's 2014 Horror Write-off:

" Twenty First Birthday "

Submitted by Dandelion Steph

The phone slipped from Catherine's grasp, dropping with a plop through the water. Ugh, my mittens make my hands so clumsy, Catherine thought. She got on her knees and dunked her mitten-covered hand into the water, fingers outspread to seek the phone in the dark and cold.

A sharp crack pealed out as she fell beneath the ice.


The first thing Catherine noticed was the throbbing, dull pain in the back of her head. She curled up in the throes of sleep, but the lack of blankets brought her to wakefulness. She sat upright, stretched, and examined her surroundings. A long hallway stretched forward, with numerous doors on its sides. Catherine stood and looked behind her, showing nothing but a blank wall.

Catherine rummaged through her pocket for her phone. It wasn't there. This must be a dream, Catherine thought. But people don't wake up from sleep in dreams, nor are dreams so...boring. Suspicious, Catherine pinched herself. It was painful.

I guess it's not a dream. Better see where this goes. Catherine thought.

Catherine walked down the hall. Out of curiosity, she opened a door. It was her eighth birthday party. She knew this not from the number of candles on the cake, but from the case of peanut butter cookies sitting on the table. Her eighth birthday party stood out as the day she discovered she had a peanut allergy, when she ate the cookies and broke out in hives.

Catherine tried to enter, but the scene appeared as solid as painting, even as she saw her mother setting on paper plates on the table. Puzzled, Catherine closed the door.

The next door was her ninth birthday party. This time, she could see the birthday candles. Again, it was solid, even as the people inside moved.

The next door, her tenth birthday. The door after that, her eleventh. She opened door after door, searching for clues. It was just a trip down memory lane until her fifteenth birthday. Wait, this hasn't happened yet! Catherine thought. She closed the door to her fifteenth birthday and reopened it. The same scene replayed. Is someone studying my birthdays? Catherine thought. A stray thought ran through her mind: What will they do when the birthdays end?

What will they do when the birthdays end. Her death! Catherine could determine how long she'd live by the number of birthdays in this hall!

Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty. Twenty-one...

There wasn't a door for the twenty-first birthday. The hall ended there, with only a mirror set on the wall.

“No! No!”

Catherine smacked the wall where the door should have been. Nothing happened. She kicked it instead, but there were still no results. “Maybe it's a new section of my life,” Catherine said to herself. “Maybe it's my adult life or something like that.”

But where is it?

The mirror. Behind the mirror. Catherine lifted the mirror. There was only a bare wall behind it.

“No! There---has---to---be---more!” She yelled between kicks. Unexpectedly, the wall crumbled.

Catherine peered through the hole to see the next hallway, but there was none. Instead, there was only an abyss, featureless but for the numerous red cords illuminated by the light of the hallway behind her. In the distance was a huge, round red figure, suspended and unmoving in the darkness. The cords all met somewhere in its abdomen, twining together to form a thick, shiny braid. Catherine looked at the thing's head. It was huge, with a large forehead, little ears and immense closed eyes.

The thing opened its eyes and looked at her.

The irises were red and the scleras pink and all were filmed with dewy gray. Catherine saw nothing but its eyes, as everything else faded from her attention. She didn't even notice when the ceiling cracked and fell, crashing down to the hallway and the spot where she stood.

The thing in the darkness closed its eyes, and no one answered the phone at the bottom of the pond.