In beyond,  I try to capture the immediacy of the moment in thriller fashion. I read this one for the Manomet Writers’ Group working off the prompt “he/she who went beyond”. They all seemed to like it.

My hope is that you will too.

From beyond the door came a whisper, like a conjuration. Lizzy saw a shadow recede from the wide gap at the bottom of the dressing room door and her heartbeat kicked up a notch.

“Elizabeth Abigail Brown, where are you?”

Lizzy snapped her head around, let out her held breath, and several silk scarves in the rack she was hiding behind wafted out. Her gauzy view cleared.

“Come out from there. Stay close.”

She did. But then, walking around a circular rack of blouses, she slipped into the middle when no one was watching. She faced the doors again—there were three of them—and simply waited. Something was going to happen, she was sure of it.

Lizzy hadn’t witnessed anyone entering the changing rooms, so theoretically they were empty. Yet something was clearly happening inside one of them.

It was only minutes ago she was walking a line in the carpet, imagining herself performing a daring high-wire act across some great height, arms out for balance. The line ended at the middle dressing room door. She reached for the handle, uncertain what she would find beyond.

“Don’t go in there, sweety.” There was an edge of malevolence in that voice and she spun around. The dress-shop lady was standing there with just the top button of her sweater done up over a floral print dress; her hands clasped in front as if ready to pounce. “You won’t like what you find behind that door.”

Lizzy watched that lady’s look of concern crack to a knowing grin, tea-stained teeth showing some menace. The gray-haired witch glanced back to where Lizzy’s mom was rifling through a rack of dresses and then scurried to the back room. That’s when Lizzy noticed the shadow-play in the light coming from under the door.

There it was again.

All the doors had large gaps at the bottom, big enough for something to reach out. Lizzy was sure that most of her wouldn’t fit underneath if it came to that, but still.

She shuddered; a cold shiv ran up her spine. Then there was a bump against the inside of the door and Lizzy’s heart stopped for a beat. It happened again, though softer the second time and Lizzy remembered to breath. There was a scuffle going on in there; a kidnapping perhaps. Or maybe someone was being murderlized.

The world had shrunk to her immediate periphery, making her acutely aware. Mom seemed miles away and unreliable.

What exactly was behind the door? Or any of the doors for that matter? Weren’t they just changing rooms? Someone must be in there changing; must have gone in there when she wasn’t looking and was trying stuff on. From her vantage point inside the circular rack of blouses, she felt safe. Out of sight and out of mind.

Something dragged along the inside of the door as if in answer to her sense of safety. It could have been a hanger; or a claw—a thick, heavy, black claw. Lizzy sat up a little straighter and then decided to put more distance between her and that door-to-the-great-beyond. She slinked out backward from the circular rack, keeping the door in sight as much as possible.

A hand touched her shoulder—Lizzy squealed and twisted away. With her eyes big and round she saw it had only been her mother who was staring back at her with a horrified look; which then transformed into mortification.

Her mother straightened her posture some and said, “My, what’s gotten into you?”

When Lizzy didn’t respond right away she held up two dresses, one in each hand; put on a smile. “I want to try these on, what do you think?”

The dress-shop lady had come out from the back room, hands clasped at her chest again.

Lizzy nodded dumbly, eyes blinking in surprise over her mom not perceiving any threat.

Her mom pointed with one of the dresses and said, “Get the door for me. You can come in and let me know which is better.”

The moment of truth had arrived.

Lizzy stepped toward the dressing room door, stood behind it as she opened it and said, “You first.”

Liked it? Didn’t like it? Leave a comment and don’t worry about my feelings. I don’t bite.



9 thoughts on “beyond

  1. mazzz in leeds

    Okay, that was creepy. I chose to go with real threat rather than child’s imagination.

    I can’t quite explain it, but the girl’s experience reminds me a little of what it’s like to go through an anxiety attack, when reality sort of… appears different in a way you can’t quite put your finger on.

  2. Chuck Allen

    I like it! The suspense was great, mixed with the child-like playing in the clothes racks. I agree on the ending. Leaving it open for the reader is a lot of fun.

  3. Dee

    I loved it – you captured the feelings perfectly. A child’s apprehension of a real or perceived threat. I love that you left it open ended and it had me shivering a little too 🙂

  4. Deanna Schrayer

    I like it too, a lot. You really built the suspense up here Donald. I was imagining ghosts though, rather than a real threat of someone waiting to hurt the next one in the dressing room. It seems you (you, the reader I mean) might want the child to protect her mother, but the fact that she says “You first” is much more realistic, the child wanting to be protected instead. I agree that the description of the saleslady is fantastic, very easy to picture her.

    I may be the only one, but I didn’t care for the word “murderlized”. If there had been more words used in a “child’s way” it might work, but here it threw me off, I had to reread the sentence.

    Great story!


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