Short Story: The Fireplace

The Fireplace was written for Tasha Kirksey

Sitting in her living room, the silence was deafening. She stretched out on her large corner sofa, which was usually overrun by her children, but now, it was her time. She closed her eyes and let the silence wash over her, it was such a foreign sound, but a welcomed one.

Her eyes flutter as a cracking sound rang out through the living room. Without moving, her eyes began to search the room. Her eyes settle on the large empty fireplace in the corner of the room. Dropping her head to the side, she stares at the darkness within it, but just like that, the silence envelopes the room around her, again. Her eyes still locked onto the location of the strange cracking.

Shaking it off, she realized that it was probably nothing. Just her brain trying to fill the silence that settled in when her children went off to bed. The same thing would happen with her phone, she would finally find silence, but then she would hear a phantom ring as if her phone was going off, but there was no one calling.

She turned her attention to the ceiling above her. Her eyes locking onto a small blip of ketchup left there by her son, who thought it would be funny to toss ketchup covered fries into the air, it wasn’t. Weirdly enough, while she was loving the quiet of the house, she missed her kids. Not something she would admit tomorrow when they are running amok and screaming, but now, in this moment, she missed them; Their hugs, their jokes, even their tantrums. They were a handful, but they were her handful.

Again, the room around her was filled with the loud cracking sound. Her head snapped back to the fireplace. Old dirt began to tumble down from the chimney.

“It’s just an animal or something. Don’t be stupid.”

Sitting up on the sofa, her eyes stayed locked onto the fireplace.

The cracking continued.

Her heart began to race.

She started feeling like one of her kids, complaining about a monster under the bed.

“It’s nothing. You’ll see.” she stood up, her toes curling into the plushy carpet speckled with stains. Her hands began to fiddle with the bottom of her long tee shirt as she slowly made her way over to the fireplace. The cracking sound grew louder with each step. Her stomach was doing flips and her chest grew tight. The chunks of dirt seemed bigger the closer she got.

Standing directly in front of the fireplace, a sense of silliness washed over her.

She pulled her phone from her pocket and opened the camera app. Kneeling down she reached her hand into the fireplace with her camera pointing up the chimney. The smoky smell brought back memories of Christmas. She could almost see the kids opening their presents around the brightly lit tree. How she yearned for those days right now, but instead she was here, exploring the chimney as if she were searching for Santa.

Suddenly, the fear rushed back. Her stomach tightened into a knot as she quickly pressed the button on the side of her phone. A loud shutter sound echoed up the chimney triggering the cracking sound again, but this time, it was followed by a distinct shuffling noise.

She let out a gasp as she snatched her hand out of the fireplace. Her widened eyes scanned the fireplace from the floor to the ceiling. Taking a deep breath, she looked down at her phone. She opened the photo gallery and her heart sunk. It was black. The photo she just took, there was nothing. She opened her camera again and noticed that the flash was turned off. Her head dropped back as she let out a groan. A groan that seemed to be mimicked from inside the fireplace. Her eyes snapped backed to the chimney and then down to the darkened opening.

Her damp hands almost seemed to vibrate as she turned the flash on. She knelt down once again. Her knee felt as through it was grinding into the brick beneath it. She could hear her heart pounding. Her hands were clutching her phone close to her chest. The shuffling sound grew louder. Looking down at her phone, she hesitated. She took a deep breath and in one quick motion she reached her hand into the fireplace, snapped a photo, and then yanked her hand out. The bright flash from within blinded her for a moment. She stumbled backwards onto the carpet, turned to face her sofa, and sat cross-legged while rubbing her eyes. Sitting there in the middle of her living room she felt a sense of relief just being away from the fireplace. Opening the photo gallery, her heart sunk, and she felt sick. Black.

“Are you kidding me?” her eyes searched the phone for an answer. She let out a giggle when she realized that she was looking at the photo she took without the flash. She felt silly again, but that soon faded when she realized that she would have to look at the correct photo. She sat there for a moment, staring at the darkness on the screen wondering if she really wanted to know. Chances were high that it was a just a squirrel, but the What If’s were killing her.

She took a deep breath in and on the exhale, she flipped to the recent photo.

The shuffling and cracking grew louder and faster.

Her mouth dropped open as her eyes locked onto the photo. She was looking at the inside of her well-lit chimney.

The shuffling sound behind her crept closer.

The inside walls of her chimney were covered in thick black soot. And there, looking back at her, in the middle of the photo was a pure black humanoid-like creature. Its claws dug into the bricks, and its piercing red and orange eyes looking directly at the camera. Looking directly at her. Its thick black skin was covered in cracks, which revealed an underlay of dark grey. There was, what appeared to be, an old claw mark on its shoulder, as if it had been in a fight with something… bigger.

Before she could let out a scream, the same black claw from the photo was on her throat. In an instant she was spun around and face-to-face with the creature from the fireplace. A tear rolled down her cheek as the creature tightened its grip.

It turned and scurried back to the chimney, dragging her behind. It darted back up into the darkness, but her body was slammed against the opening of the fireplace. The creature readjusted and yanked harder. Her body distorted and cracked as it was forced up the chimney. The living room was filled with the sounds of popping and slurping as a flood of goopy red blood poured out the fireplace and onto the carpet.

Soon the deafening silence filled the house once again.

Horror – What’s Your Point?

Today we are doing things a little different with our first real article.

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and felt that build up towards figuring out who the killer was and why they were doing it, only to be let down by them having no purpose? Me too! It almost feels like the writer couldn’t think of a good enough reason for the killing spree so they robbed us of the big reveal. You may have noticed in many of my reviews that I talk about the why behind the killings. That’s because understanding the reasoning behind the antagonist is very important.

Every killer needs, and normally has, a reason. That goes for real life as well as the horror genre. It might seem senseless but in the killer’s mind, it means something. We don’t have to like it or agree with it, but that reason will always be there.

Let’s look at some highly successful horror movies. A Nightmare on Elm Street has Freddy Krueger bouncing from dream to dream slaughtering kids. This movie freaked me the fuck out when I was younger because I didn’t understand why he was doing it and he seemed unstoppable. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood what was going on. In life, Freddy was a pedophile who would kill his victims. When the parents of the neighborhood found out about him, they rallied together and burned him to death. After that he came back and began targeting their children. You killed me first, isn’t the best reason, but at least it’s a reason. The same thing goes for Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, they might not have the best reason to kill, but they each have a reason.

Out of the three of them, I think I like Michael Myers’ reasoning the best. His killing spree is based on a childhood trauma. This seems like a very realistic reason that someone would turn to murder. Don’t get me wrong, Jason Voorhees suffered childhood trauma as well, but he is a spirit that has returned, much like Freddy, and Michael is more of a psychologically damaged human. This realistic purpose creates more fear than the other stories.

Those reasons drive the killers to continue doing what they do best. It’s that drive or passion to fight for their personal cause that makes the killer that much scarier. Some other great movies that show purpose are You’re Next, Raw, Scream, and Carrie. Honestly, I could go on forever, but I have to stop somewhere!

There are many movies that lack a reason and because of that they become a disappointment. This isn’t to say that these movies were unsuccessful. But it’s like buying a really pretty balloon but refusing to fill it up with air. While it’s a nice balloon, it would be better with the air in it.

One movie I always complain about is The Strangers. This was a very popular movie, and one that I was very excited to see. However, it lacked a meaning, which just made me hate it in the end. I spent the whole movie freaking out and wondering why these people were being attacked like this, but in the end we are told, “Because you were home.” What a complete let down. Considering what these two people had to suffer, we should be given a better reason than that. That sad part is, ten years later The Strangers: Prey at Night was released and I refuse to watch it due to the horrible reasoning in the first one.

This same thing happened with a Netflix Original movie called The Open House. The story seemed amazing, but it was almost the same thing. The killer had no reason. We need to understand why these people are being tortured. Without that reason, a movie is ruined.

It’s important to understand that the reasoning doesn’t have to be major or talked about in a bunch of detail and it doesn’t even have to make a bunch of sense. However, it is important for the viewers to understand that there is something driving the characters, both protagonist and antagonist. We need to feel a sense of urgency from both parties or we will lose interest.

The Strangers could have been fixed just by giving the viewers a little insight into the killer’s background. For instance, they could have showed one of the killers being pushed around by the other two. This could have taken only a few seconds and it could be telling us that the one is only there because they are trying to fit in with the others or maybe they are family and they are just following orders. We don’t need a lot of details, but we do need something.

All I’m asking for is enough care to be put into the antagonist, so that we can understand why they kill. We need to feel their anger or pain or joy. That’s where the True Fear hides. That reasoning is what can make or break a movie, but without it, it’s instantly broken. A good horror movie will give us a reason, a great horror movie will give a reason without boring us with too many details.