mind. I think I have some information for you that would be helpful.

 

ERIN:

Alright.

 

DR HELEM:

This is a new diagnosis that your mother is struggling with, I’m sure. Naturally. I’ve offered her

information of local support groups that help families or newly diagnosed individuals cope with their

situation. She didn’t express much interest, as I’m sure you’re shocked to hear, but I’d like to extend the invitation and information to you, as well. Just in case you’d like to go yourself which is the case for

several other people there. Their family member who’s been diagnosed isn’t interested in these sort of groups, but they like to have

somewhere to go… Anyways, here are some pamphlets and information for you if you’re ever interested.

 

ERIN:

Thank you. I just don’t know what to make of all this.

 

DR HELEM:

I know. I’m sorry you had to find out the way you did. It was probably a rude awakening, but hopefully we’ve figured out the problem today and she’ll be on her way. I’ve also given

(CONT’D)

you some general informational

packets about Dementia. She’s going to be a bit irritable, and she may experience some memory loss and

confusion from time to time. Try not to take it personally if she gets

upset with you when this happens. I’ve also given her a different sleeping aid. She’s mentioned before she has trouble sleeping and nothing has helped, so fingers crossed we got it this time.

 

ERIN:

Yeah, she’s had trouble sleeping for as long as I can remember.

 

DR HELEM:

(nodding)

Just make sure you at least check out the information I’ve given you on both fronts. I think it will at least help you understand better what’s happening. Hopefully, she won’t give you too much stubbornness, huh?

 

  1. HELEM winks at ERIN.

 

ERIN holds up the pamphlets and smiles quickly.

 

ERIN:

Yeah. Thanks.

 

 

 

SCENE EIGHT – INT – RENATO RESIDENCE – NIGHT

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO the same living room shot as before, the couch is completely centered in frame, the TV is behind the camera, and ERIN and MARA are preparing for another night in with some movies and popcorn. The couch sits empty as they walk back and forth in the background, seen only from the chest down, grabbing things for the movie. ERIN half throws the blankets on the couch beside her as she plops down, into view, with a slight sigh, finally done.

 

 

 

MARA:

(from the kitchen)

Erin. The curtains, please.

 

ERIN with an eyeroll and an exasperated huff gets up and walks over towards the TV. She leans over the camera, once more out of view, fidgeting with the curtains to close them. The sound of the curtains’ fabric and ERIN’s fingers on the actual camera make noise. With yet another sigh, ERIN walks back to the couch, deed done, picks up the remote, points it towards the TV, and begins looking through Netflix.

 

ERIN:

(loudly)

Oh, look! American Horror Story? We started that last time but didn’t get very far. Looks like we’re on season two. I’ve heard people don’t like this season, though.

 

MARA walks in from the kitchen.

 

MARA:

Really? I’ve heard people love it.

 

The CAMERA CUTS to several episodes later, ERIN is pressing buttons on the remote, while MARA is gathering up some emptied mugs and heading towards the kitchen.

 

ERIN:

(mutters)

Well, that was a poor choice.

 

MARA:

(slightly triumphant)

I’m making myself another root beer float, want one?

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO the kitchen doorway where MARA has just entered. ERIN follows a few seconds later.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A PROFILE SHOT of MARA in front of the kitchen sink where she is depositing their used dishes, she has set the mugs aside. ERIN walks up and puts down her dishes by the sink. She turns and leans back on the counter next to MARA.

 

MARA:

Can you get the ice cream?

ERIN leaves the shot.

 

The CAMERA CUTS to face MARA as she starts washing some of the dishes quickly. ERIN walks straight behind her to the freezer.

 

 

ERIN:

Mom… We haven’t talked about

anything yet. You haven’t even

mentioned it.

 

ERIN returns to MARA’s side. She hands her the ice cream. MARA wipes her hands off on a dishtowel, sighs, and takes the ice cream.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO MARA’s back. ERIN is leaning once again, face out, against the kitchen counter. MARA notices the window behind the sink. The curtains are pushed to the side. She exhales loudly, leans over the sink, and slides them shut. MARA places the ice cream back down, next to the sink, and turns to face ERIN.

 

MARA:

What’s there to say? Everyone thinks I’m nuts. I don’t think I’m nuts. I know I’m not nuts anymore.

 

ERIN:

(jokingly)

I wish you wouldn’t say that. It makes me think you’re nuts.

 

MARA:

(small smile)

I know.

 

ERIN:

I just want you to consider going with me to the support group Dr. Helem mentioned to me. I think it’d really help you. I think it’d really help me… I’d better understand how to help, you know?

 

MARA:

Look… I don’t-

 

 

ERIN:

You don’t want to go.

 

MARA:

I don’t want to be afraid anymore. That’s all I want. And I have been afraid for a very, very long time. But more than that I don’t want you to be afraid. I’ve started to accept this for myself, and if this…

Support group…can give you some sort of relief, that’s the least I can do after everything.

 

ERIN stares at MARA.

 

ERIN:

I don’t get it. A long time? What do you mean?

 

MARA:

Don’t worry about it. We’ll go to the support group. I hope it helps.

 

ERIN:

Yeah, me too…

 

MARA:

(smiles)

Now, get me the root beer.

 

MARA turns her back to the camera once more and begins washing what’s left of the dishes in the sink. ERIN stares at her for a few seconds before she turns, defeated, and starts walking to the fridge behind the camera.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A WIDE ANGLE SHOT of the back of the couch where ERIN and MARA are ending their night. They are glowing black outlines sitting in front of the TV. The curtains are closed.

 

ERIN:

I’m going to bed. I’m tired. It’s only 10, but whatever.

 

 

 

 

MARA:

Alright. I think I’ll stay up a

little longer. Maybe watch one more episode.

 

ERIN:

Okay… Night.

 

ERIN gets up off the couch, kisses her mother goodnight, and walks out of frame. MARA continues looking on after her daughter for an uncomfortably long time. The same ominous music that played in the credits begins to play as ERIN walks away.

 

 

 

SCENE NINE – INT – 3AM

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A CLOSE UP just above ERIN’s bed. She sits up suddenly, in frame, with a gasp. The moonlight isn’t touching her this time. She sits in complete darkness, except for the glow of her TV.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO a front facing view of the old, bulky television, slowly panning in just a little showing the SMPTE color bands once again. A distinct ringing can be heard.

 

The CAMERA CUTS BACK TO THE CLOSE UP of ERIN’s profile as she takes in this information, still staring at the TV. She turns to look down at her nightstand.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A CLOSEUP of ERIN’s nightstand as she grabs for her phone once again. She wants to check the time, but it doesn’t turn on. She pushes the ON/OFF button, but the phone just continuously flashes a blinding, bright white screen at her. Frustrated, she drops the phone back on her nightstand with a big thud. At this moment, she hears a series of short clicks, a shuffle, and a thump on the floor. ERIN’s head immediately swerves to look out the door, which is halfway open.

 

The CAMERA IS A HANDHELD moving in front of ERIN, level with her height, as she, this time, only slightly hesitates to stand up. She walks confidently to the doorway, but stops just short of looking out down the hallway, into the living room. ERIN smoothes her hair back and wipes the sweat from her face. She is frightened, but the image of her mother laying on the kitchen floor, hurt, keeps urging her to move forward. She gathers the courage to leave the safety of her room, yet again.

 

The CAMERA keeps moving with her as she steps out into the hallway, covered in bluish white light. She stands in front of the darkened hallway she just emerged from.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A HANDHELD POV SHOT of ERIN’s. In the distance, down the hall, looking into the living room, ERIN can see her mother still sitting on the couch, staring straight ahead at the TV. Walking further, she enters the living room and sees the only light comes from the white static on the living room TV screen.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A SLANTED VIEW of the couch as ERIN gingerly sits down next to her mother. MARA continues to stare straight ahead at the white static. Shakily, ERIN moves a hand over to her mother’s leg.

 

ERIN whispers.

 

ERIN:

(emotionally)

Mom?

 

MARA’s eyes start to well up. Her eyebrows frown and her lips purse together. She continues staring toward the TV.

 

ERIN:

(emotionally)

Mom.

 

MARA shakes her head, becoming more emotional, tears rolling down her face, but remains silent. ERIN turns her head slightly to look at the living room’s side window.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A WIDE ANGLE SHOT of the room. The curtains have all been opened.

 

The CAMERA CUTS back to ERIN as she turns her head to look at the other window, just above the TV. It’s also open. Their white reflections stare back at them.

 

The CAMERA CUTS BACK to the couch. ERIN notices two thin, long bruises on her mother’s neck. She sweeps MARA’s hair back.

 

ERIN:

(emotionally)

What is this?

 

At ERIN’s touch, MARA snaps out of her trance. She looks at ERIN, slowly coming back. As she takes ERIN in, a slow, warm smile spreads across her face.

 

MARA:

(quietly, sweetly)

Hey… Did you change your mind? Gonna watch with me?

 

ERIN:

(quietly)

Mom, that was hours ago.

 

MARA:

What?

 

ERIN:

I’ve been asleep for hours. What are you still doing out here?

 

MARA:

I’ve been-

 

MARA begins to point towards the TV but notices the white static. She looks around the room noticing the open curtains. She feels something on her cheeks and wipes it away, only to realize it’s her own tears. She pats at her face and stares at her hand confused.

 

ERIN:

Have you been out here the whole time?

 

MARA:

You were just here.

 

ERIN shakes her head.

 

ERIN:

No.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO A CLOSE UP of MARA. She turns to ERIN, eyes welling up again. The TV reflects brightly in her eyes.

 

MARA:

I told you.

 

At that moment, the flash of a bright light, seemingly from outside, completely floods every inch of the house. A huge sound like an electric surge pops.

 

The CAMERA CUTS BACK to ERIN and MARA sitting on the couch. ERIN looks around, surprised. MARA reaches for ERIN’s hand and gives it a squeeze. ERIN looks away from her mother and over to the direction of the TV.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO AN EXTREME CLOSE UP OF ERIN’S FACE. Her face slowly contorts into bewildered horror as the CAMERA slowly zooms in. Her breathing becomes more and more panicked.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO THE WINDOW above the TV where ERIN and MARA’s reflection sits framed perfectly on the couch. MARA is still looking at her daughter, holding her hand. ERIN is staring, horrified, into the reflection. A tall, long body stands behind them slightly shifting its weight.

 

The CAMERA CUTS BACK TO A CLOSE UP of ERIN’s face, but now the figure is seen behind her. She lets out a gasp of air as if she hasn’t been breathing. At this moment, what we can see of the figure jumps forward.

 

The CAMERA CUTS TO BLACK as ERIN inhales harshly. After a few seconds a second definition for the word “onset” appears on the screen:

 

on·set (ŏn′sĕt′)
n. 1. the beginning of something

  1. attack, assault

 

CREDITS.

 

Photograph made available by Benjamin Lambert via Unsplash

“Where Daydreams May Go” Novelette Excerpt by Chelsea DeClue

With a sigh, I placed my head on my hand, propping it up while I stared at the instructor in front of me. His voice was monotonous, dry, and he seemed to drone on for ages. I’d always had a bit of an issue with paying attention during lectures anyway, but this man did nothing to keep my attention. My mind wandered, as it often did when things left me bored and uninterested. Sometimes it would just wander to what next class would be about. Other times, I would think about my chores for later in the day. It never wandered to anywhere particularly interesting, but wherever it went always seemed more interesting than the lectures at hand.

Except for today.
Today, as my mind started to wander, it seemed almost as if what I was seeing was blurring together and changing into a different world completely. Instead of going to thoughts of things that would concern me later that day, I went to a world of fog. Dark, deep, dense fog.

It was neither cold nor hot, but the air was heavy with the stuff. As the fog swirled around me slightly, I saw a faint light in the distance, almost beckoning me towards it and away from the darkness the fog held. It was towards that light that I wandered.

The journey out of the fog seemed to last ages. I would stumble, fall, and pick myself up. At one point, a fall scraped both my knees and palms, but as I had done before, I picked myself up and continued on. My urgency to get out of the fog wasn’t because it frightened me. In fact, there was no fear in this place at all. The fog that surrounded me provided a sense of security and comfort. I somehow knew that whatever was at that light was something I needed to get to, and that knowledge fueled my sense of urgency to get out of the fog. The lighter the fog got, though, the more difficult the terrain became, and the more frequently I stumbled along my path.

Almost without warning the fog broke, clearing my view to a forest thick with spring and new growth. Moss covered the ground beneath my now surprisingly bare feet. I curled my toes against it, enjoying the softness it provided and the coolness that came from it. Behind me, the fog I had just left seemed to have disappeared completely. Instead, I was surrounded by trees – ash, birch, and aspen – that were just starting to bud. Off in the distance, I heard a robin’s song as it went about its business. In front of me, I saw a large willow, and unlike the trees around it, this tree was fully green, as if winter had not stripped it bare of its clothing.

A narrow dirt path led up to the tree as tall grasses grew on either side of it. I headed towards the willow, curious about it and how green it had remained, and the closer I got, the shorter the grass became until was once again replaced by moss. The ground underneath the tree was home to a variety of blooming flowers. Some were tall, narrow, and purple; others looked like short, fat bushes covered in pinks and whites. Here and there, I could see lone yellows, oranges, and reds.  I couldn’t begin to name them all, and some I didn’t even recognize.

This magical forest delighted me. With a small smile, I found a patch of bare ground underneath the willow and sat, breathing in the sweet air that surrounded me with sigh. How could it be that, at the start of winter, this area looked so much like it was in the height of spring, or even summer? The air still held the bite of early spring, but the ground told another story completely. It was so beautiful; I wanted to stay in this place forever.

After some time, soft humming caught my attention, and I sat up straight. “Who’s there?” I called. Who was in my magical place?  The hum came again, sing-song but not identifiable. “Who’s there?” I called again, but only another hum answered me.

I looked around to the other side of the willow where I had sat down, but there was no one to be seen, only more flowers and draping branches.

The humming seemed to have disappeared, so I relaxed against the willow once more, only for the humming to return, more loudly than before, and a little less melodic. I jumped to my feet and moved away from the tree, looking more carefully for the source of the sound. There was no one.

Now irritated, I turned around to head back to the sanctuary the willow had provided. Instead, I was met with a sight that dismayed me. The tree and the sanctuary it had provided were gone. In front of me sat nothing but desolation. It looked as though a fire had ravaged the forest that had been behind me just moments before. I turned to go back into the forest that should have been behind me, only to find it too had been destroyed.

Slowly I turned around, trying to find any glimpse of green. Tree stumps stuck out from the ash-covered ground, charred black and leafless. Rocks stuck up here and there across the barren landscape, and as I took in the view, the smell of smoke started to sting my lungs and eyes.

A growl came from my left. Carefully, I turned and looked at the source. A large, black wolf with bright yellow eyes. It stood there, fur bristled and teeth bared, quietly growling as it stared back at me. Now I was frightened, terrified even.

Carefully, I took a step away from it, but it moved to match me, keeping the same distance between myself and where it stood. What had I done to anger this wolf so?  I took another step, but it did as before, never letting the distance between us change. It growled again before snarling and snapping at me. Startled, I fell down, landing on my butt. I pushed myself up so that I was sitting, only to see the wolf charging towards me. One arm raised up to block my face instinctively and I screamed, leaning into the other hand as it propped me up off the ground.

Air blew past me, but the grasp of teeth or pain of claws didn’t come with it. Hesitantly, I opened my eyes and looked around. The nearby forest had returned, though the meadow and willow had not. Its stump remained nearby. The hand that had kept me propped up against the wolf’s attack pressed against moss once again, rather than the ash it had felt moments before, though the patch was small and surrounded by dirt.

Wide-eyed, I dropped my defending arm and turned, to see the same wolf standing calmly behind me. The ground beneath my supporting hand seemed to shift and I looked away from the wolf. Slowly, flower buds began to emerge from the moss in a circle, and inside that circle came a large, if shallow, silver bowl. I waved my free hand towards the bowl, thinking it would go through it, that the bowl was merely some sort of illusion. Instead, it created a soft ding as it hit the bowl.

Coming around now, the wolf sat down in front of me with the bowl between us, head tilted ever so slightly to the side. It was completely, totally calm and relaxed this time, but it looked like the same wolf from moments before. I nervously got to my knees, considering if I should try to run away from the creature. It stood again, nosing at the bowl between us slightly before backing up a step or two and sitting down again. Every instinct in my mind told me to run, to get away from this creature. Instead, I sat back on my heels and stared at the creature in front of me.

His eyes pierced into mine for a few moments before turning down towards the bowl. Mine followed. Slowly, the bowl began to fill with a crystal clear water and the buds that surrounded it opened into little white blossoms. My eyes returned to the wolf then, the confusion evident on my face. What was so important about this bowl of water?

“You have to decide,” the wolf said then, in the clearest, calmest voice possible. Shock must have overtaken the confusion. I heard a light chuckle from the wolf. “You have to decide, my dear one,” he said again, taking a few steps towards me and lowering his nose towards the bowl again.

I looked down again at the bowl. An image appeared in the water depicting the spring forest, and I looked back up to him as he spoke again. “Do you follow the path that will lead you to blessings?  To happiness?  Or will you follow the path that will lead you to destruction and sorrow?” he explained.

The scent of smoke began to fill the area again, and I looked back into the bowl, the image now showing the desolation of before. “Understand, if you choose to keep going down the path you’ve been heading, I will fight you every step of the way. You deserve better than that, child.”

My gaze finally raised up from the bowl to the speaking wolf. “Well, where am I supposed to be heading then?” I asked him, earning nothing more than another chuckle.

The wolf walked around from the other side of the bowl towards me, pressing his body up against mine and pushing me into the bowl. “You will know when you find it.”  I started to scream as I fell into the water.

The bell rang then, startling me out of my daydream. The hour had finished. Our homework was written on the board. I quickly copied it down in my notebook and left the room, walking to next period.

I noticed my palm itching slightly as I got to my locker, so I scratched at it slightly. It felt strange, so I looked at it while pulling out books with my other hand. It seemed normal at first, but the itching was replaced with a heat. I noticed what could only be described as a burn mark appear: a paw print.

 

Photograph made available by Maria Teneva via Unsplash

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