First place: 15-18 years
CHARLOTTE MOON / 16 / Coquitlam
I skid to a stop at the light, heart racing, my mouth dry, knuckles clenched white against the steering wheel. My only thought is of getting away, as far away from my tiny, frigid apartment as possible.
It started last month. At first, I heard it only in the space between waking and sleep. A lurid grinding, clicking, scraping noise, like gnashing teeth, or bones rubbing together. Next, I heard it in my sleep. Then I pulled an all-nighter, and the noise was constant. Was it rodents? Pipes? The heater?
Not the heater. The heater is broken.
I worked late Monday night and arrived home at eleven. Shivering, I stepped inside my apartment. The clicking was incessant. The apartment, freezing.
Yesterday, I had fumbled around with the broken heater for an hour, before giving up. The repairman couldn’t come until Thursday though, so that left my apartment feeling like a tomb for the next two nights. I piled blankets onto my bed, squeezed my eyes shut, and tried to block out the noise with my pillow so I could sleep. Eventually I drifted off.
BANG! My eyes flew open. I looked around wildly.
Grind, click, scrape.
It was louder. My heart filled my ears when I saw the top of the heater flung open. I froze. The noise was coming from inside. I stopped breathing.
The noise stopped too, and momentarily, the apartment was silent. I crawled forwards on my bed, tremulous, and leaned forward to peer into the heater.
Inside… was a pile of bones.
No, not just bones. Peeling, translucent skin was stretched over them. It should have been a body...
I gasped when I saw the skull staring up at me from the corner, black eyes sunken into sockets, lips curled back to reveal a gaping grin, mouth crowded with elongated teeth.
Transfixed, I stared into its eyes. Then a grasping hand reached for my neck.
I choked on my scream as I stumbled out of the room and through my front door, leaving it swinging behind me. Through dim hallways and down creaking stairs I flew in craven panic. I careened through the carport, hearing only the sound of my laboured breathing and the slapping of my bare feet on cold cement.
Wait! There it was. The noise echoed and bounced off the carport walls until I wanted to plug my ears. I patted my pockets for my keys as I ran. There was my car, thirty yards twenty, ten. I jammed the key in the lock, catapulted myself inside and sped recklessly through the parkade and onto the street.
I skid to a stop at the light, heart racing, my mouth dry, knuckles clenched white against the steering wheel. My only thought is of getting away from the awful clicking that’s everywhere all at once. Calm down, nobody’s coming.
Glancing in the rearview mirror I meet cold, dead eyes. The skeletal hand reaching for my throat is quicker this time.