Horror and Thriller Fiction posted December 29, 2017

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Sometimes things do go bump in the night.

The Homecoming

by sherrygreywolf

"You're just lucky you have a place to stay," they'd said when she got laid off. "Most people don't."

Tallie thought about this as she looked at the heavy, wood door with the ugly antique door-knocker. Shaped like a demon's head, it had made her skin crawl when she was a child. It still did, 20 years later. The house had been empty since her grandfather died five years ago and the peeling paint and missing fence boards were only the most obvious signs of her disinterest in her inheritance.

A breeze blew the scent of her grandmother's rosemary and other herbs to her and she glanced at the garden. The fountain and most of the plants were completely concealed under a tangled mass of encroaching brambles and overgrown rosebushes. Only a few of the once carefully tended plants poked bravely through, searching for the sun. Tallie shivered and rubbed her bare arms.

As she stepped onto the porch, the boards shifted noisily under her feet. Ignoring the squeaking, she defiantly shoved the key into the lock and opened the door. The musty smell would have made her grandmother crazy, she thought, as she jerked covers off of the furniture as she stalked through the living room. She saw the glass unicorn and her grandfather's candy jar atop the piano and smiled wistfully, remembering the good times. For years she had spent summers here, helping her grandmother weed the garden, arrange flowers and bake cookies in the huge old-fashioned oven and tagged along after her grandfather as he went to the barbershop or fishing. Happier times, she thought.
Tallie looked up the stairs and wondered how she could ever sleep in the bedroom where she'd stayed as a child. The beautiful bedroom with the pink checkered wallpaper and old-fashioned, ornate light fixtures and woodwork. The bedroom that seemed to change the year she'd turned twelve and turned from her summer haven into her own private hell. The bedroom where she was attacked by tiny creatures that no one else could see. The bedroom where her nightly screams echoed as the razor-sharp claws and pointed teeth ripped into her breasts and legs but left wounds visible only to her. The bedroom that her grandparents, the police and the exterminators had all checked countless times before her parents decided she was crazy and needed to be hospitalized. But that was many years, thousands of pills and countless therapists ago. Before they convinced her that the creatures were a result of puberty-driven hormones and the stress of listening her parents endless, drunken bickering. She stiffened her shoulders and mounted the stairs.

By the time she finished cleaning the room and stripping the bed, she began to appreciate the countryside quiet and the peaceful view from the windows. She sipped a margarita and watched the trees moving gently in the breeze and she realized how silly it had been to wait so long to come home.

Darkness comes early in the country and she turned on the lamps, watching as the shadows made strange, shifting shapes against the walls. And then it was time for bed.

The sheets felt cool against her body and she lay in the bed, listening to the cicadas and the frogs for quite some time before drifting off to sleep. She began to dream of the days when her grandparents were alive and could almost feel them tucking the sheets tighter around her. Except it wasn't the sheets that were pressing against her, she realized. It was hundreds of tiny creatures welcoming her back home. And as she felt the first of the claws rake her skin, she began to scream.

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