Spookymilk Survivor XV, Challenge 11: The Princes in the Tower

We were kept in the highest chambers of the castle after Father died. Richard – our Uncle – said our enemies were widespread, and that we’d be well protected in the high towers overlooking the Thames.

Our nursemaids and servants began whispering ghastly rumors, and Edward was frightened and sleepless; I had never seen my brother so terrified.

Edward woke me one rainy night, pulling me from my bed as the thunder burst over the river. He kept his torch unlit: he had a basket of cheese and blankets. Edward had a secret, he said, and it could not wait.
“Richard,” Edward whispered, “we’re in danger. We’ll be dead by winter unless you do what I say.”

He led us into the castle’s rank cellars. Steps led to crawlspaces and crevices in the ancient stone. We crept into its buried guts; eventually, the walls turned to bone-strewn soil.

Late that night we heard echoes blossoming from above. Edward was afraid; he knew a search party had been sent for us. We pressed on, boring through the earth’s cloistered tunnels, holding tight to fistfuls of ropy vines that grew where no sun shined.

The reeking air finally lifted after days of stumbling. We had grown pale and hungry, and licked twinkling, slimy molds that were smeared on the walls for sustenance. We ate fishes that swam in milky, unnaturally illuminated streams. We had grown thin and sickly. We had nearly given up when we stumbled into a great, sprawling cavern of dark ice. Water dripped and whispered from pools of cold, reflective water: blue green mosses and small scuttling things hurried past. We gathered spongy leaves to burn for fire, and medallions of fleshy fruit on the undersides of rocks. We ate well, and slept hard, for the first time in almost a month.

We woke to light, and fresh air, and streaming choral murmurs. Tiny frogs hopped at our feet; lumbering, flightless birds screeched from low perches, and we found pale faces watching us from the edges of the great room: children, like us. They were shy and proud, holding their palms to us in amity.

When he became a king, a true King of the pale, hidden children, Edward denounced the upper air: his first act as King was to send several of the child-warriors to seal the endless, sprawling tunnels that led to the world above.

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Spookymilk Survivor XV, Challenge 10: The Hook

The house was perfectly silent. Its screen door, patched with electrical tape, banged shut in a puff of rotten breeze. A yellow flowerpot stood before a ragged, newly-formed cave, gaping from the ruined tomato garden. Grotesque ribbons hung in the trees and the lawn was dotted with tufts of fur. The sky was crayon-blue and cloudless; several birds, unaffected by the night’s phenomena, trilled from charred branches. A dog barked.

In a root cellar next door, a pile of broken glass and limbs shifted slightly beneath a bright square of peach-colored sun.

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Spookymilk Survivor XV, Challenge 9: Damn Mutants

I can’t be the only one.

It doesn’t matter. When you find me, I’ll be rotting, blissfully covered in flies and sand. I’ll deserve it. I’ll be sucked clean of what I once skipped through life with.

I always healed quickly – then, by accident, I learned to accelerate it. My infections evacuated when I joined a crowd; burns and gashes slunk away to collect on strangers. When I was diagnosed with hepatitis I spent an afternoon in a nursing home in Queens. I didn’t care. They were happy to have me.

I picked through crowded malls, bleeding or burned or feverish, ridding myself of whatever I’d recklessly picked up. I’d host parties and my guests would develop coughing fits and fractures. I never thought of what I was leaving behind. Then I broke my back.

I was taken to the ER after I fell down a flight of stairs, drunk. I woke up in a cast, completely healed – I could feel it. I had never recovered from something that serious before. The hospital staff hadn’t even noticed the miracle yet. Why? The birthing wing was falling apart.

In the nursery, about a dozen babies had withered and curled up during the night. While my body flexed and reknitted itself, their lives leaked from the maternity ward and curled through my body like warm honey.

I’m drinking myself to death, locked in a beach house I inherited from a woman whose death I caused. I may be tortured with guilt and sorry for what I did – unknowingly or otherwise – but I am still a monster. I need to stay here. I’ll live with my typewriter and my dirty jar of gin until I am pinned down with death.

Don’t come for me. Don’t let me heal. It’s for the best.

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Spookymilk Survivor XV, Challenge 8: Bygones

I see that some of us, well, some who are seated are nodding off. Can someone… are there any towels? Blankets? This might be messier than… well. Jesus didn’t say there’d be… OK! Thanks, brother, for that kindness! Jesus thanks you. The ones slumping over… yes! That will help. Don’t panic. Certainly we don’t want – SIR! No phones. That’s right. Remain calm. Let me explain.

Last night, Jesus came to me. He said, “Barbara! I know you’ll do anything for me.” You see, it is His will is that we are ALL united in heaven, at his side – not just me.

No – JIM! NO! The Lord begs you to listen!

I know it hurts and that you might… well, I know you’re scared. It’ll only last a few minutes. Please, everyone! You’re scaring the babies! Please LISTEN TO ME! PRAISE THE LORD!

Jim… well, most of us know that Jim is marrying this young woman who can provide many children, which is why we are celebrating today. Jenny – sweet daughter in Christ – has appointed me as her maid of honor. I am happy to be included, even after I have been cleaved from my earthly bond to Jim.

The Lord visited Jim and he learned of the path to be taken. The Lord released Jim of his marriage to me – as I could not bear children – and provided a proper wife in Jenny. I had failed him; this was my duty. Jesus revealed that as my reward, for delivering Jim into the arms of a more suitable Christian spouse, that I would join God in Heaven, released from my suffering through the tonic that Jim would provide. Jim – NO, JIM! I’M NOT AFRAID! Our loved ones must know of this!

Tonight I was to drink the holy nectar and be delivered into the Lord’s arms. But… last night Jesus came to me. “Bring them to me, Barbara! They shall ALL be freed. Hear the truth of my words and bring my children to me!” You see, Jim? The Lord’s will is strong!

Jim – do not shout! They are NOT ILL! Jenny is being FREED! SHE WILL ASCEND! Praise the Lord for these convulsions, as they bring us nearer to Him… please, everyone! Stop panicking! PRAISE HIM! The Lord is with us!

No! NO! RELEASE ME! I HAVE DONE WHAT I… STOP! YOU ARE WRONG LET ME GO LET ME

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Spookymilk Survivor XV, Challenge 7: The Chicken Dance

She fixed Paul’s breakfast to order: waffles and eggs, scrambled and heavily peppered, in a nest of slightly burned hashbrowns.

His lunch pail was affectionately packed and waiting on the countertop, a folded note tucked under a tangerine. She smoothed the pale green tablecloth. Her reedy, arthritic hands straightened her apron as she flitted about the kitchen. She covered a bowl of potatoes, puckered and sprouting, with an embroidered towel.

“There’s blackberry syrup!” She stood, watching his bedroom door until her knees started to ache. Something tumbled through her mind – a memory that bloomed into hot waves of panic. She fell into a hard plastic seat.

She found a crumpled crossword puzzle and some pills. A stripe of light slipped across the linoleum as the sun started setting. Night fuzzed the kitchen walls. She scraped the plate into the trash.

At dawn, she prepared another batch of peppered eggs and repacked the lunch pail. She watched Paul’s door. Like every evening before it, she was struck with a faint pulse of horror as she cleared the table. Night insects whirred outside the window screens, and she remembered that she was afraid of something. Something had happened.

That spring, a neighbor, complaining of the lawn and the rotting newspapers, sent the sheriff to her home. The woman, frail and exhausted, could not explain the empty bedroom.

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Spookymilk Survivor XV, Challenge 6: Bantam Bulwyr

Maggie swept through the halls, taffeta and brownstone kissing in the inky shadows. Her heart swelled with love; his elegance, newly discovered after the wretchedness of war, lingered long after the engagement party’s late end.

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Spookymilk Survivor XV, Challenge 5: The Omega Man

The clouds, sparkling dreamily with blue-green disinfectant, roll in from the military base. They were too late: a fat, chemical haze hangs over the dead farm animals. They bloat and deflate but nothing will pick at their flesh. The air smells like bleach and scorched hair.

The sky is wiped clean of its birds and airplanes; the factory stopped clanging a few weeks ago. I found a baby raccoon trapped in a drained pool. I’ve taken her in. I think we’re the last ones left.

Cars filled with spoiled groceries and decaying housewives are scattered on the highways. I drove to Columbus but everyone was dead. I came back.

The water’s still good. I have food and the electricity is working – this morning, a telephone was ringing across the street. I smashed the window but it stopped before I got in. Maybe I’m not the only one.

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