's 2019 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Monita

"Miss Bell, I think the moon likes me."

My hand froze, still holding the pen to the papers, as I looked over at Amanda - the twelve year old girl looked back at me with wide, brown eyes. I blinked, slowly, almost feeling the dark circles under my eyes press into my skull, but Amanda didn't seem to realize what it meant. Simply smiling at her, I turned my attention back to the arithmetic tests that needed to be marked.

"That's wonderful," I said as I scribbled down a column of check-marks. How else were you supposed to respond to that? "Now, please sit back at your desk."


"Hey Auntie, you wanna know what one of the students said today?"

I'd barely registered it, running on three hours of sleep and all, but out of anything that day, what Amanda said stuck in my mind. Things Amanda said tended to do that, whenever it struck her fancy to say anything. Besides, my great-aunt liked hearing about odd things the students said or got up to.

Auntie scooped the teabag out of her cup with a spoon, and wrapped the string tightly around it, squeezing the liquid back into the cup. "What was it?"

"She said, 'I think the moon likes me'."

Auntie discarded the teabag on the saucer, and raised the teacup to her lips, taking a sip. "Of course," she said afterwards. "The moon likes everyone."

I just nodded, and picked up my own teacup. This sort of response is what I've come to expect from Auntie.


"Miss Bell, I told the moon I like it back."

I tucked the folders into the top shelf, despite my wobbling hands and balance, and closed the cabinet door before looking back down at Amanda. The two of us were the only ones left in the classroom - the teacher and Amanda's fellow students had left, when the school day ended a few minutes ago.

"And what did the moon say?" I asked, hoping I sounded legible. Last night I had even less sleep, maybe two hours? Maybe less. At midnight I woke up in a cold sweat, probably from a nightmare I didn't remember, and didn't go back to sleep afterwards - but the students didn't need to know that.

"The moon seemed pretty happy."


It was parent-teacher interview night, and Amanda's father sat across the table from the teacher and I. He would be a painfully average-looking white guy in a suit, but there was a full moon badge on his collar that caught my attention. Amanda didn't come with him to the interview.

The classroom phone rang. The teacher excused herself, and got out of her seat to answer it, picking up the phone and turning into the hallway, the phone conversation muffled from around the door frame.

There was a *thwack* of paper hitting the desk, and my gaze jerked back to what was in front of me - a navy-blue pamphlet lying on the table, with illegible writing, and a round, full moon.

"My daughter's said great things about you," said the father. "It's not fair someone like you gets stuck being a TA, huh?"

"What is this for?"

The door creaked as the teacher closed it - the father pulled away the pamphlet and tucked it back into his robes. The teacher didn't even notice as she sat back down in her chair, and pulled up Amanda's report card.

When the man left, I thought about telling the teacher about it, but I held my tongue. At the end of the evening, the office secretary told me that someone left something for me, as she slid the pamphlet across the counter.


It was hard to read the words on the pamphlet, coloured black against a dark blue, even under the bright light of the lamp on my bedroom table. Something about a "Celestial Society", and the "unification of soul influences", and the "soul tides of the moon". It sounded like a bunch of spiritual jargon. Maybe if I showed Auntie she'd have be able to make some sense of it, but she'd likely just dismiss it as "new age garbage", which would be validating, but... not helpful.

When I finally looked up from the pamphlet, the orange light of sunrise shone through my window.


I'd sneaked in an hour of sleep before getting ready for work, which had to be better than nothing. It probably wasn't though, I realized as I stared blankly at the interview notes from last night, the words passing through my brain like ghosts.

"I'm not gonna be here tomorrow," said Amanda's voice, from somewhere in the space of the classroom.

"Why?" asked one of her classmates.

"I'm gonna live with the moon."

I should have told the teacher.


On my way home, I must have taken a wrong turn. I didn't recognize the houses from what I could see in the gibbous moon's light, but in one house up ahead, with an open window, I heard a familiar voice - Amanda's. She was talking with someone, I could hear them too. Their voice was overlaid by a grainy filter, as though talking through a low-quality speaker. I couldn't make out most of their words, but I could make out what Amanda was saying.

"What about my friends at school? Will they miss me?"

"I'll have to live with you forever?"

"Will mom be there?"

At that moment I noticed, across the street, a silhouette in a window - a man holding a phone, it seemed. Slowly, he turned his gaze towards me. I walked away, at a quicker pace.


All that night, I lay awake in bed, tossing and turning, or looking blankly at the ceiling. My eyes burned and my heart pounded for no reason at all. The sun's light crept into my room, and the both of us rested heavily within, until Auntie knocked at my bedroom door.

"Dear? It's 7 AM!"

I hadn't been called awake since I'd been a teenager. By the time I dragged myself out of bed, a siren sounded from my phone. Snatching it, I checked the notifications - an emergency pop-up.

About a missing twelve year old girl named Amanda.


Seeing that notification invigorated me more than sleep ever had. Marking tests, tending students, the whole school day passed in a breeze, and my fist slammed against the door to the home where I saw the silhouette with just as much impatient energy.

A man in a black robe opened the door. He wore a suave smile, which broke when he saw the wide, jittery, sleepless look in my eyes.

"Where. Is. She?"

He drew a sharp breath in, before his smile returned. "Are you talking about the missing girl? Miss, don't you think you should leave these things to the police?"

My fingers twitched.

"You were the one talking to her."

His expression suddenly turned stern, and his voice authoritative. "Miss, you are acting most strangely towards this case. You are neither her family, nor a friend of her family. If I were to call the police right now, they would not look favorably towards you in this situation."

"I *saw* you-!"

"Leave. And get some sleep, as well."

With that, he slammed the door.


I hadn't gotten any sleep that night either. In the morning, Auntie complained about tapping and footsteps outside her window, probably in the garden somewhere. I swore over breakfast, I saw someone duck behind the windowsill.

I won't get any sleep this night either. Not when I have a knife, a target, and a house to raid.