Halloween Flash Fiction Showdown 2k18

Zoa and I had so much fun with our scary story competition last year that we decided to revive it this year. Below are two scary stories of 500 words or less, one written by me, one written by Zoa.

We won’t tell you who wrote which story so as not to bias you. Read each story below and then vote in the poll at the bottom of the post. Vote for which story you think is best, keeping in mind that scariness is one of, but not the only, criteria you should consider in making your choice.


Context

Ever feel like there’s one single missing puzzle piece that would put all the weird shit in your life into context? Well, when I read the news story about the woman and her children who’d been murdered in our home last winter, it was the missing puzzle piece that put the last four weeks of my life into context.

It explained why the realtor was willing to sell us the beautiful two storey neoclassical home we’d just bought for so cheap — a little too big for just the two of us, but we were hoping it wouldn’t be just the two of us for much longer. It explained why the new neighbors wouldn’t make eye contact with us. And it explained my sleeping and waking nightmares.

It started the first night we moved in. I couldn’t tell if I’d heard the screams and they’d woken me up, or if I’d dreamed the screams. But I heard them either way, and my husband didn’t. Each night it got worse; each night the nightmares became more vivid, more visceral. I started sleepwalking, I’d wake up running down the stairs wailing, or my husband would find me pounding at the front door trying to escape and shake me awake.

“Amber, I love you, but I can’t keep waking up in the middle of the night to retrieve you from downstairs,” Darren said one morning, smoking his first cigarette of the day and starting his second cup of coffee. “I need to make a good impression on the fellas at my new job and I can’t do that if I can’t get a good night’s sleep.” He kissed me on the forehead on his way out the door.

It was only by pure coincidence that I stumbled on the newspaper with the story about our home. The gory details that the paper distastefully provided were unnecessary, as I had seen the whole incident unfold dozens of times in my nightmares: the mother, Sarah, fleeing her husband’s murderous rage, shoving her two children into the pantry while she tried unsuccessfully to fight him off with a kitchen knife. But what I learned from the article was how the husband, Daniel, had no history of violence or abuse. He was — by all accounts — a mild-mannered man, loving husband and father.

So my nightmares were real, or reflected something that really happened? But what could I do with that information? Report my house was haunted? Check myself into an asylum? Seemed like either would produce the same result. So I did nothing as the nightmares became hallucinations, and the hallucinations became indistinguishable from reality.

“Daniel! Stay back Daniel! I won’t let you hurt them!”

“Amber! It’s Darren! Who is Daniel? Won’t let me hurt who? I’m not going to hurt anyone!”

“Daniel! Stay back!”

“Amber it’s the middle of the night! Put down the knife! It’s Darren, it’s Darren!”

I stabbed and slashed wildly, covering the kitchen floor with Darren’s blood.


The Dog in the Night

Headlights cut a path into the dark road. Craig admired his ability to keep with the solid white guide on his right. “No, don’t need a cab. Got to get home to my dog,” was the last thing he had told the bartender, who talked about her pit bull all the time. But he didn’t have a dog—not anymore.

A 90-degree turn tested his ability to follow the line. He managed okay until a pair of headlights met him around the bend, whiting out everything except peripheral darkness.

The first thing he saw when his vision returned was a slick black shape, edgeless, but fixed with a bright white eye. He didn’t have time to consider it further as his tires crashed over the body and his truck bucked twice.

Stopped on the side of the road, he peered behind him at the limp form painted red by his taillights.

“Oh, fuck,” he breathed.

He pressed the gas pedal gently and floated into his garage less than a quarter mile away. Inside the house, he kissed his girlfriend, who had been watching TV, waiting for him.

“I’ve gotta check on something. I think someone hit a dog,” he said, pulling her arms away.

“Be careful,” she warned him through a sad yawn.

While searching for a flashlight in the kitchen, he saw a picture of them with their old black lab.

“How long’s it been since we lost Luna?” he asked on his way to the front door.

“A year. I was just thinking of it earlier. It’s been exactly a year.”

His hands shook as he returned to the scene. He was just going to move the thing—maybe it was just a coyote or a bear cub, anyway—out of the road.

Fifteen yards away, he confirmed it was a dog. Ten yards, he could see it was a black dog.

Another pair of headlights rounded the corner. The car slowed and stopped. A cop walked toward him.

Craig pointed at the dog and said he was at home when he heard tires squeal, then some sort of thud, before a car speeding away.

“Probably some drunk,” the officer said with foggy breath. “Happens all the time out here.”

He returned to his cruiser, initiated emergency lights, and looked for something inside. Craig turned his flashlight again on the lifeless body.

He crouched and noticed a shiny bone-shaped tag attached to a collar. And the eye. Was it staring at him? He ignored it and turned the tag toward him.

“Luna

555-9287

3200 Lakeview Blvd.”

His dog. His phone number. His address.

He jumped back and shined the light on the dog’s eye–Luna’s eye.

The cop finally emerged with his own flashlight and started to tell Craig he was a good man for coming out so late, but he couldn’t find Craig. A quick 360 turn only showed him dark trees, dark houses, and the dark dead dog. He crouched, looking for its collar and tag, but it had none.

Which story was better

 
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