In honor of this ghoulish time of year I have another short story for you. I wrote this one back in the same high school Creative Writing class in which I wrote, "The Trouble With Revision". Be forewarned, though. This one might be disturbing to some (hence the Halloween tie-in). Also, I have edited it from the original. I mean, really, I couldn't leave it in the state it was from 20 years ago. Keep in mind the timeframe it was written, circa 1987-88. And never you mind the obvious plot holes. Just enjoy it for what it is.
This one never had a title, but I'll just call it....
"Sara's Not Smiling"
Sara woke to the faint sound of water trickling down the gutters outside her window and the sun sinking down into the horizon. She lay still for a moment, trying to recall what happened before she fell asleep. She couldn't remember a thing. Not what time it was, not even the date. Fumbling in the dark she reached to switch on the bedside lamp. Nothing. She looked for the glowing of her alarm clock. Nothing. The power must be out.
Sara sat up in bed and felt a rush of dizziness. She had a heavy feeling, as though she'd been asleep for years. Slowly, she stood up and walked to the darkening window. The street lights hadn't come on yet.
"Well," she said to herself, "maybe the whole neighborhood is out of power."
She slowly felt her way out of her bedroom and down the hall. Carefully making her way to the bottom of the stairs, Sara expected to see the comforting glow of candles and oil lamps that her mother would have lit around the house, but everything was dark and quiet.
"That's strange," she nervously said to no one. "Everyone is gone?"
Walking blindly through the house, Sarah called out for someone. Anyone. But there was nothing and she suddenly became frightened.
Speaking aloud again, just to break the silence, "Maybe they all left before the lights went out. Maybe there's a note for me in the kitchen." She checked the kitchen but found nothing.
"What time is it?" Her head still groggy. "What day is it?" Her nerves on edge. "What is going on? I must have been sick and that's why I can't remember anything. But why would they leave me alone?"
Finding a flashlight in the kitchen, Sara, more anxious then before, continued to search for the note her family must have left for her. There was no note.
"Janet. I'll call her. She'll know where everyone is." Sara picked up the phone to call her best friend who lived next door. The line was dead.
Grabbing a jacket and a pair of sneakers from the mud room, Sara ran out the door. The air outside was misty and cool. She started toward Janet's house when she realized something was not right. All but one of her family's cars were in the driveway. She had four older siblings and her family's driveway always looked like a used car lot.
"There are seven people in this family. Where the hell did they all go in one car?" she yelled at the emptiness. "What is going ON here?!?" she whimpered.
For a moment Sara just stood and listened. The leftover rainwater was trickling down the gutters. The leaves in the trees were rustling all around her. Crickets were talking to one another. But something wasn't right on her cul-de-sac. There was no other sound than the approaching night. She walked to the end of the driveway and scanned the neighbors' houses. There were no glowing candles in any of the dark windows. No voices were heard on the street. No cars drove by. No signs of life.
Sara ran through the yard to Janet's house and banged on the front door. "Janet!" No one answered. She banged on the door again. "Mrs. Thomas! Mr. Thomas!!" No response. She looked in the windows. The house was dark and quiet.
Sara walked down the driveway. "This isn't happening", she said aloud. As she ran from house to house she found the same thing. No lights. No one home.
The sun was fully sunken below the horizon now and the stars shown bright between the thick branches of the trees. The only sounds were night sounds, which now rang loudly in Sara's ears.
Panicked, Sara again found herself in the middle of the empty street, yelling to no one in the darkness, "WHERE IS EVERYONE?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME?!"
Crying and grasping her hands to her head, Sara ran back to her house. Once inside, the silence surrounded her. She tried the phone again. Still dead.
"I gotta get out of here", she mumbled to herself as she felt around the kitchen wall for the key rack. She picked the first set of car keys and ran outside. Though Sara couldn't drive, she was desperate to get out of there. She tried the key in all the cars until one of them opened.
Unable to start the car, Sara screamed and beat her fists on the steering wheel. "STUPID!" -whomp!- "CRAZY!" -whomp- "WHYYYYY?!" -whomp- Then, with her head falling back against the seat in exhaustion, Sara sobbed until there were no more tears.
Defeated, Sara walked back into the house, her limbs dragging, her mind gone dark. In the kitchen again, she felt her way along the countertop and stopped when she found the right drawer. She opened it slowly. Closing her eyes, she reached in the drawer and lightly traced her fingers across the contents until she found what she wanted. Sara then closed the drawer delicately, so as not to make a sound.
She turned and leaned against the counter, placing one hand on its surface to steady herself. Sara took a deep breath and exhaled. With her other hand she plunged the knife into her abdomen, again and again and again. Sliding down the side of the counter, her body slowly folded onto itself and came to rest on the cold kitchen floor.
Just a moment later, several cars cruised down the street, each pulling into a different driveway in the dark, quiet cul-de-sac. The last car pulled in Sara's driveway and six people fumbled out of it. Then one by one they started to sing the same tune. Sarah's Dad, the loudest of her entire family.
Across the street the neighbor stood at the end of his driveway and yelled across to Sara's family, "Hey! That was a great show! Springsteen is the BEST! Thanks again for the free tickets, John!"
Sara's Dad called back, "Hey! No problem, Bob! They don't call him "The Boss" for nothin', do they?"
"You aren't kiddin', John! You'll have to take the whole neighborhood out again sometime! Too bad your kid, Sara, was sick. She would have loved it."
"Yeaahhhh, poor kid. But I'm glad you had a good time, Bob! People really do win on MTV, don't they?" John waved good night to the neighbor.
He turned to see his wife walking up to him as the kids started for the house. "Honey, it looks like the lights went out while we were gone," she said.
Putting his arm around his wife as he walked her back to the house, John said, "I hope Sara didn't wake up in the dark and not see the note you left on her nightstand. You know what the psychiatrist said..."
UPDATE: After I typed this, I had to laugh because the feeling you might be left with is the same feeling I was left with after watching my least favorite of M. Night Shyamalan's movies, "The Village". Kind of a "what the...?". Anyone who knows me well is well aware of my feelings on this matter. Not that I feel my story is in the same league, but I felt that movie could have been a 30 minute "Twilight Zone" episode, not a full length movie.