's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Not Your Time

Submitted by Anonymous

I never really liked my cousin Nel.

His dad - my uncle, on my mother's side - was a small town buerocrat, and whether it was due to genetics or perpetuating exactly the kind of environment where this personality type could blossom, my cousin Nel had already turned into a miniaturized version of his dad by the age of twelve.

The most notable feature in his room was a small bookshelf with neatly staked books that all looked exactly the same. No scattered toys. No posters. I shit you not - one day, Nel pulled open his desk drawer and showed me a list of people in his town with numbers written next to them. He explained to me that he liked to make up new taxes, and the list was for people who were long overdue. (I caught a glimpse of another list hidden deeper inside the drawer. It had my name on it.)

Oh, and the family dog? Just like my uncle, he would merely refer to him as "the dog".

Then again, my uncle would only ever refer to Nel as "the boy".

Even after all these years, I remember exactly what he looked like on that day. His round, pale face. His neatly combed black hair, greasy looking. His grey sweater, exactly like his father's. His blank expression, which at the time I mistook for a symptom of perpetual boredom.

I cannot say that what happened when we visited his family on that sunday made me like Nel as a friend. I'm not sure HOW I feel about him now, exactly. The closest thing I could compare it to is how little fish will hide under the belly of sharks, for safety.


Our parents had decided that it was time for us to play outside - or rather, walk the dog, because in that household, every activity had to come in the form of a chore. Not that I minded - contrary to Nel, I thought "the dog" was the most exciting thing around.

After a few minutes, we came across a set of abandoned train tracks. Desperate for any kind of sensory stimulation, my brain decided that these were exactly like the abandoned train tracks back home - that they'd lead us straight to hedges full of blackberries, ripe and sparkling clean from the recent rainstorm.

Nel groaned when he saw me change direction.

"That's not the right way. We don't go that way!"

I brushed his protests aside. Since I was the one holding "the dog"'s leash, I was functionally in command.

Nel told me that there was nothing ahead but a meadow and some forested hills. I was starting to get frustrated.

"I just wanna have a look", I said.

Of course Nel was right. Pretty soon, the meadow spread out in front of us. On a whim, I unleashed "the dog". Ignoring Nel's pleas that this wasn't "the time to play fetch", I picked up a good-sized stick and launched it as far as I could into the sea of grass down below. Nel's dog darted right after it.

He never got his teeth into that stick. When he reached it, something else had already caught his attention. Listening to a sound that only he could hear, he raised his head and peered into the little orchard at the other side of the meadow. Then he started growling. Before Nel or I could react, he disappeared among the trees.

"No!", Nel cried, "Come back here! Right now! Bad dog! We don't go that way!"

I threw him a quick glance, in a strange sense of déjà vu.

We walked out into the meadow, cousin Nel leading the way.

"Nel... what IS that?"

Something was happening. There was a light in that orchard, growing brighter the closer we got, like a new sun rising up from behind the hill.

Nel seemed completely unfazed by this, ignoring my increasingly anxious questions. He kept walking towards the trees in a steady pace, while I was slowing down.

Then I heard it. The chorus.

Countless voices, faint and distant at first, but growing louder and louder as the light was growing. It reminded me of the time we had been in a German expat church for Christmas - I couldn't make out any of the words, even though some of them sounded vaguely familiar.

Specks of light where dancing among the trees.

"Nel!!" I cried out.

Something was happening to him. There were sparks dancing all around him, like blinding fireflies. I took a few steps back when I realized some of them were moving towards me as well. I had goosebumps all over my body at this point.

I didn't like this. I didn't like this at all. It was like something deep inside me had already figured out what was going on, long before it could reach my conscious mind, and it had only one message for me. A message so intense that my muscles where completely overwhelmed, paralyzing me.

"Nel!! We've got to get out of here!"

But Nel... He stopped, firmly planting his feet on the ground, and he pointed his index finger at the trees... like a grumpy neighbour complaining to another.

"You give me back my dog! Right now! He is NOT yours."

The chorus had grown so loud at this point I could hardly make out what Nel was saying.


it went.

I cried out. Nel's arm was changing.

Starting with his index finger, white and golden feathers where sprouting all over him, piercing right through his clothes. His arm was slowly turning into a wing.

Later, I found that the skin on my arms was itching, and it kept itching for days. If I had followed Nel just a bit closer, or if I had been exposed just a few minutes longer...

When Nel realized what was going on, he started shaking his arm, like he was trying to get rid of a swarm of flies.


Again, the song was so loud at this point that I cannot be sure what he said, exactly. But it sounded a bit like he was saying:

"This is NOT the time. This is not YOUR time."


And the amazing thing is, while I was literally shaking in my boots, he didn't seem the least bit scared.

Suddenly, the dog was back. Running out of the orchard and right across the meadow, back to where we came from, jowling as if he had just woken up from the nightmare of a lifetime.

His eyes where glowing like a golden fire had been lit inside his head.

Nel quickly turned around and walked after his dog.

Come to think of it, I have never seen Nel run in my entire life.

He brushed away the remaining sparks on his head and his clothes, like he was just dusting himself off. The feathers on his arms started to wither and die. By the time we reached the train tracks, they had all turned to ash and fallen to the ground.

The lights in the dog's eyes faded just as quickly. He looked up at me with his normal doggy smile, wagging his tail.

As for me, I had a hard time catching my breath again.

"Nel, what... I..."

Nel looked at his watch.

"It has been 25 minutes. We'll need 15 more minutes to get back to the house. It' time to go now. Supper is at seven."

And that was that.