An Excerpt

From the beginning of a horror short story/novelette that I’m working on (not sure how long it’s going to be yet). Probably riddled with errors as all first drafts are. As I don’t tend to keep my earlier drafts I thought it might be nice to have a record, for posterity.

 

Stuffed

It was just another sleepy day in a small village that Megan had been raised in, and now at age twelve she was only just really beginning to explore it. In a place so small that you didn’t get to choose your friends so much as you stumbled upon who was handed to you, she leaned out the bay window of her family home. Her purple phone trilled beside her and she unlocked its screen to read the message. It was Stan.
Some friends you just had to put up with. She opened his message:
‘It’s happened AGAIN!!!”
She sighed and clicked her phone back to sleep. Another buzz, he wouldn’t give up. She opened the message:
‘Over at Xtian’s, his cat is gone! U coming over?’
Christian? This changed everything, he was two years older than Megan, tall for his age, loved football and had hair that always seemed to flop in just the right way without any effort. Megan grabbed her backpack as she ran out of the door to her poster adorned room. Seconds later she burst out of the front door of her house, throwing promises over her shoulder that she’d be back before it was too dark. She sprinted down the cobbled road in the direction of Christian’s house. When she arrived moments later, she saw Stan standing at the side of the house, motioning to her with his hand. He was of average height, wore a denim jacket and the glint of metal peeked out from behind his lips when he spoke. His hair was gelled, rock hard to one side again, he’d only started doing this recently and the look didn’t work for him.
“Hey! Meg, over here,” he called to her.
“Yeah, I can see you.” She kept her head down as she waved to the silhouette of Christian’s mother through the front window. Stan put his arm around Megan’s shoulder as he walked her down the side of the house, “This is the situation, Cat-Face was last seen this morning at breakfast and hasn’t been seen since-”
Megan shrugged his arm off her, “Cat-Face?” she asked. Stan shrugged, “Yeah, it’s Christian, duh.” He put on a deep, imitating voice, “Because its face looks like a cat.” Megan just ignored him as they reached the back of the house. Christian stood with his majestic hair waving in the breeze as he looked out into the woods at the back of his garden. Next to him was Ellara, she was quiet, always. And no doubt was only here because Stan was. They way she followed him around was pathetic, Megan thought to herself as she strode up to stand next to Christian as he gazed out into the dark spaces between the trees. He turned to regard her, “Oh. Hey, Megan.”
“Hey, Christian,” she replied, peeking out from behind her eyelashes. “Sorry to hear about your cat.”
“Yeah, it’s like, weird, y’know? She never misses dinner.”
“Maybe she got take out?”
Christian just looked at Megan, who instantly regretted trying to lighten the mood. She watched as Stan stepped out the perimeter with exaggerated strides, muttering to himself. Christian continued, “Seems more than a coincidence after Mrs Piper’s puppy went missing last week.”
“Yeah, Stan thinks there’s someone going around snatching up people’s pets,” said Ellara. Christian and Megan stared at here, surprised that noise was coming from her mouth. Megan half wondered that if animals were going missing in the village could Ellara be the culprit? She was a year younger than Megan and small with a high pitched voice. Meghan scoffed, “Stan probably thinks it’s aliens or something.”
“Yeah, aliens,” agreed Christian.
Stan approached the three, by his expression he had a plan in mind. “Okay, we going in?”
“Where?” asked Megan.
“The forest. Where else?” said Stan.
“I’m not allowed in the forest-” stated Ellara.
“Okay, let’s go,” said Christian as he began marching towards the trees. Megan didn’t even think before she fell into step behind him, and Stan behind her. Ellara glanced behind herself a moment and then trotted after Stan with a worried look on her face. The four stepped into the forest behind Christian as he called out, “Cat-Face! Dinner time!” Ellara stared around at the layers of trees, glancing behind her to make sure that the forest hadn’t closed in around them. “Stan, don’t go too far!” she called, but Stan was already investigating some tracks in the dirt. Picking up the wet soil and squashing it under his nose as though he might pick up the scent.
Megan jogged alongside Christian, her eyes roving the ground. Not for any sign of Cat-Face’s whereabouts but for something cool to say to Christian, something to make him notice her. Maybe something about football? If only she could figure out what that was, she didn’t want to mess it up and sound like an idiot in front of him.
The sun set behind the trees and the wood was slowly pierced by red beams of light. Stan shouted form a squat position, “Guys! Over here!” As the three congregated on Stan’s position, Ellara made yet another mental note of the way back home by pointing with her finger, “That way,” she muttered under her breath.
“What have you got, Stan-Man?” Asked Christian.
It wasn’t great, but it was Stan’s first nickname, his parents had always referred to him as Stanley, the others kids, as Stan. “Stan-Man…” He said to himself as he gazed off into nothing as he let this new epoch of his life envelop him.
“Stan? Did you find something?” Asked Ellara, trying to break his reverie as Megan began to giggle at him.
“Oh? Yeah. Look.” And Stan lifted a cat’s collar from the forest floor with the end of a stick. Dangling it in front of Christian, Megan shielded herself in case it somehow infected her with something.
“Eww!” She commented, dramatically moving her palms.
“Cat-Face?” Said Christian, his face dropping.
“No way that came off by accident!” Said Stan, still waving the collar.
“You think?” Asked Christian.
“You don’t know that, Stan! It could have just fallen off or something.” Said Megan.
Stan stepped stood up, “Then why…” He stepped closer, “Is it…” He was right in her face now, “Bloody?!” He shouted for dramatic effect. Megan feigned boredom to hide her disgust, “Okay, are we done here? It’s getting late.”
Christian eyed the bloody, dangling collar. “You think she’s been kidnapped, Stan?”
“I’m sorry, Christian.” Said Stan, placing his hand on Christian’s shoulder, “I don’t think it, I know it.”
“Why would someone steal Christian’s cat, Stan?” Asked Ellara, breaking Stan’s intensity. Somewhere in the woods something snapped, the echo ricocheted off the tree trunks but Megan was the only one who paid it any attention. The other three continued their bickering.
“…was a really nice cat, don’t know why someone would want to hurt her…”
“…is someone with a deep psychological disorder…”
“…hope my hamster is okay…”
The snapping sound echoed again and Megan spun to her left, scanning the woods with her eyes pursed into slits. “Guys, what was that?” She asked the group. All three turned to regard her.
“What was what?” asked Stan.
“That noise, didn’t you hear it? It came from over there.” She said, pointing.
“It could be the serial killer, watching us. They like to do that.” Said Stan, eagerly peering into the distance.
“It’s probably just a mink.” Said Ellara.
“Okay, let’s go, I have practise in the morning.” Said Christian as he turned and began back towards his garden. Megan dropped into line behind him, “Oh? What time? I could walk with you. If y’know you need company or anything.”
“He doesn’t need company, Megan. What are you gonna do? Hold his shorts?” Said Stan following them.
“And what would you know about football, Stanley?”
“Actually it’s Stan-Man.”
“Christian, Stan thought a football was a ball made out of people’s feet!”
“No, I didn’t!” Objected Stan, and the bickering continued until they reached the edge of the wood, when Megan stopped dead in her tracks.
“Wait, where’s Ellara?” Shoulders were shrugged and bemused glances exchanged between the two boys until Megan broke the cycle by pushing past them and darting back into the woods, “Ellara?” She called as the boys shapes grew smaller behind her in the darkness. The crunch of bark up ahead alerted Megan, “Ellara? Is that you?” She called out ahead of her.
Feeling as though she were now racing against a time limit, Megan pressed on into the wood. A small shape was up ahead, Ellara, standing motionless and facing away. Megan ran up to her, “Ellara! We have to go, it’s late.”
“Okay, he’s gone now anyway.”
Megan looked around herself uneasily, “Who’s gone? Did you see someone?”
“The hunchy man.”
“A hunched man?”
“He was all bent over.”
A cool rush of fear took over Megan and she grabbed Ellara’s wrist, pulling her along, “Okay, let’s go. You can tell me the rest once we’re back…”
The pair made their way back to Christian’s garden and something in the shadows watched them as they left.

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