's 2013 Horror Write-off:

"9:18 PM"

Submitted by Dandelion Steph

“Mom, did you use a match to cook this toast?” Jane asked.

“No, I did not. Why would I when a toaster will do?”

Clearly, Jane’s mother did not burn the pattern into the toast. So who—or what---did?

Jane checked the toaster. When looking into its vents did not provide any clues, she looked at its sides, and then at the bottom. There was still nothing. She dumped the crumbs left in the vents onto the countertop, and then reinvestigated the vents. Nothing had changed.

Maybe it was something she couldn’t readily tell? Maybe it was the uneven heat distribution in the coils, which only appeared when the toaster was toasting. To test this, she dropped a slice of bread into the toaster. When toast popped up, Jane scrutinized the surface.

It was a random speckling of charred bits on a background of perfect brown. Jane frowned. She placed the second toast next to the first toast, hoping to find some hidden pattern. There was none---one toast was random, and the other clearly had 9:18 PM burned onto it.

Jane was hesitant to eat this special toast. It might be like the Jesus toast, Jane thought. Maybe some people will find it valuable, and take pilgrimages to it---

“Jane, take the toast with you. We’re running late.”

Jane hastily picked up the unmarked toast and bit into it as she headed to the car.


Jane thought it was getting late. She checked the time on the computer, but her gaze stuck there. 9:00 PM. Eighteen minutes until the time on the toast this morning.

Maybe 9:18 is special, Jane thought. I think I should stay awake for that.

Jane turned off her computer and sat in a chair facing the door. She wanted to be fully alert for when 9:18 came. A few seconds later, she regretted turning off the computer: now she didn’t know the time!

Jane sighed. Waiting eighteen minutes for something to happen without anything to occupy her would be death by boredom. She picked up a book and started reading it, glancing at the door to her bedroom every page or so.

Eventually she was reading the same words over and over, and her eyes were drooping. I guess nothing is happening. I better go to bed. Jane tucked herself in. Silly me, thinking something would happen at 9:18. Dad must have done it as a joke---

There was the sound of toast popping up. Jane, half-asleep, ignored it.

“CHA-KOO.” It happened again. Jane slowly rose from her bed. Beside her bed was a toaster bigger than a bathtub. Jane suspected she was dreaming now, and out of curiosity she reached out to touch the toaster.

“CHA-KOO.” Something black and dusty lunged at her face. With an exclamation of surprise, she batted the thing aside. The black thing hit the side of her bed and slid into a heap. Her heart racing, Jane approached the black thing. She hoped it wouldn’t attack her again.

It looked like a big, black fur collar. What was it doing, coming out of a toaster? Nobody toasted fur collars---

Then she noticed some toes poking out of the heap. Cautiously, she leaned in. The toes were slender and rounded, like cat toes. Jane carefully pushed on one part of the heap. It was rounded, with triangular bits sticking out on the top. It looked like---cat ears. And the eyes were shriveled, and blanched, but still greenish, with grayed-out slit pupils, and a cute rounded mouth, and a burnt orange spot that looked like an eyebrow.

Burnt orange. Burnt. This cat came from the toaster, the toaster toasted it. Where’d it get a cat? Jane thought. Then it all came together. Her cat was white and had an orange spot that looked like an eyebrow, her cat lived in her house, the toaster was in her house, and the cat she was looking at now was black and not white because it was charred.

She remembered the other two times she heard the sound of toast popping up. It was getting scary, so she tried pinching herself. It hurt. It didn’t work. She had no other choice but to turn around.

They were shriveled, and brown, even black in some places, and had indistinct black slivers for eyebrows and melting, lopsided noses. Despite this, it was unmistakable: those things were her parents.

The toaster has four slots.

“No. No no no.” Jane stammered, as she realized the last slot was for her.

At 9:18 PM, the following sound pierced the stillness of Jane’s bedroom: “CHA-KOO.”