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This story contains sensitive content

[Content warning: language, verbal abuse]

“Mommy! Mommy! Where are you?”

Annie shot up in her bed, pulling her puffy pink blanket around her, waiting for her mother to come through the door. The nightlight beside her was redundant now that the morning sun was illuminating the room. Annie looked around for Queenie, the stuffed unicorn, her trusted steed, but saw her on the other side of her room. She was too scared to go rescue her from the corner, much less question how she ended up there in the night.

The sound of Annie’s racing heartbeat was broken by the door creaking open. Her mother was standing there in her night robe, hair frazzled, dark circles under her eyes. She glared at Annie but that didn’t stop her daughter from rambling out her fears.

“There was a man with a wolf head in the house! He was walking around looking for me! He was gonna eat me and I hid under the bed and you were nowhere and I think he ate you too and Kiki was scared and hiding too and-“

“Jesus Christ, it’s just a FUCKING nightmare Annie!”

Annie recoiled from her mother’s sharp voice, pulling the covers over her mouth. Her mother wasn’t coming into the room, just gripping the door frame and panting with anger.

“But the wolf-“

“If you hid under your bed, then why are you on top of it now?” she rebutted, letting her lawyer voice berate her seven-year-old daughter with the same intensity she used to prosecute fifty-year-old criminals. “So it didn’t happen. Jesus, Annie, how can you not think it through?”

“I’m sorry Mommy,” Annie whispered, letting the covers fall. Her heartbeat slowed down, adrenaline being replaced by guilt. She should’ve known better than to yell for her mom; her mom was always tired from working. It was supposed to be Annie’s job to help her rest and relax - and she just failed.

Their cat Kiki slowly poked her head into Annie’s room, half coming to investigate, half hoping to get an early breakfast. She wore a bell collar since she was so good at hiding in shadows, and she looked up hoping for attention. But Annie’s mom ignored her and commanded her daughter, “Go back to sleep. It’s Saturday for fuck’s sake.” She turned around and left, almost knocking Kiki over, causing her to scramble and hide somewhere in the house, the bell jangling along the way.

Annie remained upright for a moment, debating whether or not she wanted to start the day crying. She instinctively reached for Queenie to hug, already forgetting she was haphazardly lying in the corner of her room. She got out of bed, turning off the nightlight. Annie walked to Queenie, her footsteps making the floorboards rasp with age. As she passed the door, she debated leaving it open for Kiki to poke her head in again. But the thought of the wolf man, even just imaginary, compelled her to close it. She then picked up Queenie and hugged her, walking back to bed. But before she got there, two things caught her attention.

“It’s Friday, isn’t it?” she realized as she eyed an unfamiliar tear in Queenie, stuffing peeking out from the wound. She pushed the button on Queenie to make her talk, only to hear one of her phrases come out in a weak whisper.

I love you.


“I’m in the middle of prosecuting one of the worst criminals of our time, but you still think it’s worth my time to fill out these ‘late student’ forms? All you do is sit behind a desk all day and judge parents, thinking 25 minutes late is that big of a deal-“

“Mrs. Shaw, it’s just a signature-“

“It’s Hart now. Not Shaw. Or do I have to call over the phone to get you to change the records, just so you can gossip about that too-“

“Annie, just go to class honey, I’ll finish up with your mother here.”

“‘Kay,” Annie tried to respond as chipper as she could for the nice secretary. But she was still out of breath from running to get in the school. Her mom’s panicked rush to get to work stressed Annie out - dropping her off at school was an unwelcome detour for her mom. The stress and adrenaline meant that she only now just realized-

“Wait, Mommy, I forgot Queenie at home!”

She turned to look at Annie, sighing and rolling her eyes. “You’re fine. You’re not doing to die just because you don’t have Queenie.” She shooed her away with her hand. “Now go to class and learn something.”

Annie put her head down and walked out the office. She knew she was getting too old to carry around Queenie all the time, but the tear and the dying voice box made her worry about her noble steed. The halls were unnaturally silent – Annie couldn’t hear any students in their rooms. Her small footsteps echoed in the stairwell, with the lack of other kids walking around causing Annie to feel uncomfortable by herself. She just kept her head down and rushed to her second-grade classroom, outrunning the silent shadows of the hallways. Of course, keeping her head down as she rushed into her classroom meant that she ran straight into-

Woorf! Woorf! Arf!”

Annie screamed as she fell back on the floor, the wolf’s barks screaming in her ears as it lunged forward. Its white fangs gleamed amidst its black fur, with hot breath that assaulted Annie’s face. She kept screaming, certain she was going to die, with her thoughts drifting toward her mom and-

“Whoa there, it’s alright little lady! Gunner, calm down! That’s a kid, not a meth dealer. Oops, sorry Mrs. Harrison, probably shouldn’t say ‘meth’ in front of kids…”

Annie stopped screaming as she realized the wolf was a large black dog. It was being held back by a policeman in front of her class, with all the kids circled up on the floor for Show-and-Tell. The policeman smiled to apologize to Mrs. Harrison, who looked like she hadn’t fully woken up yet, and then he turned to lend a hand to Annie on the ground.

“The name’s Officer Norman. What’s yours?” he asked with a grin, holding out his hand to her.

Annie stood up cautiously by herself, eyes focused on Gunner the dog, now politely sitting down. She saw out of the corner of her eye that Norman had a sharp tooth in his grin, just like a wolf’s…

Mrs. Harrison just wearily snapped her fingers at Annie. “Annie, just take a seat and let Norman continue his presentation.”

“Actually, that’s Officer Norman, but-“

Annie ignored the policeman and sat in the back, away from the other kids who were whispering and giggling… probably about her screaming… She didn’t listen to Norman’s safety presentation, instead fixating herself on his dog Gunner. He was definitely staring right past the other kids, tongue out and panting excitedly as he eyed Annie the whole time.

She couldn’t remember if the wolf man had panted like that. As she replayed the supposed nightmare, all she could remember was a figure walking around the house, looking for something. She ran away before it got close to her, but she definitely heard the low grumble the wolf man made as he stepped closer and closer to her hiding place under her bed…

“You listening, Annie?”

Annie snapped to attention as she realized Norman was staring at her, waiting for a response.

“I- I’m sorry-“

“That’s okay Annie. Just promise me, if something bad ever happens, like someone breaks into your house or something, just call 911, alright? Me and Gunner will come running to save you!” Norman laughed, trying to use his bravado to impress the room of seven-year-olds. But all Annie could focus on was the sharp tooth in his mouth and Gunner’s excited panting.

“Okay, I promise I’ll call 911,” Annie lied.


“Mommy, can we go a little faster? Queenie is still at home-“

“God, it’s just a stuffed toy! You don’t need it anymore! Just- just- come on asshole, use your turn signal! Jesus Christ… just tell me about your day at school.”

Annie sat in the backseat watching her mother’s hands grip the steering wheel, her long nails coated with chipped black paint. Her mom never looked back at her, always focusing on the road, so Annie just stared out the window as she talked.

“It was fine.”

“Fine? That’s it? We rushed this morning just so you could have a fine day?”

Annie nervously tried to deflect her mother’s annoyance. “Um… Mommy, why do we have policemen?”

“Police officers; it’s not just men. And so they can catch the bad guys.”

“I thought you caught bad guys.”

“No, I make sure the bad guys stay locked up and can’t come out to hurt anyone anymore. It’s a lot harder than every other job.”

“That’s why you’re always… tired?” Annie decided midsentence to not say “grumpy”…

“Yeah- yes, YES, thank you, you get it now!” her mother said with an exasperated relief. “Listen, I know I’ve been stressed lately, but I swear, this case I’m working on is really important. This is a really really bad guy, and he needs to stay off the streets.”

“What did he do?”

Her mother tapped the steering wheel for a moment, stuck at a red light. “He… you don’t need to know what. Next week, the trial should be over. Then we can go ice-skating or something to celebrate, alright? At least, we’ll celebrate if we can lock him up forever, okay Annie?”

“Okay,” Annie mumbled, observing a man standing on the corner. Just staring at her. Not moving. Then her mother drove away, the man still staring at Annie as she left…


That night, Annie was woken up by her door slamming open and the lights being flicked on suddenly. She gasped as she bolted upright and scrambled to hold onto Queenie. But her unicorn was gone again…

It was just her mother, standing in her doorway.

“It’s just a stray dog barking, alright?”


“The noises outside. If you hear them, it’s just a stray dog barking. Are we clear?”

“What noises?”

Her mother had been monotone but now frustration seeped through. “Jesus fuck- Annie, I’m trying to stop you from yelling in the middle of the night! If you hear the noises that I heard, it’s not some wolf man, okay? Just. A. Stray. Dog. Are we clear?”

“Okay,” Annie replied, but her mother was already closing the door before she could talk any further. Annie still had her nightlight on, so she looked around for Queenie, floorboards creaking underneath her. Instead of in the corner, she was right next to the window by her bed. Annie didn’t even realize Kiki had been in the room this whole time, presumably trapped by the closed door. The cat was on the windowsill above Queenie, her bushy tail slightly twitching back and forth as she stared outside.

“Did you steal Queenie from me?” Annie asked Kiki nicely as she walked over to pet her. But Kiki didn’t look at Annie, just stared outside, eyes wide and unblinking. Annie picked up Queenie and strained her eyes to look at what Kiki was staring at.

There was a figure standing there on the corner across the street. She couldn’t make out any details, but it looked like a man. Just staring straight up into her room. She gasped and closed her eyes shut, squeezing Queenie with a hug. When she opened them again, the figure was gone.

Let’s play together,” Queenie said, her voice box now on a delay, her words a dying whisper…


After school next Friday, Annie’s mom came to pick her up like usual. But something was different.

She was grinning.

“Guess what?” she asked gleefully, standing in front of her car instead of waiting impatiently inside of it.

“Did you find Queenie?” Annie asked eagerly. Queenie had disappeared two days ago, her mother being unwilling to help look for her.

“No, Annie, did you forget? I did it! I put away the bad guy!”

“You did?” Annie asked, still just a little excited that her mother was in a good mood. She wasn’t expecting to be suddenly lifted by her, their faces almost together.

“He’s never going to hurt anyone ever again. So let’s celebrate! Let’s go ice-skating, you used to love coming with us, just me, you, and your…” she paused but shook away the memories, still keeping up her grin. “How about it?”

“Okay,” Annie said, going along with whatever she was told again, not even remembering what her mother was talking about.


“I’m sorry Mommy, I tried to stop but-”

 “Fuck! Annie, dammit, it hurts like hell. Just be quiet until we get home, alright?”

Annie sniffed and wiped away tears, blaming herself for ruining her mother’s rare good mood. Her mother had slipped and fell at the rink, and Annie was right behind her, unable to stop as she skated right into her mother’s hand on the ice.

“It’s my fault,” Annie whispered as she put her head against the window. She couldn’t bear to look at her mother’s bleeding hand again as it clumsily clutched the steering wheel.

“What the hell…?”

The car had suddenly stopped as Annie looked up to see they were about to enter their driveway. But the front door was slightly ajar.

Her mom parked the car and got out. “Annie, stay in the car.” She slammed the door shut and walked into the house.

Annie was looking around nervously. The sun was already down, with the winter night settling in. After a moment, the car light turned off, leaving Annie in the dark.

“Mommy!” she called out, her voice trapped in the car. She looked around her and saw across the street the same figure she saw a week ago. Still standing. Still staring.

“It’s not real, it’s not real,” she whispered as she unbuckled her seatbelt and got out of the car. She slowly headed to the front door, too scared to stay outside but too anxious to commit to going inside. But before she reached the door, she saw something stand out amidst the dark night.

Right behind their trashcan beside their house was Queenie, her pink fur standing out. Annie rushed to her and picked her up, only to find she smelled terrible and was covered in dirt and more tears, her limbs barely staying on.

“Queenie,” she cried, a tear falling out as she pushed the button to make her talk.

There’s someone in the house,” Queenie said, her voice fading away.

Annie yelled and dropped Queenie, turning around to see the figure across the street slowly start to move toward her. She ran inside the house, closing the door behind her and locking it. “Mommy!” she screamed. But no response.

The lights wouldn’t turn on even when Annie reached up to flick them on. She called out, “Where are you?” but still didn’t get a response. She then heard a noise in the basement and went to the top of the stairs to find the door open.


But at the bottom of the stairs, in the dim darkness, Annie saw the wolf man. It had to be him.

She covered her mouth, resisting the urge to scream. She backed away and headed toward the landline phone. But she couldn’t bring herself to call 911, the fear of both being heard by the wolf man and calling Norman and Gunner to her freezing her. All of them, the wolf man, the figure outside, Norman and Gunner, all of them were the same. It made perfect sense to Annie in the moment as she rushed upstairs.

She went to hide under the bed in her room, but in her panic, she forgot the floorboards in her room creaked with each step. Annie felt an intense self-hatred she had never felt before for being so stupid to not consider that. As she threw herself under her bed, her heart was thrashing, and her mind was berating her.

She could barely see in the darkness, but once her eyes adjusted to it, she realized Kiki was hiding under the bed with her, eyes wide again, illuminated by the dredges of the moonlight coming in through the window. She was curled tight into a ball, but each turn of her head caused her bell collar to jingle.

Before Annie could get Kiki to leave to protect her hiding place, someone entered the room, floorboards creaking with each step. Annie kept her mouth and nose covered as she watched the person’s feet walk in front of the bed. Annie couldn’t tell if they were wearing boots or had large clawed feet… Kiki decided to scramble out of the room, heading toward the open door, her bell jangling in a hurry.  

But the bells suddenly stopped. Annie didn’t see Kiki leave and instead noticed the figure shifted its weight when Kiki started running. It caught her. Annie trembled as she struggled to hear anything happen, but she broke her silence with a gasp as she was shocked.

The bell collar was dropped to the floor. No Kiki. A drop of something fell afterwards. Blood…

Annie was now crying, still trying to stay silent, but the figure must have known she was here. The figure slowly knelt down, its clawed hand coming into sight, pushing against the floorboard. Slowly, Annie realized she could hear the low grumble that she knew she heard before from the wolf man. Now she could also hear excited huffs as its breath grew closer. Its face slowly peered under the bed as Annie caught a glimpse of its sharp teeth.

Annie cried out one final time.


July 14, 2023 19:20

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1 comment

Zatoichi Mifune
06:15 Jul 16, 2023

That was scary. Child murder ('one final time'), that's a taboo area, back out, back out... No, I can't, because I just needed to finish this story. I'm finding another element of horror here... Not sure Queenie would normally say 'There's someone in the house'... (It is an odd choice for a child's toy to say)


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