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Smile Back :)

The universe is made of mouths. Not circles or loops or any other illusions of organization, of control. Just many hungry, gaping maws demanding flesh and blood, promising peace in exchange for a paltry sum of pain. A clear message. At least, clear for those who can read in between the stars like my Mama.

They believe it’s empty out there. Mama would say, dark eyes on the darkening sky. We spent most nights together beneath the stars, awaiting their wishes. Just empty space.

Mama kept her gaze aloft but shook her head. I copied the movement, memorizing her proud posture, making her disbelief my own. Mama sometimes called me her tiny mirror, more often her little echo. 

But nothing is empty. Mama would continue, finally looking from the sky to fix her sharp sights on me. She’d slip into a low crouch so our eyes could meet, our fingers find each other and twine together. Nothing, my little echo, is empty. There is only fullness and hunger. The universe and us.

That was when Mama would untwine our hands and slide out the knife she always kept strapped to her side. It gleamed in the starlight, transformed into a tooth, point terribly true. She would press the blade to the palm of her hand till blood kissed the tip and trickled down the edge, crimson ink till shadows swallowed the hue whole. An offering. A message.

Around us, the night seemed to shudder, darkness undulating like a thousand licking tongues, the stars high above burning in their sockets, ecstatic. A sigh escaped the sky. Or, maybe that was Mama. 

We must feed each other. Mama placed the knife in one of my hands, positioned it’s shiny point on the palm of the other. Made me her tiny mirror. The universe and us. You and I.

You and I. I echoed, blade biting into my flesh, blood dripping down it’s face like drool, devoured by the dark. You and I.

Mama lives between the stars now, a message only I can read. A mouth only I can feed. Her knife fills the hollow of my hand, its tip trusty and true. A promise, sharp and clear. 

There is no empty space.

Above me, the night splits into a smile.

I smile back.


Just a short & sweet story this week ^.^ Hope you enjoyed! This story was inspired by a prompt titled A message from afar. I think this story came off as more whimsical and a bit bittersweet than spooky but I really had a lot of fun turning my gaze towards the stars for this one~

The Night Is Hungry

Tonight, wind batters the brittle panes of my hovel’s weary windows. Had they been skin instead of glass, they’d no doubt be bruised. This high in the mountains, the winds are wicked. They drag drifts of snow with them, freezing the air till it’s very touch is painful. On nights like these, it feels like the dark is trying to rip and tear its way inside. Even the ferociously flickering flame in our lone hearth is not enough to protect against such a relentless, bitter chill. 

The holes in the walls don’t help. 

The gaps may be nothing but pesky slivers between wooden slats during the day, allowing a whisper of wind to wander through, but at night, they became slashes, severing any hopes for a warm home in two. Wind wails though the empty spaces, spits bits of ice in your face.

When I was younger, I remember musing how much the jagged lines in the slats resemble teeth marks. It looked like something was gnawing on our walls, like something had tried to take a bite out of the place. 

Baba laughed when I told her that, her own teeth gleaming in her smile. The rows of teeth she wore on several strings around her neck seemed to gleam in tandem in the fire’s glow. Baba never liked to wander too far from her cooking pot, seated firmly in the fiery mouth of our home. Unless she was going out to find dinner, of course.

A bite? Baba asked, smile still sharp. From what, my child?

The night. I said, then, like it was obvious. The night must be hungry.

Baba’s smile stretched across her face. Too wide, I’d realize too late. Her face, like the walls, should’ve split in two. Wrinkles cut her face into fleshy shards, deep divots marking her dimples. Even the fire’s flickering stretched her shadow into odd points.

Indeed, my child. Baba said at last, raising a veiny hand to finger one of the teeth wound around her throat. Their strings sunk into the loose flesh there, deep into its creases, making the teeth appear almost to grow out of her neck, as if Baba herself were one giant gaping mouth. The night is hungry. 

Baba gripped the long handle of her slightly scorched ladle then, swirling the contents of her cooking pot. They clacked against the cast iron, a hollow sound easily muffled by the wind. A splash of broth overtook the lip and dribbled down the side. At my feet, a tooth fell.

And so are we. Baba swirled the ladle, side to side. So very hungry.

Now, I stand before Baba’s cooking pot, ladle in hand. The wood has gone from slightly scorched to nearly charred, parts of it chipping off in places, splinters biting into flesh. 

But, it still does the job it needs to do.

Around my neck, several strings of teeth hang, a particularly gleaming set hanging on the lowest tier rests just above my heart. When I look down, they smile up at me.

A brutal gust slams into the shack then, rattling the windows and the rickety walls and shrieking unsorry through the empty spaces. Snow catches and clings to the rough edges, dripping like drool from a jagged mouth. Like blood, when it catches the fire’s heated glare. 

It is a mean night on the mountain.

It reminds me of the night Baba found me. Wading through waist-deep snow drifts and wailing against the wind’s screams for anyone at all to help. To help me and my baby sister, swaddled in my arms as I tried to keep both our heads aloft the piling snow, our faces tucked away from the air’s frigid assault. It was a fruitless effort. We were going to die. Like mother and father did when our cabin’s walls caved in, burying them beneath a life that seemed so meager and empty until it fell on top of them.

Baba slithered out of the darkness just as the snow was starting to swallow us whole. I was trying to raise my baby sister above my head, to keep the snow from encasing her like it had me from the chest down. It was that movement, which finally disturbed her rest and it was her cries, somehow, that summoned Baba. It wouldn’t be until much later that I would wonder at how Baba could’ve possibly heard my sister’s whining over the wind. At the time, I didn’t know to be wary of the things attracted to the cries of wounded creatures.

What do you need? Baba asked as she neared, her body except for her wrinkly old woman face hidden beneath a thick cloak. The night swallowed most of her finer features save for a slight smile that might’ve bothered me more had I not been freezing to death.

Help. I begged, teeth starting to chatter. We n-need h-hel-lp.

But, Baba shook her head. Stretched her smile.

No. She leaned in, the lines carving across her face becoming more pronounced, the gleam of her smile more glaring. What do you need?

I started shaking my own head, not sure what she meant and so very, very cold. In my gums, I swear I could feel my teeth shivering, each tooth clacking against its neighbor in my jaw. In my head, I could hear the echo, a soft pounding sound. Or, maybe that was my heart, slowly freezing in my chest. While the wind seemed to quiet and the weather settle at Baba’s appearance, I was still buried almost to my neck in snow. From all sides, I could feel the press. It was a soft bite but the pressure would grow. I thought of mother and father, buried—no, eaten by the mountain. Swallowed by the night. 

We should’ve left sooner. We should’ve let go.

A cruel chill crept over me.

I looked toward my sister then, raised like an offering above my head, and I felt the full weight of her for the first time. Felt the weight our meager home tried to hold. And, I felt the press of something not against me but from within. Something sharp. I heard a crack—possibly a tooth, perhaps another cabin collapsing in the distance, or maybe my frozen heart finally splitting—and then I felt nothing much at all. I should let go.

I looked at Baba, who was all teeth.

I need to let go.

My mouth wouldn’t open, wouldn’t speak the words, but Baba seemed to know what I had decided without me having to spit it out. She reached for the bundle in my arms, took it from me almost reverently as if she, too, could feel its true weight, its burden. She cradled the bundle with one arm and with the other, she pulled me from the snow in one steady, practiced motion. As if I were not the first child she pried from the mountain’s maw. 

Baba tsked at my bony wrist in her grip.

My child, Baba said, digging her nails into my icy skin, their points almost biting through. We need some meat on these bones. 

Some meat, Baba said, the bundle I gave her tucked out of sight. 

I never saw my sister again. 

Not whole, at least.

Since then, mean nights on the mountain have always made me hungry. I hear my own screams in the wind, feel each snowflake on my skin like a tooth sinking in, a dug-in nail demanding blood. I no longer sit in the shadow of a shut mouth waiting to be swallowed. I am a mouth. I must fill myself.

Outside, a cry joins the wind. Small, familiar. Wounded and needy.

I run my hand along one of the rows of tiny teeth strung around my neck, finger the smooth edges. Boiled water in a cast iron pot will polish anything if you let it soak long enough. Baba taught me that well.

Baba made sure I could do what I needed to.

The water begins to boil as the cries tear out of the dark and bleed through the walls. Another gust carries a whimper, offering anything to be spared and I smile with all my teeth.

The night is hungry.


Hey~ So… I started up grad school again for the fall and it has been a LOT to manage hence the delayed posting schedule. Honestly, I’ve hade barely any time to think let alone write a spooky story. That said, this story is inspired by the Russian folklore figure, Baba Yaga. I’ve always found her to be a more plausible monster than most. Especially when I think of the cycles of starvation that occurred in Eastern Europe during different points of history, I find a Baba Yaga-esque figure to be all the more plausible and, because of that, more chilling. I wanted to explore the becoming of such a being in this work.

Hope you enjoyed~

It Will Be Satisfied

Swamp surrounds the village for as far the eye can see. The soggy soil of our secluded homeland is little more than sponge, sopping up so much water even the slightest of us must strap strings stretched across stiff wooden slats to our feet or else risk being swallowed whole by the sludge. Too many have become meals, preserved in the muck for unsuspecting outsiders to stumble across on a daring jaunt to our far-flung wastes.

It’s why we’re the People of the Mud. 

One of the reasons, at least.

Big sister, unruly and untamable, always donning a reckless sort of snaggled smile, became one such meal.

The night she was swallowed was like most nights in the wastes. Damp air clung heavy to our skin, its dankness cloying in our lungs. Every breath tasted like a chunk of mud we had to choke down. It felt like we would suffocate in our home, like the very air wanted us to.

Who wouldn’t want to escape? Who wouldn’t want to try?

Big sister hushed me in my hammock when climbing down from her own disturbed me, jostled the tenuous ropes holding us aloft and together. Shh, shh… She pressed her lips to my forehead, gave me her softly crooked smile, and then said, in a conspiratorial whisper, It’ll be our little secret little sister, yes? 

I didn’t get a chance to croak out a response before big sister slipped away, over the slim ledge of our room’s tiny window, which was little more than a slit in the wooden slats of our shack, and into the wastes. Her muck- shucks remained, I noticed at daybreak.

She never returned for them.

Flesh and blood, an elder in the hobbled hut stilted ‘side ours said when it was clear big sister was another meal for the wastes. The mud demands it.

Mother and father said nothing in response to the elder. Nodded, yes, but they kept their mouths shut. Held tighter to their silence than they did big sister. I kept my mouth shut too. Choked down the dank air of our home. Swallowed the bitterness.

I said nothing when no vigil was held. Nothing when I was moved into big sister’s hammock and my old one was filled not a year later by another child. Nothing when big sister’s muck-shucks were pried from my protective hold and broken into bits by father, strung together again by mother. Remade, so carefully, for a smaller pair of pitter-patter feet.

I said nothing when bitterness turned sour and seeping. 

In the swamp, the mud is not the only thing that makes demands, that requires sacrifices. The water, too, has wants. Has hungers. There is a ritual that must be performed before it will let our dead lie.


We must honor the passed with one last memory of a loving touch. Must comfort them a final time, skin to skin, or else risk their disgruntled, starving spirit coming back with a vengeance for what was denied

Flesh and blood. 

This hunger thickens the air, sticks to our skin like soil to muck-shucks. Burrows deep down the backs of our throats and settles solid in our lungs. 

It thrums through our veins. 

It slithers out of the murk and into your hut at night. Up into your hammock. Coils ’round and ’round you till its smooth, scaly touch is all you can feel. 

It sneaks up on you while you’re muck-shucking at dusk. Watches you with beady eyes from razory reeds, saw-tooth grass, biding it’s time till you tempt fate too far and then it is tusks through your soft tissues. 

It is a jagged-jawed maw lying in wait at sundown in the shallows’ shadows. Scaled hide shades of dark red in the day’s dying light. Eyes dim until the moment mother leans too far for the laundry line and topples down into the drink. Till father wades in too deep to rescue her and is sucked under.

It can be a gentle shove too much. A helping hand pressed too hard to mother’s back. A nudge too knowing towards a hopeless rescue. 

Sometimes, it can be a mouth kept shut. A cry for help choked down. Swallowed.

Shh, shh…

The water settles slowly, red ripples staining the surrounding mud. Feeding it. The soggy soil savors the blood as if starved for it. Just above the murky surface, snaggle-toothed snout slinks. Shadows give it a crooked curl, an almost smile. Then, with a single thrash of its reptilian tail, it fades back into the wastes’ muddy maw. Finally able to rest.

Baby sister wriggles in my hold.

“Ma? Da?” She mumble-grumbles, pointing a pudgy finger at the settling murk. “Go?”

Shh….” I soothe her struggling, her searching, my voice less than pacifying from long disuse. “It’s a secret.”

I glance down at the red streaks still swirling in the murk, the bone fragments floating like the broken bits of an old pair of forgotten muck-shucks. They weren’t forgotten.

“Our secret, yes?”


I hope you enjoyed that! This is yet another story inspired by a Twitter prompt. In this case, it is a second draft of a story I published on this blog a while back. It will probably not be the last draft of this story, either. Most of my stories are all works in progress. I’m sure plenty off writers can relate! Anyway, let me know what you think!

Truth Be Told

They die. If you tell the truth. Sometimes slowly, sometimes on the spot. It depends on the truth being told and it’s weight. The heavier it is, the faster it flattens bone into fragment, pulverizes pulse into a bloody pulp. 

The first time it happened was on the morning news, live. The camera panned across a generic studio audience to the show’s co-anchors, your typical man and woman duo. The man was tailored tight into his fancy suit, grin taut across his too- straight teeth. His arm was slung almost casually across the snug settee the pair occupied, his fingertips just skimming his female co-host’s shoulder, something the smug slant of his lips knew and savored. The woman did not smile. Her lips were set in a fine line. She was looking forward, maybe at the audience, perhaps at something beyond, her gaze focused but unknowable. She shrugged off the man’s prompting, probing fingers and scooted towards the edge of her seat, trying to escape his reach. Then, when the studio audience silenced and the show’s theme song died, she told the truth.

It was a crushing truth. A twisted one.

She told that studio audience and roughly several thousand watchers at home, psyching themselves up for their daily doses of drudgery, exactly what bottom line her boss really wanted to discuss with his female employees, herself included. More male employees than not followed their boss’s example, she said. Those who did not were more than willing to look the other way. Clearly, she had not informed her co-host beforehand of this deviation from the usual drivel, his hand he had not removed from her shoulder earlier now almost recoiling from her as if struck. 

The woman probably hoped her revelation would have impact. She probably never believed that it would.

Not two very tense minutes after the reveal though, an intern came barreling into the studio, blubbering and soaked in blood. Every frantic jerk sent red splattering, some into the studio audience which sat stunned until now, perhaps believing the woman’s piece and the boy’s entrance a part of some poorly contrived bit. The screaming started all at once, people flinging themselves frantically over each other to reach the exit in the back. The camera remained fixed on the boy.

He’s dead, the boy managed in between sobs, his voice barely rising over the panicked clamor. He’s dead. I was handing him his coffee, how he liked it. Decaf, two sugars and…. Just blood, there was just blood. He…his body, it… There was just so much…

The boy seemed to succumb to his shock, then, bloodstained hands falling limp and listless at his sides and eyes vacant. His knees gave out next, springing back like over-stretched rubber bands, and he slid to the floor, the syrupy sludge of blood and viscera that formed beneath him making an audible squish at the impact. 

The cameraman, perhaps not knowing what else to do, spun back towards the anchors. The woman’s gaze was still unknowable and focused but now slightly off-center, clearly intent on the boy covered in her boss’s blood. Former boss’s blood. Her male co-anchor was not as affected. In fact, looking back on it, he seemed downright scornful, his smirk a sneer, jaw clenched, and his frame strained beneath his fancy suit. An accusing finger now pointed at the boy collapsed on the ground. 

He should be arrested. The man declared to the several thousand viewers who were no doubt glued to their screens. And, He turned on his co-host, positively scathing. So should you. For libel. Conspiracy. Premeditated murder. Whatever you call this shit. You should be ashamed of yourself.

That broke the woman out of her trance. She turned her sights on her co-host, slow and calculating, spine straightening but head remaining slightly crooked. The slant of her chin was more like a slash, severing shadows and cutting the glare of the studio lights on her skin into pieces, creating a jagged corona around her face. It seemed like the image of that bloodstained boy was embedded in her eyes, her gaze taking on a reddish hue as the camera continued to role.

Ashamed, she said at last. Is that what I should be? 

The camera closed in on the woman. Her red-dyed eyes appeared to glow bright in their sockets, their glare alight and alive. Scorching. 

That’s an interesting observation, Mr. Hands-On. But, She leaned in then, close enough her co-host must’ve been able to hear the click-clack of tooth against tooth as she asked, If I should be ashamed, then what should you be?

The man fell back from her and onto the floor as if shoved out of his seat, shocked and sputtering. His scornful gaze was now considerably softened, almost pleading. Rather than address the man groveling at her heels though, the woman turned her attention to the camera. There was something almost dreamy about her expression, transcendent even. Now, her eyes definitely gleamed, a shiny sharp red. The studio lights made her incandescent, blazing. Her lips twitched, the beginnings of a grin taking form.

If I were you, She stared straight into the eyes of her viewers. I’d be afraid.

On the floor, her co-host followed their former boss’s example for the last time. He twisted like a corkscrew, joints wrenched from their sockets, blood spewing and flesh flying. An arterial spray painted the brazen woman in jagged strokes of crimson, turning her into a living stained glass window. A lone, agonized screech escaped the man before he burst into a pool of bloody sludge, bits of bone and teeth soaring towards the camera. A full smile split across the woman’s face. Her tongue flicked out, licking at a drop of blood caught on the corner of her mouth. For a second, her eyes closed as if savoring the tang. 

Telling the truth never tasted so satisfying.

Very afraid. She rose and started forward. You should be very afraid.

A scream sounded and another spray of blood sliced across the set. And another. And another. Till the camera finally cut out. 

The woman never stopped smiling.


Hey~ I hope you enjoyed my little horror story ^.^ This week’s writing prompt was Censorship. I decided to explore the ways in which women who come forward against their abusers are often not only censured but censured. Women often have their lives ripped apart, everything they’ve ever done dissected. People are looking for reasons for why they deserved what happened to them or for why they may be lying. It’s almost more horrifying than anything I could write because it’s real life. To respond to that censure in some way, I decided to write a story where there are actually consequences for the men who hurt women. I decided to rip mens’ lives apart for a change. I think it came out terribly well. But, let me know your thoughts~

Far Too Many Teeth

They come. They always do. The sea brings them to me. Swallows them up and swishes them from cheek to cheek before spitting them just shy of my shore. The only haven in sight for miles. Mama used to say with a smile. Any port in a storm, my little minnow.

I didn’t understand, at the time, why she smiled so widely nor why it prickled me so. There was an…edge, to her grin. Something cutting in its curl. Sharp. It wouldn’t occur to me why until many years later and many more ships spat ashore. Too much teeth.

I have always called this lonely speck of misbegotten rock in the middle of this surly grey sea home. The only watchful gaze I knew better than Mama’s was that of the storm’s. Mama hated when those stormy eyes found us. Hated that moment of calm that would fall when an eye settled on us. It’s the only time she ever spit back at the sea. 

Any port only works if there’s a storm, after all. 

Even many years after her death, Mama’s teeth still gleam in my mind. Too much. Too many. Like those odd fish that sometimes washed up with the ships and sailors, dragged up from the darkest depths, jaws jagged with needle-point teeth. Yes, just like those fish. They were almost always dead by the time their broken bodies caught on our craggy shore, not made to thrive in the unforgiving world above. 

Mama died on a stormy night like this one. Wind howling across the isle, rain biting skin, battering this sliver of world we call home. A ship skid on the horizon, sails slanted, desperately trying to prevail and failing. 

Sailors are so foolish. Mama chuckled, her smile starting it’s upward slice. They always underestimate the storm. Her power. They think they can make her theirs, my dear minnow. They think they can own her.

On the sea, a strong gale tears through the ship’s sails and its bow sinks low, probably taking on water, same as every other ship lured from its course into our waters. Overheard, thunder beats the sky from blue to black. The faintest of screams begins to join the clamor. Those sailors will be screaming on my shore before the candle in my cabin has the chance to burn halfway. They will die before the light does.

In my memory, Mama’s eyes burn. More like lightning than any candle, so striking and yet so fleeting. They only burned like that when she reeled in the night’s catch. When she gutted bellies, pulled out innards, dyed the sands of our little shore and the long hems of our pilfered muslin dresses a deep, dark red. Anything we couldn’t use, she’d toss back into the sea. Like those odd fish. An offering, she called it.

I guess she believed us blessed.

Foolish, she said that night, licking her teeth clean. To think they can own her. Control her. Storms belong to no one, my little minnow. Remember.

She was right.

The wave that swallowed her flopped over the rocky lip of our shore like a large, languid tongue. It slammed her almost casually into the rocks, jagged edges tearing through fabric and flesh, red bleeding in between the points. She screamed, I remember. A piercing sound. My little minnow! But, I wasn’t so little anymore. Neither were my teeth. Or, my appetite. 

Saliva flooded my mouth and blood thundered in my ears and I remember wondering at the storm brewing inside me.

My little minnow!

I caught the eye of the storm. It was nearly overhead. Mama never liked her gaze. Mama spat in her face and threw her our leftovers. Foolish.

I let the sea have her, the last leftover.

Now, I watch as the ship sinks even lower, draws ever nearer my shore. Once faint screams now overtake the winds’ howling. Thunder and blood thump in my ears. A smile with far too many teeth cuts across my face. 

Storms belong to no one.

©Kelli Hayes


Inspiration Work ~ En La Lejania by Adriana Madrid


I joined the Writers Circle at my library! This week, the group write stories based upon this picture prompt! I thought is was a very inspiring work and I wrote a story that I am quite happy with! I hope you enjoyed this little taste of horror! Definitely look forward to more!