Gulp Fiction #8: Blue Woos & Bugaboos by Lori Bifler

Published on 4 January 2024 at 21:58

 

Dedicated to the dark shapes in my closet. Please, please, won’t you go away? 

- L.B.

 

 

You’re afraid of the dark.

 

Now, don’t think that I’m judging you, I’m scared of the dark too. But I just wanted to start this by telling you something about yourself, something that you may not know or may deny. Yet it’s true. You…me…everybody…we’re all afraid of the dark.

 

We’ve lived with this fear since childhood. When you’re young, you don’t worry about things like thieves or mortgage payments or repossession or serial killers. No, those things don’t affect us, not yet. What we’re afraid of in those formative years is more primal, the fear is more raw. We’re afraid of the dark. And not just the dark necessarily, it’s more-so the things that may be lurking in it.

 

The reason we’re really afraid of the dark is because there might be a monster in it. A bogey man. A Brobdingnagian bugaboo of some sort. Your parents would write it off as childish imaginings, simply the result of an overactive mind. The bogeymen we were afraid of, though? They were real, as was the terror that accompanied them.

 

We knew these bogeys well. They would haunt the back of the closet or the dark space behind an open door. Their shapes could never be quite explained away, even in the day time. There was something unnatural about their shapes. Their shadows were too dark. We would see them in our dreams, the ones that would occur nightly.

 

The feeling of being chased. Of being hunted. Seeing that grinning black shape with those horrible crimson eyes, wicked glistening claws clacking and echoing through our terror-stricken brains.

 

You try to sleep, you shut your eyes tight, trying your hardest not to acknowledge the hot breaths falling in hungry huffs on the back of your neck. You try not to hear the low buzzing voice that is speaking so close to you that you can feel the warm words in your ear. When you could ignore these things no longer, you would scream.

 

Scream for help. Scream for your mother. Scream for anyone who could come now, and quickly 

 

Admit it, you did scream, didn’t you? It’s okay. I did too. We all did.

 

Now, all these years later, you’re a grownup. Maybe even a parent on the other side of the conversation, maybe now you’re the one doing the comforting for a child of your own. As you tell them that the things they’re afraid of aren’t real, you feel a shiver run down your spine. That’s because you’re still scared. Deep down inside, you’re still afraid.

 

You tell your child that you don’t believe in such things. That monsters are all stories, mere superstitions. But…if all of this is true, then tell me one thing:

 

Why are you still afraid of the dark?

 

*****

 

“So, what do you think of it? Obviously it isn’t finished yet but that’s what I have so far.” I smiled a friendly, nervous smile as my friend finished reading over the last couple lines of my newest short story.

 

“Why Cecil, it’s brilliant as always. Scary. I don’t know how you do it. That whole bit about being scared of the dark? Inspired!”

 

My smile increased as I took in the praise. “Thank you Harold, you’re always much kinder to my work than my editor is.” We shared a laugh and then Harold’s wife came into the room with some warm tea and cookies.

 

“Cecil, you work too hard,” she said to me. “You spend all day cooped up in that little cabin of yours. Why don’t you stick around and relax for a while? I just put on a new batch of tea.”

 

Harold quickly snatched a cookie from the tray as she passed him. I accepted a cup from her with sincere thanks. “Thank you so much, Mia. I always enjoy the company of your family. It’s no bother, though, being cooped up all day like that. I get so much work done. That’s exactly what I purchased that cabin for. It’s remote and easy to pass all the daylight hours in. After all, a book doesn’t write itself, you know.”

 

With a mouthful of cookie, Harold said, “I don’t see how you writer fellows do it. Staying in all day. Wracking your brain for all these scary situations. I couldn’t do it, it can’t be good for the ol’ noggin and ticker. I think I’ll stick to the insurance game myself.”

 

Mia put a hand on her husbands shoulder and gave it a playful squeeze. “I don’t know how healthy those cookies are for you either, dear,” she said teasingly. “And don’t go talking about insurance now, I know how you are. Next thing you know you’ll be shaking Cecil down to sign up for some new policy. We invited him over for a nice visit and some tea, that’s all, remember?”

 

“Of course, of course,” Harold replied before turning his attention back to me. “How is the tea?” 

 

“It’s wonderful,” I replied. “You folks are wonderful hosts, thanks again for inviting me over and looking over my writing. I hope you don’t find my company too boring, I don’t have much human contact when I’m putting in these long hours at the cabin.” 

 

“Boring?” Mia asked with mock incredulity. “Please. You nearly scared the daylights out of me with that latest story.”

 

I smiled, happy that my words had the right effect. “And what about Clara?” I asked her, making a point to look around the room and notice her absence. “Did my story scare her as well? I don’t see her around.”

 

Mia and Harold exchanged a knowing look. Mia sighed before answering. “No, it’s not that. She must be out with her friends again, that little gang she’s been running around with. You know how kids are at this age, they don’t want to hang out with old people like us anymore unless it’s to eat or to complain about something.”

 

I shared in their chuckling and shook my head with understanding. “Yes, I am aware how teenagers can get. Clara always seemed like such a bright young woman though, not typical at all. She is very, ummm, perceptive, I would say.” Her parents nodded their consensus. 

 

“That’s right on the nose, Cecil. Remember that story you wrote a few months ago? The one about the sparrow trapped in the house? She said it wasn’t about a bird at all, it was about fear of the unknown. It changed my whole way of looking at it!”

 

I nodded in approval. “She’s perceptive indeed,” I said. Her mother, lost in thought for a moment, suddenly let out a short chortle and shared a look with her husband.

 

“She’s usually perceptive, anyway. Do you remember the thing she said the other day, though? About how she thinks that Cecil is - ” Harold quickly cut her off with a sharp gesture and sharper look. They squirmed uncomfortably in their chairs for a moment before I could meet their gaze and give them a reassuring smile.

 

“Now, now, it’s really no big deal. Us author types are all a bit strange, there’s always a rumor mill hard at work. Just what did Clara say about me?” 

 

The couple looked hesitant to reveal that information so I gave them another one of my most reassuring smiles. “Come on,” I prodded, “If it’s good, I may even use it in my author blurb in the back of my next book,” I teased.

 

“Welllll,” Mia said, drawing out the word. After sharing a look with Harold, who gave her a slight tilt of his head, she finished the thought. “The other day, she’s just a kid, mind you. But the other day, she said that she thought you were possibly a vampire.”

 

I tried hard not to spit out my tea with surprise. “A vampire? Me?! 

 

We all shared another laugh. “Is that why I’ve seen her watching me a little bit lately? She’s trying to see if I grow fangs or something?” I joked.

 

Mia refilled my cup and shook her head. “I hope that you’re not offended, you know how kids can be. Even at that age, their imaginations are still running wild.”

 

“Of course, of course.”

 

Mia continued on, unprompted. “She is just grasping at straws and trying to make a big picture out of them. She mentioned how we’ve never seen you out during the daytime. She thinks it’s because you sleep during the day.”

 

“Sure,” I said, “makes plenty of sense. I’m sure that writers and vampires have a lot in common.”

 

Mia nodded. “Yup! Maybe she’ll even be a writer like you one day the way that she can put a story together. She had other evidence too, you know. Like how you never eat food.”

 

“Never eat food?” I asked, quizzically. 

 

“Yes, she said she’s not once seen you at the grocery store or the butcher shop. And that you always politely decline the snacks I put out when you come over.”

 

I pulled a tight smile. Noticing, Mia went on,  “Don’t you worry though, don’t worry. We’re not encouraging this little charade.” 

 

“Not at all,” Harold cut in. “In fact, when she said that, I asked her if she had ever heard of a restaurant before, or pizza delivery. Well, she was just floored by that response! You should have seen the look on her face.”

 

A sound at the kitchen entrance got our attention. As we all turned to look, Clara stepped shyly and awkwardly into the room. “Speak of the devil,” Harold said. “Clara, where are your manners? Aren’t you going to greet our guest?”

 

Clara looked at me but didn’t speak. There was suspicion and the beginnings of fear in her eyes. I tried smiling another one of my practiced reassuring smiles. “Hello Clara, it’s nice to see you again,” I said.

 

She didn’t return my greeting. Instead, she made a motion with her right hand.

 

“Clara! What are you doing? Why are you being so rude to our guest?” Her mother was taken aback by her demeanor. I turned my smile to the mother instead. “It’s alright,” I assured her. Then I added, “I believe that she’s making the sign of the cross. You know, the thing that wards off vampires,” I informed her.

 

Her dad scoffed in his seat. “Dear god, Clara. If you’re so scared of monsters, just where exactly where you tonight? You’ve been running around in the dark like you don’t even believe in the nonsense you’ve been talking about.” He scoffed again. “Vampires,” he said sarcastically under his breath.

 

Clara fixed her dad with a serious expression. “Dad, don’t joke about things you don’t know about. I’m trying to keep us safe.”

 

Mia pushed her chair back and walked over to her daughter. With a stern voice, she scolded her. “That’s no way to treat our guest and no way to talk to your father. Now tell me, just where exactly were you tonight?”

 

Clara looked down, cheeks flushed. She obviously didn’t want to say, but after a few moments of uncomfortable silence, she answered. “I was just out for a walk with a friend from school. Jill Stevens, you know her.”

 

“And just where were you walking?” Mia asked with a hard voice.

 

“Up over the hill. You know, where the hemlock trees are.”

 

I decided that I had overstayed my welcome and pushed my chair back. “Thank you for the tea and the company,” I said to my hosts. I turned to face Clara. As I did so, I picked up a cookie from the tray on the table and took a bite. With a wink and a smile, I added, “Nice to see you too, Clara.”

 

Her parents tried to get me to stay, worried that their daughters attitude was driving me from their home. After a few assurances that I was only leaving because it was late and I had a little more work to do, I made my way to the door.

 

After a few more exchanged pleasantries, I walked out the front door and into the night. Behind me, I heard Mia scolding Clara for her behavior, and also for apparently losing her new green scarf.

 

*****

 

“What can I get for you, Cecil? I’m not sure what you intellectual types drink,” Sam said in his usual friendly way. He wiped a clean glass dry, readying himself for my order. Despite his words, I was pretty sure that Sam knew what everyone drank, and how to make that drink to perfection.

 

Everything he’s ever made me has been fantastic. What’s more, the drinks he made were always the perfect companion to any situation I found myself in. I decided that tonight was as good a night as any to switch things up and try to stump him. 

 

“Sam, what drink do you suggest for someone who isn’t what they appear to be?”

 

Sam finished drying the glass and gave me a sidelong glance. “Well for that, Mr. Cecil, I’d suggest a Blue Woo.” He was already in motion before his words had fully escaped his lips. In one hand he grabbed a small bottle of blueberry schnapps. After setting the glass down, he used his other hand to grab vodka and cranberry juice.

 

“The Blue Woo, despite its name, is actually a red cocktail.” As he spoke, he poured an ounce each of the vodka and the schnapps. “It originated in the eighties, when blueberry flavored liquor was starting to cause a stir in the bar scene in Hawaii.” Sam poured twice as much cranberry juice into the tall cocktail shaker, turning the blue liquor to a light red.

 

“The eighties were a great time,” I reminisced with a smile. “My favorite movie came out in the eighties. Did you ever see Near Dark?” I asked Sam, watching him as he shook the concoction together with a helping of ice.

 

“Oh yes, that’s a great one. I was bummed out when it lost out for best horror movie to The Lost Boys. Honestly, never cared for that one. Don’t understand all the hubbub around it.”

 

“You know your movies,” I told him.

 

“I know my vampires,” he corrected me with a wink, pouring the shaken contents into a chilled and clean cocktail glass. In another moment, he pushed the cool glass of red over to me. I caught it and looked down at it with a smile. It looked a little bit like blood.

 

“Bottoms up,” I said, tilting the glass to its creator in a type of salute.

 

*****

 

As I walked home after closing time, my mind wandered to my earlier encounter with Clara. She was just a stupid little girl living out some fantasy she had about me. I wondered what it was about that that bothered me so much. Maybe it was because she was smart and beautiful and she didn’t seem to care for me. Maybe it was because I enjoyed the feeling of having a family when I visited their home, and she had driven me from it. She had revoked their invitation with her conduct. 

 

I thought about it to the point that it could be called brooding. I wondered just where this whole thing would end. I thought about it until I arrived at the doorstep of my dilapidated cabin.

 

There was something lying on the ground to the right of my door. It was forest green and curled up into a mound like a sleeping snake. It was a green scarf.

 

I picked up the scarf and stuffed it into my pocket. I then reached out to open my door, but I felt something hanging on the knob. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a hand-woven wreath. I plucked this up too and brought it closer to my face, squinting to examine it in the moonlight. It was hemlock. Hemlock…which was something you put on your doors to keep vampires away. 

 

*****

 

I brooded over my discovery all night. I would probably have been in an even fouler mood had I not downed about a half dozen Blue Woos beforehand. I twisted and turned all night. Just what exactly had that foolish girl been up to?

 

The next day I decided to investigate the matter further. When I did so, I discovered plenty. Apparently Clara had been spreading her theory all over town. She was questioning people about me, about my habits. She asked why I stayed in my cabin all day and only came out at night. She asked about my eating habits. She had even called up my editor in New Hampshire to check up on my background, to see if I really was indeed a writer for the Wassail Publishing House.

 

With additional digging, I found that she had talked to the local minister and asked why I had never attended church. She was asking if anyone had ever been inside of my cabin, if I had any mirrors in it. The more I learned, the more my anger burned. This was no longer some cute little joke, some fleeting fancy of a bored rural girl. No, now this was making trouble for me. It was calling attention to me. Her obsession over this was starting to affect my concentration, my frustration started to show in my work, in my writing. 

 

After spending the day writing and sulking, I decided that I was going to confront her about her investigation. Later on that night, I started down the path to town.

 

In my head I was going over the words I wanted to say. I thought about the various ways that this could go. I was so lost in my own thoughts that I didn’t closely watch the path ahead of me. I practically ran Clara over as she appeared before me unexpectedly.

 

“Oh!” Clara gasped in surprise and alarm. “I’m sorry, I..I didn’t see you there,” she said, her cheeks flushing. The moonlight reflected off of the little golden cross that hung about her graceful young neck. 

 

After I regained my composure I smiled at her. “I’m sorry Clara, I didn’t mean to startle you. I was just on my way into town, care to join me for the walk?” I tried to force the anger from my eyes, I didn’t want them to negate my friendly smile.

 

“Well, ummm,” she stammered slowly, “I don’t know. I’m meeting a friend soon and - ”

 

“Not a problem,” I assured her with a silky smooth voice. “I was going to meet some friends of mine as well. I have to say, however, I had a big breakfast this morning and I feel like I may have something stuck in my teeth. Do you happen to have a little handheld mirror in your purse that I can use for a moment?”

 

Her face registered shock. “A mirror?” Her voice came out as barely more than a whisper.

 

“Yes, a mirror,” I said with confidence. “I thought all of you young ladies carried them with you.”

 

When she had recovered from her shock, she went digging into her purse and pulled out a small compact mirror and handed it to me. I snapped it open and gave myself a cursory glance. I knew that I had nothing in my teeth, I was only trying to make a point. After I snapped it shut and handed it back to her, I held her gaze for a serious moment. “I also found the wreath on my door last night,” I told her in a monotoned voice.

 

She gulped and flushed. Whether it was from fear or embarrassment, I wasn’t entirely sure. “I’m sorry,” she started, but I silenced her apology with a wave of my hand.

 

“Not a problem, Clara. Not at all.” I continued to let my gaze bore holes into her. She fidgeted uncomfortably. “However,” I went on, “your little inquest in town and to my editor is a bit of an issue for me.”

 

She gulped again. This time I knew without a doubt that it was from fear. “I understand that you seem to think that I’m a vampire. Just because I work all day and don’t enjoy buying groceries in town. I get it, there’s a mound of circumstantial evidence that a young mind may make too much of. But now, do you see that you are wrong? I looked into your mirror. I ate at your parents house. I touched the hemlock to remove it from my doorknob. Do you see now that all of this has just been some kind of foolish fantasy?”

 

She flushed again, a deeper red color now on her cheeks. They were the color of a Blue Woo. “I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry,” Clara said to me. “You must think I’m the town idiot for getting carried away like that. I’m sorry if I caused you any problems.”

 

I took a step forward. She didn’t retreat, but froze in place. I looked deeply into her eyes, searching them. “Problems?” I asked her. “Do you think that you did something in your search that would cause me to have a problem?”

 

She averted her eyes and cleared her throat. Her pale hands began to quiver almost imperceptibly. “Well, I…” I took another step closer. She took a half step back. “I’m sorry,” she choked out. “I..I went to the police this morning. It wasn’t anything serious, I was just asking them to check you out. Oh, I’m so sorry! That was a foolish thing to do.”

 

“Did they take you seriously?” I asked her, ice in my voice. Her eyes widened and she gulped again.

 

“No, no they didn’t. They told me that it was all in my head. That, and that all horror authors are a little bit creepy. That I was looking too much into it.”

 

I smiled. “Good.” My smile spread until my cheeks hurt. I smiled until my teeth were bared in the moonlight. I smiled until she tried to take another step back.

 

I reached out and grabbed her arm, pressing my fingers into her milky flesh with enough force to leave bruises. She let out a frightened yelp, turned her big doe eyes up to me.

 

“Cecil! What are you doing? Stop it, you’re hurting me!”

 

Her words made my smile grow even larger. “You just had to meddle, didn’t you? You couldn’t leave well enough alone.” I tightened my grip on her arm. She whimpered and then let out a pained cry.

 

“Please! Stop! You’re hurting me. Why are you hurting me like this?”

 

With my free hand, I pulled the green scarf from my pocket. “Why? Why? Clara, my dear, I couldn’t let you get away now. It would ruin everything. You've guessed too much about me already.”

 

Tears welled up in her eyes and spilled out onto her cheeks. “You..you mean that it’s true? You…you really are a vampire, aren’t you?”

 

I pushed her to the ground with gusto. She let out a short cry as the impact knocked all of the air from her lungs. Quick as a cat, I was on top of her, already stuffing the scarf into her open mouth and making her gag on it.

 

“A vampire? Shush child, there’s no such thing. A serial killer, however….well… wouldn’t that be a great way to research my next story?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blue Woo

 

Ingredients

 

  • 1 oz Blueberry Schnapps (DeKuyper Blueberry)
  • 1 oz Vodka
  • 2 oz Cranberry Juice
  • Cocktail Glass

 

Directions

 

  • Shake all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker.
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and serve.

 

The Blue Woo is the perfect cocktail for a moonlit walk. It is best when enjoyed slowly and sipped. However, there are some walking among us who would really SCARF them down.

 

Add comment

Comments

Jay
2 months ago

Thank you Enjoyed it