Tag Archives: horror story

The thing outside

A little horror story.

Alfred Hitchcock said, it’s the things you don’t see that scare you. I wrote this a few years ago as an exercise on that concept.




We shivered in the dark, listening to it scratch against the door. Turning the lights out had not tricked it. It could smell us.

“Let’s go out the back,” my little sister Anita said, casting a nervous glance behind her.

“It moves too fast,” I said, but I glanced behind me as well. It was worth a shot.

Slowly we made our way backwards, feeling behind us, not taking our eyes off the kitchen door. We could hear it outside, scrabbling against the old grainy wood softly, insistently. We got halfway to the back door and then the scratching stopped.

Anita froze. We stared at the door, waiting for it to do something, but nothing was happening.

“We have to shut it inside. Then we can get to the car,” Anita said, pulling the car keys off of the counter and handing them to me.

“Are you crazy?” I whispered back, risking a glance her way. “That means one of us would have to open the door.”

She didn’t flinch. She stared at the door, her long braid resting on her shoulder, her eyes focused, waiting for some noise or indication of what it was doing now. All scratches had stopped. The other side of the door was silent. Too silent.

“Do you think it’s going around to the back door?” Anita whispered.

Suddenly I couldn’t move. I heard a desperate sort of gasp escape my throat.

“What?” She turned to look at me, alarmed.

“The back door isn’t locked,” I choked out.

Anita never hesitated. She dashed to the back room, and I watched her as she raced, her feet thumping loudly on the hardwood floor. It would hear that, I thought. It would hear that and circle around. I could see everything happening in crystal clarity, but was stricken by a horrible paralysis, unable to speak or move fast enough to prevent her from doing what she was doing.

Anita was a yard away from the door when it clicked open before her. Something pale was coming through. Finding my feet, I turned, unable to look, and ran toward the kitchen, toward the door, toward safety.

Anita screamed and screamed.

I burst out of the kitchen and slammed the door shut behind me, but the thick wood only slightly muffled the sound of my little sister dying.

I called her name through the wood. I cried out into the blank night. I kicked the door and pounded until my fist was bloodied with splinters. All this I did. But I could not make myself open that door.

When I paused for breath, there was a wet noise from within the house. It was lingering, distracted by the blood.

I still held the keys in my shaking hand. But I didn’t want to drive away from here, not if she wasn’t with me. Next to the car key was a smaller key with a cheery owl key cover which Anita had bought ages ago; the key to the shed. Where the power tools were kept.

I smiled joylessly.














I woke up and there was one.

It was next to my computer. The orange phosphorescence was very pale, almost impossible to notice. At first I had thought the orange glow was from an indicator light.

I sat up and looked at it. Why did that grow in here? I’m pretty tidy. This wasn’t the kind of room where mushrooms were likely to sprout.

I got up, walked over, and crouched down to examine it at eye level. Yes, it definitely had a subtle but distinctive glow. The stem was thick; the cap was a flat, whorled. The edge of the cap had planty fingers all the way around, like an anemone. My desk was smooth laminate, so there wasn’t much room for the roots of the mushroom to take hold, if there were any roots. The mushroom just went straight down and ended, as if it had been balanced there.

I could have plucked it. But it was interesting. How had it gotten here? What did it mean?

So, after examining it from all angles, I went back to bed.

In the morning, it was gone. I couldn’t figure out whether it had been a dream or not.

Today was Saturday, so I spent my time at home I took out the trash. I washed my clothes. I vacuumed. I lifted some free weights. I stayed up late watching movies. I drifted off.


I woke up and there were six.

The TV was still on, but the movie had ended and a screen saver was up. In the blue electronic light, the mushrooms were clearly visible. They had sprouted up on the carpet, on the corner of the entertainment center. There was one beside me on the couch. Maybe I needed to clean more.

I grabbed the remote and turned the TV off. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust, and then I saw the orange glow again.

They were beautiful. I’d never seen mushrooms like that before. The endless universe of lobes and circles and folds on the cap. The little light gray gills on the bottom. The strong stem. The curious way they cut right into the floor. In no way did they conform to what mushrooms were supposed to be, but I couldn’t quantify exactly what was different.

I could have plucked them. But I hated to do it; they were like little markers of what was wrong, of exactly where I needed to clean. Instead I took a picture and texted it to my plant-loving brother.

Can you identify this mushroom? I asked.

It was 3 AM, so I went back to sleep. He would find it in the morning.


When I woke up the next day, they were gone. But I knew it hadn’t been a dream. I still had the picture in my phone as proof.

My brother had texted me back. I’m not sure.

Another popped up right behind it. How are you doing lately? It’s been a while. Have you talked to mom?

I deleted the texts. He couldn’t dictate my relationships with others.

It was Sunday. I folded my laundry. I vacuumed. I dusted. I wiped down the counters. I cleaned the windows.  I shaved my head. I played video games. I drifted off.


I woke up and there were forty-two.

I counted each one over and over. Forty-two. This was really interesting. I know that I had cleaned this carpet. Tomorrow I’ll have to go over it again more thoroughly.

I could have plucked them. But I was grateful to them. Watching movies in their company had a surreal effect. The whole room was given a soft orange glow. It was fun.


That morning, I woke up to a missed call from my brother. My mom also texted me, but I didn’t open it to read it. Fuck ‘em.

I stood up and felt a little dizzy, so I had a big glass of water for breakfast, then washed the glass. Of course the mushrooms were gone; it was daylight. But sometimes, I could almost see them out of the corners of my eyes.

The phone rang. It was work. I didn’t answer.

I took a shower. When I got out, I noticed that the mushrooms were visible in the shadowy places of my room. If I covered the windows, maybe I could see them more clearly.

Yes. Pulling the drapes let the dark in and revealed the state of the room. There were so many, so many. They filled the room, grew out of the walls. They had spread into the bathroom, the kitchen. They were in my cabinets.

The light hid things. This was truth.

The phone rang. It was my brother again. I didn’t answer.

I know how this goes. This is what always happens. Mom will turn up and start knocking on the door. They don’t want me to know the truth. They don’t want me to see these things, these beautiful things. I’ll lock the door. I’ll pretend I”m not home. I won’t let them pull me out into the light. Not this time. Every mushroom is an arrow to a flaw. I’ll clean underneath each one.

I vacuumed the couch. I shook out the rugs. I tweezed my eyelashes. I scrubbed the tile.