Year written: 2002
Year first published: 2011
Honored: Listed among the Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, Volume 4, 2011
Where You Can Find It
Fear of the Dark, published by HorrorBound Magazine publications, edited by Maria Grazia Cavicchioli and Jason Rolfe, 2011.
Order it online (paperback CAD$15; ebook CAD$5).
This little story started as an attempt to write horror from the viewpoint of a child. I realized pretty quickly that I couldn’t maintain a pure PoV for Jeanie, a seven-year-old girl, but I did the best I could, peppering the telling with the world as she would see it. Because it was so challenging for me to write from a child’s PoV, I tried changing media and wrote “Crack-o-Doom” as a comic script. Ultimately, it was the short story that got accepted for publication first.
Jeanie is about to have the worst night of her life, and it begins with two loud cracks of thunder that frighten her. She can’t get away from the storm, try as she might. Everyone is looking for her, calling after her, but Jeanie doesn’t know whom to trust, so she runs into the woods with lightning striking all around her.
What Jeanie doesn’t understand is that this storm has been brewing since before she was born, and its fury is tied to her very soul. All it takes is one bolt of lightning to change everything.
The sky grew ominous and cast a gloom on the farm. Jeanie’s mom had told her not to leave the yard. “There’s a storm comin’, kiddo. Stick close.” The smells of imminent rain and eager pine mingled. The leaves on the oak trees turned up, thirsty and ready.
“Storm comin’,” seven-year-old Jeanie told the dogs through the tall fence. She entered their pen, careful to close the gate behind her. Daddy’s labradors, Sissy and Sassy, were excited. Their tails wagged their thick bodies, and their chocolate snouts snuffled her all over.
The dogs had run down any grass that might have once grown there. They’d dug around, looking for moles and buried bones. Mangy-furred tennis balls lay strewn amidst chew-toys missing appendages and ears, and there was an old red kickball in the corner, half-deflated.
Jeanie set her doll, Dolly, to one side and got down on her hands and knees at the entrance to the doghouse. She pulled out the two woolen blankets, bringing a flow of dirt and dog-hair with them. She stood and shook out the first one. It tossed up a cloud of fur and dust, and the wind blew it at her. She turned her face away—eyes, nose, and mouth scrunched together.
She folded the blankets in uneven squares and put them back inside the doghouse, pressing their edges into the corners and smoothing them as flat as they’d go.
The first big blast sounded. Boom!
Jeanie froze in place, and her heartbeat accelerated. “Crack o’doom,” she said. Jeanie’s Daddy had taught her to say that whenever she heard thunder. He had said it would keep her safe.