A/N: This isn't a strong story and I had a different outlook for how it would go. I will come back in a couple months and revisit it :)

She looked at the coffee maker sitting on a pristine marble counter. It drew her in, tempting. All she had to do was put in a filter, one of those premade tasteless coffee sacks and a good amount of water and she could go to sleep. Today she had made a mental resolution to stop her coffee addiction but her insomnia said otherwise. Make, drink, sleep; only then shall I go away

Sighing, the girl tiredly stood up from the counter and made her way to the living room television. Her tangled hip length hair swayed behind her, occasionally hitting her arm to which she would run a hair through half the mess and then leave the tail to start the cycle again. The people of her neighborhood had no idea with the way she looked regularly how she managed to obtain such a house in such a prominently rich neighborhood. Hedgerow Heights was for the wealthy only, the submissive typical house-wife, the lawyer husband who had inherited a hefty sum from his well-paid parents. Her unbranded attire, sleep-deprived, blood-shot eyes, and signature mess of a nest upon her head were in stark contrast with the tidy and almost unused furniture that decorated an otherwise undecorated house. Paintings of flowers, all worth a large sum, adorned almost every wall of the house. Double staircases and multiple bedrooms, perfect mansion galore. And the one who resided in it seemed to come from the adjourning slums of Hiemlim.

The girl sat down softly as the sofa cushion under her let out a gentle hiss. Instead of turning on a garishly loud sports channel, she switched on a classical music mix: Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven…

She herself did not have much knowledge of classical music. In her early years she had been forced to learn piano and later started on violin but ended up hating music in general due to her strict teachers. When she became unable to sleep after her mother’s incident she had found a new respect for classical music as the emotional melodies helped her focus and most importantly sleep somewhat. Usually the late night classical listenings were accompanied by a cup of bitter cheap coffee and the combination of refined musical taste and sharp coffee made for a good recipe to sleep.

Today however the music did nothing to quell her ferociously beating heart. She urged her brain to let her fall asleep, if only for an hour to catch up on the many hours that were lost. Please just let me go to sleep. She remembered when she was a child she would enter her mother’s bedroom and lie on her chest listening to her heartbeat, a heartbeat that was slowly coming to a stop.

She stood up abruptly recalling a still chiming clock in her mother’s night table drawer. It would be a suitable replacement. Except it meant facing a few memories she wished to simply forget.

Forget it, she thought.

She lay down again, instead this time letting the music become a backdrop and the hammering of a leaky faucet filled her ears. It worked. In no time she slept soundly.

“Come closer dear! Oh, smile for the picture. I want something to put up on these bare walls of ours.”

Her mother was something of an in and out. Either she was all in, or she was completely out of it. Yes, completely out. Sometimes the girl would come home just to be surprised by a new pose her mother had found for sleeping. If her head hung off the couch, or occasionally the kitchen counter, there would be a faint stream of drool trailing down, or in this case, up, her face. It was never the fact her mother was always high that was surprising, more so the positioning and flexibility required to maintain them.

If her mother was in, she was completely immersed with life. This was a nice balance to the couch episodes but sometimes her mother could be a bit too in her life. Nagging at her to smile and model for the perfect birthday picture. Pry into her social private life at school. Show her off to everyone in the neighborhood. They all loved her mother. Of course not knowing her mother was high half the time she spoke to them, but the girl always felt they could tell.

Then one day, it all came crashing down. The love her neighbors had for her mother morphed into hate for her. It was self-defense she had argued. 

“Come closer dear! Oh, smile for the picture. I want something to put up on these bare walls of ours.”

She did and her mother turned the camera towards her. “Oh now take some of me.”

As she looked through the viewfinder, she saw not her mother in front of her but a skinny, zombie-like creature. Its eyes ready to pop out of it’s head and soil the freshly mopped floors. No skin apparent, just meaty flesh available till the bone. It’s arms were held out, as if urging for a hug. “How do I look?” it said. 

The girl dropped the camera quickly, thankful she remembered to wrap it’s harness around her neck. “Artemis!,” her mother scolded, “you could have broken that.”

“Sorry mother, I was just so surprised by your radiating beauty.” That was no lie, her mother was indeed beautiful, but she couldn’t help but add a tinge of sarcasm to her words.

She held up the camera again, but instead of seeing her mother, she again saw the monster. Except this time, there was a knife in her hand. “How do I look?” it repeated. “You don’t look too well. Let me help you fix that.”

It glided forward and shoved the knife into the girl’s torso. “Much better,” it evaluated. Then one of its eyes popped out and as the girl dropped to her knees, then to the floor, followed and taunted her every move. 

“Happy Birthday darling”

There was a loud crash.

Followed by a couple groans then choose words of disapproval.

She trudged up the stairs, taking her time to set her foot down from heel to toe to prolong the journey to the room as much as possible. Somber chords gently wafted up the stairs pushing her along. The humm of machinery like her dishwasher flowed around the house. 

There were more prominent sounds as she got closer. A faint scurrying. A little bit of scratching. If one was not paying close enough attention even the most noise-sensitive sleepers would have slept like logs through the night. But the girl was insomniac and that forced her mind to focus clearly on every little underlying sound.

The girl paused at her late mother’s door. The sound was coming from inside.

She reached her hand out to the knob, then stopped. Maybe it was a mere rat or small bird that had somehow made it through the windowless walls or air vent. Maybe it was merely the dusty bed sheets rubbing against the mattress due to an internal levanter. 

She dubbed those thoughts as silly. It had to be something big, something living, and that something most definitely was able to speak.

One thing the girl always hated was horror. Her mother had been a huge fan and every other Friday, when her mother was still alive and mentally sane, would put on a horror film. The other Fridays were for action movies or rehab. Like mother, like daughter the neighbors would say. One high and drunk, the other addicted to coffee. If only they knew how wrong they were. 

There was no doubt she was scared but all resolve flew out the window as she twisted the door open with a click. There stood a male of tall frame, sleek black hair pulled into a knot, dusty leather clothes and a wide range of artillery clung to his sculpted body. The most surprising feature of all were his vibrant green eyes that bore into hers with a mischievous yet startled expression. A master crook who was surprised someone caught him yet enjoying the thrill of being caught. 

He smiled at her, dangled her mother’s pendant and flourished her mother’s watch then quickly scampered to the bedroom window. 

“Hey, wait-” she started, but he suddenly popped out the window and landed like a cat. With mischievous Cheshire eyes he looked back up. “I’m Robin”, he offered. “I’ve come to collect your past. You should learn to let go. Sell the house. Move. Run. But release these lecherous threads that tie back first.” He then smiled, as if he had said nothing and breaking into and stealing from other’s houses was just a routine activity.

She watched speechless as he blended into the night, a faint jingle of the taken accessories reverberating through the air. 

Just as she was about to turn away to repent a faint whisper floated to her ear. “Don’t smile for me. Don’t smile for the picture. Smile for yourself, Artemis.”

July 16, 2021 23:56

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Alex Sultan
11:21 Jul 21, 2021

I enjoyed reading this story - I like your use of italics and character building(Which can be difficult to do in a short story) For feedback, I'd try and stray from long, run on sentences. The sort that leave you out of breath while reading. In the paragraph that starts with, 'She herself did not have much knowledge of classical music.' You have a couple sentences that could have been broken down. It'd allow the story to read a bit more fluidly.


Jasmine Bell
00:58 Jul 22, 2021

Hey Alex, Thanks for the feedback. This was a story I didn't feel much for and didn't edit heavily. Reading back now, I can definitely see sentences and paragraphs that could be broken down or simplified. When I have an idea on how to edit this, I will take your feedback into consideration. Thanks, -Jasmine


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