Wow, that sounds…morbid.
Anyways, I’m doing a “thing” tonight, where I’m reading a short story out loud. Technechally it’s supposed to be under 1,000 words, but currently I have 1,400 and something. But originally I ended up with over 4,500. Way, way over the line, so my short story had to be cut away.
Basically, I removed a couple of character conversations, and a big, bloody fight scene (there will be kindergarteners there, so I removed it for obvious reasons). But, naturally, now I think it is horrible and I removed all of it’s life. I shall give you, brave readers, a chance to decide.
If I had made a list of all the things that could have gone wrong today, being shoved down a laundry chute was not one of them.
To be fair, I never actually released that laundry chutes still existed, let alone were big enough to shove a sixteen-year-old into. The experience is actually quite terrifying, the long, metal shaft is pitch black, and seems to extend into the very bowels of the earth.
But let me back up.
My name is Emery Lake, I am sixteen years old, and lived a completely normal, mundane life until, of course, I decided it would be an exhalant idea to go explore the big old house on Brook Street. The house had been abandoned for years, and had become our own little urban legend. People said that everything from a witch to a ghost to a werewolf lived in the two-story, Victorian style house. Some even went so far to say that it housed the portal to the underworld, and every Halloween you could hear its victims screaming.
Naturally, I decided to go and check it out.
The house had a long, twisting dirt driveway, plastered with KEEP OUT! And PRIVATE PROPERTY! Signs, that I pretty much just ignored. I jumped the fence, which was broken and creaked warningly when I scrambled up it. I landed on the other side, narrowly missing a thorny path of brambles, ducked through a gap between two trees, and the house came into view.
The two-story, Victorian house was covered with peeling, gray-blue paint. Roses and morning glory, long sense turned wild and unruly, climbed up the porch railings toward the roof. I climbed up the stairs, which creaked loudly with each step, and gently pushed on the door. It opened with a long, loud, horror-movie type squeak.
The interior of the house was empty, no future, nothing to show it had ever been lived in. The walls were covered with peeling, floral-patterned wallpaper, and plants poked hopeful tendrils through the cracks in the exterior walls, their leaves covering the windows. It smelled of old wood and dust.
I dug in my pocket for a flashlight, switching it on. I moved through the house, loud creaks emitting with each step.
It was exciting and slightly creepy at first, but after about ten minutes of prowling around the bottom floor, I was starting to get bored. There were large holes in the stairs to get up to the second floor, so I wasn’t about to trust my weight on it. I sighed and turned to head back outside.
I was frozen in my tracks by a low growl. I turned slowly, shining my flashlight along the shadows. At first, it looked like nothing. A darker bit of shadow, lurking in the corner. But then it growled again, a low, chilling sound.
It was a huge, shaggy black dog, about the size of a mastiff. But its face held none of the goofy friendliness I had come to associate with the breed. But its eyes were what made me freeze. They were red. Crimson red. Blood red. No pupal, no white, just dead, red eyes.
“Nice doggy.” I backed up, one hand out. The dog drew back its lips and growled, stalking forward. I kept backing up, my heals bumping against the first stair. “Um…sit! Stay!” The dog lunged, and I shrieked, turned, and ran up the stairs. Their loud, splintering cracks only gave fuel to my fire, and I was on the second floor and pounding down the hall in less than five seconds. I turned at the end, but I felt a hand close around my elbow. I screamed again, whirling around. I stopped my fist just in time to stop hitting the girl who had grabbed me.
“Shush!” She hissed urgently. “If you don’t want to die, come with me!”
I let her tow me down a hall, stopping before a metal door in the wall. That is how I found myself being shoveled down a laundry chute. “Wait, stop!” I brace my hands against the slick metal shaft in an effort to stop my inevitable fall. The girl gives me another push, between my shoulder blades, and suddenly I’m falling.
Sliding down a laundry chute is not the fun experience movies make it look like. It is steep, it is painful, and it is tight. At the bottom I land on something springy and soft, which bounces me off and onto a cold concrete floor. I lie there for a moment, my tailbone throbbing from my ride down the chute, my ankles screaming from the landing.
Someone else lands on what I now realize is a pile of mattresses, and the girl turns her landing into a roll, ending up on her feet. She hauls me up, steadying me as I teeter, and grins. She’s of an average height, with golden hair in a messy braid. She’s grinning, which makes me irritated.
“I’m Quinn. Nice to meet you.” She grabs my hand, tugging me across the floor. “Sorry ‘bout this…?” Her voice trails off in a question.
“Sorry ‘bout this, Emery.” She pulls me behind a stack of crates. She heaves the top off of one and begins rummaging inside.
“What was that?” I ask, “The big black dog.”
“Have you ever heard of a Black Shuck?” I shake my head.
“Well, it’s an old legend that actually isn’t a legend. It says that if you look a Shuck in the eye, you’ll die within the year. That’s just a myth, but it has its roots in truth.” She pulls from the crate what looks like a long, sharp stick. “Shuck’s see eye contact as a challenge. If you look them in the eye, they will go after you, and they’ll bite you. They’ve got this poison in their fangs, kind of like rattlesnake venom. Once they bite you, it takes about 60 hours to die. Maybe 48 if you’re lucky.”
“Why would you be lucky if it takes less time to die?”
“You know that term, “makes my blood boil?” I nod, and she says, “Well, in the case of Shuck venom, it’s literal.”
“Yeah.” We both freeze at the sound of loud paw steps on stairs, and Quinn clutches the stick tighter. “Stay here. I’ll take care of it.”
“What are you going to do, play fetch?” I snap in reply, and Quinn rolls her eyes. “It’s elderberry, genius, and it’s poisonous to Shucks.”
“How was I supposed to know?” I follow her out from behind the crate, and she casts me an apologetic glance. “Sorry. Most people I hang out with know about this stuff, I keep forgetting you don’t.”
The Shuck appears, red eyes glowing in the gloom of what I assume is a basement, eyeing the stick in Quinn’s hands warily. I jump when Quinn howls a battle cry, lunging forward, the stick held like a stake.
The Shuck seems very surprised, because it just skitters to the side. But Quinn twists like a cat, turning in midair, landing lightly on her feet.
I watch what strikes me oddly as a sort of dance and Quinn and the Shuck feint and circle, neither wanting to be the one that attacks first. But it’s the Shuck that moves first, its gaping jaws poised to sink into Quinn’s arm. I expect Quinn to move, but she doesn’t. The Shuck’s fangs sink deep into her arm, and I gasp. Her face is creased with pain, her teeth gritted, but suddenly the Shuck gurgles. Its eyes roll back into its head, and it falls with a loud thud, the elderberry stick poking out from between the Shuck’s ribs.
Blood trickles down Quinn’s arm, and I expect her to panic, but instead she stumbles back over to the crate, pulling out a thermos. She chugs the contents, wiping her mouth. Calmly, she pulls bandages from the crate and wraps them around the deep punctures. She sees my gaping mouth and shocked stare, and says,
“Elderberry tea. Stops the poison from spreading.”
I nod numbly.
Ten minutes later, we stand at the end of the driveway, Quinn entering her number into my phone. She passes it back to me, saying, “If you ever hear of something odd…unexplained death, weird noises from the woods…give me a call, okay?”
I nod, and ask, “You will be fine, right?”
“Yeah. I’ll feel a bit sick for a couple of days, but that’s about it.” She gives me a bright smile and passes my phone back to me. “See you around, Emery.”
And she’s gone, heading up the street, hands tucked causally in her pockets. I glance down at my phone, and I can’t help but laugh. It proudly proclaims, “Quinn Greene, Monster Hunter Extraordinar.”
I glance one more time at Quinn’s receding back, then turn and start heading back home.
Remember Elin from Beautiful People? Yeah, same universe. Quinn’s a supporting character from that. It was based off a writing prompt I found (where else?) off of Pinterest.
Oh! Completely off topic, but Agent Carter has been confirmed for a second season! We are getting season two! For those of you that don’t know, Agent Carter didn’t get all this super high ratings. It built a very loyal fanbase, but they got quality of fans and not quantity (Seriously, though, the Agent Carter fandom is one of the most happy fandoms I have ever been a part of), so a second season wasn’t looking to good for a while. But we get one now! It’s going to be completely and amazingly fantastic.