's 2019 Horror Write-off:

Play Area

Submitted by Shakara


Ethel watched on as Lindy sat on the swing. She’d always go to the park after school and let her daughter play. Muirgheal, her neighbour and close friend, brought along her grandsons – affectionally referred to as ‘The Trouble Twins’. Kevin and Evan.

“Good weather today.” The old woman spoke.

“Aye.” Ethel sat in silence. There was no prime conversation material. Nothing to say. What could they say?

“I can’t believe it’s been… what… a week? It feels like longer.”

Ethel nodded. Muirgheal took out a picture of her husband, standing with the twins in the woods. They’d had a picnic that day. 

“They’d been gone for so long. I just didn’t expect them all to return.” She sighed. “It surprised all of us.”

Nobody in Glasbridge had expected their loved ones to return. Accidents, sickness or murder- they came back. Lost children, lost lovers, family and pets alike. Nobody knew how it happened- some didn’t want to know. Just 10 days before it had occurred. They sat up from hospital beds and morgue slabs, beginning to walk back home, as if they had never died at all. Priests and scientists were both confused. No answer given, the previously-lost loved ones just returned home and did their daily tasks, just like before.

Lindy waved, smiling from the swing-set.

“I see you, dearest!” Ethel tried not to weep. The children pottered about the playground, all laughing, huffing, tittering, shouting, etc. One boy, a chestnut-haired, robust lad, made a leap off the zipline and hit the ground with a sickening crunch.

“No! Nathaniel!” His father sprinted forward, pallid and dark-eyed. Nathaniel slowly rose from the ground, his arm crackling as he steadily pushed it back into place. His drooping face adjusted, pushed roughly into a crooked smile.

“Ah, you’re alright. Good. Good.” He swallowed bile. “D-Do you want to try the sandpit?”

None of the parents could get used to it. Not to the fact, nor to the sight. The smell alone was horrendous. Lindy swung joyfully on the swing, her sun-yellow hair now a pale fawn colour. The scent of skatole and nidor filled the air. Muirgheal’s twins had begun a game of pattycake, grunting along to the tune of the song. Grunting being all they could do since the tongues fell out. Truth be told, Evan had bitten his off in attempting to chew a particularly tenacious piece of luncheon meat.

A finger came off with a wet snap. Kevin fiddled with it, trying to reattach it to his ring-finger stump. Evan made a croaking laugh. Muirgheal could hold it no longer and she began to cry, hiccoughing and her shaking. The two boys shuffled over to her, cooing sympathetically. Ethel did nothing as the reek of must and sour apples flooded her nostrils.

They’d died of asthma. Genetic. Evan had misplaced his inhaler. Kevin had fainted and hit his head hard off the glass coffee table. A sorry thing.

Nathaniel, from what Ethel heard, had been drowned in the lake. He didn’t look that robust before. Bloated. The water had leaked into him, swelling him up like a gruesome balloon.

He was clawing through the sandpit with his hands, forcing up a crudely-made sand castle. His father was trying so hard not to cry.

Ethel looked back to Lindy, swinging on the swing. She almost looked alive. Almost. 

She waved. And Ethel waved back.