Submitted into Contest #96 in response to: Start your story in an empty guest room.... view prompt


Sad Urban Fantasy Thriller

cw: murder, implied abuse, mentions of suicide

Eidos had been left alone before but this was probably the first time there was a locked door involved. And she didn’t know when she could unlock it. She didn’t know when she could be safe.

She stood stricken in the middle of the floor, damp from the last time it had been mopped, hands by her side. Her hands were stinging, the fingernails close to the quick and beaded with pearled blood. 

Eidos finally moved. She took two steps backward, hit the wall, and slid down into a crouched, defensive sitting position. The window just above her spilled sickly-looking light in from the cobweb-shrouded courtyard outside. The crumbling, clammy limestone walls outside, as well as tattered hanging laundry and scraggly oaks, hid the tiny Filaki House courtyard from any sun except the shafts of light that came straight down at noontime. Wind would come roaring down from the Balkan Mountains, forcing itself through the gap between the top of the wooden gate and the balcony. It would whistle and scream throughout the night. No one ever slept well in Filaki House. 

Daddy had told Eidos to lock herself inside the old guest room and they both knew why. Mother was far less likely to come for her when there was a deadbolt in between, and could barely stand up, much less force the door, when wobbling with drink. And Daddy could fend for himself, unless Mother got ahold of a knife. At least, that was what he had told Eidos. 

Eidos stretched her legs out onto the wood floor, which was beginning to smell less of soapy mopwater and more of rot. She was still barefoot from sitting in the yard. She’d left her book out there, dropped to the ground when Daddy yanked her away to the familiar sound of Mother’s high pitched shouting. She thought regretfully of the yellow pages crushed over the gravel, dew beginning to seep into the spine. 

Below her, the fighting was raging louder and louder. She could tell Mother was not fully drunk but dangerously tipsy. She shuddered involuntarily and forced herself to think of her book again. It was Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and she had found it on the side of the road after walking to town for the day, another excursion away from Filaki -- and away from Mother. She was in the middle of reading about the harpies -- their bloodstained claws, their hides tough as rhinos, their teeth crusted with bits of rotting flesh stuck between. Eidos liked to bring the small fat paperback to bed with her and burrow under the blue quilts with a dim flashlight and shiver at the vivid descriptions. She sat under the pale white light, her scratched and dirty feet in front of her, back against the blank guest room wall, and tried to block out the noises, yelling, screaming, thumping, from downstairs. 

The room was completely empty. There wasn’t even a bed frame or an old cracked bureau, or even a pile of dust. Daddy had cleaned, dusted, emptied, and mopped the room just the day before with Eidos’s help. Before, dust had caked the windows and piled over the moth-eaten old quilts. Rust stained the bedposts and the cracks between the floorboards reeked of dead bugs and worms. Daddy hadn’t told Mother why he had cleaned it, just that he’d wanted to do it. But the night before they’d worked together with the duster and mop he’d taken her elbow and said:

“Eidos, this is a safe room.” The intensity of his tone made her look up at him, even involuntarily. This tone meant he was serious. “You’re in trouble, you run up here and lock the door.” He showed her how to slide the heavy iron bolt across. “And you don’t ever open it, even to let me in, until I can come up and tell you it’s safe. Okay?”

She had nodded. 

He hadn’t let go. “Okay?”


He let go and smiled sadly at her. “Good girl. Run off and play, all right?”

Eidos returned in her mind’s eye to the harpies. She was in the middle of the part when they were threatening Jason, claws outstretched and teeth bared greedily. She could see them so vividly, their scraggly greasy hair falling out, their yellowed teeth haphazardly positioned in their mouth for perfect biting and gouging, their claw-tipped wings outstretched as they prepared to pounce. There was a note scribbled inside, in Mother’s handwriting: Harpies torment suicides in Dante’s Inferno. Not bad. Thoughts of how? 

Eidos didn’t understand what that meant so she went back to imagining valorous Jason defending his men from the harpies. 

There was a scream and a strange noise, a bump and a breathy slicing sort of noise, and then Eidos could hear nothing but the wind whispering through the hollows of the cold, creaky house. She looked up from her plum-colored knees and listened as intently as possible, holding her breath to limit as much noise as possible. Nothing. Only her heart, rushing in her ears. 

Then she could hear Mother, breathing heavily, almost growling, as she made her way up the stairs beneath Eidos. 

Eidos knew that meant only one thing. Her mouth fell open. Her ears began to ring. 

Mother collapsed against the door outside with a scraping noise, like bringing claws down the wood panels. Eidos clapped a hand over her mouth to block a shocked scream. Her eyes began to fill. 

“Daddy?” she whispered, muffled by her hands. 

“Eidos?” came Mother’s voice, pitched oddly. Eidos imagined her mother’s head tilted, the familiar drunken smile pasted across her face. “Eidos, honey, let me in.”

Eidos pushed herself against the wall behind her, as far away from the door as possible, and tried not to breathe. Flashes came through to her, images of the harpies, Jason’s sword raised, claws already stained with Argonaut blood. There was a sound like feathers brushed across the floor, but more steely, metallic. Like the harpies’ feathers tipped with knives. 

It sounded like a wounded beast outside, heavy, gasping for air. Something slipped under the door frame, hurtling under, shaking. Mother had tried to throw a rust-stained knife under the door. Eidos kicked it away. It wasn’t rust but blood. 

“Where is Daddy?” Eidos begged, though she already knew the answer. She wished the harpies she read about in Mythology were only that -- mythology. She knew they probably weren't.

Mother said nothing. 

Behind Eidos, the sun was beginning to set in the Balkans. The wind picked up and wolves began to howl somewhere beyond Filaki House. Eidos shivered. 

The creature moved away, creaking down the steps slowly, as if nursing a wound. Eidos heard a door open and slam shut and slow feet crunching on gravel. 

Eidos had been left alone before but it was nothing like this. This time she was left alone with her father’s dead body and her mother’s bloody knife. 

Slowly, Eidos drew back the deadbolt.

June 04, 2021 18:51

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02:12 Jun 05, 2021

Lovely! Love the thriller element. Can't think of any critiques and hope to see a new one soon. With all your stories you've collectively done funny, romance, sad, sweet, and scary. Perhaps a mystery next?


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Zilla Babbitt
02:10 Jun 05, 2021

Scary but well done. That harpy urban fantasy theme came out of the blue, and I loved it. No critiques. Glad to see a new story, even very late!


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Thom With An H
00:31 Jun 06, 2021

I’m sorry Manticore. However you wrote one great story this week.


The Manticore
00:31 Jun 06, 2021

Love you always 😘😉


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Evelin Kay
13:43 Jun 07, 2021

I’m so excited my broken Marriage has been restored. “We recently made up, even though it was difficult. It’s been more than a month now, and everything feels like it’s returned to normal. He has began to treat me better, and it’s been a healing process for both of us. The nightmare that had lasted for almost 2 years before we broke up is finally over. It’s like we fell in love all over again! We’ve both put the past behind us, and are trying to move forward – and for the first time in a long time, the future looks a lot brighter. I can’t ex...


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