Thursday, October 10, 2019


     Here's an unedited excerpt from the horror novella I am currently writing...HAPPY HALLOWEEN!


     It’s funny.
     You would think after being asleep--or technically, in a medically-induced coma--for three years, eleven months, and seventeen days, that your first waking thought would be something monumental.
     Your child’s face.
     A memory about your wedding or perhaps the moment you fell in love.
     Possibly something devastating. The day your mother died after falling down the stairs to the basement? 
     But for Jenny Kohler, after a four-year slumber of unnatural causes, her first waking thought was about McDonald’s French fries.
     Extra large. With ketchup.
     She’d ripped off the oxygen mask and attempted to speak, but with her atrophied vocal chords the words emerged as “Fra fra.”
     Obviously, it took some time for her to acclimate to her surroundings. Figure out where she was, why she was. What she was. 
     And why the date on the blaring television read 2004.
     Oops. Lost a few years.
     On the bright side, she’d finally lost those pesky fifty pounds. However, no one would mistake her for Sleeping Beauty. Her hair had been chopped into a boyish cut--easier for care at the nursing home. Her body was white and pasty and mushy--with bed sores and scabs and scars from the accident no one wanted to talk about.
     Then she discovered, after a few days of her brain starting to function again, that it wasn’t just fifty pounds of fat that she’d lost.
     Her husband--dear old Jimmy--had divorced her slumbering ass while she laid in a puke-filled hospital bed.
     Dear Old Jimmy.
     And to add the greatest of insults to a near-death injury, he’d married Marlene.
     The bastard had married Marlene.
     He’d married the bitch from hell and taken Clare with him. They now lived in Marlene’s three thousand-square-foot condominium on the west side of town.
     Jenny realized a few days after waking up that the doctors were not going to be her best source of information.
     Neither were the nurses.
     It was the orderlies--bless their sweet souls--the ones who scooped up poop and vomit and other bodily fluids that no one else wanted to touch, who would answer her questions and be straight with her.
     “Sure did. Brought that bitch with him. She has a big, shiny ring on her finger, that one. They spent a couple of minutes at your bedside, then took off for Barbados.”   
     Jenny blinked a few times. Her tear ducts weren’t working so great, but honestly, Jim didn’t deserve the water works.
     “José, was my daughter here, too? Clare? She’s just a little girl.”
     José sent her a pitying look. “That girl ain’t little. She’s twelve. Middle school is hell, don’t you know. The girl has been here a couple of times. Not too much. Never saw her crack a smile or even talk. Sullen kid.”
     My girl is twelve!
     Jenny cringed. She’d missed four vital years of her daughter’s life. She could only imagine what Marlene was teaching her about growing up.
     “Did...did any of my friends stop by?” Jenny was dreading the answer, but she had to know.
     “Yeah. One. Barb. You know her? She came by every Sunday. Told me she knew you were in there, in that lifeless body, somewhere. And then she’d spout off a bunch of religious gobbledygook. You know, about how God was looking out for you. That God would take care of you. God would bring you back.”
     Jenny stared at José. “I don’t know anyone named Barb.”
     “Really?” José barked out a laugh. “She was here every Sunday. You sure?”
     Jenny wracked her brain, which probably wasn’t such a hot idea. It was full of holes and mismatched connections, warped memories, and a bunch of rage. The rage swam around in the gray matter like an alligator under an alga-topped swamp. Skimming the surface every once in a while, then diving back into the scum.
     “Well, I guess I’ll meet her if she stops by again. That should be interesting.”
     “Yeah. It should.” José snubbed out his cigarette on the linoleum floor. “Gotta get back to work. Let me wheel you home.”
     Jenny’s arms weren’t strong enough to wield the wheelchair yet. Physical therapy was now a daily occurrence, but her recovery would not be quick...or easy.
     And there would be no cheerleaders. Mr. Ex-Hubby hadn’t bothered to stop by. Clare hadn’t stopped by. The mysterious Barb had ceased all visits.
    No one had stopped by.
    Well, that wasn’t exactly true.
    Something had stopped by. 
But the thing, the thing that was stopping by, day and night, was something Jenny was trying to ignore. Thinking it a by-product of a long-term coma. Or maybe the meds.
     Meds could do strange shit to your brain.
     That had to be it.
     Because something was watching Jenny, all day and all night. Hidden in the corners. So small, tucked into the shadows, like a tiny bronze afterthought. Always just out of reach, on the periphery.
     At first she’d thought something was wrong with her vision. Like a spot on her retina? A dark spot. It moved as her eyes moved, always on the edges.
     But then one day, the thing...talked.
     Well, that wasn’t quite right. It didn’t exactly talk. It sort of...whispered. But low, like the grumbling of a furnace in the basement.
     She’d thought it was a furnace in the basement. Until she heard the words. Actual fucking words.
     And then the blood that flowed through her broken body turned so cold she’d thought she’d frozen in place. Like a block of ice.
     That was it. That one word, over and over. It wasn’t the furnace. And Jenny was certain it wasn’t the meds. Because she heard it when she was completely lucid. The blurry spots in her peripheral vision would grow, almost like an ocular migraine, but full of shadows. 
And full of something else.
Each day and night, the thing returned. Little Shadow. In the corner. 
Welcoming her. To what exactly?
And strangely, the Little Shadow seemed familiar, almost comforting. 
She’d heard once that people in a coma were aware of everything going on around them. Who was visiting, words spoken. They couldn’t respond, but they were aware. 
As days passed, Jenny’s memories of the last four years returned in a jumbled mass of images.
Dark, wavy images. Angry images. She hadn’t been aware of visitors or doctors or nurses or therapy done on her mushy body. But she was sure--as sure as she could be--that Little Shadow had visited her daily. Because it was the thing that seemed recognizable. It was the thing that filled her memories.
And so, in a very odd way, Little Shadow became a comfort. Something she could rely on, unlike her douchebag ex-husband. 
It wasn’t until fifty-four days after she awoke that it occurred to her that the something might be not be a friend or a comfort at all, but something altogether different. And that she, Jenny Kohler, was in way over her head with this thing.
That night a nurse came into the room to check her bedsores. Most of them had disappeared, but a few had become infected. Jenny couldn’t see them. They were on her lower back. But she could smell them. Something putrid and foul. And wet, with pus oozing onto the bed sheets.
Nurse Wilson was curt and pissy and had about as much bedside manner as a troll. Usually, Jenny ignored her, rolled over, and let her apply the topical ointment which was supposed to heal the open sores.
But on this night, the nurse seemed more disagreeable than normal. When Jenny turned over, the nurse gagged.
Actually gagged.
After all the shit this nurse had seen in this god-forsaken nursing home, she’d gagged at the sight of Jenny’s sores.
“Ugh. These are disgusting.”
Jenny got very, very still.
“They smell like crap. Why isn’t the antibiotic cream working?”
Jenny glanced into the corner of the room, where shadows collected and the light got sucked right under the door.
“Good thing your husband already left you, woman. If he got a whiff of these, he’d be repulsed.”
The shadows in the corner seemed a little larger. Climbing up the walls like a colony of mold. Growing.
“I’ll bet that busty bimbo he’s married to now smells real good.”
Nurse Wilson was bending over Jenny’s back. Head low, concentration focused on the wounds. Jenny reached out and grasped the bed pan on her table. Her coordination still wasn’t great. Her strength was pathetic. But somehow Jenny got ahold of that bedpan, twisted in the sheets, and smacked the side of Nurse Wilson’s head.
The nurse wasn’t expecting it. It didn’t hit very hard due to Jenny’s less-than-stellar physical condition. But it startled the fuck out of poor Nurse Wilson. So much that the woman gasped, tipped backward, and fell onto the floor. Smashed the back of her head so hard she knocked herself out. And cut open a nice slice of her skull.
Bright red blood pooled under the nurse’s head.
And the shadows in the corner laughed.
The shadows in the corner grew.
The shadows in the corner coalesced into a huddled figure. The outline wasn’t sharp, and the face was hidden by a dark bronze haze. 
When the nurse finally came to, she remembered nothing.
     “I must have fallen. Damn slippery floors. I wish they’d stop polishing them at night.”
     That was the start of a new relationship for Jenny.
     That was the night she realized Little Shadow was actually Little Shadow Man. He was there, hidden in the corners.
     And he was growing.

LITTLE SHADOW MAN, © 2019, Nina Roth Borromeo