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16th December
posted by amber

1313 Nightmare Street

“Let’s go to 1313 Nightmare Street after class,” Suki’s voice whispers from my earbud. The teacher’s attention pings my way, but I smile into my screen and keep my mouth shut, one hand on the buttonpad while the other hand, beneath my desk, sends her a Note. “Okay.”

I have to sneak out. Mom’s at work, but the house is on High Security and my every move is monitored. My bootleg system-breaker patch has one use yet before it expires, and I’ve heard that the next generation is twice as expensive. I set everything up carefully – now it’ll look as if I’m home, safe, working on my homework. My PL implant uploads as somebody’s dog.

I am outside, free, off the grid.

It’s frightening but exhilarating. I’ve never used the patch for anything this risky. My mother would just die if she knew. I’ve heard her bragging to her friends that ‘my daughter doesn’t have to live in fear the way I did.’ She was mugged three times when she was a teenager and bullied at school every day because she was fat. I’m not fat, and I know martial arts. I wish I could go to real school.

The location of 1313 is never sent out over the Notes. Finding it is the first part of the fun, I’ve heard. I meet up with Suki and we stroll up and down the streets, struggling to appear casual as we intently search for gypsy signs on fences, sidewalks and bushes. At least half the houses in our neighbourhood stand empty, so any one of them could be 1313.

At last we see a piece of black paper folded to look like a bat, tucked against the low branches of a hedge. The next house has three more bats and the one after that has an amorphous chalk mark on the sidewalk. “The ghost!” Suki cries. “This is it!”

We don’t walk up to the front door. Instead we sneak up the alley and wriggle under the fence where a drop of red paint, like blood, stands as an invitation. We dash across the yard and crouch beside an open basement window. “Isn’t this scary?” Suki asks.

“Yeah,” I answer, but that’s a lie. I’m not even sure I know what it means to be frightened. Nothing bad has ever happened to me. Even this – I know it’s just a game.

Suddenly gloved hands plunge up from the darkness and grab each of us by the wrist. We’re dragged into the basement and tied to chairs as an eerie voice recites the names of classmates. “None of them will be online tomorrow or ever again. And neither will you!”

I try to giggle. “Laugh, little girl – but what do you think of this!” My hand is seized again and plunged into a metal bowl filled with slimy round things. “These are their eyeballs! Yours will be there soon!”

Suki is screaming. I’m biting my lip so hard I think I might be bleeding. I hear the metal bowl clank down on something, then my hand is put into another bowl where warm noodles writhe in some kind of jelly. “This is their intestines!”
“No it isn’t!” I yell. “That’s noodles.”

A small light flashes on and I see red gore dripping from my hands.

It’s my turn to scream.

This is fear. I don’t think I like it.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

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