2019 Horror Flash Fiction Runners-up
First of all thank you to everyone who sent in an entry! We had a great turn out and truly enjoyed reading your stories. Honestly, I think we would have enjoyed recording them all but there are only so many hours in the day. Similarly, we don’t have the time to put all of the stories into the Runner-Up category. Below you will find five wonderful tales and two lovely poems by Violet Welles, Conor Walsh, Justin Moritz, Carole Bulewski, Steve Hodgetts Taya Damutt, and Philip Rogers. Congrats to the seven of you for some spooktacular storytelling.
Didn’t see your name? Don’t worry – it ain’t over yet. Stay tuned – our winners will be announced on our Halloween Podcast! Oct 31 at 6 PM (UK) and 12 PM(US CST)
Update: You can check out the winners here!
by Violet Welles
Most kids think monsters live under beds or inside closets, that they hide in the darkness waiting for the perfect time to drag you away by your ankles and that the only thing your mom will find in the morning is your fingernail scrapings along the bare, wooden floor. But I know better.
My monster lives underneath the wallpaper.
That’s how it moves around the house. It lurks down hallways and weaves through picture frames. You can’t escape monsters when they’re in your walls. You can’t shut the closet door or stay safe in bed.
They get to you no matter what.
My monster creeps through the cracks of my door at night. I can see its bulge slithering beneath the beige paper like a bug under skin, and as it passes under the little blue cars, their wheels seem to spin.
The wheels on the bus go round and round, Willie, says the wallpaper. Round and round.
The walls throb as the heart of my monster beats.
So I rip it off the wall.
It comes off in sheets, curling in on itself as it falls to the floor of my bedroom, the little blue cars torn in half. My monster weeps and its tears drip down the walls.
I’m in big trouble. Mommy yells. Susie laughs.
And my monster slinks down into the carpet.
Monsters don’t hide, not like people think. They aren’t scared of daylight. Some monsters even live there, in the light. But not my monster. My monster lives in the carpet. It writhes just under the daylight so it can watch me, so it can whisper to me as I drink my soup.
Willie, Willie, Willie. You can’t get rid of me, Willie, says the carpet. Twirl your spoon around, Willie.
Round and round.
So I take Daddy’s knife from the Big Block in the kitchen and rip it off the floor.
It’s loud as it tears, and the wool tickles my kneecaps as I pull it up. The ground below is gray like sick skin. It’s cold and hard and shakes as my monster trembles.
Bad Willie. Mommy screams. Susie frowns.
And my monster crawls out of the carpet shreds and into Susie’s stuffed bear.
Monsters want to be close to you, to be so close they can smell your bones. Stuffed bears don’t have bones, but I do. They smell like burning hair when you cut them.
Willie. Can I stay here, Willie? says the bear’s face. Don’t hurt me, Willie.
So I rip it off his head.
Button eyes roll along the ground as my monster gasps for air from its severed mouth.
Mommy shrieks. Susie cries round and round. Her cheeks turn puffy red and her knees drop to the floor. She holds the bear’s corpse in her arms as he bleeds out his white insides.
And my monster snakes up her arms and into her skin.
Monsters take things you love so that maybe you’ll love them, too. So that maybe you’ll let them stay.
Susie’s eyes are bright and blue like the cars on my walls. They start to spin round and round.
Willie. I love you, Willie, says her skin. Don’t hurt me, Willie.
I go to the Big Block in the kitchen.
My friend, Agatha
by Steve Hodgetts
Daniel Taylor wasn’t much looking forward to university. He already lived a comfortable and rather idyllic life in Cornwall with his parents so the prospect had never been a hugely attractive one. He didn’t have any outgoings; his washing was done weekly, and he was cooked for daily. He had also just experienced one of the finest summers of his life so far, and Cornwall in the summer is quite something. But most importantly, the main reason Daniel wasn’t keen on university, was that he didn’t really like other people. He had always struggled to make friends at school, and the prospect of trying to make any at university petrified him. It was Daniel’s parents who were forcing him to attend – they told him that a degree would present him with ‘opportunities’ in life, and thus, he reluctantly complied.
Daniel woke up with a funny feeling the morning of the big trip up to London. He was already feeling anxious about moving his life to the big city, but he didn’t anticipate a feeling quite this strange. His mother offered to drive him up, but Daniel, like most things, preferred to do the trip alone. He packed the car, said goodbye to his family, and set off east. It took six hours to drive to London, and the journey was a hard one, leaving rolling countryside for an increasingly flatter and more built-up environment. A lush, green paradise slowly gave way for a bustling concrete jungle. He made his way cross-country and through London’s impossibly complicated road system before eventually pulling into the university halls of residence, where he was welcomed by a large, Victorian pillared entrance. A vibrant, colourful sign on the left pillar read: ‘Prince’s College London, University Halls’, but a fainter, weathered, and clearly more unkempt grey stone sign on the right pillar read: ‘Ross Hill Nursing Home’.
The atmosphere in the courtyard was certainly high-spirited, which certainly didn’t do much for Daniel’s anxiety, but he soldiered on, and after parking up, made his way to the reception area to sign in and pick up his keys. He queued at reception while the other students were introducing themselves, chatting and joking, but Daniel wasn’t ready to make the introductions quite yet, so he collected his key and trudged upstairs to find his room.
Daniel began to wind down a few long corridors before finding his room. Number 46. He laid down his bags, unlocked the door, and stepped in. What he saw then was most peculiar. He froze in the doorway. The room was completely empty. But not quite. An older lady stood at one end of the room near an open window, of which she stared out, her back to Daniel.
“Oh, sorry”, said Daniel, startled.
The old lady slowly turned around to face him and said calmly, “Hello dear. I’m Agatha. Do you know to knock before entering people’s rooms?” Her voice was low and gravelly, her face pale and miserably worn.
“Uh…sorry I…must have the wrong room”, Daniel muttered apologisingly.
“This is room 46.” She paused. “You’re new here are you?” the old lady asked.
The old lady must have been well into her seventies but Daniel was certainly aware that the university accepted mature students. In fact, he logically assumed that it made sense to undertake a postgraduate course in your retirement, if only because you finally had more time and money to spend studying your passion.
“Yes. Yeah I just came up from Cornwall today.”
“I’ve seen quite a few people wander around of late. Yes, quite a few”, she said accusingly.
Agatha held her stare at Daniel before continuing.
“We must take care of them. This is my home, you know. Intruders are not most welcome around here. And…” Agatha paused once more.
“I suppose that you can help me can’t you?” The old lady grinned broadly from ear to ear.
“Sorry…I…just need to check with reception downstairs. I think there’s been a mix-up.” Daniel was clearly keen to make an excuse to leave.
He paced back down to the ground floor confused and disoriented. He joined the reception queue once more and waited his turn to resolve the issue.
“Sorry, I think there’s been a mistake. Someone’s already taken my room.”
“Ah. OK sorry about that. There must be an error in the system. What’s your name again?”
“Daniel Taylor. Room 46.”
The receptionist tapped away at her computer and looked closely at the screen.
“No. No there shouldn’t be anyone else in that room. Room 46 is assigned to you.”
It didn’t add up. He thought to return and politely explain to Agatha that she had got the wrong room. He thanked the receptionist and went back upstairs with further evidence he could present to the old lady.
He approached the room, opened the door, and there was another thing that seemed odd: the old lady had vanished. She was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps she had realised her error, he thought, before going to collect the remainder of his bags from the car.
The first few weeks of university were slow for Daniel. There wasn’t anyone he naturally bonded with at the university and his loneliness prevailed. It was fortunate, then, that over the first term he had developed one friendship that for once in his life he really valued.
One cold, December night, after Daniel had endured a particularly exhausting day of study, it was the first time in his life that he was actually looking forward to a social occasion. He was late back into his room and dumped his bag, before closing the curtains and lighting a candle.
“Are you there, Agatha?” Daniel whispered.
There was a pause, and after a few moments he heard, “Of course Daniel. I’m always here.”
“I’m ready.” Daniel said with vigour.
“Well, then”, Agatha said calmly, appearing from a corner of the room with a knife.
“Let’s begin with the young man next door shall we?”
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Something To Sink Your Teeth Into
By Justin Moritz
“Just looking at it just makes me want to sink my teeth into it.” Maureen said as she looked into the pizza oven. I agreed, but my attention was not on the pizza, but rather on Maureen’s throat—the tremble of her jugular.
“How are they expecting us to bake pizzas all day without enjoying a slice?” Maureen turned from the pizza to me then back to the pizza, “Tony, just let me indulge this once, we’ll say we got the order wrong. Carl wouldn’t want a good pizza to go to waste cause of a few incorrect toppings.”
But I had promised my manager that I would watch Maureen because this wouldn’t be the first time she indulged on the job. Maureen looked at pizza the same way a mother looked at her newborn child—nothing in the world was as precious. I had once felt the same way, but that had been before the Friday night delivery incident, and now the smell of the shop’s signature ingredient—roasted garlic minced and tossed across the entire pizza—made me gag and turn away.
“If you can make it till closing, how about I buy us a whole pizza?”. I said it because I knew Maureen couldn’t do it.
“Easy.” Maureen walked away from the oven, “Can’t be tempted if I’m not looking at it.”
I don’t know if I considered Maureen a friend. In the few weeks we’d worked Sunday evenings together, all I’d really learned about her was that she loved free pizza on the store’s expense and lived in a trailer with her high school boyfriend who she exclusively referred to as Hubby. Maureen wore clothes that didn’t fit—tight shirts that didn’t contain her stomach, long pants that trailed behind her when she walked. She kept her hair cut short. Most likely she had done it herself, it was uneven with strange protuberances that stuck up from her head. I never thought Maureen pretty before the incident, but today, back at work for the first time since he bit me, Maureen made my mouth water.
Before when I thought of Maureen, I thought of her eating pizza. Cheese stretched in a long, drooping bridge of mozzarella from the slice to her mouth. Tomato sauce dripping down her chin until she wiped it away, carefully licking the sauce from her fingertip. Now, when I thought of Maureen, I thought of her limp in my arms—ragged flesh stretching from her throat to my mouth, her blood staining my chin before I’d delicately wipe it away with my finger, licking the excess.
I hadn’t told anyone about that night—how the man had led me into that alley with the curling of his fingers and how strangely willing I had been to tilt my head to the side so he could take a bite. I remember the pain of him biting down, the way my head spun as he drank, then the howling of sirens on the adjacent street—an unexpected disturbance on his part. The man fled without finishing his meal, and upon the realization that I would get away alive gave me the vampiric terms of my condition—no garlic, no crosses, no holy water or I was kaput.
He hadn’t mentioned the hunger. My senses became myopic—my vision blurring, noise reduced to a shrill ringing, all there was was that hollow aching of my stomach and the smell of Maureen. I feared the back of her head, knowing that if she turned, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from biting down on her throat.
“I just want some goddamn pizza, Tony.” Maureen whined as she walked into the front of the shop—sweat mottled her throat, smelling of her, promising how she would taste.
I followed, and the next thing I knew I was on top of her. I wondered if a gazelle made the same face Maureen made when a lion sunk its teeth into its throat—shock then fear then nothing at all but the limp gaze of the departed. Maureen put up a fight even if it was a sloppy, ineffective fight full of missed kicks to my groin and failed grasps for my hair. I thought this must be how a mosquito felt, its wings drooping as it struggled to fly off upon successfully feeding. But unlike the mosquito, the damage I left was more than a red, itchy, little bump—it was Maureen in her entirety, limp against the floor with her work uniform bloodied and her throat hanging in ribbons, her mouth hanging open as if she could still utter her protests.
Maureen looked up at me, all the life drained from her face, and I couldn’t help but feel bad. I wondered about things I’d never wondered about—How would Hubby survive a day without her? Would her parents choose to cremate or bury her? What tabloid magazines would go straight into the garbage without their reader, unread and still shrink-wrapped? Maureen was gone and I was to blame. The pizza oven chimed.
When I pulled the pizza from the oven, I didn’t wait for it to cool before I grabbed two slices. I had promised Maureen if she made it through the shift, I’d buy her a pizza, and since Maureen’s shift was over on technicality—she was after all lying dead behind the counter—the least I could do was fulfill my promise. I shoved one of the slices of pizza in her limp hand and took the other for myself. The garlic made my eyes water, the smell made me want to vomit, but the least I could do for Maureen was share one last slice. I took a bite, felt my entire body roar in pain, stifled the urge to vomit, and swallowed. The garlic really was a killer addition to the pizza, I thought as I crumpled to dust.
Mireille By Carole Bulewski
A long time ago, in the 1970s
Mireille is not pretty. She is not very bright either. Or funny. Or full of life. All these things that
make people marvel at a child, she hasn’t got them. It doesn’t matter that she cares about her
little brother – a bright, handsome, funny little boy. And it doesn’t matter that she will gladly
share her marmalade toasts with her classmates, even when it means there’s not much left for
her. No one cares whether a child is compassionate beyond their years. Not children, and not
adults. And least of all Mireille’s parents. All they see is this girl who is neither bright nor
particularly pleasant to look at – thick calves and thick brain, dull hair that is neither flat nor
curly, neither dark nor fair.
And obviously, Mireille is not very good at school either. She does all her homework
conscientiously, spends hours writing essays, reads the books she’s been asked to read. Her
mother makes absolutely sure that she does. But there is one thing Mireille’s mother cannot
control in all this. And that is that Mireille spends hours looking at the words dancing on the
pages but doesn’t understand what they mean. She can just about read aloud, but none of it
makes any sense to her. She is nine years old now, and she still has no idea what the words
It’s not that she cannot understand a story when she watches children’s programmes on the
telly – when she hasn’t been punished for a bad school report and sent to her room without
dinner, which happens regularly. It’s just that she cannot understand stories when she reads
them. Algebra and history remain just as obscure, and there is no real explanation for any of it.
She is bad at school and it enrages her parents, her mother particularly who keeps telling her
she’ll up cleaning people’s toilets just like her.
What her mother doesn’t know, or refuses to acknowledge, is that there are things Mireille is
good at. She can sew, trousers and dresses, and she can knit, scarves and jumpers. She can sing
– sing along to the songs on the radio and even make up harmonies. And she has a natural
ability at arranging a house, at knowing what needs to be done and at doing it in an extremely
logical manner. But Mireille’s mother only cares about her academic performance.
And so that’s all she ever hears, both at home and at school. That she’s just stupid. Irremediably
Poor Mireille. Even the other kids pick on her – stupid, stupid, stupid. She gets so flustered
that she cannot even play with the others during recess. She falls over and she counts wrong.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
And then the end of the year arrives, and the teachers decide that Mireille will need to repeat
the year because she’s not ready for the next level.
That night when Mireille goes home with the school report marked “REPEAT THE YEAR”, she
knows something terrible is about to happen. She feels it at the core of her being. See, she’s not
Mireille’s mother doesn’t say a word but she goes very white in the face and gestures towards
Mireille’s father, who unbuckles his belt just as silently and hands it over to Mireille’s mother.
And then the wrath is unleashed, and Mireille’s mother beats her up with the belt until Mireille
bleeds, until she falls on the floor, rolls around in agony. Her entire body is burning, and she
cannot see in front of her any more, blinded by the pain and the tears, and the sweat that’s
falling abundantly from her forehead.
Tonight, Mireille wants to die.
The following day, the class is far less formal than usual. It’s almost time for the long summer
break and the teachers are only too happy to let the children play in the courtyard with minimal
Mireille is still in atrocious pain, and she grimaces when a ball hits her in the thigh – where
her mother hit her the hardest. The girl who threw the ball at her queries if she’s hurt her, and
that’s when it happens. Mireille realises that she cannot talk to her classmates about what
happened last night at home, and there is no adult at school with whom to talk about it either.
The teachers think she’s just stupid and have never paid her any attention. The school nurse will
tell her to put balm on the bruises and cuts, but she will not query how she got those in the first
place. Mireille is truly alone in the world. But she doesn’t have to be. That’s what the voice in her
head said last night, as she was trying to fall asleep but couldn’t because of the pain. “You don’t
have to be alone, Mireille. Become nasty. Become evil. And then you’ll see, people will start
respecting you and become your friend.”
It’s all so simple, really.
Surrounded by darkness
With walls on all sides
I’m wearing a black suit
And Wearing a tie
The air seems to think
As I struggle to breath
There is no space to move
Or exit to leave
I don’t know what happened
Because I never died
I just can’t believe it
I’m buried alive
The preadolescent twelve,
led astray by parents passive extravagance Medicated her increasing boredom
By familiarizing her tongue in lore
Spinning breathtaking gold
From jaded straw
Carving mountain-out of molehill
In whimsical exhibition,
For all to behold!
Disconnected from inhibition
She bore a dozen lies, from pearled teeth Each as damning as the previous
Landing on the family estate in heaps
With the prospect of descending reputation While quickly bored of these public relations The
parents disposed money as involvement For flesh to be blended to damned solvent The young
child rested replacing the Hellfire, that took her mind In form of a Monarch butterfly
Tinted sunset, draped in delicate fragility She giggled and tore off the wings
Her lip began to curl with semblance to joy On the parallel, stitched up as toy
When reality struck she awoke in the morn With quite the gruesome thorn
Threaded in between previously loose lips Now stitched from the needles kiss
As consciousness, registered, so did duress as thread countered her plea
Pennies filled her mouth, as she thrashed, To nevermore proclaim fallacy.
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