Working Title: Laughing Bones WIP
In honor of Halloween, here is a quick little piece. As always, it’s a WIP and could use some work, but just an idea I wanted to play around with. This is literally the first draft of this piece, so I’m sure it has some rough patches that could be improved, but I really like what I have so far. In a couple of days, I’ll probably hate it, so I better post it now while it’s still on my good side! I hope you enjoy, and, as always, feel free to leave any recommendations or critiques in the comments!
Jaime hated Halloween. She had never had the brave disposition necessary to enjoy horror movies, scary stories by the fire, or jump scares in the hallways. In first grade, she had spent most of her classroom’s Halloween party in hysterics after one of her classmates leapt out at her when she was walking to the snack bowl. A few years and Halloweens later and she still had not overcome her deep dread about the month of October.
More specifically, however, Jaime hated the Jinkersons’ house during Halloween. The Jinkersons were a kind, loving couple. Eleven months of the year, Jaime loved living next door to them. They baked cookies and had an arcade in their basements that was free for the neighborhood kids to play in. They also volunteered their ample backyard for neighborhood ballgames during the long summer afternoons. Mrs. Jinkerson was a woman decked in smiles, a teacher by trade and passion. Mr. Jinkerson was old, chubby, and an endless repository of jokes and harmless pranks. But, come October, their smiling faces beamed as they draped their home in skeletons, ghouls, zombies, body parts, and buckets of red-tinted corn syrup, and Jaime began to avoid their home as much as she could.
This year took the cake. The Jinkersons outdid themselves on the overall decoration, piling more corpses and ghosts across their yard. Mr. Jinkerson even built a maze out of black trash bags through the backyard, gleefully leading the neighborhood kids through the various scenes of horror. Jaime, while displeased, could handle the decorations in the yard. She simply did not go in there, and did not walk past their house after dark. She crossed the street, and then walked back to her house. Even the willfully scared screams of her friends as they lost themselves in the maze did not bother her. What did, however, was the cheap plastic skeleton hanging in the tree. It seemed to stare directly into her window, and any slight breeze triggered its creepy laughter.
It was 3:15 in the morning and she had early soccer practice at 7:00am the next morning. The chattering laugh—deep, throaty, and echoing unnaturally—woke her with a start. She heard the plastic frame fluttering in the trees, triggering more and more laughter from the flimsy ghoul. Jaime rolled over, pulling her pillow down over her ears as she pressed her face into her mattress. Even with the sacrifice of near suffocation, the decoration’s brittle laughter still pounded in her ears, sending chills fluttering down her spine. It was just a plastic toy, she chided herself, trying to balance her fear with her frustration, but the logical reassurance did little to calm her in the pitch night.
The laughter quieted just as the sun began to rise along the horizon. Jaime’s tired eyes eased into the quiet moment, letting her doze off for a few precious hours before waking.
“Are you feeling okay, honey?” her dad asked as he stuffed a hastily made sandwich into her lunch box. Jaime stared with glazed eyes at her cereal, now soggy mush after wading in the milk undisturbed. “Jamie?” he questioned, snapping her back to attention.
“I didn’t sleep good,” she mumbled before halfheartedly stirring her cereal and lifting a milk-logged bite.
“Didn’t sleep good? What was the matter?” questioned her mother, stomping into the room on the tips of pointed heels. She stopped sharply in front of her husband, spinning tight on her heel and pointing wordlessly at the gaping zipper in the back. “You weren’t up late reading again, were you?”
“No,” she grumbled with a scowl. “It was the Jinkerson’s skeleton. It kept laughing.”
“Oh, honey, surely you couldn’t hear that thing through your window,” sighed her father after taking care of the offending sipper. The metal snapped sharply into place, and Jaime’s mother dropped into her chair at the table.
“I heard it all night.” Jaime reiterated, punctuating each word with an intentional pause.
“But, sweety, didn’t you have your window closed?” her mother asked.
Jaime stared at her mother grimly before giving her a sharp nod. “It was closed. I heard it.”
“I’ll talk to Mr. Jinkerson today, then,” sighed her father as he dropped her lunchbox on the table. “I’m sure he can switch it off or something.” With that declaration, her older brother swept into the kitchen, his chair squealing as it dragged across the floor. He dug into his breakfast as if he had not eaten in weeks, and the conversation shifted to his after school practice schedule. Jaime slipped out to finish getting ready for her morning practice, dragging tired and leaden limbs down the hallway to her bedroom. The skeleton hung outside her window, toothy grin mocking her as it drifted in the gentle autumn breeze. At least, Jaime mused, he was quiet this time.
The school day was a blur. Morning practice was a nightmare of tangled feet and sluggish limbs that responded seconds to late to every drill–by the end she had earned her teammates two extra laps. She fell asleep in her math class, her eyes tired of searching aimlessly for the missing x in so many different equations. English class was even worse as she left her books in her locker, earning herself a responsibility paper for Mr. Edmunds since she could not participate in the class reading. She spilled milk down her shirt at lunch, dropped the paints in art, and slammed her finger in her locker after final period. The day was a maelstrom of unfortunate events.
By the time she laid down for bed, Jaime’s hatred for the grinning skeleton had grown into monstrous levels of rage. It’s meddling had brought on all the troubles she now faced, and all it could do was grin malevolently at her, as if they were childhood friends conspiring on some cheap prank. She was staring at the shiny plastic eyes of the decoration, irritation smoldering in her gaze, when there was a knock on her door.
“Ready for bed?” her dad asked, leaning against the door frame. Jaime didn’t respond, but burrowed a bit deeper into her comforter. “I talked to Mr. Jinkerson. He said he’d pull the batteries out of the skeleton; didn’t know it even made noise when they put it up. And that he owed you a game session for keeping you up,” he chuckled before crossing over to her bed. He tousled her hair–the only part of her visible to him–and sat on the edge of the bed. “Think you can get some sleep tonight?”
Jaime rolled over, flopping with the over-dramatic air only a teenager can muster. “I’ll try my best, dad.”
He smiled and laughed to himself before standing. “Good, that’s all I ask. I’m sure it would help if we could keep Mr. Bones here from spying on you all night.” With a shirt tug, he pulled the curtains closed, effectively shutting out the newly named Mr. Bones. “No sight, no sound, no problem.” The click of the light switch signified his departure, and Jaime found herself rapidly overcome by the heavy hand of sleep.
3:19 and she was awake, again the sounds of laughter rattling outside her window. This time, frustration won out over fear. The cheap decoration had been nothing but a nuisance, and she was tried of it. She resolutely threw her legs off the bed and stomped over to the window. Flinging back the curtains, she saw the skeleton dancing in the wind, limbs akimbo, as it laughed mouthlessly into the darkness. It mocked her.
Without another thought, Jaime walked to the backdoor. She flung the screen wide, robotically grabbing her brother’s baseball bat from beside the door on her way out. The wind blew furiously, tossing leaves into her face as she made her way across the lawn with single-minded fortitude. Her feet squished into the mud, chilling her to the bone. She was on a mission, one who could not be deterred.
The first swing and the decoration’s flimsy limbs were tangled around the bat. Another swing brought the grinning face to the ground. Again and again she lifted the bat before bringing it down on the grin, the arms, the legs, and any part of the cursed skeleton she could. After a few minutes, the ghoul was reduced to shattered plastic and tangled wires. The wind howled through the trees, eagerly reclaiming its dominance of the nightly noises. It chilled the sweat that had appeared across Jaime’s brow, calming the fury that had only recently raged with her slight form.
With abnormal calm, Jamie scooped up the tattered remains of the skeleton and carried them to the trashcan. She dumped the remains unceremoniously into the bin, leaving it to grin amongst the old newspapers and last night’s leftovers. A deep peace settled over her as she walked in the newly quiet evening, back to the back door. With a smile, she climbed victoriously back into bed.
As her eyes closed, her blood froze in her veins. From the darkness of her bedroom, a sound caught her attention. Laughter rattled through her room, reaching across the space to paralyze her beneath the thick comforter. It was deep, throaty, and echoing too deeply to emanate from the darkened corner. Her eyes snapped open, drawn immediately to the gaping, toothy smile waiting for her.
Jaime screamed. It laughed.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.