The Horror Zine
Elise Hopkins

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Elsie Hopkins


They fly out of a passage of Exodus
to blacken the football field.
They swarm around the stadium lights
in a dark cloud and light upon the bleachers.

A small girl’s scream
rivals the intensity
of the cricket’s cries.
Some spectators tuck their pants into their socks
or flee to the safety of their cars,
but the marching band has no such luxury.
For the sake of uniformity, we stand tall
as dark shapes crawl over our jackets.

As the clock on the scoreboard ticks toward halftime,
the percussionists
flick the insects off their mallets
and knock them off the crotales.
I kick my stick bag and twitch
as bugs come creeping out on jutting legs.

I cringe as we crunch
through crickets on the track.
My hands shake, and my best friend cries
into her clarinet, but once the conductor counts off,
none of this matters.

From the bleachers, no one can see the horror in our faces,
but they can hear lovely melodies soar from the black-speckled earth,
see our shapes spiral on the field in formations
that meld softly with the sounds of our instruments.
Somehow, our music becomes something we are not.
Somehow, it makes us strong.

By its mercy, I can hold my tears until I am alone
in my quiet bedroom, and a single cricket wails outside my window,
plaguing me with a thousand memories that chirp through the night.


Two ruddy arms grope toward heaven and disappear.
Cars rush past me into a premature horizon.
I let my eyes glide up the suspension cables,
which grow ever longer at my side,
only to fade into white obscurity.

I pause.

The vibrant arches that should sweep across the sky
are shrouded so completely by droplets of water
that eerie shadows replace any hint of orange.

It is as if ghosts hover all around me.
Perhaps they do.

The chill seeps through my shirt
as I lean across the railing and stare
at the grey water swirling in the bay.
I shiver to think of all the souls
who have passed beneath those opaque depths;
of how the waves hid the bright world
from their unseeing eyes;
of how long they were blind to all but grey
before they could look no more,
and they came to this bridge where I stand now
and sought solace from the ashen sea

Glad to be so high above
those teasing waves,
I lift my gaze
to the mist that cloaks the bridge
and I race back toward land
lest I lose myself in the sky.


When she woke up, her hand was fine,
but as the day wore on, it turned blue-grey,
the skin rotting to black around her fingernails.

She waiting in the ER for six hours
before a doctor would see her.
By then, the grey was traveling
up her arm and her fingers
were completely numb.

She showed the doctor her hand,
the fingers withered and dark.
“You’re perfectly healthy,” he said.
He smiled and waved her out the door.


Lights come on in the nursery at night.
Breezes stir the mobiles above the bed.
Curtains flutter toward the toddler’s sleeping
form and music boxes tinkle a few notes
into the silence. She wakes, listens for
whispers above the air conditioner.

Sometimes there is only the hum of the air conditioner,
but sometimes there is laughter, music in the night.
Sometimes blocks arrange themselves on the floor for
the parents to wonder at in the morning. In bed,
the toddler sits, mesmerized, memorizing notes
from nowhere while her parents are sleeping,

not thinking of their daughter, just sleeping,
hearing nothing but the air conditioner.
One night, they stroke each other’s hair, trace love notes
on each other’s skin, reminisce about the night
they met, the first time they shared a bed
while dolls blink and their daughter cringes for

the first time when her teddy bear twitches. Four
in the morning is a time when she should be sleeping
but her bear is lumbering across her bed
and her top is spinning  by the air conditioner
vent and the laughter is harsher tonight.
She starts to cry, but her voice is drowned by notes

pouring from the air around her, notes
her parents can’t hear through their door. For
an instant she freezes, then braves the night,
dashes to the room where her mother’s sleeping.
“Ghosts,” she whispers, shivers in the air conditioner,
asks if she can sleep in her parents’ bed.

“Ghosts don’t exist.” Mom comforts, “Go to bed,”
The daughter sniffs. Why can’t she hear the notes?
Years later, when she is grown, conditioned
to believe in the sharp edge of Occam’s razor—for
aren’t dreams more likely than spirits?—sleeping
comes more easily to her. But one night

after she’s rinsed conditioner from her hair, gone to bed
she stares into the night and hears the notes.

She watches for the drapes to sway instead of sleeping.

Elise R. Hopkins graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a BFA in creative writing in May 2011. While her emphasis is in fiction, she also loves poetry. Her work has appeared in volumes one and two of HUMID, Stephen F. Austin’s undergraduate literary journal.