THE FEAR MASTER

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Chapter 18: MOTHER

Debbie slammed the door behind her and groped for the lightswitch – stopped … there was already a light on. Down the hall. In her mother’s office.

Heaving to catch her breath, Debbie called, “Mother?” Usually she called her Mum, but in moments of uncertainty, the appeal was always to Mother.

No reply came.

“Mother?” She wasn’t due back until Sunday night.

Slipping off her shoes and padding silently across the dark kitchen, Debbie picked a butcher’s knife out of a wooden cutlery block and started toward the hall. If TFM was in the house, waiting to express his supposed love for DD, he was in for a very sharp shock. No suspense (unlike her trek across Frankenstein’s Forest, expecting him to leap out of every shadow) this time – just pure, heartstopping shock. How considerate of him to have taught her the difference.

Debbie walked slowly down the hall toward the lit office, from which a male voice emanated. One door further down was the bathroom, and it sounded like the shower was running. The thrum of the water obscured what the man was saying, but it seemed clear enough to Debbie that her mother had returned early, put the TV on in her office, and gone to take a shower. Nothing more sinister than that.

“And now we rejoin Norman and his guests,” the presenter of the weekly creature feature was saying, “for the heartstopping conclusion to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho!”

As Debbie stepped into the doorway, her attention went straight to the screen. She watched with a sense of dread as the woman who had come to look for her missing sister snuck into the house and headed downstairs to the cellar.

“No,” said Debbie, “not there.” She cried out as she noticed someone sitting in Mother’s chair, pulled up so close to the TV she hadn’t at first noticed the figure, the top of whose head became visible as Debbie approached. “Mother?”

My God – he had killed her in the shower and dumped her body in here for Debbie to discover. Had he? Was this her punishment for refusing to watch him unmask? It was a crazy idea, but he was so insane, it made a kind of sense.

The young woman in the movie approached the chair with its back to her.

“Mother?” asked Debbie. She reached for the chair. “Answer me.”

The chair in the movie spun around as Debbie’s mother’s chair spun around, the hollow-eyed visage staring blindly at the horrified young actress as Debbie screamed and the Styrofoam head with her mother’s wig on it stared back from a featureless face. Onscreen, violins screamed as the lightbulb swung and Norman was wrestled out of his mother’s dress and wig.

Listening to the shower running, Debbie tightened her grip on the knife and reached for the phone.

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