Fantasy Horror

(Content Warning: Bullying, Violence, Blood, Gore, Some minor language.)

Kate approached her father’s study with a hint of caution because she was told never to enter there. As Kate approached the door with trembling hands, her heart pounded like a deafening thunderstorm, and butterflies fluttered in her stomach. She was only ten years old, and her curiosity was like a feral cat. Kate had a longing desire to explore anything and everything that enticed her mind, especially things that were off-limits. 

The golden-brown door opened with just a hint of squeakiness, and Kate was greeted with a rush of wondrous delight. Extraordinary relics from all over the world were displayed around a dark-brown oval desk. Behind the escritoire was an enormous bookshelf that housed a vast collection of tomes and archives. Adorning the dull-white walls were various landscape paintings that would spark anyone’s imagination. The study looked more like a museum than anything else, and Kate’s eyes popped in excitement.

Tiptoeing across the golden hardwood floor, Kate gingerly placed one foot in front of the other, so she wouldn’t make a sound. Her father’s collection was unlike anything in the world, and she admired the dedication and love that it took to amass so many beautiful treasures.

Kate gazed at each display, taking in every last detail while she had the chance. She had only been in the study a handful of times, so she needed to make every second count. Through her exploration, one exhibit caught her attention more than the others; an ancient serpent mask that glimmered behind clear glass.

The green angular mask resembled a hideous cobra snake with evil yellow eyes and sharp fangs. Four blood-red dots were perfectly aligned in a tic-tac-toe formation at the center of its forehead. Kate was mesmerized until her father’s stern voice reverberated throughout the study. 

“What are you doing in here?!”

Kate folded her hands behind her back and turned to face Adam. “I was just looking, papa. I swear I didn’t touch anything!”

“That’s not the point!” he scolded. “This room contains my life’s work, and I can’t allow a small child to roam freely like a devilish fiend!” 


“No buts, Kate!” Adam clenched his teeth and snarled, “Your mother has breakfast ready. I suggest you go eat before you end up being late for school again!” He paused for a moment, narrowed his eyes, and ordered, “Now, run along and stay out of this room!” 

With a whimper, Kate ran out as quickly as her little legs would carry her. As she sat at the kitchen table, Kate’s mother, Lisa, noticed a small tear carving its way down her daughter’s cheek.

“What’s wrong, Kate? Did you sneak into your father’s study again?”

Kate brushed her arm against her nose and admitted, “Yes… but I love it in there! Papa has so many wonderful things to explore!” 

“Indeed, he does.” Raising her eyebrows, Lisa asked, “What caught your eye this time?” 

Kate smiled, remembering the serpent mask. “I saw a wonderful cobra mask that would be perfect for my birthday costume party!” 

Piercing her lips, Lisa gasped. “That’s why your father is so upset. That cobra mask is cursed.”

“Cursed?” Kate replied, bewildered.

“Yes, my dear.” Lisa took a seat next to Kate and watched her peck her scrambled eggs. “Legend has it that a long time ago, a sinful man named Alabaster had numerous affairs on his beloved wife, Hilda. When she found out, Hilda crafted a special mask and poured all her hatred and sorrow into it.”

Kate leaned forward, engrossed in her mother’s tale.

“Later that night, when Alabaster returned from the thralls of his mistress, he crept into bed thinking that Hilda was fast asleep. She wasn’t. Hilda waited until Alabaster was out like a light and reached under her pillow to put on her newly made mask. Strange magic was at work because Hilda transformed into a monstrous serpent and devoured Alabaster whole.”

Kate cut in, “She ate him alive? Yucky, that’s gross!” 

“But…. That’s not all. Hilda became lost in the power that consumed her and destroyed the entire town. She found Alabaster’s mistresses and tortured them slowly before allowing the sweet release of death to claim their souls.” 

“What happened to her?” asked Kate.

“Hilda was hunted down by King Orsted and his loyal army. She had to be stopped because she was a threat to the people. King Orsted chased Hilda across many roads until, at long last, she was cornered on top of a mighty mountain that stood thousands of feet in the air. Her fate was sealed. Not wanting to be slaughtered, Hilda removed the serpent mask and allowed herself to return to normal form. All at once, she felt the heartache and fear that she had caused everyone and tossed herself down the mountainside.”

“That’s horrible!” cried Kate. “What happened to the mask, and how did papa get it?”

Lisa smiled and continued, “Hilda’s body was never found, but her mask was. It rested in the royal palace for centuries until, at long last, it was sold at an auction. It was handed down many times to several different collectors over the years until one day, your father found it at an old antique shop and bought it right there on the spot. It has been in his possession for as long as I can remember.” 

“That is amazing!” Kate uttered.

“So, maybe now you can understand why your father is so stern about you entering that room.” She stood up and handed Kate a small brown lunch bag. “You better be off to school, and remember, stay out of that room and away from that mask. It’s dangerous.”

“Ugh! Alright, I’ll see you later,” Kate barked. 

The bus stop was only a couple of blocks down the road, and Kate had to hustle to get there on time. The other kids saw her coming and laughed amongst themselves. Kate was wearing blue jeans and a Hello Kitty t-shirt. Her Disney Princess shoes were untied, and her brown pigtails were waving about like a flag on a windy day. The older kids were taking bets on whether or not Kate would fall down before she got there.

They all lost. Kate didn’t miss a step and made it just in time for the school bus. Frustrated, the kids called her Runaway Kate, a nickname that hurt her feelings. Kate was a loner and maybe a little wiser than the others, and that made her different. Kate loved spending her time reading old history stories in the library while everyone else played outside during recess. She believed there wasn’t a second to waste and spent her time wisely.

The school day flew by like any other without much fanfare. When the final bell rang to go home, Kate rushed to her locker like a quarterback running towards the endzone. That whole day, Kate thought about the cobra mask and the story her mother had told her. She couldn’t wait to get home for another stealthy mission.

Kate threw her school books into her locker without a care, and before she could grab her coat, the door was slammed shut. Standing behind Kate was Bubba and his slutty girlfriend, Ginger. They were the biggest bullies in school, and the creator’s behind the Runaway Kate nickname. 

“Well, look who it is?” Bubba stuttered. “It’s Runaway Kate!”

“What do you two want?” Kate snapped.

Ginger licked her lips and yammered, “What do we always want? Your money, ha, ha, ha, ha!”

“Forget it! I’m not giving you any more cash!”

Bubba looked around to make sure no teachers were watching and lisped, “Look, you little rich brat, we know you got money, and you better fork it over before we pound your brains in!” 

Ginger blew an enormous pink gum bubble and popped it between her cracked lips. “That will show you!” 

“Shut up, you pimple-faced twit!” snarled Kate with a pointy finger.

“I told you already, I’m not giving you anything!” 

Bubba rolled his eyes. “That’s it! No one calls my girlfriend names!”

He balled his fist and punched her in the stomach. The air dissipated from Kate’s lungs, and she collapsed to the floor like a wounded soldier. Now it was Ginger’s turn. She immediately grabbed Kate by her pigtails and threw her knee into her face. The impact busted Kate’s nose causing tiny droplets of blood to splatter on the floor.

Kate’s eyes welled up with tears as she called out, “Help me…. please!” 

Debbie, who was a year older than Kate, rushed over to the scene. “What are you two doing?!” 

“We are just showing this lowlife a lesson!” cried Ginger.

“Yeah, Runaway Kate thinks she’s better than everyone else because her parents are rich!” 

Debbie reached down and grasped Kate’s arm. She carefully helped Kate to her feet and groaned, “If you two want to teach her a lesson, this isn’t the way!”

“This is how you do it!”

Grabbing Kate’s throat, Debbie squeezed as hard as she could and slammed her head into the lockers. Bubba and Ginger laughed as the assault continued until a stern voice stopped the onslaught. It was Principal Sully. 

“You three to my office, right now!” he cried. 

The three delinquents dropped Kate to the floor, giggled, and stomped away.

“The first strike is ours, Runaway Kate!” declared Bubba.

“Yeah, this isn’t over!” fired Ginger. 

Principal Sully rushed over and helped Kate to her feet. He pulled out a white handkerchief and cupped it around her bleeding nose.

“Keep some pressure on that. It will stop the bleeding.”

Distraught, Kate couldn’t stop crying. No words came.

“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure those kids pay a high price for what they did to you. Bullying will not be tolerated at this school! Are you alright?” 

Kate nodded her head and leaned against the lockers. “I’m fine,” she said in a sniffled tone. 

“Okay. I want you to wait here while I call your parents.”

“They’re not home yet,” Kate uttered. “I think they are still at work.” 

Sully smiled warmly and said, “That’s alright. I can look up their work numbers and try anyway. Why don’t you get your things and wait by the office until your parents come? I’ll be busy the rest of the night dealing with those bastard kids. I’ll be giving the police a call too.” 

Kate opened her locker and grabbed her jacket. Principal Sully left, and the only thing on her mind was the cobra mask and the story behind it. Kate had an idea, but was she brave enough to do it?

Yes, she was… 

With a bloody nose and scuffed face, Kate ran home by herself, not caring about the dangers. It took her thirty minutes to reach her house, and much to her delight, her parents were not home. Kate rushed inside and headed straight for her father’s study.

She didn’t care about stealth, not this time. Kate plowed her way through the room and smashed the display case housing the serpent mask. She stared at it for a moment before removing it from the stand. She didn’t dare to put it on, not yet, at least.

The mask had a mesmerizing power, and the temptation was like sweet honey to a hungry bear. Kate tucked the cobra mask under her jacket and made her way back to the school.

If the story is true, then I will have my vengeance! Kate thought.

The sun was fading on the horizon as Kate arrived at the school. She saw two police officers escorting Bubby, Ginger, and Debbie down the hallway through the main doors. They all had sour faces, and Bubba was crying like a big fat baby.

It’s now or never!

Kate pulled out the serpent masked from underneath her jacket. The power was calling to her. It was a temptation like no other, and Kate couldn’t resist any longer. She placed the mask on her bruised face, and it came alive. It pulled Kate’s face in like a giant vacuum, and root-like tendrils wrapped themselves around her skull.

She fell to the pavement writhing in pain unlike any she had ever felt before. Kate’s entire body convulsed like she was having a seizure and her legs wrapped themselves together like two wires being twisted as one. Kate’s arms were absorbed into her sides, and soon her pale flesh turned dark-green. Her eyes spun around into her head and re-emerged as yellow slits. Kate’s gumline sucked in her teeth and spat out two razor-sharp fangs.

Her transformation was complete. Kate was reborn as a living, breathing serpent. The story behind the mask was true, and the power was absolute. In her new form, Kate coiled herself in front of the main school doors. As her tormentors stepped out, unaware of her presence, Kate pounced.

Kate devoured Ginger in one mighty gulp and savored her sweet blood as she slid down her gullet. The police officers didn’t have any firearms, and they didn’t think their pepper sprays would do any good. Leaving the troublemakers to fend for themselves, the officers ran back inside like cowards to call for backup.

Bubba and Debbie were shocked at the sight of the hideous creature and screamed for their lives. Kate snarled at Bubba and watched as he stumbled over and peed himself. Debbie trembled in fear before the great serpent, and that fear held her in place. The snake locked eyes with Ginger and spewed forth a poisonous acid that melted her flesh from her bones, leaving nothing but a bloody puddle.

Turning its attention back to Bubba, the serpent spoke in a low slithering voice. “I got the first strike back!” 

Bubba’s eyes popped open. He instantly knew who the snake really was. “Kate?!”  

Kate hissed so fiercely that Bubba’s eardrums exploded. Blood poured out from his ears like someone had turned on a faucet. He grabbed his busted ears and screamed, but he couldn’t hear his own voice. Bubba glanced up and saw the serpent's ferocious maw snap down upon his body. The great snake savagely slammed Bubba’s body back and forth on the pavement like a frozen bag of ice before finally consuming what was left of him.

The last signs of daylight were all but gone now, and Kate cackled in the night. Principal Sully soon emerged from his office and saw the police officers frantically screaming in their radios. Sully walked outside and saw the aftermath of the carnage. His mouth fell open, and his heart dropped into his abdomen. The serpent was gone… 

Later that night, in Kate’s home, Adam and Lisa returned from work and simultaneously checked their phones. They both had one missed call from the school. They looked at each other with concern etched on their faces.

“Kate, are you home?” Lisa called out.

Adam took a deep breath as he heard no answer, “You check her room; I’ll check the study. She better not be in there again!” 

Lisa made her lips into a thin line and preceded upstairs. Adam rushed to his study. When he arrived at the door, it was partly opened. “Kate! You’re not supposed to be in here!”

Adam’s eyes darted through the room, looking for his daughter, but she wasn’t there. He heard a crunching sound beneath his shoes and gasped as he saw the shattered glass. He looked at the broken display case and saw the serpent mask resting on the stand. It looked different somehow, and Adam couldn’t figure out why. He leaned in closer for a better look.

Suddenly, yellow eyes sparked to life, and Adam fell to the hardwood floor screaming. It was a rouse that worked to perfection. The serpent patiently awaited her prey like a true predator would and attacked with surgical precision. She struck fast and hard. The great snake ripped off Adam’s head and devoured him like a dog would eat a wiener.    

After hearing Adam's cries, Lisa quickly entered the room. Her husband was gone, and so was the serpent. Kate was standing in a pile of shattered glass holding the serpent mask. A wry smile was plastered on her face.

Lisa contorted her face in confusion as Kate parted her mouth to reveal two sharp snake-like fangs.   

“Honey… where is your father?” Lisa asked with a sense of urgency and trepidation. 

Kate flashed her yellow eyes and raved, “He’s gone, mommy… I got the first strike!”

The End

Daniel R. Hayes

November 05, 2021 02:38

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Graham Kinross
09:28 Nov 09, 2021

"It pulled Kate’s face in like a giant vacuum, and root-like tendrils wrapped themselves around her skull." I was thinking of The Mask when I read this bit but this is way more brutal. Nice. Why does she hate Adam though?


Daniel Hayes
14:06 Nov 09, 2021

Thanks Graham, I'm glad you liked the story. She killed her dad because he was so strict with her and that's where the story took me ;)


Mol Daigo
16:32 Nov 09, 2021

A backstory of her father being abusive would have been nice. She killed him for simply not allowing her to wander around his prized possessions? He was completely reasonable. It made her look like a sociopath. Readers can probably sympathize with her up until that point. It could have been explained by the mask putting her into a frenzy like it did with hilda but then she didn't kill her mother and seemed positively giddy at the thought of her father being dead even when the mask was already off.


Daniel Hayes
23:55 Nov 09, 2021

I'm not going to explain every little detail to the reader and an author shouldn't have to. There are word limits here. Welcome to my world! At the end, when she took off the mask, she was completely changing into the serpent even without the mask. My constant readers know that you should never get attached to any character. I like to write about characters snapping and doing something unexpected. I did give you a warning in my bio. My stories are NOT for everyone. Thank you for your comments.


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Keya Jadav
15:58 Nov 08, 2021

It's everytime that your stories leave my mouth agape...this one didn't disappoint me either. I was utterly surprised when Debbie attacked Kate, it was just so unexpected. Excellent descriptions, capable enough to take me to another realm. Great story! I really enjoyed it


Daniel Hayes
21:01 Nov 08, 2021

Thank you Keya! I'm so glad you liked this one. I was a little apprehensive to include that bullying scene because I thought it was really mean, but I think it gives her the motivation to put on that mask and do what she did. I can't wait to read your new story! :) Thanks again!


Keya Jadav
04:53 Nov 09, 2021

Yes, I understand. Describing inhumane things is really heart-rending but you pulled it off so amazingly, inserting the readers with that 'feel'. And thanks!


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Shea West
02:11 Nov 06, 2021

I can always count on you with the horror to be so damn unique! I remember when I was 10 sneaking off with my mom's Stephen King's books and her taking them away......HA! I listened to your episode on Deidra + Russell's podcast, it was cool to hear how you work your pieces and how you've really leaned into this particular genre. One little edit:You’re money, ha, ha, ha, I think you mean "your"


Daniel Hayes
05:36 Nov 06, 2021

Thank you so much Shea! I'm so glad that you liked it. Believe it or not, my introduction to Stephen King was my Grandmother... lol :) I used to sneak those books from her bookshelf as a kid even though I knew I wasn't allowed to read them hahaha. Also, thanks for listening to the podcast. I was super nervous, but I had a lot of fun doing it. I fixed that mistake. It means so much to have friends like you catch those errors. I must have gone over the story several times, and I missed it. Thanks for the fresh pair of eyes! :)


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Francis Daisy
23:40 Nov 05, 2021

Love the title and how it wraps back around to the finish! One suggestion: principal is a person in charge of the school; principle is a fundamental truth. I think you mean Principal Sully?


Daniel Hayes
01:49 Nov 06, 2021

Hi Francis! You are absolutely right. I just fixed that. I really appreciate the fresh pair of eyes :) I'm glad you liked the story, it was fun to write :) There's something about getting retribution from being bullied that appealed to me, and I wanted her to have that moment. :) Thanks again!


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Deidra Lovegren
18:27 Nov 05, 2021

OMG you are so good with gore :) This line is alliteratively perfect: "Kate devoured Ginger in one mighty gulp and savored her sweet blood as she slid down her gullet." Old English teacher hangup - Ellipses are 3 dots with spaces --> . . . Love your work!


Daniel Hayes
19:47 Nov 05, 2021

Thanks Deidra!! I'm so glad you liked the story. I got the idea from listening to an old rock song called "First Strike" by a group called Cobra. Lead singer at that time was Jimi Jamison who would later go on to front Survivor ;) Thanks for the corrections, I totally blame the spell checker... lol :)


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