The Short Story Project ~ A Story

First published: Thursday, November 19th, 2009
2,300 words ~ spooky scale: •••• 15+

Once Upon A Time...

Once upon a time there was a man who was not a Prince, a King or a Knight, nor a Terrible Bandit, a Pirate, or even an Orphan with his destiny still to be discovered. He did not spend his days fighting dragons, black knights, neither the Mongol Hordes nor the Kraken, and definitely not the King’s Navy or a wicked stepmother. In fact, he worked in the marketing department of a popular magazine and spent his days in a rather ordinary office building in the centre of town, running to meetings, answering e-mail, calculating budgets and correcting copy. And every evening at just before six o’clock, he would look at his watch, close the windows on his computer, press the button on his office telephone that activated the voice mail in his absence, and tidy the papers on his desk. He would then text his wife saying that he was setting off, and add some small remark of greeting, different every day, to show how happy he was to be leaving the office to go home and join her.

The day that concerns us is no different.

He pushed his chair under his desk, grabbed his coat and waved to those colleagues still working. Then he took the lift down to the car park.

Because this was just an ordinary day, there were no zombies staggering through blood-spattered corridors, no brigands waiting to ambush the unwary, and no mysterious but malevolent force seeking to entrap him in the lift.

He got into his car, reaching automatically for the seat belt. And then stopped, suspended in his movement.

There was a young woman in his car.

There was a very naked young woman sitting in the passenger seat of his car.

“What are you—?” he started, one hand still stretching the seat belt across his chest, the other still pointing the ignition key towards its socket.

She was very naked. And very pink, he couldn’t stop himself from noticing. She had a mass of blond hair that cascaded down onto her shoulders with a hint of ginger highlights. She had very pale nipples on her breasts, and showed no tan marks. Just this unreal pink skin, as if he was looking at a doll.

She turned and smiled.

He saw goose pimples on her arm, and pale golden hairs that caught the ceiling light.

“I was waiting for you,” she said, and smiled again.

She had a pleasant smile that lit her face and showed her lips like some pale red fruit. Her smile lit up her eyes too, and the light seemed to flicker there like clouds on water.

“How did you—?” he started again. “Look, you’re gonna have to get out right now…”

She shook her head, still smiling.

“Oh no, not now,” she said. “Not now I’ve found you.”

“Is this some kind of joke?” he said.

He looked around, expecting to see colleagues laughing, slapping their thighs and nudging each other in the ribs.

The car park was empty. The strip lighting above illuminating each and every bare concrete wall and corner.

“You’ve got no clothes on,” he said at last. “You do know, don’t you?”

She nodded and bit at her lower lip a little sheepishly.

He sighed, stepped out of the car and took off his coat.

“Put this on,” he said, passing it over the gear box and the handbrake. “Before anyone sees you…”

He watched her slip pink arms into the sleeves, saw the smooth curves if her breasts lift before she pulled the coat round her, and smoothed it on her thighs.

“Thank you,” she said. “I knew I’d chosen right this time.”

“Chosen! What do you mea—?”

“Stop worrying.” She put a finger to his lips. He smelt strawberries and hay, apples and cinnamon. And… gingerbread. For a moment he was transported back to his childhood, and lost there. “I knew you’d be perfect as soon as I saw you. The others hit me, pushed me out. Some even sought to violent me…”

“What?” He couldn’t remember seeing any marks or bruises on that soft skin. “Do you want me to take you to the Police? A Hospital?” Or an asylum, he thought, but kept the idea to himself, just in case…

“Oh no. I’m fine just now.” She pulled on the lapels of the coat, putting them up around her ears then burying and rubbing her face in them. “It smells just like you,” she said.

“Look, you can’t stay here,” he said. Firmly, he hoped.

“Yes, you’re quite right. You have to take me home with you.”

“Ok,” he said at last. And it was as if an enchantment had fallen on him. Like a fish that has been struggling against the hook, that suddenly stops and waits as the line is reeled in.

He has been married for a little over four years. His wife stays at home and does volunteer work during the day. A couple of afternoons at a charity shop, home visits three days a week, and general paperwork. For the moment they can live on what he brings in, but sometimes he worries that there situation is, perhaps, a little precarious. Especially at the moment with what seem like glacially cold winds huffing and puffing through entire sectors of the economy.

They’ve talked about having children. They both agree they’d quite like to, but not yet. Later. We never know what can happen. Who knows, his wife would say, maybe I’ll have to find a paying job. Help keep the wolf from the door.

He parked the car in its usual spot and looked around to see if any of the neighbours were around. Even if she was wearing his coat, he was sure that anyone would realise with just a glance that she was stark naked underneath. Well, if someone did notice, he could always say she was one of his wife’s waifs…

As usual, he slipped round to the back door of the cottage. He walked in front as he felt he needed to explain things first. Or at least, to try to. Thinking about it now, he wasn’t sure he could.

“Hello dear. I’m home,” he called. “Er… And we’ve got a visitor,” he added.

His wife stepped into the kitchen, her black hair cut short about her ears, and framing a pale face. And even wearing old jeans and a blue sweater, she gave the impression of being impeccably dressed.

“Oh,” she said, although she didn’t appear to be the slightest bit put out as the other woman danced across the doorstep letting the coat flap free and revealing her total absence of clothes underneath.

“Oh dear,” he said. “I think this is going to be a little difficult to explain…”

He stood sheepishly, still holding the car keys. He usually kept them in his coat pocket.

“Don’t you worry yourself,” said his wife. She kissed him on the cheek, lingering and staring at the other all the while with icy blue eyes before smiling at him, lifting the keys from his hand, and giving him a quick proprietary tap on the bottom. “Go and freshen up,” she said. “I’m sure us girls can find something to talk about.”

He looked about her for a second, as if waiting for a delayed reaction, before obediently padding off to the hallway and beyond.

His wife turned back to the other woman who was now leaning an arm on the back of one of the high stools, her other hand hidden in the folds of the coat.

“Hello,” smiled the other.

“Your tricks won’t work on me,” said the wife. “So leave him alone. And that’s his coat you’re wearing. You’d better give it back before you leave.”

“I can’t. He gave it to me. We’re going to get married and live happily ever after.”

“I doubt he did give it to you, even if I do believe him capable. He lent it to you, that’s all. Probably because he thought you needed it. He’s like that. Stray dogs, birds with broken wings… street folk. Sometimes there’s no stopping him. Of course…” she ended with a sigh. She looked the woman up and down, as if trying to emphasise her nakedness, but the other seemed totally unaware of her state of undress.

“So you’ve noticed too,” she said. “He’s so very perfect. So adorable.”

“And that’s why you’d better leave. Now. I don’t want him getting hurt.” She turned to look at the corridor leading to the kitchen where she’d sent her husband off a moment ago. As if his trace was still visible there.

Behind her back the other woman moved quickly, sharply.

Even faster the wife lifted a hand up over her shoulder, catching the other’s wrist. She twisted round to face her, tightening her hold on the other’s arm. The carving knife fell to the spotless tiled floor with a clatter.

The two women faced each other.

“Everything all right, dear?” came the voice from upstairs.

Both women looked up.

“Just being all fingers and thumbs. Nothing to worry about. Really,” called the wife.

In that microsecond of inattention, the other swept up a fruit bowl from the table, aiming squarely at the head. The wife blocked it with her other hand. Apples and oranges bounced down to the floor.

They stared at each other as the wife increased the tension on the wrist and, slowly, the fruit bowl came back down to rest on the table top.

The other was red-faced from the exertion, like a raspberry sauce dripping down over a pink pudding.

For a moment neither moved, then the other collapsed, pulling on the wife’s hand, pulling her forwards and towards her. The wife let go of the wrist as the other dropped to the ground and, scooping up the knife, lunged forwards.

A frying pan smacked her on the ear, sending the knife spinning and her reeling on over to the cabinets by the fridge where she gripped the countertop for support.

“Just me being clumsy again, dear,” the wife called out. “Don’t know what’s come over me tonight…”

The sound of water flowed down from upstairs, drowning out any reply.

Still wielding the frying pan, the wife moved over towards the fridge. But she stepped on an orange and her leg suddenly slid forwards leaving an opening for the other to dart forwards. And sink her teeth into the knee. She bit into the leg, tearing through the fabric, pulling at bone and cartilage and tendons. The frying pan swung down to swipe her aside, but at the very last moment the other ducked, rolling to the side and leaving the wife to control her follow-through and avoid falling, her foot sliding further on the orange pulp with crimson staining her jeans at the rip in the knee.

The wife steadied herself at the worktop and set down the frying pan, nearly dropping it as the knife plunged up and into her thigh. As the other pulled back the knife for a second blow, the wife span her other foot round, clipping the side of the other’s head and sending her sprawling to the floor.

Neither said a word, neither moved as they heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs.

The wife put a finger to her lips, pulled an apron from the rack and slipped it over her head as she limped towards the hallway. She smoothed it over the blood stains streaking her leg and headed her husband off at the foot of the stairs.

“Come on, dear, you can’t wear that grubby old sweater, can you?” She caressed his cheek. “Why don’t you go and put on that nice blue one I gave you last month..?”

Dutifully, he turned back up the stairs.

“Dinner’ll be ready in ten minutes of so,” she added.

“Do you need a hand?” he asked, leaning over the bannister at the top of the stairs.

“Don’t worry yourself. Everything’s under control,” she said and turned back to the kitchen.

The other was no where to be seen. Instantly she darted sideways into the front room and grabbed the poker from by the fireplace.

Back in the hallway she leaped into the air and through the door, rolling over as she landed before twisting round and bringing the poker down on the back on the other’s head as she dropped down — too late — in front of the open door.

“Naive stupid bitch. You think you’re the first to try…” she muttered as the other crumpled to the ground like a marionette whose strings have been cut. “You really thought I’d let you stroll in here and steal him, just like that?”

She put the poker in the sink, and washed away the blood and matted hair. Then she bent down to truss the other’s body, pulling kitchen twine tight about the pink legs and arms.

“Of course he’s perfect, doting, loving, caring, faithful.” She bit off another stretch of twine. “Why do think I bumped his wife off, years ago, and took her place..?”

She looked down at the body, vermillion blood shining like a crown about her head.

She pulled the body across the kitchen floor by an ankle before wrapping in bin liners and stuffing it into the deep freeze. She’ll get rid of it later. Like she’d done for the wife, like she’d done for the other ones. Under the mulberry bush in the garden when there’ll be no-one around…

She picked up a cloth and the bleach and set to cleaning the floor and the other surfaces until everything shined and was perfectly in order.

Then she waited for her husband to descend for dinner.


Not the story that I wanted to write… Oh well. And my apologies, the end was a bit brutal.

Something different next week, I promise. Until then… don’t forget to support and share.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 France License.

Last edited: Thursday, November 19th, 2009

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a full-length novel

black as snow Juliet has just moved to the country. She doesn’t like her new school, she doesn’t like living on a stinking farm where it always rains. Then she starts seeing a pony, waiting outside at night in the rain. And she’s sure it’s waiting for her...

Before she knows it, she is called on for help by a trio of strange creatures who live in the woods nearby. And then the rabbits... Oh yes, the rabbits.

Fantasy, comedy, and more than a touch of spookiness in this strange tale where things quickly get Black as Snow.

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