Monday, October 28, 2013

Haunted House Of My Dreams

I was chauffeuring my Scouts on a supermarket field trip (they're working on their cooking badges) when they all stumbled upon the topic of haunted houses, which completely reminded me that I have somehow not made room in my Halloween vacation plans for a trip to a haunted house. Blasphemy, I know. Perhaps there is one in Virginia.

Getting back on topic, one of them started talking about how she would design a haunted house if she could make one. She wanted a haunted house/maze combo where if you went the wrong way, or opened the wrong door, then the monsters would pop out and scare you. I thought it was a pretty nifty idea. I really don't like jump scares. I think they're cheap and they leave me feeling annoyed and paranoid, but I really like mazes and labyrinths. I think I would love a haunted house like that, my love of mazes would trump my annoyance at jump scares.

It got me thinking about what type of haunted house I would have if I could design one. I think instead of going the route of so many haunted houses and relying on dark lighting to create a spooky atmosphere, most of my rooms would have bright lighting. I would want everything sharp and in focus. Also no loud sounds or booming mood music laden with screams and chainsaws. I would want the silence to basically engulf you at times. I want to really utilize the silence to amplify the sounds I actually wanted you to hear.

And I'd have to enact two major rules:
1. No groups - I really want to play on people's feelings of vulnerability.

2.Monsters can't touch you - Or if they do it's very limited. No arm grabbing or anything like that, that always annoyed me. Plus it's an easy way to get actors cold cocked by a scared teenager or adult. I've heard stories. Poor monsters.

To give an example of how I would incorporate my ideas for a haunted house, this is how the first three rooms of my ideal haunted house would go:

You arrive at the haunted house and are immediately split up. Each of you entering one at a time. You enter the first room. It's brightly lit and very white. Looking around you see that along the walls to your left is an immaculate looking kitchen set up. Clean, white sink with chrome handles and faucet. Shiny metal refrigerator, empty except for a single child's picture. Walking past the white stove on your way to inspect the picture, you can see the only instance of a mess is from the pot on top. The lid is slightly askew and a thick, red stream of, what you hope is anyway, tomato sauce has bubbled out onto the stove top. You walk past to look at the picture. It shows a small, sad child in chains next to a fridge. The picture also has an overly large pot with two stick figures inside labeled 'mommy' and 'daddy'. As indicated in the picture, you follow your hunch and bend down to inspect the alcove made by where the fridge meets the counter.

Underneath is a small, dirty boy chained to the sink. He's huddled in the corner at the back of the alcove. The child puts a finger to their lips and makes a shushing sound then points behind you. You spin around and, for the first time, fully notice the petite looking, young woman sitting alone with her back to you at the dinner table. With her white-blond hair, pale skin, and white dress blending in with the rest of the room it was quite easy to miss her. She's not moving or making a sound. Then you realize she is sitting next to a door with an exit sign above it, and it's the only door in the room.

You begin to walk back the way you came, wanting to keep as much room between you and this woman as possible. Slowly, quietly you walk straight towards the door. When you have almost taken one step past her, she turns her head, quick and sudden, to look at you. She is sitting in front of a plate, empty except for some red remnants that look like they have been licked off. There is nothing else in front of her except for a large, serrated knife and a fork. Her face is calm and devoid of emotion. Her mouth is parted showing the tips of her sharp teeth, and she has a mouth full of them. The pink lips seem blood stained on the inside. Her eyes are black and every so often she licks her lips. You turn away again to make your way to the door and get the hell out of there, then you hear the sound of a chair scooting across the floor. You turn back again to see where she is. She's still sitting, but this time the chair is further back. Her upper body is leaning forward towards the table, hands still palm down on the table top. She doesn't move while you are watching. She is still emotionless, still calm, and still licking her blood stained lips every couple of seconds.

You turn back and bound to the door, quickly grabbing the handle and turning it. Then the sound of heavy breathing reaches your ear. Whirling around, you see she is less than a foot away behind you. She stands stock still, breathing heavily, one hand behind her back. A quick glance at the dinner table shows what you guessed all along, the knife is missing. In one fluid motion, you turn back around and bust through the door, slamming it shut behind you.

Stumbling into the next room, you are immediately plunged into darkness. It is a black so deep you can't see an inch before you, never mind where the door is supposed to be, and there is no exit sign to help you. Holding your hands in front of you, eyes wide desperately trying to acclimate to the darkness, you cautiously inch forwards going straight to what you hope is where the door should be. There is the sound of someone walking back and forth, chains following them on one side of you. Behind you can hear breathing and the shuffling of feet. You try to take solace in the fact that if you can't see, neither can they. But unlike the person on the side, the feet behind are following you, getting closer. The breathing gets louder. You stop in your tracks, hoping perhaps the cessation of movement has thrown them off and, whoever this person is, they will move on.

You were wrong, they're getting closer but you're scared and don't want to move. Joints locking up, squeezing your eyes shut, hands clenched at your sides. The breathing is right behind you now. Opening your eyes as fingertips graze your shoulders, a bright neon exit sign lights up in the darkness a few feet from where you are blinking your salvation. Racing towards the door you steal a glance behind you to see a man cloaked in black wearing night vision goggles. He blinks in and out with the sign's light.

You run into the next room and stop, clutching your eyes. You're back into a brightly lit, mostly white room. You take a moment with your eyes closed, thanking that you can hear nothing going on around you. When you open them again your gaze is drawn to the center of the room. There is a dirty, bloody mattress laying there. Candles are everywhere, the only place where there aren't candles is the straight path to the door with the exit sign above it. Blood drips from above the mattress where there is a sagging portion of the ceiling with a small hole in it. You stand and not much happens except the blood begins to drip quicker. You walk to the door to find out that it is locked. There is a key hole in this one. You get a bad feeling and look back, there is a key on the floor by the mattress. The hole in the ceiling is now pouring blood onto the mattress where it's starting to soak onto the floor.

Practically running over, you bend down and pick up the key. Then there is a loud shriek from above. You look up and see two long blood soaked arms ending in clawed hands coming from the ceiling. They are waving around, the shrieking getting louder. The arms are trying to make the hole wider and you can see that something is pushing through. Not wanting to stick around you grab the key and race back to the door, unlocking it and leaving to see what the next room has in store for you.

So there you have it. No touching, no groups, minimal set up and noise, lots of theatrics.

What type of haunted house would you have?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Of Apple Festivals And Divinations

I went to the Apple Festival in Darlington, MD a couple of days ago. It's a small festival, it's only a street long, but it's cute and fun.

And packed!

There's not too much to do if you're not a kid. They had a hayride that went in a circle around a field. There was scare crow making. There's also a couple of musicians that play some sort of country and a pie contest that's really early which I missed. I'm not sure you can attend it if you're not a contestant though. I mostly go for the vendors anyway, and to get out of the house.

When we first walked in there was this awesome Jack Sparrow made out of stained glass.

Glass by Michelle Coomes O'Brien
If I had the 150 dollars it was asking for I would have bought that up in a heart beat. Half a heart beat even. The seller also had these little cuties.
Utz Girl and Natty Boh
My sister asked why Natty was crying. I said it was because the Utz Girl refused his wedding proposal. My friend said it was because the Ravens lost some game...I don't follow football.
Moving along, we went by the booth for the Maryland Fairy Festival and met this awesome guy.
He was really nice. We also kept bumping into him throughout the festival. Stalker, or just really adept at fairy magic? Hmmm...
My sister really wants to go and so do I, so hopefully come May of next year I'll have another blog festival post with pictures and videos to do.
I stopped by the booth of Namasaki Kawaii Ai and, because I can't get enough shit for my hair and head, I bought this really cute cat ear headband.
Pay no attention to my wonky looking eyes. I'm just looking at the camera.
In case you can't see clearly, they have little rhinestones on them and are lined in fabric. I'm so glad I found them. I saw a bunch at Otakon that were metal with diamonds embedded but they were all gold and I really don't like gold. She also sold these hand made dish scrubbies.

And these really cute little plushies.

Not only did I have to refrain from spending my limited money on them, but I also had to refrain from hugging them before leaving. They're just too cute, especially the ones with the little fangs.

I did however indulge my inner day drinker and bought this little key chain flask from Lithia's Creations.

Someone tell Jack that this is where the rum has gone.
I also bought this huge bag of loose leaf Japanese cherry blossom tea from Castle Creek Farms. I love everything they make, especially their soaps. The tea has a mild flowery (well..yeah, duh) and kind of bitter taste to it. I like it. I also love the way it smells.

And I especially like loose leaf tea because of the tea readings you can do with them (oh look at that segue that I'm so crappy at!).

I really like divination. I do readings for my friends sometimes if they request as I like the practice, but I usually use it as a form of meditation or introspection. Let's not forget just plain fun too. There's so many ways to go about divining. Tea leaves, palm readings, tarot. Those are the big ones people know about, but there's so many more ways. Like with apples for example.

As a symbol of love, apples are used mainly for love divination to find out the initials or identity of your future love/affair/spouse/whatever.  One of the ways to do so is to take an apple and hold the stem in one hand while holding the apple in the other. As you twist the stem recite the alphabet with each turn. Whatever letter the stem comes off on is supposed to be the initial of your future significant other's first name.

Another way is to take  an apple and peel the skin in one unbroken strip. You throw the skin over your shoulder and make sure your dog doesn't try to eat it so you can see what letter it took the shape of.

Hey! Get away from my future love's name!
I'm not sure if this was supposed to be a J with the way it was curled, or an I because it came apart and the one piece is supposed to be the dot. Meh, such is divination sometimes.

There is also a divination that says to eat an apple on Halloween while looking into a mirror to see the face of your future love. Well it's not Halloween yet, and I didn't feel like getting the mirror from the wall, so I opted to eat my apple while I waited for my tea leaves to steep.

Reading tea leaves, much like the tarot and crystal ball types of divination, is all about interpretation. Symbols can be interpreted in many ways which is something I sometimes get confused on. There's the usual meanings and what they symbolize, but there's also the personal meaning and what they mean to you. For example, I recently bought a small crystal ball and was looking at it and playing with it letting my thoughts drift in and out, when I saw the image of a barn owl. Then a week or so ago I was doing one of my little late night drives. I saw two eyes peeping from the edge of the road up ahead. I slowed down in case it was a little fox or rabbit and as I drove by an owl flew away from the road. Symbolism aside it was very neat to see. I don't usually see owls in Baltimore.

Now what does that all mean? Well I'm still wondering about it. You see owls can stand for different things both bad and good. They can stand for insight, prophecy, healing, and wisdom, among other things. But it is also symbolic of Satan, doom, and death. Especially the barn owl. However when I saw the owl in the crystal ball I didn't have a sense of foreboding, just peace. So as you see interpretation is a tricky thing.

To read tea leaves you should optimally use a wide cup as it will allow you to see the leaves clearly. I had to learn the hard way that a cups worth of tea is sufficient in reading leaves. Too much and results can be inconclusive because they will all lump together. Also the cherry blossom tea leaves were a bit too big.

Or perhaps I just used too much.

I had to wind up tearing open a tea bag. One tea bag is fine. It took me the equivalent of 5 cups of tea to figure this out. ...The things my bladder and I go through for this blog.

After your tea has cooled, you hold the cup in your non dominant hand and drink. You should be using this time to focus on your question if you have a specific question, or clearing your thoughts. If you're wondering how to keep from drinking the leaves...well you kind of don't. Most of the leaves settle at the bottom of the cup anyway so it doesn't matter. I usually grip the rim of the cup gently with my teeth and keep my upper lip close to the glass so very little actually gets in my mouth.

Drink all the tea except for a tiny sip's worth. Then, in a clockwise fashion, you swish the leaves around three times. Carefully, turn the cup over a saucer and leave it for a minute or so to allow the excess tea to drain before turning it back over.

There are a few ways I've heard of to read the leaves. One is from present to future. You start from the top near the handle, then go down and clockwise. The cup is sectioned into three sections. Rim, middle, and base. The closer things are to the rim, the more immediate they are happening and vice verse. Reading this way, the base also represents the final outcome of the question or problem. The handle represents the querent and home, which is why you start there.

However, I've read that some people use the base as the past. The further towards the base it is the further in the past. Middle is present and rim is future. The closer things are to the handle the more quick they are to happen, basically your immediate future. Images right under the handle are for the immediate future as well.

Since I was aiming for a general past, present, future reading and didn't have any sort of question in mind, I chose to use the second method.

Right under the handle I noticed a running rabbit and what reminded me of a fisherman.

Probably should have circled this.

I have no clue if you can see that but it's those two clumps at the top.

I didn't get any specific feeling from the rabbit so I went with the normal tea reading interpretation as a symbol for the need for bravery. The fisherman I felt as a symbol of abundance and prosperity. And as I had plans to go to a casino the night before Halloween, I'm really hoping that's true.

Going clockwise I saw what looked to me like a coffin in the middle bottom of the cup.

I circled it in black for you.
Some might think that cause for alarm, but I didn't feel any ill omen from it. It was in the near past portion of the cup so all it did was remind me of my cousin's funeral that I attended about two months ago.
Near the rim a little ways away from the coffin there was a star and mouse behind what looked to me like a big bull. Across from the bull were three birds with two flying south and one flying north out of the cup.
The bull and associated symbols are somewhat sloppily circled in red, while the birds are neatly in purple.
I'm also going to have to take time out of this interpretive blogging to apologize for all the shitty camera angles.
Stars mean health and happiness in tea reading but I also felt it meant success. The mouse I took to mean timidity. In tea reading it is normally interpreted as theft. The bull I took to mean strength, but a strong stubbornness as well. The birds across from the bull felt like they were symbolic of change, a parting from how things are at the present time, since one is leaving the other two.
Now, taking all of those symbols together, it could be interpreted that health, happiness, and success lies in my future, though my own stubbornness (and I can be very stubborn) and timidity to change can steal away my chances at success.
And of course you can see from the picture above that at the bottom there is a heart in the distant past portion. It is ill formed and blobby. The line also looks broken by the bundle of tea leaves to the left. To me it is reminiscent of my ex from a couple years back, which was my first huge break up that helped cause a lot of problems in both my financial and emotional states.
I didn't see any other symbols that leapt out at me, so the tea reading ends here. Perhaps you see something I didn't despite the crappy camera angles?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

One Shot Story: In Headlights

Inspired by the subreddit r/ShortScaryStories, I've been working on a book of extremely short stories. They must be a maximum of three paragraphs in length. At first it was just a personal challenge to come up with 25-26 pieces of flash fiction. After a while I thought, why not make a running horror theme and begin a compilation. I'm almost finished, all that's left to do is editing and such which will probably prove to be a bigger pain in the ass then writing it up was. I never realized how hard it was to write such a short story. A bunch of them tend to be some sort of twist/cliffhanger ending. Or a slight cliffhanger ending where the ending is heavily implied, just not actually written, in order to comply with the paragraph rule.

Then there comes all the other complications, especially because I tend to be a bit...wordy? Seriously, I ramble and I know I do. Especially if I get excited about something. Refer back to the title and small blurb under it of this blog. Bad habit. How long should the paragraphs be? They can't be too long or that would technically be cheating wouldn't it? Where exactly do the paragraphs get separated? Sometimes that's not as clear cut as you would think. It's also not always as easy to be as descriptive as I want to be. Then I have trouble with wanting to scrap the short story and instead expand on it into a proper story. I guess I could do both though.

To tell you the truth, I'm not even sure if technically what I've been writing counts as flash fiction because I've never bothered to take word count and make sure it falls within the 300 or less that flash fiction usually falls under. I've just been trying to stick to three paragraphs or less.

However, it is a great writing challenge to help you cut out all the erroneous bits and get to the heart of the plot and story. Just tell a story, short, simple, and sweet. I'm not sure if I want to include this story along with the compilation of ones I've done. Either way enjoy this bit of 'flash fiction' I wrote last night.

In Headlights

The rain beat down on the small car. Even though the heat in the car was on, John shivered still. The country road's lack of streetlamps gave new vigor to the darkness that encroached on all sides. John tried to push the creeping shadows out of his mind, staring straight ahead at the light his high beams provided. He blinked his tired eyes over and over and rolled his windows down to let the cold air and rain wake him. He yawned wide, forcing his eyes shut. When he opened them again he slammed on the brakes, jerking the wheel in time to miss the deer standing in the middle of the road. John slowly reversed his car back into his lane, pausing to catch his breath, his tight grip on the steering wheel loosening. White puffs escaped his mouth with each deep breath. He smiled a bit watching the doe slowly walk over to the front of his car. What a beautiful animal. Without warning, the deer made a small hopping motion and brought both hooves down with a thump on his bumper. John's eyes widened. His hand rested on the door handle but before he could open the door to chase it away, the animal began an alarming advance to his door. Walking on its hind legs, it thumped its hooves down on the side of the car with each step. Fearful of the possibility of a rabid animal attacking him, John pressed the buttons on the side of his door until his finger hurt, rolling up his window and locking the door. He finished his task just in time for the strange deer to reach his side.

For a moment each looked straight into the others eyes. Then John blinked and the doe's delicate muzzle opened in an unexpected rage, snarling at him. It slammed its face into the window hard enough to crack it before continuing its walk around the car again. It reached the front of the car but didn't stop and continued on. John looked right and realized his passenger window was still halfway open. Not wanting to find out what the crazed animal had in store for him, he pushed the peddle to the floor and sped off, watching the deer tumble off the car and fall to the ground in his rear view mirror. Absolutely certain that he was breaking all speed limits, John had a few fleeting chances to thank the Powers That Be there were no officers on patrol that night. At least none that he came across.

A half an hour later John pulled into his automatic garage. He made sure the door was fully down and all the lights had turned on before he stepped out. He shut the door and stepped back, ready to assess the damage hooves could do. Looking at the car his eyes widened and his hands dropped to his sides in shock. There were no dents or dirty hoof prints, instead there were small, thin, muddy hand prints all over the sides of the car. More alarming was the hand prints near the door handle itself. It looked like someone had grabbed the handle to open it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

October Is Finally Here

I'm three days late though but oh well.

I love October and Halloween, especially Halloween. Samhain is nice too, but that's more of a religious thing. No matter how crappy things are I'm at least brightened, however momentarily, in some way by the fact that it's October. I love everything about October from the decorations and colors  to the focus on horror. Especially the horror!

In keeping with the last year's October blogging, I will be writing posts about nothing but horror and supernatural things.

I've been rewatching The Walking Dead (season 2 spoilers ahead. But really, if you needed that warning, shame on you) to get caught back up in time for the new season. I'm so excited. The 14th needs to get here because this will be my face:

Aww Yiss is right little Kitty. [Source other than Tumblr]
I'm currently on episode 9, 'Triggerfinger', of season 2 where Hershel is being coaxed by Rick and Glen to come back to the farm when they have it out with the boys from Jersey and eventually have to take one of them, who is injured, back.
While watching I kept thinking about the scenario they were acting out and the main theme (from my point of view anyway) that seemed to be there of being stuck and captured. Rick and his gang are 'stuck', in a manner of speaking, and wish to remain so even after their wounds are healed on Hershel's farm. Shane wants to capture the farm for his group if Hershel doesn't let them stay. Maggie and family friend Patricia are stuck caring for Maggie's catatonic sister while their father is away drinking his grief (since Hershel was revealed to have a drinking problem, you could even go so far as to say he has been 'captured' in a sense by the demons of his past and is stuck there). Rick, Glen, and Hershel are then stuck when the two boys from Jersey come in and keep them from leaving by talking and trying to figure out where their farm is.
I really like this scene too because it is actually a somewhat intense verbal dance of silence and information gathering that they're doing. Rick's group knows something that Jersey's doesn't. Jersey's group seems to be giving everything away but we can tell, from body language and mood, that there is again that threat of capture much like from the Shane example I gave before. Each group is trying to get more information in some way while trying not to give any away. You can really feel the tension that the actors are trying to create in the scene. The theme continues with one of the Jersey groups boys being stuck on the fence. He is then captured by Rick's group and taken back to the farm where he is stuck while they figure out what to do with him.
Man, way to run with a theme. Sorry for getting carried away with the examples.
Anywhoozles, after watching this episode I started thinking of my favorite story from a book I used to read as a child, The Scary Book. The story was Bony-legs. It is about a girl that is sent by her Aunt to get a needle and thread from a witch named Baba Yaga. She is captured by the evil Baba Yaga who lives in a house on chicken legs, and is intent on eating her. The girl uses her cunning, along with help from animals she helped on the way to Baba Yaga's, to help get herself out of the house and back home.
As soon as I remembered that story I was inspired by that tale, along with The Walking Dead episode I was just watching, and came up with my own updated version.
So, without wasting your time anymore, here we go with the story:
 Lizzie And The Tent That Stood On Zombie Feet
A light breeze blew throughout the small cabin, cool yet revolting. Twelve year old Lizzie looked at the window frowning and narrowed her eyes at the nasty smell that invaded her space. If she could have it her way all the windows would be shut and locked tight, but her mother was sick and the cabin was hot. Lizzie opened a bottle of water and poured half into a bowl while her mother moaned softly in the background. She took quick count of their dwindling supplies. Two and half bottles of warm water, half a package of beef jerky, a couple of cans of soup, and some food and soups with dry ingredients that used water they didn't have.  Her father had left to look for supplies and track a deer for food. He had been gone for two days now, leaving Lizzie to care for her mother. A small whimper from behind caught her attention. Lizzie jumped and spun around, dropping her bowl in the process, only to see no one was behind but her feverish mother. She looked down and sighed deeply. This was another reason why she liked to have the windows shut. She was always jumpy, always worried that those things would crawl in. Lizzie picked up the bowl and refilled it, throwing the now empty bottle across the room in frustration.
"I'm coming mama," she whispered across the room.
Lizzie crossed the room in hurried, silent steps to the bed where her mother lay, eyes closed and sweating. She was careful to wring the rag out extra well before wiping her mother's forehead, her father would be back soon she hoped but they couldn't be sure and their supplies had to last. The last time he left to track an animal it had evaded him for four days. Lizzie gasped and jumped but once again it was not zombies, just her mother's hand grasping her wrist.
Her mother slowly pulled herself into a sitting position. She held Lizzie's hand in her lap and breathed in deep, looking up at the ceiling.
"How much water do we have, honey?"
"Only two bottles now. I...I accidently spilled half."
Her mother rubbed Lizzie's arm. Lizzie sat in a chair by the bed and cast her eyes down, not wanting to look up. Her mother never got angry with her, always patient, but she just couldn't look at her knowing the wasted supplies were her fault.
"Are you thirsty mama?"
Her mother made a 'mmhmm' sound and nodded her head. Lizzie took the chance to wriggle free from her mother's hand and steal across the room and back. She opened the bottle and gave it to her, looking into her eyes for the first time since she woke. Her mother drank slowly, setting the bottle down and waiting between each drink. When she was half done she held the bottle in her lap. Her thin hands enclosed it on both sides and she tapped her thumbs on the sides of it. She looked over at Lizzie and stroked her long, black hair.
"Lizzie, I need you to be brave and do something for your mama."
Lizzie's eyes widened while she seemingly stared off into space.
"We don't know when your father will be back and we need water at the very least. I can't go, you know that. Up the road is an abandoned convenience store. I think it should still have some supplies left, enough at least to last us until your dad comes back. You can be brave and do that, can't you?"
Lizzie looked up at her and timidly nodded her head.
"I'm sorry to ask this of you, I really am. Daylight is dwindling so be quick, but careful, and take the lantern with you just in case. If you hear any strange noises, or see any zombies run away. If it comes down to you or supplies, I'd rather have you."
Lizzie stood and took a few short breaths, steeling herself to go outside. She rolled up some beef jerky in a napkin and put it in her pocket. Before they split up, or got killed, she had seen some of the people in her group distract zombies with food like jerky or ham. The zombies didn't really like non-living food but it was enough of a distraction to give the people a chance to sneak by and run away. She grabbed a backpack and the electric lantern and hugged her mom for the last time before heading out the door.
Looking into the sky she could see the sun heading west. She had time, although how much until actual sunset she didn't know, to get there and back before it got too dark. Her knees trembled a bit as she made her way to the steps. Only the thought of her mother and no water kept her from racing back into the house. Quickly and quietly she made her way down. A few steps away from the house she felt a stinging sensation on her ankle. Lizzie looked down and noticed a bunch of ants stinging her. She looked back at the steps. On the ground was a smashed ant hill. Ants scurried over the flattened mound trying to find the hole to their home. Lizzie walked back over and moved away some of the sandy dirt so the ants could get back in. Then she gently brushed the rest off of her ankles and continued on her way.
It had been twenty minutes that she had been following the trail through the woods, stopping every so often to listen for any groans or shuffling of feet, and finally she came to the road that led to the store. It was getting dimmer as the sun continued its short trek to the horizon. The store was two miles down the road. Lizzie walked faster. With half a mile left to go, the sun began to set and Lizzie turned on her lantern.
She had only been walking for five minutes when she heard a rustling off to the left of the road. Hiding the lantern behind her back she crouched low to the ground, peering off at the ditch beside the road. Her heart pounded in her chest, the muscles in her legs tense in preparation. She relaxed a little when she heard a small growl. Zombies just moaned, groaned, and kept you awake holding your pillow in fear. They certainly didn't growl like cats. She stood up and lifted her lantern in time to see a gaunt calico with silver claws leap out after a floating light.
With each swipe the cats claws glinted in the dying light. The sharp claws seemed to cut the very air in front of it. The little firefly dodged the claws but didn't quite manage to escape the pads of the paw that whacked it to the ground. It flew in a dizzy spiral. The calico readied itself to leap after it and finish the job.
"No, no, no!"
Lizzy stuck her hand between the cat and its prey. A look of surprise overtook the cat's face. It turned its head and hissed. She ignored the angry hiss and dug the jerky out of her pocket, throwing the few pieces she had on the ground in front of the cat.
"This will feed you much better than some poor little firefly."
She picked up the firefly, setting it on a leaf on the side of the road. Staying a bit to rest, she scratched the cat's ears while it ate. As it ate the last of the jerky she turned to leave and felt something tugging on the back of her pants leg. She whipped her head around and saw the cat tugging on the bottom of her pants with its mouth. She smiled and patted it's head
"I'm sorry, but I have to go."
She turned again and felt something rush against her calf, followed by a cool breeze. She looked down at her pants legs, now adorned with four cuts. They were clean, like a knife would make. The calico let out a warning growl. Frightened, Lizzie ran ahead. Her youthful energy allowed her to outpace the cat in a manner of seconds, leaving it down the road to yowl at her as if to call her back.
Soon Lizzie came to the store. There were shadows to the side that didn't remind her of the bushes that were normally there. Having given up her meat distraction she took caution to be extra inconspicuous and turned down her lantern. She slowly opened the door just enough to ease her body in before closing it just as cautiously.
Taking a quick tour of the place to make sure there were no zombies hiding, she began to search more thoroughly. She found cough and headache medicine quickly and stuffed them into her backpack. As she made her way down the food isles, grabbing ready to eat cans of food like beans and soup, she heard the door creak open. Lizzie knelt down at the end of the isle, turning her lantern off. Her eyes darted in the dark, frantically trying to adjust and look for a back exit. Her thoughts raced and she didn't know what to do. Scrunching her eyes tight she bit her quivering lip and concentrated on breathing, something her father always told her to do if she ever got scared and had trouble thinking.
"Where do you think she went, sister?," an old voice asked.
Lizzie's eyes flew open. There were people, not zombies! Past experience, however, kept her from calling out. People could be just as dangerous as zombies, especially if supplies were low. Another voice answered, this one just as old sounding but lighter and excited.
"I don't know, but I know that she definitely came in here."
"Find her quickly! I haven't eaten in days!," a third voice croaked.
Lizzie gasped at this revelation from the third voice.
"Did you hear that? Down at the far end."
Lizzie looked around now that her eyes had fully adjusted. Against the wall, to the left of where she knelt, she saw a burnt out exit sign and off to the side underneath that, half a case of water bottles. If she could make her way to the exit without being seen, she could take some of the bottles and be on her way. Hunching over, she ran to kneel, again, in front of the door. She stashed five bottles and zipped her backpack. Just as her hand came to rest on the doorknob another grabbed her by the shoulder, followed by  two more on her arm. Lizzie screamed this time and was spun around to meet the owners of the voices.
There were three old women. Their faces looked entirely made up of wrinkles. Even though they looked frail Lizzie could tell by the grip on her arm and shoulders they were much stronger than she was. All three of them had grins on their faces. A smile that did not hide evil intent, but instead amplified it.
"Why hello there my dear. Tell me how a child comes to be on her own out at night. It's very dangerous out. Are your parents around?"
The shorter of the three sisters in the middle pinched the flesh of Lizzie's bicep and murmured to herself, "She's pretty skinny, perhaps we could make a broth of her bones."
The third and tallest sister hissed and rolled her eyes, while the first one released Lizzie's shoulder to smack the middle sister on the back.
"You idiot! Now she'll never tell us where her parents are!"
"Let's take her back to camp with us. Even if she doesn't tell us where they are we still have her," the middle one said cowering.
Lizzie found her voice and squeaked, "My parents are dead."
Her lie was met with a laughter that sounded like the hissing of snakes. The tallest sister extended her hand and used the tip of her long, claw-like fingers to force Lizzie to look her in the eyes.
"Don't lie to us dear. Witches can always tell when people lie."
The trio laughed again and pulled Lizzie after them, struggling all the way, through the forest to their camp.
Walking into their camp Lizzie's nose was assaulted by the smell of decay. All the tents around them were on platforms supported by feet the sisters had hacked off the zombies they had killed. The smallest witch leaned into Lizzie and whispered to her, "The zombies don't like their own kind. They won't eat each other. The feet help to keep them away."
The first witch shot a look at her sister, "Hush. We don't make friends with our food."
If the smell from the zombie feet was bad, the garbage strewn around the camp itself didn't make it any better. Apple cores, food tins, rotting vegetables, and bones were littered here and there. Lizzie surmised that the bones were from people like her. People unlucky enough to come in contact with the three witches. If being eaten by zombies was bad, she thought, this was much worse. At least the zombies didn't know what they were doing. They were just the victims of an awful disease no one could do anything about.
The witches pushed Lizzie to a center tent at the edge of camp. The tallest and strongest whirled her around and dug her nails into Lizzie's shoulders, eliciting whimpers of pain. The witch thrust her wrinkled face into Lizzie's, close enough for her to smell the witch's putrid breath and see her yellowed teeth.
"Look at me little girl. You have one last chance to tell us where your group is. If you do we'll make sure your death is quick. If not, we'll use our magic and seal you in this tent without food. You'll die a slow, starving death and when your parents come looking for you, we'll get them anyway."
Lizzie began to hyperventilate and gasped out between breaths, "I told you! My parents are dead!"
The witch frowned and snarled, "Have it your way."
They took her backpack and threw it beside the tent and pushed her in. The zipper to the flap glowed for a few seconds then she heard the witches walk away, grumbling about rude children with no manners. For the next couple of minutes she wasted time trying to open the zipper. She looked behind and saw a small screen window in the tent. An exploration proved that it had no zipper, nor could she poke any holes in it for she had no knife or anything sharp. Eventually, Lizzie gave up and sat down in the middle of the tent beside her lantern. She crossed her legs and steepled her hands in front of her face, resting her forehead on them. Tears leaked down her face and she cried harder than she ever had in her life.
She was so wrapped up in her thoughts of doom that she didn't hear the tearing sound of fabric behind her. It wasn't until she heard the sharp, short meow that she looked around. A gaunt calico cat with silver claws that glinted in the moonlight stood on the platform, peering in through the rips it had made.
"Did you follow me Kitty?"
"Of course, I'm the witch's cat."
Lizzie was stunned. She never met a cat that could talk before.
"Those stupid witches never feed me, they only think of themselves. You helped me then, I'll help you now. Now leave before they realize what's going on."
Lizzie grabbed her lantern while the cat enlarged the rip, then she climbed out of the tent and off the platform. She had only walked a foot before she remembered her backpack and started walking back.
"Hey, where are you going?," the cat hissed after her.
Lizzie put the backpack on and trotted back to the cat, "I couldn't leave without my supplies. I need them too much to leave them here."
They were creeping away when an old voice rang out, loud and clear, "Sisters, our prisoner has escaped!"
There was a rush of feet as the witches ran after her. Lizzie froze up and the cat whacked her leg with its paw.
"What are doing? Run!"
She didn't need a second warning and ran past the edge of the forest into the woods. Back at the edge of camp the first sister yelled at the calico, while the smallest gave it a sharp kick to its back legs. The cat just hissed and swiped at them, causing them to jump back, before running and hiding under one of the platforms where they couldn't get to it.
"Just you wait," the tallest said, "we'll get you yet for this. Forget the cat you nimrods, go after the girl."
In the woods Lizzie ran as fast as her legs would carry her. A zombie came out from behind a tree surprising her and causing her to yell out. She successfully pushed him away, running under his outstretched arms, but she could hear the witches behind her and knew they had found her. She vaulted over a fallen tree, pausing to make sure the zombie couldn't follow. They may have the element of numbers and surprise, but they were very dumb and such obstacles could hinder them greatly. Before she could turn to leave she saw the witches in the distance. The first one raised her hand and pointed, yelling something foreign sounding. In an instant Lizzies lantern blew out and clouds obscured the moon. The forest was thrown into darkness.
With the witches gaining on her, and a zombie who may have made his way around the fallen tree, Lizzie stumbled through the darkness hands outstretched. She was slowed down greatly and listened to the sounds of approaching footsteps and jeers while she whispered to anyone, or anything, that would listen to help her.
Through the darkness she spotted a glint of light that appeared sporadically, floating through the trees. It was approaching faster and faster. In no time at all a little firefly was in front of her.
"You saved me from the witch's cat, now I'll save you from them. Let me be your light and follow me."
Lizzie was getting too tired to even pretend to be surprised by a talking bug. First zombies, then witches, cats that spoke. If cats could talk, why not bugs. Guided by the firefly's light, they navigated the woods quicker leaving the witches behind. When they got to the road, her lantern turned back on and the clouds disappeared from the moon.
"The witches know you've escaped even further," the firefly warned before flying away, "be cautious in the moonlight and get home quickly."
Lizzie took one step onto the road and heard a small voice on the ground calling for her attention. She angled her lantern down and saw a group of ants beside a pile of sand.
"Word passed through the colonies and our Queen sent us with this gift. If the witches catch up to you, throw this sand over your shoulder and run faster than the light travels. It won't last long, but you won't want to be around," they said, then they scurried away.
Confused, Lizzie picked up the sand and ran down the road clutching it tight in her hand. She was a couple of feet from the trail that led to home when a loud groan and three women laughing erupted behind her. Lizzie knew before she turned to look back and stamped her sore feet. The witches were behind her, with the zombie from the forest leading the way on a  magical leash.
"Now we've got her!," the tall one cheered.
"Perhaps she's close to her parents," laughed the short one.
Remembering the ant's words, Lizzie threw the sand and ran. She was partially down the beginning of the trail when three shrill screams pierced the air. Lizzie turned around to look. A horde of zombies, as many zombies as there were grains of sand, overtook the witches. Knowing it wouldn't be long before she was noticed she made way down the trail once more, comforting in the thought that at least the witches were no longer her problem.
Exhausted by her ordeal, she walked up the steps head down and dragging her backpack in the dirt behind her. It wasn't until she heard the gruff but loving voice of her father that she looked up. Lizzie dropped the backpack to the ground and threw her arms around his neck. Her father kissed her and held her a long time. Finally she was home, and so was he.