In an effort to promote Indie authors and their short stories I put out a call to all my ‘Creepy’ writers. Creepy as in their story. Their stories are free on my site, but they’ve got more work available, so check them out! First up is a story by Robin Morris from her collection “Halloween Sky and Other Nightmares.”
by Robin Morris
Sweat burned in her eyes. Maggie took off her straw hat and pulled up the collar of her denim shirt, doing her best to mop her forehead and get the salty sting out of her eyes. She should have brought a handkerchief, or tied a bandanna around her neck before setting out that morning.
She turned to look at the town where she had spent her entire fifty five years. Even though she had only walked a couple of miles, the town had already disappeared into the South Dakota plains. There was only flat land and endless sky.
Maggie pulled out her little spiral notebook, where she kept her checklist, and fumbled the much used stub of a pencil out from its place in the spiral binding.
She checked off the last item on the list, which was, “Look back, just once.” All the others were checked. The job was done.
Replacing her hat on her head, Maggie started to tuck the notebook back into the pocket of her jeans, but then hesitated. She had been planning this for so long. It was all she had thought about for the last ten years or so. Had she done it right? Had it been a job worthy of all the planning? It wouldn’t hurt to review it to be sure.
She knew she would have to start early. The first thing was to catch all the farmers having breakfast down at the cafe. If she let them get away, they would scatter to their work and their lands and her plan would be ruined.
At six a.m. she was at the cafe. Helen Plowder remarked on her being there so early. “Big plans today.” Maggie said. Helen smiled, her lips shiny with bright red lipstick even at this hour. Helen always smiled, no matter what you said, and her lips were always the color of blood.
“What can I get you?” Helen asked. Maggie ordered coffee, then waited for the farmers to come.
The Tip Top cafe was not the first step in the plan. It was important to keep people from getting in a call to the outside world. So very early, two hours before the Tip Top opened, Maggie was up a pole several miles out of town, cutting the phone line. It was not unusual for the line to go down, and when it did someone had to come out from Aberdeen to fix it. It might even be a while before folks noticed. There wasn’t much reason to call out of town.
When the time came, and the cafe was full of old men in caps with CAT or JOHN DEERE on them, Maggie went out to her car. She had decided not to depend entirely on her own speed with her shotgun, though she had practiced hour after hour behind her barn until she could pump it and shoot fast and accurately.
The grenades sailed through the door of the cafe, and the effect was exactly as Maggie had imagined it. They didn’t kill everyone, of course, but the men who found their way out were confused and deafened, and easy to finish with the shotgun.
Entering the cafe, Maggie made sure no one was still moving. She found Helen, who had fallen behind the counter and been protected from the blast. Helen opened her mouth, stunned and unable to say anything. Maggie aimed the shotgun and with a loud boom, the color of blood was everywhere.
The rest of the town would be less easy. She didn’t have to worry much about the stores on Main street, they had closed long ago. Maggie remembered a time when there was a hardware store, and a grocery, and some other things. In her childhood there had even been a movie theater. All of that was gone. Most of the people were gone too, leaving the town forgotten on the plains. The people that remained were old. Both the town and it’s people were waiting to die. Maggie meant to end the wait.
She knew the town. She knew everyone in it and everything about them. Everyone else did, too, of course. In a town this small there were no secrets. Except for Maggie’s plan.
She went house to house. Usually the shotgun was the best tool for the job. An occasional grenade came in handy, and sometimes it was just fun to use one. She did have to be somewhat careful. Every house had some kind of gun in it. If anyone realized what she was doing, he or she could be waiting behind a shed or barn. But she had the advantage that everyone knew her as well as she knew them. She just knocked on the door and waited for the person inside to open the door.
Martha Klegg had been the first real problem, after the shotgun blast just winged her.
Martha was something over eighty years old, though she would never tell anyone her exact age. She had lived alone ever since her husband Sam was torn apart in an accident with a combine many years before. Martha could be seen every day, walking through the town, and out on the county road, occasionally taking a short cut through a field. No one minded. She was friendly when you talked to her but she never made any effort to talk to you. Unless you said something Martha would breeze right by and never notice you were there.
She was always talking, too, muttering her end of complicated conversations with someone no one else could see. Everyone assumed she was talking to Sam. No one thought of her as crazy. Some remembered Sam and how much the two had been in love. The town just let Martha Klegg be.
But Martha was a problem for Maggie. First off, it was difficult to find her at home. Maggie had solved that by watching Martha’s house every day for two weeks. The old widow’s schedule was not the same every day, but she generally didn’t get out on her walks until a little after nine. This fit in pretty well with Maggie’s schedule unless there were other delays.
The second problem was one that Maggie hadn’t considered. Martha was fit. All that walking had made her a bundle of muscle. This made it harder than expected to hunt her down.
When Martha opened the door to Maggie’s knock, she just opened it a crack. Maggie didn’t want to take the time to talk her into opening it wider, so she just let go with the shotgun, putting a nice sized hole in the door.
When she pushed the door open, Martha wasn’t there. Some spots of blood indicated that the old woman had been hit, but the lady had vanished.
It was more of a hunt than Maggie wanted, and it put her behind schedule. Finally the occasional spots of blood led her to a stream bed a good half a mile away, where Martha Klegg looked at Maggie wide eyed, lying half in the stream and mumbling to whomever she mumbled to.
After finishing that, the rest of it went pretty well. She counted up to fifty two, checking each name off in her notebook. It was afternoon by then, and hot. Maggie was glad she had decided to bring her straw gardening hat with her. “Straw Hat” was on the list of supplies in her notebook, and the hat itself had been carried on her back by it’s tie string until it was needed.
It wasn’t until Maggie was far out of town that she realized how badly she needed something to wipe the sweat out of her eyes with.
Her last look back at the town had gone on long enough. She had a long walk ahead of her, to the old cabin. Every item on the checklist had been checked off. The plan was complete. Maggie was free.
* * *
“You want some pie?” Helen asked. She smiled her blood red smile.
“Can’t go a day without your pie,” Maggie said, “you know that.”
Helen went to get the pie. Maggie listened to the babble of the old farmers behind her. She took her notebook out of her pocket and opened to the checklist. She wrote “handkerchief” under the previous last item. There were no check marks by the items on the checklist. The plan was still a plan, and the job was yet to be done. But one fine morning Maggie would wake up and decide that today was the day.
Helen came back with a slice of pie and placed it in front of Maggie. “What are you always writing in that old notebook?” she asked.
Maggie hastily closed the notebook and stuffed it back in her pocket. “Just plans for the future,” she said.
Helen laughed. “The future’s pretty much the same as the past or the present around here.”
“You never know,” Maggie said. She heard the chatter of the old men behind her. She looked at Helen’s blood red smile. When she looked at anyone in town she saw their deaths. She had their deaths in her pocket. Once she had gone through the plan enough times, visually reviewed every detail in her mind, imagined each of the town’s residents in turn being more of a problem than expected, she would decide the time had come.
“How’s that pie?” Helen asked.
“Great.” Maggie said, and ate her pie in a cafe full of dead people.
Robin Morris resides in the dreary clime that is southern California. Unable to go outside for fear of being burned to a crisp, I mean, for fear of getting a sunburn, she stays holed up in her crypt, er, one room apartment, spinning scary stories. Her only companions are her familiars, that is, her cute cuddly kitty cats. In addition to the horror story collection she has one novel, “Mama.”