A Short Jen Horror Story for Hallowe'en
The compiler of the Jencyclopaedia celebrated Halloween 1997 by incorporating various elements of Jendom and horror fiction into a four-part story for the readers of alt.fan.jen-coolest.
It was, as is usual on these occasions, dark and stormy outside, but Jen was nice and cosy lying on the sofa in her living room watching an old horror flick on the tube, her bare feet pressed against the warm fur of her curled-up cat. A brief hunger pang pierced her gut so she pulled on her plaid slippers and padded out to the kitchen. She opened the fridge, muttered to herself, closed it and opened the freezer. "Huh," she mumbled, crossing the room to the food cupboard. It was only as the wooden cupboard door creaked open that she saw... the sight made her turn away in shock... she was out of chocolate!
Jen collapsed, sobbing, to the floor. How could this have happened, and to her of all people? Then, in desparation, she remembered an old folk tale. She picked herself up and ran to the bathroom, grabbing a candle from the dining table and her lighter on the way. Standing in the small pool of light surrounding the flickering candle's yellow flame she stared into the bathroom mirror, hardly believing what she was about to do.
"Ben and Jerry," she whispered. The wind outside blew in the trees.
"Ben and Jerry," louder this time. Jen shivered as the window catch rattled. She took a deep breath.
"Ben and Jerry." The window blew open and a blast of cold air blew into the room, snuffing out the candle. In the mirror she thought she caught a fleeting glimpse of two men standing in the shadows behind her, laughing. She spun around but there was nobody there.
Feeling a little silly Jen reached for the light switch and the room was bathed in cold, bright light. She pulled the window shut and pressed the catch home before picking up the candle and going back to the living room, where, to her suprise, she found a tub of her favourite double chocolate crunch ice cream sitting on the coffee table.
Jen settled down on the sofa with her ice cream, but just as she was about to take a mouthful she heard someone - some thing perhaps - moving about in the kitchen. She knew it wasn't the cat as he was still fast asleep beside her, so she quietly stood up and tiptoed to the door. Just as she reached it, it opened.
Standing in the doorway, clutching a shiny, narrow metal spoon and a couple of cans of Coke was her Jen Fan. "I, knocked but there was no reply so I thought you'd popped out or something, and I used my key. Did you find the ice cream?"
Jen hugged him with relief. Neither of them noticed the shadowy figure in the trees outside the window.
"Mmm, that was good," Jen sighed contentedly, scraping the last of the ice cream out of the tub. You stay here and watch the end of the film, I'll just put this in the trash." She stood up and stretched, before heading for the kitchen. A movement outside the window caught her eye as the kitchen door swung shut behind her, but she dismissed it as just the wind blowing the leaf-clad boughs. Putting her foot on the pedal of the bin she found that the bag inside was full to the brim, so she lifted it out, dropped in the empty tub and tied the top. "I'm just taking the trash out," she called, and got a muffled "OK" in response.
The air outside was cold, whipped around her by a sharp wind. She tugged her sweater tighter around her torso and made her way down the steps to the bins at the side of the building. As she shoved the bag into her bin the hairs on the back of her neck bristled as if there was something behind her, but when she turned around there was just the wooden palisade, stretching down to the back of the house, creaking gently in the wind. On an impulse she decided to check whether there was somebody back there, so she edged her way along the wall. As she reached the end of the house Jen took a deep breath, jumped around the corner into what she hoped looked like a karate stance and shouted "Hold it right there, buster!" There was nobody there. Jen straightened up and sighed with relief. She looked up into the trees that backed onto the small rear garden, but saw nothing. "God, I'm silly," she said to herself, turning round to find an old, twisted face staring at her. She was barely able to contain the scream that welled up in her throat before she realised that it was old Mr McGillicuddy from across the street.
"I didn't mean to scare you," the old man backed off, "I was coming home from the bingo and saw somebody creeping around over here. I thought it might be that escaped lunatic that was in the paper this morning, but it's just you, thank God."
Jen hadn't read the paper that morning as she'd been late for work. "What escaped lunatic?" she asked, as they walked back to the front of the house. The old man gently took her arm and told her how one of the patients had escaped from the Ashurst Remedial Clinic the night before; a man with a history of stalking, kidnapping and murder, who had mutilated at least one of his victims, gutting her semiconscious body with the razor-honed hook that took the place of the right hand he had lost in a childhood accident involving a food processor and a jar of crunchy peanut butter.
At the front of the house, Jen waved goodbye to Mr McGillicuddy and headed back up the steps to her front door, which she found open, banging against the frame in the wind. She was sure she had closed it on the way out, but didn't give it much thought as she pressed the latch down behind her. "I just met old Mr McGillicuddy," she shouted, as she walked through the kitchen, "You won't believe what he..." but her fan wasn't in the lounge. "Hey, where are you?"
She checked the bathroom, bedroom and study, but there was no sign of him. Thinking he must have popped out to the 7-11 for something else, she went back to the kitchen and put a new bag in the waste bin.
Jen stayed up for another couple of hours, but her fan didn't return, so she assumed that he'd gone back to his house for the night and she went to bed, practicing the telling-off she'd have to give him the next day for abandoning her without an explanation. They'd been going out for a few months now, and she'd been starting to think that maybe he was the one, that this was developing into something lasting, but now she wasn't sure. As she turned the bedside light out her mind was in turmoil, cycling between wanting to kill him, hating herself for wanting to kill him, wanting to forgive him with no explanation needed, and hating herself for wanting to forgive him. Jen hugged her pillow and finally went to sleep.
Like her thoughts, her dreams were troubled. She found herself being chased by a dark shadow with a hook for a hand, through endless corridors of locked doors until she finally came to an open one, standing alone at the end of a passage. Running towards it, the shadow at her heels, she pulled up sharply as the door slammed in her face, and the shadow engulfed her. She woke with a start to find something pressing on her legs, but it was just the cat, who had jumped up onto the bed. Then she heard a door slamming. That hadn't been a dream, it was real.
Jen climbed out of bed and pulled on her robe and slippers. She tiptoed out into the hall. Leaning against the front door was a man, his face hidden in the darkness. She couldn't see his hands as they were held up to his face, but she saw something glinting and screamed. The shadowy figure jerked upright and reached for the light switch. It was her fan, his keys in his hand. "Hey, have you been asleep? Didn't you hear all the fuss outside?"
Jen shook her head, then remembered how angry she was at him and demanded to know where he'd been. "Oh, I'm sorry, hon. While you were taking the trash out my neighbour - you know, Mr Johnson, you met him last week - phoned to say he'd seen through the window that I'd left my fire on, so I popped back to turn it off; we got talking - you know how lonely he is since the funeral - and before I know it three hours have gone by. You know, he remembered your name and where you lived, and called directory enquiries because he was worried my place might burn down. Really thoughtful of the old chap, don't you think? Anyway, I'm really sorry about not telling you but I was only planning on being ten minutes. Let me take you out to dinner tomorrow to say sorry."
Jen took in his explanation, but something was nagging at the back of her mind. "What commotion outside?"
"Some maniac's killed that old man across the street, ripped him apart according to the policeman I spoke to. He said the old guy was calling 911 to report an intruder when the line went dead. They found the killer at the scene and took him away. Don't say you slept through the sirens?" Jen's knees gave way, but her fan rushed forward and caught her in his arms, their bodies collapsing slowly to the floor. "I was just talking to Mr McGillicuddy earlier," she whimpered, her eyes filling with tears before the realisation hit her, "It could have been me."
"I know, and you were fond of him weren't you? But they've got his killer and I'm here now," They sat on the hall floor holding each other for what felt to Jen like hours, until she fell asleep in her fan's arms and he carried her back to bed.
(Well, until next morning when Jen went out back to tidy the garden and found a hook stuck in the back door, but that's another ending...)
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