FIERCE • by TCC Edwards

The door banged against the wall as I bounded in. Valerie stood frozen with her aluminum bat clenched tightly. My arms wrapped around her as I looked to the shadowy lump on the floor.

Some neighbor’s kid? I flicked on the light, keeping one arm around my little girl’s shoulders. The thing rejected the light, remaining the same pitch-black color even as pale fluorescence flickered around it. A low groan sounded from the thing as it slowly shifted. A humanoid shadow shaped itself from that darkness, opening two pale white orbs where eyes should have been.

“Mercy.”

We clenched each other more tightly. The voice came again, low, and guttural, but there was no movement as it spoke.

“You don’t remember. Let me help.”

A memory came unbidden, forcing its way into my racing mind. A room like this one, when I had been Valerie’s age. A thing watching me from my closet. My parents, always refusing its reality. Its shadows dancing across my walls in the moonlight on sleepless nights. Nights when it simply waited till I slept, pouncing upon me in the shadows of twisted dreams.

“Don’t worry — I can barely move.”

I was back, a father once again, clinging dearly to his little girl.

“Make it go away!” The bat dropped, rolling into the corner as Valerie shrank back between the foot of the bed and the wall. She hugged herself as she shook, her breath shallow, forced. I ran to her, clasping her shoulders as I glared back at the offending shadow.

“Never hurt you too badly. You recovered, right?”

“I recovered,” I agreed. My words came out slowly from behind memories still swirling about my mind. “She has panic attacks; you should never have come here. Leave, now.”

“I’d love to. Can’t walk, can’t heal with all this light. Need food.”

Food. I shuddered at the word. Its sustenance was fear. This thing drew fear from young minds as it cast shadows in closets and beneath beds. It entered subconscious minds, planting and cultivating nightmares, harvesting raw emotion.

“We’re both afraid of you. You can feed on that, can’t you?”

“Not with the lights.”

I was about to curse. Let it squirm there and die — it had hurt my Valerie. I held back, though, as I pictured it dying, leaving its dark corpse in our room. I didn’t want that thing, or the attention it would bring. If we could heal it, and it would go away forever — perhaps that would leave the least permanent scar on Valerie’s already damaged psyche.

“Valerie,” I said, meeting her eyes carefully, “I have to turn off the light.”

“No,” she whispered, her head shaking in rapid spasms, “Make it go away now.”

I looked around, mind racing. My eyes found the discarded bat, and a hope grew within me. Picking it up, I clasped Valerie’s hands around its handle.

“You were scared when you held this, but you swung anyway. Hold it while I get the light.”

She stopped shaking and met me with resolute eyes. She closed those eyes, forcing her breath out evenly. Her knuckles whitened about the handle, and she gave me a single, curt nod.

I stepped around the shadow-thing, never taking my eyes off Valerie. She held fast, keeping her own eyes firmly on the beast. I felt the door frame, sliding my fingers along the wall next to it until they found the switch. Darkness filled the room, and the shadow on the floor twitched and groaned.

Two long strides brought me back to Valerie. I clung to her, holding her as she held the bat. Shadows played over the wall as the beast melted into them. Only its eyes remained, glowing brightly in the gloom. After many long moments, we heard that raspy voice one last time, “No others will come.”

Moonlight poured in, having broken through a passing cloud to fill the room. An oppressiveness we hadn’t even known was suddenly lifted, and breath we hadn’t even known we were holding was released.

“He’s gone.”

I smiled at her, my brave Valerie, nodding as I gently took the bat from her loosening grip.


TCC Edwards says: “Embarking on a journey of fiction, I’m a dreamer who hopes that others will enjoy my visions. I teach enthusiastic minds in Korea, and meet many talented and wonderful expats in the city of Busan. I live with a warm wife, two boisterous boys, and the ceaseless urgings of my writing Muse.”


Rate this story:
 average 4.5 stars • 2 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    The concept is wonderful. But the air seeped out of it, line by line, for me. Why would the entity that has terrified all of us at one time or another–from the beginning of time–just pack up its cards and go home, basically? I think there’s a lot that could have been done with this–and I’d want to know more about that valiant little Valerie–and I really wish the creepiness had been allowed to grow and grow.
    I’ll surely want to read more of your work. But for now–three stars.

    • Chris Edwards

      Good criticism. I can see why the steam seemed to let up – maybe the danger and tension promised at the start isn’t properly paid up?

      My idea for it leaving was that it was wounded very badly, couldn’t move, and needed help. In return, it promises a truce – no more of its kind are coming back to haunt Valerie or her father.

      Honestly, I’d like to know Valerie a little better myself. I’m still getting used to the flash format, and I felt that there simply wasn’t much more I could have told about her without going over 1000 words. What more do you think I could I say about Valerie that might improve the story?

      Given the 3.5 rating, I’d guess that most readers felt the same about the creep factor, or maybe the ending seemed ‘too easy’. To have the suspense rise, I think I’d have to change the story pretty drastically – I’ll come back to this piece once in a while to see if I can think of ways to up the tension.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment – you’ve got me thinking!

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        The paragraph beginning with “I was about to curse…” could have ended after ” …bring.” I think we don’t need to hear too much of the dad’s interior thoughts–the interaction between him and Valerie tells us so much.

        And I think a series of stories–linked or not–with Valerie as protagonist would give you the scope to develop her character in tantalizing increments.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    The concept is wonderful. But the air seeped out of it, line by line, for me. Why would the entity that has terrified all of us at one time or another–from the beginning of time–just pack up its cards and go home, basically? I think there’s a lot that could have been done with this–and I’d want to know more about that valiant little Valerie–and I really wish the creepiness had been allowed to grow and grow.
    I’ll surely want to read more of your work. But for now–three stars.

    • Good criticism. I can see why the steam seemed to let up – maybe the danger and tension promised at the start isn’t properly paid up?

      My idea for it leaving was that it was wounded very badly, couldn’t move, and needed help. In return, it promises a truce – no more of its kind are coming back to haunt Valerie or her father.

      Honestly, I’d like to know Valerie a little better myself. I’m still getting used to the flash format, and I felt that there simply wasn’t much more I could have told about her without going over 1000 words. What more do you think I could I say about Valerie that might improve the story?

      Given the 3.5 rating, I’d guess that most readers felt the same about the creep factor, or maybe the ending seemed ‘too easy’. To have the suspense rise, I think I’d have to change the story pretty drastically – I’ll come back to this piece once in a while to see if I can think of ways to up the tension.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment – you’ve got me thinking!

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        The paragraph beginning with “I was about to curse…” could have ended after ” …bring.” I think we don’t need to hear too much of the dad’s interior thoughts–the interaction between him and Valerie tells us so much.

        And I think a series of stories–linked or not–with Valerie as protagonist would give you the scope to develop her character in tantalizing increments.

  • DrSuzanne Conboy-Hill

    Fantastic idea but I thought the tension crept out of it as it went along. This is a primal nightmare but it ended up a weak creature that unfortunately reminded me of ‘Gremlins’. Plenty of mileage in this for a more visceral approach if the author feels inclined.

    • Chris Edwards

      One good swing, thrown by a kid, takes out the boogeyman, eh? Okay, that’s a fair complaint! My only answer is that I wanted the father-daughter dynamic to be the ‘star’ of the show, and perhaps I let the monster lose too much of his punch in doing so.

      I’d like to do a darker approach – might even try the monster as POV, and see what I get. I’m glad to know you feel there’s more here to be mined – I’ll take that as a compliment!

  • Fantastic idea but I thought the tension crept out of it as it went along. This is a primal nightmare but it ended up a weak creature that unfortunately reminded me of ‘Gremlins’. Plenty of mileage in this for a more visceral approach if the author feels inclined.

    • One good swing, thrown by a kid, takes out the boogeyman, eh? Okay, that’s a fair complaint! My only answer is that I wanted the father-daughter dynamic to be the ‘star’ of the show, and perhaps I let the monster lose too much of his punch in doing so.

      I’d like to do a darker approach – might even try the monster as POV, and see what I get. I’m glad to know you feel there’s more here to be mined – I’ll take that as a compliment!

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  • joannab

    5 stars from me. this story has so many layers. it gripped me from the first. that valerie swung the bat, when so many other kids would cringe or run to parents, was all i needed to know about her. the dad’s courage was profound. he is a lesson in parenting skills. i found the ending soul-satisfying. congratulations, tcc edwards.

    • Chris Edwards

      Blushing here. Thanks for the praise – Valerie and her Dad’s relationship was what I hoped readers would see as the star of the show.

      Just curious – how did you feel about the tension level through the story?

  • joannab

    5 stars from me. this story has so many layers. it gripped me from the first. that valerie swung the bat, when so many other kids would cringe or run to parents, was all i needed to know about her. the dad’s courage was profound. he is a lesson in parenting skills. i found the ending soul-satisfying. congratulations, tcc edwards.

    • Blushing here. Thanks for the praise – Valerie and her Dad’s relationship was what I hoped readers would see as the star of the show.

      Just curious – how did you feel about the tension level through the story?

  • Kathy

    Interesting concept; one question. DId the moonlight destroy or otherwise get rid of the glowing eyes that remained after the beast melted into the shadows? If it wasn’t for the glowing eyes, it would be hard to imagine shadows in a darkness-filled room. I like the empowerment of the daughter standing up to the beast.

    • Chris Edwards

      My mental image of the room had very dim light coming in through the window – but even in a dark bedroom, you can often see darker shadows once your eyes adjust. The eyes remained until the moon came in. The idea was that the monster left right after it announced the final term of the truce with Dad and Valerie – the monster is leaving, it speaks, then it’s totally gone. I don’t mention the eyes after that, so I can see where the confusion comes.

      I was glad too that Valerie could stand up to that beast. With a name like that, she kind of had to 😉

      Anyway, glad you liked it and took the time to comment!

  • Kathy

    Interesting concept; one question. DId the moonlight destroy or otherwise get rid of the glowing eyes that remained after the beast melted into the shadows? If it wasn’t for the glowing eyes, it would be hard to imagine shadows in a darkness-filled room. I like the empowerment of the daughter standing up to the beast.

    • My mental image of the room had very dim light coming in through the window – but even in a dark bedroom, you can often see darker shadows once your eyes adjust. The eyes remained until the moon came in. The idea was that the monster left right after it announced the final term of the truce with Dad and Valerie – the monster is leaving, it speaks, then it’s totally gone. I don’t mention the eyes after that, so I can see where the confusion comes.

      I was glad too that Valerie could stand up to that beast. With a name like that, she kind of had to 😉

      Anyway, glad you liked it and took the time to comment!

  • Fantastic supposition. The other comments pretty much say it all. The core is too good to lose. I would take this and try it again.

    • Chris Edwards

      I take it you’re with the general consensus, then – good concept, good ending, short on tension?

      I’m glad you feel it’s a fantastic idea. Of course I’ll keep playing with this. I’ve got 18 months before I get full rights back – plenty of time!

      Any suggestions you have for future re-tries?

  • Fantastic supposition. The other comments pretty much say it all. The core is too good to lose. I would take this and try it again.

    • I take it you’re with the general consensus, then – good concept, good ending, short on tension?

      I’m glad you feel it’s a fantastic idea. Of course I’ll keep playing with this. I’ve got 18 months before I get full rights back – plenty of time!

      Any suggestions you have for future re-tries?

  • Paul Owen

    Took me back to nights as a kid, afraid of the dark. I’m glad there wasn’t anything there, or was there? Interesting idea that these things need food. I enjoyed reading this – thank you

    • Chris Edwards

      Do you mean to suggest that the monster of this story wasn’t actually there? Ohhhh, hadn’t thought of that angle! I did intend him to be an actual monster, but interesting idea that he might not have been real!

      Glad you liked the food idea – figured the monster needed a bit of motivation.

      Glad you enjoyed it!

      • Paul Owen

        Actually, I did take the monster as real, but there also seemed to be a hint of letting the reader decide. Probably all in my head. Fun reading – looking forward to more of your stuff!

  • Paul Owen

    Took me back to nights as a kid, afraid of the dark. I’m glad there wasn’t anything there, or was there? Interesting idea that these things need food. I enjoyed reading this – thank you

    • Do you mean to suggest that the monster of this story wasn’t actually there? Ohhhh, hadn’t thought of that angle! I did intend him to be an actual monster, but interesting idea that he might not have been real!

      Glad you liked the food idea – figured the monster needed a bit of motivation.

      Glad you enjoyed it!

      • Paul Owen

        Actually, I did take the monster as real, but there also seemed to be a hint of letting the reader decide. Probably all in my head. Fun reading – looking forward to more of your stuff!

  • Chris Edwards

    Just thought I’d let commenters know – I’d like to review a recent work of yours on my blog. If you have a specific work you’d like me to look at, stop by my blog (click TCC Edwards under my story) and drop me a line.

  • Just thought I’d let commenters know – I’d like to review a recent work of yours on my blog. If you have a specific work you’d like me to look at, stop by my blog (click TCC Edwards under my story) and drop me a line.

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  • Danny Hollier

    I so wanted to give four or even five stars, but I landed at three. It was very well written with no errors that I could find. Great pace with an engaging, fun perspective. Loved the idea of the boogeyman(?) as a real-life, shadowy monster one can physically battle. Loved fear as its food. The bad news is the ending. It felt like so much more could have been offered. Perhaps a simple line of dialogue from the monster to show the fight isn’t over? I understand from the comments of others that you wanted to focus on the relationship between the father and his daughter, but I saw the conflict as the monster vs. girl and how it changed her and maybe even her dad.

  • Danny Hollier

    I so wanted to give four or even five stars, but I landed at three. It was very well written with no errors that I could find. Great pace with an engaging, fun perspective. Loved the idea of the boogeyman(?) as a real-life, shadowy monster one can physically battle. Loved fear as its food. The bad news is the ending. It felt like so much more could have been offered. Perhaps a simple line of dialogue from the monster to show the fight isn’t over? I understand from the comments of others that you wanted to focus on the relationship between the father and his daughter, but I saw the conflict as the monster vs. girl and how it changed her and maybe even her dad.

  • Chris Edwards

    I visited my commenters’ sites if I could find them, and reviewed the most recent short fiction I could find. Stop by my blog if you want to check out my thoughts, and point me toward any short work you’ve published if I missed you (that likely means I couldn’t find your fiction, if you have any).

    This was a really fun and informative exercise for me!

  • I visited my commenters’ sites if I could find them, and reviewed the most recent short fiction I could find. Stop by my blog if you want to check out my thoughts, and point me toward any short work you’ve published if I missed you (that likely means I couldn’t find your fiction, if you have any).

    This was a really fun and informative exercise for me!

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