Horror short story - Missy Mage and the Mean Old Lady Down the Street
Early this year I published a collection of stories titled Nine for the Night Light. It is a collection of spooky, paranormal and sometimes humorous tales for tweens and Young Adults, that originated as stories I had told my children over the years. Since Halloween/Samhain is nearly here I thought I'd share one of these stories for my readers here at Hubpages. It is my favorite story from the collection and I hope you enjoy it.
Missy Mage and the Mean Old Lady Down the Street
Jayonna was ten years old, and her brother, Tyler, six when their family moved into the new town. They wanted to make friends with some of the other children in the neighborhood, and so one day asked their Mother if they could take a walk to the park down at the west end of their street.
“If you promise to be careful of cars and watch out for one another,” their Mother said. “Don’t go off with any strangers.”
Jayonna and Tyler promised to do as she asked. And so, hand in hand the brother and sister ventured down the sidewalk of Hickory Street. Tyler never went anywhere without his little plastic and metal robot, Ace. He held Ace securely in his free arm as they walked. They passed several homes on the way to the park, and waved to some of their new neighbors they saw on both sides of the street. As they neared the entrance of the park they had to pass the very last house on this side of the street. It was a cute little pink house with white trim and shutters. The picket fence that surrounded the neatly mowed grass was gleaming white, and flowers grew thickly in baskets that hung over the porch, while others bloomed in planters at the window sills.
“That’s the prettiest house I’ve ever seen,” Jayonna said to her brother. “Don’t you think so, Tyler?”
Tyler nodded and said to his beloved robot, “You think so, too, don’t you, Ace?”
The front door of the house opened as they stood admiring it. An attractive elderly woman in a pink and white polka-dot dress came out on the porch.
“Hi!” Tyler greeted her. “Ace thinks your house is the prettiest he’s ever seen!”
The woman’s mouth pursed and her brow furrowed. “Don’t you two come into my yard!” she said. “Kids like to pick my flowers and pet my cats- and I don’t have time to clean up after the mess!”
Jayonna and Tyler frowned at one another. They’d not even thought of coming into the woman’s yard uninvited; and they certainly wouldn’t pick her flowers without asking.
“Come on, Tyler,” Jayonna whispered.
But Tyler was concerned that the woman was afraid of them. So he raised up on his toes in front of the picket fence and held Ace up high where the woman, he hoped, could see him well. No one was afraid of Ace, Tyler thought.
“We won’t come in, lady in pink!” Tyler shouted for Ace.
The woman’s furrowed brow grew even more furrowed and her lips turned pale. She grabbed a broom that was propped up in the corner of the porch and walked down the steps and hastened toward the picket fence.
“Get that nasty toy away from my property!” the woman screeched.
Tyler was stunned. “Ace promises we won’t come in and mess up anything!”
Jayonna didn’t like the angry blotches that came now to the woman’s face, and tried to pull her little brother away.
“Come on, Tyler, let’s get to the park,” she said.
“Bye lady!” Tyler shouted, and followed his sister away from the house.
Jayonna noticed how he kept trying to turn his head and look back at the fearful old lady. But she didn’t want to look back, and was glad when they had passed the woman’s property. They passed through the park entrance. There were monkey bars and slides in the park, a big sand box and several swing sets, even a teeter-totter. The children played for a long time, until the sunny afternoon sky took on a pinkish tinge.
“Time to go home, Tyler,” Jayonna announced.
Tyler, who had been working diligently on making sand castles for Ace shook his head. “Ace isn’t ready to go home.”
“Mommy will have supper soon,” Jayonna persisted. “We need to get home so she doesn’t have to come fetch us. I’ll bring you back another day, Tyler.”
“Ok,” Tyler answered. “It’s ok, Ace. We’ll be back.”
Hand in hand the children walked out of the park. As they started up the street Tyler suddenly pulled on his sister’s hand. Before she knew what was going on, he led her to the white picket fence they’d passed before. He reached up and waved the robot over the top of the fence.
“See, Ace won’t hurt her fence,” Tyler said. “He can fly over.”
Jayonna smiled. She knew Ace meant the world to Tyler, and so let him walk close to the fence as they continued on their way. They were almost at the eastern corner and about to approach the next yard when Ace fell out of Tyler’s grip. Tyler gasped and immediately let go of his sister’s hand. He fell to his knees and stuck his arm between the fence posts in a desperate move to snatch Ace back. But the robot had fallen atop a garden stone on the other side and bounced. Ace bounced clear into the bed of pansies behind the stone.
Jayonna watched as her brother stretched his arm as far as he could. His fingertips raked the pansies; but he could not grasp Ace.
“He’s too far!” Tyler shouted.
“We’ll ask Daddy to come,” Jayonna said. “His arms are more than long enough to reach Ace.”
Tyler’s voice was broken with tears as he continued to stretch and grasp for his toy robot.
“I can’t leave Ace,” cried Tyler.
A shadow fell over the children. Jayonna looked up to find the woman in the polka-dot dress standing close to the stone on the other side of the fence. She held her broom, bristle side up. She didn’t have a furrow on her brow now, but the uncertain look on her face made Jayonna nervous anyway.
“Oh, your toy isn’t going anywhere,” the woman said. And as Tyler looked up the woman poked the staff end of the broom carefully into the folds of pansy blossoms. She prodded very gingerly here, then there, and now over this way. At last she pulled the handle toward her feet. Prodded out by the handle, Ace tumbled into the grass in plain view. Before Tyler could move or Jayonna say anything, the woman leaned down and snatched the robot up.
“You trespassing little brats,” she said, and dangled Ace by one arm up in the air. She looked at the robot as she did this, and jiggling him hard, made a disapproving face.
Tyler jumped up and stared uncertainly at the woman.
“Can I have him back now- please?”
The woman looked at Tyler and smiled. It was an unpleasant smile, one that made Jayonna wince and Tyler whimper. The woman then grabbed the robot’s other arm.
“This is what happens to trespassing toys!” exclaimed the woman.
Right before their eyes she jerked on both the robot’s arms at the same time. The thick rubber bands that held the joints in place snapped, and the body of the robot popped forth and fell into the grass. Tyler screamed.
Jayonna clasped her brother’s shoulders and glared at the woman. She was laughing now, as if it were nothing to her; as if Tyler’s teas were some wonderful joke to her.
“You better give us his parts,” Jayonna said angrily. “Or we’ll tell our parents what you did!”
“Go ahead and tell them,” smirked the woman. She bent down and gathered the robot’s body. She stood up and gave Jayonna a hateful smile.
“Trespassing,” the woman said curtly. “You threw this into my yard, and now it is mine.”
Ace’s body and his detached arms she stuffed into a pocket of her dress.
Tyler was now begging the woman to give Ace back. His pained crying made Jayonna angrier and angrier at the woman.
“Come on, Tyler,” she said, and dragged her little brother away by the hand. “We’ll tell Daddy!”
They had to listen to the woman’s laughter as they tread quickly up the sidewalk to their own house. Their Daddy was home by now, and so quickly told both parents what had happened to Ace. As their Mother got dinner on the table their Daddy paid a trip to the mean old lady’s house. When he came back she and the children were already seated at the dinner table. Jayonna could tell by the exasperation on her Daddy’s face that there was bad news.
“Where’s Ace?” Tyler asked. “Where’s my robot, Daddy?”
Their Daddy sat down and sighed. “You have to be more careful, son,” he said. “Not everyone in this world is nice.”
New tears came to Tyler’s eyes. “She didn’t give him to you, Daddy?”
Their Daddy shook his head and said, “She wouldn’t give him back, Tyler. I’m very sorry.”
Tyler looked to his Mother as if he couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. He looked across the table at Jayonna, and then back to his Daddy. “But he’s mind, Daddy! He’s my best friend!”
“We’ll get you another Ace,” his Mommy said, patting his arm.
“No, no, no!” exclaimed the crying boy. “There’s only one Ace!”
“I don’t understand it,” his Daddy commented. “I just don’t understand some people. It’s like the old bat –I mean, woman- enjoyed knowing she had the pieces of a child’s ruined toy in her pocket! She was bragging about it- said for me to go ahead and call the police if I thought it’d do any good.”
Their Daddy shrugged and gave Tyler a smile. “But he’s not really gone, Tyler. We can get you another robot, just like Ace. And you’ll see- you’ll come to love him just as much as the first Ace.”
Tyler was inconsolable. At last their parents said that he didn’t have to eat just now if he didn’t want to, and could go play if he liked. Jayonna watched as he headed to his room. His head was bowed so low. Jayonna felt like crying.
“You should tell the police,” she said to their Daddy.
“What good will it do, honey?” he answered. “Unless that hateful woman comes out of her yard and hurts one of you or grabs something out of your hands outside of her property, then she’s in the legal right to do what she wants in her own yard.”
Jayonna was so upset she hardly tasted her dinner. After helping her Mother with the dinner dishes she went to the door of Tyler’s room to peek in on him. He was lying on top of his bed, and his face was mottled with red dots, his cheeks were damp from crying. Jayonna quietly walked to her own room then. Closing the door behind, she looked over her collection of stuffed animals that covered her bedspread. Tyler had always liked to occasionally borrow one or two of them to play with. She knew that nothing she could give Tyler would bring Ace back, or make him feel really better about having Ace snatched away so cruelly. But her little brother always took Ace to bed with him. She knew he would have a difficult time going to sleep without the toy. At least, perhaps, having one of her stuffed animals would be a little consolation.
As she tried to choose one from the assortment her eyes fell upon Missy Mage who sat at her privileged place atop Jayonna’s pillow. Missy Mage was Jayonna’s most treasured toy. Jayonna had had the doll all her life, because her Daddy had bought Missy Mage in the hospital gift shop right after she’d been born. As her Mother often laughed about: a doll that Jayonna had had to grow into. Missy Mage was a two-foot rag doll with orange yarn hair and big, painted blue button eyes. Soothing were those eyes; eyes that had always assured that secrets shared were secrets kept. Missy Mage’s blue and white checkered dress had been washed many times, and her face stained with old lipstick prints from the days when Jayonna had first discovered play cosmetics. Her little white felt shoes were wearing thin now. But she was just as beautiful to Jayonna as ever, maybe more so. Missy Mage was always there for her. She consoled Jayonna when she was too sick to go to school, and was always company when Jayonna was sad or frightened or upset. Missy Mage’s lips were only red thread weaved into the fabric which was her face. But it was a smile that promised unwavering devotion. Missy Mage listened without reprimand, without judgments. Just as Ace had been for Tyler, the doll was Jayonna’s source of stability against the sometimes confusing and always demanding world of adults.
Jayonna lifted Missy Mage, and sitting down on the bedside, held the doll close on her lap.
“Missy Mage,” she whispered, “I know you’ve spent every night of your life with me. But Tyler just lost Ace.” Jayonna told the doll the whole story of what had happened afternoon with the mean old lady down the street. Her eyes were misting with angry tears when she was done, but as she wiped them off her cheeks she just knew that Missy Mage wasn’t any less happy about the situation than she.
Jayonna carried Missy Mage into Tyler’s room where he was sitting on his bed in his pajamas. He had stopped crying now, although his nose was still red. He hardly looked at her as she sat down beside him.
“Would you like to sleep with Missy Mage tonight, Tyler?” Jayonna asked. “She said she’d like that, if you do.”
Her little brother was silent a few moments. But at length he nodded slowly.
Jayonna kissed the top of Missy Mage’s rag hair and placed her in Tyler’s arms. “She can stay in your room as long as you want her to,” she told him.
He nodded again. And as their Mother came into the room to tuck Tyler in Jayonna bent down and hugged him.
Jayonna stepped to the door and paused to look back a moment. She saw Tyler snuggle up against his pillow with the doll. It wasn’t Ace there with him, but perhaps, she hoped, Missy Mage might help a little.
Early the next morning, earlier than Jayonna was accustomed to waking up during the summer months, the whole house was roused by a wailing, echoing blare. The neighborhood dogs were howling lowly as Jayonna crept out of bed and made her way to her bedroom window. She didn’t see anything, but heard the sirens down the end of the street near the park. And from the other end she could hear the coming approach of more vehicles. The front door of the house opposite her home opened, and two adults stepped out to watch the commotion. A man in shorts and a jacket came jogging up to their yard and stopped. He pointed down the street from where the first sirens sounded, and the couple walked down to the sidewalk and peered as well. One more vehicle with a siren harried past; a police car this time. A minute or so later all the sirens stopped.
Jayonna forgot about them soon, however, and wandered into the living room. But her parents were talking about the sirens as they walked in, still dressed in their night clothes.
“Did you hear all those sirens, Jayonna?” her Mother asked.
Jayonna nodded. Her Dad, dressed only in pajama trousers took a light jacket from the coat closet and put it on.
“I’ll be back in a few,” he said and went out the front door.
Jayonna’s Mother went into the kitchen. Soon she returned with a platter of doughnuts. They were watching the morning broadcast of the Tom and Jerry Show when they heard a shrill squeal from Tyler’s room. At once her Mother got to her feet, and Jayonna followed her down the hall into the bedroom. Tyler was up out of bed, and jumping and laughing.
“Tyler, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong, Mommy- look!”
He pointed to his pillow. They both looked and Jayonna was shocked to see Ace lying on the pillow beside Missy Mage.
“Is that Ace, honey?” their Mother asked with a confused smile.
Jayonna sat on the bedside and picked the robot up. It was Ace, alright. His arms and legs were back on him, too; patched it looked by thick threads of orange at the eyelets of the joint sockets. Other than this, the toy looked no worse for wear.
“How did you get him back, Tyler?” Jayonna asked.
“Missy Mage promised he’d be back,” answered Tyler brightly.
Jayonna knew it was a miracle that her little brother’s prayers had been answered. And she wanted to thank Missy Mage for being there with him the night before. Missy Mage would want to see Ace, and so Jayonna looked over the bed and tousled blankets for the doll. Jayonna didn’t see her there, and was about to pull the covers back when they all heard the front door open and close. A minute later her Daddy walked into the room. He was breathless, his eyes wide and worried-looking.
“Tyler, are you alright?” he said.
His face relaxed a little as Tyler gave him a happy grin. “Look Daddy- Ace is back!”
Their Dad looked to the pillow where Tyler pointed. As he saw the robot, every last trace of color seemed to drain from his face.
Jayonna chilled with a feeling that she didn’t want to ask what was wrong. But she did anyway. “Did you find out what all those sirens were for, Daddy?”
His eyes did not leave the robot, and he didn’t speak until Jayonna’s Mother asked him herself what all the police cars had come for.
“The old woman,” her Daddy said, in a voice very soft and faraway-sounding.
Tyler scrambled up on the bed and gathered Ace up in his arms. He squealed again with delight. He did not see their Dad gesture for their Mother to step out of the room. And he did not hear, Jayonna was sure, what was said in the hallway. Tyler was giddy with happiness and babbling excitedly to Ace. But Jayonna heard.
“She was found dead,” their Daddy said lowly.
“Dead?” their Mother asked. “A heart attack? A stroke?”
There was a moment’s silence and then their Dad answered, “No. Seems some of our neighbors heard her screaming in the early morning hours. One of them called her son who lives on the other side of town. When he got there... he found that she’d been strangled in her own bed. By a cord of orange yarn.”
Jayonna shivered and heard her mother gasp.
“Strangled?” her Mother asked in a dreadful voice. “Was it a robber?”
“No.” There was a long, heavy moment of silence before he continued, “Whoever it was just didn’t strange her... they pulled off her arms and legs.”
Jayonna didn’t hear what her Mother said next. She ran into Tyler’s room instead, her heart racing and her mind blank with horror. Tyler was fine; sitting on the rug in the center of his room and racing his little cars across the old plastic race track. Ace was propped up nearby, watching on as he always did whenever Tyler played.
And then Jayonna spotted Missy Mage. The doll was propped on the window sill. The window was open half-way; a window that their Mother hadn’t allowed to be raised in weeks because the old worn screen had fell out weeks before and needed replacing.
As Jayonna stepped to the window she saw that Missy Mage’s yarn braids were terribly mussed. In fact, some of the orange yarn seemed to have been plucked straight out of her head. Her dress and soft cloth skin were splattered with crimson droplets. Missy Mage still had the same sweet smile as she always had. A smile that promised unwavering devotion. Her blue button eyes, smudged now with blood, assured Jayonna, as they always had, that secrets told were secrets kept.
Jayonna returned the familiar smile. And stuffing Missy Mage unseen beneath her nightgown, she carried the doll back to her own room.
From Nine for the Nightlight © 2007-2011 by Beth Perry