October Stories

000_0597BThis entry will, I hope, be more comment than posting. First, just to set the mood, here’s an excerpt from my story “Uther.” This “Fred” character isn’t me: he just happens to have the same name.

Fred checked his jeans pocket for his key, then quietly exited by the back door and locked it. He threaded among the leaning rakes, mower belts, oily rags, and generator parts. The sagging porch groaned under his added weight. Someday soon, all this junk was going to crash into the crawlspace below.

The leaves were mostly down now. Fred’s high-topped sneakers sank ankle-deep in their crackly carpet. The moon rode high and round through the limbs, but the night wasn’t as clear as he’d thought. Piles of cloud slithered like dirty snow in a stream, and a clammy breeze rustled the cornstalks his father had lashed to the porch posts for Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving. There was no art to the decoration: just a pickup load of dead stalks bound thickly to every support, like phase one of building a pyre.

[In this story, Fred is an inventor. He remembers a night from the previous August, and goosebumps break out on his arms.]

Fred was playing then with a gadget he’d impishly called “night vision goggles” — not because they helped you see at night, but because their prisms warped ambient light, helping you see night visions. The effects were wild and disturbing: objects had colored auras, tree branches seemed to reach toward you, and shadowy figures hovered everywhere, the mirages and residues of things beyond the lenses’ peripheries.

The goggles were downright creepy. It hadn’t been too smart to wear them into the hilltop cemetery. As Fred had scanned the tombstones, watching the marble angels breathe, their robes seem to flutter — watching the ground ripple, as if the dead were trying to claw their way up — he’d glimpsed two figures.

[Later in the story, Fred visits one of his favorite haunts, where he often gathers parts for his inventions: the town junkyard.]

Still, the illumination of the distant town brought comfort: the winking red light on the radio spire, the water tower like a Wellsian Martian war machine, the glowing windows of the five-story St. Francis Hospital. Human habitation, he mused. A little circle of warmth around the campfire, and beyond our cave, the bottomless night.

He followed the road toward the grain elevator, but turned off on the gravel lane leading toward Huggins’ Salvage. This track, which angled through an apple orchard on the town’s outskirts, was deeply rutted from the passage of heavy trucks, the caravans of exotic plunder — dead freezers, discarded furnaces, the obsolete and unwanted.

A chain-link fence and gate barred the main approach, but they were only a facade. The original Huggins had been dead for a decade, and his sons had done away with the fences on the sides and back of the salvage yard. Trucks could drive freely among the corrugated buildings now, and off to where the compound dissolved into mounds and canyons of trash brought with no expectation of payment.

The apple harvest had just ended, the ground still littered with the bird-pecked, the worm-eaten, the withered rejects. Fred trudged beneath the low, tangled limbs that drooped over the fence on his left, branches groping down toward the wrecked cars. The pulpy, overripe smell was strong here, the shadows deep; even leafless, the trees formed an interwoven roof.

At the snap of a twig, he spun.

[And later. . . .]

His heart leaped. Someone stood watching him, utterly motionless, a bald head and shoulders outlined between two cars.

Fred backed up, ready to run, hunching for a clearer view. The person made no move and seemed not even to breathe, as calm as. . . .

A mannequin. Fred slumped against a burned-out Chevy, knees going weak in his relief. He’d seen the dummy before, a thing with no arms, no face, and only a stick for a lower body. He was just too jumpy tonight.

Nor did it help that he was within sight of a feature he called the Gallows. It loomed to his right, a locust tree that had pushed up through a stack of chemical drums, a plastic-sheathed clothesline wire ingrown into one outstretched limb, swinging in the wind. He always looked to see if anyone had looped the wire into a noose.

Okay, let’s leave Fred there, because the situation is about to get very grim indeed.

And let’s go to the wonderful first lines that the readers of this blog have suggested so far! These come from comments to the posting two back from this one, called “Boo.” Here they are:

1.) The tree was weird.

2.) There shouldn’t have been a crack in the sidewalk. It hadn’t been there yesterday. The odd squishing sounds I had heard during the night came back to me as I leaned in for a closer look.

3.) It was a night when the white moon sucked all color from the world; a haunting melody was riding the breeze, but nobody in the car seemed to hear it but me.

[Those first three were submitted by SwordLily.]

4.) At the first exhibit at the grade school haunted house, Billy knew his hand was dunked into a plate of cold spaghetti, and not “body parts,” as his cousin claimed, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that it seemed as though some of the strands were warmer than others, and had tightened slightly around his fingers.

[That was from Marquee Movies.]

5.) It was a dark and stormy night.

[From Jedibabe and Daylily.]

6.) No one walked past this particular house even in daylight but I knew someone lived there, though I’d never seen them.

7.) It wasn’t dark yet; the sky was gray and looked like static as the wind screamed past us, rattling the old boards at the end of the street.

[Those two are from Shieldmaiden.]

8.) I watched, frozen in silence, as a deformed black shadow inched its way up the street . . . but where, pray tell, was its body?

9.) Two large red eyes, missing their pupils, stared at the boy, a mouth with multitudes of reddish teeth slowly materializing in the darkness.

10.) The moon twisted and moved, forming impossible shapes in the cold night; something black, with small beady eyes, sat atop it.

11.) She screamed as something rose out of the black water, making as if to grab her with its white bony hands.

[These latest four are from Kyran.]

Thank you to all contributors so far! (You can still contribute entries; I’d suggest leaving them as comments on this post, so we can find them easily.)

The next step: anyone who wants to can choose one of these eleven beginnings and use it to start a paragraph (or a few paragraphs). Write the paragraph(s) as a comment on this entry. You don’t have to tell the entire story of what’s going on or bring it to any kind of conclusion: just add to the scene, perhaps deepen the mystery, increase the weirdness — and above all, have fun! Let’s not any of us feel that we “can’t write” well enough to try this — remember, the bumblebee “can’t fly,” either!

It’s okay to reuse certain ones if someone takes the one you wanted. That’s the great thing about electronic text: there’s enough of it to go around. But ideally, let’s try to use them all before we’re done!

Talk to you soon!


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15 Responses to “October Stories”

  1. fsdthreshold Says:

    (There are lots more comments interspersed with the older ones back on “Boo”!)

  2. SwordLily Says:

    I can’t say how good I am at writing scary things since I don’t prefer reading such things myself, but I will try ^^:

    She screamed as something rose out of the black water, making as if to grab her with its white bony hands. Mud slid under her frantic feet as she scrabbled for the woods. She didn’t look back. She didn’t dare. The shadows of the trees were gathering around her when something brittle and dry closed around her ankle. She tried to scream again as she landed on the wet ground with a thud, the wind knocked out of her. She panted as she twisted to see the face of her death. The silver moon cast the shadow of the looming, thin figure over her, obscuring its features. Its bony hands reached for her, its face coming into view; its soulless pits of eyes stared down at her from a skull stark white in the moonlight. She had to run. She couldn’t move.

  3. Catherine Says:

    Ditto, SwordLily! Shall we form a club and call ourselves the Unflying Bumblebees? Anyway, here goes:

    It was a dark and stormy night. The sort of night when I didn’t want to get off of my couch and out from under my blanket. The sort of night when the world was cozy so long as the lights were on and the music was turned up and the rain didn’t come in through the roof. It would have stayed that way, supposedly, had I ignored the knock.

    I never noticed how the streetlights were gradually turning off that night. I had been quite aware of the neighbors complaining how this was practically the inner city and no one bothered to change the flickering bulbs because we weren’t rich enough to bribe the officials. Nights I had to be out in it I had shrugged and continued to walk, pawing the ground carefully with the toes of my shoes (wet through with the rain) to make sure I wasn’t stepping into oblivion. Most often I landed smack in a puddle and came home to peel off my socks and hang everything to dry by the furnace vents, making my house smell musty but cozy.

    That night though the entire neighborhood seemed to be plunged into darkness, but I didn’t notice until I heard the knock at the door and got up to answer it. I paused when I saw how many lights had gone out, but I shook myself. Premonitions . . . well, they don’t happen. My life, I supposed, was too ordered for them to happen. And anyway, it was nearly election time so I’d probably get some sort of balderdash about such-and-such a candidate who would fix up the richer parts of town.

    I opened the door and I saw a rather pale woman, sodden and dripping, seemingly homeless.

    “Please,” she said softly, barely parting her lips, “won’t you let me in? I don’t have anywhere to go and I’ve got a cold.” She sneezed to show me, hygienically covering her nose and especially her mouth so that no germs could escape.

    All right, so I wasn’t the brightest bulb on the chain. Even in regular times that would have been a foolish thing to do. I stepped aside, however, and said: “Come in.”

    Owwwww! Okay, I’m only posting this so that people who are afraid of quality can see that if theirs is bad, it’ll still have company.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Excellent! I think this narrator just let the WRONG one in! I like the hints about how the stranger keeps her teeth hidden — and that’s a nice effect with the streetlights going out!

  4. Shieldmaiden Says:

    I love this post! I hope everyone writes in, I have sure loved reading the ones so far. SwordLily and Catherine your story starters are great. You are both braver bumblebees than I am. After days or should I say daze of trying to write something scary I decided on something for the purpose of entertainment only. Since I can’t seem to write scary I thought I’d borrow some of my favorite lines from all of you. It won’t scare you but I do hope it makes you smile a little.

    “It was a dark and stormy night. It was a night when the white moon sucked all color from the world; a haunting melody was riding the breeze, but nobody in the car seemed to hear it but me. The moon twisted and moved, forming impossible shapes in the cold night; something black, with small beady eyes, sat atop it. I watched, frozen in silence, as a deformed black shadow inched its way up the street . . . but where, pray tell, was its body? A sound piercing the night hurt my ears, only when I’d run out of air did I realize it was my own scream.”

    • Daylily Says:

      Thanks, Shieldmaiden! That WAS fun! 🙂

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Hee, hee! It’s funny how those sentences all do sort of fit together! (But wait . . . how can there be a moon out if it’s so “dark and stormy”? 🙂 )

      • Shieldmaiden Says:

        Ummm, magic Yeah… thats it! It was dark and stormy, except for the Moon, which was bright. It could happen.

  5. Marquee Movies Says:

    These have been fun to read. Shieldmaiden, don’t be offended, but your story blurb (with the scream in the car) just reminded me of this funny line – I don’t remember where I first heard it.
    “When I die, I want to go peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming bloody murder like the passengers in his car.”

  6. Marquee Movies Says:

    OK, I like this using-a-sentence idea a lot, and so I thought I’d take a stab at one of the ideas posted. Typically, I wrote too much, but it was fun, so here goes. (Thanks, Swordlily!)

    Though he was younger than me, Tom was always going to be a better skateboarder than me. This is absolutely true, always would be. But he didn’t lord his skills over me too much, even when I really wiped out, causing any assortment of his friends on the block to laugh. So on that snap cool October day, probably the last really good day we’d have for boarding in the year, I agreed to come out in front and help him set up the ramp our dad had built. There were special posts that the legs of the heavy ramp fit into, and we quickly had it up.
    I wasn’t really in the mood, having slept poorly. I had been continually awakened by some sound, one I could never remember when I gained full consciousness. Again and again in the night, I’d lain there, knowing that some sound was just, just out of reach, an unhappy noise at the tips of my fingers, or brushing against the covers at the foot of the bed. As far as I knew, Tom slept great. Always did.
    Sure enough, the moment we got the ramp set up, Danny and the others from down the block came out of their houses, some with puffy gray or blue sweatshirts on. I saw more than a few dark red leaves fly up as they began coasting down the sidewalk, and even heard some of the crackling as they got closer. I quickly grabbed a broom from the garage, and began sweeping the sidewalk leading up to the ramp. I knew the others thought this was a waste of time, but somehow on my skateboard, I always managed to hit those impenetrable leaf stems – crash – while all these younger kids blew through them without incident. They gathered, talking to Tom, in front of the neighbor’s house while I swept. I was almost at the foot of the ramp when I stopped. I actually froze, with the broom in midair.
    We weren’t going to be able to skateboard in front of our house after all. In fact, we weren’t going to…… I stared down at the ground so long that I heard one of Tom’s friends shout out something. A jeer, perhaps – but I didn’t move. Tom came up, and said, “What’s wrong?”
    I whispered, “Tom.”
    He looked at the ground. He stared for a while like I did, then said, “It’s nothing.” This hurt my head. How could he say that? I heard him drop his skateboard on the ground. Was he going to ride anyway? The board rolled near me, but stopped just short. He said again, “It’s nothing.” What was wrong? Where was I? Why was he saying that? I was barely able to turn my head just enough to see him out of the corner of my eyes. He was standing slack-jawed, his arms hanging limply, his eyes dark, his face empty. I saw a thin line of saliva drop from his mouth, and he stated, “It’s Nothing.”
    There shouldn’t have been a crack in the sidewalk. It hadn’t been there yesterday. The odd squishing sounds I had heard during the night came back to me as I leaned in for a closer look.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Great one! I LOVE the idea of using the cue line as the last line and working toward it! Brilliant! What you’ve got here is actually a piece of flash fiction! Maybe you should submit it to Every Day Fiction! Very chilling! (It almost seems like a Cthulhu Mythos story!)

      • Marquee Movies Says:

        Cthulhu Mythos….? Uh…….yeah, that’s what I was going for. Glad you caught that. (Thanks for the kind words!)

  7. Kyran Says:

    ok not sure if I can compare with any of your guys stuff but I’ll try anyway because I like writing scary stuff 🙂 sorry this is so late btw .-.

    The tree was weird. It’s limbs had a sickly pale look to them, they protruded in strange places and looked sharp like knives. Simon watched as the middle of the tree seemed to unfold revealing a limitless amount of darkness. A reddish green figure stepped out….first one red streaked foot…then the other. It’s legs bent back and it’s arms squiggled out at impossible angles. It wore a black jester hat and puffy pants. In any other situation it would have seemed almost silly but the beady white eyes and long green dripping teeth stopped Simon from laughing. Almost as in slow motion Simon turned to run, but alas his legs seemed stuck. He was rooted to the spot like the tree he wanted to run from. The Thing approached him slowly….slowly getting closer….


    It wasn’t dark yet; the sky was gray and looked like static as the wind screamed past them, rattling the old boards at the end of the street. Sakura glanced at Keiran and wondered, not for the first time, if they should turn back. Keiran had convinced her to come with him to the old boarded up house located just outside their town. Some people said they had heard low moans emitting from the walls of the house. Sakura didn’t believe in monsters or ghosts, but she did wonder what freak of nature might be hiding behind those walls, and she really didn’t want to find out. Yet she wasn’t about to let her best friend go there on his own.

    When they got within three feet of the door, all of the wind stopped. Sakura could have reached out and touched the old rotting nob, but she didn’t dare. A small voice in the back of her mind told her to run, the minutes seemed to stretch out as the little voice in her head grew bigger and bigger, louder and louder…soon it was screaming “RUN.” But it seemed Keiran had different thoughts, he reached out and grabbed the nob, pulling the door open. It opened slowly…creek…. creek…. sqweek…soundless warning formed and died on Sakura’s lips, yet it was too late. On the far wall of the one room house, next to the ruined couch that seemed to be bleeding springs, two large red eyes, missing their pupils, stared at Sakura, a mouth with multitudes of reddish teeth slowly materializing in the darkness. Keiran’s hands had dropped to his side, the black thing was detaching itself from the wall and moving toward them. Sakura could only put a hand to her mouth and stumble backwards as it approached them, Keiran didn’t even move, the only sign that he was even alive was his eyes, blink blink blink…

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