's 2016 Horror Write-off:

Julie's Turkey

Submitted by Florence Whateley

We'll always remember Julie's first hand turkey. Julie, of course, is our little bundle of joy, and we couldn't ask for a sweeter, brighter, more thoughtful child. And she's very talented, of course. Whenever she sets out to do something, she won't stop until she's the best there is.

Take the hand turkey, for example. She was only five when she made it. We still remember that day we sat her down in the dining room, took our hands, and told her we were going to make turkeys with them. You should have seen the look on her face! She pouted and said that we couldn't do it, of course. But then we showed her what we meant, and her shining green eyes lit up with that wonder so peculiar to children. She actually clapped for a while, she was so happy.

She told us she wanted to make one too. But not just any hand turkey, she said. The best hand turkey there could be. That was what she said. We smiled and told her we were sure she could do it. We couldn't wait to see it, we said. But she told us it would probably take her a while. She would have to get help from her friends, and could she go tell them to meet up at the clubhouse now? Of course, we told her.

Julie's very sociable, and she made lots of friends even after she moved. They all met in their clubhouse, an old, brightly painted wooden hideaway nestled deep in the woods, where you can smell the cool damp earth. We were the ones that built it for her, and it was the place where she seemed the happiest. Her and her friends went there almost every day, for one reason or another, mostly on Julie's insistence. She's a born leader, we always say.

That afternoon she met up with all of them in the clubhouse. She stayed out later than usual that night, and we started to grow a little worried. You never knew who might show up in the forest on a night like tonight. Certainly there had been a number of incidents in the past fresh enough in our memory to give us cause for concern. But then she got home, safe and smiling, and she showed us what she'd made.

It certainly lived up to her promise; it was the best hand turkey we'd ever seen. She'd gotten all her friends to put their hands together with her when they made it, so its plumage was large enough to be the object of any other fowl's envy. It was brightly colored and full of heart, and Julie beamed as she showed it to us with the simple joy a child finds in creating something, in the magic of taking a few ordinary things and making something beautiful.

We put it in a place of honor on the wall, and it's still there to this day. It's just another reminder of what a beautiful, wonderful child Julie is. Whenever we look at it, we feel the fondest of memories come back to us. Seeing it there, clenching and unclenching its gnarled fingers as it gobbles merrily, reminds us of how well we taught her. It's not easy for a girl like Julie to learn these things, but we're sure that if her parents could see her they'd be proud of how much joy their daughter was bringing to us... but of course they're still busy with the changeling we left them.