May Contest Winning Submission
The following story was the winning submission of our May 2021 Open Mic contest, written by Rachael Siehs. We loved her voice, the story was well-written, and it had a plot twist at the end that was unforgettable! Great job, Rachael!
STAIRS IN THE WOODS
Trina’s missing posters fluttered in the wind against the trees and light posts they were attached to. They used her school picture, wanting something recent instead of Trina decked out in stage make up and dance costumes. Every poster around town was plastered with the phrase Have you seen me at the top of the page. Her parents came to a shocking instant agreement to use colored pictures instead of black and white, considering how much they were arguing in recent days.
Trina’s smile was a little lopsided, wider on her left side than her right, but not by much. She tried to strike a pose when they took her picture, rebelling against the standard, straight-forward pose everyone else followed on picture day. She straightened her hair, adamant that curling her blonde strands resembled a poodle. Her one green eye and one brown eye shared the same mischievous shimmer that gave away she was up to something and we were all doomed to learn what scheme she concocted.
Underneath the picture was her description. They gave the last place she was seen and what she was wearing. Under all of that was a list of phone numbers regarding who to contact. The standard information revealed on every missing person’s poster.
I shifted my bag on my shoulder and walked into the high school. Trina’s pictures were all over the windows of the office. Each one held a message saying how much they missed her and prayed she was alright. When Trina first went missing, students and faculty would stop and stare at the pictures before going on their way. But after two months, they walked by without stealing a glance in their direction. No one was hoping to find her alive any longer. The cops were only trying to locate a body. Trina was gone too long to still be alive. That’s what I heard them say in an interview.
The town planned to band together and search for her, again. “We’ve already done that,” one student complained. “What do they think will happen? The chick isn’t going to pop out of the tall grass and scream ‘surprise.’”
I stormed past them and fought the urge to turn around and scream that her name was Trina. I kept my gaze on my locker, spinning the dial for my combo. The group of freshman hovering close by were just loud enough for me to hear what they were saying.
“She’s probably not even in the area.”
“Yeah, she might be in a big city working for a pimp.”
“I’ll bet she dyed her hair or shaved it all off.”
Why couldn’t they all shut up about it? Halloween was in two days. Shouldn’t they be more worried about their costumes? I hated the fact everyone wanted to spread rumors regarding where Trina was, if she ran, where she ran to, and why.
At the warning bell, my ears were pricked by another sound. It was faint enough that the school bell should have covered it. Not for me. I still heard the tiny little laugh that followed me since my last trip in the woods behind the library. It sounded like a tiny, fragile bell if it weren’t for the slight menacing sense of dread that made its home in my chest.
The others in the hall didn’t hear the laugh. No surprise they didn’t hear it. They never did. It didn’t matter if my parents, my classmates, or neighbors were standing right next to me. Everyone was oblivious to the laughs and giggles that followed everywhere I went.
Out of habit I pulled a small, cobalt blue stone out of my pocket and placed it on the top shelf of my locker. It would be gone before I got back from my first class. Whatever that laugh belonged to, it liked blue objects the best. The brighter the better.
I waited for another laugh to tickle my ears over the noise of other students talking and rushing to class before joining the insanity. I heard nothing, assuming it was going after the stone I left for it, whatever it was. I passed a few more missing person posters, all with Trina’s face staring at me. I didn’t have the heart to tell the teachers and police Trina didn’t look like her picture anymore.
Victoria Scott started Scribbler in 2017 after traditionally publishing an impressive number of books with companies like HarperCollins Harlequin Scholastic and Macmillan. Victoria is an Uber-hailing city girl who is passionate about writing and helping other writers find their voice.