's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" Shelley and Me "

Submitted by J. Jae "JJ" Jay

I’d had the idea lurking at the back of my head for weeks already, but it wasn’t until I saw Shelley's brother that I knew I had to do it.

Shelley was one of those adorable straight-A students who walked around with a trapper-keeper clutched close to her chest, and her skin was baby-soft because she’d never worn makeup in her life, and her mousy brown hair, hanging all the way down to her waist, was so, so, shiny. It was her mouth, though, that really did it for me. And her teeth. She had a thin face, but even then her mouth was too small for it, almost like a lipless hole, and it was an amazing thing to see them close over her two long front teeth. Every time you think, no, it’s impossible to fit such gigantic teeth in such a wee little mouth, but somehow Shelley managed.

I don’t think she had any friends before I started hanging out with her. She was so excited that day when I sat down beside her at lunch and offered to share my fries. I could see it in her face: Ryleigh Rhodes Is Talking To Me. THE Ryleigh Rhodes. Honestly, I just wanted to stare at that cartoonish mouth. It fascinated me. She ate fries one at a time, and she nibbled them.

Honestly. I think she was under the misconception that I was taking her under my wing. She thought I was going to introduce her to a new exciting life, fro-yo and mani-pedis with my girls, wild pool parties, chummy fashion tips. Yeah, as if. But she seemed so happy even for the little scraps I tossed her: that same day (we had study hall together), I let her sample a tube of lip gloss. It was cherry-pink and gritty with cheap glitter, and it smelled like car paint (I'd lifted it from Nicole D’s purse when she wasn’t looking). Her lips looked garish and greasy, too red for her pasty face. But she was so happy. You should’ve seen her smile— even with her lips pulled back all the way, her mouth didn't even widen, but only elongated, as if her lips only opened up and down, exposing all her all her narrow long teeth and her pink upper gums, pale against her clownish lips.

She did things to me, Shelley. It got really bad, I'm not ashamed to admit it. I made up all sorts of bullshit to whisper in her ear, just to breathe that soapy, clean-baby smell of her neck. I sneaked peeks at her, every chance I got, staring at her front teeth that looked so much like yellowed ivory, at her pale little paws with slack chapped skin. I wanted to twist her long, thin hair up into a rope. See if she'd squeal as shrilly as she did in my dreams. Even when she wasn't there I couldn't stop thinking about her. I felt restless, antsy, like a little kid with too much sugar in its system.

I still thought simply dreaming about it would be enough. Now I know: there's no such thing as enough.

Something happened to me last year. It was that life-altering, defining thing that happens to all of us— except for most people, it's something boring, like getting boobs over the summer. Or discovering that your special talent is playing the trombone. Well, this thing was different. I discovered a hidden talent— a gift, really— but it was something way better than being musically gifted.

It was the middle of January, during Sophomore year. I was skipping school that day. My parents were out, and the help had the day off, so I knew I had the house to myself. Even though it never snows down in Calabasas, it was pretty chilly, and I happened to find the neighbor's outdoor cat hiding under my car. I coaxed the scruffy black furball inside, murmuring promises of tender morsels and freeeesh sweeeeeeeeeet creeeeeaaaaam, and it followed me like it was hypnotized. I didn't really know what I was doing at that point, only that I was bored and I wanted to screw around a little.

I led it into the kitchen and got out the bag of cat food, thinking I'd feed it. But before I filled the bowl, I remembered that the maid had thrown out a huge Christmas ham just the other day. The power had gone out, and it was one of the things that'd spoiled. So I dug through the trash, and lo and behold, it was still there, smelling riper than ever. It was soft and pale-pink, spotted with discolored patches that looked like bruises. I peeled off chunks of meat, piled them up in the bowl, and set it down in front of the cat.

Without even hesitating, it started to gorge itself as if it hadn't eaten in days.

Our own cat, Snowball, came into the kitchen to investigate. She hated me, but when I held out my oily hands and called to her, she trotted over and practically buried her face in my hands. I wiped my fingers off on her thick fur, and she only purred louder, as if in ecstasy. But she tore herself away when she saw the bowl, and joined the black cat as she began to feed.

I watched them with fascination as they ate. I noticed the contrast of black and white, the symmetry even more highlighted by their similar size, both their tails held up in the exact same curve, their positions directly opposite each other. I was in a kind of trance. Their eating was frenzied, but synchronized and rhythmic.

I scooped out a portion of the meat and put it on the floor, a little distance away from the bowl. I guided Snowball towards it so that the two cats were now facing away from each other, tails just touching.

I tied the tails together.

The cats screamed. They lifted their dirty, grease-soaked faces from the meat, their trance broken, and leaped and thrashed away from each other, trying to untangle themselves, but only made the knot tighter. My heart pounded in my chest. I was so giddy. I think I was laughing. The bowl turned over, and chunks of ham scattered everywhere, leaving streaks of juice and oil on the kitchen floor. Legs stepped in the filth. Meat clung to fur.

Their chaotic thrashing began to change into more purposeful movements. The cats, in spite of their fear, remembered their insatiable hunger. They began to move as one, stumbling across the kitchen floor, vacuuming up every scrap of meat until their bellies were swollen. Then the eight-legged creature began to turn on itself. It contorted its body, trying to get at the gristle that still clung to its fur, even biting into its own flesh. Blood began seeping out of its flanks. Both halves, black and white, tangled into each other as it tried to eat itself.

Finally, the mass of fur shuddered, rolled over once, and lay still.

By then I kind of came out of my trance, but I was still riding on that wave of happiness, y'know? I kind of looked around the room. The thing that'd once been Snowball and the neighbor's cat had licked the place pretty clean. The only evidence that anything had happened was the thing itself, lying in a stiff clump in the corner.

I knelt down to examine it more closely. I gently tried to pry them apart, but couldn't. So I pulled harder, but they were stuck together. Then I saw why: not only were their claws buried into each other and their mouths sunk into each others' flesh; the fur had matted together, stiffened by dried blood and...stuff. I tried untying the tails as well, but the knot was so tight that they may as well have fused together.

I buried it in the backyard and told my parents that I hadn't noticed that Snowball was missing.

For a while after that fateful afternoon, I'd bask in the memory and get that yummy feeling in my stomach— y'know, kinda like butter going rancid in the warm sunlight. I still didn't know the full extent of what I could do then. But soon enough, I got the itch to try it again, only with different animals.

That's when I discovered that I could call them to me. See, I didn't have any other pets besides Snowball, and I couldn't think of a way to get at my friends' cats and dogs without them noticing. But I discovered that, if I just sat somewhere outside, alone, and called out in a certain voice, I could get animals to come to me.

I did a low, come-hither, purring voice to lure in more cats. Short staccato squeaks for squirrels. I did a sweet little baby voice for rats— oh yum, can you smell it, the food, the meat, so much meat, and I'll keep you safe, and it'll be so warm and lovely— and the same voice for the boys.

The rats were the best though. They were small and easy to dispose of. Their tails knotted together easily. I discovered that I could do all sorts of things with them, tying together more than two, until the knots became giant, pulsating knobs of flesh that joined each little body into a larger whole. Knotting things together brought out some cool shit. The rats would start squealing together, in unison. The confusion would suddenly change as every rat started working together, sometimes letting themselves be trampled to death as the whole wriggly mass moved around. I always had food for them. It gave me more control. I even set up obstacle courses, and little trails of food for them to follow. They all died sooner or later, but the ones made of rats always lasted the longest.

But, anyway, that brings me to the whole reason I started this story: Shelley's brother. I was keeping her company after school as she waited for her mom to pick her up. Eventually a blue minivan pulled up, and as Shelley scampered into it, I caught just a brief glimpse of her little brother's face. I only saw it for a split second, but it was enough. He looked exactly like Shelley, with a mop of pale brown hair, a thin face, beady little eyes, and that same exact, stupid little tooth-crowded mouth.

As the car drove away, that itch came up so strong that it felt like being punched in the stomach. It didn't go away or even lessen as I walked home. Tonight, tonight, tonight, I told to myself. I had a plan, I'd been thinking about it for weeks already, but I still had hours to wait before I could do it. I got home and poured myself a glass of wine, then another. And another and another. I tore through my closet, looking for the perfect outfit. I already knew her address, and it was within walking distance. I imagined myself walking there, mere hours in the future, walking then half-running, then sprinting through the deserted streets towards the inevitable all-encompassing ecstasy that I knew I would find in that silent house.

So now. It's midnight and I'm standing in front of Shelley's house, tipsy and shivery and dressed in my hottest little black dress. I'm so close I can almost...

Okay. Okay. I shake off my apprehension and steady myself. I take a little hairpin and pick the lock and slip in. The house is dark and I can hear the sounds of steady breathing. I climb the stairs slowly, trying to be quiet. I don't want to wake them yet.

I don't know how, but it's like I can smell Shelley. I follow the scent and open the door to her room, and I slip in without a sound. It's dark, but I can make out a lump in the bed— she's sleeping on her back with her arms straight to the sides.

I take out a small piece of moldy cheese from my bag and wave it under her nose. I have all sorts of delicious things in my bag...She stirs a little but doesn't wake up. I take out a McDonald's french fry, not yet rotting, but days-old, limp and soggy. This does the trick. She opens her mouth a little, and I pop it in between her outrageous teeth.

Shelley opens her eyes slowly and looks at me. I hold my finger to my lips. Shhhhh. She gets up, and I lead her out into the hall, where we go into her brother's room together. I wake him up in the same way, with a piece of pb&j sandwich.

They both follow me silently, in a trance.

Finally, we enter the master bedroom.

The parents snuggled against each other in the bed. Adorable. Then I see it: a crib on the other side of the room. A baby makes a nugget-shaped shadow behind the bars.

Shelley's long mane is in a tight braid for the night. I tie her and her brother together by the hair. His hair is just long enough to make it work, and I use her hair tie to make it extra-secure. She has to bend backwards a little, but neither of them complains.

Then, I wake up her parents with food, leading them towards Shelley and her brother, and add them to my masterpiece. Dad's hair is short and bristly. Almost too short. I'm sweating. His hair keeps slipping from my fingers. I'm so close. I manage to entangle a few of his hairs in the mass, but it's not enough. I'm breathing hard. No. There needs to be a better way.

I look. I think. Then I see Baby. I walk over to the crib and look. But it has no hair, nothing but a little fluff, even less than Dad. Useless. I take out a handful of food from my bag, mash it in my fist, and shove it into Baby's face. Baby chokes and swallows. Baby gurgles and screams with glee.

I pick it up and go back towards the others. They grab at it. The mother moans, and then they all begin to scream. They see the food on its face. Glistening. They're so hungry. The food.

The food.

I drag a long thumbnail across its throat; Baby's skin is soft as butter and parts without resistance. Blood pours out like a waterfall, steeping the carpet, but more importantly, sprays over all the hair, everyone's clothes, matting it together. Baby's not dead yet! The screams are loud as ever, and some of them are coming from Baby. Cry hard as you want, Baby. You're going nowhere. Bodies thrash against each other. The knot of hair tightens, clothing gets tangled, limbs wrap around each other. I hold out Baby to Shelley first. She lunges forward and uses her teeth to scrape at its face, swallowing the food, scraping the skin. Baby is dead now, I think. I pull it away. Toss it on the other side of the room. They lunge for it and all fall down in a heap, kicking and snarling. Then, miraculously, the heap begins to move. I am jumping up and down on the bed, watching as it rolls over the carpet. I see jaws snapping, I hear bones crunching, but put together, it is strong. It reaches the dead baby and begins eating. I am screaming. Or laughing. I can't tell. I open my bag and dump out the rest of the putrid food, right on top of it, and it contorts itself as it tries to reach it all.

I'm bouncing up and down on the bed and screaming and screaming and screaming. I'm so happy I can barely see. I fall off and land on the carpet. I hardly feel it. It's soaked in blood and it's soft and smells so good and it cushions my fall and I stumble over backwards, and everything is red, and my hair gets caught in something and as I try to pull myself back up something tugs me back and everything is red and red and red and red is the color of hunger