One of the libraries where I work hosted a TERRIFYING TALES short story contest! Being the Halloween lover that I am, I couldn’t resist entering. Especially because, in my humble Halloween-loving opinion, adults don’t take as many creative risks as we should and I like to be the change I want to see in the world.
Here are the contest details:
Tweens, teens and adults! Submit an original eerie, horrifying, and/or spine-chilling short story to the Fairwood Library by October 23 for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
Winners will be selected from each of the following age groups:
Ages 10 to 12, 13 to 15, 16 to 18 and 19 and older.
All participants are invited to read their original terrifying tale aloud on Tuesday, October 30 at Fairwood Library. Refreshments will be provided by the Friends of the Fairwood Library.
7pm: ages 10 to 18
8pm: ages 19 and older
One submission per person.
Include your name, age, phone number and/or email address.
Submissions may be typed or handwritten. Handwritten submissions must be legible to qualify.
Limit your story to 1000 words or less.
And now, without further delay, here’s my entry….(cue lightening flashes, a wolf howling in the distance, and menacing organ music rattling dust and cobwebs while the rats skitter deeper into the shadows)…
“Well, at least I can check one thing off the list.”
Becca smiled, looking down at the library book in her hands. The purple cover had been what first caught her attention – the particular shade drawing her eye. As she had pulled the book from the shelf and examined it, she realized she couldn’t find an author or title – not anywhere on the front or back of the book, not written within the first pages as she peered curiously inside. Even library staff were unable to identify the book (something about it being “bulk cataloged”). That was when she knew – this would be the first library book she had checked out in years. The first book she’d read in almost just as long.
Who had time to read anymore, really?
But making time for reading has been top of her list of New Years’ resolutions. Stepping out from the library into the cold February wind, Becca felt hopeful the year was off to a good start.
As the garage door closed behind her car, curiosity got the better of Becca. The engine still running for heat, she unbuckled her seatbelt and tugged off her orange gloves. Flicking on the overhead dome light, she checked the time – 4:13 – and thumbed past the initial few blank pages of the library book. She found the first block of text and began:
“Purple like rotting plums, flesh ruptured with the overly-sweet juice of decay. Purple like old blood lingering in dark, broken veins. Purple like wet fallen leaves, spent past autumn’s glorious yellows and reds. When he saw the book cover in her hands, it colored her similarly.”
Her pulse was quickening. What kind of book is this? Becca paused to stare at the purple cover again, the hue somehow less inviting in the pale-yellow light. Was someone playing a sick joke?
No. Becca shook her head, laughing at herself. Of course, the author knew the color of the cover- they were writing this way to catch her attention, to help immerse her in the story. It really had been too long since she’d read a book – Becca had forgotten about such literary tactics.
She sighed. Did she really want to read a scary story? Hesitating, her eyes flicked around the small dark garage, then back down to the page:
“She was marked. Designated. Showing all signs and indicators. He was just following the lead of nature, standing in the shadow of a purple cloud swollen with rain. A flash. A crash. And then, the downpour.
No, he wasn’t to blame. Colors were cues. And he was just following his. That meant, of course, following her.
The knife in his hand shone dully in the reflected light of the fish tank -”
Becca stopped reading again. Fish tank? She… had a fish tank. Home to her goldfish, Clementine.
Fish tanks are common, she told herself. But when she tried to laugh her fear off as she had before, the forced chuckle only turned her stomach. She couldn’t help but imagine just where someone would have to stand in her small living room for the glow of the fish tank light to glance off the edge of a blade…
Becca stared at the garage door that led into the house. Minutes ticked on as her ears strained to pick up on any sounds beyond the rumble of the car engine and blast of warm air through the vents. Becca checked the clock – 5:00 – and considered the idea of resuming her reading inside on the couch. But going inside felt…. uncomfortable. Of course, her discomfort wasn’t because the couch was parallel to the fish tank…. no, the car was warm and her driver’s seat cozy. She fidgeted absently with the pages, then resumed reading:
“The knife in his hand shone dully in the reflected light of the fish tank as he made his way between the couch and the table.”
“Stop it,” Becca audibly told herself and forced her eyes to continue down the paragraph.
“His thoughts returned to the purple book – and the woman who now possessed it. How he had watched her from the moment she picked the book from the shelf. How he had followed her home, as invisible as fate itself. He felt his pulse quicken with anticipation as he replayed the image of her holding the book in her orange gloved hands…”
The gasp was not voluntary. She couldn’t help looking – but of course her gloves, lying where she had carelessly flung them on the passenger seat, were still orange. The weird orange gloves she’d gotten as a gift from her sister as a half-joke. “Maybe you won’t lose them if they’re orange.”
Orange. How common were orange gloves? The reference to the purple book cover, yes that made sense. Mentioning a fish tank could also apply broadly. She wasn’t even sure where her sister had found orange gloves…
Becca deliberately pressed the automatic car lock. It was not safe inside the house. Should she drive away? But where would she be safe…..he had followed her here, and would just follow again if she left.
Fear seemed to be muddying her thoughts. Pain too – her head was throbbing. The numbers on the clock – 5:30 – swam in her vision. What she needed was a nap. Yes, she needed some sleep. The car was safe and warm, and the gentle hum of the engine was lulling her into a dreamless slumber…
The neighbors had been the ones to call 911 early the next morning. It didn’t take the firefighters long to discover the body. One firefighter observed aloud how odd it was – odd that the hue of the dead woman so closely matched the color of the book she held in her lap. But carbon monoxide poisoning could do that to a person – that is, it sometimes will turn them purple.
The moral of the story? Remember to make time for reading….or you may not get time for anything else.