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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: The Imaginarium
A short story based on the Imaginarium Picture Prompt 4.

Submitted: April 23, 2017

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Submitted: April 23, 2017





The room felt like a furnace, hot and sticky. Ben and his older brother Toby were finding it impossible to sleep. They tossed and turned, made so many trips to the bathroom, to the kitchen, that their mother came into their room to try to settle them down.


We’ll open the window, shall we? Let some of this hot air outside.”


No, Mom, no!” Ben clung to his mother’s arm. “You open the window and the moths will get in. Then they’ll flitter and they’ll flutter.....”


You are such a baby, Ben.” Toby was scornful. He couldn’t care less if some stupid moth got in and burnt itself on the light bulb or something. Just so long as it got a bit cooler.....


Toby, don’t be mean to your brother, okay.” Their mother carried on towards the window. “I’ll just open it a bit, Ben, then I’ll pull the curtain straight back across to cover the gap. That way the heat will get out and the insects won’t get in.”


There was barely any breeze but the air in the room did seem to get slightly cooler, but still the two brothers tossed and turned. There were strange noises, scrapings and scratchings, coming from outside the window. In the distance the rumbling of thunder could be heard.


Are you awake, Toby?”


No! Go to sleep!”


Ben took a moment to reply. “You can’t be asleep or you wouldn’t have answered. Is that thunder?”


I dunno, Ben. Might be. Dad always said the heat brought the storms, didn’t he.”


There were a few minutes of quiet and then another boom of thunder, much nearer this time. A flash of lightning lit up the room.


Toby, I’m scared! Shut the window......Please.” Ben hated to show his brother how frightened he was but he couldn’t help crying.


Oh, brother! Okay, okay. Big brother Toby to the rescue.” Toby pulled back the curtain to reach the window catch and three large moths flew out. As he watched them disappear the boy was sure he saw movement just underneath the window ledge. What could it be? They were up on the second floor after all.


And then he felt something touching his hand. It seared, burnt, but there was nothing there. Nothing at all. Toby shuddered, reached up and slammed the window. As he went to draw the curtains across, the thunder rolled and shook the house while simultaneously lightning split the sky.


There was something there, Toby was sure. Something twisted, warped, heading off towards the trees. He turned to call Ben over to look then thought better of it. Just as well because when he turned back towards the window whatever it was had gone.Nothing more than his mind playing tricks.


Okay, Ben, the window’s shut and the storm should be moving away, so.....Go to sleep!” Toby climbed into his own bed and tried to ignore the pain in his hand that now began to travel up his arm.


* * * * *


It was a Saturday morning, no school, no alarm clocks. Ben woke late to find the sun shining again. He went to ask his brother if the thunder had really happened or whether it had all been a dream. The window, he saw, was now shut. But what was that mark. Black, it was, like scorched wood. A hand print all on it’s own. Must be something Toby had put there. Mom would not be pleased when she saw it.


Ben walked over to Toby’s bed but his brother was still asleep. He must be dreaming because he was making funny groaning noises. He seemed to be radiating heat. Slipping quietly from the room the younger boy went downstairs to find his mother.


They were in the kitchen finishing their breakfasts when they heard stumbling on the stairs. Ben was going to rush out but his Mom held him back. Toby had not fallen, his footsteps were still audible, making their way down towards the hallway.


As the door swung open the boys’ mother turned to ask, “Toast or cereal, Tob.....?” The sight that met her eyes froze her words inside her mouth. “Toby? What’s wrong?”


The boy that stood in front of her was barely recognizable as her son. He was twisted, as though in extreme pain. His hand, his arm, his neck.....all were blackened as though burnt to a crisp. His face was a brilliant red color. Heat seemed to off him, filled the room.


Ben stared, too horrified for words. He hid behind his mother as she moved towards Toby. Tiny wisps of smoke were starting to swirl and the older boy began to howl. Ben put his hands over his ears in an attempt to block out the screams. Just before his mother reached Toby the flames started.


They flickered along Toby’s arms, up his legs, engulfing him in seconds. It was a rapid, violent burst of flame that didn’t leap out or seek anything else to consume. It turned Toby to a pile of ash in seconds.


The neighbours broke the door down when they heard the screams. Two hysterical people whose words wouldn’t have made sense had it not been for the heat and the smell of burning clothes and skin. Of Toby there was no sign but forensic tests later proved his mothers crazy ramblings.


It was only later, much later, when he had partially recovered from the shock, that Ben remembered that blackened hand print made by their bedroom window on the night of that big, hot storm.



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