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Suspense Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Three rules, if you wanna live.

One. You sleep at dawn, and rise at dusk.

Two. If the Thing finds you, don’t hide, RUN. There will be enough light somewhere.

Three. You can’t save no one, except yourself.

That’s what I’ve figured out so far.  That’s what’s been keeping me and Noah alive.

There weren't that many people in Presvern to begin with.  Maybe a couple hundred.  The Thing made quick work of whittling that down.  It hit the hospital first.  Wasn’t like anyone in there could really get away.  The police thought it was some cult.  Everyone had three big holes in their chest.  By the time someone saw the Thing, it was too late.  There were only maybe fifty of us left.  But at least we knew.

My family didn’t make it.  They couldn’t run fast enough.  Daddy always said, “Can’t nothing catch Annie!”  He was right. It’s because I never look back.  You can hear the Thing coming.  Bones snapping, teeth grinding, breath choking away.  That’s when you start running for light.  But if you look back, that’s all it needs.  You slow down that one little second, cause you just have to see it.  And it’s the last thing you see.

“I’m so tired, Annie,” Noah whines.  He’s always whining about wanting to sleep.  I can’t really be mad at him.

“Not til you see the light of day,” I remind him. “Can’t nothing get you, then.”

He frowns, and leans back against the wall of our place.  It’s a room above the hardware store.  It’s pretty empty.  There’s two beds, and wires.  They power the bulbs.  I’ve rigged every circuit I could with bulbs so there isn’t a shadow in the whole room.  Noah reaches a hand inside the box and fiddles with the spares, clinking the glass just a bit.

“Don’t you break those!” I snap.  

He pulls his hand away quickly, and I see tears start to well in his eyes. 

 “You were so brave helping me get them.”

That does the trick.  He smiles and blinks back the tears.  

“We did good, didn’t we, Annie?”

“Yeah.  Real good.”

We’d been hunting spare bulbs the whole week.  If even one light went out, there was a bit of dark. And that was all the Thing needed.  Just a little bit of dark.  We’d cleared out most of the bulbs left in the stores around town and finally had to start breaking into the houses.  Most of them stank.  Bodies and mold will do that.  I didn’t know death had its own smell before the Thing showed up. Made me understand why the animals can tell.  They can smell better than we can.  They smell death coming.

I usually made Noah wait outside the house, but he wanted to come in with me the last time.  We found plenty of bulbs in the kitchen cabinet.  We also found Mister Hamel stretched across the floor.  Flies were swarming in and out of the three holes that went through his middle.

Noah stared and stared.  I wasn’t sure if he’d ever seen anyone the Thing had killed before. I wasn’t sure about a lot of things when it came to Noah.  We had found each other in the school gym.  For a while, everyone tried to live there together.  They thought it might be safer.  They thought wrong.  Fights broke out real quick over batteries and candles.  Soon, the people were killing each other off before the Thing could even reach them.  But Noah and I stuck together.  Or, he stuck to me, for some reason.  We took care of each other.

“Look at how big they are!” he gasped.

“Yeah.  He never had a chance,” I sighed, going back to putting the bulbs into our box.

“I didn’t like him, anyway,” Noah muttered.  “He was bad to you.”

Mister Hamel had been my Chemistry teacher.  There was a streak of mean in him that he didn’t rightly have any reason for.  He was one of the last others to make it, though.  Me and Noah had seen him maybe two days before.  I offered some food in exchange for bulbs.  He cussed me out.

And I ended up with the bulbs anyway.

Noah’s head bobs again, and hits the wall hard.  I sigh.

“Go ahead and get in bed,” I tell him.

He perks up just a bit.  “You mean it?”

“Yeah,” I say. “It’s almost daylight, anyway.  I will stay awake.”

“Promise? You won’t let the bulbs go out?”

“Promise.”

He jumps up and climbs into his bed, snuggling under covers that haven’t been washed in weeks.  But that doesn’t really matter, since we haven’t been washed, either. His head hits the pillow, and he starts breathing deep and even.  I watch his chest rise and fall for almost an hour.

That’s when the bulb flickers.  The one in the corner, just over his bed.  It had been threatening to go out for a while now. While it’s flickering, I go over to the spare box, and wrap my hands around a replacement.

I can tell the light has gone out before I turn around.

I can hear the Thing before I turn around, too.

There’s enough light on me.  I know I’m safe.  But Noah isn’t.

So I finally look.

It’s so tall its head hits the ceiling.  And thin.  No eyes.  Only deep black holes.  And three sharp fingers, longer than my arm.  

I stand there, with the bulb in my hand, unable to move.  Noah stirs in the bed, rolling onto his back.  He yawns, his mouth opening wide, and I watch the Thing disappear right into Noah, like water swirling down a drain. It vanishes into him as he rolls back onto his side, his face turned towards me.  He opens a single eye.  But there’s no eye. Just one of those deep black holes.  He smiles at me as the sun starts breaking over the horizon.  

And behind that smile, I see the Thing.

“I love you, Annie.”

February 18, 2022 16:28

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36 comments

K. Antonio
02:18 Feb 21, 2022

Enjoyed the pacing of this story. It was quick, quirky and made me curious. I loved how you gave us details about The Thing, without ever really telling the reader what is exactly was. This entire story sort of gave me Bird Box vibes, where you had to avoid The Thing's gaze, it felt like looking at it would be the deciding factor between a person's life or death, WHICH MADE THE LAST LINE ALL THE MORE PROVOKING. It was a fun read and I enjoyed the characters. Gave me all type of vibes!

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03:55 Feb 21, 2022

Hey mister 😊 thank you for reading! This story is another attempt at thriller for me (it’s not what I usually write) it means a lot to me that you enjoyed it! Do you think I’m too vague with “The Thing?” Part of me doesn’t want to think about it too hard 😆

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Thom Brodkin
18:24 Feb 18, 2022

Well, my dear Hannah, this is delightfully disturbing. It has a Quiet Place, Walking Dead feel and it's pay off is we still don't know what The Thing is. I have become such a quick fan of your style and this doesn't disappoint. It leaves me uneasy and wanting more. Is this an idea you've been working on? Will there be a chapter 2? One thing is for sure, if there is I'll read it. Great job. Congrats on the Shortlist. It was well earned.

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19:51 Feb 18, 2022

Lee! 😊 I am smiling SO BIG right now! You just absolutely made my day So, I am contemplating making this a bigger piece, but I wanted to “vet it” with the Reedsy community first! If your response is any indication, there will be more to this story soon 😁 thank you so much, my friend ❤️

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Reader 2.0
23:21 May 12, 2022

This is a really good story. I love how the ending isnt happy, because most books have happy endings. Keep up the Good Work!

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18:14 May 13, 2022

Thank you so much! I'm working on making it a longer piece, I appreciate you stopping to read! <3

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Reader 2.0
15:43 May 14, 2022

that's great! can't wait to read more!

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J.C. Lovero
03:27 Mar 04, 2022

Wow Hannah. Loved this. You build the suspense well, and once that lightbulb went out, I found myself reading faster just to find out what happens. The ending chilled me. Bravo!

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15:26 Mar 05, 2022

thank you, J.C.!! I'm so glad you enjoyed it, that means so much to me! I'm thinking about making this a longer story, so your encouragement really helps :)

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J.C. Lovero
17:21 Mar 05, 2022

I could totally see that. If you ever do, let us know!

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08:29 Mar 03, 2022

I don't know what to say about Noah. I just want to cry for him and her. This is a wonderful story and I enjoyed every last bit of it. The Thing is creepy but I get that's the whole point. Good job.

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15:27 Mar 05, 2022

I knoooooooooow, I was slightly upset with myself for doing that, but I wanted to make the ending very chilling xD thank you so much for reading!

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L.M. Lydon
01:33 Mar 03, 2022

What a creepy turn at the end! Very suspenseful. I like the sort of jaded cynicism of your narrator's voice ("my family didn't make it"). Your sentences are tight, matter of fact, and short. It sounds like words are trying to push their way out of a very laconic, succinct person. Great characterization.

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15:28 Mar 05, 2022

why thank you! my narrator came to me before the rest of the story, I just love the idea of this very cynical and "matter of fact" girl who has survived some crazy apocalypse! thank you for reading! :)

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Astra Henris
22:13 Mar 02, 2022

This story left me wanting more! It was the perfect length to get me intrigued. You're an amazing writer, and suspense is definitely something you're good at!

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15:29 Mar 05, 2022

Astra! thank you, again! this encourages me SO MUCH! I truly appreciate your comment, it does make me feel empowered to continue the story!

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Sharon Hancock
02:51 Feb 28, 2022

AHHHHHHH! RUN!!! And don’t forget to bring a huge flashlight! I love this kind of story. So suspenseful and fun. 😻

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02:58 Feb 28, 2022

😆 thank you, Sharon! It’s a “new genre” for me, but I’m having fun here!

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Natalie Marie
22:17 Feb 27, 2022

I love this short story! It had me wanting to read more!

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23:38 Feb 27, 2022

Thank you, Natalie! A lot of people have told me that they would be happy if I expanded the story 😆 I just might!

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Riel Rosehill
23:02 Feb 26, 2022

Oh wow, this was so creepy. And just right amount, just the right kind of creepy! Excellent horror piece and the end of it was the most unsettling though it did left me confused at the same time, unsure of what was exactly going on, which made it even more scary and unsettling. So, well done... The "Thing" is like it just emerged from a Lovecraft storyn, and I love how you made it dependent on darkness.. the whole thing was just really, really cool! I'm glad I've read this!

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19:53 Feb 27, 2022

Hi Riel :) Thanks so much for reading! I appreciate each and every comment! Yeah, I decided to only let the reader know as much about the "Thing" as the narrator did, just to make it a little more tense. I was worried people would get upset that they are never told exactly, what it is, but it sounds like you were still able to enjoy it, so thank you again!

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17:19 Feb 26, 2022

This story was very exciting to read! You created a tense atmosphere and scary and a survival mode for the characters. Very good. Thanks!

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17:51 Feb 26, 2022

I’m glad you enjoyed it! Doing suspense stories has become an almost guilty pleasure 😆 Thank you for reading and giving comments, it’s so assuring ❤️

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18:50 Feb 26, 2022

I try to give comments always because its so nice to hear what people think of writing. Some people just hit like and I am not sure if they even read it. But that's their choice. I try to be assuring. Keep writing. I get discouraged alot and my friends here pick up the pieces and I try again. I doubt I will ever win anything here but it helps me get out of my own doubts. Thank you!

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19:10 Feb 26, 2022

Don't let discouragement stop you from writing :) Remember, you don't have to write for anyone else besides yourself As long as you are having fun, and creating something you like, that's what truly matters, my friend

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19:49 Feb 26, 2022

Thankyou! There are so many refined writers on this site. I noticed alot of stories are in the 2nd person. I don't write like that and alot of words are French or other languages. .I don't understand french. Perhaps they can give a translation and not assume we know what they are talking about? LOL Thanks for the encouragement.

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19:51 Feb 26, 2022

I just finished a new story called Yellow town. I have not edited yet. I don't always enter the contest but its fun to write the themes.

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Kelsey H
09:43 Feb 24, 2022

Great atmosphere in this story, really creepy and enough information to feel the unease while still leaving a sense of mystery about what is happening and what this thing is.

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11:56 Feb 25, 2022

Kelsey! Thank you so very much 😊 I wanted the reader to really feel and know what the narrator did. So I don’t fully explain “The Thing” because Annie doesn’t quite know what it is. If I expand the story to make it bigger, the narrator and the reader can maybe discover the secrets 😏 Again, thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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14:39 Feb 21, 2022

Oh my gosh, what a creepy story. Only mean that in a good way. Absolutely loved it. You are certainly a versatile writer. Look forward to hearing more from you.

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17:52 Feb 21, 2022

Thank you so much! this style is a little different for me, but so far it seems to be working! I truly appreciate your comments! :)

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Suma Jayachandar
05:50 Feb 21, 2022

OMG, super creepy and enjoyable! The pace of the action is second only to the speed at which you pen your stories for the prompt. Well done!

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21:06 Feb 21, 2022

Why thank you! Once I have an idea, the story just seems to come! :)

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Maggie Gibbs
23:45 Feb 20, 2022

Ooh that’s super creepy! I felt the anxiety of Annie and Noah… the desperation to stay in the light. I would’ve loved to had more of a background on what the heck the Thing was and where it came from! You could totally do more with this… like you said in your earlier comment to Lee. Great job!

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00:07 Feb 21, 2022

THANK YOU! I’m really glad that so far everyone wants more! If I end up expanding it, I will be sure to let you know! 😊

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