Haunted

Like the ancient curses of the pharaohs, the multitude of explanations for the hysteria and hallucinations of those who have spent extended time in old houses far outweighs the possibility of the paranormal. Drafts and cold spots from wind finding its way through rotting walls, illness caused by mold or gases caught in rusty pipes, strange noises triggered by the introduction of a foreign body into a delicately balanced ecosystem, or simply the habitation of a stray cat or nesting pigeon: I had yet to find a symptom without a cause. Still, each new investigation began with the hope that this time I would find the exception to the rule. As I gazed up at the house, perched on its tree-covered hill like a vulture eyeing its prey, the familiar tingle of possibility crept up my spine.

A century of abandonment had clawed the flesh from it until only bare bones remained, bleached and crumbling, listing to one side. To the untrained eye, it would seem only a sad monument to an era long since passed, but I noticed with some fascination the unbroken windows and the strange chill in its shadow. I attributed that to the changing seasons, but the windows… Perhaps things back then truly were built to last, or perhaps its reputation was sinister enough to still the hand of even the most destructive youth.

A metal fence topped with sharp spikes circled the grounds, rigid against the grasping hands of the vines seething up it. The gate swung open with a raucous squeak, and I waded into a tangled garden. Brittle and browning stacks lay in heaps, weeds smothering all other plant life. The lone survivors, patches of small purple flowers, huddled in their shadow. Vines swarmed over the path, clutching at my ankles as I fought my way to the door. Not a bird, not an insect stirred. Even the leaves seemed frozen, afraid to move, and every step, every rustle of undergrowth beneath my feet felt sacrilegious, like the garden itself winced at the noise.

Crumbling stone steps led to a dilapidated porch and a heavy door with an ornate handle and doorknocker clamped in the fang-filled jaws of a fiendish face. A melodramatic touch but the modern screws holding it to the decaying wood set my skepticism firmly back in place. The door creaked open at my touch to reveal a dusty hallway and a staircase leading up to a small landing. Motes danced in the sunlight filtering down through cracks in the roof, and the stench of mold and stale water filled my nose until I could taste it. I hung my pack over the leaning banister to retrieve a flashlight and mask. While any so-called spirits who had taken up residence here might not be killers, asbestos was.

As I slid on the mask, a breeze rushed down the hall, hurling the door shut. The house shook with the impact, the walls shaking themselves free of dust and cobwebs. I jumped at the deafening noise, but I had spent enough time in drafty houses to know the ominous welcome was little more than the work of an open door or window at the back of the house. Waving the hovering dust away, I began my explorations, the floors moaning in protest under my feet.

It would have been a charming house, but now it had fallen into decay, each room standing silent, holding its breath, until my creaking footsteps passed on. Lace curtains hung limp from brass fittings. Tarnished wood and moldering florals sat primly under its veil of dust. Time and moisture had shredded the contents of the gilt frame over the hearth like the work of angry fingers. Chairs stood casually pushed from tables as if their occupants had merely stepped away.

A study, a parlor, and a kitchen and dining room connected by a low door lay on the ground floor. A heavy door was built into the wall beneath the stairway, but it hadn’t opened when I had tugged on the handle and I assumed it to be locked. Up the creaking stairs were three bedrooms, the beds within covered with sewn quilts starched with dust, and a sitting room lined with windows overlooking the garden. I sat in a rocking chair, gazing out at the small town in the distance, citizens weaving through its streets like toiling ants. Night was falling, and soon my work could begin. But for now, I waited. The wood creaked nervously under my weight, but all around me, the house stood silent.

I started awake in a darkened room. I thought I had heard a door slam, but everything was silent now. The town had faded to a soft glow. I shivered at the cold of nightfall and reached for the pack I had left by my feet, but my flashlight illuminated only dusty floorboards.

“Damn.”

I winced as my voice echoed in the blackness, offensive in the silence. I swept my light across the room, hoping my pack had slid away on the uneven floors, but my search yielded nothing. Out of the corner of my eye, a patch of gray flickered in the blackness of the open door, and I whirled to face it. But my flashlight revealed only an empty doorway.

“It’s your imagination,” I whispered, trying to ignore the prickling nerves itching up the back of my neck.

My pack had vanished, so I felt my way down the stairs to the door, picking around rotten floorboards as I went. I tugged the handle, but it wouldn’t budge, the frigid cold wedging it shut. I braced a leg on the door frame and heaved, praying for the screech of wood as it released, but it wouldn’t move.

“Damn!” I defied the silence again, kicking the door angrily.

Hoping to find the backdoor more accessible, I stumbled down the hall to the kitchen. Cupboards and tall cabinets full of dusty dishes lined the walls, but no backdoor revealed itself. I stumbled through the rooms, searching more and more frantically as I found only peeling wallpaper or shelves of rotten books. I paced the perimeter of the kitchen, my ragged breathing deafening, the house shrinking around me. My flashlight beam hovered over the heavy door beneath the staircase. Presumably, it led to the cellar. The thought of descending into a darker, danker pit turned my stomach. But the need to get out twisted inside me, and I forced my feet forward.

As my fingers brushed the rusty handle, something shifted beneath my feet. From the bowels of the house, a low thud echoed through the floorboards, and the hair stood up on the back of my neck.

I strained to hear in the utter silence that followed, my heart pounding in my ears. With a thunderous crash, an unknown force slammed into the door, and I reeled back, my flashlight clattering to the floor. The door shuddered on its hinges under the violent beating, and an unearthly wailing floated through the decaying wood. I sprinted down the hall toward the front door. A shadow shifted at the foot of the stairs, and I slammed into it, tumbling into a heap.

Scrambling back, I stared at the tangle of limbs sticking out from under a pale summer dress. A mass of black hair, barely visible in the darkness, spread out on the floor, and a terrified young face set with wide eyes stared back at me. With a sob, she threw herself against me, clinging to my clothing.

“How long have you been here?” I asked, instinctively moving to comfort her.

Our collision had shaken me out of my panic, and the silence that had fallen since I crashed to the floor made me wonder if I had imagined the whole thing.

“I don’t…” Her sentence disintegrated into a teary mumble, and she buried her face in trembling hands.

I shrugged off my jacket and wrapped it around her shivering form, rubbing her arms to warm her.

“What’s your name?” I asked, more gently this time, seeing that she was in shock.

“Violet,” she murmured, her frigid hands clutched to her chest.

“Why are you here?”

“He locked me in the basement!” she sobbed. “I tried! I beat on the door, but he wouldn’t let me out. He came down to—” Tears overwhelmed her again. “I ran up the stairs and locked him in, but he’s going to get out!”

“Who?”

She violently shook her head, as if the fear of acknowledging her attacker was worse than the deed itself. The beam of my flashlight was splashing against the far wall of the kitchen. I pulled us both up, taking her clammy hand in mine.

“I’m going to get us out of here. Is there another door?”

I started toward the kitchen, but she yanked me back.

“No! He’ll find you!”

Her voice reverberated down the hallway, and something again slammed into the door, shaking the walls with renewed force. Flashlight abandoned, I tugged frantically at the front door. Splintering wood cracked behind us, and I grabbed Violet’s hand, dragging her up the stairs into the parlor where I had so foolishly fallen asleep only hours before. Heavy footsteps and a wordless garble echoed up the stairs behind us. I wedged the door shut with a chair, and our attacker slammed into it, shaking dust from the rafters.

“Get behind me,” I told Violet, herding her into the far corner.

The risen moon filled the room with a faint white light, and I snatched an antique poker from the hearth, gripping it in shaking hands. Each impact against the door sent adrenaline coursing through me, my heartbeat pounding in my mouth. A low sob floated through the door, swelling to an incomprehensible shrieking as the door shuddered on its hinges until the rotted wood gave way.

A hunched creature lurched inside, tripping over the broken chair and crashing to the floor. A hand, fingertips bloodied and dripping, reached for me, and crazed eyes peered out from under matted hair. It was inhuman. Monstrous. Animal. Violet whimpered behind me, and the creature’s gaze snapped to her. With a muted shriek, it hurled itself at me. I clenched my eyes and swung.

Impact shuddered up my arms. When I looked again, the creature had crumpled to the floor, and I beat at it wildly until the bloody fingers twitched and lay still.

The poker clattered to the floor as silence again fell over the house. I stumbled back, sagging against the wall and sliding to a seat. Tears of relief and fear blinded me as I gasped uselessly. As my panic gradually subsided, my awareness returning to me again, a soft singing filled the room. I wiped the haze from my eyes to see the girl kneeling over the body, swaying with the strange melody.

“Mur-der-er… Mur-der-er…” the raspy sing-song continued.

 “Violet?”

Her head swiveled toward me. Moonlight illuminated sunken eyes, black veins snaking across her skin. She grinned wolfishly, a pale tongue pinched between her teeth. Her hand dragged through the growing pool of blood as she crawled toward me on spider legs.

“Drip, drip, drip. Through the floors, through the boards. Down, down, down to the dark.”

I shrunk back against the wall, the breath frozen in my throat, a hot tear running down my cheek.

“Stop crying,” she hissed, her cold breath in my face stinking of death. “Fell and hit her head. Stupid girl. Always was a stupid girl, just like you.”

“Stop it!” I reached for her to shake her, to force this hallucination out and her humanity back in, but an iron grip, impossibly strong and cold as ice, closed around my wrist. White teeth bared against pale gums as she sneered at me.

“Dirty shoes. Slamming doors. Toys on the floor. Watch your mouth. Back to the darkness. Back to the darkness!”

The sing-song resumed, swelling to a shriek.

“Shut up!” she screamed, and her head jerked violently to the side.

She collapsed to the floor with a whimper. Behind her, pale moonlight washed over not a monster but a human face, bloodied and beaten almost beyond recognition. The nails of the bloodied hands had been torn away, torn from clawing at the wood of their dark prison. Terror took control, and I barreled past her, slipping in the blood and tumbling down the stairs as I ran. I yanked wildly at the door, but it stood silent and impassive against my pleading. When I turned, she was standing behind me, her dark hair hanging over her face, the bloody poker clenched in her fist.

“Please…” I whispered. “Please, don’t kill me.”

“Don’t make me,” she snarled. “Don’t make me hurt you! Don’t make me—” her body tremored violently, and the poker clattered to the floor. Her eyes lifted to me suddenly, wide and full of terror. “No more! I’ll be good, I promise! Please! Don’t make me—”

With a shriek, she ran down the hallway leaving bloody footprints in her wake and the basement door slammed. I pounded uselessly at the sealed door, screaming, my voice lost in the silence of the house.

Aftermath

Leaves skittered across the cabin floor, caught in the whirl and eddy of a night-time breeze. The door creaked on broken hinges. On the hearth, graying embers hissed and spat as cooling tea crept from the shattered mug into the red glow.

A chair lay on its side, one leg mangled. The end of the heavy bed jutted out into the room, lines in the dust where it had reluctantly moved from its place. Blankets lay crumpled over deep grooves carved into the heart of the wooden floor.

A scarlet drop ran along the jagged glass in the windowsill. With a soft moan, the tattered curtains gave way and fluttered to the floor. A red splash was painted there, leading out into the darkness, across the soft dirt, disappearing among the brooding trees.

Through the oppressive night shuddered a mournful cry.


Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

The Monkey

                Oranges were the only thing that damn monkey would eat. The lettuce and apples were flung away, but the orange he’d take in his wrinkled feet, retreating to the highest perch he could find. There he’d sit, ripping off hunks of the rind with his fangs and spitting them onto the floor, his piercing gaze fixed on me.

                The dealer had parked in the dusty parking lot of an abandoned building and was lounging against the side of his unmarked van when I pulled in. It was the kind of van you thought twice about parking next to, with dark curtains pulled over its barred windows, but a friend of a friend told me he could get you any pet you wanted, no questions asked. Calm and low maintenance, the dealer assured me, pulling a cat carrier out of the back of the van. Through the mesh door, I could see a small mass of brown fur curled up in the corner, the thin ribs etched into its fur heaving. He looked so fragile, so frightened, so vulnerable. I handed over my envelope of cash without another thought.

                I set my TV to play jungle sounds and talked to him whenever I was home, acclimating him to the sound of my voice, but I was given little reward. He refused to play or groom. His fur grew matted and frayed. He only sat and stared at me, lurking in the highest corners he could find, and as the weeks went on, it began to drive me crazy. Everywhere I went, he eventually appeared: on top of bookshelves, huddled under furniture, always staring, until I felt like I was being hunted in my own home. If I tried to get near him, I was greeted with glistening fangs, and bristling fur, and that black gaze prickling up the back of my neck.

                I tried taking the oranges away, to force it to eat something else or better yet to take its precious oranges from my hand, but it would only angrily fling away the undesirable food before retreating to its perch. It would rather starve to death than come near me. I shut the oranges away in the refrigerator with a slam. I had given it food, water, toys, ropes to climb, and a place in my home, but the ungrateful thing wanted nothing to do with me. It left claw marks in the refrigerator while I slept.

                The dealer said it needed time to adjust, like all animals put into a new environment. He laughed when I said it was staring at me, whispering into the phone as I met the black gaze. He wouldn’t take it back. He even had the gall to suggest I get another one of the vile creatures. ‘Company,’ he called it.

                The thing moved closer now. I hurled slices of apple at it, screaming at it to stop staring, jumping, thrashing my arms, trying to chase it away. But it never flinched. It gazed blackly, unwavering, its tiny fists clenching.

                Tomorrow. Tomorrow it would stop staring. A black trash bag would see to that. And I shut my bedroom door to keep the creature out.

                I woke to the light from the hallway spilling through the open door, illuminating the face of the monkey perched on my chest. Black lips curled back to reveal glistening fangs. It peeled my neck like an orange.

31. Writing Prompt – The Wind Knows

The wind knows where the truck was parked on that dark, deserted road. Trees tried to stifle her cries, so the wind bore them instead. It stirs the flowers where she sleeps, and when the rest of the world forgets, the wind remembers and weeps.


This prompt was not originally supposed to be a ‘poem,’ but as I was writing it, I noticed the cadence of the first line and tried to shape the rest to match. Part of the joy and struggle of writing is finding the exact wording to create the desired tone, whether it be a rhythm, an image, a feeling. Word choice makes a huge difference, and I go crazy, even on a short piece like this, running through all the synonym and sentence structure options.

More and more, I am focusing on editing, on searching for the best wording, the most succinct descriptions, the clearest actions. That is the work that will drive you crazy but is the most rewarding. That is where your writing comes to life.

More soon.

~ R. E. Rule

Run

My feet pounded on the dirt road. Silent rows of trees under the face of an impassive moon flew by as I struggled onward, my breathing ragged, my lungs aching. Forest and road stretched on endlessly, but I could only run, driven on by icy fear on the back of my neck. A light glimmered faintly through the dark trunks, and I redoubled my efforts, forcing myself toward it. A single light bulb illuminated the worn siding of an old farmhouse. Its windows were dark and silent, and I beat on the door wildly, hoping, praying.

“Let me in! Please!” 

The shadowy road loomed behind me, every moment threatening to unveil the shadowy figure of my attacker.

“Please! He’s going to kill me!”

But the house remained still and indifferent. I leaned against the rough wood, all hope disappearing, tears of relief turning to despair.

“Please,” I begged the silent door.

It flew open, and I crashed to the floor at the feet of my rescuer, a middle-aged woman wearing a bathrobe and the bleary look of one just roused from sleep. I scrambled inside.

“Car broke down,” I gasped, the fatigue of my wild dash finally catching up with me. “Man on the road… I ran…”

“Oh, you poor thing,” she murmured, locking the door behind me. “Let’s get you warmed up.”

My shaking legs barely held my weight, and she had to help me into the kitchen, depositing me at a heavy wooden table. A sweet warmth and the clinking of a spoon on china filled the room as she bustled about, making me a cup of tea.

“Here,” she said, setting it in front of me. “Drink up, and everything will be all right.”

It was sickeningly sweet, but I gulped it down without hesitation. My throat was parched, and I was trembling from exertion. Exhaustion flooded over me, my limbs growing heavy, my head sagging, my body ignoring my desperate pleas to move as she set the cup in the sink and tied my wrists to the chair.

“Everything will be all right.”


I was lying in bed last night thinking, “You know what would be more terrifying than running from something? Finding a house, thinking you’re safe, and then discovering what was waiting for you inside was even worse.”

Ironically, I dislike horror movies or TV shows because they freak me out too much, but with writing or reading, I love it. I just finished The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. If you enjoy horror or psychological thrillers, I would recommend checking it out. It’s a quick read, and while not particularly frightening or gruesome, following the main character’s strange thoughts and behavior through the story is captivating.

Jackson is infuriatingly vague sometimes, but I wonder if that was an intentional depiction of the fallibility of her characters and our fallibility as readers. Our version of truth is built with what we can see, but we can’t see everything. We interpret the events around us based on the information presented, and what may seem utterly and undeniably real, may be nothing more than the manifestation of our belief that it is. What may be unwaveringly true for one person may be ludicrous to another.

After finishing Hill House, I started reading The Elements of Style, another book I would recommend. It’s a great refresher on basic grammar and the fundamental goals to keep in mind while writing. I also started The Scarlet Pimpernel and hated it… so still looking for another fiction book to dive into.

Happy weekend all! Hope you are staying safe and healthy.

~ R. E. Rule

Survival

The chemical attacks started when I was five. Every source of water or food we found was poison. Even the rain was contaminated. Eventually my parents succumbed, choking on their blood, their skin blistering and cracking. Those of us who were young enough to adapt, to survive if you can call it that, were changed. Our bodies were stripped of any ability to fight infection, to produce the very things we needed to survive.

“Kira!” Damien was standing in the doorway, the hood of his sweater yanked down to hide his pale eyes. “They brought in a fresh one.”

I trailed behind him through the dirty hallways to the dingy medical center. Clear tarps hung from the ceiling to make ghostly walls. A corpse lay pale and stiffening on the examination table, a deep contusion on his skull.

“What happened to him?” I asked quietly.

“Car accident.”

I wondered if he was somebody’s father…husband… The medic jammed a needle into a finger, releasing a bright red drop. He pressed it to the sensor waiting for the metallic beep.

“A-positive.”

“Damn it!” Vix yelled, kicking a metal barrel before storming out of the room.

It had been weeks since she’d been able to drink. She wouldn’t last much longer. Damien nudged me, handing me a metal bowl. We didn’t have long before the blood started coagulating. The room had filled up with the others, bowls clenched in their pale hands. The body was flipped, a scalpel drawn across the still-warm jugular, and we all took our rations.

I followed Damien back into the dark warehouse, pulling myself up to sit on a crate next to him and staring at the bowl of black liquid in my hands. He had already chugged his share, tilting his head back to get the last drops.

“It’s only going to get worse the longer you wait,” he sighed, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

I choked down a mouthful of the sickeningly warm liquid.

“We weren’t meant to live like this,” I murmured, fighting the urge to vomit.

Damien shook his head, holding his bowl at an angle to let the last remnants settle into a puddle.

“We weren’t meant to live.”


I’ve been thinking about vampires lately and what might drive the average human to consume blood other than a supernatural intervention. This wasn’t based on a writing prompt…just an idea rattling around in my brain.

~ R. E. Rule

Leaving Town

The first time I left town was in a fit of childish rage. I shoved my stuffed rabbit into a tattered backpack adorned with patches and trekked off down the road, vaulting from one yellow line to the next on the sun-worn asphalt. When my tantrum, but not my stubbornness, had faded in the bright daylight, I sat down on the side of the road to wait for whichever panicked parent chased after me first. I fell asleep with my head resting on my backpack and woke up terrified. The sun was setting, and no one had come to get me. Worried I’d been forgotten, I sprinted back down the road to our small town.

The whole experience must have left me unsettled…


To keep reading, join my Patreon (https://patreon.com/rerule). This story is available to the Fledgling and Bookwyrm tiers.

~ R. E. Rule

Originally Posted: Mar. 6, 2020
Updated: Dec. 14, 2020

10. Writing Prompt – It Seemed Like a Threat

Her shift at the all-night diner had run late, and it was well past midnight when she finally yanked off her apron and jogged down the steps into the shadowy streets. The reflection from the neon sign on the side of the thin metal building wavered wildly on the damp pavement underneath her feet and threw ghastly shadows of the single car parked in the lot in front of the diner. The buses had stopped running hours ago, and she trudged through the darkness toward her apartment on the other side of town. She was halfway home when someone grabbed her arm and dragged her into an alley. She struggled wildly, trying to reach the pepper spray in her back pocket, but her assaulter slammed her against the wall, clamping a hand over her mouth.

“Be quiet and keep still,” he hissed, his face inches from hers.

Terrified of the alternative, she obeyed. She waited for his next command, but his eyes were fixed on the dark street she had just been yanked from. His words seemed like a threat until she saw two shadowy figures pass by the mouth of the alley. They stopped and looked around before splitting up, one crossing the street and the other continuing on ahead. She had been alone in the darkness, or so she had thought. These dark figures seemed to be looking for something, and she had a sickening feeling it was her.

“They’ll be back,” her abductor whispered, dropping his hand from her mouth. “We need to go.”

She yanked her pepper spray out of her pocket and pointed it at him with a shaking hand, demanding, “Who the hell are you?!”

“Keep your voice down!” he hissed. “We don’t have time for this.”

One of the shadowy figures reappeared in the mouth of the alley and spotting them, letting out an unintelligible cry for their companion before sprinting toward them. She found herself being dragged down the alley by her rescuer or kidnapper, she wasn’t sure which. Their feet pounded on the damp pavement as they burst out of the alley and sprinted down the street, two dark figures racing along behind. The man grabbed her hand in a vice-like grip and dragged her through a dizzying maze of streets and alleys, doubling back on themselves until they finally stopped in the middle of an empty street.

Fog was descending, and the air was heavy with moisture. The street was lined with shops, faint lights glowing within, but the signs in the windows were darkened for the night. He yanked on the doors as they passed, but they were all locked tight. She glanced anxiously behind them, but the dark figures had disappeared.

“Looks like we lost them,” she panted, out of breath. “Now tell me what the hell is going on!”

“No such luck, I’m afraid,” he laughed bitterly, tugging uselessly at a café door. “They’ll catch up. They always do.”

“Who?! What do they want from me?!” she asked, terror clutching at her throat.

“You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Take a taxi next time!”

He straightened up and stared into the shadowy street, alerted by something she couldn’t hear, before grabbing her and dragging her into an alley. He shoved her down behind a clump of garbage cans and crouched next to her. The sound of claws scraping on cement approached then paused, and a guttural sniffing filled the air. Her heart was pounding so loudly, she swore it echoed off the damp brick wall her back was pressed against. Her companion lifted a finger to his lips, and she nodded, swallowing hard. Deafening silence fell, pulsing in her eardrums, until the scrapping of claws resumed, slowly receding down the street.

“Who are you?” she whispered when she was finally sure they were alone.

“I’m…like you. Somebody with the worst luck imaginable,” he sighed, pressing his back to the edge of the alley to gaze around the corner into the street. “I was all cozy in the diner, safely out of the dark for the night when I saw them hunting you. You really should have taken a taxi.”

“You followed me from the diner?!” she exclaimed angrily. “Wait… What do you mean hunting?”

A shrill cry rang out down the street.

“Time to go,” he yelled, grabbing her hand. They sprinted out into the street on the other side of the row buildings they had hidden against.

“There!” he yelled, pointing at a bus stop illuminated by a single streetlight, and they darted toward it. The two black figures burst out of the alley behind them, skidding on the wet pavement, claws scratching. She tried to keep running, but the man yanked her hand, and they slid to a stop in the circle of light pooling beneath the streetlight. He grinned as the shadowy figures prowled along the edge, hissing at them. She stared in horror as the grotesque human forms tilted their heads unnaturally, hissing to reveal darker maws within the wavering black forms, gnarled fingers of darkness clawing at the edge of the light.

“What…. What are they?” she asked, trembling.

“Harmless,” he laughed. “As long as the light shines.”

He settled on the ground, resting his back against the lamppost.

“Might as well get comfortable,” he sighed, lacing his fingers behind his head. “We’re going to be here a while.”

She extended a trembling hand still clutching her pepper spray toward the black figures.

“That’s not going to do you any good,” he commented. “It won’t hurt them. Nothing does.”

She dropped her arm to her side, still gripping the can tightly. The figures had stopped clawing and crouched at the edge of the circle of light, black holes where eyes should be fixed on the two figures in the lamplight.

“What do they want?”

“I don’t know,” he sighed. “They’ve been hunting me for weeks. Waiting in the dark, the shadows, everywhere I go. I guess they got my scent, and they aren’t giving up.”

The night was silent except for the clicking of a flashing traffic light down the street, its pulse throwing yellow stains across the wet pavement. The fog slowly thickened and settled over the town until the buildings were obscured by its pale mask. The light above them began to flicker as the bulb protested the moisture that had enveloped it. He stared up at it.

“Oh sh—“

The light flickered out, and darkness fell. There was an unearthly shriek then silence as the light flickered back on, revealing empty sidewalk and a spinning can of pepper spray.


I had two goals for this prompt. First, I wanted to try a different style; something more serious or dark. I hadn’t attempted horror before. I’m not sure how frightening it ended up being, but I’ll keep working on it. Second, I wanted to write something longer. Most of the competitions/writing submissions I’ve seen require a minimum of 1,000 words. My previous prompts have mostly been micro-fiction. Ultimately I would like to submit some of these, so I need to increase the length of my stories.

I tried to create a very vivid picture of the scene: dark streets, wet pavement, the lights shining on the damp concrete, and the settling fog. How effective did you find it? Is there anything I could improve?

More soon.