's 2018 Horror Write-off:

Past the Oaken Door

Submitted by Sinneli (email)

             Past the oaken door, there is my editor in chief. I was late. Well. Not late, as in late-late, but more like on time. As my high school teacher once said, Early is on time. On time is late. Late is never. Being on the “On time is late” often didn’t make me nervous. Numerous high school and college projects ended with a pass rather than a fail with me sliding through the cracks of the door at the last moments, but not when it comes to jobs.

             Never in jobs. My editor in chief is unforgiving.

             Note to self that the name of the position sounds weird. Honestly, I could never tell the origin of the name. Is it from editing chief? Or perhaps editorial chief? Whatever the case, it baffles me, and I chew my nails again. A bad habit.

             The job isn’t really well-paid, and I’m sitting outside an office, a heavily furnished oaken door that smells more like chestnuts. Not chestnut wood. Chestnut. I don’t know what a chestnut wood’s wood smells like, but I’m frankly certain it’ll smell more like nature than Christmas miracle come true.

              So the manuscript. Yes. It is about a girl Edna. She has black hair. She is a superhero. She is, in alignment, a chaotic good character. I wrote her with emotion. Her adventures are short, but ripe. She lives in a small apartment complex and is a freshman in a biochemical engineering degree. I made sure to include a parody of the local community college: Cool Leg College. I found the pun funny, but it’s too late to hold it back. The concept has stuck, and the school sells cool leggings, jeggings, and whatever teenage craze there is about legs.

             I watch anime and I’m more of a kneesocks person. I chew on my nail again and I glance at the door. The oaken door. The chestnut smell.

             Christmas miracle.

             A superhero. A teenage detective. Both of it merge to form a cold, logical young woman who wants to stop at nothing to avenge the Chestnut Killer. The antagonist who I have yet to design, and only leaves behind a small puddle of the victim’s blood that smells heavily like roasted chestnuts.

             The door opens. I stand up, make sure my unkempt hair is more kempt than before, and enter the darkened chamber. On the wall is a singular gleaming plaque that reads: “Containment Certified.”

             It is there, and it looks at me with disregard of being ‘late’. Late, of course, means on time. And for him, it’s late.

             But that means I’m on time. I hand it my manuscript and it takes those, and I shudder in fear.

             The thing on the chair is not human. It’s my editor in chief, the editing chief, the editorial chief. A massive blob of tentacles is what I see at the moment, an inkling of darkness, a portal. It could pull me into that dark portal like the last writer before me. In this darkness, in this shadow, I’ve seen the man be reduced to nothing but a puddle of blood when it wasn’t satisfied. Then I was the next writer, and I was hired.

             He reads. He glorps. And he changes shape. He stares at me with nonexistent eyes. Those darkness. Those tendrils. Those unfigurable shape and color that is more than just dark, but darker, darker than black, and it just starts. Past the oaken door.




I smell chestnuts.

Christmas miracle.

I expect to be reduced to a puddle of blood, and the yearly round there will be a bunch of missing people’s reports. A puddle of blood smelling like chestnuts litter the street corner. One person. An entire city. The Chestnut Murderer. Only it’s not a murderer but a shadow. It has always been. And it has always will be unless…

             I blink. And she, Edna, is the editor in chief. The office is no longer dark, but room with a simple bed, shelves lined with trophies. The only thing that didn’t change was that plaque.

             “Containment Certified.”

             It liked Edna enough.

             Edna nods. “Good work today.” Her melodic voice sounds, the manuscript now gone, instead replaced by a notebook of a school student.

             I nod in response, in relief, as I leave what is a small apartment complex belonging to Edna, no longer an office with the oaken door. I know I’ll return to Edna some day, when the door is no longer cheaply painted work done by an inexperienced landlord.

             There’s the jingle bells. Christmas is over, numbnuts. I want to say. Stop selling chestnuts.

             The entire place buzzes with the smell of chestnuts. Christmas miracle.

             Another year ends with one less chestnut puddle.. One more Edna. Until I walk past the oaken door.