Horror shorts collection by Tale Teller Club Publishing.
The Doer Upper by Sarnia de la Maré FRSA
Janice woke with a start.
Her eyes itched from the central heating and she rubbed them hard before finally locating the phone alarm which she turned off blindly with a resigned sigh.
A black cat leapt onto her chest and startled her.
‘Oh, Christ Almighty,’ she gasped, ‘What on earth is the matter with you Pixie?’
The rickety old house felt empty without the kids and the noises were still so unfamiliar.
Over breakfast Janice phoned the pharmacy.
‘Hi. I am getting some side effects I think, maybe from my meds, so just wondering if there is anything I can get?
‘Well, it’s my eyes, they are really itchy and dry and a bit, you know, gunky in the corners.’
The pharmacist recommended an ointment and that Janice seek more help if required.
The following night there was the first proper winter chill just as the boiler went down again.
It was cold and dark in the run down doer upper that still didn’t feel like home after the divorce.
The wind howled and made the old sash windows rattle
Janice had slept badly. There had been a few night terrors, like the ones she had had as a child at boarding school. The big dorms with high ceilings and rattling windows had always spooked her and leaving her parents had been a heart wrenching loss. The psychiatrist had said she would settle in soon, and indeed she had, eventually.
‘What do you mean, terrors, Janice?’ asked a friend over coffee.
‘Well, I just felt something on my eyes. It was obviously the cream, but it hurt and there was some sort of thing….you know creature…trying to open them.’
‘Oh my God,’ her friend laughed, ‘you and your imagination Janice! You were born to be an art dealer.’
'What sort of creature, like a gnome,’ laughed the friend again.
‘No, more like an insect, hard with hairy legs,’ answered Janice,’ who also laughed seeing the funny side and sidelining her own paranoid thoughts.
Later in the corner shop on the way home, a woman from church looked at Janice and asked, ‘Are you OK dear, you look like you have been crying?’
‘Oh, no, Janice answered, I am just a bit tired.’
‘Poor dear, look Arthur, poor thing, her eyes are all bloodshot.’
Arthur nodded and reiterated something similar. ‘Plenty more fish in the sea,’ he said with a gentle pat on Janice’s arm.
It was a cold dark winter night as Janice finally reached home with some relief. The wind had battered her face and her eyes were streaming.
‘Pixie, Pixie,’ she called.
Pixie ran up for a cuddle and Janice noticed one of his eyes looked sore.
‘Oh no, poor little Pixiewix. Mummy has bad eyes too.’
There was a nock at the door. It was creepy Les, a neighbour, with a package.
‘Hi Janice, another package for you. This one is from Madagascar like the last one,' he laughed. 'I always have a look at the post marks. Not that I’m nosey or anything, just my interest in philately.’
Les always said the same thing but Janice would always nod with a look of interest when he told her.
‘Oh, thanks for taking that in Les. Yes, I get a lot from that part of the world,’ explained Janice.
‘It must be so interesting being an art dealer,' said Les hovering before finally making his way home, ‘all very exotic for this little town and a very exotic young lady too.’
'Pervert,' muttered Janice under her breath.
The night terrors began to intensify over several weeks and eventually Janice was forced to see a doctor about her eyes and her mental health.
‘Well, I feel like I am going insane, Doctor, and my right eye is so bad I have had to take time off work.’
‘OK, take the bandage off and let’s take a look,’ said the sympathetic doctor.
A gasp showed his shock.
‘I have never seen anything like this. I must ask a colleague for a second opinion, do you mind?’
Janice agreed and then there were three doctors with lights and instruments involved in a muttering kerfuffle.
An immediate two day stay in hospital improved things and Janice was back home.
There were more packages from Madagascar and Pixie's health was worsening so Janice took him to the vet wearing her black eyepatch.
‘Oh, what happened to your eye?’ asked the vet.
‘They aren't sure, some sort of bacterium eating my cornea apparently.’
‘Oh, how awful, expressed the vet.
‘It is getting better, but now of course my little Pixie is unwell. He is bumping into things and his eyes are weepy. I wondered if it’s cat flu?
Janice shed a tear and waited for the worst.
The vet seemed to take forever to make his diagnosis.
‘I am somewhat flummoxed. Pixie has indeed gone blind. It looks as if she has contracted a disease of the eye and it looks as if it is spreading into the tissue behind. It is likely that once it hits his brain, there will be an immediate and agonising demise. I am so sorry Janice.’
‘You can’t cure him?’ cried Janice.’
‘The kindest thing would be to put her to sleep. I am so sorry, Janice, but she must be in great pain.’
Pixie was euthanised immediately and cremated the following day.
Janice placed the urn on the mantelpiece under a dark foreboding oil painting of Jesus and Mary. She cried every time she looked up from her chair.
As the days went by Janice became more reclusive. Her eyesight was worsening and she knew the eye disease was incurable. Doctor's were not sure what the disease was but warned that she would probably go blind. Her night terrors were now keeping her up all hours and all she had were the musky artefacts she was collecting from Madagascar to keep her occupied.
It was nearly Christmas when things came to a head.
Janice had woken with a start, another night terror.
‘Aargh,’ she screamed, as she put on the light forcing away something very big and wriggly that seemed to be gouging at her face.
There on the bed was a thing, a creature, a writhing giant insect, as big as a human hand. It was lying on its back screeching and hissing. A gargling effervescent puke emitting from it's huge head.
Janice picked up a hardback book from her bedside cabinet and brought it down hard on the thing, again and again until the writhing and spitting ceased.
There was a final crunch and green and yellow puss oozed from under the book onto the white linen sheet.
Some weeks later, there was a knock at the door.
‘Hello, Janice I assume. I am Professor Sanderson, we spoke on the Oxford forum.’
‘Yes, of course,’ said Janice excitedly, ‘come in, come in.’
Over coffee the professor begins.
‘Now did you do as I suggested and has your eyesight returned to normal?’
'Yes', said Janice. I moved out of the house and I have some residual blurring but nothing too awful. I am expected to make a full recovery.
Good, said the professor. And did you fumigate?
‘Yes,’ answered Janice, and I have checked for droppings and there are none. I also have a buyer and we exchanged contracts. I just want to be shot of it to be honest. I could never sleep here again, it was terrifying.’
‘Could I see the specimen?’ Asked the professor.
Janice brought a large tightly sealed jar from another room and tentatively put it on the table.
The beast was almost intact with a hard armoured shell cracked in several places. It had three eyes and a large hairy head with sharp teeth and pincers. There was evidence of slime, now dried, presumably from its injuries.
‘Ah yes, a fine specimen. Of course, it would not have killed you. It is a parasite and they blind but do not kill their victims. I have seen people whose eyes were totally eaten leaving nothing but hollows. You are lucky to have woken up Janice. They inject an anaesthetic and some people sleep right through.’
‘Why are there no records of them?’ asked Janice.
‘It has been, and still is, just theory and supposition. Some old wive's tales may be evidential, and certainly we have read accounts from sangomas in southern Africa. Seemingly it is only women who suffer from these terrors. It has up until now been blamed, I am sorry to say, on female mental illness and hysteria. We need to study them more before publishing our papers. Can I ask for continued discretion Janice? If this got out to the press it would cause unnecessary panic.’
‘Oh of course, I want to forget it ever happened,’ assured Janice. ‘I want it all behind me and I will never get over Pixie. She was a victim and I had her euthanised. I feel terrible.’
The professor put the large jar under his coat and shook Janice’s hand.
A month later....
James carries Sarah laughing hysterically down a garden path and through an old fashioned front door.
‘Well Mrs. Teddington, how does it feel?
‘Oh James, it is wonderful, you have made me so very happy.'
The newly married couple share a night in the four poster in their new home, a doer upper with it’s charming unfamiliar creaks and rattling windows.
‘How did you sleep my beautiful wife?’
‘Well I guess I need to get used to the new sounds, said Sarah, and my eyes feel a bit weird this morning. But I love you Mr. Teddingtone, and that is all that matters to me.'
©2023 Sarnia de la Maré FRSA