Rachel shrugged her hoodie tighter, dodging the rain drops. The scene played over in her head. Dinner burning on the stove. Her father sitting at the table, his head in his hands. Her baby brother wailing on the floor for some Halloween candy just out of reach. And her mother screaming at her to get out, get out and never come back.
When she’d left, it was a warm fall night. But the weather had turned and now she was drenched and freezing. She needed Kate. To hold her until the feeling came back. To tell her they could be happy together. To help her shut out the terrible words.
Rachel looked at the string of unanswered texts on her phone and shivered. She ducked into an alley to get out of the worst of the wind. And froze. A table set for two glowed in a puddle of light. Her mother and father, sitting at opposite ends, smiled at each other. Her baby brother, perched in his highchair, blew a bubble. A breeze twisted through the alley and the light trembled.
And then nothing.
Rachel’s mouth went dry. She backed out of the alley and ran to the subway entrance a block away, hopping on the first train that stopped. She got out her phone, pushing away the nightmare of her happy family.
R U there yet? I’m freezing!
She closed her eyes, relaxing into the rumble and hum of the ride. When she opened them, they were sitting right in front of her, all together on the couch, a blue glow lighting their faces. Every few seconds her parents laughed. Her brother chewed a rubber llama.
“Mom?” Rachel whispered.
Her mother looked at Rachel with a slight frown on her face, and then turned back to the invisible TV.
“Mom!” Rachel’s voice was sharp, scared. Annoyed, her mother reached and grabbed a remote out of thin air.
“This show has gone off the rails,” she said and pointed the remote at Rachel.
And then nothing.
Trying to hold down her panic, Rachel got off at the next stop. In ten minutes, she’d be at Kate’s. She started walking, keeping her eyes on her feet, but the sound of squealing brakes forced her to look up. In the middle of the dark, rain-slick street, she saw her family one last time.
Orange paper ribbons floated in the air. Her mother carried the baby on her hip. Her father carried an ax. The Jack-O-Lantern glowed between them, ghoulish and grim. And there was Kate, eyes bright, her lips rounded as if ready for a kiss.
“Blow it out, dear,” her mother said to Kate. But she was looking directly at Rachel.
“Kate, don’t!” Rachel cried, and stepped into the light.
She heard a loud, electric crack.
And then nothing.
Nothing but Kate, standing right there with a silly grin, holding a pumpkin.
And then Kate laughed. “Why are we standing out here in the freezing rain?” She took Rachel’s hand in hers. “C’mon, let’s go home.”
And that was everything.
Copyright Bonnie Burns 2019. All Rights Reserved.
Ready to hop one more time? Check out these awesome authors, all participants in the Storytime Blog Hop, October 2019.
- Family Time by Bonnie Burns
- The Exception by Vanessa Wells
- Number 99 by Juneta Key
- Edda’s Second Chance by Katharina Gerlach
- Very Thin Line by Rebecca Anne Dillon
- Henry Moves House by Nic Steven
- For The Ghost The Bell Tolls by James Husum
- Never Alone by Melanie Drake
- The Neighbor by Meghan Collins
- Storytime Blog Hop by Raven O’Fiernan
- Loney Lucy by Bill Bush
- The Traveler by Barbara Lund
- Evening by Karen Lynn
- Man Of Your Dreams by Gina Fabio
- The Undertaker’s Daughter by J. Q. Rose
- The Road by Elizabeth McCleary
- Storytime Blog Hop by C. T. Bridges
- Storytime Blog Hop by Warp World Books
My thanks to Holly Lisle at HollysWritingClasses.com. Her (free!) How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck course inspired this story. You can hear a recorded version of this story (and many other spooky Halloween flash fiction pieces) at Alone in a Room with Invisible People, a weekly podcast produced by Rebecca Galardo.