Horla Fiction (October 2020)

 

WRITTEN IN GLASS

by HARRIS COVERLEY

SAM Crick hopped across the kitchen floor in a silly game that only he could understand. The kitchen was quite long and would otherwise take at least ten seconds to traverse from one end to the other at a leisurely pace. On the fifth hop on his right foot the glass of cola slipped out of his stubby hand and struck the floor tiles with a handgun-like bang. The brown fluid spread out from around the impact site as Sam pulled his feet in their grey dress socks away just in time to avoid a soaking. He moved backwards as a stable puddle formed, taking the visage of a dark lake with crystal islands.

For a moment he thought of what he had to do. He was twelve years old, but he could not recall ever having had to clean liquid off of a floor before. He knew though that it was up to him: he was at his grandparents’s cavernous McMansion for the weekend, and they had gone out for the evening for some pre-arranged event, leaving Sam alone. He had adequately heated up his ovenable meal—Chicken Tikka Masala, pilau rice, and two onion bhajis, with an individual mini-naan for one—and had put the packaging in the bin after finishing it in front of the TV, but this smashed glass presented a new and unique challenge.

He instantly understood that he would have to clean up the liquid itself before he could deal with the broken glass, so he collected the kitchen roll off the side counter and prepared a big square wad of sheets. He placed the wad over the sharpened puddle and very gently pressed down, pushing towards its centre. He checked underneath and most of the fluid had been absorbed. He repeated the process twice, and after disposing of the soiled sheets there was just a damp patch of glass shards, mainly across the grout between two tiles.

Sam knew he now needed to sweep these up, but as he turned to retrieve the dustpan and brush from beneath the sink, a sharp pain went through his right foot, making him yelp. Balancing on his other foot, he made a short way to a chair and pulled his sock off; a tiny lump of glass was embedded in the inner fold of skin on the underneath of his big toe. With his thumb and forefinger, he pulled it out and dropped it with its brethren on the floor.

Sam re-checked around him and saw to his amazement a different patch of glass shards several feet away.

“How did I miss that?” he asked himself.

Walking carefully, he went over to the new patch and looked down. He blinked. It could not be so, so he blinked again. The shards, little bigger than particles of dust, appeared to be spelling something out, so he leaned in closer.

“Carry on,” he read aloud.

Compelled by the strangeness of it all, he obeyed the instruction, and stepped over the patch, immediately discovering a third patch of glass. He looked over it: “Carry on further”.

He stepped over the third patch, and his right foot stung again: yet another large shard had ended up stuck in one of his toes. Nonetheless, he could not ignore a fourth patch of glass just before the redwood-panelled cabinets upon which sat the microwave.

“Shit!” he knowingly swore, totally free to do so in the absence of adults.

It clearly spelled more words out, and Sam was forced onto his knees in order to read it. His mother had long said that he needed glasses, although he had refused any attempt to take him to an optometrist, not wanting to look like a “geek” in any way, as though he himself was a paragon of coolness.

As his left kneecap hit the floor a pain fired in it. He had hit another big shard, but Sam did not care. He was devoted to solving the mystery.

Hovering over the final patch, he leaned in so close his eyes were nearly touching the shards.

“Look up,” he read aloud.

Sam looked up. Above the grainy dark blue edge of the countertop, he could see the door of the microwave, silver and plastic, and hanging over the door was a two inch long sliver of glass, scalpel sharp.

In a panic, he raised up his stubby hand to grab it and hit the microwave door. The shockwave went through the machine and the sliver dropped forward the four feet right onto the carotid artery on the side of his neck.

The paramedics who attended the scene two hours later, acting on the call of the boy’s hysterical grandmother, saw that the boy’s core mistake had been in pulling the shard out.

The coroner ruled that Sam Crick had “died through misadventure”—a more brutal variation on ‘boys will be boys’. He did however note that one of the paramedics had observed what looked like something written in blood on the floor, but not by a finger; rather, it was as though it had been piped there, like it were icing on a cake. The macabre markings had allegedly read: “Got you”.

The grandparents could not bear to live in the house after the death of their grandson there, so they sold it to a developer who demolished it despite it being relatively new, and who has since been oddly reluctant to build there. It is said that little or nothing grows in the soil on the plot where the house previously stood.

 

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As well as previously at HorlaHarris Coverley has short fiction published or forthcoming in CuriositiesHypnosShotgun Honey, and The Horror Zine. He is also a Rhysling-nominated poet and member of the Weird Poets Society, with verse most recently accepted for Star*LineSpectral RealmsUtopia Science FictionYellow Mama, and View From Atlantis, amongst others. He lives in Manchester, England.

Title photo credit – Jamie Street on Unsplash

Horla standard disclaimer – image has no direct connection with the fiction