Science Fiction Horror Fantasy

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


“Cocoa! Warm not scalding! With pink marshmallows. And use a mug this time! I don’t need to lose any more porcelain by knocking it off the table in the middle of the night. Use your brain, for fuck’s sake.”

“Yes, Muriel,” said Angela, nodding as she tucked the hummingbird-motif duvet around the octogenarian’s neck. “I’ll be right back, you just get comfy and listen to Barry.”

“‘Listen to Barry’,” the old woman with the silver hair scoffed, shuffling under the covers as if in criticism of the way she’d been positioned. “Why do I have to listen to Barry, he’s a wanker, why do you always play him?”

“Because you love Barry Manilow,” Angela replied, making sure the personal alarm on Muriel McCandless’ bedside table was in reach. “And he’s the only one who gets you to sleep. Don’t tell me I’m wrong, we’ve experimented with Neil and Lionel but you always end up awake all night. We’re not doing that again.”

“Barry fucking Manilow,” said Muriel, flopping her arms against the mattress like a petulant child. “Sounds like a cat being strangled. Absolute wanker.”

Angela couldn’t suppress a giggle as she made her way across to the door, pausing to retrieve the tray laden with pill bottles and blister packs of various medications from the dresser beside it.

“And why is that horrible painting still on my wall? I told you, I don’t like it, it gives me nightmares. For fuck’s sake put it in the bin!.”

“I did put it in the bin,” Angela said, pausing by the threshold to straighten said picture with her free hand. “Ten times. And you always tell me to put it back because it’s your ‘anchor’, whatever that means. It’s a fine painting anyway, one of your best. I have no idea what it is, but those slabs of overlapping colour really do jump off the canvas.”

“It’s horrendous. I was stoned when I did it, like all the rest. And the idiot sheep lap them up. Pretentious twats with more money than sense, putting value on my neuroses.” 

“So true,” Angela nodded, leaving the room. “But at least they made you a fortune. Now, don’t nod off before I come back with your cocoa.” She said the same thing every night, winking at the lady-of-the-house, whose head propped up on two Hungarian goose-down pillows was glaring daggers. “I might have to drink it myself.”

“Don’t you dare touch my Butlers chocolate, young lady,” Muriel called as she pulled the door shut. “It’s Cadburys we get for you and you better fucking drink it!”

With the thick slab of mahogany secured in the doorframe, Muriel’s shrill voice faded and Angela’s giggle turned to a chuckle as she made her way downstairs. Miserable Muriel. Moaning Muriel. Malicious Muriel.

But also her Muriel and despite her contrariness, she loved her. 

Nobody could put up with her for long, not her husband, who she said passed away to escape her, not her kids, who she said found careers in far away countries to avoid having to visit. Which was good for Angela, who was used to dealing with foul-mouthed, cantankerous old biddies having looked after her mother for years. It meant she got the gig of a lifetime as a live-in nurse and maid to a world-renowned, reclusive abstract artist, free food and board, the run of a manor, on private land in Wexford, surrounded by nature.

What more could a thirty year old carer of the elderly, sick of working endless shifts in soulless hospitals and keen to fulfil her ambition of providing one-on-one personal caregiving, ask for? Other than a cup of Butlers chocolate before bed. 

Reaching the bottom of the stairs and turning towards the kitchen, she fished her phone from her pocket to check the notification she’d felt buzz in some minutes before. 

Whatsapp from Freddy: I’m here! Is the cranky old bitch asleep yet?

Shaking her head, Angela used her thumb to type: Not a bitch. Eccentric. And no, not yet, making her chocolate. Out soon. Hope the pizza’s ordered.

Phone back in pocket she made her way down a hall lined with photos featuring everything but family, friends and Muriel's art (because she had no friends, hated her family and her art terrified her), shouldering her way through another thick door into the kitchen. 

The back door stood open and it was freezing, the chill October temperatures having made themselves at home.

“What the Hell?” said Angela, placing the tray on the marble-topped kitchen island. “Freddy, I told you, you can’t come into the main house, you’ll get me fired.”

She couldn’t see Freddy but she knew she was there because the door had definitely been shut and she was the only other person with access to the property, something Muriel had reluctantly agreed to on the proviso that her ‘boy’ friend only came over between 9 and 10 on weekends. Rules, of course, were made to be broken and it was now 9.30 on Wednesday with a night of pizza, beer and Love Island catch-ups to look forward to.

“And were you raised in a barn? God, Freddy, close the door at least.”

As she hurried to shut out the cold she caught a glimpse of movement by the fireplace and tensed herself, waiting for Frederica to wrap her arms around her and lift her off the floor, spin her around and kiss her. She giggled in anticipation.

“Just be quiet okay, her music’s on but I swear she has a sixth sense, she always seems to know when…”


The odd-sounding words were guttural, rasping, nails-on-chalkboard jarring, and Angela felt her blood run cold as the door clicked into place and she smelt something rotten.


She knew it wasn’t Freddy but she turned anyway, to stare in horror at the bulbous, slug-skinned thing lurching towards her, a dozen yellow eyes in a mantis-like head, blood dribbling from fleshy mandibles as it swung one of many barb-covered tentacles at her head, slamming her hard to the floor.


“‘Because you like Barry Manilow.’ Sarcastic bitch. I do in my shite.”

Muriel had thrown off her duvet and swung her spindly legs off the mattress, slipped her bony feet into fluffy slippers and wobbled to the dresser, where her phone was plugged in to charge and from which the odious lyrics of ‘Copacabana’ were oozing.

“Awful,” Muriel spat, snatching up the phone to swipe at its screen with a withered finger. “Fucking awful. How do I get George on this thing?”

Her efforts to navigate the Spotify home screen were interrupted when her eyes went to the canvas over the dresser, causing her to shiver and moan. 

“Awful!” she said again, dropping the phone as Barry sang: ‘She lost her youth and she lost her Tony, now she’s lost her mind.’ “Told her to put it in the bin! Stupid bitch never listens. I’ve a mind to send her packing! Her and that long-haired boyfriend of hers. Dresses like a girl. Whatever happened to… ”

She’d tugged the painting off the wall, shuffled to the door, pulled it open and was about to fling the canvas out when she heard something stumble on the stairs, but only after being staggered by the smell, of rotten fruit or vegetables, a smell that activated in her head a buried memory, like the image on the canvas which suddenly flared to life in her mind’s eye. 

She was led by the hand from the tent in the forest to the light in the night by a shadow, looking back for help, seeing her father in his bag by the campfire, shouting: “Daddy, we’re not alone!” to no response, shivering in her night dress, pine needles stabbing her bare feet. When she looked forward again, in response to the shadow telling her its name, she was entering the light and finding it filled with an indescribable array of frightening objects, machines and devices, glowing in bright colours, a chair, which she was placed into, to be pushed towards a hulking monster, that reached dozens of wriggling tentacles towards her, making her scream.  

“A…Arnold?” she surprised herself by muttering, as her knees gave out and she collapsed, landing with her head outside her door, turned towards the source of the smell.

Towards the glistening black thing that was lurching up the stairs on lumpy legs, like a bipedal squid out of water, black as tar, drooling blood, tentacles whipping in the air.

“Arnold?” she said again, though she didn’t know why, just that the name had entered her head when she recognised the odour, an odour she’d smelled only once in her life and forgotten, an odour she remembered now, as memories of that night in June ’41 exploded in her mind like Luftwaffe bombs. The night she wandered off during a camping trip with her family and got lost in the woods for three days. 

Unknown colours. Unidentifiable shapes. Morphing. Mutating. Surging around her like waves. And amongst them: Yellow eyes. Drooling pincers. Tentacles. In her mouth. Wriggling deep. Filling her throat.

“Are you Arnold?” Muriel asked, pushing herself up to kneeling, watching the monster approach. “Did you take me away?”

The terrifying beast of many tentacles reached the top of the stairs, brought its insectile head level with hers, narrowed its sulphur yellow eyes.

Words that sounded like “Kraachet, ve-rah-kell!” came from its blood-smeared mandibles and Muriel straightened in defiance, remembering the sounds, remembering the smell, remembering it.

“Did you take me?” she demanded, as a long-sought understanding of why she hurt the way she hurt and dreamt the things she dreamt and channelled the visions she was plagued with finally materialised. “You filthy alien pervert!”

The creature drew itself up to full height, spread its pincers wide and issued an ear-splitting shriek that sprayed droplets of blood on Muriel’s face.

“You stole my life!” the fiery, 87-year old spat, struggling to her feet as the monster hissed. “You filled me with hate and anger.” 

“Toosok, ve-rah-kell!” it said, stepping closer, swinging its tentacles back to…


It was Angela, appearing on the monster’s back, wrapping her arms around its neck, her face a mask of horror, bloody and torn, flap of skin dangling from one cheek, lips burst, eyes swollen, glaring. 

“Wun!” she forced past mangled tongue. “Call…po-rice…”

The alien-monster-thing shrieked and thrashed and slammed itself into the wall, reaching up and back, coiling tentacles around Angela’s head.  

Muriel, snapped from the fugue-like state she’d drifted into by Angela’s appearance, felt delayed panic race through her and turned, tottered back into her room, swung the door shut and reached for her phone, still connected to its charging cable on the dresser.

“I’ve been alive forever,” Barry crooned. “And I wrote the very first song.”

For the second time in as many minutes, the old lady’s trembling hands gathered up the phone–then dropped it again as the door burst open, an airborne, headless Angela flying through, slamming into Muriel and knocking them both to the floor.

Stupid bitch, she thought, propping herself up on her elbows, feeling a heavy weight on her legs, knowing without looking it was Angela. Fat lot of good she was. Should have got rid of her ages ago. Probably let that bastard get in while she was canoodling with… Wait. Arnold? Was that really Arnold? I remember him taking my hand while I peed…

Before she could finish the thought, the window over her bed exploded and millions of shards of razor-sharp glass filled the room, lacerating her arms, legs and face.


When the alert came through he was eighteen parsecs away on Vestron VII, helping to quell an uprising organised by the anarchic Mykropian party in advance of upcoming elections, and he cursed himself for falling for the ploy.

Although he’d been transferred to the President’s personal security division, the rebel leader Pleekvar knew he wouldn’t be able to resist returning to his homeworld to help the ground troops subdue the dissidents. He had knowledge of the land that would prove invaluable to their efforts, so it wasn’t a stretch to predict what he would do when he heard of the unrest. Anti-libertarian Mykropian scum tarnishing his beautiful Vestropolis? Unthinkable. Arr Nold Etibold couldn’t stand by while such a violation occurred. 

And he hadn’t. But by abandoning his post to rejoin his regiment he’d left his asset unguarded and given Pleekvar an opportunity to damage Terranean unity. He would be banished to the frozen wastes for such an indiscretion, so as soon as he received news of the security breach from the Capitol he knew what machinations were afoot and commandeered a Starhopper to take him from Vestron to Earth, a trip through the inner-cosmos that normally took several hours but he accomplished in one as he raced to avert disaster.

A feat he was sure he had failed when he teleported down to the grounds of the manor and discovered the remains of a human female scattered across the lawn. 

I’m too late, was his first thought, We will lose the elections, the anarchists will seize power, the Terranean Nation will fall and I will live out my days on an ice-cold rock near Settren, were his second, third, fourth and fifth.

Then he heard sounds of commotion from a room on the second floor and realised he still had a chance. He raced to the wall, used his tentacles to climb it, eyes narrowing into slits as he prepared for battle, reaching the window and smashing through, into the sleeping quarters of the one he’d sworn to protect, Muriel McCandless, now much older than she’d been when he left his post two days before, fourteen years older to be precise. 

She was on the floor, under a corpse, covering her head with twig-like arms as glass rained down around her. Arr Nold landed on a pink platform under the window as the assassin pounced into the room, placed a foot on the small of Muriel’s back, snaked its tentacles down towards her head. It glared at him while it coiled its limbs around her neck.

Kraachet, ve-rah-kell!” it snarled, and Arr Nold looked on in defeat, knowing he couldn’t do anything before the rebel ripped the head off the human. They’d hacked the Capitol’s data files. They’d found who they were looking for. They’d determined her location and knew they had time to take her out. 

They’d put a plan in motion and it had worked, they were seconds away from causing an election upset. Unless…

The President would not be happy but there was only one thing he could do.

“Daddy…We’re not alone,” he said, in perfect English, mimicking the voice of the five-year-old girl in the woods, the only thing she’d said beyond screaming when he took her from her family two weeks before, the words they’d recorded and used, buried in her subconscious as a trigger, to put her mind in a coma when needed.

Beneath the rebel’s foot, Muriel’s body contorted, spine snapping, head twisting, neck breaking, eyes staring up at Arr Nold.

“F-fuck you, Arnold,” she said. “You evil bas-” Her final word trailed off as her head exploded and from the hole in her neck came Vera Kell, howling as she grew from shrunken embryo to full size adult in a matter of moments. 

The rebel fell back, tentacles around the emerging President, becoming entangled with hers as they grew from her torso. It was trapped and it hissed and it roared, watching Vera Kell’s head fully form, her eyes blink open and stare. It took her a second to get her bearings but once she had she didn’t wait, opening a second vertical mouth in her throat and spraying a jet of corrosive acid from her guts, an act only females of the Terranean race could perform, an act Arr Nold could not watch.

He stared at his feet while the anarchist screamed, at the unstable pink slab he was standing on and the earth-bird illustrated puffy material balled up at its end. 

Pretty, he thought. Looks soft. Inviting. Why don’t we have such niceties on…

<<Arr Nold>> the President said, snapping him to attention and bringing his gaze back up, avoiding the steaming mass of goo by the door.

<<Yes, Ma’am>>

<<What transpired today? Why the intrusion?>>

<<Anarchists, Ma’am. Pleekvar hacked the Capitol’s data banks. Found out you were vacationing on Earth in a human host with me watching over. Saw it as a chance to take you out of the running for re-election. Initiated an uprising on Vestron VII to lure me away. Sadly, I fell for it, thought they could use a local to help. Then he sent someone to eliminate you>> 

<<I see. But you found out?>> 

<<Capitol agents got wind of it and alerted me. I returned at once but too late to do anything other than wake you. I apologise, Ma’am>>

Vera Kell grunted, looking around the room.

<<Fuck>> she said, in her characteristic crude way.


<<Couldn’t even get two shitting weeks to myself before starting on the campaign trail. This was a good life too, fun, but interrupted right before the end. What bullshit. Human passings are the best fucking bits>>

<<Sorry, Ma’am>>

<<Don’t apologise. I’m alive aren’t I? Thanks to you. Did you say that asshole Pleekvar orchestrated a rebellion on your homeworld?>>

<<Yes, Ma’am>>

<<Is it quelled?>>

<<No, Ma’am, I had to leave before…>>

<<Then what are we fucking waiting for? You have a ’Hopper I presume? Let’s get back to it! I’m in the mood for melting more anarchists. And then…I’m going to kick the living shit out of Pleekvar…>>

And so, exiting a crime scene the likes of which had never before been witnessed, Vera Kell and Arr Nold left Manilow behind, singing:

"We'll just go on burning bright,

Somewhere in the night."

August 11, 2023 19:02

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Mary Bendickson
14:21 Aug 24, 2023

Thanks for going back and reading 'Faith of Thelma Fay'. It still is my favorite. I want to make it into a children's book. I haven't read this entry of yours yet. I am way behind on reading.


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18:31 Aug 21, 2023

This was amazing ! At first, I was going to suggest to make it either sci fi or horror but as I Read further, I realized it worked! POV' s nicely done. I was going to say Lovecraft as well. I love a good horror story and this is on my list. I am also a huge Fanilow and I think he would be pleased to be part of this amazing PART 1 story. I hope to read more and thanks for giving me the honor of reading my entries! I'm following you as well!


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Martin Ross
13:01 Aug 18, 2023

BRILLIANT! Barry Manilow was my little sister’s teen favorite in her ‘20s, and I (gently) never let her forget it. I even saw him at an antique mall in Peoria, Illinois, with his cheesy bodyguard. That element so amped up the awesome, surreal comedy. That closing was priceless! Arr Nold — LOL! I greatly enjoyed it — this prompt really brought out some wonderful, imaginative stories. And this one was particularly effective after watching the first episode of Marvel’s Secret Invasion last night.


18:18 Aug 18, 2023

Hey Martin thanks for the kind words. Glad you got a kick out of it and enjoyed the humor! Haven't watched SI yet but it's on the list!


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Nina H
11:34 Aug 17, 2023

Great story, Derrick! I love the different POVs to tell the story, with the crooning of Manilow in such contrast in the background to what’s going on! Nice juxtaposition there! This gives new meaning to inner demons 😂 I enjoyed this!


06:16 Aug 18, 2023

Thanks Nina! I enjoyed writing it too. My first time trying jumping between POVs. Yes....inner demons. Would explain a lot about a lot of people!


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08:39 Aug 17, 2023

Ha ha! I started this a couple of days ago and it creeped me out, so I read it in two stages! I am quite...vanilla in my choice of horror and gore, but I do praise you on your imagery, very articulately conveyed. I might have metaphorically closed my eyes whilst reading some scenes, but I confess, some were disturbingly amusing. I am pretty sure I know people who behave like Muriel, I wonder if they are alien too??? I love how the two points of view from which we explore this crazy and awesome tale come together to complete each of the chara...


06:17 Aug 18, 2023

LOL I'm glad you came back to it after being grossed out and scared off! :) I know a lot of people who behave like Muriel.....i wonder!! :) Thanks for reading and commenting!


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Vid Weeks
18:44 Aug 15, 2023

Wow, a real knack to create tension in such a short space, thanks


21:46 Aug 15, 2023

Thank you Vid!


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Anna W
04:53 Aug 15, 2023

Wow, this was like a whole novel in a short story! I loved the twists and turns you took, and feel like Muriel makes sense both as a human and as an alien. A shame her vaca was interrupted, but I’d love to see what adventure Muriel hops to next! Great story, as always!!


21:47 Aug 15, 2023

Thanks Anna! Whole Novel! Wow I'm.glad it felt like that to you. :)


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Chris Miller
20:20 Aug 14, 2023

Funny, silly and well written, Derrick. Great set of daft ideas really nicely combined. A very enjoyable read.


20:51 Aug 14, 2023

Hee hee. Yes! Threw a lot of stuff in the blender and this is what came out. Glad you had fun with it!


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Lily Finch
18:27 Aug 13, 2023

Derrick, I thought you figured out how to be two places at once very well with this piece. This story had it all. Aliens, humans and horror/gore with sci-fi elements interspersed. The way one approaches a snippet of time compared to the other with a story in a story was intriguing and exceptional. Particularly how your artistry and humour become so real at some point. Just really enjoyable. LF6 May be one area to fix? Muriel had throw off her duvet and swung her spindly legs off the mattress,


19:31 Aug 13, 2023

Thanks Lily! Glad you enjoyed and thanks for catching that error. Theres always one that sneaks past!


Lily Finch
19:45 Aug 13, 2023

Yes, it's true. Hate that! LF6


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Michał Przywara
02:18 Aug 13, 2023

Ha! What's nightmarish, gory horror for some, is an interrupted vacation for others :) Good characterization here, and we get hints of a terribly interesting origin story and life in Muriel - only to have it all discarded like a candy wrapper when the aliens are inconvenienced. The scale of the two life forms - of their capabilities, of their concerns - is dramatically different, and that comes across well. Even little details like how they measure time. A human lifespan is a fortnight to them. I got a Lovecraftian vibe from this, given al...


08:00 Aug 13, 2023

Thanks Michal! Yes I dithered about the ending and original conceived one where Muriel lived. The word count forced my hand. Now I see this weeks prompt and it's a real 'doh!' moment! Maybe I can do an 'alternate ending ' lol So glad to have made your acquaintance on here . Along with many others. I've had a tough few years and getting back to writing has really been a game changer. Always appreciate your in depth commentary!


Michał Przywara
22:01 Aug 14, 2023

Likewise! Definitely meet a lot of skilled people here, in a nice community. I've gotten tremendous value out of it, and it's enjoyable besides.


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C. Charles
01:13 Aug 13, 2023

Wow, our stories were strangely similar this week lol this just kept getting bigger and bigger! Certainly scary, but with a sense of humour; Evil Dead meets aliens! Loved it!


08:02 Aug 13, 2023

I love that analogy! Evil Dead meets Aliens. That's it in a nutshell! Perfect! If I could expand it to a movie that could be the tagline!


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Mary Bendickson
22:40 Aug 12, 2023

Yeah, I thought I was reading one for this week's prompt. Sure you can bring her back to life. Five second rule or something. Good one!


23:34 Aug 12, 2023

I know!!! Maybe a prequel. The day before Muriel's bedtime lol


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Katy B
00:00 Aug 12, 2023

I love the juxtapositon of horror and the homely in your story. Thank you for sharing!


07:48 Aug 12, 2023

Thanks Katy. And then I this week they have a prompt about an octogenarian who is more than they seem 😂😂😂 maybe I can do a Muriel prequel .. .kind of regret that she died now! I'll check your new story out soon . After ....chores!! 😂


C. Charles
01:14 Aug 13, 2023

I find that sometimes I write a story and the prompt the week or two later is something I’ve done too! So weird how that happens sometimes lol


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