Updated: Jul 29, 2020
A Halloween morsel written for the flash fiction club at Litopia Writer's Colony. This month's prompts were: laundry, fingernails, and dimbo kugel. After scratching my head for 30 days, I finally came up with this in the last few hours of Samhain's eve.
Suggested genre: horror.
Word limit: 1000 words.
Melissa’s fingernails scraped over the ouija board, letters skimming, magnified under the glass eye of the planchette.
“D,” she read out, “I. M.” She glanced over at Tom cross-legged on the floor of the basement, two fingers pressed next to hers on the planchette. She quirked a lip. “B. O.”
He scowled, dropped his hands. “You’re a dimbo.”
Lucy leaned over the board, witch’s hat sliding over her eyes before her hand shot up and pushed it back. “What’s a dimbo?” she asked.
“It’s your sister being stupid.” Tom folded his arms over his khaki uniform, bumping the plastic rifle looped around his bony chest. A gold ‘Made in China’ sticker glinted at the bottom of the stock. “Do it properly.”
Melissa shoved the planchette at him. “If you think you can do better, you do it.”
Tom picked up the wooden piece, turning it over his hands, then squared his shoulders. “Fine, I will.” He scooted closer to the board, soles of his scout hiking boots squeaking on the polished floorboards.
“Can I try?” Lucy asked.
Melissa shot her a glare. “Wait your turn.”
Lucy stuck out her tongue, bright blue from the purple jelly beans she’d picked out from her trick or treat bag. The rest lay in a small mound on the floor, waiting for Lucy’s sticky fingers. The little witch. Nan said no candy before dinner. If she makes herself sick...
Tom tapped the glass eye of the planchette. Melissa sighed and rested a finger on the glass eye. Her cousin cleared his throat. “Spirits I beseech thee...”
Thee? She rolled her eyes. “We’re not summoning Shakespeare, dummy.”
Tom ignored her. “Hear me across the divide and speak to us from the other side.”
“Oh very nice, how long have you been working on that?”
He flashed her a lopsided grin, more braces than teeth, and pushed on. “I beg of you to answer an important question…” he paused, sniffing the air as the scent of melted cheese wafted down to them. “What’s Nan cooking for dinner?”
Melissa crooked an eyebrow. Really? She sighed and peered down at the board. No movement.
The silence lengthened. A hum from the washing machine in the laundry above drifted in, along with the chink of crockery in the kitchen beyond. But before them, nothing.
Melissa opened her mouth, about to speak—the planchette shifted, pulling her finger up and right. It scraped over the letters. Lucy came over, butting her head against theirs, witch hat abandoned on the floor beside her mound of sweets.
“What’s it saying?” she whispered.
The wooden triangle came to a stop. “K.” Tom read out. The glass eye shifted. “U. G. E. L.”
Lucy’s face lit up. “I love kugel! It’s so cheesy and… noodly.”
Melissa snorted and pulled her hand away. “That’s no spirit.” She jabbed Tom in the ribs.
“You’re just conversing with your stomach.” She eyed the board. “This is lame. Let’s go watch a movie.”
“What about my turn?” Lucy wailed.
Melissa snatched up the planchette and thrust it at her. “Alright, go. But be quick about it.”
Lucy settled before the board, sugar-slicked fingers leaving prints on the wooden triangle as she set it down.
“Aren’t you going to hold it with me?” she asked, indigent blue eyes swinging first to Melissa, then to Tom.
Melissa sighed and dropped one finger on the planchette. Tom shrugged and did the same.
“Spirits,” Lucy began, copying Tom’s tone. “I besiege thee…”
“Let her be Mel.”
Lucy scrunched her eyes shut and went on. “Tell us your name.”
They waited. Pots clanged above, an oven opened and closed. Cutlery rattled. And somewhere outside, a cat yowled.
The planchette moved.
“D.” Lucy sounded out. “O. L. L.” Her eyes popped open. “Doll,” she whispered, and without pause snapped up at the collection of porcelain dolls preserved behind the glass doors of the basement’s only pinewood cabinet. Nice try, toerag. They’re not for playing with.
“Which one?” she whispered.
A rap on the door made them jump and Nan’s head appeared around it, surveying them through a pair of reading glasses. “Dinner’s ready. Come quick, before it gets cold.”
Tom jumped to his feet. “What is it?” he asked.
He spun on Melissa, braces flashing into another grin. She sniffed. “Lucky guess.” Lucy scrambled up after him, doll and ouija forgotten.
“Noo-dles, noo-dles,” she cried, bounding down the hall beyond.
Melissa stamped up the stairs, flicked off the basement light at the top, grabbed the door handle—and stopped.
Deep in the darkened room, she thought she caught a creak of hinges and the sound of small feet pattering across the floor.
She peered into the dark.
“Is someone there?”
No answer. You’re imagining it. She waited a heartbeat, then shrugged and shut the door.
Then, within the stillness, the planchette shifted. The wooden triangle moved, glass eye scraping over numbers, letters; coming to rest on a single word in the top left hand corner.