This is the fourth story to be generated by the 'September Madness' post and part 1 was inspired by a prompt sent in by Dom Camus.
If you want to see the current list of prompts or (even better) add your own then click here. Remember I'll only accept prompts that come in before the end of September.
Lunchtime was nearly over and the classroom was buzzing with the latest gossip. Krystal Williams turned from the whispering circle to lean on Beth’s desk.
“Jamie O’Brien says he tongued you on the bus.”
Beth’s cheeks burned against her hands. “He’s a liar!”
“He said your mouth tasted sour.”
Beth screwed her face deeper into her hands. Between her fingers she could see Jamie laughing with his mates. Her teacher would be back in a couple of minutes. Beth wasn’t sure she could last that long.
Then, two rows back, Abigail climbed up onto her chair, providing a welcome distraction.
“What’s that freak doing?” asked Krystal.
Beth dared to look up. She could see Abigail hopping across the desks, arms by her sides, hands out at right angles. One by one, the class were drawn in to the spectacle. Abigail stepped past Beth’s desk and kept going until she was standing in front of Jamie. The diminutive girl looked like a doll next to the broad shouldered boy.
Jamie struck a pose of practised nonchalance. “You want to have a go too?” He closed his eyes and pursed his lips. The class roared with laughter.
Abigail swung back her foot and kicked him in the eye.
Jamie’s scream cut through the laughter like a knife.
Beth hurried past the headmaster’s office. Abigail was sat outside, working.
“Thanks Abi,” said Beth quietly. “I owe you one.”
Abigail face melted in relief. “Then I need you to get something for me.”
Mr Dean was closing up the workshop by the time Beth arrived.
“Sorry Sir, I left my coat inside.” She silently prayed he wouldn’t offer to get it for her.
Mr Dean sniffed loudly as he deliberated. “Alright, you’ve got two minutes and then I lock the door whether you’re out or not.”
Abigail’s project sat on the shelf; two miniature chairs and a wardrobe for a dollhouse. Her friend had spent every night working on them for weeks and it showed. Beth thought of her own project, a block puzzle that needed a hammer to fit the pieces in, and felt a pang of envy.
She was also puzzled. Abigail had made a big deal about not being seen and being really careful. Why? She picked up the wardrobe, which was really a block of wood with painted doors and turned it in her hands. To her surprise, it rattled. There was something inside.
A closer inspection revealed that the wardrobe could open. The join had been hidden and sealed with paint.
Outside, Mr Dean cleared his throat. Beth tucked the wardrobe in her pocket and scurried out.
“Thanks!” she said as she left.
Beth tried not to panic. “Sir?”
“Where’s your coat?”
It took a moment to remember what he was talking about. “Oh. It wasn’t there. I must’ve left it in maths.”
Mr Dean sniffed again and waved her on her way.
That night all Beth could think about was what was in the wardrobe. Although she’d been grateful Abigail hadn’t told her anything.
It wasn’t the first time her friend had behaved oddly. Abigail was known to be eccentric. The whole school knew that she lived with her aged grandparents who never seemed to leave the house. One of the class bitches had started saying they were cultists, another that they were too ugly to come out in the day. Only Beth knew the truth.
They were dead.
For almost a year now, Abigail had lived alone, mostly self-sufficient. Sometimes Beth covered for her and once they’d had her cousin pretend to be Abigail’s grandfather on the phone but she did the rest herself, from the weekly shop to online tax and bills. Beth knew it couldn’t last forever but with modest outgoings and her grandparent’s savings, Abigail seemed fine for the moment.
Or was she? Beth wondered again about the contents of the wardrobe. Was her friend dealing or moving drugs? She resolved to confront Abigail the next day.
Abigail was absent the next day and for the rest of the week. Beth began to get nervous. On Friday afternoon, while her peers ran home with thoughts of Christmas, she went to her friend’s house.
It was an ordinary looking building, squashed in the middle of its siblings. One window was boarded up but the others were clean. The paintwork was fresh, the grass smart and even. It appeared neat yet unremarkable, much like Abigail herself.
Nobody answered the bell and the front door was locked so Beth slipped round the back of the house. On this side, away from public view, things were a picture of neglect. She went to the back door. It had warped so badly the lock didn’t work. Abigail had just wedged it against the frame. Beth wrestled it open and went in.
The blinds in the kitchen were down so she put the lights on. It was quiet enough that she could hear electricity humming in the ceiling…and something else. She couldn’t place the noise but felt its incongruity. Perhaps an animal had got in. Beth hoped it was a small one.
Furniture was piled in the hallway and the door to the front room stood open. She looked in to find the carpet had been rolled back, revealing floorboards. What was going on?
Beth edged closer, sweat prickling on her face.
Light shone upwards into the room through a trapdoor. Beth swallowed and peered down. The sound was coming from somewhere just out of view. She could hear it better now, a gentle scratching.
At the bottom of the ladder lay Abigail’s body. It was pale and too still.
(Beth stopped breathing)
Something had taken Abigail’s head.
(Original prompt: The lead character is around 11-13 years old and due to some chance event discovers that his/her best friend lives alone with no parent or guardian. Not wanting to get the friend in trouble or reveal knowledge of this secret, further investigation is carried out without anyone's knowledge… but what is going on turns out to be something even weirder than it first appears and our protagonist gets unwillingly drawn into events…)