Fiction Horror

This story contains sensitive content

Trigger warning: Foul language

Creak, creak, creak, goes the seesaw.

Hey, you! Yes, you. I’ve got a question for you: 

When you get transported into a work of fiction, how the hell do you de-transport yourself?

And before you ask, this is not one of those if-a-tree-falls-in-the-forest-does-it-make-a-sound type of futile musings that makes you go, Hmm, never thought about that one before, but yay philosophy, I feel like a better person today having pondered that. And since you figure that providing an actual answer probably takes a backseat to showcasing your intellect and depth, you just let the question linger in your mind, ready to revisit it another day, only to eventually arrive at the conclusion that — hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen — there is no answer. 

Just to be clear, my question does need an answer. And not in a few years, months, weeks or days, but soon. Like, really soon. Like, well, how long does it take to keep a 7-year-old ghost girl entertained on a seesaw before she gets bored and comes lunging at me and drags me through all nine circles of Hell? That soon!

The good news, of course, is that 7-year-olds are world-famous for their endless patience. 

Yes, for the love of God, I was being sarcastic! Sorry I don’t have enough time to build a sarcasm sign what with being busy trying to keep myself alive while the sound of this old seesaw is boring into my brain like a really slowly-moving bullet.

Creak, creak, creak, it goes.

Now you might wonder, How does one get transported into a work of fiction in the first place? To that I say, “Can you just read the room? The sword of Damocles is hanging over me, and you thought this was the most opportune moment to satisfy your curiosity?”

But since my legs haven’t tired of pumping the seesaw up and down yet and the ghost sitting opposite me keeps happily giggling, I suppose I can humor you.

As it happens, getting transported into the pages of a story is a more common occurrence than you might think. Have you ever delved so deeply into a narrative that you suddenly felt like you were living in it? For most, this experience results in mere echoes of the tale bleeding into their lives – things they read about manifesting around them. But every once in a while, someone gets so consumed by a story that they get sucked into it.  

Not physically, of course. That would be impossible, not to mention ridiculous. 

Your physical body stays behind. Right now, my body is in Southern California, lying on my bed in my cookie crumb-infested sheets, my Kindle blinking next to me, letting me know that it only has 3 percent of battery left. 

So, what’s the harm then? you might think. Unless a fire or some natural disaster hits, your body is safe and sound, right? Well, I hate to break it to you, but this is one of those if-you-die-in-the-story-you-die-in-real-life kind of scenarios. Which is all well and good if you find yourself stuck in Pride and Prejudice, where your biggest problem is whether Mr. Darcy leaves the toilet seat up or not, but some of us are not that lucky. Some of us end up in stories where no Disney Princess has ever gone before. And the unluckiest of us end up in… drumroll please… Maine. By the time you’ve been transported into a story, you’ve forgotten about what you were reading, but if you see a lobster roll, that is your cue to run the other way. You hear the Down East accent? Run even faster. Unfortunately, all this running will essentially serve as nothing more than exercise, because no matter where or how much you run, if you end up in Maine, your life as you knew it is over. “It,” “Pet Sematary,” “Shining,” “Misery,” “Cujo…” Take your pick of phobias and the Pine Tree State will not disappoint. All I can say is good luck and stay out of sewers!

My only saving grace is that I, in fact, did not end up sharing the same time zone with Pennywise, but looking around myself right now, that’s quite a slim consolation. My story seems to be one about an old deserted orphanage where all the children died horribly and now their ghosts are out for revenge.


And to add insult to injury, this story also features that mandatory creepy old playground (because of course), with an old carousel spinning sickeningly around and around, and swings that move in the wind with their rusty chains squeaking in a way that makes you long for the comforting sound of fingernails on the chalkboard. 

And then there’s the seesaw. 

Creak, creak, creak, the rotting wood under me groans as the splinters pierce through my jeans.

I look into the eyes of the 7-year-old opposite me and realize she’s stopped giggling. My blood runs cold as her empty eyes drill into me like two rusty nails. She’s not entertained. I think my downfall was that I’ve never been a kid person. I even tried to peek-a-boo a 7-year-old! That’s how much I know about kids and things that are age-appropriate for them. Well, reality hit me in the face — literally — pretty fast. I can still feel my face throb. Unfortunately, the slap that the little girl delivered made me none-the-wiser when it came to activities with children, and, I hate to say it, but the seesaw was the extent of my creativity. 

Creak, creak, creak, it goes.

I glance past the little girl now and my breath catches. A pale little boy in brown overalls and greasy dark hair has appeared next to the swings, gently swaying them with his delicate little hand, causing them to squeal like tortured souls. He stares in my direction, sending a chill down my spine. A heavy, ominous mist envelopes the playground like a weighted blanket, and as I squint, I see more children emerging from its depths, their eyes glinting like bloodthirsty hyenas. 

They are coming for me.

My first instinct is to call for help although I already know it’s not coming. I wasted a good portion of my time in this story looking for others like me, others who had been sucked in, thinking that strength in numbers could at least give me a fighting chance against these vindictive little monsters. But it didn’t take me long to realize that either I’m the only person who’s ever picked up this book or — and this is the more likely scenario — only one person from the quote-unquote real world can get sucked in at a time.

Creak, creak, creak, goes the seesaw.

With my trembling hand, I touch my left cheek where the little girl slapped me, her long, dirty fingernails tearing through my skin like shattered glass. At first, blood gushed from the wound, crimson streaks flowing down my face towards my mouth, leaving a wet, metallic taste. But now that I look at my palm, there’s no trace of blood. I run my fingers over my cheek. My skin feels unbroken and smooth, with not so much as a scab on it. A sense of relief washes over me. Relief and something else.


Why hope? you ask. Innocently, you ask it.

Well, that’s a good question, a really good one, but to answer that, I need to take you back to an even earlier question — the first one I ever asked you: How do you get out of a work of fiction?

And now it’s my time to fess up. I actually knew all along how to get out of it. I mean, I didn’t know know, but I at least had a pretty good idea. 

It’s a two-step process. The first step is something I believe I’ve already accomplished: the breaking of the fourth wall. Most dictionaries define breaking the fourth wall as when a character in a fictional piece (a.k.a me) addresses the audience or the reader (a.k.a you) to demonstrate that said character knows they’re in a work of fiction. And boy do I ever know that! 

The second step is a little bit trickier. Remember when I mentioned that, according to my theory, only one person from the “real world” could be sucked into a story at a time? If that is true, then it follows that if somebody else were to get sucked into this story, they would take my place. Ergo, I would go back home. 

Do you happen to have any idea who I have in mind for taking my place? Come on, take a guess. 

Is it sinking in?

The good news — I mean, the good news for me — is that I’m feeling my sneakers hit the ground a little softer now. The splinters prickling through my jeans are nothing but cookie crumbs on my bed sheets. Or maybe I’m fooling myself. Maybe the splinters got into my bloodstream, went straight to my heart, and now I’m dead. But if you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance that didn’t happen, and my ploy is working. 

The children are staring, their sickly pale faces empty of any empathy, any humanity, any mercy. Can you feel them watching? Can you see them in your mind’s eye? Maybe even — and this is a stretch — with your physical eyes?

If the answer is no, don’t worry, your time is coming. And soon enough, it’ll be you who’ll be repeating these words to some other poor schmuck, roping them into this nightmare. Them instead of you, because hey, you gotta look out for number one, don’t you? Just like I did. 

And up and down the seesaw goes.

My feet — your feet? — hit the ground hard now, making the seesaw clunk and shake as it reaches its peak. The children are closing in on us, ready to pounce on their prey. Tell me, are the splinters piercing the backs of your thighs already? Do you hear the seesaw? 

Creak, creak, creak, it goes.

I look into the eyes of the smileless girl in front of me, but instead of her head, I now see the blinking light of my Kindle. One percent left. Man, I really have to charge it when I get home. Maybe I’ll pick up the Martian next. I’ve always wanted to see outer space!

The sound of the seesaw is getting more and more distant now. 

For me. 

But maybe for you it’s getting closer. Can you hear it? 


Listen more carefully.

Creak, creak, creak, it goes.


Creak. Creak.

Creak. Creak. Creak.

April 18, 2024 04:57

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