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Horror Suspense Thriller

Jessica woke because of the cold. Icy tendrils of damp were clawing at her arms and the chattering of her teeth was enough to make her jaw ache. Beside her, Jackson slept soundly. The duvet was tucked round her shoulders and his face was relaxed and innocently boyish. The cold that seemed to be seeping into her very bones didn’t appear to be affecting him in the slightest. 


Jessica remembered her mother talking about fevers so hot they tricked you into thinking that the burning you felt was ice. She certainly felt like she wasn’t completely awake. The semi-dreamlike state was disorienting and, when a car went past and lit the room with its headlights, she could see mist curling around the corners of the bedroom. Jackson’s house was fully insulated and he’d talked about the cost of getting his windows double glazed only last month. Granted, it was her first overnight stay here, but Jackson took pride in everything he had. The house would not let in fog. 


Jessica wished that she could wake up fully and move her arms. Her limbs felt like lead, the illness weighing them down. The bedside light was close and the light would help her assess how sick she was. Maybe Jackson would even wake up and check her temperature for her. If only she could lift her hand to turn it on. 


Leave.


The fever must be strong if she was hallucinating. The voice was faint enough that she knew she was imagining it. Leave. It was coming from everywhere and nowhere — her fevered mind unable to pinpoint the direction of the sound. Leave. Her heart was beating too quickly, a staccato rhythm at the base of her throat and she wondered if she might need an ambulance. Leave. Leave. Leave. 


Another car, another fleeting brightening of the room. 


The paralysis broke and Jessica’s scream filled the room. 


Jackson woke up immediately and his light was on before Jessica had finished the exhale. In the harsh light, Jessica’s fever vanished like it had never been, though the shivers took longer to subside. Jackson was angry when she couldn’t explain the scream, which she found hurtful. Surely he could give her a break? After she’d told him about the strange fever, and given his examinations of the goosebumps on her arms, he was mollified, but his shoulders turned away from her as he settled. Irritated that she’d disturbed his sleep for no good reason. She watched him fall asleep again, wishing that she could pacify him with a tale of a night terror or the glimpse of a mouse. 


But how could she explain the bloodied face of the woman and the broken, grasping fingers that had reached for her? 


She obsessed about it the next day and made an excuse to avoid returning that night. The woman’s face was imprinted on her mind, and she replayed the moment again and again. The caved cheekbones, the shattered teeth, the torn fingernails. 


By the weekend, Jackson was getting annoyed with her avoidance. He had bought groceries to make her dinner, he complained, and they were going to go to waste without her. He wanted to know why she was skittish and suddenly had to work late — was she seeing someone else? Didn’t she love him anymore? She was his world, his everything — was she abandoning him?


He sounded so heartbroken that she gave in. After a few days of distance, the memory was losing its edge and she knew that a bad dream — for what else could it have been — wasn’t worth compromising her relationship for. 


She returned. 


They had a lovely evening. Jackson made pasta and they drank wine on the porch, talking about work and families. There was a bit of tension when she mentioned spending time with a friend the following weekend. Jackson had planned a trip to the theatre, so Jessica cancelled on Annie and everything was fine. She would have more fun with him anyway — none of her friends really understood her the way he did. He was so happy when she told him that she could go that it more than made up for the sadness in her friend’s voice. He was right, too. Annie was just jealous and being selfish. She was so lucky to have him.


It took Jessica a long time to drift off. The slightest rustle of the curtain was enough to wake her from her shallow slumber, but eventually she succumbed to the pull of unconsciousness. 


Leave. 


The voice startled her awake. Once again, her limbs were heavy and she was trapped in the shell of her body. 


Leave.


This time the source of the noise was obvious. It was coming from the shadow in the corner. As Jessica watched, dumb with terror, the shadow moved. It scaled the walls with jerky movements. A passing car lit the room briefly and Jessica caught a glimpse of a body, twisted and grotesque, climbing towards the ceiling. Its face was turned towards her and she saw that it was the woman from before. Her arms were hanging oddly, perhaps broken, and she dragged herself up in fits and starts. 


Jessica’s breath was quick and shallow. Her chest was the only part of her that was moving. 


Leave. 


The woman was almost directly above her. 


Leave!


What had been the dry rustle of the wind through leaves in a graveyard was getting louder. Now the scrape of ragged nails under a closed lid. Now the frenzied cry of the forever trapped. 


LEAVE! 


Jackson swore as he woke, all flailing limbs and angry confusion. He thought she was the cause, and what could Jessica say? The dead woman screamed it, not me? He wouldn’t be calmed, either and they ended up standing: Jackson fury personified and Jessica cowering before his wrath. 


The names he called her weren’t fair but who could blame him? As far as he was concerned, Jessica had waited till he was asleep and then shocked him awake with a jarring noise. What would the neighbours think? What kind of sick sense of humour did she have? 


At one point, he raised his hand and Jessica flinched. But he saw and caught himself, scooping her up in apologetic arms. He was sorry for that. She’d pushed him so far but she didn’t deserve that. 


They fell back asleep with limbs entangled, Jessica tightly ensconced in his embrace. And the woman did not return. 


They stayed at hers for a while. 


Jessica made an effort to make her apartment welcoming for him, enticing him over with favourite beers and lingerie and whispered promises. 


He enjoyed the attention, relished being treated like a king. Women have forgotten how to treat their men nowadays, he said as Jessica rubbed his shoulders and tried not to think of bloodied lips and exposed bone. It was nice to be with someone who understood how things should be. 


Jessica nodded and apologised again for the burnt steak at dinner. She didn’t tell him it was because she’d looked for the time and thought she’d seen matted hair in the reflection in the glass on the clock. He forgave her though, and she promised again to be more careful next time. She rubbed her wrist where he‘d gripped it so tightly and reassured him again. 


She evaded his requests to go to his house for the next few weeks. What had been a treat for him had become routine and he didn’t understand why she wouldn’t come to him. He had to drive twenty minutes out of his way to get to hers but his house was only ten minutes from where she worked. Was it too much to ask for her to put the effort? Eventually he got tired of listening to her excuses and demanded it. 


He wasn’t being unreasonable. Jackson saw her for who she was, loved her more deeply than anyone else could and was the only one in the world who truly cared for her. She could get over her objections and give him something in return. 


So she went back.


Every movement made her jump. The scraping of Jackson’s chair as he stood up: a squeak. The chiming of the clock: a spilled coffee. The slam of the porch door: a wine glass shattered on the carpet. 


The storm arrived after that, though. Jessica was putting away the dishes after dinner when the drop of blood in the sink made her raise her head. The woman clung to the cabinets and her face was inches from Jessica’s own. She wore a sense of urgency like a shawl.


Leave!


Jessica’s screech made Jackson turn and her outgoing arm caught him full in the face.


Jackson’s rage was to be expected but the strength of it took her by surprise. She was clumsy and stupid. His lip was swelling and it was her fault. She‘d already ruined a new carpet with a wine that was already staining. Her reactions were ridiculous. Why was she so jumpy anyway? What was she hiding? Why would she hide something from him? 


Jessica’s half-articulated attempts at pacifying him only made it worse. Why was she treating him like a child? He’d been so patient, so good and this was how she repaid him? With deceit and patronising excuses? 


As Jackson advanced, Jessica saw the shadow crouching in the hall. It flinched away from Jackson as he dragged Jessica towards it, shrinking as he shouted about how she was just like other women. She lied and manipulated. She tried to make a fool out of him. She was a conniving bitch. 


She saw the wide eyes of the woman, streaked with ruptured capillaries and horror, at the bottom of the basement stairs. No words, no pleas for forgiveness would soothe Jackson’s ire. He was fury and vengeance and justice. 


Jessica saw the woman’s expression: unmistakably sorrowful as she wheeled through the air, desperately trying to catch a handhold to save herself. Jessica landed on the cold concrete of the basement, her own body now twisted in sympathy, her own face marred and bloodied to match. 


Her final breath was scented with the woman’s fetid exhale and the last thing she heard was the mournful whisper. 


I tried to warn you. 


October 19, 2020 21:15

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85 comments

Steve Stigler
14:05 Nov 01, 2020

Your powers of description are excellent, and I feel like I learn something new every time I read your work. I felt like you were operating on several levels here, too, which made it all the more entertaining. Thanks for sharing!

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Elle Clark
14:43 Nov 01, 2020

Thank you so much! What a lovely comment :)

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MJ Cummings
00:19 Oct 30, 2020

Hey Laura, I really liked how you made Jackson's anger issues escalate, and then bubble over at the end. It makes total sense that she would have a hard time explaining the episodes. At least she got to sock him in the face one good time. Your word choices were also excellent. I look forward to reading more of your stuff.,

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Elle Clark
07:06 Oct 30, 2020

Thank you so much!

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E.A. Brown
19:11 Oct 28, 2020

A truly beautiful story of the dangers of mistakenly ignoring good advice because we don't understand it until it's too late. Great job!

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Elle Clark
08:01 Oct 29, 2020

Thank you!

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Felicity Anne
16:03 Oct 26, 2020

Laura, This is an absolutely fantastic piece of work! I love your beautiful descriptions! And the ending is just incredible! My favorite line was "She saw the wide eyes of the woman, streaked with ruptured capillaries and horror, at the bottom of the basement stairs." The description is so vivid I feel like I'm right there with Jessica! There was nothing I saw that needed to be fixed, so wonderful job! Keep up the amazing work! - Felicity

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Elle Clark
20:12 Oct 29, 2020

Thank you so much! What a lovely comment.

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Felicity Anne
22:32 Oct 29, 2020

No problem! You did a fantastic job!

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AJ Hensley
09:05 Oct 26, 2020

Oh...oh my. I’m stunned and horrified and saddened all at the same time. This story creeped me out in the BEST way. I was so drawn in that by the third sentence I had stopped reading with any intention of correction/edits/technical feedback. I love how you guided the reader to the conclusion of abuse through subtle hints here and there in body language and internal thought from both perspectives. But to see how quickly things escalated there at the end gave me goosebumps! It’s not often that I can’t find a critique, but I’ve honestly com...

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Elle Clark
10:02 Oct 26, 2020

Well, I'm sufficiently flattered. Hello, new friend.

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Claire Lindsey
20:07 Oct 25, 2020

this. was. terrifying. You have a real talent for creepy imagery and word choice-- the tone was perfectly cultivated throughout. I also loved the slow reveal that Jackson is absolutely the worst, which you controlled by balancing it out with Jessica's feelings for him so we didn't catch on right away. Both the ghost and Jessica's demise were such vivid and horrifying mental images. I was totally captivated by this story and I'm looking forward to reading more of your work! Well done!

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Elle Clark
20:13 Oct 29, 2020

Thank you so much! If you’re interested in more, I’ve got a few on file. Some of them were even shortlisted! Thanks for a lovely comment.

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Claire Lindsey
02:29 Oct 30, 2020

I’ll be sure to check them out!

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Gip Roberts
18:38 Oct 25, 2020

I've experienced sleep paralysis before and it felt exactly like you described. Luckily, nothing terrible happened like with poor Jessica; it just scared the daylights out of me. This was fantastic and there was definitely "more going on than it first appears"!

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Elle Clark
19:14 Oct 25, 2020

Thanks - very glad that there wasn’t a murdered domestic abuse victim crawling on your ceiling. That would’ve sucked. Thank you for the lovely comment!

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17:43 Oct 25, 2020

Ok, creepy! I’m not a horror story fan so consider me freaked out! Great job! Robert

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Elle Clark
18:14 Oct 25, 2020

Thanks! I’m not a horror fan either, so it was an interesting write for me. Glad you liked it.

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21:49 Oct 25, 2020

You did a good job. I almost didn’t want to finish it. That’s a compliment just so you know. Robert

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Elle Clark
22:38 Oct 25, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Julie Ward
17:22 Oct 24, 2020

Oh my...holy cow...wow! Goosebumps. Over and over! This is such a well-told tale with so many great details. The scraping of the chair, spilled coffee. The chiming of the clock. I could hear it. Your description of the ghost is terrifying and so sad. The story moved and I wanted to keep reading even though I knew what was coming. That's a good thriller for ya! I have a really hard time writing suspense, horror and thrillers - even though I love reading them. I wasn't going to write something scary for this week's prompt, but n...

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Elle Clark
17:59 Oct 24, 2020

Wow, thank you! This is my first time writing horror (I’ve done unsettling or creepy but this first time doing it properly) so I’m really flattered that you enjoyed it enough to get inspired! Let me know when your story is out and I’ll come read it.

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Julie Ward
18:17 Oct 24, 2020

You know how to spin a suspenseful tale, Laura! I would never have known that this was your first time writing horror. You're really good at it! Thank you for offering to read my story - I would love to have your feedback! I'm still not sure how everything works in terms of how the stories are posted, but my most recent story should show up on my page. They're published mid week, right? I'll let you know when it's official.

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Elle Clark
19:22 Oct 24, 2020

Well whenever you upload it, let me know. I’ll be able to see it on your page even if it hasn’t been officially published.

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Julie Ward
23:01 Oct 24, 2020

It's there!

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Dalyane Deblois
00:25 Oct 24, 2020

I really enjoyed reading your story! The whole plot was great, I loved how there's two sides of the story in the beginning, the ghost one and the other with Jackson, to finally end intertwined. The relationship you describe between Jessica and Jackson is relatable for many people. When we read the story, from Jessica's point of view, we see she truly thinks he is great with her, although he is not in reality. The woman she was so scared of is, in the end, a good influence. Great job!:)

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Elle Clark
07:10 Oct 24, 2020

Thank you so much 😊

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Princemark Okibe
11:56 Oct 22, 2020

Amazing beginning and a wonderful ending. You got the horror part right as your story was well paced all round and filled with suspense. Your story is well edited and well structured as I couldn't find much grammatical errors or typos. Unlike what some believe, your story did not rely heavily on horror tropes and used the right amount horror to maximize its potential. If your ghost was not a stereotypical ghost, it would have detracted greatly from the narrative as the readers will begin to wonder why this ghost is different. Here a...

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Elle Clark
06:12 Oct 23, 2020

Thank you for your lovely and helpful comment

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Princemark Okibe
09:36 Oct 23, 2020

You are welcome.

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Andrew Krey
03:47 Oct 20, 2020

I really enjoyed this, the build up was brilliant; the angered reactions he has, and her quick excuses to justify it is a brilliant way to foreshadow the darker future of their relationship. But it was the cancelling meeting her friend that I loved - coupled with the anger it made the act seem sinister, the divide and conquer an abusive person can do to remove a person's support networks, excellent observation and subtle execution. I felt the descriptions were vivid, and helped create empathy for her, because who wouldn't be jumpy at tha...

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Elle Clark
04:34 Oct 20, 2020

Thank you — I’m glad you liked it! I’ve made the tweak; I agree that works better (and thank you for the catch).

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Andrew Krey
05:00 Oct 20, 2020

You're welcome, glad I could help. Good luck with the story (and I definitely mean it as I'm not submitting one this week lol)

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Elle Clark
05:41 Oct 20, 2020

Haha, thanks! I’m also glad that you caught where he starts to isolate her. Very common abuse marker but I thought lots of people would miss that one.

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Andrew Krey
21:06 Oct 20, 2020

Yeah that was my turning point, before that I thought I'd be annoyed being woke up too! Lol

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B. W.
18:11 Oct 28, 2020

I aint sure if ive checked this story out or your other stories out, so here I am ^^ I really enjoyed this story and I think you did a really great job with it, I liked everything about it and I didn't have a favorite part or character. I'll give this story a 10/10 and then ill also check out some of your other stories as well :)

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B. W.
18:12 Oct 25, 2020

I'm going to give this story a 10/10 :)

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Elle Clark
19:14 Oct 25, 2020

Why?

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B. W.
19:15 Oct 25, 2020

what do ya mean why? this is a good story that ya did and you deserve it ^^

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Elle Clark
19:36 Oct 25, 2020

Just wondering - normally people comment on what they liked specifically.

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B. W.
19:44 Oct 25, 2020

I never really have a favorite part, I just like everything about it ^^

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Prathamesh Chavan
13:53 Nov 10, 2020

Hii, Laura Sorry to intervene, in this brutal manner, I have a request for you would be kind to give a single glance over the vehicle which my team had been working over months. https://www.instagram.com/p/CHX5VUPBJOp/?igshid=5f72nb3cgg30 Sorry to take your time and If possible like the post.Because this would help team to win

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