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Tuesday Tales: "Mindless Scrolling"

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This is a new short story series I've dubbed "Tuesday Tales," consisting of spooky tales to keep you up at night and ones that are meant to be read in just a few minutes. I likely won't publish a new story every week, but I'll try to do so as often as possible.

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Mindless Scrolling


Natalie hated babysitting the Thompson twins, but a fifth of Smirnoff for her and her friends wasn’t going to pay for itself. And, after factoring in the extra ten bucks her twenty-two-year-old cousin Josh would likely tack onto the bill, she once again found herself sitting on that uncomfortable black leather sofa, scrolling through the Thompson family’s Netflix account while the boys were fast asleep upstairs. (Of course, she was under the dad’s profile rather than the children’s; it always made her feel like an adult, but then again, so did the vodka.)


Hundreds of titles made their way across the screen. Fifteen minutes passed and she soon resorted to scrolling through her Instagram feed with similar mindless motion. Her thumb paused on the screen as she spotted a post from Robbie. New haircut. He looks good, as always. Double-tap.


“Natalie!”


The hypnotic state brought on by seeing a photo of “the coolest guy in Edgewood H.S.” was suddenly interrupted. Those boys, she thought. Won’t they just go to sleep already? She sighed, put her phone down for a moment and turned her head around to share her loud lullaby that was “It’s ten o’clock, twerps! Shut off the iPad and zip your lips!”


There — that would do it. She picked up her phone again, holding her thumb to the touch ID button as she turned it around so she didn’t have to type in that fucking password. Who had time for something like that when Robbie was posting gorgeous selfies? But alas, he was soon buried by her thumb as she continued to scroll.


“Natalie!”


You’ve got to be kidding me. Is this really worth a bottle of vodka? She debated this, then quickly decided: Yes. Yes it is. She put her phone down again, this time standing up from the couch to hover in the doorway, which was right near the bottom of the stairs leading up to the boys’ room. “Listen! If you don’t crawl into bed and shut your eyes I’ll take that stupid thing and smash it against the wall!” She turned around to go back to her scrolling, but thought of a more dramatic threat: “No . . . you know what? I’ll call your parents instead!”


There was no response, which made her feel even more like an adult, albeit a rather strict one like her own parents. She was back on the couch now, giving her thumb the workout of a lifetime as it continued to glide across the screen. She was on TikTok now, though — not her platform of choice, but she had seen that post of Brooke on her family vacation twice already and didn’t plan on passing it again.


“Natalie!”


Alright, that was it. Those kids are done for, she thought. She once again rose from the couch, this time bringing her phone with her. She stormed through the doorway and made her way up the stairs, slamming her foot down on each new step to get her point across; she wasn’t playing around anymore.


She walked up to the boys’ closed door, not bothering to turn on the hallway light in all her rage, and tapped her phone against the wooden surface.


Knock. Knock.


“You hear that? That’s my phone. And I’m calling your parents!” She looked at her phone, closed out of TikTok and dialed Mr. Thompson’s cell. He answered after a single ring.


“Natalie? What’s going on?” he asked.


“It’s the boys, Mr. Thompson. They’re not going to bed.”


“The boys?” He sounded confused. “The boys are with us. We told you we just wanted you to watch the house. You know, make it known that it wasn’t empty for the night.”


Her heart sank so far down her chest that it felt like it had vacated her body entirely. “Not here? What?” She paused to think for a moment, then continued, “Mr. Thompson . . . why do you want it to seem like someone’s here while you’re gone?”


“Wow, you kids really lose yourselves in those phones these days,” he chuckled, then paused when he didn’t hear a response. “Because of those burglaries as of late. I’m sure it’d be fine, but you can never be too careful.”


She put the phone down at her side, her eyes wide and her mouth widening the same. She opened the boys’ bedroom door, turned on the light and stared inside.


Empty.

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