QSFer Carrie Pack has a new queer horror/lesfic book out: The Lights.
It’s winter break and Molly Monroe is content to enjoy her town’s annual Festival of Lights with her girlfriend Chelsea at her side. But almost immediately after the lights go up, the town’s children begin to act strangely, especially Molly’s own brother, Roger. When their next-door neighbors are killed in a grisly double homicide, Molly begins to suspect the incidents are linked. Now she must convince her parents and the rest of the town to take down the Christmas lights before everyone gets killed.
I went to the patio door and flipped on the lights. Our backyard was awash in brightness, but I couldn’t see much beyond the swing set Dad had built for me when I was Roger’s age. I pressed myself up against the glass and squinted to try to see into the Van Atters’ backyard. It was pitch black. That was odd. Usually they left their lights on until they went to bed around eleven.
As I watched, the screaming continued, but I was too paralyzed with fear to investigate. I pulled out my phone and began to dial 911, but I didn’t hit send. I didn’t want to be thatgirl. I held my breath with my thumb over the button, waiting for a sign that told me it was okay to panic. And that’s when I saw her.
A little girl with two perfect, dark braids framing her face stood as still as a statue in front of the swing set. I exhaled a shaky breath and waited for her to do something. As I studied the girl, I noticed her fuchsia dress and pale face were flecked with what looked like paint. Her gaze was fixed on the Van Atters’ house but she still hadn’t moved. Her bare feet were covered in mud up to her ankles. She had to be freezing. I reached for the door to open it. Perhaps she had been the one screaming.
And then I saw it.
In her right hand she gripped a large kitchen knife.
That wasn’t paint on her dress.
I jumped back from the sliding glass door and bit my lip to keep from screaming. My phone clattered to the floor and landed under the dining room table.
When I looked back up, the girl was staring at me and I recognized her. It was a girl from Roger’s class, Danica Woodson. Our parents were friends, and when they were younger, she and Roger had play dates together. But this wasn’t the Danica I knew. Her pale green eyes had gone as black as the sky above her. Her bow-shaped mouth was now an angry slash of red. At first I wasn’t sure she recognized me. But as I made a plan to dive for my phone and make a break for it, she broke into a sinister grin as she started walking toward me.
I screamed and took off for my parents’ bedroom.
At the top of the stairs, I nearly collided with Roger. I was running so fast, I hadn’t seen him.
“Rog, what are you doing?”
But Roger didn’t answer. He just stared.
“Come on, boo, let’s get you back to bed.” I put an arm around him, expecting him to follow, but he wouldn’t budge. I knelt down so I was at his level, but he regarded me with a curious look. His head tilted to one side and he smiled at me.
“It’s time,” he said softly.
“Time for what?” I asked, my voice shaking.
“Time for bed.” My Dad’s voice came from behind us. “You get back in bed, kiddo. You don’t want me to tell Santa to put you on the naughty list.”
Without looking at Dad or saying anything, Roger walked silently to his bedroom and shut the door. I swallowed around the invisible ball of cotton in my throat. Something was not right.
“Dad, I heard a noise outside. Will you come take a look?”
“Sure, honey.” He patted me on the shoulder and descended the stairs.
I knew when he saw Danica he’d know what to do. So I sat and waited, craning my neck to try to see … anything. But I may as well have been blind. I chewed nervously on my fingernails and waited. The silence was deafening.
Footsteps crunched in the snow outside, lights switched on and then off. Time slowed to a crawl.
Then I heard the scratch-squeak of the patio door opening and closing. I held my breath.
The hall light switched on and Dad’s face came into view. He rubbed his hands together and warmed them with his breath. “Nothing there, kiddo.”
I released my breath. “Are you sure? You checked the backyard?”
He nodded. “Probably just a dog or something. Whatever it was, it’s gone now.”
I knew what I saw and it wasn’t a dog. But the longer I sat there on the warmth of the stairs, I became more convinced that I’d blown it out of proportion. Perhaps it was a weird shadow instead of mud on Danica’s feet. A stick instead of a knife. Melted snow instead of blood that dotted her pretty dress. It waspretty dark out.
Carrie Pack is an author of books in multiple genres, including Designs on You (2014), In the Present Tense (2016), and Grrrls on the Side (2017). She is a recipient of two Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year Bronze awards: in 2016 for In the Present Tense (science fiction) and in 2017 for Grrrls on the Side (young adult).
Grrrls on the Side was also a finalist in the Bi Book Awards. She also hosts the BiSciFi podcast and is creator of the #BiSciFi Twitter chat. She’s passionate about science fiction, feminism, and red lipstick. Carrie lives in Florida, or as she likes to call it, “America’s Wang.”