Top Scare Flash Fiction Winner & October Contest
Wow, the results for September’s Top Scare Flash Fiction contest were horrifying! Bravo to all participants. Here are a few of my favorite lines:
When my mom pledged, it was one of these bendy sisters that grabbed her hand and yanked it the second she slid it through the mail slot. But Mom didn’t scream and neither will I.
Her shuffle carried a little more energy as she made it back to the house. She took a seat on the sofa and with shaking hands tore open the envelope.
“I’m watching you.”
My fingers tug at the plastic band around my wrist. I wouldn’t let them cut it off. After months of therapy, I wanted to keep my problems.
For as long as Cassidy could remember, every day began the same. First there was the endless blackness that chilled her to her very bones and then, in an instant, she was standing in front of that beaten up old mailbox along the side of an old dirt road.
A list of ingredients and instructions for a ritual followed.
Feeling both ecstatic and terrified, Sylvia returned the letter to its envelope. Then, she gave
her hair a nervous pat and exchanged her slippers for her tired loafers. Her car keys and purse felt heavy in her hands. Unfamiliar.
She hadn’t left the house in over twelve weeks.
But she would do it for David. She’d do anything for him.
He pushed envelopes around, anxiously looking for his paycheck. There – he ripped it open and saw the check, attached to a stub relating all the taxes that had been withheld. Income Tax. Social Security. Murdering Your Wife. Dismemberment. Burial.
A tiny gasp escaped her lips as she released the lid, not even noticing that she had cut her hand open on the wood until a tiny drop of blood marred the breathtaking face. Grabbing a towel, she wiped the blood off the doll and put her in a place of honor on the mantle.
These were so frightful to read–and I mean that in the best way possible. Thank you to all participants! Remember, even if you’re not Top Scare for September, you could still be Top Scare for October. Keep writing!
After a lot of deliberation, I present the following…
The October Contest
Post to the comments section below a piece of flash fiction (700 words or fewer) about the seemingly benign noun of the month. This month’s benign noun is a pumpkin patch.
Here are some images that could get you thinking, but you are not required to use them:
On Thursday, October 30, the Top Scare will be announced.
The winner will still get a badge designed for the month, but because it’s a special month, the Top Scare has some AMAZING prizes for this month!
The October winner will also get a 10 k developmental edit from fantastic editor and author Shen Hart, of The Review Hart. That’s right people, a FREE 10k Developmental edit! You can’t beat that!
Two runners-up will get a signed bookmark of The Poisoned Emerald by Sarena and Sasha Nanua.
Bring on the nightmares!
Congrats Jenna! Monster in the mailbox… stuff of hazing legend. 🙂
Congrats! Awesome story! 🙂
Congrats everyone on participating and your submissions! They were all fantastic! <3
Thanks, team! All the entries were deliciously creepy. I can’t wait to read October’s !
Reap What You Sow | Shelli Proffitt Howells
[…] prompt is from The Midnight Society’s Top Scare Flash Fiction contest for October. This month’s benign noun is pumpkin patch. Now I just need to cut 300 words so […]
The gray, gloomy fog hung in the air and made it hard for me to see what was in front of me in the quiet pumpkin patch. I turned around to ask my friends a question but they were no longer behind me, it was like the ground had swallowed them. I yelled out their names, but no one answered back. When I turned around I saw a pumpkin in front of my feet with the words “You’re Next” carved into its orange skin and the outline of a shadowy figure walking towards me.
I stared up at the crooked, faded sign. “You sure this is the place?”
Trina shrugged. “Sign says Delacourt’s Pumpkin Patch. Gotta be it.”
I eyed the overgrown weeds and skinny-branched trees lining the neglected drive and considered leaving. Surely the farmer’s market pumpkins would make good pies, too?
But you don’t want to make a good pie, Jen, I reminded myself. You want to make a spectacular pie.
An award winning pie. One that’ll bring home top prize in the Apple Creek Harvest Festival’s pie contest. At seventeen, I’d be the youngest blue ribbon winner in the event’s history. Something I wanted so badly I could taste it.
No pun intended.
Trina frowned. “I think your buddy Norma is trying to sabotage you. Why are we taking advice from your biggest competitor again?”
I shook my head, unwilling to even think it. “She’s my grandma’s best friend. No way.”
Was my grandma’s best friend. I promptly swallowed the lump that rose in my throat at the thought. Norma was the reigning champion ten years running, but she’d known me since I was a baby. She was rooting for me. And I had a good chance, too. I had my grandma’s secret heirloom pumpkin pie recipe. And a burning desire to win the two thousand dollar grand prize.
Trina looked at me. “You could always try to get a loan for the bakery. Maybe if your mom and dad co-signed.”
Tipping up my chin, I started down the uneven drive. “I want to do it on my own.”
My grandma had built her seamstress business by working hard and saving. I’d do the same. The prize money combined with what she’d left me in her will would buy me the bakery of my dreams. I smiled as I pictured the quaint, brick building with its glass front and blue and white striped awning. My smile dissipated as I also pictured the “For Sale” sign in the window. Eventually someone would buy it. I just hoped it was me.
As we approached, the estate came into view. It was a great, sprawling thing that’d seen better years. The once grand porch roof sagged. The many windows were dark and ominous. Ivy crept up the sides of the mansion like a green plague. I shivered as I turned the car off.
“Doubt the grass has been mowed in this century.”
Trina nodded. “Straight out of a horror movie, right there.”
As we got out, I squinted in the late afternoon sun. “Where do we go?”
“There.” Trina pointed to what looked like a greenhouse off to the right.
Up close, it was in ill-repair. Sections of the bluish glass panels were cracked and missing altogether in some places. Vines grew rampant up the sides, obscuring the already dirty windows. I stared up at the arching double doors with their rusted iron filigree work reminding myself that it was for the pie.
“Let’s do this,” I said, pushing them open with a great creak.
The unexpected man standing on the other side startled us both. He bent at the waist. “Welcome to Delacourt’s.”
We both took an involuntary step back. I met his sharp gaze. “We’re… here to buy some pumpkins.”
“Of course you are.” His smile was yellow and gappy. “Do come in.”
We hesitated and exchanged looks before stepping past him. When the heavy doors closed behind us with a jarring clank, we both jumped.
And then I saw the pumpkins.
Neat rows of them lined the weedy floor of the arboretum, their skins shiny and orange in the muted light. They were the most beautiful pumpkins I’d ever seen. No blemishes. Uniform roundness. Magazine quality. And connected to each one, was a plastic tube, much like a hospital patient’s IV line.
It was some kind of… feeding system.
But it wasn’t liquid fertilizer being pumped into them.
It was blood.
Trina grabbed my hand and we instinctively backed up; right into the chest of the man.
He leaned in and spoke in our ears. “You wouldn’t believe how thirsty they are.”
As his iron fingers clamped down on our shoulders, our screams echoed off the glass walls.
“Jake, Jake, wait up,” said Mark.
“I can’t slow down, I’ll drop the pumpkin.” Jake held a giant fairytale style pumpkin with arms stretched low and hands cradled beneath it.
Mark, an average looking brown haired teen of average height ran to catch up, “Why are we going this way? I hate this way.”
“It’s the fastest. This pumpkin is heavy.” Jake was a full head taller than Mark and looked like he spent each night on a medieval torture rack stretching his long proportions longer.
“It’s beyond creepy and goes by that grave yard.”
“ ‘Fraid of ghosts?” said Jake and stopped momentarily. He hefted the pumpkin to give slight relief to his aching shoulders.
“Why are we going to geeky Angie’s party anyway?” Mark asked. “She’s a geek, y’know.”
Jake replied with a grunt as he tried to peer through the blackness in front of him knowing that the graveyard was close. Angie’s house was barely a block past it. He pictured Angie who went from average girl to willowy model over the summer. Jake liked her and wished Mark hadn’t followed him.
They stopped talking and dared not breathe loudly as they passed from the last bit of street light and entered a hundred feet of total darkness. This hundred foot section included the ancient graveyard left untended and unused by the town. The moon was half full, but the heavy clouds, threatened rain, didn’t let one sparkle of light through.
Jack stepped one foot in front of the other and kept his breath steady. Every fiber in him wanted to run. Mark walked closely beside Jake; he didn’t want to fall behind nor get ahead.
Swoosh. A strong breeze pushed the boys.
“Owl,” said Mark.
“Large,” replied Jake.
A small orange flame appeared in the black before them. They walked toward it reluctantly. With each step drawing them closer, they saw the single light illuminate a woman dressed in an elaborate witches costume. The boys stopped.
Swoosh, another woman appeared next to the first, and she lit a candle. Swoosh, and there was a third woman with a third lit candle.
“A bit slow, girls,” said the first woman.
“That’s a nice pumpkin,” said the second.
“Two young men?” asked the third.
“You two boys, follow us,” said the first as she turned. The other witches followed the first.
Jake and Mark looked toward each other but couldn’t see the other’s face. They turned back to the light of three candles and followed.
“The owls?” asked Jake not believing what his senses told him.
“I think so,” replied Mark knowing it was their minds associating gust of winds with the sudden appearance of the women.”They’re taking us to the party, right?”
The three women stopped, stooped, and used their candles to light a fire beneath a cauldron large enough to fit all three of the black clad women inside. The boys, with the aid of the fire light, looked around them and saw old gray gravestones.
“Is this part of…” Mark started to say.
“Silence,” said the first and snapped her fingers. Mark felt a force hit his chest. He fell back and tumbled over a gravestone hitting his head on another.
The third women rushed to his unmoving body. “He’s passed out,” she said.
“I don’t want him. He isn’t in love,” said the first. Staring into Jake’s soul, she commanded, “Place the pumpkin in the cauldron.”
“It’s for Angie,” said Jake looking up from the fire. He had been mesmerized by how well it started and at the rate it grew. He listened to the liquid within the cauldron started to boil.
“Put it in, now,” repeated the first.
The second pushed him toward the cauldron. Jake obeyed and placed it in knowing that this must be an elaborate joke.
“I’ve never had pumpkin soup,” he said thinking how fun the retelling of this story would be.
“Pumpkin stew is best with young meat,” the third said as she pinched Jake’s arm.
The second pulled out an ax hidden within the folds of her skirt. The heavy clouds parted and moonlight glinted off of the ax’s blade.
A knot of guilt settles in my belly. I gaze up at the iron archway, sweeping through the air with grand, shiny letters. Clyde’s Pumpkin Patch.
“What harm is there in buying a pumpkin?” I mutter, smoothing my long, brown hair behind my ear.
He’s gone, but crawling out from under my father’s shadow has proven nearly impossible.
A sharp autumn breeze bites my cheeks as I wander through the vehicles in the gravel parking lot. Determination pushes away my fear.
The wind howls as if in anger. My heart stutters. His words, his lessons haunt me.
I cross my arms over my chest, purse dangling from my elbow.
The laughter of children floats through the air, sending a jolt of hope into my heart.
Stepping forward, I chew on my bottom lip. Halloween: the Devil’s holiday. I never had costumes. No candy. No pumpkins. Halloween had been spent praying to save those who roamed the night.
But where’d been the harm in dressing up, the harm of a bag full of chocolate bars?
The evil lies in the doing. He’s gone, yet his hatred lingers.
I straighten my shoulders, pushing forward to escape the prison of the past, to join Halloween. Taking a deep breath, I step into the field full of pumpkins.
Clods of dirt crumble under my feet. Vines weave through the rows of pumpkins that stretch into forever. The scent of damp earth clogs my nose.
Shadows dart in and out of my vision. Giggles echo through the air. A boy races in front of me and fades away along his path. Like a specter.
I blink, pressing my palms to my eyes. Ghosts don’t exist. My father had been wrong. I will prove it.
I touch the smooth orange skins, but pull my hand away as sharp cold bites my fingertips. Memories of the burning disgust and hate in my father’s eyes, of his words, calling to the Lord to save us from the evil of the world, flash in my mind.
“It’s just a pumpkin, not a demon.” Yet guilt taps in rhythm with my heart.
The scent of smoke, the sounds of faraway screams pull my attention over my shoulder. A thick fog rolls across the ground, swallowing everything. Indistinct forms drift through the mist. Hollow voices creep through the air. I shove my trembling hands into my jacket pockets and turn in a circle.
Fear seeps into my mind. The rustling of leaves sounds from behind me. I spin, scanning the ground. My breathing tumbles out of control as panic squeezes my chest. Whispers spiral around my head. Something slithers around my feet.
Terror bubbles up inside me, escaping with a shriek. I sprint towards the arch, a dark smudge in the distance. I stumble out of the entrance, falling onto the ground. My heart stops as I gaze out at the parking lot where my car sits alone in a patch of weeds. I scramble to my feet, confusion settling like a dark pit in my mind. My gaze darts to the corroded arch then to a group of crosses.
Attached to one chipped and dirty white marker, a piece of old newspaper flutters in the breeze.
The title of the article glares at me. “Fire at Legendary Clyde’s Claims Lives”
I snap my gaze to the field. Dark figures amble out of the fog… no, smoke. Ghostly flames flicker and crackle in the distance. My hands tremble at my chin as the weight of my guilt drives me to my knees.
Perhaps there is no escape.
Vines twist around my ankles and knees, pulling me into the field of horrors. Smokey fingers swirl around me.
I scream as cracking and creaking, elbows jut above the pumpkins, clawed fingers digging into their flesh. Bony shoulders appear, followed by blank faces. Gaunt figures perch atop giant pumpkins, staring at me with dead eyes.
My father was right. Halloween brings evil. And the Devil has sent his minions to claim me. I squeeze my eyes shut, reciting the familiar prayer. The vines tighten their grasp.
I don’t struggle. My guilt. My disobedience.
I enjoyed that – thank you, Kathy
You’re welcome. And I enjoyed yours!
Mr. Jenkins’ pumpkin patch
The leaves of the corn plants whispered in the cool darkness of the late fall evening. The melodic psithurism was lulling me into a state of serenity that I rarely experienced anymore.
I imagined telling my tormentors that I enjoyed listening to the psithurism. I could hear big John responding, ‘Yeah, I took a piss in the izzurizm this morning, Hyaw hyaw hyaw!’ He would laugh in that donkey like braying way of his. And his groupies would dutifully laugh along, marveling at his wit.
Big John and crew have made my life a living hell for the entire four years of High School. Name calling, physical and emotional abuse from the moment I stepped through the door until the final bell. I don’t know why they chose me to torment. Because I was quiet I guess. And I was skinny. And I wore glasses. I was a perfect trifecta for people like Big John. I hated every miserable moment of high school. It should have been a time of fun and making friends, going out for the football or basketball team and going to the prom. What should have been one of the best times of my life was instead a time of utter heartbreak.
So, when Big John stopped me in the hallway one Friday afternoon and said, ‘Hey buddy, how’s it going? My friends and I are going up to old man Jenkins’ farm tomorrow tonight, to the pumpkin patch. We’re going to nick some pumpkins for Halloween. Do you want to come along?’ I knew I was to be the butt of some kind of prank or practical joke. So instead of taking the inevitable beating, I simply said that I would go. “Ok, great.” He said. “Meet us there at 7:00 PM. I need you to sit in the cornfield at the bottom of the hill. If you see anyone coming, just whistle. Got it?”
I told him that I did indeed have it.
I knew the story. Twenty years ago, Mr. Jenkins, who had owned the farm, was working his pumpkin patch on the night before Halloween. There was a freak accident of some kind and he slipped on his tractor and was decapitated when he fell off. Word is that his head rolled down the hill and came to rest in the cornfield.
Now, it’s said that on Halloween Mr. Jenkins comes back to chop the heads off of anyone who happens to be in the pumpkin patch. Of course over the years there have been stories of many people who have had just that fate befall them. My guess was that I was to wait in the cornfield and then they would start screaming. They would roll pumpkins down the hill and I, thinking they were heads, would run away in terror.
The next evening, I made sure I was at the designated place at the designated time. “Are you ready down there partner?” Big John yelled down. I yelled back up that I was in fact, ready.
Last night I stopped by here just as the sun was going below the horizon. I asked Mr. Jenkins for a favor. I asked him if he could help me out with Big John and company.
As I sit on the ground in the cornfield with my knees drawn up to my chin and listening to the breeze whispering through the corn, I wondered if Mr. Jenkins had heard me. I wondered if he was even around.
Would it be pumpkins or heads rolling down the hill?
Eventually I heard a thrashing sound, something rolling down the hill. It stopped a few feet away. It was too dark to see what it was. There was a second, a third and then a fourth. I stood, pulled the little flashlight out of my pocket and aimed it at the ground. Big John’s head looked back at me, sans body. There was an expression of utter terror frozen on his face. There were three heads next to his, all with identical grimaces of fear. I smiled and looked up the hill.
“Thank you, Mr. Jenkins.”