Lost in the Twilight Zone Marathon | S2 Ep 3 | Death in Death Valley

Photo by Ali Karimiboroujeni on Pexels.com

I’m not imagining the man in black. He’s wearing a long coat and wide-brim hat—entirely too hot for a walk in Death Valley.

When Brian tells me there’s nothing there, at risk of looking crazy, I approach the man that only I can see. His face is hidden in shadow.

He tells me his name is Death.

“Will you kill me, Mr. Death?”

He shakes his head. “I only deliver souls.”

“Then who?” But before he can answer, I feel Brian’s fingers around my neck.

The man lifts his hat, and I see the face of my father.

© 2022 Nortina Simmons

This story was originally written in response to a Morning Inspiration prompt, but it reminds me too much of one of my favorite The Twilight Zone episodes, “The Hitchhiker,” not to include it in this year’s marathon! I told you there would be reruns. 😉

NoHoldsBarredPoetryWritingChallenge Day 25: What if?

If I died tonight, murdered in the 
false security of my own home,
what would be your final memory of me?

The phone calls you ignored?
The text messages left unanswered?

Will you remember all the times you
thought me hysterical, accused 
me of nagging, overreacting?

You could have been my savior 
from twenty miles away. 

Instead you are the 
accomplice, the accessory,
worse than the killer himself.

And the guilt will ride you 
like a camel's hump 

as you lie in bed and stare 
at my picture until 
your eyes become heavy 

and it seeps into your dreams, 
that one haunting question:

What if I had only done something? 

© 2022 Nortina Simmons

NoHoldsBarredPoetryWritingChallenge Day 10: Daughter’s lament

The scent of wet paint 
and cigarette ash pulls 
me from my nightmare.
I call into the darkness,
Dad, are you there?
How I have missed you.
I've been so lonely.
Sit on the foot of my bed.
Let's write a new story.

© 2022 Nortina Simmons


“Emil was a wonderful husband and father,” Fiona says between sobs. She gazes out into the audience of seven mourners, one of them her son, Ryan.

And Rachel.

She opens the tissue in her hands, remembering she’d scribbled her eulogy notes on it in pencil, having waited to the last minute to think of something to say about her dearly departed, cheating, soon-to-be ex-husband.

Maybe it was good the divorce wasn’t finalized before he croaked.

After the funeral, she feels a cold hand on her shoulder.

“We both loved him,” Rachel says.

“Nice try. But you’re not getting a dime.”

© Nortina Simmons

The undertaker

It was too soon after my husband’s death to be kissing another man, especially not in the bathroom of the funeral home where his wake was being held.

When we briefly broke for air, he asked, “Are you a loud lover or a quiet one?”

It took me a few seconds to recognize what he was asking.

“We can’t,” I pleaded.

“It’s fine. I locked the door.”

“My husband—”

“Resting in peace.” He would know. He embalmed him.

He kissed me again, and my legs jiggled like Jell-O.

His pants dropped to his ankles, and I dropped to my knees.

© Nortina Simmons

The drive home

Driving through the downpour, I think about the last night I saw my husband alive.

We’d just had a fight, and I had finally accepted that he will never want children.

“I need some air,” he said.

“If you leave, don’t even think about coming back!”

He ignored my threat and slammed the door behind him as a crack of thunder pierced the silence that remained.

Hours later, the police came knocking. His car was caught in the storm.

He was gone.

Inside me the little one turns and flips.

“Easy does it.” I pat my stomach. “We’re almost home.”

© Nortina Simmons

Lost in the Twilight Zone Marathon | Ep 5 | Fever Dream

I go to bed with a splitting headache, a cold sweat, and what feels like ten-pound weights on my chest, and in my dream is existential dread.

I see him through the darkness in the corner of my bedroom by the closed door—his silhouette much darker than everything around him.

I close my eyes and pray to heaven above for forgiveness.

“Please, God. Don’t let him take me.”

When I take a peek with one eye open, the shadow grows bigger as he draws nearer. I can’t determine whether it’s the fear or fever that escalate my shivers. I hide underneath the covers, my whispering frantic as I repeat again and again my prayer.

“Please, God. Don’t let him take me.”

“Please, God. Don’t let him take me.”

“Please, God. Don’t let him take me!”

A light tug on the sheets, and they slowly glide down. The blackness overwhelms me. Eyes open or closed makes no difference. This is what it’s like, I imagine, when you’ve reached the end and you realize you’ve had one stumble too many, that God has run out of second chances to gift you and has finally turned His back. And it’s not the fires of Hell that burn you, but the darkness. The unquenchable, unrelenting darkness. The never seeing the light of day. An ever-presence that looms over you, hovers, and seeks to swallow you whole.

But then a cool compress touches my forehead, and the soft hum of a melody I faintly know the words to float above my head, and I drift off to sleep.


When I open my eyes again, I see the sun, and my fever is broken, and I can smell for the first time in a month.

I go outside and fill my lungs with the fresh morning air. I relish in the coolness of the breeze, sweet relief. In the wind, in the ruffle of the leaves, I hear that tune again. From my peripheral vision, I see the familiar figure, darting between the trees, and I follow him, toward the lake that touches the backyards of each house on the cul-de-sac. He stops beneath the old willow tree at the edge of the water, and I pause just a few feet away.

“I’ve been waiting for you, love,” he says. He turns and outstretches his hand. “Come.”


“Does it matter?”

I gaze back to my home, a silent prison for the last three weeks. “I thought I was dying. I was all alone.”

“No, you weren’t.” He takes a step back, partially disappearing between the weeping leaves of the willow. “Do you trust me?”

He curls his fingers underneath mine, beckoning, and as he hums, I let him lead me deeper, behind the veil, until we both disappear.

© 2021 Nortina Simmons

This hour’s episode of the Twilight Zone blogging marathon is inspired by the sweet and haunting song of “Come Wonder with Me” as well as the encounter with Death in “Nothing in the Dark.”

And for a longer version with the humming…


Kiss me with urgency
the way you did before
your foot slipped from
the sleet-slick bridge
and turbulent ocean
waves swallowed your
lungs. Your lips feel
like ice on my tongue.
I stare into your eyes—
my mirror behind you—
see myself licking air.

© 2017 Nortina Simmons

U is for Under Pressure

Originally published April 24, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge.

The two detectives left Jessica alone to get Bruce’s statement. Still shivering from the chilly air in the room, she tucked her arms inside her shirt and crossed her legs underneath her in the chair. She tried to focus her mind only on warming herself up. She rocked back and forth. She rubbed her arms and legs. She pulled her shirt down over her knees. Anything to keep from thinking of Whitmore’s lifeless body lying on her floor, blood spurting from his head onto her carpet, seeping into the split wood at the center of her front door.

She had believed that his talk of suicide had only been an idol threat.

Cheat on me, and I’ll go back to that dark place with Layla. Refuse to love me, and I’ll go back to that dark place with Layla. Leave me, and I’ll go back to that dark place with Layla.

No one who thought death could be achieved by taking a few sleeping pills with vodka was truly ready to die. They hadn’t fully committed themselves to the task. They would rather leave the world peacefully, sleeping, not to violently testify to the world, This is what you’ve driven me to!

But had Jessica driven him to his demise? Could simply not loving him back be the key to his self-inflicted mutilation, or had Whitmore uncovered that Jessica was no different from the last woman who had broken his heart?

Just like Layla . . .

Was it possible that he had known about Bruce? That he had never left the premises after she’d kicked him out of her apartment? Instead, he lurked in the shadows of the parking lot. Watched as Bruce wiped away her tears, took her by the hand and led her down the stairs, opened the passenger side door for her and ducked her into his car. He followed them to the restaurant. Observed as they danced, kissed, and groped each other until the lust had grown so great, they rushed back to her apartment to consummate it. What pushed Whitmore over the edge? When Jessica had straddled Bruce’s lap in the driver’s seat, or did he reach his breaking point when Jessica wrapped her legs around Bruce’s waist and they fell into her apartment? Did he wait outside the door to confront them? Could he hear her loud, desperate moans through the walls?

The door to the interrogation room suddenly swung open, and Dan poked his head inside. “Miss, you’re free to go.”

Jessica uncurled her body from within her t-shirt and slid her feet into her flip-flops on the floor. She hesitantly walked by him, afraid that he might see the guilt on her face.

“I’m, er, sorry for your loss,” he said as he closed the door behind her.

Jessica nodded.

Bruce had been waiting by the door, leaning against the wall. “Hey,” he said. He touched her arm, behind her elbow. “Let me take you home.”

Jessica nodded again. She had lost her ability to speak.


S is for Suicide

Originally published April 22, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge

“Do you have any idea why your boyfriend would want to kill himself?”

It was the third time the detective had asked her that question and Jessica still didn’t hear him. They sat at the cold metal table at the center of the gray interrogation room. A second detective stood by the one-way window.

Jessica wrapped her arms around herself. When she had finally gotten over the shock of seeing Whitmore dead on her floor, a bullet hole in his head, she’d only had enough time to put on a pair of shorts and a tank top before emergency personnel arrived. The police tried to interview her at the scene, but she was too distracted by the men snapping photos and taking samples. Then Bruce behaved so inappropriately. He kept touching her shoulder, squeezing it, telling her everything was going to be OK. Every time he opened his mouth, a film of mucus crept up her throat, tickled the back of her tongue. Stop it! She wanted to shout. Stop acting like the concerned boyfriend. He’s dead. We did this! You. Me.

Jessica wasn’t wearing panties. She didn’t have on a bra. The draft in the room caused her skin to prickle up into goose bumps. Her nipples hardened underneath her shirt, and she felt as if they were pointing out toward the two officers like daggers. I’m not attracted to you, she tried to explain away. I wasn’t fucking when it happened. I didn’t kill him.

She wished they would quit stalling and arrest her for murder. She knew they suspected foul play the second they stepped over Whitmore’s body. She could see it playing out in their scheming minds. She was having a steamy affair with Bruce. Whitmore caught wind of it. She couldn’t keep it a secret any longer; they had to get rid of him. She was the brain, Bruce the brawn. He pulled the trigger. They staged his suicide. Then she assumed the role of the grieving girlfriend.

“Ms. Ryan.” The first detective snapped his finger in front of her face.

“She may still be in shock, Dan. That was a pretty horrific scene,” the detective by the window said.

The good cop, bad cop routine. She was under arrest.

“I’m sorry. Could you repeat the question?”

Dan sighed, shaking his blond hair over his eyes. “Why would Whitmore kill himself? Did he suffer from mental illness?”

Jessica put her fist to her mouth and coughed, but the cough was weak, originating from the front of her mouth instead of deep in her chest. Her tongue convulsed at the back of her throat, and she lightly coughed again, sounding like a child trying to fake sick to get out of going to school. Her lips curled into a smile, and to conceal the imminent laugh, she attempted a truly fake cough, and laughed instead at how pathetic she sounded. Both detectives stared at her quizzically.

“Is something funny?” Dan asked.

“No, no. It’s just—” She crossed her legs, wiped the corners of her lips as if her laugh were crumbs leftover from a dinner long forgotten. “I thought he would kill me,” she finally said.

“Has he ever threatened you?”

“No . . . It was Roger Peacock.”

“The guy in Houston?” the officer by the window asked.

Jessica shook her head. The more she spoke, the more ridiculous she sounded—the more suspicious. “I don’t know why I thought he would kill me. He’s always threatened suicide, though subtly. He would say things like if I ever left him, he would go back to that dark place he was in after his last girlfriend.”

“Layla?” Dan interrupted.

Jessica blinked.

“His final text to you said, ‘Just like Layla.’ I’m assuming Layla is the last girlfriend.”

Jessica nodded. “He admitted that he tried to kill himself then. But it didn’t work. I guess, I just assumed that if he ever had his heart broken again, he would give up hurting himself and hurt the woman who hurt him. He’s never said that to me directly, though.”

“Why do you think you hurt him?” Dan asked.

“I didn’t love him the way he wanted me to.”

“Meaning you cheated,” the man by the window said.

“Excuse me?”

“The man you were with. I assume you two are involved.” He approached the table, pressed his palms down on the metal. He peered down at Jessica over the rim of his glasses.

“I . . . we . . .” She shivered underneath her thin clothing. She could feel her pointy, perky breasts trying to pierce through the cotton fabric of her t-shirt. She wanted to cover herself, but she feared any further gestures to hide her suspicious mannerisms would make her look guiltier.

“Look,” Dan said, “we’re not gonna judge you for what you might have been doing with the radio DJ.”

“I thought his name sounded familiar! My brother-in-law listens to him all the time. Saved his marriage.”

“Jake,” Dan snapped. Jessica could only assume that he was the older and more experienced of the two. He turned back to Jessica. “I don’t care if you were screwing him, sucking him, or watching a movie. All I care about is the dead man on your doorstep and how he got there.”

“We just want to get to the bottom of this. That’s all,” Jake said, recovering the serious tone in his voice.

“The bottom line is he killed himself, and he did it in front of my door to make me suffer for it.” Jessica shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t blame him.”