Wednesday, October 28, 2009

the beginnings of a creepy story

It started with mushrooms. Or, to be more accurate, a single mushroom. Amy had decided to enjoy the brief break in the rain to take a walk with her nearly-two-year-old daughter Brooke. Normally when they took their walks they followed a small circle through a nearby housing development. It was simple and safe and full of the noise of fellow suburbanites. This afternoon, however, with the chill of October setting into her bones, Amy decided to take a chance and turn down the small dark street before her usual route. Tree limbs stretched over the road until their branches met high above her head. Amy walked deeper into the gloomy shade, listening to the steady drip of leftover rain falling from huge leaves and onto the asphalt.

Amy stopped a minute to peer over the edge of Brooke's stroller. "We're taking a different walk today, Brooke. Isn't that exciting?"

Brooke didn't seem very excited about the detour. She mashed her lips together and pointed back to the entrance to the street, hopeful that Amy would turn back.

Instead, she kept going, pulled forward into the eerie quiet. She could hear the stroller wheels squeak and whine, mingling with the soft pat of her shoes on the mossy sidewalk. In the seconds that passed, as the street grew darker and darker, Amy began to think that Brooke had the right idea all along.

"Stupid adventuring! We should have gone our usual way, right honey?" she said, hoping the sound of her voice would help to cut through the creeping tingle. The houses on the street were very different than those in the surrounding neighborhoods. Wary. Apprehensive. Distinctly unfriendly. Moss grew on most of the rooftops, white siding dirty and muddy gray. No one in sight.

Amy quickened her pace, heading for the bend in the road, knowing it would lead her back to a busy intersection.

Squeak, squeak, squeak. The stroller wheels seemed awfully loud. As did her foot steps: thunk, thunk, thunk.

As Amy passed what seemed to be an open space between two of the shabby houses, a small bit of movement caught her eye, just in time for her foot to catch on a broken piece of the sidewalk and send her sprawling flat.

"Oh! That was... stupid." she grumbled, pushing herself onto her knees. She stood and rubbed her hands on her jeans, wiping off the bits of moldy leaves and dirt.

"Are you alright, my dear?" an ancient voice croaked. Amy looked up into the face of a very old woman. She wore deep black galoshes on her feet and held a pair of very sharp pruning sheers. When she smiled, she showed a mouthful of misshapen teeth, brown with decay.

"I'm fine, ma'am, thank you." Amy answered, stepping forward and stumbling again.

The woman placed a surprisingly firm hand on Amy's arm, "Looks like you're a little unsteady, young lady."

"Looks like it, doesn't it?" Amy laughed, trying to shake the woman's grip on her arm.

The woman held firm and said, "I have something for you." She dipped behind a spongy wooden fence and plucked something from a basket. "This is for your family. Take it home and eat it. It will give you good luck." She was holding a fat white mushroom the size her her hand.

"Oh thank you, but no. I couldn't take that from you..." Amy stammered. She certainly wasn't about to go taking mushrooms from strangers.

"But you can! I have plenty! I grow them in my garden, you see." smiled the woman, her brown teeth gaping. Amy peered around the fence. What she had thought was a break in between the houses was actually a small garden, surrounded by a mossy fence. The garden was a beautiful tangle of flowers and herbs. The sweet aroma of lavender mixed with a deeper, earthier smell.

"You have a beautiful garden, ma'am, but we really should be getting home." Amy smiled down at Brooke, who was patiently kicking her feet at the stroller footrest.

"Take this mushroom. It is delicious. You won't regret it, nor will your beautiful little daughter!" the woman pushed the mushroom into Amy's hand as she looked, nodding, at Brooke.

Amy found herself nodding back, and accepting the mushroom. Wondering what could possible possess her to take strange food from an even stranger woman. "Well thank you, ma'am. Very much."

"Of course! Of course! I'm sure I'll be seeing you and your little girl very soon. Enjoy the mushroom! Put it in a soup--- it will be delicious, I promise." She waved a bony finger at Amy as she pushed past.

And Amy was gone. Walking quickly down the rest of the street, holding a strange mushroom and promising herself that she would throw the nasty thing away at her earliest opportunity. But when she got home, she found herself still holding the mushroom. As Brooke played with a stack of bowls in the kitchen, Amy quickly put herself to work making a soup.

"It's not like I'm going to use the mushroom. Soup just sounds good." she reasoned with herself, knowing that her husband would be home from his business trip soon. She decided that treating him to a bowl of homemade soup would be just the thing.

She threw in several ingredients, each one sounding more delicious than the last--- the smell of the soup starting to rise from the pot. But something was missing... Amy looked in the refrigerator, hoping to find the right ingredient, but walked back to the soup pot empty handed.

Or not. Quite suddenly Amy had the mushroom in her hand, and saw herself washing it and cutting the firm white flesh into thick slices. It seemed to look okay. Like one of the mushrooms she'd normally buy at the grocery store, except bigger. And better. It seemed better. The best mushroom she'd ever seen, in fact.

And the smell! When she added the slices to the pot of soup an aroma seemed to erupt from the pot: every good autumn memory and childhood and being wrapped in the warmest quilt while eating the most wholesome and buttery soup she'd ever eaten - all from the smell. Maybe it wouldn't hurt anything. No, it wouldn't hurt anything, reasoned Amy.

And it didn't hurt anything. It was, in fact, the best soup she'd ever eaten in her life when she took a small spoonful to test it several minutes later. So good that she realized her "small spoonfuls" had become "entire cupfuls" as she took bite after bite of the soup. So good that she ate the entire pot of soup herself. Before her husband had even come home!

They ordered pizza and Amy didn't mention the soup. Or the mushroom.

The next day, she found herself making excuses to go on a walk with Brooke, even though the rain was coming down in drenching sheets. She dressed Brooke in her lavender raincoat and placed her in the stroller. "We'll just be gone a few minutes, baby. I promise!"

Amy approached the darkened street with a quick pace, her heart thumping in her chest. "I'll just ask for another mushroom. Just one. She seemed so excited yesterday, I'm sure she'd give us another mushroom!" The street was even darker than the previous day, the rain tumbling down from the overhanging trees and pulling Amy's hair into her eyes.

When she came upon the old lady's garden, the gate was closed. Amy pushed at the gate, watching it swing inward with a loud CREAK. She had a hard time pushing Brooke's stroller over the brambled pathway, roots and twigs sticking in the wheels. As she approached the dirty porch, the old woman came out of the front door, pulling a ratty shawl around her bony shoulders. "I didn't expect you back quite so soon, young lady." the old woman laughed.

"Well.... I just have to have another one of those mushrooms! It was delicious! Please let me have another one!" Amy gasped. She suddenly felt immensely desperate, almost thirsty for the taste of the delicious mushroom.

"I'll give you another. But if you come back for a third you must know there will be a price. My mushrooms are very precious to me and I don't give them away for nothing." The woman's gaunt face was pulled long by her bleak expression. She stared intently at Brooke's sneakers peeking out from the stroller.

Amy stuttered but held out her hand, "Oh - yes! No problem! Just one more, I'm sure. I'm sure it will be enough."

She took the mushroom and rushed home, pulled the gate quickly closed behind her.

But despite her best efforts to let the soup keep in the refrigerator, to have it last for a few days at least, she gobbled up the entire pot that afternoon.

As full darkness fell that evening, Amy went back for another mushroom.

.... to be continued! By someone else!

If you want to continue this story, post a comment and please include your email address so that I can contact you. I'll pick someone by 2pm PST today - so it's a quick turn around. The winner should first post a link back here for the beginning of the story, and then continue it (on Thursday)--- also ending their story with a cliffhanger and following a similar set-up (commenters, picking someone to finish the story on Friday, etc.). I'll also be linking to parts 2 and 3 here on Thursday and Friday so everyone can follow along.

If this thing is an utter and total bomb then we just won't talk about it tomorrow. AT ALL.


wandering nana said...

Okay, I love this story soooo, that said, I am not a story writer and would hate to ruin this story (it was dark, suddenly there was flash of lightning ) that's an example of my writing.... so don't use me but I think this is a great idea and can hardly wait for the next part.

KAY said...

Spooky. I want another installment, but I don't want to write it. Now, I'm thinking twice about the mushrooms in the fridge...

Erin P said...

Wow, what a great story start!!! You have such imagination! Are you going to do the NaNo novel writing project in November? I'm going to try, but you definitely have more imagination than I do!! In case you haven't heard of it, look here:
You would be fantastic with that as a start... Go for it!

Alicia @ bethsix said...

Just read this, and now I want to know what happens, Whimsy!

Anonymous said...

awesome story! you are such a wonderful writer! K8