Monday, October 24, 2011

Danny Marble Monday #CoffinHop

written by Jessica McHugh, illustrated by Dave McHugh, published by Reliquary Press

The tattered white rabbit with “Peter” shoddily sewn into the bottom of iys hind paw had certainly once possessed large button eyes, but all he had left were dark spots of worn fur and frayed thread where they should have been. No eyes, nose, or mouth accented that blank swath of cotton. Before the rabbit, he had never thought that a scary face could be constituted by the lack of a face, but that emptiness was filled with such a terrifying expression that it always did Danny in.
Peter the Rabbit, like his similar namesake, was highly inquisitive and mischievous, but instead of being fond of ravaging Mr. McGregor’s garden, it was fond of ransacking Danny Marble’s nerves. Every night when Danny settled himself into bed, Peter appeared, perched on the bookshelf with his head tilted down toward his victim. When the deep night fell and the moonlight awoke the demons from their slumber, the faceless rabbit would start to hop forward blindly, always expecting that more ground lay before him. Of course, the bookshelf was only so wide, and eventually, it tumbled down to the floor with a muffled grunt. It was then that paralysis would strike Danny. Frozen in his fear, he watched as Peter’s large black claws emerged from his fluffy paws. A low growl began to rumble in the rabbit’s throat until it erupted in a howl that was trapped behind the fabric where his mouth should have been. The bunny clawed at his bedposts, making horribly strangled sounds and desperate grunts of starvation. It was often like that: long hours of listening to the rabbit paw and scratch while that horrid growl echoed in Danny’s brain. Occasionally, Peter climbed the post to sit at the foot of Danny’s bed with his eerily blank face bathed in moonlight. Danny could hear the rabbit trying to speak, and although he couldn’t understand the muffled words, the intent was obvious enough. Peter crawled forward with his claws tearing into the sheets, slicing Danny’s legs and arms, and when he reached Danny’s chest, he hunkered down on it and a sinister giggle reverberated in his throat. Danny closed his eyes, but he could still see the rabbit’s blank face puffing up and stretching as it tried to break through its cotton skin, and with a sickening noise that sounded like fabric and flesh tearing apart, the rabbit began to rip a hole in its face. Although it had been merely thread, cotton, and wool comprising Peter’s head, when his face tore open, chunks of slimy gore slid down his chin and thick strings of crimson saliva clung to his fangs as he snarled. Danny could even smell it, strong and metallic and turning his stomach with each powerful hiss from the rabbit’s makeshift mouth. The last thing he always saw was the rabbit’s skin continuing to rip until the once blank face was a dark, cavernous pit bending over to devour him whole. That’s when the second scary thing would usually appear.

Danny had never been a fan of clowns so the fact that his room was residence to the most terrifying clown he’d ever seen didn’t help matters. The shiny red nose at the center of the clown’s face always drew Danny’s eye first, but it was the unnaturally large, toothy grimace that Danny focused on most. The clown’s movement was accompanied by two forebodingly bad sounds. The ringing bell on its jester hat meant it was alive. The high-pitched squeal of the large wheel in place of its legs meant it was coming. Danny couldn’t imagine the kind of person that would construct such a hideous plaything. He imagined an evil toymaker atop some dilapidated tower, silhouetted against the moon and convenient flashes of lightning. He could envision the entire scene: the mad toymaker giggled maniacally as he unscrewed the wheel from a toy bike, ripped the flimsy plush legs from a clown doll, and screwed the wheel into its torso. His soul had left a dark imprint on the toy, as he’d done with all of his other ghastly creations. He’d given the clown a horrid semblance of life as well as a squeaky but scratchy voice that sounded as if it had gargled glass. Danny imagined that the clown’s resentment toward its maker was what made it despise Danny’s other toys to destruction. The clown often went on murderous rampages, tearing the stuffing out of bears and snapping the wheels off of racecars. Only the faceless rabbit was immune to its attacks. Unfortunately, every bit of damage caused by the legless clown was blamed on Danny. He’d learned long ago to stop protesting his innocence; not that he could really blame Aunt Agatha for not believing him. It was always his word against a ravaged room. And sweet as his aunt was, how could she rationalize buying him new toys if he was just going to destroy them? After only two years, his room had become devoid of all sources of merriment. The clown had plenty of it though. It took such unbridled pleasure in Danny’s misery, and with each tear that fell, its demented laughter crescendoed to gritty shrieks. Even if Danny managed to block out the laughter and cry himself into a shallow sleep, the clown was waiting in his mind, eager to do far more terrifying things than laugh.
Just a few scratches on the window would signal the arrival of the third scary thing. He was glad to turn away from the clown’s rictus, but he knew an even more horrible grin was waiting just outside.


Not every scary thing was an inanimate object brought to life. No, the third scary thing was extremely animate, and it was the one that frightened Danny most. However, it was the only one that didn’t actually start inside his room. It stared in at him as it paced his window ledge and panted as if only Danny’s blood could quench its violent thirst. Grey and gaunt, the cat was missing large patches of fur, but for Danny, the most horrific aspect of the feline was its teeth. Whether slightly sheared or cut into shards, each one of the cat’s teeth was broken. They always appeared dyed pink by a recent kill, and sometimes, Danny could see clumps of hair stuck between them as proof.
For the first few months, the cat did nothing but stare into the room and run its razor-sharp claws down the window, but when Danny started trying to ignore it, the cat began to speak. In a voice that was more hiss than speech, the cat maliciously stated its intentions for the boy. Often times, bloody promises. But there were times when the cat would close its mess of a mouth, retract its claws, and simply rub its mangy body against the window. In the beginning, it wasn’t so bad, but as its fur wore away and more of its flesh became exposed, that’s when Danny buried himself in blankets with his hands over his ears. The flesh looked infected to the point of rotten and when the cat rubbed itself against the window, the festering flesh squeaked against the glass, leaving trails of sinew behind. Each layer was worse than the previous. Often when the squealing would stop, Danny would peek out his head to see the cat stationary with its gray skin pushed so deliberately against the window, it split on its own and Danny could see tiny insects crawling out of the diseased crevasses. He could hardly look at it without feeling his stomach’s burning opinion, and he couldn’t bear the thought of the cat touching him if it managed to break through---which it eventually started trying to do. It tore the screen to shreds and dug into the glass, making more headway than any normal cat could. The only saving grace was that it had to start over each night, but it unfortunately got better and faster at its excavation with every attempt. It took a few years, but in due time, the cat with the broken teeth busted its way into Danny’s bedroom. The first night it happened, he woke to a sour smell clogging his nostrils and when he rolled over, he saw the reeking feline sitting on the interior side of his window, grinning grotesquely as the breeze through the broken glass spread its scabby tufts of fur around the room.

"Danny Marble & the Application for Non-Scary Things" is available on Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and in hardcover for a DISCOUNTED PRICE of $12 UNTIL HALLOWEEN at


  1. Great writing. I've penned a few stories about creepy, evil toys myself.

  2. Evil toys are so much fun to write about! I think it's because when you're a little kid, they're what surround you most at night and it's easy for your eyes to play tricks on you. I had quite a few toys that seemed to grin at me from dark corners of my bedroom.

    Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Evil toys are so much fun to read about too! Especially when they are described and sketched so wonderfully!

  4. Ooh great stories. I love the illustrations, too! The first one reminds me of a story I read about a shadow that haunted a little boy. It scared me half to death and I never forgot it! :-D

  5. Love how seemingly innocuous broken toys can become sinister in a child's imagination!

    Coffin Hopper

    Read my Coffin Hop post HERE

  6. Thank you so much! You can enter the giveaway for an ebook copy of "Danny Marble & the Application for Non-Scary Things" on Tuesday's Coffin Hop post. All you need to do is post a comment with your email and the name of one of my other short stories, found here:, amongst other places. Good luck!!